Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Man denies stealing 10,000 model soldiers.

To the shame of Scotland, alas. Still, at least the law is taking it seriously.

In other news: I'm still in bed with the dreaded flu lurgy. And all those end of year deadlines are creeping in.... Not good. I'll have to drag myself out of bed soon enough, fit or not. I haven't missed a deadline since my first year at university. I have no intention of starting now.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Fetch Me a Mop and a Rather Large Bucket! I've Morr's Work to be Doing.

The story behind this rather odd statement can be found here.

Feeling lousy. Laid up with the flu and had to cancel tonight's Earth-shaker game. So there'll be no posts from me for a while. In the meantime, dearly beloved has been faithfully recording the events of our WFRP campaign - a game I actually get to play in. Although, alas, I doubt I'll be able to make that one tomorrow either. I hate being ill. It really interferes with my fantasy life.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Old School Survival Guides Reviewed

My Old School Survival Guides were recently reviewed by ADD Grognard, of the new e-zine Classic Realms of Adventure.

ADD Grognard started the e-zene as a gathering place for all the "hidden gems" (his words, not mine) of the blog-sphere that might have been missed first time round.

You can find the review here.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Oriental OSRIC PC Race: Hengeyokai

Conversion Notes: Removed alignment restrictions for certain sub-races. Changed the speak with animals ability so that it only works with animals of the same species the Hengeyokai can take the shape of. Allowed Hengeyokai to generate families of their own. Raised racial charisma limit from 17 to 18. While in Hybrid form, the character can no longer use armour, clothing, equipment or other items not specially designed for use in his hybrid form other than weapons. Increased the Drake's Dex modifier to -3 for game balance purposes- Drakes have too many advantages otherwise. Had trouble figuring out why Dog was listed twice on the animal tables (Dog and Raccoon Dog- the "Tanuki" native to Japan). Realized that the "Dog" entry actually referred to Tanuki and inferred that the "Tanuki" entry actually referred to Badgers (as the two terms are sometimes confused).

Hengeyokai Characters:

Hengeyokai is a catch-all term for several shape-changing races found throughout the Oriental D&D setting, often existing on the fringes of human society. They exhibit a natural curiosity that often drives young Hengeyokai to spend several years among human society, learning and experiencing all they can of human society. Their shape-changing ability is entirely a natural feature of their race. Hengeyokai are not lycanthropes in the sense that their shape-changing condition is caused by a disease or racial curse. Their activity is not dependent on lunar phases. They cannot heal wounds by shifting between forms. They cannot transmit their shape-changing ability in any way except to pass the condition on to their children. Nor are they especially vulnerable to silver or magical weapons - at least, no more so than any human.

Hengeyokai belong to any one of a number of sub-species and may often be confused for shape-changing spirits such as the evil Hu Hsien. Consequently, several species of Hengeyokai (fox and rat Hengeyokai in particular) are intensely distruted by humans unable to distinguish them from similar shape-changing spirts. They are frequently attacked on-sight by humans once their dual nature has been revealed. Others, such as the Tanuki (Racoon-Dog) Hengeyokai are often mistaken for spirits of a more mischevous, but no less unwelcome, nature. Consequently, those Hengeyokai sufficiently fascinated by humanity to move amoung mankind for any given period of time would be well advised to kep their racial abilities hidden from their neighbours as much as possible.

Due to their position outside human social structures as well as their somewhat chaotic nature, Hengeyokai are extremely limited in their class selections. Nor do they take on positions of power in human society at name level, for they have neither the patience nor the inclination to rule over humanity. Good aligned Hengeyokai may appoint themselves the protector of a given location or human settlement, however, and expect very favorable treatment in return. Hengeyokai do not acquire followers in the manner of human, spirit-folk or Korobokuru characters. Even if their chosen class would normally permit it.

Common Racial Abilities:

Shape Change: All Hengeyokai possess three forms: their human form, a hybrid form and their animal form. The particular animal form is chosen at character generation and cannot be altered thereafter. Damage, AC, movement rate and stats for the character while in their animal form are outlined in the table below. The character can change forms only once per day per character level. This means that a first level character who changes form from human to animal one day, will not be able to change back to it's human form (or adopt the hybrid form) until the next day.

Changing form is a full round action during which the character can do nothing else. Armour, clothing and equipment do not transform with the character, however. The character must make provisions for the storage and transportation of his gear while in animals form. Armour, clothing and weapons not especially made for the hybrid form may not be worn or used when the character is in hyrbid form. However, in hybrid form the characters hands remain sufficiently human as to use weapons, rings, etc without penalty.

