Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Let's Read Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron: Welcome to Khorvaire

The first chapter of Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron was succinct enough in its explanation of what the setting is all about that a few of your players might even read it; the second chapter takes a much deeper dive into the setting's major locations, religions, magic, and planes of existence. This is probably detailed enough that only the DM will read it.

The continent of Khorvaire is the main focus in Eberron. In the past, Khorvaire was home to a single nation called Galifar, but the death of Galifar's king set his children at each other's throats in the optimistically titled Last War to see who would control the nation. But no one won the Last War, and Galifar was split into a number of smaller nations:

  • Aundair: very focused on magic, has a floating Hogwarts-like school called Arcanix.
  • Breland: home of Sharn, Khorvaire's largest city, and lots of criminal organizations.
  • Cyre: now called the Mournlands because it was destroyed by a mysterious cataclysm during the Last War; it might now inhabited by radicalized warforged.
  • Darguun: a land of goblins, refugees, and smugglers.
  • The Demon Wastes: a land of rakshasas and fiends.
  • Droaam: a nation of monsters ruled by three hags known as the Daughters of Sora Kell.
  • The Eldeen Reaches: druids, fey, shifters, farmland.
  • Karrnath: a grim nation of militarists that has fallen under the sway of a necromantic religion called the Blood of Vol.
  • The Lhazaar Principalities: pirate islands for all your Jack Sparrow needs.
  • The Mror Holds: a loose confederation of dwarf clans with a lot of gold and silver; they are threatened by mountain-dwelling orcs.
  • Q'barra: land of ancient ruins, lizardfolk, and dragonborn.
  • The Shadow Marshes: a merged culture of humans and orc druids keeping watch over horrible aberrations. 
  • The Talenta Plains: dinosaur-riding halfing barbarians, for all your Land of the Lost needs.
  • Thrane: a creepy theocracy that worships the Silver Flame.
  • Valenar: a land annexed by elven mercenaries during the Last War.
  • Zilargo: gnome inventors with a secret police force.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in Khorvaire, and that's just one of the continents in Eberron. Although having a lot of options is nice, I've always felt like Eberron gives you too much to focus on--the core themes of the first chapter feel a little diluted when the setting tries to be all things to all people. That said, each of the regions mentioned above gets a nicely laid out page of information that prioritizes the stuff you'd want to know for adventures over deep lore, so at least the format is working in the harried DM's favor.

Next up is a section on the ever-present magic of Eberron. Eberron's magic is characterized as "wide" instead of "high"; magic is everywhere, but it isn't particularly powerful. Minor wizards called magewrights keep the streets lit with light spells, but they don't pack any really impressed arcane ability. Wandslingers, used as magic-using soldiers during the Last War, know a couple cantrips and a first level spell. There's also some discussion of how magic influences fashion, entertainment, communications, transportation (lightning rail and airships, of course!), and warfare.

As is tradition, after magic is covered we get a section on the faiths found in Khorvaire, which include:

  • The Silver Flame: a religion obsessed with crusading against evil.
  • The Sovereign Host: the main religion of Khorvaire; the gods of the Sovereign Host hit most of the D&Disms and to be honest they're a little boring and difficult to remember.
  • The Dark Six: The evil gods, of course. There's six of them, you see.
  • The Blood of Vol: necromancers who want you to seize the day.
  • The Path of Light: New Age stuff.
  • The Undying Court: many of the elves of Eberron worship their undead ancestors.
  • The Cults of the Dragon Below: dragon cults tied into the Draconic Prophecy, which seems like a big deal in the setting but also feels somewhat distant from the big themes of Eberron.

Overall, the religions of Eberron are more functional than interesting to me, though they do get more intriguing at the periphery (The Undying Court, the Silver Flame) than they are at the center (the Sovereign Host, the Dark Six).

As if that wasn't enough, we also get some short descriptions of the lands beyond Khorvaire:

  • Aerenal: the ancient land of the elves, where special trees are harvested for airships, etc.
  • Argonessen: a land of the dragons and the barbarians who love them.
  • Everice and the Frostfell: for all your arctic exploration needs.
  • Sarlona: a land of weird psychics.
  • Xen'drik: jungles! ruins! giants! drow! for all your Indiana Jones needs.

