Stone Thief play test report…. sort of… ;)

The Stone Thief is an old and cunning Living Dungeon. For unknown ages, it has slithered through the Underworld, rising to consume towers and cities or other, lesser dungeons. Now, it has your scent. It swims through the earth, eager to steal everything you cherish, eager to drag you down into its hellish labyrinth.

The dungeon’s coming for you. Kill it before it kills you.

Written by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, the Stone Thief is campaign book currently in development for 13th Age.  Earlier this month a portion of the campaign was released for a playtest and we eagerly signed up.  As per usual playtest rules, details of the adventure cannot be publicized until the full campaign is officially released, but Pelgrane Press was kind enough to grant us permission to share photos of our game.  Please read no further if you wish to avoid spoilers.

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Last chance to avoid spoilers

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Aww look, a kitty!

BossDaniel

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Still here?  Okay.

Listen to me…

The human world is a mess

Life under the sea is better than anything they got up there.

Sahuagin Fight 1

The seaweed is always greener
In somebody else’s lake
You dream about going up there
But that is a big mistake
Just look at the world around you
Right here on the ocean floor
Such wonderful things surround you
What more is you lookin’ for?

Sahuagin Fight 2

Under the sea
Under the sea
Darling it’s better
Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me
Up on the shore they work all day
Out in the sun they slave away
While we devotin’
Full time to floatin’
Under the sea

Sahuagin Fight 3

Down here all the fish is happy
As off through the waves they roll
The fish on the land ain’t happy
They sad ’cause they in their bowl
But fish in the bowl is lucky
They in for a worser fate
One day when the boss get hungry
Guess who’s gon’ be on the plate

Sahuagin Priest

Under the sea
Under the sea
Nobody beat us
Fry us and eat us
In fricassee
We what the land folks loves to cook
Under the sea we off the hook
We got no troubles
Life is the bubbles

Swordapus 1

Under the sea
Under the sea
Since life is sweet here
We got the beat here
Naturally
Even the sturgeon an’ the ray
They get the urge ‘n’ start to play
We got the spirit
You got to hear it
Under the sea

Swordapus 2

The newt play the flute
The carp play the harp
The plaice play the bass
And they soundin’ sharp
The bass play the brass
The chub play the tub
The fluke is the duke of soul

Boot

The ray he can play
The lings on the strings
The trout rockin’ out
The blackfish she sings
The smelt and the sprat
They know where it’s at
An’ oh that blowfish blow

Wizard

Under the sea
Under the sea
When the sardine
Begin the beguine
It’s music to me
What do they got? A lot of sand
We got a hot crustacean band
Each little clam here
know how to jam here
Under the sea

Pirates 1

Each little slug here
Cuttin’ a rug here
Under the sea
Each little snail here
Know how to wail here
That’s why it’s hotter
Under the water
Ya we in luck here
Down in the muck here
Under the sea

Pirates 3

^ THE SUNKEN SEA ADVENTURE ^

One of the many levels available in the upcoming Stone Thief campaign.

(No little mermaids were harmed in the playtest of this adventure.)

(Sarah)    (Ben)

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Part 2 Recap – This Place Grows on You

New Members to the Party…

IconRagnarRAGNAR

Ragnar is a half-orc rogue that lives his life in service to the Black, wrapping himself in shadows to steal what he desires and kill who he needs to.  His skill as an assassin and thief have landed him jobs all over the Empire and he “knows a guy” in each city to help him get the job done.  After years of planning he recently pulled off the biggest heist a rogue could tackle: break into the Prince of Shadow’s vault.   Things between Ragnar and the Prince have been complicated since.  The half-orc would likely be dead if the Prince were not so impressed with how he pulled off such a feat.  Such trespasses do not go unpunished though and Ragnar now has a debt to pay to the Prince.  

Shadow Port Shuffle 

Part 2 – This Place Grows on You

Ragnar stood in the corner of a small dingy room with no exit save for one door.  He did not like being cornered, but there would be no hiding so long as the Prince had a debt held over his head.  A well-dressed Tiefling walked in and sat down at the only table that graced the cramped room.  “My name is Samwell Dirrel.  It seems you have landed in quite a bit of a mess, now haven’t you?”

Ragnar remained silent.  While other rogues might impress people with clever banter and showy tricks, Ragnar preferred to go unnoticed in life.  A man with a profession such as his had little use of small talk.

The Tiefling’s face hardened.  “Fine.  Let’s get straight to business.  You owe quite a debt and I am here direct you on how to repay that debt.  Succeed and you will find your freedom and perhaps a bit of wealth on the way.  Fail, and… Well, I would advise you not to fail.”  Samwell retrieved a small pounce from his jacket pocket and tossed it on the table.

Ragnar upturned the pouch and a single coin fell out.  One side was defaced with the mark of the Prince of Shadows.  Ragnar looked up at Samwell.  “What is this?”

Samwell stood up and straightened his cloak, “Present that coin to the doorman at the Pious Gardener.   Further instructions await you there.  I trust with your knowledge of Shadow Port you do not need directions.”    With his business finished the Tiefling turned and left.  Ragnar pulled his dark hood over his head and walked out of the Dark Jester Tavern a few minutes later.  As he departed he overheard some of the bar patrons whispering about a butcher’s shop disappearing from Thornleech Lane.

TavernPiousGardener

It had been several days since the Navale mansion was robbed. Krogar thought it best to skip town while the dust settled and had taken a small job protecting a cargo shipment retuning from Glitterheagan.  Traveling through the Empire made Krogar miss the sight of his own home world that he longed to return to.  Every night since he was transported here he dreamt of a strange symbol, his only hint at what magics brought him to these lands.  As the ferry carrying the cargo pulled up to ports of Shadow Port Krogar located Sheila, the merchant who had hired him.  She was handing out payments to the other guards who had accompanied them, but when Krogar’s turn came she frowned.  “Sorry Krogar, you’re a fine guard, hate to do this to you.”  She placed a single coin in his hand, with the symbol of the Prince of Shadows scratched in the back.  “Take this to the Pious Gardener. That’s all I know.”  The fighter sighed.  He knew what this meant.  Gripping his katana, Krogar headed to the east of town.  Before he left he noticed a big bunch of ranger types rowing ashore in a tiny boat from the direction of the Bitterwood.  They looked to be about serious business.  Paying it no mind Krogar continued on his way.

