Castles & Crusades Diary: The Barrowmaze Campaign, Session 35.

The characters meet the spirit of Sir Guy de O’Veargne, a paladin who was betrayed and killed by his trusted right hand man Dhekeon “the Disgraced” in the Barrowmaze centuries ago as they were about to close the Pit of Chaos and defeat the Undead Cult of Nergal.

For 35 sessions the Army of the Light has made trips into the Barrowmaze, slowly making their way through dangerous corridors, restless undead in bricked-up crypts, and fighting monsters of chaos. It was in one of those first sessions that they discovered Dhekeon, a skeletal fallen paladin who had been chained up in a barrow mound and left to die, but his god St. Justus would not accept him. As he told them, “I am cursed to walk the realm for eternity as one of the very undead abominations I once swore to destroy.” He wanted to redeem himself and atone for the betrayal of his order and the murder of the leader of his order, Sir Guy de O’Veargne. Over 30 sessions many players forgot these details as Dhekeon silently followed the group in their journey through the Barrowmaze, watching their backs and helping slay monsters when needed. Tonight was his reckoning.

Leading up to this chamber, the group had been traveling through old crypts battling swift, ravenous zombies, intelligent juju zombies, flagstone golems, and escaping tripwire traps on the other side of secret doors. But when the Army of the Light entered a chamber with hundreds of burial alcoves filled with bronzed skulls, Dhekeon knew where he was. This was where centuries before he murdered the leader of his order and tossed the body in an empty alcove.

Dhekeon “the Disgraced” (from Barrowmaze Complete)

When Dhekeon said in a whisper to the group what he had done while gazing into a the narrow alcove, Cobalt, the groups paladin, walked with Dhekeon into the isolated chamber to confront the demons of his past.

Sir Guy de O’Veargne (from Barrowmaze Complete)

It was there that the spirit of Sir Guy rose above his remains. He looked upon his former right-hand-man with anger and hatred of his betrayal, but that drifted into sadness at the loss of his once dear friend. He then turned and addressed Cobalt (and the rest of the adventurers who had also entered the small chamber). He told Cobalt that he and the Army of the Light had to do what Sir Guy had failed to do centuries earlier due to Dhekeon’s betrayal: throw an artifact called the Fount of Law created by the priesthood of St. Justus into the Pit of Chaos. But they needed to beware, for the strangest and most frightening of abominations crawl from its opening. He then said that after that they had to deal with the Priesthood of Nergal, one of the dominant undead cults that had continued to grow over the centuries. The cult also had an artifact that had to be destroyed. At this point he looked at Dhekeon (who was kneeling before Sir Guy with his head down in deference), and said in a booming voice, “you know what sacrifice you must make if you are to be redeemed, Dhekeon.” Dhekeon nodded silently. After trusting that his mission might finally be completed through Cobalt and the Army of the Light, Sir Guy handed Cobalt his visored winged helmet, sighed, and his spirit ascended to join his god.

The group chose to complete their exploration of a few rooms they had bypassed on their way to this chamber, and then prepare for the big battle at the Pit of Chaos. The remainder of the rooms they explored involved more burial chambers with treasure, and then a room with a sphinx. the sphinx asked them a riddle, which they got after a long discussion, and then it offered to answer any question they had about the Barrowmaze. The group asked where the leaders of the cult of Nergal could be found. It raised a paw and underneath was a map fragment of a portion of the Barrowmaze. The sphinx said that it was there where they would find the rulers of the cult of Nergal.

Now the Army of the Light needs to discover where this map fragment fits with the other fragments they have collected. Will the Army of the Light make their way to the Pit of Chaos and take on the forces of Chaos? We find out next week!

Castles & Crusades Diary: Dragonclaw Barony, Session 11.

The adventurer’s go on a mission for the Gnome sage Fonkin to find Valanunthe, the elven thief that had stolen important items from him.

When we left off last time, the characters had completed their mission for the Town of Dale to find their beloved gnome sage Fonkin at a doorway in an underground doorway, unable to break through the magical enchantments that would allow entry to the lower level. He told the characters to meet him back in town, twisted his ring, and disappeared.

