Goblin Campaign

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GOBLIN!
Or,
A Minion's Tale: A Worm's Eye View of the Great Below



Note: Near the bottom of the page is a summary and cast of characters to assist new readers. Enjoy!

IMAGE(http://img37.imageshack.us/img37/6122/gobline.jpg)

Introduction



His tribe’s village has been decimated by the invaders – tall, alien creatures, the friends of dwarves and worse; the home-cavern lies in ruins, the shrine to the All-Mother desecrated, the treasure-stores looted, and his kin slaughtered where they stood. The monstrous Above-landers came with flashing blades and hissing bows and terrible sorceries and slew every goblin they set eyes on.

Except for Kraashgar - this tale's hero.

Out of sheer luck an early magic missile flung from the fingertips of their magus left the goblin merely unconscious rather than a bloody, smoking smear on the cavern floor like so many of his fellows. Our hero's last memories are of an iridescent explosion of light and pain, the smell of blood, the screams of his ilk as they died.

He awoke in the aftermath of the battle, while the invaders searched the bodies, chatting with cavalier nonchalance over the spoils of their victory, jovially debating tactics and bickering over the choicest pieces of booty while their warrior-priest whispered his blasphemous prayers and closed the few wounds they’d sustained in the brief, one-sided battle.

Kraashgar waited till their backs were turned and slunk away, into the unending darkness that outsiders call the Great Below, and which he merely calls home – though many regions of the lightless cavern-realm are quite foreign to him. He scuttled at first through familiar passages, foraging for food and regaining your strength, before passing into stranger places. He passed some markings that indicated kobold territory a while back, but he doesn’t know if he's still on reptile-turf; though goblins and kobolds often form loose alliances against stronger foes kobolds rarely welcome uninvited guests.

Some time has passed. Now Kraashgar is lost, hungry, thirsty, penniless but for the few coins of bone and silver in his purse, lacking any equipment save a leather jerkin and a jagged bone knife. He stands in a long, low cave with a slick, uneven floor. At the edges of his Darkvision he can discern a narrow passage, winding away into dense, impenetrable blackness.

...

Original thread at the Campaign Builder's Society: http://www.thecbg.org/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?68868.last.

I moved this from the Adventures, Campaigns, and Encounters thread, just in hopes of getting some more feedback.

This is a log of my current single-player campaign (3.5). I’m mostly just improvising, rather than writing out scrupulous, hyper-extensive notes (as I usually do): I wanted to jump right into a game, without spending a week or more preparing.

The campaign is a “worm’s eye view” experiment inspired by the Commoner Campaign DMed by Hero’s Backpack and by the comics Downer and Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes, and the computer game Dungeon Keeper. There’s only one player, and he begins as a 1st level Goblin Warrior with stats identical to those presented in the 3rd edition Monster Manual. I’m going to consider allowing PC classes later in the game – we’ll see how it goes. The world is pretty much a straightforward DnD Underdark.

Plus, I'm drawing cartoons to accompany each Episode.

Episode 1: Running and Hiding

IMAGE(http://img35.imageshack.us/img35/9069/gobx.jpg)



Our protagonist – Kraashgar the goblin – begins by exploring the surrounding caves, first locating a huge chasm, bridged by a stone slab which, for now, he ignores. He continues his exploration and eventually locates a cave with some green fungi (which he knows are edible), with some reddish-purple toadstools, which he does not recognize, growing about its base. In an effort to scrape some of the fungus off the wall for sustenance he inadvertently perturbs the toadstools, which emit a high-pitched shriek! Our hero recoils and ducks behind a nearby stalagmite, trying to figure out a way of obtaining nourishment without activating the shriekers.

As he waits something large and ornery, with warted green-black skin, lumbers into view – a troll! It sniffs the air, searching for the creature it smells. The troll is far too strong a foe for our hero; yelping with fear Kraashgar runs full tilt into the darkness, back towards the chasm. He crosses the narrow stone slab (nearly falling into the pit below) and scampers further into the cavern, only to come across an underground stream, which flows through the cave and then over the chasm lip. He plunges into the frigid waters, swims feebly to the other bank, and scuttles into the black, hiding in a side-passage in the smallest niche he can find. The troll, deterred by the goblin’s brief dip, investigates the far bank but eventually lumbers back to its lair, disappointed, thrown off the scent.

After catching his breath Kraashgar returns to the stream and drinks from the icy waters; he wasn’t immersed long enough to have acquired hypothermia, though this is, of course, a risk with subterranean rivers and the like. After a few tries he manages to catch several small, blind fish with his bare hands – the current is sufficiently sluggish.

As he guts the fish on the riverbank he is startled by the brief appearance of another creature, a hunched, orc-sized humanoid on the opposite bank – eyeless and gray-skinned. It hisses and shambles back into the dark when it sees him. Kraashgar finishes his task quickly and stealthily creeps away; moments later, secreting himself in the same nook by which he evaded the troll, he hears footsteps, words in a grotesque, alien tongue (as if spoken by some non-humanoid mouth), and glimpses another of the creatures briefly, though he remains hidden, waiting for the creatures to pass; another close call.

