Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Murder Maze of the Soska Sisters

I ran PLANET MOTHERFUCKER last Friday, devising a quickie adventure that is basically a love-letter to the Soska Sisters. I think I did a good job capturing the cackle they used on Hellevator.

The Characters

Runa Ravensbane, Church Burner who poses as a Scandinavian black metaller, but is secretly Sicilian

The Leather Corinthian, Living Dead Hustler, who is like Lux Interior if he were "Sears Catalogue Decadent"

Dr. MK ULTRA, Doctor Feelsbad, a walking drug lab who has trouble pushing his Purple Haze

Y3N, Unnatural Symbiote with a big toothy worm inside of them

Sault Voi Vittu, Vermin Lord from the Upper Peninsula with an army of frogs


The motherfuckers were all rollin' down the road when they heard this ad spot come on the radio:

Tonight, one night only, at the STRIKEZONE!, Tomahawk Johnny & the Savages (cut to a track that sounds like a cross between Link Wray and Ennio Morricone). Come on down to the STRIKEZONE! To hear the thrilling Tomahawk Johnny & the Savages. And that’s not all at the STRIKEZONE! We’ve got jalapeno poppers and two-dollar shooters all night long. Only at the STRIKEZONE! That’s the STRIKE ZONE!, exit 10 off route 81. 

Since you don't pass up the opportunity to see Tomahawk Johnny & the Savages, they pulled in to the STRIKEZONE! The STRIKEZONE! was a sports bar decorated in wall to wall baseball memorabilia (posters, baseball cards, signed balls & bats, jerseys, shit like that); the seats of the stools were upholstered to look like baseballs and CRTS mounted around the bar were playing VHS tapes of old World Series games. However, the stage was conspicuously empty and the crowd was growing restless.

The group were approached by SLUGGER, an older, paunchy man chewing Big League Chew who used a dented aluminum bat as a cane. SLUGGER was the owner of the STRIKEZONE! and he had a problem; he approached the group explained:

"Huddle up with me in the clubhouse. We got us a problem. It’s the bottom of the ninth, bases are loaded, and we can’t find the MVPs. Tomahawk Johnny & the Savages shoulda been here by now! They shoulda done a soundcheck an hour ago.  Look at those bleachers. The fans are getting restless. Now, you folks look like just the All Stars we need to step up and find Tomahawk Johnny and the boys, bring em here, and win this one for the Gipper! Whatdaya say? There’s a signing bonus for ya if you can hit this one out of the park!"

The motherfuckers agreed to find the band and bring Tomahawk Johnny & the Savages back to the STRIKEZONE! in return for cash, free shots, and free jalapeno poppers.

The group decided to head back out on the road in the direction the band would have been coming from. They discovered the band's 70s Dodge Tradesmen veered off the side of the road in a ditch. There was no sign of a struggle, but from the tracks it did look like someone laid a trap that forced the van to skid into the ditch. Inside the van, they found a bucket of turkey legs from Madame Turkeyleg’s House of "Bird Meat." The art on the bucket showed a cartoon turkey in a Marie Antoinette wig having its leg cut off in a guillotine. The also found a crumpled up piece of paper with a phone number written on it: 867-5309.

The group decided to look for a payphone to try the number, and it turned out that the nearest one was outside Madame Turkeyleg's House of "Bird Meat." Dr. MK ULTRA called the number, and got an angry guy on the line who said, "You lookin’ for Jenny? Then you’re looking for trouble! I’ll kick your ass, man!"

Inside, one of the two pimply teenage boys working at the joint was mopping blood off the tile floor while the other waited to take orders behind the counter. Both kids were dressed as French revolutionaries, as that was the company uniform at Madame Turkeyleg's. The boys confirmed that the band had stopped in to buy a bucket of turkey legs and use the restroom. The restroom was searched for clues, and the motherfuckers found a fanny pack that a band member had left behind. Inside the found condoms, a baggy of weed, and a receipt for gassing up the van.

However, before they could ask the kids working the counter for directions to the gas station, Madame Turkeyleg's was attacked by a roving gang of French aristocrats, complete with powdered wigs and stupid makeup. Both of the teenage employees were wasted by gunfire, but the motherfuckers fought back. Runa exploded a bunch of their heads and they rest were dealt with in a similarly violent fashion.