It took two days to return to Dale, but as they entered they heard loud celebrations coming from the Laughing Dragon Inn as the town celebrated the return of Fonkin. When the characters entered the town turned to them, cheered, and gave them pats on the back and provided free drinks. Fonkin, not one who likes all that attention, gratefully allowed the attention to shift to them, backed into a private room and motioned for them to join him when they could spare the time. When the adventurer’s had their fill of drinks, music, and celebration, they entered the private room Fonkin had taken and he told them he needed their help.

Fonkin, gnome sage of the Town of Dale (art from Tales from the Laughing Dragon, BasicFantasyRPG)

He had recently taken on an elven apprentice named Valanunthe, but upon learning she was not the person he thought she was, he dismissed her. But she was shrewd, and apparently broke into his home, bypassed his magical wards, and stole two items: 1) the Amulet of the Mighty Fist (which enhances a person’s strength), and 2) a top secret document that revealed an underground entrance into the Baron’s castle in the nearby town of Heatherleigh. He needed them back, but felt that he was becoming too old to do such things. Would they help? He offered 500gp for them to find the items and bring Valanunthe back alive (for further questioning), but if that couldn’t be done, he would provide 200gp for her dead. The group agreed. In gratitude for their assistance, he provided them with an Orb of Light that could produce the equivalent of torch light upon command, and a special scroll that should be able to by pass the magical lock allowing entrance to the lower level.

The group headed off and encountered some goblins en route. It appeared to Tobias, the ranger that had just joined the group, that they seemed to be moving into the area and establish a stronger presence here. This became even more apparent when they entered the old ruins. Although still largely empty from when they emptied it out several days before, there were indications that the goblins had moved into parts of the complex. Avoiding those areas, they made it to the doorway to the lower level, used Fonkin’s new scroll, and descended the stairway to the lower level. Upon entering the lower level, Bitters, the dwarf in the party noticed that whereas the first level was poorly excavated and engineered, the second level was marginally better constructed.

The adventurers arrived at an intersection and could choose to head east or south. They chose south. After examining their very first room (which was empty, but was being prepared for further excavation), the elves, dwarves, and rogue in the group noticed something a little off on a southern passage wall, and after putting their heads together discovered it was a secret door that swiveled on a pivot. They activated it and one-by-one they entered a hallway heading south. There was a single doorway at the end of the hallway. When Juraviel, the rogue, couldn’t hear anything, Gwar the barbarian entered.

Immediately a magic missile as well as a normal arrow flew out and hit Gwar, and then the person responsible for the attacks darted behind a cot and disappeared. Several members of the group entered the 40 x 30 foot room heading to different corners of the room to see if they could see the person. There was a lit brazier in the center of the room illuminating everything, revealing a cot, a small chest, and some books. But the person who attacked the barbarian was nowhere to be seen. Then Gwar noticed a trap door open beneath the cot and some (invisible?) person dart into it. He charged, overturned the cot, and opened the trap door. Bitters, the dwarven cleric/fighter was next and he descended the ladder. At the bottom he found himself in a 5 foot wide and 6 foot tall passageway covered in darkness. He heard a female elven voice whisper out to him from the darkness that she was going to kill him. That got his blood boiling and he charged ahead. She managed to sneak behind him in her invisible state, whisper in his ear that his time had come, and then stabbed him in the back (which removed her invisibility). The attack took him to 0 hit points! He fell to his knees, unable to attack or cast spells. She could hear the sounds of the dwarf’s companions entering the hidden passage and approaching fast, realizing that she couldn’t waste anymore time, she swiftly moved to the front of the dwarf (where he could see she was wearing the Amulet of the Mighty Fist), stroking the helpless dwarfs cheek and beard, gave him a little wink, and darted off into the darkness.

The majority of the group had now descended the ladder and rushed to the aid of Bitters, throwing on some heals to bring him back to his feet. But now it was time to pause. It seemed that upon entering this lower level the group speculated they had already found Valanunthe, and she was formidable indeed, with a unique balance of wizardly intelligence/magic, and combat skills that could take a person down with a single blow. It was time to evaluate what they should do next – examine her room more closely, or continue down this dark, dangerous and narrow passageway. In two weeks the adventure continues!

Castles & Crusades Diary: The Barrowmaze Campaign, Session 34.

