Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 08 -10 Things we don't know about you (in WoW)

It’s been far too long since I last updated the ongoing WoW Blogging Challenge, in which we have arrived at the eight day out of 20. Better late than never, I suppose. So without further ado, let’s rush right into it and address today’s challenge:

10 Things We Don’t Know About Maynard

Since this is first and foremost a WoW-challenge, I find it reasonable to keep the perspective on the game, even though there are plenty of things none of you know about me, the majority of which I’d prefer only to share with a very selected few.

So let’s dive in.

  • I did half of ‘Insane in the Membrane’ on one character, then switched to another one and restarted, then returned to the original character and completed it.
I did Insane, yes. It was a living hell, nightmare on earth to say the least. But I did it, and it’s still resting happily on my rogue. I might add; I did it back when the Shen’Dralar was still a requirement, and beyond doubt they were the fucking worst part of this ordeal. Closely followed by the Darkmoon grind, perhaps.

Only with Hordes around to see it...
Thing is, halfway through I reconsidered and decided I’d much rather want it on my warlock, so I switched over, grinded to honored with the bloodsails and began on Diremaul. I quickly realized how immensely, obnoxiously stupid this was at the time and decided to return to the rogue. Sadly, this left my warlock pretty unpopular with the goblin-cities, meaning I had to take a whole session to grind him back in neutral standing once more. I truthfully felt…really stupid.

  • In TBC, when I raided Karazhan and began playing a Destro-Lock, I passed or DE’ed all gear with +hit on it as I thought hit wasn’t necessary for destroy locks.
Starting on a new class and not giving a rat’s ass about reading up on it is horrible. I actually believe my relatively low dps on bosses was a bump on our progressive road all along, just because I was such a noob. I’m not proud of this at all, but there; it’s out.

  • Speaking of Karazhan, after a whole night of wiping on Shade of Aran (ah yes, the memories) I ended up shouting on TS that the next dumb fuck to move in flame wreath would be instantly kicked from the raid. Guess who that dumb fuck was?

I made sure to stay really, really quiet. Sadly, one of our healers noticed and blackmailed me severely for keeping her mouth shut. It cost me some hundred gold, but I believe my secret was safe. As you can see, Karazhan wasn’t really my strongest raid.

  • In real life I’m a psychologist, work with people every day as well as in groups and individual therapy. I attend parties and plenty of social events, yet in online games I border social anxiety, especially when healing.
As some of you might have noticed in my previous blogs, I’ve had great issues with anxiety since I shifted from mainly DPS’ing to healing. That is sad, because I love healing and yet there is a part of me that objects violently through physiological means whenever I sit down to do it. As I’ve described in my project on ‘A healer’s journey’ I’ve gotten a lot of it under control by continuous exposure and cognitive methods, but even to this day I can feel my heart racing a bit and stinging in the chest whenever I hit the ‘Looking for Dungeon’ tool. I have no idea why this is so, but I’ll likely never evade it completely.

  • I used to be a guild master for 25 people back in TBC.
Being in charge of raid-leaders, class officers and DKP-management is fun to a certain degree. Sadly, in the long run, it tends to end up wearing you down if you don’t know how to distribute responsibility properly. That, and the fact that back then WoW didn’t offer small raids as it does today, meaning it became progressively harder to gather people.

  • My all time favorite fight is against Kael in Tempest Keep. I shed a tear the first night we downed him.
In fact, so did everyone in the raid. Our raid leader literally cried and sobbed for several minutes afterwards, and I understand why. It’s such a glorious and complicated fight, and by the hell did we earn that victory after so much pressure and training.
We gambled and lost for a month.
  • In vanilla, I maxed fishing on four characters.
YES I KNOW! Damn it! I was level 60, I needed the fish!

  • During ‘Wrath of the Lich King’ the ONLY raiding I EVER saw was Naxx, and only ONCE!
This is usually when people look at me in shock. But it’s true. I went through Naxx once with my guild back then, it then disbanded shortly after, and I frankly have no idea how I managed to avoid finding another raiding guild back then. Or, what the hell I actually DID in Wrath? Lots of instances, I remember and standing, crafting, making money. But I’ve never seen Ulduar, Trial or ICC. I suppose that if I someday find a nice guild wanting to go back on a nostalgia rush, I’ll gladly hook up. But till then these places remain a mystery to me.

  • I’ve often been tempted to ‘buy’ gear or gold, but never have.
There is a fine line between tempted and doing, and I’ve never tried purchasing virtual WoW-Goods with real life money, simply because it goes against my principles. That being said, I’ve often considered how easier it would actually be. Most of it originates from Vanilla, when the top raiding guild on our server arranged trips to Black Wing Lair and sold loot along the way for ingame gold. I remember participating in one of such, and of course plenty of Bloodfang Armor dropped. I didn’t sit well with my own guild, though, who was at the time only in Molten Core, even though my original intention was to improve my play through upgraded gear. Whether they were right to think so or not is beyond the point. I’m simply concluding that I’ve heard that call and the temptation, but likely never would utilize such possibilities.

  • When it comes to trading and making money, I’m a god damn bastard.
One of my favorite stunts is the classical usage of Auctioneer to scan the neutral auction house in very, very short intervals, sniping people trying to transfer items across factions for ridiculously low amounts of gold. Before any of you go berserk, this method has been validated by Blizzard as legit (otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it, and certainly not telling anyone about it). It’s simply through the use of the ever popular add-on Auctioneer. You spot a cheap transfer, you snipe it for a very low amount and become a happy camper.
Back in the days it was certainly possible to get crusader orbs and expensive cloths for no money. You would snipe them instantly, and as you emptied your mailbox people would FLAME you (with good reason) for nicking their precious items. I usually told them the morale; don’t transfer in a stupid way, at least elevate the price. Often it ended up as “Lol reported u nub!!” with no further consequences. At other times I’d have threats and one guy even begged me to return the cloth as his young son needed them for his priest. I frankly didn’t believe him one bit, but whether he was right or not; it was a bargain for me. Was his son really crying that night?
Who knows?
And a filthy little part of me enjoys this immensely. Some people would leave angry mails to me about how much of a “haxx lol!” I was. It kind of grew on me.

So there you have it. 10 things you likely didn’t know about my WoW-Life. Stay tuned for the next update!

Carrion Crown: Broken Moon pt. 6

(So, today we’re finishing up the third chapter of the Carrion Crown Adventure Series; Broken Moon. As should be no surprise to anyone at the moment, most of the second half of this installment has been some of a grinder and not much changed during our final session. It was a rather short and admittedly not entirely constructive session, but I do believe we had our share of fun. At least, it was one of those sessions in which the GM, as in me, had a blast. As for the players…not that sure. Let’s buckle up.
This session involved Mutt the barbarian, Edgar the cleric, Vincent the sorcerer, Galfur the inquisitor and Lee the bard)

Are they…zombie-ninjas?
The heroes clumped together in the damp armory, as the undead monks dropped from the darkened ceiling, and from their respective corners of the room hissed and went into position for battle. One of them, an especially notoriously looking monk named Acrietia, clenched her fists and whispered ‘You shall never leave this place alive. Come. Join us in darkness!’

