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Why Mechanics & Rules Matter

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When you enter a new system there’s usually a setting attached. It doesn’t have to be provided by the publishers because it’s inherent in the way the rules allow characters to interact with their setting. If uber-powerful reincarnated gods can be mowed down by a single squad of archers when the rule descriptions say otherwise then there’s a dissonance which undermines the fundaments of the game; and that is detrimental to fun.

Of course it’ll be impossible to make perfect mechanics because of preference differences. We can see that some rulesets expect an adversarial game-table in the way they describe the game running. Others expect the GM to provide for player desires and adapt to whatever they want, implying the GM is their to provide for the players. We all come to the table to get something out of it so it is best to co-operate.

I have a little saying: “Practice the 3BCs”.

  1. Be constructive. No matter what you do try to move towards building something for your game.
  2. Be co-operative. Work with everyone else at the table. Build characters to feed of each other. Consult the GM for ways to have hooks built-in to your background, or to get place-names incorporated into your BG.
  3. Be creative. With the above provisions you can fuel the creative fires and start building an awesome campaign.

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Winter’s End: Sessions update (29-32)

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After tracking the cultists into a fortress at the end of a grotto the party blitz-assaulted their base and routed the forces. Villagers were rescued and politicking carried out. It was the magic on one of the girls who shed light on the leader of the cultists, Milel, being a mage of some sort. Milel had been feeding on the girls essence. The forces were tracked to their rallying point at Anvil Rock. A defense was prepared and battle sought that night. A mantlet assaulted from the front and scouts tried to infiltrate the rear. It was another rout. Too well-organized and supported by a pack of summoned Dire Wolves the cultists never stood a chance. Until Milel drained the girl almost to her death and summoned a huge earth elemental. It collapesd the fortress around them methodically. All escaped with minor injuries and camped in the cold night. Milel escaped and probably with what ever they were trying to dig up.

The Sheriff took the villagers back to their homes. The allies (Lorco, the vampire hunter, Dalldra, the axe-woman, and Artan the wizard) continued to accompany the party. They had split ways and were beyond the borders of Vrim. Milel’s forces were tracked for two days when it became apparent they were headed towards the Keep of Kentos. That was one of the locations the Vampire Queen Marcelline could have been. It was only another day and everyone was convinced it was no coincidence: Milel was her servant.

One night they were awoken by Lorco calling out, “Be gone in the name of the Rose.”
He had turned some form of undead creature. Perhaps a wraith or a shade.
Later it came back and Felghanis rebuked it – gaining command. It was cemented now that the queen had sent this as a scout – this Allip. With agreement Fel’ pushed it away and Lorco destroyed it.

The next day they were within sight of the keep. Spells and familiars scouted the fortification. It was stout with an outer curtain wall and inner bailey where the donjon sat proudly. At least 40 lesser undead guarded the walls and manned the gatehouse. It didn’t inspire confidence. They had to act soon. Kalista was able to make out their shelter from the walls with her Arcane Eye spell. That meant anyone else could see it as well.
As they prepared the buzzing they had not noticed caught their attention as it rose to a thrumming drone. Lorco whipped open the shutters.
“Swarm!” He yelled, and loosed a fireball.
Slamming the shutters closed he looked pale and scared. “Locusts… a mountain of them.”
They fell upon the secure shelter like some kind of dark wave and the party shuffled closer together, touching shoulders, looking nervously at the roof.
“They can’t eat stone. We need more protection,” Don’ said. “That spell, the one that shapes stone.”
The roof was under assault. A multitude of nibbling mandibles were working their way through the old seasoned timber. Kalista shaped the stone floor up into a dome with fine holes for air. It was only a few minutes before the roof collapsed and the locusts filled the shelter with their angry insect noise. The cold was too much for them and before long they were silent. Goran was sent out by Fel’ to find out what happened. The locusts were all frozen in great swathes of icy chitin.
Dalldra freed them with a few swings of her axe and the gathered their supplies.
“We have to act now.”
They advanced through the strong wind driven snow. As the ground turned rougher and more steep they stopped to prepare their forces. Kalista cast speak with animals and as she was preparing a summons something fell from the sky exploding in rain of burning oil and potsherds.
“Catapult!” It was Lorco who yelled.
They broke and ran for their lives. The girl, Nullia had fallen and it was Don’ who bound her wounds and hoisted her over his shoulder.
Chests heaving and throats raw from the icy air they gathered in a gully’s steepest point between two hard rocky outcrops. The rest of the plan was put into action and Nullia was left behind.
The dire bats were enhanced and the flew out into the snowy gusts.
As the closed on the wall, a mere 200 feet away, large arrows streaked into their flight. The first bat fell, and then the second, but the others were fast enough to respond to Kalista and catch the falling allies.
On to the walls they assaulted the watch tower. Inside they fought skeletons and Felghanis seized control of their animus. Then they stormed the gatehouse. Dalldra’s axe splitting the door in one massive strike. Here they found a Rot Reaver, running for its hide, and skeletons poured down from above – only to be struck to dust by Lorco’s turning.
The keep’s walls were breached and the gatehouse taken, but the donjon remained to be stormed.

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Kiltayre: Session 26

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With their scouting done for Lord Tovran the party gathered their things that morning to meet Don’s obligations to the Fey. Sheriff Daeus was to go with them and they were told that Lady Sipran, Varnia not Murelle, would be joining them as well.

They waited at the edge of Vrim for Varnia. A courier had told them that is where the lady would meet them. And she did, albeit a little puffed, but excited.

Through a light snow they crossed the hills to the Lutemakers’ Wood. Hours passed as they chatted about the Fey and what each knew of them. Iron shaped without fire was one thing they all seemed to know but it was Varnia who stated that they were tied to the land through the old trees, but the most potent thing that would upset the Fey was the horn of a Unicorn fashioned into a weapon.

It was nearly dark when the reached the stone circle. Three figures appeared as dusk took hold.

“The worlds met in this time, it is said.”

They beckoned Don forward and he went. Felghanis was quick to follow, as did the rest of them. The goat seemed oblivious and munched at something under the fine snow.

“You have our offering?” Asked the Fey in silver scale armor.

“Yes, I see her now,” said the one in dark mail.

“The price must be paid,” added the figure in clothes that looked like leaves and bark.

“The goat is yours,” Don’ offered the animal.

“We accept her,” said the fey in dark mail, nodding towards Varnia.

