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August 21, 2004

Balinor/Morty/Tarplin Summary #1: The King of the World: Regicide

A refresher for those who were there and supplement to Jay’s notes for those who were not. It’s incomplete, but alas, the original Grand Summary was eaten by my laptop months ago.

Party Roster:

Balinor, 9th level Northerner fighter, 86 hp, played by Joel
Amortician (Morty), human bard (7th fighter/5th thief), 74 hp, played by Jay Bates
Tarplin, 8th level druid/5th level mage, 30 hp, played by Alan Jones
Bodkin Goldsummit, 4th level dwarven fighter, 36 hp, played by Katherine
Tarplin, 8th level druid/5th level half-elf mage, 30 hp, played Alan
Robynne, 5th level woodsman, played by Rhonda
Leo, 3rd level Nevronian cleric, played by David Bjorlin
Morhion Gendahar, 2nd level Northerner Nevronian cleric, 18 hp, henchman of Balinor (although played by Rodger Henson!)

When we last left the party, they had completed a series of missions on Lendore Isle, and then split the party into two groups. Randy Novotny, Nevronian cleric, led one of them. The other was a triumvirate of Balinor Buckhannah of the Restenford Defenders, Amortician the bard, and Tarplin the druid (for whom magery was simply a hobby) known as the Band. The motivation for this was to allow each group to tackle changes appropriate to its level and streamline the groups.

After trading for some interesting magical longswords named Leveler and Kazaam, Morty woke up one morning to find a note attached by a loop of string on his finger that said something like, “There is always a better deal. –Xothan Enterprises.” When Morty pulled the note off, a magical tattoo of a band of string appeared on his finger. Dispel Magic failed to remove it. There seemed little to be done for the moment, but it makes us nervous…

After investigating adventuring possibilities for the Band, the party gained some reconnaissance on the bugbear tribe. The bugbears were fortified in a cave with witchdoctors with animal friends guarding the entrances, making any stealth operation quite tricky. This still intrigued the party but we decided to put off storming them in favor of attempting to solve an ancient and infrequently deadly mystery. The Defenders could remember a small group of ogres attacking Restenford in 2180, their leader declaring himself to be King of the World. The group was slaughtered easily, but died fanatically, convinced of their right to rule and slay all who opposed them. Later in the same year, a bugbear and a worg named Sput tried to kill farmers outside of town, claiming that THEY were kings of the world. Sput ended up skinned as a helmet on Quentin’s head, but nonetheless, it was disturbing. Furthermore other towns nearby had undergone similar attacks; Barnacus, Garroten, and Trun. It became apparent looking at the map that the center of this problem seemed to be in the vicinity of Rog, the corrupt mining town that is little more than a front for bandit groups such as the Blue and Gray in the north. Clearly any investigation done in Rog would be dicey at best. Still, it seemed that research was in order, and so we checked records in the towns that were attacked. We found some very interesting trends.

Every few years, people or beings appear that are convinced they are King of the World, and try to kill people. The effect is centered somewhere near Rog, but the most damning bit of evidence that indicated investigation now is this: a pickpocket was arrested for stealing from “someone he shouldn’t have” (named Master Philophus) and he escaped into the caves. Two days later, he returned to town and began assassinating people in town. He was hanged shortly thereafter, but not before declaring himself King of the World.

So whatever this effect is, it’s within a day’s journey of Rog.

The first of these events occurred in 1420 (almost 700 years ago), when a group of forty xvarts (non-violent goblins that nonetheless like to cheat and steal from people) charged a bandit fortress and were all easily slain. All of the Xvarts declared that they were “destined to take over the world.” The next event wasn’t until 1915. From 1915 until about 1970, there were incidents every couple of years, but since 1970 it has become a question of how MANY events per year, and how large the creatures are. The biggest concentration came in 2020-2021, where there were three in each year.

Xvarts, goblins, orcs, bugbears, ogres, hill giants, crab people, one with kobolds, three by mysterious dwarves (maybe the dark ones) have all occurred. All are seen in the area of Rog. Although xvarts typically live in sea caves, many do live in caves and mountains. The dark dwarves actually poisoned the water supply, which was deemed normal dark dwarf behavior until they caught one of them declaring himself King of the World. There was even one surreal incident of an intelligent good creature that looked like a Manticore and claimed to be from Kor and the outer planes in 2100. We suspect this creature to be a lammasu. It landed in Benct and began charming people, declaring it was King of the World. The guards didn’t know what to do, but eventually they subdued it.

This mystery required a great deal of research, but we began to put some interesting facts together:

--When there are more creature attacks in a particular year they are typically larger creatures in terms of physical size. Ogres and giants only attack when multiple attacks happen in a year. When there is only one attack, it is a small critter. It is not just one creature at a time.

--Stupid or low-intelligence creatures only make their attacks in the summer, while intelligent creatures can appear at any time during the year. This indicates that the phenomenon occurs just before summer.

--There are more attacks in years with drier rainy seasons.

--Orcs make the most attacks, then humans or bugbears are second. These are the three most common beings in the area around Rog.