After the carnage, they found the gas station. Inside were two identical twin sisters, dressed a bit like horror hostesses. When the motherfuckers asked a few too many probing questions, one of the sisters pulled a lever behind the counter that caused the floor to open like a trapdoor, dumping the group down into the depths below. The chamber they fell into was filled with machine-generated fog. They also noticed that there were video cameras mounted toward the ceiling, documenting their every movie.

The horrible truth: the gas station owners were the Soska Sisters. They had constructed a murder maze beneath the gas station and were luring victims into it so they could tape what happened to them as a way of recreating their glory days of Hellevator! And now the motherfuckers were caught in their tangled web! Fuckin' shit!

Following a strange orange glow brought them through a doorway done up to look like a giant demonic mouth. Inside were two doors: they could choose to enter The Lair of the Boiler Room Bastard or The Camp Minnetonka Massacre. The Soska Sisters provided commentary over the murder maze's PA system--which the mofos found extremely annoying. 

Anyway, they opted for the Camp Minnetonka Massacre. As they entered, the Soska Sisters narrated "Witness the horrors of the Camp Minnetonka Massacre, a Christian summer camp where the uptight counselors were picked off one by one by a masked killer before their season even began! Be careful if you meet the Minnetonka Mauler–there’s a dreadful secret behind the killer’s mask! Ahahahaha!" over the PA. Inside a sleepaway camp cabin, the motherfuckers interrupted a robot dressed like a masked killer in the act of butchering a topless nubile. In the fight that ensued, they downed the killer, but in true slasher fashion it got up and attacked them again when they took their eyes off it for a sec. On the plus side, they found Billy, the bass player for the Savages, hiding in a canoe.

The next room they chose to tackle was The Gunderson House, a Texas Chain Saw-style hellbilly hangout. The voiceover: "The Gunderson’s never let a guest go hungry–even if it meant feeding them their own friends and family. There’s something piping hot in the oven, better eat up before the Gunderson’s come in. They like to see a clean plate! Ahahahahaha!" Inside the house, they were confronted with an oven full of meat pies of dubious provenance. They ate them, and survived to tell the tale!

Next, they choose to enter a scenario called The Dark Angel of Riverside Hospital: "Riverside Hospital–people were sent there to get well, but many of them GOT DEAD instead! Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease! They never did find out which nurse was offing the patients. Ahahahahahaha!" This one was pretty simple: they brawled their way through hospital corridors full of murder nurses in American Mary aprons and did their best to avoid their bone saws. Y3N did get stabbed up at the door leading out, though.

They found the rest of the bandmates tied up in a storage closet. Annoyingly, the band saw Billy as their savior, giving the mofos no credit. Ingrates! Everyone exited through the murder maze's gift shop, which sold action figures of the animatronic killers they encountered and t-shirts that said "I survived the Soska Sister's Murder Maze and All I Got Was this Stupid T-Shirt." By this point, they badly wanted to tangle with the sisters, but they discovered that they had run off with the tapes of the motherfuckers' trek through the maze.

Even worse: they had stolen Dr. MK ULTRA's car. And since the doctor had a woman's corpse in the boot, the Soska Sisters were now in possession of a DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Anyone Who Tries to Convince You That You Didn't Have Fun is a Jerkoff

I really do try to be non-denominational when it comes to role-playing games and the various scenes that form around them. I consider how other people have fun at their gaming tables to be not my business, so it's not worth getting het up about one way or another. 

However, I've learned the hard way that not everyone is like me. In particular, I have a bone to pick with the way that some indie gamers are deeply invested in convincing people that they aren't actually having fun with the games they play

Other kinds of hipsters don't do this. Music and film hipsters will just assume you have bad taste if you like stuff they don't approve of or if you aren't into what they like. The worst of the OSR guys simply think you're simply having the wrong kind of fun if you're playing games not in their niche. But the kind of indie gamer I'm taking about here believes that you're either deluding yourself into believing you had fun or they try pathologize you--you've been "abused" by bad game design into thinking you had fun or have otherwise been harmed by gaming in a way that never really holds up to scrutiny

My theory is that the genesis point for this attitude is Ron Edwards stating that Vampire: The Masquerade causes brain damage. Now, I take Edwards at his word that he didn't mean that statement as attack, but it's pretty easy to see why people took it that way. The problem is that other folks picked up on the idea of pointing at people who play different games and proclaiming that there must be some wrong with them and ran with it. 

