Category Archives: Games

Fare thee well….

Friends, I'm sorry to report the passing of Steven A.L. early this morning after a long illness. He was a good friend since we met at SUNY-Binghamton in the late 1980s. Steve was a committed political idealist, a fine teacher, and a great husband and father. He was 48.

I met Steve through student organizations as a freshman, and I soon joined him and the rest of the "Bellevue-Camelot" crew in many misadventures, both inside and outside our tabletop role-playing games. Those circles included our later wives Janice and Michele.

College chums

The "Bellevue-Camelot" crew, 1987

That cohort has many fond memories of Steve's Halfling Thief "Branador the Bold," Half-Elf Ranger "Mouse/Ereval" (who later became king of the Waletku kingdom in the "Vanished Lands"), and more.

Steve was also an avid cyclist, musician, world traveler, raconteur, sports fan, and all-around good guy. As others have noted, he was the most virtuous of all of us. He and Michele adopted a son Nathaniel, who is now 15. Our thoughts are with Michele and Nate.

Reunion in New York City

Friends and family in Brooklyn, November 2012

Janice and I were fortunate to join our college friends in Brooklyn to see Steve one last time together two weeks ago. We watched the Monty Python final reunion DVD, and we expect to come together again for the funeral. I'll pass along information on where you can send condolences once I hear more from Corbin.

Steve joins my high school Game Masters Bill B. and Ray C. and Boston-area alumnus Rob A.S. at that table in the sky. He will be missed.

"Vanished Lands: Vistel's Expedition" Session 39.53 — "I'm done being Ms. Nice Elephant"

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 39.53, which Drew S. hosted in Needham, Mass., on Monday, 8 December 2014:

In one ancient world, there was a region where strange majicks and demihuman races thrived. The “Vanished Lands” were blessed by the gods and cursed by prophecy. Travelers became adventurers, and adventurers strove to be heroes in the face of many perils and wonders. One such band began as circus performers, rescued slaves, and seeks to fight the dreaded Ghost Fleet….

Vistel’s Expedition,” crew of the Zephyr, Player Character Party 39 in Gene D.’s “Vanished Lands” campaign, using Pathfinder and FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre, as of autumn 2014:

  • Giacomo ‘the Mysterious’ Du Vane [Beruk A.]-male Hifalendorin human Mage (Gypsy Wizard) with homunculus familiar Gerald; NGc, Lvl. 11
  • Scully Strongbow [Sara F.]-female albino Flind (Gnoll) Ranger, archer and sailor, with owl “Owlicious”; NGl, Lvl. 11
  • Corwin Windsong [Bruce K.]-male Half-Elf Bard, wandering noble, warrior, and mandolin player; CNg, Lvl. 11
  • Elsa Fairbottom [Rich C.G.]-female Hill Dwarf Druid outcast, cook/brewer, and animal handler with banuq (winged cat) Penryn; NGc, Lvl. 11
  • Rhys Davies [Drew S.]-male Tinker Gnome (Minoi) clockwork gadgeteer and impetuous Rogue; TNcg, Lvl. 11

(See previous notes for “Hamfast” and “Brendan” [Brian W.], “Tempestade” [Josh C.], “Radius” [Jason E.R.], “Melchior” [Byron V.O.], “Sir Torrel” [Alex W.], and “Brogar” [Brian S.].)

“8 to 11 May 1227 B.C.E.:” The adventurering party left the Zephyr in the city of Nadwi and ventured across the Plains of Sathendo. They spotted an Orcish camp and entered the haunted hamlet of Alarn, where they found a Redcap who had murdered five of their former companions in Vistel’s Circus.

The Redcap escaped, but the onetime carnival performers were able to resurrect their friends, if not restore their severed hands. “Vistel’s Expedition” sent them to the relative safety of Nadwi and called for its airship to evacuate the remaining traumatized peasants.

Giacomo prepares another Contingency spell for his familiar Gerald. Scully scouts ahead, while Corwin and Rhys ride in a reclaimed circus wagon. Elsa Wild Shapesinto an eagle, joining her winged cat Penryn and Scully’s owl Owlicious in the air.

After about a day’s ride southeast, the travelers spot a large humanoid loping from the direction of Kedetura toward their caravan. Wizard Giacomo castsShield on himself and identifies the creature as a fierce Grimm, another Unseelie Fey.

Ranger Scully readies her long bow, and Bard Corwin casts Comprehend Languages and Displacement on himself. Druid Elsa shifts into a dire bear and casts Enlarge Animal on herself. Gadgeteer Rhys checks his clockwork automatons and loads his crossbow.

The Grimm and Elsa charge and rend each other with claws and teeth. Scully looses a volley of arrows as Corwin casts Greater Heroism on Elsa. Giacomo hits the beast with Magic Missiles, but Rhys’ first quarrels miss.

Flind Scully casts Protection From Evil on Elsa to protect the Hill Dwarf from the Grimm’s fell aura. The muscular monster Calls Lightning, but the dire bear avoids the blast. Elsa continues wrestling with the Grimm, and Half-Elf Corwin casts Displacement on her.

