Thursday, September 21, 2017

Valkyrja


Arthur Rackham
Awe inspiring, these tall women bear stern expressions hidden beneath helms of brilliant silver. They have many names, Darra or spear bearers, Rooin the red women, and Veurr, which means protectors. Their presence is unsettling. To meet a vakyrja’s gaze is to lay your mortal doubts before her and have them judged wanting.
Valkyrja are the shield maidens of Alfhildr, goddess of war. Women in ornate armor bearing arms and standing beside the throne of Alfhildr is a favorite scene in Vann artwork. Other popular scenes include valkyrja wearing only a helmet while holding a spear and shield, sometimes walking beside white stags, ghostly images of women riding on the wind, and naked spirits fighting alongside men and women in battle.  
These mighty spirits are said to escort the fallen souls of warriors onto the great ship Orn, which gives passage to Vigjaholl, the halls of waiting. In truth, they are slaves to Alfhildr or at least to her current incarnation. It’s not remembered whether Alfhildr was the first of her name or if she simply took up the mantle after she stabbed the last Alfhildr through the heart. It’s only known that the blood remains, uncongealed, spread across the floor surrounding the throne. This crimson pool leaves no mark on those that pass through it. It serves as a grave reminder and perhaps also a trophy to laud over her slaves.
From her seat in the great hall, this tall and terrible goddess wears the gilded teeth of her predecessor around her neck and commands her slaves to serve the lowly warrior spirits of man like the dishonored wretches they are– until she is slain as well and another amongst the Valkyrja takes up her mantle.
Invincible: A valkyrja can only be killed with a thrust through the heart. Once a vakyrja’s Power drops below half its total, she can no longer lose Power through damage. At this point only a critical hit can slay her.
True Sight (M): Valkyrja are able to see creatures and things as if affected by the True Sight spell.
If you're interested, feel free to check out more creatures in the campaign book: The Northern Realm Campaign World.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Goules


Theodor Kittelson

You’ve heard Northrup’s story about the dead man in the fields. You heard what it did to their cow. If only you had seen it coming. If only this were a nightmare and you could wake up. The sound of something being dragged across the ground ceases, giving way to audible sniffs. Its moon cast shadow now darkens the entryway. Fear bubbles up in your gut. Tightening your grip, your knuckles turn white and crack on the shovel handle. The slender beam of light dividing the vestibule dims as the thing steps into the entryway and then across the threshold. You can see it clearly now, but you are entirely unprepared for what you see. You forget the mental image of a corpse. The screamed warnings of your subconscious are drowned in a flurry of emotions. It’s your dead brother, drowned because you could not save him. Suddenly you are filled with crippling sorrow. He has a knife in his hands but by the time he reaches you, you are ready for release…
Goules are walking dead, mindless, tireless, the only remarkable feature of a goule is that it was cursed in life. Its mind has left long ago, but its cursed flesh and hopelessness carries on to spread misery. When a cursed creature dies, its flesh lives on, and its soul remains trapped inside. Only a second death can bring it relief. Goules do not see the world as they did in life, acting on strong negative emotions and a warped hatred for life, happiness, and hope. They appear as a person’s worst fear, but not a common fear like darkness or the unknown, it is a sad fear, a regret. In its presence, this regret blooms into a depressing visage of what could have been. Staring too long drags one into the dregs of despair and if that doesn’t kill you, its incredible strength will.
Visage (M): Goules appear different to each person. Those who can see it clearly, see a manifestation of their greatest shame and a fear that what could have been was their only chance at contentment. Only children see a goule for what it truly is. There is no way to resist this effect, but if you spend a Luck point you may act freely for 1d6 rounds, otherwise you are unable to move or act (players may roll an Intuition check, but no matter the result, the character is unable to act unless Luck is spent to make a re-roll). This is a mind-affecting ability.
 
