Six Times Epic! Part 1 - A Darkness Comes To Stormwall

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Al Bear - RF
Al Bear - RF's picture
Six Times Epic! Part 1 - A Darkness Comes To Stormwall

The fourth bonus goal for the Shaintar: Legends Unleashed Kickstarter was the Six Time Epic goal, a collection of six tabletop maps (courtesy of DramaScape) and six epic one-sheet adventures written by six of Shaintar's all-star writers. You can read more here and if you were a backer you should find a link to these in your kickstarter inbox. :)

In this thread I will be going through the adventures/maps and posting my thoughts. I invite others to do the same.

Note - For any real discussion to take place we might need to go into detail - so:

SPOILERS AHEAD.

Al Bear - RF
Al Bear - RF's picture

A Darkness Comes To Stormwall
by Rob Davis

Premise
I love this old and ruined keep, I'd play up the atmosphere as much as possible, preferably having the players arrive in late autumn, cold, damp, misty, windswept. I'd highly advise having the player characters having a connection to Brellin (or whatever NPC you could replace him with).

Act 1
If you have a character with a strong religious background there's a good opportunity here to have them say a few words of their own (or have grieving NPCs approach them). Being a Priest/Druid isn't all battling the forces of Darkness and Flame after all!

The interlude idea is fantastic, especially if the player characters do not have much of a connection to Silver Gate/Brellin at the start of the adventure - enterprising players can do a lot here to add character to Brellin and deepen their investment in Silver Gate.

Speaking of investment, if the player characters are unfamiliar to Silver Gate at the start of the adventure, now is the time to spend some time in the village getting to know the populace. While the characters are gathering the points of interest throw in some interesting NPCs and pull on the players' heart-strings - the more reason they have to put their lives on the line the better!

Act 2
These hobgoblins are no slouches - make sure you take a good look at this baker's dozen of evil before throwing them at your players. If you're not sure the party can handle it you could reduce the enemy numbers, the party could have brought allies from Silver Gate, or the hobgoblins could start wounded. If these nasty critters seem to easy a challenge for your group remember anything can be a wild card, and maybe that rain that comes in soon after the combat begins makes it quite dark (hobgoblins having infravision).

Be prepared for the PCs to charge the dark robed figure or take a shot at him early on. You never know how the dice will go in SW and there's a chance he could be taken out before he can flee. As always my rule is if you're not comfortable with an NPC dying don't put him near the PCs!

Expanding The Adventure
Of course you'll be wanting to pursue the dark robed figure, possibly into the dungeon map provided as part of the Six Times Epic goal. You could consider that rather than just killing villagers outright the hobgoblins may have kidnapped some and brought them back (no doubt for unspeakable purposes!) and your party could rescue them.

Maps
Top quality jobs, both - I like the ruin map a lot and would remind GMs to look out for the higher ground in the center of the map (great for leaping off for a +2 bonus) and take a look at the overgrown tendrils in the lower-right corner of the map - perhaps a Druid could cause those to writhe around and entangle foes who came nearby.

The dungeon map is solid, an old-school feel. Don't forget however, that you're playing Shaintar - and dungeon crawls are best left to that other system - so rather than room-to-room-murder I'd consider perhaps having the PCs trapped in a cave-in shortly after entering, and they need to search through the rooms to discovers clues to a secret exit.

How did you like this adventure? Will you be using it your game? Any thoughts, advice?

Montar
Montar's picture

Dang. That looks awesome, Al. 

Edit: Nevermind, this was the one I didn't wind up pledging enough to get. Still looks really cool though! :)

Zadmar
Zadmar's picture

I ran this adventure with my players as a one-shot.  It didn't have a happy ending for the players, but they had fun, and I kept a record of what happened - would it be worth posting here, or is it best kept private?

Al Bear - RF
Al Bear - RF's picture

Zadmar wrote:

I ran this adventure with my players as a one-shot.  It didn't have a happy ending for the players, but they had fun, and I kept a record of what happened - would it be worth posting here, or is it best kept private?

