Crystal Cat

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The next morning, Tenor awoke alone in his bed, somehow unclothed and amidst a jumble of sheets. He remembered quiet words spoken into his ear, the warmth of a body close against his, and then nothing more. When he sat up, he was immediately reminded as to why.

“Oh, Heieroneous, my head…” he muttered. Reaching up, he palmed his eyesockets in an effort to cause the pain to cease. It helped, but only momentarily. That was when he noticed something lying amidst the sheets, caught up as if forgotten there.

A pair of soft, feminine underwear done in lace. They were red, and rather slender.

Reaching out slowly, he lifted them and stared for a long moment. “Oh, gods… Why do I not remember more?” He turned them this way and that in the morning light, as if doing so might awaken any memory of having removed them from anyone the night before. When nothing came to mind, he shrugged. “I hope I enjoyed it,” he muttered.

Turning, he stood and went about the process of getting dressed before beginning the process of putting on his armor and strapping his gear to his belt and pack. At least they were where they belonged. No more lacy things hiding away there…

Coming downstairs, he found Lauryl, Ielenia and Ivan gathered in the common room, waiting for him. Davik and Herodotus were nowhere to be seen. A moment’s thought and he realized they must have chosen to stand guard over Kheygan’s the night before. He would have to thank them. Ielenia and Lauryl were grinning at him.

“Sleep well?” Lauryl asked, her gentle smile a balm he could vaguely remember having been applied well the evening before. Even through the enveloping haze about his memories of the night before, he remembered her presence and her gentle words soothing his terror.

“I certainly hope so,” said Ielenia, smirking.

“I did. Thank you,” Tenor responded, moving to sit at their table and gesturing for the servant girl to bring him something to eat. “There was… a visitor… I gather?”

“You gather?” Ielenia asked, twitching a blonde eyebrow. Reaching up, she flicked the long braid of her hair back over one shoulder and eyed him meaningfully. “You mean, you don’t remember?”

Tenor shrugged. “Nothing. Vague recollections is all.”

“Recollections of what?” the young elf asked, lips quirking into a wry grin.

“Soft voices is all I remember, really. I did not wake up entirely alone, however,” he said. Reaching between his chest and his armor, he pulled out the lace panties.

“Och! Looks like ye had more’n a visitor last night!” Ivan snorted, spitting beer. “An’ ye say ye can’t remember the lass!?”

Tenor shrugged again. “I find it hard to believe that such would have happened without my recollection.” He grinned wryly. “After all, such an event is not something you willingly forget.”

“So you don’t remember a thing, huh?” asked Ielenia. Reaching out, she snagged the lace underthing from his hand and stuffed it into the pack at her side. “I wondered where that had gone…”

Tenor nearly fell out of his chair. Lauryl began laughing, while Ivan’s eyes bulged, his gaze switching between the young knight and the youthful elf.

“Bleedin’ HELLS, man! Ye mean to tell me ye can’t remember the lass visitin’ ye last night!? She’s a might bony fer me tastes, but by the gods, man!” Ivan was aghast, his beer forgotten in his fist beside his empty breakfast plate.

Tenor stared, Ielenia’s grin giving nothing away. “You didn’t…” he managed.

“You don’t remember,” the young elf drawled, batting her eyes. “So how would you know?”

“As I recall, I was with him for much of the evening as well,” Lauryl commented wryly, drawing another dazed look from the young knight.

Ivan’s eyes resumed trying to exit his head at a high rate of speed. “Blimey! Congratulations are in order, then, me boyo!”

Tenor gazed from one elven woman to the other, stunned. Dredging his memory furiously, he could only remember Lauryl’s voice telling him quietly that all would be well, but at no point could he remember touching either of the elven girls. After a moment, he shook his head, half-closing his eyes. “This is a trick,” he said. “It can’t have happened.”

“Can’t, huh?” replied Ielenia, smirking again. “Are you so certain?”

“Am I certain that you would not have taken advantage of me in such a state, no,” Tenor replied, eyeing her evenly. “But I think even you have a certain amount of taste…”

“Is that a comment on your… eligibility?” asked Lauryl, looking him up and down and assuming the wry grin Ielenia was now wearing. “Because I can assure you that you are most certainly the type…”

Ivan pushed away and stood up, looking at the trio. “Somethin’ more’n I care to know is goin’ on here. I’ll be at Kheygan’s when ye’re finished makin’ eyes at each other…”

“I’m not making eyes!” Tenor exclaimed. The waitress arrived and ducked his flailing arms expertly, setting a platter of eggs and ham steaks in front of him, along with a fresh mug of beer. Ivan glared at him a moment before turning and stomping off. “I’m not!” he exclaimed. He turned to the bar maid, expression hopeful that perhaps she had seen something.

“I’m only here in the morning’s, hon,” the young lady said, smirking. “Though if you ask me, I’d tend to hear more boastin’ about such things, whether or not they actually happened…”

“That’s what I like about you, Tenor,” Lauryl said, smiling openly now. “You’re so modest…”

“How DID I end up naked, anyway?” the knight asked curiously.

“I would think that is obvious,” Lauryl answered softly. She quirked an eyebrow and stared at him.

“I’m cursed,” Tenor said, picking up his fork and starting to eat. Though, truth be told, he thought, eyeing the girls across the table from him, there were far worse things to be cursed with…


“So, I took a swack at it with me axe and cut it’s ‘ead off,” Ivan said, gesturing with his axe. They were walking through the halls of Jzadirune, perhaps an hour after their encounter over breakfast. The dwarf was in a seemingly better mood, now that he was underground. Even Davik had greeted the others with a smile, and Herodotus was, as ever, his happy morning-person self. They had plunged into the darkness of Jzadirune after only a few words with an increasingly worried Kheygan.

“Starbrow does not have a lot of time! If they find out that I have turned against them, they will kill him! You have to save him!” he pleaded. After assuring the panicky locksmith that they were doing everything they could, they descended once again into the world of circular, toothed doors and gnomish confusion.

“What’s this, then?” asked Ielenia, stepping through an ornate arch into a large chamber lined with wooden benches. They faced a raised stage area and curtains had been drawn partway back to either side. The walls behind the curtains were painted to depict a sylvan scene, with trees and greenery surrounding the stage area. As they entered, torches set on irregularly placed pillars dimmed unnaturally, and a figure appeared mid-stage. It was a short bear, or rather, a gnome dressed as a bear. Raising a paw to his lips, he spoke softly.

“Night hath fallen in the Magic Woods, and while myriad woodland creatures dream, Willowbough and her faerie friends frolic beneath the sorcerous moon!” The gnome curled up on the floor, feigning sleep as another gnome, this time female and with briars for hair, stepped out as if invisible moments before. Solemn music filled the air and butterfly-winged faeries appeared from backstage, joining the ballet that began.

“What in all the hells?” asked Ivan.

“Shhh!” said Lauryl. “It’s a play!”

“Well, I know that!” retorted the dwarf. “But ain’t this place supposed to be abandoned!?”

“They weren’t there a moment before we came in,” said Herodotus curiously. “It must be an illusion cast at some point and never removed when Jzadirune was abandoned.”

“Indeed,” said Davik. The gnome had approached the stage and climbed up. He was presently waving his hand through the gnomish dryad prancing about on the stage, grinning faintly. While the others watched the strange play, he moved into the backstage area and began examining the walls, looking for anything that might reveal a secret passage. All he found was an opening in the middle of the stage leading to an undercroft. When he attempted to open it, however, he was told to leave the stage while the others watched the play.

“Are you daft?” asked Herodotus, watching as Ielenia, Lauryl and Tenor sat down to watch the play. “Aren’t we looking for a certain rat that belongs to our friend the key maker upstairs?”

“We’ve been walking for a while already,” replied Ielenia, eyes on the play onstage. “It’s time to take a break anyway.”

“It’s not really that bad,” said Ivan from near one of the columns. “For gnomish acting, that is…”

It appeared that the plot of the play incorporated a ranger who had fallen in love with the dryad, but that a were-boar named Moontusk, a bitter rival of the ranger, had chosen the dryad for himself. Throughout the entire ballet, the ranger, dryad and were-boar spoke, fought and battled on occasion, finally ending in a riveting duel between the ranger and the were-boar while the dryad sang a song about having to choose between two mutually hostile options. In the end, Moontusk was slain and the ranger joined the dance, his love apparently consummated as the lights began to rise.

While the others had watched, Herodotus had wandered away, shaking his head and deciding to investigate the other room. Idly picking at a pile of stone in the gnome-columned chamber, he discovered a small box with a glowing stone in it. Recognizing it immediately, he threw it up into the air above his head and was rewarded with a knowing smirk when the stone began to orbit his head.

“Thought so… Guess they forgot this when they left,” the theurge said victoriously.
Moments later, his victory was forgotten as a pair of crossbow bolts buried themselves in his chest and he fell to the floor.

Ivan, having taken up a position near the entrance to the theatre when he realized the others were content to take their lunches and watch the play, heard the clatter of Herodotus falling, gave a shout, and shot into the darkness. His dwarven senses allowing him to see in complete darkness if need be, the glowing chamber was as bright as day to him, and he had seen where the bolts had come from. With a roar, he flew at the closest of the two columns, axe coming free from its place on his pack and slamming into the column as he came close enough.

His actions were answered by the shape of a chameleon-creature leaping away from where the axe had just missed him, and drawing a rapier in response, the crossbow he had just used clattering to the floor at his feet. From the other pillar, another chameleon-like humanoid became apparent, firing again at the dwarf. With a contemptuous swipe of his axe, however, the dwarf swatted the bolt from the air and turned on the first. Behind him, he could hear his friends coming belatedly to the party.

Ignoring the feeble stabs of the surprised creature before him, Ivan ducked his shoulder low and bull rushed the thing, bouncing it off the pillar behind it. As it staggered to catch both its balance and its breath, Ivan ripped it in two with a howling slice of his axe. The other, realizing it was outnumbered and incapable of doing much else, ran for the darkness, the dwarf’s catcalling insults following on its heels.

“What happened?” asked Lauryl, catching up finally and moving to examine the fallen theurge. “What is this thing?” she asked, eyeing the stone lying on the ground nearby.

“No idea. Best try to bring him back around, however,” Tenor said. Careful to place pressure only where he was needed, the knight jerked the bolts loose from the theurge’s chest and abdoment, wincing in compassion as Herodotus’ body jerked, spasmed and fell still. Moments later, Lauryl’s whispered prayers were answered as silvery light filled the bolt holes and closed the wounds.

Herodotus shot up moments later, reaching for the space above his head. “What!? Who!? Wha…?” Seeing the others gathered around him, he fell silent, but one hand reached out and swept the stone up, holding it close.

“What’d ye go wanderin’ off by yer lonesome fer?” Ivan asked gruffly. He was wiping the mess off his axe blade nearby.

“And what is that?” Ielenia asked, nodding at his hand.

“It is a magical stone,” Herodotus replied, “I found it in the pile of rocks over there. Shortly after… Well… Here we are…” He managed to look sheepish as he prodded the holes in his jacket.

“I’ve found something!” shouted Davik, from the direction of the theater. “Come and look at this!”

Helping Herodotus to his feet, the others returned to the theater, finding Davik standing amidst the replaying figures of the play, the door in the middle of the stage standing open.

“And what did you find?” asked Ielenia, leaping up the steps to the short stage and looking into the dark hole.

“Not sure, actually,” said Davik. “But unlike some,” he nodded at Herodotus, “I don’t tend to like to investigate dangerous places by myself.” Herodotus’ reply was a sharp look and then a sigh as he realized the gnome was right.

“Let’s see what we’ve got, then?” said Ielenia. Reaching into a pouch her side, she produced a length of iron tipped with a piece of foil-thin gold. Striking it against the stage, it began to glow, first as bright as a candle, and then as brilliantly as a torch. With a casual toss, she threw it into the shallow place beneath the stage. “You should be able to see in there with that, I think?”

Davik nodded. “Cover me, if you will,” he said. He leapt into the hole.

Moments later, the thumping and crashing that emanated from the slender crawlspace told the entire party that something was terribly amiss. Dropping in, Ielenia saw immediately what the problem was. A slender creature with long rubbery arms had grabbed the gnome about the throat and was in the process of crushing his windpipe. Pulling out her rapier, she slid into the space and began crawling, attempting to distract the thing by poking it until it either gave up or died.

Above, things were about to go from bad to worse, however.

“We have company!” shouted Tenor. Even as the others turned, they could see several dark figures entering the theatre from the direction in which Herodotus had been attacked. The survivor had brought friends.

To Lauryl, it was an insane melee. Beneath the stage, Ielenia, Davik and eventually, Herodotus, were fighting for their lives, while in the theatre itself, Ivan, Tenor and herself fought off at least their number if not more of the chameleon-like beings. Shouts, cries of pain, the gurgles of death throes, and the clangor of weapons on weapon and shield filled the small theatre. Blood splashed the walls and Tenors and Lauryl’s prayers filled the air as they called upon the blessings of their gods.

The creatures were terribly hard to see in the dimmed light of the chamber, their skins making them seem to disappear only to appear again in a blur of light as their bodies adapted to their surroundings. Every time they appeared again, the silvery rapiers they bore flickered out, pierced armor in a weak point, and drew blood. Tenor watched as Lauryl was caught in a flurry of attacks and fell, her armor splattered heavily with her own blood. He too, was bleeding from a number of minor injuries, but the fury of his god was with him, and he dispatched two of their number in quick succession while Ivan distracted the other two.

Below the stage, Ielenia had managed to get the creature to let go of Davik, but by then, the gnome was lying insensate on he floor next to her, his throat a torn mess thanks to the sharpened pads of the creature’s three-fingered hands. Before she could see to her friend, however, it had switched targets, and she was being choked into darkness, struggling to release its insane strength, wracking her body and trying to jerk herself out of its grip even as the edges of her sight became red and then black, the air cut off at her throat unable to replenish that which was being lost in her lungs. Gasping for breath, her last image was that of Herodotus crawling beside her, a short sword he had borrowed from Tenor in his hands…

Above, the two surviving creatures fled into the darkness, leaving Ivan cursing them for cowardice as Tenor knelt over Lauryl and began fumbling at his pouch for the potion Sister Urikas had given him. Praying fervently to his god that this would work, he poured it into her throat, watching her swallow reflexively. Taking care not to spill any of the miraculous elixir, he watched as her wounds closed and she opened her blue eyes, looking up into his.

“The others!” Ivan shouted, leaping to the stage. His axe at the ready, he stomped to the edge of the undercroft and stared in shock as Herodotus stood and leapt nimbly out of the way, making way for Davik, and Ielenia, who followed as soon as they were able.

“Everyone alright?” Herodotus asked, looking about. For all the violence that had just been committed, the only thing out of place with the theurge was his hair, which he calmly combed down with his hand.

“By the hells,” Ivan grumbled, eyeing the trio who had gone below. “With all that noise, I coulda swore someone was dyin’ down there.”

“I was,” said Davik. His voice was gravelly and he was holding his throat, where the scratches had been mostly healed by Herodotus’ prayerful touch.

“As was I,” said Ielenia, eyeing the theurge curiously. “I did not think you could fight with a sword like that?”

Herodotus eyed the blade in his hand and dropped it as if it were a snake. It was covered with the green-black blood of whatever the creature was below the stage. “I can’t,” he said simply.

“Well, it seems like ye did a mighty fine job of it, then!” Ivan said, chuckling. He patted the cleric on the shoulder, nearly flattening the fellow.

Tenor, reaching the stage with Lauryl close behind (and now fully healed of her injuries), swept up the short blade and sheathed it back on his belt. “All in favor of a quick rest, say aye.”

There was a chorus, and it was decided to retreat back to Kheygan’s for a bit. Not something the gnome was pleased about, but there was little he could do about it. Besides, there wasn’t a one of the group he had sent down who did not look as if he or she hadn’t recently been close to, or perhaps even visited, death only moments before.


It began with a room lined with masks depicting gnomes, a room filled with the sounds of children playing, and of the wind blowing on a summer’s day. There were two doors, round, surrounded by ornate entablatures that surrounded the doors themselves. Gear-shaped, they instantly had several of the party murmuring to themselves.

“Beware the doors with teeth,” Ielenia said quietly. Eyeing one of the two doors which was half-open, she noted the gear-cogs forming teeth around the edges of the circular door.

“Ah, but what exactly does that mean?” asked Herodotus.

“It means,” said Tenor, “that we should leave them alone.” He nodded at a passageway leading further into Jzadirune directly opposite from the stairs they had come down. “That way, at least for now. We’ll see what we can find.”

“But that door is partway open…” said Davik, moving toward them.

“Later,” said Tenor. “’Beware the doors with teeth,’ she said. That was part of the answer for a reason, Davik. Let’s see what we find out elsewhere before we go risking them, shall we?”

Davik nodded uncertainly, eyeing the strange, circular tunnel leading out the other side of the room the door opened into. It looked as if it had been BORED through the stone, bits of rubble scattered about the floor from where whatever it was that had tore through the stone had broken through.


Jzadirune was far from anything the troupe had ever seen before. The circular doors had small inch square openings to one side in the entablature stones surrounding them and were marked with gnomish runes depicting letters of the alphabet. They weren’t in any sort of order that Davik could discern, and none of them would open without what the troupe quickly decided were the keys the denizens had once employed to move around.

“This doesn’t make sense,” said Tenor at one point, eyeing a long hall filled with floating balls of light and painted with images of gnomes going about their lives. Twenty foot tall pillars formed of gnomes standing on each other’s shoulders to support the ceiling decorated the chamber. Several of the round doors opened in all directions. “You would have had to have carried twenty keys with you to get anywhere!”

“Welcome to gnomish society,” Davik commented, grinning. “Where it can be complex, why make it simple?”

“Isn’t that a bit… masochistic?” asked Ivan, admiring the stonework about the room. Here and there, piles of stone had been left haphazardly across the floor. Nearby, the mysterious round openings led off.

“Call it what you will. Gnomes simply call it entertainment,” said Davik. For once, he seemed perfectly at home, despite the fact that they had already uncovered a few dangerous pit traps.

The troupe was attacked from time to time by the strange chameleon-like creatures they had run into upstairs. These attacked and then ran as soon as they were injured, fleeing into the darkness where their curious ability allowed them to disappear into the shadows. Deciding it was too dangerous to give chase to individuals who could appear like the walls around them given a moment’s notice, the group clutched their weapons and kept at the ready.

This did not mean that they were invulnerable, however. It was not until deep into Jzadirune, after a few reverses and another battle with the chameleon-folk that they ran into their first major challenge.

It was a curious room, shaped like a lozenge, with a two-foot tall marble bath tub rising out of the floor. Above the pool, a large gnomish face spat water into a fall that fell into the tub. All around the pool, thick webs filled the space above the vaulted edge surrounding the mask. As they entered the chamber, a massive spider, the size of a hunting dog, leapt out and caught purchase on Tenor’s armor.

With a terrified shriek, the paladin fell back, the black, multi-eyed monstrosity falling off him as he collapsed. Still uttering in panic, the knight skittered backwards, rising to his feet and fleeing into the darkness, forgetting everything but his sword and the lantern he had been carrying to light the way. As Ivan and Ielenia moved to intercept and kill the monstrous insect, Lauryl turned and chased into the darkness, following the flickering beam of Tenor’s light, calling his name and wondering just what in the blazes had just happened.


He had been just a youth, barely of age to start his squire training. His family had stopped in a village while traveling, only to hear that a young girl had gone missing. No one had been able to find her, despite several days of searching, and Tenor’s mother and father, retired heroes long past their best years, had agreed to aid in the search. Tenor and his sister were left with a local, to wait out the results of the search.

But such was not Tenor’s way, and never had been.

“Make a distraction,” he told his sister.

“What are you planning, brother?” she asked.

“I know where the girl is.”

“How?” she asked, clearly not believing him. “You’re just trying to get away from here, aren’t you?”

“NO!” he had cried, shaking his head. “I can’t explain it, but I know where she is.”

“Having visions?” his sister retorted, grinning wickedly.

“No… I can’t explain it. But… I know…”

She stared at him for a moment, realizing that this was no game and that he meant what he was saying. “If you’re caught, I don’t know anything about it.”

“Agreed,” Tenor replied, “and thank you.”

Moments later, she was shrieking. While the family came to see what was wrong, Tenor slipped out the window in another room and made his way out of the small village. Most of the adults had already gone off to find the missing girl, and it was not hard for him to get away.

Soon enough, he was making his way through thickets and brambles, following a curiously strong feeling that the girl was this way, and that she did not have a lot of time. He was proven right when he came to a ravine several miles away and found her lying unconscious between a pair of wolf spiders the size of hunting dogs. Hearing his approach, the predators spun about and stared at him, measuring him with their cold black eyes.

Frozen with fear, uncertain what to do now that he had found the girl, he did the only thing he could think of. He broke off a sharp branch and held it before him as his father had taught him while growing up.

Moments later, the spiders attacked, leaping over one another in a hopscotch pattern that confused him and made it impossible to tell which of the two was in the front. Unable to decide, he thrust the stick out, impaling one of them in its eyes and causing it to shriek violently as it fell back, chitinous legs scratching dangerously as it chattered to its companion. The other one simply leapt, catching him in the side and bouncing him off the tree behind him. He his shirt tear, smelled the vitriolic acid on the thing’s fangs, felt the rip of his skin and the horrible burning sensation that sped through his body like quick-freezing ice.

