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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.8: Of Black Eagles & Dragons

Black Eagle Tattoo
The Black Eagle Emblem

The morning of the 19th of Monsoon – our heroes were relaxing inside the main room of the rented house. Fauna (played by Jenn) pulled out her map (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.2: A letter and a Map) while Szoo (played by Isis) ate one of the druid’s smaller itinerant chickens. The naga mostly swallowed it whole with minimal crunching. Excor (played by Cris) was next to the druid hovering over her map. They were trying to decipher it as well as coming up with ideas as to how to pursue their goal. Their goal was obtaining a gold bee queen as well as the mystical honey they can produce with the golden lotus their ultimate goal (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.44: Betrayed at Last!).

They discussed where on the map would be their destination, probably somewhere near the golden bee panted on the map. They assumed it just was not a decorative touch. The map, for the most part, appeared to be accurate and somewhat up to date at least judging by the heraldic marks present on it.

Cris: “Whew. That’s a long distance. And it’s probably mostly desert and scrubland except for these forests here.”

As a group, they contemplated the major undertaking that an expedition would be. They were not sure that they could depend on Bumble’s wealth this time around and they were uncertain about the web of loyalties within the cabal at the moment. Fauna was not willing to try to convince her fellow cultists to fund the adventure either. With some shoulder shrugging and mumbling, they ultimately decided to focus on what was directly ahead of them; namely the blue dragon behind the scenes and the mushroom creatures below them.

Fauna: “Wait. Where’s the blood magus?”

After a brief investigation, they found a note written on the back of the bedroom door. Of course, it was written in blood. The note said that Umwin had left in pursuit of the little girl that he had in his words “adopted”. In fact, the last time that anyone had seen him was when he asked Excor about sewer access outside of the house. Excor had directed him to the Eastern District and the plaza at the end of the old wall (The Cabal of Eight Pt.10: Tunnel Rats). In other words, Natalie (Umwin’s player) bowed out of the game.

Fauna: “Good. He was gross!”

Excor spent the next one and a half hours copying the Amber Husk spell into his spellbook. He handled the brittle scroll as delicately as he could. The parchment was very old and only kid-gloves would do. He had found it in an ancient rotting scroll case found deep within the Lotus Vaults (The Cabal of Eight Pt.42: The Lotus Vaults Pt.2).

Szoo and Fauna wanted to go find the blue dragon on their own but thought better of it when they realized they had few leads. Several skilled slaves dressed in blue had attacked them and they had caught a beggar of the beggar’s guild trailing them presumably in the employ of the said dragon. After giving up on that idea, Fauna brewed some healing potions for Szoo.

Later, after finishing copying the spell into his book Excor left for the Bardic College with Szoo in tow. He was going there to “hook up with Jirek”. Soon after finding Jirek in the library office, the young scribe offered to treat them to lunch at the White Prong.

Excor (to Szoo): “White Prong. Why does that sound familiar? Have we been there before?”

 The players suddenly remembered the other words of the stealthy beggar named Thorn, words that they had previously completely ignored. They did not even seem to make a note of it so I excluded those very words from that blog entry (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.1: The Checkered Eye). They recalled that he had mentioned that his coin i.e. services were for sale each dawn at a place called the White Prong and to look out for a dark-skinned woman, a sea-farer, the other bidder and presumably current employer of said beggar.

As the three rode in a rickshaw, Excor struck up a conversation with Jirek.

Excor: “So, uh, what’s been going on man?”

Jirek: “Well, I rented my warehouse, it’s full up. Some sea traders er… probably pirates. It helps to pay the seasonal taxes on the place tho. Making a pretty penny also, those guys are loaded but kinda serious y’know. Real tough guys.”

They arrived shortly at the eatery. Upon entering, Excor was distracted by the delicious smells of spiced meat and rich broth.  Szoo, however, spotted a young swashbuckler, a dark-skinned woman with long black hair, a very expensive looking saber at her side, her sleeveless leather arming doublet was open and on her bare chest was a tattoo of a black eagle its wings spread. On her waist, she wore a wide blue silk sash. She was carrying a tray full of drinks to the private booths in the back. After a failed paranoia roll, Szoo was certain that she was the blue dragon in human guise.

Cris (referring to the tattoo): “Well I guess a dragon can appear as any human form they want right?”

Isis: “It’s gotta be her!”

Cris (shooting me a narrow-eyed glance): “I dunno… maybe.”

The pair of mages tried to spy where the young swashbuckler had gone. They only found that she was not alone but in the company of what appeared as the top command of a ship. The crew, each sporting a black eagle either as tattoos or on their clothes, shuffled into several of the curtained booths at the rear of the place. Eventually, the mages found a table, sat and Excor ordered an expensive, but not too expensive, bottle of wine dropping 10 silver pieces. Jirek ordered the house roast seasoned with sour-grass and roasted onions.

Meanwhile back at the house, Fauna was busy brewing the potions she had promised to the Black Scael naga. Suddenly the druidess heard a subtle creaking then the sound grew louder into a painful arthritic wooden shriek.  She looked over towards the source of the sound to the statue atop the trapdoor. The large white marble statue was starting to sink into the mushy wood of the floorboards.

Jenn: “Aww man! It’s those mushroom guys again!?”

Fauna immediately sent a whisper to her two companions currently at the White Prong via her cabal medallion. Her message was, “Fungus guys are back, statue sinking into the floor!”

Back at the White Prong, after receiving the message Excor tossed down a single silver piece and tells Jirek, “Sorry but we gotta go!” With that, he and Szoo walked outside and around a corner to an area with some cover. When the coast was clear, Excor used his blue cape of teleportation (The Cabal of Eight Pt.31: The Welfare of Rats) to get himself and Szoo back to the house in a magic flash.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.6: Facing the Fungus

Fungus Kingdom Map
The Map so far

The blood magus used his Close Wounds spell four times on Szoo (played by Isis), the naga had taken the brunt of the damage in the previous battle. After Umwin (played by Natalie) finished nursing Szoo the small group of adventurers continued with Fauna (played by Jenn) in the lead. Excor slipped but fortunately was able to save his lantern. The wet gravel-strewn cavern floor continued steeply down.

Fauna noticed even in the half-light that ahead a 5 ft. high ridge rose to the left and the low path directly in front of them led to a pit. Therefore, she led the troop up and along the ridge. This cavern (R5) was much the same as the previous, sweaty rock walls and the heavy air polluted with the smell of mushrooms. When they got to the top of the ridge, they could see random clumps of mushrooms in the corners along the walls and the flows of slime molds on the walls themselves.

The mages looked around and found that there were three openings into other adjacent chambers. There was a large one to the north, another to the east, which dropped sharply in elevation. They decided they definitely did not want to go further down. There was another peculiar opening about 10 ft. up the northern wall, which appeared to be rectangular and cut into the stone. Upon investigation, it was determined that it was a drain originating from the sewers above.

Natalie: “Hm? …oh yeah…”

Umwin (pointing to the drain opening): “I guess that’s how I got down here.”

In the south, there was a very large opening and the ground sloped down there as well but more gently than the eastern passage.

The mages were at a loss as to which way to go until Fauna discovered some faintly glowing tracks. She was able to track them to the southern passage. They began to move down carefully when Fauna spotted the wounded myconid that had fled from the previous battle apparently nursing its glowing wounds. It did not take long for them to slaughter it.

For safety’s sake, Umwin performed yet another Close Wounds on Szoo. After a brief consultation as to continue deeper into the unknown cavern or retreat, the gang decided to carry on. So, fauna worked her way slowly into the next, deeper chamber of the cavern system (R11). This chamber was much larger than any before with a much higher ceiling rich with stalactites.

They could smell the scent freshwater and could see a body of water to their northeast beyond a pebble-beach. Large clumps of mushrooms were everywhere, especially near the water with several larger mushrooms that were purple and slimy glowed with enough light to allow them normal although limited sight. Fauna soon realized that the hand that she was using to guide herself in the dark was upon the cliff face of another ridge that rose 5 ft.

Suddenly, Fauna shouted a warning to the others. “On the ridge and near the water!”

Atop the ridge was what appeared to be a shriveled corpse with a large growth, some sort of swelling fungus, erupting from its skull poised with a large rock above its head, ready to hurl. In addition, oozing slowly across the pebble beach towards the mages was a glowing violet blob covered in a thick layer of clear slime spotted with light blue spots resembling eyes. Then a viciously noxious stench that shot from the violet blob filled the cavern. Fortunately, none of the four mages was sickened; Umwin did not even seem to notice it.

The blob suddenly launched itself rolling at Fauna but missed her entirely stopping just short of touching her. In response, Fauna blasted the thing with a lightning bolt blowing a crater in the gel-like creature. Szoo following Fauna’s lead roasted the thing into a crystalline ash with a ray of fire. The mages could hear a large group of things heading from the south towards them. Then Excor entangled the zombie with the Shadow Ribbons spell. It struggled and strained but found itself trapped nonetheless. Umwin finished it off with a Disrupt Undead spell. This brief scuffle was over but the mages hardly had any time to recover when several other creatures were already upon them. On top of that, they could also hear something large moving in the distance somewhere in the dark.

The oncoming group consisted of two more zombie-type creatures, their heads completely over taken and skulls bursting with fungal growth, three leathery looking mushroom men armed with granite headed maces, and two pale softer looking myconids flanking a sickly yellow squat egg-shaped creature with stubby arms and legs and a pair of droopy crimson eyes. It was something called a Lumpus, it bore a wooden stave in one of its small hands. Fauna recognized the creature and knew that this small intelligent fungus-creature had some spell-casting ability.

Fauna unleashed a lightning bolt at the first zombie. The lumpus twirled its stave and cast grease at Szoo’s feet; the naga promptly slipped and fell onto his back. The pair of zombies continued to move slowly towards the mages. Excor cast Mage Armor on himself. The first two leathery myconids moved towards the rear ranks of the mages while the first lurched forward and struck at Fauna. The creature’s mace struck the druid dispelling the shield spell protecting her. Umwin damaged the second zombie with another Disrupt Undead spell. The two pale myconids that flanked the lumpus moved forward their fists clenched.

The thumping of heavy footsteps moved closer to the ongoing battle.

Fauna blasted away the second zombie with a lightning bolt. The lumpus spun its stave again and grease pooled at Umwin’s feet causing him to slip and fall onto his butt. The first zombie stumbled up to Fauna and tried to slam a balled fist into her. Fortunately, she parried the attack easily. Szoosha stood and threw a fire ray at the third leathery soldier mushroom singeing it. Excor tried to cast a spell but it got away from him and went wild! However, nothing happened the spell just fizzled out. The second soldier mushroom struck Umwin but dealt no damage due to the blood magus’ supernal toughness. The third soldier swung its granite mace at Fauna but she parried the blow with her dagger. The first soldier moved towards Excor. Umwin desperately tried to stand but found the magic grease too slick and slipped onto his back. The pale myconids moved into more advantageous positions.