“The huntress is appropriate.” She donned in plants confirmed.

“What we offer is the goat. Do you accept the goat as the offering?” Felghanis was getting angry yet he seemed to contain himself well.

“Enough!” yelled the figure in dark mail. “It is the huntress that we take.”

“Come to us,” called the one in leaves and bark, the Seelie.

Varnia was struck by forces of enchantment and began moving towards them. Chaos quickly ensued.

Entangle was cast and Don’ tried to tackle Varnia out of the circle but she had good training and was strong. She shrugged him off and he fell flat on the ground.

The Fey were unaffected by the Entangle and moved freely. The one in silver scale armor seemed to frown and separated from the others.

“Help us cousin, she resists,” Called the Unseelie in dark mail.

“No. The pact is broken. You have contravened it!”

With a snap the circle was empty. Only the party stood about. The Fey were gone.

Confused the left the goat in the circle at Don’s insistence. He wanted to make sure he had done everything to hold up his end of the pact. His power relied on it.

At the top of the hill Kalista glanced back. The sheriff was unhooking his cloak from a snag. The were all clear of the ring.

It was well dark by the time they made it out of the woods. Kalista called into being a Secure Shelter and they took their rest in it. The Daeus and Varnia were ready and willing to ride back in the dark. They both had commitments in Vrim. The sound of their horses’ hooves pounding off left the party’s ears quickly.

Uneasily the settled in the small hut of stone and clay but it was warm and the had good food. Soon they slept soundly.

It was just before dawn when they were awoken with a sharp snapping sensation. Some massive amount of mana was just poured into a spell. It was like a roaring storm of power that stank of time, ice and bitterness coming from the East.

In his mind’s eye Felghanis pin-pointed the location compared to the maps he had been studying a long time. It was the Iron Teeth Mountains.

“Oh no…” he despaired.

“Tell me it’s not,” Kalista was hopeful.

“I think it must be,” Don’ added.

“We failed. The ritual has been cast,” Kalista said, down-trodden but angry, too.

“The tear! It is there. Alabrahni told us it was there.”

“In the crypt of a Frost Titan. What do you think might be in there?” Don’ said cynically.

“What we need to break this curse,” Felghanis spat back.

Don’ conceded that well and nodded.

Aenir woke up, “What’s gong on?”

Of course, thought Kalista, they did not feel a thing. They have no sensitivity to the mana.

Kellor awoke too and the filled the Dwarves in on what had happened.

“It’s decided then.” It was Aenir who spoke. “We head to the mountains for this tear.”

They all nodded sombrely.

“Doesn’t seem to have made the weather any worse, yet.” Don peeked outside to the dim light of pre-dawn and saw it much as it was when they stopped here. “I want to see if the Fey have accepted the offering.”

Before they even reached the circle it was obvious something was wrong in the woods. Old trees that were vigorous just yesterday seemed to be dying.

“What has happened here?” Aenir asked.

“The Fey… they are gone.” Don was bewildered and Kalista’s face echoed his sentiments.

In the circle, with a small heaping of snow gathered about it, the kid lay dead. Its ribs pierced by a heavy dart of black horn.

“This is unicorn horn,” Don said pulling the dart free.

They tracked the area but it was only their own footprints from yesterday that they found.

It was the last rise that the dart probably came from.

“Daeus,” said Kalista. “He was last over the rise.”

“But why? And how did they get a dart made from a unicorn horn?” Felghanis asked, truly puzzled.

“Who knows? But we know that Lord Tovran knew about the gate to Stonecrest.”

Don’ kept the foul dart and they all left. More questions on their minds.

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Kiltayre: Session 24 and Session 25

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The beast appeared at the gate dragging a mountain goat. They launched their attack. Artan and Lorco hit it with fire spells. Lorco, a Fireball, and Artan an Aganazzar’s Scorcher. The bear was then trapped in the gateway by Kalista’s summoned dire wolf. It did not fight long before they killed it. Dressing the large carcass took some hours and they returned to the Secure Shelter to rest. Lorco agreed to go to Muddy Cape and hunt clams with them but he had to cut Dalldra in for a share as well as pay for her services – albeit at half-rate.

Overland the journey was tough. Exposed to the dastardly cold north west wind that came straight off the sea ice they took comfort that at least it wasn’t snowing. Digging about with their one shovel they found a clam after an hour. Then Kalista used Locate Plants and Animals and it was easy to find another score of clams. In all they had three pearls and it was deemed enough clam meat for Madam Lim.

When they returned to Vrim it was only three days to the full moon and Don’ needed to be ready to fulfill his role to the Fey.

It was Lord Tovran who added the complication. They should have known by the serious looking man with the scars and the old wound of a shallow fractured cheek bone, Sheriff Daeus.

“You may have heard that Sheriff was investigating something to the east. That much I know was being talked about. What you may not know is that he has found a troubling thing. Tell them, Daeus.”

The Sheriff complied and let them in on what had happened days ago. A young girl had wandered in from the east frostbitten and alone. She claimed that people had been rounded up and taken by the cult of Ath-Voarnus. Those who resisted were put to the sword, and those who fled were butchered from behind. They had found abandoned farms and buildings. No livestock and a few bodies in the snow. Then they had run out of food and had to return.

“I ask you to aid Vrim again and help us rescue these people, or at least put an end to this cult’s raids on Vrim’s citizens.”

“We have just enough horses,” Daeus said quietly to Lord Mikhail.

On the ride out the next morning they asked about Herath. Daeus had seen a man briefly but assumed it was one of the few lone trappers who lived on the margins. He didn’t try and talk to the man.

Cultists had moved into the area and at first kept to themselves. Then they had become aggressive at getting people to convert. It was the little girl, the lone survivor from the nearest village, that had told Sheriff Daeus the background. Many had fought on the fateful day but the cultists cut them down and that cowed the rest of the villagers. All were marched eastwards, with every last scrap of food and feed, for the livestock. Each village was bare of people and food. Corden, Villyme and Puldup; the farthest. Don’s tracking was superb, as always, and he followed the trails as well as a bloodhound might. They past no campsites but when the reached the fifth bridge, a marker of the furthest reaches of the fief of Vrim, they found heavy destrier’s tracks – as if the horse wore barding.

“A knight?” Don’ asked Daeus.

“Perhaps invaders. Maybe the Livruss and Kulvuss left a contingent behind.” The sheriff mused.