Screaming in pain and fear, he shrugged the spider off and crushed one of its legs with his stick, retreating around the tree he found himself beside. It attacked again, ignoring its broken leg, having seven more. He retreated further, turning around the bole of the tree and trying to put his back to the ravine and the girl. Somehow, he knew that he had to keep them from her. She was close to death, if the shallow movement of her chest spoke of anything, and he could not afford to have them attempt to finish her off. It would make this struggle worthless if he failed.

Hearing the strange crackling sound of the other spider’s body behind him, he spun about, lifted his stick high to protect himself, and speared the leaping thing through its thorax. Leaping with adrenaline-fueled strength, Tenor put both hands to the stick and rushed forward, thrusting the stick further into the wolf spider’s body, feeling the black ichor of its fluids spattering his face even as he shrieked alongside it. The spider wriggled on the impaling stick, legs thrashing and tearing strips out of his shirt and face.

With a roar, he raised the spider into the air and then slammed it down, point first, into the ground. With a last chitter, it spasmed and died.

But the other one had not simply ceased to exist. With a vicious chittering sound, it clattered out of the brush and caught Tenor on the hip, digging its fangs in and injecting more of the icy toxin of its kind. Shouting in pain and fear, Tenor swept his stick out of the fallen spider and smashed it across the front of the already half-blinded creature’s head. With a gush of fluids, its other eye shattered, and Tenor half-leapt, half-rolled away.

The toxin was making its presence known by now. He could not feel his shoulder where the first bite had penetrated, and his hip was a grinding pain swiftly fading into a tingling oblivion. He knew that was not good. If he could not feel pain, he certainly wouldn’t be able to feel much else. Seeing the blinded spider moving about the ravine, trying to follow him with whatever senses it still had, he circled around it, trying to draw it away from the fallen girl, who still lay senseless in the dirt not far away.

It took the bait, and spun, leaping at him as he rolled in the opposite direction, underneath it. Spinning the stick into a reverse position, he thrust up, catching it in the tail end and punching through the hard exoskeleton. As it tried to move away, he reversed his hold on the stick and plunged it into the ground, pinning the monstrosity before throwing his leg back and kicking out with all of his swiftly-draining strength. With a heavy CRACK, the body shattered beneath his boot, and fluids and ichor spattered the ravine.

Silence fell, but for the sounds of his breath laboring to exit his body.

“That’s it,” he thought. “Here, I die.” Still, he turned to the girl and moved to her, his hip a distant agony, his left arm entirely numb at this point. With his right, he turned the girl over. Putting his ear to her lips, he felt breath and sobbed out a sigh.

She still lived.

“But not for long,” he whispered. Fighting against every impulse to simply sit still and rest (for rest meant death, he knew), he struggled to wrest her into position and lifted her, holding her close to his body before starting to struggle up the incline.

The pain was too much, however, and he blacked out with pain and exertion. When he came to a moment later, they had both fallen to the dirt, and he could taste mud and feel grit in his eyes; on his cheek.

“Get up, son,” he heard a voice say. “There is much left to do.”

“I can’t,” he managed to whisper, his face now almost completely numb to his senses. “She’s too heavy.”

“You can manage,” the voice said. A shadow appeared above him, a kind face discerning itself from the fog a moment later. A hand reached out and Tenor felt his good hand responding. Somehow, he got to his feet, lifted the girl, took a few steps. “She has no time,” the old man said. He was ancient, white haired, with a mustache and beard as white as snow. “You can do it.”

“I can’t,” he sobbed. But even as he said it, he forced himself into motion.

“If you do not, she will die. No one else is close enough to find her in time. It is up to you.”

Tears flowing from his eyes, gritting his teeth and biting his lips until the pain wore through the numbing fog surrounding him, Tenor crashed through the trees surrounding the ravine. He saw fields, a fence in the distance. Smoke pillars rising from the village came from over a hill what seemed like a hundred miles away.

“I’ll never make it,” he said. He slipped on a rock and fell, barking his shin and screaming as it awoke seemingly every nerve in his body. His hip was a shrill source of shrieking pain, his shoulder suddenly ice cold and flame hot all at once.

“You will make it,” the old man urged him quietly. “You have to. Come.” And once again, Tenor felt himself being lifted, felt the girl coming to him, as light as if she were a feather in his hands.

He struggled on.

He crashed through another line of bushes, beneath a small tree line, where a little stream ran by the village. He slipped on the mossy stones and fell, this time letting the girl go and watching distantly as she fell, face up, onto the small stones of the running stream. Vaguely, he felt his clothing soaking up the freezing cold water. Felt his body cooling from fire hot to ice cold as the water seeped into seemingly everything. He felt as if his eyes were going to freeze in a moment…

And then, there were figures in the haze that was his eyesight. They were moving toward him. “I can’t,” he whispered through a sand-filled mouth. “I can’t…”

“You already did,” the old man sighed quietly. “Good boy…”

He awoke three days later, in a small room in the house where he had left his sister. His mother and father were in the other room, his sister at his side when he first flicked his eyes open. She shouted, and the entire town seemed to appear at his bedside in a matter of minutes. He was hailed as a hero, they told him. A searcher had come across the two dead spiders a day after his return. They would never have found the missing girl in time.

“Is she…”

“She is fine,” his mother told him, brushing jet black hair back and looking into ice blue eyes. “As are you. If we had been any later, though…” She fell silent, her throat locking at the very thought.

“You did well, Tenor,” said his father. Tenor beamed at the praise. It was all he could ever have asked for.

“Did anyone see the old man?” he asked suddenly.

They looked at him, perplexed. “What old man?”

He described the old man who had come to his aid. Who had picked him up when he needed it, and urged him on.

There was, they said, no one in the village who looked like that. When his description was relayed to the local priest, the old man came immediately and inquired about specifics. Tenor answered each one as clearly as he could. Given the circumstances, the priest said, there could be little doubt.

“You saw Anselm of Heieroneous,” the old priest said, awed.

“Who is that?” Tenor asked, curious.

“Who was that, you mean. Anselm is one of the most famous paladins of Heieroneous in this part of the world.”

The room fell silent, watching and waiting for what Tenor would say next.


“The Lord of Chivalry,” the priest said by way of explanation. “There can be no doubt. You have had a vision. You were touched by Heieroneous in your time of need.”

“Heieroneous,” Tenor responded more clearly. The message was clear…


“And that is how I came to serve Him,” Tenor said, slurring his words. He and Lauryl were sitting in the Drunken Morkoth Inn, downstairs in the common room. Four large mugs of what had been ale were scattered across the table. Lauryl was nursing her first.

She had caught up to him just as he fled Kheygan’s Locks with a manic look about him. The gnome, clearly distraught by the panicked look about the one man he thought could have handled whatever was going on, had taken one look and then locked the doors behind him. Lauryl had taken Tenor to the inn, nearby, if only to calm his nerves and return his shattered resolve into some form they could both identify.

“And THAT,” Tenor said, raising a finger to the sky, “is why I… DO… NOT… LIKE… SPIDERS!” he shouted.

Lauryl smiled faintly and leaned over to hug her companion. There was little she could do, except be there for him. Ielenia and the others had no doubt dealt with the issue by now. Even as she straightened, she could see them approaching the inn, safe, to a man.

“All will be well,” Lauryl whispered into his ear, smirking when she realized that he had passed out while she was hugging him. “You will see, my brave Paladin…”


mearrin69 wrote:

That's beautiful. How close was the in-game dialog to what you've written? I shall certainly bookmark your site. Nice work.


Thanks for the compliment. The words and actions the characters take in the story are a close approximation to what happened in the tabletop game, with a few adjustments to generate a more interesting storyline. Some of the more humorous scenes are taken directly from the game, while the r action-oriented sequences are approximations of what happened on the game mat.

Life’s Bazaar

It had been a long evening at the Tipped Tankard. Lauryl was feeling the beginnings of the ale and wine she had drunk throughout the evening. It was a necessity, she told herself. Tenor and Ielenia’s flirtatious bickering required ample amounts of ale or wine simply to put up with at times. As it was, the two were presently singing a song about dragons and maidens and whether virgins tasted better or not. Off-key. Badly.

Never mind that it was raining hard enough to have small rivulets running through the cobbled streets, or that the blackness of the night sky was like a lid on the bowl-shape that was Cauldron. The black stone buildings, only the occasional lit lantern shining through a window, and the ever-so-rare lamp of a street light on a corner made the cool evening a miserable trek across the city, back to their accommodations at the Golden Griffon. She had forgotten to bring a cloak, and the wet was slowly burning its way through the pleasant, warm feeling the combination of drinks had finally managed to provide. She was about to ask them to stop their butchery of an otherwise good song when they each, quiet clearly, heard a muffled cry for help in a nearby alley, followed by the crash of a crate tipped over.

Without stopping to think, Tenor, being the youthful knight fresh from training that he was, shot straight into the alleyway, holy symbol of Heieroneous jangling as he ran. Ielenia, all trace of drunken stupor gone, unslung the leather-wrapped bow she habitually wore over one shoulder and nocked it with an expertise that belied the drink she’d imbibed throughout the evening. Before Lauryl could react, they were into the alleyway entrance, and a fight had erupted.

“Back off!” she heard as she reached the edge of the building edging the passage. It was dark, dank and sounded of echoing rain falling from drain spouts all about, the sharp decline of the alley toward the center of the city making footing treacherous. Ground water reflected what little light there was from the city in an inconsistent sheen. Lauryl’s elven eyes picked out figures midway down the passage; two men beating a fallen third. Another figure was visible in the mass of crates and barrels that lined the alley, a short sword out and pointing at Tenor’s midriff.

For his part, Tenor reacted as he had been taught. A threat was perceived, a man was down and being beaten. Clearly, the weak needed tending to. Grabbing the first thing that came to mind, he tossed a crate at the fellow with the sword, following it up with a crushing right hook that sent the fellow crashing against the wall. When he recovered, the other two who had been accosting the third on the ground had backed away, drawn blades ready. At the sudden silvery light erupting in the middle of the passage from seemingly nowhere (Lauryl’s whispered prayers answered at last), the three men bolted.
“Well then,” said Tenor, turning to the fallen fellow and offering a hand, “It would seem you are in need this eve, good sir.”

“He is safe because WE deem it so,” a feminine voice called from above. Looking up, the trio was favored with a shadowy shape against the dark clouds beyond, only partially lit by Lauryl’s moon-like radiance. “Take this back to your temple, priest,” she spat. “The children are gone and best you cease your meddling, lest you find yourself in worse condition next time!”

She disappeared a moment later, as if she’d never been.

“Och,” said a blustery voice from further down the alley, “Lasses on rooftops, fights in alleys, and glowing nothin’s floatin’ about! I knew I needed ta come listen at this place!” Standing at the base of the alley, war axe in hand, stood a stout dwarf, horned cap and furred cloak making his shape seem almost barrel-like in the half-light.

Lauryl spun about as another individual stepped into the light near her and smiled, nodding and then sweeping into a bow. “Herodotus Forgeborn, Milady,” he said, straightening and setting his cap back on his head. The holy symbol of Boccob the Uncaring rattled on his chest as he straightened. Noticing Tenor nursing a growing bruise on his head, he swept easily to the young knights side, whispered a few words, and then tapped the growing bruise.

Before Tenor could mutter a complaint, the bruise faded and he was left staring at the fellow. “Eh… Hello?” he said by way of greeting.

Herodotus smiled and offered another bow.

“Wonderful,” snapped Ielenia. “Somebody throw a party and not tell us?”

“That…” said the fellow on the ground, “would be me, I believe.” Finally accepting Tenor’s hand, he stood and straightened his robes, smeared with refuse and wet with runoff. The sigh he offered a moment later when Herodotus whispered another blessing and touched him spoke volumes and he carried himself ever so slightly more upright.

“Where’s Davik?” asked Ielenia. “He was here a moment ago?”

“He was?” asked Tenor, looking around.

“I’m here,” said a quiet voice from the shadows. With a glare at the glowing silvery luminescence, a gnome in a black cloak stepped into view before disappearing once more into the darkness.

“I hate when he does that,” Tenor muttered. “I didn’t even know he was with us.”

“Let the man talk,” suggested Lauryl, not unkindly. “Who are you, sir?”

“My name is Rufus Laro,” said the young priest, eyeing the troupe gathering around. “Priest of St. Cuthbert.”

“Lot of priests out,” said the dwarf. Stomping up the inclined alleyway, he offered a hand to Tenor. “Ivan Hammerfist of the Hammerfist Clan.”

“Tenor of Heieroneous. Let the man speak.” Tenor smirked at Lauryl and turned back to Rufus. “And what were you doing in an alley at night, alone?”

“I was returning from the Temple Street Orphanage, actually,” said Rufus. Whispering a soft blessing of his own, he healed the last of his bruises and bumps and then shook off a bit of the muck from his robes. “The temple has taken an active role in the disappearances of late.”

“Ah, it’s about time one of the temples took interest,” offered Herodotus.

“So says the priest of the Uncaring One?” Ielenia asked.

“The Uncaring One has no temple to take interest, young waif,” the priest replied, turning and grinning at her. “One man alone doth not a temple make.”

“One man can make all the difference in the world,” Tenor replied. “Are we going to let him talk?”

“I thought we were?” said Ivan.

“Shush,” said Ielenia.

Rufus grinned. “You seem a capable lot. I thank you for rescuing me. I know not what they had planned for me, but when they neglected to demand my purse, I felt it had to be more than just a simple robbery.”

“Did they say anything?” asked Lauryl quietly.

“They did. They told me to stay away from the Orphanage, just as that last one seemed to suggest. I think they may have something to do with it.”

“What would a bunch of thieves have to do with an orphanage?” asked Davik softly.
“A good question. One I would like to ask the acting head priestess of my order. Will you do me the favor of escorting me back? I am afraid that I have learned my lesson not to go about alone at night in the rain.” Rufus smiled faintly.

“We would be pleased to,” said Tenor. He looked about at the others curiously. When they each agreed, he nodded approvingly.

Ielenia rolled her eyes. “But what were you doing at the orphanage to begin with?” she asked.

“I spent the day there trying to calm the fears of the children.”

“What about the children?” asked Herodotus. “Is there something wrong?”

“Four children disappeared from there three days ago,” Rufus answered quietly. “From locked rooms with barred windows. I was trying to calm their fears. I neglected to beware of my own, I suppose.”

“Do not worry. There is strength in numbers, friend,” Ivan rumbled, gripping his axe.
“You might want to put that away,” Ielenia said playfully. “Might hurt yourself.”

“I’ll hurt ya if you suggest that again, lass,” Ivan grumbled. Still, he slung it over his shoulder. “Never can tell,” he added, looking up and down the street as they emerged. “Guards in this town are awful picky about how ye store yer blade.”

“There shouldn’t be a need for them again, I hope,” Rufus said. “If you will follow me, Priestess Urikas will likely wish to speak with you.”


The temple of St. Cuthbert was a massive white marble affair, two armored figures done in matching marble to either side of the front entrance, massive maces held high. The words “In Law Lies Hope” had been carved into the architrave. Inside, the echoing main hall was bustling even this late at night, acolytes going about the daily work of cleaning the temple and polishing its walls and floors now that the public had gone home. Candles and lanterns glowed throughout the large space, lending the otherwise stark chamber a hint of homely comfort. Once they had been let in at Rufus’ request, blankets and warm tea had been offered, and the troupe moved to a small sitting room to one side of the temple itself.

“Alright, so who are you folks and why did you butt in on what we were doing? I already had things well in hand.” Tenor was seated in a comfortable chair facing a large fire, warming his hands. His tea sat steaming next to him on a small end table. Ranged around the room stood the rest of the troupe, excepting Ielenia. The youthful elf had taken up residence in the other chair, seated across the seat, her legs dangling off one arm while she leaned half against the other and into the seatback. Her long blonde hair was bunched behind her head, giving her a golden halo that caught the firelight and reflected it back. Her calf-length boots left a length of thigh visible up to the bottom of her bodysuit beneath the bizarre floor-length leather jacket she wore and he found his eyes continually wandering in her direction.

“I heard a scuffle and came to investigate,” Herodotus replied, shrugging. “Would-be knights are not the only ones with a kind heart, you know?”

“I thought Boccob didn’t care what happens in the world,” opined Ielenia.

“If he truly did not care, what would be the purpose in worshiping him?” Herodotus answered, grinning. He saluted her with his tea. “All things happen for a reason. Including your and my encounter this evening.”

“And does he explain mine, then?” asked Ivan. The dwarf had taken up residence near one side of the fireplace, his thick hands held out toward the flames now that his oversized gloves had been removed. “Feel like I’ll never dry out,” he mumbled.

“One never knows the workings of the most sublime master of magic,” Herodotus answered, grinning mysteriously.

“Fine. Don’t answer the question,” said the dwarf.

“I thought you went off to find some overly wealthy merchant to steal from,” Tenor asked. For a moment, Lauryl wasn’t certain who he was speaking to, and then Davik spoke.

“I changed my mind. The wealthy of this town are inevitably linked with the nobles. Nobles have access to magic that can find me.” The gnome was standing near one corner of the room, all but invisible save for his faintly bulbous nose poking out from his hood.

Ielenia gasped. “Even you can’t hide from magic? I thought you were the master of shadows!”

“Just because you can’t find me doesn’t mean no one can find me,” the gnome replied softly. “Even I cannot avoid magic.”

“He has a point,” offered Herodotus.

“You haven’t answered my question,” said Tenor. “What were you doing out there?”

“I thought I told you,” said Herodotus. “Someone was being assaulted. It was only proper to offer assistance if it was possible.”

“Alright,” Tenor said thoughtfully. He massaged the growth of dark beard just beginning to grow in around his jawline. He thought it made him look more masculine. Ielenia just liked to tease him about it. “And you?” he asked the dwarf pointedly.

“I don’t answer to you, boy,” Ivan replied huffily. “Yer jes’ old enough to be put over me leg an’ paddled fer bein’ inconsiderate to yer elders!”

“I certainly hope that is not necessary.” A middle-aged woman walked into the room with Rufus at her side. Her smile was pleasant, and the premature gray in her hair gave her a sense of gravity that belied the youthful eyes and friendly smile. “Rufus has told me all about your efforts this evening. I should hope not to see a troupe of heroes such as yourselves trying to… well… let us just say that I should hope you would all wish to work together, as you apparently did with Rufus earlier.”

“That’s questionable,” muttered Ielenia. “It was taken care of by the time they arrived…”

“In any case, you have Rufus’ as well as my own thanks. I am Jenya Urikas, acting high priestess of the temple of St. Cuthbert, here in Cauldron.” She touched the silver holy symbol at her neck, the rubies at the points in the stylized cross glittering in the firelight.

“Acting high priestess?” Herodotus asked quietly.

“Indeed,” the priestess responded, nodding. “Our high priest has recently left for Sasserine on a mission vital to the church. In his absence, I have been tasked to act in his stead. As such, I am grateful to you for your bravery, earlier this evening. Had it not been for you, Rufus might not be standing here.” At her side, the youthful acolyte smiled sheepishly.

“It was our duty to help a man in need,” spoke Tenor.

“Speak for yourself,” Ielenia replied, grinning. “I was just curious.”

“Either way,” Jenya answered, “You have our thanks, and if you are willing, I would like to ask of you a boon…”

“You have but to ask,” Tenor offered.

“As Rufus may have explained to you, there has been a rash of disappearances over the past three months. People are disappearing from locked homes in the middle of the night. Nothing stolen, no violence taking place. Just… vanished. It has caused quite the stir in Cauldron of late, but the City Guard were investigating and it seemed just another thing to deal with. And then, four children went missing from the Lantern Street Orphanage. Since several of our acolytes were raised there before joining the holy orders of St. Cuthbert, we take some interest in the happenings there. Who knows what could be done with children, but none of it is something I wish to sleep at night worrying about. Thus, I sent Rufus.”

Jenya moved to a nearby cabinet, where a large crystal bottle held a supply of brandy. Offering it to the party, she poured into snifters before offering a silent toast and sipping. She began pacing again while the others enjoyed the drink in silence. “As you have seen, Rufus did not return safely, and while his efforts were likely helpful to the children, I would rather not see the acolytes of this temple harmed in the pursuit of their duties. Since you seem a capable band, I was hoping to engage you in a bit of… service…”

Tenor began to bow but was stopped by a hand on the back of his collar. When he looked back to see what had taken place, he looked into Lauryl’s glittering eyes, and the grin she offered. A moment later, she shook her head to ask him to wait, at least until they had heard what it was the priestess was asking. With a sigh, he subsided.

The priestess took note and smiled privately before continuing to talk. “Four children were taken from within two different rooms. Two boys. Two girls. The doors to each dormitory are locked at night, and the headmistress has the only key. There are bars on all of the windows, and none of the children report seeing or hearing anything the night the other children were abducted.”

She took a moment to watch the thought processes working through the gathered would-be heroes and then took a sip of her brandy. With a moment to let it slip down her throat, she continued. “Fearing the worst and knowing that the city guard have been unable to accomplish anything regarding capture or even identification of the kidnappers, I took to the only recourse I could think of. The temple is home to an artifact – the Star of Justice. A holy weapon once used by one of St. Cuthbert’s most ardent followers, it offers those who are properly beholden to the saint, the ability to ask of Him a question, which he will almost inevitably answer.”

Reaching into her robes, she produced a slip of parchment, upon which she had written a short passage. “This is what I learned. It says, ‘The locks are key to finding them. Look beyond the curtain, below the cauldron. Beware the doors with teeth. Look within the malachite hold, where precious life is bought and sold. Half a dwarf binds them, but not for long.’”

Offering the parchment to Tenor, she began pacing slowly. “I have reason to think that the first part mentions something about the locks, given that the orphanage is equipped with locks of rather high quality. More than that, I am afraid, I cannot say.”

