As a solo player I like telling stories when I play; I also enjoy writing, so I though I’d combine the two with this ‘Adventurer’s Tale’ and try something a little different.
I’ll be writing it as I play, and I’ll try to fit the story in as closely as possible to what happens within the game, obviously there will have to be some artistic license, especially as the turn sequence is sequential and there is the randomness of the encounter cards to consider, but we shall see how it goes. Anything included in bold in brackets is game based, such as encounter and treasure card identification. I’m not going to go into the details of the encounter cards and such like, as it would take just far too long and break up the flow of the story.
I have decided that, if a character should die, I’m not going to end the game, but continue with their loss becoming part of the on-going story. I will also draft in Nymmestra in later chapters… if they get that far that is!
Alaeros is a big burley Human. His red hair and beard are matched by his fiery reputation in battle. He is a man of few words, but when he does speak people listen. He wields an unusually large battle-axe, which isn’t always the best weapon to be using, especially in a tight corner, and so he backs it up with a trusty dagger, tucked in his belt.
Talon and Alaeros have been companions for many years, and have formed a bond that requires little to be said between them. She is a tall, lithe figure, who is often mistaken for an elf, especially when wearing her long green cloak. Being a Ranger she is an expert with a bow, but isn’t afraid to draw her scimitars and get stuck in. She also possesses a few other talents, which help to keep her, and those around her, alive.
Barrowin is a Dwarf, and, though it’s hard to tell, is believed to be female – no one has actually struck up the courage to actually ask! Barrowin follows the will of Gorm Gulthyn, and calls on her deity for her special powers, most of which involve healing. She is a bit of a grumbler, but that’s nothing new for a Dwarf, and she carries a huge two-handed war hammer, but reverts to mace for those tight situations.
Ratshadow is the newest addition to the group, and brings with him a unique sense of humour – nothing gets him down for long. He has developed a friendship with Barrowin, possibly because she’s closer to his height, him being a Halfling, than the others. As a rogue he’s never completely trustworthy, though so far has proved to be a stout companion. Equally adept at poking with his short sword as he is at using a bow, he also possesses many other, more resourceful skills, but he’s keeping his secrets close to his chest!
Setting the scene
The adventure begins with the characters lost in a dungeon having just been ambushed. Their fellow adventurers were slain during the vicious attack of cultists. Now, they must find their way out, overcoming the many obstacles that are surely to fall within their path…
Alaeros looked around. Companions lay slain at his feet, covered with some vile acid that had eaten through armour and flesh alike.
He glanced over at Talon, standing straight, bow drawn and held ready; their eyes met, saying so much without saying anything at all.
Barrowin, a Dwarf Cleric of undetermined sex, though believed to be female, hefted her hammer to one shoulder and peered into the gloom.
“Best we find our way out, before more of those foul creatures make an appearance. My arm is getting tired with beating out their brains.” She, for want of a better term, made to move down a side passage, ill lit by the odd flaming torch.
“Hold, Barrowin!” A small voice belonging to a small person came out of the dark. Ratshadow stepped out from the blackness to reveal a Halfling dressed, or maybe hidden would be a better description, in a flowing black cape, “There are traps all around us, I suggest we take this passage instead, it may prove a little less deadly!”
Alaeros shrugged, he was a man of few words, and pushed his way to the front – The adventure had begun.
Slowly moving forward, he strained his eyes and then felt, rather than saw the figure moving swiftly towards him. The hulking figure came on, screaming some oath and striking out with its sword. Alaeros, despite his huge size danced away from the blow, but it struck again, this time aimed at the Halfling at his side.
Ratshadow smiled, wrapped his cape around him and seemed to disappear, easily dodging away from the Hobgoblins vicious attack. In the blink of an eye though, he was back, plunging his sword deep into the monsters side; he turned a grin to the big man beside him, “One to me I believe? You really must do better next time Al!” he laughed as he entered the now clear passageway.
“Ratshadow, wait!” Talon’s warning was too late as he disappeared around the corner…
…Straight into the path of an oncoming Cultist, who hefted a club that was literally the length of Ratshadow himself.