The lumpus shuffled onto the ridge above the mages and spores burst from its body in a sticky spray then in a yellow cloud settling over the battlefield. The sticky stuff failed to adhere to Excor or Fauna but it glued Szoo and Umwin to the cave floor. Fortunately, the toxic effects failed to affect the mages as all of them save Umwin had breathe without air items. Umwin however found it even more difficult to move due to numbness. The fungus creatures were unaffected by the spore. Szoo was unable to free himself from the lumpus’ sticky spore. Excor pulled his Copper Spike and shot the first mushroom soldier with an electrical bolt. The first mushroom soldier struck Excor’s mage armor. The second hit Umwin for no damage again. The third missed fauna with a clumsy swing.

The two pale myconids jostled for position again.  Fauna cast wind rush but only caught the first zombie and the third mushroom soldier. They flew back slamming into the ridge and fell down. Szoo was unable to find footing due to the magic grease to try to break loose from the sticky spore. The lumpus moved north along the ridge. Excor cast Force Ram but the magic almost got away from him however, the spell went in the wrong direction striking a cave wall. The zombie stood back up. The first soldier hit Excor’s Mage Armor. The second power-attacked Umwin but again was unable to even scratch the blood magus. The third soldier stood back up. Umwin found it impossible to stand up or even move.

The first pale myconid moved around to mount the ridge. The second picked up and tossed a small stone at Fauna, she dodged. Szoo struggled valiantly but between the greased floor and the net of glue, he was immobilized. At the bottom of the north end of the ridge, the lumpus readied itself. Excor realizing he was out of spells for the day shot the first mushroom soldier with his Copper Spike. The zombie started shambling towards Fauna. The first soldier again struck Excor’s Mage Armor. The third soldier moved towards the mages. Umwin was utterly stuck and hopeless.

Fauna cast Sleep on the second soldier but to no effect. Szoo was hopelessly stuck. The lumpus cast Harden as Iron on its stave. Excor took a 5 ft. step back, sacrificing some of his vitality cast Mass Shadow Ribbons but the magic went wild, and a cone of negative energy shot forth at the lumpus and caught the pale myconids in its area of effect causing all three to melt and wither into blackened piles of rot.

The mages were in bad straights, Umwin and Szoo were stuck, Excor had to sacrifice K.O. points to cast spells, and Fauna was out of ideas. Still there was the zombie and three soldiers before them. They could just make out a giant sized myconid with a great club moving into the half-light, a glowing violet mushroom shaped creature with four tentacles at its side.

Cris was letting loose a stream of expletives.

Isis: “We are SO screwed!”

Jenn: “Awww, we’re gonna die aren’t we?”

Natalie just shrugged.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.5: The Mushroom Kingdom Pt.2

mushroom map
The Map

The blood magus Umwin (played by Natalie) gazed through the open doorway into the ruined chamber from the hallway (R1). It was an old storeroom, the plaster and some of the stone of the walls had crumbled and laid in moist piles and clumps. He replied to the other mages behind him that the room was full of trash but appeared empty otherwise. With Umwin’s signal, the party of adventurer mages continued further down the very long narrow stone & plaster corridor (H1).

The cobweb-draped passageway was dark and the air increasingly stunk of polluted moisture as they shuffled carefully along the smooth but dirt caked floor. They could also tell that the hallway was angling down going deeper under the city as they continued to follow it. Behind Umwin followed Fauna (played by Jenn), Excor (played by Cris) holding his oil lamp aloft, and Szoosha (played by Isis) taking up the rear with flaming naginata.

As they carefully inched their way down, Fauna spotted and picked up a black haired sewer rat asking it if there was anything to worry about in the passage. The rat replied, “No”. Of course, Fauna acted as interpreter.

Umwin stopped at an alcove in the wall on his left. It was a badly rusted iron door (D1 on the map). Its lock so badly corroded that even if they had the key it would still be impossible to open. Each mage insisted in inspecting the door personally and thus the group spent some time rotating position. Each tried sensing magic on the old door, they finally determined there was no magic to speak of and thus Fauna and Szoo wanted to try to open it. Excor voiced his concern that it may lead to someone else’s basement. Umwin had no opinion on the subject.

Consequently, Fauna consulted the sewer rat she was still holding. According to the rat, no one had opened that door in forever. After a brief discussion, they decided to leave the door for later and started south again. Suddenly, with a sharp yelp Umwin fell from sight. Fortunately, he was able to catch the edge of the ragged pit in the floor with his red stained fingertips. The blood magus struggled to pull himself up but lost his grip and fell. Fauna caught him by the wrists and pulled him back up and out of the pit.

The pit was a large hole in the floor from where the flagstones had long ago fallen in. Excor leaned over the edge with his lantern and found that still the bottom lay hidden in darkness. In addition, they could all smell the stink of sewage mixing with the fresh briny scent of seawater.

Excor: “Phew, it’s gotta be deeper than 20 feet. And with water at the bottom, who knows how deep that is!”

In turn, each leapt easily over the pit; Szoo just slithered over it with no problem and no risk of falling. Umwin continued to lead them down the passageway but insisted none of this was familiar to him. The group stopped at another recessed door this time on their right (D2). It was another rusted iron door but it was in much better condition than the last. It too was locked and they could all see the faded red emblem emblazoned on the ancient door. Though only Fauna was able to make out the faded mark, it was a red eagle carrying scales contained in an octagon. For this reason alone, Szoo and Excor voted that she take lead.

With Fauna leading they finally reached the end of the passageway. The group of four mages found themselves at the threshold of yet another rusted locked iron door (D3). It had been lacquered black at one time but only traces now remained. Plainly emblazoned in faded shades of green, blue, and brown at the center of its face was an inverted city seal. Below the inverted seal of Ezmer lay a wavy water line and a rat at helm. All of the cabal mages thought that they should try, for some reason, to get through this door.

Excor: “No problem, I got just the spell. Everybody stand back!” Cris actually stood up and motioned with his arms at the table.

Excor cast Force Ram, which slammed into the door making a frightful racket that temporarily deafened all of them. The slightly dented door still held fast.

Excor: “DAMN! It’s still UP!?

Jenn: “Oh you learned that one from Guillermo’s guy huh?”

Cris: “Gornix, yeah. It’s one of my most powerful spells!”

Isis: “Well, use your magic key! C’mon guy!”

Cris: “Nah, that’s limited per day I’m not gonna waste it here. Let’s go back.”

Natalie: “Well… everybody knows we’re here now.”

The group proceeded back to the first iron door that they encountered and decided, for some reason that they should not stop until they had opened it. Consequently, they had not yet decided on how to do that.

Isis: “Aw man! C’mon! I wanna see what’s behind that door! C’mawwwwwn!”

Fauna: “Man, what I wouldn’t give for a good crowbar.”

Cris: “Naw. I don’t think any of us are strong enough to get through that door like that.”

Umwin: “Well. I could, um, give the one who wants to knock it down the Greater Strength I spell… just let me slit my arm and drip some blood into a vial. Like a… potion?”

Fauna: “Wait. You mean like drink it!? ”

Umwin: “Um. Uh-huh.”

Utterly disgusted by that suggestion, Excor used his magic key’s Knock ability to open the door. The room revealed by the opened door was a large 5 ft. by 5 ft. closet (R2). The walls were white plaster with a few cracks. Above, the ceiling was plank wood, possibly the floor of someone else’s basement where long ago an old trap door was removed and sealed. Immediately, the strong smell of petroleum scorched their nostrils.

Inside the closet was an old saturated 50 gallon barrel labeled Naphtha (Excor translated the old oil-translucent label). There was also an old rotten sack of grain and a single small box of old corroded cosmetics. Fascinated by some very flammable liquid to play with, Szoo whipped out an empty glass bottle and filled it with naphtha from the barrel. After this investigation concluded, they unanimously decided to approach the gap to where the glowing footprints had led from their cellar.

The gap appeared to be a large and ancient crack in the bedrock, which had reopened shortly after multiple attempts through the centuries to patch it with plaster. Through the gap, a cavern and from this wafted the strong swampy scent of sewer water mixed with the sea. Fauna communed with nature to make sure that the rain above had ceased after Excor’s insistence: “I’m not going down there into sewers during a rainstorm! C’mon! There’s storm drains! Especially in this city!”

Surefooted Fauna carefully guided the group into the crack (H2 on the map). The floor was savagely uneven and angled, even more sharply than the hallway, downwards this time to the southeast. They proceeded down into the cavern and found the rocky walls sweaty and the air permeated by the strong scent of mushrooms. To her right Fauna noticed a ridge rising to a full five feet high as they continued to move. Then as she looked up by chance, her eagle eyes spotted three mushroom men on the ridge their bodies were fleshier looking and very pale mostly white unlike the first creature they had met back in the cellar (see The Cabal of Eight II Pt.4: The Mushroom Kingdom Pt.1). Their stubby arms were high over their faceless mushroom-cap-heads each ready to hurl a large rock.

The first myconid, Excor had recognized them as such, hurled its large rock at the gambler-mage but missed by an inch. The large rock smashed into the rocky ground with a heavy thud its fragments stinging the mages. Fauna threw a lightning bolt at the third mushroom roasting its tender flesh but still it lifted its rock. Umwin threw a blood bolt at the same creature blasting it apart. The stone it was holding tumbled down the ridge but managed to miss the mages below rolling to rest at the bottom of the ridge. Szoo cast a fire ray at the first creature hurting it some. Excor pulled his Copper Spike and shot an electrical bolt from it at the first creature wounding it badly. The second myconid heaved its rock at Umwin striking the blood magus. However, the rather large stone hit and bounced off the skinny but broad man not hurting him at all!

So, it turned out that Natalie had rolled high for his Constitution and selected the Raw Hide feat and gained the Armor of Scars feat as a class ability resulting in a Damage Reduction of 12! Hence, the other characters were a bit suspicious after this display of unnatural toughness on the part of this subterranean stranger.

The first creature grabbed up another rock and tossed it at Excor who attempted to dodge but took a nasty blow to the head. Fortunately, his shield-item activated in time to prevent any damage from the small boulder.

Cris: “Man! That could’ve KILLED me!”

Fauna threw another lightning bolt at the first monster wounding it badly. Umwin in turn, threw another blood bolt at the same creature killing it. Szoo stiffened his body, rose above the height of the ridge, and faced off with number two. The naga swung his flaming naginata wounding the creature. The second and now last remaining myconid grabbed up a stone and smashed it into Szoo who in an attempt to dodge the blow opened himself directly up to the attack taking the rock full in the chest. Again, a shield item protected the mage from potential lethal levels of damage. Excor shot a bolt at the creature adding to its wounds.

Fauna cast another lightning bolt hurting the pale myconid but it fled behind and down the other side of the ridge out of the sight of all.

Cris: “Aww man! We need to take that guy out before he alerts the others!”

Jenn: “What? How do you know that?”

Cris: “They’re myconids, they live in colonies so there’s always more!”

Jenn: “oh.”