Animal Form: When in animal form, the character appears as a normal animal. Since this is a natural rather than a magical transformation, the characters true nature cannot be detected by spells that detect magic or illusions save for spells such as Wish or True Seeing. In animal form, the Hengeyokai has the  movement rate, abilities, AC, attacks and damage of the animal as shown in the table below. In animal form, the Hengeyokai gains 120ft Infravision and the ability to speak with all normal animals of the same species as his animal form. Given the limitations of animal intelligence, such conversations are likely to centre around the presence of food/predators, weather etc. The animal will not be able to divulge complex information regarding human society or even reliably identify one human as opposed to another. The character retains his ability to understand other, non-animal languages, but cannot speak any language other than his animal language while in animal form.

While in animal form, the Hengeyokai may not case any spells or use any weapons, armour or other items of equipment (with the exception of armour specially made for their animal form). While in animal form, the Hengeyokai has fewer hit points than normal - only 1/2 their usual number of hit points (rounded up). Hit points lost in one form are carried over point for point to the next. Thus a 24 hit point character would normally have 12 hit points in animal form. If, however, he had already lost 8hp, then his animal form would have just four hp left, not 8. A Hengeyokai cannot change to his animal form if doing so would leave the character on 0hp or less. A Hengeyokai reduced to 0hp in his animal form is dead. He does not bleed and then expire at -10 as would other characters (although he expires at -10 in his other forms as usual).

Hybrid Form: When in hybrid form the Hengeyokai appears as an anthropomorphic version of his animal form, standing on two legs (or fins) and with functional hands and arms. A Hengeyokai cannot fly in hybrid form, even if his animal form would allow him to do so. Otherwise the Hengeyokai retains the general features of his animal form including fur, scales, wings. tail etc. In hybrid form the Hengeyokai can speak with animals of the same species as his animal form and can communicate normally with other humanoids. In effect, the Hybrid form character can speak any language he knows. He retains the 120ft infravision of the animal form and can use weapons as normal. He cannot, however, wear any armour, items or other equipment that has not been specially designed for his hybrid form. The Hybrid form has a base movement speed on 120ft and swims as a normal human. Even carp hybrids require air to breathe. Carp Hybrid-forms do not have the ability to breathe water. Hegenyokai in Hybrid form as easily identifiable as being something other than human -even when wearing bulky or concealing clothing. Hybrid form characters may cast spells and otherwise use their class abilities as normal.

Human Form: While in human form a Hengyokai is, mechanically and physically, a normal human character with the exception of one or more minor distinctive features related to his animal form -such as a sharp nose or round, fishy-eyes. To all intents and purposes the character is a human. In this form, the character looses the ability to speak with animals but retains the ability to understand what an animal of the same species as his animal form is saying. Like the animal form, this form is not magical in any way. It is not an illusion. A Hengeyokai in human form cannot be identified for what he is using any magical means short of a wish or True Seeing.

Stat bonuses: Each Hengeyokai sub-type gains different racial bonuses to stats in accordance with the aforementioned table. Characters who wish to be Hengeyokai must have stats that fall within the racial minimum and maximums described below AFTER racial modifiers are applied.

Hengeyokai speak their own racial language, the common trade tongue and the court tongue. They do not gain bonus languages for high intelligence scores. They may speak with normal animals of the same species as their animal form while in animal or hybrid forms.

Permitted Class Options:
Residing as they do entirely outside the normal caste structure of the oriental adventures setting, Hengeyokai characters are limited to the following classes: Shukenja, Kensai, Bushi, Wu Jen. If demi-human level limits are in use then the Hengeyokai may advance to 8th level as a Shukenja, 6th level as a Kensai, 9th level as a Wu Jen and unlimited level as a Bushi. If the level-limit are not being used then Hengeyokai suffer a 15% XP penalty for the purposes of advancement in level.

Multi-class Restrictions:
Hengeyokai characters may multi-class as Bushi/Wu Jen or Shukenja Wu/Jen.

Movement Rate: 120ft

Racial Limitations:
If the characters maximum and minimum ability scores do not fall within these limits after racial modifications then the character cannot be Hengeyokai.
Strength: 12/18
Dexterity: 9/18
Constitution: 12/18
Intelligence: 12/18
Wisdom: 12/18
Charisma: 12/18

Hengeyokai Animal Form Stats and Stat Modifiers:
Animal Form    Damage    AC    Movement     Fly      Swim    Stat Modifiers
Badger                 1-6         9                 90ft        n/a     n/a       +2Str, -2 Wis
Carp                      n/a         7                n/a        n/a      120ft    +1Wis, -1Str
Cat                        1-3         9             120ft        n/a      n/a       +1Dex, -1 Wis
Crab                      1-3         8               30ft        n/a      60ft      +2 Str, -2Cha
Crane                    1-2         9               60ft        120ft   n/a       +1 Wis, -1 Dex
Drake                    n/a         7               60ft        120ft    90ft     +1Cha, -3 Dex
Fox                       1-3         6              150ft        n/a       n/a      +1 Int, -1 Wis
Hare                      n/a         5              180ft        n/a       n/a      +1Wis, -1Str
Monkey                n/a         6               120ft        n/a     n/a       +2 Dex, -2 Wis
Tanuki/Dog          1-6         9                120ft        n/a     n/a       +1 Con, -1 Int
Rat                       1-3         5                  90ft        n/a    n/a        +2Con, -2Cha
Sparrow                 n/a        3                  30ft      150ft   n/a       +2Cha, -2 Con

