Saturday, July 13, 2019

Lost Magic

Much is lost to history. The fey kingdoms are no more. The Shadow Realm has sundered from the Material Realm taking with it demon knowledge. What’s left of giants is more animal than man. The Ancients abandoned their ship in the sky and are now buried in their adopted home. The nomadic tribes of man and their old traditions survive in fables only. The Nobles have faded from the living world and their cousins the Thegn have withdrawn to areas unknown. Died with them, each and all, is their spellcraft. Yet the magic still lingers.
Rune Magic
Rune magic was once the spellcraft of trolls. Long ago, the civilization of troll-kind spanned west Greywood and lasted over a thousand years. Not until The Great Sundering and The Change did the old troll cities disappear under fairy mounds.
Rune magic survives in the script of the Ýr. Though they don’t remember its true meanings, the Ýr still use it for good luck charms and customs. This script is called Gramword. If one can learn the secrets of Gramword, these runes can be used to cast spells.
To use this magic, touch the inscribed rune and spend at least 1 Power. The rune produces a singular effect. For example, a rune that says Push will push the inscribed thing a number of feet. The amount of power spent affects the size of the thing; the spell dice result determines numerical effects such as a resistance value or feet traveled. The effects must be instantaneous. The rune can only translate to one word, such as Open, Hide, Light, Strengthen, Break, and the like. Spellcasters may forgo their spells chosen from their archetype’s spell pool to learn Rune Magic or can spend one point from their spell pool to learn one specific rune.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Newest version of The Northern Realm Gamebook: 
The Northern Realm part 1

Newest version of The Northern Realm Worldbook: 
The Northern Realm part 2

Download to use hyperlinks

Change log:

This is a major update.
CR and AR (effectively the Difficulty Class and Armor Class of D&D) are no more. Checks are broken down into two types:

1. Opposing checks. Attacks, battling Wills, hiding and the like are measured against an opposing roll. For example, a warrior attacks another warrior with an arming sword. He rolls 2d6 + bonuses (usually Dex) versus the defender 1d6 + bonuses (usually Dex + armor). If his number exceeds the defenders', the attack succeeds.

2. Roll under checks (short for roll equal to or under). Skills and anything that required a CR or DC before are generally now what is called a roll under check. A roll under check is a single d6 roll measured against one ability. For example, a magician with 3 Intellect wants to make a roll under check to recall information about a certain spell. The magician rolls one d6. If the result is 3 or less, she can recall the information, otherwise she does not.

Attributes have been changed to skills and were updated. This is a bit of a subtle change, but it's to enforce the idea that what's listed under the example classes is interchangeable with the general skills.

Actions cannot be repeated, but characters can do two actions per round or two immediate actions out of turn, or one of each every round. Some skills let you repeat specific actions.

Combat is broken into three options: attacking, grappling, and called shots. Called shots are simply another way of attacking but with specific results.

Armor bonuses are updated to reflect more fair odds but also reinforce the idea that tactics in combat are more important than hacking away at opponents. 

Plate armor protects the wearer from critical damage.

Armor is no longer categorized into light and heavy. Armor penalties scale up as the bonus increases and fatigue the wearer. 

Ranged attacks are updated. Effective range is shorter, but hits lodge missiles into targets.

Scrolls and tomes let spellcasters cast spells they can't memorize.

Spellcasters can only memorize spells with levels less than their Intellect.

Identical dice effect is rearranged, slightly less brutal. Some skills let you bypass it if you cast certain spells. Idea being you don't fuck up stuff you're good at or are used to casting. Fuck ups are relogated to when you dump an insane amount of power into things.

Injuries reduce rolls by 1d6 or lower ability scores by 1 for roll under checks. 

Conditions are Injuries but can have additional or more specific effects.

Knockouts are gone, but characters can still be knocked unconscious only can't guarantee they wont die (choking out is most effective way to violently neutralize opponents without killing them).

Major change to death scenario. Characters can now stay in the fight when reduced to 0 Life, but make shock checks to stay conscious and gain Injuries.

Many minor changes to descriptions and wording in item abilities, etc. to reflect updated rules (in particular roll under checks, armor bonuses, and changes to the nature of injuries and conditions).

Book 2 is updated. Creature statistics are updated.

An ongoing theme with creatures is weaknesses. Most monsters have a weakness that can be exploited.  

