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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 20 review, part 2

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A large pavilion tent had been raised in the courtyard of the keep. The stables were cleared out and long sheets of silk were being hung as if to dry. Don’ looked it over in awe. A small fortune was in front of him.

“Ah, Ghanis,” Tovran addressed Felghanis. “I’m glad you have brought your friends. We have found something… odd. Perhaps you can tell what it is?”

The bottle that he showed them was polished iron with a brass stopper. Inlaid in silver were arcane runes and glyphs. It had a faint trace of magic when Kalista cast her spell. Together Fel and Kalista figured out what the Iron Flask did and reported to Lord Mikhail Tovran.

“It’s an Iron Flask. It’s used to summon creatures from other planes into the container. With the right command words one can release them into  a service after which they return. This one has a fine crack in it, like it was only ever meant to be used once.”

“Where was it found?”

The guards showed them the base of the path to the Sipran Keep. Don’ checked carefully for depressions in the mud under the snow and he found some. Five sets of boot print at least three of which were people in armour. Again the guards of Vrim were awed with his skills.

It was now that Kalista confessed her encounter with Jonas and Mellevictus.

“I gave them the book,” she said.

“You what?” Felghanis yelled. Then he stamped about cursing in Draconic until Lord Tovran’s face wrinkled in disgust.

“Cease this man’s rantings. They offend my ear,” he ordered the guards.

Kalista explained.

“Jonas was… friendly. He willingly offered information. There’s a conjunction coming, of the stars and planets, and that’s worsening the winter. It is only in this time that the Fimbulwinter can be brought back and the Church aim to stop that by securing all the books in the Vatican. Under the Saint’s own protection they will be safe.”

“But they’d only need one book to prevent anyone performing the ritual.” It was Donhallan’s stoic logic.

“The only reason to have them all is to perform the ritual,” Felghanis agreed, then frowned. It didn’t bode well when the agreed about the diversion in this very keep.

“Nevertheless, they have the book and when we left I tried to scry its location but it was nowhere in this town. However the third book is here and we must find it. Jonas said there is a portal in the keep that leads to a library and that is where the third book of Fimbulwinter resides.”

Tovran swore them to secrecy and allowed them into the keep.

“Lady Murelle showed me this many years ago. It will not allow you back through for some time so you must be sure you want to pass.”

Everyone went through the shimmering field and on the other side were met with the grisly corpse of Goran. His body cleaved from shoulder to navel.

Felghanis quickly cast Speak with Dead and pulled back Goran’s memories. They moaned and wailed.

“Let me go.”

There was no such mercy. Of the three questions only one bore good fruit. It was Jonas who had the Iron Flask. When the spell ended the sigh of Goran’s mind leaving sent chills down their spines. The dwarves were nervous and kept looking at the portal which would not let them out.

A large shaft let in a soft pink light and in that diffuse glow was a table and three large chairs. All around bookshelves were well-stocked and there must have been a thousand books in that place.

“I didn’t know there were so many books in the world,” Donhallan mused aloud in wonderment.

Felghanis snorted.

Bloody tracks led about the shelves but they were so crossed the Don’ couldn’t tell if it was one shelf they stopped at or all of them.

The cornices were in a strange script and whilst the others helped with the tracks Felghanis deciphered them.

Stonecrest Library

Davinus, Lord of Kiltayre across all planes

Page, spine and tome. Wisdom across the ages.

Branner, Marquis of the High Western Fief.

“The book is not here”, Kalista sighed after what seemed like hours of searching.

In the next chamber they found a large statue of a bearded man seated on a large throne. The whole thing was on a dais and the inscription, although in an old form, was legible to all of them.

Davinus, Great-thane of Kiltayre.

Ahead was the last doorway. As Felghanis and Kalista walked through they felt the pull of teleportation magic. Sound still passed through and they were able to reassure Aenir and Kellor enough to follow.

Polished flagstones lined the colonnade on which they now stood. In the centre was a kind of square full of tables and what was like a forest of bookshelves beyond that. Felghanis squealed with delight.

Everyone else looked at him wide-eyed. They’d never heard him make such a noise or look that excited about anything.

I didn’t think he had it in him,” Aenir mumbled.

A vigorous discussion of higher arcane-physics was being held at one edge of the square. One elf seemed to be holding a kind of impromptu lecture. It was going well until a half-orc began to counter the elf’s points and the others left as they argued.

Excuse me,” Kalista said to a handsome man.

The man smiled pleasantly and looked up at her. His eyes were purple and his skin had a silver glow about it.

I’m sorry… but what are you?”

Quite alright. I am Brannighan and well it’s a bit complicated really. You see my father was an angel and my mother an archon. I suppose that rally makes me free of the heavenly host since I am neither. For that I am ever thankful.”

They talked briefly and Brannighan warily cast a spell, announcing it to everyone, to determine Kalista’s place in ‘the way of things’.

His eyes began to glow blue and he said gravely, but with kindness, My dear. I am afraid you shouldn’t be here.”

It wasn’t long before Kalista had asked about the Scours. Brannighan had heard that such people were in the library.

I will  look for them if you promise to wait here. Out there, people are much less… civil.”