I'd love to see what your group got up to, Zadmar, and it could be useful to future GMs looking to run the adventure themselves. If it makes sense to do so you could put it up as a Grey Lantern Report or if not feel free to put it in this thread. I'm not worried about spoilers - there's a warning in my OP and I find them necessary for good discussion anyway.

Looking forward to reading about your experience. :)

Zadmar
Zadmar's picture

First off, please bear in mind that I've not yet received my Legends Arise PDF add-on, so my knowledge of the setting is still a bit sketchy (I'm working from the player's guide). I'm also not entirely sure where Stormwall Keep is located, only that it was supposed to be a fallback for the coastal cities from Valora to Camden (which covers roughly 250 miles of coast), so I just placed it roughly half way between Valora and Camden. Finally I'm not much of a writer, so this is more of an outline of the story rather than a detailed account of everything that took place.

I stripped Combat Reflexes and Frenzy from the hobgoblins. They used wild attack for the first round of combat (in addition to berserk), then stopped using it until the last round. If I were to run it again I wouldn't have them start combat berserk.

I used the Mythic GM Emulator as an aide, I find it's good for adding unexpected twists and turns to my adventures. The 'Q' and 'A' represent questions I asked the emulator, and the answers it gave.

The cast:

The PCs were Durana (Aevakar Archer Scout) and Eamon (Dregordian Adept). They were also accompanied by four Extras - Henry, Babs, Penelope, and Arken (all used the Experienced Soldier template with Combat Reflexes and Trademark Weapon, armed with longsword and medium shield, and wearing partial scale).

Scene #1: Silver Gate.

The Grey Rangers arrived at Silver Gate on the morning of the funeral. Brellin Feldorp had spent some time with the Grey Rangers in the past, and was a friend of the PCs, so they'd chosen this mission in order to find out what had happened to their old friend.

Q: Eamon asks: are there children running around?
A: EXCEPTIONAL NO

The village was practically deserted. The party made their way to the village hall where they saw an announcement about the funderal on the public board. It was due to begin in a couple of hours, so they decided to head straight over to the church.

Scene #2: The church.

Q: Are most of the villagers at the church?
A: YES

It seemed that most of the people were already gathered at the church.

Q: What are the people doing?
A: The answer involves a Revelation regarding Newness

However most of them were complaining about recent problems, rather than discussing the Feldorps.

Q: Are they talking about strange goings on?
A: NO

Q: Are they talking about a bad harvest?
A: YES

The harvest had been particularly bad lately, and that was the main topic of conversation.

Q: Is there anyone there that the party knows?
A: YES
Random Event: Something positive happens for the Hobgoblins involving the Stopping of Good.

The party saw a familiar face among the villagers - Father Sorrin. There was also a random event elsewhere, apparently the hobgoblins had captured someone else who had crossed their path. Another Grey Ranger perhaps? Or someone else? The characters would have to wait and see, because at that point in time they were still at the church.

Q: Did Father Sorrin also serve with the rangers in the past?
A: NO

The party knew Father Sorrin through Brellin, and met him when they came through Silver Gate a few years earlier - Brellin was part of the group back then, and had introduced them to the priest. But the priest had never served with the rangers himself.

Durana asked Sorrin if there was somewhere they could grab something to eat before the funeral and wake, and he suggested they visit the Wheat and Sickle tavern. He reminded them that they'd been there before, although back then it was still being constructed and only the main drinking room was open. The party had an hour before the funeral, so they headed to the tavern.

Scene #3: The Wheat and Sickle tavern.

The party were the only people on the tavern, other than the owner, so they sat themselves down at a table.

Q: Eamon asks: Does the tavern have pie?
A: NO

The tavern owner was able to offer them some stew and bread.