And if that wasn't expansive enough, the chapter closes on some brief descriptions of the planes connected to Eberron. This chapter kept things as quick and snappy as possible, but I'm exhausted by the breadth of detail--and possibly getting flashbacks to how big the lore drop is in the 3e Eberron books. But hey, if you were worried about buying a "prototype" campaign or eventually seeing Eberron in print again, check out Mike Mearls's tweet over on the left.

Next chapter: Our party is made up of a war robot, werewolf jr., a psychic weirdo, and one of the Faceless Men from Braavos as we tackle the unique races of Eberron.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Torture Garden

Octave Mirbeau's 1899 novel The Torture Garden is a notorious and extreme work of French decadence. The book pulls no punches in its discussion of political corruption, sexual deviancy, and body horror, maintaining its capacity to shock across the decades. Join Jack and Kate for a macabre journey from the cynical sewers of French politics to the blood-soaked abattoirs of the Far East.
Does using public transportation regularly lead to murderous ideation? Is our narrator the first fuckboi in literary history? Why on earth do your hosts enjoy poisonous femme fatale characters so much? All these questions and more will be answered in this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
BBfBP theme song by True Creature 
Find us at BadBooksBadPeople.com, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our About Page.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Let's Read Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron: What is Eberron?

Eberron is back! 

Kind of. 

As the "cover" of the pdf notes, Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron is a "campaign prototype"; the material therein is still in playtest, not yet deemed official rules content, and definitely not sanctioned for Adventurer's League play. Nevertheless, the rules in the book have been crafted largely by Keith Baker: "Bear in mind: this book presents my vision of Eberron. This is the world I run at my own table, and the way that I’ve converted its ideas to the fifth edition rules. All of the material here is presented for playtesting and to spark your imagination." Even if Wayfinder's Guide isn't the final word on Eberron in fifth edition, it's cool that they gave the setting's creator the opportunity to kick around in his own sandbox.

CHAPTER ONE: WHAT IS EBERRON? First, we get a basic explanation of what Eberron is all about. I like that instead of launching into a gazetteer or geographic details, the explanation instead speaks to the setting's themes and aesthetics. Eberron is a setting where magic has taken the place of technological advancement, resulting in lightning rail trains, airships, etc. It's not steampunk per se, but the difference has always been small enough that it's doomed to be called steampunk anyway, much to Keith Baker's chagrin. 

Taken as a whole, one of the strongest elements in the setting is its pulp roots: the ideas of larger than life action and mysterious artifacts in far-flung locales just waiting to be found hits the Indiana Jones vibe pretty hard. In contrast to that, the setting also has a pronounced film noir component that makes D&D's usual "this race is evil, this race can be trusted" shtick unreliable--and therefore more fun. 

My favorite bit, and the one that often seemed to get the least attention in previous Eberron books, is that the setting's current era is an inter-war period--it feels like World War I has recently ended and the possibility of a World War II looms heavily on the horizon. Well, except the "Mourning" has always struck me as a magical-apocalyptic take on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the horrific aftermath that would entail.

Each of these setting elements gets expanded upon in its own section; the writing is fairly tight by WotC standards, and there is a good use of random tables and bullet-point lists to convey important information quickly. You might even be able to get a player to read about the setting before they sit down to play. The art seems to be mostly cribbed from prior Eberron products, but I've always liked Wayne Reynolds's style for this setting.

Generally speaking, I also like the attitude expressed in this pdf. It's noted that everything in D&D can have a place in Eberron, but also that the baseline assumption is Your Eberron May Vary--it's nice to see it explicitly called out that even though the setting has quite a bit of detail, your version of it doesn't have to cohere to the creator's vision and that personalizing the setting is encouraged.

The last bit of information in this first chapter gives a concrete example of how you might customize the setting: it deals with Eberron's place in the multiverse. Eberron had its own cosmology in its third edition incarnation; its planar schema does not match up with the standardized Great Wheel of the planes that forms the official version of how the D&D multiverse operates. This potential discrepancy is addressed by stating Eberron's planes separated from the Great Wheel cosmology by a shield that cuts them off from the rest of the multiverse. Options for breaching that shield and connecting Eberron's planes to the larger D&D multiverse are offered here, so your Eberron can be as sequestered or as connected as you want.

