2018, Events so far...
Since the last update was from a game played way back in April 2017, here's a new thread, to catch up on events since then and keep track of things going forward. Many of the details may be off, so anybody who played in any games feel free to post with their own recollections or collections.
Previously in Moonthrone...
Since the raid on the City Beneath's secret gnome farms, the Withered Goats have become more freedom fighters than simple bandits, though they continue to raid caravans along the eastern Swamp Road into Moonthrone and generally be a nuisance for the powers that be. The Spire Lords have taken notice, with dogman patrols increased and some manpower usually used for rooting out the Folk allocated to hunting down the guerilla gnomes, but so far with little success. Talk among the common rabble about the Withered Goats varies from stories of Robin Hood-esque bravado to cannibalistic gnome-boogeyman depravity, depending if one's allegiances are more in line with Moonthrone's rulers or the Folk.
Over the past few months, many adventurers have been recently hired and brought into the city by a shadowy organization, who initially refused to identify themselves.
One mission was to locate a local thug who managed to rob a merchant initially lured into the city and tagged as a mark for the guild. The thug was hunted down, and it was discovered he stole a pack of religious artifacts, including a handful of wish granting monkey's paws.
Another mission by the mysterious thieve's guild, who some speculated was the Beggar's Guild, involved discrediting Alyse Carl, merchant ship captain of The Spearhead, who returned to the city after many years of trade elsewhere. Alyse had double crossed the guild and left port without paying them, after hiring them for the job that landed her current ship. The many years that passed were not enough for the guild to forget the grudge.
Guild recruits discovered that Alyse returned to sell off a pair of basilisk eggs, but unfortunately one had hatched en route, causing her to sequester her crew in port to keep the dangerous contraband beast in her ship's hold secret while she tried to make a deal to get rid of it.
One group uncovered that Alyse also made a deal with a witch aligned with Glamorfrodorfidelphiding when she initially double crossed the Cog. With the witch's help, Alyse framed the prior captain's first mate for witchcraft, discrediting the captain (a drunk named Mummie), while the Cog supplied the forged documents that let her take over ownership of the ship.
Another group discovered the basilisk hidden on the ship. They also managed to help it escape into Northgutter where it terrorized the locals.
Between charges of witchcraft and releasing a dangerous beast into the city, Alyse was successfully discredited, and arrested by the city guard.
The guild also managed to reinstate Mummie as the captain of his old ship, The Spearhead, as a useful trade and smuggling connection.
Some of the recruits also learned that the organization that hired them is known as the Cog, and seems to have connections to half the factions in Moonthrone. Whether they are actually part of the Beggar's Guild, secretly in charge of the Beggar's Guild, or merely have contacts to them is unclear.
More Rabbit Shenanigan's
In the Pelt District, children were going missing. The Folk hired a group of adventurers to get to the bottom of the disappearances. Among the adventurers was a new Cog recruit sent to test the waters of possible Cog/Folk cooperation (who also happened to be Moonthrone nobility, which caused some personal complications when the Folk found out).
Another old lady with a pact with El Herrairah was taking kids off the street for their own protection, where they were exposed to warlock corruption. The adventurers found a hidden magical warren in her home, where they confronted the Fey Lord of the Chase, Ranir, and some of his followers. After a battle with the fey-corrupted old woman, six corrupted children were saved. Some of them were Folk children, and returned to their families, while others were orphans the Folk promised to take care of.
More Basilisk Shenanigans
The escaped basilisk continued to wreak havoc in the slums of Northgutter, causing increased city guard presence, and people to hide in their homes. Cog recruits, including a gnome wizard, a dwarf cleric, and a marcrow artificer [yeah, not multiverse legal, but the 9-year-old son of the DM gets certain perks], eventually managed to capture the basilisk and turn him in to Cog contacts who promised to put the beast to good use.
Also, the front that the Cog used for recruiting, the Silver Goblet Inn, was set on fire and eventually renovated, wiped clean of any of its prior connections to the guild.
The Fate of Alyse
Alyse Carl, set to be executed for witchcraft and sitting in the dungeons of a dogman fortress, was a loose end for the Cog. Though they initially only wanted to embarrass and ruin her as a message not to cross them, who knew what secrets she might spill to the guards now?
Guild agents managed to infiltrate the fortress, eliminate Alyse, and cause a prison break. Cornered in the dungeons by an entire garrison of dogmen, they narrowly managed to escape when it was revealed that Hidey the marcrow had contracted a heretofore unknown (at least among non-marcrow humanoids) form of owlbear lycanthopy. [Thanks to a well-timed natural 20] Hidey transformed into an owlbear and tore into the guards, allowing everyone to escape in the confusion.
Also, a deed to cottage in Northgutter, previously home to a family turned into statuary and eaten by a basilisk, was obtained, providing a possible future base of operations with convenient back-alley sewer access.
Into the Wyrd, again
The city watch somehow became aware of the children recently corrupted by El-Herrairah's old lady friend. Apparently the Beggar's Guild had their eyes on the children, and reached out to their city guard contacts. Captain Griggs was ordered to find the kids. Not quite knowing who he could trust, but needing to follow orders, Griggs hired adventurers to hunt them down, and supplied some magical silver weapons, just in case the Folk somehow intervened.
The newly hired adventurers stumbled into an alleyway confrontation with Folk agents also searching for the kids, led by a werebear named Hudson. Thanks to the use of a suggestion spell, the Folk abandoned their search for the children, but not before asking the group to return the kids to the Folk instead of the dogmen.