Hifalendorin human Giacomo’s Phantasmal Killer has no effect on the gruesome Grimm. Tinker Gnome Rhys tries hurling bars of “cold steel,” a reddish antimagical metal alloy, but they fall short.

In between firing more arrows, Scully attends to Elsa’s wounds. The slavering Grimm Ethereal Jaunts from Elsa to Corwin but is slowed by his Stun Bolts. Giacomo casts Acid Arrow and more Magic Missiles.

Elsa finishes off the tough Grimm and shifts back to demihuman form to make sure its carcass is incinerated. Rhys claims an enchanted katar (punching dagger, 1d8+2), and Giacomo detects an evil sickle.

Elsa casts Lesser Restoration to help Corwin regain his strength, and the Zephyr crew members resume their journey to rescue the rest of Vistel’s Circus from the Centaur followers of the mysterious Vappu Lahja.

Sometime later, Scully and Elsa see five Elves riding stags. Giacomo and Corwin recommend caution, while Elsa argues that they need allies against the forces of evil. Scully says that learning more about the area is worth some risk, and Rhys plans to make puppets resembling argumentative Corwin and Elsa.

Corwin uses his Hat of Disguise to appear as a full Elf, and Elsa hails the riders wearing fringed buckskins and feathers. The Grugach (Wild Elves) treat the team as intruders in their territory, even though they’re all in the human kingdom of Hifalendor.

Giacomo and Corwin are annoyed when Elsa mentions that she’s looking for former traveling companions, as Scully and Rhys hang back and watch the Grugach. Uller Tolvo says that his patrol has been hunting for exotic animals for a circus.

Antero Korkonen doesn’t seem surprised when Elsa warns of an Orcish warband from Zuromm nearby. Asser Rantasila notes that creatures such as the Grimm have been seen in the borderlands, and Heikki Makinen doesn’t respond when the Druid offers the blessings of Mekkil (Gaia). Scully sniffs for clues.

Pasi Vanhala doesn’t mention Vappu Lahja by name, but the explorers suspect that the Grugach are in league with the woman claiming to be a figure from a fairy tale. They continue riding their separate ways.

Elsa casts Pass Without Trace as Scully finds a defensible position. Elsa then casts Grove of Respite to create a restful (and alarmed) campsite. Giacomo and Corwin take the first watch for the night and notice that fewer animals than expected are moving on the grasslands. Scully and Rhys don’t set a fire during their watch.

On the third watch, Elsa and Rhys sense people sneaking up on them from all directions. Elsa again Wild Shapes into a burly bear, wakes the others, and dispels the grove. Diminutive Rhys climbs up on the bear for a better vantage point.

Stealthy Corwin casts Displacement on himself, and Rhys whistles to send his constructs to beat the bushes. Wary Giacomo casts Mage Armor, and Scully says, “I’m done being Ms. Nice Elephant” as she Wild Shapes into an animal she saw in the Zarendo Islands.

The Grugach shoot flaming arrows, injuring Corwin and Scully. Elsa casts Entangle, slowing the Wild Elves, and Corwin retaliates with a Fireball. Rhys again misses with his crossbow, and Giacomo casts Magic Missiles at Heikki and Pasi.

Singed Antero and Pasi shoot Scully, Antero and Uller hit Elsa with arrows, and Heikki targets Giacomo. Corwin runs to Pasi and hits the injured Elf twice. Elsa casts Greater Dispel Magic in case the Grugach are somehow ensorcled by Vappu Lahja, but she notices no immediate effect.

Rhys recalls his automatons, while Giacomo activates his Contingency spell, again causing homunculus Gerald to take on the Form of the Dragon. Heikki runs but is caught by the gold dragon.

Scully charges, and the Grugach fire at her and Gerald. Elsa casts Wind Wall to deflect further arrows and orders the Elves to stand down. They lower their bows. Giacomo has Gerald release Heikki.

Corwin angrily asks the hunters why they attacked. Asser says that Vappu Lahja will eradicate all “civilized” interlopers on the plains. Scully and Rhys keep an eye on Antero, Pasi, and Uller.

Elsa prays to Mekkil for a Positive Energy Burst, healing her allies, and she covertly casts Remove Curse in another attempt to disrupt Vappu Lahja’s sway. With Gerald still overhead, the Grugach back off.

Giacomo reiterates the need to keep a low profile while searching for the captive Vistel’s Circus. Scully keeps watch for the Grugach, and Corwin wants to confront Vappu Lahja.

Elsa, however, notes that the sorceress may have many followers and that they need to find out more about the situation in the borderlands. Rhys points out that Giacomo and Corwin’s Teleport spells could be dangerous because of a certain Pit Fiend looking for them.

The wanderers discuss visiting the Waletku kingdom of the Elves in the Wisalef Forest, which is just north of Hifalendor. Corwin states that his mother was once respected in Alfhileno, the distant capital.

Giacomo is reluctant to stay anywhere for long, and Scully worries about Elven prejudice against humanoids like herself. Rhys is curious about rumors of other Gnomish airships.