They weakened the fifth bridge, removing recently added bolsters, and did the same at the bridge near Puldup – hiding the material in the woods underneath snowdrifts. Then they rode hard back to Vrim as was promised by Tovran so that they might deal with the Fey in the Lutemakers Woods. The lord understood the need to Don’ and his peoples’ craft guild, and thus livelihoods. The Dwarves had secured the promise of the guildmaster to aid them and continue to provide a beast each full moon. All that left was to deliver the beast Lord Tovran had provided. As he left the area outside the stables Lord Mikhail announced that Daeus would be going with the party, and that Lady Varnia Sipran would also be attending – now that the Sipran family were back in their castle.

“Is she bringing the shield guardian?” It was an innocent enough question from Kalista.

“They have a shield guardian? Why was it not used when their keep was attacked?” Tovran was angry, infuriated actually. He stalked off muttering venom about letting innocents die.

It was the end of the 98th day since they left Felk Bay, that they dined with Lord Mikhail Tovran’s family and retainers, but not Lord Mikhail, who sent his apologies at being in a mood most foul that he would not be polite company. Freyald has many tales to sing, though, and regaled them with a long epic ballad from Iron Claw; Hadramyr the Griever. It didn’t help the feeling.

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Kiltayre: Session 23 review, part two

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Lord Tovran had asked the rest of the party to lodge at his keep.

“You will be my guests and have my hospitality. Your services to Vrim are worthy and I wish to repay you in at least this way.”

When the party reformed they had been to the Whalers’ Retreat to find their arrangement settled by Lord Tovran and a message from Arthur.

“Lorco is looking for you lot. He seemed a little annoyed.”

Walking into the keep felt strange. They were moving up in the world. Guards eyed them carefully but were respectful. It was the retainers, Lord Mikhail Tovran’s knights, who were a little snide, but only the one named Freyald. They ate lunch and were entertained by a bard but Lorco’s annoyance was tugging at Kalista’s conscience.

“We should try and catch him. If he only left this morning he can’t be more than 6 hours ahead of us at most.”

Don’ agreed and they quickly assembled their gear setting off at once. They pushed hard across the foothills of the Great Frost Mountains and did indeed catch Lorco on a wide mountain trail. His distinctive hat giving him away.

Lorco was with Dalldra, the Corssiff mercenary, and another plain looking man, Artan – who bore the trappings of a wizard.

That night they slept in a Secure Shelter that Kalista conjured and were waited on by an unseen servant. It was a restful night not having to stand watch outside the warmth of the campfire. Heavy shutters made the hut defendable and strong. When they arrived at Highgate Monastery they were wary. A vampire queen was no trifling enemy. Even Jonas would be challenged, it occurred to the dwarves Aenir and Kellor, and would be careful in his approach.

Bear tracks were in the snow. Fresh and deep.

“It must be a big grizzly,” Don’ said checking them.

The creature had been lairing in the old stables. Inside the monastery they found it abandoned but in pretty good repair.

“Wait.” Felghanis was looking at the doors ahead. “I sense undead in there. Four of them, and strong.”

They carefully opened the doors and saw a large room with four translucent figures circling a raised pillar-like sconce, chanting in distant haunting voices. Lorco called to them and they talked.

“Bring us the abbot, let us have vengeance, for taking the bowl of Ath-Voarnus,” the ghost hissed.

Artan knew of Ath-Voarnus. It was a spirit, of sorts, that could prevent ageing and increase vitality to those that gave it services. Ath-Voarnus longed to be made physical and lured people to it wherever it went.

“Sumbrad told me of this in the Red Stagg. He is pursuing what he claims to be  the cultists of Ath-Voarnus and looking for their hideaway & temple.”

“Another complication, then, it seems.”

They talked at length and then settled in to wait for the bear. It would be worth a lot of coin.

 

 

 

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Kiltayre: Session 24 ideas

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SUMMARY

Five fingers of stone
Five swords of bone
Many yards of silk
Many of strange ilk
Two bears and three deer
Two trees and a titan’s tear

The five fingers of stone: the Hand of Gulresh. Houses a deep earth crystal mine that is worked by Goblins who are being controlled because Scours have all the goblin-females prisoner.

Kentos’ shouldermen guarded their liege’s tomb and a book of Fimbulwinter. Each of the fie shouldermen bore a sword of bone.

Silk draping through the Sipran keep library led to Stonecrest; a place with many of strange ilk.

All three books are in the possession of the Church. The two bears have the three deer.

The Titan’s Tear has been located by Felghanis after questioning Allabrahni. What are the two trees?

NEXT

We’re in the final run, now, and the players need to figure out a course of action. I think they’re a bit lost as to what they can actually achieve regarding the books. With that in mind have some events planned which can help nudge, or have them trip over, a decent course of action.

There’s a real-world time-limit on this game. It has to be wrapped up in about 9 sessions. Given the ground we can cover in one session I think this is entirely possible, but probably not at L13-15 like we discussed at the table.

However, there’s some cool side-plots to resolve first. Some of which may tie into the main plot arc. I’ll keep you all posted.

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Kiltayre: Session 23 review, part one

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Allabrahni was in front of Felghanis’ eyes when he awoke. Her visage at once gave him hope and sorrow.

“You have earned a reward, Felghanis. What would you have that is suitable in the eyes of Araytor?”

“I would know what the Church want with the books,” Fel answered as the sleep seemed to wash from his mind and body as if born away by Allabrahni’s aura.

“That is unclear. It is certainly possible that the collection of the books are for their use, as you well suspect. What else would you know?”

“Where is Jonas headed?”

“To Dwarf Town. They plan to use the altar there.” The angel seemed to be expecting more questions.

“Where is the Titan’s Tear?”

“In the final tomb of the Hrimpursar elders.”

“And where is that?”

“At the feet of the Iron Teeth Mountains, in the silver forest. The trail is marked with stacks of carved stones.”

“How does Hydraxus fit into this?”

“Unclear, although Hydraxus claimed to be beyond the reach of cold when he claimed the throne of water on this plane.”

Felghanis was troubled. Hydraxus was a god, and on this plane? Does that mean the elemental lord of water walks Kiltayre? He shuddered.

“Will Araytor accept my worship?”

“Araytor accepts all worship,” Allabrahni smiled and gently caressed Felghanis’ brow as a mother might. “Be at peace and have Aid for this day.”