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Van Tanncred Sword

After years of hard-luck "why am I always the GM, other than the fact I enjoy it" stories, I've finally got myself a game as a player. In a game of WFRP 3rd edition, no less. Dearly Beloved has very kindly taken it upon herself to record a very fine player's journal, as told by her character, Anya. It's really good. Take a look here.

I play Stefan the Initiate of Morr, by the way. The journal doesn't explain a great deal about the back-story, primarily because Anya does not yet know it. However, until last Thursday, it was a solo campaign with one DM and one player. The first half of the campaign came to a close with a climatic sword-fight in the middle of what turned out to be Stefan's graveyard. Having witnessed a dwarf and a human take down a vampire in his very own shrine, Stefan patches up the two half-dead warriors in his own townhouse. Later, he learns that not only are they Witch-hunters from the Empire operating in Marienburg illegally, there are more undead out there. Unable to bring this to the attention of his superiors for obvious reasons (not wanting to be hung for helping a pair of Imperial spies chief among them) Stefan insists that it is his duty as a servant of Morr to accompany them. Unfortunately (for Stefan), his uppity, shrewish maid Danielle (Aimee's character) "over-hears" the whole conversation and insists on coming along too. It's shortly after these events that Anya has her unfortunate encounter with the chief Witch-hunter, Pieter.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Session IX: Foul Friends and Night Terrors

The Party:
Ailil Shadowdancer. Elf Male Assassin 2/Illusionist 1. Played by Rhidh
Alexis Human Male Fighter 1. Played by Larraitz
Andros: Human Female Fighter 2. Played by Aimee
Boagris: Human Male Fighter 2. Played by Silv.
Bombata: Human Male NPC.
Euthalia: Human Female Cleric 1
Friendly: Trog NPC
Kallias: Human Male Cleric 1. Played by Elle
Ki Oman: Human Male Dual-Classed Assassin 1/Bard 2. Played by Ali
Merithena: Human Female NPC
Thanatos: Human Female Assassin 2. Played by Fiona
Thera: Human Female Paladin 1. Played by Niall
Thot: Half Elf Male Cleric 1/Magic User 1. Spare Character
Xenos: Human Male Fighter 1/Magic-User 1. Played by Leoni

Missing/Unaccounted For:
Anitpater: Human Male Ship's Master NPC
Kallisto: Human Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Minerva: Human Female 0 lvl Priestess/Royalty. NPC
Peliakos: Human Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparious: Human Male Fighter 1. Spare Character.
Player Map. The broken red line tracks the party's movements since session 1

Days 9-12:


Leaving his companions behind, a lightly wounded Shadowdancer and a more heavily wounded Friendly move by night and sleep by day. Slowed by the requirement for caution given the dangerous terrain and the suspected presence of enemies, they manage to reach the edge of the broken lands a few miles north of the Temple by daybreak. There, in a sheltered dip in the landscape, they rest as best they can. As they prepare to resume travel with the fall of night, their inhumanly keen ears pick up the sound of a distant, guttural cheer. A cheer followed shortly there after by distant booming. Booming, they determine, which can only be the sound of a wooden ram been driven against the bronze-plated doors of the Temple itself.

Soon after setting off again at nightfall they find themselves in the shady concealment of a thick, humid band of forest. However, they do not relax their guard due to the increased concealment afforded by the terrain. Their sharpened senses alert them to the presence of potential danger only an hour or so after dusk. Waiting carefully for the source of the noise to reveal itself, they watch from well chosen ambush positions while a small herd of goats flee past them to the North. The duo delay for a few moments longer, but detect no sign of any creature pursuing the docile mountain animals. Not long after they resume travel, a loud explosion to the south heralds some cataclysmic event. Smoke and flames become visible on the southern horizon once again thereafter.