At the sight of the Earth Cultist, Ratshadow’s first though was to flee, but the passageway was knee deep, for a Halfling, in water, and a well timed wave caught him off balance, hurling him to the ground where he hit his head with a thud (Encounter – Grasping tide event, 2 damage). The Cultist chose that moment to attack, and his stone club connected savagely with Ratshadow’s arm as he tried to defend himself (2 damage). Letting out a shrill scream for help he prepared to stand his ground.
Grumbling and muttering, Barrowin surged forwards with surprising speed. Rounding the corner she took in the situation at a glance, “Foolish short stuff, how often must we tell you not to race ahead?” with that she swung her war hammer in a mighty arc, one that totally failed to connect with the Cultist!
“And I’m sure I have told you not to run before a fight, you know how it tires you so,” Ratshadow laughed, causing him to grimace in pain.
Despite the cocky retort it was plain to Barrowin that Ratshadow was hurt, but the Cultist was doing a damn good job of keeping out of the way of her hammer. Even whilst she was desperately battling away she could feel a heat rising up from the ground, and it engulfed her until sweat dripped from her brow; suddenly a great flame burst out along the passageway, causing burns to her flesh where her armour absorbed the heat like a hot iron in a furnace (Encounter – Rage of Imix, 2 damage to Barrowin).
As the flames died away Talon came into view; keeping her distance from the melee she drew back her bow and sent a finely fletched arrow straight into the eye of the Cultist, killing him immediately (Critical hit!).
Without a word she turned to examine another intersection of the crossroads.
“Here!” Ratshadow cast a small bag towards her, who, with the speed of a viper, snatched it out of the air with a quizzical look. “It’s not much, but it’s all he had on him, about 100Gp if I’m any judge.” He smiled, which once again turned into a grimace, as Barrowin secured a bandage around his injured arm (Encounter – Invisible stalker attack cancelled by XP).
The moment didn’t last long. “Something’s coming. I can see a light ahead.” Talon peered into the gloom, alert and ready to defend herself as the light grew brighter then flared towards her face as the Fire Cultist thrust his flaming spear at her.
Blinded by the glare, she barely managed to dodge, feeling the blade scrape across her shoulder (1 damage), and the smell of burnt flesh brought tears to her eyes.
Alaeros, meanwhile, had made his way past Talon, and using his uncanny speed, took his battle axe to the Fire Cultist, plunging it deep into its side, but was then forcibly thrown back as the body burst into a ball of flames, causing a few minor burns to his hands (Fiery Deathburst , 1 damage!).
“What, In the name of the Gods, was that?”
Talon strode over, poking around in the remains, “that was a Fire Cultist. I wonder if they all explode on death like that? Something to remember I think. Looks like he left you a present.” She bent down and retrieved a small, heavy pouch, which on opening contained a lot of copper pieces. She handed them to Alearos, who nodded his thanks and stashed them away.
Moving past the ashes of the Cultist, Alearos continued a short way down the corridor. The heat was becoming unbearable (Encounter – Burning sacrifice, 1 damage), and then he realised why as a large burning bat flew towards him, but that, as it turned out, was the least of his worries.
“Beware, archer!” In the light of the bat he caught sight of a hideous, hyena like creature, standing ready to fire.
The Fire Bat was but a nuisance, one that he ‘batted’ away with the side of his axe before it could do any damage. The Gnoll, for that is what the other beast was, was a different matter, and he watched as it released his arrow.
He felt the wind of it as it passed by his head, but it wasn’t meant for him, and he heard Talons cry of pain as it found its true target (1 damage Talon).
“I’m okay, it’s only a flesh wound -” she was cut off with a shout from behind her.
“Retreat Alaeros, let me take them with my bow.” Ratshadow moved to get a better firing line, releasing three (Daily power – deadly assault) quickly notched arrows at the Gnoll. It was lucky shooting, though he’d never admit it, and he took the Gnoll in the throat with two of the arrows – death was quick, though gruesomely noisy! (Treasure – 100gp).
“Thanks!” Alaeros held the bat off with the head of his axe, so he didn’t see the figure of Ratshadow start to writhe and convulse as he changed into something else!
“Look out,” Barrowin’s shout alerted them to the new danger, “it’s a Doppelganger!”
Moving towards Barrowin, the thing that had been Ratshadow only moments before, tried to bring its massive fists down on her helm, but it was no match for the dwarf, who simply pulverised it, blow by blow, with her war hammer. “What… have… you… done… with… Ratshadow?” By this point though, the Ganger was in no condition to reply, its body just a pulpy mush on the stone floor (Treasure – Barrowin gained 100gp).