And then initiatives started (the best way to begin any session, am I right??).
Acrietia went first with her high +9 modifier and sprinted directly to Vincent the sorcerer, punching him with a stunning fist. He failed his fortitude save and became stunned, making him a sitting duck for four wights closing in.
The heroes began unleashing hell, when they suddenly noticed a young man sprint down from an old set of stairs in the back. He wore dark clothing and praised the adventurers for being here. In fact, he did with such a passion and spirit, that the heroes couldn’t help but feel very inspired! (Thus Aldarion’s player had entered the campaign with his new character, Lee the Bard. As he was a motivational speaker, the dark clothes somehow got me thinking of Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Hamlet’.) The wights all closed in on Vincent and banged him up pretty badly for five negative levels in total. Mutt and Galfur moved up and dropped a wight, whereas Edgar attempted to channel energy against them. On her turn, Acretia full attacked Vincent but made some pathetically weak rolls, inflicting just enough punishment to drop him, without killing him though.  Mutt then struck her with a confirmed critical hit on his X3 weapon, and with a whopping 60 damage she went down instantly. The rest of the encounter was merely wrapping it up from there, as the remaining three party members wiped out the wights.

The party spent some time talking to Lee, who presented himself as an agent of The Harpers. He’d been trailing the heroes for some time, as his organization had become ever more concerned about the recent cultist activity from the Whispering Way. If they would allow him so, he would join forces with them in their battle against the cultists? They happily agreed doing so.
(Some people have complained about the lethality of said encounter, but in all honesty I don’t find it to be that bad. It really depends on how much you want to rub it in and make it devious. The best performance the undead can give, in my opinion, is to let Acrietia attempt to stun a weaker party member and from there on gang up with all the wights. With her flurry of blows and four minions it’s a potential seven negative levels in a round, which is still unlikely to happen. It’s very viable to kill a player in this way, but my group was at no time in collective danger).

Confronting Auren Vrood
 (Allow me to make a short comment here: I had officially ordered the fourth chapter, Wake of the Watcher, from E-bay. But sadly the seller couldn’t be bothered telling me it was out of stuck for at least a month, not before I contacted him last week. Meaning I was, officially, out of adventure if the players rushed through the remaining part of Broken Moon. I figured that they could potentially spend some time and fun seeing the rest of Feldgrau and prepare for their next expedition, all it would take was for them not to charge directly into the old tower next to the armory).
Needless to say, this was exactly what they did. Sticking to classical conventions, they figured the main antagonist would sit in his dark tower, scheming, and decided to cast all buffs they had and storm the place. Most of the tower had collapsed, but a lot remained intact for them to explore. They didn’t make any attempts at stealth, busted right into the main hall and began looking around in the debris. As they entered a large, round room, a booming voice out of nowhere suddenly yelled at them that their doom was at hand.
Strapping in, the heroes witnessed the angry dead rise from their graves in the ground, staring at them with rotten, hollow eyes. Skeleton champions began lurching towards them, and as they did, a dark and sinister mage flew down from the ceiling; howling and cursing at them in an eldritch tongue. They’d found Auren Vrood, the grand necromancer.
(In the original book, Vrood has some crawling hands as minions, which I sadly realized were included in Bestiary 2. I see the commercial point of this stunt, but could we please, please have two less pages of that boring, unnecessary story in the back of the adventures and instead make room for the actual stat-blocs? Or at least provide them with original stats. So I turned them into skeletal champions instead, it worked fine.)

At first, the fight was rather uneventful. The skeletons shambled onwards, blocking the door out, and Vrood’s Eyebite spell induced panic into Vincent the sorcerer. Luckily, Edgar provided a remove fear for the situation.
The necromancer had made sure to remain well in the air, and on his turn decided to get serious. Sneering with a hateful gaze, he cursed them and yelled they would never reach his master or foil the plans of the cult. He cast a circle of death, detonating between Vincent the sorcerer and Lee the bard, stretching outwards towards the rest of the party. Edgar, having been clever enough to cast Death Ward happily popped his immunity card, but Vincent, Lee and Mutt (with a natural 1) botched their saves. Vrood rolled his D4’s for hit dice and summed up a nice 17 in all, instantly slaying Vincent and Lee.

From there on the battle seemed much more challenging. With two party members down right off the bat, Galfur, Mutt and Edgar faced Vrood alone. The mad necromancer laughed evilly and moved closer, taking cover behind his minions. The heroes had started chopping their way through them, so the mage decided to bolster his ranks with a nice Animate Dead on Vincent’s corpse, adding a zombie-adventurer to his repertoire (was this a tactical smart move? Hell no. I just fucking love zombifying my players). As they tore up a large hole and destroyed Vincent, Mutt charged Auren Vrood and put in a solid strike on him, but noticed the necromancer’s stone skin spell taking off a lot of the edge. Galfur activated his Bane ability and joined in on the fray, putting in another small dent in their opponent. Vrood retreated, hurling an enervation against the barbarian, slamming his for a critical four negative levels. From his advantage point, he started moving up in the air once more, only to realize Mutt had brought a potion of Fly. As he saw the rest of his skeletal army crumble, Vrood growled and hurled another enervation at Mutt. It hit, and he rolled another 4 on his dice. With his 8 hit dice, Mutt was dead.

Screaming with hysterical laughter, the wounded Vrood went to the skies again, preparing his next barrage. Edgar hurled a searing light at him and Galfur launched volleys of Bane Arrows from his bow. The necromancer felt the sting, and immediately dropped a cloudkill on them, seeking cover behind it. They were both drained for a little handful of constitution and got the hell out of there. The necromancer then prepared to utilize his telekinesis and vampiric touch spells to mob up the inquisitor, before making short work of the cleric. Galfur, however, leapt out from behind the cloud and pierced the necromancer with a barrage of well aimed shots, sending him to his knees with a final sight.

For Vincent and Lee, fighting necromancers was a bad move.
As everything slowly settled once more, Galfur and Edgar dropped to their feet in exhaustion. Silence filled the room now, but they noticed the sound of running feet behind them. Getting up, the dwarf immediately tackled the young cultist trying to make a run for it. Dragging him back into the room, they beat some information out of him, revealing he was the former apprentice of Auren Vrood, and that he would tell them everything he knew, if only they’d let him live.
The two heroes gave him the chance, and besides from a cryptic poem they found in Vrood’s belongings, the young apprentice Sharod explained that only a short time ago, two dark riders set out towards the town of Thrushmoor. They both carried valuable cargo, and Sharod was sure the heroes could reach them in time if they hurried. As to what the poem was talking about of the cultist plans, he didn’t know. In the end, they decided to let him run for it into the forest and attend the fallen warriors.

