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December 04, 2004

Balinor/Morty/Tarplin (BMT) Adventure #3: The Black Rider

Party Roster:

Balinor, 9th level Northerner fighter, 86 hp, played by Joel
Morty, 7th/6th human fighter/thief (bard), 74 hp, played by Jay
Robynne, 5th level woodsman, 38 hp, played by Rhonda
Bodkin, 4th level dwarven fighter, 36 hp, played by Katherine
Tarplin, 8th/5th half-elf druid/mage, 30 hp, played by Alan
Leo, 3rd level human Nevronian cleric, 19 hp, played by David
Morhion, 2nd level Northerner Nevronian cleric, 18 hp, henchman of Balinor

(Events of 12/4/04 in Charlotte; Game world May-July 2192)

The party had just grabbed all the treasure from an ancient crypt of Thim, god of herdsman and herd animals (frequently worshipped by Kharg tribesmen), and decided to bring the loot back to civilization before exploring further. Recall that we had just found the legendary artifact, the Bridle of Farin, and several highly magical bits of gear on a skeletal horse and rider, collapsed inside the crypt likely some eight hundred years before.

Many questions remained unanswered. What did this have to do with the King of the World incidents? How did the Kharg get into this crypt normally? Was the loot massively cursed? How would the denizens of the area react to us running away with the treasure?

First we needed to deal with the immediate problem of our “guide”, Boss. Could we trust him? What should we do?

It was a calculated risk, but we really didn’t have a lot of options. Boss admitted that we would soon find out who he was, and that although he had committed some crimes in his life, he had been wrongly found guilty of murder. He claimed that the other crimes were minor, and that he has been working to prevent war in Rog. Hopefully the help he has given plus presumed innocence of the serious crime would prevent any awkward moments with Deputy Balinor trying to arrest him or something.

We were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and look into the murder charge. In addition, we paid him for three more days of time in the mines, and with an additional 250 gp, he revealed that fifty unaffiliated bandits (with little to no magical support) were waiting to ambush us when we exited the Argo Forest side from the caves. This was quite helpful, and in addition, Boss would discourage the various shifty occupants of the cage from wandering into the crypt, at the risk of their souls.

First we took the pumping equipment and the carts and stuck them in a side cave, and Stoneshaped it shut. Boss escorted us to within a few hours of the exit, and we parted ways. After about an hour of walking, something suddenly spoke in Pixie to Tarplin! We could see nothing, but Tarplin appeared to be talking to something…

Eventually Tarplin revealed that he had been warned of upcoming danger. Beyond the bandits, in about four days, a swiftly moving extra-planar evil creature would attack us. It would be seeking the good artifact we carried, the Bridle of Farin. There would be no way to avoid this combat, and so the pixie creature gave Tarplin some sort of item that could activate a barrier, which could either trap the attacker inside, or hedge it outside, for a few hours.

So now we were forewarned of danger. We reached the exit to the cave, and cast Invisibility on Morty. The bard snuck out of the cave and explored the ambush site. Sure enough, there were about 50 bandits waiting for us. About half of them were dug into two trenches behind blinds, and three were running scout duty watching the mouth of the cave for us. On the ridge were a dozen or so men standing next to horses. Several of them were better armored, and one was apparently a cleric type.

Morty, Tarplin, and Leo crept invisibly up the ridge. The rest of party was waiting just inside the mouth of the cave for the signal, which would be a gigantic fireball blowing up all the hapless bandits in the trenches.

Subtle, we ain’t.

Tarplin began his Entangle spell to catch the men on the top of the ridge. Hearing chanting, they leapt onto their horses, but the growth grabbed at the animals, trapping many of them. Four of the horses were relatively unimpeded and began to charge out of the area, while the cleric, noticing he was at the edge of the Entangle, leapt off his horse and turned to run.

Of course, Morty was standing invisibly right next to him. An instant later, he was run through cleanly, and expired on the spot, slumping over.

Leo froze another rider with a Hold spell, leaving only a few remaining horsemen to deal with. Tarplin turned and began his Fireball spell…

“NOW!” came the cry from below. All the bandits in the trenches suddenly raised wet blankets and threw themselves into the trenches, covered by the water!

Tarplin blinked, and stopped his spell.

The bandits threw off the blankets, and began to scatter.

Tarplin considered recasting Fireball, but instead switched to Entangle, which actually had a bigger area of effect. Many of the bandits were snarled up, but about a dozen were still running.

One of the newly entangled men suddenly backstabbed one of the others, killing him instantly. “The leader is dead! Everyone surrender!” There was mass confusion, followed by surrender. Leo froze the remaining three horsemen trying to exit the Entangled area.

The remaining dozen men were fleeing, but Tarplin yelled, “Surrender and you will live!” About half of the men surrendered, and the rest kept running. Tarplin added, “Get them!” The bandits obediently pulled out their bows, and to Tarplin’s surprise, shot down their fleeing ex-comrades.