She moved further down the corridor, calling out for her companion, “Ratshadow, you good for nothing rogue, where the blazes are you?” (Encounter – Attack from the shadows, cancelled with XP – this would have dealt 2 damage to each hero!).
A voice answered back from the darkness directly in front of her, and she realised she’d made a mistake!
“Hesh noort dow heeerrreee!” the words came out all mangled, obviously not used to using the common language, but the creature definitely knew how to use a bow as an arrow emerged from the darkness, whizzed past the Dwarf, and plunged into the back of Talon (1 damage).
“What’s going on, is it, ‘turn me into a pin-cushion day?’ I’m okay though, my cloak absorbed most of the impact.” Now she had a decision to make, help Alearos with the Fire Bat, or Barrowin with the Gnoll – It was no great hardship, the great lump could take care of the Bat himself. She peered through the gloom, slowly allowing her eyes to adjust so that she could make out the Gnoll’s faint outline.
She drew back her bow, paused, settled her breathing and relaxed her fingers. The arrow flew straight, though she instinctively knew it wasn’t a killing shot, and the Gnoll staggered as it took it in its thick neck (1 damage).
The Gnoll roared, almost deafeningly, as Talon moved her position. As she moved she heard the dreaded sound of multiple arrows taking to the air at once (Encounter – Sniper shots, attack each hero).
Arrows rained down on them from all directions, their would be snipers hidden; or was it all the result of some magical incantation?
Talon hit the ground as one arrow took her in the thigh and another in the arm (2 damage 3Hp’s left!). Alearos felt one part his thick red hair, but it only produced a scratch, though blood freely flowed down his face (1 damage). Barrowin took the brunt of the arrows, many bouncing and skimming of her armour; though a few got through she remained steadfastly on her feet (2 damage). Ratshadow, who was just coming back to his senses, came under the least fire, but still ended up with a few minor wounds (1 damage).
Alearos had decided enough was enough, he held the bat at bay with his axe and pulled a dagger from his belt, now he had a weapon that could match the bats speed, and he thrust it up through its gaping jaw and into its brain. His elation at taking the beast down gave him a surge of newfound energy. He turned and sprinted back down the passage towards his friends and the deadly Gnoll (Treasure – Adrenaline surge, take 1 additional action this hero phase).
As he ran past Barrowin she staggered, giving a grunt, and fell to the floor – a dagger protruding from her back (Encounter – Hidden Betrayal; 3 damage).
Alaeros’ eyes widened, the dagger was his, but he knew that it had not been his hand that had thrust it between the dwarf’s shoulders…
“Do not fret big man, it was not your doing, there is a magic at work here, an evil magic that would see us turn against ourselves. But do not dwell, allow me to save your skins again!” with that Ratshadow appeared at Alaeros’ side, an arrow already arcing its way towards the Gnoll. At such short range he could hardly miss, and the Gnoll slammed back against the wall with its force.
Alearos knelt beside the stricken dwarf, carefully removing the dagger, “it was not I that dealt the blow, at least not knowingly.”
“Fear not, I know your heart is true human, but I do fear the magic at work here. Help me up, it wouldn’t do for a Dwarf to go crawling through tunnels such as these!”
Meanwhile, Ratshadow had been innocently rifling through the belongings of the dead Gnoll, and pleased with his finding, he slipped the small vial into his pouch (Treasure – Healing potion), then turned to explore the passageway off to his right… With hindsight, maybe he shouldn’t have!
The walls along this passage ran with condensation, water dripping from the ceiling, and as Ratshadow was about to start down it, he heard voices coming towards him. Sure enough, two figures emerged from around the corner, one, a humanoid figure with blue-green skin, brandished a very fragile, but equally vicious looking sword. It stopped in surprise, called out something indistinguishable, and charged at Ratshadow. Behind him came something far more disconcerting!
The Water Cultist, for that is what he was, caught Ratshadow a glancing blow (1 damage) and, following through with his shield, sent him reeling off balance back down the passageway towards his companion – a very large and ugly Bugbear!