There weren’t many places in Shadow Port that afforded a quiet moment.  Gil’Adan leaned his chair back and enjoyed the serenity that The Pious Gardener offered.  Most of the attendants in the tavern were elves passing through on business, and the Gardener catered to their tastes quite well.  A trellis along the wall and ceiling supported flowering leavy vines that reminded him of the Queen’s Woods.  He sipped at his summer wine and was about to pick up his book again when the door to the tavern was slammed open.  Captain Danziker staggered into the tavern, clearly three sheets to the wind, singly loudly to all that would hear.

“It’s of dear grog to you I’ll sing, And to dear grog I’ll always cling, I like my cup filled to the brim, and I’ll drink all you’d like to bring. And it’s oh, dear grog, thou art my darling, and my joy both night and morning.  Though oft hast made me friends me foes, and oft hast made me pawn my clothes, but since thou art so near me nose, it’s up, me boys, and down she goes!”  Danziker upended his flask of grog over his mouth and drank deep.  Feeling mighty proud of himself he went to take a dramatic bow, but as he tipped over the floor swam up to meet him.

TavernPiousGardener 2

The Pious Gardner Tavern
The trail of leaves leads to a home away from home for elves visiting Shadow Port

Krogar was outside handing his coin to the doorman when he heard Danziker’s voice inside.  He pushed open the door and barely had time to make sense of the situation before the bartender began yelling.  “YOU?!  How dare ye show yer face here!”  Krogar had no idea how to reply when he realized the old, one-eyed dark elf was pointing to where Captain Danziker was picking himself off the floor.  “You stole my ship!  You’re not welcome here!  OUT!”  Not intending to get himself mixed up in the old pirate’s affairs Krogar side stepped past and joined Gil’Adan at his table.

Danziker looked towards the source of the yelling with bleary eyes.  “Kiel Xu’bulon?  That be you?”  His vision cleared just in time for him to duck as a bottle was thrown at him.  “Halt!  I ain’t  cheated!  I won that ship in an honest game, you know that.  Wasn’t my fault you had three priests to my four dragons.  If ye be looking to blame someone fer stealing the ol’  boat blame the Emperor, he took it from under me ages ago!”  The bartender fumed and was about to deliver a retort before Danziker pulled a familiar coin from his pocket.  “I be here on business, mate.”  The bartender gritted his teeth and bit back further words. Very few people in Shadow Port interfered with the Prince’s business.  With a sharp jerk of his hand he gestured to the table where Gil’Adan and Krogar sat.  Danziker sauntered over and put his feet up.  “Aye, mates.  What be the business today?”

Before either the sorcerer or fighter could respond a shadow fell over the table.  A half-orc dressed in well-fitting leathers and dark cloak had approached their table.  By the look of the wicked long knife on his belt, here was a rogue that meant business.  From a pouch on his belt the half-orc pulled out the same coin the three of them had been given.  He pulled up a chair and sat down.  “You may address me as Ragnar.  What’s the job and when do we start?”

Since none of them had any indication what their mission was to be, they concluded to just wait for a sign.  The bartender continued to bring by drinks, pausing at times as if he had more to say but one look at Danziker always sent him back towards the bar with a huff.   After the second bottle of elven wine, Gil’Adan noticed the inside of the label had writing on it.  He carefully peeled the label off the bottle and flattened it on the table.  On it was the sign of the Prince and an image of a dagger.  Atop the seal were the words ‘SACRED DAGGER, Cult of the Sand Crab, Don’t Disappoint me.”

Note Sand Crab

Gil thought back to his time as a Dragonknight.  He had heard several passing whispers of the Cult of the Sand Crab popping up all over the port towns of the Midland Sea.  Not much was known about them other than they moved around from port to port keeping to themselves.  As he related the information to the other adventurers, Krogar spoke up.  “If they move from port to port, chances are there is some record of their arrival.  I know one of the harbormasters.  It’s a start.”

The sun was high in the afternoon as they found their way to the docks.  Danziker grimaced at the sounds of the seagulls above.  It did not take long until they found their way to the harbormaster, a half-elf named Tippen Merryweather.  When Krogar asked if he had any record of newcomers to the port within the last week carrying any religious or arcane equipment, the half-elf smiled and produced a mammoth ledger from below his desk.  After pouring through the records, Gil’Adan was able to narrow down the search.  “Three ships carrying passengers and cargo fit that description, all docking in the last week: The Concord’s Grace, the Queen’s Gambit, and the Golden Light.”

At the name of the Golden Light, Ragnar finally spoke up.  “Golden Light, you said?  I know a guy who was on that vessel.  The first mate, in fact.  He’ll help… for a price.”

“Everyone in this town will help for a price,”  Krogar snapped the book shut.  “Many thanks, Master Merryweather.”  The fighter slipped a sovereign across the table.  As long as he was stuck in these lands he made an effort to keep his contacts happy.

They were able to locate the first mate aboard the Golden Light overlooking the loading of cargo before their return trip back to Horizon.  After another few sovereigns changed hands, the first mate told them that their passengers were indeed members of the Sand Crab.  Rumor had it the cult meet in an old rundown warehouse on the northern docks.  The first mate warned them that the Cult of the Sand Crab   funded its operations by selling hallucinogenic fungus and sent them on their way.   On their way over a drunk staggered into Gil’Adan and grabbed onto his shirt, “The owls!  The owls have been seen slouching around Tenderhill district. Slouching I tells ya! It ain’t natural!”  Krogar pushed the drunken fool away and the party continued on.

The sun was setting just as they made their way into the northern warehouse district which belonged to the Red Scars.  Gil’Adan was about to ask why they called themselves the Red Scars when he noticed every single one of the members bore a vicious looking scar across a part of their face or arm.  Krogar noticed Gil’Adan’s gaze and quietly said, “Initiation rites for the gang.  Shows strength.”  Krogar greeted the Red Scar leader, Molak, with his hand on his chest.   “Molak, I need a favor.  Have you seen anything or anyone suspicious in the district in the last few days?”