This was Auren Vrood.
I’ll be honest and say he surprised me, especially since I thought most of his encounter would go down the drain as I had totally forgotten preparing for him in a proper way. Of course, you could argue that there were a lot of freak accidents here. Players botching their saves, the fact that they only buffed one guy with a deathward, really bad luck on those enervations, etc. etc. It turned out to be one of those fights in which the party gets really silent afterwards, but as a GM you can’t help feeling that this is how the end boss SHOULD be. And as we walked home that evening, we actually agreed about this.
Vrood is the first face the heroes get for real on the Whispering Way and besides from having an absolutely badass portrait he’s supposed to be mean. Even when spending most of his initial nukes, he also has his familiar and some solid touch effects. I’ll be honest and say that this was one of those encounters in which I expected a party wipe, as we entered the second round.
Vrood also set a new record for speed-killing a new character in the campaign. Roughly 20 minutes of game time. Lee’s character decided to retire him very early, as he had barely been introduced, and instead decided to roll up a paladin for the upcoming sessions. In this one, he played as his backup ranger for the rest of the session.
You will also notice that Vrood didn’t flee and return to strike once more, as written in the original adventure. I was going to, but the epic battle felt so…epic, at the time. There was a now-or-never mentality going with the inquisitor and the cleric, it felt wrong to interrupt it. In addition, Vrood doesn’t have an apprentice in the original scenario. Instead, without going into TOO many spoilers, the heroes have to gather their information about the next target in a REALLY strange and odd way, involving the ghost of an inn-keeper. It felt way stupid and out of proportion for me, so I played it classical).

The long trek back home
Egdar and Galfur decided to drag back the corpses to Edgewood (the tiny trading post I added just on the edge of Shudderwood) which took them a week. There they decided to revive Mutt and Vincent, who had to receive a Ressurection (you could argue that it would seem odd to find a level 13 caster in such a small place, but then again, he was a drunken priest who didn’t like humanity. It seemed plausible for him to live in a simple settlement like this.)
They set out that very same night and began their seven-day-long journey back through the forest. On the second night, however, Edgar sat watch and was shocked as Galfur and Vincent suddenly began shuttering in wild spasms, growling and tearing flesh off their bodies. Long black hair grew on them, and as the cleric watched the sky, the silvery full moon glared back at him. The two werewolves leapt to their feet and hurled themselves at Mutt and Edgar.

Bad fort saves - Haunting inquisitors since 2004
Through non-lethal damage, they were both defeated. During the fight, their old ally ranger joined the party once more, after his stay at Ascanor Lodge. They decided to shackle up their former allies for the next morning at which they reverted and barely remembered any of it. For good measure, they returned to Edgewood to receive a Remove Disease from the cleric, removing the contagion Edgar had contracted during the fight. They now had to face the fact that Galfur and Edgar were lycanthropes and what to do about it. (To all geeks out there; we spoke a lot about; when Lycanthropy crosses the 3-day-limit for restoration, as described in the bestiary 1, is it then permanent with no hope of removal? We interpreted it like that, but I’d like some input).

They returned to Feldgrau, which was now strangely deserted, and decided to head directly for the old mill. At this time, the heroes had a full rage-bar due to their maximum level of frustration; kicked in the door and literally hurled fireballs as soon as they saw contact (too bad the demonwolves have fire resistance 10, lololol). Immediately, two of the werewolves and their leader, Adimarus Ionacu, threw themselves at the heroes. (One could again argue, why the hell they didn’t leave in the 14 days, but on the other hand it seemed prudent of them to wait for the players to return with the uneaten hear of the packlord).
It wasn’t a spectacular battle. I won’t spend too long talking about it here. If you want to beef up their tactics, simply have them all go crazy with smite good on a single character and then move on. The werewolves stand a lot of punishment, but for a fully rested group with a hot temper for tearing something apart they are not really a big match. 

And so, the heroes returned to the Prince’s Wolves with the heart. They thanked them thoroughly and their leader Rhakis greedily consumed it. Before they left, the heroes inquired them about a cure for lycanthropy (it was the players’ idea, and I like to reward unusual initiatives like that) which originally made the wolves a bit confused. In the end, however, Rhakis told them of one certain individual who might know of such, should the heroes not have access to the most powerful of restorative magic (I’m thinking Wish and Miracle) , would be a strange beast living to the north of the small village of Illmarsh, far out into the swamp. Apparently, he’d named himself ‘Hopper, the King of Frogs’ and didn’t take well to strangers. After some consideration, the heroes thanked the wolves and set out towards Thrusmoor in their next pursuit of the Whispering Way.
But that is a tale for next Wednesday.

This was chapter 3 of Carrion Crown, neatly completed by my players in six session, exactly like Haunting and Trial. You might notice that the deal with Hopper and the cure of Lycanthropy was my own doing. As I’ve read up on Paizo-forum, I couldn’t help but notice this topic: which presents several arguments. As Wolf Munroe states, there are a couple of ways presented in which you can cure it beyond the first three days, including eating more wolfbane, but truthfully I haven’t been able to find this information in Broken Moon. It might very well just be me not looking properly, and since we’ve went on with the side-quest stuff, we might as well stick to it. 
The important stuff for me wasn’t the cure of the affliction, but to start the player’s ‘Relic Quest’. I always include a relic quest in my campaigns, in which the heroes get the chance to fight three or four really powerful ‘bosses’ and gather pieces for a very powerful relic for a specific class. It’s entirely optional, of course, but many like this aspect of the campaign and I love tweaking around with boss-encounters like that. So I might include this aspect in the following blogs; but don’t worry, it won’t take up very much space.

Back to Broken Moon; I think it’s safe to say this was another round of start out great but slowly degrades. My players agreed with me pretty much (and I think they’d do so, even if they hadn’t splattered so much to Auren Vrood) and thought; it became too much of a grind.
Ascanor Lorde is an awesome part, I really liked it immensely, especially since my players spent so much time there, gathering all the encounters and clues. If you’re running this as a GM, I do recommend to NOT let Duristan know about the location of the Stairs of the Moon, so your players won’t rush out there immediately. If they do, they will really miss out on a lot of content. I let them find the location of the Stairs in an old book in Estovion’s library which worked fine.

My players were in general quite trusty of Estovion, which was nice. They did suspect him, but didn’t react much to it, meaning they skipped out on some of the clues as they didn’t get to his personal notes. It might be worth mentioning, that the adventure presents the heroes with preciously few reasons or proof against Estovion, at one time making me wonder ‘How are they supposed to act against him besides from “because we can”?’
That being said, I really enjoyed playing out the various NPCs in the lodge. It’s recommended to focus on a few of them, in my case Duristan and Delgros, followed by Estovion.