Led by Crumbs the marcrow, the party braved the walled-off Stormstreet Incursion, where, after experiencing some of the chaotic weirdness of incursion areas (your money turning to bugs and crawling away, growing tentacles from your shoulders, that sort of thing), they met with Andolphus, who revealed he had the children taken to protect them from the Beggar's Guild, and they could be found in a warehouse in the Wyrd District.
Following the a sewer route via a map provided by Andolphus, the group made it into the Wyrd District and, and after more incursion weirdness (raining fish and spoons, melting and thought-controlled buildings) found the missing rodent children. But somehow, a patrol of dogmen guards also managed to show up behind them and ask for the kids. A fight ensued, the guards were defeated, and the children were returned to the Folk. Presumably, they were also reported dead to Captain Griggs, per Andolphus's and Hudson's request.
Cat and Mouse
New visitors to Moonthrone arrived by sea, disembarking in the prosperous Southgutter District, known for it's large population of semi-feral street cats Though Moonthrone is not a very devout city, the wealthy and noteworthy are known to give a fair amount of reverence and deference to cats, due to their reputation for the ability to sense witches and provide warning of otherworldly influence.
While dining at a street cafe, the visitors were approached by Mistress Henna Mjeldi, a svelte beauty of vaguely feline qualities, who hired them to retrieve a gem she stated was stolen from her, called the Grimalkin Eye. The culprit was a two-bit thief known as Raheed, known to reside in the less than reputable slums in Midgutter to the north.
On their way to Midgutter, the group met the goblin servants of a merchant lord named Hakaan, who invited to them meet to meet their master. In the courtyard of Hakaan's palatial manor, built into the side of a mooncoral spire, the corpulent merchant requested they bring the gem to him instead of Mjeldi. He also offered them some of the feast he happened to be gorging himself upon (including some 'gnome bite' candies of dubious moral quality).
The party traveled further north, from Southgutter (renowned for its perfume and potion production) to Midgutter (where industry tends toward less reputable alchemical concoctions), where they asked around and learned that the semi-notorious Raheed was known to owe money to a disreputable alchemist known as Festering Heth. In Heth's decrepit tower shack above an alchemists shop, they discovered that Heth had robbed the rattish Raheed of the Grimalkin Eye, and purchased his own panther to test the Eye's powers, as it had magical powers associated with cats.
On their return to Southgutter with the newly purloined Eye, the party was confronted by both Hakaan and Mjeldi. However, it turned out both Mjeldi and Hakaan had lied about their ability to pay their promised prices for the eye, and a fight ensued. Hakaan was apparently killed; Mjeldi was defeated, but managed to convince the party she was a more valuable asset alive than dead, as a knowledge contact for black market gossip and a potential connection to the Folk.
A Cog Safehouse?
Back in Northgutter, Adric the dwarf cleric and Charion the (disguised) gnome wizard, returned to their newly purchased home, a decrepit cottage previously inhabited by a family turned basilisk-food, to find Reese Kincaid, the Cog contact that recruited them into the city, inspecting their residence for use as a Cog safehouse and showing it off to a new batch of guild recruits.
Kincaid found the location ideal, in part due to its easy sewer access via the drain in the alley behind the building. He informed them that there may be points of interest in the nearby sewers, including a rumored hidden treasure vault, and a possible access point to the City Below, where the Spire Lords have a hidden gnome farm somewhere underneath Northgutter.
While exploring the sewers, they encountered a patrol of roachlings (halfling-sized bug-people), who claimed the territory as theirs. A possible alliance fell apart when the roachlings saw through Charion's disguise; the party saw the avarice in their eyes at the possibility of a fortune in gnome-meat and attacked before the roach-men had a chance to double cross them.
Two roachlings escaped and one was taken prisoner. Thanks in part to Adric's gruesome interrogation techniques (eating the steamed roachling legs of the prisoner's dead friend), they learned that the roachlings had a secret lair nearby hidden inside a mooncoral spire, accessible by a magic key that was unfortunately on one of the escaped bug-men.
Unfortunately, thanks to to Hidey the marcrow, who apparently can't abide taking captives, the captured roachling managed to escape. While trying to hunt him or his friends down, the party came across another sewer patrol, this time of Guttersnipes, who claimed the territory as theirs, and were there to hunt down the roaches.
More misunderstandings and a fight ensued. During the confusion, Hidey helped the escaped prisoner, and Charion found and joined the other roachlings with the help of his hat of disguise. By the end of the confusion, all the Guttersnipes and roachlings were dead, and from the roaches the party recovered a strange disc of mooncoral. The mooncoral 'key' had etchings that matched the tenticular design they found on a wall of mooncoral hidden behind a secret door hidden in the side of a sewer tunnel.
Any word on the Widowers and our moonshining operation?
Production has apparently been good, as more witch shine has been quietly sneaking onto the 'secret' menus of inns and taverns throughout the city!
Perceptive drunks may have noticed an increase in... off-putting, red-headed halflings rushing into and out of back alleys, filling orders at their favorite drinking-holes.
In fact, popularity may be growing enough that the City Watch may not be able to look the other way much longer. The Spire Lords are wary of anything that seems related to witchcraft or unregulated magic, for fear of incursions, so as popularity and rumors of the shine increasingly reach the City Above, there are murmurs among more forward-thinking business owners of an imminent crack-down.
