Thursday, January 2, 2020

Behold! Nightwick Abbey!

Since I've been blogging about it for almost ten years, and since I plan on doing a product version this year, I decided it was about time that I reintroduce my signature setting to potential new audiences. This "Behold! __________" series of posts, inspired by an utterance once made by Hydra's Robert Parker* will cover areas I've already discussed at some length but in a hopefully newbie friendly manner. 

Some two hundred years ago, a religious order of knights dedicated to the Church of Law entered the Dark Country. It would be their grave. They sought to bring the light of the Law to the pagan peoples of that place - which men now call the Bogdani - but in their zeal they turned to torture, murder, and ultimately acts too unspeakable to relate here. Stories of their depravity made it to the Realm of Man, though even then the High Pontiff was slow to move against them. How could such acts be committed by those who had worshiped the God of Law. Finally, the High King of the Realm decided to act, taking an army of men from across the West into the Dark Country,  There they set about destroying the works of the disgraced oath-breakers once called the Sword Brothers.

The Sword Brothers had their last stand in their grandest chapter house - Nightwick Abbey. After the defeat of their armies in the field, the Sword Brothers retreated into the catacombs beneath the abbey, and some say they sought out necromancers, witches, and conjurers to build a new army to destroy the forces of the Realm. At last though the abbey was besieged by three princes of men - the King of Karse, the Baron of Averois, and the High King of the Realm. Few survived the terrible melee that ensued in the dungeons beneath, and those that survived spoke of horrors beyond the pale of anything they had seen even in war or in the night terrors of the Dark Country.

It is said that the High King gave the order that the dungeons be sealed once both his brother-princes were killed.  He did not know what evils awaited below, but what he had already seen chilled him to the core. It does seem though that this blow was enough to defeat the Sword Brothers, who disappear from the historical record outside of appearances as shades, revenants, and other sorts of boogie-men.

Now Nightwick Abbey lies in ruins near a village that bears its name. Its crumbling walls sit upon a hill in the Fog-bound Forest, covered in a mysterious vine that no living mortal has yet identified.  Inside are rumored to be the loot of 150 years of conquest. Those who have plumbed the parts of its dungeon nearest the surface speak of walls that bleed, rooms that move of their own accord, and creatures born of sin and devilry.  Many sages outside the Dark Country believe these descriptions mean that the abbey is affected by the psychic trauma of the last days of the Sword Brothers and the siege.  Those in the Dark Country know better.

The Bogdani and the Realmish immigrants that live in the Dark Country know why the Sword Brothers turned - there is an evil beneath the abbey.  From out of the depths it called up to them, perhaps appearing as the sacred thrumming of the God of Law itself, or perhaps promising power far beyond what could be obtained by mortals in the Church.  Whatever it was, the world of men can never be safe so long as it lies beneath those dungeons, waiting for its chance to escape.

*Robert may be working on some new blog content that sounds like an absolutely fantastic handling of the procedures of running a game.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Monster to Eat Children: the Rawhead

Rawheads are a hideous form of undead created when a particularly vile wizard or warlock dies before their familiar. If the body of the caster is left too near the familiar, they will fuse together in death, creating a strange hybrid with the bones of the caster topped with a rotten and bloody version of his familiar's head.  For some reason unknown to all this process also enlarges the creature, making it 10-15' in height.

They sustain their putrid unlives with the flesh of liars - preferring children to all other prey. Their ability to sense liars and mimic their loved ones means they typically act as ambush hunters, and their invisibility allows them to hide in a wide variety of environments.  However, they rarely go further than 6 miles from where they had their lair in life.