Q: Eamon asks: Is the food similar to what was served last time?
A: NO

Q: Is the food better than last time?
A: NO

The bread was ok, but the stew was pretty watery and the meat tough. The tavern owner shrugged and muttered that times were hard in Silver Gate - the harvest was bad, and so people were tight with their coin.

Q: What is wrong with the harvest?
A: The answer involves Evil Masculinity, and might be related to Durana

Q: Is the problem related to the fae?
A: NO

Q: Is it because so many able-bodied men are signing up with the rangers?
A: YES

Apparently Brellin told many stories of his adventures after he retired to Silver Gate, and many of the youngsters who would normally have been working the fields had instead decided to seek their fame and fortune by heroically fighting the forces of darkness.

The villagers had seemed polite but reserved, and the characters now knew why. The villagers couldn't be too happy about losing so many able-bodied workers to the ranks of the Grey Rangers.

After finishing their meals, the party headed back to the church.

Scene #4 (Negative Alteration): The church.

The scene had been altered by a random event. When the characters arrived at the church, they found a crowd gathered outside. A group of children had returned from playing in the woods, many of them were crying, one of the parents was shouting at one of the children for making up stories. Eamon pushed his way through the crowd and asked what was going on.

The father didn't like being interrupted, but one look at Eamon was enough to intimidate him into backing off. Eamon calmed the young boy down and asked what was going on. The boy described how they'd been playing in the trees near the old castle when they'd seen monsters throwing huge rocks around. The boy's story became increasingly wild and exaggerated, so Eamon read his mind and identified the creatures as hobgoblins.

The party decided to attend the funeral first, during which they told tales of their old friend. Eamon talked about how Brellin had always loved singing, and as a boy had dreamed of becoming a bard, and creating his own songs. He spun a ribald story about Brellin's adventures, with plenty of tavern wenches and other inappropriate elements (yet somehow he still managed to get a raise on the roll, despite being unskilled and having a negative Charisma!).

Durana's story was far less risqué, and she talked about Brellin's two great loves in life - his country and and his family. He served with the Grey Rangers out of a desire to spread peace, but he often talked of returning home and having children.

After the funeral the villagers held a wake, but the party decided to visit the place where the Feldorp family had been found - perhaps there were some clues. Father Sorrin was able to direct them to the place.

Scene #5 (Negative Alteration): Crime scene.

The party were able to find the place fairly easily, but something had changed the scene.

Q: Is it raining?
A: YES

The heavens had opened up, and by the time the characters found the scene it was pouring with rain. The chances of finding any sort of evidence were pretty much non-existent. With no other obvious options, the party decided to head on to Stormwell Keep - the castle the boy had described.

Scene #6: The ruins of Stormwell Keep.

As the party approached the ruins, they heard what sounded like a rock rolling down the hill from the ruins - it was quite a distance away, so it must have been big. They were able to creep up to the ruins without being spotted, and saw 13 hobgoblins - 12 were dragging away rocks, while the last was standing beside a dark-robed necromancer and barking orders.

Durana decided to fly around the ruins to get behind the necromancer, but one of the hobgoblins spotted her and shrieked a warning.

Q: How do the hobgoblins react?
A: The answer involves Evil Technology, which might affect the thread "Hobgoblins are causing chaos"

The necromancer muttered an incantation as he activated a strange device. The clouds overhead darkened even further, and the swirling wind and rain became so powerful that Durana had trouble remaining airborne. But somehow she was able to persevere, and flew away from the ruins, hoping to draw the hobgoblins away from her companions.

Q: Does the necromancer send a group of hobgoblins after Durana?
A: EXCEPTIONAL YES

The necromancer decided to split his hobgoblins into four groups of three. Two groups followed Durana in a pincer movement, one group was sent to patrol the perimeter of the ruins, and the last group remained to guard the ruins.

Q: Is one of the groups heading in the direction of Eamon?
A: YES (despite being "very unlikely")

Durana had managed to remain airborne, but in her struggle against the wind and rain she didn't head quite so far away from the rest of the party as she'd hoped. One of the groups was heading towards Eamon and the others - who decided to ambush them as they came past.