Creatures are still undergoing transformations in ways that hopefully make encounters more varied and interesting. I'm taking the approach that creatures, items, and places are there to inspire story/campaign ideas as much as characters are. If you're interested, feel free to check out more creatures in the campaign book: The Northern Realm Campaign World.
 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Spell Tricks


Spell Trick (M): The wizard’s arcane study progresses, she develops special tricks that not only aid the learning process, but augment her skills. She can choose spell tricks as attributes but she must follow their order (to know a 3rd spell trick she must know the 1st and 2nd).
Magda Zwierzchowska
Abjuration
1st: If a target within 50 ft. fails its check against an enchantment spell or effect, the wizard can spend an immediate action to grant the affected target a second check at the same CR.
2nd: The wizard can make counterspell checks as if they were cantrips (roll an extra d6).
3rd: The wizard may cast spells with a range of touch or personal at a range of 50 ft. instead.
Conjuration
1st: The wizard may add any summon spell from other spell lists to her spellbook. These learned spells are sorcery magic.
2nd: The wizard can spend 1 Power to manipulate time around her within 5 seconds, moving it forwards or backwards.
3rd: Summoned things can be summoned simultaneously with a spell that would target them, thereby summoning an enchanted thing. She may not spend more than 4 Power in total.
Divination:
1st: The wizard’s magic sense, not only automatically detects spells, but also identifies the spell effect.
2nd: While she sleeps, a wizard sometimes dreams of events happening about or pertaining to her as if from a Scry spell. There is a 1 in 6 chance she performs a Scry each time she sleeps.
3rd: The wizard can spend 1 Power to improve her Initiative order by 1d6 until the end of the round (she does not need to spend an immediate action).
Enchantment
1st: Any Intuition checks made to discern her motives are made with one less d6.
2nd: If a target is defenseless, it makes checks against her enchantment spells with one less d6.
3rd: When the duration of an enchantment spell ends, an affected target forgets everything that transpired from the moment it became affected to the moment it was freed from the spell.
Evocation
1st: If a target has an ability that allows it to overcome a spell’s partial effect (such as evasion or mettle), it no longer functions against the wizard’s spells.
2nd: The wizard can spend an immediate action to redirect a spell back on its source. Reflecting a spell works the same as a counterspell, except her Spell Dice result must exceed that of the target or it has no effect.
3rd: Spells that produce a damage effect no longer originate from the wizard and move towards the target, instead they erupt from out of the target’s body with tremendous destructive power. When she casts an evocation spell, she may roll Spell Dice twice and take the higher of two rolls.
Illusion
1st: The wizard can use an immediate action to switch the images of two different objects within 50 ft. Creatures are allowed an Intuition check to disbelieve the effect as normal. If she is fatigued, the wizard can no longer use this ability without expending 1 Power.
2nd: The wizard can manipulate an existing illusion. The effect must be within the capability of the spell. If the illusion is manipulated in the presence of its caster, she must make an opposing Will check to continue manipulating the illusion each round.
3rd: The wizard can produce the illusion of any spell she has observed or can imagine. She can spend 1-4 Power to cast it (there is no minimum or maximum). The casting and effects of the spell appear as they normally would, except that once the target disbelieves the spell all the effects cease to hinder it. The target is allowed only Intuition checks to disbelieve the effect.
Necromancy
1st: The wizard is always aware of living creatures within 50 ft. and their exact location. She can sense the strength of their life force.
2nd: The wizard can spend 1 Power to drain the unlife from target mindless undead creature within 50 ft.
3rd: Undead creatures under the wizard’s control gain the benefit of the wizard’s Will. The undead creatures add the Will as a bonus to all checks.
Transmutation
1st: The wizard can use an immediate action to mask the presence of a magical thing within 50 ft. It can appear as faintly enchanted or totally mundane, but it does not make a physical change. The deception is revealed with a True Sight spell or similar. Its abilities do not change despite its seemingly ordinary look. If she is fatigued, the wizard can no longer use this ability without expending 1 Power.
2nd: The wizard can cast spells through her familiar as if she was there. If she does not have a familiar she may form a permanent connection with a person to the same effect. She can sense their experiences, including seeing and feeling through them, and is equally affected by any condition afflicting her familiar.
3rd: The wizard may cast a spell and grant it to a companion without triggering the effect. The companion may later ‘cast’ the spell with a designated trigger. She must be able to touch the target to grant it a spell. She may grant the target only 1 spell. The Power spent cannot be regained until her companion uses the spell or it is dispelled from the target, even after a full day with a rest.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Bone King

Nord Fyel is a far distant kingdom. Its people, the Vann, are isolated from the continent by the Giants' Mountains. The Vann appear in the south only to raid the coasts or trade with the fortified towns of Kelet. Our adventurers left from Elhis with a crew of Vann to explore this isolated country and make their fortunes, but upon arrival of their first Vann town, nearly everything went to shit.