Monday, December 23, 2019

FLGS Nightwick Session 12: Can't Save them All

Characters Present
Mrs. Claus - a human druid dedicated to some weird combination of Father Winter, St Santa Claus and the Krampus (level 2)
Gwenifer Nighthawk - another druid and member of the Circle of the Moon (level 2, now deceased)
Paul - a frogling barbarian from Unknown Lands (level 2)
Adran Wildedagger - Karslish human rogue (level 3)

Decenber 13, 1395

  • Flint probably remained in Knightpath to distract his fellow members of the Order of the Elk while the kidnappers made good their escape. 
  • Mrs. Claus and Gwenifer elected to head out in the night, after a spot of freezing rain had turned the little snow fall into a nasty mush.
  • Adran was able to spy some deer-men and an elk-ogre up the road, and a debate began about how to deal with it.
  • Ultimately, partly due to Gwenifer's insistence, it was decided they would fight these creatures.
  • Mrs. Claus and Paul turned the cart the kept the children upside-down in to offer them a modicum of protection. Mrs. Claus then stayed with them to make sure none were endangered (or escaped).
  • Adran set himself up in a nearby tree, trapping the area around it, and made ready with his crossbow to snipe at oncoming deer-men. Poul waited next to the cart.
  • Gwenifer surprised everyone by turning into a strange, spider-like creature unknown in the whole of the World of Nightwick. She lept towards the deer-men but was soon surrounded and knocked unconscious. The elk-ogre then smashed her unconscious body with a huge club, killing her.
  • During this time Adran's shots were hitting with good effect, but the monsters had focused on the spider because his great adeptness at hiding meant he remained unseen.
  • Paul arrived in the melee just before Gwenifer died, and was able to begin slaying the creatures she had softened up. Mrs. Claus aided with a few eldritch blasts.
  • Once the creatures were dead, the party retreated and encamped in the shadow of Knightpath, hoping they would not be discovered.
  • They weren't, and the next day they made their way towards Frogguts.
  • About an hour outside Frogguts, the children (who were separated into two enormous roughspun sacks) began arguing about whether the priest of Nightwick or Knightpath was more holy. When Arnest, one of the boys from Knightpath, said his priest was a saint a strange sound was heard.
  • It turned out to be the swift approach of a Rawhead, who became visible just long enough to grab Arnest and disappear again, leaving the living party members stunned.
  • Once in Frogguts they found the town completely deserted, except for a mother and daughter hiding in a building. The mother informed them that they had been assailed by that creature ever since her daughter lied to some 'likely bandits" about how many were with them. The bandits had tried to slaughter the beast and died.
  • Paul, who lacks the moral complexity of some of his human company, knocked the mother out and then replaced Arnest in the bag with the daughter - who had lied and therefore was naughty. Mrs. Claus was able to figure that the Rawhead had just eaten a child and would likely be sated long enough for them to make their escape.
  • They then pushed on to the outskirts of blackleg, where, exhausted, they stayed at a small inn. In this inn, Adran and Mrs. Claus met a set of dwarfs who said they had no work in the mine since it was shut down and would be willing to lead the party to the shrine of Knecht Ruprecht for a fee. They agreed.
  • They also picked up two new naughty children - one who had traded his parents magic beans for a cow, and another who had min/maxed while playing imagination games.
  • When Paul came back from fetching these children, he noted that the "dwarfs" were obviously not dwarfs, since his frogling senses paid attention to aspects not obvious to humans. They were extra hairy, possessed of even more pointed ears, and wore no shoes. These, it seems, were knockers.
  • The knockers, realizing their child eating plan was up, enlarged to great proportion and attempted to do battle. However the work of Paul, who was able to more or less keep the creatures in place, and Adran who ducked and weaved about them stabbing at their vital bits made short work of them.
  • The next day the party made their way tot he shrine, based on information they had gotten from a pagan in the outskirts of blackleg. At the shrine the children were purified by the sacred switch of Knecht Rurpecht.
  • Ruprecht's switching had disloged something from one of the children - a hellish larvae the size of a massive grub. He placed it in a jar and gave it to the characters, along with a bevy of magic items (described below).
  • With that, Mrs. Claus declared her work done and separated from the party for the foreseeable future.
Monsters Killed
6 Deer-men, 1 Elk-ogre, 3 knockers

Treasure Gained
1 magic switch, 1 magic shield, 1 magic bow, 20 silver arrows, a magic horn, a silver dagger, and a potion of healing.