Felghanis was suddenly looking at the ceiling for Allabrahni was gone.

In Kalista’s room the young animist-wizard awoke.

“Ah, my girl. Araytor is proud of you,” Allabrahni beamed and took Kalista into an embrace.

“Now, what reward do you think is suitable from Araytor?”

“ I have given this much thought, and to answer the question: something to help me Defend the People and Reveal the Truth? The answer is myself. So all I ask is this: To have the Strength to Defend those that do not. To be quick of body and mind so as to act when action is needed. To have the endurance to persevere through the thickest of storms. To recognise truth from lies, good from evil, and for the wisdom to judge accordingly and lastly, the patience and pressence to lead the people to the truth and encourage others to do the same.”

“Of course my child,” Allabrahni touched Kalista on the forehead. A silver glow swelled and Kalista felt an energy surge through her. It was like her mind removed blocks and needles complexes – her soul grew.

When Kalista opened her eyes it was to a murky room without the safe warming glow of Allabrahni.

Don’ was already downstairs in the common room eating with the Dwarves. They all seemed distant and quiet, yet happy and content. Allabrahni had left a mark on their hearts and the enjoyed its lasting warmth.

“I had some questions answered,” Felghanis said as he joined them. He shared his impromptu interview with the angel to nods and smiles of approval.

“What should we do next?” It was Aenir who asked it once they were all fed.

“I’m not sure but my components are thin so I at least have to visit the markets,” Kalista said.

“The library likely holds answers for me. I want to know where the Iron Teeth Mountains is exactly and find out more about the Hrimpursar elders. Goran’s body needs to be buried. I can’t leave it there.”

“Goran’s body can wait, or someone else can take care of it, Felghanis.” Donhallan’s distaste for this was clear.

“What about the Scours?” Kellor aksed. “We might be able to catch them.”

“They’re too far gone,” Don’ said. “They have nearly a day’s head start on us and in the high plains it’ll be almost impossible to catch their trail.”

“You’re a bundle of joy,” Aenir mumbled into his beard.

Don’ scowled, “What we ought to be doing is finding out if Lady Sipran intends to go back to Vrim and then inform Lord Tovran.”

“Yes. Then let’s go see her,” Felghanis said.

“All of this is in one direction and we can stick together,” Kalista put forward, pleased that there was no need to separate.

The did so and at the Beaming Censer found the pompador they met last time.

“Ah, hello again. How may I help you?”

“We would like to speak to Lady Murelle, or Varnia, Sipran.”

The pompadour sat them in the lounge and returned shortly.

“Did you see an angel by the library last night, by chance"?”

“We saw a woman in a cloak,” Don said quickly, as Kalista covered her mouth in surprise.

“Oh. There are people looking for her and they’ll pay well to find her. If you see her do let me know.”

They were all distracted by the heavy footsteps of the shield guardian that shadowed Murelle Sipran to the lounge. Pompador left with a hurried bow.

“My young friends,” Lady Murelle said warmly but there was no smile.

The conversation was brief. Lady Sipran would be returning tomorrow.

The door of the Beaming Censer closed behind the last of them.

“She really had no idea what a treasure was passed down to her in the books,” Felghanis mused.

“It’s her dreams that bother me. She has so many that she can’t interpret them all. It’s sad,” Kalista added.

“Whatever the case she has been gracious and helpful. We will tell Lord Tovran.”

In the library they approached the keeper of books: the Blakh who was in four places at once. It smiled briefly.

“Is there a book on the Hrimpurar’s last tomb?”

“Hmm, this one may aid you.”

History of the Hrimpursar, Meyendir Aravalon – archmage & scholar.

The book was well-written and led them through many facts about the Hrimpursar, their society, and how they were exterminated by Kentos and his army. What stood out most to them was the Wunder Trial and how it was a requirement to enter the moot where debate for leadership of the clan could take place.

To Felghanis it was something else that stood out. Some of the elders who went to sleep, from which some would rise as Frost Titans, died or never came out of the last tomb. What if Hrimpursar had a ritual like a Baelnorn; undead guardian of a people? It caused tumultuous excitement but he contained it.

Brannighan was there for farewells and they left through the ‘private rooms’ of the Sipran family. Felghanis collected Goran’s corpse, two day old entrails fell all over him, and only Aenir would help.

Lord Tovran was pleased with their report and sent two servants with Felghanis to make the burial. He was surprised when Felghanis said he would bury Goran in the chapel’s graveyard.

The ground was hard and icy. With the rest of his party away Felghanis took a few spells on the shovel. It had been almost a lifetime since he’d unearthed a grave, or even dug one, and all that strength was lost. The servants were well used to labour and they kept at it far longer.

When Goran was interred Felghanis said a few words and instead of the normal closing line he replaced it with, “May Davinus watch over your soul.”

Something flew out of the grave. But it was so fast Felghanis thought he was seeing things.

One of the servants laughed, “That’ll teach him.”

The other answered, “Worshipping the wrong figure head. Everyone knows Davinus is the true head of the church.”

Felghanis was shocked. Not only did these peasants assume everyone knew that he felt something inside him. It was calling.

“Avenge me and I will aid you with the power of death.”

“What are you?”

“I am Goran.”

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Kiltayre: Session 22 review

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As they were raised back to health, Kalista’s spells were spent, and they were all confused.

“It’s paradox, don’t you see,” Captain Villeroy said. “I’ve tried to press information from the librarian but he asks me three questions of which I can only answer one and then says that I wouldn’t understand.”

Villeroy repeated the questions and Felghanis opened his mouth to answer then the exceptions and contradictions came to mind. It was far more difficult than he first thought.

“I’ve heard it said that these are Chrono-loops. If you make them touch the past they can expend their energy to snap the loop shut. It is meant to be terribly destructive.”

They talked at length and it was decided that informing their past-selves was too dangerous. They had to hide. In a small sitting room they packed in and rested. Each of them was sore and weary. The healing was painful and it took time.

“It seems that I am in this loop, too.” Villeroy added. He stood up suddenly. “I think I have a scroll that can help,” he said excitedly and rushed upstairs.

He was gone for some time and the party talked about what they ought to do. What the books meant and what the motivations might be for the Scours and the Church to retrieve them all.

When Villeroy returned they had decided to play it safe. The Scours had defeated them handily and it was only luck that saved them. None of the party remembered what distracted the Scours from finishing each of them.

