Rise of the Runelords Campaign Journal
Going forward I’ll be posting the campaign journal as individual entries on the blog and linking them from here. What follows is a summary of the story so far (June 2014).
Our story begins with three heroes. Ciaran, a charming human sorcerer raised in a fey forest. His companion is Snappy, a greensting scorpion blessed by a dying nymph. Cecil, an elven ranger travelling far from home in search of answers and fortune, accompanied by Nova, his firepelt cougar and faithful companion. Nu, a human monk from a distant monastery charged with protecting their town from the dangers of the world, currently on his pilgrimage to learn survival skills and see more of the world.
These three heroes’ paths crossed in the small Varisian seaside town of Sandpoint, where livestock had been disappearing. The mayor, Kendra Deverin, was desperate for someone to investigate the cause of the trouble before the townsfolk became the next victims of the monster. The three ventured into the lair of a dragon known only as ‘Black Fang’, where they were successful in driving the black dragon off, but were unable to kill him.
The Goblin Raid
The Desnan Swallowtail Festival is a day of great celebration in Sandpoint, and the heroes decided to join in the festivities. The day also happened to be the official opening of the new Sandpoint multi-religion cathedral, replacing the church that had burned down some years ago, taking the old priest Father Tobyn and his adopted daughter Nualia with it.
It was indeed fortunate for the residents of Sandpoint that the heroes were in town, as a horde of goblins chose this day to attack the town. The heroes managed to save the majority of the townsfolk, including the life of one extremely grateful nobleman, Aldern Foxglove. Aldern insisted that the heroes accompany him on a boar hunt a few days later, as he wanted to hear more of their adventures (particularly Nu’s, who impressed Aldern greatly).
Most disturbing of all was perhaps the fact that during the raid, someone had snuck into the town graveyard and stolen the bones of the deceased Father Tobyn.
Trouble at the Glassworks
Meanwhile, trouble was brewing with the Kaijitsu family. Her father had disappeared and Ameiko had received a letter from her half-brother, who she had not seen or heard from in many years. She too disappeared shortly thereafter. The heroes were called in to find her and discover just what was going in the normally sleepy town of Sandpoint.
It turned out that a massacre had occurred within the Kaijitsu’s glass factory. Ameiko’s brother Tsuto had blackmailed their father into helping the raid on the town. He and his band of goblins then murdered his father and all the employees in the glassworks before finally kidnapping Ameiko and attempting to turn her to his cause.
Of course, Tsuto wasn’t working alone. The heroes were able to capture him, saving Ameiko and tracking Tsuto’s accomplices to Thistletop, a nearby goblin hideout. But before they could pursue these goblins, they needed to investigate the strange catacombs that Tsuto and his allies had uncovered beneath the glassworks.
The catacombs were an ancient and strange place, filled with unusual creatures and ancient Thassilonian statues, and a curious well that produced strange monsters. It was also the heroes’ first brush with the fanatical worshippers of Lamashtu, the mother of monsters. After defeating the catacomb’s guardians, the heroes could hear strange sounds from even deeper in the earth, but there seemed no way to access any possible lower levels.
With the intelligence gathered from Tsuto and his notes, the heroes headed to the small island of Thistletop, where they laid waste to the goblin forces, including several powerful goblin heroes, who turned out to be no match for the small band of heroes. However, it was the lower levels of Thistletop that held the real danger: Nualia and her allies.
Nualia, adopted daughter of the former priest of Sandpoint, was a troubled youth, as some aasimars with unearthly beauty tend to experience. Rejection from her lover and her adopted father led her to turn to the goddess Lamashtu in an effort to rid herself of her celestial ‘taint’. It was she who was responsible for burning down the old Sandpoint church, taking her adopted father with it. She had returned to Sandpoint in order to reclaim Father Tobyn’s bones and sacrifice them to Lamashtu in return for her first step towards becoming a demon.