She stopped, her back to the fire, the party spread out before her. “If you are willing to accept this duty I am about to offer, you will have the thanks not only of the temple of St. Cuthbert, but the people of Cauldron itself. I ask only that you investigate this clue, and if possible, return the missing children to me.”

“Of course,” Tenor spoke without thinking. “No reward is necessary!”

“Speak for yourself,” Ielenia and Davik spoke nearly simultaneously. Around the room were a chorus of interested agreement.

Jenya smirked. “I thought as much.” Turning, she nodded at Rufus, who went to a cabinet nearby and produced a coffer, which he offered to the priestess. Producing a small key, she unlocked the coffer, opening it to reveal a number of small glass vials, wrapped about with a pewter icon of St. Cuthbert’s encircled cross. “Each of these is enchanted to heal considerable injury, but only once. I offer one of these to each of you, in return for accepting this request.”

”Done,” Ivan said. Stepping forth, he held his hand out and waited while the priestess laid the vial in his hand. “Aid for those who aid your charges. Done and done again,” he proclaimed.

“I accept,” Herodotus spoke next. He too, took the vial when offered, slipping it into a pouch on his belt.

“You know I will…” Tenor began. He fell silent at Lauryl’s humorous glance and accepted the vial, examining the pewter before slipping it safely into a safe place. Moments later, Ielenia, Lauryl and Davik had each accepted their own potion.

“Then it is done. I entrust upon you that you will return the missing children, or at least word of their location before this is over. If you can stop the disappearances in the process, then so much the better. Saint Cuthbert’s blessing upon all of you.” She raised her glass in a toast, echoing the call for cheers and drinking the rest of her brandy in a gulp. “Rufus will see to it that each of you is seen safely to your abodes for the night. I look forward to hearing from you when you have found something. For now, however, I have a temple to attend to. If you will forgive me…”

Bowing, the priestess left the room with Rufus, leaving the party to speak among themselves.

“Tomorrow at dawn, then,” Tenor said firmly.

“Dawn? Give me at least nine bells!” Ielenia whined.

“I told you that you were drinking too much,” the paladin replied, grinning.

“I was not!” came the reply, followed by a yawn. “It’s just getting late is all.”

“I thought elves didn’t sleep,” asked Herodotus.

“Don’t ask,” Lauryl quipped. “She’s awfully lazy for an elf.”

Ielenia’s response was a raspberry that caused the newly formed troupe to laugh.

“Nine bells, then,” Ivan confirmed. “Meet at the orphanage. I’m goin’ home!”

“Until tomorrow, then…” said Lauryl.

Her bed felt somehow less secure that night, the tree outside her bedroom window rattling about kept drawing her back to this world, wondering if that rattle was the sound of a tree branch, or a kidnapper in the night…


Lauryl awoke from her Reverie and stretched, enjoying the peace of her room for a moment before moving. Unclothed (or ‘skyclad’ as she liked to refer to it), she stood and walked to open the heavy curtains that hung across the doors that opened onto the balcony. Morning light poured in, greeting glacial blue eyes that crinkled in a smile before they turned away and found a place in the center of her room where she could perform her morning ritual. A short dance followed, the whispered words of her daily prayer spoken to the glowing air. An urgent request followed upon completion; a request that Eilistraee continue to bless her priestess as she had in the past while she went about trying to find the children the priestess had spoken of. Finally, finished with her morning ritual, she washed off and toweled dry.

Then, for reasons she had never been able to explain to anyone, she moved to the floor-length mirror as she had whenever one was available, and stood there, staring at herself. It was as if she needed to see herself as she truly was, unclothed, unhidden, brazen in her white hair and dusk-gray skin. People were quite often frightened of her, seeing in her only the reminder of those ebon-skinned, white haired villains they heard of in their nightmarish tales of hatred and racial enmity. The very word “Drow” brought forth images of hate-filled glowing red eyes, savage butchery, and fear of the dark.

But Lauryl was not a Drow. “Half-Elf” was the derogatory term for an individual born of a Human and Elven union, neither fully Human, nor fully Elven. Thus, they were perpetually caught on the fringes of both societies, accepted in neither, appreciated nowhere. But she was not “Half-Human” as snarky elves frequently called such individuals. She was fully Elf. Only, her father was of the surface world, and her mother was Drow. Lauryl had the blue eyes of a surface Elf, but the white hair of a Drow. In place of the charcoal dark skin of her mother’s race, she had the ash gray of an early night, a true mix of her father’s pale skin and her mother’s night dark flesh.

Caught up as always in the image that was reflected before her, she recalled the faces of her parents to mind, smiling immediately at the warmth and love that had emanated from their eyes the day she had left them to find her own way. “Go with the blessings of the Seldarine,” her father had urged her. “Go with Eilistraee’s guidance to light your path,” her mother had said.

Many years before, such words would have brought spite and hatred to that beautiful face. Her mother had been a victim of her own upbringing – a lesser priestess of Lloth in a family that served the Spider Queen. She had been sent to the surface on a slave-hunting raid, to test her mettle.

She had failed. During a surprise skirmish, she had been knocked unconscious and was then slowly… ever so carefully… brought around from the twisted hatred of the Drow of the Underdark, to the care and love of those Elves who live in the light. Her conversion to Eilistraee had been powerful, effective, and immediate. Within a fortnight, her daughter was conceived. Many of Lauryl’s father’s family felt that Lauryl was a blessing, destined for great things. Lauryl’s mother felt only that she was the consummation of her conversion, a living breathing proof that the Drow and the Elves of the surface could live in harmony, if they only tried.

Lauryl had set forth to help spread that word. By the silvery moonlight of Eilistraee, she had traveled far and wide, eventually finding her way to Cauldron, where she had fallen in with Tenor and Ielenia. From there, the story had yet to be fully told…

Turning away from the mirror at last, she slipped into the clothing and armor she habitually wore while out in the World Above (as her mother had called it). With a last glance at the peacefulness of her room, she slid her hand-and-a-half sword into its shoulder hilt and headed out once more.

Downstairs, the half-elven tavernkeep started as he had since they’d first met, still somewhat uncertain as to how to go about dealing with a daughter of his elven parent’s racial enemy. With a reassuring smile, Lauryl hoped to remind him of her first conversation with him – that not all Drow are evil, and that there can be a meeting of the minds, but only if both sides are willing to come down from their millennia-enforced hatred of one another. Nodding and swallowing, he proved to have remembered her plea and asked if she wanted breakfast.

With a nod and another friendly smile, she turned and scanned the room for her companions, finding them in a sunny nook on the street side of the tavern room. Tenor was halfway through a trencher of ham and eggs, a large chunk of bread being taken apart bit by bit as he used it to sop up the gravy. Across from him, Ielenia ate sparingly, as always, a sprig of grapes, a slice of cheese, and a slender hamsteak being all she needed to function for most of the day. The morning sun dappled through the thick glass wall facing the road, and the elven girl’s laughter rang lightly. As Lauryl approached, Ielenia threw a grape at her friend, her laughter rising in pitch as it bounced off his temple and fell onto his eggs. Nearby, Davik sat eating his own small repast, sitting at a separate table so as not to get caught up in the ‘waste of time’ that was breakfast when the other two were at the same table.

“Slept well, I take?” Lauryl asked, approaching the table and smirking at the trio.

“Well enough,” Davik answered, not looking up from his plate.

“I dreamt of shiny knights and dark alleys,” replied Ielenia.

“That was last night, you twit,” replied Tenor, plucking the grape from his eggs and setting it to one side. Smirking, he dodged another grape and then caught a third in his open mouth when she did not stop.

“Try not to make a mess?” Lauryl asked, exasperated. The innkeep followed, a plate of breakfast held in one hand, a pitcher of warm milk in the other. He set it down on the table with Davik and then returned to his place behind the counter.

“She started it,” Tenor said, grinning. He popped the last piece of bread into his mouth and then sat back, crossing his arms behind his head. Ielenia tossed a piece of egg at him, giggling as it stuck on his breastplate. He wiped it off irritably.

“Uh oh,” Ielenia said, filled with mock horror. “I’m in trouble now!”

“You should not defile the symbols of our gods, regardless of who they are.” Tenor’s voice took on the scolding tone the others knew well. “Respect should be given to those who act in their stead!”

“Respect needs to be EARNED, big boy,” Ielenia replied, shrugging. “Just because you graduated from some high and mighty knightly order and spent the night praying not to fall asleep on your sword…”

“I spent the night meditating on the mysteries of Heieroneous!” Tenor shot back. “If you fall asleep, you fail the test!”

Ielenia shrugged again and Lauryl sat down and turned away, hunching over her food and praying that no one came in and saw them sitting close enough together to be thought of as a group.

“Okay, so you swing a sword, sleep on the hilt one night, read a bunch of boring treatises on some puffed up god of chivalry…” Ielenia was on a roll now. Her smile was insouciant, her words heavy with sarcasm.

Tenor was turning red. “That is blasphemy!” he said, barely controlling himself. “Ielenia, just because you are a friend does not mean you can simply go about disrespecting Heieroneous! Are you crazed to think you can insult the gods and go unpunished?!”

“Oh? And what are you going to do about it? Turn me in?”

“I have half a mind to do so!”

“You have half a mind,” retorted the elf. “That’s why they let you in!” She giggled.

“Enough already,” said Lauryl, turning and glaring at Ielenia. “Tenor, she is pulling your leg and playing at your expense. She does not mean any of it. Do you?” The last was directed at Ielenia, who turned and offered a raspberry in response.

“You take away all my fun.”

“When your idea of fun has your best friend fuming and ready to strike you…” Lauryl paused and nodded meaningfully at Tenor, who was glaring dangerously at her.

The young elf eyed him for a moment and then relented. “Oh, stop! I don’t mean any of that! What are you thinking? That I’m crazy enough to actually MEAN that sort of thing?”

Tenor’s expression relaxed and then became perplexed.

“I’m sorry. Okay? You stayed up all night praying to your god and I’m proud of you. Now stop. I’m PROUD of you.”

Tenor’s scowl turned into a faint grin and he nodded. “Thank you,” he said softly.

“You’re welcome,” the elf replied equally quietly.

“Thank you,” Davik said, meaning it.

“No problem. Perhaps we can eat in peace now.” Lauryl turned back to her food.

Behind her, Ielenia threw a piece of bread at Tenor. Both smirked.


The orphanage rang with the sounds of children playing, echoing from the walled enclosure that wrapped an open courtyard and separated the building from the street. Lauryl, Tenor, Ielenia and the others met at the predetermined time, greeting one another as if for the first time now that the sun was up and they were not in unusual circumstances. Unlike the night before, when their attention had been diverted elsewhere, the heroes were able to actually examine one another.

For his part, Davik was hunched into his dark cloak, glaring at anyone who came down to his level, daring them to say something about his near pathological dislike of being out in the open. A history of eons of time spent underground was hard to overcome, and Davik, while different from the majority of his forebears, was still distinctly uncomfortable when under bright light, particularly the open sun. Cauldron’s bowl-like shape seemed to focus the light into its depths, the flecks of mica and malachite in the black stone the city had been built out of seeming to glitter brightly, blinding his sensitive eyes. Still, he was prepared to do what needed to be done, and his friendship with the two elven women and the human warrior had been steadfast and solid, ever since they had come to his defense against a drunken half-orc several years before.

Herodotus had dressed lightly for the day, a long jacket over woolen trousers, with knee-high boots to protect his clothing against the filth that had been washed into the streets the night before completing his outfit. The symbol of his god done in metal shown from his chest, and he bore no weapons. His smile seemed sufficient, and his outgoing welcome of the others when they approached drew smiles and nods. He was, if anything it appeared, a morning person.

Ivan was dressed as they had seen the night before. Horned helmet, furred cloak and banded armor covered his stout form, his war axe securely bound against the pack on his back, but still within reach. He had plaited his mustache into his beard this morning, and the effect was almost of a dandy, excepting the thick profusion of dark hair all about his head where not jammed into his helm. His armor and axe gleamed, freshly oiled in the morning sun. He was still eating a massive turkey leg when he appeared, wiping his hands on a fabric apron hanging from his kit belt.

Assembled, the troupe re-introduced themselves and then stepped back to watch Tenor knock on the door. After a delay, in which the shouting of the children momentarily lapsed and the chanting sounds of children counting could be heard from the open windows upstairs, a slide flew back at waist level and a Halfling madam looked out.

“What do you want?” she asked simply.

“We come on behalf of the Temple of St. Cuthbert,” said Tenor.

“What proof do you offer? You are not the first to come visiting.”

Herodotus drew forth the potion bottle Sister Urikas had offered the night before, presenting it at the level of the opening in the door. “We were given these,” he said quietly.

The eyes in the doorway widened and withdrew, the slide closing. A moment later, a slide bolt was shot and the door swung open, revealing a Halfling lady in her later years, care lines worn into her face. “I apologize for my abruptness,” she said, gesturing for the troupe to enter. “The city guard and representatives of the Lord Governor have come to visit lately and I do not wish to intrude upon the children any further if I can avoid it. Still, Sister Urikas did say she would send help. Is Brother Rufus well?”

“Well enough,” said Ivan, stepping inside and looking about. “Bit of a bruise on ‘is ‘ead.”

“What happened?”

“He was attacked on his way back to the temple,” Tenor replied. “Apparently, the thieves’ guild of Cauldron is involved in some way.”

“Or they were paid to cause a distraction,” offered Davik thoughtfully. The gnome was appraising the room, looking for anything out of the ordinary – locks, in particular.

“Or that,” Tenor nodded. “Either way, he is in good condition now, but we have been sent by Sister Urikas to investigate on the temple’s behalf. I hope you do not mind?”

“Of course not. Though the activities have been distracting for the children. We were quite thankful for Brother Rufus’ efforts yesterday. I am sorry to hear that he was not able to return safely from his work.”

“Would you mind if we asked a few questions?” inquired Lauryl softly. “We do not mean to intrude, but there are some clues to the mystery that can only be found here, from what we understand.”

“What clues might those be?”

“’The locks are key to finding the children’,” quoted Herodotus. “From a divination Sister Urikas attempted last night, I believe. We believe it may have something do with the locks here.” He gestured toward the door, where a slide bolt held the door closed.

“Davik here is something of an expert at locks,” offered Ielenia. She was leaning against the wall near the door, watching Davik inspect the sliding bolt.

The headmistress shrugged. “Feel free to look around, but please, do not interrupt the children. I would have them at least try to return to a normal life?”

“And ignore the fact that several of them happened to disappear into thin air one night?” offered Ivan. “I’d think they’d have a reason ta be worried!”

The headmistress sighed. “We are trying to keep them from worrying about such a thing happening again,” she said. “They barely rested the next day and only started sleeping at least somewhat last night. To rouse their fears again would serve no one any good.”

“We will do our best. Davik, if you do not mind, I would like you and Ielenia to go upstairs?” Tenor was eyeing the glass windows that looked out onto the garden area. A young woman sat in a grassed area, playing with babies and the very young wards of the orphanage. In the bushes surrounding the small courtyard, a dwarf pruned the bushes and collected the remainders in a small pouch at his side.

“Of course.” Davik moved toward the stairs and began climbing, several of the others following.

Tenor stayed, watching the main area and taking it in. There was a large room with several tables spread about it, chairs surrounding them. A door on the far side opened into what looked like a simple kitchen, an elderly human working on preparing whatever meal the children ate for breakfast. A half-orc with a patch over one eye mopped the floor. Upstairs, a teacher’s voice could be heard making the children recite their numbers. The recitation cut off abruptly, replaced with shouts as the others appeared at their doorway.

“How many staff work here?” asked Tenor. He nodded, realizing Lauryl had stayed as well.

“Six, counting myself. The cook, the groundskeeper, the nurse, the teacher, and Patch, along with myself.” She nodded at the half-orc at the mention of the patch on his eye, smiling gently. The half-orc looked up and smiled back before going back to work.
“And no one noticed anything unusual before the disappearances?”

“No… Should we have? The orphanage has been here for years, and no one has ever bothered us.” The headmistress eyed the ceiling with a frown, listening to the bedlam breaking out. Children were asking if the people at their door had come to adopt them, what this was, why someone’s hair (likely Ielenia) was so long… She shook her head, smiling faintly.

Tenor grinned as well, humored by the thought of the rambunctious elf rogue getting a taste of her own medicine for once. “You said others had come to visit. Might I ask who?”

“I told you. The city guard, and the Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor sent a pair of half-elves, who poked about and asked questions without offering anything in return. Are you going to do the same?”

“I hope not,” Tenor answered solemnly. “I have sworn to aid the Temple of St. Cuthbert in this matter and will not rest until the children are found and returned if such is possible.”

The headmistress eyed him for a moment before nodding. “I hope you do,” she said quietly. “Their presence is sorely missed.”

“How many children do you care for here?” asked Lauryl.

“Sixty, before the disappearances. Two from each room upstairs. They are locked at night, you know? The dormitories? Boys in one, girls in the other. It helps to cut down on the shenanigans after hours. The elders take care of the younger ones until we unlock them in the morning. None of the children report hearing or seeing anything, either. I daresay I do not hear how this is possible.”

“Magic,” Lauryl whispered. “There is no other explanation. They were likely invisible and silent through magical means. How they gained access, however, is the question.”
The headmistress looked curious. “Could magic have opened the doors, perhaps?”

“Such is possible, yes,” Lauryl answered thoughtfully. “But such is not a silent procedure. Doors opened thusly tend to explode…”

Tenor’s eyes widened. “I don’t think that is what we are looking at, in that case. The doors are still in good condition?”

The headmistress’ expression mirrored Tenors. “They are in one piece, aye.”

Any conversation they might have had beyond that was cut short by the clanging of a bell from the kitchen, followed moments later by a roar of approval from all around. In the garden, the children who could began rushing toward the door, while upstairs, the sounds of many footsteps thundered across the creaking boards, followed by a cacophony of orphans rattling their way down the stairs and then jostling for space around the tables. Lauryl and Tenor found themselves shoved against the wall, trying not to get in anyone’s way. The others came down shortly after, Davik nodding with a slight smile on his face when Tenor caught his attention.

“Well, we will not distract your students from their meal,” Tenor nearly shouted across at the headmistress. “We apparently have what we came for. I will return with word as soon as we have anything to report!”

The headmistress smiled and made her way across the room to the front door, unlocking it before swinging it open for them. The troupe tumbled out into the brilliant sunshine moments later, happy to get away from the din of clattering wooden spoons, pewter tureens filled with gruel and children speaking at the top of their voice in order to be heard.

When the door swung shut, Herodotus straightened his jacket, looked around the otherwise empty intersection and smirked. “Well, that was entertaining.”

“Yes. I particularly liked how you turned that one boy’s hair purple,” snickered Ielenia. “Did you see their faces?”

“You wanted a distraction,” the youthful priest said, grinning. “Parlor tricks like that keep children pleased for hours.”

“Will he get his own hair color back?” asked Ivan grumpily.

“In about an hour, I believe. It is but a cantrip.”

“Can you teach me how to pull coins from people’s ears?” asked Ielenia.

“Of course.”

“Could we PLEASE pay attention to the reason we are here?” asked Tenor, rolling his eyes. “Davik, did you find anything?”

“The locks are of excellent quality,” the gnome said once the others had turned to wait for his response. “And all bear the mark of the same locksmith. Since there is but one smith with the capability to make those locks in Cauldron…” Davik waggled his eyebrows.

“Who might that be?” asked Tenor.

“Kheygan Ghelve. Proprietor of Kheygan’s Locks over on Obsidian Avenue.”

“Then we go there.”

The gnome smirked. “My thoughts exactly.”

Kheygan’s Locks was a small shop attached to a short tower. The sign outside was nicely made and bars could be seen through the thick glass windows. A small bay window displayed the effects of his trade, locks of all sizes and the keys that went to them. A thick black curtain hid the workshop beyond from the street. A bell rang as Tenor, Ielenia and Davik entered. The others stayed outside but nearby, Herodotus just beyond the doorway where he could hear the conversation within. Davik dropped a small wooden dowel in the doorway to keep it from closing. Lauryl and Ivan struck up a conversation nearby, both watching the priest surreptitiously as they did so.

Inside, the place was homey, with a fireplace, two chairs, a red rug of some exotic make and a mahogany counter. A cabinet against the far wall held what looked to be hundreds of keys on small hooks. A florid red curtain separated the front portion of the shop from the workroom in the back. At the sound of the bell, the curtains parted, revealing what, at first glance, looked to be a six foot tall gnome! While properly proportioned from the waist up, his legs were obscenely long. It took a moment to realize that he was standing on stilts, his pants made to hide them while he moved about.

“Welcome,” the fellow said. He offered a smile at Davik and the others, but seemed particularly intrigued by the dark cloaked gnome. “How may I be of assistance?”

“We are in need of locks,” said Tenor.

“Or at least, information about them,” uttered Davik. Behind them both, Ielenia was looking the place over, eyeing the few locks on display and whether or not they matched that on the single door opening into the back of the building.

Kheygan quirked a brow. “What do you require? There are, of course, some trade secrets, but…”

“Specifically, whether or not you made any specific alterations to keys for the Lantern Street Orphanage,” Davik interrupted.

The unusually tall gnome paused a moment, a mix of emotions crossing his face before he answered. “Not that I am aware of…”

Tenor eyed him curiously for a moment. “Are you aware that four children recently went missing from the orphanage?”

Kheygan looked away and then back, his eyes flicking around the room uncertainly. “I… I had heard of that, yes.” More firmly he added, “but I fail to see what that has to do with me?”