The town of Hundenshode was burned to the ground, the long house at the center of town was packed with mutilated bodies, and the island of Hudd surrounded with an impenetrable fog. What's more, the boats at its docks were intact but all were resting on the seabed, just below the water.

This adventure had its twists and turns, but ultimately what it led to was a portal, mistakenly opened by Saga the witch. She paid with her life, but not before being "rewarded" by the Noble she accidentally resurrected. Fortunately for her and the townsfolk that managed to hide in the caves up in the hills, the adventurers were able to release Saga from her "gift," close the portal and in the end dispatch the Noble. Of course, this did not erase the Noble from the world, but he was trapped in the Shadow Realm– and from that place, the adventurers bore out a gift. A cup, dull silver in the Shadow Realm became a gold jewel encrusted goblet in the material world. With that, the mist dissipated and the survivors boarded the boat with its crew and left for Torvald.

Theodor Kittelson

The ship pitches, you dream about the dark, the Noble's hall in the Shadow Realm, Saga crying, a heavy rain. You are sleeping in a forest as black as the caves you just left. You feel as if something is watching you. You catch glimpses out of the corner of your eye but when you turn your head you see nothing. Ahead is a tall standing stone. When you come near, suddenly you are on your back and you cannot move. Then a face looms over you. A face of a corpse with eyes like rubies. You try to sit up but you feel a crushing weight on your chest. It’s hard to breathe… you wake.

The light of the two moons is pale making the night sky bright with stars. At the back of the ship is a dark shape. You are reminded of the corpse. Long shadows obscure its face, but when you near it, you recognize Ask, the captain, staring blankly. You shake him and the shadow passes. He appears normal again but bewildered, then confusion ensues. The ship lurches as it strikes a reef.

It's then you notice the cliffs. You are very near the shore. Ask looks up at the stars. Noting the constellations to get a sense of direction and the moons for the time of night and exclaims how far off course you are. The boat is taking in water. You’ll need to come ashore for repairs.

The Cup: Evroul, the once great Master gifted his vassals beautiful goblets. When drunk from, mortals would gain mystical powers (roll a random power). 1- darksight, 2- immunity to fear, 3- shadow touch (can interact with incorporeal things), 4- wilt (creatures you wound can only be healed of 1 Life for each instance of healing), 5- suggestion, 6- inspire fear in those that oppose you

If you've drunk from the cup you are touched, drawing the attention of the ancient draugar that now stirs beneath his ancient broken fortress. He wants the cup and he would like nothing more than to add to his number of servants.

Dreams: Characters that drank from the cup dream of a time under the Nobles. The one that possesses the cup dreams of Hundenshode and the castle hall in shadow. Each time the possesser dreams he also sees the standing stone and eventually the ruby eyed corpse (a creature known as the Bone King). Each time the touched characters dream, the Bone King gains a stronger foothold in the minds for as long as the adventurers remain on the shore (start at 2d6 and then add a d6 to its dream checks for each time its invaded their dreams before). The Bone King will also attempt to lead or trick the dreamers into its dungeon. Once the Bone King can roll 4d6 against the adventurers in the dreams, it will reach for their neck and drag them in (they may of course resist).

The Runestone: 50 meters up the beach is a tall runestone. Such runestones are scattered about Nord Fyel. Most tell stories. Some familiar, some so old that the people and events they speak of are forgotten, while others are strange and speak of strange things and events not generally known. On this runestone is an inscription:

Under shadows of the western peaks,
drawing nigh the untravelled pass,
The Mountain King watches ever vigilant,
while his children break the hilltops.
In all their might, even they fear the chamber…
which below the ground fatefully lies!

(Runestone inscription borrowed from Oerath Windsoul)

The runestone is a portal. In the realm of dreams, it appears as a narrow hall. The Bone King will lure the drinkers and possessors of the cup in a shared dream down this narrow path into a strange and closed off dungeon. Once entered the wall appears solid again. The adventurers will be unable to leave unless they can answer the riddle:


My life can be measured in hours,
I serve by being devoured.
Thin, I am quick
Fat, I am slow
Wind is my foe.