Having achieved her first goal, Nualia had come to Thistletop to free the ancient barghest who was imprisoned there in the Thassilonian ruin. Unfortunately, she had not factored the heroes into her plans, and she did not live to complete her plan. The barghest remained safely imprisoned, held by powerful Thassilonian magic.
The only other survivors were Orik Vancaskerkin and the wizard Lyrie Akenja, who the heroes allowed to flee, so long as they promised never to return (though Lyrie was unconscious as this point, and unable to make such a promise). Even Tsuto chose to kill himself while in the Sandpoint prison, as he believed that Nualia would resurrect him. Sadly, even if she had still been alive, Tsuto’s feelings for Nualia were not reciprocated.
The Shadow Realm
The heroes decided to take some well-earned rest after defeating Nualia and the goblins, not realising their troubles were only just beginning. Cecil and Nu found themselves in a strange shadowy, seemingly dead world, its only apparent inhabitant a girl named Sora, and a terrifying demon, or perhaps a powerful spellcaster who could take the shape of a demon. Meanwhile, Ciaran was using all his power to aid Cecil and Nu until he could find a way to free them from the shadowy realm. He had also used the time to study Thassilonian history with local expert Brodert Quink.
It was not long after returning from the strange shadow realm that the heroes learn about a horrible spate of murders that have been plaguing the town of Sandpoint. Sheriff Hemlock begged them to investigate and stop the murderer if possible.
Murder Most Foul
The Sandpoint Lumber Mill was the scene of several grisly murders, with the victims having had a strange seven-pointed star carved into their flesh. Baffling as this was, the bloodstained note left at the crime scene was perhaps even more chilling, even without the fact that it was addressed to Nu.
Further investigation turned up more strange and confusing clues, though the most disturbing was perhaps one of the survivors, who the heroes visited at the sanitorium where he was being rehabilitated – or so they had been told. In reality, the man had transformed into some sort of half-undead monster, and the shady activities of the sanitorium’s staff simply complicated matters. However, they made off with the heroes’ horses before they could be questioned.
The situation seemed to be growing worse, with the murder of several farmers not far from Sandpoint. The heroes went out to investigate, only to be attacked by ghouls and finding even more dead bodies with strange runes in their flesh, and more unsettling letters for Nu. The bright side of all this was a small lead – something sinister seemed to be happening at Foxglove Manor further down the coast.
It was indeed at Foxglove Manor that the heroes discovered the truth about the unfortunate Foxglove family. Several generations ago, the Foxglove patriarch sought to become a lich, but was discovered by his wife on the night of his transformation. His phylactery destroyed, his evil instead infused the house, which is haunted to this day.
That evil tainted the Foxglove family, leading to several tragic deaths, eventually leading to Aldern and his sisters growing up as orphans. Recently Aldern returned to reclaim Foxglove Manor, but his grandfather’s evil was too strong and he murdered his wife in a jealous rage. He sought the help of the a secret society in Magnimar to deal with the cleanup. In the meantime, he sank into madness, eventually becoming the obsessed murderous creature responsible for the mysterious murders in and around Sandpoint.
With the aid of Aldern’s undead and vengeful wife, the heroes were able to put Aldern to rest, ending the murders there. However, word soon reached them that Magnimar was suffering from some gruesome murders as well.
The Skinsaw Cult
The leads left behind by Aldern Foxglove lead the heroes to the city of Magnimar, where they hunted down the Brothers of the Seven, a secret society and murderous cult of Norgerber worshippers. This cult was lead by one of the city’s justices, and the heroes were rewarded by the mayor himself for uncovering the corruption and the plot against his own life.
Naturally, the cult was not acting alone, and the heroes followed their few leads to Underbridge and the mysterious lamia matriarch who appeared to be behind the murders. After defeating her, they found evidence that a similar situation was happening in distant Turtleback Ferry.