Wizard specialization skill benefits and drawbacks have been balanced. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Cracked Mirror

Magda Zwierzchowska
The Black Tower
The Black Tower has loomed over the barren rock of the cove for as many generations of Ýr
 as had lived in the north- and never had anyone entered or exited its doorless walls. Who built this solitary structure and for what purpose? Before the Ýr 
there was no one, just this featureless spire of black granite.
The Creature
At the top of the cove, Carrum and Wyn watched. A shadow crept between the crags of the rock shore and ocean spray. They wondered, even hoped the shadow was a simple trick of light and coastal fog, but there was no mistaking its irregular movements. As it made its way to the tower, the voices on the wind, a now familiar din that seemed to rise from the crashing waves, beckoned with the word, “Come.” It drew them to the Black Tower, that daunting monolith that had stood benignly for all the generations of Ýr. It was a simple ruin, nothing more than an ominous monument to the unknown had now become a familiar terror as if it had bubbled up from depths of Ýr memory. The shadow creature reached the tower foundations.
Despite their muted senses, the appearance of an archway on the belly of the tower elicited gasps from the near hypnotized Ýr on the cove top. The words from the crashing surf, “Come,” seemed to echo now from that darkened space beyond the archway. For mere moments, Carrum and Wyn hesitated but they could not resist the tower’s call.
The Facets
Inside the tower, there is a spiraling pathway that climbs the walls of the otherwise hollow tower. Once past the tower entrance, it disappears, so seemingly there is no way out. Up the spiral pathway, there appears as many ‘floors’ as there are characters, each with an open portal. Each leads to an alien place that leaves the characters with a growing sense of familiarity, which will become clear with time, especially once the third and last door is explored.
The First Door
Beyond the first door is a setting that best represents the primal personality and character traits of one character. This door is the past. Here you discover there are quadrants, each with a different society and environment, and at the center is a black tower, visible from all places within this strange place. At certain vantages, it seems miles tall. What’s more, there are as many quadrants as there are characters. Note, all this information isn’t revealed to the characters right away. Let on to these resemblances slowly. For example, a quadrant that represents a forest warden might be a vast woodland populated with a strange people that worship a savage god. The door exits in a place of significance in each quadrant. Exploring it will reveal many places and things that are extreme representations of the character, its memories, traits, and important possessions. There is only one outlier in each representative place, a story of Munin, a man or god that seems to play a role somehow.
The Second Door
Beyond the second door is a setting that best represents another character but in a much more civil, organized manner, for example, a sprawling capital city with many people and clear class structures.  This door is the present. Speaking with the inhabitants of this place will reveal the previously explored quadrant and its inhabitants are now merely remembered as a long-ago history or myth. In this quadrant, there is a growing tension between it and its neighbors, an impending war, which again Munin seems to have recorded or been involved somehow. The tower stands at the middle of this environment as well. If asked about the whereabouts of this Munin every quadrant has its own myth about his involvement and residence.
 The Third Door
Last, beyond the third door is again a setting that represents another character but this time-warped and strange. For example, a city lit with fireless lamps, abandoned except for one mind-bending inhabitant that is now more worm than man. This door is the future. Discover in this place that all other quadrants have been conquered. At this point, the world appears bleak as if breaking down. Tales of Munin now tell of an old decrepit man that’s death will bring about the rebirth of the world. It is said his lair is in the mountains above the door entrance to this place. Going there will reveal a strange temple with idols that resemble the characters and doors that open to dangerous creatures that once resided in previous iterations of other quadrants.
This perilous trip will eventually lead to yet another door, but this one is closed. If the characters die on their way, they will find themselves again inside the base of the tower as if they had just entered, open portals again waiting for them. If the characters survive, they find Munin, an aged creature with the semblance of a Noble, sharp features and teeth. He will present you with a dagger with which, he explains, you are meant to kill him or yourself to be released.
Should you kill him, the world shatters in a vortex of mind-bending replays of the many worlds of the tower, as if the cycle had repeated many hundreds of times, at which point you realize that during your exploration of the tower one of your previous selves had decided to stay and create your perfect world, until eternity eventually drove you mad. In the end, you and your companions stand there in the abandoned tower, now with the doorway open to you. Only a few days have passed since you entered. You are free to leave, but so is one of the long locked away Masters, Evroul.
Should you kill yourself instead, Munin frowns. You return to the cycle as if you’d died battling your way to his door, except you still hold in your hand the dagger. The portals and the spiral path are again there but you now hold a powerful tool. With this dagger you can cut away the wall where you first entered as if it were canvas and escape, leaving Evroul the Deceiver still trapped in his prison.