However the hobgoblins spotted the party and charged. Henry and Arken were chopped down in the first round, and Eamon was sent reeling, although he quickly recovered and cast Deflection.

Q: Is the other group within hearing range?
A: YES

Q: Does the patrol circling the ruins hear as well?
A: NO

The second group of hobgoblins heard the warcries and came running, while Durana swooped in from the opposite direction with her bow at the ready. The combat was fast and brutal, Baps and Eamon managed to hold their own, but Penelope was struck down in a spray of blood.

Eamon was able to fight back pretty effectively using Telekinesis, and his Deflection (with a raise) made him difficult to hit, so Durana focused her arrows on the hobgoblins attacking Babs - she shot one in the arm, forcing him to drop his weapon, and the other managed to kill his unarmed companion with a careless berserk backswing (he rolled 1 on the skill die).

One by one the enemies dropped until only one remained, engaged in vicious melee combat with Eamon. Durana took careful aim and loosed her arrow, but the fighters moved at the last moment and her shaft struck Eamon in the back (innocent bystander)! The blow sent him staggering, his spells disrupted, and the last remaining hobgoblin struck wildly with everything he had (berserk, wild attack, called shot to the head). Eamon's head flew from his shoulders, spinning through the air. Babs then charged in and finished the last hobgoblin.

Q: Did the other hobgoblins hear any of this?
A: EXCEPTIONAL NO

The patrol had gone the opposite direction around the ruins, while the hobgoblins within the ruins were busy with something else. Durana landed and checked the wounded - Henry and Arkan were just unconscious, and she was able to get them (more or less) back to their feet, but when she pulled the armour away from Penelope's wounded neck (snake eyes on a Healing roll), blood started spraying everywhere, and she died shortly afterwards.

Durana and Babs helped Henry and Arkan back to the village, where they could call for backup. This was the end of the adventure, so we decided to see what would happen afterwards with a few questions.

Q: Did Babs see Eamon get shot in the back?
A: YES

Q: Did Babs report Durana's backstabbing to the rangers?
A: EXCEPTIONAL YES

Babs reported Durana's actions in the worst possible light, claiming it was deliberate murder and intentional sabotage of the mission. More questions followed, but the end result was that Durana was executed for treason, while Babs retired (EXCEPTIONAL YES) and became a baker. Perhaps the players will meet her again with their next characters. Henry and Arken survived and were reassigned to different units.

Saiderin the Raven
Saiderin the Raven's picture

Wow.

That was about the most un-Shaintary experience I've ever read about happening in Shaintar.

I don't think I would ever use that Q&A thing... it's much too harsh and against the spirit of heroic adventure, IMHO.

Sorry, man - that was just... hard to read. That's not what I imagine cinematic, heroic adventure to be about at all.

"There is no heroism without sacrifice. For this, I am terribly sorry."

Saiderin the Raven
Saiderin the Raven's picture

I know my previous entry reads as "you're doing it wrong." 

You're not. Not if you and your players enjoy that style of play with those kinds of results.

I will say that it's not what I think of as being very Shaintar-style.

"There is no heroism without sacrifice. For this, I am terribly sorry."

Zadmar
Zadmar's picture

It's actually the first player death I've had with this group, and we've been playing together for over a decade.  The encounter was extremely tough, and as it was a one-shot I tried not to pull my punches (other than removing a couple of the Combat Edges from the hobgoblins).  We're considering playing a few different one-shots to give the players a better feel for different races and concepts.

My games tend to define morality in shades of grey, where the difference between "hero" and "villain" is more a matter of perspective than a black or white hat, so I imagine it'll deviate quite a lot from the typical Shaintar campaign.  Think more along the lines of "The Blade Itself" (by Joe Abercrombie) or "Knights of Dark Renown" (by David Gemmell) than "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys".