Elsa is interested in expanding the alliance against the dreaded Ghost Fleet and her nascent long-range communications network, so she begins preparing a fewTransport via Plants invocations….

Happy Birthday, Rich! I hope that everyone enjoyed our latest face-to-face “Vistel’s Expedition” sessions, and I look forward to continuing this fantasy campaign early next year! The “New Dawntelecom team should resume this coming weekend.

I also look forward to concluding Rich’s “Tunnel Vision” modern supernaturalminiseries next Monday and to starting Jason E.R.’s “Channel 37” speculative fiction anthology. In the meantime, make sure your character records are up to date on Obsidian Portal, and stay in touch….

"Vanished Lands: Vistel's Expedition" Session 39.52 — Revealing the Redcap

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 39.52, which Drew S. hosted in Needham, Mass., on Monday, 1 December 2014:

In one ancient world, there was a region where strange majicks and demihuman races thrived. The “Vanished Lands” were blessed by the gods and cursed by prophecy. Travelers became adventurers, and adventurers strove to be heroes in the face of many perils and wonders. One such band began as circus performers, rescued slaves, and seeks to fight the dreaded Ghost Fleet….

Vistel’s Expedition,” crew of the Zephyr, Player Character Party 39 in Gene D.’s “Vanished Lands” campaign, using Pathfinder and FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre, as of autumn 2014:

  • Giacomo ‘the Mysterious’ Du Vane [Beruk A.]-male Hifalendorin human Mage (Gypsy Wizard) with homunculus familiar Gerald; NGc, Lvl. 11
  • Scully Strongbow [Sara F.]-female albino Flind (Gnoll) Ranger, archer, knife thrower, and sailor, with owl “Owlicious”; NGl, Lvl. 11
  • Corwin Windsong [Bruce K.]-male Half-Elf Bard, wandering noble, warrior, and mandolin player; CNg, Lvl. 11
  • Elsa Fairbottom [Rich C.G.]-female Hill Dwarf Druid outcast, cook/brewer, and animal handler with banuq (winged cat) Penryn; NGc, Lvl. 11
  • Rhys Davies [Drew S.]-male Tinker Gnome (Minoi) clockwork gadgeteer and impetuous Rogue; TNcg, Lvl. 11

(See previous notes for “Hamfast” and “Brendan” [Brian W.], “Tempestade” [Josh C.], “Radius” [Jason E.R.], “Sir Torrel” [Alex W.], and “Brogar” [Brian S.].)

“1 to 7 May 1227 B.C.E.:” After a week’s refitting, the Zephyr was airworthy and left Hesolin, capital of the human kingdom of Hifalendor, but Princess Priscilla and Lady Matilda stowed aboard.

The airship’s shakedown cruise northward went relatively smoothly, and Elsa befriended a Treant. In the city of Nadwi, the crew reassured the ruling council that it meant no harm to the princess and offered to help deal with a Centaur uprising.

Freed from his cursed tattoo of the “Mad Mage” Ezra, Giacomo goes to the local Magisterium (magic school) and the Library of Memir to research Vappu Lahja, the mysterious woman named in an old fairy tale who is now stirring up conflict between the Centaurs and humans [see notes for the “Uncommon Companions”].

Scully stretches her legs outside Nadwi’s walls, but she keeps an jealous eye on Svetlana Taildunker, a Wolfen sailor who has recently come under her boyfriend “Capt. Niac’s” [Mike F./Non-Player Character] command.

Corwin visits the temple of Brijitt, goddess of fire and poetry, and talks with priestesses Anastasia and Claudia of the Harp. They relay messages from “Melchior” [Byron V.O.], who is watching Corwin’s enemies in the barbaric port of Gisar. The Bard also learns some Centaur songs.

Elsa still hopes to negotiate between the Centaur raiders and the Hifalendorin peasants, so she brews beer and bakes bread as gifts. Rhys spends all his money on provisions for the airship and takes fellow Gnome Mathilda sightseeing.

After learning at the Grove of Mekkil (Gaia) that some fey are nearby, Druid Elsa and Ranger Scully take their fellowship to meet them. They find a traders’ camp outside the city gates, including some Skaevingol (Viking-style) and Tsucharim (Mongol-style) humans, Wolven, and a few Centaurs.

“Rakhnar Longtail” [Rob A.S./N.P.C.] tells them that much of his tribe has left to follow “the white lady.” The shaman believes that Vappu Lahja is using a combination of ensorclement and clever political arguments to sway so many of his people, as well as Satyrs/Fauns and some Grugach (Wild Elves).

The Centaur asks the commanders of the Zephyr to look for and rescue Antiochus, a kinsman of his. In return, he warns about Theocles, a warlord following Vappu Lahja who could be a dangerous and cunning foe.

The next day, “Vistel’s Expedition” rides northeast, along the Aspar River. The wide Plains of Sathendo stretch to the south and east, and the caravan sees scattered hills to the north. Beyond them are the dense Wisalef Forest and the tall Ivory Mountains. To the west is the nefarious kingdom of Zuromm.

Wizard Giacomo brings Gerald, his homunculus familiar, leaving adept and girlfriend “Dread” Maggie Oakleaf back with the rest of the Zephyr’s crew in Nadwi.