Grey Demon as Seen By Shadowdancer
The duo's cautions travel leads them to a dune about a quarter-mile away from the Temple itself shortly before midnight. From their perch, the two observe a field of carnage. The Temple still burns, trailing black smoke high into the night sky. Surveying the scene with his heat-sensing eyes, Shadowdancer observes numerous scattered collections of torn body parts surrounding the table, the vast majority of them seemingly Trog in origin. Around a huge bonfire some distance from the destroyed Temple, a band of thirty-to forty creatures dance and frolic. The elf recognises the heat-pattern of the creatures from the Temple chimney. They are the Grey-Skinned Demons the Trogs warned them about. One such demon in particular catches the elf's attention. A grossly fat creature tottering atop a thick pile of what appears to be cushions and carpets watches the proceedings with interest. The fat-one makes a particularly extravagant gesture towards two of it's colleagues, at which a huge screeching keen goes up from the other demons. Shadowdancer's eyes follow the two as they head towards a make-shift cage on the beech. Within, he can barely make out four humans shaped heat-sources, though at this stage he cannot identify to whom they belong. As he watches, one is drawn is from the cage and spitted alive upon a spear while the surrounding demons howl and caper. Cold-anger rising within him, Shadowdancer makes to move forward when the cold, scaly restraining hand of Friendly settles on his shoulder, squeezing tightly and pushing the elf downwards once again. The elf seethes quietly, but considers that now is not the most opportune moment. He watches sullenly as the screaming human captive roast besides the bonfire. It's not the consumption of human flesh that he finds particularly barbaric. No, after all, he himself considers it something of a delicacy himself. It's the twin considerations that, not only did they fail to at least kill the poor miserable animal first, the scum are feasting upon one of his dumb, miserable animals. An animal he might need to get himself off this island.

He and friendly begin circling the Temple, but as they do so more movement catches the elf's keen eye. Out to sea, he can barely make out the dim, cold outline of a ship. Thus far, it had been warded from his sight by the glow from the bonfire between he and it. A trireme perhaps, but with the unusual addition of an entirely enclosed deck. Though the ships looks to have been present for some time, it is the sudden lowering and subsequent departure of a small, punted boat that has called his attention towards it. Once again, Shadowdancer and Friendly slink to the ground and watch. In time, a single cold, cowled form steps from the boat, escorted by a dozen equally cold skeletal forms. At an appropriate moment, the howling and capering cease. While the humans chars unnoticed on the fire, the Grey Demons prostrate themselves at a careless wave from their master. The fat-demon itself merely bows and inclines his head.

Perhaps sensing the opportune moment, Shadowdancer again makes to crawl forward. This time, Friendly grabs the elf’s shoulder even tighter. The two watch as the fat-one and the newcomer make some exchange. Moments later, the three remaining captives are released from the cages. The cold outline of the cowled creatures head glows briefly as he approaches the terrified captives. Soon after, Shadowdancer watches Cowl return to his punt, three seemingly docile prisoners in tow.

They watch as they punt returns to the trireme. It departs westward soon after, it sails full despite the absence of a breeze. At this, the two watchers separate. Friendly hisses something and then scrabbles eastward, without any attempt at explanation or waiting to see if the Elf follows. Meanwhile Shadowdancer, though sorry to see the creature -possibly the groups last living ally on the island- disappear into the darkness, continues his circuit of the temple while the ghoul demons feast.

As he nears the end of his surveillance, he is gratified to sport a single, long rope, now well-aflame, drooping down from a first floor window. It seems that someone may have escaped the slaughter after all. With more than half the night gone, the Elf makes his way back north into the woods, camping under their eaves a good half-mile from the camp-site of the night before. His daylight rest is undisturbed. After a few hours of elven reverie, he turns to his borrowed book, hoping to still his troubled thoughts with study. He also spends a brief period experimenting with his new sword, before concluding with some disgust that the item has no magical properties what-so-ever. That night, he makes his lonely way back to his companions, arriving just before dawn on the twelfth.

Downtime events back at the camp having already been covered last session, we return to play on the morning of the 12th *

The group listens in quiet horror while Shadowdancer outlines events on the beach. Contrary to any concerns his companions might have regarding his secretive nature, he holds nothing back. Euthalia erupts into tears when he confirms he is unable to confirm Minerva's fate. After a moments shocked silence while the news sinks in, talk quickly turns to determining the groups next course of action.

Ki Oman is once again quick to voice his opinion that they should travel east to the City of Thyatis. Shadowdancer leads those who disagree, vehemently stating he has no intention of visiting a city where he would be considered a “thing” rather than a person -even going so far as to confirm with Bombata that “thing” was how the bodyguard had described him. Moreover, he insists that any survivors would have headed north. The group should stay put, guard themselves and await their arrival.

It is even suggested that the group should take over occupancy of the Trog caves, since it seems likely that the Trogs shall no longer need them. But it's pointed out that the caves are still not cleared, there are a lot of pod-men down there, and that they have no idea if Friendly has gone to gather up other Trogs and lead them back here.