Episode 2: Kobolds!

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Having filled his belly and drank his fill Kraashgar sets off to explore the tunnels on the far bank. He doesn’t get far before he discovers two oddities: a kobold territorial marking (a cave painting of a reptilian visage) and the remnants of a battle between kobolds and the eyeless gray-skins. The bloodstains are dried – the battle is old, not recent. He retrieves an intact javelin from one of the gray-skins’ corpses, also noting that, curiously, this particular creature bled badly from its well-developed, almost bat-like ears.

Further into the tunnels Kraashgar accidentally trips a wire – a kobold trap! – and a small, monstrous centipede, cantankerous from imprisonment, is released from a hidden cage atop him! He scurries back the way he came, all the way back to the river, the bug in hot pursuit, then jumps into the cold, clear flow, making his way to a hitherto unexplored bank, having lost the centipede.

Continuing his exploration Kraashgar uncovers the remnants of what appears to be a small, hidden shrine of some kind, the walls well-worked, adorned with strange scriptures; bones, shattered and dusty, of some amphibian creatures are in evidence, with a grotesque, four-armed, frog-like idol dominating the shrine. Our hero scrounges a tarnished silver icon from one of the skeletons and returns to the tunnels.

Growing fatigued and looking for a place to rest, or perhaps some sign of what passes for civilization, Kraashgar stumbles upon a crossroads. Yellow eyes peer at him, suddenly, from out of one tunnel-mouth and a small, reptillian humanoid with a halfspear steps into the range of his Darkvision - a kobold scout! The scout notices him and screams a yapping battle-cry! Our hero, startled by the kobold, misses his initial javelin-throw by a hairsbreadth; in return, the kobold lands a vicious blow with its halfspear, nearly felling Kraashgar! The two duck around each others’ blows before the goblin finally stabs the kobold through the neck with his bone dagger. The reptilian foe gurgles and dies.

Exhausted from the fight, bleeding from the wound at his shoulder, Kraashgar stumbles down the passage the kobold was investigating, deeper into the eternal dark…

Episode 3: the Fungal Village

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After improvising a bandage for his wound from some cloth torn from the slain kobold’s clothing, Kraashgar picks the rightmost passage and ascends a long, spiraling tunnel, which after some time opens into a broad, echoing cavern dominated by an enormous grove of florescent fungi and other mushrooms – vivid bluecaps, shriekers, and mutlicoloured toadstools of many varieties. He hears insectile chittering sounds all around him and takes care to be as stealthy as possible as he navigates the mushroom thicket.

As he continues to press on the fungi grow in height from merely dwarf-sized mushrooms to truly enormous growths. Our hero begins to discern that some of the mushrooms have actually been carved into architectural forms – stairs, windows, doors – and realizes that he’s in the midst of some sort of immense fungal village. A glimpse of a kobold patrol down a side-path confirms his suspicions – he’s strayed into the center of a kobold territory, into the very heart of the reptiles’ tribal home!

Giant centipedes are kept as livestock and pets in pens of bone here, while well-tended mushroom crops fester in the verdurous, pungent gloom. Kraashgar crosses a small stream and skirts the edge of the village cemetery, where mounds of kobold skeletons have been colonized by moulds, become part of the fungal super-organism. He is nearly spotted by a well-armed kobold patrol, but musters his goblinoid stealthiness and dodges aside into an “alleyway” between two gargantuan mushroom-structures until the patrol passes by. It seems to be past curfew in the village; the only kobolds left in the streets are guards.

Creeping through the kobold settlement Kraashgar performs as thorough a reconnaissance as he can, eventually detecting two distinct exits: one large and well guarded, the other small and narrow, with only a single guard. Opting for the latter he sneaks as close to the exit as he can, then dashes past the guard while its back is turned. Unfortunately, in his haste, he kicks over a stray rock and alerts the kobold to his intrusion! The creature squeals and hurls its small spear, and while the weapon connects, the attack is so weak that it merely clatters aside. Kraashgar merely squeaks some Undercommon curses in return and runs pell-mell down the passage, even as the guard alerts some of his fellows.

Our goblinoid hero can near hear yelping Draconic voices behind him, cries of alarm and anger. Three pairs of yellow eyes follow him as he sprints on short, crooked legs down the narrow cranny, eventually emerging into a much larger tunnel running perpendicular to the passage. This tunnel has a natural ceiling craggy with stalactites but has hewn, roughly even walls and a smooth, flat floor of worked stone – a road through the Great Below!

