Monday, September 30, 2019

DM Report: the trip to Robias

  Over the weekend we had a bookkeeping session/mini-adventure/investigation mission.
  The Party:
  Jennifer = Fiona, half-elven Fighter/Magic-user
  Jack = Athanasius, human Cleric
  Alex = the Sparrow, half-elven Fighter/Thief
  Sam = Clarence, Human Fighter/Ninja (books, wishes, and such involved)
  Nick = Thoren, half-orc Fighter/Thief

Sunday, September 22, 2019

DM Report: Return to the haunted Tower - with guest player

  The players have not been back to the village of Richacre and the Haunted Tower in 5 years (real time). First level characters on their first adventure played.

Jack - a half-elven thief
Sam - an elven fighter
Nick - a human cleric
David - a dwarven fighter

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Worldbuilding: Precision or Atmosphere?

  The Fun Lads Four (who will soon be the Fun Lads Five as the youngest is rapidly joining the nerdery) and I were going over campaign notes last night and we were discussing how very subtle shifts in tone result is massive changes in perception. We think we came up with some insights:

Saturday, September 14, 2019

DM Notes: Seaward, the Celestial Bureaucracy, Genies, and Cambions

  As I have written about extensively, clerics, religious brothers, and all 'good guy human/semi-human/demi-human/etc.' NPCs/PCs in the Seward area are essentially Medieval Catholics. I vaguely mention that druids, Oriental Adventures PCs/NPCs, my guys from Arabialand, cultists, and humanoids aren't.
  But what are they?

Monday, September 2, 2019

In Universe: Seeker's Proposal

This is for Seaward:

"The Case for Establishing a Permanent Company Presence at Skull Mountain
An in- and out-of-universe whitepaper

The contiguous region consisting of the Briars, Skull Mountain, the Greywall Mountains, and their associated outliers and landmarks (hereafter, "The Greywall Hazard Sphere.") represents one of the single greatest barriers to the expansion of civilization in the Seaward region. Besides the innately inhospitable terrain and territory of the Sphere, it has served as an attractor for evil forces for millennia. However, the establishment of a permanent defensive and scholarly presence in and around the heart of this area, Skull Mountain, could serve as a powerful deterrent to hostile forces, a unique opportunity to pacify the terrain, and a chance to exploit the rich resources, both mundane and extraordinary, of the entire area.

A permanent presence in Skull Mountain overseen by the Company of the Dark Moon would return a multitude of benefits.
     Chief among these would be the early warning and first strike capabilities against any additional evil actors that are drawn to the Hazard Sphere. The introduction of our own traps and defenses, including the introduction of good-aligned magic, as well as our own intelligence gathering positions, would give us a potent edge against any new evils arriving in the area.
     Similarly, use of the Briars and the Greywalls as a security buffer against hostile invaders from the south or the west would sharply improve the Kingdom of Seaward's defensive posture. Going above and beyond the existing ability to stage military forces through the Briars into use of the Sphere as a manned border would result in superior national security against everything from the Duke of Freetown to Baron Samedi himself.
     A simple manned position and personal headquarters would not be able to support deeper incursion into Skull Mountain alone. However, continuous access to fully cleared areas, as well as a finger on the pulse of the Sphere's internal politics, would have the potential to seriously increase our knowledge of what lies within the Mountain.
     To expand the above point, the Hazard Sphere does indeed have its own internal politics. With no less than five active, contemporary wizards, an archbishopric, continuous monitoring by extraterrestrial actors, and the enigmatic Harruhoth, the potential for political fallout that could extend even to Seaward directly is clear and present.
     Finally, on a less critical note, the exploitable resources contained within the Sphere are clearly extensive. The supernatural aside, the Company has already surveyed a garnet mine and a silver mine, in addition to a variety of valuable plants and animals, and has already developed a proposal to create what would be the shortest direct trade route between Seaward and the Southern Kingdoms. Harvesting even a fraction of the region's wealth would be of great value to us and to Seaward as a whole.

Despite the obvious drivers for this project, a number of critical obstacles exist that must be addressed before it can be seriously contemplated.
     Chief among these is our lack of information. Skull Mountain alone can be described, in a scholarly sense, as a mystery wrapped in a riddle and tied with enigmas. Even with our recently gained information, we know so little that we don't even know what we don't know. This must be rectified, at least partially, before we risk committing serious resources to the project.
     Similarly, the aforementioned political situation remains unknown to us, and may present an obstacle. Blundering into a complex geopolitical stratum could be enough to doom the entire effort, necessitating significant information gathering before we begin.
     Another critical issue is that we cannot allow small groups of Company officers, or non-Company assets, to explore the Hazard Sphere unaccompanied. Skull Mountain alone is clearly littered with the remains of previous intruders who were bold enough to enter unaccompanied. Areas already explored can be traveled through with only men-at-arms for escort, but, no matter how safe an unfamiliar zone may appear, we cannot permit anything short of a full incursion party to explore it.
     Counterintuitive as it may seem, logistics, construction cost, and security are not issues to the expedition. However, travel time to and from is a concern. Committing significant Company assets to a location that is five to nine days from civilization by foot travel could become a frightening act of self-sabotage if we're not cautious. 

