Friday, October 30, 2009

Kobolde of the Deep Mines

Oh there once was a Kobolde who lived under the earth, deep down in the dark places near where the giant spiders roam. Searching ever seeking for the secret vein, the often whispered, never found, blood-vein of of the mother load. Ever searching. Never finding. Long pointy fingers and little red nose, his eyes very beady, his hair like black straw, ever scratching, digging scraping, in the darkness where the giant spiders roam.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Water & Fire: The Wizards Join Forces

... And so, having found the strange goblin key, and having explored the mysterious tunnel beneath the McFearson Barn, the Fire Wizard and his henchman Fadin were heading back to town to get more men and materials in order to conduct a more thorough exploration when along the path came Water Wizard and his own henchman, Bob, having returned from Deep Gully Forest where they too met Robert the Green Ranger having also received important tidbits of information regarding the three stolen scrolls.

As soon as they saw each other the two Wizards began a dialog that cut steel for sharpness, and as it came about, Fire Wizard used his guile and cunning to persuade his brother to help him and Fadin explore the tunnel, telling him just enough to peak his interest, but saying nothing of the immovable Dragon Chest beneath the hay in the barn.

"Brother, you have accused me before the Guild of a theft I did not commit, and now you want my help," said the Water Wizard.

"Brother, I only did it because of the pain you put me through. You have always been the better of the the two of us, and seeing the long way you have fallen has upset my mind greatly. I could do nothing else but assume it also must be you who stole the scrolls, which is the only reason I made the accusation. Surely you must see that I believe you must be the culprit."

"But you have no reason to do so. Where is your evidence?" asked Water Wizard.

"This is true. I have no evidence, but only my conviction. At any rate, perhaps we can find a way to resolve the matter completely. What if I told you that I have reason to believe that the scrolls are hidden nearby, and could show you something very intriguing that will make you wonder?", asked the Fire Wizard of his brother.

"Well, what is it?"

And so the Water Wizard related all that happened to him and Fadin since they entered the barn, save that small bit of information regarding the Dragon Chest's existence. They both looked at the hole in the marble circle, and inserting the key, found that it indeed opened into a shaft that dropped forty feet into the pitch darkness. They decided to send Bob down to investigate and if all went well, to tug the rope they dangled down with him. A few minutes later, with lantern in hand, Bob could be seen far down at the bottom of the shaft. The rope tugged, and so they followed, climbing down the iron rungs of the ladder on the north wall.

Standing at the bottom of the shaft they found the tunnel leading off East and West into darkness. It was an amazing tunnel, ten feet wide, and twelve feet tall, made of stonework so smooth and even that not so much as a single crack could be seen between any stones. Along the top of the corridor ran a pattern that both wizards believed was a script of some sort, very much unknown to them, for neither of them had ever seen any script like it. They also noted three large purple tapestries along the south wall, and looking behind them found behind the middle one a stone archway with a stout wooden door, bound by iron bands, and held fast by a dog face shaped lock, into which they had Bob insert the goblin key. Turning it they heard the door click. Opening it they found a long corridor vanishing off into darkness to south. They decided to split the group into two, and using a rope between them to keep contact, one pair of adventurers went West, while the other went down the south passage.

Fire Wizard and Bob went West, and as they ran out of rope and felt the tug of the other group, they saw in the distance ahead what looked to be a huge bronze door, and next to it what seemed to be a pull chain with a bronze handle. The other pair got far enough down the south passage to see that somewhere ahead of them the passage opened into a black space.

Conferring again at the base of the shaft, they decided to explore the south passage. It opened, they found, into a large room some fifty feet wide, and thirty feet long, completely empty, except for a door on the opposite wall. The dust on the floor had been disturbed recently in the direction of the North East corner of the room. They explored it, looking for any sort of secret door or opening but found none. So they went to the door on the opposite wall, which was also framed by a stone archway, and tried the goblin key. Again a click and the door opened onto a corridor some twenty feet long, ending in another door. At this they decided to turn around and try exploring the Western corridor and see what the bronze door looked like.