Xp Per surviving player

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Languages of The World of Nightwick

The ones listed here are only those that may be encountered in the Dark Country - even if only in very unlikely circumstances. Those of the same language family typically use the same or similar script and are usually mutually intelligible. A roll is required to avoid certain grammatical fuck-ups, especially in things such as business deals. However, non-native speakers cannot mutually understand languages in a family different from their native one. 

A person from the Realm can understand Zenopolitan, but if he learned Novgovite he could not understand Bogdani without learning it.  Conversely a person from Novgovy could understand Bogdani, but if they learned common they would still need to learn Zenopolitan separately.

Westron Language Family - Languages that descend from High Westron, the language of the now extinct Empire of Man. The script for this family resembles the writing in the Voynich Manuscript.
  • Common - The language of the Realm of Man and most of its subsidiaries, including Averois, Karse, Attalia, and the Seven Cities of the Dark Country.
  • Zenopolitan - The language of the Zenopolian people and most of the inhabitants of the Desert Lands. Those south of the Desert Lands also often know how to speak this but non-natively. It is more directly like High Westron than is Common.
  • Lazarene - A form of High Westron perverted by the inhuman Lazarenes who dwell near Ruined Acheron.
Eastron Language Family - This family was spoken by barbaric peoples who invaded the eastern lands of the Empire when it collapsed. In those spaces it is largely replaced by Common, but in their homelands the languages live on. It's script resembles the Gothic alphabet of Ulfilas.
  • Novgovite - The language of Novgovy and Muscorod.
  • Bogdani - The language of the native people of the Dark Country. While there are White and Black Bogdani "accents," they are mutually intelligible even to outsiders.
Croakish Language Family - This family can be approximated by the mouths of other creatures, but is only truly spoken by Froglings. It borrows its script from the Westron family.
  • Croakish - The language of Froglings.
  • Bullywug - The perverted language of Bullywugs.
Dwarfish Language Family - This family is spoken by dwarfs as well as the other stolid sorts of fairies. If it is related to the Languages of Fairy, that relationship is entirely undetectable to anyone but the fairies. Dwarfis script is runic but often involves very phallic symbols, leading to certain jokes among Dark Country denizens.
  • Dwarvish - The language of the Dwarfs, Knockers, Gnomes, Mine-monks, and other such dwellers in darkness.
  • Goblin - A diabolic dialect spoken by Goblins as well as those of other races who are their allies.
The Languages of Fairy - These languages are spoken by the Old Gods and their servitors. They do not have a script, but some have attempted to approximate it using other alphabets.
  • High Fairy - The Language of the Old Gods themselves, used only by them and their highest ranking cohorts.
  • Elfish - The common tongue of the servants of the Old Gods, though rarely taught to humans.
  • Druidic - A fully debased from of Elfish taught to humans so that they might be able to communicate with the human servants of their gods.
Languages of Heaven and Hell - These languages are unrelated but are similarly cosmic in their implications. Enochian and Crowleyan each have their own script.
  • Proto-Ur - The language of the God of Law Himself. Said to be understandable by all creatures, though currently at best only heard as a deep thrumming in space.
  • Enochian - The language of angels, first learned by the men of Acheron to control them. Now used by the Church of Law for certain rituals.
  • Crowleyan - The language of devils and demons. Like Enochian it was first learned in Acheron, though it was given to them willingly by the fiend Armadeus.
Dead Languages - These languages are no longer spoken in the World of Nightwick, but can be found in the written form.
  • High Westron - The language of the Empire of Man, replaced by the Common tongue of the Realm of Man.
  • Old Nothron - The language of those barbarians living in the Realm, Karse, and Averois before the uniting of the Empire. Its script is sometimes used in ancient texts to represent the Languages of Fairy.
  • Acherontic - The tongue of Ruined Acheron. Most similar to Lazarene, though with obvious difference. Its texts is similar to the ancient Phoenician.
Most monsters in the World of Nightwick do not have the internal lives they have in other settings, being only a parody of civilization. As such, when they speak it is in one of the tongues mentioned above. When among each other they usually do not speak.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Ruined Acheron