A CANDLE  (once a candle or fire is lit, the wall becomes a pathway and the adventurers are free to explore the dungeon. If the fire would go out, whatever room they are in is again closed off)

The Dungeon: Use Dyson's cubic dungeon, it is perfect for this--> Cubic Dungeon

The Dungeon has no escape. The passages are only revealed with fire but even without it the characters can see. The outline of the entire dungeon is visible because it exists in the Shadow Realm, hence its impossible nature. Within the dungeon are a few things of consequence. The Bone King will leave them trapped while it hunts the trespassers on the shore, but it will leave the characters guarded. On the opposite side of the cube, an old wight shadows their movement, always staying on the opposite side (and while in the dungeon it regains Power and Life 1 per round). It will not be revealed, however until this riddle is solved (this riddle repeats on many walls):


The part of the bird
that is not in the sky,
which can swim in the ocean
and always stay dry.
 A SHADOW

The last riddle within the dungeon is this:


What is deaf, dumb and blind
and always tells the truth?


A MIRROR

This riddle hints that a mirrored surface will reveal the passage which exits the dungeon. It also reveals the mundane aspect of the dungeon, which is black as pitch and a linear catacomb (but you cannot access it without magical help). There is a room within the dungeon with silver objects. There is a silver tray there. If brought back to the original room, reveals the exit. If the adventurers walk backward while facing the mirrored object they will exit the dungeon.

Valdis: This strange hermit lives on the cliff overlooking the beach where the adventurers and crew have come ashore. Valdis is an ancient witch. So old, in fact, that she is dead. Valdis is a völur, a creature given a semblance of life from sheer force of will. She is not quite old enough to know how the draugar came to this place or when its fortress was last manned, but she does know its story– but she will do nothing for free.

Should the adventurers want information, the price will be one of their possessions. She cannot be tricked, whatever she asks of the adventurers must be given exactly. Once given, Valdis tells the story of a nameless fear unleashed upon the forest kingdom, north of the Nobles' Empire. These people, she tells you, were the Grey. At first their onslaught was unchecked, but the Grey are clever. They hid well and ambushed whenever possible, so after hunting across the vast woodlands in vain, the Nobles returned their attention to humanity. So it came to be that the most powerful of the Nobles' servants passed through the giants' mountains, a thing thought impossible, and made war on the Vann. The Vann named the most powerful of these creatures the Bone King (the Bone King is a draugar).

The Bone King built his castle in southern Nord Fyel and conquered half of it, pushing the Vann ever northwards. Only after the death of their masters and the growing strength of the Seithren were the Bone King and his servants driven into their crypts.

She will give no other help until it's needed and needed it will be if the party is split. If the adventurers seek help or protection, Valdis will create a globe of light to guide and keep them from fear as long as they are within its light, but the price will be steep. She will do this in exchange for a year of an adventurer's life (which subsequently becomes a forgotten year of their life), an adventurer's name (once given it remains their true name, but they and everyone that's ever known them no longer remembers it), or an adventurer's humor (they no longer laugh or enjoy humor).

The Last Riddle: Hidden at the base on the back of the runestone is a crudely carved riddle, left by Valdis as a hint to a secret, second entrance.


A life longer than any man,
it dies each year to be reborn.


A TREE

There are ruins, hidden deep in the forest. At the center of these ruins is a tree. At the base is a bone hand with an iron ring on its index finger. Pull this ring and a second entrance to the dungeon is revealed. But a word to the wise, the hand is still connected to the draugar. If pulled at night, the draugar will come alive and drag the one who touched it into its dungeon, where it will be much, much harder to defeat.

This is also an excellent map for this (also Dyson): The Caverns of Ulthik

Theodor Kittelson

The Bone King’s Sword: Frostborne (Enemies struck with this weapon are afflicted with a growing frost. A successful hit deals an extra 1 point of cold damage. For each following hit, it deals an additional 1 point of cold damage, which accumulates after each successful strike against the same target (first strike deals +1 cold damage, the second deal +2 and so on).
The Bone King's Servants: A wight (inside the dungeon), innumerable zombies (outside; he can spend an action to raise 1d6 each round, but only at night)

Hundenshode Resources:
  
The left insignia is Turel (anyone who's played Soul Reaver should recognize this --Soul Reaver is awesome if you've never played it or read the story btw). The second insignia is Stolas, a demon of knowledge. The left Insignia (Turel) is circled, it is also carved on Saga's head. In the room is a cauldron filled to the brim with a strange substance that reflects no light (it is a portal). In front of it are two burnt out candles (ghost candles). There is also a cat, pegged to the wall and a summoning circle that's clearly been broken (accidentally, by the cat, thereby freeing the summoned creature).

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Cursed

“Please.”

“I’m sorry, I cannot help you.”