If you’re going to GM this I highly, highly, highly, highly HIGHLY!!........highly….. recommend this sheet as a helper:  
(The general site with material for Harrowstone and Trial can be found here: )

This sheet is made of pure awesome. Besides a look at the event-chain of the adventure, there is a complete and very helpful list of the NPC’s, what they know and all the facts of the investigation. This made my job so much easier, I can barely tell. So thank you, Windspirit on the Paizo Forum. Your work is greatly appreciated.

So, what did I like and what didn’t I like as a GM?

On the pro-side; I loved the Ascanor Lodge-part, as said. The transition into Shudderwood felt good and the NPC’s in this chapter sprang remarkably to life before me. I always love it when my players start referring to NPCs with their first name and remember them distinctively, and the bond they shared with both Duristan and Cilas Graydon. Even sadder to see them both succumb along the way.
The adventure doesn’t seem as punishing as some of the encounters in Trial and Harrowstone, but there is still plenty of punishment to go around. My players, however, didn’t have such a pressed time and enjoyed it a lot, spending time to investigate the lodge. We likely spent almost two sessions entirely at the lodge, speaking and interrogating various people.
Oh, and the illustrations in this adventure pretty much kick ass. Especially the one of Vrood is purely made of win! 

On the con-side; well, pretty much my biggest beef is with the second half of the adventure. Feldgrau is somewhat lackluster and one enormous grindfest. Some of the houses make up for interesting encounters, such as the haunted inn, whereas much time is spent Final Fantasy style, walking around the world map and into random encounters. I do see the need, however, as the players are expected to go from level eight to nine at the end of the adventure, and that’s some amount of XP needed through pure combat. If I could redesign something (read: had more time) I would’ve included more interesting side-haunts or events in the houses throughout the city and cut down on the patrols.

There is a lot of talk going around with the werewolf-tribes but you can’t help feel they’re just a tiny part to make the setting work. My players were absolutely sure from the very start that they would go on a wild trek through all the tribes, visit them, learn of their culture and get heavily involved in deep satisfying, interpersonal plots, forcing them to pick and swear allegiance to one of them. Betrayal, valor and heroism on a bleak plane of horror!
Sadly, this never becomes the case.

 Instead the players are bombed with tons of information on the tribes, their origin and relations to the Whispering Way, and have it pretty much on definition who of them are the good guys and who are evil. No place for blurry, grey zones there. In fact, it became common practice at the table, to refer to Adimarus’ wolves as ‘The evil wolves’ and the Prince’s wolves as ‘The good puppies’. Sad, but true. It doesn’t really help with the frustration, that all four tribes have two names which are used interchangeably
I have read very little of Wake of the Watcher, the fourth chapter of Carrion Crown which we are about to unleash this Wednesday; but from what I’ve seen so far there is more roleplay and some more interesting encounters up the road. I don’t blame D&D for being D&D, really. Encounters constitute a huge part of it, and if we loathed them, we wouldn’t be playing it. Instead, I hope it utilizes more of the same mechanics as Castle Caromarc, in which battles felt varied and more unexpected than “Hey, look…more cultists with minions we’re about to faceroll?”

I suppose only time will tell. All in all, Broken Moon didn’t disappoint and Carrion Crown still holds a very high regard from me. Now let’s see what lurks beyond the stars, in the deep recesses of insanity.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Skyrim covers at their finest

Hello again, everyone.
While I’m usually not much into shameless promoting of other people, there are rare exceptions and tonight is one of those.

If you’re like me, you’re a big fan of Skyrim and one of the huge factors contributing to this is the wonderful musical score we’ve come to love during our travels through Tamriel. As usual this has spawned a myriad of aspiring artists on youtube, who’re all keen on showing us their talent and what they were able to come up with through their craft.

I’ll honestly say there is a lot of crap out there. Really, a whole stinking lot.
And in a few minor places there is pure gold to be found. And my newest 24 karat name is Malukah, known from her homepage and of course her channel on youtube.
Some of you might already know of this stunning voice, but for those of you who didn’t (like me); you really ought to take a few minutes and listen to this if you’re taken in with Skyrim’s music:

 'The Dragonborn comes'
 'Age of aggression' (There's one for Oppression too, but I'm an Imperial, after all.)

I’ll be honest and say these have stayed on my MP3-player for the last couple of days and pretty much been the only thing playing. I hope some of you out there will enjoy them as much as I did.

Carrion Crown: Broken Moon pt. 5

(This session involved Mutt the Barbarian, Edgar the cleric, Galfur the Inquisitor and Vincent the Sorcerer. They were 8th level.)

 Catching their breath from the fight with the nasty hangman tree, the heroes surveyed the challenge laying before them. Not far away in the distance they saw the sore ruins of the once cuddly town Feldgrau. Now nothing but a forsaken ghost town that was once slaughtered bestially by passing troops and since then abandoned. Up until now, that was. The Whispering Way had taken residence now for unknown purposes and right on their heels was the pack of demon wolves led by their anti-paladin tyrant. It was a race against time as the heroes knew they had to locate the heart of Kvalca Sain, the former packlord of the werewolves, before the demon wolves did.

They visited an old farmstead at the edge of town, in which they found a butchered cultist on a demonic shrine. Moving on, Mutt and Galfur sneaked into town from the northwest, quickly locating what seemed to be a blacksmith.  With no one around to be seen, they entered the building and realized it was, not surprisingly, long abandoned. Searching around for a bit, Galfur was suddenly ambushed with a blade to his neck, although its owner hesitated. He spoke with a weary, nervous voice, calling them out. He was surprised to see Mutt and a second later, their old ally Duristan stepped into the light. He looked battered and torn, with a confused gaze in his eyes.
He told them he had escaped the demon wolves as he arrived in Feldgrau and that he was trying to make his way out as the heroes arrived. He praised them for showing up, saying there were more prisoners inside the middle of town. He could show them the building the demon wolves resided in, and he was sure that together they would make up a strong challenge for them.

The heroes suspected him and somehow felt a certain hunch of something not being quite right. (I hate and always will hate Sense Motive / Social Perception checks and therefore they only provide players with very vague results, such as the feeling that something is wrong or the person seems ‘a bit quiet’ or ‘doubtful’.) They decided to bring him along but not go directly to the lair of the wolves before they had explored the town a bit. And so, Mutt and Galfur stealthily made their way to the next building, the Chandlery.
There was an intense silence which was abruptly quenched by a drooling roar from two massive, undead beasts. Sprinting on four legs, these monstrosities hurled themselves at the duo and a fight erupted.