About Evroul: The 7 Masters were once the great leaders of the Noble Dominion. A millennium ago the 7 were overthrown and deposed in different ways. Few know their ultimate fate, but since they are not mortal, they cannot be wholly destroyed. Evroul is one of the 7 and a master of illusion. His domain was the most northern of the Dominion. 
Magda Zwierzchowska
Inspired by an adventure with Bruce David Burns.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

One Page Dungeon Contest

Wasn't going to do it but managed to eek it out in the end. It's a lot a bit cluttered than I'd like but we had fun with it in our current campaign. Hope you like it.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hello Again, part 2

Hello Again is a campaign story that started in 2014 involving a carousel of players and a roller coaster of arcs all taking place in the town of Kine. At this point, it's starting to look like a bottle episode but I promise it takes a left turn.

So here's where we left off:

Eckehard wakes from a dream in which millions of eyes surround and constantly watch him. The struggle to regain consciousness leaves him weary and confused. He is in the pitch dark surrounded by damp walls and bars, and there’s something more, the itch in the back of his mind, the ever-present craving, a yearning for living flesh grows ever-steadily until any and all sensations are consumed by one, hunger.

Camilla and Coco find themselves in a fog, riding in a wagon. When Camilla looks to her left, she recognizes the wagon driver. It is Mert. This snaps her back to reality, as if waking from a coma, she very bluntly proclaims, “I saw you die.”

More here: part 1

Ernst Fuchs
Eckehard wakes in a dank mud hole of a cell. Barely conscious, he is suddenly consumed with an overwhelming urge to feed. Unable to control himself, a sound of movement comes from the dark sending him lurching towards it. Groping in mad fury he finds the adjacent cell. Drawing close to the bars, he lunges through and grasps the frail frame of a woman then wrenches her to his mouth. In seconds he's devoured the arteries in her neck. Like an animal, he snarls but even satiated the hunger continues to gnaw at his thoughts. The act of draining blood now drives him to utter madness. Movement from deep in the dark drives him on. He begins throwing his weight at the bars. They are stuck deep in the mud and into stone but the bars give slightly with each strike. As his body hits the bars, he's vaguely aware of the rats watching him. They are sitting in a neat line on the other side of the bars like an audience. He's also vaguely aware that the sound of squishing footsteps are making their way to his cell. 

The sound of steps stops and a figure stops in front of his cell, while Eckehard continues bashing the bars. His mania hasn't let up, but it's strange, the rats are gone and he has no urge to wrench at the figure- just to escape and feed. The bars have moved two inches since he began throwing himself at them.

"Ahh, you are awake. You've been unconscious for some time." A tall, strange looking man stood in front of the cell. His voice is high pitched and sounded a bit like a whistle. "If you'll stop, I'll open up the cell."

Oddly his voice immediately snaps him out of his lust for blood and that's when it hits him, the person before him has an off smell, like formaldehyde.  

"Good. You were unconscious for some time even before I was called to help. I apologize for the accommodations. I realize it is no place for a person of your stature, but we are limited by what's available here... and the situation."

This conversation continues for some time. It turns out the person's name is Nylor and apparently, the Silvers had hired him to combat the Red Plague. He is strange though. When he raises an eery yellow lantern you realize you killed an emaciated Nala, wife of Brill the innkeeper. At the rising horror and regret you feel for your actions, Nylor simply tsk-tsks and continues on, explaining that you are in a makeshift underground lab that interconnects with the old tunnels beneath Kine. As Eckehard walks with him they pass some of Nylor's helpers. The strange creatures are only about three feet tall. You'd guess that he employs only midgets, except these shrouded creatures, have bright yellow eyes- or at least he thinks they do, he only caught a quick glimpse.  

Nylor explains that Jorg Silver had summoned him here to cure the plague in his son. After a while you realize that the son Nylor is speaking of is not Roderick (whom you met and is indeed infected with the plague), but a young boy. 

Pieces are falling into place. The players suspect that this is the boy in Brill's keeping and probably why Nala was in a cell next to you. But you don't have to guess for much longer. As Nylor talks about his son he once again leads you downwards. This time the chambers change, but not from mud to stone, instead stone to something else. The long narrow room seems to throb as if it were a digestive tract. There is a large mirror on the wall but it doesn't reflect anything.