-- Dispel Magic and Remove Curse did not work to heal the victims.

This was certainly interesting. What did these attacks have to do with rainfall? And what did Rog have to do with it?

Some dates may help illuminate the mystery.

1420 was the year with no rainy season. There was mass drought, and druids raced around Lendore Isle trying to save the farmers and animals alike. Many creatures died in the drought.

Rog was settled in 1911. Brenda thinks that there was a higher-level party adventuring in that era that could have implored the lammasu to come from Kor, and this was later partially confirmed. A Korian adventuring party had indeed been battling slavers (and had made peace with the pirates) in the caves near Rog.

Rog is a mining town; the mine was finished in 1914 or 1915. Lead and silver are mainly found there, but also some iron. Lest one think the mine is the direct cause, it actually begins inside the defense perimeter of Rog.

In 1970, the largest of the silver mines opened; it was the deepest mine in Lendore. We looked into the safety records of the mine on a hunch (and with a 50 gp bribe). The deep mine has more deaths, pumps fail more, stuff collapses but it may not be unusual, since it is the only deep mine in the area.

So when was the water table lowest? In November, just before the rainy season. Hmm, that didn’t quite work.

So what event correlated with rainfall occurred before summer? The water records show that the water level is usually at its lowest at the beginning of the summer in the reservoirs. The farmers have drained all the water for crop usage and they haven’t let it replenish yet.

Ah ha!

The opening of the mines lowered the reservoir level in Rog. And the deep mine lowered it another two feet annually. This event is somehow directly correlated to the reservoir level in Rog.

But is an effect of the reservoir level? The hill giant certainly couldn’t have gotten to the reservoir itself without being spotted by someone in Rog. Surely they would have noticed all these creatures sneaking in during the last 300 years?

So we thought our troubles were not physically IN the reservoir, but connected to it in some direct fashion. Perhaps whatever causes the reservoir level to drop causes our magical madness at the same time.

None of us could envision what process that could be, which meant it was time to go to Rog and get more details.

As we approached, it occurred to the party that Balinor in particular might be recognized and might be a target. In addition, his lack of diplomacy might cause problems. Thus we sent only the two most neutral and unaligned in our group: the druid Tarplin, and the bard Morty.

As they crested the ridge into Rog, the pair noticed a severe pall over the town. The pollution was apparently quite terrible from the mining operations. People seemed to almost cower from the smog and we the nature-loving pair dreaded entering the town.

The guard on the gate charged the pair 2 gp for entry. Tarplin and Morty went to talk with the mayor and to see what we might be able to find out about last year’s serial killer.

The mayor explained that they should seek out the constable Clyde Stovens, and the Captain of the Guard, Captain Weir. He also recommended the best restaurant in town; although it was quite expensive, it was also quite good, and a good way to avoid the riff-raff.

Shopping in town provided two places of interest. One was a small warehouse. A Flatbush wine from central Sark was on sale for 550gp, 2185 BY. Silk was also available. Some of Tarplin’s wood from his business was there without the shipping markings; in fact, he was actually recognized by one of the patrons. It seemed was a minor celebrity. Somewhat anticlimactically, the place had mostly liberated mundane items.

The other pawn shop had more interesting stuff, including magic items. The entrance was a simple iron room that had a single window. A voice “buzzed them in” one at a time. After passing through the door, Morty noted an articulated iron statue on each side of the doors (possibly golems). There were a few items but nothing was clearly labeled except the prices, which seemed to be a little high. Also the shopkeeper asks to have no advertising. Most disturbingly, the shopkeeper was a dark dwarf! There wasn’t a confrontation, but it was probably good Balinor wasn’t there!

Clyde Stovens, the old constable, first made the party promise only to solve THIS problem, and not be tempted to “solve other problems.” As long as we stuck to our mission, everyone would support us.

Questioning the constable about the recent lunatic, we learned that the serial killer guy had fled into the wilds when he got caught for picking pockets. He was gone for two days leaving via the northern exit from the backside of town. He had worked with someone who was still in town. A few of the constable’s men took Morty and Tarplin to see him.

He seemed insane; a ragged beggar perched amongst the trash, virtually indistinguishable from a heap of garbage until he moved. The man claimed that our killer went to the one place he could hide from the crazy birds. What crazy birds, you might ask? The crows swirling above Tarplin and Morty, of course. There were three crows around them even then. The man said that the crazy birds went after him after he lifted Master Philophilus’ (falafelus?) gem pouch. He probably went to the north to hide away.

Tarplin and Morty next trekked to the mines to meet with the Captain. They discovered something a bit strange: wooden walkways around the edge of town. The miners made an obvious point of stepping over the walkway, but some mine guards used it. None of them seemed to pay any attention to the out-of-towners.

The Captain of the Guard, Captain Weir, explained that there was a set of old caves just beyond the tailing pile and the caves might run through a HUGE area of the hillside. The denizens kept the central path of the cave clear, but beyond that, it was highly unsafe. There were all sorts of groups in there, and the Captain again urged us not to tackle any problems other than the one at hand.