“Did you make the keys for the orphanage?” asked Davik.

“I did. And the locks as well. But if you are claiming I had anything to do with this, I…”

“You’ll what?” asked Tenor curiously. “We have not made any claims…”

“Did you make any skeleton keys for those locks?” asked Davik suddenly. “Do you make them as a habit? Do you have any in your shop at this time?”

“Who… who are you? Why are you asking me these things?”

“We were sent by the temple of St. Cuthbert,” said Tenor. Casually, he set the vial Sister Urikas gave him on the counter.

“You have the symbol of Heieroneous on your chest,” Kheygan said, nodding at Tenor’s holy symbol. “I know they are allies, but why would you be working for another temple?”

“Quit trying to change the subject,” Davik interjected.

Kheygan paused, breaking out in a sweat. After a moment, he jerked his head toward the curtain behind him, eyes going wide. Ielenia, seeing this, smiled darkly and moved to the front door, opening it before looking outside for her companions.

Meanwhile, Tenor frowned and nodded as well. “Alright then. If you have nothing to do with it, how can you prove that your locks can keep others out?” While he spoke, the others moved into the room, adding to the crowd in Kheygan’s small shop. The gnome backed up into the corner behind his counter, out of the way of anyone wishing to investigate the curtain.

Looking around the room, Herodotus mouthed a question – “What is going on?” Ielenia, halfway around the counter at this point, nodded at the curtain and lifted her rapier, which she had just drawn. In response, the priest leapt onto the counter and then through the curtain. With a loud clatter and the popping of several rings from the support rod, the curtain came down, burying the priest in its voluminous folds. As he did, Davik darted through, using the noise as a distraction, but to no avail.

In short order, the cloaked gnome was dropped upon by a figure hiding above, its rapier slipping through the gnome’s body as easily as a knife through cheese. The impact drove the breath from the stricken rogue’s body, and bedlam broke loose.

“Stop!” cried Tenor, hoping to do this peacefully.

He was ignored. In moments, the workshop was filled with flickering blades, the assailant appearing to be chameleon-like against the walls of the room. With a dart this way and then that, his nimble rapier blooded several of the heroes before they could react. Ielenia joined Davik on the floor but was roused by Herodotus’ healing touch, only to have Ivan stomp on her leg as he charged the creature flickering in and out of view. She cried out in pain as the dwarf shouted, “DOWN wi’ ye, Ugly!”

Moments later, the dwarf’s axe crashed through the creature’s defense, sending the rapier skittering across the floor. Before the being could shout, it was beheaded, it’s eyes glazing as its head separated from its neck and fell to the floor, black blood pouring forth from the horrid wound.

“I HAD hoped to parlay!” Tenor said, stepping through the remains of the curtain and looking around. Kheygan’s workshop was centered around three open chests, which contained the tools and items of his trade. Gears, cogs and a variety of bolts and vises were piled seemingly haphazardly in the collection, a work table and a clicking grandfather clock against the far wall finishing the room. A staircase went along the back wall of the shop to his home upstairs.

“Explain yourself,” Lauryl said, coming around the counter and stepping to the now wide-eyed Kheygan.

“They came out from Jzadirune about three months ago,” the gnome babbled. “There are two kinds. Tall and skinny, like this one, and short and cloven-hoofed. They all wear black and speak a strange language I cannot understand, when they speak at all. They took Starbrow! I had no choice!”

“Slow down,” the half-drow priestess said gently. “It’s over now.”

“No, it’s not! They have Starbrow!”

“Oy, and what’s a Starbrow?” asked Ivan, wiping his axe on a rag he’d produced from his pack. He kicked the creature, which had ceased to blend with the walls when it died and was now a pallid skinned, slender humanoid. It wore only a reddish breach clout.

“My familiar,” Kheygan replied, shrugging helplessly. “In my free time, I took up studying magic. Starbrow responded to my call for aid and we have been together ever since. When they first came up from below…”

“Below? Below where?” asked Herodotus, looking around and spying the staircase. “I only see an up!”

Kheygan moved to the wall below the staircase and pressed in on one of the panels. There was a faint click, and the panel popped out and swung on oiled hinges. Beyond was revealed a stone staircase, leading down into dusty, web-lined darkness. “Down there. They came from Jzadirune.”

“What is that?” asked Ielenia. She fingered the hole in her bodysuit and cursed quietly in Elven.

“Jzadirune was an active Gnomish community below Cauldron that closed up 75 years ago when the people there started disappearing.”

“What do you mean?” asked Tenor curiously.

“The Vanishing, they called it. After it broke out, people started literally fading away, out of view. Jzadirune was packed up and abandoned, and I am the last and only guardian of its approach. They came up from there. They took Starbrow, forced me to provide them with skeleton keys to the locks of the city and have held my familiar against me to ensure I would not say anything. If I do anything, they will kill him!”

“Have you any idea of where he might be?” asked Herodotus.

“I know that he is hungry and scared and in a dark room. More than that, he cannot tell me.”

“Tell ye? How does he tell ye anythin’?” Ivan had finished cleaning his axe and was now leaning on it, the blades against the floor digging scratches into the wood. Kheygan eyed the damage to his floor, looked at the fallen creature lying in a pool of its own blood nearby, and said nothing.

“Wizards have a connection to their familiars,” Herodotus offered. “They can share basic emotions with one another.”

“You have to rescue him! Now that you’ve done this, they’ll find out the next time they send someone up!”

“How often have they been sending sortie’s out and have you seen them?” asked Lauryl.
“Every couple of days, I would think. I haven’t been out watching the workshop at night very often. I’ve just heard the doors open and close as they went and watched a few from the balcony above.” He gestured at the balcony above the workshop, from which the creature had attacked Davik.

“Then we might have a few days.”

“I would not assume that. We will need to go down there as soon as we can,” said Tenor. “For tonight, we stay here and head down in the morning. Those who need their gear, go get it and come back in the morning. Those who do not will stay and stand guard.”

Ivan, Ielenia and Davik agreed to stay with Tenor. Lauryl and Herodotus left to fetch their things.

“Now, to get rid of this body,” said Ielenia.

“I’ll never get the stains out of that carpet,” muttered Kheygan.

“There are worse things than that,” the elven girl retorted. “Like losing your familiar, or your life.”

“Or your freedom,” added Tenor. “There could be repercussions for aiding them, no matter the circumstances.”

Kheygan straightened to his (albeit short) height. “I will do whatever I can to make up for what I have already allowed to take place. I give you my word. To be honest, this has been bothering me since it started and I am right glad you have come to put an end to it. When I heard that children had gone missing, my heart told me that this had gone too far.”

“Tenor, if you will get the legs,” said Ielenia.

Hey folks,

I am presently running my tabletop group through the first adventure of the Shackled City adventure path and, based on the interest received when I did the same for the Age of Worms AP, I figured I would post it here. It's going up on my website at, complete with additional bits (like a Prologue depicting Adimarchus and the source of his insanity), so if you want, you can read it there.

Otherwise, following this is the first LONG sequence (written over the process of about two weeks).

Hope you enjoy and if you like, feel free to comment!

Hey gang,

I'm running a solo campaign where my wife is playing a Rogue/Ranger and I'm NPCing a number of her character's friends as the rest of her party, but I've run into a conundrum. She's playing a Noble! Since she's a noble, wouldn't that mean she'd have access to more of the families in the game than the AP calls for, thus leading potentially to more issues with keeping the game rolling as it is planned?

The further I look into the hardcover (which is incredible, btw), the more information I see that could become problematic. For instance, she's a lesser noble. She COULD conceivably have access to the Cusp of Sunrise before the AP calls for it...

Any suggestions or alternatives you can think for nobles in the SCAP??


Saern wrote:

The toolset is supposed to be awesome, there are RP elements added in to the excess of the last one, and it's D&D in general. I'm frothing at the mouth for this game.

By the way, mounts in WoW are far overrated. You have to wait until 40th level (out of 60 max) to get one, pay a horrendous amount of money, and get a 60% speed boost out of it. You cannot use them in combat. At level 60, you have to pay 10 times the horrendous amount you paid at level 40 in order to get another 40% onto your speed. Still no mounts in combat.

I'm also slobbering over Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Do a websearch on this game- it's the closest thing to D&D that I've ever seen in an MMO.

As far as the toolset goes, I've downloaded it from their FTP site and can't even begin to figure out where to start... Just a TAD bit more difficult than the NWN toolset, but what do you expect with a new system and better graphics? It'll likely have a higher learning curve than the first, but it looks great.

And as far as the horses go, that's hardly worth it! Having never actually played WoW (I refuse to pay money to play a game I paid money just to BUY), I'd only heard that horses were a neat addition - not that they really don't do much for you...


Neverwinter Nights 2 is coming out. They've upgraded the appearance and some of the game play elements (but there's still no ability to ride horses, something WoW has had since day one, *grumble*), and they've even allowed those who pre-order the game to download the toolkit (which is disgustingly complicated at first look, but we'll see). I'll be building my own server and basing it in the Vilhon Reach (somewhere no one else has ever built a server around).

Question is - How many of you are planning to or buying it??

This weekend, I introduced D&D 3.5 to a new player, who had made a Fighter (one of the easiest classes to play for a newbie). During the conversation with the patron, who had just offered the group of 1st lvl characters 100gp each to clean out his castle, the new player decided to capitalize on his maxed Intimidate skill. He slammed his greatsword into the floorboards (leaving it quivering there), leaned over the table and glared at the patron, growling, "Not enough."

His roll? Nat 20 for a total of 25.

The patron's responding roll was a 1. The patron promptly peed himself, told the party he'd pay them 250gp for the job, with half up front!

In the first fight (vs. 4 goblins they caught flat-footed), he used his Cleave attack and killed two in the first round.

Nice introduction to the game, I think!


Having been a GM for GURPS for many, many, many years at GenCon (before I moved to Flori-duh), I can tell you that it's a blast. There's con-organized gaming the entire weekend, with competitions that basically reward those who do nothing but play competition games all weekend (the only downside I ever saw to it - if you didn't play every slot all weekend, you couldn't win anything). There's also a rather huge open-gaming area, a computer gaming room, board gaming and table-top warfare tournaments, card-game tournaments, LARP on Saturday night (usually Vampire)...

Only problem with GenCon is, if you're not local, you're going to pay a fortune for hotels if you're staying anywhere near the airport, and the hotel the con takes place in sits right outside the airport.

Personally, I lived 30 minutes away when I was out there and played until I was falling asleep and then braved Los Angeles traffic until I got home and passed out before heading back.

Oh, and don't eat at the con! The hotel charges ridiculous rates for food and there are fast food places within walking distance (if you're up for about a 1/2 mile walk one way).


Well, I'm late for the weekend just past, but I ran an introductory 3.5 game for a new player on Saturday (anyone remember Caldwell's Castle?) and then turned around and ran a d20 Modern game set in the late-1930s for my regular Sunday group. One of my players couldn't make Saturday (no contact until the decision had been made to do something else), so no AoW game this weekend. Sadly, we're still stuck in TFoE, but they're about half-way through the maze in Vecna's temple. We've had a lot of real-world interference lately.


So my Sunday group, who are all quite intelligent individuals who love nothing more than finding ways to "break" D&D have come up with a potentially legal way to armor a SHIRT. Not a Chain Shirt. A SHIRT.

Take your above-average tailor and say he can make Masterwork Shirts (Why not? Modern day folks pay tons of money for high-end shirts and we could call them Masterwork). So, a shirt, which normally costs, what, couple of coppers, maybe, silver at most, and add in the Masterwork Armor amount of 150gp. Your shirt is now of incredible quality, likely of silk or satin or something equally rare (Elven silversilk, spidersilk or somesuch). It is now Masterwork Quality, and... according to these guys, can be Enchanted per the armor rules in the back of the DMG.

Thus, you can get a +5 BIKINI. Wear that with a +5 Natural Armor amulet and a Ring of Protection and you've got a base AC of 25. Sure, there are cheaper ways of getting the same armor class, but this is without an armor check penalty, without any spell failure chances...

Is this legal? I like it if only for the fact that one of my bizarre characters would like nothing more than to run around with nothing more on than a ring, an amulet and something to keep them within legal limits. A Masterwork strip of cloth seems like it's breaking the rules, but HEY, if you can afford it...



I use a fairly large (3' x 4') wet-erase map by Chessex. I use hand-painted minis (after 20 years, I'm pretty good if I do say so myself) and draw the map out as the group progresses. While this does take away to a certain extent from the players having to do their own mapping, once we get past a point where I have to erase and redraw, I make them tell me what they do when they get to certain points. Since they can usually visualize what I drew, it makes it reasonable and we don't wait around while one player draws out the map (which, as UltraDan said, can be fun, but slows the pace of the game down in my experience).

In general, I keep track of the range of the light sources and Night Vision/Darkvision (I just remembered the other day that the NPC Paladin is an Aasimar and can see in total darkness - something she's not done since the campaign started - D'OH!). Once I know what the light sources are (usually a sunrod and a Light spell cast on a holy symbol), I draw out to the maximum distance visible at the time, including shadowy light and lay a marker across the table to show how far bright light goes vs. how far they can actually see. I then do as was suggested before, describing shapes, rather than details if the items are in the shadowy areas.

One neat bit about this - A Rogue can hide literally 5' away from the regularly-lit area and Sneak Attack if the PC doesn't make his Spot check (which I make for them in those circumstances. "Roll Spot for me" tends to get, "I draw my sword and look around!" though it's usually not QUITE that much meta-gaming). Thus, my players know that, while they can see the map out to maximum distance, their characters can't see it as clearly as the players can. It works out nicely, actually.

I don't know if a wholesale change to the entire system is truly necessary. Sure, an extra couple of points at first level would be nice - it'd be nice to have a few points in Merchant if my character's background is a merchant, but needs all his points to actually do the things he'll NEED to do in-game.

The one place the groups I play with where we've found as a group there should be at least one extra point/level is Cleric. Why do Clerics get the same number of points as a Fighter?? Sure, they get spells, but if you look at history, the clerics of the world were the smartest people around during the middle ages, well-studied and rounded.

Not on 2 points/level, you're not... And Int isn't really worth it to a Cleric unless you're looking specifically to get that extra skill pt/level and have a 12. Even if you do, 3 pts/level into a class that has something like 6 Class Skills is ridiculous. Hmm... Knowledge: Religion, Spellcraft, or Heal... I dunno... What if we need to talk to someone and the Rogue isn't there? Diplomacy might be nice...

We just added a single point to Cleric/level (including the multiplication at 1st) and things work out nicely from there.

I understand the idea to allow a Fighter to be quick-fingered, or the Wizard to know how to swim (I personally think Swim, Climb and Jump should be all-around everyman skills, but that's just me), but if you really want a quick-fingered Fighter, take a decent Dex and a level of Rogue. *shrug*


After a rest period in which even the elves felt the pull of fatigue calling them to sleep rather than reverie, the group got together once more to see what there was to see. Graven moved the last priest’s body out of the sanctuary and then set about spraying liberal amounts of holy water to the artifacts and altar located there. Ielena located a hidden catch that caused a weakening of her limbs when touched, but managed to avoid the worst of it, discovering a golden chalice and a silver dagger, both of which were rimed in old blood. Hidden in the cup were a pair of holy symbols of Hextor done in silver and a pearl that glowed when she touched it.

The high priest’s quarters revealed a rack of weaponry, a set of what they assumed were his personal trophies (heads of creatures killed, the teeth of vile beasts, and the shriveled claw of what at one point must have been a massive creature), and a locked chest which quickly surrendered its contents to Ielena’s masterful picking. Within were a bag of gold coins and a fist-sized gold bust of a dwarf wearing a gem-studded crown. Graven rolled his as she went on about the value and moved to the next chamber, finding it to be the storage room where they’d first encountered the tieflings who’d thrown the darkness spell at them.

“Well, this place is defeated. While I think we could sit back and applaud ourselves, there are two other doors in the main hall we never looked at,” said Graven.

“Not like we had a chance to look around when we arrived,” offered Celise, grinning. “Something about being attacked in the dark, as I recall?”

Graven offered a humorless smile. “I was there. I remember. Shall we?” He gestured for the others to move and then led the way.

Outside, in the main hall, without the darkness spells and demonic creatures attacking them, it was evident that this was a place of vile darkness. A pillared hall held three doors, one of which was that leading to the Hextorite temple, while another was unmarked and a third was decorated with the precisely illustrated symbol of a disembodied hand holding an eyeball – the symbol of Vecna, Lord of Secrets and Mysteries.

Graven could barely restrain a curse when he saw the symbol and then told the others what it meant when they offered him blank looks. “Undead, necromancers, dark magics. It is a place of darkness the likes of which you would wish you would never see.”

“Right, then let’s not go there yet,” said Ielena, heading instead into a domed area behind the elevator shaft.

Here, a large open space hung over a square pool filled with a black liquid that only just reflected the light of Lauryl’s glowing holy symbol and the sunrod Celise held up for her own light. A curving stair followed the edge of the dome, ending in three platforms at differing heights above the pool. The surface of the liquid (for it was not water, from what they could tell) evinced a chill the likes of which they had only felt in winter.

“There is a great sense of evil in this place,” said Melinde’, squinting at the power of the aura of the room.

“Is it the pool?” asked Lauryl curiously.

“All of this,” Melinde’ said quietly. “Though the pool certainly seems to be a great part of it.” She stopped and stared as Ielena quietly dipped the tip of her rapier in the water and then pulled it back swiftly. Letting go, she shook her hand as if it had been stung.

“Whatever it is, it’s cold enough to send the sensation up my blade,” the young elf said, staring at the black liquid. “And it did not react to my blade. No ripples. Nothing.”

“Leave it for now, then,” Graven suggested. Turning to Celise, he added, “Unless you might know something of this?”

Celise shrugged. “I am a sorceress. The study of magic is only a pass-time. Not my every fiber like a book-caster.” She absently caressed her black cat, which purred at the attention.

“Right. A mystery in front of a temple of mysteries,” said Ielena, sheathing her blade and looking back into the pillared section. “I think we should see what’s behind that unmarked door. Just in case it’s a closet or something.”

The others moved to follow her, not deigning to argue. They watched as she looked the non-descript door over and then slid it open, staring in confusion at what lay beyond.

While the main room was worked and had the appearance of a temple of sorts, the passageway beyond was little more than unworked stone, natural in shape and left entirely to nature’s formation. It stood in stark contrast to the rest of the place. Even the door looked as if it had only recently been applied to the opening. Looking back at the others, she caught their curious gazes before turning and heading in to look further.

The passageway ahead curved a bit and headed slightly downward, suggesting a descent into the depths below even the temple, which was quite a distance below the mines above. As she moved, the walls closed in until they had little choice but to travel in single file, the rogue using her night senses to look into the shadows beyond the silvery light of Lauryl’s symbol and the golden light of Celise’s sunrod. Eventually, it opened a bit, into a small cavern choked with stalagmites and with stalactites hanging from the ceiling.

“Strange,” Lauryl offered from the rear of the group. “Do you think this is new? It doesn’t look worked…”

Before anyone could respond, however, a figure appeared from the shadows behind a column of rock, shrieking a war cry and swinging a massive stone club at Ielena. In moments, the chamber echoed with the shouts and grunts of combat as three eyeless creatures leapt out from their hiding places in the rocks and attacked.

Ielena was clubbed about and fell back against a stalagmite, bouncing off the hard surface and sliding to the ground even as Graven unleashed his chain from his waist and wrapped it around the head of one of their attackers. It gurgled in pain and then fell to the ground as he yanked back, breaking its neck and sending it toppling to the ground. Its stone Morningstar-like weapon thumped on the floor.

Lauryl lunged into action, moving carefully across the cluttered stone floor so as to not lose her footing. The care with which she moved nearly cost the half-drow her life as one of the creatures’ weapons cracked painfully across her shoulder, but the return blow from her bastard sword lopped its arm off and sent the weapon looping almost lazily through the air. Even as the thing’s head turned to face the stump where its arm had been, she ran it through and it fell to the ground.

Celise whispered a word of power and several motes of light whickered through the air, battering the last standing of the creatures and slamming it against one of the stalagmites nearby. It fell to its knees, whimpering in pain, but she gave it no quarter. Another set of flickering lights blasted into its chest and sent it falling backwards, to lie motionless between a large rock and the stubby point of a wet stalagmite.

“Where did they come from?” Graven asked, poking behind the various stones spread throughout the chamber. The creatures were humanoid in shape, with a bestial face. They looked like degenerate, stooped humans with large heads and craggy features, save for the fact that none of them had eyes of any kind. Where eyes should have been, two depressions made it obvious they had never had sight to begin with.

“Grimlocks,” Celise said, kneeling over the one she’d slain and then wiping her hands off on a towel she produced from her pack. “Dwellers of the underworld. Bestial, dangerous, but usually enslaved by those forces more powerful than them. The orcs of the underworld, if you think about it.”

Graven stared at her. “I thought you said you didn’t spend a lot of time studying books.”

“Not for spells, silly,” the attractive human woman answered, grinning. “I happen to be fascinated with the various forms of life is all. I remember reading about them in a treatise on life in the underworld.”


As soon as Lauryl had finished healing the rapidly purpling bruises on Ielena’s chest and shoulder, they moved on. This time, they watched the shadows carefully, in case more of them came about.

Thanks for the compliment, Peruhain! It's amazing how much time can pass when you're focused on two major events you're solely responsible for...