As for the Widowers, I assume any player character involved has been taking on day to day duties at the shine operation hidden in the ruins of Havenbender Manor, since their last exploit (when not adventuring through the Multiverse in other NL Multiverse games of course), unless anyone wants to give me any ideas in the forums for what they might be up to.
Travels in Moonthrone
New Cog recruits were smuggled into Moonthrone via the Southgutter docks, and told to report to Charion and Adric's home/safehouse in Northgutter for a job.
Unfortunately, a run-in with the Grey-Faces (a small-time Northgutter gang) caused a disturbance about a block from the house, with eldritch blasts and warlock-induced fog. The incident was reported to the city watch who showed up to investigate.
The job from the Cog was to reach out and somehow make an alliance with the Withered Goats, in the swamps east of town. The Cog had no real leads, and told the recruits to venture forth and see what they could do. Unfortunately, they couldn't just walk out the door and head out of town, as there were dogmen in the streets looking for warlocks, due to the aforementioned incident. Also, in addition to a warlock, they were three gnomes in the group. Also, their destination was on the complete opposite side of the city, a good day's walk even if they didn't have to dodge the city guards and locals looking to make a score in gnome meat.
So they took the sewers, sneaking out of the home via the secret sewer entrance in the cottage's basement just as the dogmen approached the front door to ask questions.
About halfway across town, still in the sewers, they came across a nest of giant rats blocking the way. Via inventive simultaneous casting of firebolt and gust cantrips, the two wizards in the group managed to not explode the entire party in a giant eruption of sewer gas. They did however, cause geysers of flame to burst into the streets, causing chaos in the streets of Devil Town above.
They decided to go topside, but being covered in filth, smelled and looked worse than even the usual filthy Moonthroner. They ducked into a swanky (by the Northgutter standards they came from at least) Inn full of snooty Asmodeans and talked their way into a bath, but not before bumping into a tiefling woman and covering her with filth (who likely remembers the slight, and left while they were bathing and looting rooms on the second floor).
After cleaning up in the baths upstairs (a truly fancy establishment), they made it to the Pelt District, and arrived at the Quartered Witch Inn.
While inquiring further into Folk contacts to find a smuggling route out of town to bypass the city gate (and dogman attention), the group set off a bar fight, which given that the Quartered Witch is a Folk safehouse, riled up some werewolves. Luckily Annalyse, bartender and Folk contact, helped to diffuse the situation, and provided a lead for the aforementioned smuggling route for a future expedition into the swamps to look for the Withered Goats.
Behind the Mooncoral Door
Cog recruits returned to the secret mooncoral door in the sewers underneath Adric and Charion's house. When the 'key' was placed against the matching design it was pulled into the mooncoral wall which parted like a curtain. Inside they found a hideout full of roachlings.
The roachlings were a contingent of the cult/criminal organization known as the Lower Left Hand of Nakresh. After some flattery and coercion, the leader of this particular cell of roachlings, a roachling named Carl Middenduc, revealed that their faction of the cult, under the direction of someone named Lord Vermin, has sent hidden expeditions into the sewers across Moonthrone to investigate the spires for secret routes to the City Above. Vermin and the roachlings are planning some sort of big heist in the City Above, and accepted the party's offers to help.
From the interior of the mooncoral spire, the nature of the secret door was more apparent. The door appears to be a sleeping man grown into the wall, with his outstretched arms, head and shoulders serving as the top of the doorframe. When the 'key' is placed on the tentacle design, where the man's heart would be, the disc is pulled through the wall, where it falls to the ground on the opposite side. From the inside, the sleeper's rib cage splits apart when the door opens. After about ten seconds, the door closes.
Apparently Lord Vermin won the key (or possibly more than one key), in a bet in a gambler's den far from Moonthrone and sent his follower's into the city to begin preparations for a big heist, as grand, complex crimes hold religious significance to the cult. The roachlings also revealed that they can make more keys by carving the tentacle design out of the 'door;' the design regrows after two to three weeks, after which a new 'key' disc can be carved out.
In the center of the ceiling of the room a hole leads up, all the way to the City Above, while at the center of the floor is a ten foot diameter pit, presumably going all the way down to the lowest depths of the City Beneath. Those who look into the pit find themselves with a drowsy urge to throw themselves in and sleep on the way down, but luckily no one (other than maybe some roachlings) succumbed.
To prove their good faith towards the roachlings, the group offered to help retrieve a roachling who ventured down into the pit to explore. Hidey the marcrow climbed down (having a climb speed certainly helped), where he found a roachling with climbing gear stuck to side of the wall, apparently asleep. Hidey also discovered that when bare flesh touches the sides of the mooncoral spire, the wall attempts to grow around a person and put them to sleep.
The roachling was retrieved and brought back up to the lair, but when woken began screaming and ranting insanely about dreams. About that time, tenticular monstrosities emerged from the pit and attacked.
After the fight, the party went up, using climbing gear from the roaches, all the way through the interior of the spire to another tentacle design in the ceiling 500 feet up. A key disc opened this secret door into the mooncoral-walled wine cellar of a noble manor in the City Above.
While ransacking the manor for valuables they captured two servants (a halfling and half-elf) and a dogman guard. The dogman and the half-elf were killed, while the halfling signed up with Ruckleford.
