Sunday, July 21, 2024

Sigil Fires and Witch Wards

Our new Krevborna campaign continues!


Characters

Garazi, a young witch

Aria, a strange paladin

Heck, an affable revenant 

Panthalassa, a necromancer with a missing arm

Daytona, a dhampir gunslinger fresh from Hell

Genevieve, an alchemist

Rudolpho and Beebo, an organ grinder and his monkey


Events

When we last left our heroes, they were descending to the second level of the tomb complex. In an eastern chamber, they discovered a room that held a strange fire that shot upward through a hole in the ceiling. There was a brass wheel mounted onto the wall. When Heck spun the wheel, it caused the flames die down; when the wheel could be spun no more, the fire died entirely. 

The stones lining the circle that contained the fire began to glow with strange runes; Daytona was able to determine that the flame was part of some sort of magical ward. The characters who leaned over the ring of stone recognized that cracks in the earth were emitting a potentially poisonous gas. They decided to turn the wheel in the opposite direction to relight the flame and burn off the gas to keep it from accumulating in the chamber. 

In a nearby room, they found a stone lectern. On top of the lectern was an ancient tome that was fastened to a staple driven into the floor by a length of chain. Genevieve was able to roughly translate the book: it contained a ritual for enacting a magical ward against demons and powerful witches. An illustration in the book showed the island at the center of the lake surrounded by a halo of protective energy; the halo extended to where the town of Vostok was located. The group correctly surmised that the yearly "witch burning" on Walpurgis Night in Vostok was a ruse to use a witch as the "fuel" that kept the protective ward in place. 

Crossing a chamber littered with broken pottery caused the shards to levitate and begin to swirl around the room in a dangerous storm of jagged edges. The group had to hustle through to avoid being cut to ribbons. The next room held several old oil paintings: an alien landscape, a pure black canvas, a Vlaak family, and a Vlaakish queen. When Panthalassa move to examine the painting of the queen, the queen stepped from the frame, drew a dagger from her belt, and attacked!

The ghostly alien queen stabbed Panthalassa, grievously wounding her and draining her lifeforce. The party had trouble wounding the specter; their attacks often passed through her form as it flickered in and out of existence. They attempted attacking the painting, lighting it on fire, and damaging the wraith directly. The battle was fraught, but when they managed to banish the specter the painting fell from the wall, revealing a hidden passage to the south.

After Aria healed Panthalassa's wounds, she stuck her head into the passage beyond and saw a light source fleeing their intrusion. Panthalassa immediately gave chase. Unfortunately, their pursuit of the fleeing figures was in vain as they chose the wrong corridor to traverse. Moreover, they wasted too much time in a chamber that held three rune-marked Vlaak skulls on pedestrals as objects of veneration. Both Panthalassa and Garazi smashed skulls.

In a further chamber, they opened a trapped sarcophagus and many of the group were enervated by a poisonous gas. However, they did find an object dropped by the people who had fled from them: one had been carrying a glass container capped with metal. Genevieve determined that the fluid inside the cylinder was meant to preserve organs.

Having fully explored the lower level of the burial complex, the group returned to the first level to get another look at the massive iron maiden they had found earlier. Panthalassa figured out that the iron maiden held some sort of transportational magic, but Genevieve determined that the key they had obtained was just made of plain iron. However, because the key was mundane, Rudolpho realized that this meant they could have the blacksmith in Vostok make them three more copies so they could use all four keyholes in the iron maiden at the same time. 

Panthalassa was insistent that they retrieve Viktoria's corpse and row it back to Vostok. Nightsong was waiting for them, sitting on the dock, her legs dangling over the water, cranking the handle on a hurdy-gurdy. They explained to her that the steel casket held Viktoria's body, but Nightsong demanded to see it for herself. She was bewildered by the way Viktoria's head had been cut open and her brains removed; as Nightsong noted, there are much easier ways to kill someone. 

However, these speculations were interrupted by the arrival of six young Graymalk witches. Their leader, Lorelei, had Garazi's finch familiar trapped in a birdcage; she explained that they had intercepted the bird and come to rescue Garazi from the witchfinders--though that was obviously no longer necessary. Frankly, these witches were the worst; they used a combination of cutting remarks and subtle (and not so subtle) threats to unsettle the group. One of them taunted Panthalassa over her skull helmet, which caused Nightsong to put her hand on Panthalassa's shoulder and fire back at the witch by saying, "Are you kidding me? Her skull helmet is a whole aesthetic. Were you born without a sense of style, Dagny, or is it something you have to work at every day?"