The idea is now part of the Forge's legacy, and you see it pop up fairly often in places--storygames.com, Something Awful, Reddit--where indie gamers hang out. The license to imply, if not outright state, that there is something actually wrong with other kinds of gamers and that they aren't really having fun has seemingly become embedded in the culture of that scene.

It makes sense that this strange variety of hipsterism is so deeply entwined with the indie scene because that scene often takes the premise that people aren't having fun playing rpgs and that "good design" can fix that as tenets of faith. For me, is where indie theory doesn't align with my experience. It is not my experience that people are unhappy playing rpgs. I've not met these people. I'm skeptical that sane people will keep doing a thing as a leisure activity if it's making them miserable. 

Even if we take it as a fact that these unhappy people exist, it always ends up sounding like their problem has less to do with a game's design being "bad" and more that there is a people problem at work. No amount of considering "the Big Model," "robust game design," or implementing shared narrative authorship will fix a problem like "this one guy at the table is being a tool and it's ruining my fun." The real solution to that issue is that you just stop inviting that guy to play. In fact, I strongly suspect the "a well-designed system can fix any interpersonal issues" guys are often the shithead players at their tables, as are any jerkoffs who want to convince you that your fun wasn't real.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Maw of Crom Cruach

Our Savage Krevborna game continued last Friday. I didn't have a ton of time to prep an adventure that week, but I did manage to throw something together. I was expecting a shorter session, but this one actually occupied us for far longer than I thought it would.

The Characters

Pendleton Torst, rogue anatomist

Catarina Redmoor, prioress of an unusual convent

Panthalassa Laurentide, a very weird orphan

Raoul Carathis, necromancer

Daytona Midnight, dhampir gunslinger


Upon their return to Creedhall, the characters found a note hammered into the door of Viktoria Frankenstein's chateau telling them that there was an experiment in progress and that they should go away. On the way back from the chateau, they stopped in to see Father Prim. Father Prim had no idea what Frankenstein was up to, but he did know that Serafina was involved. He also had a letter for Catarina because the messenger who had tried to deliver to the chateau either wasn't able to discharge his duty or was killed and eaten by Father Prim. It was a little unclear. 

The letter was also cryptic; it was from one Baron Harricote and it entreated Catarina for aid in a delicate matter. The group traveled to the Harricote estate, where Baron Harricote and his very distraught wife explained that for the past month their children had been quarantined in a tower on the estate because they had contracted the dancing pox. That morning, it was discovered that the guards and servants posted at the tower had been murdered--their throats slit with a curved blade--and the children were now missing.

The group examined the scene, noting that whoever abducted the children made sure to bundle them in warm clothes and had also taken provisions to feed them. When asked if he had any enemies, the Baron mentioned Erasmus Feist, who the group already had a dislike for. Even though Baron Harricote didn't believe that Feist could be behind his children's disappearance, the group sought him out at a coffee house, paid off the proprietor to turn a blind eye, and then proceeded to subject him to some rough treatment. Feist didn't know anything and wasn't involved, but you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs--any cook will tell you that.

Following a different lead, the group sought out the Harricote children's lowborn uncle, Paden, but he was not at home. However, his wife allowed them to search his library for any clues. They determined that his collection of books on folklore evidenced a pronounced interest in pagan matters. His wife confirmed that they followed the Old Faith, but didn't practice openly because Baron Harricote was a zealous member of the Church of Holy Blood. 

Looking at his books more closely indicated that Paden was studying the myth of a cave on the shore of Loch Riven called the Maw of Crom Cruach. The Maw was supposedly imbued with the power to cure people who enter it of illnesses, plagues, and afflictions. They were now working off the supposition that Paden had killed the guards and servants to abduct his nephews and niece to take them to the Maw of Crom Cruach in hopes of effecting a cure where priests, doctors, and herbalists all failed.