“I have journeyed two weeks–


“I cannot help you.”

“I have gold.”

There was silence for a few moments then the light of dawn filled the room as a woman pushed aside the door curtain and left the shop. She paused for a moment just outside. The winter sun is cold comfort but taking time to enjoy its warmth, as little as it is, has become an important ritual.

What number was this? The fourth, no, fifth time she’d been refused? That was the last master healer in the city. Her grimace cut long lines through the scars on her face as she sighed, “No point in staying here any longer.”

Making her way to the city gates, she rounded the corner and was met with smashing pots and shouting. Riding at her, a man on a cart was yelling, “Out of the way!” as two men with a symbol of sun embroidered on their tunics gave chase.

Anna threw herself towards the nearest wall but in doing so her foot slipped on the muddy road and instead of diving from the path, went face down in the wet earth. The wagon narrowly missed her but one of the two men giving chase nearly tripped over her, instead stepping on Anna's leg.

Her yelp of pain was muffled in a spurt of muddy bubbles as the man ran over her and the cart continued plowing through the streets, finally disappearing down an alley. 


Wet earth caked her mouth, Anna slowly picked herself, spitting. Half covered in mud, she sat up gingerly. Not to be defeated she finally picked herself up and again made her way to the city gates, this time limping.

If asked why she did not take a rest or stop to properly to clean herself or why she had a look of complete determination like a trapped wolverine, she would reply, “That old bitch won’t kill me yet.”

It’s become a bit of a personal mantra.



Arthur Rackham


Curses
A true curse is a formidable and enigmatic spell. Few understand the precise workings of a curse or how exactly it interacts with those afflicted, only that is a feared and seldom used avenue of power. Many learned in magic do not accept the existence of curses, believing them to be mere myth. And yet, even doubters are wary of them.
A true curse is different from normal spells in that they can be cast by even the most mundane of Rhen’s inhabitants. True curses are evoked with dread, fury, and pain. One does not premeditate uttering a curse. It cannot be fabricated. It must be cast with genuine and powerful emotions. Curses are screamed or spoken in cold, precise words with eyes like piercing daggers, mouth frothing like a rabid wolf, and fingers clenched so tight that nails draw blood. Spend 1 to 4 Power to speak a curse. You have a 1 in 6 per Power chance of successfully cursing the target (or targets), however, curses are fickle; in attempting a curse there is also a 1 in 6 per Power chance that you become cursed as well, unless you are able to name your target (it must be their true name). If you can name your target there’s only a 1 in 6 chance that you curse yourself. Cursed targets henceforth cannot spend Luck and what’s more, 1 in 6 checks automatically fail.
Unlike a broken oath, a true curse can be removed, but it is dangerous. As a result, wise healers are wary to help. A Remove Curse spell will remove a true curse, but to determine its success or failure, the healer must also make a Will check versus the strength of the curse (1d6 times Power spent on the curse). A successful check removes the curse. However, if the check fails, the curse is not removed and it results in the healer suffering one of the following conditions: 1. blinded, 2. muted, 3. unfeeling (numbed), 4. deafened, 5. exhausted, 6. paralyzed.
This and other additions/changes to the Northern Realm have come with plenty of playtesting. I think I'm getting closer to the mark with it. It's almost ready if you want to give it a try: The Northern Realm Handbook

Monday, July 31, 2017

Chapter 4: The Marble Throne

This is a continuation of the King Thadar's Catacombs Campaign (Chapter 3: Lady of the Stars).

Summary: At this point in the campaign you've likely succeeded in preventing Lady Ilka's assassination or failed spectacularly. If you've succeeded then the Eloszor army will march on Városa and catch the Green's between hammer and anvil. And more, if your map of Kerthaz makes it to the Blues, the loss at Városa and Kerthaz will deal the Greens such a blow that they are unlikely to recover.

However, if you've failed then Városa remains besieged and the Eloszor refuse to march into the valley, but there's still a chance. If Kerthaz can be breached quickly, then the Városa army is free to return to the city and break the siege.

For now, we will assume you succeeded because even if you failed, Chapter 4 still provides an interesting alternative...

The Lady's Errand: Lady Ilka is grateful for your role in thwarting the assassin. What comes next, she tells you, is the final demise of the Greens and opposition in the valley. Soon it will be time to set sights northwards. She allows you leave and join the Eloszor either on the march to Városa or to the armies besieging Kerthaz, and assures you, she will honor Lord Gabriel's offer, but she also offers an alternative. Pass beyond Kerthaz to Fenyovar, the furthest northern fief in Vale.