The adventurers meet Lord Viscount Kell Ironguard in the aftermath of the Hobgoblin army invading the Duchy of Aerik. They choose a name for themselves – The Army of the Light – and enter a dangerous woodland hydra lair.

Last session the adventurers learned of Hobgoblin Centurion Ludovic Krach leading an army of hundreds to batter down the walls of Ironguard Motte while his Commander Skall Pankratius headed to the Barrowmoor in search of a stolen crown (and other items) on behalf of their King. The adventurers defeated the Commander in a big battle, but lost a divine knight of their own in the process. This game session took place just minutes after the previous adventure, and the group, low on hit points and spells, gathered themselves up, grabbed what they could, and headed back to the nearby town of Helix to bury their dead, heal, and bring in the head of Skall as proof of their success. They discovered that not only had Ironguard Motte been attacked, Helix had also been entered by a small group of Hobgoblin troops that burned the thatched roofs of townsfolk, and killed local guards and resting adventurers. The adventurers wanted to rest and heal. They took a fortnight to do so. Then after those two weeks were up they headed to Ironguard Motte to meet the ruler of the Duchy of Aerik (an area of land roughly 55 by 60 miles encompassing Irongaurd Motte, Helix, Bogtown, and the Barrowmoor). Since several of the group were entering 5th level, they were building a name for themselves in the region (in C&C 1st-4th level could be considered low level, 5-8 mid-level, and 9-12+ high level).

They arrived at the front gates of Ironguard Motte with Skall’s head on a pike, the soldiers at the gate cheered and the captain of the guard brought them in. The adventurers noticed there seemed to be two different factions in the city – those loyal to the Viscount Kell Ironguard, and those that were being taken in by the powerful personality of Thorgrímr, leader of a group of Vikings named the Vargjägare (Wolf Hunters). The adventurers had previously helped the Wolf Hunters and Thorgrímr several sessions back reclaim his family treasure in a Viking tomb in the Barrowmaze. Now, entering through the front gates of Irongaurd Motte they could see Thorgrímr – a skald – on a platform entertaining a group of several hundred in the square with stories of his heroic feats. Having helped Ironguard Motte hold off the Hobgoblins, the Wolf Hunters had politely and reluctantly been allowed to remain in town by the viscount, and Thorgrímr was making use of this time to build up a larger following.

The group was brought by the captain of the guard for an audience with Lord Viscount Kell Ironguard and he intentionally let them know he had been keeping track of them for the year (and more) that they had been adventuring in the Barrowmaze. He new they traveled in the maze with a skeletal fallen paladin name Dhekeon (the Disgraced), and that they had helped Thorgrímr retrieve his family fortune and become a player for power in the region. But the paladin in the group – along with other members – pledged their loyalty to the Viscount (Thorgrímr is chaotic and wild, whereas as Kell is lawful, and the group makeup leans towards lawful). It was worked out that the group would occasionally work on behalf of the crown, and that in turn they would get a building of their own to use as headquarters. The viscount was surprised that after a year they had not come up with a name for their adventuring company. They thought about it and came up with the The Army of the Light! The viscount could now create a sign with that name for the front of their establishment.

Lord Viscount Kell Ironguard (art from Barrowmaze Complete)

To give them their first test on behalf of the viscount, Kell mentioned that a hydra had taken residence north west of Ironguard Motte and that his men were too busy rebuilding the town/castle walls, the houses in town, and repairing weapons and armor to deal with the monster. Would the Army of the Light deal with it? Of course they would!

They recruited a Hobbit ranger friend of theirs – Conwrick Pimkin – and after purchasing horses and carts, headed into the wilderness and Conwrick tracked it down to a depressed, swampy piece of land filled with water, mud, and vines, but surrounded in a 60 ft. radius by tall, majestic trees. After working out a strategy, three members charged forward to try and catch the hydras attention, as the others flanked it on the sides and from behind. A wizard cast fog cloud from the the right flank, the bard on the left tried to fascinate a couple hydra heads, a wizard behind it launched magic missiles, and the paladin, dwarven berserker, and warrior priest in front did a full-on assault. The hydra took a “liking” to the bard that briefly had fascinated two of its seven heads and lunged in to attack but only managed small nips, but the heads in the front became quite obsessed with the dwarven berserker and darted in time and again to viciously bite him.