Grinning with delight and muttering something that sounded like a laugh, the Bugbear squatted the Halfling like a fly – his spiky club catching him across the head and sending him to the floor (2 damage – Ratshadow now on 2Hp!). Things were not looking good for the little fellow!
“By the grand order of the gauntlet and the will of Gorm Gulthyn, I’ll not let you take a friend of mine you big woolly beast!” Barrowin came barrelling her way through, knocking the cultist to one side; she bore down on the Bugbear. Holding her war hammer aloft she uttered some mystical words and a bright, dazzling light emerged, engulfing her and those around her (Daily power – Radiance of the dawn: +1HP to Barrowin and Ratshadow; 2 damage to the bugbear). The Bugbear threw back it head and howled, dropping its club in the process. It grasped at its throat as if trying to stop someone strangling it, and then fell to the floor, choking and writhing, until finally it fell still. (+1Hp to Ratshadow, Barrowin’s special power – Healer)
Glancing down the passageway from where the Cultist and Bugbear had emerged, it was easy for Barrowin to see what they’d been doing, “traps, and lots of them. Finish that damn Cultist and lets find another way out of here.” (Encounter – Avalanche cancelled with XP).
“He’s mine,” Talon moved and fired at the same time, the arrow striking the edge of the Cultist’s shield and ricocheting up to pierce his chest. Still, he held his ground, chanting some arcane verse to take the pain away.
Whatever the Water Cultist was chanting, someone or something seemed to like it, and steam started to form all around them, gradually getting hotter and more intense. Then, with a ‘whumpf!’, a fireball erupted, scorching both stone and flesh alike; only the Cultist seemed unaffected (Encounter – Fire Scar 2 damage to all characters! Talon is down to 1Hp).
“I have had just about enough of this,” and with that, Alaeros stepped up to the Cultist, ignoring the dancing of his blade, and rammed his dagger straight through his blue chest into his heart (Treasure – 100gp). He then nonchalantly, continued on down an unexplored passageway (Using his ‘action surge’ utility power).
His progress was halted by another Bugbear, this time with a Fire Cultist as its sidekick. Daylight was visible just a short distance on along the corridor, tempting him to surge forward and breath the fresh air. Instead he halted, moved his great axe from one hand to the other, and gave them a stare of pure hatred.
“Get out of our way now, or die where you stand!”
The Cultist gave an evil smile, flames licked at his boots. “I think it is you who will die this day – have at him Lomm, crush his stupid head.” With that the Bugbear roared and rushed at Alaeros, swinging its giant club around in a massive arc.
Despite his best efforts, Alaeros could barely fend off the blow, the monster’s strength seemed supernatural, and he felt his arm turning numb from blocking the blow (2 damage).
Somehow, using only his good arm, Alaeros managed to fend of the fiery spear of the Cultist, but battling both of them, he knew it was only a matter of time…
“Could do with a little help here!” His words came out all staccato, each timed between a hefty blow or last second block.
Ratshadow came scurrying along the corridor. As he passed by Talon he cast her something, which she deftly caught despite her condition. Then, he gallantly, at least that’s how he saw it, plunged his sword into the kneecap of the cultist, who buckled up to land at his feet. Ratshadow had no qualms about cutting his throat, or quickly relieving him of a pouch at his belt (Treasure – Potion of Stonewalk).
Talon meanwhile, had investigated the bag Ratshadow had tossed her, and was surprised to find a small vile containing what appeared to be a healing potion. “In for a penny…” she gulped it down, feeling it warm her insides and clear her head (Healing potion – regain 2Hp).
Ratshadow didn’t hang around after defeating the Cultist, but continued on past the Bugbear and almost stumbled upon a trap. (Used his Cunning Action power to take another action). (Encounter – Hail storm cancelled by XP).
Barrowin was some way down another corridor when she heard Alaeros’ shout and she came at a sprint, knowing that she’d be spent by the time she got there. Therefore she decided to call upon her gods once again, hoping against hope that they hadn’t forsaken her.
“By Gorm Gulthyn, may this mace strike you down,” her voice was unsteady and she was breathing hard, but a glimmer of light engulfed her… only to fade away to nothing as she struggled to direct its force towards the Bugbear.