Kalista nodded like a child. Brannighan had effortlessly cast an Arcane Sight, a tier four spell, that she only just recognised. If he was nervous then she was doubly so.

He had been gone and Kalista had shaken off most of the reverie that had come over her from being in this place and talking with Brannighan. Like Felghanis she thought to read a book that was here. It took her little time to find one and she noted that all her companions had begun to read a volume or three – like Felghanis.

Felghanis was just beginning to concentrate on the text in the Draconic tongue when a gentle voice said, “Excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear that you are looking for someone. That happens to be my expertise, people and things; finding them that is. Who are you looking for?”

Felghanis answered, “Four men and a woman in armour bearing a quadrant of grey green blue and black. Some have heraldry on it. A red bear rampant on a black field with a gold poleaxe.” He described the complex healdry of the Inquisition Exarcanum that Mellevictus and Frellan wore.

Why ever would they have those symbols?” The thin man seemed taken aback. “It matters not,” he dismissed it with hand-wave. “They left the library a few hours ago. It was quite odd because not long after it seemed they were followed by two women and two girls. All of them having come from the same private room that you and your friends did.”

That surprised Felghanis, “After; are you sure?”

“Yes, quite. Perhaps we can come to an arrangement for me to find them for you?”

What would that be?”

You take this little quartz crystal statue to a tomb in the Iron Teeth Mountains and place it on the bier, there.”

Why? What will that do?”

The strange man, who had eyes the colour of rust and ruddy-grey-skin drawn taught over a thin frame suddenly stood up. “Never mind. Thank you for your time.”

Felghanis blinked as the man strode quickly through the forest of shelves and was lost from his sight. He picked up the book and went off to find the others to report.

Brannighan approached them all. “I have found where they went. To the Beaming Censer hotel, but they have left through the North Gate. This is bothersome because they may not find their way back to the same place as the one they arrived from.”

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Kiltayre Session 12: Ideas

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Session 11 really put the rudder on the party, I felt. The books of Fimbulwinter show the means of what is happening. It’s the motive and whom that remain unanswered. This is a good thing because can’t have it all revealed in the middle; it ruins the climax of the tale.

What’s coming? The players are likely to head to Kentos’ Barrow. Greywynd River, and its surrounding woods, is the territory of Garren. They’ll risk encountering the Wood Wraiths and all that entails.

My feeling, as GM, is that we’ve regained some cohesion with the main plot and put the direction back into the group (in-game). It’s looking good for the next few sessions.

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Published: Bounty for the Taking, Book One

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If you want some bone-crunching action and good old-fashioned adventure then read my latest novel. Bounty for the Taking: Book One, is a fantasy adventure that follows three brothers as they travel the lands of Khara Thel, seeking wealth and fortune via bounty hunting in its various forms until they uncover a life-changing revelation.

 

Bounty1_COVER_01c 

Bounty for the Taking: Book One, Smashwords

Bounty for the Taking: Book One, Kindle

 

 

Keeping it less-than-epic,

 

-KW Jackson

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Zyfraan Reldeng: alchemist and king’s cousin

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Zyfraan Reldeng

6’2” 168lbs, Tayan, Alchemist
Cousin of the Mekong Reldeng king, Michairius the Nineteenth, and high standing member of the the Alchemists’ Guild & the Royal Sage school, Zyfraan is a well-respected member of the magical community. Zyfraan’s name is spoken of as one of the best alchemists alive. His education is of the highest standard and he continues his learning of spells and runes to this day. His great resources are almost all channelled back into his learning spells to assist his production of magic items. Many alchemists abroad know of his work. Zyfraan runs an alchemists shop, attached to the Concatenated Guild of Alchemists, near the Summer Palace in Tiben Xian.

Zyfraan has silver-grey hair that reaches the middle of his back in a cue. He wears red robes with hems enruned in gold and has access to a great number of magical items. Zyfraan actively monitors the mercenary companies and well-heeled freebooters that pass through the city of Tiben Xian for snippets of ancient lore and to study any magic items they may possess. He pays well and is completely trustworthy.
Notable Skills:
Zyfraan is a well-accomplished and powerful alchemist. He specialises in potions and smithing magic items but has earned respect for his knowledge of runes and the associated spell theory. He is a capable teacher for those who could use a “master-class” in rune magic and theory.
Spells:
Zyfraan is so focused on enchanting items, making potions and learning new ways of enruning that he can be considered to have knowledge of almost every related spell. He may also have a few unique spells. His one diversion to runes and magic-items is defensive magic; of which he is moderately skilled. Zyfraan’s powers are usually enough to take care of himself against the common thugs and criminals should his personal guard, assigned by the king, be too slow or overwhelmed.
Combat abilities:
Zyfraan has no martial skills relying on bodyguards, magic items, enhanced reflexes and defensive magic
Notes: Zyfraan is an advanced polyglot, speaking 12 languages and 30 dialects. He is also a senior guild master of the Concatenated Alchemists Guild in Mekong Reldeng.

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Younger Days: my first maps of Khara Thel

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Here’s some pics of my earliest maps of the surface of Khara Thel. I think these maps are 25 years old this year and they show it.