Eventually the Army of the Light brought the monster down and defeated it. It had possessed a poisonous bite, and from the bite the bard and berserker became physically and mentally weaker (-1 to all physical and mental attribute checks, as well as -1 to initiative) for an untold period of time. However, they did discover in its lair over a thousand gold pieces of gold and gems, and a hat of disguise that one of the gnome rogue/illusionists was quite drawn to.

As some members of the group enter mid-level, they have now acquired a name – The Army of the Light – and are now working their way into the good graces of the local authority, as well as the political intrigue of the area. They are becoming more than just adventurers delving into the Barrowmaze, they are now becoming minor authority figures in their own right. But is there enough room for all these people vying for power in the Duchy of Aerik?

Hydra art from the Dungeons & Dragons 5E Monster Manual.

Reducing Future RPG Purchases.

I do enjoy RPG’s! When I quit running D&D 5E in 2018 and began looking for a game that would allow me to borrow the best from previous versions of the game (emphasizing the earlier editions), as well as other, non-D&D RPG’s, it was Castles & Crusades that I switched to because of it’s flexibility to draw from other systems and emulate the feel I want for the game.

If you look at my previous post (which shows just my Castles & Crusades collection), I’ve got everything I would ever need for C&C gaming (for myself and my players).

I am about to complete my second month of unemployment (due to a Covid-related workforce reduction). While unemployed I am only spending money on my home, utilities, and food. Any and all RPG purchasing are on hold. Unemployment has really caused me to look carefully at what I think I want and what I actually need (in fact, it was back in February/March when things began to spiral down during the early days of Covid, that I began to back away from larger gaming purchases). In my previous blog post you can see my C&C collection. The other parts of my RPG collection substantially expands my gaming materials. If I am honest. I have enough gaming products to last me the rest of my life, and this is including the fact that I run nearly two games a week. Now, to be sure, once I find a new job I know I will want to go back to supporting game stores and gaming companies, but two things have become quite obvious to me:

1) I own more diverse game products than most people and as mentioned above, its enough to last me the rest of my life.

2) I bought my new house in 2019 and my gaming products already take up my dining room (which is my gaming room for in-person and online gaming) and living room. That is enough space to allocate to this pursuit. I keep the upper level of my house devoted to my academic library, home office, a guest bedroom (which also expands my academic library), and my bedroom. So to purchase more gaming books means expanding into those areas upstairs, reducing them of the space they deserve. I don’t want that. The lower floor is fun and games, the upper level is for academics, study, work, and sleep. I like to have clearly demarcated areas.

For me, if there is one good thing that has come of what Covid has done in reducing the economy, requiring social distancing, and causing me to lose my job, its that I’ve had half a year to reflect on what is necessary and needed in my life, and where my money and how my home space should be allocated to meet this.

Related to this, I’ve also begun to have my fill of Kickstarter. Too many companies – even before we had Covid-related delays in production and shipping – were not delivering products as they were advertised, and more frequently, they delivered their projects many months too late. I no longer want to support that behavior. I now have economic and home-space reasons for reducing my support (obviously I can still support PDF options for some products, which will cost less money and will take up no physical space).

So as I re-evaluate my priorities, I now can shift focus and make better use of my space and money.

Just a portion of my full RPG gaming collection

My Castles & Crusades Collection

As readers of this blog know, I run two Castles & Crusades campaigns. You might ask: “How committed am I to the game?” Well, here are photos of my C&C collection that might interest you!

Photo no.1: shows the major box sets, core rulebooks, Aihrde books, Gygax Worldbuilding books, and Codex books.
Photo no.2: provides a better look at the bottom shelf of photo 1.
Photo no.3: shows independent modules, digest-sized box sets (2 sets of digest sized books are inside the box sets), and the Tainted Lands and Umbrage Saga box sets.
Photo no. 4: These are extra books that players can use at the table in my home if they don’t own them (and in the case of the extra Player’s Handbook, buy one if they are won over by the experience).
Photo no.5: These are extra copies of books for myself that I keep in my library (where I sometimes do campaign design).