Corwin argues with Elsa about whether to allow Princess Priscilla to join the expedition, but he is outvoted. Scully wants to bring Svetlana to keep her away from Niac, but she reluctantly agrees to have her watch the princess.

Rhys notes that Mathilda isn’t as much of a potential liability and stuffs his three automatons and clockwork butler Vasco into his Bag of Holding. The Tinker Gnome also builds a platform for himself on the saddle of his pony.

Elsa casts Locate Object to find the ring of Baskor Steadyhand, a roustabout in Vistel’s Circus, which has been captured by Vappu Lahja’s followers. It leads the Hill Dwarf toward the hamlet of Alarn, about four days’ ride away.

Flind Scully hunts with her owl “Owlicious” to supplement the team’s rations with small game. Hifalendorin human and city slicker Giacomo recommends that the Ranger or Druid cast Speak With Animals to see if the circus has passed recently.

Half-Elf Corwin sings as a thunderstorm passes over the plains, and Tinker Gnome Rhys is careful to keep his contraptions dry. Scully spots tracks of three quadrupeds with cloven hooves. She scouts ahead and sees three unicorns with Elven riders, but the group decides against a detour to meet them.

Sometime later, the scouts see something more worrisome: tents not in the Hifalendorin or Saganim style. Giacomo, Corwin, and Rhys stay back with the horses, while Scully Wild Shapes into a sparrow, and Elsa transforms into an auroch (ancient bovine).

They observe humans wearing patchwork armor and a ragged black pennant with angular red and silver symbols — the flag of Zuromm. Scully shifts into rat form to get a closer look, while Elsa realizes that she might be mistaken for livestock or prey and heads back to the party.

Scully crawls into one tent, which is more crowded and orderly than its exterior might suggest. She sees components for shamanic rituals and a muscular, green-skinned humanoid in black armor. The Ranger dodges hobnailed boots and runs out of the Orc encampment.

Giacomo recommends pressing on toward Alarn through the night, avoiding the Zuromm troops. Scully points out that a proper detour will take hours. Corwin wants to fight, but Elsa wants to stay on mission. Rhys notices that the enemy forces are headed toward the town of Kedetura, which is where Vappu Lahja is believed to be.

Stealthy Scully takes the lead as the group rides on. Rhys follows, protected by aSilence spell from Giacomo. The wary mage also casts Invisibility on winged Gerald. Corwin sulks in his saddle, while Elsa and her banuq (winged cat) Penryn take rearguard. She also casts Message to warn Prince Andre de Giles in Nadwi about the Orcs.

The tired travelers eventually reach Alarn, which they find mostly abandoned. Farmers huddle in their houses, and the lone thoroughfare is empty. The adventuring party passes a boarded-up chapel and stops at the “Mellow Mule” tavern.

They meet a toothless old man playing a battered harmonium and a young girl with lank hair and a tattered dress. The visitors quickly realize that they are ghosts and hastily leave. Elsa again casts Locate Object, which indicates that members of Vistel’s Circus are in a vine-shrouded barn.

The dark leaves shudder as if from an imperceptible breeze, and roots break out of the dry soil toward the group. Giacomo casts Detect Magic and Shield, and Scully draws her long bow and maneuvers. Elsa looks for cover and Wild Shapes into a vulture.

Corwin casts Displacement and Fly on himself, while Rhys readies his clockwork scorpion, which spits acid, and his dragon construct, which can produce fire. Elsa casts Control Plants and has the vines tear the barn doors off their hinges before parting.

The explorers enter the barn and see the wagons of their former traveling companions in the carnival. They hear a high-pitched voice welcoming them, and flying Elsa, Corwin, and Giacomo see small figures made out of twigs moving in the rafters.

Corwin casts Light and reveals a short, bearded man dressed all in red, from his floppy cap to his pointed boots. Despite some similarities, Rhys knows he is not a Gnome. The fellow introduces himself as Gilean and shows off a necklace of hands, one of which has Baskor’s ring!

Prince Corwin casts Lightning Bolt at the evil fey, and Elsa has the vines entangle the Twigjacks. Giacomo activates a Contingency spell on Gerald, and Rhys sends his devices to the carriages to search for survivors. Scully fires arrows.

Gilean shrugs off his electrical burns, and Elsa has the vines rip the roof off the barn. The Dwarf Druid then casts Lightning Strike. Wizard Giacomo casts Mage’s Sword while his familiar turns red as he takes on the Form of the Dragon.

The Redcap refuses to admit defeat. He stomps on the ground three times, causing it to tremble. Gilean then phases into the earth, escaping further spells and arrows. Giacomo sends enlarged Gerald to fly over Alarn to see if there’s any further sign of him.

From Books of Faerie

Redcap

Scully searches the hamlet and tries to reassure the remaining peasants, who tell her of previous attacks. Rhys finds five bodies in the wagons: Dwarf rigger Baskor Steadyhand, Saganim drover Cerdwyn mab Ardain, Suthern fire breather Amur ibn Wayat, Hifalendorin acrobat Simona Perhuten, and Halfling caricaturist Alberto Barrowright.