Next chapter: Little Red Khorvaire, baby you're much too fast.

* * *

Shameful self-promotion: My setting book, Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera, is currently on sale as part of DriveThruRPG's Christmas in July event! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hot Ghost Pirate on Ghost Pirate Action

Over the weekend I went down to Alexandria to play games as part of the D&D Weekend my friends get together for every year. This is how the game I played in went down:

Characters. Fillian Frost (human rogue), Sterling (human fighter), ZhaoWei (eladrin warlock), Gunther (gnome barbarian), Wolfric (half-elf paladin), Ivy (aasimar cleric).

Events. After attending the funeral of a character we met last time--and did not murder ourselves, we asked--we were approached by a cleric who told us about a series of villages that had been raided down the coast...apparently by a ship full of ghost pirates. Of course we agreed to investigate.

We talked to a madman that claimed to have seen red eyes during one of the attacks. We also talked to a ludicrously named gnome healer named Filistrum Wundercundoodle who had some "toe bones" from the "ghost pirates."

"Filtrum Wundercumdoodle, your shop has a wonderful aroma. Now, let's talk about bones." - Ivy Valerio

The fact that the bones had some sort of adhesive glue on them led us to believe that a Scooby Doo situation was afoot.

And then, side quests. A talking squirrel directed ZhaoWei to a woodland glade where he was told that something was messing with the weather patterns. Sterling and Gunther were given a silver axe in the cemetery by a half-orc who warned them of demonic cult activity. Ivy was invited to a late-night dinner and was asked to keep an eye out for a delayed merchant.

Encounters on the way! We found the delayed merchant, fixed his broken axle, and ate his stew. We got caught between a dire wolf and her cubs, but Gunther managed to talk her out of eating us.

We met up with a ferryman who told us that there was nothing interesting about the island village he lived in, so of course we wanted to go there. It was a suspicious shit hole. A little orphan girl asked us to take her with us when we left. A bunch of old women threatened to poison us. The guy we were hoping to get information from told us that a dracolich was responsible for the attacks, but he was clearly lying and wouldn't admit it even after we escalated from good cop/bad cop to bad cop/worse cop.

The villagers told us that no one comes back from the forest, so we explored it and found their demon cult cave, complete with sacrificial altar, evil dagger, and books that indicated that the villagers had sold their souls to Tiamat. Since the village was full of hovels, it looked like they got ripped off. On the way back we fought a demon made of sagging skin.

Back in the village, a storm had hit. We checked out the smokehouse, where dubious meat was hanging. We took refuge in the barn, where Gunther talked to the goats--who were unhelpful. Of course, a miscreant with a crowbar and his "skeleton pirate" pals showed up to fuck with us, but we killed them handily. (And probably blew too many resources doing so.) The ghost pirate was actually just a kobold in a costume.

Then, we saw the fake ghost ship...rammed by a real ghost ship. Our Scooby Doo situation had gone meta. We commandeered a boat and rowed out to the melee. Our plan was to fight the real ghost pirates first, then clear out the kobolds.  Things looked good for us at first, but then we had at least three solid turns of bad rolls on our side. Things were looking dire. Gunther was knocked out, Fillian's player fell asleep, the fake pirates' cleric leader tried to make off with our boat, all of us were low on hit points and we were out of spells. 

We retreated to the boat and let the ghost pirates take their revenge on the villagers.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Don't Hate the Flayer, Hate the Game: The Rules

House Rules
99% of terrible house rules are born from wanting to add "realism" or "logic" to necessary abstractions.

"I didn't design this with balance in mind" is most often said by people who either don't want to do the work to make something balanced or don't have to design chops to even try.

Tweeting at Game Designers, Demanding Answers
People who tweet increasingly aggressive questions to game designers--or worse, people who demand new content or rule changes under the guise of asking a question--are actively trying to tell you that they aren't well suited to a game that is essentially based on the premise "make up fun stuff."

The Bait and Switch
If you tell people that you're going to run an "old-school 5e game" but what you really mean is that you added the advantage/disadvantage mechanic to Swords & Wizardry, it kinda feels like you couldn't get any players for the game you really want to run and maybe you should think about why that's the case.