In time out of time, before St Gax wrote down the Law as dictated to him by the Lady, before the tribes of Man came to the lands that would one day be The Empire and the Realm, perhaps before even the Kingdom Under the Mountain had reached its greatest heights (or depths), there was Acheron. Built by black-hearted men near the very edge of the World such that their sorceries could drink from the magic of the Styx, Acheron was the greatest city ever built by men.  It was there that men first heard the deceptions of demons.

What race of man first settled there, no one knows.  In fact, scholars even disagree if there were permanent settlements before Acheron.  It is certainly true that once its vast empire stretched across the whole of the world, few structures were made that did not emulate in some way the architecture of that accursed city.  In this empire there was the seed of the Law, but only as perverted by the whispers of Armadeus and his ilk. Indeed, in those ancient days it was said that Armadeus was far stronger than he is now, and that he made his form known in the World as a well-muscled scholar whose skin, eyes, and even teeth were black as the space between the stars.

From Armadeus they learned the secret names of demons and angels and set them to work. They were the first to construct the sky-ships sometimes used now by the Lazerenes.*  They reached out into the black and found the planets of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air and named them for their heathen gods - false names given to them by Armadeus.  They called creatures out of the Pit and down from the Sky to be their architects. They enslaved all manner of mortals and immortals and did many wondrous and wicked things.

But as all men do, they grew prideful, and sought to turn their magics and secrets of binding against their dark masters, the princes of hell themselves. It is said they imprisoned some, though who and where it is not known, but it was there attempt to harness the power of Great King Moloch that undid them. He appeared among the city with but one of his legions.  He toppled their high towers, gored their great sorcerer-kings, and then when all this was done he rent the earth with his great horns and pooled the blood of his victims in the Blood Red Sea. Thus was the greatest city of men destroyed.

But there are some, mostly elves, dwarves, and others who are biased against the greatness of men in the eyes of the Law, who say that these early works were not done by men at all. Acheron, they say, was the product of a different race, long destroyed.  On the few occasions when they can be called upon to name this race, they call them the Star Lords - likely an allusion to their mastery of the heavens.  Those beings more long-lived than men say this race, if it exists in any form, wallows even now in a hell made for them by Moloch. Surely the men they see upon the world now could not be the inheritors of such mighty sorcerers.

*They were also likely the source of this hideous race, as they became changed by the demonic energies they dealt with.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

FLGS Nightwick Session 11: Suffer Little Children

I have elected to do my own recounting of events for the last session because I think relying on Chris's was making me lazy.

Characters Present
Mrs. Claus - a human druid dedicated to some weird combination of Father Winter, St Santa Claus and the Krampus (level 2)
Gwenifer Nightwick - another druid and member of the Circle of the Moon (level 2)
Poul - a frogling barbarian from Unknown Lands (level 2)
Adran Wildedagger - Karslish human rogue (level 3)
Flint Lichtbringer - Dwarfish paladin and member of the Order of the Elk (level 4)

