Shifting Sands, chapter 1: Prologue

This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within a DnD 5e campaign.

Caravan

Our four protagonists, Madred, a dwarven fighter from clan Ironfist, “Sorrow”, a young tiefling sorcerer with infernal heritage, Gilda, a human barbarian who has already fought in a war and Kriv, a male dragonborn ranger who has recently awoken from hibernation have received a task from the rich Merchant Lord Drazan. They are on a quest to retrieve a jewel called the Titan´s Heart from a ruined temple in the desert. To this end, he has handed them a cylindrical object, a key of sorts. 

The group begins their adventure as part of a caravan, on a journey from Monsa Kut to Razal Kut. However, they will not be with the caravan for the whole journey, on the tenth day, the caravan leader Urgond, a dragonborn, informs them that they are now as near to the temple as the caravan will go. 

Amidst the caravan folk, a few other hikers stand out: A female dwarf, armed to the teeth and occasionally communing with a tame hawk and a group of thugs, four humans and half-orcs. This group in particular evokes distrust in the group, as they take to keen an interest in them, never leaving them out of their eyes.
Madred tries to engage in conversation with her fellow dwarf, but her opposite is very brusque and rude, if not outright hostile, and does not share much about herself.

While she sets up magical wards to protect against the foul creatures of the night, Urgond asks them to reconsider their trip to the temple, because there are rumours that it is an evil place. Apparently, an effort to rebuild and re-purpose it as a trading post has already failed, the settlers who went there were never seen again.
However, the group remains firm in their decision to go there, but devises a ruse to shake off the other, suspicious travelers from their track.

They pretend to stay with the caravan until they reach the Camwata oasis, where the caravan will rest for several days, but in actuality, they sneak away in the middle of the night, with sleep magic taking care of the thug watching them.

The next day, they notice the dwarf´s hawk following and watching them from the sky. Their attempt to ambush her fails due to the presence of the hawk, so they confront her directly. There is a brief standoff and an argument whether they should kill her outright (mostly brought forth by Kriv), and the decision to take her with them, under watch, is made. She reveals herself to be Argil, a clan-less dwarf, which greatly upsets Madred, as the clan is the center of a dwarfs life.

The ruined temple

By noon of the following day, the group approaches their target. The temple is built upon a low plateau, and from their raised vantage point upon a dune, three approaches to the ruins present themselves:

A ramp which slopes up to plateau´s western flank, however, that side is occupied by a large number of kobolds who seem to be engaged in some kind of excavation; Occasionally, carts filled with rubble emerge from cavern-like entrances to the rock formation and are loaded off outside. Luckily, the kobolds do not notice the group yet.
In the middle of the structure, a rocky path can be climbed up to reach the top, and in the east, a temple-like entrance of worked stone presents itself. This last approach is the one the group agrees on.

As they enter the stone edifice they find themselves in a square chamber with entrances on each side, one of which is collapsed, completely blocked by rubble.
The floor of the chamber is covered with what seem to be pieces of plate armor, and two bodies, apparently slain by bladed weapons. It is obvious to the group that these two have been killed by a trap, their corpses lying upon on a pressure plate hidden within the stone tiles of the floor.

After a brief investigation, they decide to depart via the left-hand corridor, which soon takes a right angle and leads up a set of stairs into the remains of a long ceremonial hall. Statues and pillars line the left wall of the tunnel, but a huge section of the floor is missing, revealing a chasm below, from which a clamor of tiny voices and the clanging of metal on stone can be heard.
Sorrow takes a vigilant look over the edge, only to be greeted by the sight of hundreds of kobolds, engaged in some kind of mining operation, transporting debris out of a tunnel leading further into the depths. With her darkvision, she also observes a beast, bear-sized with large spiraling horns, jailed in an iron cage.
She quickly recedes from the fissure without being seen or heard, and the group elects to venture back, to explore the opposite corridor.

Temple map: side view
Sketch of the temple: side view (inaccurate)

On the other side, a similar ceremonial hall is found, tough this one withstood the test of time better than the left one. The floor is intact, and there are also Statues and Pillars lined up along the left wall. The right one, however, looks distinctly different. Instead of bricks and stone blocks, this one is composed of huge curved pillars, emerging from the floor and disappearing in the ceiling. Between them, the northern sky is visible. Kriv and Madred deduce that these arches are not made of stone, but rather seem to be grown of ivory or bone.

Slowly and methodically the protagonists traverse this hallway, avoiding several of the pressure plates they had seen in the entrance hall. Near the set of pillars and statue, a problem presents itself tough: A loose boulder has fallen from the ceiling and smashed right onto the last of the pressure plates. Luckily, they spot the glint of blue in the last statue, a suit of armor, complete with sword and shield.

From a distance, Kriv fires an arrow into the eye of the statue, and sure enough, it begins trudging towards them, raising it´s enormous blade. A slew of projectiles and spells brings it down, just before it can take it´s first swing at Madred. Fortunate, as she might have been pushed onto one of the pressure plates the group had averted previously.
As they sift through the broken remains of the construct, they notice that Argil used the brief skirmish to get away from them.