And they were correct. They found a very distraught Paden pacing near the mouth of the Maw of Crom Cruach. Confronted with their theory, Paden admitted to what he'd done, but he was now extremely concerned that the children had not emerged from the cave cured of the dancing pox. Paden did not want to venture into the Maw himself, but the group forced him to accompany them as they tried to find his niece and nephews--the Widow pinned Paden's arms behind his back and marched him into the cave system.

They quickly realized that there was something unnatural at work in the caves, as many of its chambers were covered in organic matter such as fibrous puce tissue, thick veins filled with dark fluid, and even a massive pulsating heart. They encountered horrors within the cave, including worm-headed "men," swarms of worms that tried to burrow into their skin, and a floor that shifted. The floor would have dumped Pendleton, Raoul, and Paden into a black curtain of acidic muck, but Daytona quickly cast a spell that allowed them to cling to the walls and avoid death.

When the children were located, they were found bound up in organic tubing that pierced their flesh. Pendleton made a bit of a hash of attempting to operate and remove them from the tubes. Pendleton was able to alchemically heal the niece, and they were able to provide first aid to the middle child, but the Harricote family heir died in the cave before their eyes. 

The Widow, however, had a solution: they could take his corpse back to Viktoria Frankenstein to be reanimated. There was much discussion over whether this course of action was a sound one. And yet, addicted to creating horrible consequences for themselves, they ultimately agreed to have him brought back to "life" by Frankenstein.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Second Death of Countess Vlodeska

We tied up a pretty big loose end in last Friday's Savage Krevborna game. In a previous session, the players unfortunately allowed a vampire to escape her confinement and cut a swathe of terror throughout the land. They had other things they needed to deal with more immediately, but as soon as they had attended to those affairs they decided to bring Countess Vlodeska to heel.

The Characters

Pendleton Torst, rogue anatomist

Catarina Redmoor, prioress of an unusual convent

Panthalassa Laurentide, an orphan who's made a pact

Raoul Carathis, necromancer

Geradd, down-and-out swashbuckling noble

Daytona Midnight, dhampir gunslinger


To achieve their end, the group returned to Creedhall to retrieve the Widow, drop off Serafina, and acquire the services of one of the Sisters Carnifexa--professional monster hunters. The Sister they ended up with was Sister Brynhilde. Sister Brynhilde was a bit dismayed that she was being hired to track down a vampire the group had never actually seen, but when Catarina produced the bone dagger that was psychically connected to Countess Vlodeska, Sister Brynhilde was confident that she could use it to discern her approximate current whereabouts. After performing a ritual on the dagger, Sister Brynhilde determined that the Countess was hiding out in the countryside in the vicinity of a village named Radley.

The group's first stop upon arrival in Radley was a pub inauspiciously called The Iron Mask; indeed, the sign out front depicted a demonic iron mask. (I'm really surprised none of the players had their characters ask about that.) They rented rooms and pumped the barkeep for information about the dolmen circle they had spotted on the hill. The barkeep told them that when he was a lad, a child had been dared to enter the circle of stones on a night when the Blood moon was full--that child was never heard from again. 

From here, the group split up. Panthalassa, Raoul, Pendleton, and Brynhilde visited a Polnezna camp at the edge of the forest. The Polnezna camp was guarded by a sniper with a rifle who was stationed up in a tree. When he saw that the group didn't mean any harm, he came down and explained that the Polnezna were here looking for one of their own. Rikard Lemka, a Polnezna who had abandoned the wandering life to work as the Caulheart's groom, had gone missing months ago. The timeline didn't quite fit to make him a victim of the vampire they were hunting--he had gone missing before Countess Vlodeska had likely arrived in Radley. The Polnezna suspected that the Caulhearts either knew something about his disappearance or were outright responsible for it.