And so they came upon the huge bronze door, embossed with the face of a huge coiling dragon. Next to the door was a chain, the handle of which was also made of bronze. They then decided to have a look at down the eastern section of the corridor. Now this area was covered in moss and spider webs, and at the end of that corridor was another huge bronze door, and another chain with a bronze handle. Everything about these doors was so ornate and finely crafted as to beggar the imagination. They grew afraid.

"Surely this is a place, my brother, that we do not belong. I imagine that whatever these doors are protecting must be of great value, and very ancient. I fear to touch them. And I certainly suggest we refrain from pulling these chain-handles," said the Water Wizard.

"I agree with you, brother. You are very wise. This place has not been touched for a very long time. While the area we explored on the other side of the purple tapestry through the arched doorway was recently trafficked, it is clear that no one has come down the East or West corridors in an exceedingly long time. Look at the dust that is built up on the floor, undisturbed, perhaps for eons. I have a feeling we should not be here," replied the Fire Wizard.

"Let us return the way we came, and continue our exploration of the southern passage then.", suggested the Water Wizard.

"Brother, at the risk of contradicting your plan, may I avert my eyes from shame to suggest that we return to town briefly for more supplies?"

"What is it you need brother?"

The Fire Wizard answered that he would want to have Fadin return to town in order to get chalk, rubbing paper, pen, ink, and a crowbar.

"I should like to make rubbings of that script and any other thing we may find so as to bring it back to the Guild Hall that others may help us to decipher it."

"That is a reasonable suggestion, my brother. Let us go topside, and let Fadin return to town for the supplies. I would also like him to bring some fine white powder so that we may use it to detect subtle air currents. We may find secret doors that way."

And so they returned to the world above ground and Fadin went to town, an hour's walk away. While they waited Bob decided he could set a snare for rabbits outside of the barn in the old McFearson garden, but instead of setting his own snare, he found snares already set there, and a rabbit already caught in one. This got everyone to thinking ... is someone else lurking about on McFearson Hill?

So they decided to go and explore the old burned out McFearson house. This is the house in which the McFearsons, the only family in the area to prosper during the past five "hard years" that has afflicted Hamfest, used to live, before the fire, and the loss of young Pamela McFearson. They never found her body, but it was commonly held that she was consumed in the fire. Except by her boyfriend Robert, who later vanished trying to find some clue to her fate.

Into the house the three intrepid men went, burned out as it was. They found in the ruined kitchen a door which lead to the basement, and sending Bob down, found it was empty, and so they all went down and took a look around. They found crates in the main room, the same crates that the mice Generals had used for their Great Council during the War of the Mice and the Weasels, when the Hamfest Hellhounds Adventurers group saved Weeleena from the Weasel King's lair. But Fire Wizard and Water Wizard knew nothing of that story. In the crates they found red caps, and vests, and this made Fire Wizard think.

"I recognize these articles as the same as those worn by the Leaf People (the name he had come to give the Goblins who had attacked him in the barn, and then upon dying turned into leaves and bracken)."

"Indeed. Let us find out what is in the rest of the crates then," replied Water Wizard. And opening those, they found tools of various sorts, all new. Picks and shovels, and the like. At that moment they heard the floor board above them creaking, and took it to mean that someone was walking upstairs above them.

Suddenly, Bob let out a small cry, and said he saw "something" in the shadows of a doorway which lead into another basement room. Peering there and holding up the lantern they beheld several pairs of yellow tinted eyes staring at them from the darkness, blinking. Without hesitation Fire Wizard threw his dagger into the room, thinking the eyes may have been of rats. But instead of scuttling away, the eyes surged forward, and out sprang goblins.