If you suspect that someone is cheating on their dice rolls, keep a tally of what they claim they're rolling. If the only roll they ever blow is for initiative, they're probably fudging and you can safely stop inviting them to your games.

The funny thing about cheating at D&D is that the stakes are so low. I get being attached to your character, but it's not like money is riding on how the roll goes--which makes me think that people who lie about their rolls are playing in your game for reasons unconnected from having fun with other people in a pro-social way.

I've never encountered anyone who lies about their rolls that isn't also bringing some other problems to the table.

Speaking of cheating, this Twitter post by Bluejay sums up why I never fudge rolls as a DM (unless I think I screwed up and added wrong, rolled too many dice in the heat of the moment, etc.):

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Let's Read Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes: Complete

Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes? Yeah, read it, talked about it. Here's an index of my read through:

The Blood War and Devils!
Drow and Eladrin!
Shadar-Kai and the Raven Queen!
Halflings and Gnomes!

But what about the Bestiary section? Look, it's full of monsters. It's got berbalang in it, but it doesn't have penanggalan. That's all I can tell you, really.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Ass Goblins of Auschwitz

Mini-Episode 11: Ass Goblins of Auschwitz
Cameron Pierce's 2009 novella Ass Goblins of Auschwitz has a stand-out title even in the outrageous world of bizarro fiction, a subgenre of fantasy that uses that uses elements of absurdism, pop-cultural references, grotesquery, and over-the-top scatological imagery--often for the purpose of surreal satire. In this month's episode, Jack and Kate crack the covers of this notorious story and see if it delivers on its promise.

Will a book with a title this wild be able to live up to the hype? Are there any artistic and literary precedents for this sort of thing, with its "toilet toad" and "shit slaughter" madness? And how do Neil Gaiman and Jerry Lewis figure into all of this? Find out the answers to all these questions and more on this month's mini episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
BBfBP theme song by True Creature 
Find us at BadBooksBadPeople.com, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our About Page.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Bright Eyes and Madness

Wolves in the Throne Room - The Old Ones Are With Us †
Myrkur - Funeral †
Chelsea Wolfe - The Culling †
Der Weg Einer Freiheit - Skepsis, pt. 1 †
Oxxo Xoox - Landae †
Oathbreaker - Where I Live †
King Woman - Hem †
Corpo-Mente - Saelli †
Alcest - Je suis d'ailleurs †
Ides of Gemini - Heroine's Descent †
Ricinn - Laid in Earth †

(Probably the last of my 8tracks mixes. We had a good run.)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Deluge of Dark Sun

The Dark Sun setting was one of the great creative triumphs of the 2e AD&D era. It was the prefect marriage of content and aesthetic expression--the writers lined up the rules and made strategic interventions into what D&D could be and the artists followed through and made it come alive. Dark Sun also seems to spring eternal: it was one of the few settings to see support during the 4e era, and people have been asking for its return since 5e dropped. It has certainly been a major point of inspiration for my Cinderheim setting. Here's some Dark Sun-related stuff from the internet worth your time:

Dark Sun enthusiasts discussing the setting in what I hope will prove to be a long-running series of podcast episodes.

Jim Davis from Web DM has started a new streamed D&D campaign called Land Between Two Rives that is heavily Dark Sun influenced--a great example of taking the setting's themes in new directions. Plus, I love how oddball and different the cast of characters are from the "only Tolkien races" or "humans only" campaigns out there; this one's got a goblin cleric, a tiefling bard, a lizardfolk ranger, a bugbear druid, and a human (created by magic because humans are extinct) barbarian.

The Web DM show also did a podcast episode on the Dark Sun setting and what they love about it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Let's Read Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (Demons!)

Where we've been so far: dwarveselvesdrow and eladrinshadar-kai and the Raven Queenhalflings and gnomes, giththe Blood War and devils. Where we're going: demons.