It was in Magnimar that Ciaran encountered a young Desnan acolyte named Oparal who insisted on joining their party on their adventures.
Return of Black Fang
Cecil received a dream message from his mentor, Mirana, who disappeared many years ago, shortly after Cecil’s mother was found dead. Back in the town of Sandpoint, our heroes heard rumours of a dragon having taken up residence in the nearby swamp. Upon investigation, Cecil came face to face with his former mentor, who had attempted to deal with the dragon, as he had captured Cecil’s two younger sisters. A half-elf named Talathel had allied with Black Fang, who was eager for revenge against the heroes for taking his original lair from him. Talathel had his own agenda: he had once been an admirer of Cecil’s mother’s, but she had turned him down in favour of a full elf. Talathel had spent many years plotting and training, before returning to murder Cecil’s mother, and now he had decided to kill his entire family.
Cecil and the others were able to defeat Black Fang and Talathel with the help of a dragon-slaying sword that Mirana had ‘borrowed’ from a monastery, rescuing Cecil’s sisters. In the process, they also wiped out most of the tribe of boggards who worshipped Black Fang. This massacre weighed heavily on Cecil’s conscience, and he did his best to help the remaining boggards before retreating. Mirana promised to escort his sisters safely home, and to return the dragon-slaying sword.
After dispatching the dragon, the heroes received word from Magnimar that the rangers protecting the town of Turtleback Ferry had not been heard from in some time. This made the heroes even more eager to investigate the area.
The weather on the trip to Turtleback Ferry was uncharacteristically cold, raining almost the entire time. Early on in their journey, the group was ambushed by assassins. Though these were easily dispatched, it made the group uneasy.
The situation in Turtleback Ferry was rather dire, as ogres had taken over Fort Rannick and killed most of the rangers who protected the area. There were also a large number of townsfolk bearing seven-pointed star tattoos, claiming them to have granted them VIP access to the casino which had recently sunk into the lake.
While investigating the area, the heroes came upon a lone firepelt cougar, not unlike Cecil’s companion, Nova. This creature led the heroes deeper into the forest, where they found a ramshackle farm filled with hideous, deformed ogrekin. These monsters were holding a few remaining rangers captive. After dispatching the ogrekin, including their disgusting matriarch, Mammy Graul, the heroes freed the rangers, Jakadros, Vale and Kaven.
Retaking the Fort
Though they were grateful to be rescued, the surviving rangers were devastated that their friends and allies had all been murdered. They assisted the heroes in a daring plan to retake the fort. While there were over a dozen powerful ogres in the fort, the heroes had the element of surprise, and were able to destroy every ogre. They knew, however, that these ogres had certainly not acted alone, and they were determined to find their leader.
The fort was also where the lamia matriarch Lucrecia had taken up residence. She was the sister of the creature Xanesha the heroes had vanquished in Magnimar, and it was with her help that the ogres had taken the fort. For she had charmed one of the rangers, Kaven, and learned many secrets from him. Under extreme questioning, Lucrecia did admit that she and the ogres were working for a powerful stone giant named Mokmurian, whose fortress was on the Storval Plateau.
The other rangers, upon hearing of Kaven’s betrayal, murdered him on the spot. Yet there was still no word on their missing commander.
The heroes were then interrupted by a desperate plea from a villager who claimed the dam wall had broken and that Turtleback Ferry was in danger of being flooded. Knowing there was little they could do to save the town by returning there, the heroes instead made haste to the dam wall. Here they discovered a band of ogres chipping away at the dam wall.
The dam wall had fortunately not collapsed completely, but rather has cracked min one place where the ogres had been at work, aided by the appearance of the infamous monster, Black Magga. Though the legends about this creature turned out to be true, the heroes knew they had to deal with the situation at hand and open the dam floodgates before the weakened wall did collapse.