Meanwhile, Geradd, Daytona, Catarina, and the Widow approached the Caulheart's Wildeacre estate. First they decided to take a peek in the stable; they noted that one of the family's horses was not in its stall. They also took a glance in the windows of the small workshop that had been built next to the main house. From the look of things, the workshop was used to build mechanical toys, but everything inside was notably dusty. They knocked on the door of the manor house; the door was answered by a servant who told them that none of the Caulhearts were unavailable. Just then, Adela Caulheart came galloping up on a stallion. She welcomed them to Wildeacre, but laughed at their suggestion that there was a vampire afoot. She flirted with Daytona and Geradd and invited the entire group to dinner that evening.

The group reconvened in front of the church and decided they needed to check out the adjoining cemetery. There was a grave digger at work smoothing over the pile of soil on top of a recent grave. He helpfully explained that three villagers had been taken by a mysterious disease that rendered them pale and weak before they died. The group recognized this as the predation of a vampire. They paid him off to be elsewhere for the moment, and set the Widow to work digging up the recent graves.

The first grave to be exhumed was that of Liam Bright, but the body inside the coffin was clearly not Liam's; the decaying corpse inside was that of a very small woman wearing the flouncy dress of a noblewoman. Daytona ran to the pub and got a name to match the description of the person: it was the body of Cecilia Caulheart, the young wife of the squire. The other two coffins were ominously empty, but their lids did have fingernail scratches on the inside.

The group also decided to explore the church itself. Beneath the church were the tombs of the Caulheart family. One of the tombs was open, but instead of housing the ancestral dead, it seemed to be a lurid place of clandestine pleasures: inside was a straw mattress, manacles, candles, and a cat o' nine tails!

They also hiked up the hill to the dolmen circle, but that appeared to be a dead end.

When the time came to attend dinner at Wildeacre Manor, the group was faced with a conundrum: they suspected that Countess Vlodeska was within the house, but it wouldn't look right arriving for dinner fully armed. They decided to position the Widow outside the manor with any weaponry they couldn't easily conceal. When the time came, they knocked on the door, which swung open. Inside they could hear the soft sound of a harpsicord being played. 

After calling for some time, Adela Caulheart appeared with a glass of red "wine." She led them into the dining room and introduced them to her brother Adamus. The harpsicord player rose from her bench...it was Countess Vlodeska, who had been mentally controlling the Caulheart household since her arrival, having taken Cecilia's place! The group were then set upon by the Countess and the now-vampiric Caulheart siblings.

Pendleton kept the Countess weakened by hurling alchemical substances at her. Daytona summoned a hell hound and Raoul summoned a grave guardian. (The grave guardian was particular good at taking down the vampire thralls.) The Widow burst through the window of the dinning room and began distributing weapons to the party. Brynhilde stabbed one of the Caulhearts, but sustained massive injuries that nearly took her out of the fight.

The Countess was felled, but she didn't stay down for long. Her body was staked, but her head separated from her neck and began to float menacingly, trailing her lungs and entrails that dripped with corrosive acid. The Widow grabbed her by the hair and smashed her head into the parquet flooring; as she rose again, Geradd smashed her skull with his maul, sending Countess Vlodeska crashing into the wall with a sickening thud. Geradd then mashed her into a pulp to make sure that she would not be rising again. 

With the Countess now dead, the group ransacked Wildeacre, then set the manor on fire before leaving. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The D&D Playtest Doesn't Make Me Want to Play D&D

It's amazing how every playtest packet for the new D&D is followed a few months later by a video wherein they walk back most of the proposed changes. It feels like rudderless design led by a community adverse to change plus the designers' lack of a vision about what the game should be and what the purpose of releasing an "update" to it is. 

Somehow this thing is supposed to come out next year?

Is anyone excited by the videos on their Youtube channel where they go over "satisfaction scores" from their surveys? On one hand, I feel that they're doing a terrible job of selling the idea of fantasy adventure because they're never talking about what will make the game fun or dramatic to play. On the other, I think it's such a mistake to cater this much to player feedback. You either create the game that makes your heart sing or you're a marketer in disguise.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Rescuing the Grave Digger

We've returned to our ongoing Krevborna campaign! The group decided that the time to make a move and rescue Serafina from the Black Rats had come round at last. Since the Black Rats had abducted her to lure out Pendleton on behalf of the Holland family, the group felt some degree of responsibility for her ultimate fate. Of course, things didn't quite go as they planned. The group learned that the Black Rats had a safehouse in Veil, so they figured that was the likely location where Serafina was being held captive.