Suddenly a great battle broke out, with magic spells flying, swords and daggers slashing and stabbing, and goblins shooting arrows! They all fought boldly in the dark basement. Lumbering from a room came a great ogre, whom Bob bravely blocked from entering the room by charging the doorway from which it came. And unseen, someone was casting spells at them from someplace, and in the end, both Fire Wizard and Water Wizard were rendered unconscious, and only Bob remained fighting the Ogre with great courage. Then Water Wizard awoke, but before he could do much or get far, another goblin awoke as well, and then Bob was knocked senseless by the ogre. A strange thing happened then. Water Wizard felt some great powerful spell come over him, and he grew sleepy, and then began to feel the hair on his head grow long, and his face took a new shape, and his fingernails grew very long and sharp, and he was transformed into a large ambling sloth that could hardly move, nor cast his spells. And so it was that the three men were subdued.

Out from a doorway stepped a beautiful imperious woman wearing black chainmail, a black cloak, and a black skull cap with a sharp widow's peak. She had her goblins tie up the victims and pondered exactly what she wanted to do with them. First she took their items, and when she found the goblin key and smiled as she put it in a bag at her side. She then pondered... what to do with the trouble makers. Killing them, of course, would arouse suspicion among the townspeople, as tempting as it was.

Finally she decided what to do, and gave them a red potion to drink. This caused the three men to lose their memories of anything that happened for the past twenty four hours, and so they awoke up in the barn, absolutely clueless as to how they came to be there, just as Fadin was returning from town with the supplies.

When the two brothers awoke sufficiently, they returned to bickering over the events surrounding the accusations recently leveled, and Water Wizard took Bob and with harsh words to his younger brother, began to leave. But then, as older brothers are sometimes wont to do, he remembered his father's injunction to be the guardian of his younger brothers and sisters, and so he turned around and apologized for his harsh words, and Water Wizard accepted this and so they became friends once again.

Imagine Fadin's surprise when he found that none of the men he left but two hours before remembered anything at all about the tunnels or the bronze doors or the battles they had fought. Strange indeed! And so he recounted the entire tale, and discovered that they remembered only up to what happened a day before. And using this information convinced them all that they had a big hole in their memory, and finally persuaded them that there were indeed strange tunnels beneath their very feet. He showed them the Dragon Chest, and that was enough to convince them. While they had no recollection, they now knew the story all the way up to when Fadin left for town, which meant that no one had any idea that there was a black clad woman lurking about.

And so they tried again to move the Dragon Chest, and all four men could not budge it even a tiny bit.

"I wonder why the goblins would not bring the chest down into the tunnels? Why leave it here in the barn?" asked Water Wizard, but to this none could answer.

So they used the crowbar, but that also failed. They tried digging around the chest and found that it was not sitting on the ground after all, but instead was a shaft that went down further than three or four feet. At this point they decided it was not a chest at all, but a shaft that went down into the tunnels. This discovery gave them pause. And at this they decided to go back to town and report their mysterious findings to Gravitavius, Grand Master of the Adventurers Guild from Glendale who had come a long way to obtain the scrolls which had been stolen.

Last Episode: Wizard Wars
Next Episode: Enter The Other Mystics

The Perils of Game Testing

So I'm running the fourth in a series of game tests tonight. This series is to test the progression of levels for characters, and so each game they go up one level and we add their new stats, skills and whatnot. At the same time I'm using the game test to focus on the magic system. I'm also experimenting with World Weaving and Gamesmastering techniques, and infusing some ideas from my new Elthos Tarot System as well. So far so good. Oh, and I'm also using this series to test the Elthos ODS Web Application that does much of the GM grunt work for me. So it rolls characters and groups, and lets me assign properties such as skills, races, etc, and keep track of all the math for calculating Attack Levels, Armor Classes and so on. It pretty much could run the entire game if I added more code to handle some AI functions. Anyway, of course, since it's a relatively new application it has some bugs. So here I am rolling up a set of characters in a specific group, the Mordalia Gang. A bunch of goblins, a kobold thief, and an ogre, run by a beautiful mystic warrior mage in black chainmail. Woopsie, I forgot to include Hormund the Ogre. I go to roll him separately and KaPow! Application Fail! Now it won't load the debug symbols. Time is running out! And of course what do I do? I go and blog this. LOL. Ok back to work!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Wizard Wars