Kraashgar’s pursuers are close behind him, and the goblin is nearly out of breath. He presses on, straining his small, cramping muscles. Two of the kobolds drop out of the race, yapping in rage; a third continues the chase. Finally, when he can run no more, Kraashgar slows his pace, while the kobold, incensed at the filthy greenskin’s transgression, closes in upon his quarry! The creature’s fervor, however, overwhelms its patience, and its clumsy throw misses by a wide mark. In response Kraashgar hurls his own javelin (still clutched this whole time), catching the kobold high in the chest! The reptile is hurled off its feet and lands on the road with a sickening crack. Hastily Kraashgar retrieves his weapon and presses on down the subterranean highway; he hears a few echoing cries behind him, but appears to have evaded the kobolds’ wrath – at least for now.

...

I was going for a sort of demented smurfs thing.

Episode 4: Hitchhiking

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Kraashgar is fatigued, wounded, and still quite lost, trudging the seemingly endless length of an Underdark highway. Just as he was beginning to give up hope of ever seeing another living creature, a wagon crafted from humanoid bones materializes ahead of him out of the darkness, drawn by a bloated arachnid and driven by a gangly, eight-eyed creature with silvery fur and a squat, fleshy body – an ettercap. Too tired for caution, the goblin overtakes the peddler and introduces himself in as good Undercommon as he can.

The ettercap merchant answers back, introducing itself as Ysshera. The two converse and Ysshera is eventually persuaded to let Kraashgar up onto her wagon, lured by the promise of items to trade. When the goblin shows her the icon he found back in the abandoned shrine, the ettercap’s eyes alight with a glint of greed.

“A Kuo-Toan holy symbol of Dagon!” The ettercap hisses, unable to wholly disguise her interest. “I’ll tell you what – I’ll give you four coins of dwarf gold for that, plus a trip to Ool-Nacha. That’s where I’m headed; a town, run by some trog named Rancid. I’ll tell you what; I’ll even throw in this spiffy hat!” She extracts some floppy, faded bit of leather.

Kraashgar considers. He senses something of the icon’s worth; it might be worth more to the right buyer, but he’s in no real position to haggle, and he needs to get his bearings.

“Sure,” he squeaks, donning the hat and pocketing the coins – more gold than he’s ever possessed in his life.

Even as they complete the transaction they come to massive rift running through the tunnel, bridged by a slender arch of carved stone in the same style as the road itself. A trio of small, pallid, bald creatures of roughly goblin height with veiny skins and black eyes guard the bridge – duergar, or gray dwarves, cousins of the accursed deep dwarves who live on the upper levels. Duergar permeate the realms Below, proliferating as merchants, laborers, spies, and mercenaries. Likely these three are trying to exact a toll.

While Ysshera haggles with two of the duergar the third demands a gold coin from Kraashgar. He shrugs – the cost of travel, he supposes – and hands over a coin. He’s had enough trouble for a lifetime, and is in no mood to pick a fight.

Tolls paid, the wagon continues on into the dark. The pair chitchat in Undercommon, then lapse into silence. Presently they pass another pair of wagons, parked to one side of the road in a temporary camp. Two gray-skinned, eyeless creatures, one with a club, the other with a spear, stand guard. Inside, perhaps half a dozen kobolds are visible.

“Grimlocks,” Ysshera mutters. “Flayer slaves. Filthy creatures. Pay them no attention.”

The wagons rumble by; the grimlocks turn and “stare,” but do nothing. Kraashgar makes an obscene gesture, secure in the creatures’ blindness.

After some time the highway stops at a huge archway, carved with what might be drow script. Beyond is some sort of massive, vaguely cylindrical room that has been dug out of the living rock. Scrawled on the wall in Undercommon are the words “Mazinkor’s Shaft.” Underneath this someone has etched the words “oo-er!” and some crude, pornographic graffiti.

Beyond the arched doorway the road continues, but now winds up around the edges of the enormous shaft, like a colossal staircase. The wagon rumbles up the coiled ramp, Kraashgar in tow, towards the settlement of Ool-Nacha.

Episode 5 The Shrine of Dagon

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Ysshera’s wagon rumbles down Membrane Street, The entrance to Ool-Nacha appears to be a large, high-ceilinged tunnel with hewn stone walls. Carved into one are the words “Membrane Street,” in Undercommon, as well as in some blocky runes that look Dwarven, some cursive, flowing letters that might be Drow, and some snarled-looking glyphs that Kraashgar recognizes as Draconic, tongue of kobolds, troglodytes, and dragons, amongst others (of course, he cannot actually read these letters). Evidently a cosmopolitan settlement. There’s also plenty of graffiti, most of it unintelligible or merely obscene, such as a graphic depiction of a kobold or troglodyte and a mind flayer fornicating.

“Ool-Nacha’s a trade-town,” Ysshera explains. “Used to be a duerger outpost during the Mithral Wars. Not huge, but all manner of things have moved in, including a band of trogs led by a guy named Rancid. Nasty piece of work, if rumor's believed, but he keeps the town in working order."