Then you notice the boy. Facing away from the entrance is a slanted table and the boy. He has been dissected, body flayed open and a long glowing worm intertwined with what was left of his still working innards. At this point, Eckehard realizes Nylor has left the room. At that same moment, the throbbing room seems to coincide with a growing headache and nausea, also the worm untethers from the boy. Seconds later it lurches towards Eckehard who collapses. Then the worm is on him, burrowing. He barely grasps its end, while the rest is plunged under his skin, preventing it from disappearing inside him.

He overcomes the agony, manages to pull it from his arm, stumble through the hall and eventually up into the stone part of the structure. The worm doesn't follow. Eckehard is left with a deep fear of this place but also anger. He manages to make it outside and begins the search for his companions.


Camilla and Coco are in the wagon, riding towards Kine. When Camilla says to Mert, "I saw you die." She is met with a look of confusion, then horror. A moment later Mert runs off into the woods screaming. Out of the fog, Coco and Camilla continue on and realize there are two others with them, a tall man named Trafalgalard and a young woman named Alia. They also seem thoroughly confused. The familiar features of the town are revealed. It is still cold, nearly vacant, but Gaunt the guard is no longer at his post and now a strange tower overlooks the town. That's when they notice a familiar man on a tall horse riding from the tower, Eckehard.

Where were there other companions? Where was Jorg? Roderick? Brill? The town seemed sterile. No one was about, almost like it was a model of Kine rather than Kine itself. After sharing his experience with Nylor the companions make their way to the Church of the Green Lady, the last place they remember being before all this. The church inside is abandoned but the altar opens into the underground just as it did before. The answers they hoped, would be found inside.

Immediately, they notice that the underground is different. A mold seems to grow everywhere and there are cracks in the ground. The cracks are filled with a black metallic substance. It almost looks like an infection spreading throughout the underground. As they explore the tunnels it is not long before they encounter the first living being- if you can call it that. The creature walks on two legs but it has no face and arms. At first sight, it charges at them. After a scuffle the creature is dead but Coco, Eckehard, and Camilla are suddenly filled with a sense that the creature was someone they knew, an old companion in fact. They resolve not to harm any of the other strange creatures they encounter underground- and encounter they do. It was a resolution that is hard to keep. 

They find many strange creatures, each different from the other, all with impossible evolutions like no mouth or trailing intestines. They race through the underground until they finally come to its terminus, a circular room with a tall jet black crystal bursting from the center. It appears this is the origin of the cracks. Coco being the curious person she is touched the crystal and disappears. 

She finds herself in a room. She can see her companions distorted within the crystal as if they are mere reflections. At first, the room seems identical, except that when she walks rather than her moving, the room moves around her instead. On one end of the room, she finds tatters and blood, also a letter like the ones they had found before. It is the mere ravings of a man that'd been trapped in a place for too long except for one thing, it was signed Finn Silver. The long missing nephew. Has he been here the whole time? Behind the rags are loose bricks.

At this point, the others have touched the crystal as well. They are all in the room now, pulling at the loose bricks. As the bricks give way, that area of the wall collapses revealing a starry night. 

That's not quite right. Not a starry night. A blackness. A void. They see endless nothingness and a few pinpricks of light like stars, and before them is a sprawling structure like a mold of an ant colony, and below is a room with an identical break in its wall. After some discussion, the group rigs a rope bridge to the other room.

This room appears a lot like the circular room they just left before touching the crystal, but for three portals. Each portal is opaque but bears a distinct color.

So without going into incredible detail, this complex ended up being a micro-universe where Nylor kept subjects to study and experiment on. Our adventure took us into and out of peril in dramatic fashion. For those curious, the playthrough of the conclusion is here: A Fitting End.


For now, I'll stick with the story points so we can get to present day. Nylor, this alien's simulation of a man was indeed summoned by Jorg, but it was his undoing. The Silver's have a long history directly entwined with the Masters, the old rulers of the kingdoms of man and still very much powerful entities. Their relationship with them directly resulted in the Red Death and the rebirth of Erasmus Silver in each generation. Jorg wanted to break the cycle so he enlisted the help of an outsider. But the outsider's investigation ended the same way as it does for most experimental subjects. Nylor infected his lessers with disease and facsimiles, experimented, and recording the results.

The party put an end to this, but the tear in time and space that resulted afterward was enough to change something within Camilla, the porcelain robot-like character with no past. After acting very strangely she seemed to flee the party in abject confusion and being tireless, the others were hard pressed to follow.