Photo no.6: C&C merchandise such as various mugs, a dice cup, and a promotional sign I use to promote the public games I run at game stores.

Castles & Crusades Diary: Dragonclaw Barony, Session 10.

The adventurer’s complete their search for the gnome sage – Fonkin.

Just like my Tuesday group, I am now listing the session number of the campaign to more easily keep track of campaign progression.

Today the group acquired another new Discord player (a player I gamed with 17 years ago joined last week). This group of online players is really expanding well. Our game only lasted around 3 hours, but I spoke with some players afterward for another 4 hours! It is a good feeling to get a group of good players who you can game with and also have great conversations with afterward. My hopes for this group continue to expand.

As for the adventure, the players had been exploring an underground complex in search of Fonkin, the beloved gnome sage of the village of Dale. They spent 3 game sessions exploring all the northern rooms, but Fonkin was to be found in a southern room.

The path they took to the room where Fonkin was located was much more easy going, since during the 3-4 game days they had spend in the underground complex, they had taken on a faction of hobgoblins, goblins, kobolds, and orcs, and not enough time had passed for new members to check in to find out why communication had stopped, thus the group only encountered some rats, wolves in an closed room, and and a couple untriggered magical and mechanical traps.

Up until this point in the adventure the rogue in the group had failed to unlock the doors and the dwarven barbarian/cleric and fighter/cleric of Thor had broke them down. When they finally got to the door to the room where Fonkin was located, the group had gotten tired of this “failed to unlock the door so break it down” strategy, so they decided to simply knock on the door! And a gnome replied! Fonkin had wizard locked the door and cautiously opened it for the group to enter. The players found him in front of a set of double doors leading to a lower level of the complex, and he had spent a week trying to analyze how to get through them with no luck (evidence of his research could be found by the scrolls, spell books, and food fragments that could be seen lying next to a box he had been sitting on). It seems his apprentice was actually a thief and had stolen something from him (he didn’t say what). Fonkin has been trying to find out where she went and had ended up in this room.

He was impressed that the group had made it this far and found him, and also realized that if the town of Dale had sent out search parties for him, that he had better go back and let them know he was fine (he had lost track of time during his underground research, plus gnomes have a different conception of time). After assessing the group, he said they could be of use in tracking down his former apprentice thief. He told them to meet him back at the Laughing Dragon Inn in the village of Dale and he would give them details on his former apprentice – now thief – what she had stolen, why it was important, and what he would offer them if they helped him find her and retrieve it. and with that he turned and looked at the door with an annoyed look, twisted a ring on his left finger, whispered some words, and disappeared. Next session the group will embark on part 2 of this adventure!

Fonkin, beloved sage of the Town of Dale (from Tales from The Laughing Dragon, Basic Fantasy RPG)

Castles & Crusades Diary: The Barrowmaze Campaign, Session 33.

Adventurers Defeat Hobgoblin Commander Skall Pankratius in an epic battle in the Barrowmoor.

When they heard that a Hobgoblin Centurion named Ludovic Krach was leading a small army to Ironguard Motte to take the town, and had sent his Commander, Skall Pankratius, and a smaller party to head to the Barrowmaze on some secret mission, the group decided to head out to take on the Commander.

The gnome bard sent his owl familiar out for reconnaissance. Discovering the hobgoblins were approach from the north west and the adventurers were south west they were able to get to a large rock outcropping to lie in wait due to a year of familiarity adventuring in the Barrowmoor. Pankratius arrived with a well-trained military-focused group of 30 soldiers, 4 lieutenants, and one manacled, beat-up prisoner who had been forced to lead them there. 10 soldiers, 2 lieutenants, and the prisoner entered the Barrowmaze and the the other 20 soldiers and 4 lieutenants set up a secure campsite as Pankratius surveyed the area under his veteran gaze to calmly take stock of the area.