(I’ll level with you right from the start; I can’t find enough synonyms for ‘a battle began’ to make this blog entry interesting. There was a _lot_ of battle in this session, which had to do with the way the final part of Broken Moon is written. Basically, whenever the heroes move between buildings in Feldgrau, they have a 50 % chance of bumping into a patrol of either cultists or werewolves. There is no guarantee that either group will actually notice the other, but it often happens. I had the patrol roll perception checks every time to see whether they spotted the heroes.

It makes sense, in a way, and provides a good workaround rule wise on how to portray the density of activity in Feldgrau at the moment. On the other hand, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit like playing Final Fantasy, with those encounters that simply start with a *FLAAAASHHHHHHH* *zoom in*. The heroes are supposed to go all from level 8 to 9 during this segment, which made me fear it would be one long grind fest. And somehow, it felt like it.)

The creatures were Menadoran Festrogs and quickly began feeding on both heroes. Galfur decided to take up a more strategic position and arranged for both him and the barbarian to move closer to the shop and then into it.
As they did so, they suddenly heard a chilly whisper through the air and visions raced through their minds of a chandler hiding below the desk as soldiers barged into the shop. They eventually found her and slammed her head into a pot of boiling tallow, and just as the vision ended they had a strange feeling of ghostly hands tightening around their throats. Galfur shrugged the strange feeling off, but Mutt instantly dragged himself through the room in an unworldly spastic rhythm. He then slammed his head into a burning copper kettle for a massive amount of damage (8D6 to be precise) which almost dropped him.
Outside, Edgar, Vincent and Duristan arrived to finish off the remaining Festrogs. They quickly entered the shop to heal up Mutt, but one minute later the haunt angrily manifested again, attempting to make them all burn. Luckily, Edgar reacted in time and banished it back to the abyss with a channeling of positive energy.
(I liked this haunt. I’ve missed them ever since Harrowstone.)

Wolves at our heals
Their next destination was a strange old building to the immediate south, and as Galfur and Mutt moved closer, they heard a low snarling conversation originating from the front of it. Hiding in the bushes, they noticed two fiendish werewolves talking, their fur black as the deepest night. They didn’t manage to overhear much talk, however, before one of them caught their scent and they both moved closer, managing to avoid a surprise round.

The rest of the party soon followed and battle erupted. Both demon wolves used smite good on Galfur and Mutt and ruthlessly began slaughtering. On his turn, Duristan turned to look at Edgar with a wide smile and said; “You remember that scar ward I told you about? Seems like it didn’t work at all…” after which he howled and transformed into a furious werebeast. With a growl he hurled himself at Vincent and grappled him.
(In the original case, Duristan waits till the heroes arrive at the demon wolf headquarter before jumping them, but seeing as they were about to take really long before getting their asses in motion, jumping them at this time with other werewolves of his kin seemed prudent. Duristan doesn’t hit hard by any means, at least not when compared to his smiting colleagues, but through grappling and tripping he is okay at keeping casters busy.)

Vincent escaped the grapple through the use of a still spelled Grease on himself and managed to kite Duristan around for some time, through various uses of Mirror Image and Invisibility. There was a lot of damage going around from the demon wolves, especially with their smite skills. Edgar managed to keep up both Mutt and Galfur for enough time for them to down one of the wolves, but sadly it also nearly killed the inquisitor in a final blow. He stabilized, though, near death’s door.
The rest of the fight became somewhat trivial. By the time Vincent reached 5 hp left, he turned invisible and made his way towards the rest of the group. Duristan relied on his scent to counter this but made some really bad concealment rolls, meaning Mutt was soon at him with a silver halberd and tore him a new one.
The heroes investigated the destroyed building but found nothing.

Ahh, Fresh meat!
Moving further to the south, the heroes found the butcher shop. It looked abandoned like so much else in town, but Vincent didn’t take any chances. He walked up to the door, kicked it in, and surprised two skeletal champions, a festrog and a Whispering Way curate busy searching the premise. Vincent nuked the room with a powerful fireball, destroying the skeletons and bringing the festrog and the cultist to their knees. From there on it was quite smooth sailing for the inquisitor and barbarian to mop up the rest.
(There is this strange thing going in Feldgrau of fielding creatures with severely low CR’s against an 8th level party. The skeletal champions are examples of such. I suppose this is an attempt to make the heroes truly feel epic and powerful, and whereas I truly intended to run this by the book, it did become rather tiresome placing them on the map when the sorcerer or cleric would any blast them on their initiative.)

The heroes then went north towards F12, the Gravedigger’s Shed. They could barely see something going on in the town square far to the south, but decided to investigate the small building first. They noticed a large group of dormant and armed skeletons inside, and decided to blast the shed for good measure.
(Again, this is an encounter, but since it consists of 8 CR ½ and four CR 2 creatures, I’d be damned if I didn’t have anything better to run in this adventure. So I decided to simply award them the XP for annihilating them. The heroes anyway decided to leg it from here, in case they brought unneeded attention to themselves.)

Heading closer to the south and the town square at F13, the heroes found a sinister gathering of plenty of skeletons hoarding together. In between them were two cultists, busy issuing orders to the digging skeletons. The heroes decided to run in, guns blazing, and assaulted the group with a fireball and channel positive energy, instantly destroying it. The cultists didn’t have long before the melee’s were upon them, and so the party walked away from another well deserved victory (I again point to previous blue entry).
Before moving on they decided to return to the small shed they just nuked, in order to see what they could salvage. Upon arriving, however, they were jumped by 12 burning skeletons and a whispering curate. (This time I really wanted to run it by the book, putting up every single model since fireball wasn’t as much of an option). The heroes entered from the far corner of the battlemat and moved closer to the shed. The burning skeletons charged with a reckless furor and hurled themselves at them blindly. (If you have players who remotely love tweaking their characters, you have to either accept that the burning skeletons will likely need a buff, or simply aim for a lot of crits in order for them to hit something at all. Even with the desecrate spell in effect, two of my players field an impressive AC of 22+.)  