(This may have been the moment where the attitudes of several members of the party toward Nightsong shifted. The woman was self-centered, maybe even self-obsessed, and often obnoxious, but she was clearly happy to be a cutting bitch on their behalf.)

With the bullshit now cut through, it became apparent that the witches were here to cajole Garazi and her new friends into running an "errand" for them: they want the group to find a way into Kholograt prison to obtain a single word of an incantation from their sister who is imprisoned there. Garazi, afraid for her family's safety should she say no to their request, was relieved when the rest of the party pledged to aid her. Before they left, the Graymalks also intimated that the "War in Hell" is soon to spill over to the Mortal Realm. (This is something that Daytona already knows about, but for now would prefer not to contemplate.)

Once the Graymalks had departed, Nightsong cast a spell on Viktoria's body: both the corpse and the steel casket were revealed to be magical. Moreover, Nightsong could tell them what kind of magic was threaded through the corpse--the body was not natural at all, it was a construct created through alchemy and occult science. As for the strange steel casket...well, no one asked her about it, but she may know something about that too.

The plan is that they will get copies of their key made in the morning and then head to Chancel.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Chancel's Sewers and Midian

Two Grail Tomb adventure locations.


Chancel’s Sewers

The sewers that run beneath Chancel were originally a system of tunnels leading to the catacombs of the Vlaak city that once stood on the same spot. 

    • The magical emanations from the Grail Tombs beneath Chancel still exert a baneful influence: the vermin that live within Chancel’s sewers often grow to a prodigious size, possess an unusual fierceness, and are more apt to carry virulent diseases without suffering their effects. 

    • Silas Dregg, a wererat and would-be crime lord, has established his hideout deep within the sewers. 

    • Silas is attended by a small army of urchins and orphans that he sets to picking pockets and committing burglaries—but he also captures and trains the giant rodents that thrive in the sewers, raising them to be viciously loyal.


Midian

Midian, the Imperial Crypt, the grandest of the Grail Tombs, lies underneath Veil. The sprawling crypt complex is as large as a small city. Though Midian was built to be the final resting place of Vlaak emperors and empresses, it still remains the residence of Empress Lithka, the last ruler of the Vlaak Empire. 

    • The vile rite meant to ensure Lithka’s immortality was not fully understood by the Vlaak who embraced a cult devoted to Dracula as the first and foremost of the undead.

    • The ritual did manage to unnaturally extend Lithka’s life, but she was transformed into a desiccated undead abomination instead of being granted unending eternal youth. 

    • Believing that her people have died out entirely, within her laboratory Lithka researches the possibility of engineering a populace cloned from her own tainted essence. 

    • If her magical replication proves successful, she will emerge from Midian with a cohort of clones intent on reclaiming the lands of Krevborna and fostering the rebirth of the Vlaak Empire.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

A Sacrifice Thwarted

Darkness gathers...we must have just started a new Krevborna campaign.


Characters

Garazi, a young witch

Aria, a strange paladin

Heck, an affable revenant 

Panthalassa, a necromancer with a missing arm

Daytona, a dhampir gunslinger fresh from Hell

Genevieve, an alchemist

Rudolpho and Beebo, an organ grinder and his monkey


Events

April 30th, Walpurgis Night, found Garazi trapped within a cage atop a wagon headed toward the village of Vostok. From the talk of the three witchfinders who had taken her captive, she understood that her fate was to burn at the stake as part of some sort of religious ceremony. 

However, Garazi was saved by the appearance of six stars shooting across the sky, each falling to Earth. When they hit the ground just north of their position, the wagon was flipped backwards, the trees bent and were stripped of foliage, and she caught a glimpse of the witchfinders being flung against trees. Unfortunately, she was still alone in the cage, which she could not open.

Hours passed. Garazi realized that a man was watching her from the tree line. Once spotted, he approached and crouched down just out of reach of the cage. He was a hulking man clad in rough clothing, his face obscured by the hood of his cloak. He asked her name, but demurred when she asked him to release her. After their brief exchange, a second man, whom Garazi could not see, told the man they needed to move on and find "it" before "they" did.

Garazi summoned her familiar, a finch named Txori, and sent it to tell her sister that she was in trouble. Two groups converged on Garazi's cage shortly after that. One group, comprised of Panthalassa, Daytona, and Genevieve, was on the hunt for Viktoria Frankenstein and Serafina, who had gone missing from Chateau Frankenstein under mysterious circumstances and may have been spotted in Vostok. The second group, comprised of Rudolpho, Heck, and Aria, had heard about the witch burning and had an interest in seeing it stopped. Genevieve looted the witchfinders' bodies and Aria used their keys to set Garazi free. The group decided to travel together to Vostok. Garazi saw the arrival of these six as fortuitous, given the six falling stars they had all observed.