The gnome used his communication with small animals to send a couple of rabbits toward the hobgoblin camp 100 yards north of them and try to lure some soldiers away for an ambush. Knowing they would need food, several hobgoblins did just that, and the group silently ambushed them. A lieutenant noticed their disappearance, notified Pankratius, and as the Commander had a circular defense set up around his camp (in case this was a diversion), the lieutenant and 5 soldiers carefully headed the 100 yards south through the swampy ground to where the adventurers hid behind the rock outcropping. Just 50 feet from the hobgoblin camp, the lieutenant observed that a rogue was hidden, but the rogue used his Eyes of Charming and managed to break through the officer’s strong will, and told him to continue, and he did so with his troops.

It was a slow and careful approach due to the strict military training the lawful evil hobgoblins follow, but one-by-one the hobgoblins were taken down, and the lieutenant went down. While this happened, Pankratius watched, silently. He had noticed that the lieutenant had initially paused 50 feet south of his camp, and then observed the battle that took place moments later with no emotion, taking note of the adventurers, their skills, and their tactics. When a spellcaster cast sleep on the final hobgoblins, the adventurers cirlced in to kill them, and it was then that Pankratius allowed a small smile to appear on his face, and he struck. He raised his arm in the air, and then pulled it down with force, and just above the group, a pillar of flame descended from the sky and enveloped half the group as they stood over the hobgoblins. The damage was devastating. The divine knight was burned to a charred, smoking mess, and the warrior priest would’ve experienced the same fate, but a player used a card they had from the deck of Dirty Tricks and the warrior priest was teleported behind the rock outcropping just behind where the inferno had hit. Other characters were also reduced to single digit hit points. And with that Pankratius ordered his remaining two groups of 5 soldiers and 1 lieutenant to head south toward the party from the west and east and he made his way down the middle…toward the rogue.

Dhekeon (the NPC fallen skeletal paladin seeking redemption from past sins) knew he needed to take action, and he charged toward the west group of hobgoblins with a roar, summoning forth a powerful fear ability he possessed and which the group had never seen before. Breaking through the hobgoblins resistance to fear, they turned and fled away through the swamp, Dhekeon then veered toward Pankratius, hoping he could reduce the mighty commander to raise the chances of success for the group. But Pankratius raised his Holy Symbol of Hades, and using clerical powers he possessed, summoned forth his powers and turned the undead warrior and he in turn fled into the swamp (again, this was something the group had never seen before).

The group managed to take down the remaining 5 soldiers and 1 lieutenant from the east flank, and Pankratius settled into a battle stance in the middle, ready to take them all on. The druid cast entangle, but the Commander shrugged and moved straight ahead out of the area of effect to where the paladin was standing and attacked him. The paladin was reduced to his final 3 hit points. The paladin attacked with his Saints Mace and missed. The players took a chance and used two cards from the Deck of Dirty Tricks (i) get two full rounds of action in one round, and (ii) weapon does double damage if it hits. The paladin swung for the second time this round – and rolled a natural 20! The critical hit die was rolled and declared 2x damage! Once they doubled it again due to the card, it was 48 points of damage! The supernatural blow from the weapon caved the Commander’s chest inward, blood sprayed out of his mouth. He was dead. Very dead. It was a stunning turn of events that no one had predicted!

And that was where we ended that adventure. The group is low on hit points, there are still 5 hobgoblin soldiers and 1 lieutenant that will return from being feared, there are also 10 soldiers and 2 lieutenants in the Barrowmaze, and you can be sure that with a screaming skeleton, and a roaring fiery inferno descending from the sky that charred characters to nothing, that monsters in the swamp heard, saw, and smelled this mayhem! Next Tuesday the action continues!

Hobgoblin Commander Skall Pankratius (art by MissSwarm, Deviant Art)

Castles & Crusades Pre-Diary: The Barrowmaze Campaign, Pre-Session 33.

Sometimes you need to shake up a campaign a bit to keep players on their toes. Below you find part of an email I sent to the players in my Tuesday Barrowmaze campaign in preparation for Tuesday’s game.

A Hobgoblin Army and Search Party Approaches.
Although you reside in the village of Helix, some of you had helped out nearby Ironguard Motte a few weeks back with Jotun Giants that had attacked the walls of the keep. You dealt with them. But now something else far more dangerous is approaching. A Hobgoblin army is entering the Duchy of Aerik and they are apparently in search of something that was stolen from them and they seem to think that it was taken somewhere within the Duchy. Some of you will know what this might be about based on a previous adventure months ago (we can talk about that on Tuesday).