Graven awoke with a jerk and a curse, instantly feeling about with one hand for the chain he kept with him at all times. It served as weapon and as a focus for his prayers in combat, much as Lauryl’s flat representation of Eilistraee done in silver and hung from a silver chain did for her. A golden symbol of Istus’ spindle hung from his neck as Lauryl’s image of her goddess did, but he focused less on it and more on his chain. It served several purposes, not the least of which was combat. As a belt, it offered him a place to hang things. Wrapped around his forearms it offered him some defense, and unleashed to lash about at his twist and pull, it was extremely dangerous to approach him. That spindles embossed with the impaled skull made up the links only endeared it more to him – it was both symbol and tool in that regard. Those who felt its touch tended not to rebel against the strands of fate Istus wove for them.

Sitting up, he wiped sand grit from his face and looked around. Lauryl sat back from her healing efforts, the silver of her magic fading into her fingers as she pulled away from the wound that had taken him down. Inside his body, he could feel the fresh tingle of magically-healed bones and flesh getting used to be normal once again. “What happened?” he asked.

“You are welcome,” Lauryl replied, eyes crinkling at the edges as she turned away. Her mouth did not match the smile, but he knew she was glad to see him up and about. She turned and began ministering to Melinde’ who was sitting up with Celise’s aid. The sorceress helped the paladin hold the vial she was drinking, eyes widening as the injuries the paladin had taken healed while she watched. Several arrows lay in the sand nearby, their black tips red with blood. The tips were dulled and a few of them were broken from Melinde’s collapse. Graven found himself nodding in recognition of the punishment the warrior woman had undergone to uphold her goddess.

Not far away, Ielena was sitting cross-legged in the sand, inventorying the useful items she’d found on the opposition once they’d fallen and the battle had come to an end. Most of it looked entirely mundane, but a variety of potion bottles and the high priest’s armor had been stacked together – magical, if Graven was a judge of Ielena’s previous exploits. He wondered what had happened to the high priest and then glanced at Melinde’, who was looking about with a baleful glance for the man.

“They nearly did you in,” Lauryl commented, stepping back and producing a wand set with the symbols of healing from her belt. She waved it slowly over his injuries, intoning a soft prayer as his lesser wounds closed and bound themselves back together. “It was close. They managed to shut Celise off from her magic for a time, allowing one of them to escape.” The attractive half-Drow turned and looked at the balcony above, letting him know where their foe had escaped to.

“Is there a way out of there?” he asked, pushing himself off as she put the wand back in a pouch for safekeeping.

“The way we came in was blocked. It is possible that it leads through.”

“Has anyone checked if he has escaped?”

“Went there a moment ago,” Ielena piped up, holding up an emerald to Celise’s glowing sunrod and inspecting it. “Nothing changed. I think he’s holed up in there, waiting for us. Likely with a couple more of his undead things.” She shuddered and cast a glance at the pile of remains that was the troll zombie she’d finished off.

“Creative force they had,” Melinde’ said, thanking Celise and downing another healing draught. She rotated her shoulders as the healing took effect, making certain her muscles did not tighten overly much as they knit once more. “Tieflings, zombies… Quite the mischief they’ve been up to.” She looked around the combat arena and then sneered at the statue of Hextor standing over it all. “Who knows what could have happened to Diamond Lake had we not come here?”

“Worse than what happened to us,” Graven replied, standing with Lauryl’s help and replacing his chain about his waist. “At least we knew what to expect.”

“Speak for yourself,” Ielena replied, placing the gem in a pouch and examining a ring she’d found. “I didn’t have a clue what would be down here. Only that there was something about a green worm, remember?”

Celise nodded. “I don’t think any of us really expected to find a temple to Hextor here,” she said quietly. “It is a little unnerving to think that such a thing could exist so close to the surface.”

“We are not close to the surface,” said Graven, looking around. “That elevator shaft brought us down at least a hundred feet, and we were that much before then.”

“You know what I mean,” Celise replied crossly. “Two hundred feet or two miles, it’s still a little too close to town for my liking.”

“That is why we are here,” Graven answered. Looking around, he spotted Ielena’s rope still stuck to the banister above. “I would have thought they would have some way to get up there…” He snapped his fingers. “That door in the storage room. It likely led up there.”

“There was a door in the corner I noticed,” offered Lauryl. “I did not examine it in our haste to get back to help you two.” She nodded at Graven and Melinde’, who nodded back.

“It is barred from this side,” Ielena said lightly. “I didn’t open it since I figured that our friend in the back rooms might use it to sneak up on us and ruin our party.”

“You call this a party?” asked Celise.

Ielena’s response was merely to stick her tongue out at the sorceress, who giggled in response.

“Well, that takes care of those approach options,” Graven said, shrugging to loosen his shoulders. “Lauryl, do you think we can get through the way your escapee went?”

“He barred the door as he went,” the half-Drow replied. “Unless we have some means of battering through…” She fell silent as Graven reached up to touch Kullen’s axe, still hanging from his pack. Nodding, she moved toward the rope. “If we do this, there is every possibility he might try to run out the other way.”

“I’ll cover that angle, never you mind,” Ielena said, standing. “Might want to put these things in some packs, though. I think most of this is magical. I’ve already put the coins and gems aside for later.”

“Nice of you,” Graven muttered.

“Don’t start, Graven,” Ielena warned. He raised his hands in surrender and began to climb the rope.

The door in question looked much like any other door they’d ever seen before. Iron bars reinforced wood planks nailed together with stout iron nails. Had it not been for the fact that Lauryl had heard the bar drop behind it before, they would likely have never known it would resist a shoulder bash. As it was, however, Graven pulled forth Kullen’s axe, gathered his thoughts, and then let loose at the door.

Immediately, they know what lay beyond was darker inclined than even the battle arena had. While that had been a place of worship and sacrifice, beyond the door had to be the center of Hextor’s temple. The scent of incense wafted through the door after the first impact, and more dark chanting could be heard, though this time, in the rapid and panicked sounds of one who has come to the end of his line and has nowhere else to go. The chanting reached a fever pitch as the axe shattered the top half of the door, and suddenly, chaos erupted once more.

Beyond, dressed in the blood-red vestments of his god, stood the remaining priest, hands held up before a black iron statue of Hextor. His words reverberated in the small space within, and before anyone could move to enter the chamber, two suits of armor moved toward the doorway to intercept, the skeletal figures within animating with a hellish glow in their eyes.

Even as Lauryl focused on her holy symbol to turn the foul beings away, Graven let loose a battle cry and swung the axe through the opening again. Bones and armor shattered as kullen’s enchanted axe tore through their frail forms, and moments later, he was in the room, facing the last remaining priest of this dark and hellish place.

The half-orc did not speak, instead relying upon his prowess with his weapon to do the talking. Lashing out, he tore across Graven’s shoulder, opening a rent in his leather jacket, but otherwise leaving him unharmed. Beneath the torn leather, the glint of chain could be seen. Graven’s return assault was as violent as it was effective. Lashing out with one end of the chain, he wrapped it around the priest’s knee and pulled, distending the joint with a loud crack, followed by the pain-filled howl of his victim. Falling, the priest grabbed at a blood-encrusted knife and caught it, bouncing his head off the floor for his efforts. Even as Lauryl and Celise moved through the half-sundered door to join the battle, it ended as the half-orc soundlessly shoved the knife into his own chest, wheezed, and died.

“That…” Celise said when it was over, “was anti-climactic.”

“Go get Ielena,” answered Graven, stepping to the man and inspecting him to make certain he was dead. “She’ll not want to be left alone for much longer and I do not trust this place to leave her such.”

Lauryl nodded and moved to head back the way they’d come. As she had suspected, there were other rooms here, but all of them turned out to be empty, save of supplies necessary to keep a temple like this fed and occupied. Bedrooms for the priests, guard rooms for their tiefling bodyguards and a private room for the high priest were all that met their roving eyes. It appeared Hextor’s servants had well and truly been put out of commission.

“Excellent,” Graven said as the others investigated the chambers. “We can stay here for the rest of the day and recouperate. Tomorrow we can take a look around. For now, at least, we’ve got limited access, two routes of approach and retreat, and plenty of supplies. Let’s get cleaned up and fed and perhaps rest a bit.”

“Good idea. I’m about out of the energies I need anyway,” replied Celise, sitting nearby and catching her breath. After the adrenaline rush of the temple and the final battle with the priest, she was ready to sit down, close her eyes, and sleep the entirety of a day away.

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Just a side note, but the Grimlock's Blindsight only reaches to 40'. Grallak Kur is in a cavern much deeper than that. My party decided to make a stand at the raised area at the entrance to the chamber, rather than charge forward, which meant I had to have Grallak cast Obscuring Mist so he could move forward to "see" them.

Also, as a side note, having Grallak stand in the mist and then cast Invisibility on himself led to a nice escape. Unfortunately, he'd cast Cause Fear on the party's most effective fighter, who fled until the chamber at the top of the incline leading to the rope bridge. That individual then stood in the entrance to that passage, forcing a combat that came down to a few HP separating the two from life and death.

The party Rogue ran up at the last second, MISSED twice and then allowed Grallak to take down the interfering PC and get away! He'll be showing up in the Vecna temple... *rubs hands together gleefully*

The doors were bronze and decorated to look like a bas-relief of Hextor, the six-armed god of warfare. In each hand was a different implement of combat, from a sword, to a mace, to a flail and warhammer. His features were snarling in a blood rage and he appeared ready to step through the door at any moment. Melinde’ looked discomforted by the close presence of the effigy of her god’s immortal enemy, and when she pulled the doors open suddenly, they slammed against the walls with a resounding boom.

“It is about time you showed yourselves,” a voice called from deep within. Torches lined the dark stone walls of a sand-lined pit directly ahead of them. In the middle, a fifteen foot tall statue of Hextor stood in the middle of the chamber, facing a raised area ten feet above the level of the floor. A colonnaded walkway surrounded the three sides of the chamber facing the temple doors, lined with archers who were aimed and ready to fire. At the far end, standing to one side of the statue so that he could see the entry was a man in full plate decorated with the blood red image of Hextor’s holy symbol, a gauntlet clutching three arrows. Behind him stood two adjutants. Dark hulks hid in the shadows behind them. “We were beginning to get tired of waiting.”

“You do not have to wait any longer, cretin!” Melinde yelled. “Heironeous!!” She charged into the chamber, followed immediately by the others. Knowing full well that this was a trap did not slow the troupe, knowing as they did that there was no other way. They would have to trust in their gods to survive this day. The air filled with arrows and the sonorous tone of magic-filled chants…

Instantly, Melinde’s armor sprouted three arrows, fired by archers wearing chainmail masks over their faces and wearing tabards marked with Hextor’s holy symbol over chain armor. Grunting, her charge was slowed, but not stalled, and she continued to move forward. Behind her, Graven gripped his chain as he lunged into the room, looking for a means to get out of the killing zone that was the battle arena and reach his enemies up high. Nearby, Lauryl chanted a prayer that her friends recognized, feeling a sensation of lightness and support as she finished. Celise eyed the figures at the far end of the room, uttered an arcane syllable, and sent a pair of bolts whickering through the air, to slam into one of the adjutants near the priest who’d spoken. That individual staggered back, shouted hoarsely and eyed her across the room. Ielena, seeing the situation, twisted to one side as she entered the killing field, heading for one wall as she pulled a length of rope off the bottom of her pack. Tying her grappling hook to it, she flung it up to the balustrade as she reached the wall…

Graven watched as Melinde’ was feathered again with more arrows, her faith carrying her through the pain to pass the statue of Hextor and shout curses and insults up at the Hextorite priest who was hiding on the upper balcony. “COWARD!” she cried. “The lord of battle does not hide and cringe from the fight! Face me as your god would face mine!”

“Child!” the priest retorted, laughing. “Battle is about tactical advantage, and you are foolish enough to walk into the trap! Die like the fools you are!” So saying, he flung a spell at her, but her faith was strong enough to resist the sensation of ice that settled into her veins and threatened to lock her into position and be slaughtered like a sheep.

Graven too, felt a spell settle into him. Images of death and slaughter resounded through his head, the idea that he might die here, forgotten and ignored threatened to unhinge his mind and send him fleeing. With an effort of will, he countered that image with thoughts of the evil of this place escaping to destroy the town above as they threatened the party now. Moments later, the effort caused him to shout as he overcame the fear and shrugged it off – only to be shot in the shoulder for his efforts.

Lauryl saw the situation for what it was – a slaughter waiting to happen. Calling upon her god once more, she prayed for assistance against the foe, directing the answer to that prayer to the balcony above, where the archers were firing unimpeded into their ranks. A silvery spiral of light appeared near the trio of priests on the balcony in answer and a glittering scorpion of immense size stepped through, snapping one of the archers in half with it’s claw and stabbing one of the priests with it’s tail. Mayhem and chaos broke out amongst the previously haughty priests and archers, and the situation changed in an instant. “Thank you, Eilistraee,” she offered fervently.

Across the room, Celise had advanced into the withering fire, but ignored the flickering arrows whispering this way and that throughout the chamber. Instead, she focused on one of the spellcasters on the balcony, conjuring the words to memory that brought forth a horizontal pillar of flame. When it erupted, she carefully maneuvered it to face the female of the three priests, watching as she was abruptly stabbed by the appearing scorpion and then immolated in fire. She fell back, screaming for a moment before falling to lay near a throne in the shadows. The fire illuminated a pair of grayish-skinned trolls, which suddenly lunged into action, stomping toward the scorpion as it flung the upper half of the archer it had killed down into the blood soaked sands of the killing field.

With a flick of her wrist, Ielena’s grappling hook caught on the rail. Seconds later, she was climbing up into the armored face of one of the archers, who dropped his bow and drew his shortsword to counter her arrival. A deft flick of the wrist brought her rapier up into position to deflect the strike and a moment later, she rammed the point of her vibrating blade home through his hidden mouth. With a shudder and a jerk, the archer fell back, his motion pulling the chain mask off his face and revealing a demonic-looking being covered in tattoos glorifying Hextor and slaughter. With a sniff, Ielena flicked her blade, clearing the mask and blood before turning to defend against another charging archer’s blade…

Graven avoided an arrow and ducked as a flickering flail appeared in the air and nearly took his head off. Instead, the action, intended to crush his skull, smashed into his arm and ribcage, breaking bones and sending him crumpling to the ground. Shadows swept in as he cursed the priests and their foul abominations above for hiding behind the balcony’s edge. The sounds of the high priest’s laughter followed him into the darkness…

Seeing Ielena on the balcony, Lauryl moved to support her companion, continuing the litany of prayers she was reciting to boost the morale of her party and taking up the rope. She began to climb, feeling every ounce of the armor about her body as she did.

Celise turned and sent another pair of flickering bolts into the other assistant, even as he gestured wildly at the scorpion and yelled a command to the lumbering hulks of the trolls. Something was not right with them, but she could not see clearly in the half dark of the chamber.

Melinde’ called upon Heironeous’ glory, healing herself of her injuries as the high priest finally caved into her unrelenting curses and calls of cowardice. Leaping off the wall, the high priest landed in the sand next to her with a grunt before rising and facing off, his black-glowing flail against her sword. The two met in mortal combat micro-seconds later, growling and hurling epithets as they glared into the other’s hate-filled eyes. The glowing, crackling black flail moved behind her…

Ielena ducked and wove, spitting the second archer beneath his armpit as he raised his arm to cleave her head. The demonic creature stared at her in shock before blood began to bubble from beneath the mask. Yanking her blade back, she lashed out with a foot and sent him careening over the edge. Behind him, however, one of the gray-skinned trolls was lumbering toward her. The skin tone was all wrong and the expression did not look right. Rather than the blood-thirsty expression she’d always heard trolls wore when going into combat, this was slack-jawed, its eyes not even looking at her. Her skin crawled with the realization that it was already dead…

“Back!” Ielena called. “It’s not living!” Turning, the rogue tumbled off the balcony, back to the sand floor below. Landing easily, she twisted around, to see Lauryl holding forth her holy symbol and uttering words of power against such things. With a strange grunt, the troll turned from her and fell off the balcony, slamming in a pile of broken limbs and stench below. Across the room, the priestess saw her scorpion smash the other troll to pieces before being run through by the third priest’s sword. Seeing this, she began to run. There were no archers at this point, all of them having turned to fight the party as they came up to the balcony, or to fight the scorpion, which had done its job. It disappeared in a flash of silvery light and was gone.

Celise began uttering the words to another spell and then stopped, staring at her hands when she realized she could not hear anything. Complete and total silence reigned suddenly and she looked about in surprise to see what had happened. Staring at her with a smile on his face, was the last priest on the balcony, sneering at the success of his spell. Unfazed, she drew her crossbow and shot him, grinning in response when her quarrel lodged itself in his side and sent him staggering backwards.

Ielena reversed her grip on her rapier and slammed it repeatedly into the eyes of the troll thing that had fallen beside her. It was not moving, but it was better safe than sorry. When her blade began making sickening sounds reminiscent of a spoon in jelly, she stopped, but by then, the battle was nearly through.

Melinde’ was staggering from a number of blows, her armor crushed and dented in places. She bled from the mouth and nose and one hand hung limp at her side, her shield useless. Opposite her, however, the high priest was lying on the floor, her sword run through the point where the breastplate separated from the groin pieces, a crucial weakness of full plate armor. His hands were on the blade and blood flicked his lips as he continued to whisper curses and threats even as his heart stopped beating and his breath was stolen away. The high priest down, Melinde’ looked about and then fell herself, knowing the battle was over.

Lauryl charged on the remaining priest, watching as realization dawned that he was suddenly the last one alive in the chamber who fought for Hextor. Turning, he fled through a door in the balcony that had not seen before, slamming it as she arrived. Even as she pulled at the handle, she heard the heavy sound of a bar being slammed across the other side and knew she was beaten. Turning back, she surveyed the scene.

All across the balcony, archers were sprawled in positions of death. Some were snipped in two by the short-lived scorpion ally Eilistraee had granted her. Others had been run through by Ielena’s blade before her rapid retreat. One of the trolls lay in three pieces, its body unable to regrow itself in death. A massive hole in the chest told of how the scorpion had impaled it and then shredded it while it could not escape. One priestess lay nearby, horribly burned and lying in a position of utter death, thrown against the wall by the force of Celise’s flaming magic. Below, the high priest lay near Graven and Melinde’, while against one wall, Celise rested on her crossbow, dragging a potion from her belt and heading toward the fallen. On the opposite side of the room, Ielena was already poking through the remains of one of the fallen archers, quickly aware that the fight was over – at least for now…

With a last look at the door, Lauryl uttered a curse and turned to go assist her friends. Graven and Melinde’ were still breathing, at least. It looked like they’d managed to survive the attempted slaughter. Hextor’s will had been defeated in his own temple.

So why didn’t she feel vindicated?

Logos wrote:

I always saw it being a Distanced Sunder with a Will Negates against a single Object of 10/bs per caster level

i thought the FortSave was only against Crystal Creatures and i believe the RAW Support this interpetation

I think it would be a bit clearer if both the secondary effects (THe Single Object and the Crystellin creature) each had their own Paragraph

Then how do you determine the Will save of an object?? Is it the Will of the wielder?

How much damage vs. a single, non-magical, non-crystalline object? Like, say, a Long spear, or for that purpose, a MW Great Axe?

There's no save. Is it an insta-Sunder from afar? If not, how much damage?

Evocation [Sonic]

Level: Brd 2, Chaos 2, Clr 2, Destruction 2, Sor/Wiz 2

Components: V, S, M/DF

Casting Time: 1 standard action

Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Area or Target: 5-ft.-radius spread; or one solid object or one crystalline creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Will negates (object); Will negates (object) or Fortitude half; see text
Spell Resistance: Yes (object)
Shatter creates a loud, ringing noise that breaks brittle, nonmagical objects; sunders a single solid, nonmagical object; or damages a crystalline creature.

Used as an area attack, shatter destroys nonmagical objects of crystal, glass, ceramic, or porcelain. All such objects within a 5-foot radius of the point of origin are smashed into dozens of pieces by the spell. Objects weighing more than 1 pound per your level are not affected, but all other objects of the appropriate composition are shattered.

Alternatively, you can target shatter against a single solid object, regardless of composition, weighing up to 10 pounds per caster level. Targeted against a crystalline creature (of any weight), shatter deals 1d6 points of sonic damage per caster level (maximum 10d6), with a Fortitude save for half damage.

Arcane Material Component: A chip of mica.

IMC, the party followed the leads from the encounter with Filge to the Dourstone Mine on their own (there's no way they'd work with Smenk willingly). To get in, they bribed and Diplomacy'd their way in, but only just (thanks to a group Diplomacy effort against one of the Mine Overseers).

On their way out, I had Dobrun Trent and Sherriff Cubbin waiting for them outside to arrest them on trespassing charges. They were taken to the Garrison and locked up for perhaps half a day while Melinde' (who is an NPC in the party at the moment) was taken off to explain to Captain Trask exactly what had happened. When she returned, the party was escorted to Trask's office, where they found themselves face-to-face with Smenk and Dourstone. Dourstone threatened their lives should he catch them in his mine again, and left. Smenk, however, advised them that HE was the reason they were free...

This is after the party slew all BUT Kullen in an ambush when they found out that Kullen's crew was involved in Alastor Land's family's bones disappearing. Smenk is enjoying knowing that such a "capable" group of people are now in hock to him and has advised them to tell him directly what they find in the Dourstone Mine, within a week, or they go back to jail.

Of course, he fully expects them to come back raring for a fight, so I'm going to borrow the goblin/barghest idea as fillers for Smenk's place...

Most of the points either for and against Paladins have already been made, so I'll just point out that it is possible to play a Paladin without being a stringent ass. I can also back up the comment about someone in the party constantly rattling the Paladin's can about his being a "self-righteous do-gooder" since I'm in a game with a Neutral Wizard who refuses to believe that Paladins are anything more than "Death waiting to happen."