Inside the dam wall was the floodgate mechanism, another Thassilonian device (much like the dam itself), which had been powered by the life force of two devils, though one had perished several years ago. The heroes chose to free the surviving devil and use summoned creatures to power the machine one last time. They repaired the dam wall and prepared to take on the ogres at their stronghold in the mountains.
The Kreeg ogre stronghold was high up in the Hook mountains. Though the heroes found it with relative ease, they were a little unprepared for the sheer number of ogres inhabiting the place. Still, the normal ogres were no match for the heroes. It was the stone giant Barl Breakbones, who was actually in charge of the ogres, though it was clear he was working for a more powerful giant still – probably the creature Mokmurian that Lucrecia had mentioned. It was from Barl that the heroes learned of the plans to invade Varisia, starting with Sandpoint.
Barl also had in his service a coven of hags, who turned out to be the source of the cold and rainy weather that the Hook Mountain area had been experiencing. This was also part of a larger plan to flood Turtleback Ferry and sacrifice all the greedy souls that Lucrecia had branded with the seven pointed star (by this time, the heroes had learned that it was called a Sihedron, representing Thassilonian magic).
The final guardian of the ogre lair was the ranger commander himself, though twisted by Barl Breakbones into a mindless undead monster. The heroes slew him and took his medallion to show to the other rangers.
Into the Fey Forest
Before the heroes could return to Fort Rannick, they were intercepted by a sprite named Yap, who insisted they help him with his ‘mistress’ whose despair was warping and poisoning the forest. She was the commander’s lover, a beautiful nymph who had been brutally murdered by Lucrecia and her ogres. With the remaining shreds of the frozen skin that still clung to the commander’s medallion, the ghostly nymph was able to restore her lover to life as a protector of the forest. Before she faded, the nymph also blessed Ciaran’s familar Snappy with some unusual powers.
With the weather improving and the immediate threats dealt with, the heroes felt they could leave Turtleback Ferry and return to Sandpoint, hopefully in time to deal with the giant incursion.
The heroes returned from Turtleback Ferry in a bit of a hurry, as they had uncovered evidence of a giant raid that would soon come to Sandpoint. The reason for the raid was unclear, but it seemed that the giants were looking for something in the town. They would never find it, however, as the invading giants were utterly defeated before they could find what they were looking for.
The invading stone giants unwittingly helped the heroes and Ameiko uncover the dirty dealings of the Scarnetti family, who had arranged for the destruction of several local businesses to ensure that their business received all those customers. The heroes agreed to escort the Scarnettis to Magnimar to face justice.
On the way to Magnimar, the heroes encountered a band of giant-slayers, the Kodar Kneecappers, who were eager to help out in any way they could. They were also attacked by a group of almost-deadly assassins.
While there, they encountered a young man named Jaden Korr, who had a plan to take down the gang leader who had put a significant price on their heads for their murder of his only son. Success meant that Jaden became the head of the gang, and would hopefully put it to good use.
Leaving the Kneecappers in charge of the defense of Sandpoint, our heroes set off to eliminate the source of the problem, the powerful stone giant Mokmurian, who reportedly was gathering an army in the Iron Peaks. As the journey to the Storval Plateau would have taken several weeks, the heroes decided to make use of teleportation magic they had acquired in Magnimar. This took them directly to the foot of the Storval Stairs, and imposing stairway of Thassilonian design leading up to the plateau. The heroes had little trouble dispatching the hill giants who were guarding the stairs, nor did they struggle with the stone giant hunting party they encountered on the plateau itself.
However, when the heroes finally found their way to the Valley of the Black Tower hidden deep in the Iron Peaks, they realised the extent of Mokmurian’s plans. A huge fortress dominated the valley, and the fortress was itself surrounded by numerous camps of giants. It was a formidable invasion force, and the heroes knew they had to put a stop to Mokmurian’s plans. Cecil carefully scouted out the area, and it was clear that a direct attack would be futile.
Chapter 4 continues here: Infiltrating Jorgenfist