When they arrived in Vostok, they found that the town had been greatly damaged by the blast, with only a few buildings, those at least partially built from stone, still standing. The local church had mostly collapsed; the grounds around it were being used to lay out the dead who had been pulled from the rubble. The blacksmith's forge had been converted to a triage where the smith and a tall, aristocratic-looking woman were providing what aid they could. The tavern keeper and his family had large pots of food boiling to be handed out to the survivors. The village's docks looked unharmed, but many of the fishing boats had become unmoored and now floated out onto the lake as derelicts. Through a veil of fog, they could see that there was an island in the middle of the lake and some kind of ancient stone structure perched atop it. 

The stake meant for Garazi's immolation still stood at the center of Vostok. 

Daytona approached the blacksmith, who muttered something about the disaster being a stroke of justice for the town's horrid tradition of burning witches alive. Meanwhile, Panthalassa approached a blonde woman in black leather armor who seemed occupied with taking notes on the catastrophe that had befallen Vostok. From the instrument case at her feet, the woman was clearly an entertainer; she assumed that Panthalassa was an admirer who was seeking an autograph. However, over the course of their conversation, it became clear that the woman, who went by the name Nightsong, not only knew the missing folk from Chateau Frankenstein, but also claimed to be Serafina's paramour! 

Nightsong was overjoyed to meet Panthalassa, whom she had heard much of from Serafina, but she immediately fell apart when Panthalassa told her that Serafina and company were currently missing. Nightsong blubbered uncontrollably, Panthalassa promised that they would find the residents of the chateau, and the bard eventually had to excuse herself to pull things together.

The village priest was attempting to provide what aid she could to the injured, but a man in ragged robes kept ringing a bell and screaming about the end times being upon them...at least until Aria bestowed a little theological intimidation on him that caused him to flee the scene. The priest was grateful for the intervention and happy to have Genevieve take over the treatment of Vostok's citizens with Garazi's aid. Aria attempted to lend some miraculous healing, but her magic instead caused a dying man to become briefly possessed by a spirit that told her she need to make a "choice" because the "end was coming." Rudolpho's contribution was to hand out coins to the survivors to pay for the town's restoration. He also managed to purchase two rowboats they could use to get themselves to the island at the center of the lake. 

What they found on the island were the remains of a very old stone structure of apparent Vlaak design. It was clear that the falling stars had touched down here; all the destruction they had witnessed had stemmed outward from the isle in a circular pattern. Despite the structure having collapsed in on itself, they did locate stone stairs going down into the depths. 

A study of the footprints indicated that at least two groups had passed within in recent memory: one set belonged to an average-sized man with a much larger companion, the other set indicated a male, an adult woman, and either a child or a smaller woman. Within the subterranean levels, the discovered Vlaakish art depicting members of that ancient race surrounded by eldritch machinery and another image that showed strange craft descending from the sky. They passed a door with Vlaakish writing that Genevieve was able to translate; beyond the door was something described as a "beacon" and a "sacrament." 

As the rest of the group backtracked to a previous chamber, Rudolpho and Beebo unlocked the door to explore inside. What he found were a number of semicircular stone shelves containing Vlaakish skulls that faced a central fire in which a kneeling human skeleton in a gibbet burned. There was no mistaking it: the fire was unnatural, with no visible fuel to keep it burning. From that chamber, Rudolpho and Beebo stole a dagger, a bejeweled cup, an inverted pentagram on a chain, and a wooden wand.

On a deeper level of the structure, the group saw they would pass through a corridor with four burial vaults on each side. To hide their passage, Garazi cast a spell that rendered their movement silent. Unfortunately, that spell also obfuscated the opening of the vaults once they had passed by. Rudolpho noticed that eight blackened Vlaak skeletons armed with war cleavers had emerged and were stalking toward them. The group was able to send them back to the grave without any casualties on their side.

They discovered more provocative Vlaakish art, such as a mural depicting Lucifer being cut in twain by an archangel, a mural showing a pale nobleman seated upon an ornate throne, and a mural of a Vlaak empress being crowned. Another room proved to be an embalming chamber, complete with jars of desiccated organs and the tools needed for organ extraction.

The group did manage to find their way to a chasm with a shattered walkway surrounding it. There was a large stone and steel wheel attached to a mechanism from which a chain descended into the chasm. Aria and Heck worked the wheel in tandem, causing a platform to be hoisted up from the darkness below. Upon the platform was a steel coffin, its lid slightly ajar. Aria removed the lid; inside was the corpse of a woman in her mid thirties, perhaps only dead a week, the top of her head sawn off and her brain removed. 