That said, my Paladin proceeded to inform her that he was not going to go charging heedlessly into battle shouting out his name and the many reasons that evil must die. He also proved that his valor and bravery came with a cost - he had lost his wife to a previous lord who, it turned out, was evil and had been sending him on increasingly more dangerous missions simply to get him killed. Frustrated by the fellow's continued success (his god had other plans for him, apparently), he offed the one thing the Paladin truly cared for aside from his duty and service (he was a "God save the Queen" kind of guy) - his wife.

The Paladin forswore the oath he'd taken to the man and walked away, to find another lord who was truly good. He also swore that, someday, the lord who had betrayed him and slew his wife would pay for his crimes - not against the Paladin, but simply because he had murdered someone. The fact that it was his wife only gave him that much more drive.

In that campaign, the Paladin has, so far, single-handedly defended the slender path the party was retreating away from an army of evil until the party could get to safety (nearly dying in the process and having his Con reduced to nearly zero by the immaterial creatures he was fighting), stood in front of the party to take the explosion he knew was coming from a series of villains who exploded when defeated (their leader was a truly villainous bastard), talked a pair of animalistic high-powered barbarians down from attacking them and turned them against their evil lord by playing on their honor and calling upon them to "do the right thing..."

Basically, a Paladin can be much more than the stick in the mud everyone thinks he is. He can abide by good tactics against a superior foe (including sneaking in and NOT announcing himself before combat if that means he'd get smoked before he finished his sentence). He can deal with dark-aligned individuals if doing so serves a greater good, but only so long as the greater good is served and only if he breaks off such contact once such greater good is served.

A Paladin is not a dimwit. He serves the forces of Good. Good gods in mythology work with Evil gods if it serves their purposes - so can a Paladin. So long as such contact does not taint the fellow and lead to a fall, he is still a Paladin and is still serving the cause of Right and Good!


Well, since I am one of those folks who brought up an alignment question recently, I thought I'd post a friend of mine's concept on how to "graph" alignment. I like it, since you can then state with numbers what your degree to that alignment really is - allowing everyone to know more easily whether you are playing within your alignment or not.

All credit goes to Ross Wilkin, aka MaceMorningstar over at

Alignment Scales

The Alignment Scales split the Alignment categories into multiple "steps" that a character can progress back and forth along. A player should decide where their character falls on both scales before play begins. Regardless of a character's position on one scale, alignment-reliant spells work just the same: A Magic Circle against Evil will just as easily work against a character at -1 (Uncaring) as it will -5 (Vile Evil), and in addition spells such as the Detect spells which give details about a target's alignment will give the caster an idea of the target's place on the scale.

Alignment is measured on two scales – Good/Evil, and Law/Chaos. Both scales are measured between -5 and 5, as shown below.

-5: Vile Evil
-4: Truly Evil
-3: Black-hearted
-2: Cruel
-1: Uncaring
+0: Truly Neutral
+1: Caring
+2: Kind
+3: Good-hearted
+4: Truly Good
+5: Exalted Goodness

-5: Insanely Chaotic
-4: Truly Chaotic
-3: Wild
-2: Capricious
-1: Whimsical
+0: Truly Neutral
+1: Dependable
+2: Predictable
+3: Orderly
+4: Truly Lawful
+5: Mechanically Lawful

Only truly meaningful acts shift a character's position on the scales – and many such acts are powerful enough to change their position on both. However, the difficulty of moving from one step to another becomes incrementally harder the further your alignment moves from “0”. It's not too hard to change from Caring to Kind, but changing from Good-hearted to Truly Good is another matter altogether.

Generally, the +5/-5 values are reserved for creatures who define themselves through that alignment. -5 Evil would be held by Devils and Demons, while +5 Law would be held by denizens of Mechanus. For a mortal to gain one of these extreme values, something truly amazing must have occurred to make it so.

Thanks for the responses, guys. I asked because I wasn't too certain whether I was in the right on this and you guys pretty much told me what my gut was saying, but my mind was rebelling against.

By the way, I told the player that James Jacobs replied to the question and he leapt up and down, shouting that "my character is more real now! Someone in a position of authority over Dungeons & Dragons has heard of him!"

I neglected to tell him that I never mentioned that characters name...

*shakes head*




I have a member of my campaign who is playing a Lawful Neutral variant of the Goddess Istus (Lady of Fate) in Greyhawk. His variant is basically an undead hunter, who feels that those who either willingly choose or are forced into undead status have broken the threads Istus has woven for them and must be destroyed.

I have no problem with most of his tenets (he has finally delivered them to me), except for one:

"Make effort to observe and support the law except when it might interfere with the tenets of the order."

This, somehow, does not strike me as right for someone of Lawful Neutral alignment, since Lawful Neutral is basically "obey the law."

Your thoughts on this? Basically, I don't want to slam the player for a tenet that allows him to flout the law whenever it's convenient for him and still call himself Lawful Neutral. Especially if it is generally considered acceptable to have this sort of behavior in a LN character.


I'm 38.

My game - 2 females, 2 males. Males are both in their early 20s, one female is early 20's. One female (my wife) is 36.

My friend's game - 5 males, all in their mid-20's, all Masters or PhD students at a technological university. And then there's me, the Liberal Arts major almost twice their age who spends much of his time wondering just what in the heck they're talking about...

There is one potential answer to this - that is to post what you've run in d20.

I've run a d20 Past adventure based around Atlantis. The idea being that the famous "mysterious" locations of the world (Stonehenge, Easter Island, etc.) were all aspects of a "power web" that used to connect the world into a world-wide power source that the Atlanteans used not only to power their technologies, but to transport themselves from place to place. The game took place in 1938, so there was plenty of opportunity for Nazis to get in the way, but it was mostly an archeological-based adventure, with the party racing to get the three "items of power" needed to activate each location. The Nazis wanted to activate it to gain control and therefore rule the world. The heroes wanted to activate it to stop them. A third party wanted NO ONE to activate it, so there was no end of bad guys. I incorporated steam-punk style Nazi "super-soldiers" walking around in clunky "mecha" style armor, Incantations that were leftover "words of power" from the Atlanteans, and even did a few spirits and undead as "reminders of what should not be dealt with."

Was a ton of fun.

One other (d20 Future)-
Different galaxy - a galactic war has just ended and the losers were a hive-mind race that is beginning to wake up to their individuality once more (think of a biogenetic "borg" like the Zerg, but without the Massmind to lead them). The party serves as a type of Imperial Inquisitor, answering to the Emperor/Empress, dealing with threats to the Empire. Eventually, they stumble on an attempt by particularly crafty hive-minders who are attempting to re-build their Hive Mind in secret, and have to track it down and destroy the thing before it reaches true sentience again...

And my last d20 Modern game -
The players are part of a "Crow" poser-gang in 2050's Los Angeles. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas style, they work their way up the power structure of Los Angeles, taking on Russian and Triad influences, all the while being influenced by Shadow attacks, until someone they think of as "crazy" clues them in on the realities of this world - at which point, they have to deal with a mega-corporation that is seeking to open the gates to Shadow on a permanent basis...

Back when I was big into GURPS, I ran a 10-year-long campaign series where I converted the Against the Slavers campaign into GURPS. After the heroes "retired" after the defeat of the slavelords, they became nobles of Verbobonc and were made into knights. They took part in the Greyhawk Wars and then retired into well-earned peace, and started making babies.

Naturally, it was logical that our next campaign would be their children growing up in the shadows of such great heroes. The first adventure dealt with them escaping from the "Temple of the Light" in Verbobonc, where the Priest of the party had a school to enlighten the masses and where lords could send their children for "finishing school."

The main "villain" of the campaign was then the NPC follower of the Priest from the first campaign (he was a lot younger), who spent much of his time appearing as the Imperial March played and a bunch of white/gold-robed soldiers tromped through the cities of the southern Nyr Dyv searching for the run-aways.

The campaign ended up spending some time in Greyhawk and then moved on to the beginnings of a rebellion in the Duchy of Urnst, which only took place because one of the heroes had forgotten who they were and only learned when they traveled (purely by chance) to that land and he was recognized...

T'was awesome.

The only campaign that was related to that was the younger sister of the eldest son of one of the adventurers-turned-knights when she went on her own adventure with her commoner-boyfriend and wore her mother's "enchanted" chainmail armor.

Those were good times!


Any of the published modules out there can be a lot of fun, depending on the level you want to play (and whether or not your local book store/game store has them in stock). I personally loved Sunken Citadel. It could easily be a two-day adventure if everyone stays focused...

Otherwise, you might be able to find The Fright at Tristor, which was another good one. Nice, short, low-level (you don't spend half your day making characters if the game is low-level). Tristor in particular had a nice, neat ending.

Don't listen to him. He's a prick.

Just joking!!! ^_^

"Bill Hendricks destroyed the food..."

“’ere’s the place,” the miner said, nodding at a wall of badly-nailed boards. A sign stuck into the ground said “Do Not Pass.” The dwarf eyed the strangely bad construction and shrugged. “Went up ‘bout six months ago. No one thought nothin’ of it. Tis Dourstone’s mine an’ I heard he ‘ad a group of his own men do the excavation. Next few weeks, no one could come through this hall. After that, this was ‘ere, boarded up.”

Lauryl eyed the construction. “This is hardly standard quality for dwarves,” she offered.

“Aye. Makes me think it weren’t our kind,” he said. “Can’t say it’s much appreciated, bein’ an eyesore an’ all.” He looked back up the passage, toward the main cavern. “Well, I done me score. Ye knows where ta find it. I’m off ta me work.”

“You have our thanks,” replied Graven, nodding. “It will not be forgotten.”

“Ye jes’ do what ye came ta do. If’n there’s something’ nasty beyon’ that there bit, ye get rid of it. I got a wife an’ three bairns ta go home to.”

“We will do so,” replied Melinde’. “Be safe.”

“You an’ your’n, as well.” The miner headed off the way they’d come, leaving them to ponder the badly constructed wall.

“Nothing for it but to tear it down,” suggested Graven, reaching up to grab a piece of wood and pulling. It gave easily, suggesting it wasn’t as sturdy as even its shoddy construction suggested. In a matter of moments, the others had moved in to assist and the way was made open. Beyond, a steeply descending passage could be seen, crudely hacked out of the stone. Graven looked at the others, raised an eyebrow in curiosity, and led the way. “Celise, if you will provide the light?”

Celise snapped her fingers and the end of her sunrod began to glow. They began to move forward.

After moving in a generally straight line downward, the group found themselves staring at an elevator suspended by a thick chain. Four chains rose from a wood platform through a central pillar with four rings in it, providing a stable means of descent. A thick spool of chain was looped around a central ratchet and catch system, held into place with a simple pull bar that served as a catch. After Ielena inspected it to be certain it wouldn’t collapse under their weight, they assembled around its center and Graven began ratcheting them downward…

Another unspecified distance passed in silence but for the clanking of the chains and the ratchet system. Finally, they passed through what was the roof of a large cavernous chamber and began to descend into a pillared darkness. Three directions led to walls a short distance away, with doors down short passages. The fourth led to a large open, circular chamber with three ledges and a stair overlooking a darkened pool. The entire place was lit by torches, giving it a strange glow and proving that the pool was filled with black liquid that eerily reflected Celise’s light source.

As the platform touched down and before the party could do anything, the light source went out and the group was plunged into inky blackness. A moment later, Lauryl yelped as a blade caught on her chainmail and cut into her. Chaos broke out.

Lauryl shoved against the figure she felt in the darkness nearby, feeling the blade slip from her armor. Clutching her side, she felt the warmth of blood and cursed in her mother’s tongue, whipping her bastard sword over her head and slashing it around in the pitch blackness.

“What happened?” asked Ielena, grunting a moment later and then screaming in pain.

“They’ve cancelled out my spell!” Celise called a moment later. “It is too powerful for me to counteract!”

“Move forward!” commanded Graven, pulling his chain off and wrapping it around his fists. Not knowing where his companions were limited his ability to whip it around in lethal arcs, so he fell into a secondary fighting position. “Such spells only affect a certain area. If we can get out…” He grunted then, feeling a blade nick his cheek, dodging instinctively as it flashed towards him.

Melinde’, near the back of the group, concentrated a moment and then scowled. “There is great evil here,” she told the others.

“Later,” Lauryl replied, wracking her brain for a counterspell and lashing about with her blade. The entire time, she whipped her sword to and fro, just in case. “Keep speaking. We will know where the others are!” Her blade caught on something in front of her and she grinned ferally, knowing no one she cared for was there. Shoving with all of her might, she felt the blade sink further and the figure it had sunk into pulled away. A gurgling sound followed and she continued to press forward even as the one she’d hit retreated. As they exited the darkness, it revealed itself to her – a horned figure wearing chain armor draped in a red tabard bearing the symbol of Hextor, the six-armed god of carnage and slaughter. Horns protruded from his head and his skin was tined with red scales. He backed into a pillar and she ran him through, pushing up against him as blood began to run from beneath the chain mask he wore.

“Sneaking up is unworthy of your god,” she whispered, yanking the blade back and out. Behind her, Ielena gave out a fierce yell as another figure emerged from the darkness, backing away. Celise stepped forward from the darkness a moment later, uttering a word and sending a trio of bolts of light flying from her fingers, to slam into the figure and toss him from his feet. He did not get up again.

Graven and Melinde’ stepped forth moments later, looking around at the perfectly spherical area of darkness the creatures had called into being. The paladin knelt over one of the fallen and flipped the chain mask off his face, making a face and turning away before looking at the others. “Tieflings. Beings tainted with evil by a forebear. They have the ability to summon darkness from nothingness.” She looked around and then spitting on the creatures. “Servitors of Hextor. There must be a temple nearby.”

“Over here, then,” Ielena said, pointing to an open door with the symbol of that god on it. “Looks like we missed one in the fighting.”

“A delaying tactic,” Graven muttered. “We will have to be ready. They are likely expecting us.”

“The longer we wait, the more prepared they become,” Melinde’ said, anger showing in her eyes. “Hextor is the enemy of my god, Heieroneous. I must take up this fight.”

“We know,” Lauryl answered, nodding. “And we will go with you.”

Melinde’ nodded and strode toward the doorway, beyond which was likely a Hextorian force preparing for them.

“No time like the present,” Ielena said, slipping in just before the paladin.


Beyond the doorway was a short but wide hall leading to a chamber lined with rusted suits of platemail. Skeletons had been arranged inside the armor to fill them out, and as the troupe approached, a flurry of activity could be heard. As Graven and the others ordered themselves for combat, a hissing, growling band of humans, both male and female, gathered at the end of the hallway, holding spears, which they leveled in the party’s direction. Almost as quickly as this took place, several of the skeletal figures on the walls began moving, their armor jangling not only with their own metal plates, but with hundreds of tiny bells that rang as they jostled toward the troupe.

Seeing this, Lauryl’s hand went to her chest. A moment later, holding it out toward the creatures, she called upon Eilistraee for them to begone! Several of them fell to the ground in a crashing tangle of metal and bones, but others kept coming. The Hextorian cultists offered an angry shout and took a step into the hallway, threatening with their spears.

“Celise, now would be a good time for one of those group affecting spells,” muttered Graven.

“Certainly would. Too bad I don’t know any,” the sorceress quipped.

“Here they come!” shouted Ielena.

As the cultists charged, a ruckus in the background drew everyone’s attention. A massive figure moved into the chamber from behind, blasting through cultists and skeletal remains alike as it thundered toward the party. Four legged and low-slung, it was not obvious that the creature was a dire variant of a boar until the cultists in front panicked and stepped aside, to reveal a scarred and tusked face that was obviously angry about something and wanted to take it out on anyone it could.

“Oh, shi…” Graven felt the tusks slam into his chain-armored chest and catch. A moment later, he felt the immense strength of the creature as it flung him bodily into the wall nearby, blasting the air from his lungs.

Unperturbed, Lauryl moved into an elegant dance reminiscent of those she had offered to her goddess on quiet nights before this whole affair began. Her blade flickered and swept about in loops, each loop leaving a bloody score on the side of the immense creature, which swept its head this way and that, crashing its tusks past Ielena’s rapier and sending her staggering back as it head-butted her. Over Lauryl’s shoulders flashed more of the glowing balls of light, to impact on the creature’s tough hide like warhammer strikes, only to be ignored in the thing’s ferocity.

Graven picked himself and lashed out with his chain, aiming the spiked end at the boar’s face and being rewarded with a loud squeal as it ripped one of the creature’s eyes out of its socket. Howling in rage and pain, the thing redoubled its efforts, this time stomping at him and bouncing him off one of its shoulders. He lashed out once again, only to rebound off the wall once more, staggered from the impact.

Ielena watched the chaotic tumult and rose to her feet, staying low. When the creature turned to slam into Melinde’ as she stepped forward to aid Graven, she vaulted forward, leaping up to touch the creature’s tough spiny hide before leaping into a gyrating spin to land behind it and the line of spear-wielding cultists. In a moment, she was behind enemy lines, where she saw that there were more skeletons than Lauryl had been able to turn, and they weren’t encumbered by spears they could not easily reverse…

Finally, the combination of blade strikes, chain blows and magic reached through to the huge boar’s tiny brain to tell it that it could no longer function. It fell to the ground without warning, a last squeal echoing off the walls as it collapsed and rolled onto one bloody side.

“CHARGE!” Graven leapt over the fallen creature, releasing his chains from both wrists and lashing them into the forest of waving spears. Even now, some were lowering as Ielena went to work behind their lines and the cultists recoiled in pain from her less-than-gentle ministrations of her rapier. Beside him, Lauryl leapt into the fray as well, batting aside two of the spears, but taking one high in the shoulder before she could penetrate their line. More magical hammer strikes flew through the air, throwing cultists this way and that and blasting a skeleton into shards inside its armor.

Before long, the cultists were routed, two of them fleeing down a hall even as the party followed through. Ielena shot one, dropping him outside a pair of open double doors that were heavily laden with chains, while Celise blasted the other from his feet to keep him from getting away.

Silence fell once more and the party was left to look around and assess their wounds. Everyone but Celise was bleeding from multiple small cuts. Bruises had begun to show where the dire boar had managed to slam into them, and Graven was holding one side and gasping in pain. Despite this, he managed a healing prayer and shortly after, the rib he had broken in the fighting had knit once more. His breath returned to normal as Lauryl dealt out more healing prayers and relied upon a wand she’d purchased in town for the rest.

“Watch the hallway,” Graven said, nodding toward a pair of large double doors at the far end marked with the symbol of Hextor. “If they are going to counter attack, they will do it from there.”

“I have it,” Melinde’ said, moving to stand in the middle of the passage. Her sword and shield at the ready, she glared at the unholy symbol engraved on the far doors. “Do what you must.”

In moments, the party investigated a set of rooms to either side of the main guard room. Both were quarters, though one held mats and remnants of finery used as a communal rest area (complete with a statue of Hextor on top of a crate filled with the cultist’s belongings), while the other was more orderly and appeared to be the sleeping quarters of the tieflings the party had seen earlier. Finding nothing of interest, they moved back into the main hall.

“Smenk will have much to answer for if he knew about all this,” Graven uttered as the troupe regrouped around Melinde’.

“If he or Dourstone knew about all of this and did nothing to report it, they are both in serious trouble,” Melinde’ growled. “Let us move forward and finish this.”

Halfway down the hall, the double doors opened onto a large chamber that had obviously been the source of the dire boar. Its stench was strong here and the chains spoke to the strength necessary to keep the creature at bay. One of the guards must have come this direction to release the creature while the cultists moved to block their path. That guard had obviously not cared that his own people might be in the boar’s way…

“Main doors,” Graven said, looking down the passage, “or the side passage. Maybe we can find some other way into their temple without just knocking?”

“Perhaps,” Melinde’ replied, agreeing.

Moving as a group, they waited while Ielena inspected the door and declared it free of traps. She threw it open while Graven stepped through, ready to cleave anyone unfortunate enough to be standing there. No one was, however. A short passageway led to a blind left turn. There was no light other than Celise’ sunrod, and they began to move forward once more.

At the turn, they were ambushed yet again. A dark globe flew out at them, cloaking the entire hallway in darkness as two sets of crossbows twanged. The bolts hit the wall behind the troupe, but the tactic caused everyone to pause, and that was all the tieflings waiting for them needed. Disappearing through a door the group had only just seen before the attack took place, they slammed the door and locked it with the sound of a heavy bar being set just beyond.

“We have to find a way to neutralize that effect,” muttered Graven, backing away.

Once in the hallway, they could easily see where the globe of darkness ended, halfway down the corridor. “Ielena, can you search in there for signs of a focus for that effect? It was moving when we first saw it, which means the effect was cast upon a rock or coin of some sort. They had to have thrown it. If we can find the object the effect was put on, we can put it in a pocket and it will go away.”

“Understood,” the young rogue said. Moving forward, she slunk low to the ground and slid carefully into the darkness, using her rapier to rasp along the surface until the soft ‘tink’ of a stone rattled. Picking up what she found, she shoved it into a pocket, whereupon the darkness disappeared utterly. It revealed a small store-room with a set of stairs leading up to a door, with another door directly ahead of where the party would enter. There was no sign of their attackers.

Graven came around the corner once it was clear, the others watching the front doors to the temple to see if there was anyone coming. He checked both doors, confirming that they were locked and likely heavily barred.

“Not getting through that way. Guess we have to play by their rules, at least for now.”

“Then we do this,” Melinde’ said, moving down the hallway and putting a hand on one of the doors. “Prepare yourselves, friends. We enter profane territory hallowed to the god of slaughter. You will likely not like what you see beyond this door.”