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.4: The Mushroom Kingdom Pt.1

mushroom man aka a myconid

It was the wee hours of the 12th of High Summer, about 11 weeks ago, and Gornix (played by Gil) found it difficult to sleep amongst the crash after crash of thunder in his new digs, a still dirty with dust bedroom in Fauna’s new rental (The Cabal of Eight Pt.31: The Welfare of Rats). He had abandoned his apartment for a room there in an effort to stay hidden from the wrath of the Black Knight.

He had already set up a laboratory in the small basement/cellar of the house and was contemplating starting formulation of a new spell when he heard something. It sounded like breaking glass coming from – the lab! Consequently, he jumped up from his bed and ran to the cellar door. Putting his ear to the floor, he could hear something moving around down there as well as the sound of breaking wood; the fate of the new table he had placed down there.

Gil: “Dammit!”

Hence, Gornix, without thinking, carefully opened the trapdoor and lighting the crystal at the tip of his staff slowly stepped down into the cellar. He found his new lab destroyed and some strange footprints all over the dirty flagstones of the floor. The tracks were of some kind of slime and smelled strongly of fungus, mushroom maybe? There was nothing there but the results of vandalism.

The salt-lotus wizard sighed and inspected the walls for some sort of secret door but was confident that the walls of the cellar were solid. As he ascended the stair back up into the house, he halted for a second after putting out the magic light of his staff. When he gazed back down, he noticed that the footprints were emitting a sickly bluish green glow.

Later that day Gornix talked with Excor (played by Cris) of his pre-dawn experience.

Gornix: “I think that this house might be haunted.”

Excor laughed and then shrugged it off, no one thought any more of the incident since.

The pre-dawn hours of the 19th of Monsoon – Excor was suddenly awakened from sleep by the sound of breaking glass afraid of another assassination attempt in the house (The Cabal of Eight Pt.33: Night of the Moon Rat) he jumped out of bed and geared up. Before long he, Fauna (played by Jenn), and Szoosha (played by Isis) were up, dressed, and creeping towards the trapdoor that led to the cellar.

Szoo slowly opened the trapdoor. Excor extended his lit oil lamp to spot down the hole, once cleared Fauna proceeded down to investigate followed by Szoo wielding his flaming polearm and Excor taking up the rear. Fauna spotted several glowing footprints and handprints along the floor and walls. Likewise, all noticed the strong, wet fungal scent that choked the small 10 ft. by 10 ft. cellar. The stench had a very strong essence of mushroom.

Fauna (pointing with her dagger): “Hey! WHO THE HELL are YOU!?”

She was addressing a strange, scrawny but finely muscled, dirty looking man leaning in the far corner against some shelves. He had various sharp implements hanging from his thick black leather belt and was shirtless. His heaving concave yet insanely broad chest covered in strange black tattoos and crisscrossed by innumerable scars as well smeared with blood and sweat. His skin was dark, a Creschan, and his dreadlocked hair, light-brown, his eyes a piercing emerald green.

Umwin: “Uhm..Umwin and they’re coming?”

The three mages could hear several things, soft and squishy, slopping against the flagstones as they moved into view through a previously unnoticed aperture in the stonewall at the bottom of the stairs on which Excor was still standing. A small spear shot from the darkness and struck but bounced off Umwin’s scar-hardened skin. A squat ugly, creature shuffled into view. It had a head like a mushroom cap and fat cylindrical body like a stem with two short, thick legs. Its warty skin resembled rotting leather. Umwin gouged himself with a sharp implement from his belt and instead of blood, a crimson bolt of energy shot from the open wound blasting the ugly mushroom creature to wet bits.

As a result, four more of the mushroom creatures shuffled from the dark to attack all four mages. However, the battle was brief, after a storm of lightning bolts, fiery energy rays, and blood bolts the four mushroom-capped creatures were ash. None of the mages was so much as scratched.

While Excor inspected the opening in the wall Fauna questioned Umwin (played by Natalie). Umwin had sailed via a Creschan war-trader to the Serpent Coast where he had taken a young girl, a street urchin, under his wing. They had become close during their travels to Ezmer where Umwin was talked into accompanying the girl and some new “friends” on some sort of job where they had to travel through the sewers. The crew had run into a large group of these mushroom men and the girl was taken the rest of Umwin’s companions were either slain or lost. Consequently, Umwin had become lost in underground caverns in pursuit of the girl and soon stumbled his way into this cellar. Umwin also mentioned that he was a Blood Magus, for some reason.

Fauna figured that though blood magic seemed utterly gross that Umwin should prove valuable as they were about go exploring through that secret door anyway.

Excor: “Looks clear to me. There’s a very long hallway slanting down though, can’t see much else until we go down there!”

Not long after the group was proceeding down a long dark hallway. The ground and even walls were caked in layers of gray dust save for where there were slimy footprints. Umwin lead the way followed by Fauna, Excor and Szoo took up the rear.

Excor: “Wait! What direction are we traveling in?”

The others sort of looked around in confusion and then shrugged. Hence, after a deep sigh, Excor cast Magic Navigation on himself to know instinctively the compass directions.

Cris: “Guess I’ll keep track of our position on the map.”

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.3: Blue Robes & Bankers

Blue Dragon Banner

There was a break in the incessant Dragon-Summer rain, the street and alley mouth choked with a thick roiling blue fog. If there had been onlookers at this time of night, they would see the triumphant outline of Szoo (played by Isis) erect in the middle of the street. The fog was in actuality steam resulting from two blasts of fire from his Fire-Fang. The stooped form of Fauna (played by Jenn) was feeling about on the ground. The dozen or so pirates that had tried to waylay the trio of mages had since fled with no casualties on either side.

Szoo: “Alright let’s go home.”

Fauna: “No! I’m not going anywhere without my knife!”

During the brief skirmish with the pirates, the druidess had thrown her dagger and missed her target. Meanwhile, both Szoo and Fauna could see Excor (played by Cris) casually puffing on his pipe as he continued down the alleyway towards home.

Szoo [after a quick detection check]: “Found it! NOW let’s GO!”

                The morning of the 18th of Monsoon – Excor, Szoo, and Fauna all decided to go to the bazaar for some shopping however, their first stop was Babia’s Apothecary [Cabal of Eight Pt.6: Gold Devil], Excor and Fauna needed some smoking herbs.

In the fragrant shop, bundles of various herbs hung from the rafters to dry, Excor bought the usual but Fauna purchased “the good stuff” paying a gold piece for an ounce and some high quality healing herbs. Szoo bought some of the “house mix” which cost him 1 copper. Fauna inquired about a pipe and Babia directed her to a peddler named “Vez”; he likely had his cart around the bazaar.

A little while later, all three were cruising the bazaar, Fauna remained outside after immediately finding the pipe vendor. The plaza around the bazaar and the bazaar itself was crowded and bustling with people. The constant chatter of a million conversations and the occasional yell or shout from a merchant trying to attract customers mixed with the smell of food, herbs, exotic oils, fresh fish, and the butcher stands all merged into a thick atmosphere familiar to all residents of Ezmer.

Eventually, Fauna settled on a pipe akin to the vendor’s masterwork. It was a carved ironwood pipe. The stem was long and flat with a dragon holding the bowl. Afterwards, realizing she had spent all of the coin in her purse she decided to exchange the gems in her pockets for gold. She headed for the central market district to find a jeweler to cash her gems.

At the same time, Excor was seeking an “ivory-handled horsetail flyswatter” preferably with jewels set into the handle. However, he could not find what he was looking for. Although he had found several gold-leafed wooden handled swatters with a few bearing “jewels” which turned out to be polished beads of glass. Nevertheless, he did purchase five scrolls of paper at 5 coppers per and 1 blank dragonskin scroll though it looked somewhat aged. Szoo purchased a gold chain because “it was shiny” and then headed home.

A short time later, Fauna wandered into a jewelry store the doorbell ringing as she entered. Just inside the store waiting impatiently, was a regal looking woman in a blue silk gown with a diamond tiara in her long black hair. The druid immediately received a rude remark about her “stench” from the woman. Fauna pushed past the exasperated blue clad noble and dropped a handful of gems on the counter in response to the jeweler’s snotty attitude. However, he tried to rip her off by under-valuing her haul so rightfully taking offense, she grabbed her gems and left.

She started home but ran into Szoosha along the way.

Isis [to me, the GM]: “Wait, how likely is it that we run into each other?”

The GM: “Pretty likely if you’re taking the main streets and going directly home.”

Isis: “Hmm, I don’t think Szoo likes that, what if he gets ambushed or somebody’s waiting to get him?”

*Roll* *Roll*

After Fauna spent some time calming down the naga, who kept mumbling something about “changing up the routes”, they both decided to go to the bank. Fauna needed to convert her gems and Szoo needed to stash some cash. They caught a rickshaw to the bank, which was located among the city administration buildings.

The building was large and constructed of marble blocks with a large dome on top. The bank doors were a solid bronze double-door and to each side was a guard in half-plate. At first, Fauna thought that they were city guards but noticed their equipment was of a much higher quality and the men appeared better trained and far more experienced. Inside the massive white stone interior, inlaid tile floor, and its painted walls depicting unicorns of all colors and bright fields of stylized crops of grain, vegetables, and fruit blew the minds of both mages.

Szoo: “Wooow!”

All of the light was bright, natural sunlight shining down from the multiple openings in the grand white dome above them. There were massive white columns along the walls and several heavy wood tables where scribes and presumably bankers were weighing coin, shuffling, signing, and reading through paperwork. Against each column there stood guards in polished black full-plate armor each bearing a short-spear. At the rear of the building, there were vertical slits in the wall akin to arrow loops. A skinny old man with oiled hair  wearing a purple and green silk gown with a gold-colored shoulder sash with a gold and crystal clasp immediately walked up to them and blocked their path.

The Banker: “Ahem. This is a place of business…”

                The druid whipped out a handful of gems.

The Banker: “Oh! Well, right this way, I’ll be helping you today, my name is Xander.”

Fauna opened an account and deposited 10 sapphires, 10 emeralds, and cashed out a single emerald getting 900 gp as the bank took 10% for the exchange. Her account would also be charged 1 copper piece per gem per month as long as she kept her gems there. Szoo also opened an account and deposited 10 sapphires and 16 emeralds. He also cashed 25 obsidian pieces and 25 pieces of tiger’s eye for 450 gp. Both left the bank at the same time but split up, Szoo was headed home but was going to take a different route than usual and Fauna wanted to go to the harbor for some reason.

A while after, Szoosha was pushing through a throng of people in the North Quarter determined to cut through guildsman’s Square (for some reason) when he spotted a pair of blue-cloaked men each armed with a high quality cutlass.

Isis: “Aw jeeeesh! Two!?”

Szoo took off in an attempt to flee and evade his pursuers. However, they eventually caught up to him a few blocks south of the square. Therefore, Szoo decided to turn and fight. As the pair approached, the naga could see that they were twins. They appeared skilled in arms and may have had magical talents though these were probably minor in compared to his own. Steeling himself, the naga elementalist cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (fire) on himself. As red flames swirled around his black-scaled body and hardened into plate, the blue-cloaked twins lost their reserve, turned, and ran.