December 10th, 1395

  • Mrs. Claus and Gwenifer, while on the road to Nightwick, encountered a strange, masked Elf riding a reign deer.  His mount suddenly pitched and he fell, clutching his chest.  As they went to investigate, he stood back up and asked them if they were children of the Old Gods. They replied in the affirmative and he said that he felt a servant of Father Winter perish and placed on them the duty of rounding up naughty children to be taken to be punished by Knecht Ruprecht. Knecht Ruprecht must punish the children, absolving them of their naughtiness, so they are not taken away by fouler creatures in the winter.
  • Adran and Flint were looking for new room-mates when they met Poul, a frogling of martial aspect, and later the two druids. These seemed suitable companions to the twain - Flint's order has not the hatred of Paganry found in other Lawful sects.
  • Gwenifer turned into a potato bear and perched herself on Mrs. Claus shoulder as she went to ask a group of old women about children in the village.  Asking around they found out about a "knitting club" of old women where much of the gossip of the town was discussed. Mrs. Claus found this delightful and made her way there.
  • The knitting bee as held in a largish peasant hovel made quite smokey (and warm) by a great fire. As the two druids had guessed, these women were of pagan persuasion and quickly knew their business (and saw through Gwenifer's disguise). They learned that there were three notably naughty children in the village - Elbel, a weird boy who flies kites at night and whistles near the Fog-bound Forest, Czylle who refuses to help her mother clean, and Bartke who "ate a grub" in the Fog-bound Forest and now only says "the name of the Devil."
  • The party then split up to acquire these children. Mrs. Claus and Poul went to get Elbel, Gwenifer and Adran went after Bartke, and Flint went to acquire Czylle.
  • Elbel was outside a wood cutting camp at the edge of the woods, whistling while the woodsmen shook their heads in sadness. Mrs. Claus decided to tempt him with cookies and then to have Poul strike him with a club if necessary. They found that Elbel only whistled aggressively when talked to, and that he was one of those little boys who is always wet. After some attempt with the cookies, a frustrated Poul hit him with a stick and stuffed him in a bag.
  • Adran and Gwenifer found that the mother of their quarry was quite willing to get rid of him, and that he was clearly possessed. He would only intermittently scream "Armadeus, Moloch, Furcas," etc.  His mother was very sad, but was happy that a pagan woman had come to help as she did not trust the Church of Law.
  • Flint found Czylle alone on the stoop of her house, and was able to convince her to wear a pair off manacles "so she could be a famous actress."  "It's all for a part, I promise."
  • The party then tied them all in a large bag, put it in a newly purchased cart, and made their way to Knightpath.
  • On their way they found a troop of dogheads picking over the remnants of a frogling caravan. Battle ensued, with Gwenifer changing forms twice - first assuming the form of a great bear and then again turning into a hideous spider. Mrs. Claus spent her time watching the children while the others did battle, occasionally attempting to convince Czylle of some fact about dragons that was completely preposterous. Czylle, for her part, simply said "uh huh" over and over in rapid succession.
  • Once in Knightpath, they were directed to the village midwife, one of the few women left after the ravages of recent warfare. She was able to point them to three more children - Ute, whose mother is convinced is a lying changeling, Arnest who throws sharpened sticks at people, and Fricz who "killed a bird in an unsavory manner."
  • The druids went after Ute, finding that there was a case of mistaken identity involved. Ute's brother, Dompring, was bright green and had huge, almond eyes. He was chasing his sister about with a rushlight while their mother, in a dull monotone, insisted that "you have to let your brother set your hair on fire. You're just a changeling." Realizing the issue, the druids snatched up Dompring and left before the mother could protest.
  • Adran and Poul found Arnest in the middle of the village, chewing on sticks like a beaver. Instead of debating a method of capture, Poul simply asserted "worked last time" and hit the kid with a stick.
  • Flint found Fricz playing with his kill while his mother cried. Fricz had made a marionette out of the bird, insisted that he was "birdie the bird" and made sure to shove the dead creature in Flint's face as much as possible. Flint continued his lie about being a traveling entertainer, and noted that he needed a puppeteer for his troupe.  Fricz mother merely stared into the middle distance as her boy was taken away...
Treasure Gained
Some goods I forget how much and Chris didn't write it down.

XP Gained

Monday, December 16, 2019

Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy!

Characters Present
Uein, Fighting man from Nordovulgaria
Stavros, Fanatical fighting man and devotee of St Deodat
Frederick Bull, Fighting frog in the service of the van Toad house
Abraham Nermal, graverobber turned landowner
Johanna d'Ligne, Averois cleric and devotee of St Santa Claus

December 13th 1395
Five of the members of the leadership of the Howling Kommandos, including Stavros, Abraham, Uein, Joahnna, and Fredrick, marshaled an army of mercenaries and made their way to Knightpath. Their army consisted of the Howling Kommandos themselves, the Company of the Goose, The Corbies, the Company of Devils, and a small troop of knights temporarily donated by Paladin Lord Fitzgerald.  In Knightpath they met with a meister of the Order of the Elk that had been informed of their mission by Fitzgerald. He was also able to convey to them that Blackleg was also currently in the hands of his order, but that Frogguts was mostly abandoned and Road's End may be so ruined as to be impossible to tell there was a village there.

