Shaking her head in a state of utter confusion, Sister Sariety quickly surveyed her whereabouts. She was stood in a poorly lit alley, surrounded by twelve humans, an ugallu (lion-humanoid), and a qephilim (jackel humanoid). Eight of the humans were armed with clubs, daggers, and bucklers. Standing in front of the sister, behind a small food cart, a laughing human held up a pair of flasks. Not sure how she got there, and barely able to remember who she was, Sister Sariety casually approached the man behind the food cart.
“I guess I’ll have to give you another!” the man shouted, tossing one of the flasks at the holy woman’s feet. Upon striking the ground the bottle shattered, splashing caustic liquid all over Sister Sariety’s legs, and the adjacent ugallu’s fur. As the sister reared back in pain, the armed humans began to shout offensive warcries while moving inward, attacking the unarmed men and humanoids. Startled, Sister Sariety fell into the massive lion-man, who backhanded her while baring angry fangs. Apparently, while not overtly hostile, the ugallu was in a mood, and rightly so.
Zamani was a devout ugallu monk, and typically remained calm, even while in battle. But his last memory was of standing outside a massive fortress, easily three hundred feet in height. Was he in the fortress? Could this alley be a part of the structure? Why did he come to this place? It was no matter, for at the moment the monk found himself fending off multiple attackers. The woman he had just struck started talking to him.
“Zamani, Zamani, do you not remember me?” she said calmly.
The lion-man still did not recognize the robed woman, but did not believe her to be a threat. Eager to settle a score with the bottle-throwing alchemist, Zamani charged forward fists raised. The woman cheered the monk on, offering encouragement and words of wisdom as his wind-bound fists struck flesh. The alchemist stumbled backwards through the wall itself. An illusion, thought Zamani, now dispelled and revealing another alleyway. The alchemist was about to lob his other flask at the ugallu when, from out of nowhere, a young griffin flew by and snatched it out of his hands. Without a viable weapon to use against a skilled elemental monk, the alchemist turned and started to run.
“Go get him!” Sister Sariety shouted at Zamani. Although he appreciated the enthusiasm, the monk needed no prodding.
Shenuesh, the brutish man from the Green Wilds, wasn’t sure if he was facing eight foes, or a dozen, or perhaps everyone else in the alley. He wasn’t about to figure it out by trial and error. Using his bestial brawn, Shenuesh leaped high into the air, hoping to land on one of the adjacent buildings’ roofs. But mid-flight the warrior-adept realized that the roofs of the buildings were only two feet from the “sky”. Although it appeared to be night, the sky was merely an illuminated ceiling. Course correcting in the air, Shenuesh slid into the gap between roof and ceiling, while drawing his bow. He would rain harsh death upon all those who opposed him… once he could remember who was friend and not foe.
Ever the fool, Yaren wasn’t sure if foul magic caused his mental malady or perhaps a bottle of questionable stout from the Addled Slugger. Still, he was surrounded by street-gangers, and he had a sword, so why not split a few heads from their bodies? Drawing his blade, Yaren grinned and began doing what he did best.
Even if Milja the Ranger didn’t recognize any one of the humans surrounding her, she could never forget Lusia. Her faithful griffin cub was more than just a pet; it was her bond-beast, a creature that would forever be bound to the qephilim outlander. Milja’s excitement at seeing her beloved friend pilfer the vile alchemist’s flask waned, however, as she realized that Lusia was coming in too fast! Although Milja commanded Lusia to retrieve the bottle, she wanted it returned to her hand… not her feet. Unfortunately something was lost in the qephilim to griffin translation.
The bottle of strange liquid tumbled onto the ground and broke into thousands of shards below Milja legs, creating a sheet of impossibly cold ice. Milja fell on her back almost instantly, the frost burning her flesh and chilling her bones. As the qephilim outlander struggled to get back to her feet, she noticed that Lusia was fluttering above her head, looking at her master quizzically.