Without tarrying any longer, they advance through the passageway at the far end of the hall, into a curving corridor. A faint breeze seems to pass them, and they begin to suspect that the name Titan´s grave could perhaps be taken literally…

They arrive at an intersection, with two more corridors similar to the one they emerged from, and on the opposite side a larger one, from which daylight can be seen. The group briefly inspects this exit, only to find that it leads to the kobold encampment they had seen earlier. Instead, they venture downwards into the center corridor, which soon leads into a circular chamber with a pillar reaching up into the darkness.

Gilda, Madred, Sorrow and Kriv take great care in exploring this room, certain that there has to be anything apart from the two entrances, the one they came from and another which leads deeper into the complex. But neither Madred´s expertise in stone masonry nor any of the other´s investigations reveal the purpose of this chamber.

Kobolds!

Abruptly, they are torn from their ruminations by screeching kobold voices from the upper entrance, and they decide to flee into the opposite tunnel, rather than risking a fight with what might be dozens of kobolds. This tunnel abruptly ends above the excavation site. The group manages to come to a stop before anyone falls below, but in the process make enough noise to alarm the digging creatures below as well.

With groups of the little critters behind and below them, quick decisions need to be made. They begin edging along the side of the chasm, without knowing what awaits them at the end of the ledge. Before all of them can cross the sill, a trio of winged kobolds flutter towards them, but a well-timed spell from Sorrow takes care of this situation. Falling asleep in mid-flight is not particularly healthy to these three and it buys the group enough time to arrive on the other side.

Still above the excavation site, they find themselves standing in front of another tunnel, leading yet deeper into the darkness.
In an effort to shake off their footslogging pursuers, Madred bashes the remains of the ledge. This leaves the chasing kobolds behind, but also the only known way out of the temple…

As they reach the lower end of this tunnel, it opens up into a rough sphere of a chamber, at the center of which stands a pedestal with the object they were sent to retrieve, the titan´s heart. Before they can admire it however, a jagged red energy arc flashes up from it, hitting Kriv square in the chest!
It does not seem to do anything to anyone else, so Gilda and Sorrow carefully examine it and quickly replace it with a boulder of similar size, in case there is some weight-based trap in place here.

It is a roughly melon-sized rock-like object with a ruby-like texture and it slowly pulses with crimson light from within. As Gilda takes hold of it, she has a brief impression of some kind of energy emanating from it, as if it is pushing straight into the ground.
As Kriv moves about the chamber he apparently gets too near to the stone again and gets struck with a scarlet energy beam again. As it only appears to be affecting him and nobody else, he takes care to stay as far from the item as he can, and heals himself.

Sketch of the temple, from above (also inaccurate)

Apart from the tunnel they came from, there are two more openings that lead away from the room. One, however quickly ends in another cave-in, which does not look like it will be easy to remove, so they take the second path, which leads them to a barricade made of wood. Through this barricade, more kobolds can be seen, workers, by the looks of it, transporting rubble and debris away from the dig site.

Escape

It appears that the heroes have reached the ground floor of this digging operation and they decide to risk breaking through the barrier and fighting their way out of the complex through these kobolds. Gilda breaks the rampart easily and they quickly make their way upwards, into the direction in which they think the exit might be. Before they get very far, a group of kobolds armed with spears assaults them, but the group makes quick work of them, especially as the stone becomes active again, blasting multiple of the creeps with vermilion lightning.

Quickly, they continue up the fissure, and after a brief walk, they see the caged beast ahead, as well as another group of kobolds. Sorrow however, spots the ledge from which she observed the beast earlier and suggests climbing up, to get back into familiar territory. Just as they begin their ascent, Kriv hears the kobolds converse in his native language, draconic. Apparently they are about to release the creature from it´s cage to attack the group. Luckily, the climb is not too hard and they aid each other to get back up to the ruined ceremonial hall.

With haste, they flee the temple before more kobolds can arrive, only taking care to not step on any trapped floor plates on their way out. They cross the square hall where they first entered the temple and run out into the scorching afternoon sun.

Just as they begin heading east towards the oasis, thinking themselves safe, a huge winged being bursts out of the top of the temple, dragon-like in aspect and shape, but with a dark shimmer, as if it was merely a shadow. As it passes over them a burst of energy erupts out of the crystal, hitting the dragon in the chest. It´s soaring flight turns into an uncontrolled gliding descent, and it vanishes behind the dunes to the east…

Gamemaster´s perspective

This was my first time DMing Dungeons & Dragons, and it was very fun. It´s been a few weeks since then, so here are some brief notes:

  • I got to utter the phrase “hundreds of kobolds!”
  • Successful test of the “tension pool” mechanic from the Angry GM, and it was as good as advertised.
  • This was the first session in which I managed to stay within a reasonable timeframe, which is good.
  • This was initially supposed to become a one-shot, but during planning I noticed that I really liked the idea of a desert campaign, so I softened up the encounters a bit (a bit too much in fact) and built the temple in a way which gives the players multiple paths in as well as out.
  • I notice that I really like building location-based adventures. Designing the temple was really fun. The two sketches above are not the final version of the dungeon, because it was too hard to put into a 2D representation. It does exist in a very detailed version in my head, which was enough to hold the session. I only showed the actual maps to the players afterwards.
  • Second session in the campaign has already been played, I´ll probably write a report on that as well.
  • Dnd 5th edition seems to be a solid system, it makes it rather easy to do ad-hoc skill checks and rulings. I like it so far.
  • The players seemed to enjoy it, so I guess mission is accomplished.
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Campaign Diary: Ramas´ Journey, Part 1

Day 422

I have left the ship behind me earlier than I had planned. The sea made me uncomfortable. It is not sea sickness, but rather the waves and their sinuous movements. Despite the completely different element, they bear too much resemblance to the slowly shifting dunes of my former home.

I cannot yet bear being reminded me too much of Cuzar, so I left at the next harbor, the port city of King´s Cove.

This city, too, fills me with distaste, so I venture further inland. Maybe the forests in the north are quieter…

Day 521

Today, I decided to answer a call for a group of “adventurers”. I do not consider myself an adventurer, but I am short on coin and it might prove to be an interesting diversion.

Day 523

I arrive at the appointed time in a local tavern in “Waldruh”, a tiny village.
It´s a pleasant surprise to meet Atalla, a human druid, there.
We became acquainted a few weeks earlier, and it´s a joyous, if muted, reunion. She too came here to answer the call to adventure and we soon meet the other two that came to help: Gell, a half-orc and Glim, a gnome.

We do not have to wait for long, and a child arrives to bring us to our client´s abode.

After a brief walk we get to a mansion of sorts. The way it is built apart from the hamlet suggests either a position of rulership or a desire to be apart; I can not yet tell which it is.

Once inside, we are introduced to Ilaria, the lady of the house and a tiefling called Anathea, who is, to my understanding, a bodyguard of sorts. 
Without further ado, the nature of our task is revealed to us: Ilaria´s offspring, an infant named Tam has been abducted.
My companions take great interest in the reward, but I do not hesitate to begin questioning Ilaria, Anathea and Brokk, whose role is explained as a manservant of the house.
I frown at the idea of a person being a servant to another – it reeks of slavery – but keep my opinion to myself.

We begin by investigating the child´s room, only to find that there are no signs of a forceful entry into neither the mansion, nor the room. A piece of evidence presents itself however: A blue-white shred of fabric torn from a garment, a garment we have seen before on the personnel of the tavern!

I decide to interrogate the gnome, Brokk, about his duties and the night of the abduction. He is not particularly helpful, and I make it clear that in my culture, failure to protect the tribe´s children is punished by exile. What use is a member of the group if they can not commit to this simple, yet most crucial of tasks?
My remark earns me a round of shocked and exasperated looks.
Apparently, speaking openly is frowned upon in these parts. Still, I do not pursue this line of questioning any further; After all I am the stranger in these lands and I do not know these people´s customs very well.

My allies´s lines of questioning towards Ilaria and Anathea is regarding the motives of the abductors. Ilaria admits that she is not very fond of the inhabitants of the village… and that animosity is likely mutual. She thinks that the villager´s might have taken the child out of fear of the unknown, fear of the forest, maybe even fear of her? Apparently, she feels a greater connection to nature than her fellow humans, if the copious amount of paintings of the forest are any indication.

While I am processing this information, it dawns on me that there is not one, but two wrongdoings at work here:
The crime of abduction, but also the crime of neglect, either on the part of the manservant, or of the bodyguard.
Still, it may not be too late to bring back the child, so the sword of accusation will remain sheathed. For now.
We we venture back to the village to question Horok, the tavern owner.

On the way back, Gell suggests to go directly to the tavern servant´s house, as we have a strong suspicion that she is the one whose clothing was torn while taking the child.
I warn him that kicking a scorpion´s nest is never a good idea.
The metaphor is lost on the others, however.
Maybe they do not know what a scorpion is; I should familiarize myself with the wildlife in these northern forest, to find more apt metaphors.

Back in the tavern, we briefly talk to Horok, to find out how many serving personnel he employs and I also ask him if he feels any animosity from the villagers, him being a half-orc. He denies it and we speak of it no further.
Apparently, the villagers´ fear of the other does not extend to half-orcs.

In the meantime, some local youths have gathered in the bar room, among them the serving girl Ella, our main suspect.
We concoct a plan to engage them in conversation, while Glim sneakily takes a peek at her coat, to see if the shred of cloth actually belongs to her or not.
However, the discussion gets heated and ends with the girl storming out into the night. The boy Grim, who also seems to know something about the matter, follows her, but I manage to corner him and begin questioning him.