Kraahsgar stays on the wagon and they ride into the central bazaar of Ool-Nacha, a rough chamber of relatively even ground crowded with merchants of every race hawking their wares. Duergar and troglodytes are the most common, with a smattering of drow, goblins, kuo-toans, and orcs; more goblins and kobolds are evident mostly as slaves used to fetch and carry. The goods are multifarious: on one corner a frilled, reptilian trog hawks fresh fish, next to a duergar and his two kobold slaves, who sell fungi from a cart that advertises “Mushrooms for Food & Poison.” There’s also a kuo-toa trinket peddler, another duergar who sells blades of various descriptions, a drow selling deep-fried spiders (a dark elf delicacy), and a trog armorer selling hides, leathers, and even a few pieces of what looks like dwarfish mail, in addition to a general hubbub of merchants selling things like clothing, ore, bones, and tools. Packbeasts are evident here as well, everything from huge, albino lizards to giant beetles and centipedes to bound earth elementals.

“This here’s the main bazaar,” Ysshera says. “Slave market’s down Oozetongue Way.” She parks her wagon, pays a local trog a bone coin to watch it for her, and tells Kraashgar she’s heading to the temple of Dagon to try and pawn that holy symbol he sold her. Our hero follows the ettercap down Gris-Gris Street, a narrow, winding alley dedicated almost exclusively to shrines of various sorts, carved into the walls, some of them mere niches, the others small clusters of rooms. At the end of the street is a larger temple guarded by a pair of hydra statues. Other idols include a spider, many-armed horror, a thing like a reptilian whale, a pair of intertwined snake-like things, and a squat, obese frog-like deity. Kraashgar even notices a tiny statuette set in a miniscule, unattended niche that looks a bit like the All-Mother Herself.

Priests and worshippers throng the streets: amphibious kuo-toans, kobolds and trogs (who seem to congregate about the larger temple), duergar in grayish cowls, and she-drow in filmy black robes like lace. He follows Ysshera into the shrine of Dagon, where which features a central pool and an altar to the four-armed frog deity. Three kuo-toans tend the shrine, each carrying an ornate pincer-like staff. While Ysshera haggles with the high priest Kraashgar approaches one of the other priests, who seems to take him for a slave. After waiting politely for a moment he introduces himself in Undercommon and asks if his wounds could be tended to here.

“A wound, you say?” The kuo-toan croaks. “Very well; I can heal it for ten gold pieces.”

“I don’t have that much, sorry.” Kraashgar shrugs and turns to go, perhaps to find some way of making a few gold pieces.

“Wait, not so fast – perhaps we can work out some sort deal. Are you skilled at all with that thing?” The kuo-toa gestures to the javelin Kraashgar carries.

“I can handle myself okay, I guess.”

“Well, this won’t require any great warrior. We’ve got something of a stirge infestation in our sublevel fane. We don’t use it much except for storage, but one of our new recruits got drained dry by the pesky little things, and we get swarmed every time we head down there. I’ll heal you now, and in exchange, you can deal with our stirge problem. Deal?”

Kraashgar ponders. On the one hand, this sounds sort of dangerous. On the other, he could really use the healing, and if the stirges can’t really injure him…

“Deal,” he says, finally.”

“Good.” The kuo-toa mutters a swift prayer to Dagon and Kraashgar’s wound from the kobold halfspear closes with a prickling of divine magick. “Now remember, don’t let those buggers attach to you. They can’t do any proper damage, but they’ll suck your blood right out of you. You’ll recover from a bit of blood-loss pretty quickly, but too much and you’re done for.” The kuo-toa leads him to an arched doorway near the rear of the shrine and pushes him towards the staircase, nearly tripping him. “I don’t know how many of them are down there, but make sure you get them all,” the priest calls down as Kraashgar descends into the fane…

Episode 6: Exterminate!



IMAGE(http://img248.imageshack.us/img248/3399/stirges.jpg)



Dust and cobwebs coat the walls of the chamber at the foot of the stairwell, but beneath the grime Kraashgar can see elaborate frescoes depicting monstrous amphibian forces and kuo-toan figures marching through enormous cavern structures, or warring with fish-like creatures. There are two doorways here, to the left and right; he chooses the rightmost, following a passage that divides, turns right again and slinks quietly into a large, hexagonal chamber with a stairway leading down into murky, greenish water. The white, bloodless corpse of a kuo-toa lies on the floor at the doorway, body punctured in several places. Kraashgar looks up and spots the three stirges roosting on the ceiling like bats.

He aims a shot with his javelin but fumbles it badly, so that his weapon clatters off the wall and into the water. The stirges, awakened by the clamor, begin to flutter about the room. One alights on the goblin and penetrates his flesh with its disgusting proboscis! Alarmed, Kraashgar attempts to swat the creature away, then runs pell-mell into the water! The stirge remains attached, but the other two circle overhead, unwilling to dive beneath the water.