The Characters

Pendleton Torst, rogue anatomist

Catarina Redmoor, prioress of an unusual convent

Panthalassa Laurentide, an orphan who's made a pact

Raoul Carathis, necromancer

Geradd, down-and-out swashbuckling noble


Once they arrived in Veil, the group made their way to a lowly bar to sift the underworld for information. They made the acquaintance of a down-and-out tailor who was able to put them in contact with the Seamasques, one of Veil's major gangs who were also the avowed enemies of the Black Rats, which made their next port of call Aran's Mead Hall. The mead hall was known to be Seamasque territory under the control of a gang member named Aran the Red. 

Aran's Mead Hall was decorated with crossed axes, drinking horns, and battle helms. At the bar was a man with braided red hair and piercing blue eyes. He wore a hammer pendant on a leather thong, he was surrounded by sycophants and hangers-on, and it was determined that he gave off a "shirtless" vibe. Surely, this was Aran the Red. Raoul started to loudly speak ill of the Black Rats, hoping to get Aran's attention, and the ploy worked. He swaggered over to the group and introduced himself. 

They explained that they had designs on eliminating the Black Rats. Aran bought them a round of mead. He told them that the Seamasques wanted to take over the Black Rats' hideout for themselves, but their seer had warned them against approaching the place. The group pressed him, hoping to glean the location, but Aran wouldn't give up the intel so easily. He made them an offer: if one of them could beat Svenbard, the mead hall's champion, in single combat in the hall's fighting pit, he would tell them what they desired. 

Geradd readily volunteered to enter the fighting pit. His opponent was a towering mass of muscle; judging from his appearance, Svenbard likely had some ogre ancestry in his lineage. Svenbard was armed with a giant maul--he also had no teeth. Geradd's battle with Svenbard was tense. The crowd assembled around the fighting pit and were banging their tankards and hilts against the railing. Geradd took a nasty blow to the abdomen from the maul, but he saw an opening and charged in with his glaive, disemboweling the brute. The crowd went wild and Geradd claimed Svenbard's maul as his own.

Early the next morning the group met Aran by the river so he could ferry them across to the island when the Black Rats had holed up in an abandoned fortress. With Aran was Iska, the Seamasque's seer. She made the group a further offer: if they would see fit to burn bundles of herbs in prescribed rooms of the fortress, she would provide them with a favor. The group decided to take Iska up on her offer; what they wanted in return was the location of the Brineblade, the weapon that Captain Laurant had reportedly been searching for on the high seas.

The fortress was a series of seven towers jumbled together into one mass, but each of the towers had collapsed and been capped off with makeshift roofs of tile and wood, which lent the fortress the appearance of a mutilated seven-fingered hand. Raoul used his undead raven Annabel to scout overhead; Annabel discovered a side entrance to the fortress. 

By the door, the group found one of the Black Rats grievously injured and near death. She explained that the Black Rats had been set upon from invaders from inside their fortress. Catarina finished the Black Rat off using the Vlodeska's bone knife; she immediately head the voice of the Countess in her head, saying "Yes, my daughter, you are learning well." Geradd ended up smashing the door in with his new maul.

As the group explored the fortress room-by-room, they kept finding the dead bodies of Black Rats members. The Rats had been stabbed to death, yet their corpses had strange patches of fungus growing on them. Catarina slit their throats anyway, just to be sure. The group also burned the herbs that Iska had given them to cleanse the various rooms she had specified as they found them. Additionally, throughout the fortress, the party kept noting artworks that portrayed elves as triumphant in a war against the forces of mankind.