Elsa mourns her friends, who likely put up a fight, and Corwin vows vengeance and begins preparing spells to Raise the Dead. The onetime performers deduce from the looted carriages that the rest of the circus has probably been sent on to Kedetura.

The wanderers rest in Alarn for two days, resurrecting the carnival folk, but the spellcasters aren’t able to restore their severed hands. The five people are put on Phantom Steeds, which can run down the Aspar River toward Nadwi, away from hostile fey.

Elsa sends for the Zephyr to warn Prince Andre and evacuate the remaining farmers. With grim determination, the away team prepares to head to Kedetura to confront Vappu Lahja and her Unseelie Court followers….

We’ll be picking up next Monday, Dec. 8, right where we left off. That’ll probably be the last regular “Vanished Lands” face-to-face game of 2014!

"Vanished Lands: A New Dawn" Session 40.39 — The serpent society

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 40.39, which were held on Sunday, 30 November 2014:

Long ago in a distant land, spirits and men directly traded bamboo, silk, and steel. Wars to the west, twisted monsters, and power-hungry sorcerers threatened the eastern kingdoms, so the call went out for new heroes of honor and tact….

Player Character Party 40 in Gene D.’s Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Asian-style telecom campaign, using Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Ed./D&D3.0 Oriental Adventures, Pathfinder, and FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre, plus house rules, Skype, and an online dice roller, as of autumn 2014:

  • Moon Jung-Mo [Dexter V.H.]-male Nannuattan Ninja (Msamaki; eastern Dark Elf Assassin) who has left the Shadow’s Claw clan and is posing as a River Spirit Folk (eastern Grey Elf) merchant; with a young wyvern; LNg, Lvl. 9
  • Souji Nobuto ‘Sonny’ Yoshimitsu [Beruk A.]-male Shengtese Tian Kensai (eastern human weapon master) from a dishonored house in the Lion Clan, specializing in chain weapons; with talking horse Yip; LNg, Lvl. 9
  • Ember Talon [Sara F.]-female Crane Hengeyokai Wu (shapeshifting Druid), actually a young gold dragon banished from the Celestial Court; NGl, Lvl. 9
  • Soske’ Tiatoshe [Geoff C.]-male Shengtese Tian Shukenja (eastern human Cleric), priest and animist from the Phoenix Clan, prophesied to do great things but plagued by family and ancestor spirits; LNg, Lvl. 9
  • Saigo Kasugi [Bruce K.]-male Bamboo Spirit Folk Samurai (eastern Sylvan Elf Cavalier) discreetly serving his daimyo; LNg, Lvl. 9
  • Tokoro Gawa [Drew S.]-male carp Hengeyokai Hulinyuan (amphibious shapeshifting Ranger) seeking to protect streams; with otter companion; CGn, Lvl. 9

“8 to 31 July 1227 B.C.E.:” In Bazran Hai, capital of the Zedu kingdom, the onetime diplomatic escorts encountered Kobold and Nannuattan spies. Jung-Mo recognized a fellow Ninja as his former lover, and Soske’ communed with ancestor spirits and the god of judgment to learn the whereabouts of Saigo Kasugi’s grandfather.

A Limited Wish summoned Gen. Shinso Saigo from captivity beneath Bazran Hai’s citadel, but his memories were limited. The group followed a suspicious landscaper into the sewers, where it captured him after defeating two Yuan-ti Abominations.

Shengtese human Sonny asks Jung-Mo if he has encountered the serpent folk before, and Jung Mo answers in the negative before revealing his true form as a Nannuattan to interrogate the prisoner.

Shan Sao Toshi casts Message to help his companions covertly communicate. Crane Hengeyokai Ember waits outside the makeshift cell in the “Dragon’s Beard” inn and casts Control Wind to chill the room.

Soske’ recalls that the Yuan-ti worship chthonic deities, and the Shengtese human wonders if there is a connection to the chaos spreading across the countryside. Bamboo Spirit Folk Saigo joins Jung-Mo in questioning the faux Shijo Joshifumi.

Tokoro keeps watch on the roof for more enemies. Via Toshi’s Message spell, the carp Hengeyokai observes that while the group recently encountered, captured, and released a Kobold and a Nannuattan Ninja, it probably won’t be so merciful to the Yuan-ti.

Jung-Mo politely asks Shijo about his mission, and the Yuan-ti says that it is likely the same as the eastern Dark Elves’ — watching and undermining the leaders of the Zedu kingdom and Tong Sheng. He is not afraid of torture but is surprisingly forthcoming. Sonny recommends more specific questions.

Saigo wants to know why his family’s home was being watched. Shijo admits that he was watching several influential households in his guise as a master gardener. Soske’ recognizes Shijo’s mention of evil deity Mi-Shao-Shur.

Toshi casts Mind Read and verifies that the Yuan-ti are connected to a dragon seen by Gen. Shinso before he was captured, as well as to the Red Wastes to the northeast. The adventuring party also learns of a backup plan involving a Yuan-ti Pureblood disguised as a Korobokuru (eastern Dwarf).