Players Want a Brand New Bag
The week after the raid on the manor in the City Above, the players reconnoitered in a new bar, along with some more recent Cog recruits, and were given a list of possible jobs by their Cog contact, Reese Kincaid. They could head out to the swamps east of town to establish connections with the Withered Goats, they could perform a guild contract for a cartwright having problems with a business competitor, or they could follow a lead on potential mark--a merchant lord who supposedly had a bag of holding in his estate. They decided to rob the merchant of his bag of holding.
Some players also researched the manor accessed through the secret entrance in the roachling's spire-hideout. The estate belongs to House Gnarloch, one of the city's top noble houses. The de facto head of the Gnarloch estate is Duke Benaith Gnarloch, who stands out among the Spire Lords for his tendency to spend more time than most in the City Below; Benaith is the commander of Fort Galindrok, one of the largest dogman garrisons in the city, located on the border of Northgutter and the Market District. Benaith largely stays Below, but his good-for-nothing son, Benford Gnarloch, spends most of his time in the City Above. House Gnarloch is perhaps even more notorious for its connection to the Gnarloch District, a sea-bordering district west of the Pelt District. In the Gnarloch District residents literally pay their taxes in blood. The District is run by the Gnarloc, an assumed vampire, and the great, great, great, etc. something-or-other of all House Gnarloch family members.
As for the robbery, the group first staked out the mid-spire estate of Merchant Lord Aringol Highmath. The estate was built into the side of a mooncoral spire, about 60 feet up, with a front door accessible by a winding spiral staircase around the base of the spire, and a pulley-operated elevator around back for accessing large shipments. Half the party managed to talk their way in posing as merchants looking to establish business, while some kept watch outside.
Eventually things went south, and a battle with the merchant lord's half-orc mercenary guards drew the attention of the City Watch. Highmath was taken for ransom, his estate was looted and the bag of holding found, and the party escaped through the freight elevator in back into a battle with dogmen patrols, before fleeing into the night.
Shadows and Chamber Pots
Elros, Nyx, Coalden, and two new Cog recruits met in the Martyr and Corpse, a new private club in Northgutter, and front for the Cog. Reese Kincaid offered some job prospects and asked Nyx and Elros to evaluate the new recruits.
Instead of taking a Cog mission, the group decided to help out the roachling cell of the Hand of Nakresh working out of the spire near Charion and Adric's home. The roachling leader, Carl Middenduc, revealed that their big heist was still in the works, and that maybe he wasn't as in the loop on all the details as much as he might like to pretend, but that part of the plan required obtaining an above average bag of holding able to open large enough to encompass something huge. The roaches were aware of an Oemarrian refugee, hiding in the Gnarloch districts who might be able to modify a bag of holding to work.
Dokeppel Ironbones, Dwarven arcanist, was in hiding from both the Oemarrian government and numerous Oemarrian criminal organizations, due to a large bounty on his head. He was under cover in Moonthrone because Oemarria has no official relationship with the city, and in the Gnarloch district because the district is uncharacteristically tougher on crime than most Moonthrone districts; presumably even the international criminal groups after him would be wary to follow him there. In the Gnarloch district criminal gangs are hunted down and killed on site as soon as rumors of them even begin, and the district's citizens find the blood tax required of them a small price to pay for a freedom from crime the rest of the city lacks.
The group tracked Dokeppel to a tannery he operated, largely as a ruse to ensure his privacy, as most people are lax to approach due to the odor. They followed the local urchins Dokeppel paid to gather tanning materials from chamber pots throughout the area to the tannery. After throwing one urchin into a trough of tanning chemicals (mostly just urine), and plenty of threats and intimidation for Dokeppel, they eventually convinced the dwarf to help create the bag of holding. However, he needed materials, including scraps of living shadow. He provided them a pair of iron tongs to handle the shadows, and directed them to a shadowfell incursion bordering the Gnarloch and Southspire districts.
Breaking into the incursion proved difficult; in the process of climbing through a hole about 20 feet up on the incursion wall, the group barely escaped after they attracted the attention of an entire garrison's worth of dogmen guards.
In the incursion, Nyx invoked the Raven Queen to attract some shadows. They also fought a shadow sorcerer urchin, and the shadow hound that hunted him, who was hiding in the incursion. Bek, the halfling urchin, helped the group escape via a secret sewer enhance to the incursion, but just before exiting Nyx turned on and tried to kill him to fulfill her debt to the Raven Queen.
Bek counter-invoked the Raven Queen against Nyx, and the Raven Queen caused an arm topped with a giant raven's talon to grow from Nyx's shoulder and attack her. Bek escaped, and the group chopped off Nyx's new arm.
Back at the tannery, Dokeppel took the shadow scraps and the bag of holding (previously stolen from a wealthy merchant; see above), and told them to come back in a week or so, with cash, for the finished product. He also took Nyx's severed raven's arm and offered to see what he could make with it.
The Search for Dok, part 1
Back at the Martyr & Corpse, Reese Kincaid called for meeting in a private room with returning Cog recruits Charion ('dwarf' i.e. gnome with hat of disguise, wizard), Adric (dwarf cleric), Elros (elf rogue), Nyx (elf sorcerer), and Coalden (gnome wizard), as well as new recruits Baliel (half-elf ranger), Druuk (half-orc barbarian), and Jared (dragonborn paladin).
