From critical failure to critical success? I don't know what's real anymore!
Run games of various types, but mostly 5e, DCC, or Numenera. Maybe in that order?
Also got an 8 year old, who lays massive guilt trips if I run without him.
Want a 5e, DCC, or Numenera game? Hit me up. Especially if you're cool with an 8 year old in a game. Then I'm absolutely down. If an 8 year old is a problem, then it's just a matter of ditching him, which is harder (but he's ok. I think. Better than you might expect?).
Seriously. Hit me up if you're looking for a game. I wanna run more.
Caleb Buchanan grew up the youngest of six brothers on a farm in Oklahoma. Always a bit on the scrawny side, he never took to the rigors of farm life like his brawnier brothers, not the least because of his propensity for "fits and shakes" that would sometimes leave him recuperating in bed for days.
During his bouts of recovery he took to learning however, and learned himself good, with a mostly complete copy of the Encycopedia Britannica, and much more esoteric works, he inherited from his grandfather on his mother's side, a Scottish Presbyterian minister who emigrated to the U.S. (sometimes his mother said 'fled') for mysterious reasons.
Caleb thought the worst of his fits were left behind in childhood; he hadn't had trouble with them since his last spell when he was fifteen. But about a year ago Caleb got a case of the shakes about as bad as he ever got. This time, the message from God that came with the shakes was clear--the end times were coming. Fire would rain from the sky. The dead would rise. The Kingdom of God was at hand.
One part of his vision didn't make sense however; Caleb's premonition of the end times ended with the image of a glowing deck of cards. The meaning wasn't clear until he heard about the big gambling tournament down in San Rafael. Caleb left his life in Oklahoma behind and traveled down to Texas.
His faith proved founded when he won the pot at the tournament.
It might have been tested when he saw that dynamite duel however.
With his winnings, Caleb looked to purchase a building and grow him a congregation.
Then his faith was tested again when he was deputized, what with all the cannibalism, and the shadow doors, and nearly getting killed by a giant flaming worm, and finding poor Bill Foster in that basement.
But Caleb found him a new book, one that reminded him of some of his grandfather's stranger ones. Only weirder.
He's been studying the Book of Shadows.
From my notes I show the following, spells but some of the details aren't clear.
Open Gate. Shadow Gate. Something about access to the shadow desert?
Create Shadow [writing gets fuzzy here] Drug? Dog?
I'll try and make some rolls. Intelligence 80 (not really sure how dice rolls on the forums work, but here we go)
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.
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 Raven Queen
There is some dispute throughout the the multiverse on the exact nature of the Raven Queen. Is the dark lady the true God of death, simply a god of death, a servant of the gods of death, or just some powerful Fey from the plane of Shadow with delusions of grandeur and a penchant for black birds?
Opinions on her nature may vary, but the opinions of Moonthrone's rulers are in agreement: any professed followers of the Raven Queen, whether devoted clerics or deal-making making warlocks, are not to be trusted. There is already at least one major incursion of the Shadowfell in Moonthrone, a nearly half mile section of walled-off city between the Southspire and Gnarloch districts. The incursion is largely attributed to the Raven Queen's influence, though in her typical mysterious fashion, she has been silent on taking or denying credit.
Some have also speculated on a connection between the Raven Queen and marcrow. While there are certainly rumors that she has a strong affinity for Moonthrone's resident birdmen, marcrow themselves do not generally have any allegience toward her, and are usually indifferent to the Raven Queen if they are even aware of who she is.
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.
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.
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