Now submerged, Kraashgar attempts to remove the stirge, stabbing at it with his bone dagger. He flails and nicks the stirge with his blade, but the insectile creature remains attached, sucking a bellyfull of blood before detaching and fluttering off in a flurry of water and wings. Kraashgar breaks the surface of the water and seizes his javelin again, hurling it at the now-bloated creature; this time his shot strikes home, skewering the stirge against the far wall in a shower of hot blood. The other two stirges whine like bats and go into a frenzy, fluttering about their sibling’s corpse. Kraashgar approaches with his blade and with a well-aimed chop manages to kill another stirge. The third, alarmed, flutters round and attaches itself, sucking more blood from our hero before it too is claimed by his blade!

Anemic and dazed, Kraashgar uses the kuo-toa’s pincer staff to pry his javelin from the wall and then returns to the passage, turning left this time. He comes to a storage chamber containing more pincer-staffs in iron brackets, some ceramic jugs, and a large stone chest. Another stirge lurks on the ceiling. Taking care to be quiet Kraashgar puts down his javelin and carefully removes a pincer-staff, trying to position it around the stirge. Unfortunately the unwieldy weapon is too heavy for him and clanks against the ceiling, disturbing the stirge! It tries to attach to Kraashgar but is deterred by his leather armor, and the goblin warrior manages to pinch the little horror with the staff. It struggles to free itself but our hero squeezes the mechanical trigger-mechanism and the stirge pops like a blood blister.

Only one passage remains. Kraashgar retrieves his javelin but drags the pincer-staff with him as well, back towards the remaining doorway; beyond is a small round chamber whose ceiling drips and whose wall frescoes are obscured by thick green mould. There’s a central dais that looks to hold some kind of reliquary and a heavy stone door on the far wall set with glyphs; two final stirges are evident as well, awakened by Kraashgar’s extermination attempts. They swoop down and one attaches and begins to drain our hero! Woozily Kraashgar drops his javelin and brings the pincer-staff to bear on the other stirge; again the kuo-toan weapon proves effective. Then he rips the remaining stirge from his shoulder bare-handed and batters the little thing to death against the flagstone floor.

Badly fatigued and pale with blood-loss, Kraahsgar retrieves his javelin and stumbles back up the stairs to the shrine of Dagon. The kuo-toan priest makes a tsk sound and takes the blood-spattered pincer-staff before inspecting the sub-level fane. Satisfied with Kraashgar’s job he lets the goblin go. Our hero wanders back onto Gris-Gris Street, offers one of the fish-heads to the All-Mother (burning the sacrifice in a small brazier – the fumes are carried up to ventilation chimneys in the roof), and then sets off back to the market. Despite his debilitated state he feels newly emboldened, filled with a sense of accomplishment.

...

At the end of this small adventure Kraashgar leveled up, becoming a Level 2 Goblin Warrior. He got lucky and rolled 8 for his extra Hit Die, and put skill ranks in Climb and Jump.

Episode 7: The Fighting Pits



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Kraashgar continues his exploration of Ool-Nacha, heading back to the bazaar. He admires some of the wares (currently beyond his means) and then inspects the surrounding tunnels, Yellowtbone Alley and Oozetongue Way. Off Oozetongue Way he locates the local fighting pits, hewn into the floor and surrounded by a crowd of spectators and hawkers selling food and drink.

In the center, an orc wielding two axes faces a sinuous creature with a humanoid face and a serpentine, undulating body. The orc hacks madly at the snake-like creature but the thing darts back, hissing, before pouncing forward and clamping its jaws round the orc’s neck. It withdraws before the orc gladiator can counterattack. The warrior yells with pain and fury before his face goes black and he falls over, twitching.

“Victory isth mine!” The thing cries, as money changes hands and the pits echo with groans and cheers.

Kraashgar notices one individual cheering particularly loudly – a large, obese troglodyte who sits on a gilded palanquin held up by kobold slaves, with a pair of trog warriors and a scarred, halberd-wielding orc as bodyguards and some scantily clad trog courtesans feeding him giblets of raw, still-quivering meat.

He considers for a moment. He is clearly no match for the creatures in the ring, but he’s got three gold pieces still burning a hole in his pocket, so why not bet on a match or two? He watches a few more fights (the dark naga devours some duergar crossbowmen and a grick obliterates some zombies) and then begins to place some bets.

Turns out that Kraashgar has a good eye for picking the right combatant. He bets on a flurry of matches – on a gnoll that takes down a grimlock and a krenshar, a kuo-toa that slays two svirfneblin, on an orc that gets messily devoured by an unfettered ghoul. Up a few coins he bets on the ghoul he’d just lost to and wins more gold as it slays first a duergar sorcerer, then a drow archer that’s even immune to its paralyzing attack! He bets on a final match between a summoned earth elemental and a minotaur and wins when the gnarled, stony spirit crushes the horned humanoid into the arena floor.