Kincaid announced that he was up for a promotion within the Guild, and presented the returning recruits with a choice: they could become full-fledged members of the Cog, and take over some of his duties (the details of which, beyond evaluating new recruits, he did not provide); or, if they did not want to officially join, but wanted to more or less continue their current arrangement, they could become affiliated contractors for the guild. However, if they wished to contract with the guild without becoming official members, they would need to come up with a name for themselves and their group. After all, if the potential recruits continue to gain attention and reputation in the city, the Cog will need someone to take the credit and provide the secret criminal organization plausible deniability of its very existence.
The group decided to table a final decision for later, though Adric and Charion were hesitant to join up, while Nyx and Elros showed some interest.
Kincaid left the room and returned with the main reason for the evening's meeting, a wriggling squawking bag he threw onto the middle of the meeting room's table. Inside was a kobold cult member of the Hand of Nakresh.
The Hand is not to be trusted, Kincaid explained. Demon worshippers. Willing to risk corrupting and tainting the whole city for their insane god-thing’s chaotic whims and deranged pleasure. Plus, they’re foreign competitors. The Cog is perfectly fine dealing and manipulating locals with criminal aspirations, and even dealing with other groups for power or trade outside Moonthrone, but foreign interference within their very city will not be tolerated.
Per Kincaid The Hand of Nakresh had infiltrated and spread cells across the city. He asked the players to interrogate the kobold to obtain their plans and any leads or information that could prove useful to root out and purge the cult from the city.
Nobody mentioned to Kincaid that they had already met a roachling faction of the Hand, or that they were on good terms and even working with them.
After a zone of truth spell was used, Kincaid left the room, and allowed the interrogation to continue without him.
The kobold revealed that he, along with an unknown amount of other kobolds, had been smuggled into the city hidden in caravan crates, and currently had cells throughout the sewers hunting for the roachlings. The kobold and roachling (and possibly other?) factions are in a competition to curry favor with their demon-god of thievery and assume control of the Hand of Nakresh cult. They do not know what the roaches plans are, but know it has something to do with the upcoming House Zrrkun wedding in the City Above. The kobold offered gold and rewards for his freedom, including a lead to find the notorious Oemarrian refugee Dokeppel Ironbones, who would fetch a high bounty with several powerful Oemarrian criminal organizations (including a notorious group called the Godless).
At the end of the interrogation, a smoke bomb was thrown, and Jared the blue dragonborn managed to take off the kobold's head after everyone else floundered in the dark.
Afterward, everyone agreed to finally get around to establishing contact with the Withered Goats bandit gang operating along the swamp road east of Moonthrone. Along the way, they swung by Dokeppel's tannery at the edge of the Gnarloch District to see if the bag of holding he was working on (for the roachlings' big heist) was complete. Also, Jared passed out blue pamphlets for his god, Azul, and the group managed to gain, then lose, the attention of some dogmen guards.
However, Dokeppel wasn't at the tannery. The urchins previously seen collecting chamber pots throughout the area for tannery use were missing as well. They did find an unfinished mechanical arm in Ironbones' workshop, and a hiding urchin (the same one thrown into a vat of piss and tanning chemicals last visit), who revealed that Dokeppel had gone into hiding, afraid that the Godless or The Hand of Nakresh, were close to finding him. Also Adric boomed out a call for "the Funk!" using thaumaturgy, attracting the attention of a large contingent of Gnarloch District guards.
Unfortunately, Gnarloch District guards aren't as susceptible to persuasion or bribery as the guards in other districts might be. After attempts to talk them away at the tannery's front gate drew his suspicions, the lead guard ordered the tannery torched. As city guards converged with torches and burning oil, everyone escaped via a hole in the back wall of the tannery before the compound was surrounded.
The urchin led the group to a halfing named Smig, who knew where Dokeppel could be found. In Smig's second floor alley-facing apartment, they learned that Dokeppel had gone into hiding in an old secret safehouse used to hide Oemarrian refugees who escaped into Moonthrone.
They followed Smig's directions and found the entrance to the safehouse, hidden under a sewer grate in an alley near the docks.
Jared the dragonborn paladin fell while overcoming a pit-trap involving 30 feet of pivoting floor spinning on a central axle. Jared only survived by calling out to his until that moment questionable and theoretical god, Azul. Charion, Baliel, and Druuk also invoked Azul's name to help their falling companion; thanks to the combined power of their belief (and the weird boundaries of reality in Moonthrone) the spikes lining the bottom of the pit were vaporized in a flash of blue light. Jared, though injured from the fall, survived.
And all who invoked Azul's name were corrupted by the Celestial energy they unleashed. Baliel's right arm shriveled, then hardened, into stone-tough blue paper (giving him a 1d6 slashing damage, unarmed papercut/claw attack). Druuk grew a blue eye on the back of his head (giving him a bonus to initiative and passive perception checks). Charion's eyes became solid-blue and pupil-less (but he's always using that hat of disguise, so who would notice?). And, likely the most difficult of all to hide, Jared's head is now covered in ever-burning blue flame, making lying down on a pillow at night (among other things, like hiding corruption from the city guard) problematic.
Further, in a bunk room full of empty cots, the group came across three kobolds with clockwork and alchemical weapons. After defeating the kobolds, they decided to take a long rest before exploring further.
The Search for Dok, part 2
The group was woken from their rest by the sound of a kobold falling into the pit trap at the front of the safehouse. Half the group investigated to find more kobolds, accompanied by a mysterious human (or was he?) figure trying to cross the pit trap. They held off the kobolds from across the pit, and the figure, who identified himself as a member of the Godless (a notorious Oemarrian criminal organization) asked they turn over Dokeppel Ironbones for the bounty. When the group refused, the man left, saying the offer still stood should they change their mind; he didn't say how to follow up with him, except that if they asked around for the Godless, he would find them.