“This scroll has a spell called Body Outside of Body and with it I have a plan. Unfortunately the scroll is very expensive and I have to pay the guild back, so anything you can do to help would be appreciated.”

“We already did… oh wait. That hasn’t happened for you yet.”

“Did what? Pay me for the scroll.”

“You’ll see… if it works,” Felghanis answered.

Captain Villeroy Moragne gathered his things and just before they left cast the scroll. There he was standing next to himself. Without a word the copy went to the counter and nodded back to the original.

“Let us be off then.”

Traversing the Rift was not anywhere near as intense.

“Can I ask it questions?”

“What, the Rift Weave?”

“Yes. When we went through before I saw a vision of my Uncle scrying me. He seemed force to answer my question.”

“I… I don’t know. I’ve had visions in my experiments, although they were neve strong so I paid them no mind, but I never performed them when a storm was coming.”

Kalista seemed to have a grasp of that and she nodded.

The wind was the same as last time: biting, cold, horridly cold. They built a berm of snow and sheltered in a small depression a few hundred yards from where they exited the rift. Villeroy used a wand on all of them and Endure Elements removed the threat of deadly cold turning it into simply cool discomfort.

Five figures appeared out of the intensifying Rift Weave. They gathered around one of their number. Then they all saw the battle play out again. However, it was right in front of them. The temptation to try and change it was strong but they held their position. None of them knowing what might happen if one of these ‘Chronoloops’ snapped shut or willing to risk it.

The Scours were attacked by the watery form and they pursued it. Fiery rays, that seemed to emanate from above and behind Mellevictus, lanced through the elemental and blew it to steaming fragments. They gathered together then set off at a jog, hustling west.

Once the Scours were out of sight the party returned to Stonecrest. This time Villeroy asked for aid.

“I can move us to after you left the first time getting us past the loops and making it safe again,” he explained.

It was made so. Villeroy rushed of to rediscover his map to the Deep Earth Crystal mine and the party limped back towards the markets. Merchants and storekeepers were shutting up or outright leaving. The storm seemed to be having the city closing up.

“We need to rest.”

“How about the Wainwright Lodge?” Aenir pointed to a sign right near them.

It seemed as good as any. They entered and purchased rooms. Taking some ale and food  they all rested, save Felghanis.

“I have to stop my Uncle,” he seemed on the edge of a rant. “I’m going to the library. Maybe Brannighan, or his parents, can help?”

“At least let Don’ rest.”

“I will stay with Don’,” Kellor volunteered. Yet the doughty dwarf was still burned and sore.

“This has to be safer than the Whaler’s Retreat,” Kalista agreed.

The market square was deserted. There were few people about, however strange, and of those few most seemed to be darting from cover to cover.

On the short walk to the library they noticed a narrow alley just past the markets. On one corner a pillar fashioned like a skeleton marked the entry. Down its narrow cobbled way signs and shingles bearing arcane symbols of necromancy hung in the increasing wind of the coming Rift Weave storm.

It took them quite some time to find Brannighan in the library. He smiled at them.

“Why do I get the feeling that those who refused my help seven times have come back to ask for it again?”

“What do you know of Davinus?” Felghanis asked.

“Davinus,” Brannighan mused. “I think that is the name of an old and faded Ascendant.”

“The Saint is the son and Davinus the father,” Kalista suggested. “Maybe the son seeks the throne of the father?”

“That’s what I’m thinking,” Felghanis answered. Then he expanded, “The Saint uses the winter to force prayers towards him. He has sent priests all over the island, even to our Felk Bay, and they are ready to help the people in winter. Spells for protection from the cold, for making food, and those who refuse to believe will perish.”

Kalista couldn’t process it at that moment. Too much corruption and evil in a body she’d long thought was good and benevolent.

“It is my Uncle, though that worries me. He claims that he will use the Bell of Thullemon to raise and army. Then with it seize the throne of Davinus.”

Brannighan was interested, “Really? He has the Bell?”

“No, but he knows where it is and so do I.”

“You must tell me at once and I will tell my mother. She will be most interested.”

Kalista, Felghanis and Aenir shared glances: a real angel? The powers and dominions were aligning. Maybe the conjunction Jonas spoke of with Kalista was real. None of them voiced it, though. Felghanis spoke more with Brannighan but the half-angel, half-archon, seemed distracted as if carrying on two conversations.

“Mother is waiting for us outside,” Brannighan said gesturing to the library doors.

With little more ado they left. Bright white light shone from the bottom of the stairs and in the gloom of sunset in the angry sky of the Rift Weave storm it was plainly pure and good and peaceful.

“My boy,” she said in a beautiful clear voice that rang with music.

Brannighan blushed and met her affectionate embrace.

“Oh it is so good to see you again. Are these your friends?” She turned her gaze on them.

Each felt the same in differing degrees. All that was good in them she weighed and saw. All that was angry, or traitorous, or flawed felt like it was plainly in her sight. They writhed in their emotions and could barely meet her eyes.

“Yes. She’s quite nice,” Brannighan indicated Kalista.

“Ah, Kalista, is it?” Brannighan’s mother greeted Kalista.

“And Felghanis?” The angel gestured to him. “Aenir?”

They all nodded in reply.

“The Bell of Thullemon, you know where it is, Felghanis?”

“I think so. In the base of the Iron Tower.”

“Then let us go. There is no time to waste.” She furled her wings and gestured for them to lead her in the right direction. “We will collect your other friends and then the Bell will be retrieved and destroyed.”

“Destroyed?” Felghanis almost baulked.

“Of course. You know why, don’t you?”

Felghanis dissembled and the angel was plainly unimpressed.

“No. It’s simple, Brannighan?”

“Nothing good comes of evil,” he responded.

Felghanis could only look at the ground as they walked.

“Mother you really ought to hide your wings. There are people here who would try and take them from you.”

“Oh, very well.” With that she quickly changed shape, in a heartbeat perhaps, she looked like a tall woman and suddenly she pulled a cloak about her. None of them saw where the garment came from.

At the Wainwright Lodge they met with Kellor and Don’, who was feeling a lot better.

“Oh my,” she said sadly. “You are wounded.”

With a touch all of the batterings and punctures that Kellor had withstood from Thiridea’s poleaxe were mended and he bore a bright smile.

“Thank you fair lady,” he managed.

“Oh forgive me. Most of you carry wounds.” And she laid hands on them healing their ailments. “Now we must leave. Join hands with me.”