Lauryl whispered a quick prayer to her goddess, asking for guidance and strength, and Melinde’ pulled…

Aberzombie, I feel your pain. Three weeks ago, my niece (who was 6) lost her battle with brain cancer. Last week, my grandmother died (having given up living and ceasing to take her meds or eat until she passed away). This week, the refinance I was working on failed to go through when the appraisers said my house was about $8,000 short of what the loan officer said I needed.

I'm going to have $1.00 in my bank account AFTER my paycheck at the end of the month.

I can't sell my car because I just bought it and it's likely still upside down in value. I can't sell my collection of Olivia diBernardinis artwork because it's a niche market item and most people on eBay don't realize what it is. My wife can't sell her Barbie collection on eBay because people short-change the actual value and rip you off.

My son may have to stop going to pre-school only two weeks after he started, just so we can EAT.

This YEAR has been one of those years...


My favorite personal quote came when one of my players (who had a very LOW charisma) was playing a character with very high charisma and was attempting to flirt with some woman at a bar (Vampire: The Masquerade if you care). He started out by roleplaying the scene very awkwardly, stammering and generally being a dork until finally I said to him "Jared... roll the dice and end my pain." His roll failed and he got slapped. Karmic.

And I quote from a Cyberpunk game long, long ago. "Yo, b--tch! Ya gonna sit on my twinkie or what!?"

Said in response to the player's -15 attempt at Seduction.

You rolled a d10 and added your stat. If you rolled a 1, you rolled again and SUBTRACTED that number. His roll was so bad that the player went with it and came up with the worst possible thing to say...

The dice CAN lead to great Role-Playing, if your players are willing to just roll with it!


In my experience, Charisma-based rolls were always prefaced with the DM (usually me) saying, "What do you do/say?"

The player then either spoke the words he intended for the NPC to hear, and then rolled their attempt.

Remember, Charisma is the base stat - not the item the PC should be rolling flat-out. There's usually Diplomacy or Bluff or somesuch attached to it. If they wanted to, they could put ranks in it, but likely, it's still at base, unless they are a Charisma-based class. So, it's likely a +0 to the roll.

In that case, then, it truly is "luck."

The die roll, as I see it when it comes to Charisma-based checks represents the following:

Did what the PC say match the player's intentions? Was there some unknown body language put into the discussion that affected the individual they are speaking to?

The player can't and shouldn't be forced to accurately reflect their player if they have nothing in common with their character. That's the point (as has been made). The stats and die rolls reflect "Fate" or "Luck" or whatever random force is at work in the world and thus, even your player's best-laid out argument could be botched by a roll of a 1, even if you gave him a +5 to the roll (which isn't likely, since the most you're supposed to give to a roll is +2 per the DMG).

Regarding personal stats?
I too, had a negative set of experiences when I was young, but as soon as I graduated High School and moved into the "real" world, I realized that none of the stereotypes that I had been labeled with were known by anyone I met, and BLAMMO - my personality changed. I opened up. I became more forceful. I now have a Charisma in the 14 - 15 range because of that and the training I have received. I have a high Intelligence and am quite gifted with wordplay (or so I'm told) and can usually talk myself out of a bad situation.

Thus, I see myself this way - 14 Int, 9 Wis (I'm constantly needing to use my wordplay skills to get out of trouble) and a 14-15 Cha. Physical stats are all 12 or less.

What do I play?



Because no matter what, I can't BE one. I could train to be a wizard if I studied hard and wizardry was real. I have enough faith that I could become a Cleric if I wanted to and my god chose me. I could be a Bard (and probably am a non-magical version of one, since I'm always telling stories and have been the DM for 90% of the games I've ever played).

I play a female to get as far from myself as possible. That female might have a high charisma (and usually does, since that is the type of female I'm attracted to), but the rest of her stats are usually varied based on whatever class the character is.

Charisma is a stat you can't get rid of. Players don't always have forceful personalities as has been mentioned. The stat covers those situations. Yes, D&D is a role-playing game and conversations can be roleplayed. But if a timid player plays a powerful sorceror, he'll need those die rolls to make his character seem as powerful as he should be - he shouldn't be penalized in-game for his in-life situation. That's why it's a GAME.

Oh, and one last bit - you CAN choose your Charisma if you're using the Point Buy system....

“Are you certain this is going to work?” Lauryl adjusted herself again where she sat. The wooden boards of the cart they’d purchased from the general store were creaking with the weight of two kegs of strong ale, the liquid sloshing around inside audibly with the bumps and jolts of the road. Next to her, Graven directed the draft horse that was pulling them up the hill toward the Dourstone gate. Ielena and Celise were walking nearby, with Melinde following behind, a scowl on her face.

“It will work,” Ielena replied, grinning. “Dwarves and ale go well together.”

“I’m not so certain of this,” Melinde’ muttered. “Bribery and a threat to the safety of the mines are not necessarily connected.”

“Perhaps not,” Graven replied, shrugging. “But one might make the other more palatable, if you know what I mean?”

The gate came into view and the two guards standing there turned idly to watch them, their expressions that of boredom beneath their beards. One shifted to lean on the haft of his hammer when they stopped in front of the gates, Graven dropping from the seat to smile and bow.

“Good even, gentlemen. We have come to speak to Master Dourstone, if he is around?”

One dwarf eyed him curiously and then shrugged in his heavy scale armor. “He ain’t around. Don’t come but fer the mornin’ inspection. Ye ken speak at him in the mornin’ if he’s int’rested.”

“Well, you see there is a problem with that,” suggested Graven, smiling faintly. “We have reason to suspect there is a threat deep within your mine and have come to ask permission to investigate it. Timing,” he added, “is of the essence, you see?”

Behind him, Celise moved to one of the kegs and opened the tap, pouring herself a foaming mug of ale. She proceeded to blow the foam off and take a drink. The two dwarves were instantly watching. One even licked his lips.

Graven turned and smiled at the others. “Ah, yes. You see, we have come with libations to gift Master Dourstone with in exchange for his… ah… permission.”

Behind him, Celise finished her draught and wiped her lips. “Ahhh… Sorry. Thirsty. Want some?”

The two dwarves looked at one another and then at the gate behind them before shrugging. “Aye,” one said, reaching around behind him to pull a drinking horn off his belt.

Lauryl leapt down and took it, filling it from the keg as the other produced a battered mug from a leather pouch at his side. Ielena helpfully took it and filled it up when Lauryl was finished, offering it back to its stout owner once she had. Both saluted the party and drank it down, belching happily when it was done and commenting on the quality.

“Good, strong, Dwarven ale,” Graven said, smiling expansively. “Nothing but the best, I assure you.”

Ielena stepped forward again and sketched a bow. “Since Master Dourstone isn’t here, might we leave the kegs with you to pass on to him in our name?” She paused. “Unless, of course, you’d be willing to take the kegs in exchange for letting us take a look around inside?”

The guards eyed their newly empty mugs and then the kegs before turning to look back at the young rogue. One licked his lips and grinned. “Sounds like a fair shake. Whattya say be down there, aye?”

“Undead creatures, the likes of which could potentially threaten everyone in this mine should they get loose,” Graven replied seriously. Melinde’ approached and nodded at the two. Her expression was severe, displeased as she was at the means of getting into the mine. Still, her presence reassured the two.

“Well, if’n the Garrison be havin’ somethin’ ta do wi’ it, I be sure ole Dourstone wouldn’t mind, eh?” The speaker looked at his companion, who eyed the kegs thirstily. He nodded a moment later. “Right, then. In ye go.” Turning, he yelled up at the interior guards to open the gate and come tank up.

“We’ll leave the cart and horse with you,” Ielena said, grinning. “Just make sure they’re waiting for us when we come out, hmm?”

The dwarves nodded, moving to pour themselves another mug of ale as the gates began to creak open. Once the guard who’d opened it noticed the kegs of ale, he moved forward, producing a drinking horn of his own from beneath his full beard and speaking in their guttural language, ignoring the party.

Ielena smirked at the others and strode confidently into the mine yard, looking around at the industry taking place even at this late an hour. Carts were being pushed or pulled into the warehouses and the lights inside the mine glittered like stars from within the massive entrance. Dwarves wandered here and there about their duties.

“Not so difficult if you know what to play on,” Ielena said once they were inside.

“I still do not think this is the proper means to gain access,” muttered Melinde’.

“Oh, come on. We’ll find a foreman and you can use your official position to get us further inside.”

Heading inside the mine, they found themselves in a large cavern with a number of passages heading seemingly randomly beneath the surface. A large overhang held an overseer’s workspace, and a number of miners made their way about the place. The mostly Elven group instantly drew stares and shortly after their entrance, a self-important looking dwarf made his way to them and stood in their path, glaring.

“An’ what be the likes of ye doin’ in me mine?” he demanded.

“Well met,” Lauryl said, stepping forward and offering a bow. “We have come to investigate rumors of disturbances beneath these mines.”

“What disturbances?”

Lauryl smiled. “We have reason to believe there are undead hidden within your mine and have come to confirm their presence and, if possible, destroy them.”

“Do ye have a pass from Dourstone?” The overseer looked them over. “An’ if there was such a thing in this mine, I’d ‘ave ‘eard about it by now.”

“As I said, they are rumors at this point. We have come to ascertain their truth or fiction.”

“There ain’t none. I’d know if there’d been any rumors. Ye heard a lie,” the overseer said, putting his fists on his belt. “Now, kindly get yer tree-huggin’ arses out of me mine!”

“There is no need to get offensive,” Lauryl said, put off by the insult.

“There ain’t no need fer a buncha Elfie types ta be runnin’ about muckin’ up me mine, neither! Get ye hence!”

“Now, see here,” Lauryl began, only to be cut off by Melinde’, who stepped forward. “Good sir, as you can see, not all of us are Elves. That is beside the point, however. There are rumors that there are undead and we have come to investigate. Would you like to be the one to explain why a troupe of undead-hunters, sent on behalf of the town to investigate such rumors, were denied, only to have the supposed undead escape wherever they are at and start murdering your miners?”

The overseer glanced about at the slowly growing crowd of miners, whose eyes widened at these words and began mumbling.

“Ye see? Ye’ve already caused havoc an’ ye ain’t even come far!”

“I ask you again,” Melinde’ asked. “Do you wish to be the one responsible for such a thing?”

The overseer gnawed his lip for a moment, eyeing the muttering dwarves gathered around at the commotion and then held up a fist. “Right then! Ye go about yer bloody business and leave the miners enough alone! I’ll be lookin’ into these rumors, ye hear? I find out ye’re lyin’ and there’ll be hell to pay!”

Melinde’ smiled and nodded. “Now that we have your permission, would you be so kind as to point out a section of the mines that have not been active of late, or which your men avoid for some reason?”

“There’s that closed off bit not far down,” one miner said uncertainly, looking around the crowd that was now steadily attracting attention. “Got it all boarded up an’ signs sayin’ not ta go in…”

The other miners in the area nodded and began muttering about what might be down that way that they’d had to close it off. The overseer’s face started turning red. “FINE! Go an’ investigate if’n ye wish it! Jes’ get goin’! We got quota’s to fill! Get yer arses back to work, damnit!” The last was aimed at the dwarves standing around.

The dwarf who mentioned the boarded up hallway eyed them as the others went back to work, the overseer stomping back toward his work area atop the stairs nearby. “I’ll be takin’ ye, I suppose. This way.” He set off, the others following in his footsteps.

Coupla questions that repeatedly come up regarding Continual Flame, or... as the group calls it, "The Everburning, Never-Burning Torch."

So, Continual Flame creates light, but no heat. So, it can't burn anything. Thus, "Everburning, Neverburning Torch."

(This one was brought up by a player at last night's game, so I thought I'd ask what the lot of you think - I have my own idea).
If you wish to dispel the light on the Everburning Torch, do you treat it as a magic item, or as a stick with Continual Light cast on it?

Personally, I'd treat it as a stick with Continual Light and thus the Dispel Check is against the level of a caster who can cast Continual Light (thus, not that hard to do).


“I would like to thank you for your efforts in the Cairn,” Master Moonmeadow said, nodding across the table in the library. “The maps you have given and the few interesting items I decided to keep may shed some light on the mysteries of the War between Law and Chaos and the forging of the Rod of Seven Parts. Such was not even within my hopes when I sent you into that place, and you have brought back parts of a mystery so deep that I may spend the rest of my days seeking more pieces to it. But I must first thank you.”

Nearby, Isendur stood smiling in the morning light. They had come at his call, the lieutenant having arrived first thing the next morning to ask them to return to town and speak with their master. Moonmeadow was resplendent in his cream robes trimmed in gold, his pale blonde hair pulled back into a pony tail behind his head. He looked every bit the noble it was said he was back in Celene.

“You are most gracious, Master Moonmeadow,” offered Lauryl, smiling. “It was a pleasure to take this course of action for you.”

“Save… one… situation in particular,” Moonmeadow said, eyeing Ielena. The normally perky elf was quiet this morning, particularly in her master’s presence. She had come here to serve with Avlan, and now Avlan was no more. Each meeting served to remind her of that fact.

After a moment in which to remember Avlan, Moonmeadow sighed softly. “It has come to my attention that you have spoken with Gelch Tilgast.” He smiled faintly at the looks of surprise that passed around the room. “Never mind how, but realize this – if the mine managers have taken an interest in you, it means that you could easily be pulled into their games. As it stands, you already know something of the machinations of Balabar Smenk. Do not be surprised if Tilgast and his sordid friends decide to use you to accomplish their goals.”

“Use us?” asked Graven, quirking a brow. “We would have to agree to be used, would we not?”

“Not necessarily,” Moonmeadow replied. He shook his head faintly. “Simply acting against Smenk will be seen as a benefit for them and worthy of their support. Anything you accomplish against him weakens his hand in the situation here in Diamond Lake. All is balanced on a pinhead, and Smenk has played far too aggressively recently not to have been noticed by the others.” He smiled. “It is like a game of three-player Dragonchess. He acts, you react. The others capitalize and take from both. Be wary of what you do and how you do it, lest you be taken advantage of, used as pawns in their game, and thrown away when a rook comes calling.”

“We will not be so easily discarded, Master,” Graven replied in a dark tone.

“I suspect not. However, I am telling you this because you are being pulled in against your will. I have kept myself clear of the machinations of this place since my arrival and that is why none of the others have any idea which way my loyalties lie in terms of their games. In truth, I have no loyalties to any of them and care not which of them rules this forsaken pit, so long as the silver is mined and arrives at our holdings in Greyhawk as it should. Let them fight it out, so long as the carts continue to move. I care not which ass sits on the top of the heap.”

The others grinned at his imagery and nodded. “However, Isendur tells me that he has spoken to Allustan recently and that you are likely to try something regarding Dourstone Mine.”

Again the party members eyed one another, curious as to how Master Moonmeadow knew so much. He ignored the looks, concentrating on the situation at hand. “Ragnolin Dourstone is not known for his willingness to work with others, and he will not likely take to any attempt to get into his mine. Think carefully on this before you continue your activities. If you act against his will, you make an enemy of a mine manager. Your tenuous connection to Tilgast may suffer, and if he suffers by connection, you will suffer thus doubly. Go cautiously.”

“I understand,” Graven said.

“It is important that the lot of you realize what I mean. I have said it before and I say it here, now. Your actions reflect upon me. If you make an enemy of Ragnolin Dourstone, you will make of him an enemy of mine. I have no wish to be drawn into this, but I have no wish to stop you from your investigations, either. Some of the things you have told me have me worried enough to see this through.”

He looked around meaningfully.

“Simply be careful.”

“You have our word,” replied Lauryl. Nearby, Celise and Ielena nodded.

“Go then, and may the Seldarine bless your efforts.”


Dourstone Mine stood near the back of one of the highest hills in town. On the next hill over stood the cemetery, where dark-clad cultists of Wee Jas wandered, keeping out vagrants and burying the dead after their tithe had been collected. Slightly below this and to the west, the Dourstone complex offered a stark reminder as to the purpose of Diamond Lake. Its high walls surrounded a complex of buildings where carts and horses were stored, ore was weighed and sorted, and tailings were tossed into an ever-growing pile beside the mine entrance. Two dwarven guards stood watch outside the gates, clad in scale armor and bearing axes and hammers as the guard chose. They switched out every four hours, the relieved men then standing a watch on the wall surrounding the place, such that there were always at least four sets of eyes on the road outside, guarding the way in.

An industrious place, it constantly rang with activity. Mine carts came and went, clacking along on rails that led into the massive maw of the mine itself. A variety of trails led into the different buildings in the courtyard, but all carts went in only two directions – into the buildings, or back into the mine. Grubby, but generally happy miners pushed them or snapped whips over donkey backs to get the loads where they needed to go, singing work songs to keep in time with one another.

Ielena spent much of the next day crouched behind several bushes not far from the Dourstone Mine entrance, but away from the cemetery. It would do no good to be spotted and called out by the cultists when all she wanted to do was find out what the schedules at the mine were.

When the troupe got together that evening at The Hungry Gar to make their plans, Ielena was dusty, tired and displeased. “I don’t think we’re going to get in there,” she said simply. “The guards are too regular and too many. The courtyard always has people inside. We can’t go unnoticed.”

“Then we get noticed,” said Graven.

“I thought the whole idea was not to upset Dourstone himself?” the rogue asked. “What was the point of me spending the day out there watching, then?”

“Now that we know their patterns, it is obvious that we can’t just saunter in there unobserved. If that is the case, we still have to get in there. Do you know of any other options? We can’t simply kill the guards, Ielena.”

“I wouldn’t suggest that! I just don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Graven turned and looked at Melinde’ who had joined them from reporting their activities to the Garrison. “We have a paladin with us,” he said, smiling at her. “I saw we use that to our advantage.”

Melinde’ eyed him curiously. “What are you getting at?”

Graven smiled.


The meal had been going on now for thirty minutes. Three courses had gone by, and Gelch Tilgast, mine manager and therefore a minor lord of Diamond Lake, hadn’t gotten to the point yet. Next to him sat Velias Childramun, a priest from the garrison and apparently someone just as garrulous as the mine manager. The two were talking about the weather, iron futures in Greyhawk and whatever it was that the party had been doing in town to bring in such unique and intriguing items.

“After all,” Tilgast said, sopping a piece of bread in the warm gravy left over from the main course, “you can’t just go around selling items of value and interest in Diamond Lake without raising some eyebrows.”

“We have been on a task for Master Moonmeadow,” Graven replied flatly, tilting his head and eyeing the chatty mine manager. “You should ask him directly, rather than those who answer to him.”

Graven was tired of this game. There was something Tilgast wanted, but he wouldn’t just come out and say it. When the Elven priest had tried to shorten the meeting (and thus avoid the previous hour of wasted time), Tilgast had merely smiled and commented on how he’d always thought Elves prided themselves on knowing proper dinner etiquette. No matter how short and terse Graven’s answers were, Tilgast did not get the clue, and so the interminable dinner went on.

“I am most fascinated to see someone of your skin tone among the elven people,” Tilgast said, nodding at Lauryl. “It was my understanding that while there are Gray Elves, their skin has a grayish tint to them, rather than being entirely gray, the way yours is.”

Lauryl smiled faintly. “I am of half-Drowic descent, Lord Tilgast,” she replied. “My mother is from deep underground, where skin tones tend toward absolute blackness, matching their surroundings. I am told it allows them, along with their natural magics, to hide quite easily in their underground realm.”

“Black skin underground, eh?” Tilgast asked, nodding as a servant took away his dinner platter. “I always thought underground creatures turned pale, not dark.”

“It comes from the Curse of the Seldarine,” Lauryl replied quietly. “During the Crown Wars of so long ago, the people who became the Drow consorted with demons and eventually declared war on the others of the Elven race. Their darkness grew to such a point that even the Seldarine could not stand their presence on the surface of the world, and so they were cursed with dark skin to represent the stain on their souls, and driven underground.”

“So, it is a godly curse then?” Tilgast asked, raising an eyebrow. Another servant set down a small plate with a gelled desert of strawberries and cream, along with a tiny spoon.

“It is,” Lauryl replied.

“But you are only half this… Drow… thing, you mentioned?” Tilgast waved his spoon in the air before taking a small bite once everyone else had theirs before them.

“I am. My mother was of the underground Elves and my father was of the surface.”

“Fascinating,” Tilgast said, eyeing her curiously.

“Indeed,” Childramun said, clearing his throat to get attention. “I had thought all of the sub-surface elves worshiped a goddess of spiders?”

“They do,” said Graven, drawing everyone’s attention. “But as has been pointed out, Lauryl is not directly of their kind.”

“My father worshipped Eilistraee, the Lady of the Dance,” Lauryl replied, touching the holy symbol resting at her throat. “He converted my mother from her following of Lloth and brought her into the light.”

Childramun chuckled. “In more ways than just one.”

Lauryl smiled faintly. “You could say that, yes.”

“And what about the rest of you?” asked Tilgast, looking around. “I am certain you all have stories to tell, not being from Diamond Lake itself. What brought you to this place? It is not exactly an arboreal paradise, hmm?”

“You can say that again,” whispered Ielena, drawing a faint smile from the others.

“I would be curious, before answering,” said Graven, “as to why you would ask such a thing, Master Tilgast? We are not friends of yours. Prior to your servant giving us the message to meet you here tonight, we had no reason to even think you cared about our lives or activities?”

Tilgast sat for a moment and then finished his bite of dessert. “I must admit that I was concerned that inviting you to my home might seem a bit forward, yes. You are correct in wondering why I might care what you are about in Diamond Lake, but as I said, one does not go about turning in ornate items with a curiosity appeal about them, interact with Smenk’s albino half-orc (and win) and not get noticed, hmm?”