She confides in you that Vàrosa, long a neutral state, risked war for one reason, the powerful Vadas family has nearly consolidated the whole of northern Kelet and the balance of power is shifting. Lady Ilka is a strong ally and friend of the Queen, the matriarch of the Veres family and brother to the lord of Városa. To remain in power the Veres family must be a counter balance to Vadas or risk invasion. Kelet has long been a kingdom only in name. Its five regions are fractured. The Veres family has kept Kelet from slipping into a theocracy under the church but only barely. Vadas is a tyrant but also an extremely religious man. He is also old. If he conquers Kelet and usurps the throne, chaos is likely to follow his death.

The lord of Fenyovar has remained aloof from the conflicts in Vale. His fief is either the first line of defense against an invasion from Vadas's armies or an excellent staging point. Go north and curry favor with this mysterious Lord Miklos.

Lady Ilka presents you a writ offering a defense agreement and acquisition of materials. As an emissary of Ilka, determine Miklos' intentions and send word of any agreement you come to with him.



Setting: Fenyovar is a quiet town nestled in low forested foothills. The streets and buildings are well kept and over them looms a large castle manor. It appears that most the townsfolk are well off or at least even the poorest eat well. This is unusual for Kelet. Perhaps because of this, the denizens of this town are friendly and speak highly of Lord Miklos. It seems Miklos is a benevolent overseer. When you speak with the townsfolk you learn Lord Miklos regulates guilds and the Triad strictly, which serves to combat corruption. Speaking with the townsfolk leads to many fantastic stories about Lord Miklos. Some say he is half-aelfin while others say his family has the ancient blood of the Thegn, a mythical race of men. The stories surrounding him all have a degree of enigma and fantasy. The fact that he rarely leaves the castle and that he has been lord of Fenyovar for as long as anyone can remember lends to the mystery.

Resources: I used this map as a stand in for Fenyovar:
Oravsky Podzámok (here is the artist's page: http://www.francescabaerald.com/maps/)

Magda Zwierzchowska
Miklos: Miklos is an intelligent character with complex motivations, made all the more complicated by his nature. Miklos is a dhampir. He has been lord of Fenyovar for as long as anyone can remember. He rarely shows himself in public, but his realm is prosperous. And though he has the savvy of Machiavelli and occasionally gives in to his primal urges, his ultimate desire is peace and stability. With Bálint Vadas conquering the only remaining lordship in the north his sights will turn southwards to Ártér and the capital. With the rumors of war in southern Vale and the adventurers' arrival, Miklos sees an opportunity, but he must play his hand carefully. Miklos has planted an agent in Bálint Vadas' council. This agent has become Bálint's closest advisor and lover. The Eszes clan is the last northern family to stand against Vadas and also the family of Bálint's wife (she still lives, locked away in Vadavar). All that remains of their holdings now is a small mountain fortress and the daughter of the late Áron Eszes. Miklos had considered offering friendship to the Vadas family (and indeed has already made some small gestures of friendship), but Bálint is too close to the Church of the Triad. Miklos has watched the church tear Kelet apart and hates it.

No. Miklos will usurp Bálint at the peak of his power and use the last member of the Eszes family to cement his claim on the north, but he must act quickly to ensure the conflict in Vale continues and offers no resistance. Ilka's writ complicates things.

Csilla: Csilla is Miklos' edge. When the time comes she will dispose of Vadas and turn control of his army to Miklos. Csilla has spent half a decade with Vadas and gained his utmost confidence and even his affection. They will not turn on him while he is alive, but should he die their loyalty passes to her.
Csilla has proved herself invaluable. In fact, her success has raised Miklos' suspicions. After assuaging his concerns, Csilla prepares to return to Vadas. Csilla is inscrutable. It is one of her many talents. But she will do what is required of her. She recognizes the need for stability in Kelet. She also recognizes that any stability Vadas brings will be short lived. She is also, however, not convinced that Miklos will serve better. She does not know his true nature but knows he is different and suspects it will prevent him from establishing a stable empire. Csilla is shrewd and will do as Miklos wants until an opportunity presents itself. The adventurers may be that opportunity.