The youth is clearly frightened of us and spouts some nonsense about “doing what had to be done”, similar to the impression I had of the girl Ella. I briefly lose my temper and lift him up by the scruff of his neck, pin him against the wall and demand to know what exactly is going on. He does not get much more specific than before, but he points me toward a spot at the fringes of the forest. Is this where the girl ran to?
I leave him with a warning, that it is never a good idea to start a war against the unknown, lest it fight back.
He too fails to comprehend.

We make our way towards the forest edge, to where the boy indicated. Sure enough there is a path, lightly trodden, but clearly visible, and we begin marching into the gloomy thicket. Night is falling, and as we trudge along the narrow path, surrounded by thorny undergrowth, my thoughts begin to drift a little…

The atmosphere is unsettling, menacing even. I am unsure whether there should be more animal noises from the forest or less.
Some of my companions can see in the dark, but Atalla and I can not, so we light a pair of torches to guide our way. The flames cast eerie, flickering shadows and I have the sensation of being watched. Maybe the villagers´ fear is not entirely unfounded and there is indeed something lurking in these woods?

After a time we come upon a clearing, with some manner of shrine at the center, but before we can investigate it, a trio of arrows swish past us, and I hear the screeching tongue of goblins.
I spot one of them in the clearing and start charging toward it. My allies return fire with Javelin and bow, while Atalla summons a mass of vines which entangles a second of the fiends.

Just before I can reach my foe, a third one bursts out of the scrubs to my left and slashes open my thigh. Still, I continue towards the first one, trusting in the ability of my companions to keep the second off my back. It´s only goblins after all. As my foe nocks their next arrow, I grasp it by the neck, lift it up and demand surrender, using their own foul tongue.
It shrieks something about it being too late, and someone coming. I have no idea what it means and begin restraining it, while behind me the sounds of battle fade. My associates have killed the greenskin behind me and knocked the third one unconscious.

Just as we begin to bind them with rope, we hear a child´s cry, from the direction of the shrine…

This is written from the view of Ramas, a character I play in a DnD 5th Editition campaign. Ramas is a first level Fighter.

Nephilim – Chapter 5: Acquistion

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within our Nephilim RPG campaign. It serves to give some context to the fiction I post, as well as simply practicing writing.)

Chapter 5: Acquistion

Synopsis

Last time we saw our heroes, they have secured an Earth Plexus in a cave/sewer network beneath Berlin. Having secured the Earth Plexus, our protagonists are presented with an unexpected situation by Skaro.

She has obtained information about two manuscripts that might contain more modern writings about Golems (not the clay prototyp developed in 17th century Prague), but they are part of a private collection that is being auctioned off.

Two sets of two invitations are granted to the group, and they will have to get creative in order to get the fifth person into the venue.

Skaro has also provided funds, 400.000€, and an additional 25.000€ in cash.

Arrival at the venue

The auction is held at a private mansion, and the group arrives fairly early.
Finistur summons her kabbalistic sword and armor and deposits them in the group´s jeep, “just in case”. With a bit of magical assistance from Gealach, Sil’Faron, in his identity of Bernd Schiffer, manages to dupe the doormen that the 17 year old Kek is actually his son. The bouncers are quite dazzled by the charismatic display, and let them all in.

Sha Naqba Imuru and Sil’Faron have received bidder numbers for the auction, while the others are only present as their aquaintances.

Once inside, our protagonists survey the list of items that will be auctioned off.

  • The two manuscripts by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz they came for
  • Three paintings of archangels (Jophiel, Raphael and Gabriel)
  • Three french books
  • A horrendous looking sculpture of a melting person

Photo of the auction programme and list of items
Photo of the auction programme and list of items

Lounging & Socialising

Before the auctions are starting, the group socialisies with the other attendees, finding four other Nephilim among them. This makes for a total of nine Nephilim present, a staggering number, considering how far apart they are usually. An illustrious gathering indeed.
They approach all of them, to find out where they stand regarding the acquisition of the manuscripts.

Surprisingly, Joris, who is known to the group as Tanja, is present. She wants to spy out the humans, to find out which ones belong to secret societies. She´s also here under a fake identity, Anna Michalska.

Finistur meets the englishwoman Caitlin Sanders, a Fire Nephilim incarnated into an elderly woman. She is interested int he sculpture and the painting of the Archangel Raphael, and also wants the other items to go into Nephilim hands, as opposed to the grubby fingers of mundane humans. She claims to be willing to destroy the merchandise otherwise.

Gealach has a brief chat with a dark-haired woman named Francesca, a Moon Nephilim.
She appears to be a direct competitor for the two Schwaller manuscripts.

Kek, and later Gealach, engage in a Poker game in the mansion´s Gentleman´s Club, with a young man called Eduard Miller. He savagely cheats at the game, using concealed magic to embarass a player to leave the game during a large pot. Afterwards, Kek approaches him to find out about the auction. Mr. Miller first claims to only be here “for the people”, but later admits that his patrons are interested in one of the french books, Der Kampf ums Dasein am Himmel, which contains only “beginner level” arcane knowledge.