 

first map of Ferromaine 2

 Overview

first map of Ferromaine 2 detail

Detail

 

It’s funny how real landforms show up in maps. Makes me think they get stuck in one’s mind and come back out through a pencil. This is a place in my home-state called Lakes Entrance. Looks quite a bit like Lake Windemere and its nearby bays.

the real landforms

Lakes Entrance (VIC, Australia)

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Ulstutz: exotic steel

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While a cursory examination would mistake a blade of ulstutz as wootz, or folded, steel it is really a much more sturdy material. Ulstutz is a layering of hard and soft magical steels that is differentially hardened for the purpose of the item. It has a pattern like rippling water and is very strong, particularly for edged and penetrating weapons or plate armour.

 

Ulstutz

d20 effects: +2 enhancement bonus, except for; +4 enhancement bonus for plate armour, +4 enhancement bonus to damage when made into edged or puncturing weapons, edged and puncturing weapons of ulstutz count as adamantine vs. DR.

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Tharkhor

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[Tar-core]
Taller than common orcs the Tharkhor are the greater race of Goblinoids of Khara Thel. They are often intelligent and can learn a handful of languages. Amongst Tharkhor there is formal education with uncles. Female Tharkhor are kept in separate harems to the rest of the Goblinoids of any citadel and jealously guarded from common orcs potentially polluting the bloodlines. As soldiers the Tharkhor are shock troops, heavy infantry and heavy cavalry. They favour heavy plate armour and often wield war mattocks, heavy swords, hammers and maces into battle. They are very strong, even for their size, and can endure sunlight even thought it hampers them. The Tharkhor are, thankfully, slow breeders and their numbers are few.
Height: 6’ to 7’
Abilities: darkvision 120 ft., daylight hampers (moderate penalty to all actions), greatly resistant to damage, moderate resistance to shock
Average lifespan: 90 years, although most are soldiers and live about 50 years

d20 effects: +3 Str, +1 Con, Darkvision (120ft.), Stay conscious and active to –5 hit points, daylight puts them at –1 to morale.

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Rum Town: slums of Ferris

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This ramshackle section of Freeport is effectively walled off from the rest of the city. No less than fourteen watchtowers and gatehouses monitor egress and entry to Rum Town. Within its narrow dark streets the seediest parts of Ferris operate. A small section of waterfront takes in various goods and people from sea travel. Rum Town was once a royal distillery that grew its rare crops within the protection of its walled fortifications. A fire was set by Krakmoor saboteurs, when the delta was being fought over, and it was ruined. After the battle for Ferris was won by the Iron Claw forces the area was sold off with subsidies for building tenements with more than a dozen living quarters. The poor and criminal moved in and were thus contained by the existing walls – as was planned all along. That was centuries ago and Rum Town has festered away to the point where the watch rarely enter its walls.

Trivia: “A Tale of Rum Town” is set almost entirely within the walls of this ward.

Rum Town is notorious around the Bay of Carnarvon as the seediest place in the Kingdom of Iron Claw but within its own confines are the infamous Warrens. An arcing mile on the west of Rum Town where the oldest and most run-down tenements lean over the narrow streets. Buildings here look threatening to fall and some are clearly propped against others or even the wall itself where the stone is within reach. The Warrens is a mix of abandoned buildings, squatters, and ruins that is an urban wilderness for the most dangerous. A gang that strikes fear into the hearts of even the toughest Rum Towner, called The Shrikes, masses like a swarm against intruders after dark. Some say that there are even goblins in the Warrens but few believe the homeless that tell such tales.

 

Rum Town update

Designer notes: I put this map together as an experimental “grunge” style. It ain’t too bad.

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Quarry Town: ward of Ferris

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Almost a satellite of Ferris this town is like Picton but on a larger and more independent scale. Bordering Quarry Town are some of the finest wineries in all of Iron Claw. It is a peaceful place with a disproportionately large amount of watchmen and guards. Forestry reserves stretch for miles amidst the fertile farms. Hunting lodges and Inns are common here to cater for minor aristocrats passing through or getting away from their duties in the city.

The old quarries to the west of Quarry Town are the subject of strange rumours. Local hunters whisper over their ales that aristocrats bring in strange beasts, and even giants, for sport – using the old quarries to prevent their prey’s escape. Most people not in their cups simply laugh. As if no-one else would notice giants being brought into the area.

 

Quarry Town_Ferris

 

The Lateriders Inns are a collection of small inns and stables that cater for those who don’t make it to Ferris before the gates are locked for the night. Some are owned by the coaching lines in case of those times where a wheel breaks or the road is obstructed and their coaches are delayed. Guests usually stay for free, in such situations, if there is room but meals are pricey for what they are.

 

Old Gatehouse was once the northern portal into Ferris. It is almost a fortress in its own right and has now become a barracks and stable for the guard. They are often out riding about the city’s northern walls drilling their cavalry and footmen to keep them in excellent fighting condition. The hill fort nearby is on one of the many spires of old volcanic rock that penetrate the area. It is nearly 200 feet above the river and provides an excellent view for miles in all directions.

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