Red_SashMolak was a scrappy looking halfling who looked like he had seen his fair share of fights.  “More suspicious than the usual lot in this town you mean?”  When his gang laughed, Molak continued, “As a matter of fact, I have seen some undesirables around.  Warehouse twenty-three a few blocks up has had some odd folks popping in and out of it the last two days.  At night the strangest sounds echo from inside.  Rumor has it that since they arrived strange warm black fungal spores have been falling all over Latchmound district.  It ain’t no problem yet, just an oddity.  Told me boys to give it a wide berth, get the feeling there’s something unnatural going on in there.”  When Krogar went to offer a coin to Molak, the halfling raised his hand.  “No need, mate.  You been good to us, and we’ve been good to you.  Just get rid of our new neighbors, eh?”

The halfling’s directions were accurate.  After a short walk they found themselves in front of a large warehouse that long looked abandoned.  Passing by, nobody would have looked twice at the building.  However, as they kept their distance to case the joint, Gil’Adan couldn’t help but shake a sense of wrongness in the magical aura around the building.  “Something isn’t right about this.”  Silently, the four of them made their way through the shadows up to the warehouse.  Danziker happily applied his set of thieves tools obtained from the Prince of Shadows to the one of the side doors of the building.

The interior of the building was much like any other warehouse: stacks upon stacks of crates and boxes on numerous shelves.  Eager to prove himself, Ragnar took the lead of the group.  He carefully avoided anything he suspected may be a trap, keeping his eyes peeled for anyone else in the warehouse.  Krogar and Gil’Adan followed the half-orc rogue carefully, with Danziker bringing up the rear.  When Danziker saw a crate with an unusual mark on the side, curiosity got the better of him.  The old pirate slid a knife under the crates lid and popped it open to see what was inside.  A jet of buzzing flies erupted out of the crate, surrounding the four adventures and driven them mad from the noise.  When the swarm finally dispersed, the party was a bit surprised to find the warehouse quiet once again.  No alarms had been raised.

While Krogar looked over Danziker to restrain him from doing anything else foolish, Gil’Adan and Ragnar were able to find a door leading to a basement level.  The tingling sensation that Gil’Adan was sensing through the building was much stronger at this one door.  The sorcerer was about to open it when Danziker grabbed the sorcerer’s outreached hand.  The pirate was glaring at the ceiling where a large bag with a black dripping stain at the bottom was hanging.  “Trap”, he whispered.  Danizker followed the lead of the line across the ceiling, down the wall, and along the floor.  Together Danziker and Ragnar used their talents as rogues to disarm the trap.  With the path clear the party descended to the lower levels.

They expected hard stone floor underneath them but were shocked to feel a squishy wet ground.  The chamber they were in looked to be a tunnel lined with numerous species of mushrooms.  Several of the mushrooms glowed with bioluminescence, offering a soft red light.  Gil’Adan pulled what knowledge he had of arcane disturbances together, “If I know anything about hell, I think we just stepped into it.  There is strange magic at work here… it feels like we stepped into another realm.”  Krogar silently agreed, he had jumped worlds before and felt a similar sensation when he was transported to Shadow Port all those months ago.

Room Fungal

Welcome to Fungal Hell
This place really gets under your skin… and grows there!

As Gil’Adan approached a brightly colored mushroom it began swelling up in size.  Moving fast, Krogar grabbed the wood elf and yanked him back just as the mushroom exploded in a spore cloud.  From then on Danziker and Ragnar used the knives to disarm any mushrooms that blocked their path from afar.  Further in Gil’Adan heard shuffling ahead and halted the party.  He gestured toward Ragnar who crept forward, keeping to the shadows.  The half-orc rogue found a cultists on his knees, rapidly shoving mushrooms into his mouth.  Ragnar crept up behind the man and drew his dagger across the cultist’s neck with ease.  As the cultist fell to the floor, Ragnar noted the man’s bulging stomach and grime covered robes – Apparently the cultists had been at this for some time now.  Gil examined the body, “I know a bit about cultists, and they’d do anything for power.  I’d wager a guess this man was devouring mushrooms to gain some form of power.”

The fungal covered walls eventually gave way to a rectangular room divided in half by a half-formed wall of fungal roots.  Four large crates occupied the closer half, with three similar crates barely visible on the other side of the fungal mass.  Triggered by the party’s presence, a skeletal hand appeared from the nearest crate, lifting the lid.  From each crate emerged a skeletal figure lined with grave rot mushrooms.

IMG_4226

Ragnar dodged a rusty sword and with a twist of his cloak disappeared into shadow.  Danziker saw his fellow rogue disappear and grumbled to himself about not needing no shadow tricks.  Relying on fancy footwork, Captain Danziker danced forward, bringing his cutlass down upon a skeleton that approached and tumbled left before the skeleton could return a blow.  He had no clue he had just tumbled right into a monstrously large skeleton until the undead creature raked his bony claws down across Danziker’s back.  The creature let loose an unearthly cackle as grave rot set into the wound that would slow the old pirate down.

IMG_4241

Gil’Adan knew from his power stolen from the Lich King that destroying the central source of power animating the undead could weaken the remaining skeletons.  He began gathering his power and observe the fight.  As the battle unfolded, the half-elf sorcerer saw the monstrous creature emerge from the fungal mass and sent Danziker sprawling with a single blow.  “There!  Kill the large one!”

Krogar turned to engage the monstrous skeletal creature, but found his path blocked as the skeletal warrior swarmed around him.  The half-orc fighter cleaved his way through one warrior and into the next, keeping the pressure off Gil’Adan.  Meanwhile, Danziker dodged under another blow then twisted his cutlass back up into the monstrous skeletal’s ribcage.  Ragnar stepped out of the shadows behind the skeletal horror and sunk his daggers deep into the back of the creature’s skull.  Seeing the two rogues making quick work of the monstrous creature, Gil’Adan redirected his energies towards the skeletal archers deeper in the room.  A super charge bolt of energy flew out of the sorcerer’s hands and hit his target dead on, sending bones flying as the archers exploded into pieces.  Within another round the undead had been put to rest and the room fell silent.    Krogar found a vicious looking long sword inlaid with the image of a bear in one of the coffins.  It was heavier than his katana, but what it lacked for in speed it more than made up for in might.  It would serve him well.