Once upon a time, in the swine-herder's village of Hamfest, there lived two brothers. They were called Fire Wizard and Water Wizard, though their real names were Eiryn and Unda Bellowick. Since the time they were young, one was brash while the other was thoughtful. One day the Adventurer's Guild of Hamfest obtained three very old scrolls written in a language that no one could decipher. While the scrolls were being readied for transport from Hamfest to the Hill Town of Glendale for further study, the underground vault in which they were stored was bored into, and the scrolls were stolen.

Fire Wizard, seeing an opportunity to sabotage the reputation of his arch rival, Water Wizard, announced immediately that his brother had stolen the scrolls, to everyone's shock and amazement, especially Water Wizard's! A war of words broke out. In the end Water Wizard became wroth for the falsity of his brother, and demanded a Trial By Combat, by which he intended to clear his good name. A Trial by Combat was often used in those days to prove the guilt or innocence of an accused person before the Great Celestial Elkron was demanded, and by this he wished to force Fire Wizard to recant his lying accusation.

In the field outside of Hamfest, over the hills and to the North, shrouded in a swath of snow, they met one crisp morning. Each had brought three retainers, stalwart men of arms. As the freezing wind howled through the nearby groves, a Guild Judge summoned the two combatants to the center of the stone circle and stated the rules.

"Whomever shall blow out the candle, set as you see on this rock, three times, shall be presumed the victor of this trial," said the Judge sternly. "You may stand in your places."

And the brothers stood. Around them were their retainers, who themselves brought four dogs each, and much further off were friends of the family and a number of neutral witnesses from Hamfest Village. And so the battle commenced and the warriors surged forward, the dogs leaping over rock and ice, all surging together to get to the candle, whom the two Wizards suspected would be blown out easily, given the wet wind and the frost that blew through the air like cold knives.

Dashing toward one another, barely keeping their footing on the icy slate surrounding the square stone upon which the flickering green flamed candle stood, with much shoving, and wielding of swords and the clashing of shields, Fire Wizard seized the day, and blew out the candle, after the fourth try, having sustained injuries both physical and mystical. Three times the two brothers clashed, and Fire Wizard proved victorious.

Whatever his physical wounds, the deeper emotional wounds of Water Wizard and his friends were worse, and so he was forced to quit the field, and with a brooding heart he returned to the Guild to plead his innocence once again. The Elkron, he thought, must have had some reason to allow Fire Wizard to win the trial. After all, the Celestial Elkron must be Just, mustn't they be?

It wasn't long afterward that rumors spread far and wide about the scrolls and a guard who vanished without a trace, and his aggrieved widow, and how the scrolls must have been magical, and the thief bold and ruthless. None could say who would have been able to do this deed and how, but all eyes fell upon Water Wizard with suspicion.

And so it was that he argued his case before Gravitavius, Guild Master, who had journeyed all the way from Glendale to retrieve the scrolls, only to find them stolen. With insight far beyond the ken of normal men, Gravitavius discerned the truth. Yet, as a Guild Lord it was his duty to uphold the law of Oswald's Kingdom, and so he explained that a trial must be had, unless within seven days Water Wizard could prove his innocence.

One day, not long afterwards, while passing time in the Guild Outpost of Hamfest, Fire Wizard overheard an odd conversation while he was passing the doorway of the dinning room. He recognized the voice of the Guild Master, Gravitavius, whom he met once in far off Glendale where the main Guild Hall is. He quickly concealed himself behind the door in order to listen without being observed.

"Do you think Water Wizard will succeed?"