The next day (the 14th) the army made their way into the Fog-bound Forest, with the troop of the Order of the Elk acting as the vanguard, the Corbies, Howling Kommandos, and Company of the goose in the main, and the Company of the Devils in the rearguard. As they went into the forest the weather grew colder until they reached a mysterious, ring-shaped weather pattern of snow. Beyond it the air was so cold that all moisture was in the form of snow and ice on the ground.

Abraham, unused to scouting ahead for such a large force, was unable to ascertain the full strength of the enemy before the army arrived, meaning they drew up into battle formation not aware of each other's total strength.

Uein and Abraham detached themselves while the armies drew up and went to find Randulf, who had incited this rebellion and sought to destroy Lawful civilization in the Dark Country.  The plan was for the two of them to act as a sniper/spotter team, and it worked as Abraham was able to fell Randulf with two bolts covered in driffit poison.  This only served to anger his men - a mix of picked rangers and peasant rebels - but Abraham felt this would still be a blow none-the-less and the two returned to the command area of the Howling Kommandos.

Then the battle began in earnest. Johanna embedded herself among the members of the Order of the Elk and they charged a group of Elfish cavalry - apparently on loan to the rebels from the White Lady. Abraham then took his position among his honor guard - the Devils - and charged into Randulf's rangers.  Frederick croaked an order to the Corbies to attack a group of pig-men that seemed to be coming up from the river to attack the infantry, but the dense forest made their charge ineffective.

The biggest problem facing the mercenaries was that they were outnumbered - primarily by a huge group of untrained peasant rebels.  These attempted to attack the Howling Kommandos and Company of the Goose, and indeed nearly destroyed the Goose while the cavalry attacks were indecisive.  However, the Corbies, after reforming from their failed charge, were able to unite with the Devils and destroy Randulf's Rangers and then move to attacking the peasants, sending them running.

The Howling Kommandos received strange ailments during the battle, and during the fight with the Elf Knights Johanna was able to observe a group of witches performing rituals on the island that housed the Tomb of Father Winter.  She rode away from the swirling melee of Elk and Elf - back to the command area where she had left 5 geese she had purchased, knowing that Goody Gallows was terrified of them.  She then went to the Corbies with the goose and charged with them across the frozen river to the location of the witches.  Not only did the Corbies deal considerable casualties to the women, but those that lived fled before the face of the Goose.

The pagan army disintegrated. The idol they were using for Father Winter was taken by the army to be used in a chapel to St. Santa Claus. Stavros sought out the body of Randulf and found Mervyyn standing over him. Mervyyn expressed sorrow that the man met "a bad end" but provided the party with milk and sweet cakes to bring before the body of Father Winter.

Abraham and Johanna descended into the tomb, found Father Winter's enormous, drawn corpse, and placed the milk and cakes before it.  In but a brief passing of seconds, the body swelled and took on the likeness of a huge china doll of Father winter - complete with rose red cheeks and nose.  He then thanked them for stopping the ritual, froze off Johanna's zombie arm, and replaced it with a porcelain one with the uncanny ability to move like a regular arm.  Father Winter, who Johanna was convinced was the "reborn" Saint Santa Claus, twinkled his nose and went up a ceremonial chimney to spread snow and frost throughout the Dark Country. Abraham opined that "our presents must be at home."

Treasure Gained
110pp, 4000gp in goods (mainly incense), statue of Father Winter made of Ebony Wood (1000gp), Quiver of the Old Gods, Gauntlets of Ogre Power, Robe of Useful Items, Potion of Greater Healing

Xp Per Player