City Guard [from behind Szoo]: “Hey YOU!”

                The guardsman warned Szoo about casting magic without a special license and the guard, along with two other partners (who were pointing halberds), recorded the naga’s name and address with a stylus on a wax tablet. After that, Szoo was free to go, hopefully the Sapphire Star Guild, who had authority in such matters, would ignore the write up.

                Elsewhere, Fauna had just finished strolling near the cliff at the far north of the North Quarter and enjoying the sea air and the sound of seagulls despite the gray sky. She was walking back southwest on her way home. Suddenly, a large muscular warrior with a horned helmet charged her his light blue robes flying backward held only in place by his thick black belt. Above his head raised with both hands was a tulwar aimed for her head.

                His weapon smashed into her Mage Armor instead of splitting her skull in two which if she had not been wearing her gold-threaded robes of Mage Armor she absolutely would have been killed in a single stroke. She threw a Lightning Bolt his way hitting him but to little effect. He drew back and swung his massive weapon again but missing badly he lost his grip and the big sword went flying clattering onto the cobblestones of the street. She struck at him with her dagger, which he easily parried with his bronze bracer. The guards began shouting and Fauna turned to see six guards running towards her wading through the crowd, when she turned back the barbarian was gone.

                Fauna spent some time getting smart with the guards whom recorded her name. They let her go when she claimed that the barbarian was simply trying to mug her especially after she slipped them a gold piece each.

Fauna (pointing at the tulwar cradled in a young guard’s arms): “Oh yeah, that’s mine too, hand it over.”

Jenn [to the GM]: “Hey what was I doing here anyway?”

The GM [me]: “What!? *sputter* Why’re you askin’ ME!?”

After packing up his haul, Excor made his way back towards Fauna’s house. However, he had not gotten far when he noticed that someone in a blue cloak was following him. As a result, Excor dodged into a nearby alley and cast Invisible to Sight on himself. He waited as the blue cloak followed stealthily. As the man walked past quiet as a cat, by the looks of him a professional thief. Excor spotted a silver neck manacle on him a silver medallion dangled as his throat with black enameled dragon-scratch runes on it. It was not long before the blue-cloaked thief realized that he had lost his prey and fled the area.

Cris: “Damn! Poor guy’s a slave!”

Isis: “What?”

Cris: “That thing on his neck, it has dragon writing and I sensed magic on it. He’s a slave to a dragon!”

As usual, Fauna was the last to get home. She entered while Excor and Szoo were already huddled in conference.

Fauna [throwing the tulwar onto the edge of the hearth]: “Guys! I think we have a problem!”

                The other two stared at the superior quality tulwar with a blue crystal pommel stone and a dragon-scratch marking enameled onto the blade.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.1: The Checkered Eye

eye ball

It is the beginning of the rainy season, in the month named Monsoon but because of the Dragon Summer, it had not stopped raining for several days. The rain was hot and the swampy air so heavy it mired the lungs making breathing difficult. Consequently, the three adventurers were panting, their chests heaving as they stood in the downpour. With a fierce side eye, Szoo the black scale naga (played by Isis) held his flaming naginata to the throat of a beggar backed up against the dead end of an alley. A few feet away, at the mouth of the alley stood the mage Excor (played by Cris) and the druid Fauna (played by Jenn) side-by-side.

Szoo [more fiercely than usual] : “Spill it! C’mon! Spill it! Or you’re DEAD!”

The pair behind the infuriated naga and panicking beggar was quiet. It was because they both recognized the beggar from back inside the Red Helm tavern. There, Szoo had been drinking alone all evening. In contrast, Excor talked with Draega about the Twin Swans and their and the checkered knights’ failed sting against an assassin called Ssthris the mage slayer. Meanwhile in a private curtained booth, Fauna was in a meeting with Vor Jetl “the dragonfly”, a merchant and power-player in the mutual cult with Fauna, the Brotherhood of the Rope. The fat merchant had mistaken the former cult leader’s interest in her for succession rather than a patsy.

While in the tavern, all of the mages had spotted the beggar in the blue-grey cloak creeping around the tavern keeping a subtle eye on them.  Though this spy seemed highly skilled chance kept cheating him of results (all-three kept Nat 20ing his prowl and bluff checks). Excor’s main take away was that the elderly beggar seemed to have a fat purse.

Fauna [pulling her knife and holding it to the beggar’s throat amongst the clatter of rain]: “YOU heard him! Talk or you’re DEAD!”

At both flaming naginata and knife point the beggar began to spill. His name was Thorn and he was a member of the Beggar’s Guild. Someone had paid for his services by purchasing his coin. However, he refused to name his employer because he was “bound by promise”; after all, “they bought me coin”. Without contemplating what Thorn had meant, the mages just shrugged and let him go after Excor paid him a platinum piece to deliver the message that they were up to nothing. Thorn quickly and expertly melted into the shadows.

Cris: “A damned beggar’s guild. Even beggars have a guild in this town huh? Damn.”

The three adventurers continued to the entrance of the alley that led to their rented house. Suddenly, Fauna spotted two rogues in black slinking along the walls coming in on either side with daggers drawn. Likewise though nonchalantly a third enemy emerged from the shadows behind the group. He was a young but bald pirate with a sunburnt pate tattooed with black serpents and an eye-patch over one eye. He drew his cutlass with a wicked smile and said, “Well there my lovelies, would ya mind parting with yer coins and valuables.”

Cris [disgusted]: “Stray sailors huh? Damned Dragon Summer!”

Isis: “um, What?”

Cris: “The rains from the summer are keeping all of the ships trapped in the harbor, a lot of those are pirate ships, so they’re robbing citizens as long as they’re stuck here.”

The GM [seeing Isis look to me]: “Um. Wow. He’s pretty right on about that.”

Above all the fight was brief, one of the rogues, a pickpocket, snatched Fauna’s coin purse and ran off. The second rogue, an assassin, managed to hit Fauna with a poisoned blade but retreated when he saw his eye-patched leader turn and run after Excor cast a Spook spell on him. Fauna downed a Neutralize Poison potion. Hence, the soaked mages continued home.

The following day, Fauna walked to Wensaer’s Alchemy Shop (Cabal of Eight I pt.7: Red Rat & pt.23: Trial of the Cabal) in the rain without her cloak to “feel the hot rain flow over her skin”. She beat on the door and the old brown-cloaked alchemist let her inside.

Fauna: “I need some Neutralize Poison potions, as many as you have!”

He looked her up and down with a critical and doubting eye. She was in an expensive tailored robe, which was also filthy, and somewhat worn and spotted with tears, burns, etc. Her shabby appearance filled him with doubt. However, she always had the funds in the past so he checked his stock.

Wensaer [suffering slight tremors]: “I believe I have just two vials.”

Fauna [holding out a handful of emeralds]: “Oh well, all I have is these to pay. It’s enough right?”

Soon after leaving the shop, the old alchemist tried to sell her up on more potions but she got what she was looking for, Fauna passed by the northern tip of the grove where the stone circle stood. Here, she spotted someone in bright yellow robes and a shining green sash spinning wildly at the center of the monoliths shouting incoherently. She recognized the resident tender of the grove, Anishi. She approached her strange friend with some concern but as soon as he saw her, he stopped.

Anishi: “Ah! Little sister, come experience visions with me and let us gaze into the sky and stars!”

 Anishi pulled out a small clay vial of yellow lotus and offered her some. She of course snorted some of the potent powder. Suddenly, he grabbed her by the temples and said, “I can help you see!” The vision came suddenly, a violent trip through a stone walled labyrinth but she was too disoriented to memorize the path she was shown. Then a sudden turn and a pair of heavy old bronze doors fly open revealing a high pile of gold coins and atop that a gold throne and upon it, a dried out corpse with a gold crown on its grinning skull. Her mind was slowly drifting into the hollows of its sad empty eye sockets.

Over the next 2 days, Excor developed the See the Invisible spell using the makeshift lab the group had set up in Fauna’s rental, where they were all currently staying. Additionally, Szoo began crafting the tooth he had extracted from a Wher (Cabal of Eight I pt. 35: The Black Pillars), into a rod of cone of fire (Cone of Energy (Fire)) dubbed the “fire fang”.

Later, Szoosha went to a Sapphire Guild magic shop to get his blue dragon eye put into a glass ball (Cabal of Eight I pt. 28: Wagons & Dragon) on the evening of the second day. It was the first step in making it into a magic scry item.  Later that evening, hearing Szoo’s outrage at the guild prices, Excor dropped the rose marble Scrying Pool (Cabal of Eight I pt. 41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1) from his bag of holding (he had long since transferred it from his portable hole) next to the alchemy lab.

Cris: “Here, just use this to scry!”

Isis: “But I’m an elementalist! I don’t have the scry skill or the spell! I NEED it on an ITEM!”

Cris [shrugging]: “Oh well.”

The next day – 14th of Monsoon. Fauna finally stumbled in through the door at dawn, soaking wet and in desperate need of sleep. Consequently, she immediately stripped, as her clothes were drenched. Then after trying to wash herself in the empty scrying pool, she stumbled without a word into her room and shut the door. Meanwhile Excor and Szoo were just finishing a simple breakfast of thick porridge and stale bread. Then there was an authoritative pounding at the front door. So, Excor opened it to find a checkered knight standing before him with a wanted poster in hand.

Checkered Knight [thrusting a wanted poster into Excor’s face]: “Have you seen this man? He’s a mage named Gornix! He was said to be sleeping in this place!”

Excor mumbled and eventually relented when, suspicious from his nervous mincing (he natural 1’d the bluff), they demanded to search the place for their quarry. Szoosha tried to get in the way and protest but he also only helped to fuel their suspicions (Natural 1 bluff). Thus the checkered knight muscled his way in past the Naga and a group of six city-guards followed him in. That was when a very naked and still wet Fauna wandered in cursing the noise. The checkered knight was morally outraged, which became a palpable discomfort when the druidess refused to clothe herself and insisted on “keeping an eye” on the law enforcers. Hence, the search was brief. Failing to find Gornix, the guards left.

Isis: “Geesh, I thought the checkered knights all left!”

Cris: “I guess some stayed behind, the White Swan/Black Knight…Sir Illin, is still here hunting Gornix’s butt down.”

Later that same day, Excor went to Babia’s apothecary to pick up some smoking herb and maybe some info. Consequently, he wound up buying some special order leftovers. It was real dark and pungent with purple petals mixed in. Babia also told him that yellow lotus was scarce lately as the resident tender of the grove kept cleaning her out of stock. He always paid in gold coins however. Thus, she showed Excor one of the strange old coins; it was a single sided stamped coin of pure gold with a spiral knot design stamped onto the face. On his way out of the shop, Babia warned Excor that there were many sailors stuck in the city because of the storm; a lot of captains had laid off non-essential crew so “watch out!”