"It is difficult to say, Lord Gravitavius. However, if he fails, then the Guild will have to bring him to trial on the charges alleged by the Fire Wizard."

"But Fire Wizard has not produced any evidence, is that right?"

"That is correct. However, either way, we have little choice."

"You are right. While I can not say for certain, I have reason to believe the three scrolls were of great importance. They must be recovered."

"I understand, my Lord. Please leave it to me, and do not worry. I will take care of the matter and go with Water Wizard myself."

"Good. I am counting on you."

The conversation abruptly ended, and before Fire Wizard could peer around the door to see who the other man was, the lamp at their table went out, darkening the room, and they both were gone, as if by magic.

And so, Fire Wizard set about plotting what he should do. And it came to pass that he was aroused to action, and finding one of his younger siblings, he gave the lad five pieces of iron to go and find their brother Water Wizard, in the fields and then in the town of Hamfest. Fire Wizard had in mind to look far off in Deep Gully, where Robert of the Green Rangers might be found, for he had heard that it was Robert who had first come to Hamfest bearing the three ancient scrolls. But first, other work had to be done.

Finding that Water Wizard could not be found, he went himself to Hamfest to see if he could not locate his brother. But Water Wizard could not be found as he was at that time investigating the chambers beneath the Guild Outpost to learn more about the nature of the theft, and perhaps discover the fate of the missing guard, which he most certainly did.

And so Fire Wizard found himself in the late afternoon at the Green Feather Tavern, talking with the tavern keeper, and telling lies about his brother's guilt, and his need to find his whereabouts. When he called his brother's sweetheart a "floozy", the conversation took a sudden turn for the worse, as Fire Wizard absentmindedly insulted the girl's father, who happened to be the tavern keeper himself. With a gruff wave of dismissal, the tavern keeper sent the boy away. So Fire Wizard left there, and purchasing some supplies, headed off with his best henchman, Fadin, toward the far off forest called Deep Gully. No one normally went that way for it was reputed to be a dangerous place with wolves and, some said, goblins, ghosts and other frightening creatures.

Along the way, as they passed over McFearson Hill, they walked by the old McFearson house, now burned down and devoid of life. The barn, disheveled and over grown, looked haunted in the moonlight. But onward the two adventurers journeyed into the late hours of night, across the far fields, and to the edge of the dark primordial wood, Deep Gully. There they made a small fire, cooked a meager meal, and slept. In the morning the world was misty and cold, and as they walked along the edge of the forest they found a foot path and followed it into the dark forest.

Through many miles of thick wide trees overhanging with great canopies of leaves, over giant roots writhing with snakes and spiders, they traveled silently. Finally, they came to open clearing, at the center was a large broad rock twice as tall as a man's head, known as Wolfstone Rock, where the Hamfest Hell Hounds, the famous Adventurer's group from the Hamfest Adventurer's Guild, had so recently adventured. They climbed the rock and found the rusted chainmail. They picked their way through the armor, finding only bones and rusted metal links, and then walked around the rock, looking at it very carefully from all sides. Then they found the tunnel into the rock. With their lantern lit, they took a look inside, only to retreat from that long dark tunnel where they found many wolf tracks.

It wasn't but a few moments before they heard wolves howling in the near distance, and answering howls from elsewhere. The two men took to their heels following along a foot path southward, rather than the taking the northern path, which was fortunate for them. After a long run down the path they came upon the hoof prints of horses, and then a man leaning against a tree, smoking a long stemmed pipe.

"What brings two men of Hamfest out this far into the dark wilderness?" asked the man.

Thinking quickly, Fire Wizard told the following lie:

"You may have heard of me. My name is the Water Wizard. I have come all this way to find Robert of the Green Rangers, as I must find an answer to a mystery involving him."

"I am he," replied the man, tapping the ashes of his pipe out and gazing curiously.