There are also a number of notable “regular” humans among the crowd of about 50 people present, some of them obviously not interested in the occult. Sil’Faron manages to talk a pompous man named Marco Probst, who obviously has no appreciation for literature, into believing that the Schwaller manuscripts are not originals.

A few guests seem to have suddenly become quite sick, requiring an ambulance. A coincidence? Too much sparkling wine? Spoiled hors d’oeuvre? Unlikely.

Auction round one

The first round of auctions starts, and the group silently observes the proceedings, without any interest for the french books. Two of these go to Eduard Miller and his associates, the third to an unremarkable collector.

They make a bid for one of the Angel paintings, but it goes to Mrs. Sanders, as does the disgusting sculpture. She seems pleased, and so does Mr. Probst, who buys the two remaining paintings.

Kek notices a man and a woman who appear to be more interested in the guests than the auction themselves, taking pictures of the high bidders. He shadows them for the remainder of the evening.

Sil’Faron is approached by the woman named Francesca, who offers a bounteous 100.000€ simply for him not bidding on the manuscripts, but he declines, knowing how important these books are for the group.

Before the manuscripts are auctioned off, there is a dinner break, and Gealach manages to confuse Mr. Probst with her alchemical arts. He is now more interested in indulging in the sumptuous buffet than the auction.

blog_auction_map
A map of the auction venue, the mansion of Katrin Frueh

Auction round two

This is the main event, the Schwaller manuscripts are up. Quite a number of bidders is missing from the room, due to mysterious illness and sudden hunger flashes.

As soon as the first manuscript, The Temple Of Man, is presented, Gealach creates a visual illusion of water damage upon the book, which scares several more bidders off.

Sil’Faron gets the high bid, with 105.000€, which leaves the group with 325.000€, and the hope that they can pay in cash or leverage some Sil’Faron´s private savings.

Having conserved so much cash, they win the bid war for the second manuscript, The Temple In Man, as well, with Francesca being the only serious contender.

She stomps off angrily, and the two frenchmen seems to follow her to the parking lot. Kek notices this, and he and Finistur decide to take a shortcut over the terrace, while Sil’Faron and Sha Naqba Imuru retrieve their acquisitions.

Trouble at the parking lot

Francesca speeds off in her sports car, completely oblivious of the fact that she is being followed by the two strangers.

Kek holds them up at their automobile, demanding to know why they took so many photographs, but the situation rapidly devolves into violence, as one of them draws a gun.
Kek drags the driver from the car, throws him against the next vehicle, and goes to cover.

The second stranger seizes the opportunity and tries to escape with the car, but she did not take into account the presence of Finistur, who has retrieved her kabbalistic blade from her Jeep. The entire left backside of the Peugot is sliced apart, including the axle. This car will not drive anywhere anytime soon.

The suspects are quickly knocked out and stuffed into the jeep´s trunk. Tanja arrives, and after a quick surveying of the situation, returns to the house to get the rest of group.

Four things are in possession of our heroes now. The two manuscripts, which hopefully contain enough knowledge to construct a working Golem, as well as two unconscious people, whom Kek suspects to be Templar operatives…

Gamemaster´s Perspective

This was an interesting session to prepare. I had four goals in mind when I did this:

  • Advance the main plot, by bringing more of the Golem related knowledge in reach of the players
  • Have only one event in a session, not multiple
  • Provide a setting where the non-violent characters can show their strenghts
  • Introduce some actual human NPCs, instead of too many Nephilim

Preparation was interesting insofar as I wanted an interesting set of bidders present, as well as the opportunity for the players to screw themselves up by being greedy. I intentionally did not make up a bidding strategy or similar things, only a list of “high-profile” bidders that would compete for the four important items of the auction.

The players showed remarkable restraint in their bidding, which allowed them to have enough money left for both manuscripts. For me personally, this meant that there was a foregone conclusion: I knew that none of the NPCs could beat the player´s on the final auction, which took out a bit of tension for me, but the players assured me that they didn´t notice. 🙂

On the flip-side, some NPCs have powerful artifacts in their hands now as well, which might become relevant at a later time. The disgusting statue is actually a focus for a very powerful Fire spell.

What I did not like was the fact that I had to juggle too many NPCs, and thus could not flesh out their characters too much. I´ll have to work on that.

Between this session and the one before, I also had solo sessions with two of the players, which advanced several side-plots that were opened up during the beginning of the campaign. I will not discuss them here, as there is too much character knowledge in these, that I want to separate from player knowledge 🙂

Nephilim – Chapter 3 “Hunters and Gatherers”

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis / battle report of the a session within my Nephilim RPG campaign. This serves to give some context to the fiction I post.)

Synopsis

Meeting Harvey

Sha Naqba Imuru manages to catch Harvey Reeves, another follower of the Chariot Arcanum, while he is still in Berlin.

At first, they have a bit of trouble confirming each others identity, both of them being rather suspicious of the other. Luckily, each one of them can prove that they indeed are the right person, and no blood is shed.