The following day, the 15th of Monsoon, Fauna caught up to her friend, the caretaker of the grove, Anishi.

Anishi: “Your vision! Did you see it! We are in a HOLY place!”

Fauna: “Hey! You wouldn’t know where I could find an alchemist that would sell me some potion formulas would you?”

Anishi: “Well. I am a skilled alchemist, I’m pretty sure. Don’t worry, I can get my hands on just about any ingredient regardless of the expense … as long as it’s necessary for the welfare of the brotherhood.”

Cris: “Dude is sitin’ on some cash!”

Fauna: “Yeah, I guess, um, are you going to back Vor Jetl for um, leader, er, high priest of the cult…brotherhood?”

Anishi: “Him? Well, he already submitted your name to me for consideration! You have some influential backers for some reason little sister. I hope you survive the trials amongst your competitors to lead us!”

Fauna: “Wait what?”

So to ease her mind Fauna left and bought a silk scarf embroidered with flowers off a cart for 50 gold pieces. The rest of the mages were either busy or busy resting for the entirety of the next day as on the 17th they had a cabal meeting at the Red Helm.

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.9: Merchant Boxing

It was early morning, already the sun was beating down upon the dead yellow dirt, and Afheesh the ratling merchant chestQuickling was beginning to feel trapped. After a forced march around the parade ground and a breakfast of fruit, veggies, and bread in the mess, Afheesh (played by yours truly) went to the bursar. He collected the previous day’s pay, 95 bronze thorns (pay was 100 but there was the 5% Mezcor tithe). Subsequently, he spent the rest of the morning atop the thorns above the gates spotting for incoming caravans.

Only ratlings were assigned the battlements over the gates as the Thorn Crown had grown over the ramparts ages ago leaving only small tunnels through the winding thorny vines. Moreover, the thorns acted as an additional cover for those manning the hidden crenulations of the gate. Therefore, it allowed the guards, armed with darts and some with crossbows, to fire with impunity on any enemies without the gates. It was also horribly cramped, suffocating, and filthy not unlike the hovels of Thorn-runner ratlings that subsisted within the confines of the thorns surrounding the city.

There was bird mess everywhere, not only the white and black-purple of their droppings streaking the woody vines but clumps of flea-infested feathers, filthy nest litter, and the cacophony of chittering from above where the small birds would alight atop the thorny canopy. The most common birds there being pigeons and shirkes the latter of which were known to impale the uneaten portions of their prey, other smaller birds and rodents, on the thorns. It was getting near noon nearing the end of his shift when he spotted something of interest.

A Hill-Lander caravan pulled up to the south gates with three hill giants in escort. There were four covered wagons, two vardoes, and iron strongboxes chained atop each vardo. The giants and the faun and half-faun drivers were all well-equipped. Consequently, Afheesh was intrigued. As the caravan was allowed entry the ratling excused himself, the rest of the ratling guards were asleep anyway. He trailed the caravan as it made its way north towards the city center and Mezcor’s tower.

Mezcor’s black keep sits at the very center of the city like a single coffin nail holding all the requisite parts of the rotting box together through shear gravity. Every night the single round window at the top of the tower glows with candlelight that burns from behind the purple glass. A high black stone iron spike-topped wall bound it with a single bronze double gate in its southern face. The gates opened of their own accord at dusk revealing the white flagstones at the threshold the engraved message warning “step not beyond the white stones trespasser”. It was here that traveling merchants could expect to toss their tribute lest they incur Mezcor’s curse.

The Hill-landers were evidently confused that the gates were closed. For a brief second Afheesh had considered fleecing them in the name of Mezocr as he strode up to the caravan leader in his guard uniform. However, he was no fool and Mezcor’s curse had proven itself true at an alarmingly constant rate. He kicked one of the giant’s in the toe to gain their attention.

Afheesh (to the lead driver): “What’s this now? Looks like you guys need a surprise inspection!”

The Lead Driver (exasperated): “Hey! We already paid our way in an’a’ gave a little sometin’ o’ tha guards!”

Afheesh (lying in a surprisingly convincing way): “That was for the South Gate guards what about those that secure this road for you?”

The First Giant (his ultra-baritone voice vibrating the ratling’s bones): “Didn’t I jes see ya come from ta gate back dare?”

Afheesh (apparently, he’s a good liar): “No.”

The Lead Driver (with a frustrated sigh): “Okay, here’s some coin…”

Afheesh (cutting him off): “No, give me a bottle of that famous Hill-Lander booze!”

With a sneer, the driver tossed the ratling a bottle of whiskey; it had been previously opened but was still mostly full. Consequently, the little extortionist tucked his prize in his belt and kept a tiny-clawed hand on it at all times.

Afheesh: “Now you lot make sure you pay the proper tithe to Mezcor at dusk!”

The hill-landers all shook their heads in both agreement and realization. Meanwhile, the ratling snatched a good look at their strongboxes and figured the locks though high quality looked easy enough for a crowbar to break or Wufcor to pick. He took his leave and high-tailed it to look for his crew. He intercepted them on their way to one of many taverns. Soon they were back at the warehouse conspiring together.

About an hour later, the ruthless trio found their way to the local market where the Hill-lander caravan had set up shop. Pabst (played by Jenn) strutted over to the merchant. She was going to try to work her charms on the goat-man.

Jenn (to me the plan-maker): “I don’t know why I’m supposed to charm the guy. I can just intimidate them…”

Me: “No! We need a distraction!”

Isis (Wufcor’s player): “Yeah sis! We’re trying to avoid a fight!”

Jenn: “My intimidate is better than my charm.”

Isis: “Nooo.”

She swished over to the head merchant who was eyeballing her suspiciously. Subsequently, Afheesh and Wufcor remained hidden in the shadows of the alley across the way from the shop stalls. Pabst began to work her magic.

The Hill-Lander Merchant: “Get away you ugly wh*#@! We’ll deal with your kind when we get ta da livery tonight! Maybe one a’ these giants would want you! Haw, haw, haw!”

So she decked him.

Isis face-palmed.

Meanwhile Afheesh stripped off his guard uniform and hid it in a trash-barrel. The Hill-Lander merchant cocked his fist back aiming the blow right at Pabst’s face.

The Merchant (just before smashing his fist into Pabst’s nose): “Aw an’ here I thought ya Poisonwood folk were tough!”

Wufcor darted to the stands followed by Afheesh. Her nose bleeding Pabst threw another punch at the merchant opening a cut along his cheekbone. The merchant circled from around his table and popped her good in the jaw. They were now facing off like a pair of street boxers. The crowd including guards gathered round to watch.

Afheesh began to walk nonchalantly towards the tent-back of the hill-lander stall where he believed the strongboxes were located playing it off as if he were watching the brawl. Pabst started talking smack to the merchant then she nearly tripped over her own feet when she went to throw a punch. The merchant tried to take advantage throwing a body blow her way but she knocked his hairy-knuckled fist to the side.

Meanwhile, a large group of gang members, the Roaches, flooded into the area attracted by the chaos and inched their way to towards the stall. Afheesh unawares cut a slash in the tent fabric and rolled into the stall. Outside the stall, the merchant threw a wild punch missing Pabst by a wide margin. Pabst swung and the merchant caught her arm in a clinch. Both fighters were in bad shape, panting, bleeding, and barley standing. The crowd roared for blood. Afheesh looked at the two strongboxes noticing the largest had runic markings over its outer shell. Wufcor rolled in and shimmied to the Quickling’s side.

The merchant caught Pabst in a grapple getting her in a tight headlock. She struggled as hard as she could but his iron grip held her skull fast. That was when Afheesh noticed that the two Roaches standing at the counter had spotted him and Wufcor. They were human, probably street rats and/or thugs maybe thieves. After a few moments of an improvised hand-signal-thieves’-cant back and forth between the ratlings and the Roaches a deal for their silence was worked out. Wufcor then picked the lock easily (Natural 20 picklock check) but immediately struck by an electrical bolt emanating from the runes on the chest. Fortunately, by chance, the crowd had roared at the exact same time concealing any noise.

The crowd groaned as the merchant locked in a chokehold on Pabst’s neck and she went limp her nose exploding as the vessels succumbed to the pressure.

Wufcor (after spotting the result of the brawl): “Oh boy! Time to go!”

Wufcor snatched two full bags from the chest and darted away. Afheesh threw a couple of signals at the pair of Roaches meaning to have them pick up and carry Pabst to the nearest alleyway. He then snatched up the last two full sacks, ran from the back of the canopy, and made his way around as stealthily as possible heading right for the nearest alley.

The ratling’s heart shot up into his eyes when he heard, “Stop THIEF!” He glanced over his sack-laden shoulder and saw that the bleeding and shaken Merchant had spotted him, by pure chance, as he was being taken back to the tent on a pair of his guards’ shoulders. Immediately the three hill-giants roared in unison and the ground began to thunder with their charge.

It took some minutes for the ratling to evade his gigantic and very fast pursuers. However, taking sudden sharp turns and ducking under obstructions that for the most part, the giants had to burst through did the trick. After he was sure that he had lost all three of his pursuers, he circled back around careful to stay in the narrowest of alleys until he was sure he had arrived where he had said he would meet the pair of street rats. He heard a faint whistle and saw the pair of Roaches with Pabst’s unconscious body leaned against a filthy brick wall.

The ratling swiftly checked the sacks; one filled with silver pieces and the other with bits of tanzanite. He tossed them the tanzanite sack and took charge of his friend. The Roaches with which the ratling had canted with gave his name as Neezik. He wasted no time in beating it to the warehouse careful should someone be following. When he met back up with Wufcor he found that the Canny-Jack had a sack of gold pieces and one of quartz.

The split, with Pabst included (she was still out), was 66 gold pieces, 20 quartz, and 166 silver pieces.

Jenn: “Yeah you guys better cut me in!”

The sun was down and the crew put their money away. It was time to decide what to do and where to go for the night.

Suddenly the boards blocking the front entrance smashed down with a crash and blast of dust. Standing in the door are Neezik and an uncountable number of the Roaches street gang. Afheesh dashed to the rear door just in time for those boards to come crashing down. A Mantck ratling wielding paired cutlasses stood in his way. The Quickling could hear dozens of feet outside around the building and dozens more climbing the outside walls and even feet clattering over the top of the roof. Pabst had just come to and both she and Wufcor tried to hide.

Jenn: “Damn! I’m still at K-O POINTS!”

Isis: “Yeah, I’m really bad right NOW! That bolt almost killed ME!”

To Be Continued…

Genera #1: Clergy Class Spellcasting List

For a while now a few people have asked for a spell list. A list that those playing Clerics, Paladins, Priests, andspellcasting list for clergy characters other Clergy Class characters with spellcasting abilities can use. So, I have come up with a very general spell list conveniently sub-categorized into levels.

Genera will consist of requested material and various self-contained excisions from published material that would not otherwise see the light of day. Click the link below to download the PDF via the Mediafire website.