Panthalassa and Daytona recognized the woman immediately: they beheld the corpse of Viktoria Frankenstein. 

Strangely, there was a note pinned to the front of her burial gown that read "Better luck next time." The note appeared to be penned in Viktoria's own handwriting. 

Unsure of what to do about this unnerving development, they left the body where it was and continued exploring. They discovered a massive iron maiden, but it was locked tight and seemed to require four keys to open. Panthalassa's attempt to pick the locks ended in her thieves' tools dissolving into rust. Later, they did find one key around the neck of a mummified Vlaak in a stone sarcophagus. 

They also found a set of stairs leading deeper into the complex...next time we'll find out what they encounter down in the dark.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Skulls!!!

Man, my players are the coolest. As a thank-you gift for the last Krevborna campaign, my pal Goose made these skull candles for me. Each one is themed after one of the important NPCs in the campaign. Not only did I get these, but she sent the other players candles based on their characters and we all got friendship bracelets. 

The best, I tell ya!

Monday, July 8, 2024

The Athmore Inheritance

A couple weeks ago I ran Blades in the Dark for my Discord group. As with any one-shot, I cribbed my ideas from the last movie I had seen and the last book I had read. In this case, the movie in question was the Euro-Gothic Blood of the Vampire and the book was Phyllis A. Whitney's Hunter's Green

This was the pitch for the one-shot: Reginald Athmore, an extremely wealthy recluse, has died without a direct heir of lineal descent. The managers of his estate have located three distant relations to inherit his money and property: John Edmund Athmore, a priest; Sebastian Raab, an aging dandy; Evelyn Ducayne, a young spiritualist. Your goal is to intercept one of the inheritors and take their place for the reading of the will. Someone will need to stand in as the inheritor, the rest of the group will pose as their servants and entourage. Once inside Athmore Manor, you will have the option of playing your parts to get a share of the inheritance or you might connive to lay hands on the entire bequest.

Events

The gang started things off by researching their prize. Billy cased the Athmore house by day and reported back that it was set far from the street with plenty of grounds surrounding it; he also learned that it was guarded by hounds. They also learned the names and roles of everyone in the household: Mary (the cook), Jenkins (the groundskeeper), Sandra (the maid), and Boniface (the butler). Furthermore, they discovered that the lawyer overseeing the division of the estate was a man named Merrik Ashford. 

The group settled on Evelyn as their target; Dusk learned that she had only lately risen in the world and had come from obscurity and poverty. She was living out of hotels, and they tracked her to her current digs at the White Owl.

Thistle and Dusk tailed Jenkins to his local pub and filled him full of booze to pry information from him. The people set to inherit Reginald Athmore's fortune were strangers to him in life. Jenkins also had no idea where Athmore kept his treasure on the premises, but he is sure that Athmore's wealth is very real. 

Meanwhile, Fox contrived to bump into Merrik Ashford's secretary and steal the keys to his office from her pocket. Unfortunately, Fox discovered that the file on the Athmore inheritance was already missing from the filing cabinet. 

As their plan came together, Dusk decided to pose as a private detective and tell Evelyn that she was going to be in grave danger at the reading of the will at the Athmore house. He convinced her to let the characters accompany her to the manor to provide protection; they would pose as her servants and entourage. 

As they gathered with the other inheritors in Athmore manor, they sat in a parlor where they were offered drinks by Sandra. Merrik Ashford entered and informed them that the will would be read at midnight, as per the instructions left by Reginald Athmore. They learned that the Athmore house was famous for its collection of ancient suits of armor and that Reginald was buried in the crypts beneath the house.

Billy took the opportunity to slip away and explore while the others held the conversational fort down. In a ballroom on the house's second floor, Billy discovered Jenkins's body hanging from a noose.

Thistle also broke away and began to explore the crypts. He found a sealed vault for Reginald Athmore that looked to have been recently bricked up. However, he also saw a light approaching and hid behind a pile of nearby masonry. As the person passed, he observed that it was a bluecoat holding a pistol. 

Billy continued to explore and located a secret door in the gallery of armor. The door led to a laboratory where someone appeared to be actively engaged in researching the properties of blood. He also found a list with the inheritors' names written down as potential test subjects. 

Back upstairs, Evelyn and the rest of her "entourage" were being seated for dinner. Sandra, the maid, kept making passes at Fox and even slipped him a note requesting a late-night tryst. 

Back in the crypt, Thistle was attacked by the bluecoat, who fired his pistol at him. Thistle managed to dodge the shot, but was pistol whipped for his troubles. Billy arrived in the crypts and the two of them tailed the bluecoat detective as he exited through a secret door.