Part 3: Camilla flees to the forest while her companions pursue. The others feel as if they are being watched. Eckehard is captured and forced to return to Kine.

Ernst Fuchs

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Start of a New Adventure (and campaign book)

It’s been forty years since I’ve come to this place. Fifty since the war broke my people and made them slaves. I’ve grown numb living here. I’ve even taken a human name. I cannot adequately describe the shame I feel for having survived that war. I saw century long friends die at the hands of beings that towered over us. Cut through like a thousand stocks of corn. The fear I felt then is a taste that will never leave my mouth.

When I fled, I was convinced it was because I would not face an unbeatable enemy at the behest of well-to-do men that didn’t deserve it, but even then I was lying to myself. I knew there would be no next battle. We were broken. In truth, the rumor that my people were being made slave soldiers was already spreading. Even as we made our way home, the tension was palpable. I was a coward.

I should have died a hundred times already. If not for you, Oswin, I would have fallen on my sword decades ago. This business with the murders was too much. A week in the dungeons has reminded me so keenly where I stand. I will always be an outsider here. I am thankful for the friends I have made, few that there are, but it is time to return home.

Do not fear for me, I will not go alone. Antak will join me. My only regret is not having your company. Damn the short lives of your people. We will have to meet again in the Halls of Waiting, my friend. Perhaps you will be reborn a Thrymm and we will battle side by side in the next life. Take care of yourself.

Forever your friend,
Kirantukh (Magnar)

PS. Hazel, this note is for you. I will not see your grandfather again in this life but if your travels ever take you east, know that you will always have a friend there.

Hazel read out loud to Oswin and was barely able to finish. Choking back tears, Oswin reached for the letter but instead took her hands and gently patted. “Shhh, shh, now. I always knew he would go back. Be glad Antak is going with him.”

Oswin groped the objects on the table until he found the mug of coffee and lifted it to his lips. “Stop crying, dear. Here, do something to take your mind off of it, go to my room and look in the closet.” He waited a few minutes and listened for Hazel to put down the letter and leave the study. “Do you have it open?”

“Yes, grandpa. What am I looking for?”

“Knock on the floorboards,” answered Oswin.

“What?” Hazel replied as she dropped onto her knees, but she didn’t wait for an answer and began knocking on each plank of wood.

Without a word, Oswin waited for Hazel to find the hidden compartment. It wasn’t long before she exclaimed, “What is this?” There was a sound of wood knocking together and soon Hazel returned to the fire lit room with a long box. “What is this grandpa?”

“Open it,” he replied.

For a few moments Hazel stared at Oswin. He was up to something. Emotional turmoil turned to eager curiosity. Hazel put the wooden box on the floor, undid the latches, and lifted the lid. Inside was a sword, shining as if recently polished. “It’s a sword. Why do you have a sword? And who’s is it?”

 “It is an old family heirloom. The Goddards come from a long line of warriors. Your strange old grandfather decided he liked books more than swords and ruined it.” Oswin chuckled as he spoke, “That is Anmod. It was my father’s sword. I once let Magnar use it. He enjoyed it so much that when he finished with it he immediately gave it back to me and said to never lend it to him again or he wouldn’t be able to give it up.”

Hazel picked up the blade and looked closely at it. “It’s enchanted.”

“Ha!” Oswin exclaimed, “You’re sharp girl! Yes, it is, but it’s not for you.”

She turned the priceless weapon in her hand all the while her eyes never left the blade, “I didn’t think it was grandpa. I’m no warrior.”

“Oh, but you are. You just don’t fight with swords and spears.” Oswin was beaming now. The old man leaned back in his chair and sipped his coffee again. “Now I’m going to say this only once. Are you ready?” Hazel nodded. “Go find Magnar and give him that sword. He is forever emotionally connected to it. You can track him with it easily. I trust you can take care of yourself, too.” Hazel started to protest. “No. No. I can feel it. I know you want to go. I may be blind but I know you care for him and he cares for you too.”

“I can’t possibly leave. Who would take care of you?”

“You don’t think I can take care of myself?” Oswin snapped his fingers and a plate of stew flew to his outstretched hands. “What is there for you in Westhaven? I will not have my granddaughter throwaway years of her life watching me waste away of old age. Go pack your bags. You leave in the morning.”