The Clergy Class Spell List – 596k

This file can also be had via the Dice & Glory Players League on FB as well in the Files section.

RPG War Mastery #7: On Medieval Fantasy Warfare

Both armies are at a standoff across the field of battle, bright banners flap in the slight breeze, the noon sun glints from the gleaming razor tips of spears and the blades of swords and axes. The dread war-engines vibrate the ground as they’re wheeled into position. Catapults, ballistae, and scorpions are readied. The shouts of the sergeants echo up and down the opposing lines and the frontlines begin advancing towards each other.

Suddenly, choruses of hideous roars tear the skies as a group of dragon-riders surge from the horizon swooping over one side and laying waste to the other. Soldiers desperately try to protect themselves with their tower shields and spears in small bristling testudoes. The earth begins to shake beneath the soldiers’ feet frightening the flanks on both sides loosening their formations. The opposing side, victims of the dragon-riders, opens its middle and a tight cluster of stone golems thunder towards the armored heart of their foe.

As the golems crush their way into the enemy’s ranks, the dragons peel off and strafe the stone monsters with fire barely slowing them down. The warriors of each army crash together in a wave of blood and iron their champions leading. A small squad from the dragon-riders’ side engages the golems with a barrage of acid grenades forged by a mercenary alchemist. Both charging sides meet and the momentum breaks like a wave of blood with the deafening clash of steel and shrieks of dying men. From this blood tide, the champions emerge finally meeting in the middle of the chaos and duel to the death for their respective side and causes.

Fireballs and lightning called down from the heavens by war-wizards at the rear ranks of both armies add to the deafening cacophony. Just then, another smaller cadre of dragons darts into the fray above to engage the enemy dragons. The new comers are less in number but with them comes an enormous blue-black dragon complete with a small crew of riders on his back armed with crossbows, lances, alchemical grenades, and other nasty droppers. The sky darkens with smoke, fire blasts, arrows, and large projectiles as the battlefield spreads from horizon to horizon.

It is total chaos, this battle will be devastating and lay waste the battlefield and most of the surrounding territory which may lay fallow for at least a century after. It’s also cool looking and really gives the Player Characters (PCs) and the Game-Master (GM) multiple opportunities to shine.

The Fantasy Battlefield is a spectacle to behold and its aftermath a tragedy to mourn. It provides the opportunity for the full exercise of strategic thinking, high drama, and innovation. As well as providing potentially spectacular set pieces for the GM. In a fantasy setting, when war occurs it is probable a scene very much like that described above will play out with only the scale varying.

That is because if one side is able to obtain a special and powerful weapon the other side, if it has a competent intelligence network, will find out about it before the fighting. Thus, they will rush to enact countermeasures and try to get their hands on either the same type of weapon or anything else of a similar power level. Of course, this will cause an arms race if the other side is equal in espionage. In addition, if actual world history is any evidence when a weapon or strategic advantage becomes available, it will be used even if just once. In the very least, all the contemporary powers will seek it out vigorously.

There are many reasons to implement large battles and carry out war in a fantasy roleplaying game despite the complications to the Game-Master and the possibility of loss on the Player-Characters’ side of things.

War in game terms is a storyline drawn from a series of confrontations including from the political and not just the combat side involving at least two opposing powers. Within this blob of mass confrontations and tangle of story lines is Mass Combat. Mass Combat is more a technical term to describe mechanics that come into play during instances of combat between at least two large masses of characters. During Mass Combat military units (groups of individuals, typically faceless mook type NPCs) engage in combat where the PCs act as champions or sometimes as complete units unto themselves.

Note that Mass Combat mechanics may not be included in some game systems and those that do will vary greatly in how they function. Therefore, any direct or specific mechanical references will be avoided and more general terms and ideas will be favored in this article.

With the basic mechanical ideas of Mass Combat and Combat Units GMs can begin to construct the spectacle of fantasy warfare. As stated before a battlefield, especially if the battle is a big one, is a remarkable sight when gleaming armies face off not to mention when the fantasy elements come into play adding even more spectacle to the fray. These elements are the true fireworks that really make the set piece unique often involving any one of the Big Four by themselves or in combination.

The Big Four

The Big Four refers to the four major weapons on the field of fantasy warfare: dragons/dragon-riders, golems/constructs, wizards/magic-users, and the undead. Dragons/Dragon-Riders are the super weapon on the field whether they themselves are conscripts, generals, or mounts with a rider or crew. They are a game changer on the field and prompt all sorts of countermeasures and strategies. Golems/Constructs are another super-weapon but one that is most useful against enemy ranks and walls. They are very difficult to obtain and may actually be harder than dragons to get. Golems are more equipment or war-machine than soldier and used thus.

On the other hand, Spell-casters on the field can implement any number of weird and highly powerful strategies using a wide array of magical abilities. These are the easiest of the four to obtain typically serving a mercenary or allied role though they may have their own reasons for joining an army on the march. Spell slinging against the opposite side and summoning forth new and terrible foes for the enemy is their primary battlefield strategy. They can also double as espionage and information gathering agents through their magical abilities. Secondary roles depend on the spell caster’s repertoire such as any healing abilities allowing the mage to run battlefield triage.

The last of the big four are the undead. These often being a part of certain forces popularly considered evil or the full ranks of certain villain types like dark lords, liches, and powerful necromancers. Undead forces typically consist of reanimated corpses or skeletons that can function on the battlefield as warriors and with the ability to take at least simple commands. However, they are often of a weaker type of undead and thus are somewhat weaker than the average soldier is.

The primary strategy of such units is always to overwhelm with numbers and rely on the relentlessness of the undead as they never fatigue or tire. The average leader of one of these units is usually a stronger type of undead though often not of an exceptional level. However, Priests or Paladins (holy warriors) that have certain powers that directly counter undead creatures are a common element that opposes these types of units. They are usually also a part of worlds where these types of creatures run common as a form of universal balance.

Logistics for an undead force are somewhat simplified as they do not get fatigued, they will not starve or die of thirst, and inclement weather has to be severe in order to stall or endanger them. However, in a snowstorm they can freeze solid if they have flesh. Under a hot sun or in dank humid weather, their flesh can rot from their bones. These concerns can make certain types of undead such as zombies less of a threat under specific weather conditions.

Local resistance may be easily directed against a force of undead moving through specific areas. This includes certain religious forces that may have no real interest in the ongoing struggle other than to vanquish the walking blasphemy of the undead. Disease is also a concern when dealing with a diverse army that consists of living and dead forces, as is the predation of the dead upon the living. In addition, those unfortunate enough to be in the way of that force’s path whether allied or not might suffer or die without necessarily being a direct target.

The Big Four are by no means the only exceptional things on the fantasy battlefield.  There are also the humanoid powerhouses, which seem on the surface to be more appropriate as powerful soldiery or heavy infantry. This would include such creatures as orcs, trolls, ogres, giants, among others. These may be easier to recruit and maybe to maintain than the Big Four but they would primarily be soldiers and may have certain restrictions imposed on them depending on the setting. Aside from the usual Dark Lord, they may be completely unavailable due to the darkness of their monstrous hearts and even blacker souls (again depending on the setting).

These are not included in the Big Four as they are definitely a remarkable sight but they function much as standard soldiery with perhaps ballistic capability like a hybrid field piece (i.e. giants). Along with the powerhouse-humanoids on the fields of fantasy combat are the unconventional technology and strategies inspired by actual history and that produced by alchemy.

Alchemical Fire

Alchemy is the formulation and creation of certain meta-magical substances through a means that is a mix between modern chemistry and ancient mysticism, a lesser form of magic. The products that alchemy can produce aside from its historical focus on converting lead to gold can be useful on the battlefield though they would be expensive and in short supply. Alchemical substances such as napalm, phosphorous, fumes (gases), acids, naphtha, and black powder are especially of note. If an army is using even one of these as ammunition, they would require the alchemist(s) to tag along and replace spent ammo and to consult on countermeasures against enemy alchemical warfare. Note that alchemical ammunition could be jars, pots, or glass bulbs filled with chemicals launched from catapults even small clay-vessel grenades.

Alchemy only requires an alchemist and raw materials to produce the items and substances required by the commander. The alchemists themselves may or may not be mages depending on the system although typically mages will also have the ability to create these substances as well. These alchemists cannot only create gases, acids, napalm, and alchemical grenades but may also produce chemicals and drugs that could conceivably create alchemical super-soldiers by enhancing the common soldiery. However, this sort of strategy always comes with inherent risk and severe costs.

These costs inherent to alchemically enhanced soldiers being such things as drastically shortened lives, the risk of berserk units going on uncontrollable rampages, and even weirder effects such as soldiers just spontaneously combusting. Magical mutation and random transformations are also a possible side effect. Alchemists may also produce drugs that have very similar effects to those found in the real world and whose side effects only become noticeable in the long term sometimes long after the combat is over (for example: the German Military in WWII). This brings us to black powder.

Black powder in a medieval context would most likely be in the forms of low yield bombs or grenades. Explosives would be the domain of sappers and those seeking to undermine enemy fortifications. More advanced approaches to gunpowder would be the use of primitive match-lit guns (probably hand-cannons and fire-lances) and cannons but these would be impossible to aim and run the risk of explosion. Not to mention they would be very expensive even if there were a skilled enough engineer/armorer that could forge an effective and safe artillery piece. However, monster-sized cannonry could be a shocking set piece for an epic siege; a historical example being the Dardanelles Gun.

After massive bombards, rockets seem to be the next phase in technical superiority but again in a medieval setting if they exist then they will be expensive to produce and impossible to aim once fired. The main task would be to find the metalworker skilled enough to make the tube. These would be a fine counter to enemy dragons but the risk of explosion at ignition might balance that advantage to a certain extent. The forms of these rockets would range from fire arrows to the top technical achievement of iron-cased rockets. Given the ability to carry an alchemical payload, they could be more effective than those found in actual ancient history.

Heavy reliance on alchemical munitions and/or potions adds an alchemist and his entourage plus mobile equipment and laboratory to the logistics. Their wagon and any additional supply vehicles would become targets and the expense to maintain the alchemist’s mobile lab and supplies would be significant. However, do not discount the inventiveness of ancient unconventional warfare. Poisoned arrows, scorpions & poisonous snakes in large clay vessels or diseased corpses launched by catapult, warbeasts like elephants, and psychological attacks (severed heads of prisoners catapulted over city walls) increase battlefield options and are inspired by history. Just note that these tactics are a supplement to conventional warfare and tactics, not replacements.

Steam Punkery & Clockwork

With alchemists featuring on the field of fantasy warfare, clockwork and steam power warrant some discussion. Clockwork technology requires a power source (springs are possible for smaller clockwork), which could be magical but would also require advanced math for the engineering, tools, and skills to construct the parts. Similarly, steam technology would require a heat source and the storage capacity of the water required and the steam as well as well as the plumbing and knowledge of the pressures involved. Again, expensive, accidental explosions are possible, and an advanced knowledge of engineering is required for large enough engines, jets, etc. to be viable engines of war.