“Blast the gods for being so fickle!” With that the ground shook, walls trembled, and a loud groaning could be heard, as if the very earth was complaining. “Did I say Fickle? I’m meant, for being so mighty and powerful… and so wise for deeming me not worthy.” She cast a glance all around her, nervous at her own blasphemy! (Encounter – Terra Reformation. Actually did nothing to effect the game as it involves the dungeon tile deck!)
The Bugbear was slowly getting the better of both Alaeros and Barrowin who, in their injured state, could do nothing but defend.
“Incoming!” Talon’s call alerted them that she was about to fire, and they tried their best not to block her sight of the target. Even so, she pulled the shot wide at the last moment, afraid of hitting Alearos. She made a quick decision, ran past Alaeros, vaulted over the diminutive figure of Barrowin, and came to rest behind the Bugbear.
Distracted by Talon, the Bugbear turned to face her, and she chose that moment to cast small bags to all three of her companions, “eat them when you can, they will refresh you!” unfortunately Alaeros was too busy trying to behead the beast to catch his! (Utility power – Goodberry; Each hero on Talons tile regains 1Hp – Talon, Barrowin, and Ratshadow.).
No sooner had she done this, than another blast of fire erupted from the very ground upon which they stood. Alaeros seemed to be shielded from it by the wall, but the other three, once again, took minor burns to their flesh (Encounter – Rage of Imix, all except Alaeros take 2 damage).
Alaeros was growing weary as the Bugbear used its giant strength to batter at his defence. He was becoming sluggish, and he knew he couldn’t keep this up much longer; one mistimed block could cost his life.
He decided to gamble everything, and appeared to stumble backwards. The Bugbear roared, a smile crossing its gruesome lips as it brought its deadly spiked mace back for the killing blow. But Alearos was ready; he threw all his weight forward, at the same time pushing his axe out in front of him with all his might. With the force of his lunge, combined with the forward momentum of the Bugbear, there was only ever going to be one result – The Bugbear looked down in surprise, the axe was buried deep in its stomach. It looked back, into the face of Alaeros, smiled, and tried to bring his club down on his head. Its grip failed though, as its life ebbed away, and the club fell harmlessly to the floor (Alaeros daily power – Lunging attack; 3 damage).
Picking himself up he moves towards the others, “thank you my friends, we may survive this ordeal after all.” (Treasure – 100gp).
“I think you may have spoken too soon!” Barrowin felt the tremors an instant before the others. The whole place started to shake; a loud rumbling accompanying the movement as the ground began to tilt and rocks fell from the ceiling. The companions were shook to the ground, coming to rest a little further down the passageway (Encounter – Earthquake; Each hero moved one tile and took 1 damage – Ratshadow and Barrowin are now on 0Hp!).
When the shaking had stopped and the dust settled, Alaeros rose, shaking debris from his great cloak. Looking around he could see Talon, also slowly rising to her feet, but there was no sign of the other two. Quickly he began to clear rubble, searching for his friends, and eventually he found them, almost in embrace, unconscious and barely alive.
“Quick, Talon. You help the Dwarf, I’ll take Ratshadow.” With that he hefted the Halfling out of the detritus, and placed him on a cleared patch of stone. Using the skills he’d learnt over time, he tried to bring Ratshadow back to the land of the living.
“Aah, I must be alive. As ugly as you are I can’t be in Heaven!” Ratshadow opened his eyes, a look of relief spread across his face as Alaeros peered over him like a concerned mother (Healing surge – Ratshadow back to 4Hp).
“You could be in Hell small stuff, and any more remarks like that and I’ll put you there myself,” he laughed, and helped the Halfling regain his feet. “Clear the way out, I’ll help Talon with Barrowin.” He pointed towards the passageway where light could be seen, tantalisingly close.
Ratshadow moved along the passageway, trying to decide which part of his body hurt the most. The exit from this hellish hole appeared to be secured with a number of traps, one of which he knelt down to investigate.
“Ha, a simple thing for a Halfling of my talents!” He twisted this, pulled at that, and then cast it away with a smug look of satisfaction on his face. “All clear here, just watch where you’re walking!” With that he slowly limped forward into the cavern and was bathed in daylight (Cunning action allowed him to move, disable trap, and move again).
Just as he entered the cavern another flash of fire erupted behind him, he gulped, and was glad he hadn’t dallied or turned back to help the others. As it was, he still felt the heat burn away at what little flesh was left on him! (Encounter – Rage of Imix; 2 damage to Ratshadow!).