Kalista almost rushed at the chance and took her right hand. Felghanis summoned courage, or at least looked like he died, and took her left, the rest making up the circle.

“Where are we going?”

“The Iron Tower to destroy the bell.”

“I want to stay, Mother,” Brannighan said.

“Of course my love.”

They were in clouds that seemed to conceal ground, or were ground, they couldn’t tell. A host of winged men and women were far above singing beautiful choral music. It had the sound that it was just one passage that was part of a long tale of defence of innocence and the pursuit of truth.

Brannighan’s mother bowed with a broad smile. “I serve in a different way.” She turned her face upwards towards the light that the host were singing towards.

Crashing waves and a strong bitterly cold wind shook them all. Dark clouds were above and thick forest to their right. In the distance the spike of dark iron rose above the butte of stone. It was the Iron Tower.

“Not as close as I hoped. Let us walk,” she said and retook her natural form. Tall, over seven feet, and fair she walked with slow power and purpose.

They followed her lead and Don’ struggled to keep up. She kept taking his waist and setting him forward. After seven touches Don’s exhaustion was gone. After seven more touches he felt fresh again.

Swinging open on its impeccable hinges the door to the Iron Tower revealed it to be as they left it. Brannighan’s mother glowed with powerful light and they saw well in her illumination.

“You said there were creatures here? Of course, there were undead abominations. Where is the bell?”

She led, insisting to be ahead to protect them, the party downstairs. As they came closer to the pillar containing the crystal where Felghanis saw the bell she bade them to halt. “Wait here and I will deal with the trap.”

It was no threat at all, it seemed. The lightning bolt leapt towards her but she dodged it with ease. She halted before the pillar and looked intently for many heartbeats. Long enough that they began to doubt her ability to do anything. Then she vanished and reappeared cradling the bell in her arms, bearing its great weight.

She triumphantly pronounced, “For his glory!” With a soft flare of light she was gone.

In the silence and almost pitch darkness Kalista spoke first, “Do any of you have any food?”

Before they could answer the angel returned bathing them in her glow.

“My deepest apologies. I should have let you know I was coming back.”

The relief was evident even on Felghanis’ face. Thunder pealed and a metallic shattering rumbled through the rock into their ears.

Felghanis laughed. “I’ve beaten you, Uncle.”

“Now, my friends, I can take you anywhere in Kiltayre. Where will it be?”

“We want to go home,” Aenir ventured suddenly.

“Of course,” she said.

“But we promised to help them to complete their quest,” Kellor said.

Aenir seemed saddened but his resolve returned quickly. “Yes. Yes of course.”

“The Black Tower,” Kalista said. Everyone agreed.

"Brannighan’s mother concentrated for a few heartbeats. “I am sorry. The tower is surrounded by orcs and blakh. I will not take you within sight of the tower for your own safety.”

“Then back to Stonecrest,” Felghanis pushed. “I have research I want to do and more importantly Goran’s body must be buried correctly.”

“Goran’s burial is not our concern,” Donhallan said.

The angel seemed to narrow her eyes slightly but her voice was still peaceful. “To Stonecrest then?”

“Yes.”

They were standing right back in the Wainwright Lodge. If it weren’t for the darker room and less people they may not have even left.

“Thank you my friends. In the morning I will return and until then I would have you think on a reward suitable to further your defence of the people and your revelation of truth.”

The possibilities began to enter their minds but sleep beckoned with more strength. Within the hour they were all asleep in their rooms carrying a peace they had not felt for months upon their hearts.

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Kiltayre: Session 21

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“In business we have a saying. Deal with a problem before it grows too large and becomes beyond your ability to fix,” Aenir said.

The group had be back-and-forth over options and tactics.

“Well, the Beaming Censer is on the way to the North Gate,” said Kalista. “We can see Lady Sipran on the way.”

“And keep our pledge to Lord Tovran,” Don’ added.

“I really must ask you to reconsider. It is quite dangerous in Stonecrest,” Brannighan’s careful voice warned.

“Thank you but we must perform this task,” Kalista responded.

“Then, seeing as you have refused my aid and counsel seven times, I am realised from by bonds to protect you. I wish you luck in finding who, or what, you pursue.” With that he left and went about his business.

They too left the library and entered the streets. It was not as cold as they expected but the sky was  strange bruised peach colour. Dark clouds, grey-purple, striped the sky. The streets were busy with foot traffic and people pulling rickshaws carrying richly robed figures.

“I expected wizards flying about the city and displays of powerful magic,” Kalista muttered.

“That would be wasteful,” Felghanis answered.

It was a dozen yards or more before they identified what was disturbing.

The Beaming Censer was close and they entered quickly. It was richly appointed with polished wood panelling and carpets from wall to wall. They felt out of place and even Aenir seemed unsure of himself. A concierge approached them with a warm smile.

“Are you seeking rooms?”

“We seek a guest here, or at least we think she’s here, Lady Sipran of Vrim.”

“Ah, yes. Please won’t you wait in the lounge whilst I pass on the message. Who shall I say seeks her audience?”

“Lord Mikhail Tovran sends us.”

The concierge bowed his head politely and departed.

Hanging on the walls of the lounge were numerous paintings. Most depicted the city under wheeling clouds that spiralled over the tall tower dominating Stonecrest’s skyline.

“What is that, you suppose?”

“A storm?”

“Who is it that seeks Lady Murelle Sipran?”

The woman’s voice was strong, commanding even, and when they turned to face her she wore a veil covering her face from below the eyes all the way down. Behind her stood a shield guardian.

“Lord Tovran sent us to find Lady Murelle,” said Don’.

They exchanged words and Varnia was bristling; even defensive. She took a fighting stance.

“Who are these people, Varnia?” An older woman’s voice approached.

“They claim that Mikhail sent them, Mother.”

“Why did he send you?” The lady asked as she entered the lounge. She seemed very old and moved slowly as if in some pain yet bore it with dignity. Varnia hovered at her left seeking to attend to her. The shield guardian was at the doorway.

“To find out why you fled the keep.”

“To save my family line,” Lady Murelle said simply. “We are the last four of the Sipran blood. The last women of the line and against the fiend that attacked our home we had no chance of victory.”

“But your a powerful spellcaster?” Don’ protetsted.

“Who told you that?” Lady Murelle was wry. “Once, I was a competent sorceress. Age has taken that away leaving me with only a few talents and my visions.”