These limits do make it a rarity in medieval settings and more fit for Victorian era or even renaissance set campaigns but this type of technology can be possible with magic-users just not on an industrial level. The power source is probably magic or draconic in nature so still magic or at least relying on a magical power source to produce steam or electricity in order to make the machinery parts function. Making steam and larger clockwork weapons and vehicles the purview of hybrid spell casters, those that somehow have a solid knowledge of certain sciences like physics, math, and engineering as well as arcane ability. This fact alone probably makes them a rarity in any world where science and magic do not exist together in equal portion.

Steam-tech and clockwork make lower tech versions of modern weapons and vehicles possible such as tanks, cannons, and rockets – maybe even robot-like constructs but below the level of the Golem Army; steam powered war chariots, steam cannons, steam jets or even certain aircraft such as blimps or hot air balloons. All even in limited or singular quantity would be invaluable to a battlefield commander. Note that hot air balloons may be more in reach than the other examples.

This type of magical technology is not only out of place in a medieval battlefield but would be a massive surge forward in technology even if the source may be magical/alchemical. The apparatus and machinery operating on the steam from the source requires expert engineering and a high level of metalworking and forging. Essentially, the friendly neighborhood blacksmith and even armorer will not have the skill, knowledge, nor tools available to craft the highly engineered parts required not to mention the skills to design them. Powers acquiring such war-tech will make those with the skills and ability to create such things of extremely high value both as targets and as assets even if they are unwilling.

Once this type of technology rolls out onto the battlefield the culture itself would go into violent convulsions and types of confrontations not possible before may become commonplace such as rebellions among the peasantry and merchant classes, religious organizations that may hold vast wealth obtaining such technology, nobility being supplanted by technocracy, etc. What is sure is that if the technology is not “lost” in some fashion it will propagate and irreversibly alter your world in a few decades.

The other drawback is that a lone engineer, wizard, or alchemist probably will not have the skills, power, and resources to create more than a single clockwork or steam-powered type weapon which even though very valuable as a secret weapon or weapon of terror is very little use as a true weapon of war. This would also make them extremely expensive as well as requiring the development of certain resources to occur before they are even a possibility.

Why War?

The reasons to include war in your worlds and campaigns is manifold, the few mentioned previously in other parts of this series are the main benefits that apply to the GM and the PCs. There are diegetic reasons however; these are the reasons war might spring up organically due to conditions and elements in the fantasy world itself. The first is Good vs. Evil (GvE) of course true battles between to the two forces means that the campaign world exists in a Manichean universe. However, this GvE struggle does not have to be actual just the participants have to believe that they are the good guys and their opponents the bad.

Another prime motive for war is piratical. War solely for the purpose of the plunder and glory it will yield regardless of the price. Unscrupulous warriors, commanders, and politicians may want to participate just for the shear thrill and fun. This reason for war is reliant mostly on the greed of the participants but includes other more emotional motives not laser focused on one goal but harnessed in order to fuel the war effort.

War for profit and land is similar to the piratical reasons though with intentions to settle, occupy, or otherwise take ownership of them against the indigenous peoples’ will transforms piratical aims into Conquest. Another goal in this vein may be to secure a stream of revenue or eliminate a penalty (i.e. tax/tariff) on your goods exported to the targeted lands this being known as Imperialism. These last two, Conquest and Imperialism, can get a little dicey when roleplaying through them especially when sorting through the justifications for such but the role-play drama potential is also very high.

In addition, in medieval settings war for the securing of power and/or eliminating the competition may erupt frequently. Similarly, civil wars or wars of ascension may occur in large scale within or between certain countries. Smaller wars could breakout between nobility as well for any of the previously stated reasons including wars of pure ego and even ritualistic war. Religiously motivated war is also a factor especially where there is an entrenched religious power.

Religion can add an ugly side to any war regardless of the reasons and motivations behind it but certain religious powers may also ignite wars for purely religious reasons. These may be to convert nonbelievers or eliminate them or to combat a rival religious power. This is especially true when it comes to Crusades. All of these, if not initially, tend to feature or evolve to include strong profit motives very similar to piratical warfare but this cause can rapidly evolve into something even more insidious when philosophy becomes ideology in order to justify it.

War Master

Aside from the opportunity for strategy and high drama, there are other values to the GM of Fantasy Warfare in their campaigns. Set piece battles can give the events a sense of increasing scale and put the PCs through a trial by fire. They can also allow the PCs to be innovative and allow them to think strategically.

To bring in a sense of scale a GM should begin with standard medieval style battles and gradually move towards the high fantasy by gradually adding the fantasy elements as they increase in scope. This elevates a standard battle scene making each new fight a bigger spectacle especially if there have been previous battle scenes, it gives the GM a place to go that still elevates the action. It also grounds the action before it starts to become fantastical. To do this a GM needs to start gritty and small making the ruin of the post-battle field evident early on. Then escalate with increasing numbers and ever more present and inventive war engines and have known and beloved NPCs die in the fighting to heighten drama and the sense of risk.

Bring in the surprise elements of high fantasy (the Big Four) as the twist in the bigger battles and build the suspense of what will appear on the field for the next. By this time, the risk to valued NPCs should be evident, the stakes should be high to match the massive spectacle, and the Players by now should be able to fill in the devastation built on the vivid pictures of the comparatively smaller tragedies.

The larger battles including the final one can as set pieces widen the scope of the game world. They can deepen the souls of its characters through trial by fire with those burnt suffering the deepest test of their characters. This intensity should come in the later/last battles. However, all battles should inspire some sort of innovation on the part of the PCs. They could use their skills and character knowledge/powers to invent new modes of war or defense. The PCs should at least try to strategize and think about their resources. They may need to seek out new resources or gather their existent monies to finance invention maybe built on plans that they have cultivated.

What about the Adventurers?

Speaking of Players and their characters, why wouldn’t a warring faction have need of them? Are not reputed adventurers themselves a sort of weapon, though often unpredictable, on the battlefield that can swing the fortunes of war on a whim? PCs should be assumed to be heading an army or allied much like individual magic-users. They may be a part of the army because they have similar interests or other secret motives. A small unit of famous adventurers is probably more valuable as a scouting unit, recruiters, espionage unit, and/or flank guards for important command units in the rear or middle ranks.

Adventurers that are not valued or are being mishandled can find themselves in the front ranks as skirmishers. Nevertheless, if the PCs are not in any command positions then wide scale battle simply turns into a nerve-racking bore with a mindless hackfest to follow. Granted the group can maneuver on the field to hit what they see as relevant targets in the course of the battle possibly bringing some attention to themselves. This proving themselves on the field may warrant a promotion to better positions later.

Conclusion

When implementing fantasy warfare in your games keep in mind the implications of fantastical munitions, weapons, warbeasts, and the arms race it can spark. Do not forget historical ancient unconventional warfare either. Also, learn the major strategies and logistics involved in the Big Four or any special units that will be involved and give the PCs plenty of opportunity to be affected by and to affect the outcome including when they are on the losing side. Though the in-game political climate and economic reasons may contribute to the cause of war, the primary motivations for powers to engage in it are often limited to fighting “evil”, for plunder, or conquest/imperialism.

The fantasy tropes of the battlefield (the Big Four) have their strengths and weaknesses though their advantages may outweigh their burdens vastly. It seems the best countermeasure against an enemy with even one of these heavy hitters at their disposal is to get one of your own. Essentially if one side has a good enough intelligence network or if they suffer a single defeat at the feet of one to these super-weapons then they will desperately seek to not only sabotage and undermine their enemy’s efforts but begin their own to match force for force. This can be interesting in that it will set off a magic medieval arms race; a very interesting prospect indeed.

The GM can use war to enhance their fantasy campaign by using it in escalating portions, induce player innovation, and as a set piece in the campaign to put exclamation marks at the desired points. According to my brief and shallow research on the subject, just about half of campaigns incorporate Mass Combat and warfare at least some of the time. Maybe it is time for more GMs and their groups to explore the gaming potential of fantasy warfare.

RPG War Mastery #6: War Wizardry

The siege-lines stand expectantly the earthworks finished and the bulwarks fully manned. The walls of theChess wizard small stone fortress stand tall against them though surrounded by the enemy’s vastly superior force. For now all there is is time to wait, to wait for a breach in the walls or main gates should the enemy sappers be successful or for those within to starve if her constable were ill prepared. Suddenly without warning several fireballs streak from between the crenelations at the top of the curtain walls blasting the carefully built lines into a confused screaming mass of rubble and fire. The castle’s wizard has only just begun.

Wizards, or more generically mages, are another major issue on the fantasy battlefield to take into account when thinking about mass combat in RPGs. Since the early days of fantasy Wargaming, wizards have been included as valuable and powerful combat units though mainly as artillery pieces dressed in robes. As roleplaying-games advanced so did the magical powers of the wizard making them very powerful units on the battlefield and in support roles. They have always been a feature of the fantasy arena of war. However, the popular fantasy archetype has appeared the antithesis of this.

Popularly wizards (mages in general) in archetypal terms appear as very old men with long beards or young boys or girls that are as skilled as their rank of apprentice would imply. However, a mage at their peak of physical ability, say late teens to early 60’s maybe older depending on the setting, would actively seek out powers to align with often simply to advance their material needs. After all, magic is often an expensive endeavor even though you may be practicing it for purely personal reasons. In times of war, a mage might seek out or make overtures to a political power also out of selfish aims. In addition, serving a powerful leader may be the fast track for high ambitions.

Mages & Magic

In the most basic of terms, a wizard or mage is a magic user. That is they can cast spells and wield magic in the game. Depending on the game system you are using the details (especially the names) may vary wildly. However, for the purposes of this article Wizards are magic-users meaning that they are capable of casting spells.

Similarly, for the limits of this piece, magic is the wielding of supernatural power unexplainable via the natural world or science in any direct terms and is separate from religion. Any game related additions to this are simply not considered since the number of game rule systems out there is innumerable. So when it comes to magic and spells these will be discussed in general terms getting as specific as one can without relying on specific sets of rules or even direct abstract guidelines (i.e.: Power, Focus, Effect, etc.). The main concern is how the presence of a wizard alters the course of mass combat in a setting in a medieval type environment/world.

This essay will also assume certain points about wizards/mages to be true which are they can manipulate magic to a much higher degree than non-mages, they are generally physically more fragile than their fighter/soldier counterparts, and magic-users are generally reservoirs of esoteric or rare knowledge. The war wizard is also more of a Swiss army knife as compared to such super-weapons as dragon mounts or golems. They can fulfill more roles on the battlefield and in combat situations than just possessing greater firepower.

The Wizard at War

Deployed onto the battlefield, wizards can serve three basic military functions. These functions are as artillery, logistics operative, and battlefield intelligence.

As mystic artillery, a wizard hurls down spell fire onto the heads of the enemy. Spell fire being embodied by such effects and actions as hurling fireballs, calling down lightning and thunder, disintegrating specific targets as well as blasting enemy troops with wind, fire, water, ice, and light. Spell fire is the wizard’s specialty and possibly the most traditional role that they can play.