Harvey has a lot of information for Sha Naqba Imuru to take in:
With a machine of his own design, he detected the incarnation event of each of the five Nephilim that Skaro had gathered to her, except that there was a sixth signal, which he could not triangulate properly.

He also knows about a bit about Golems, and gives up some promising leads.

After a while, Sha Naqba Imuru departs, but not empty-handed. He has received a mysterious bronze cube, that is supposed to teach him a lot… if he should manage to activate it.

A night at the Musem

Sil’Faron is the only one of the group who is not in possession of his stasis object yet, and he is planning to rectify this shortcoming.
His stasis is still held within the Pergamon museum and the group decides to break in at night to liberate it.

After careful scouting of the area, watching the guard cycles, they settle on entering via the roof.
They quickly locate the stasis in a room filled with debris, and learn that a Moon plexus is present at the main attraction of the museum, the Pergamon Altar.

Everything goes according to plan, until Gealach discovers that the object of their desire is locked within a glass vitrine, which she breaks, alarming the security guards that were patroling the area.
The group manages to leave the roof with the item, but are cornered on the backside of the museum, with guards approaching from both directions.

Gealach subdues one with an alchemical spell, putting him to sleep.

Sha Naqba Imuru however, had a different opinion on how this engagement would proceed. His solution is less gentle: He shoots, and kills, one of the guardsmen, allowing the group to escape.

After this display of violence, almost all of the other security people back down, they aren´t paid nearly enough to stand in a killer´s path.
One of them thinks himself a hero and pursues, but is swiftly knocked out by Kek.

Our protagonists flee  before the police arrives, and an argument ensues, mainly between Gealach, who opposes the killing of innocent humans, and Sha Naqba Imuru, who sees no fault in his actions. After all, one cannot build a Golem from inside a prison…

The following weeks

In the weeks that follow, some of the group visit Skaro alone, and Kek learns that his wish to meet someone from his Arcanum will be granted sooner than expected.
A warrior from the Strength Arcanum named Theseus is on his way towards Berlin, and has agreed to meet Kek and Skaro at the Hall of Justice.
Finistur dreams again, of the night in Düren, a park in the modern age, and again, of the night black cat with the strangely colored eyes…
Cat3border

Gamemaster´s perspective

This was an interesting session in which I learned quite a bit about game mastering.
The meeting between Sha Naqba Imuru (one of the players) and Harvey was very interesting, but maybe a bit too long, so the others had to wait a bit too much.

The museum scenario was an experiment.
I did not prepare much, only a map (based on the real Pergamon museum, which you can see here.).
I made some NPCs for the guards and set up a basic patrol routine. That´s it.

I made no plans on how the players would engage with this and offered no help.
I could have imagined any of the following:
  • A frontal assault (two out of the five players have very combat focussed avatars.)
  • An Ocean´s Eleven style operation (I´m actually not sure if I pushed the players towards an entry at night or if that was just the obvious option)
  • A mission impossible style “smash and grab” through the roof, which the group did.

An interesting idea that came up was to break into the basement and work their way upwards. This would have put me in an interesting spot, since I obviously had no map for the basement. I would have like to see this. 🙂

 

Nephilim – Chapter 2: Allies

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis of the last session we had with our Nephilim RPG group, to give some context to the other posts. Don´t worry, some non-RPG, non-Nephilim stuff will come up soon. I also might write a quick summary of chapter 1, which was the opening session.)

Chapter 2: Allies

Sunday, 9th day of the month of  April, 2017 AD

Visiting the Dojo

On Yxdri´s Advice, the protagonists visit The Dojo, a high-class martial arts establishment, where they meet with the brothers, Eresh Szat and Eresh Khan, of the Justice Arcanum.

They learn that this is still not their final destination, and that they will have to swear a magical oath in order to meet with Skaro. They do so, in the Hall Of Justice, which is a hidden, cathedral-like underground structure, situated directly under the Dojo.

The oath is a spell of Ritual Magic, which Eresh Szat teaches to all members of the group. It requires them to swear upon their blood and the elements, to not harm each other or Skaro for the next eleven years.
Failure to do so promises a dire punishment.

While Sil’Faron peruses the library in the hall, Eresh Khan challenges Sha Naqba Imuru and the others to a practice duel.
They return to the Dojo, where Kek proceeds to demolish Eresh Khan as well as his two newfound friends Sha Naqba Imuru and Finistur, to the amazement of Gealach and an increasing crowd of onlookers.

Meeting Skaro

The oath being sworn, nothing stops them from meeting Skaro anymore; Eresh Szat brings them to her tower, which is apparently a skyscraper in the middle of Berlin. The group is told that they are being expected, and enter an elevator.

As they exit the lift, they are surrounded by impenetrable clouds of white smoke, and the being known as Skaro, the mistress of the white tower reveals itself to be a lithe, elderly woman; an Angel Nephilim of the Wheel of Fate Arcanum.