IMG_4244

After a short rest the party pressed on.  Beyond the undead chamber Krogar, Ragnar, Gil’Adan and Danziker found more fungus infested tunnels.  The party narrowly avoided pools of wriggling maggots, exploding noxious mushrooms and attacking tendrils as they made their way deeper into fungal hell.  As the tunnel continued impossibly upward, they eventually found themselves on a platform overlooking the mushroom cavern below.  The bioluminescence of the mushrooms below cast an eerie red glow over the surrounding area.  More red lights seem to float around in the air.  In the clearing, amid large mushrooms, were three cultists and an altar.  Two of the cultists seemed transfixed, seemingly by the hallucinogenic properties of mushrooms they harvested.   The third was standing over the basin of the altar.  None of the cultists had noticed the adventurers.

The two rogues knew what to do and stealthily crept towards the two transfixed cultists.  As Danziker was about to strike, he felt something hit his head and a spore cloud erupted around him.  He had just enough time to register the great hulking fungal demon stepping out from the shadows before his mind went blurry.

Expertly skilled as an assassin, Ragnar had better luck taking out his target. The cultist crumpled at the half-orc’s feet. With a trained eye he noticed that the floating red lights in the room actually belonged to two fungal demons, their black oily skin concealing them well in the dark room. He watched as one of the demons revealed himself and attacked Danziker, but Ragnar was too far away to help. At least he would beat the fungal demons at their own game. When the next free moment presented itself Ragnar stepped into the shadows.
IMG_4249

Krogar made to charge the fungal demon, but was stopped as Danziker stepped into his path.  The old pirate swung his cutlass at the half-orc fighter, but Krogar raised his new sword to deflect the blow.  “What in seven hells are you doing Danziker!?!”

“Confusion,” Gil’Adan shouted.  “Fend him off as best you can until he comes to his senses!”  The sorcerer started pulling energy together and readied a spell.  When the cultists finally joined the fight, Gil’Adan was ready for them.  Icy cold winds buffeted against the two remaining cultists as Gil’Adan released an overcharged breath of frost energy towards them.  One of the cultists froze solid and moved no more.  Seeing Gil’Adan attack the cultists the second fungal demon turned his fury towards the wood elf.  Before he could cross the room a dagger protruded from his neck.  Ragnar had reappeared.

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Danziker finally shook aside the confusing effects of the spores from his head and realized he had been attacking Krogar relentlessly.  Thankfully it looked like the fighter had made good use of his maneuvers and sustained little damage.  The pirate gave a sheepish grin at the half-orc fighter and shrugged.  Apologizes would have to wait until later.  Turning, the pirate moved to strike down the demon that had attacked him.  Krogar let loose a battle cry and joined the fray.

Working together now, the four adventurers dropped each of their foes.   As the fungal demons started decaying before their eyes, Gil’Adan examined the altar basin.  A glint of metal caught his eye and he reached his hand within.  The liquid was warm to the touch but he was able to pull a dull looking dagger out of it.  “I believe I’ve found the sacred dagger.  Doesn’t look very special.”  As the last drop of liquid dripped off the dagger, the wood elf felt the air in the room shift.  The fungus that lined the room darkened and began rotting.  With a groan the cavern walls began collapsing.   “By the Diabolist’s horns, we’ve gotta get out of here!  The entire place is rotting away!”

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The four adventures began a mad dash back the route they came.  The tunnels were quickly rotting away in large masses of disgusting filth.  More than once, on of them slipped on the rotted floor and found themselves covered in grime.  Down other corridors they could see other fungal demons rotting where they stood.  Several cultists of the sand crab were screaming in terror as their hellish fungal ‘paradise’ died around them.  The party finally found the trapdoor just as the last of the tunnels behind them collapsed.  Krogar wrenched open the door and heaved all of them up and into the warehouse.  As they exited the trap door and looked back down, they could see only a normal basement crowded with crates.

Danziker lifted himself off the floor, “I tell ye true, it ain’t often a pirate admits he be needin’ a bath, you make no doubt of that.  This muck is vile!”  All four of them did the best they could to get the grime of their clothes but to little avail.  Reeking of rotted growth, they made their way back to the Pious Gardener.  Several customers wrinkled their noses at the smell as the party walked in.  Kiel looked ready to start shouting, but the dark elf bartender held his tongue and looked sideways across the room.  There they found Samuel waiting for them as if he knew exactly when the party would be returning.  The tiefling took the dagger from them, saying another element of their debt had been repaid. 

GM Note – I loved this adventure and like Shadow Port Shuffle more and more.  With this particular adventure I added an additional skeleton combat to lengthen the session and to put a bit more pressure on the party.  Skeletons fit well with Gil’Adan’s Lich King heritage and the rotting aspect of fungal hell worked with the undead.  In keeping with Danziker’s disgraceful reputation, I chose to give Kiel the bartender a history with the pirate.  Since the history was troublesome, they had to do their own legwork to find the warehouse rather than having Kiel providing the location of the Sand Crab Cult for them.  In addition, I had the adventurers return the sacred dagger to Samuel in the Pious Gardener instead.  I liked the idea Samuel being a debt collector of sorts for the Prince and wanted to make him a recurring character.  If Kiel needs the dagger to further the organized play plot later, it’s simple to say Samuel gave it to him after the party departed.