The militaristic Hobgoblins don’t do anything half-heartedly, when they go in for something, they go all in. Local intelligence in the territory says that a powerful Hobgoblin Centurion named Ludovic Krach (a worshiper of Hades) is leading an army of several hundred soldiers, archers, and pikemen, to take Ironguard Motte. Thorgrímr, who you know has an interest in establishing himself in the area, is leading his Wolf Hunters and Viking Berskerkers to Ironguard Motte to help defend it. If he can be the primary force that holds Ludovic and his army off, then this not only saves the area, but also raises Thorgrímr’s position in the region, giving him more political leverage against Lord Viscount Kell Ironguard himself. Defeat genuine evil and acquire political gain and the loyalty of the people – these are all good things in Thorgrímr’s eyes as he maneuvers to become the true strength and power in this region of the Borderlands!

But while Ludovic leads his army against the walls of Ironguard Motte (which is drawing together heroes from the area to its defense beyond just the likes of the Wolf Hunters), the Elves and creatures of the forest say that a powerful hobgoblin commander named Skall Pancratius (another worshiper of Hades, pictured below) is leading a quieter, more focused and specialized search party of grunts and small number of troops toward the Barrowmaze in search of something. Why and for what purpose?

You are all a group that’s becoming known as Barrowmaze champions. Commander Skall Pankratius is leading a hobgoblin search party to the Barrowmoor seeking something which is clearly very important to them. Some of you might know what this is. What will you do?

Art I chose to represent the Hobgoblin Commander Skall Pankratius (by MissSwarm, Deviant Art)
Hobgoblins (art from Nord Games, Ultimate Bestiary: Revenge of the Horde)

My Codex Egyptium/Celtarum Kickstarter arrived today!

As you can see, there is a lot in it! 🙂 Those who game with me know the Codex books make up a core and vital component of my games. I want the players who game at my house or the game stores to have access to all the Codex classes so that they can really delve into the folklore I wish to bring to life in my games. Thus, I get a copy of the codex books for myself, and I have player copies for those that don’t own the books but want to reference them for making characters.

However, you might notice that I got two of the Codex Celtarum 2nd editions, but only one of the Codex Egyptium, and that is because for some reason I don’t understand, the Codex Egyptium has no character classes in it!?😕

Although I have a couple of players who enjoy reading the lore that Brian Young puts into these wonderful codex books, the real draw for the players are the character classes. If there are no character classes, most of my players are not interested. Case in point: the Codex Celtarum 1st edition only had 1.25 character classes – the Wildbeing/Woodwose, and the Wolf Charmer (the latter of which was just a single ability that you would add to a rogue or ranger). When my players discovered the lack of character classes while browsing through that book they shrugged and never looked at the book again. For the new Codex Celtarum 2nd edition, Brian dropped the previous 1.25 character classes (why?), but did add a Celtic Bard, Celtic Druid, and a Celtic Seer (although for the Seer they just tell you to go to the Codex Classicum and use the Oracle class, which is fine for me since I have several copies of that book, but I am sure this will be annoying for players who want to run a Celtic Seer but don’t have or want the Classicum book).

So I guess the good news is that my players might finally make some Celtic characters once they see the Codex Celtarum 2nd edition classes. The bad news, though, is that they’ll probably completely skip over the Egyptium book, and it will only be used by me for reference (thus why I only bought one copy). I do, however, want Egyptium character classes, and for that reason I purchased books that Green Ronin made during the d20 era – a box set called Hamunaptra-Egyptian Adventures, a book in their Mystic Vistas series called Testament (which covers Old Testament cultures), and a Frog God Games book named Necropolis (written by Gary Gygax). Indeed, I’ve already made rough conversions of those 3E/d20 classes/prestige classes for Castles & Crusades.