Magda Zwierzchowska

Scene 1: The adventurers arrive in Fenyovar. As emissaries of Ilka, the adventurers can ride right up to Fenyovar Castle and request an audience with Miklos. Show them the writ and David, the tall head servant of the castle, will grant them entry. The adventurers will be admitted into a comfortable waiting room with a fireplace, chairs, books, and numerous tapestries depicting the geography of Fenyovar. There is also a large portrait of a pale man with sharp features, jet black hair, and eyes the color of ochre. In a short time, they will be admitted to the main hall. A long blue rug runs its length. There are two guards at the entrance and a pale man with black hair sitting on a strange marble seat. Standing next to him is another man in black and silver livery and a servant holding a long sword much too large for her, but unsheathed. She is very carefully holding the sword so that it does not touch the floor. As the adventurers approach they may notice one other servant scrubbing the stone floor, she appears to be cleaning up blood.

Miklos will probably speak first as he will want to control the conversation. He may draw attention to the servant and mention that a spy of Vadas was captured and he had just finished interrogating him (which is half true; the blood is from a captured Eszes soldier). He will want to establish his stance against Vadas immediately. While the adventurers speak with Miklos and present him with the writ they may notice something strange. Everything Miklos says sounds incredibly believable. The adventurers will have an unnatural impulse to trust him and anything he says rings true (attempting to discern a lie or exaggeration unerringly fails). This is due to the throne that Miklos sits on (it is not a spell so it cannot be countered but characters with Sense Magic will feel something happening and sense his motives normally). Miklos will want time to speak with his advisors and see how he can help. The players are granted room and board in the guest houses in town but not the castle, which is unusual and draws attention to the fact that the castle staff is meager for its size. On further exploration, the players may learn most the guardsmen also have quarters in town, rather than a castle barracks. Upon exiting the castle the adventurers may notice a tall well-built woman in the hall. She very obviously takes notice of the adventurers but does not approach. Observant characters may notice a light distortion near her (she is a hussar with a phantom companion).

Scene 2: In town, rumors swirl around the visiting characters. There's much to learn here and the townsfolk won't be shy about speaking with the adventurers. Rumors of the Vadas army, the war in the south, and the death of Áron Eszes will be common. There are also interesting stories surrounding Miklos and his origins. Exploring further the adventurers may learn that the most prominent organizations are the craft guild and only one priest of the Triad. It's odd there isn't even a representative for each of the three goddesses. Apparently, there are strict rules to prevent corruption and violaters in the past have either left town in a hurry or disappeared.

When summoned to Castle Fenyovar, Miklos again meets the adventurers in the great hall. In addition to the guardsmen, servants, and advisors, the tall woman with the shimmering thing is present. Miklos explains that he would like to discuss how best to aid Ilka and the Blues, stating that he would like to see a united Vale, indeed a united Kelet. He also explains that Vadas presents a problem. If he were to ally with Ilka and the Blues, Vadas is likely to invade Vale and Fenyovar would be the front line. He is unwilling to let that happen and presents a counteroffer: livestock and grain will be sent south, but there will be no open military alliance. However, he also offers this: if Ilka would give them leave, he suggests the adventurers slip through Vadas territory to Felvidék. Felvidék is the last unconquered hold out of the Eszes family and where Aliz Eszes, last of the Eszes family has gathered her supporters. There is also a possible ally near Felvidék that may be willing to fight the Vadas family, the half-men known as catfolk. He assures you catfolk are indeed real and that they were once steadfast allies of the Vadas family, until they were betrayed. He asks that the adventurers sit on this and return with an answer.

Scene 3: Miklos invites the adventurers to a formal dinner. Csilla is also there. The adventurers give their answer. If the answer is no, then the adventurers are free to leave, but they are watched and later ambushed on the road. Miklos will not want them to return alive if there is a possibility that the Blues will arrive in force and foil his plans. If the answer is yes, Csilla lays out the plans, explains that there are scattered Eszes forces and that they are slowly making their way to Felvidék as word of Aliz's survival spreads. She will give them a week of travel (if she can) before the Vadas army moves again. She suggests that the adventurers pass as near to Lake Mél as possible. She will explain the danger of the half-men that live in that place but also suggest seeking out their aid. The catfolk have a long history with the Vadas family and are old enemies.

Inbetween Scenes: While the adventurers are in Fenyovar they will have significant time away from Miklos. There is much to explore here. There is Otto, the priest without a following. And Pel, the collector of Naerodian artifacts. And Hanna, the rare book seller with tomes of genealogy and heraldry.