I do wonder if perhaps the Kal-A-Nar Empire would make a better backdrop for my campaign - or perhaps the pirate archipelagos, or even Shaya’Nor.  But as I said, my knowledge of the setting is still pretty sketchy.

Saiderin the Raven
Saiderin the Raven's picture

To put it simply, Shaintar is a setting full of many shades; the idea is to be a Hero in the face of all the challenges, to show what it means to be a stand-up person when all around you aren't.

"There is no heroism without sacrifice. For this, I am terribly sorry."

Saiderin the Raven
Saiderin the Raven's picture

To put another point out there - 

Look at the gran panoply of fantasy settings out there. Take particular note of all the newer settings.

How many of them are predicated on the concept of Dark Fantasy, Shades of Grey, and the Anti-Hero?

Damn near all of them.

Can we not have one setting where Epic Heroic Fantasy is the point, rather than the point to counter?

"There is no heroism without sacrifice. For this, I am terribly sorry."

The Dread Polack
The Dread Polack's picture

I do enjoy both styles. Both in reading/watching and in playing. In general, I do perfer Shaintar's way. That's why I'm playing it. I am also playing Aracanis right now, and that's a game that constantly forces you to make ugly choices. In a recent game, one of the PCs killed an innocent man (dwarf) in order to solve a complicated problem. There were repercussions, but it was an "acceptable" course of action within the game.

This is the sort of thing that might also come up in Shaintar, but I think the goal is to *not* do things like that. There's a line from the show "The Unit" where one of the Rangers (coincidence?) says "A choice between right and wrong isn't a choice. A choice between wrong and wrong is..." I don't remember the exact quote, but you get the idea.

Anyway, it all depends on what sort of feeling you want from the game. Some people might be thrilled to be stuck with ugly choices like that. I, for one, roleplay for fun, and don't want to go home after a game feeling stressed out. I've played games like that, and I don't enjoy it. I'd like a challenge, but I'd like for there to always be a way to do the right thing. I admit it.

Zadmar
Zadmar's picture

I guess it's just one of those personal preference things.  Some people like morality to be an absolute, but that's actually one of the things I was happy to leave behind when I stopped playing D&D, with its strict alignment system.

However Shaintar is a rich setting, and I'm not running J&L, so as long as my group and I are having fun I hope you won't begrudge us our flawed heroes :)

yynderjohn

You had to spend $100 on the kickstarter to get these right?  Think I only spent 60.

Al Bear - RF
Al Bear - RF's picture

yynderjohn wrote:

You had to spend $100 on the kickstarter to get these right?  Think I only spent 60.

That's correct. Keep your eyes out for the Shaintar after-party however, it is possible these may be made available in some fashion.

Al Bear - RF
Al Bear - RF's picture

Thank you very much for the write-up Zadmar, a fascinating account. I have a question about the Mythic GM Emulator, but I'll send that across in a PM.

I'm glad your party began knowing Brellin and I'll bet the interlude scene was fun. I think your decision to modify the Hobgoblins (removing combat edges and separating them) based on the player characters' abilities was a smart one, and had it not been for that Innocent Bystanders rule it looks like the PCs would have come out of that particularly battle alive (though beaten).

Considering that you were running a one-shot and were planning on testing out different characters it seems to me like not pulling your punches was a good way to go. Depending on the group, the hobgoblins make for a pretty serious encounter, and sometimes those can lead to player death (a sometimes saddening but definitely necessary threat).

The part that struck me as "non-Shaintar" was Durana's execution. I would have expected her tale to go on, her guilt over her comrade's death hanging heavily on her shoulders, possibly pushing her to be more heroic, to redeem herself in some way.

Having said that, there is of course no such thing as badwrongfun, and I hope you guys had a blast and look forward to rolling up some new characters and building some legends. Victories will be all the more sweet if they know that death is just a poorly released arrow away. :)