Gazzim's day could’ve gone much, much better. Leader of the Embermark gang, the skilled alchemist was hoping that the sister and her troupe of foolish minions would be easy marks. Why else would someone consider coming down such a dangerous alley? He had to assume that they were just completely stupid. The mental scrambling gas may have disrupted the holy women and her crew, but only momentarily. Now Gazzim was climbing for his life, hoping to get away from the terrible ugallu following him. There was a brief moment when Gazzim thought he’d make it to safety too, but the robed monk was too fast, too agile to be outrun.
At least Gazzim had one more trick up his sleeve, one last power that he had saved for just this occasion, if only he…
[The alchemist is torn free from the metal pipe he is climbing by a burst of wind-energy blasted from Zamani’s glowing fist. The man falls to his death and breaks his neck. Zamani the monk jumps off the building, lands next to the corpse, and walks away. Cue the music and title.]
Living 4 Crits Presents
A Cypher System Fantasy Campaign
Ardeyn: Land of the Curse
- Sister Sariety, a Charming Speaker who Works Miracles, played by Frank
- Zamani, a Spiritual (Ugallu*) Explorer (Magic) who Masters Foot and Fist**, played by Andy
- Shenuesh, a Graceful Adept (Combat) who Wields Two Weapons at Once, played by Jeremy
- Milja the Ranger, a Sharp-Eyed (Qephilim) Explorer who Controls Beasts, played by Andreas
- Yaren, a Foolish Warrior who Stands Like a Bastion, played by Craig
* Ugallu is a race option from Broken Immersion by Ryan Chaddock Games
** Masters Foot and Fist is from Worlds Numberless and Strange by Monte Cook Games
Episode 1: Dream Patrol
As Milja finally chipped the last of the ice from her leather leggings, her bond-beast Lusia returned from her hunt. The young griffin carried a severed head in her claws, the neck viciously torn free from unwilling shoulders. That poor ganger sure went the hard way, the qephilim thought to herself. Despite the pain in her back, at least Milja ended up with less long term aggravation than poor Yaren, who was still picking caltrops out of his boots. When the surviving gang members retreated, those who hadn’t fallen to Yaren or Shenuesh, they dropped caltrops and marbles in their wake, hoping to deter any pursuers.
Lucky for Lusia that the caltrops had no effect on wings!
After the battle, the troupe of ne’er-do-wells started remembering what had occurred just a few minutes before the fight. Most importantly, they remembered Sister Sariety’s offer. The sister was something of a celebrity here on Level Thirty-Three of the Citadel Hazurrium. Sister Sariety gained her fame by healing injured free company adventurers in the name of the Maker. In fact, few matched her divine abilities.
Zamani was already in Sister Sariety’s employ when she first came to the citadel, having been freed from bondage by the Charming Speaker several months earlier. Shenuesh, a well-known sark-hunter, and Milja the Ranger were sought out by Sister Sariety, as they both came in high regard by local free adventuring companies.
And then there was the foolish Yaren, who responded to an advertisement for adventuring laborers posted by the sister at the Addled Slugger. While Sister Sariety was not inclined to hire the unassuming human, she could always use an extra sword.
After stripping the Embermark ganger bodies for gear and arcane trinkets, the party found their way to the Common Market. It was too late to sell their newfound items, but at least the Addled Slugger was still open for business. The sister, her ex-slave bodyguard, and three newly hired adventurers entered the old building and found a seat at a nearby table.
Well known on Level Thirty-Three as a pub catering to old soldiers, the Addled Slugger hosted weekly pugilism bouts in the basement. Yaren’s ability to take a few hits to the head and outlast his opponents made him a solid bet for local gamblers. Once the warrior sat down at the table, a fellow patron made sure all of his drinks, and those of his friends, were covered.
Beverages in hand, Sister Sariety pulled out a scroll and began to read the mission that she had been assigned by the Black Moon Explorers. She was to lead a “Dream Patrol” along the Path of the Dead, a long wall comprised of tightly packed crypts and catacombs winding its way from the Citadel Hazurrium far to the west. The patrol was scheduled to begin by the next evening at catacomb “1177” twenty-two miles west of the citadel. Not wanting to cover that entire distance in a single day, the party agreed to attempt the first five miles that very night.
