Vastlands ep.11 – The Fairy Roads

This session was actually shorter than most, unexpected work and travel caused people to come late, but it felt very dense afterwards – a lot happened! We finished with Gus’s great module, and explored another bit of strangeness in Dolmenwood: The Fairy Roads!

Passage – art installation by Cornelia Konrads

In Game

PCs present: Alette (Hunter 2), Estmund (Dolmenwood Knight 2), Prudence (Magic-User 3), Solvang (Magic-User 2).
NPCs: Fluff-Tail (Grimalkin 1)

We returned to the party at the base of the huge mechanical-magic contraption – an Armillary Sphere radiating magic. Solvang and Prue were fascinated by the magical object, and carefully examined the mechanics and engravings to work out it’s function. For long, agonising minutes Alette and Estmund stared at the shadow sphere and listened to the growls of the phantasms below it.

The magic-users discovered that the device was a self-described “engine of fate” that could determine a limited future. They guessed that it was part of what kept the Tyrant in the tower, and why he demanded to know the constellation in the crypt. But the argument grew heated. They wondered if it were possible to “fix” the undying tyrant and make him mortal again? Or perhaps use it to make themselves into undying masters of magic? Eventually Solvang prevailed as the voice of reason – they had no idea how this thing actually worked, and were more likely to do something monumentally dangerous rather than fix anything.

After all the investigation and arguments, the shadow-spell was beginning to fray, with wisps of shadow beginning to dissolve under the sunlight. The party unanimously decided to leave the device untouched, and climbed over the edge of the “crown” wall and down the side of the tower. Prue looked longingly back at the top of the tower “I’ll return for you.”

The party spent the next month in Drigbolton, resting and working. Alette went among the local sheep and cattle farmers and trained their dogs, earning some respectable coin from the eager farmers! Estmund spent more time getting to know the locals. He picked up the excitement amongst the locals for the annual cheese-fair, where people would come from all over to buy their cheeses. They were particularly proud of “The Baron” which was a special cheese reserved for the Lord of Brakenwald. But there was some worry with rumours of a strange beast in the forest near St Vulgar causing difficulties on the road. Prue spent time teaching the Laird potion making (and earning a small fortune). While Solvang continued his studies and learnt some “simple” spell to unveil strange magics.

The Laird’s notes were finally organised and ready for possible publication. Solvang was amazed by the strange “summoning” spell hidden inside. The Laird proudly showed off a book “The Black Book of Llareggub” which detailed various procedures for demon summoning, and how he had extracted the “pure summoning process” from this. After some questioning, Laird Spinnewith revealed that he had gained possession of this book, banned by the church, from an old friend of his – Professor Edwynne Woglemain who was the Divination Master from the Imperial College of Physikers and Sorcerors. They kept in regular correspondence via messenger birds in Castle Brakenwald.

Solvang thought the Laird’s claims were ludicrous, but instructed Alette to steal the book as they were leaving (with some help from Prue setting a final test of potion making) as leaving a book of demon summoning in the hands of an unschooled amateur was a horrible idea. Upon holding the book in his hands, Solvang had a change of heart, not wanting to anger a possible friend and source of safety, and instructed Alette to return the book. Alette agreed but returned the book to her own backpack instead.

After final farewells, with gifts of local cheese and promises of future correspondences, the party left Spinnewith Manor and began their trip home. Fluff-tail reminded them of the fairy-path they had spotted earlier, and proudly proclaimed that he knew a shortcut to Brakenwald Castle! The others, feeling well fed and comfortable and nervous about the return through the Nag-Wood, agreed to follow the Grimalkin.

They found the gap in the wall west of Drigbolton, and their elf-necklaces gifted from the Frost-elf Princess allowed them to all to see the doorway and cross over. The buttercup filled path led through a calming woodland. There were hints of creatures moving in the woods, but nothing the party could see. A few hours later the buttercup-lane ended in a dense hilly forest. Fluff-tail said they were now in the hunting preserve of the fairy-duke he called “The Huntsman”. This intrigued Alette who asked what was hunted. “Us” was the answer. After a short time pushing north through the scattered forest they came across a shadowy ravine that Fluff-tail declared as the path to Brakenwald. Feeling relived on leaving the hunting grounds, they hurried along the ravine.