As Mutt began slicing them down with attacks of opportunity the heroes realized the undead creatures detonating in their faces, inflicting a moderate amount of damage to the clumped up party. Sadly, this resulted in Galfur the inquisitor dropping to negative hit points, as they’d been so busy nuking skeletons they forgot about healing (Nemesis, thou art a bitch). Instantly, the Whispering Way Curate moved up and cast an unholy blight on the party, slaying the inquisitor. Sadly, she never made it to the corpse in order to cast animate dead and was slain subsequently. (Fun fact; if she had succeeded, this would’ve been the third time I’ve turned this player’s character into a zombie in my campaigns : D )

Bring out yer dead!
The party thought long and hard about what to do, but seeing as they were outnumbered already, they decided to take the long journey back to the small forest outpost of Edgewood to raise Galfur in the Shaundakul-temple. At this point, their wand of cure light wounds was also empty, so they needed to shop.
They returned there 7 days later (I’m frankly not sure whether that’s entirely correct, but a 14-day travel back and forth seemed reasonable. Also, if you run the adventure as written here; there is actually no way the players can raise anyone from the dead as Broken Moon seems severely absent of any clerics? I wonder what they’re intentions were?). They handed over the gold, restored a negative level and rested for a day. They then began the long journey back. (After Vincent previously attempted to charm person a merchant there into selling his goods at a lower price, all prices were elevated by 25 %. You might call it cruel, but in a sense this death was deserved as it was the result of careless thinking. Not healing up between an encounter is asking for trouble, and my players were punished equally by the improved pricing thanks to previous mistakes in town. Since Edgewood is also some of a central trade-hub slander had started spreading, resulting in a +10% increase in prizes all over Ustalav from hereon as the party’s bad reputation with merchants spread).
Upon arriving the undead activity in Feldgrau seemed somehow denser and the sounds of projects all over had increased. The heroes had the feeling that they really needed to hurry from here on and set forth against building F14; the armory.

It looked empty and abandoned, but also devoid of anything of interest.  Upon closer inspection, however, the heroes noticed an old stone vase with a faint bubbly, humming from the inside. Eager and curious, they went closer and opened it, only to find an big, well kept werewolf heart. The heart of Kvalca Sain. Happily they retrieved it and turned around to get the hell out of there.
But then it happened;
From the darkness above, five shady figures cloaked in black robes descended in a long jump. They wore mask concealing everything but their burning red eyes and hissed at the heroes; “You shall never leave this place alive!”
And thus, the final fight awaits this Wednesday in what will likely be the final chapter of ‘Broken Moon’.
Stay tuned.

(As an end note; I was puzzled by the sudden situation of so much time passing. Ideally one would argue against it, I assume. The players are against the clock, and taking such a huge amount of time out of their schedule would ideally give the cultists plenty of time to finish their projects and move on, effectively letting the heroes lose the campaign. Alternatively, they could leave and the PC’s would find some clues to their next destination, meaning they would only miss out on a truckload of XP’s.
I decided to rule the war with the werewolves had gone intense from thereon, keeping the cult pressed. Instead this also meant the Whispering Way had plenty of time to bolster their ranks, so that the final fight will feature more adds and troops.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dark Elf Blackguards - final product

Not everything recently has been centered around Carrion Crown. In fact, this day I did manage to finish my Dark Elf Blackguards, purely thanks to hangovers.
I do make it sound so easy, though. I should add that I’ve been working on and off with this project for more than a month, partially because I bought them in stages. Around halfway through I also decided they turned out too purple, and instead painted them much darker. And I like how it turned out.
click to enlarge
I stick to a really classical Dark Elf theme. Black, metal, purple and gold. Perhaps not original but I love the composition in them. I do believe my approach changed over time, but usually those are the main colors I used, along with plenty of black wash. There is surprisingly little skin on these guys, and since I prefer tanned elves I stuck to the usual Tallarn flesh with ogryn flesh, highlighted with increasing amounts of elf flesh. Some people like them pale but to that I have no advice. They just start looking like a bunch of goth freaks, in my opinion.
click to enlarge

I’m still having the usual issues with metal-figures (chipping, pieces that match like hell) but this is one of those regiments that really gets some force behind it, as you handle it around with its sheer heavy weight. As I intend to field an additional unit of Blackguards, if points allow so, I’ll likely get my hands on more of them soon. Although I’m certainly in no rush doing so, like the painting of the second hydra.
For now, they’re looking good on the shelf. Hoping to take them into battle very soon.

Carrion Crown: A short intermission and reflection

The last couple of weeks have been busy, I'm not going to lie about that. The blog speaks for itself in this regard, seeing that Carrion Crown has pretty much been the only thing updated around here. Not a small feat in itself, I might add, judging alone from the sheer length of these posts. I've often wondered whether I'm cutting my own throat by writing so thorough posts about the five adventurers' journeys in Ustalav, but then on the other hand it just wouldn't seem right otherwise.
There are a lot of Carrion Crown blogs out there, but I'm surprised at how many start out right and dramatically stops updating a few sessions into Harrowstone.
Well, perhaps I'm not THAT surprised, come to think of it, as I've been in enough ambitious PnP-groups to know a lot of stuff begins with good intention and the sky as the limit, and suddenly trivial obstacles such as reality, school, work and kids come in the way. It's no secret to those who know me that I loathe that kind of gaming, perhaps because I'm so alienated to those concepts. I think that's the reason why I always end up as the GM.

It's sad to see, however, that a very small number of published blogs on Carrion Crown make it to Trial of the Beast (granted, Google and Obsidian Portal constitute most of my empirical data) and as good as none to Broken Moon. I imagine, with my group moving swiftly towards Wake of the Watcher this Wednesday, this will only become ever more apparent.
In a sense we're also blessed compared to other groups, as we're able to play every Wednesday for almost five hours. None of us have or care much for family (or, counting for a few of them, homework) meaning we'll swiftly get into the game and progress quite far.

The other day it occurred to me that by googling Carrion Crown Blog, mine is the fifth-top-hit. It crept around fourth for a while. While I am in no way sure of the mechanics behind this, I'm happy and also surprised to see that happen. Mostly surprised because I honestly don't think it's that good. No mandatory modesty here, at all. It's just me writing stuff about what we play, extensively. I don't even follow the full set of rules.

Still, it seemed fit to throw a little notice up about our current campaign and its direction. My players are having, I assume, a good time with CC. There is a good spirit so far, even with the few, minor issues we've encountered so far. Truth to be told, CC has issues I'd like to see addressed. They are minor, but there.
There has been a lot of confusion about the current gear-level so far and the rather slim droppings of loot even as they approach 9th level. I’m not entirely dismissive towards this point, but I do believe much of CC was designed around the notion of having at least one crafter in the party. Which my group has neglected. There are plenty of small, insubstantial towns that make shopping hard, meaning the heroes are currently hoarding some amount of gold to spend once they approach civilization once more.
Character deaths have been an issue. There are some devious encounters in CC and sometimes my players think with their asses. Counting in Restoration spells to remove negative levels from death, they've roughly burned 42.000 gold on raises, halfway through the campaign.

We're still going strong here, and I look forward to bring you the next update this Wednesday, in which the heroes will likely have a showdown in the ghost town of Feldgrau against the vile necromancer. From thereon it's all Lovecraft, tentacles and phtagn...or whatever you people like to call it. It will be glorious.

We've been looking into the future as well, once the final showdown is over and they're through the sixth book. There has been some talking about a shiny place to the south, in which blazing deserts and alluring mirages lay.
There is said to wait a legacy, made of fire.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Carrion Crown: Broken Moon pt. 4

Time had come for the heroes to enter the ancient, sacred grounds of the werewolves of Shudderwood. The Stairs of the Moon. Once a mighty temple to Mielikki, now abandoned and ruined since the times of darkness, it lay as a silent reminder of former glory.
The heroes had bashed their way past a patrol of werewolves and now closed in on the complex. Around them they could clearly hear the sound of howling and clashing werewolf tribes in the forest, judging from the sound they could easily move closer.