At this point, the rest of the party figured out it should charge, and Bodkin managed a crossbow kill. The rest of the party kind of missed the entire event.

Finally, there were three scouts who had escaped into the forest. We tracked down two, leaving only one man who escaped the mass surrender.

A pretty satisfying day’s work. And with no high level spells, even.

Several bandits might have perished, but Bodkin’s field surgical skills were in fine form, and he saved everyone he could reach in time, leaving most of them in miraculous shape.

Now we had some transportation, but we couldn’t haul fifty bandits with us (despite the fact that cannon fodder seemed like it might be nice…). We took their gear, but simply warned them that their path would lead to destruction.

Searching around, we also found some magic items on the leader cleric, including a lockbox with a false bottom and absolutely no social security checks. The cleric turned to be a worshipper of Kazhak, god of secrets. (the same deity whose cleric plays a prominent role in the eight open on June 10, 2192 (ie. a week after this). He also kept a diary in some astonishingly obtuse code.

It also turned out that the backstabbing bandit was the henchman of the cleric. Figuring he seemed the most bloodthirsty, we tied him to a horse and took him with us.

Zooming down the road on horses, we realized we still wouldn’t make it to Restenford in time. So we sent Tarplin flying as a hawk back to Restenford to see if he could find reinforcements to meet us.

On the third day out, a burrow worm burst out from the ground and grabbed at the dangling Balinor, locking him in its jaws (strategically preventing it from spraying acid on everyone!). The party beat the snot out of the worm, which soon perished after trying to run away with the fighter.

Another phenomenal healing check from Bodkin meant we were uninjured when Tarplin returned. Although the Defenders and other potential allies had been out of town when the druid flew in (insert bad joke about arm fatigue here), the Baron had given Tarplin a few things to help us. He had a dagger that would glow and warn us when the creature came within 45 feet (apparently a dagger of office); he also had a scroll of protection from evil (10 foot radius), and a potion of extra healing from the Phaulkonian church.

Balinor theorized that if we were being pursued by a demon on this island, it might well be the escaped demon from the witch ceremony the Defenders had broken up some years before. That demon was able to do short range teleports and backstab nastily, so Balinor suggested that when the creature drew near, everyone should fall into a huddle and go back to back.

It was a nice thought, but it proved incorrect. In any case, the plan was to lure the creature in, have Leo read the Protection from Evil scroll to hedge out the creature or at least bother it, and have Tarplin trap it inside a larger radius with his special druidic barrier item from the pixie. Late on the morning of the fourth day, we got our chance…

The dagger flashed as we were riding down the road, and we hurriedly dismounted, activating various items and waiting nervous. Tarplin cast a Detect Invisible and took one look ahead. Then he turned to Balinor and said, “It’s not what you think.”

Still, we were back-to-back, and prepared for danger. The creature approached… Morhion’s held Light spell had no effect, and Leo began reading the Protection scroll, while everyone else set for charge…

A huge cloud of black, poisonous smoke came billowing in… sickening Leo so badly that his scroll fizzled without effect and rendering him virtually unable to cast a spell. And then we saw the creature.

It was a Nazgul.

Or something similar. On a flame-sheathed horse looking so wasted it couldn’t possibly be living sat a cadaverous dark knight in weird full plate armor (that Balinor recognized as Tugutten Field Commander armor), wielding a six-and-a-half-foot-long jagged blade in one hand, despite it being even larger than the knight himself. On the knight’s shoulder perched a large raven.

The creature appeared and zoomed in on the party at breakneck speeds. Tarplin, realizing that he had to run with the creature to keep it inside the barrier while he activated it, took off backward.

The raven launched itself from the shoulder of the knight, and headed immediately for the horse with the box containing the Bridle of Farin.


The horseman boomed, strangely enough, in Human: “Your doom has come for you!”
Horse and rider closed, and the knight nailed Balinor with his sword. The fighter reared back… and resisted an energy drain.

Double doh.

The knight roared past, trying to get to the horse with the Bridle, and got smacked by the party as he passed. Then Tarplin managed to get the barrier up suddenly in front of the enemy. The horse seemingly crashed into a wall (not so much injuring it as making it really angry), but the rider sailed straight off the abruptly stopped horse, bouncing across the ground right through the barrier and landing not far from the panicked horse with the Bridle!

Triple doh.

We figured the horse might bolt at least, but the raven landed on the horse, transformed into a grubby-looking human, and appeared to be talking to the horse, comforting it.

Quadruple doh.

So the ringwraith was working with a druid? What…?

Leo was heading for the horse with the Bridle in the hopes of riding off with the creature, and he realized that he and the knight would reach it at just about the same time… which judging by what had happened to Balinor, would result in Leo’s immediate demise.