"The Abyss is a vast wound in the cosmic order, a bottomless pit teeming with creatures that exist only to rend, tear, and destroy." That's a pretty mood-setting first line, and with that we're off to the races with D&D's demons. As we saw before, devils are true to their lawful natures: they win through right of conquest and pact. On the other hand, demons are a virus. They don't take your land or our soul, they change it. They're colonial, parasitical, and contagious on a metaphysical level: "If demons dwell in a place for a significant amount of time, the area starts to warp in response tothe abyssal energy that churns within it. If a demonic infestation is left unchecked, a portal to the Abyss is the result, and more and more of the essence of the Abyss pushes its way through. In time, a plane or a world could become a colony of the Abyss, overrun with demons and devoid of all other forms of life."

(Side-note: this is exactly the direction I went with my Cinderheim setting, so it's interesting to see it spelled out as the baseline for what demons are about in an official book.)

So what does it look like when a demon starts to corrupt the land around them? "During the first stages of an abyssal incursion, the natural world recoils from the demonic presence. Plants become twisted versions of themselves. Leering faces appear in leaf patterns, vines writhe of their own accord, and trees grow foul-smelling tumors instead of leaves as their branches wither and die. Bodies of water in the area become tainted and sometimes poisonous, and the weather might feature extremes of heat, cold, wind, rain, or snow that aren't typical of the normal climate. Living things in the area flee or are killed by the demons." One thing I'm really enjoying about the section on demons: the author or authors are clearly having fun and really givin'er. Was it Robert J. Schwalb? That dude loves demon lords.

If the viral demon-process continues, eventually a demon lord enters the world. This is, unsurprisingly, a Bad Thing. The demon lord gathers the demons already present into the world, forms them into a warband, and the apocalypse is now underway.

One thing that has always bothered me a tiny bit about Warhammer's Chaos Demons is that, despite the emphasis on chaos, they fit into a remarkably orderly taxonomy. The ones with their titties out fight for Slaanesh, the ones with the sores are declared for Nurgle, etc. Of course, this is because Games Workshop leans hard on brand recognition, so over the years they've crafted their figures to function like any other toy line. Similarly, D&D's demons fit into recognizable categories, but at least Mordenkainen's Tome tries to emphasize that you should modify your demons at will: "Although sages group demons into types according to their power, the Abyss knows no such categories. Demons are spawned from the stuff of the Abyss in a near-infinite variety ofshapes and abilities. The common forms that are familiar to demonologists represent broad trends, but individual demons defy those tendencies. For instance, a vrock might crawl out of an oil slick in the Demonweb Pits with three eyes and vestigial wings. A chasme might appear on the layer of Azzagrat possessing the ability to belch forth clouds of flies."

Demon lords aren't made through orderly promotion; rather, a demon lord is just a demon who has lived long enough to become a Big Bad. Apparently demon lordship is something even mortals can aspires to; all they need to do is travel to the Abyss, get warped by its horrid energies, and then stick it out long enough to "ascend" to power. Demon lordship is for finishers. (Side note: it looks like the Abyss has infinite layers now. Didn't it used to have exactly 666?)

All right, let's talk canonical Demon Lords. Baphomet is the Demon Lord for that kind of dickbag who believes in the ubermensch--that some people are better than others and therefore get to treat "lessers" like shit. With his emphasis on hunting his foes, Baphomet is the General Zaroff of the D&D multiverse. It's crazy that Demogorgon is now most famous for being referenced in Stranger Things, right? Anyway, if Demogorgon is left the only living being in the cosmos, his two heads have to duke it out for domination. Also, Demogorgon has a symbol that can instantly seduce mortals who look at it; I keep picturing it as Prince's symbol.

Fraz-Urb'luu has the dumbest name of all the demon lords. Since his portfolio is basically "Prince of Lies," it feels like a missed opportunity that they already used a Beelzebub name with the devils. Anyway, most of Fraz-Urb'luu's followers have been duped into his service, so I assume they are like the guys on Twitter who will fight to the death over Elon Musk's honor. Graz'zt is the Sexy Demon Bad Boy. Frankly, his Evil Seducer shtick seems more like a devil thing, but a sidebar helpfully points out that Graz'zt may have been a devil originally, and his "Seasons in the Abyss" warped him into a demon--which is actually a pretty neat way of underlining just how corrupting the Abyss really is.