Up an astounding eleven gold coins and realizing that he’s both hungry and desperately thirsty, Kraashgar consumes what’s left of his food and heads back towards Membrane Street, where he spotted a bar earlier.

...

I let the player control the combatant he bet on and roll for it in the fight, as a nice change of pace - I think it was refreshing to control a character with more than 8 hit points, though Kraashgar will be up to 12 once his Con damage heals.

Episode 8: Brawl in The Blind Beholder



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As Kraashgar pushes through the bazaar towards Membrane Street, the crowd parts – but not for him. A massive glass tank or aquarium has entered the market, drawn by a pair of muscular, slimy-skinned humanoids with fish-like heads and webbed digits. Inside the tank a dark shape is suspending in murky, greenish water. As the tank and its haulers draw closer our hero sees the thing within: a giant fish-like creature with rubbery skin, a lamprey-like maw, and three glossy black eyes. One of them swivels towards him and regards our hero momentarily; he feels an enormous, powerful weight on his mind, like something pressing against the boundaries of his brain, not painful but incredibly strong, even overwhelming. Then the fish-thing looks away and hisses something in a hideous, watery language to the tank-bearers, who pull it onwards towards Oozetongue Way.

Unnerved by the encounter Kraashgar pushes his way through the crowd and back to Membrane Street, where he locates the bar he saw earlier: an unsavory-looking establishment called The Blind Beholder. There’s also a sign that reads “Help Wanted: Servers, Dancers” in Undercommon. The minotaur bouncer confiscates his javelin but lets him keep his knife.

Inside are a set of chambers smelling of food and drink. The Blind Beholder isn’t too crowded: a couple of duergar peer at Kraashgar suspiciously from a corner, a horned humanoid male with glowing red eyes and black, drow-made armor drinks what looks like a glass of blood, and a slimy koa-toa playing cards with a hefty orc. There’s a bigger crowd at the bar, as various patrons clamor for the bartender’s attention: a gnarly-fleshed roper who can serve six drinks at once with its flickering tendrils, while chatting with the patrons in its unnerving voice, cyclopean eye swiveling to and fro. There are also four troglodytes who lounge in a side room, chatting in Draconic and laughing their bizarre, hissing laughs.

Feeling proud of himself and eager to spend some of his newly acquired fortune Kraashgar boldly struts up to the bar and seats himself on one of the stone stools.

“Hey there, small fry,” the roper says gruffly, in a voice like a stone screaming. “What can I get you? Fungus beer? Lizard-bile? How bout a Bloody Bugbear?” Some of the other patrons chuckle at this.

“Give me your strongest drink,” Kraahsgar proclaims brashly. The roper chortles at this and in a flurry of tendrils has produced a potent-looking cocktail of some variety that smokes a little and smells acridly of alcohol.

“Five silver pieces,” it demands, which Kraashgar pays. He downs the drink as quickly as possible and immediately regrets this decision. He’s lost a lot of blood, and whatever was in the drink makes him feel instantly nauseous. His vision blurs, the room reels, and he has to grip the bar to keep upright. A derro seated at the next stool laughs.

“Puny greenskin can’t hold his liquor!”

“I can (hic) hold it better’n you!” Kraashgar burps. “Look, you’ve got puke on your – oh, wait, that’s just your face.”

“**** you, gobbo scum!” The derro draws a shortsword and lunges towards Kraashgar, screaming in Dwarven!

Our hero reacts surprisingly quickly, drawing his own blade and dodging away from the derro’s blow. A circle forms round the two combatants, and the roper only watches, polishing a mug absently.

The two circle each other. Kraashgar makes a sudden thrust and stabs the derro in the chest, but the half-dwarf is tough and merely snarls, himself too drunk to feel the pain. They trade blows but fail to damage one another, till the derro nicks the goblin above the eye, drawing blood. Kraashgar staggers backwards and the derro is upon him, slashing him across the chest! Though the wounds aren’t deep, our hero has already lost a lot of blood to the stirges and is not in prime fighting shape. Fortunately, the derro underestimates a lunge and slips on a puddle of spilt beer, falling prone. Seizing the opportunity Kraashgar jumps upon him and slits his throat in a single, surprisingly deft motion. The derro makes a wet choking sound and falls dead!

Some of the crowd cheer; others boo. Kraashgar is violently ill, spattering the derro corpse, adding insult to injury. He feels a lot better, though. The roper seems more upset about the vomit than the dead derro on his floor and fixes our hero with its glowering red eye while signalling for the bouncer to dispose of the derro. Kraashgar pulls out a full gold piece and lays it on the counter.

“For the mess,” he nods, feeling larger-than-life, adrenaline flowing through his small, battered body. “I’ll have another (hic) drink.”

“You’re getting a fungus beer, this time,” the roper growls. “And nurse that thing, okay?”

“This one’s on me,” says an unexpected voice: the horned humanoid in black armor Kraashgar noticed earlier. He raises his goblet of blood and smiles.