“You did not see it coming?” Felghanis was incredulous.

“No. My visions have never been so accurate and simple. I had a recurring dream in these last months. The winter…” she waved it away.

“We seek to stop that winter from returning.”

They explained the books of Fimbulwinter and Lady Murelle did not know them. Even after Felghanis stated that Lord Kentos had left one with the family generations ago she had no idea.

“It makes sad sense, though. I saw a hand of stone and bears, a pair of them, chasing three trees that even though didn’t move were elusive. I saw winter setting in all the year round and far away an empty throne. The empty throne of Davinus.”

“Davinus? That was Kentos’ liege,” Kalista said

“Davinus, was the great-thane of Kiltayre, the first king, and ascended to become the true god of the Church and all Kiltayre.”

Felghanis, Donhallan, Kalista, Aenir, and Kellor were all stunned.

“What? Davinus is the god of the Church?”

“Yes. It was Davinus who ascended to the throne of Kiltayre and founded the Church. It is why in Vrim we do not follow the teachings of the Saint. But I must leave you now. I am so tired and so struck with grief. I take my leave.”

Varnia escorted her mother from the room and the shield guardian followed them with heavy footsteps.

“Someone is trying to become a god,” Felghanis conjectured.

“In business we have a saying. Deal with a problem before it grows too large and becomes beyond your ability to fix,” Aenir said.

Kellor nodded, “We need to stop Jonas and take back the book.”

The party flew into a torrent of speculation. Kellor and Aenir stood to one side and spoke quietly. It seemed to motivate the others and they collected their gear to head out into the streets again.

North of the Beaming Censer was the markets. A large square filled with stalls, stands, tents and carts selling goods ranging from mundane food to exotic focii, and services from basic healing to forging of magical staves.

“Maybe we can find a way to heal my arm?” Aenir said. Together with Kellor the split off to search the sellers for a cure.

“There’s the Amorrensis Trade Guild chapter house,” Donhallan pointed to a three storey narrow-house near the north gate.

Felghanis, Kalista and Don’ pushed open the doors and came into a small room with a counter. Two men were standing to one side waiting. Each was kitted out with packs and ropes as if going on an expedition. They gestured to go to the counter and made room. A man in lead-grey robes looked up as the door closed and Kalista saw the Captain from the stone ship.

“Ah, this a surprise.” The Captain said. “Have you brought me Fenris?”

Kalista’s heart skipped a beat; he remembered them.

“No. We have not but we did see him.”

Felghanis chipped in, “He’s compelled by some force, probably the lords of Elemental Water. I don’t think he’s in control of himself.”

“That may be the case and could explain a few things,” said the Captain, musing on the idea.

“How did you come to be here?” Kalista almost blurted out.

“Well, it was a bit of bad luck and good luck. After the ship was destroyed I was going to be banished from the guild. Luckily I had, well stole, the crystal you were carrying and that enabled me to purchase my station but with a transfer to this chapter house. I will miss the sea but at least I am still with the Amorrensis. I really should give you my name. Villeroy Morgane, Captain.”

“Morgane; isn’t that Fenris’ name, too?” Kalista asked.

“Yes, he is my cousin. Thankfully he takes no issue with me personally. He is a dangerous man, and luckily I can keep tabs on him through his sword. Which I knew I’d probably not be able to prevent him recovering. Maybe I should have had twice as many guards.” He sighed, “It is done now. He has it back that horrid blade of man bane. But enough of me, how can I help you? Maps, guides, travel, other services?”

“We plan to go through the Rift Weave, can you help with that?”

“There is a storm coming so at the least tie yourselves together. The guards told me that some people left recently through the gates.”

“That’s who we pursue.”

“People from the Church?” Villeroy asked. “Well they left nearly two and a half hours ago. You’ll have a hard time catching them, if indeed you even can. I could help you for a price.”

“Well, we know of a place you can get more of those crystals, possibly.”

“That seems a fair trade to me,” Captain Villeroy was excited. “There’s even a way I could perhaps help you close that gap in time. You see after some research over the last weeks I have found that with enough spell energy and will one can travel a short way through time’s passing by riding certain currents in the Rift Weave.”

Felghanis was drawing a map on a scrap of parchment. He finished it and handed it to Villeroy.

“Ah, I know this place. It makes sense that a mine may be there.”

They talked a little more and it was decided. Villeroy would help them cross back to when the Scours left in exchange for that map of the Deep Earth Crystal mine at the Hand of Gulresh.

“My arm!” The door flew open and Aenir burst in with Kellor beaming a huge smile behind him.

“It’s healed.” He flexed his hand a few times. “I think it’s even stronger than it used to be. Kellor, let’s test it.”

They gripped hands and tried to crush each others palm.

“Aye, I think it is stronger,” Kellor nodded.

With a renewed Aenir they left Stonecrest to be met with a roaring wind. The Rift Weave was ahead of them. A swirling mirage-like scene of wavering landscapes covered in snow and backed by tall mountains. The storm was closer and the Rift Weave seemed almost alive. Parts of it seemed to reach and grasp. They tied themselves together and approached.

“You may see some things in the Rift Weave that appear as visions. Pay them no mind. It’s some time of time leak. In the storms they are more active and will be quite visible. Head forwards,” Captain Villeroy said loudly to be heard.

They walked forward, a bit stumbling because of the rope at first, and entered the Rift Weave. Creatures or spirits started swirling around them pulling at their clothes and brushing their cheeks.

“Pay them no mind, they’ll leave soon …”

But Felghanis bristled at the attention. He surged with negative energy and the things harrying the others surged away to congregate on Fel’.

“Don’t do that. They feed on that energy. You’ll have them all trying to drain you,” Villeroy warned.

Felghanis ceased instantly and then there was a pull on the rope. The landscape swirled and darkened. He saw a flare of purple lightning and a tear of blackness. Beyond his Uncle seemed to be sitting at his desk.

“Uncle?”

The dread necromancer unlocked and opened a drawer, retrieved a large crystal ball and began peering into it.

“Uncle?” Felghanis asked again.

“Felghanis? What… what are you doing?”

“What is your plan, Uncle? What are you doing?”

“I…” Fel’s uncle seemed to be struggling against some force. “I won’t tell…”

Faint traces of purple electricity ran from the orb up Uncle’s arms.

“Tell me!” Felghanis pushed.

