Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Illyria, First Game Session!

I've run four games in my Illyria setting for 5E Dungeons & Dragons.  Illyria is a generic high fantasy setting built to make it easy to plug in any kind of modules or premade adventures I like, while I get more drive time with 5E.  Illyria includes themes from Greco-Roman mythology; the stories of Jupiter and Mars and Saturn form the folklore, nurse tales, and cultural heritage for the peoples of Illyria.

The first game session started in media res to thrust the players right into some action.  They stood around a circular shaft on the wild far shores of Lake Laconic.  The directions from the merchant Nicodemus in Fraus were accurate, and the characters had located the remote site where the tomb entrance lay forgotten and lost.

The players weren't the first adventurers to the site.  A rope stretched over the side of the shaft and dropped into the darkness.  There was an abandoned skiff back on the shore, and the remains of a camp only a few days old.

Here's the cast of characters for the Illyria campaign:

Mort the Death Cleric (Logan)
Xenobrax the Half-Elf Sorcerer (Zach)
Rasp the Elf Rogue (Bo)
Shaenèsi the Deep-Gnome Shadow Sorcerer (Jeff)
Gromorg the Half-Orc Barbarian (Adam)
Caliban, Tiefling Druid (Owen)
Tank Stoneballz, Dwarf Forge-Priest (Mike)

I wrote the tomb adventure (The Tomb of Gymnos) to take about 4 hours and introduce themes of the campaign.  Another adventurer group was hired by Nicodemus (the player's patron) several days ahead of them, but he neglected to tell them about it… and then he hired the players because the first group didn't return!

There was a shaft down into the abandoned tomb, a small shrine to Mars, and a series of catacombs, before reaching the deeper halls.  The entrance areas included a lair with giant spiders that gave the players a chance to battle some monsters and learn how their characters work.  The corpses of the previous adventurers littered the spider lair.

In the halls beyond the shrine to Mars was a pair of grandiose bronze doors leading to the main tomb, and a moss-covered side passage down to some natural caves.  The passage through the bronze doors was trapped with a deadly flame trap, but there was a simple puzzle in the hallway that involved interpreting murals and properly arranging the facings of some pillars to deactivate the trap.  The kids figured that one out quickly.  (Kids play Skyrim, so they had the puzzle solved before the adults started their questions).

The stairs beyond the bronze portals led to a false tomb and a portcullis trap, and a horrible battle involving a handful of "shadows".  5E characters are overpowered compared to earlier editions, and my group is large (8 players) so they were able to defeat the shadows by dipping into their powerful spells (especially something called 'guiding bolt' from the clerics).  With the shadows dispatched, the players returned to the portcullis trap and worked on getting it lifted.

The real tomb was actually down the moss-covered stairs, beyond some natural grottoes and across a bridge.  "Why have you come here", called a young woman from atop a raised platform where the ancient tomb sat.  "HE'S going to come back soon, and I can't stop him…"  The woman was the last survivor of the previous adventurers, a member of the Fraus thieves' guild.  Something changed about her countenance, and she picked up  an ancient bow with deadly determination, firing arrows with terrible accuracy across the grotto at the players.  The voice that rang out from her was no longer her own "You will be punished for violating this house of rest, and are unworthy to plunder my legacy."

The possessed thief pelted the characters with arrows while they ran across harrowing open ground to get to the raised dais where she waited.  As the first characters vaulted the stairs, she switched from bow and arrow to spear and shield, and started dueling with them in melee like some Spartan hoplite.

As the possessed thief got worn down, the sorcerer succeeded with a sleep spell.  The possessing spirt poured out of her mouth, battling them as a specter.  When some powerful blows dispersed the specter, it called out, "The invisible one has let loose the door to his house, and the guests have begun to leave.  What is now but a trickle will overwhelm as a roaring deluge…"

So that was the end of the short adventure I used to kick off the new campaign.  The players looted the tomb, and returned across the lake to the city of Fraus to rendezvous with Nicodemus, their patron.  The possessed thief, Calliope ("Cali") survived the possession, and was brought back to town too.  There was some silliness about returning one of the adventurer's backpacks back to Cali.  They gave the back pack to Cali.

Nicodemus wasn't a merchant after all, but was the leader of the thieves' guild, and happy one of his crew survived.  They worked out  a treasure split, the players were paid a fair share, and Nicodemus offered them another job.  The players knew the army was looking for some adventurers to go the frontier and help the commander of Fort Quintus deal with a goblin incursion from Arcadia; there were also post-bills all over Fraus promising "honor and glory in case of success" to any brave adventurers that went to Lunda (the site of my campaign's megadungeon), but they decided to keep working with Nicodemus, and go to Castra Lapis and take care of some deadbeats behind on payments.  It certainly didn't sound adventurous, but dark rumors swirled about Castra Lapis, and the players suspected there would be a deeper mystery in the small mining village.