Part 1 Recap – Deep in the Red

Meet the Party…

IconDanzikerCAPTAIN DANZIKER

Captain Danziker was a pirate of legend that braved the Iron Seas.  He was a born swindler, escape artist and a man made for the likes of Shadow Port.  It is rumored that Danziker even sold his plunder to the Prince himself and made a bargain with the Lich King for safe passage around Necropolis.  Those were the good ol’ days.   These days Danziker is a captain without a ship, thanks to the rotten Emperor.  Most days he can be found on the docks loaded to the gunwales, reeking of rum and digging himself even deeper in the red.  Few people believe this sad excuse for a pirate was ever the Danizker of legend.  Most simply call him the disgraceful knave…

IconGiladanGIL-ADAN

Gil-adan is a Wood Elf Sorcerer that once served the Emperor as a dragon knight, but was exiled from his Order for disobeying a command.  While his relationship with the Emperor remains complicated, he is still held in a positive light among fellow elves in the Court of Stars.  In need of a new career in life, Gil-adan studied magic at the Archmage’s College of Magical Theory in Horizon.  He then turned to the life of a field academic with backgrounds in history, survival and appraisal of ancient artifacts.  Three months ago agents of the Prince of Shadows rescued Gil-adan from a tight spot when the sorcerer stole an ancient artifact belonging to the Lich King.  Now the Prince has called upon Gil-adan to pay for the price of his safety…

IconKrogar

KROGAR

Krogar is a Half-Orc Fighter that does not belong to this world.  He hails from a different realm and would do anything to find his way back home.  He has thrown his trust with the Prince of Shadows in hopes the Prince has the resources to send him back home and hide him from the Archmage who is interested in how the half-orc traveled across realities.  Back on his home world Krogar was raised in the Shadow Cat Thieves Guild, but stealth never suited him.  Breaking free of the thieves guild Krogar became a scout in the Knights of the Storm and discovered his calling as a fighter.  He holds the honorable title Hound of the Blood Wolf Tribe.  It is unknown what magics brought Krogar to the Dragon Empire, but he hopes his stay is not a long one…

PrinceOfShadows Shadow Port Shuffle 

Part 1 – Deep in the Red

The squawk of a hundred seagulls split through Captain Danziker’s skull.  The sharp toll of bells did not help either.  The old weather-beaten pirate sat up, pushing his tricorn hat off his face and winced at the too-bright morning sun that reflected off the waters surrounding the docks of Shadow Port. When his eyes adjusted the old pirate realized his drinking companion from the night before was still passed out on the dockside bench next to him.  His trained hands liberated the gnome’s coin purse.  “Many thanks for yer company last night, mate.  Fun as it was, it would be a shame not to take this load off yer shoulders.  Based on the sum o’ ale ye drank last night ye not be remembering this when ye waken.  Off I go now!”

Danziker swayed to his feet and headed towards the streets of Shadow Port.  Mighty proud of himself, he tossed the coin purse in this hand to feel the weight of the gold he has just stolen.  A frown settled on the pirate’s face when the pouch did not jingle as coins normally do when it landed back in the palm of his hand.  Curiously he opened the pouch and inspected the contents.  Nestled between a handful of worthless pebbles was a small scroll that read, “Dark Jester at Sundown.  The Prince calls on your debt.”  A string of colorful curses escaped Danziker’s mouth that would make any seafaring man proud.  He spun around to look back towards the docks, but the gnome was gone.

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Large green-tinted hands dropped a street thug onto the table of a nearby tavern.  The resounding thud the dwarf made when he landed satisfied Krogar the half-orc fighter.  Another job complete, another step closer to returning home.  The half-orc reached his hand expectantly towards the forgeborn that sat across the table.  The forgeborn smiled and produced a single coin from his pocket, passing it across the table.  Krogar looked at the coin confused.  The currency of these lands was still new to him, but he was certain he was being cheated. “The bounty said 50 gold, not just one coin.  Pay up.”

The forgeborn across the table shrugged his shoulders, “I do as the Prince commands.  We thank you for your services.”  Hauling the unconscious dwarf over this shoulder, the forgeborn gave another smile to the fighter.  “We will take care of him.  I’d take another look at that coin if I were you.  Use it to buy a pint of Golden Ale when you figure it out.”  As the forgeborn walked out of the tavern, Krogar flipped the coin and saw the image of a jester with one word scratched into the metal, “Sundown.” Krogar pocketed the coin and walked out onto the streets of Shadow Port.  The pirate haven and smuggle town of Shadow Port was still largely unknown to him.  He would need help puzzling out the meaning of the coin before the sun set.

Gil’Adan bolted upright in his bed, certain he had heard something.  Looking around he found the door and window of the tavern he roomed in for the night remained securely locked.  The wood elf was about to dismiss his alarm and drift back to sleep when he noticed a piece of parchment at the end of his bed that should not have been there.  Gil-Adan hesitantly picked up the parchment and let his eyes read over the words.  ‘Dark Jester at Sundown.  Do not be late.  Order a pint of Golden Ale.  Sorry for borrowing your ink.’  It was upon reading the last sentence that Gil-Adan realized his right arm stung.  A razor thin cut six inches long reached up his forearm.  The letter was written in blood.  His blood.  Shakily, the sorcerer pulled on his boots and grabbed his staff.  It seemed the Prince had finally come to collect his debt.

Krogar’s contacts in the city had recognized the symbol on the coin as belonging to the Dark Jester tavern, but none were particularly helpful with directions.  All they had said was that more than a few bards passing through made it a point to play there.  The half-orc grunted.  What did he care about where Bards played?  He was after a job, nothing more.  He felt a tug at his coin purse. Scowling, he spun around and grabbed at the thief behind him ready to knock his teeth out.  Instead of a cutpurse Krogar found himself holding onto a small child who looked frightened out of his mind.  The child’s mother came running, batting at the half-orc and yelling to remove his hands this instant.  Confused, Krogar dropped the kid and backed away.  Both the pick-pocket and his coin pouch were gone.

Danziker turned a corner and chuckled to himself.  The defenseless child-decoy trick worked every time.  For the second time today Danziker found the coin purse he lifted held something strange.  The coins in the pouch were gold, but inscribed with no markings he recognized from the Dragon Empire.  Oh well, at least they had some value.  A few more sovereigns for drinks tonight would serve him well.  The old knave turned down one of the hidden alleyways of Shadow Port and found a well-dressed wood elf inspecting a statue of a laughing jester pointing northward.  Odd to see such a finely dressed person in these parts, Danziker thought to himself.  For a moment he mused over liberating the wood elf’s coin pouch from his person as well, but given his luck today the rogue thought better of it and sauntered on past.