They decided to explore the bottom level of the Stairs first, in which they just found the dead cultist and a map pointing them onwards to the tiny village of Feldgrau. On a plateau they noticed several scattered bones and fetishes from long dead animals, but no other signs of movement were visible there (It was 12 hours or so since they destroyed the Vilcasis spirit, so it wasn’t present). Entering the ruins they found a long abandoned room, which had sadly been looted through time. Galfur the inquisitor, however,noticed fresh footprints into one of the adjacent rooms, and they immediately headed there to investigate. Sadly, they also managed to trigger a symbol of pain trap, resulting in a nasty -4 penalty to Edgar the cleric, Vincent the sorcerer and Aldarion the Diviner. Inside the next room everything was just as scattered as the first, and for a few moments they stood pondering about its purpose. But they didn’t stay long before a secret door in the northern wall immediately opened and Estovion, former warden of Ascanor Lodge, jumped out. Maddening fray was painted all over his face and he sneered “I gave you the possibility of escaping several times! To run away and never come back! But it has finally come to this! I will NOT allow you to reach my masters!”
Then he cast a Black Tentacles. The initial grapple roll was a natural 1. Luckily, Estovion went second on initiative.

The entire party was grappled during the first round of combat, but Aldarion managed to escape the fields of hentai before things got ugly. He positioned himself at the other end of the room for a tactical advantage and cast Haste. Estovion went second and cast a Stinking Cloud on top of the tentacles to add insult to injury. Only Galfur the inquisitor fell to this and was nauseated. The rest of the party attempted to break free, Vincent to cast an enlarge person on himself. On his turn, Aldarion removed the mist with Gust of Wind.  Estovion began blasting and Mutt the barbarian made his way out of the tentacles and got into position to threaten Estovion. Vincent managed to cast Grease on himself and Edgar and Galfur remained in the tentacles.
On his turn, the warden moved back and cast Charm Monster on Mutt. With his +2 will save, the barbarian was instantly charmed and ordered to protect his new best friend, should anyone in the room attempt to do something to him.
Aldarion moved away and attempted to cast a spell. Mutt immediately was ordered to charge him and interrupt his spell, which meant he got a new will save for going against his nature. With his +2 he failed once again and disrupted the wizard with a mighty blow.
Vincent made his way out of the tentacle fields into the other room to the north and positioned himself so he had line of sight to Estovion. Sadly, Edgar was still grappled and Galfur nauseated.
In the following round Aldarion realized he was caught between tentacles and a hard barbarian. Mutt unleashed a full attack with power attack, and ended up killing the diviner on the spot.
Estovion laughed manically and yelled “Now, young cleric, you will DIEEEE!” (Couldn’t help myself there) and unleashed a lightning bolt at Edgar, who was luckily saved thanks to his improved lightning reflexes feat. Mutt was ordered to remain at his side, protecting him
The combat reached a stalling for a while, in which Estovion dodged Vincent’s line of sight from across the hallway. He barraged Edgar with magic missiles and buffed Mutt with grease so he could safely move out into the tentacle field and chop up his team mates. The situation looked quite grim they had to admit, but then a miracle happened:
Vincent remembered he had Dispel Magic.