Three of our heroes learn that Skaro has put events in motion to awaken them from stasis, culminating in their arrival here.
She immediately hands over Gealach´s stasis, a gold bracelet inlaid with saphires, as a token of good will.

Finistur and Kek were not expected, but are not unwelcome, they are offered to join the effort, if they so desire.

The task

 

The Angel reveals to the group that she wants them to construct a Golem for her, and have it be at a certain place at a certain time, more than a year ahead.

Specifically, Sil’Faron is to acquire the magical formulae required to make a Golem, Sha Naqba Imuru is tasked with the physical construction of the Golem, and finally, Gealach should perform the necessary rituals to infuse it with life.

She offers them this as a form of deal, where she helps them with their goals, whatever they may be, while they help her tread the Golden Path toward Agartha (which she offers no specifics about).
It is also implied that by freeing them from stasis, the three of them are in her debt.

The topic of Sil’Faron´s stasis comes up as well; Skaro assumes that it still resides within the Pergamon museum, where she had it placed. The Templars must have simply missed it.

While this conversation took place,  Sil’Faron dispelled the magical fog, only to reveal to the group that, apparently, they are on the roof of the skyscraper… but the landscape below does not look like Berlin… in fact, there is not even a city.

They also find a large number of chess boards, one of them apparently new, with representations of them placed upon an empty board.

Sha Naqba Imuru finally gets some insight onto the identity of Harvey Reeves, a tinkerer of the Chariot Arcanum, who aided Skaro in freeing the group from their stasis; He receives a business card and the name of the hotel Harvey resides in.

Stepping back into the real world

As they return from the tower, a great deal of revelation heaped upon, and a grand task ahead of them, they part ways for the moment.

The following night, Finistur has a dream, featuring memories of her former life as Ferdinand, a 9th century knight, particularly a night in which she aided the Tower Arcanum in rescuing a group of Nephilim from a secret society.

However, mixed in with the memories is the recurring image of a black cat, gazing at her with a green and blue eye…

 

Nephilim – “Suspicion”

(Disclaimer: This is for my Nephilim RPG players, if it read´s like a random part from the middle of a story…. that is correct, because it is just that.)

Suspicion

Berlin, 3AM CEST, Joris arrives at Bergmannstrasse 57.

I approach Yxdri´s office, hoping that the newcomers have left by now.
I watched them fight, and they seem to be decent folk, if a little confused, but right now, I need to talk to him alone.
The light is still on, and their cars are gone.

Good.

I slip in through the unlocked back door, and make my way to the ‘waiting room for exotic animals’. He still thinks this joke is funny, even thought everybody knows it´s where he goes to smoke.

As I press my ear to the door, the veterinarian´s soft voice announces: “Enter, they are gone.”
I abide, and find him sitting on the worn out leather sofa. A smoky haze and the smell of marihuana fill the room.
Temperance1.png

Sitting down on the other couch, I remark “You are quite perceptive, for a stoner.”

“No, You just have become quite predictable. I knew you´d come back to talk. I´ve been waiting.”
He takes a puff from his joint, and leans back his head, smoke slowly rising from his mouth. Of course he is right, I have spent the last four hours driving through the rain, trying to calm the thoughts racing inside my head.

The Templars´ return, the new arrivals, the leak, so much has happened today.

“Earlier, you became quite agitated when I mentioned Skaro´s name. You even called her a traitor.” he continues.
I´m surprised he wants to discuss this. “That´s not at all what I wanted to talk about – ”

He sits up abruptly, his dizziness replaced by an ire I didn´t expect from him. “Really? You brought this up earlier. When they were here. You wanted them to hear it, why not me?” He is becoming louder, “It´s getting worse every time. What was it you told the last group that came here? ‘She is not to be trusted.’? What´s next? Will you hand them a gun, tell them to shoot her?”

“I…”, I start, but he interrupts me again. “This has to stop. At this point you are basically just slandering her. You´re helping no one, not even yourself.”

This is where I finally get a word in, “It´s not slander if there is truth to it. She could have helped. Instead, Khavesh died. Perhaps worse. It is her fault!”

The elf sighs, slumping back into his sofa. “This again. We talked about this so many times, you just can´t let go. You´re the most stubborn Nephilim I´ve ever met. 1600 years is a long time to hold a grudge.”

I really do not want to talk about this right now, I try to derail the conversation a little, “Have you ever met Theseus? I think he has me beat by a few centuries. Besides, 1600 years is also a long time to mourn a dead friend.”

“No, I haven´t met him, but I can´t believe he is as persistent as you are,” he ponders. “Maybe he´s at least working towards settling his grudge, whatever it is, instead of just being angry at the world? You´re just dragging her name through the mud, and that serves no one, the least of all Khavesh. You are so full of energy, but you are wasting it on being angry instead of productive! Maybe he can be restored? But you don´t even try!”

I stand up rapidly. He´s really pushing my buttons now. “What the fuck am I supposed to do? I stand alone against two secret societies, maybe even three! I can´t just run off to seek out his stasis?! I wouldn´t even know which continent to look on!”