Ki Oman's faction quickly wins most of the others to their side when Ki Oman pointedly asks if they can expect a reward for Merithena's return. Some of the group interpret the bodyguard's snorting laughter as an indication that they should not expect a reward until he and Merithena assure them that, as the Bull-Headed King's sole remaining mortal descendent, her return would be well-rewarded indeed.

After this, a few poorly chosen words from Kallias and, in particular Xenos, who casually observes that he could obtain as much as 30-40,000 gold pieces on the open market for a beautiful, regal, nubile and presumably virginal member of a royal family such as Merithena). Bombata shoves Merithena away from the camp-fire, spear clutched tightly in his hand. He informs the group that they will be returning to the city now. Alone. In a tone that brooks no argument.

While Ki and a few others watch them go with increasing dismay, an argument erupts among the others, with a great deal of the shouting being directed at an indignant Xenos. The slaver insists he merely meant to suggest that the return of such a valuable specimen would be worth a great reward. However, the damage is done. Yet with the others distracted by their bickering, Ki Oman slips away from camp and scrambles after the two Thyatians.

Bombata hears the approach and takes about ten paces back the way he came, before ordering the Bard to half. When the Bard attempts to heal the breech between the Thyatians and the rest of the party. When Ki Oman is halfway through a diplomatic refusal of Bombata's offer to allow Ki Oman to accompany the two Thyatians without the others, Bombata simply holds up one hand for silence and asks a pointed question.

Ali sent me this picture for Ki Oman.
Bombatta: Do you intend to betray us?

Ki Oman indignantly replies that he does not.

[I stop play at this point and ask Ali if Ki is telling the truth. Ali replies that he is].

Ki watches with interest while one of the Skulls on Bombata's forearm glows briefly (he's only mildly surprised, having already been informed by Xenos that the tattoo's possess divination magic).

Bombata grunts and asks another question: Will you aid us if your companions betray us?

Ki Oman states he will do all he can to prevent bloodshed or any other form of betrayal. He also insists he will do all he can to keep Merithena from harm.

The other tattoo glows.

Bombata: Good Enough. (he steps closer and softly growls into Ki's ear) Do you have any lecherous intentions towards Merithena?

Ki Oman (shocked and holding up the ring that bears his wedding band for inspection) She's old enough to be my daughter. In any case, I'm a married man.

    [Very clever wording I thought]

Bombata (both tattoos glowing at once): Good enough. We shall accompany you.

Bombata returns to the Thyatian girls side, grabs her tightly by the arms and whispers to her urgently. After a few moments, the fear in her eyes is replaced by a certain astonished joy. When Bombata releases her arm, she flies past him and (for the second) throws herself into Ki Oman's arms. Placing a dozen swift kisses on his face and lips, she hugs him tightly briefly, taking the opportunity to whisper quickly into Ki's ear even as a furious Bombata approaches.

Merithena: Save me, they're going to sacrifice me.

Bombata pulls her away from Ki, who allows the warrior to berate her for a few moments in their own tongue before adding (in Mycenean) a lecture of his own.

    [Ali turns to me across the table at this point and states very coldly, very quietly. “All-right. Now I intend to kill Bombata”

         “Fair enough,” I reply.]

The trio soon return to the group. Shadowdancer alone insists he will not travel to the City.

Ki Oman: Bye Shadowdancer.

That surprises the Elf somewhat. He has always considered Ki Oman something of an ally. A kindred spirit despite their occasional disagreements. Bombata points out that so long as Shadowdancer keeps his eyes covered (pretty much the only part of his flesh that's actually visible) he should have no problems.

The party then, finally, begin asking questions about the journey and the city itself. They determine the following.
  • The journey will take two days
  • They must watch the skies. Though many dangers travel the skies of this island, they must in particular be watchful for the Harpies that haunt the lands through which they must travel on the second day.
  • The city is split into two quarters by a Canal. The Thyatians claim the east bank. The West belongs to the dead.
  • The city is not save to travel through at night. It is haunted by the spirits of the dead. While those on the East Bank are rarely hostile, the same cannot be said for those across the canal. Come dusk, the Thyatians return to their homes, temples and palaces on the East Bank and remain in-doors. Though the dead do not often haunt the place in daylight, even in the more dangerous West Bank, it is generally avoided even in daylight.. Beast-men, former slaves of the old Thyatians, reside in a central fortress across the West Bank. They are intensely hostile to humans.
  • At night, the West bank is claimed by the Crypt King whom Bombata believes may have been the figure on the beech despite the fact the ship sailed West. It seems this Crypt King rules over much of the Island.