Once deployed into action however, a wizard serving as a living artillery piece is vulnerable to all of the dangers of the battlefield. Due to their frailness, this deployment strategy is unwise. Their low physicality is a definite liability on the field. The mage may even have protective spells or items on their person to make them more resistant in battle. However, if the enemy has any other supernatural weaponry or such technology as alchemy or clockwork (a la steampunk) available they may be able to take the mage out quite easily.

As magic-users are physically weaker than even a mundane peasant is, they may need fitting transportation such as a carriage or comfortable wagon. They will require spell components and possibly a lot of preparation time along with a sufficient salary to both prepare and for services rendered making them somewhat expensive for the war effort.

Nevertheless, Wizards may be at their most dangerous when behind walls and atop battlements and bulwarks. Here, they have the best protection from projectiles and opposing spell fire as well as gaining high ground advantages and a better view of the entire field. This is especially evident when a mage is at the top of a tower, a very archetypal place for them to be. The location most advantageous to a wizard is one protected and allowing for a wide range of view. This maximizes their potential, so having a wizard defending a fortress is the best default for a war mage.

Magical Logistics

Spell casters are also masters of military logistics due to their abilities of teleportation, weather control, summoning, and healing. Not all mages will have all of these abilities available at once but having even one of these at their disposal is a godsend to a military commander.

When it comes to teleportation, teleporting even small squads behind enemy lines or enemy fortifications are highly useful in making sabotage runs and night raids to weaken opposing positions. Even if this is limited to the teleportation of an individual, then teleporting messengers back and forth to improve the communications network is top priority. Having the superior communication network is a prime concern of any army and the wider and faster it can relay messages the better reaction time to any action the enemy takes.

Weather control is also indispensable since surprise fog banks can stall the enemy and grant cover to your forces for surprise attacks. Bad weather can stall out and even decimate enemy troops and encampments (think the Russian winter of 1812 and Napoleon). Even the manipulation of the weather in relatively small areas can have an immense impact such as clearing out a small patch of the battlefield for a special squad, for targeting, or causing a flashflood by concentrating rain in a small area further away thereby creating a nasty surprise disaster for the enemy. Clearing up bad weather can also speed an advance along even in the dead of winter.

Summoning monsters or additional forces even squads of mundane but vicious animals is of great use in surprise and harassment operations and on the immediate battlefield to help shore up the flanks, fortify weak spots in formations, or increase the momentum of a push against enemy lines.

Healing is not really an archetypal ability associated with wizards but they do have that potential. That is if they have access to healing magic then they can restore limbs, heal broken bones, or nearly fatal injuries thus helping to restore wounded soldiers to their units at a much faster pace than normal and reduce permanent casualties. In this capacity, they can also control disease, which can break out in battlefield triage facilities very easily as well as controlling infections that make wounds and battlefield surgeries so dangerous.

Again, this reduces casualties, increases turnaround, and prevents the breaking of the war machine by plague. The wizard in this capacity can also provide potions that can do much of this though on an individual basis helping to protect those of high rank and value without their presence being necessary allowing the mage to be active elsewhere.

Mystical Intelligence & Espionage Officer

The mystical abilities of scrying, sending out supernatural spies, and magical sabotage make the wizard at war even more valuable in the military intelligence role. Scrying, the visualization of actual events in a specific targeted area at a certain distance away, is invaluable for spying on the enemy and gathering intelligence as well as keeping an eye on your own troop movements. Witches of old were famed for using small vermin as spies, which allowed them to hear or see at a distance these usually being spiders, bats, or rats. Again, this is very useful for gaining intelligence.

Likewise, a mage can also try to limit what an enemy caster can see and hear as well as trying to manipulate their spies not to mention the intentional dispersion of false information and visions. This role can extend to espionage as well having the mage use magic to not only transmit or disguise (maybe even scramble) information for varying purposes but also to make direct attempts at sabotage against the enemy.

Mystical sabotage can take the forms of curses, inducing such things as falls or equipment failure, and sickening or killing beasts of burden as well as spoiling food supplies. This last fact alone should induce the enemy to hire on at least one wizard to help protect their forces and materiel against such long distance and devastating attacks versus which they may have no other effective defense.

Arcane Support

A role most mages fit into most naturally aside from intelligence and espionage when it comes to war is that of an active support unit. They can remain behind the lines or at least at camp and serve in a support role that still takes full advantage of their arcane skills and powers.

Along these lines, a mage can provide some of the best protection available, magical protection. Mages can cast lingering magic that protects against damage from siege engines, provide charms against enemy spells, and protect against such battlefield hazards as fire even acid or lightning bolts. This includes raising certain arcane defenses like magical force fields and triggered spells such as a lightning bolt firing off at an incoming dragon or griffin mounted air-cavalry from a tower spire.

This protective potential is probably most advantageous when used to protect or proof an important fortress. Encampments as well are potential wards of the protective wizard. A limited location that is typically fortified should be the focus of the protective role of the wizard. This includes mystical alarms and the ability to know when a perimeter, probably marked out by magic of course, is breached.

Esoteric Communications

The communications role of wizards is exceptionally vital. Communications is the nervous system of the whole war machine, its central control, how commanders steer it. Orders could be relayed in a matter of seconds over distances that would take days or even weeks using normal means of communication. This also means that forces could not be effectively cut-off without the intervention of an opposing magic user thus building in sensitivity to enemy magicians.

After all, if a part of your force suddenly goes dark and they possess arcane communication tools then an enemy wizard or other supernatural agent must be at work. Combining a wizard with mundane battlefield communications methods (trumpets, drums, flags, banners, etc.) can create a very advanced and reliable communication network almost rivaling the modern high tech versions maybe even surpassing them in some instances.

Not only the fantasy equivalent of a tactical radio set mages also serve as vast reservoirs of knowledge especially about other fantastical weapons of note. This may include the know how to build them, find them, or more importantly counter-act and destroy them. In this capacity, they may rely on their mystical communication abilities to link up to a special task force of adventurers trusted with gaining intelligence about, obtaining, destroying, or delaying a special weapon such as dragon riders or golems. In this respect, the mage essentially serves as the adventurers’ quest coordinator or in a military liaison/spy master capacity.

Necromancy

A certain type of mage bears discussion at this point, the necromancer. A necromancer is a magic user that can summon and speak to the spirits of the dead as well as manipulate and animate the dead sometimes able to even create undead creatures. They also occasionally have the wretched ability of manipulating and creating disease as well as the dark energies that provide this kind of power.

Necromancers can wage mystic bio-warfare, turn casualties into reinforcements, sap the will of the enemy to fight by weakening soldiers’ physical-ness or sickening them, and sending spirits to harass them at camp thereby denying them rest and peace of mind before a battle. Aside from being able to spread sickness and animate the dead necromancers can fulfill the intelligence aspect almost to a greater degree than most other wizards as traditionally they could summon and communicate with the spirits of the dead or at least speak with any corpses still capable of speech.

The known presence of such a spell caster on the field may lead the enemy to mutilate their dead to prevent the corpses from speaking and take drastic measures like trapping their souls in jars or gems (maybe using a legendary item) to prevent their spirits from being summoned. This action is extreme, can be construed as evil, and may have unintended consequences such as the rendering of your soldiers to soulessness and the potential for them to rise again as uncontrolled undead after being slain. Even releasing their soul may leave behind a confused ghost that eternally searches the old battlefield looking for their long lost corpse.

The bio-weapon aspect of necromancers, the spreading of disease even plague, is possibly the nastiest option in their dark armory. They could conceivably spread infection covertly amongst targets like cities and fortresses long before the conquering army gets there thereby weakening any resistance by vast degrees. It is a definite bonus if these diseases are magical and raise their victims from the dead as zombies or ghouls that the necromancer can control as well. However, that could get out of hand very quickly. In the same vein, the necromancer would need to provide their allies with an antigen to prevent their army from falling victim to the same sickness. Granted the allied army is not already an army of the dead that is.

The Lich and the Army of the Dead

In the same dark box as the necromancer, there is yet another even more dangerous and notorious magic user, the Lich. Liches, that traditional archenemy of fantasy adventurers, can turn out to be a valuable asset for the side employing them, cautiously mind you, if they themselves are not the core of the enemy leadership anyway. Liches can head an army, even if small, of undead creatures, useful in and of itself. This undead force may be resistant to most mundane attacks. Such undead wizards may also have the power to fulfill most of the roles that a war wizard could, maybe even have the power to take on roles that would take more than one average wizard at a time.

However, this legion of the undead may pose more of a hazard than an advantage and even may utterly devastate or contaminate the very lands you were hoping to conquer with dark energies. This is true whether the lich decides to stay loyal to any one side or not. They may very well turn on their allies in a heartbeat at the worst possible moment. Whenever a lich led army of the dead shows up on the battlefield, it is usually a very, very bad thing.

Counter Measures

Fret not, there are countermeasures to use against a wizard deployed onto the battlefield. The most obvious and easiest would be arrows and various missile weapons, which can target the mage from afar as well as those archers with exceptional skill that could act as snipers. Just like any soldier on the field an arrow can kill, maim, or at least disrupt a mage. However, note that a skilled wizard usually has some sort of defense already in place to defeat arrows and missile weapons. Of course, a good commander could try such things as leveling a ballista or catapult at them just to test their defenses. Barring arrow fire, protective magic and magic items can help to counter some of the enemy wizard’s spell fire and curses.

This applies to spells that a mage for hire may have cast, those items that comprise a quest’s MacGuffin, or something that only a specific mage NPC can provide. Again, a side quest for PCs appears where they must seek out a wizard in order to obtain some protective items or one really rare artifact. Note also that items to protect non-player individuals are important as well. An example being certain officers having protective fetishes to ward off disease, spirits, or certain magic spells.

However, the best option is to recruit (or conscript if possible) your own wizard who is hopefully just as if not more skilled and/or powerful than the opposition mage. Additionally, if you have the resources, hiring more than a single wizard is the best bet.

The only things that can counter spell-casters on the field besides archers, magic, and other casters are units that can get real close real fast such as assassins or ranger-types and other magic-users or just very mobile warriors. It is in the prudent general’s best interest to have at least two of the previous in their ranks. This is another reason to keep a wizard in a protected area such as at the top of a parapet.

Summary

Wizards have great potential despite their minimalist physicality on the fantasy battlefield. They are a powerful weapon, invaluable support unit, and indispensable intelligence provider. Their presence introduces complication into what can be a standard battle scenario. The opposition must respond in order to maintain the balance power (or terror in the case of necromancers and liches) on the field and even seek out mages as countermeasure against certain other ultimate weapons of the fantasy world.

Even though they are fragile and perhaps even sickly, wizards are the most flexible of the mystical super-weapons of fantasy warfare and often come equipped with more character than a phalanx of golems, a flight of dragon-mounts, or a legion of the undead (hopefully).