DarkJesterCovering his noise from the stench wafting from the pirate that just walked past, Gil’Adan took another look at the statue.  His friends at the Drunken Scholar in the Cloud District had directed him to speak to Ma’iq the Liar, a well-known snitch in Shadow Port.  Ma’iq told him very little, but did mention that the jesters knew where the Dark Jester resides.  After seeing several statues of jesters all pointing in one direction or another, the wood elf sorcerer decided to follow the trail.  Eventually, the jester pointed him in the right direction and he found a small door leading to a basement.  A sign above the doorway was covered in grime, but a closer look revealed the image of a shadowy looking jester.  Gil-Adan walked in silently and took a seat near a corner.  Hopefully he would be able to see his contact before they saw him.  It would be a difficult task.  The smoke and sweltering heat from the braziers made the rough tavern popular with tieflings & forgeborn.  A wood elf would be easily noticed among this crowd.

Building a reputation as someone to be feared was an easy task for Krogar.  His time among the Wolf Clan had taught him that.  With the sun sinking lowering in the sky the half-orc started letting his sword do the talking for him.  It was not long before he had the directions he required and found himself in front of the Dark Jester Tavern.  The old door creaked as the half-orc entered.  A demon-touched bard was playing a melancholy tune near a fireplace that reminded him of home.  Krogar walked up to the bartender and found it run by another female tiefling.  “Pint of the Golden Ale.”  He reached towards instinctively towards his coin pouch to pay the barkeep, but his face fell flat when he remembered he was dirt broke.

The bartender smiled and placed a dirty mug on the bar.  “Don’t worry hunny, it’s on the house.  Taps in back, second door on the right.”  She gave Krogar a little wink and went back to tending to her other customers.  Krogar picked up the mug and walked towards the back.  He was followed a moment later by a wood elf dressed in fancy robes.

Danziker entered into the Dark Jester with a broad grin.  He flipped a coin to Revka, the bartender.  She coyly smiled back at him, “Been too long since you’ve graced the Jester with your presence, Captain.”  She slid a pint of Golden Ale across towards him.  “Your acquaintances are already in the back.  You know the room.”  Danziker tipped his hat at the lass and slid another coin across the counter to her.  His drinks tonight would be on that half-orc’s dime.  Opening the door to the back room, he smiled to himself as he saw the same half-orc within accompanied by the well dressed wood elf from the alleyway.  Danziker pulled back a chair, plopped down, and put his feet up on the table.  It was going to be an interesting night.

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The three sat in silence just looking to one another before a rakishly handsome tiefling entered the room.  He smiled wide, “Evening Gentleman… Danziker.”  Danziker chuckled, his reputation preceded him.  “My name is Samuel Dirrel.  You are all here for a similar reason if not for the same cause.  Each of you owe a debt, and these debts are being called in.  You will be given six tasks to complete in order to settle your debt.”  The tiefling poured himself a pint of the golden ale.  “The first is a trial run, you might say.  A simple snatch and grab that any gutter rat worth his salt should be able to manage.”

Krogar grabbed a chair and leaned forward, “A simple snatch and grab for the Prince?  What does that entail?”

Samuel continued.  “Have you ever heard of the Winter Seal?”

Clearing his throat, Gil’Adan spoke up, “The Winter Seal is a relic of the Wizard King’s from an age ago.  It is said to be given to his lieutenants far and wide as symbols of authority.”  Krogar looked uninterested and Danziker busied himself finishing off his ale.  Gil’Adan continued with words they might appreciate more, “It is incredibly valuable.  A statue of an owl crafted out of obsidian and encrusted with sapphires that are set in silver.  Some nobleman in town recently acquired it from a dig he sponsored in the north.”

“Ah hah, a historian!  Perhaps there is hope for you after-all.  You are correct, in part.  Morgan Navale is a man of noble birth if not noble character.”  Samuel laughed at his own joke, “But yes indeed, the Winter Seal has found its way to Shadow Port.  I would like it to be mine.  I believe at least one of you is acquainted with the Navale estate.”  Their host looked towards the grinning pirate.

Danziker chuckled.  “Madeline was a fine beauty.  It weren’t my fault she neglected to mention Morgan was her father.”  The look the half-orc and wood elf gave him gave Danziker another chuckle.

Samuel continued, “Yes, Danziker, your familiarity with his estate and vault is one of the reasons why you are here.  I will be here at Sundown every day for the next week.  If you need any further assistance, I recommend seeking out Lars Redfist.  With that, good luck.  I shall see you soon.”

As Samuel exited, Krogar spoke up, “Let’s find this Lars fellow.  Best to get this done quickly.”  The three of them made their way out of the Dark Jester and across town to the Valegate district.  Krogar had heard of Lars’ reputation as working both sides of the law.  Lars was too well connected for the law or criminal element to afford getting rid of him.  When they reached his estate, they found a three story white building towering above the rest of the neighborhood.  “This must be it.”

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As Krogar moved to set into the building he was stopped by a towring orc guard who demanded he identify himself.  Gil-Adan began shifting through his robes to retrieve his travel paperwork, but Danziker brushed past him and clasped the closest guard by the forearm.  “Tiny!  Be that you?”

“Danziker”, the guard muttered.  He looked from the pirate to the two others.  “Surely these two aren’t friends of yours.”

Danziker let loose a crooked smile. “We have business inside.  Lars owes me a favor or two.”

The guard grunted. “Fine then.  Go inside.  Just don’t start no trouble.”  Danziker tipped his hat and led his two companions inside.

Lars was a rotund dwarf who had a scar across his left cheek.  His ample jewelry showed of his wealth and station within the district.  “Ah, gentlemen.  Mr. Dirrel sent word that you would be coming.  I understand you may need some assistance with a small matter soon?  For a small fee, of course.”