Immediately, he dispelled Mutt’s charm spell, which made Estovion pale with dread. He fled to the back and began summoning a monster to his aid but was interrupted by the barbarian who unleashed his Ring of the Ram. At this time the tentacles were about to ebb out, Edgar and Galfur had gotten free, and the inquisitor was soon on his feet from the nausea. At this time Estovion realized things had changed and used his dimensional step ability to appear far away, out in the hallway, and then ran for it.
With expeditious retreat Galfur managed to catch up with him, and on his heels was Vincent hurling scorching rays in his direction. Not long after, Estovion succumbed with a gurgling sigh.
(Estovion proved to be a much harder fight than I had originally anticipated. If the party confronts him at Ascanor they won’t meet him here, of course. The effect from the symbol of pain is bad enough in itself, but there is very little room to maneuver inside the Stairs, making the tentacles and cloud really nasty weapons. Add in Estovion’s dimensional steps and you have a dangerous encounter. Besides from Auren Wrood, I’d say this is likely the most dangerous encounter in the chapter, provided he gets the upper hand. I didn’t play his summon monster till later in the encounter, though. I likely could have made it much, much harder by adding in another mob to crash the grappled heroes.)
Burying Aldarion
There was much sorrow to follow.
The heroes searched the rooms and found some gold, items and a strange shining stone on Estovion. Also, the found a strange ritual with instructions on how to purify the dusk moth and perform a ritual that would allow them to communicate with Mielikki.
They then carried the corpse of the mangled Aldarion outside the temple and gave him a proper burial while carving a small tombstone to the best of their abilities. Remaining in silence for a minute they afterwards discussed the following ascent at the stairs.
They took the direct approach up to the next level and landed at another wide platform with several pillars. Soon after, a group of werewolves set upon them with bows, snarling at them to leave or suffer the consequences. The heroes glared at each other, shrugged and attacked. They killed all but one of them in the first round of combat, but Galfur the inquisitor missed his attack, and thus the final wolf got to howl and alert the remaining werewolves upstairs. (This encounter is pathetically easy, and I suppose it’s there only to serve as an alarm to the remaining creatures. And XP.)
Further upstairs, inside the giant chamber, a dust moth lay in the stone-floor and seven werewolves with bows descended upon the party without mercy. A fireball failed to kill them, and Vincent was nearly gunned down on the spot. The fight lasted for some time, and the heroes couldn’t help but notice the sound of spellcasting upstairs on the roof. (I buffed this encounter, so the heroes would at least have some resistance. Besides that, the werewolves are only there to delay them before the final fight, so Mathus has time to buff). They also noticed that the weather had gone really bad. The sound of heavy thunder had started… (This isn’t in the adventure. I just wanted to be a bitch.)
As the fray settled, the heroes heard steps coming from below. As they turned their attention towards the stairs, they recognized a young ranger storming up the stairs, panic painted all over his head. His eyes were wide and his speech was short of breath. They remembered seeing him back at the lodge.
He told them that he got lost from Duristan’s party out in the woods and had made his way to here alone, closely followed by the werewolves. As he told them, the wolves had moved closer to the Stairs! They were coming, and they were coming fast. It was as if two tribes out there were fighting fiercely, but it would be a matter of time before someone would gain entry to the temple.
(Aldarion’s player wants to roll up an alchemist, but made a temporary ranger)
Confronting Mathus Mordrinacht
The heroes stormed up the stairs and were confronted by a mighty looking werewolf, gently feeding a hawk on the railings. The roof was a small platform engulfed in powerful winds and the sound of thunder roared above them.  A fall from here would be lethal.
The werewolf turned around and drew a sword and a dagger, all the time smiling. “I see you have made it,” he said. “Unfortunately, your journey and butchering of my loyalists ends here. Let me tell you, I shall not give in as easily as Estovion. I, and I alone, am the packlord of this forest. And you shall NOT deny me the honor!”
As the fight broke out, the hawk soared into the winds and with a howl called a lightning strike from the sky. It struck directly into Mutt the barbarian for 3D10 damage (again, bad weather; I wanted to be a bitch.)Mutt charged into Mathus and failed to hit anything. Mathus, on the other hand, full attacked and tore the barbarian for around 50 damage.  The ranger failed to hit anything, Vincent threw a stinking cloud at Mathus but the werewolf saved. Galfur and Edgar ran to Mutt and channeled their mightiest healing-spells.
Mutt inflicted a severe amount of damage on Mathus, who in turn sliced the barbarian. He luckily saved against the lightning, meaning he stood with 3 hit points left.  Vincent attempted to dispel the hawk’s magic without luck, and the ranger hit on all his attacks, inflicting massive amounts of damage to Mathus.
At this point the werewolf had enough. Mutt was healed but then blasted down again by the hawk, so he tried to crawl away. The werewolf followed up and struck the barbarian down where he lay. He rushed towards the ranger, but was slain by a hail of arrows before he reached him (the ranger’s favored enemy was ‘shapechangers’…how lucky). At this point the hawk charged Edgar with a poison spell, but the cleric saved and the bird was slain as it attempted to flee. It instantly reversed to its natural form.
Then silence settled, and the heroes quickly made their way back down.
(This encounter can be played better.  There is entanglement and other spells to consider from the druids, but at this point I didn’t expect them to last long. Mathus hits like a truck but he’s fairly simple to crowd control or out-position. His druid companion I simply decided to take to the skies and blast the party from afar. A surprisingly simple little encounter, which I mainly used for exposition.)
Meeting with the Prince’s Wolves
(Is it just me, or is it INSANLY annoyingly hard not to pronounce this as ‘The Princess Wolves’?)
The party decided to head back to the lodge to rest up, as the werewolf-fighting at the temple had subsided. They made their way into the forest and headed back along the old trail. On their way, however, they were stopped by a band of humans walking towards them with hands where they could be seen.
Their leader presented himself as Rhakis Szadro.
“Greeting friends, please hear me out;” he urged. “I must speak with you for a while. I hope you will listen to our plead and consider what we have to offer. We have witnessed your efforts for quite some time now, even though you might already have heard of ours. We are the Prince’s Wolves, vigilant guardians and proud werewolf tribe of Shudderwood. As you might know, our situation has been dire past the last three weeks, as our ranks were thrown into turmoil by the murder of our packlord; Kvalca Sain. I say murder and mean it like that. I have no doubt that Mathus Mordrinacht had a hand in this, along with his allies in the Whispering Way. Since then we have been fighting amidst our own ranks, foolishly, as we could set upon our true enemies. Already as we speak, the Way is taking the heart of Kvalca Sain to the far distance in the town of Feldgrau. We have dispatched our own agents in his direction, but the demon wolves are racing us to the goal. Under the leadership of Adimarus Ionacu, a blackguard, they intend to track the heart, consume it and seize control over every werewolf in Shudderwood. This must not come to pass. We therefore propose a truce between us. We shall take you to Feldgrau and brief you on the situation, even provide you with tokens to show your allegiance to our cause, so you can work with our allies inside the town. Only thing we ask of you in return is that you bring the heart to me, so that I may consume it and claim rulership. What say you?”
The heroes considered this for a while. They somehow felt that Rhakis was hiding something, but decided they had no better option and decided to meet up with him the following morning. For now they needed to head back to the lodge, recuperate and eat some Wolfsbane poison. They were concerned some of the wounds from the werewolf could have inflicted them with lycanthropy and decided not to take any chances. It cost them some constitution points which were quickly restored afterwards.
After a night’s rest they took off once more. They couldn’t help but notice that most of the guests at Ascanor had left and that Belik the porter had been promoted to the new warden.
(An interesting note is that at no time whatsoever, did my players consider searching Estovion’s old office).
They met up with the Prince’s Wolves shortly after and travelled towards Feldgrau.  On their way, Rhakis told them about the cult and the town. He didn’t know the exact purpose for them being there, neither where their leaders were placed. From what he had heard so far, their opponent was a mighty necromancer, travelling under the name “Auren Vrood”. A name that struck terror into the souls of mortals and a very dangerous opponent who shouldn’t be underestimated.
But before such concerns they had to make their way through the thickness of cultists, undead and demon wolves. Adimarus Ionacu was also destined to be there and seek out the heroes, so Rhakis urged great caution. The Prince’s Wolves would escort the party to the edge of town and from there they could sneak closer to the settlement. Finally he also warned them about the town in itself. Feldgrau was abandoned long ago, as it was slaughtered by a passing army, which had now left it a haunted town. There was much rage and despair there…
No time to hang around!
The heroes arrived at an old farmstead next to the road leading onwards towards Feldgrau. The building looked abandoned, and outside was an old massive tree from which four werewolves hung, apparently being dead for a long time. The heroes decided to waste no time and move onwards, which suddenly made them realize how pretty this tree was. Mutt and the ranger, however, failed to see the beauty, but suddenly felt three vines attack them and drag them towards the trunk of the tree. To their horror, the werewolves had suddenly turned into skeletons… 
They had little chance to resist before the Hangman Tree swallowed them whole, and hungrily set upon the remaining adventurers. Vincent snapped out of it and ran away, trying to bombard it with magic. Sadly, he failed to overcome its spell resistance.
Edgar and Galfur were immediately dragged along as well, failing to snap out of it. Mutt and the ranger eagerly tried to chop themselves out of the trunk, but failed to inflict enough damage. In mere moments later they were joined in by their other two party members, and damage happily started ticking away.
Staying outside of range, Vincent kept bombarding the tree, and the remaining four did their best to escape. Once they finally did, the Hangman Tree would eagerly snatch them up once more and eat them alive all over. This meant Vincent was just about the only doing any damage throughout the whole fight.
(I love these trees. Not much else to say than they’re a real pain and blatantly fun to throw at players. As a GM, remember it has the Strangle-ability, making anyone it grapples unable to cast verbal-spells)
Finally the tree gave in, the splattered and ooze-covered heroes crawled out and caught their breaths. As they sat there, they looked down the road, towards the darkened skies.
Not far away, there future lay in wait.
In the town of Feldgrau, and the final showdown with Auren Vrood.