My Campaign Log – That Which Has Gone Before (Erseta #1 – 8)

I started a new campaign to replace the old Greyhawk one about four months ago, but have completely slacked off when it came to posting campaign log entries. Mea culpa. Here is a quick recap of That Which Has Gone Before, so I can start campaign logs after our next session with (hopefully) more regularity. Sorry if this first one turns out to be a bit lengthy. For those who want to skip to the slightly more detailed account of what happened in our most recent game last Friday, it is marked below.

The campaign is set in Erseta, which is a homebrew campaign of my own design that you might just be hearing more about in the future. It’s very much a late Medieval/early Renaissance Europe analogue, and I’m quite content with that; I’m not interested in doing “weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird fantasy”.

We’ll all be rich! Rich as Nazis!

The players started out in the Barony of Rittergeist, having heard tales of the lost dwarven city of Glitterdark and determined to find the place and explore it and become rich.

Initially, they were sent on a mission to recover a certain book from the tower of a famous savant who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. After a few misadventures they discovered what appeared to be the savant himself in the cellar, confined within a magic circle and seemingly unaware of the passage of time. However they cleverly deduced that it was not the savant after all, but a daemon in his guise. They alerted the local High Church officials to the peril, returned the book, and continued on their southeasterly march to Glitterdark.

Upon entering an expanse of forest, they made camp and were approached by a man named Vert, who demanded from them all of their coins in return for being allowed safe passage through “his” forest. The one party member who had been on guard duty, and who had witnessed his transformation from human form to that of a green dragon, convinced the rest to comply, and most did so, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

Upon reaching the village of Tresen, however (the southeasternmost settlement in Rittergeist), they were informed by the locals– with no small amount of mirth– that Vert was indeed a green dragon, but one only three years of age, and eagerly accumulating his first hoard of treasure. Somewhat sheepishly, they continued on their way southeast through the forest, encountering a section that seemed preternaturally dark and foreboding. A carnivorous tree attacked them (and they inadvertently killed one of their own party members while trying to free him and hit the tree), they were beset upon by giant weasels and a giant skunk (the latter having sprayed their encampment when one of them shouted “KA-KAW!” upon seeing the creature; the attempt to frighten it succeeded). Fortunately, one of the spell-casters had the “clean” cantrip, which served to assist greatly with the aftermath of the startled skunk’s attack.

Turning to a more southwardly direction, they emerged from the forest only to encounter a mounted patrol of Vanarian troops, who closely questioned them on their business in that fair kingdom. More to the point, since the party’s two clerics were members of the Dornian Church, and Vanaria adheres to the Reformed Church. (There is general unanimity in religion in the campaign area in theological terms, but the High Church is split by schism into three competing and mutually hostile factions; the Erian Church, the Dornian Church, and the Reformed Church. All worship the same gods and share the same broadly  lawful good alignment, and differences of doctrine stem more from history and organization than anything else. Rittergeist has an official policy of tolerance, but it is more common for one faction to be deemed the “official” one of any particular land.) Fortunately the captain of the Vanarian patrol was himself a follower of the Dornian church, even though his men were Reformed, and he allowed the party to return into the forest, and thus Rittergeist, before his men did something unpleasant to the heretics.

The party had not set out with a lot of provisions, and they were now running low on food. This turned out to be a good opportunity to try out the ADD hunting rules, and for the most part things worked out well. However, one of the hunting groups, which had itself split into single hunters, stumbled upon an aurochs in the forest. One of the hunters attacked and almost killed the creature, but was slain before he could do so. The other hunter then came upon the scene, climbed a tree, and finished off the much-weakened beast, providing pot roast for all for a month.

Now reaching the foothills of the mountains in which Glitterdark was held to be located, the party came upon a crazy-looking dwarven smith. Scattered all about the place were piles of tools, weapons, armor, and the like rusting in the grass around the smithy, with the smith, Klegg Irontooth, gibbering to himself as he worked. The party, through careful coaxing, was able to glean that Klegg had indeed been at Glitterdark when the city was sealed against the plague, and he was obviously suffering from a form of survivor’s guilt. When he found that the party was heading into Glitterdark, he became more agitated, but picked up a large key from amongst the various bits and pieces on the ground and handed it to the dwarf in the party. “You’ll need this,” he said.

Some exploring in the mountains finally yielded the lost dwarven city, whose gatehouse had been partially covered by a rockslide. The gatehouse itself was home to a family of bears (which the party shamelessly killed) and kestrel-men who weren’t acting particularly aggressive, but who kept a steady watch on the party. When the party attempted to take them on, however, one of the fighters was quickly slain and the rest backed off.

Upon entering Glitterdark proper, the party discovered a large circular room with six 10′ alcoves protected by barred gates. The key handed them by Klegg Irontooth fit one of the locks, and when the gate was opened the alcove filled with a swirling mist, which disappeared when the key was removed. The gnome was sent forth to investigate and discovered that the mist was actually a magical gate of some sort, leading to an alley in a town above ground, whose exact location and name were a mystery. He reported his findings and after a little more experimentation with the gate to figure out just how it worked, the party continued on into Glitterdark.

Most of the area the party explored seemed to be overrun with goblins. Although they were able to slay quite a few themselves, others had escaped and the party, weakened and injured through a half-dozen fights, decided to retreat through the gate and figure out where exactly it led, despite the gate being only one-way, as far as they could ascertain, since there was no obvious lock for the key on the receiving end.

Last Friday’s Game

It turned out that the gate led approximately sixty miles away to the town of Ritterheim, capital of Rittergeist. There, although still rather low on funds, they were able to rest and recharge in the Red Swan Inn. While getting the feel for the town, the cleric was informed of the visit of one Lord Klammerhark, who had come to woo the Baron’s daughter Siglund. The Dornian church is opposed to any such marriage, because Klammerhark is a Reformed church member. If such a wedding could be short-circuited, the Church would be most happy.

They also approached one of the regulars in the Red Swan, a halfling named Thrivin Mossberg, who says he is in the business of “uniting sellers of rare merchandise with interested buyers (with no questions asked)”. It turned out that the halfling was expecting a certain shipment at the docks that very night, which he would pay 100 g.p. to have brought into the city proper without the prying eyes of the guards at the gate looking through it.

Most of the party leaped to the challenge, and an absolutely hilarious episode ensued as the bard attempted to gain access to the top of the city walls by first entertaining the guards in one tower (distracting them so the gnome could get out of the city), and then convincing the guards in another tower that he wanted to go to the top of the wall so his female companion and he could have some private time (“she likes high places”) in order to help the gnome get the crates back into the city. It was a hoot as he kept stretching the story, and making critical rolls for his attend and other abilities, until the guards finally demanded the pair leave, and a mad dash ensued to get the last of the crates off the wall before the guards discovered it. A wonderful example of improvisational play gently assisted by social encounter rules, rather than simply saying “make a challenge roll”. I think none of us laughed so much in a gaming session in years. 

So that’s where the campaign stands at the moment. Still tons of unanswered questions about Glitterdark; what actually happened to the dwarves? Where do those other gates go, and where are the keys to activate them? How do you activate the gate to go into Glitterdark (if it’s even possible)? And some plots and mysteries in Ritterheim are starting to take shape as well; the desire of the church to stop a potential wedding, the contents of those crates that the halfling paid to have brought into the town, and few other things taking shape.

More regular after-action reports to come!

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.