But first Sister Sariety wanted to sell a small wand she carried.
Finding a black market buyer was not difficult, especially in the dark corners of the lowest level of the citadel. The wand allowed control over another’s mind for a few brief moments, causing them to become receptive to suggestion. An off duty guard was looking for just such a device, perhaps to use on a young woman that caught his eye. Zamani, as always, accompanied Sister Sariety, and observed the transaction. The ugallu monk noticed a slight hesitation from the sister at making the deal with the guard, but the pause was shorter than he would’ve expected.
The evening walk along the wall was quiet and unremarkable. A gentle rain began just twenty minutes into the march, but by midnight the storm had become torrential. Although Milja and Shenuesh both carried tents that could protect the entire party from the weather, the risk of lightning forced the group to consider other options. Milja set out to find a cave, and succeeded! Just a few minutes’ walk south of the Path of the Dead was an abandoned mine-shaft. Once the tents were assembled, the party settled down for a welcome rest.
Zamani had first watch, and was about to wake Shenuesh for the second when he smelled something in the air: human flesh and jackdogs. As he quietly roused the team an old man called out.
“What are you doing in my mine?” the man shouted. An old hermit who could not be seen ordered the party to leave his abode, or be forever sealed by a large boulder he would force over the entrance. It was obvious that some kind of heavy stone rested above the entrance to the mine, but the team could not make out the size. The man insisted that there were other entrances, and that he would have no problem finding an alternate route into the complex, once the party was long dead from starvation, asphyxiation, or any other kind of terrible death that could come in a mine.
Sister Sariety started negotiating with the hermit, hoping to make some kind of deal. Perhaps an iron-shod quarterstaff, taken from a dead alchemist, would make for a handsome trade? The hermit seemed amenable to the fast talking, and finally revealed himself. He was certainly old, clad in rain-soaked rags and clutching a simple staff. Shenuesh grabbed the quarterstaff, and moved towards the hermit. Instead of making the transaction, however, Shenuesh used an arcane implement to encase both he and the hermit in a cube of pure energy.
The old man screamed in fear as he watched Shenuesh transform from human into werejackal! The rest of the party witnessed an explosion of blood and gore within the cube, as the hermit’s body splattered all throughout the glowing transparent walls. Some had to look away, while others simply waited for the cube to dissipate.
An hour after invoking the cypher’s power, Shenuesh emerged from the cube, the blood licked clean from his tan fur.
"Awww, you can keep the rest of that." Milja to Lusia, after the griffin returnd with the gang member’s head.
"What did you do to me? This feels great! Can you do that again?" - Zamani to Sister Sariety once combat concluded.
"Come here so I can pummel you." - If Shenuesh used a ray emitter of command, this is what he would say according to Jeremy.
Jim - "How far into the cave are you going?"
Frank - "Not quite as far as they went in the Hobbit."
I wanted to start this blog post out “in media res” because that is the same way we began the evening. Mid-conversation, while we were joking about non-game related stuff, I called for an initiative roll. Given that this was the first adventure of a new campaign, and no one had really introduced their characters, I was asked by several players if I was serious.
I was totally serious, or as my daughters would say, "totes serious."
Before the opening scene the alchemist chucked a mind-scrambling cypher at the party, causing them all to become disoriented and confused. I thought “what better way to confuse a party than to start the adventure in a real state of confusion?” The gimmick seemed to work, and I’m very impressed at how far some of the players took the experience. During combat I would allow each player to make a Difficulty 4 Intellect check to remember their allies. Some characters, like Sister Sariety, picked up on this fast. Others, like Shenuesh, were confused for much of the encounter.
I hope to play around with more in-game gimmicks during this campaign, so stay tuned.
Also, if you have any crazy suggestions, send them my way…
… just do it in private so my players don’t know!