Of particular interest in the fortress was the bedroom of Petros Vorderman, the leader of the Black Rats. Next to his camp bed was a portrait of the Black Rats' leader; the painting was signed by the artist: Donna Pietra Sangino. Upon Petros's desk were a number of contracts and correspondence. One of the letters was from a nobleman named Martinus Rosaldi, who asked the Black Rats to find his sister Ellena--who had run away with a notorious rake and dandy named Sir Francis Lowood. Another piece of correspondence was a contract authorizing the Black Rats to capture and hold a woman named Dahlia Medlozka on behalf of the Church of Holy Blood. And, of course, they found the contract wherein Cornelius Holland hired the Black Rats to capture or kill Pendleton.

Additionally, under the camp bed they found a cowering man. His name was Yanos and he claimed to be a sculptor hired by the Black Rats to restore the statues in the fortress's shrine. Since he had been employed by the Black Rats for some time, he was useful in helping the party find the things they were looking for inside the fortress. He was also able to explain why the Black Rats were never seen coming or going from the fortress: they had a ritual circle that allowed them to travel without recourse to conventional means. 

The group wanted to take a look at the statues, but between them and that shrine chamber was a magical circle that they determined was binding something; breaching the circle would release whatever horror was being held. Figuring that they would have to deal with it one way or another, the entered the circle and found themselves facing a fungal mass; human skulls occasionally surfaced within the mass, opening their jaws in silent screams. Panthalassa was able to smash one of the skulls with her pickaxe, but ultimately it was Geradd's new maul that proved effective in pulverizing the creature into a defeated splash of muck.

Beyond the binding circle was the shrine chamber. Inside were a number of statues of eldritch entities. Some of the group immediately recognized statues of Scylla and the Chained Scholar. Besides them was a statue of a hybrid humanoid form with the head of a lizard and a statue of a man whose hunched body was topped with the "face" of an enormous worm. One statue was conspicuously missing, it's plinth empty.

Exploration continued. The group found, and raided, the Black Rats' treasury. They also discovered the teleportation circle in an underearth room; they disrupted the circle so that they could not be surprised by any returning Black Rats. Within an alcove meant for archers to fire upon would-be invaders, a loose brick was removed from the wall, revealing an ancient book called The Blood Horizon: The Coming of the Elvish Savior. The book seemed to detail a prophesized Aeldenfolk savior who would lead the charge to drive all humankind from Krevborna.

In another underground chamber they found the dungeon of the Black Rats. Within a cell was Serafina, who was somewhat worse for wear with a black eye, a split lip, and a broken arm. Using keys they had liberated from the treasury, they released her. Serafina was hard to read, as always, due to her lack of affect, but she seemed surprised that the group would expend such an effort to come to her rescue. The fortress now thoroughly explored, the group returned to riverside and signaled for Aran to pick them up. In return for cleansing the fortress, the seer Iska gave them a map to the location of the Brineblade.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

The Black Chapel and Kressig Woods

Two locations that might be explored in Hemlock Hollow:

The Black Chapel

Once a church of the Holy Blood, the Black Chapel has been defiled and is now home to satanic rites performed to honor the Devil.

    • The Black Chapel’s exterior had been painted black, its stained glass windows have been replaced by blood-red panes, and its spires are decorated with grotesque gargoyles. 

    • The chapel’s sacred altar has been replaced by a grand throne of silver and dark wood.

    • During the black masses performed within the Black Chapel, a figure of smoke and ash—a manifestation of the Devil’s will—sits upon this profane throne and presides over the sacrilegious sabbaths. 

    • The Graymalks make ritual blood sacrifices to appease their dark master deep within the crypts beneath the Black Chapel.

Kressig Woods

Partially encircling Hemlock Hollow is a deep, dangerous forest known as Kressig Woods. 

    • Kressig Woods is home to a particularly vicious band of seductive and cruel dryads. 

    • The dryads of Kressig once lived in peace with the people of Hemlock Hollow prior to their turn toward deviltry, but the evil of the Graymalk witches has exerted a corrupting influence over them. 

    • The befouled dryads of Kressig Woods are particularly dangerous for any virile man who wanders into their territory—they attempt the most devious snares to get their hands on any men who enter Kressig Woods. 

    • Any men charmed into submission by the dryads are used for labor and to provide the seed they need to give birth to the next generation of dryads. 

    • Once a man has served his purpose, or the dryads tire of his company, he is released and hunted for sport.