It’s really a shame Brian left Egyptian classes out of the Egyptium book. At several points in the book he describes an Egyptian priest and the unique Egyptian wizard/priest along with their unique names, but then says there isn’t enough historical information on them to make a proper RPG conversion. This is puzzling. I love Brian’s work on these due to the great academic rigor he brings into his design of these books. As an academic myself (well, former academic), that is a huge draw for me. But these codex books are not academic treatises, they have to be a usable game product, and in this case it falls short for the player, I think. Funny enough, if you look through the Green Ronin books I mentioned above, they have almost identical names for Egyptian priests and wizard/priests and reference much the same abilities that Brian does, but then they provide playable character classes to use in a game! So the Codex Egyptium falls short with this lack of support for the player. I will reference the Egyptium book as a GM, however, since I have the Green Ronin books for the classes and the background for those classes, I’ll probably find myself using those books more often, since they provide a complete GM/Player system all-in-one.

I don’t want to end on a down note, though. As you can see, from this kickstarter I got lots of Egyptian maps, laminated Egyptian symbols, the Book of the Dead, several Egyptian adventures, Egyptian minis, the new Codex Celtarum, and a new Celtic adventure. And the Celtic material is going to get a great deal of use from me, since the Norse and Celtic cultures play a large role in my games!

Castles & Crusades: The Barrowmaze Campaign, Session 32.

Group discovers Monk trapped in sealed dungeon and battles insulting skulls and necromancers.

I’ve decided to number these entries to better keep track of the grand journey through the Barrowmaze. Technically this Tuesday campaign is on session 52 (if you include the adventures that began this campaign back in August of 2018). But we didn’t arrive at the Barrowmaze until August 2019, so I chose to use that as the start point.

When we left off last time the monk had been teleported by a crypt thing into a sealed crypt with 77 burial alcoves, a stone pedestal with a mirror that distorts your light sources and vision with a bottomless pit in front of it. There was also a runic golem that attempted to attack the monk, but using the mirror to confuse its visual capabilities, it tumbled into the bottomless pit…forever. With only one torch, two days water, some irons spikes and a small hammer, the monk got to work trying to chisel his way out of the entrance that had been bricked up (in pitch darkness after his light source went out).

Not knowing where their companion was, and unable to make use of divination magic that might assist, they looked at their dungeon map fragments and randomly chose one of the three dungeon entrance locations that they were aware of. What surprised me was that they chose the correct one and unbeknownst to them were only a half dozen rooms away from the monk!

It took some time to make their way through hidden crypts, and hidden rooms where skeletons burst through the walls to attack. They could do this because their skeletal frame had been hardened due to a collection of lime deposits that had leaked onto them from the crypt ceilings over centuries (the Barrowmaze is located under a swamp). The group also hammered through a bricked up wall, but as the bricks fell through to the other side it triggered spores from a yellow mold and one character nearly died as the spores coated his lungs and began turning his face into a yellowish/orange mold. The group fortunately had some cards they could use from the Deck of Dirty Tricks and saved the character at the last moment.

Eventually the group entered a large chamber with a portcullis to the south, opened it, and then followed the 100+ foot corridor, arriving at their friend’s bricked up crypt. However, during the time it took them to break into the crypt to free the monk and explore the crypt with the bottomless pit and mysterious mirror, necromancers of Nergal had entered the large 70 x 70 foot room to the north, shut the portcullis, and laid out an arc of skulls on the floor leading out of the room to the west. The PC’s have a paladin, barbarian, and berserker, so they had the strength to lift the portcullis, but as they did so the array of a dozen skulls insulted them (taunting them and having comical conversations with themselves). This irritated some characters, so once the portcullis was pushed up they rushed toward the skulls to crush them. But the wizards had greased the area in between the southern portcullis and the skulls in the center of the room. So for round after round the party members slipped and fell. The exit to this large room was a western corridor, and lurking in the shadows of this corridor the Nergal necromancers watched the PC’s slip and fall and then launched magic missiles at them.

As some of the group remained at the portcullis and knocked off the skulls one-by-one with their ranged weapons, the other half struggled to get through 20 x 40 feet of greased dungeon floor. The monk got to the necromancers first, but just as he got within reach of them a sleep spell caused him to slide to the ground into a slumber, and since they had filled that area with oil, they simply stepped back and dropped their lantern, lighting the place up! Catching on fire obviously woke the monk up the following round, and then the paladin charged through the fire toward them, but the necromancers had disappeared. Was it through one of three hallways that branched off from this corridor, or perhaps a secret passage? Next week the adventure continues!