Friday, December 30, 2016

FR #13: Strange Happenings Afoot

4 Kythorn

As previously determined, we reconvened in Brithem, the party having safely delivered the weaponsmith and his family following their rescue from Whisper's camp. Though bereft of their possessions and physically depleted from the events in the forest, the fiefdom offered the victims true sanctuary, and for that they were immensely grateful. Brithem, itself, was yet recovering from the destruction wrought by the dragons: a memorial had been erected outside the castle grounds to honor those who had died, and the remaining populace and soldiers were hard at work reestablishing farm production and repairing the keep. With the trade season now in full flourish, the days were long and wearisome.

Amid all this, two young travelers from the south, a brother and sister who claimed themselves missionaries of Tyr, arrived in recent weeks and offered their hands to the fiefdom. The party spoke to the pair separately: the man, Lucido, the elder sibling despite having seen fewer than eighteen winters, spoke humbly of their journey north, taken under the employ of a benefactor in Leilon named Elidar Highborn; the woman, Winifred, was already acting as caretaker to the victimized family and carried herself modestly indeed. Both siblings were quite fair, drawing the eyes of the men and women around them at every turn.

So it was that the party passed time in the fiefdom healing from their injuries and honing their crafts, when late one evening a report arrived that a patrolman failed to come in, hours after he was to have returned from a quarter-perimeter ride near the marshlands. Having had their fill of downtime, the party saddled horses and rode toward a northeasterly landmark known as Claw Rock, with Merlin the owl flying out ahead and warning Riwyn of danger a short way into the marsh.

At the edge of the plain, the party tethered its horses and located the eviscerated steed of the missing soldier, though not the patrolman himself. Casting a light spell over the rocky spire a hundred yards away, the adventurers caught a glimpse of doglike silhouettes marauding about its base; wading into the wetlands to close distance, the party aimed bowshots at the creatures they could discern. A gnoll from the outcropping returned fire while another bounded through the willows, tearing into Riwyn with its claws. In the moments that followed, the gnolls acted strangely defensive, eventually succumbing to the party's swords and arrows in a small cave formed into the rocks, where a mother was protecting three gnoll pups, which Arendeth slew. On the cave floor lay the mostly-consumed body of the patroller.

The next morning, the captain of Brithem's soldiery bade the party to accompany him back to investigate further, as gnolls traversing the wetlands could indicate a greater threat in the forest beyond, as when the two black dragons had taken residence there previously. The fiefdom would be ill-prepared to deal with another such menace, so quick and proactive measures were needed. Sharing Roth-grim's concerns, the party agreed.

A day venturing beyond the wetlands and into the dense canopy of the Witherwood revealed no additional signs of gnolls, but turned up a fallen stag untouched by scavengers, its hide mottled with festering boils. Using chalk to mark the stag's location and their return trail, the company made for the keep before nightfall with more questions than answers.

DM's Commentary

Was the gnoll combat interesting for the group? It's not always easy to judge as DM. While the gnolls weren't atypical and the fight was littered with rounds of miss/miss/hit/miss, I felt like the marshy terrain, the spire, and the discovery of the gnoll pups made for a memorable encounter. Whatever the edition, combat rules can only do so much to hold a player's attention. Spells and outside-the-box thinking help too, but for me, the overarching scene and the imagery it invokes are what I tend to remember long after the details fade. A good DM should be able to make even a trivial encounter using the simplest ruleset something special to the group.

Not much commentary from me aside from that. We were back at it after a lengthy delay, and consequently spent time at the beginning of the session reviewing the party's recent dealings and discussing the state of Brithem upon their return. I still really enjoy running the fiefdom; its unique situation and placement make it both stable and volatile at the same time, and Berwyn's background contributes to it greatly.

Site Update

On a side note, I recently gave the blog a minor facelift, along with a cool visual feature if you check back often and pay attention. I wanted the look of the site to feel living and breathing, like the campaign world itself. I also disabled the site's mobile view, which I can put back if it inconveniences anyone. I prefer seeing the standard web version, and figure that everyone following the posts is probably doing so by email.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Learning new spells from captured spellbooks

It's probably useful if I outline the procedure for learning new spells from other wizards' spellbooks. We've looked, previously, at the parameters around using scrolls, which are effectively a one-time-use means for supplementing a wizard's spell slots. Spellbook writings are permanent, though the rules for copying them are similar.

  • In possession of an unfamiliar spellbook, a wizard must use read magic to decipher its contents. Read magic allows the wizard to read two pages per caster level; an individual spell consumes one page per level of the spell. (In the previous post I assumed that Riwyn was willing to expend the necessary number of castings, two, to read the full volume.)
  • Once the spellbook's writings have been deciphered, the wizard can attempt to copy any number of its spells into his or her own spellbook, using his or her own personal notations. Each spell requires a successful Chance to Learn Spell roll, with failure indicating that the spell cannot be learned at the present time. A new roll can be attempted (assuming that the wizard still has access to the spell) upon attaining a new level.
  • If the Chance to Learn Spell roll succeeds, the wizard must spend one full day of study per level of the spell copying the runes. (The degree of dedication required for this work typically can't be achieved while adventuring.)

Note that a wizard isn't able to memorize spells directly from a foreign spellbook, only from the wizard's own spellbook.

Feel free to post any questions or clarifications as comments.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Jhakine's spellbook

I did, in my previous post, wholly forget to make note of the Calishite wizard's plundered spellbook, which Riwyn is presumed to have in her possession and to have perused with a casting of read magic.

The volume is small, lightweight, and leather-bound, intended for use while traveling and ill-suited for large-scale research. A handful of weathered parchment sheets remain unmarked, though most of its pages are inscribed with the following spells:

  • First level - detect magic, magic missile, read magic, sleep, shocking grasp
  • Second levelblur, ESP
No additional XP award for obtaining this, though Lincoln is surely glad that it no longer resides in the hands of an enemy.