Deeper into the safehouse, the group found an intricate combination lock door with a sphinx design, behind a triggered poison gas trap (along with the dead kobolds who previously set off the trap). A few failed attempts to unlock the door set off the poison gas again, but luckily they had the drop-down trap wall that would have locked them in with the gas held open, so no one succumbed.
Behind the door, they found Dokeppel and convinced him they weren't working for the Godless or some other group looking to turn him in. He also provided some gear from his workshop in the safehouse, including a hooded cloak of fire resistance to (somewhat) hide Jared's flaming head, a rod crafted from Nyx's severed raven's arm, and a finished version of the clockwork arm-armor they found in his other workshop.
Upon exiting however, they found a contingent of dogmen and Gnarloch district Bloodletters waiting for them. [The bloodletters, sometimes colloquially referred to as 'Worms' or 'leeches,' are the Gnarloch's elite force, responsible from collecting the monthly 'taxes' of blood from the districts residents.] The lead bloodletter began to explain that they were led to the safehouse by the trail of blue pamphlets, and that the Gnarloch, rather than having them all killed, was curious and actually wanted to meet with the group to investigate further. However, he was interrupted by another invocation of Azul, which caused a giant storm of pamphlets that covered a few city blocks. The group scattered in the chaos and reconnoitered later back at the house in Northgutter.
In the escape, Jared captured a bloodletter, while Adric took Dokeppel to a secret location to stay with his dwarven priest-in-training protege.
The captured bloodletter explained that they nearly blew a once in a lifetime opportunity. He brought them back to the Gnarloch district and to a meeting with the Gnarloc in his palace on the underside of the City Above.
The ancient, ghoulish Gnarloc met with the group in his throne room overlooking the city and the bay. He seemed curious about and entertained by Azul; he explained that a new 'god' birthed out of nothing before, was worth studying further. While in most districts the group's actions, particularly invoking an unknown extraplanar entity, would be a death sentence, they would be given some leeway in the Gnarloch district, as long as they kept a low profile and did not draw too much unwanted warlock-related attention. He also was interested in making alliances with a group unaffiliated with the Spire Lords or any known groups in the city, as he might have upcoming work he'd rather the other Spire Lords not know about. Of course, he'd need a test to prove their worth first.
And clouds of crimson mist seeped from the ceiling and attacked everybody.
It was close, but the group defeated the mist without any deaths. The Gnarloc explained that the mist was actually the remains of obnoxious 'family' members who begged him for the gift of vampirism, and had their wishes granted. Of course, difficult descendants granted vampirism are also locked in the 'Sun Room' in the topside portion of the Gnarloc's palace in the City Above. Sometimes they sneak snacks in with them; when the vampires die by sunlight while draining someone, they sometimes explode into clouds of blood that survive, and seep through the palace to annoy the Gnarloc.
Some party members nearly suffocated and sucked dry by the mists may have heard voices in their heads warning them not to trust "him," but nobody mentioned anything to the Gnarloc.
As a reward, favors were granted. Jared convinced the Gnarloc to switch the Bloodletter uniforms from red cloaks to blue, and the Gnarloc agreed to set up an introduction for Nyx to meet one of his distant relatives, should she want to try and marry her way into the nobility.
The Gnarloc also revealed that he is older than Moonthrone, and hinted at 'family' or 'countrymen' even older than the Spire Lords. He also knows a fair amount about the Cog, and their mysterious leaders, though declined to reveal any details.
Going on Gnome Hunt, part 1
The group, now going by the name The Phunk, at least when it comes to contracting jobs for the Cog, gained some leads on upcoming events in Moonthrone.
In three weeks, the big Zrrkun/Azphelai wedding is set to take place. The event will be in the City Above, with an exclusive invite list. The marriage of the city's most powerful noble house with a powerful Oemarrian merchant house is such a big deal, even the City Below is abuzz with gossip and anticipation, despite no one without noble blood or fabulous wealth having any chance attending.
On a related note, the roachling Hand of Nakresh cultists revealed more details of their big heist. They know House Zrrkun is constructing "something big" for a wedding gift somewhere in the Riverspire. The gist of the plan is to swap the gift some time after it is wrapped, but before it is opened at the ceremony, with something foul and embarrassing (like a giant pile of feces, to name one idea so far). The giant sized bag of holding obtained by the crew (last in Nyx's possession?), was designed to be opened wide enough to snag whatever the giant sized gift may be. Now, someone just needs to sneak into the Riverspire, make it to the top, scout out what the gift is, and devise some plan for swapping it before the ceremony without anyone finding out.
So far, the Phunk have determined they will need a boat to sneak into the Riverspire. The giant mooncoral spire descends into the middle of the River Finch, where docks at its base (controlled by House Zrrkun) take most of the most valuable river trade as it enters the city and before the other docks downstream can get access. Via various elaborate pulleys and locks, both magical and mechancial, goods are lifted up the spire, sometimes in small batches and sometimes an entire ship at a time depending on the wealth and value of various merchants and goods involved. The crew has a few leads on possible ships: their old pal Mummie, who they helped retake the merchant ship The Spearhead in one of their first jobs for the Cog, or Coalden's pirate friends aboard the Black Magenta (though a crew full of gnomes, halflings and other 'short folk' pirates makes that option problematic at best). Further planning was tabled until later.