Shijo explains that his cell planned to infiltrate the citadel with knowledge from Gen. Shinso and was close to completing his likeness. Toshi sees images in the shapeshifter’s mind of a plot to get close to and replace the daimyo and shogun.

Jung-Mo learns that the scaly folk have infiltrated several cities and that they report to the dragon. Saigo asks whether the Korobokuru silversmith who met with Oh Ok-Sun, Jung-Mo’s former lover, is also working for the Yuan-ti.

Toshi asks about Lady Shiori Heikkaki, whose name was on a scroll of Summoningconfiscated from the Kobolds. Shijo says that the diminutive reptilian canines have been useful in keeping track of Gokuri’s agents in Bazran Hai.

On the roof, Tokoro notices some troop movements but nobody from the nefarious Gokuri Empire or the Scarlet Order. Jung-Mo finishes the questioning by knocking Shijo out with a poisoned dart before he can cast any rituals.

Sonny suggests checking out the Yoshifumi house, and Ember, Soske’, and Tokoro agree to go. Toshi writes a note to Lady Fu Hao, the favored concubine of the distant Shang emperor. Saigo sends a messenger to seek an audience with his superiors.

At the Yoshifumi house, Ember Wild Shapes into a ferret, briefly attracting the attention of Tokoro’s otter Mala. The Wu creates a diversion by running pastguard dogs and leading them through the living quarters.

Soske’ casts True Seeing to watch the comings and goings. The Shukenja spots a few disguised Yuan-ti among the groundskeepers. Tokoro sneaks into the workshop and finds tools with hidden weapons. Thanks to Ember distracting the dogs, the Hulinyuan manages to hide the questionable tools and slip out undetected.

Back at the Dragon’s Beard, Jung-Mo makes sure that Shijo has no suicide poison. Jung-Mo also watches the hotel, his young wyvern, and Toshi’s tiger Amaya while the others regroup and head to the palace.

Sonny tells Jung-Mo that he trusts him, even if the Kensai doesn’t always understand the Ninja. Wu-Jen Toshi casts Arcane Mark to help track the Yuan-ti if necessary.

Ember is torn between staying with Jung-Mo and going to the royal court, but her curiosity about other dragons is piqued. Saigo is relieved when guards arrive to escort the prisoner and Gen. Shinso in a covered carriage. Saigo arms his grandfather with the katana of Wounding confiscated from duplicitous Gen. Wang Tung back in Sogewa.

As they enter the citadel, the wanderers recognize previous acquaintances. Ember avoids Murakami “Murray” Ryozo, a court adept, but Soske’ isn’t so lucky. His Uncle Manny finds him and wants to hear all about his travels.

classic Oriental Adventures

Kara Tur

The young priest manages to get his kinsman to wait outside while he joins his companions. They bow before Ryoushi Manabu, the Bamboo Spirit Folk shogun (eastern Sylvan Elf general); Hei Wan Ling, the Korobokuru shogun; and Hou Keung, the Korobokuru daimyo (king).

Samurai Saigo explains that his team has rescued Gen. Shinso and discovered a nest of Yuan-ti in the capital. Wu Jen Toshi casts Dispel Magic, revealing Shijo’s true reptilian visage, and he warns about the silversmith in the lower tier. Hei Wan Ling orders soldiers to be sent to that tier and the tunnels beneath the citadel.

Sleestak

Reptile folk

Druid Ember is uncomfortable with the talk about hunting a dragon north of Hei Kuan but acknowledges her expertise on dragonkind. Outlanders Sonny, Soske’, and Tokoro keep quiet until asked to testify on the demihumans’ behalf.

Ryoushi Manabu reconsiders sending the group to escort emissary Lady Yun Aei-Yong home to Gisokuri. Instead, he decides to send Prince Mutsuhito, brother of Saigo’s lover Nayoko, because he already knows the way to the capital of Gokuri.

Hou Keung offers to grant each of the adventurers a title and land if they will deal with the dragon of corruption in the wilderness. They accept the mission and head back to the hotel.

Jung-Mo thinks about his divided loyalties between defending the innocent and restoring the honor of the Shadow’s Claw clan. Sonny makes a rendezvous with the slippery Lady Yun and writes letters to fellow survivors of his own disgraced house in the Lion Clan.

Ember continues to help with training Jung-Mo’s young wyvern, and Toshi spends the next few weeks enchanting items for his friends. The air Wizard also proposes marriage to Suki Amarna, and the Bisan Wu (Dryad Druid) accepts.

While still avoiding nosy family members, Soske’ hopes to thwart the forces of chaos. Similarly, Tokoro wants to protect the headwaters of his home streams. Saigo studies maps and hopes to learn more about the dragon’s followers….

Welcome back, Sara! It was nice to see everyone online and at our latest “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Expedition” session. Remember that the “New Dawn” team will hit Level 10 as of our next session in two weeks, and you can update your characters on Obsidian Portal before then.

Remember that we won’t be meeting virtually on Dec. 7, but I look forward to continuing your quest!