When queried about other incidents in town regarding Kings of the World, Captain Weir related a story wherein five hobgoblins came into town, acting normally and opened fire in one of the bars after demanding that everyone throw their money into a hat. The one hobgoblin survivor captured in the ensuing slaughter said that he wasn’t subject to the rules since he was the King of the World. There were also four bugbears who demanded that the people join the “Army of Valor.”

After leaving town and returning to the party, Tarplin and Morty discovered that the crows were still following them. When the party reunited, we decided to speak with one of the crows. We tricked it a bit, but it was bound by some spell and couldn’t reveal who its master was… but it was attempting to assess our weaknesses. This wasn’t good. The bird asked us point-blank, “What are your weaknesses?” We declined to answer.

The next order of business was check out this cave the man has disappeared into before his transformation into the King of the World. We checked with some of the bats at the front of the cave in the hopes of learning of any unnatural forces, but the best we came up with was undead. We later discovered this is a probably a loose pack of wights that roam around. While highly unpleasant, this seemed unlikely to be related to our current dilemma.

I believe by this point we had picked up even another bird following us.

Next, on the advice of the Mayor, we sought out the “manager of the Tailings pile.” He was very sophisticated and had two musicians playing for him (whom Tarplin joined and outplayed, as it turned out). The man was fairly greasy and almost a Mob boss type, and he even went so far as to offer Morty and Tarplin chocolate. He was very helpful but not very direct, in part because he wasn’t certain what we needed. In the end he did help us find someone who is an expert on the caves.

That night, a rat approached Balinor. The fighter stared at the excited rodent suspiciously, and pointed accusingly at it, saying, “You aren’t from the Commandant, are you?” The rat’s ears perked up at the word “Commandant.” Slightly perturbed, Balinor turned to Tarplin, who shrugged and spoke with the rat. Remember that the Commandant was a shadowy crime master figure who had control over the dock rats in Benct. He once offered the Restenford Defenders information on who was causing the haunting of an inn in town in exchange for 1000 gp. Since the total party funds at the time were 50 gp, we declined at the time (and ultimately solved the mission without his help). So the Commandant may be a wererat or something like that, but we’ve never actually met him

In any case, the rat creature made an offer for a reward from the Commandant in exchange for a disruption of trade in the area while completing our mission. Unfortunately that would have broken our promise to the Mayor of Rog, and Balinor took it seriously enough to reject the offer. The rat obviously had spent a great deal of time memorizing the question, so we gave it a fairly complicated answer back.

Why the heck was the Commandant dropping rats off four days journey from Benct just to see Balinor, anyway? The whole incident was quite disturbing. Why did the Commandant want this network in Rog disrupted? Was his organization larger than Balinor thought? Things to ponder, in any case.

The next morning we met with the expert about the tailings pile. He is a halfling that Balinor thought looked familiar. (My out of game guess is that he’s Hecht, last of the Department Store Halflings) He’s scarred and beaten looking. We paid him a 500 gp gem to help us and keep it confidential. We laid out all our theories and facts about the location where this King of the World thing takes place, and the halfling tried but was unable to come up with a location that seemed to fit all the facts that we gave him.

Some other facts we learned: The reservoir’s fluctuations are about 4 feet. The Monster height differential is about 8 or 9 feet (size differential between the smallest effected creature, a kobold, and the largest, a hill giant). The timing is the same as the reservoir. We know the victims come from the north of Rog. The planting is done in the spring and there is still mining. All of that adds to make the water level lower. The mines are in town. The tailings pile is to the north. The runoff from the Tailings pile heads to the east around town. The drainage from the mines is dumped to the south of Rog. No one in the mines seems to be affected. Some in the caves do go crazy (but maybe not from this effect).

So these are the facts. Again, we were unable to find any hill giant sized cave that would be flooded with water, yet affected by the level of the reservoir that dramatically. There is actually only a small section of the caves that a hill giant can even reach. Furthermore, it seemed implausible that the man who escaped into the caves could even have gone very far in and still have come back within two days, afflicted with this sickness.

So we need a new course of action to solve this. First off, it is still April, so we shouldn’t be able to get to wherever this mysterious place is for about another month. So we can always pass a significant amount of time.

In the meantime, I have some ideas:

First, really explore the bottom of the reservoir to make certain that nothing weird is directly going on there. Use waterbreathing if necessary and search around. Maybe there are some clues.

Check out the mines anyway. I realize no one in there is going crazy, but there is no question that the mines have lowered the reservoir level, and I want to know where the water is going, and what effect that would have. Maybe our mystery is a result of something going on in the mines, but manifesting itself elsewhere.

Try to figure out who controls the menagerie of birds and rats following the party around at every step. Are they ALL interested in just making sure we don’t mess up their business but solve the mystery? Or is one of them controlled by someone who actually wants us to fail?

What happens if we do run into this King of the World effect and Balinor suddenly tries to kill the party? I say appease him, but hey, I’m just one man.

So we need to have some general discussion on this. Brainstorming, ideas from all lurkers welcome! We need to come up with a good list of things to try out. The next part of this adventure is schedule for Labor Day weekend, 2004!