“But grandfather?!” Hazel was indignant but couldn’t help the excitement from creeping into her voice. She knew once her grandpa decided on something nothing would dissuade him.

“You will leave or I won’t eat. You got that?” Oswin replied crossly.

When Hazel eventually gave in, Oswin leaned back comfortably again. “Now that we got that out of the way, here’s something for you.” Oswin snapped his fingers and a black wooden staff floated over to Hazel from the corner of the study. “This is Daron. Daron protected me on all my adventures, now he will protect you.”

An hour later they finished dinner and Oswin went off to bed. Hazel sat in the study with the two priceless artifacts and looked around the room, spying things she would miss. She was excited, scared, and sad all at once. What will the future hold? Will she ever be back? And would she be ready?” 
With those thoughts running through her head she dozed by the fireside dreaming of adventure.

Arthur Rackham

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hello Again part 1

A couple years back we had one of those games where we just couldn’t keep a consistent group together.  A roulette of six different players, two at a time stepped in and out after two or three sessions. We nearly gave up, but the mystery our GM dreamed up was just too damn good, even the restarts were interesting. So finally after a whole year, we managed to nail down two players and make it through the story. Now, I didn’t run the first two parts of the game, so I can only tell you what happened from my perspective, and then pick up where our old characters left off, so here it goes:

Ernst Fuchs

Part 1

Eckehard the ‘half-aelf’ is sitting, legs crossed and resting on a stool when a burly man in maille struts into the lonely hostel. The only spattering of buildings on the forest road for miles, everyone in the common room is a traveler. Still, Eckehard stands out. His inhuman features always attract the attention of xenophobes and bullies in this part of the world. Mert, the armored brute that just entered took immediate notice- too bad for him. Mert got only one insult out of his mouth before realizing his mistake. Eckehard moved like a snake. His strikes were without mercy and vicious. In seconds Mert was dead. In the ensuing chaos a curiosity- er rather, a bizarre scene unfolded. A woman but not a woman, a moving porcelain doll the size of a woman with an expressionless face, as if it were a permanent plaster mold, entered the bar. Dumbfounded, Eckehard and the three tavern patrons that had stood up to help him (though unnecessary) somehow joined together and make their way to place called Kine on a wagon with a strange box just long enough to house the parties strange new porcelain friend.

Presented straight off with this mystery, it wasn’t long after that a new one unfolded. This woman (a PC) named Camilla had no memories (neither did the player). She was obviously not human and had all the emotions of a broom. That said, she could speak and reason, she took suggestions literally, and she carried on tirelessly. Joining us was an old magician, a poor knight, and a little woman named Coco. Coco carried nothing with her yet seemed to have whatever was needed whatever the situation (a small mystery to the other PCs).

Map of Kine. Any old town will work, but we used this one by Dyson:

Upon arriving, the PCs discovered the town had been struck with the plague, a disease the residents called the Red Death. The town was sparse and few people were ever about. An impressive castle loomed over the town, owned by one Lord Silver. Apparently, he had not been seen for many weeks. The only other remarkable feature in the town was a very old looking church at its center.

After a small confrontation with the lone town guard (who demanded the visitors leave their weapons with him, but settled on allowing Lord Eckehard, a noble, to keep their weapons), the PCs made their way to an inn. Once entered they met Brill, the Innkeeper, a well-to-do entrepreneur with a knowledge of local nobility and a collector. This is where the mystery begins. It’s discovered that Mert works for Brill and Brill works for Lord Silver. Camilla was destined for delivery to this very tavern. What’s more, there is a strange painting in Mert’s wagon. Upon close inspection, a note is found in the wagon and another within the painting. The first says

Mert, you are late. Time is growing short. I require my merchandise delivered to Kine immediately. Bring it to the usual location by mid-fall and I will consider forgiving your delay.

The second says

…I awoke in my sleep again but this time the cellar was filled with offerings. The way was clear and I entered the city of my Lady.

This peaks the PCs curiosity. Especially when they realize there is another painting in the tavern that was clearly painted by the same hand. When they get a chance the PCs remove the backing of that painting and find another note.

…so I knew she called for me and me alone. Why else would she let me into her city? I opened the door with their blood. Fed the rats in the walls. Soon the rats will be sated. The rats. May the rats eat your eyes. Eat my offerings…

Thoroughly creeped out the PCs retire to their rooms but not after noting that Brill and his wife Nala, a couple well into their middle years, are fostering a young son that they suspect is not related to them. They seem overly protective of him.