"Vanished Lands: Vistel's Expedition" Session 39.51 — Sky cruise to Nadwi

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 39.51, which Drew S. hosted in Needham, Mass., on Monday, 18 November 2014:

In one ancient world, there was a region where strange majicks and demihuman races thrived. The “Vanished Lands” were blessed by the gods and cursed by prophecy. Travelers became adventurers, and adventurers strove to be heroes in the face of many perils and wonders. One such band began as circus performers, rescued slaves, and seeks to fight the dreaded Ghost Fleet….

Vistel’s Expedition,” crew of the Zephyr, Player Character Party 39 in Gene D.’s “Vanished Lands” campaign, using the D20 Basic Fantasy Role-Playing GameDungeon Crawl Classics, Pathfinder, and FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre, as of autumn 2014:

  • Giacomo ‘the Mysterious’ Du Vane [Beruk A.]-male Hifalendorin human Mage (Gypsy Wizard) with homunculus familiar Gerald; NGc, Lvl. 11
  • Scully Strongbow [Sara F./absent]-female albino Flind (Gnoll) Ranger, archer, knife thrower, and sailor, with owl “Owlicious”; NGl, Lvl. 11
  • Corwin Windsong [Bruce K.]-male Half-Elf Bard, wandering noble, warrior, and mandolin player; CNg, Lvl. 11
  • Elsa Fairbottom [Rich C.G.]-female Hill Dwarf Druid outcast, cook/brewer, and animal handler with banuq (winged cat) Penryn; NGc, Lvl. 11
  • Rhys Davies [Drew S.]-male Tinker Gnome (Minoi) clockwork gadgeteer and impetuous Rogue; TNcg, Lvl. 11

(See previous notes for “Hamfast” and “Brendan” [Brian W.], “Tempestade” [Josh C.], “Radius” [Jason E.R.], “Sir Torrel” [Alex W.], and “Brogar” [Brian S.].)

“18 to 30 April 1227 B.C.E.:” With much help and planning, Giacomo finally rid himself of the “Mad Mage” Ezra through a complex and dangerous ritual. Corwin continued shopping, Elsa and Rhys met with the Zeda kingdom ambassador, and Scully and Niac recruited more crew members for the Zephyr in the city of Hesolin.

At the local Magisterium (magic school), Giacomo makes sure that no traces of his cursed tattoo remain. Lord Josiah Mearls offers the Hifalendorin human a faculty position and assigns excitable adept Vinod Fabrizio to be his assistant. Giacomo also celebrates his newfound freedom with droll girlfriend “Dread” Maggie Oakleaf.

Corwin finds Princess Priscilla practicing archery in the royal gardens. Under the watchful eye of guards and chaperones, the Half-Elf prince tells her a few stories of how their fathers, now King Edmund II of Saganim and King Akkon XII of Hifalendor, once adventured together on the Sea of Nagendwa.

Elsa and Rhys return to the embassy of their homeland, the Zeda kingdom. Elsa receives enchanted studded leather armor from fellow Hill Dwarf Wilhelm the Smiter. Lady Matilda, a Forest Gnome Paladin with a conical cap and a badger pelt cloak, asks Tinker Gnome Rhys if she can see his airship.

The Zeda emissary, Henrik Giantslayer, son of Boris, tells Elsa that he has received word from Zorch (King) Bertrand of Doru that their realm will join the alliance against the dreaded Ghost Fleet and participate in her nascent long-range communications network. Merchant Henrik also mentions an Orc attack on the remote Dwarven stronghold of Eagle’s Rest near Dosh Kar.

The wanderers regroup at their rented villa near the “Golden Horn” hotel in Castle Court. Flind Scully and Wolfen “Capt. Niac” [Mike F./Non-Player Character] supervise provisioning and training of the Zephyr ’s growing crew.

Giacomo agrees to look into legends about the mysterious Vappu Lahja at the Library of Memir. The Wizard finds some parallels between the fairy tales of a proud woman cursed to outlive her suitors and the Scourge of “Capt. Jack Kildare” [Randy K.M./N.P.C.], leader of the Ghost Fleet.

In between dates with Priscilla, Corwin checks in with fellow Bards at the temple of Brijitt, goddess of fire and poetry, in Hesolin’s theater district. He also helps Giacomo with his research and waits for letters from “Melchior” [Byron V.O.], who is shadowing his enemies in the barbaric port of Gisar.

Elsa loans her ring of Feather Fall to Rhys and casts Message to warn Orlando Vistel, founder of Vistel’s Circus, not to fight his captors. The Druid has learned that her former traveling companions are being held by the Centaur followers of Vappu Lahja who have been raiding human and Halfling villages across northern Hifalendor.

Rhys and Niac make the steamboat Zephyr airworthy by attaching a dirigible balloon to its masts and extending the wings retrieved from a clockwork dragon. Shipwright and Paladin Niac notes that hot air will provide lift, but more sails will still be needed for propulsion.

After about a week, “Vistel’s Expedition” leaves Hesolin and sails through the air northward, along the Aehonir River. To the west is the (proto-Celtic) human kingdom of Saganim, and Hifalendor and the broad Plains of Sathendo stretch to the east. Far to the north are the Wisalef Forest and the Ivory Mountains.