The Proposal
Establishing a permanent presence within Skull Mountain, in order to begin a permanent use of the entire Greywall Hazard Sphere, must be done in discrete stages. To wit:
     Phase I: When the Spelljammer mission to gather sage information on Baron Samedi is complete, Lieutenant Seeker will take a secondary party to gather sage information on Skull Mountain, and to seek information in the Four Counties about various factors.
     Phase II: This is a simple stage of logistical planning and an additional survey of the area around Skull Mountain.
     Phase III: A low-level field expedition to map the ventilation and service shafts of the upper levels, as well as any additional minor areas that we have so far passed by.
     Phase IV: Next, we must gain political stability. This will entail meeting with Francmir, the Bishop, some of the hermits and monks in the Briars, the Snyads, and Harruhoth, as well as gathering intelligence on Kyodai and the Grandfather. Some we will seek alliance with, others we will bargain with, and still others we need to learn how to avoid.
     Phase V: The main proposal. Using the elemental gem taken from Lady Jacinth, Lieutenant Seeker will construct a new, small sublevel outside of Skull Mountain, opening up at separate points into Level I, the Cavern of Herds, and the High Briars. All openings will be disguised using help purchased from the Four Counties. The sublevel will be sufficiently sized to serve as personal quarters for Seeker, a field armory for the Company, a bunk for expedition parties and hired help, and a vault to reserve treasure or magic. Installation of traps and alarms will complete this phase.
     Phase VI: In this phase, we will base a small band of hired outside help inside the Mountain. These will be men at arms, farmers, and surveyors that will observe Skull Mountain and the surrounding area using long-range reconnaissance, and cultivate the Cavern of Herds and the Garden to be self-sustaining. A case can be made to base them in the Company sublevel, or in the Mountain itself. This is subject to change. In any case, one way or another, we must permanently man the Mountain with both Seeker and his retainers and an additional presence beyond them.
     Phase VII: To extend our intelligence network through the Briars, Seeker will re-engineer the eyes of the Mountain to serve as an ideal raven nest, charm a large number of ravens to take residence there, and carefully gather the most ideal large, intelligent, good-aligned, and trainable ravens to create an ideal breeding stock in the eyes, that will also serve as spies through the entire Briars. Combined with the overwhelming victory of the War in the Walls, this will give us first warning against threats from all directions except the Empty Level.
     At this point, barring any unforeseen exigencies, the main part of the project will be accomplished. The subsequent phases can be delayed, and taken in any order. Our immediate, primary objects will be accomplished here, and we will have a major information network established over the heart of the Greywall Hazard Sphere.
     Phase VIII: We must overthrow the evil Wizard in the Briars. His continued presence is intolerable, as we know he draws power from and evil to the entire Briars.
     Phase IX: If there is a way to induce Baba Yaga to leave the Briars, we must take it here, if we can. However, I doubt that this can be accomplished.
     Phase X: Another important step is to destroy the Spider Wood discovered in the Briars. A hazard on its own, it also acts as a breeding point that can spread dangerous and wicked creatures to the entire Sphere.
     Phase XI: At this point, the Low Briars should be fairly secure. We should encourage the people of the surrounding areas to exploit their resources even further, and enter in larger numbers, in order to stabilize the region. Assuming, of course, that we've established it as at least somewhat secure.
     Phase XII: This is the most difficult to plan of all phases. We will seek out sage information and the assistance of various, obscure parties in order to rebuild the overthrown paraelemental altars as bastions of good. Hopefully, this should secure the upper levels of Skull Mountain for us, and spread good creatures through the High Briars. Possibilities for lightning and nature focus points also exist.
     Phase XIII: We have already moved several families of Brownies into the Briars, and should have established a locus of good inside Skull Mountain by this point. Therefore, any additional steps we can take to make the High Brairs a sylvan locale of natural magic will be executed here. The terrain is likely too rough for unicorns or dryads, but grigs, nymphs, snyads, fauns, and blink dogs are all good candidates. 
     Phase XIV: To take a side path to previous points, we should here survey the Greywall Mountains. We must locate secrets and threats laying between Skull Mountain and the Coast. This phase may be undertaken at basically any time during the preceding exercises. Additional steps necessary to clear the Mountains may be added after this is completed.
     Phase XV: Slaying the wizard who lairs at the far end of the Hobgoblin Highway is a low priority for us due to his limited influence outside of Morath and High Banath. However, we must eventually do it, even if this may put us further into Baron Samedi's schemes.
     Phase XVI: Full resource exploitation. There will certainly be other challenges to face first, but establishing the appropriate mines and potential trade routes represents the end game of our plan. Beyond the wealth this would give us, if we can provide a source of wealth to civilization, it will inevitably be drawn back.

This exercise will be difficult, will take up a long span of time, and may be interrupted by our other obligations. However, if accomplished, it would pay dividends to us and to Seaward, possibly for centuries. With Baron Whitehill and Lady Jacinth slain, the Orcs in disarray, and Baron Samedi currently not displaying a hand in our affairs, I think that the time is now ripe for us to accomplish this. With a methodical approach and the strength of the Company, I am certain that this is an achievable goal.

If the Company accepts, I propose that we begin in a matter of weeks. With the spelljammer returning any day now, an immediate commencement would enable us to synchronize the beginning of the plan with Midsummer's Day at the Mountain. In any case, however, I submit the proposal to the wisdom of my fellow officers.

-Seeker, Lieutenant of the Company of the Dark Moon
[printed in both Common and Elvish, and distributed to all Company members]"