The party, realizing that the barrier had only worked on the horse, decided that the nightmare horse was the threat and pounced on the thing. It kicked out nastily, smashing Balinor again, but the party brought it down relatively quickly, leaving it a heap of yellowed horse bones, and turned to help the besieged Leo.

Leo saw his doom coming, and raised his eyes heavenward, praying for Nevron’s intervention. And then, miraculously… the ground opened up below him, swallowed him, and the Nevronian cleric disappeared into the earth.


The party was charging hard (Balinor lagging a bit to get some heals from Morhion), but the knight was quicker. He leapt onto the horse with the Bridle. The druid was casting something, but Tarplin’s magic missile barrage and Robynne’s arrows prevented him from completing it…

The frustrated druid raised some his bracelet and a gray beam shot out at Tarplin, who resisted the petrification effect!

The knight was about to ride off, when Robynne raised her bow and shot down the horse, dropping it to the ground unconscious. The knight deftly leaped off the horse. Then he turned and ran the horse through with his gigantic sword, slaying the poor creature instantly.

That couldn’t be good.

The knight turned to face the rushing combatants, and the battle was on. Seconds later, the horse stood up… and its flesh fell off, revealing only bones. Morty rushed him, while Bodkin moved to get the horse from behind. Robynne kept the druid in trouble, until eventually Tarplin threw a lightning bolt, injuring the knight, and blowing away the very unfortunate skeletal horse.

Robynne shot the druid again, and this time he collapsed in a ten foot pile of a honey that suddenly appeared around him! It seemed a token had misfired on his death. Now if we could only dig through the honey to reach the body…

The knight snorted. “Now I’ll have to get another one of those.”

Balinor and Morhion closed, and the fighter smashed the knight once, but fumbled and drew a free attack, and was struck badly. Morty and Bodkin were frustrated by bad luck and heavy armor, but Balinor found himself facing something even stranger. It appeared that the knight’s boots were moving independently from the rest of him, greatly improving his ability to dodge Balinor’s shots.

The fighter was hit again, and nearly went down, but was propped up by the last of Morhion’s Cures plus a scroll of healing spells. The knight fumbled in his attempt to kill the pesky cleric, and then again while swinging at Balinor, but Morty and Bodkin couldn’t catch a break and were struggling. Morty had discovered that while his magic-hating sword worked well, the undead disruption sword was even more effective, if he could hit the thing!

Balinor was only barely standing but he had just downed an Extra-healing potion when the knight ran him through, dropping the fighter to the ground. Things were looking grisly. Robynne shot the knight, but the boots then shifted to blocking her attacks, causing havoc with her shots. Morty took a blow but resisted the energy drain. Unfortunately Tarplin had finally burned all of his offensive spells, and dropped a Faerie Fire on the knight, and was left with few options. He began playing his flute, and a ghost-like creature emerged and struck at the knight.

The knight yelled, “Suture!” We suspected this was some sort of healing magic, but it was difficult to tell with black knights. Then he yelled it again.

Then Balinor’s eyes opened. He heard faintly, “The boots are off you! Attack!” and stirred groggily. Morhion dumped another potion of extra healing down his throat, and the fighter swung from his knees, bashing the unprepared knight in the back with incredible strength, and Morty struck powerfully from the front, and the creature collapsed!

A spectre floated out of the body and attacked! Fortunately it missed, and the combat started anew. Tarplin’s ghost was unable to affect the spectre, and flew back into the flute. Balinor injured it, but Morty landed a spectacular blow, and his sword completely disrupted the spectre, annihilating it instantly!

On the ground lay the body of another human. The huge sword lay on the ground, slowly turning a whitish color.

And it was all over.

Balinor had lost a level due to the drain, but it was fortunately only temporary and returned within ten minutes. Ten minutes after that, a slightly confused Leo appeared out of a nearby burrow worm tunnel, claiming he had fallen into it (and suffered falling damage in the process!) and it had taken him a while to find his way out.

The party healed up somewhat, fished the druid’s body out of the honey, and headed to Restenford with a pair of corpses and some new items. The sword was completely non-magical, a dead giveway that we now had TWO artifacts or relics in our possession. Perhaps there was something to this good artifact beacon…

Arriving in Restenford, we returned the items we had been given, and declared victory. With an escort of twenty men, we rode to Barnacus, where details were resolved…

It turned out that the two humans were Sven and Fejj Peterson, two Realmish eco-terrorist brothers promoting the druidic extremist agenda. A quick calculation showed that an ethereal creature riding day and night at the speed we observed could travel the distance from the Realm in something like four days, so this seemed plausible. Apparently no one had SEEN the brothers in quite some time—they just left their calling card (“This village of sentient has been slain by… the Peterson brothers!”). Our guess is they happened on this artifact and it drove the pair mad. Perhaps it was the sword/artifact itself that was seeking the Bridle of Farin.