Giacomo serves as navigator, comparing the stars to charts and magically projected maps. As first mate, Corwin relays Capt. Niac’s orders to the crew in the rigging. Elsa helps the ship get under way by invoking Mekkil (Gaia) for a Gust of Wind. Rhys and his apprentices keep busy with the steam engine, and Ranger Scully watches for aerial foes.

From the ground, the wings of the floating Zephyr make the ship look like a dragon, scaring the occasional farmer. Niac asks Giacomo to plot a course from Hesolin to the Hifalendorin (proto-Western European) human city of Nadwi and then east, to the villages under attack by Centaurs.

Corwin and Rhys aren’t especially surprised when stowaways Priscilla and Matilda emerge, but Giacomo and Elsa are incensed at the potential international incident. Corwin argues that the young women should be free to pursue their own interests, but Elsa warns that King Akkon may send pursuers.

Mr. Bernardo Tancredo, a Halfling herbalist under Elsa’s command, attends to Maggie and other crew and passengers who get airsick in the first day of travel. Elsa and Scully talk with chatty and hungry birds confused by their vessel.

On the second day out of Hesolin, the Zephyr passes over Androth, where some performers from Vistel’s Circus began their misadventures more than a year ago (in “game time”). The airship avoids the village, and Niac agrees to sail at half speed rather than stop at night. Giacomo casts Nondetection and Scry. Matilda enjoys the view from the top of the dirigible.

On the third day, the experimental airship passes Grenville and marshes. The sailors on watch spot a tree waving at them. Elsa Wild Shapes into a bird, and Corwin casts Fly and carries curious Priscilla to investigate. The rest of the crew of the Zephyr watches from a distance. Giacomo uses a spyglass.

Elsa asks the Treant for permission to land in her branches, and the “Old Missus” is happy for the company. Corwin casts a translation spell to understand Sylvan and translate for Priscilla.

The sentient tree says that Cooter, a human guide from the village of Keyans, occasionally passes through the area. Corwin notices some bones at the Old Missus’ roots and flies down for a closer look, despite her protestations of “being too messy for guests.”

Corwin and Priscilla see several humanoid skeletons covered in yellow mold. Elsa shifts back to Hill Dwarf form and climbs down to join them. The Old Missus asks them not to disturb the corpses, since they feed her.

Prince Corwin tentatively identifies the bones as those of Troglodytes, slimy reptile folk. Elsa manages not to inhale any spores as she collects a sample of the fungus, over Corwin’s objections. They bid farewell to the Treant and fly back to the ship.

Giacomo lectures the away team on parleying with a potential monster, but Elsa gives the sample to Bernardo and writes a note to Barry the Gardener, a strange being she met on Emein Island in the Zarendo Archipelago.

The next day, lookouts spot two Pegasi with riders approaching from Nadwi. The Zephyr has crossed more than 200 miles in a fraction of the time it would have taken going upriver or on horseback.

Northern Roman city

Nadwi from the air

Corwin casts Invisibility on Princess Priscilla, and Capt. Niac hails the airborne cavalry. The knights order the ship to follow them, because King Akkon wants his daughter returned home safely. Corwin and Elsa reluctantly comply.

Rhys retracts the Zephyr ‘s keel, and Scully helps furl the sails. The boat lands in the Aspar River, and another set of watchmen escorts the crew to the provincial governor’s palace. The visitors notice that there are more demihumans in the northern Hifalendorin city than in the capital of Hesolin.

The team is brought before Nadwi’s ruling council, and Prince Andre de Giles, a kinsman of King Akkon, recognizes Prince Berek. Grizzled Gen. Sixtus Aurelias berates the young nobles for making light of the disappearance of Princess Priscilla, whose invisibility drops after she smacks Rhys for an impertinent comment.

Elsa explains that the Zephyr has come to seek allies and help with the Centaur uprising, and Lady Elaine Valis says that their leader may have taken on the identity of Vappu Lahja to enhance her reputation. Sir Roderigo Adelmo notes that the northwestern borderlands have otherwise been peaceful lately, with few raids from the nefarious kingdom of Zuromm.

The aged Sir Mador Basored advises Prince Andre, who complains that he has been waiting in vain for reinforcements from Hesolin for several months. The feudal lord suggests that he will take his time replying to the king about the princess if the Zephyr’s crew deals with the Centaur threat.

Lord Clobard Thudoric, the mayor of Nadwi, gives the explorers permission to stay in his city for a few days, but he warns them that they will be under guard. The party leaves the palace and walks out into the cobbled streets….

I hope that everybody enjoyed our latest “Vanished Lands” sessions, and remember to make sure that your characters are up to date on Obsidian Portal. Remember that the “New Dawntelecom team won’t be meeting on Sunday, Nov. 23.

I look forward to continuing our adventures in December, as well as to concluding Rich’s Hunter: the Reckoning miniseries and preparing for Jason E.R.’s “Channel 37” dimension-hopping scenario! Other likely one-shots around the holidays include myStar Trek: Restorationand D&D5e demos by Dexter V.H. and others.