Back in the dining room, everyone present heard the sound of gunfire. Fox and Dusk decided it was time to gather everyone and get them outside to safety. However, Fox ended up in a brawl with Boniface, the butler, who seemed to be in on some sort of plan. Boniface broke Fox's nose, but took a shot in the shoulder from Dusk. The butler grabbed a knife and attacked Dusk, but Boniface was soon dealt with in a permanent fashion. 

Billy and Thistle chased the fleeing bluecoat into a topiary garden that featured a giant chess set. The bluecoat winged Billy with another shot, but was shot in return--as his blood flowed, both Thistle and Billy were aware of a terribly rancid smell now emanating from the detective. 

Dusk and Fox learned more about the situation in the house as they marched the remaining servants and inheritors out onto the lawn: no one ever saw Reginald Athmore's corpse after his supposed death, and prior to his demise he had been spending more and more time in his lab. 

In the topiary garden, the fight continued. Billy unleashed his magical power, surrounding his fists with ghostly light--the blows he rained down on the bluecoat connected with a malign spiritual presence inside the detective. The "bluecoat" was destroyed--but, as they put the pieces together, they realized that the detective was not what he seemed.

The bluecoat was actually Reginald Athmore in disguise. He had faked his own death and had, in fact, been cheating death for centuries. The elixir that kept him alive could only be made from the blood of his relations; over the years, he had exhausted the nearest branches of the family tree, which is why he had to invite such distantly related strangers to his house under the guise of being "inheritors." He planned to kill them and use their blood to restore his unnatural longevity.

Of course, now that the house was now clear, the gang took the opportunity to rifle the place. They discovered Reginald Athmore's fortune hidden away inside the suits of armor in the gallery. Another successful, if bloody, heist!

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

DEMONOID PHENOMENON for PLANET MOTHERFUCKER

Democracy may be dead, but PLANET MOTHERFUCKER is still alive and kicking. Just in time for the Fourth of July, the Only Post-Apocalyptic Game That Matters is back with a new supplement: DEMONOID PHENOMENON.

What will you find in the pages of this bad boy? 

- New character classes! (Alien Pervert, Gunnut, Kung-Fool, Robo Jock)

- New power ups! (A Dracula medallion, a goth girl's leather pants, bad-ass tattoos, and more!)

- New rules (For shit like taking cover, dying, and fear!)

- Adventure seeds (Fight robots in Spaghettysburg! Rescue hung dudes!)

- New Knacks and Mutations! (Including some really gross stuff!)

- More random tables than you can fuckin' handle!

BUY BUY BUY IT'S THE AMERICAN WAY!

Sunday, June 30, 2024

The Grail Tombs

art by Wayne Snyder
When I was writing Krevborna, I wanted there to be an in-setting rationale for the existence of dungeons--even megadungeons, if I felt like running one. The Grail Tombs fit that bill; you just can't beat "remnants of an ancient fallen civilization" as the justification for all sorts of weirdness.


The Grail Tombs

Dungeons Left Behind by a Lost Empire

The Grail Tombs are ancient catacombs found deep within the earth throughout Krevborna. These labyrinthine dungeons and burial vaults belonged to a long-dead civilization known as the Vlaak Empire. Chalice motifs and frescoes depicting the alien Vlaak nobility dominate the walls of the Grail Tombs, revealing them to have been tall, gaunt beings with mottled gray flesh and hauntingly large, pupil-less black eyes. They were well-versed in the use of arcane sorcery, artificer magic, and psionics, but their empire fell when it embraced a death cult that ultimately transformed Lithka, the last empress of the Vlaak nobility, into an undead abomination. 

     The Vlaak Empire left behind many artifacts of advanced technology and magic in the Grail Tombs. These treasures command exorbitant prices from collectors, but obtaining them is fraught with peril—the Grail Tombs are guarded by antediluvian constructs, cunning traps, and baleful curses. Additionally, unnatural phenomena, such as warped time, impossibly convoluted architecture, and sentient machines, have been encountered in their stygian depths. 

Hallmarks

The following elements and aesthetic notes define the Grail Tombs:

    • The Grail Tombs are subterranean catacombs left behind by an inhuman empire. 

    • These dungeons are known as Grail Tombs because they tend to be decorated with images of chalices and visual allusions to rites involving the imbibing of blood.

    • The Vlaak who created the Grail Tombs are depicted as tall, gaunt figures with mottled flesh and pupil-less eyes.

    • Uncanny phenomena frequently occurs within the Grail Tombs due to the ancient magic that lingers within them

    • Treasure hunters often seek powerful artifacts within the Grail Tombs.