Because D&D has slime monsters, I guess it needs a Demon Lord of Slime. Enter Juiblex. At least Juiblex provides an explanation for where oozes come from--but that's about it for Juiblex. Orcus is by far my favorite of D&D's demon lords, mostly because he looks like he belongs on a dope metal album cover. For the record, I prefer corpulent Orcus to svelte Orcus and I won't be swayed on this issue. The multiverse is too loud for Orcus's sensibilities, and he just wants to turn the cosmos into a place inhabited by tip-toeing undead, is that so wrong?

Yeenoghu is a bit like Baphomet but with an emphasis on eating his foes instead of just hunting them down. Yeenoghu made the gnolls, of course. It's odd that D&D views fungus as chaos, instead of a fairly orderly progression of natural growth, but Zuggtmoy is here for your fungal Demon Queen needs. Horrible name, absolutely stunning art in this edition. The art possesses a kind of regalness that doesn't really come through in her description, unfortunately. Her goal is to turn the multiverse into one fungal unity--so she's like a biological version of the Borg. And that's the running theme for the demon lords and queens in D&D: each one wants to be the single, solitary being left in a world that has succumbed to their whims.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The First Adventure of a New Campaign is a One-Shot If Everyone Dies

Campaign: Cinderheim: The Land Under the Demon Sun (5e D&D, G+ Hangouts)

Characters: Thrank, lizardfolk druid; Mirk, lizardfolk ranger; Wolf Ctibor, human barbarian.

Events: Thrank, Mirk, and Wolf were hired by a mysterious trader to steal a phoenix-emblazoned vase from a petty crime lord ruling over a small oasis village. They pulled off the theft successfully, but were pursued across the demon-haunted desert of Cinderheim by the crime lord's minions. As the minions closed on them, a sandstorm began blowing in from the east. When all looked lost, they noticed a strange edifice half obscured by a massive dune: the building's front was carved into the semblance of a devil, the entrance its yawning maw.

Inside, they discovered a number of ominous statues--horned, animal-headed, skull-visaged, defaced--and an old stone altar stained with blood. Thrank thought he might have made a grave mistake when he threw a magic stone and shattered one of two-dozen terracotta statues flanking a blasphemous idol, but the rest did not animate and attack as he feared. However, while exploring they were accosted by three goblins who were part of the crime lord's death squad. The goblins were dispatched, and there was talk of stowing their bodies behind a gigantic, demonic statue.

A number of rooms filled with stone sarcophagi were uncovered next. Disturbing a sarcophagus awoke an undead servitor cursed to spend eternity protecting the profane dead--the thing was red of eye and loped toward the party with an unnatural, animal-like gait. The thing charged at Mirk, and cast a curse on him with an outstretched, crooked finger. When the creature swiped at Mirk, it landed a horrifically damaging blow that took him down instantly. Wolf and Thrank managed to kill the thing, then patched up Mirk's wounds, barricaded the doors to the chamber using sarcophagi, and took an hour to recuperate.

A round of further exploration brought them to a chamber that housed a funeral barge. Setting foot on it summoned an unseen specter that spoke with a voice clothed in the desert wind. The spirit told them several interesting things:

  • He was the high priest of the Demon Queen to whom this temple was dedicated, but now she slumbered powerless beneath the sands of Cinderheim.
  • Three other agents of the crime lord were now within the temple complex, plotting to kill the party and retrieve the vase.
  • The specter was ambivalent about how this situation resolved, but was enjoying having something to observe after all these years bound to the temple.

The party hatched a plan to draw the attention of their pursuers and then launch a sarcophagus down the stairs as they came up to investigate. Initially, the plan went well. The beastmaster's two giant lizards were smashed back down the stairs, and one was badly injured. The party descended one set of stairs while the two sharpshooters ascended the another to flush them out. The beastmaster and his pet were dispatched, but the two archers--twins, no less--returned fire from the stairs. 

One of the brothers was slain, but then things turned for the party. Thrank fell first, then Wolf, then finally Mirk. The lone brother remained alive; he took possession of the vase--would he return it to his employer, the crime lord, or would he find demonic inspiration within the Temple of Suffering as he waited for the sandstorm to end? In Cinderheim, only the darkness knows the answers to such questions of fate.