Pretending to be Water Wizard, Fire Wizard, ever the clever liar, wheedled information from Robert the Green Ranger. What he discovered was that the scrolls were in a language that neither he, nor the Guild Outpost Sargent could recognize, which alarmed them both, as this region so far as anyone knew, was never populated until the hapless colonists of Glendale found themselves stranded in these mountains by the Storm-Witch Watho and her wicked brother Klingzor. And so it was decided that the scrolls should be shipped to Glendale for study, but the scrolls never made it that far. It was news to Robert that someone stole them just prior to Gravitavius' arrival.

At this point Fire Wizard announced that he had wished nothing more in his whole life than to become a Green Ranger, the news of which caused Robert to raise the eyebrow. "Return in a month, alone," he told him, "and you will be tested. If you pass the test, then you may join the Green Rangers."

With the information exchanged, and nothing else to be done, the two deceivers  left Robert and took the path back toward Hamfest. Along the way, as they were just leaving the dark cover of the woods, just in the nick of time, they spotted Water Wizard and a stranger coming over the crest of the hill. They hid, and let them pass.

Four hours later, after a brisk morning trek, they made their way back to the McFearson barn, determined to explore it. And lo, inside the barn, against the south wall, hidden in the straw, they found a beautiful, unmovable chest made of a dull gray metal, and in the shape of a dragon curled and coiled in on itself. The face and head and mouth and fangs of the dragon formed the frame around which was a triangular keyhole. The two men, tired and grimy as they were, in excited whispers, argued over what they should do with the chest, which neither of them could budge nor open. And then they heard a hiss and before they could think of what that sound was, they turned to see four hunched burly men with furry heads and arms, wearing red caps, brown vests, and wide belts, inching toward them with swords and daggers drawn. A battle commenced, in which Fire Wizard used magical flaming bolts to slay one of the creatures, while the others were done in by Fadin's unerring sword. In a few moments only one of the creatures remained living.

Pointing to a spot on the far side of barn floor, with a tongue full of goblin gibberish, the furry fellow withdrew a key on a rope from beneath his shirt. Into a tiny hole in the center of a circle, he fit the odd little key. And as he did, the edges of a trap door showed upon the floor, and the Fire Wizard said, "You know, as much as I favor your miserable company, it seems your usefulness is rapidly coming to an end, my little furry friend."

But once the trap door opened, the dark square hole in the ground disgorged a huge gnarled face. Its head and shoulders rose up, and in its strong right hand it held a large gnarled club. The heroes forgot entirely about the goblin who scrambled behind a bail of hay, and concentrated their attention on the monstrosity that had emerged from the trap door and was bearing down on them with extraordinary malice.

With many Fire bolts and slashing swords, Fadin and Eiryn bested the monster and flung him back down the hole, where he died. And apprehending the goblins and tying him up in strong rope, they went down the ladder, into the darkness below, about forty feet, and at the bottom where the monster lay crumpled in a heap, a tunnel, twelve feet tall, and twelve feet wide, vanishing off beyond their lantern light in both directions. Without further ado, they ransacked the body of the dead ogre whom they had slain, finding on his gruesome person a pouch filled with silver coins.

Up the ladder they returned, determined to get the remainder of their men and return to explore further the mysterious tunnel. And so as they prepared to leave the barn they searched for the bodies of the goblins they had slain, only to find them turned to leaves and sticks and briars and blowing away in the wind. Infuriated, Fire Wizard took the remaining goblin, that little trickster, and holding him over the gaping mouth of the hole in the ground, let off a curse, and then dropped the creature, who made a pitiful shriek, into the black hole. Far below they heard a satisfying thud that signaled the end of the wretch.

And so it was that Fire Wizard found himself in possession of a strange round iron key that opened a door into a tunnel whose smooth crafted walls told of a craftsmanship far beyond the talents of anyone in Glendale valley... And this was a great mystery to him and Fadin.

Next Episode: Water And Fire Wizards Join Forces