Nyx also received a lead on her promise from the Gnarloch for an introduction to one of his eligible descendents, a letter of invitation for her and 'her entourge' to join the Great Hunt, to catch the prize entree for the upcoming Feast of Gnarn. Thanks to complications during the last Great Hunt over year ago, where the last eldest son of House Zrrkun went missing, the annual Feast of Gnarn was delayed, but in anticipation of the big wedding the event was reinstated as part of a series of festivities leading up to the grand wedding,set to be the biggest social event in Moonthrone for decades.
Traditionally, commoners are picked to take part in the Hunt for the Feast of Gnarn, but given last time's debacle, it took an invitation from the Gnarloc himself to get the invitation.
After a meeting with the acting head of the ruling council of the Spire Lords, Lord Urascus Tharsis of House Mourn, the crew headed out of the city with a contingent of dogmen led by Lord Benforth Aliston of House Gnarloch, to catch up with the rest of the hunting party.
[Benforth, a stout, muscular man in his mid fifties is a gruff, serious man, and the castellon of Fort Galindrok, at the border of Northgutter and the Heartspire districts. His son, Benaith, is the 'eligible relative' The Gnarloc offered to introduce to Nyx. The younger Ben looks much like his father, only much younger and much doughier. Ben the elder trains hard and largely leads the dogmen guards in the City Below, whereas Ben the younger tends to keep to the City Above--his family manor is home the roachling's spire hideout leads to--and enjoys much more of the decadence typical of the Spire Lords.]
Despite some close calls with their borrowed giant lizard mounts, the crew made it to the Hunt Pavillion a days ride outside Moonthrone, with enough time to join in the evening's festivities.
Unfortunately, Charion was discovered to be a gnome, and chained for most of the trip.
They found Benforth berating his son for drunkenly hitting on the Lady Henesperia (a cold woman, known to be in high esteem with the Asmodean church). Nyx consoled Benaith and retired with him to his room in the elaborate two-story tent pavilion for most of the evening.
At the center of the giant tent, Noraster Zrrkun ( younger Zrrkun son, and heir after his brother's disappearance last year), Huntmaster, tormented the Snitch, a ghost gnome chained to a pole and dressed in a magically clean white suit. Snitch was his name and title--he was to be used during the hunt to lure out other gnomes (it was also made clear at this time to anyone who might have been so oblivious that the target of Great Hunt is gnome). Charion was also chained up, presumably to share the same role as Snitch in the Hunt.
After the drinking and mingling was complete and most of the attendees in bed or crashed out, Baliel and Elros snuck into the second floor room of Noraster the huntmaster. There they found Noraster asleep in bed with two servants, and a cabinet with two stacks of Gnome Caps and The Horn of the Hunt [see Magic Items]. They broke into the cabinet and took the gnome caps and horn. They also managed to swipe the Ring of the Hunt from the sleeping Noraster's finger, allowing them to gnome cap the spire Lord and his "friends," polymorphing them into gnomes.
Wildness ensued. Snitch was released, eventually escaping into the woods. Adric, holding a grudge against some of the dogmen, managed to get their attention, and alerted them to the escape. The dogman hounds, in their pen next to the barracks where the majority of the Phunk were quartered with the regular the dogman guards, were riled up and shifted into their monstrous forms. A number of dogmen were polymorphed into gnomes with gnome caps, and some of them subsequently fed to the hounds.
The night/morning ended with the entire camp set on alert, but all the dogmen guards who knew the true details either dead, turned to gnomes, or both.
@lane Oi - I'll 'ave ya know I did na alert da mutts of da escape, dey smelt dat ghost 'nome and I just took liberties to protect da lil guy, git some payback, and retrieve me gear dos whelps unlawfully confiscated! Git da story straight - it wuz all Nyx fault anaways.
Going on a Gnome Hunt, part 2
(Corrections or alternate interpretations of events welcome. See above.)
The next morning, much of the original crew of troublemakers had fled into the woods. Lady Perela Darvishon Zrrkun, older sister of Noraster, took command of the hunt and demanded an explanation. Some fast talking, and laying the blame on those that fled, provided a plausible enough explanation, but the furious Perela, still lacking an explanation for what happened to her brother (and unwilling to acknowledge the new gnome as Noraster due to the disgrace it would bring her family), still blamed Nyx and the 'guests' she had brought along. Perela demanded that the hunt go on, but with all suspects manacled until the hunt and further investigations were complete.
Acting as the hunt's "terriers," the group was driven ahead of the main hunting party by dogmen "whippers" and "beaters" atop giant lizard mounts. Not long after picking up a likely gnome trail, the group managed to escape their bonds, take out a handful of dogmen, and flee ahead before being overtaken by the remaining hunters.
Eventually the trail split northwest and southwest. Sending Jared's paladin mount south as a distraction, the group managed to set the hunting party off the trail and pursued the gnomes on their own northward.
After lots of survival checks, and cutting and burning through some rough brush, the correct trail led into a bog. There was a battle with some fungoid humanoids, before the trail led to a treehouse hidden in the middle of the bog, with a family of gnomes cowering inside.