“Alaeros! Talon! Is everyone okay?”
“We’re okay here, it missed us this time. Barrowin is just coming round, we’ll be with you shortly.” (Healing surge – Barrowin is now on 4Hp).
Ratshadow smiled with relief, “Thank my Gods, but don’t call me shorty!” (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist that!).
Barrowin came slowly to her feet, “By Gorm, that was a close thing, I’m beginning to think my faith is being tested!”
Talon, sat down with a thud, her energy completely exhausted – wounds covering her slight frame from head to foot.
“Here, let me see if I can help.” The Dwarf closed her eyes as she rested her palms on the top of Talons head. Her hands began to glow with a faint bright light that slowly spread to cover Talons whole body. In moment, it was gone.
Talon looked up, pleasantly surprised, “thank you, I feel so much better than I did, though that’s not saying much.” (Barrowin’s Utility power – cure wounds 3hp regained by Talon +1hp by Alaeros through Barrowin’s healer power).
“Follow Ratshadow out of here, I’ll help Talon and then guard our rear.” Alaeros pointed the way out, and Barrowin, picking up her hammer, followed his advice (Encounter – Trap refresh; all empty trap spaces regain a trap!).The two remaining companions shared a long moment together, they had been friends for what seemed like forever, “go Talon, I’ll guard your back, there may still be… things, lurking around.” He gently steered her away, and she followed in the others footsteps. Unfortunately, as she made her way through, she somehow managed to trigger another trap; she heard the sound of a spring uncoil, and though she was quick, she wasn’t quick enough. A dart pierced her arm, and she stifled a yell of pain, in the end it was just another discomfort to add to her already ailing body (Dart trap from refreshed trap, 1 damage) (Encounter – Dark Gift. Talon chooses to take another 1 damage!).
Alaeros turned, staring back down the passageway, and remembered his dead companions. Their bodies would become food for the carrion that lurked within this foul dungeon. At least the four of them had survived, survived to revenge their fallen comrades, survived to put an end to the evil that has taken residence here in the Sumbar Hills.
With that vow he turned back, and followed his companions out into the bright sunlight of a fresh, new day.
Alaeros finished the adventure with 3Hp left and a total of 300gp in his purse. Talon had 2Hp and 100gp, Barrowin 4Hp and 100gp, and Ratshadow 2Hp, 100gp, and a potion of stonewalk.
Well, that was a close run thing! I thought I might just get through without using the surges, and to have to use them with the end in sight was frustrating.
It has been some time since I last played this game, and I had forgotten how difficult this first adventure could be, especially if you haven’t gotten into the vein of how it should be played. You have to play aggressively quick, beat the monsters as fast as you can, and constantly try to reveal new tiles. The encounters are deadly, and that’s why you need to kill monsters quickly, so you can use the Xp to veto the really nasty encounters, something I didn’t do too well here.
As far as writing goes, it proved really difficult; it was a constant barrage of one thing after another, which doesn’t lead to consistent writing. I found it hard to lead into some of the encounters, and because of the sequential turn system the action darts from one character to another.
The Doppelgänger also proved a difficulty, I mean, without any foresight into it happening, how can you plan it into a story? I simply had to react to it as it happened, and hoped for the best.
It would be far easier to go back and re-write the whole thing after the event, but then that loses the idea of it being a game in play, and I wanted to show how you can bring a game like this to life with a little story telling – that’s why I’ve tried to keep it all short and sharp, without much descriptive text and with simple dialogue.
Has it worked? Maybe, it isn’t my greatest work, but I certainly enjoyed playing and writing at the same time. Will I move on to the next chapter? Probably, unless the feedback I get makes me decide otherwise!
One last thing, and those who know the game will have picked up on it already – I missed the Fiery Deathburst of the second Fire Cultist, oh hum, these things happen!
So that’s it for now, we shall hopefully catch up with the adventurers soon, as they take on ‘The Cult of the Howling Hatred!’
Temple of Elemental Evil: Escape, starred…
Alaeros, a Human Fighter
Barrowin, a Gold Dwarf Cleric
Talon, a Human Ranger
Ratshadow, a Lightfoot Halfling Rogue