Shadowdancer seizes upon the divided nature of the city and again insists that it is beyond foolish to venture into a besieged place. Bombata laughs in his throaty way and informs the elf he has no need for such cowardice. “The Thrones of Bull and Crypt have an accord” he states, but will be drawn no further on the matter. The eyes of Ki Oman, however, narrow dangerously. His gaze flips from Bombata to the down-cast, pale Merithena sitting quietly by the bodyguard's size. If anyone at the conference takes note of the Bard's suddenly balled fists however, they give no sign.

Mollified, Shadowdancer finally throws his arms in the air and agrees that Thyatis seems the best option for the moment. Once Euthalia is satisfied with the chalked message she leaves behind for any survivors from the Temple, the group make ready to depart. With the three stealthy party members arranged in a triangular scouting pattern around the rest of the group and Thera in her make-shift stretcher carried by Thoht and Alexis in the rear, they set off down-hill.

Bombata leads the group briefly south through the broken lands and sharp obsidian rocks for an hour before turning south-east. He explains that if they continue in this direction they must soon come to a grassy plan containing a stretch of ancient road-way. If they road-way is in poor-condition, he will know they are further west than he believes them to be at present. If the road is well maintained, then the two-day estimate will be accurate. They may even be lucky enough to meet a Thyatian patrol on the road. Though “his” troops rarely come this far west -it is dangerous to cross the bank, let alone come this far into uncontrolled territory- they patrol the roads irregularly to ensure they remain serviceable. He declines to explain why, however.

About half-way through the march, a huge, winged shadow passes over them. Diving for cover amidst the rocks, the party passes a few anxious minutes awaiting it's return. Eventually, they conclude (with no shortage of relief) that the creature did not spot them and will not return. They renew the journey, even more intent on watching the skies than before.

Eventually, they hit the grasslands just before night-fall. Satisfied the group is making good time, Bombata calls the group to a halt for the night, but instructs that there should be no fire. It is during this brief respite from the trail that Ki Oman takes Shadowdancer aside and explains what the girl told him. The two assassins reach an understanding. Bombata must die. Tonight. But, suspicious of the group despite Ki's assurances, Bombata spends the entire night awake and alert and looks little the worse for wear the next morning before setting off into the grasslands. Soon they find the road and turn east upon it.

The two conspirators manage to arrange a brief meeting. They agree that, while Bombata must die, they must also ensure that his death appears to be accidental. To buy time, they decide to report the presence of a Trog camp up ahead -one not of the tribe they are allied with- and insist that the group must take a detour around them.

Bombata grunts, but seems slightly perturbed. He comments that turning south from the road will take them closer to the Harpy Lair than he would like but it seems they have little choice. The big Thyatian begins digging in the earth without explanation, looking for (and gathering) a certain sort of small bulb. Sticking two such bulbs into his ears, he pauses only to pass two more to each companion (and watch to ensure they are properly placed) before resuming the march.

As they turn south, Thanatos, warding the left flank of the party, swings out west to keep an eye on the Trogs. Seeing no sign of them, she wonders just what it is that the other two scouts are up to.

Bombata reluctantly allows the group a brief rest-day stop, muttering that there are worse things in these lands even than Harpies. Euthalia and Kallias meanwhile, fuss over a weakening Thera. The heat and jostling of the journey have exhausted the still badly wounded Paladin and, though immune to such things as fevers and infection, she slips in and out of consciousness due to fatigue. While Bombata checks on Merithena, Thanatos slips over to a huddling Ki Oman and Shadowdancer and demands to know what's going on. The two deny that any-thing’s a foot, but Thanatos is not convinced.

A few hours later, Bombata insists on everyone replacing their ear-buds. Taking Thanatos, Shadowdancer and Ki Oman, he crawls on his belly up to a rise and looks to the North. There they see a ruined villa. Bombata states it's what he believes to be the Harpy lair. When the others, incredulous, ask why he would bring them so close to it, he gives them a hard look. It doesn't take the others long to realise that there must be something worse further south.

Less than an hour later, the party top a final rise and see, only a few miles ahead, a few low rise out of the horizon. Bombata seems pleased, and passes back along the group, leaning close to each party member so they can hear his words even through their blocked ears. It seems they will arrive to late to reach the East Bank this day, but tonight they will camp in the hills above the city. Bombata seems to think this a good thing.

Bombata: Tonight, you will see for yourselves why this island is a place to be feared.

Before he has even resumed his position at the front of the party, multiple voices call out the alarm!
Something dives out of the sun.

The griffon swoops into the main group, wrecking havoc. Xenos is unfortunate enough to attract the things attention, wounding it with a magic missiles as it sweeps down upon him. He goes down, hard. Meanwhile the three scouts make their way (with varying degree's of haste) back to the main group. Thanatos makes good use of her newly crafted sling and keeps her distance. Ki Oman charges in, keen to keep the beasts attention away from Merithena and Thera, who lie beneath the sprawled forms of Bombata and Thoht respectively. Shadowdancer, however, senses an opportunity. Knowing that Griffon's are attracted to horse-flesh, he uses Phantasmal Force to create the illusion that Bombata reeks of horseflesh.