They party agreed to giving Lars a cut of whatever profits they might obtain as well as collecting any items of interest they may come across.  When Lars mentioned that Lord Navalle would be hosting a masquerade ball the next evening, they knew that would be the best time to strike.  Danziker knew the vault lay-out from visiting the estate in the past.  Gil’Adan volunteered to act as a landed noble from Glitterhagen with Krogar as his dutiful bodyguard for the evening.  Lars mentioned a distraction would suit them nicely and Danziker confidently said he could handle it.  With a plan in the works, the three set out ready for the job.

It had taken them long into the evening formulating the details of the plan with Lars.  When they exited his estate, the moonlight was shrouded out by a heavy thunderstorm.  The torches that normally lit the streets of Shadow Port flickered as they fought against the rain.  “The Empire’s Blessing, my arse,” Danziker muttered.  Gil’Adan offered to put the two up for the night and they made their way to cloud district.  As they made their way through the rain slick streets, they were stopped suddenly by a large bare chested Half-Orc stepping out from the shadows.

“Evening blokes,” He cracked his knuckles together, “The name’s Bruiser.  Word is you’re after a job.  Hand over your plans if you know what’s good for you. We’ll be taking it from here.  Get ‘em boys.”  At the Bruiser’s words the doors on the balconies above them burst open.  Three pairs of Halfling street scum emerged and began raining a barrage of pebbles down at the adventurers.

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Not happy to be drawn into a trap, Krogar unleashed his katana and charged at Bruiser.  The half-orc wrecker crackled his knuckles and met Krogar head on.  Danziker dodged nimbly out of the way of the falling rocks and jumped into the fight.  As he danced around Bruiser he swung his cutlass across the half-orc’s side and snitched a piece of parchment from his trousers.  The old pirate wasn’t as sly as he thought though and Bruiser noticed, promptly clocking Danziker in the face with a mighty fist.

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Gil’Adan had backed off from the melee and began to pull together his arcane energies.  When two female elven thieves dressed in red leathers and weilding rapiers stepped out menacingly from the side streets, the sorcerer delayed no longer.  Channeling energy through open palm, Gil’Adan let loose a torrent of fire at the newcomers.  The fire caught one of the elves head on.  The other elven thief frantically dodged out of the way, but had the unfortunate luck to jump directly into Krogar.  The fighter twisted and dragged his katana across the elf’s torso.  The remaining elf saw the dire situation her fellow gang members were in and retreated back down the alley.  There was no profit in death and little honor among thieves.

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Danziker started seeing red as the bruiser continued to pummel him with his brass knuckles.  The rogue rolled with the blows as best as he could, but he wasn’t as young as he used to be. “Sink me! Why didn’t we hire a blasted healer?!” Just when the bruiser was ready to land another blow a katana thrust through the half-orc’s chest.  As Bruiser fell to the floor, Krogar assumed a defensive stance to ward off the hail of rocks from above.  Gil’Adan sent a torrent of destructive energy towards the balconies above.  The halflings that had occupied them crashed to the floor, unconscious or dead.

The elven thief Krogar has injured before was sputtering on the floor, weeping for mercy.  “Get up,” Krogar said as he pointed his blood covered blade at his chest.  “Who sent you?  You’ll talk if you know what’s good for you.”

“Please don’t kill me!  Bruiser made us do it!  He got orders and said we needed to follow,”  The elf looked completely over her head.  She pointed to the slip of paper Danziker had in his hand.  The pirate unfurled the note and saw it was signed with only the initial ‘M’.  “Please spare me!  I can help you!”

Sliding his katana up to the elf’s throat, Krogar stated, “You live today.  Your life is mine.”

Danziker was inspecting a fine looking dagger he had picked up from one of the falling halfling thugs and turned towards Krogar. “Are you sure?  We can’t be risking more news of our plan leaking out.  Dead men tell no tales.”

Krogar brushed Danziker off and glared at the elven thief.  “You’ll serve us as we see fit.  Now go tell your friends we are not to be trifled with.”  The elf shakily nodded.  When Krogar sheathed his weapon, he got up and disappeared into the shadows.

Gil-Adan began talking openly about how they would need to change their plans and wait until after the party to make their move.  It took the other two a moment to realize he was speaking loud enough to be within earshot of the fleeing elf in an effort to mislead any informants the elf would report to later.  No one in this town could truly be trusted.  When a few moments past the sorcerer dropped his voice, “Let’s go.  We have work to do.”

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In the morning, Danziker muttered something about needing some tools before departing.  Gil spent his day preparing his character and costume.  When they were ready, Krogar and Gil approached Navelle manor.  When the guard asked for their name and title, Gil proudly proclaimed, “Ser Goldenhair of Glitterhagan.”  The guard checked a list and nodded to another guard.  He came up and wrapped an ornate ribbon around the hilt of Krogar’s blade.  “Its a security measure.  Do not unsheathe your blade, do not break the ribbon, and we got no problems.”

Gil-Adan walked past the gates and Krogar followed.  As they made their way up the hillside to the manor, they barely noticed the shadowy blur of black in the bushes to the left.  Danziker had scaled the wall and was making his way onto the second floor, as per the plan.  As Krogar opened the door for Gil, he gave a curt nod in the rogue’s direction.  In the bushes, Danziker tipped his tricorne hat and quickly made his way up the lattice work to the second floor.

Inside the main ballroom, Gil made his way to the far side of the estate.  The map that Lars had given them showed the fault across a pool in the center of the grounds.  As Gil and Krogar settled themselves near one of the doors awaiting the distraction, a dwarf with a monocle strode up to them followed by a knight in shining armor.  “Good Evening, sir, my name is Marwyn Baran.”  He extended a hand, which Gil took and introduced himself as Lord Goldhair.  “Tell me, Lord, have you heard of the Winter Seal?  I was just telling Sir Ward Rokat here that I was the very one to recover the artifact.  It is a priceless antiquity; Lord Navalle should be very pleased at his possession.”  As Marwyn ranted endlessly about the statue and its history, Krogar kept an eye on the guards outside.  Very soon, the guards would change and Danziker’s distraction should keep them busy.