Like he was straining against it physically, a compulsion of the mind, Fel’s uncle suddenly seemed to wilt. “I… I will seize the bell and with it raise an army. Then, then, I will take the throne for myself!”

With a mewling scream Uncle fell forward.

Kalista was in silence. The Rift Weave seemed to have gone quiet. A curved wall seemed to loom into view. There was the sound of battle and fallen bloodied men lay about. It was the Iron Tower’s library where the Scours were killed by the steel dog. Jonas and another man fought the construct and suddenly Fenris seized the other man driving a dagger between his ribs from behind.

Jonas pushed them both away and felled the steel dog with a might blow from his war axe. Fenris scrambled to his feet and Jonas seemed to simply no longer be there. The Scour had seized the book of Fimbulwinter and moved through a door. He pushed it closed as Fenris rushed him with a wicked looking arming sword. Try as he might Fenris couldn’t get through the door.

It was suddenly dark. Kalista could see a figure kneeling in prayer before an old altar. Suddenly a second figure was standing there. The scene lightened and Kalista recognised the chapel at Vrim. Jonas stood and turned to Mellevictus and they seemed to be talking but she could not hear any of their words.

They were standing before Goran. This time she could hear.

“You will go to the inn and ransack the necromancer’s room. Then place his rapier under the girl’s bed.”

Kalista could see Felghanis’ old rapier in Goran’s hand as the Scour went out into the snow.

A swirl of deep purple like the worst type of contusion. Jonas and all the Scours save Goran were standing at the narrow path to the Sipran Keep. He drew out the Iron Flask.

Mellevictus protested, “You can’t do this.”

Jonas said some arcane phrases and threw the flask down. The demon appeared in a haze of rust streaked smoke and surged up the path with its terrible blade held high.

Twisting, a wrenching sensation, in her perception and Kalista saw Goran in a cell. Jonas approached and seized the door. The Scour, the werebear mentor of Thiridea, ripped the door from its hinges, iron bending like clay. Jonas seized the cowering Goran by the collar and threw him through the portal to the waiting demon. It cut Goran down in two swings and that was just enough time for Jonas to step through and cast the Dismissal which sent it back to the Pale of War.

“They’re evil. So evil and cruel. The Church is lost,” Kalista thought.

Like a ship heaving beneath them they suddenly found themselves in a cold biting wind. Ahead of them the Scours were gathered around Jonas.

“Quick, hand me the book,” Jonas says to Mellevictus.

Thiridea reacts first. “Enemies!”

Before anyone can respond she hurt Felghanis, some telekinetic effect launched him with enough force to nearly knock over the dwarves crushing him in the rope, and advanced with her poleaxe.

Felghanis cried out, “I claim sanctuary in the Saint’s name.”

“Necromancers have no protection from the Church,” Thiridea yelled back.

“Wait!” Jonas commanded. “I would hear what he as to say.”

“My uncle plans to steal the throne using the Bell of Thullemon.”

“You know where the bell is?”

“I think so. In the Iron Tower, the crystal in its base.”

Jonas nods and then, annoyed, pulls Thiridea back. “Get back here.”

Felghanis pushed, “My Uncle wishes to overthrow Davinus.”

“Has he retrieved the bell already?”

“No I don’t…” That was as far as Felghanis got with his response.

Jonas cast a spell. Fire and divine force smashed down on the party. Felghanis, Kalista and Aenir fell to the ground. Then Thiridea leapt to the attack. With Willem’s long spear and Frellan’s Spiritual Weapon to support her she finished them quickly.

“Finish them…” Jonas commanded but he was struck by a powerful blow of ice.

A figure had risen out of the ice to attack. Thiridea lead the charge.

Guards, the lizardmen, came out of the Rift Weave.

“Ah, there. The fire of gods led us here. See… it is as the old one said.”

They gathered up the party and bound their wounds.

“We take them to Villeroy. He might help.”

“And he close,” added another.

In the trade guild Kalista was woken first.

“This is a surprise. I didn’t expect to see you again. Have you found Fenris?”

“No… didn’t we already have this conversation?” Kalista strained against her disorientation.

“I haven’t seen you since you left me at Plateau Point…” Captain Villeroy trailed off. “The guards said they found you outside the Rift Weave. Had you just left Stonecrest, by any chance?”

Kalista nodded sadly. They had come back before they left and this Captain Villeroy had indeed never met them since Plateau Point.

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Passing the Rift Weave

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Around Stonecrest is a rift in the weave of time and space. This makes Stonecrest a place that is slightly out of time and space of the island of Kiltayre, and perhaps other places.

Traversing the Rift Weave requires intent and power. Stonecrest is therefore the home of various wizards, sorcerors, geomancers, clerics, priests and archmages.

The mechanic for traversing the Rift Weave is a pretty simple Will save. Base DC is 20 to get through to within sight (0-5 miles) of the location (Kiltayre of Stonecrest). Failure means you’re a random distance in a random direction from the target location area and you take subdual damage equal to the failure margin – which is also the distance in miles.

Example: Base DC 20, Will save total is 14. Displaced 6 miles in random direction and take 6 subdual damage.

However, you can alter the time of arrival by 30 minutes forward or back if you pour power into the travel. This raises the DC by 5 per 30 minutes. Each SL of power added to the group’s travel, if they are tied together, adds to the Will save. A guide, or guides, can add power but not go through the rift.

Minimum power required is 1 SL per person. If time alteration is intended the minimum is 3 SL per person. There is no discount or surcharge for large or small creatures.

Example: a party is going through Rift Weave with a guide. The total SL added to the travel is 16. Each party member who is tied together can add 16 to the Will save. The guide stays behind.

If the DC is 50 or higher, then the power requirements double. This restricts time traversed to 3 hours.

Using the Rift Weave to traverse time more than your level in hours per week has some nasty side-effects– like long-term spell-energy drain (lose PP, or SL, available per day), negative levels, ability drain and in rare cases internal anti-magic matrices that prevent the recovery of any magical energy whatsoever (even Supernatural Abilities).

The last effect of traversing the Rift Weave is the energies can dispel existing enchantments. Roll 2d20 as a caster level check against each effect.

It is a potentially dangerous things and it keeps most hostile spellcasters out of Stonecrest; since they rarely want to arrive depleted.

In light of all this the Rift Weave still has secrets. The time-travel component is not widely known and there are entities within, some attracted to negative energy, others attracted to positive energy. In all it is a risky move and each trip is different.

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