Nyx, determined to bag the hunt's prize and win herself an honorary Spire Lord title, set fire to the house to flush the gnomes out, while the rest of the group surrounded the house. To stop Nyx from capturing or killing any gnomes, Hidey the marcrow invoked Glamorfrodorfidelfiding, Lord of Portals, to whisk the gnomes to safety aboard the Black Magenta (Coalden the gnome pirate's notorious ship full of short-folk corsairs); in doing so the tree and house were engulfed with doorways and windows to multiple dimensions throughout the multiverse. A few people nearly went insane by looking through the wrong portal; Elros was nearly pulled through into instant death (or maybe just an eternity of torture), but everyone managed to barely make it away alive and mostly sane.
The only gnome not pulled through a doorway before they all closed, was a mother, knocked unconscious just about the time her daughter disappeared through a closing doorway.
Nyx and Jared returned to the main hunting party, while Jake-Rat, Hidey, and Elros escaped into the woods. Perela tried to take the credit for capturing the mother gnome, but Nyx managed to convince the other nobility present of her claim and rightful trophy. And Jared made some headway proselytizing Azul, thanks to his newfound notoriety as a gnome-hunter.
Presumably, Nyx will get the honorary title that comes with taking the prize. All that's left is the grand banquet, which should be 3 days after the hunting party returns to Moonthrone...
(Again, anyone who was there feel free to correct any details. In particular, not sure if I got right who disappeared into the woods and who went back to turn in the prize, other that Nyx took the credit for capturing the gnome, and I seem to recall Jared was there too.)
@lane Adrick's commenting again - I really need to teach him how to spell (And he's a cleric to boot)!
"Oy, 'ah can'ts wait ta sees whut you be writin' next - don-na furgit dat epic face-slap I's put on dat white robed ded-guy. Or da boomie banger on the mutts!
Can-na help it if da utters git deaf o'er a lil piece o' fireworks..."
Escape from House Zrrkun
Only a day after returning from the hunt, the Phunk, staged a daring raid to free the captured gnome mother before she could be cooked up and served as the main course in the upcoming banquet. The banquet is supposed to be a grand event to lead up to the big Zrrkun/Azphelai wedding, set to happen in about three weeks.
The Gnarloch provided access to the City Above and knowledge of a secret entrance into the House Zrrkun estate (on condition of anonymity, of course). Why would one of the most power Spire Lords, and arguably the oldest person in Moonthrone behind Xarog Mourn himself [the wizard who supposedly lifted up the City Above and still rules the city] do such a thing? Good question. He seems to find the Phunk, and Azul, entertaining. Maybe he's bored. He is rumored to be over 1,000 years old after all.
Adric also reconnoitered with his acolyte and Dokeppel in their secret hideout. Dok provided Adric with a prototype "boomstaff," and let him know they would need significant investment and resources to get a bigger operation going.
While sneaking onto the Zrrkun estate, the group was nearly discovered; a halfling servant was murdered on a side porch and found by other servants, along with a talking mastiff summoned by Jared, contributing to fears of a terrorist attack by the Folk.
Like much of the City Above, the Zrrkun palace is made of mooncoral, apparently grown straight out of the giant pedestal that gives Moonthrone its name. The Gnarloch's secret entrance turned out to be similar to the secret door to the roachling's spire hideout, though only a handprint on the right spot, not an 'key' disc of mooncoral, was required.
Once inside the estate, the group split up. Charion and Druuck posed as servants and infiltrated their way into the good graces of the house's head butler. The rest, along with new Cog recruits Indy and Short Round, found the kitchens. A fight ensued. In large part thanks to a player who happened to be a wererat, the attack was thought to be a terrorist attack by the Folk. Adric also yelled about the Cog, causing confusion as to who was responsible. The combatants were mostly servants, but Acolytes of Xarog Mourn, who were in the estate preparing for the upcoming banquet, were also involved, including weird undead Acolytes which some players recognized as being warlocks [Acolytes of Xarog Mourn are warlocks with the wizard-king Xarog Mourn as a patron, the only sanctioned warlocks in Moonthrone other than those with approved Hellish licenses].
After the fight in the kitchens, the group split up further, with Indy and Short Round exploring the servants quarters, and the others (minus Charion and Druuck) exploring the freezers and larder for the gnome captives.
The gnomes were found in cages deeper in the food storage area past the kitchens, under guard by dogmen. Adric tried out his new boomstick in close quarters, briefly rendering everyone nearby deaf, as a much more powerful undead Acolyte cornered the party. Charion, Druuck, Indy, and Short Round rejoined the group to battle the Acolyte. Indy and Short Round were killed, drained to withered husks in a blast of necrotic energy.
Meanwhile, Elros and Jared freed the captive gnomes, including the gnome mother captured in the hunt, and the polymorphed Lord Noraster. The polymorphed gnomes had their gnome caps removed, and reverted to their true forms. However, Jared made the gnome Noraster ask Azul for his freedom by baptizing himself with a bucket of blue paint over the head; when Noraster invoked Azul, the paint came to life, causing Noraster's arm to turn blue and shrivel before the Azul-blob dissolved the cage imprisoning him into muck. His gnome cap removed, a once-more human Noraster (with a withered blue arm), fled. And maybe vowed revenge on his way out.
Back at the battle with the Acolyte, things were dicey. Before anyone else died, Jake-Rat invoked Azul to finish the undead warlock off. The Azul-blob flew around the corner and enveloped the warlock, absorbing it completely. But it got Jake-Rat's arm too, turning it into a tenticular pseudopod.
Everyone fled through the secret entrance before more guards and acolytes arrived. They disappeared in the chaos back to the City Below, leaving House Zrrkun thinking they were attacked by Folk terrorists, possibly in league with the Cog.