Suddenly convinced that the prostrate human shield is, in fact, concealing some tasty horse-meat on his person, the Griffon goes berserk, badly clawing Bombata's face and arms and tearing out a screaming Merithena's throat when she tries to crawl out from Bombata's protection in blind-panic. With Merithena's arterial spray mingling with the blood on his arms and face, Bombata, too, goes berserk.

While the clerics drag Merithena clear and heal her (having already healed Xenos, who regains consciousness with no modifiers to dice rolls having only been on 0 hp) Bombata and the others hack the griffon to pieces, but it is Xenos to claims the kill. The slavers second magic missile blows straight through the creatures skull, imploding one eye on the way in and bursting the other on the way out.
Though the danger is not over yet. Though Kallias and Euthalia try to hold her down, Merithena's desperate struggles allow her to escape their ministrations (despite being at -7 to all dice rolls) and lurch westwards back towards the villa. Looking at one another in horror, the two clerics realize that the girls ear-bulbs must have been knocked out during her savaging. But that means....

Looking back the way they came, the clerics see two bird-like specks rising out of the ruined villa some two miles behind them and flying their way.

Andros, Boagris and the rest of the main body run off to drag Merithena away and re-fit her ear-plugs(with the exception of Thoht and Alexis, who are concentrating their attentions on the unconscious Thera). In the meantime, Ki Oman strides over to Bombata, still trapped beneath the carcass of the huge griffon.

Ki Oman: Hear, let me help you.

Bombata throws away his broken spear and reaches out a hand to Ki Oman.

Whoplunges his spear deep into the trapped bodyguards chest.

[Backstab - and a good one at that!]

Shadowdancer and a slightly more distant Thanatos look on. Shadowdancer rather clinically. Thanatos looking some what horrified.

Bombata tries to strike the agile Ki. Who nimbly dodges aside and back-stabs again. Alas, for Ki, the kill is not so easy as he would desire. No sooner has he withdrawn his spear from Bombata's chest for the second time (to his credit, the trapped bodyguard makes not a sound, despite his agony) that someone (Boagris I think) manages to fit Merithena;s ear-plugs back into place....

The girl, cradled in the big gladiators arms, looks back over his shoulder towards the Griffon.... and screams.

Ki Oman doesn't flinch, he merely rolls his eyes and mutters something about the worst possible timing. When he withdraws his spear for the third time -while a stunned party looks on, not one character taking any sort of action- Bombata lies still. Yet when Ki howls loudly and leaps upon the falling warrior, tearing out his throat with his teeth, two party members act quickly.

Shadowdancer: “The Harpies have him! Quick, stop him!”

Boagris (who actually sort of liked Bombata): Raaaaaaahhhhh!

In less time than it takes to tell, the mighty gladiator chucks the screaming Merithena into the arms of Andros, Kallias and Euthalia and then shoulder barges the feasting bard to the ground.

[With a natural 20! Since critical generally means something good for the party, I rule that rather than doing extra damage, the blow knocks the ear-plugs out of of Ki's head. Does Boagris notice this? * roll * No! But someone else did]

Shadowdancer: Quick, put his ear-plugs back in.

Boagris does so, but there's no time for any questions. The harpies are upon them. The party take what shelter they can behind the corpse of the Griffon while the two harpies hover above them at maximum bow range. With nothing to hit back with, the party can only grit their teeth and take it as the harpies (only one of whom has a bow) stay out of range and pelt them till they run out of arrows. Thoht is very nearly killed by two arrows that strike him in the throat (healed but now at -8 to all dice rolls due to going down to -8hp) and Xenos goes down for the second time in the fight when another arrow nicks him (taking him down to -1). When the frustrated Harpies finally flee (frustrated because the party is too tough to attack directly, too smart to be affected by their song and because they've run out of arrows) Xenos is quickly healed and brought back to his feet. Many of the others bear minor wounds.

With Alexis and Andros each under one of Thera's shoulders, Euthalia and Kallias carrying Thoht on Thera's (former) stretcher and Boagris carrying a near-catatonic Thyatian girl in his arms, the party hustle towards the tree-line represented by the wooded hills ahead. They are hurried on their way by the sight and noise of a band of armed humanoids marching out of the villa and hurrying towards them. It's a close run thing, but they reach the woods well ahead of the dozen or so armoured figures, which turn back as soon as the party finds shelter beneath the trees.

Great”, someone observes acidly, “so what's in here that's more terrifying than they are”?