Childramun looked around the table and smiled faintly. “In effect, what Gelch here is saying is that you have proven yourselves to be quite capable. Such capability tends to draw attention in Diamond Lake, and you have therefore attracted his. I might also add that, if you have attracted his attention, then there are likely others in Diamond Lake that would like to obtain your… services… in some way.”

“So that is what this is about?” asked Graven, sitting back and setting his spoon down on the plate. The dessert had barely been touched. “You are looking to hire us for something?”

“Not in as many words, no,” Tilgast said, weighing his words carefully. “We really should discuss this after dinner. Such topics are not proper for dinner.”

“Proper be damned,” Graven said suddenly. “You want to work with us somehow. Get it out there, man!”

Childramun chuffed softly. “For an Elf, you have remarkably little patience, good sir.”

“Good sir, I find it wasteful to not be about my duties,” Graven replied evenly.

“But then what is this?” Childramun asked, undaunted. “The potential to gain a patron for your efforts? Is that not worth the expenditure of your time?”

“My time is best spent in the service of Istus, sir,” Graven replied. “Spending an evening discussing frivolities does nothing to accomplish the goals of Istus or, I might add, Heieroneous, good sir.” There was a twist on the last two words, making them seem less a title than a faint insult.

Childramun was unfazed. “Does Istus expect you to personally raise a temple in her name?” he asked. “Does she expect you to accomplish every goal that she should ever wish to accomplish?”

“No, there are individuals who fulfill those duties.”

Childramun smiled faintly. His next words were full of meaning. “Do you, sir, see any other priests of Istus around to do such work in your absence?”

Graven glared for a moment before answering. “No. There are none.”

“Then does it not behoove you to pursue the betterment of your church in any way possible, up to and including spending fruitless evenings spending time with those who might be able to fund or at least further the fortunes of your goddess?”

Tilgast waited a moment and then realized Graven was not going to respond. “Well then,” he said, setting his spoon down on his mostly untouched plate. “I am finished with dessert. What say we retire to the sitting room for cigars and brandy?”


“I think he’s got a point,” Ielena said, stretching a bare leg and running her hands down it to feel for any dimple that might speak of fat. Scrupulous about her appearance due to her insistence on wearing body suits without arms or legs to cover herself, she was always careful to monitor whether or not she was gaining weight. Graven enjoyed watching the routine each night, though this time, he was not much in the mood for it.

“He wants us to continue doing what we are doing, but is willing to throw his own fortunes behind us, so long as we continue to get away with it,” Graven grumbled. “I don’t see what he has to lose.”

“He has nothing to lose,” offered Celise, sitting in her cot with her blanket wrapped around her. The silks she normally wore as an outfit were bundled in her lap and she was carefully going through each knot to make certain it stayed tight. Failure might reveal her in ways she did not intend. Her cat sat between her feet, playing with her toes while she worked. “If he throws in his lot with us and we continue to be successful, his fortunes will rise simply because his name is attached. If we fail, then he can always deny having anything to do with us. That his name being attached was a ‘cruel rumor.’”

“So, he wins either way. I hate politics.” Raven was not amused.

“That is why you have the issues you do when someone like Childramun says what he said tonight,” said Lauryl, coming in dressed solely in a towel, which she took off and began to dry herself with in the next room. Raven leaned back to watch on occasion, his eyes wandering from one woman to the next. From his vantage point, he could see Lauryl’s head when she leaned forward, as well as a long, lean gray-skinned leg when extended it.

“What do you mean?” he asked idly.

“Politics and religion go hand in hand, at times,” the half-Drow said, grinning when she caught him looking her way. She did nothing to move, so Graven simply kept watching. He particularly liked the way her snow white hair fell across her shoulders when it was wet. There was something about the contrast he couldn’t quite put a name to. Lauryl continued. “Childramun might have used a hammer to squash a gnat, but his point was valid, Graven. If you wish to forward Istus in places like this, there are better ways than simply standing on the front lines doing battle in her name.”

“I take it you know this from experience?” he asked.

Lauryl finished, wrapped the towel around her head and then strode, nude, into the room to where her things were sitting. Ignoring Graven as she did, she dressed in a simple shirt that hung nearly to her knees. “I do,” she said, purposefully not turning around to face him until she was dressed. She sat on the edge of her cot, grinning at the way he swallowed after she was seated. “You consider yourself a warrior in the name of Istus, battling against those who would ignore their fate or disrupt others’ by becoming or creating the undead.”

“That is right,” he said, watching as she began to dry her hair and then brush it out. “I have no time for things like tonight. While we talked, we could have been investigating the source of those green worms and the unkillable undead Smenk mentioned in his letter.”

“And if our discussion tonight leads us to someone who can get us through some impassable situation in the future that would not have been found if it were not for speaking to Master Tilgast?”

Graven made a face. “You are just like Childramun.”

“What is that?” asked Lauryl, focusing on her hair for the moment. “Careful?”

“Intrusive,” he said. Turning away, he climbed up on his cot and lay down.

“It’s okay,” Ielena said, sotto voce. “He just doesn’t like to be proven wrong!”

Graven offered a faint comment, to quiet to be heard, and rolled over. There was work to be done in the morning.

Wow. I spent the night wondering if I was going to get flamed and I get a rational discussion on the items. Kudos to you, Aberzombie! ^_^

One reason why my in-laws and I get along so well is that we have discussions about where the country is going, listen to the opposing ideas about why and then nod and shake our head, taking that viewpoint into consideration.

The one very important thing to realize about Mr. Bush and his actions is this - No matter how much you might hate the results he is getting, only he knows exactly why and how he came to the conclusions he did or does and only he has the power to enact them on the world stage. Whether you think he was put into power by a series of wierd circumstances (as some think) or by a conspiracy (as others), he's there now, and while he's there, he has the ability to do what he wants. All the rest of us can do is talk about it and decide what to do (and try to figure out what can be done).

Regarding the death penalty - It has been mentioned on this thread that prison isn't always a deterrent. If it WAS a dungeon cell with bread and water, less people would be willing to risk going back. If the death penalty was seen as terrifyingly painful, less people would risk it. If the punishment fit the crime, less people would be willing to risk it.

America and the Western World, in our attempt to seem "civilized" and "humane" even to our prisoners (who have already shown an inability to function within that civilized and humane world) has weakened its own deterrence system such that there is little deterrence for some, if not many.

Heck, if I ever find myself homeless and destitute, rather than spend the rest of my life on the streets freezing in winter, frying in summer and starving all the time, I might commit some crime to get me sent to prison where I'd have a roof over my head, air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter. Sounds like a decent deal to me...

(who thinks we should bring back the Bastille to terrify would-be criminals into NOT DOING IT)

Sebastian wrote:

I don't mean to pick at you Heathanson, I respect you and your posts. I get frustrated with the way that the right sees a big anti-right Godless media conspiracy and the left sees a bunch of ignorant Jesus-freaks who don't know any better and neither side bothers to listen.

I am personally of the opinion that the Right and the Left are creations of the media. 98% of the people I know (the other 2% being those jerks who the media base their ideas of the Right and the Left on) aren't so polarized that they can't have a civilized discussion, even if they disagree vehemently on the way things are done/being done/should be done.

I disagree with my brother and mother and father and sister in law when it comes to politics, but I still love them. I still get invited to their cook-outs (and not just because I’m married to their daughter/sister/sister-in-law, but because I like them and they like me). They are very Republican (they're Cuban, so that's a big part of it - Democrats are one step away from Communism to them and Clinton was the anti-christ while he was in office). I, on the other hand, only recently discovered that my own personal leanings are rather heavily Democrat in flavor and after many many MANY years of being an Independent, finally switched to one of the major parties (because it was right to do so, finally).

We disagree on a lot.

I think the war was pointless. It has caused more chaos than there was beforehand. The people of Iraq are suffering more under our "kind, democratic" leadership than they ever did before (yes, thanks to those lunatic terrorists who think that evil and terror are ways to rule - not something our brilliant politico-tacticians thought of).

Afghanistan is a struggle that won't go away. I think Bush makes up his mind based on only the information he wants to hear (proof of that can be found in the fact that he so rarely ever allows non-supporters to attend his functions - can't stand hearing opposing viewpoints). I think he's swung America into a dangerous direction with his unilateralism. I think he's damaged our image to the rest of the world. I think he's spent so much time and effort trying to "be remembered" by making a difference in the world at large that he forgot to take care of the people at home.

I think the entire climate, both Republican and Democrat, in Washington DC is corrupt. Too much money, too many debts owed, too many backroom dealings. I don't know what can be done, and I know that those who go into politics, in general, don't have that corruption in mind when they start - that it seeps into what they're doing as one favor plays into another, plays into another...

I think terrorists are animals who should be shot on site, regardless of what they are fighting for. If you are willing to use innocent deaths or injuries as a basis for 'making yourself heard' then you are a cruel, inhumane being who shouldn't be listened to anyway.

I believe in the Death Penalty. I believe in Three Strikes (I'm from California, which is now dealing with an exploding prison population thanks to people like me who voted on that and didn't consider the repercussions on the already over-crowded prison system but can't think of any other way to fix it except building more prisons, which will take years to accomplish).

I believe in the right to an abortion. I don't think it's the right thing to do and I've been involved in one, so I know both sides of that story - you don't have to get on a high horse. I don't, however, think that anyone has the right to tell anyone else what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, regardless of their religious affiliation or beliefs. You shouldn't force your beliefs on anyone else if they don't want you to. It's never been right. It never will be right.

You may disagree with me on any or all of these items. Feel free to do so. This is a free country and that is what FREEDOM means. You have the right to flame me all you want. I also have the right to ignore you all I want.

Basically – civil discourse on a disagreement leads to compromise, which leads to a final outcome everyone can (hopefully) live with. The problem these days, as I see it, is that no one is willing to even listen to WHY people have the feelings they have that led them to that decision.

The why is more important than the decision, to be honest. It is what founded the formation of that decision and gave it the impetus it has in someone’s mind. Arguing against it is arguing against the foundation that gave that individual their point of view and is not likely to change their mind without a tremendous amount of conversation, give and take, and mutual understanding that neither side is out to destroy the other.

Unfortunately, at least in America these days, the media have decided that the only way for change to occur is for it to be in a combative environment, since that makes for good press.

That is why I don’t tend to listen much to the media and when I do, I read several different sites to get several different takes on the same story.

Ramble off.

(I’d really rather not have flames aimed in my direction – my comments were targeted at the conversation about civilized conversation – if you start a flame war, then you’ve obviously missed the point)

Re: Police Officers -
I've had bad interactions with them (usually caused by something I did, so I deserved them) and I've had some good ones. My nephew recently became a County Sheriff and is enjoying what he's been trying to become for nearly as long as I've known him. I'm proud of him and I'm proud of the guys out there taking those risks so that normal "Commoners" like myself don't have to. Thanks to all who wear the blue, black, green or whatever color (we have all three between the two towns and county I live in).

Re: Rant -
I hate that having to put my son into day care at 50% more than we were paying for day care with a family member has put my wife and I on the worst financial footing we've ever been in. Not counting our new home, we have around $75k of debt to service, which means we've got ZERO savings and ZERO wiggle room with our finances.

She's trying to get a degree so she can get the raise she so desperately deserves (and which we so desperately need) but that won't happen for at least another six months. I can't get another job because someone has to watch the boy while she's at school and my job makes me work the occasional weekend or evening at random, so my boss won't let me get a second job...

We're $150 short of paying our bills this month, we blew up at each other last night, our game on Saturday was ruined by emotions running just under the surface, and the world is pretty much a crap place to be at the moment.

All because of a little thing called money.

I hate it.


"Your last words are SO going to be 'ooh! What does THIS do!?'"

"No good could ever come from screwing around in an ancient tomb."

After an elevator in the Whispering Cairn closes and lowers on its own, the barbarian quips, "That was cool! Let's do it again!"

While the War Mage is harassing a legal drug dealer in the Emporium and the Paladin is sleeping, the paladin yells out, "It's legal here!" - in his dreams, apparently...

Cleric of Bahamut about an item just found and its potential value - "It's probably nothing, but that's alright. I'm rich enough that that doesn't matter to me!"

NPC to PC about the War Mage (the only acolyte of Bahamut in Oerth aside from the party Cleric), who just mispronounced the NPC's god's name on purpose - "Who is that man?"
- Cleric of Bahamut - *shrug* "I don't know."

8am in the tavern, at breakfast, after having been accosted over drinking beer at breakfast.
Paladin - "Since I've been in this town, I've not had more than 4 drinks per day!"

Cleric of Bahamut - "after two fried eggs, an apple pie and a cheese round (for breakfast), I put on my armor."
Paladin - "You're going to die at 35!"
War Mage - "Nah. Bahamut will protect him."

War Mage - "We need Knowledge: Engineering!"
Cleric - "No! What we need are explosives!"
Paladin - "That's your answer for everything!"
Cleric (excitedly) - "YES!"

DM (after a golem was swiftly obliterated) - "He was a 3.5 Golem. He wasn't upgraded yet."

Bard/Cleric of Elistraee (about Bahamut) - "What a crappy god! He can't even be heard by others when he visits?"
Cleric of Bahamut - "He's a dragon god. Screw all ya'll."

Party to DM - "You said 5d10!! Bahamut does not make mistakes!"

DM (about the aftermath of a battle) - "David (the party rogue whose player was not present that evening) seems to be unconscious."
Party - "Good for David."

Bard/Cleric re: Rogue, who is a Whisper Gnome well on his way to ShadowDancer, meaning he's rarely ever seen. "Who is that?"

DM: "1d6. High or low?"
War Mage: "Hi!"
DM: "Low."
War Mage: "He's going to die."

War Mage (was just resurrected by DM fiat after an unfair death during a battle just ended): "Who here has been True Resurrected and is ready to charge forth? Anybody? Right. That's why we should rest."
Paladin: "ARGH!! Wait! He's actually AGREEING with me!?"

I feel it important to note here that the aforesaid "haven" from advertising, (Celebration, Florida) is mostly owned by the world's most advanced company when it comes to advertising.

Yes, the Disney company owns Celebration, Florida.

Why do I know this? Because I work in the development and building industry and learned about the efforts in Celebration to reduce/eliminate advertising.

Don't you find it the slightest bit odd that "Main Street" in Celebration looks faintly like the Main Street of any Disney theme park?

That's on purpose.


guys played a

Jon O'Guin wrote:
Colin McKinney wrote:

since the rest of the group are all playing LA 1 races, they're all level 2 characters)

Plus, if I'm reading the OP right, we're talking about a difference of one level here. Not likely to set the world on fire.

Actually, they're ECL 1 from what I've been reading. Meaning level+LA=1, so they aren't LA +1, they're just first level characters.

I had a very upsetting encounter that seared these rules into my mind, involving the difference between a 15th level character and a Drow Half-Fiend Vampire Lord Wizard 10/ SHadowdancer 5.
The guy had been saying he had a 15th level character, so we agreed to an arena battle...
4 rounds.

And that is a cheating bastard who should be shot for not understanding the rules. *nod*


I like the garden gnomes. I'll have them outside some old lady's house (she just really likes them). ^_^

One of my players has Urban Arcana and the Weapons Locker and will be lending it to me. For now, the team will start off with knives and batons and perhaps a gun or two. They'll pick up the crap the baddies drop at first until they have enough money to go get some real weapons.

Villains will start with the Pathfinder (.22 revolver doing 2d4 damage), move up to the TEC-9 (2d6 machine pistol) and eventually have AK-47 rifles (2d8) as the adventure progresses. A variety of weapons will be available for purchase, but these are the (fairly) standard "bad guy" weapons out on the street, so work quite well as "Treasure" for modern characters. Bullets, on the other hand, won't be so easy to find...

Any ideas you come up with, good or bad, goofy or serious - feel free to throw them in here. If I like it, I'll throw it into the game. Monster suggestions, situations to put the party in, villains you'd use... all that is up for grabs here. I'm curious to see what ideas you guys have for this sort of thing.


There was a discussion elsewhere about armor and gunpowder weapons.

I don't tend to use them, but I have a Lantanese Gnome in one of my campaigns and he has a pair of pistols. They do 1d8 each and have a full-round reload time. I required that he have the Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Powder Weapons) NOT to be able to fire the weapons, since they're simple, but to reload and properly maintain them. He fires them when he's out of spells, or to start off a combat by putting some damage into a badguy.

Rules for them?

Simple. To-Hit is Touch attack, since armor doesn't really help you get out of the way. Once you've hit, Armor-As-DR comes into play, since that's what armor would do for you anyway.

Regarding D&D vs. the Real World?
Forget it.

Just drop it.

D&D assumes Medieval architecture, customs and technologies, but you have running toilets, international markets, colleges and a stratified culture that never changes. Technology does not advance because there is magic... But, oh yeah, magic is reasonably rare (though not rare enough that high-end towns can't have Continual Light globes for street lights...). If you're in a massive city, you can EXPECT to find a magic shop dealing with adventurer's gear and magical items. Nearly every town has an alchemist. Almost every town has a temple where there is a Cleric who can Cure Light Wounds and a High Priest who can Cure Disease. Villages have to get by with non-magical technology, but everyone else at least knows of a powerful wizard, if they've never seen one.

It doesn't make sense. It obviates the need for a suspension of disbelief.

Commoners without magic would invent technological means of recreating what people with magic has. A rifle does as much damage as an arrow, but doesn't take a master's touch to put it on target. That's why it eventually replaced archery. Armor developed as a countermeasure to weaponry. Full Plate showed up as a result of the failure of chainmail to stop impaling weapons. Pistols and Arquebuses showed up to penetrate Full Plate.

If a Magic Missile can automatically hit you, no matter what you are wearing, if someone can cast Scorch from across a room and fill the entire area you are in with flames, if a Fireball spell can obliterate an entire home in a moment (much as a cannon might - and Fireball is a LOT harder to learn than the proper loading of a cannon), then why can't guns exist? Magic is supposedly rare but present (in Greyhawk. In FR it's everywhere) in a variety of ways.

But NOT EVERYONE can cast magic. Guns make it easier for ANYONE to pick up a distance weapon and put a hole in an enemy. Towns might load up on rifles. Imagine a horde of orcs being shredded by the town's rifles - after which they pick up cannons and pound the town...

Wild West/Renaissance style conflicts with guns on both sides. Add 300 years to the mix and you get Shadowrun, but now I'm being wierd.

It should not be such a hard thing to imagine guns in a D&D world. Especially if you're trying to compare it to the real world. Guns were part of the periods D&D portrays. Sure, magic can do things guns can't - thus, magic won't go away. Having a guy who can throw a small bomb at someone else from 300 yards away is damned useful. Especially if the other side has a line of musketeers pointing in your direction. Those musketeers will have all sorts of hell on their hands if they should survive that Fireball. Think of all those Item Saves for their powder flasks... *wicked grin*


I have played a Paladin who found out only after several missions for his lord that his lord was actually corrupt (when the lord slew his would-be wife so the paladin couldn't have her). He then swore vengeance (he was in a chamber filled with the lord's lackeys, whom he couldn't take on at that point). The Paladin left, thought he'd lost his paladin status for having betrayed his word to his sworn lord, and then found out that he was still a paladin - he was a paladin to Heieroneous, who was just as offended at the turn of events as the paladin himself - such was NOT an honorable exchange!

Said paladin was then faced with a rather snarky wizardess who felt that paladins would, by nature, lead the rest of the party into ambush and death at the next battle, whereupon he would stand up and call down the enemy rather than sneak around and destroy them. He didn't. In fact, he advocated that the party use the tactics at hand because the force they were facing FAR outstripped the party's capability and because ambush was the only way to ensure that the innocents in the town the force was going to attack would survive.

Some might say that he deserved to lose his title. I would not. He was serving the greater good by saving the town in question and by destroying by whatever means necessary, the forces of evil, which would go on to ruin more and more towns if they were not stopped here and now by ambush tactics.

When it came time to face their leader, he stepped forward, announced who he was and why he had come, and proceeded to do battle, even though he was outclassed. He nearly died and had to be pulled away from the battle afterwards by his party, but he did the right thing and was rewarded for it.

What I'm saying here is that a Paladin can do whatever he deems is necessary if it fulfills the duty he has to Life and Innocents. The Paladin who makes a deal with Orcus or Grazzt to destroy Demogorgon is likely going to need an Atonement later, but I wouldn't remove his/her powers simply because he/she chose not to take on a Power he could not hope to surviv or, if by choosing diplomatic means over combat, he can bring about the destruction of another Evil power.

Yes, he will need Atonement afterwards for his dealings with Evil Incarnate, but unless he falls entirely, he's still a Paladin, doing whatever is necessary to save the most innocents as possible.

My $.02.


Quotes from my favorite movie/book that have everything to do with recent conversations:

Re: Environmentalism

"For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop of used motor oil. And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born." ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 16

Re: Advertising

"All a gun does is focus an explosion in one direction. You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don't need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don't really need." ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 19

And the answer to all this (in an incredibly nihilistic manner which is what Fight Club is FULL of):

"I've met God across his long walnut desk with his diplomas hanging on the wall behind him, and God asks me, "Why?" Why did I cause so much pain? Didn't I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique snowflake of special unique specialness? Can't I see how we're all manifestations of love? I look at God behind his desk, taking notes on a pad, but God's got this all wrong. We are not special. We are not crap or trash, either. We just are. We just are, and what happens just happens. And God says, "No, that's not right." Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can't teach God anything." ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 30

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