Upstairs, Danziker had just made his way into Lord Navelle’s private quarters.  While Lars’ map would be handy to most, Danziker already knew his way around the manor.  He had had certain illicit affairs with the Lord’s daughter in the past.  It was from his previous visits to the manor that he knew just the distraction the party needed.  The Lord here liked to keep a locket at his desk as one of many displays of his wealth.  Bloody fool had no idea the locket belonged to the Lich King’s banshees, but Danziker did.  He picked up the locket and grabbed a few of the Lord’s papers from his desk.  Carefully making his way to the window, he leaned out then threw the locket back inside.  It smashed against the wall and a horrible wailing broke outward.  The wail of the banshees continued to echo through the grounds as Danziker leapt out the window to the bushes below.

The entire ballroom was distracted with the unearthly wailing coming from upstairs.  As numerous guests covered their ears, the guards of the chamber and grounds ran to investigate the disturbance.  Krogar tapped Gil on the shoulder and the two quickly made their way on to the grounds and to the vault.  Nobody would blame guests for getting as far from the wailing as possible.  When they got to the vault, they saw two guards posted outside the main doorway.  When one looked away, the other quickly fell to his knees.  Before the guard could turn back, Danziker leapt from the shadows and clubbed him across the head with a sap.

Gil’Adan stopped and looked back to the estate.  If the guards would see anyone near the vault entrance, they would only see a guest waiting for the wailing to cease.  While Krogar propped the two unconscious guards against the vault, Danziker applied his thieves tools to the vault door.  Despite the rogue’s assurances that the vault could be open, he did not seem to have any luck.  Loosing his patience, Krogar shoved Danziker aside and drew upon his experience being raised among a thieves guild to try his luck at the lock.  The doors clicked open just as Danziker’s tools snapped.  Krogar grabbed the weapons off the guards, thinking they may come in handy.  The three made their way inside.  With time bearing down on them, Danziker lead the way and kept his eyes out for traps.  He deftly disabled a spear and dart trap before they found themselves at the main vault room.

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Sitting in the center of the room was the Winter Seal – A obsidian statue of an owl encrusted with sapphires and rubies.  Gil knew it’s description from Marwyn’s endless blathering.  Danziker made a show of inspecting the room as he surreptitiously made his way to a lockbox bearing the Prince’s seal.  Thinking it may be a gift, he opened it and found an another set of thieves tools.  How the Prince knew Danziker would be needed a new set was a mystery.  Looking back to the pedestal in the center of the room he saw Gil’Adan inspecting the pedastal the seal sat upon.  “There is magic here.  I suspect the pedestal is set to an alarm.  It will take time to disarm this, time I’m afraid we have little of. ”

Krogar carefully walked up to the platform.  “Then we do what we came here to do.  Snatch and Run.”  Before his companions could object, the fighter snatched the statue from the pedestal and ran toward the vault exit.  Several loud bells started ringing as the three made their way out of the vault and on to the grounds.  “This way!” Krogar pointed to the bushes, with Danziker already several steps ahead of them.  They had planned this escape route with the preparations Lars had given them.

Danziker leapt over the wall first and landed on to the cobblestone street.  A twang was all the warning he had before he felt a bolt puncture his calf.  Looking up, he saw three ruffians shrouded in purple cloaks.  Each had a crossbow trained on him.  “Hand over the Winter Seal and nobody gets hurt.”

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Danziker thought fast, “Ye shot me an’ yer claiming nobody will get hurt?!  Yer supposed to be the relief, ye bloody fool!”  When the closest ruffian looked at him confused, Danziker pressed on.  “I wager by the color of yer cloaks that ye be the Purple Lotus clan.  I bet yer were even told to be at this spot to make sure the Prince received the seal.  Listen, the guards will be here any moment.  The Prince needs this statue and yer here to handle the guards.”  The ruffian’s allies lowered the crossbows and looked to their boss.

Before the boss could make sense of what was going on, Krogar and Gil came over the wall.  In the distance, the sound of clanking armor announced the coming of the guards.  Danziker pointed to the purple robed figures, “The Prince be kind enough ta send relief.  Time to make our exit, smartly now!”  The pirate quickly hobbled down the street, cursing the bolt in his leg. 

The lead ruffian shouted out to Danziker but Krogar quickly ran up to him.  The fighter shoved the guards weapons with broken peace ribbons in the leader’s hands.  Whispering, he stated, “The Prince takes care of his own.”  Krogar turned to the oncoming guards who had just spotted them.  “Help!  These men just robbed the manor!”  As Gil and Krogar beat feet after Danziker, Gil uttered a quick thank you to the bewildered rogues.

The leader of the Purple Lotus looked at the oncoming guards and cursed.  If this was a trick, someone would pay dearly for it later… IMG_4181

Gil-Adan, Krogar and Danziker laid low for the evening and most of the next day.  When sundown approached, they carefully made their way back to the Dark Jester Tavern.  True to his word, Samuel Direll was waiting for them in the back room.  “Welcome back.  I understand congratulations are in order.”  He got to his feet and held out his hands.  Danziker reluctantly placed the jewel encrusted statue in his hands.  “Many thanks.  I understand the Purple Lotus may think the Prince owes them a favor?  You’re quite the smooth talker.”

Danziker stretched his arms wide, “I be a captain, afterall.”

Gil-Adan sighed.  “Scallywag, scoundrel, disgraceful knave more like it, but you served your purpose.  We all did.”

Samuel smiled, “Indeed, my employer is pleased.”  Samuel looked at the owl statue again then abruptly smashed it against the table.  He brushed the remains aside and pulled out a small parchment with a map on it.  Gil-Adan caught just enough of the map to make out what he knew to be Necropolis.  How curious.  Samuel pocketed the map and turned to leave.  “You can keep the scraps.  The Prince isn’t interested in that tonight.  He has more interesting plans.  I’ll be in touch.”  With that the tiefling was gone.

Player feedback – “Great game session. Loads of fun!” 

(Sarah)    (Ben)