“Thanks,” says Kraashgar. “Appreciate it.”

“I made five gold on that little scuffle. You’ve got balls, for a goblin.” The tiefling sips and smiles again. “I’m Alastor, by the way. Say, you looking for work? I know an Ogre Mage who could use a guy like you.”

“Sure.”

“Have a look at the wall over there,” the tiefling jerks a taloned thumb towars the tavern wall, plastered with wanted posters, advertisements, and job offers. “Pretty decent pay, boss isn’t too bad a guy, for an ogre.”

Sipping his greenish beer Kraashgar stumbles over to the far wall and inspects the various posters. While some exotic dancers (a duergar as hairless as the rest of her race and a lewdly clad half-drow) mount a dais he reads:

WANTED: Rogue choker preying on caravans on the 13th; bring the head to town hall for 20 gold crown reward.

THINK YOU’RE TOUGH? Try your luck at the Ool-Nacha Fighting Pits, off Oozetongue Way. All fights to the death, automatic prize of five gold pieces!

The Shrine of Ghol-Ilisich is looking for exterminators capable of dealing with an ochre jelly that’s taken up residence in our lower sanctum. Price to be negotiated.

GOOD WITH YOUR HANDS? DREAMING OF A BETTER CAREER? THE TRAPSMITH’S GUILD is looking for recruits! Gain valuable experience and a first rate education in trap design and construction. Speak to your local representative today for more information!

LOST: Small ring of invisibility, ruddy gold, no inset, runes on band, slight illusion aura. Sentimental value. If found please ask at the Welcome Gloom Inn, Membrane Street, Ool-Nacha. 15000 gold piece reward, no questions asked.

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS DISPLACER BEAST? (Drawing) Glossy purple fur, black spots, friendly disposition, house-trained. Answers to Mr. Sixlegs. Return to 1644 Squideye Row, Yolgur, the 14th.

WANTED: Escaped slave. Surface gnome, XIV brand on left arm, possibly minor sorcerer. Return to 14 Oozetongue Way, Ool-Nacha. Alive, 15 gold pieces. No reward if killed.

LOOKING FOR SKILLED INFILRATOR to retrieve the corpse of drow sorcerer TYRZACH THE UTTERER from the krenshar nest in the necropolis of MORGASH on the 11th. Return to the Shrine of the Spider Goddess on Gris-Gris Street, Ool-Nacha for 200 gold pieces; no reward if the body is mutilated and/or nibbled.


And finally:

MINIONS WANTED: Ogre Mage seeks reliable servants and/or guards. Pays 2 gold pieces a week, plus full room and board. Opportunities for upward mobility. Experience desirable but not required. No dwarves or undead. Apply with Grognash the Orc in the Bazaar.


He squints at this last one. Sounds like a good gig...

Episode 9: The Interview



IMAGE(http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/2654/szombie.jpg)



Kraashgar is exhausted, so he checks into the Welcome Gloom Inn across the street for a couple of silver pieces and has a welcome sleep. When he wakes up he feels refreshed and finds that some of his wounds are healing but also discovers that the last morsels of fish are rotting in his satchel, so he seeks out the otyugh garbage disposal off Yellowtongue Alley and gets rid of the putrescent fish-bits. He has breakfast at The Blind Beholder (fried centipedes and a watery stew of skinned bat) and has a fungus ale. Some trogs – thugs of Rancid’s – storm into the bar just as Kraashgar is finishing his meal, still sipping his ale. They begin talking loudly in Draconic. One of them catches the goblin’s eye and squints at him.

“What you lookin’ at, greenskin.”

“What?” Kraashgar pretends to have been staring into space.

“I think you should bugger off.”

“I’m not done my beer.” The roper bartender, polishing a glass, rolls its eye and mutters “not again” under its breath.

The trog slaps Kraashgar’s tankard and the ale slops on the ground.

“I said leave.”

Kraashgar considers the trogs but realized he’s outmatched. Just because he could take a measly, drunken derro in a knife-fight doesn’t mean he’s king of the underworld. He slinks off to the bazaar and locates the orc Grognash, a bored looking creature who sits at a stall that says “Minions Wanted.”

“I’m here about the job?” Kraashgar says tentatively.

“Oh, an applicant!” The orc suddenly perks up. “Fantastic. Boss’s really low on minions right now, haven’t had any new recruits in days.” He looks the goblin up and down. “Alright, I have to ask you a few questions first, okay?” Grognash fishes in his vest pocket and extracts a small pair of reading glasses.

“Alright, first thing’s first. Name?”

“Kraashgar.”

“That one ‘A’, or two?”

“Two.”

“Race?”

“Goblin.”

“Age?”

“Seventeen.”

“Profession?”

“Warrior.”

“Any skills?”

“I can sneak around pretty well. And kill stuff.”

“Any special abilities?”

“Uh, like what?”

“Like, can you cast ghost sound at will, or are you half-demon or something?”