A thought pushes itself to the front of my mind. The secret societies , the Templars!

Focus!

I snap out of my anger. Try to calm him down as well.
“We have no time for this. The Templars are back in Berlin. This is why I came back, what I wanted to talk to you about. We´re in deep shit.”

Yxdri looks puzzled at the sudden change of topic, “Yes, of course. You already told me that.”

“No”, I reply, “They are back, yes, but that´s not the real problem. It´s the timing. Ten years of silence, and now they just happen to stumble back into Berlin, steal the stases that we wanted right from under our noses? This can´t be a coincidence.”

He strokes his chin, the anger forgotten momentarily, uncertainty, perhaps fear, in it´s stead. “You think someone tipped them off?”

Back to familiar territory, this is what I am good at.
“I´m not sure, either someone tipped them off, or we have some kind of information leak. They might have infiltrated the CT, and they in turn might have shadowed me, ” I pause for a moment, ” or Skaro has a traitor in her employ.”

His glares at me, the agitation resurfacing, “Again with this traitor nonsense. You -”

This time it´s me who interrupts him. “No, I mean someone who betrayed her. It has happened before.”.

He shakes his head. “No, that´s impossible. You wouldn´t know, but she now let´s the brothers have everyone swear an oath, a magically binding one, to not harm her in any way. Nobody gets to even see her before that.”
“Smart.” I say, “Hmmm, It´s obviously not the new guys either. Wouldn´t make sense for them to tip off the Templars, only to then slaughter them like cattle.”
BlastedTower1

My mind is working on full speed now, juggling ideas on how to handle this situation.

Step One. Find the problem and eliminate it.
“You should ask her who was involved in this museum stunt. All of them could be the leak. And all of them are in danger.”

Doubt creeps into his look, “But you know how she is, with her secrets, she won´t just tell me the names of all those people.”

I interject, “I know how she is, secretive, cryptic, obtuse. But she´s not stupid. Explain the situation to her, and she will understand. After all, what use is her high tower, when every one of her agents on the ground is murdered by Templars.”

Step two. Secure the perimeter. “Oh, and also get rid of all your mobile phones, get new email addresses and everything, maybe even move. Talk to people in person, so that you can´t be monitored that easily. Also tell that to her recruits, they are new to the twenty-first century, they might not be used to this yet.”

“Right. I´ll see what I can do. What will you do?”

Step three. Counter-Intelligence, Counter-Attack. “I will lay low for a while. Watch from the shadows, see if they are setting up a stronghold in Berlin. Wait for them to make a mistake. We have driven out of Berlin before. We can do it again.”

“I hope so… “, he changes the topic, ” ‘Slaughtered like cattle’ you say, so the new ones are powerful? Maybe they can help?”.

I think back to the skirmish for a moment, “Maybe. They seemed to favour raw force and physical combat instead of magic or stealth. But yeah, they made quick work of the Templars without me. Caught them in a pincer movement, sent the armored girl in first. So at least one of them has an idea of tactics I guess.”

His eyes light up, and he voices an idea. “Perhaps one of them can help you find Khavesh´s stasis afterwards? There are two more of them than usual.”

“Perhaps. One step at a time.” A yawn escapes my lips. ” I´m tired, let´s speak of this tomorrow. Can I crash at your place tonight?”

“Always.”

Nephilim – Prologue

The sky is almost clear today. A good omen.

After the incident in Japan, I am left with little choice, I must find help from outside.
Of those available to me, a careful selection has been made:
The alchemist, the centrepiece of my strategy.
I would have preferred someone a little more predictable, but alas, I am not spoiled for choice.
The spearhead could prove to be the creative, driving force for this operation. The symbol seems quite appropriate.
And last, but not least, the scholar will be necessary to acquire the proper tomes and formulae. I imagine them to be the thinker in this trio.
All of them were alive in recent times, so they should not have too much trouble adjusting to the new millennium.

If my information is correct, they even had prior contact, in the 19th century, this should maximize the chance of cooperation.

All the preparations for their release have been made:

By careful manipulation of the museum administration, the three stasis objects are in place. 

Harvey has set up his devices; This was very expensive for me, he actually demanded two favours for this.
I reluctantly agreed, on the condition that he name his first one right now.
To my surprise, he demanded money, an obscene amount of it, but still, only money, an easily fulfilled request.
In turn, he offered to contact the spearhead himself and put in a good word for me.

He stands to gain even more out of this deal, if his new machine works, which I do not doubt, the Merkabah will make him an initiate immediately.

And finally, Akim, he resides in a hotel near the museum, just waiting for my signal.
His task will actually be the easiest, the casting of a single spell, but such an important one.

I think I will call him personally, just this one time, for the sake of old times.

An endeavour of this magnitude should have a bit of a personal touch.

The board is prepared, the bets are placed, the pieces have been selected.
Time to place them on the board.
 

Awaken.

– Journal entry from the private archive of Skaro, Sunday, second day of April in the year  2017 AD, translated from handwritten Adamic script.