After many hours walking through a chilling drizzle, they came across a stranger unconscious on the path. Behind him was an ornate iron gateway chained shut. Prue was able to read the Sylvan writing which declared the gate as an “entrance to the Sidhe Gardens, sealed by order of the High Council”. Fluff-tail explained that the various nobles of the fairy-kind had unanimously sealed these gardens – no elf could even touch the iron gates. But the stranger was no elf and apparently had climbed over the gates, injuring himself on the ornate spines.

The revived the man with some water and rations and learnt he was named John Clay. He had been chasing a native horse-thief with his companions and had entered a strange garden. For over a week he had been lost in the insane garden, loosing his friends to poisonous flower-people, bloodthirsty peacocks, and animate statuary. He was desperate to find his way home, and failing that, anywhere away from the Gardens. The party took pity on the man and promised to lead him to Castle Brakenwald where he could maybe send a message home.

In the final hours on the Huntsman’s Road Alette studied the stranger. His clothes were styled unlike any she had seen, and while he had a familiar (if large) knife it was his other weapon that drew her attention. It appeared to be a very sleek looking pistol without any match-fuse or gunpowder pan.

The exited fairy through one of the “Lords’ Barrows” just in sight of Castle Brackenwald at sunset. They returned to the same in they stayed at on their previous journey – The Chateau – and took a late supper. Alette was confused watching moon rise, determining that they had lost a little over two weeks in their day trip through fairy.

At the Table

That was unexpected, but fun. Everyone was tired but determined to forge ahead! There was a lot of joking that I was playing “the voice of evil” in the character’s heads – always tempting them to do something chaotic!
But for some reason this party always stay on target. They had a “quest” to ensure that the Undying Tyrant was secure in his prison, and they followed that quest. If there was a chance that they might release him they refused to seriously consider that option! A side effect of this driven nature though, is that they don’t loot a lot of treasure. I noticed this from the start in Sir Chyde’s tomb. These players are not that interested in treasure and coin – so far.

But this shows me that I need to offer some other ways to get some XP besides “gold”, otherwise these players will be shooting themselves in the foot. So far “overcoming” enemies is providing a steady trickle of XP, especially bypassing masses of the Phantasms, but its only providing a few hundred XP each per session. This means they have stayed second level for a loooooong time. I need to investigate some other sources of XP (But I am not going to do “milestone XP”!!!)

Everyone levelled up while relaxing at Spinnewith Manor, so we got a few new spells and abilities – Estmund was very curious about how to establish a fortress, but got a shock on seeing how expensive it all was. One think I love about OSE is how simple the classes are, so levelling is a very fast process (mainly roll some dice for new hitpoint amounts). The biggest “new” thing was Solvang getting a “read magic” type spell so he could understand the grimoire.

There had been some player discussion earlier in the week about “what to do next”. The players of Estmund, Prue, and Solvang had all had adventures/encounters centered on their characters, but Alette’s was still open. The player decided to follow up on a rumour from the very beginning of the game – the “lost librarian” in Mistmill Manor. They decided that it would be good to head back (after 3 months in-game time) to their home-town and investigate, and maybe head to the capital city to follow up on the “tomb-raiders’ gold” that was in the bank there. So they followed the “shortcut” through fairy.

I have to give it to Gavin, his setting of Dolmenwood is fantastic. The fairy paths let the characters jump around Dolmenwood at the cost of a variable time – every time they return to the “real world” the characters will have skipped a random amount of time – from a few minutes to months! The real gems are the encounter tables – each fairy-road has a different theme, and different encounters. The random roll (from the players) was an eye opener for me – a “normal human: lost soul”. This is a person from a different time/place that has become lost in fairyland.

I was momentarily taken aback. I distracted the players with a description of the iron gate and stories of the Sidhe (high-elves? Lost fairy-nobility?) until I got some inspiration. I had open another pdf “Tall Tales BX Wild West” (basically some cowboy themed classes in a B/X clone) so I just rolled a couple of dice for a name and background – and we got out lost soul… My players seemed a little confused at first until they realised what was going on (and that fairy-roads can lead anywhere) and have lovingly adopted the lost cowboy. They are also very keen to see how a “modern firearm” will work!

Next time we’re going to delve into the mysterious labyrinth library of Mistmill!

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