With the memory of the notes fresh in their minds, scratches and growls coming through the walls in the night were needless to say, unsettling. So much so that two of the party left that night. In the morning, when the three remaining members commiserated over their miserable nights spent awake, they were joined by two others that were also staying at Brill’s Tavern (new PCs). These newcomers seemed curious as well. So when the PCs made their way to the church at the center of town the others joined.

The church was an ancient temple to the Green Lady, a cult that exists only on the fringe of the Free Realm. Their stop at the church revealed only the symptoms of the Red Death and that Lord Silver was indeed missing. It didn’t seem they would get any answers there, so they moved on to Lord Silver’s castle.

Now at this point, why stay? Why not leave at the first mention of the plague? Here's why, unbeknownst to the rest of the party, Eckehard is not a half-aelf, not at all (in fact that’s impossible, no one is a half-aelf but it's an often used lie). His blood is tainted with the blood of Nobles, something that burns hot within his veins, like a rash, always itching, driving him mad. His one solace is a second obsession. He seeks the Lady in Black, one of the long dead Masters now worshiped as a god. His search for her led him to Kine and now the notes seem to confirm it. Coco is a mercenary and Camilla follows orders. They seem useful to him so he feigns lordly interest in the matters of the Silvers, all the while probing for a path to his prize, the Lady in Black.

The PCs gain entrance to Lord Silver’s castle and find a sick and horribly drunk Roderick Silver, son of Jorg, the missing lord. He coughs blood like all the other plague victims except he is mostly lucid and intensely angry. He is outraged at any mention of his father but is prone to ramblings whenever he is mentioned. He raves about his Uncle, a man named Erasmus and his fathers leaving to find him. In the main hall, there are paintings of his father and a rather severe-looking man, whom the party assumed is Erasmus. By Roderick’s third outburst Eckehard has had enough, he surprises everyone in the party with a spell, putting young Roderick asleep and giving them time to explore the castle.

The explorers sneak upstairs where they find the study and a great oak desk. On it, they find an unfinished letter.

Brill, I have word that one of my uncle’s paintings was sold years ago to a collector in the east. It is imperative that I reacquire it. Have your contacts

They also find a note in the pile of papers, written in frantic letters, in the same pen as before but as if written quickly and with an unsteady hand.


At this point the group begins worrying that Roderick will soon wake, so quickly they move to through the other rooms. Much of the upstairs seemed mundane if not strangely undisturbed except for a set of large doors. With some fiddling the party realizes it is closed by an iron bar on the opposite side. The doors are wide set but the crack between them is dark (despite the fact that there should be plenty of windows in this room). Coco makes a quick attempt to get through the door but the sudden shouts from below alert them that Roderick is now awake. The party quickly makes their way to a set of stairs. As they descend they realize it doesn’t lead to a back entrance. In fact, it leads to an underground labyrinth.

There was a lot to explore in the tunnels, murals of a shrouded woman, sometimes depicted with another very similar woman or spiders, ghost walls, booby-trapped steps… but we’re going to fast forward to an underground chamber with a lever. When pulled, the ceiling pulls away and a path into a spacious room is revealed. The adventurers quickly realized they must be in the church at the center of town. It’s not long before two wandering monks discover them. A young man named Brother Maynard is nice enough when he finds them considering they were four strangers snooping around the chapel at midnight through a tunnel entrance he never knew existed. He calls for the grandmaster, the forgetful but venerated head of the church, and pretty soon there is a small gathering of monks. The players do their best to talk their way out of the situation but they’re shown the door. On their way out they recognize one of the monks as they pass him in the cloisters- Jorg Silver, the missing lord of Kine. Eckehard calls to Lord Silver. Without warning Eckehard collapses. Jorg disappears. Fade to black.

**End Part 1**

Part 2: Eckehard wakes from a dream in which millions of eyes surround and constantly watch him. The struggle to regain consciousness leaves him weary and confused. He is in the pitch dark surrounded by damp walls and bars, and there’s something more, the itch in the back of his mind, the ever present craving, a yearning for living flesh grows ever-steadly until any and all sensations are consumed by one, hunger.

Camilla and Coco find themselves in a fog, riding in a wagon. When Camilla looks to her left, she recognizes the wagon driver. It is Mert. This snaps her back to reality, as if waking from a coma, she very bluntly proclaims, “I saw you die.”

Ernst Fuchs