Everyone looks to Ki Oman for an explanation of his actions, but Ki Oman simply plays dumb, pretending he has no recollection of events since sighting the Griffon. Shadowdancer buys him some time by pointing out it's late. The sun is about to go down and they need somewhere to camp.
The three scouts head off to secure a good spot, but upon reaching the summit of the hill their breath catches. Quickly, the rest of the party are summoned just as the sun begins creeping below the horizon.

Below them, the great city of Thyatis stretches out before them.

It's a ruin.

On the East Bank of the canal that divides the city, the glow of torch-light marks the flow of humanity hustling back from the fields in near panic. The larger mass of light dissolves into streams of individual torches at a crossroads, with the larger part of the human citizens rushing northwards to take shelter within a palatial walled compound. Other, smaller streams head southward towards what appears to be a large temple complex and it's two flanking fortifications.

Rather closer to home, ghost-lights appear in various ruined homes and several fortified buildings. Some of which -including the largest ruined fortification and a smaller watch-tower- are uncomfortably close. As the shadow of the hill on which they stand races across the city below, more lights appear. As though the shadow were a swarm of insects in which individual fireflies begin to glow. The lights are all of ghastly, ethereal hue, blues and greens and purples. Even as the adventurers watch, the lights begin to move.

All at once, the party decide it is time to leave.

They make camp at the base of the hill, placing it's bulk between themselves and the haunted city to the East. With watches set, suspicious eyes turn to Ki Oman.

Ki Oman: What? What is it I'm supposed to have done.

The party tell him, pointing to the blood soaking his chest as proof. But Ki Oman denies all knowledge. Shadowdancer backs him up, pointing out that the Harpies must have had Ki Oman under their control. His ear-buds obviously fell out during the fight with the Griffon. Kallias is amongst those hardest to convince. After all, he observes, Merithena did not become berserk when she heard the Harpies call. Thanatos, who has his own reasons to be suspicious, states there was no Trog camp on the road. But both Shadowdancer and Ki insist she is mistaken. Xenos, meanwhile, rather slyly reckons the Ki just wanted Merithena for himself. Not that the slaver sees anything wrong with that in principle mind you, but still....

Not for the first time since meeting Merithena and Bombata, Ki Oman again shows off his wedding band and observes he's old enough to be her father. The slaver snorts and points out that’s just how some of his former clients used to like it...

Before things become more heated, Euthalia hisses for everyone to shut up. She has been trying to coax a response from the utterly terrified and near-catatonic girl, with no success. Merithena won't even let the priestess of Hestia embrace her in a motherly embrace, pushing her away each time. Ki does not help matters by approaching the girl to offer apologies for his “inadvertent” actions. After all, he's pretty damn confused himself.

In the end, the party set's aside the blame game for now and attempts to discuss what they hell their supposed to do now? The girl thinks they murdered her bodyguard? But they NEED to get access to that city. They need rest, food, provisions, a place of safety. What can they do.

It's Xenos that proposes the solution. He'll charm the girl in the morning. The situation seems so grave that no-one, not even Euthalia, objects. Thera might, had she been awake, but the wounded Paladin has been so weakened by the travails of the last two days that she has slept soundly throughout the journey.

So it's agreed then.

As the group settles down to catch what sleep they can so close to the dangers of the haunted East Bank, an earth-shattering boom jolts them to full wakefulness. To the north, the volcano in the centre of the Bay is spewing strange, ghostly smoke. The ground seems to shake, but though the tree's shake violently no-one is forced from their feet. They hear a great rushing sound, like a thousand waterfalls all at once and recall with dread the noise of the great wave that brought them here. Only moments later, a great, glowing body of water crashes through the forest, disturbing nothing living, and vanishes behind them, carrying with a tide of ghostly, screaming spectres, Men, women, children, ships. Even a bewildered, ghostly cow.

In minutes, the ghostly phantasms have passed them by.

They party look at one another, white faced, shocked, but protected from fear by the sleeping presence of the Paladin in their midst.

So that's what Bombata meant when he said there was something they had to see.

Epilogue: We closed the session in the morning. Xenos casts charm person on Merithena in her sleep, and when she awakes her new “best-friend” explains the "real events" of the day before. The Harpies had stolen Ki's mind even as they had stolen Merithena's, though it had affected Ki differently. The slaver explained that it hadn't really been Ki's fault, but that if she told her father -or anyone else- what had happened they wouldn't see it that way. It might get Xenos and the others into serious trouble. Even killed. Tearfully the girl agrees that it would be best to simply claim that Bombata had been killed by the Griffon. Her great-uncle, the Bull-Headed King trusts her. He would believe her story.

Content, Xenos hides his wink by giving the girl a hug.

Later, Andros approaches the slaver and promises menacingly: Take advantage of that girl and I'll kill you!

By the time they depart camp, so has almost everyone else.