There was even a 5000 gp reward for the capture of the brothers (aside: 2500 gp for a death knight? No wonder no one had bothered to catch him!), which we sank into research time from the old sage Augman about this incredibly dangerous sword. The weapon actually appeared to be decaying—now it was yellowed and nappy looking.

Item identification occurred, and Duke Haermond congratulated us on a job well done, and told us to stay the hell away from the crypt from now on. And it was a good thing we didn’t go inside to desecrate it. When we found out what the highly magical items from the crypt did, we decided to give them all up and attend the diplomatic mission the Duke would lead to the Khargish leaders next summer, but our part in this adventure was over… except for one last detail.

The sword, it turned out, was called the Calamatous Reaver. It was forged in the Adventuring Reserve, a weapon of one of Vecna’s officers. Vecna made Wicked Blades of 2-Handed sword size that could be used as easily as a longsword... but this sword needed to feed on sentient beings regularly, or it slowly ceased to function.

Clearly, the Reaver was not a good weapon.

There may be other ways to destroy it, but a 95% chance way of destroying it, Augman said, was to take it back to the Citadel of Might, which was Vecna’s fortress. It has been held by the hobgoblins, but it is abandoned now. We would have to throw it into one of the forges (“There it was made, only there can it be unmade…”)

This would require getting to the Adventuring Reserve, going to the Citadel of Might, dragging along a decent blacksmith, destroying the weapon and returning. Without our own source of teleports, that turns out to be a minimum of 30000 gp expense even before considering food, guides, scrolls of Raise Dead, Magic Missile, and Cure Light Wounds, the blacksmith hiring…

Needless to say, we didn’t have that kind of cash really available, so we may decide to put off that quest for the moment and deal with Hafney Hill or Skull Mountain instead. This is yet to be decided.

In any case, the loot we found was quite interesting. The highlights:

From the Khargish crypt:

4 permanent +2 short arrows
Chain mail+3 of courage (fear resistance)
Spirit Shoes (Horse shoes of speed and can ride over marshy/holey surfaces without injury)
+2 Dagger, High and Dry, Lower/part water 1/month, instantly dry off wielder 1/week (clearly this was how the rider got inside the crypt)
Falchion, + based on level of wielder (+1 @ 3rd, +2 @ 6th, +3 @ 9th, +4 @ 12th, LN weapon, immune to level drain +1 HP/level, +1 CHR, and… ceases to function for 100 years if owner is dishonored. If it weren’t for that last part… oh well.

Clearly valuable stuff. That plus the finders’ fee for the Bridle of Farin, plus miscellaneous funds from the bandits and the bodies of the knight and the druid left us with a big surplus of money even after claiming all the remaining magic items. We spent that money on a Brooch of Shielding for Tarplin (32 charges), a spear +2/+3 vs. large creatures for Bodkin, and a hammer+1/+1 AC for Balinor, replacing the weapon he had possessed for 18 years, Maiden Basher… (“I need a suitably offensive name for this new hammer…”)

What we got (as best I can recall):

For “Boss”:

-Dagger+2 (hopefully a nice reward)

To Morhion:

Large shield+2

To Leo:

-Medium shield+1
-Platemail +2 (from Balinor)
-Maiden Basher (hammer+1, from Balinor)

To Tarplin:

-Brooch of Shielding, 32 charges

To Bodkin:

-Spear +2/+3 vs. large creatures

To Robynne:

-Banded mail+1 (from Morhion)
-Belt of Extra-healing (1 charge, command “Suture”)

To Morty:

Two more magical longswords for the golf bag:

-Long Sword +0/+4 & 2le damage v frogs—called Stork. In addition it can shed a 80’x5’ beam of light on command but otherwise remain dark. Someone REALLY wanted to hunt some frogs.
-Long Sword, Tailings, +1/+3 double dice damage against dwarves and elemental earth creatures
-Ring of Keen Blades, 3 Charges 6 rounds/charge +6 damage (not wounding)

To Balinor:

-Tugutten Field Commander’s Armor (AC 1/1, 9” movement, 600 cn, no hp absorption)
(It has been reshaped and disguised to fit Balinor—same armor Felix uses)
-Ring+2 (now that it stacks with his new non-magical armor)
-Hammer+1/+1 AC (sort of a mini-Defender sword)
-Bracers of Wrath, 6 Charges – +4 damage (wounding), for a turn (simply nasty)
-Boots of Care, 3 charges – Pick a target, for up to a turn for 4 points of AC and Saves (the thing the knight was using to evade Balinor—costs a charge to change targets)

So now that we are a wrecking crew… what’s next? Tune in next time to find out!

With great help from Jay/Morty’s notes