There are also the ruins around town. As with the rest of Vale, there are Naerodian ruins here. One particular outcrop just peaks through the forest. Hidden in the underbrush is an entrance to a network of tunnels. The tunnels here are a vacant labyrinth. Exploring this area extensively reveals a secret entrance to the dungeon under Fenyovar Castle. Exploring further is a dangerous gambit.

Csilla may search out the adventurers in secret. The ruins around town may be a good place to meet them. Csilla can break the spell on the adventurers if they become charmed by Miklos words, thereby casting doubt on his intentions. She will not go into detail about her allegiances but she may imply there are better leaders in the north than Vadas or Miklos.

Last, if the adventurers wish to explore Miklos' background, they can find that Miklos has been lord of Fenyovar for decades. There is at least one art piece in the castle depicting a man with a striking resemblance to Miklos. The staff claims it is of Miklos' father Mátyás. In truth, Miklos has been lord of Fenyovar for well over a century. Sometime during the Aelf War he became Margrave of Fenyovar. His father was a man named Mátyás and his mother, Olivia was a dhampir, but they were never lords.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Unicorns


Arthur Rackham
 
A symbol of royalty, the unicorn is universally recognized. It is a creature of enigma, beauty, and magnificence. Many house crests bear the likeness of a unicorn. It is said that there is only one and that he is the king of Greywood, while others say there are many but only one king sire, or that it is a great mare, a favored shape of the fey queen, it is said– many things.

Unicorns are magic given substance. Sometimes they appear as a horse with a single horn rising from its head; sometimes they are blinding flash of light, and others a deep shadow. Their appearance alters depending on its environment, what’s transpired there, and what past emotions resonate in the fabric of a place.

A glimpse of one is enough to drive a person mad. The good folk tell sad tales about people that have seen one and been broken. The fey are of course unaffected, but they notice the change in us. When a mortal sees a unicorn, they see their entire lives from beginning to end. They see their happiest and saddest moments, most traumatic and memorable. When the vision leaves them, we cannot possibly remember all the moments of our lives, but the memory of death stays with us. The vision of our fate is unavoidable and almost always very near as if proximity to the unicorn has burned away years of life.

There is only one known way to change your fate, kill the unicorn, but how to find one? How to hunt it? No one knows and few have tried. An old story of the vanished king Godric of Storgeard tells of a stag hunt, where he chanced upon a unicorn. Having glimpsed it, he knew his fate, but being strong hearted and stubborn Godric left with a hunting party. This story has many endings, and in all, he never returns. Many say he died, but one says he succeeded and that he still lives, even five hundred years later he walks the forest as an empty, hollowed out creature.

Killing a unicorn rips the fabric of reality, essentially removing its killer from the tapestry of existence and time. The killer becomes immortal, non-dead. The mortal can no longer sleep. He no longer bleeds when stabbed and does not die when chopped into many pieces. Age does not touch him, but he does not heal either. Spells that would mend his body do not work. He can only be fixed. A lost arm can be reattached with a sewing needle and it remains usable. In fact, even unattached he can still control it. What’s more, he sees things in variable states. The emotions of creatures, their shadow selves, past events– all play out before him if he concentrates too long on one thing. It becomes difficult to discern reality from his visions, but the visions can also reveal to him hidden places and mysteries.

When enough time passes he may wish to die. Burns will not heal. Wounds will ever gape without the aid of thread. To die his body must be incinerated, in other words completely destroyed. A spell or violent fire may cleanse him of materiality but every bit of him must be destroyed (damage must exceed his Life total).

Like all magical creatures, a unicorn’s body parts have special properties. Its horn can be used like a wand (all spells cast with it are cast as cantrips). Its hair can be used to produce the most beautiful sounding instrument (song-based spells and abilities are cast without having to spend Power). Its hooves can be ground into powder and added to a potion to make it permanent. Its blood can be used to strengthen an enchantment. And consuming its eyes grants foresight, causing one to permanently glimpse into the future or past at random.

Truth (M): In the presence of a unicorn undead are driven mad. They act as if confused for the remainder of the day. Mindless undead lose animation completely and incorporeal undead fade out of existence. Mortal creatures glimpse the entirety of their lives (as described above). Mindless constructs gain the seed of sentience. Fairy folk and planar creatures are unaffected, but outsiders are struck with an epiphany: killing a unicorn will grant it escape to the Outside.