“No, nothing like that.”

“Can you cast spells?”

“Nope.”

“Any known diseases?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Any phobias?”

“I guess I’m scared of dying.”

“Okay, death… Estimation of creatures killed?”

“About eight, I think?”

“Languages spoken?”

“Undercommon, Goblin.”

“Any religion?”

“I worship the All-Mother.”

“All-Mother, gotcha. Okay, that gets the basic stuff out of the way. Now a few trickier questions. There’re no wrong answers, we just want to see if you’re a good fit for our organization, alright?”

“Sure.”

“What kind of position do you see yourself taking in a dungeon environment?”

“I dunno, working as a guard I guess.”

“Could you handle yourself on a raid?”

“I think so.”

“Do you have any issues working alongside certain races or creature types?”

“Not that I can think of.”

“Good. We prize tolerance at the Lair. If you had a complaint about conditions, or were uncomfortable with a job you were assigned, what would you do?”

“Probably talk to my immediate superior about them.”

“Would you be comfortable working on the Overworld at any time?”

“If I had to, but preferably not a lot… I hear all sorts of crazy stuff goes on up there. Supposed to be dangerous.”

“Okay, I’ll put down ‘prefers subterranean tasks.’ Have any references for us?”

“Uh, Alastor the tiefling told me I’d be a good fit here…”

“Oh, I know Alastor. Good guy, did some freelance work for us for awhile. One more question.” He pauses. “Have you ever dealt with adventurers before?”

“Mhm.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“Sure. They brutally massacred my family and friends, and looted everything. I was struck unconscious, woke up, and got away before they could kill me too.”

“Massacre, massacre – does that have two ‘S’s? I always forget. Whatever. Alright, now that that’s out of the way I need to administer a quick practice test. Pretty standard fighting exam, just makes sure you can outfight a zombie of equivalent size, cuz otherwise it’d be smarter and frankly more cost-effective in the long run just to kill you now and animate your corpse.” He pulls back a scrap of hide that had previously obscured a cage. Inside a small, hunched figure that looks like it might once have been a gnome peers at you with glowing red eyes and moans. “Svirfneblin zombie,” Grognash explains. “Okay, you ready?”

Kraashgar tenses and readies his javelin.

“Okay, ready.”

The zombie is released and shambles towards the goblin, gnashing its half-rotten teeth. A couple of passersby glance over at the thing but pay it little attention. Business as usual Below…

Kraashgar hurls his javelin but only grazes the zombie. He draws his knife even as the creature swipes at him with jagged nails, scratching him badly. They tousle, trading blows, Kraashgar lopping off one of the zombie’s hands, while the undead gnome fastens its teeth on his leg and gnaws at him. In tremendous pain Kraashgar kicks the zombie off him and tumbles to one side, snatching up his javelin. He prods the zombie and skewers it through the belly, but the gnome refuses to die. It grabs hold of the javelin and pulls itself forward, clawing the air with its remaining hand and striking our hero again! Gritting his teeth Kraashgar wrenches his javelin free and plunges it again into the zombie’s putrid flesh, this time straight into the creature’s brains! The gnome collapses into a heap, the arcane energy that had animated it dissipating.

“Whew! That was a close one. Can’t say these are the highest scores I’ve ever seen, but everything else looks okay… well, I’m going to pass you on to my fellow recruitment officer, fellow called Veth. He’s going to take you up to the Lair. You’ll find him at the Temple of Zog-Yahn the Ur-Dragon right now, picking up some supplies. You can’t miss him, the short purple guy. Barghest. Give him this paperwork – ” he hands you a vellum scroll “ – and he’ll take you back to the Lair. I think you’re the only new recruit right now, so it’s just going to be you and him.” He extends a massive green hand. “Good to have you on the team.”

Episode 10: The Commute



IMAGE(http://img22.imageshack.us/img22/4373/magmins.jpg)



Kraashgar takes the paperwork from Grognash and heads to Gris-Gris Street to the large troglodyte temple there. He notices a large albino pack-lizard tethered outside. Inside the temple, trog priests administer to various reptilian idols while kobolds and other reptilian folk lie in prostrate prayer or otherwise abase themselves. Kraashgar spot Veth almost immediately: a creature like an oversized goblin, nearly orc height, with reddish-blue skin and a shaggy mane of hair. He heads up to Veth ands introduces himself, handing the barghest his papers.

“Oh, a new recruit. Alright, everything seems to be in order… let me just finish up here and we’ll get going. I’ve been going stir crazy in this town… I suppose Grognash told you about the raid last week?”
“He didn’t mention it, actually.”

“No? Well, the Lair got hit by some Gearhead Clan dwarves. Technically the dungeon used to belong to them, like a century ago or something, and they keep bothering us about relics and their proud dwarven heritage and mining rights and blah blah blah. I don’t know why they’re bugging us about it, it’s the flayers took the damn place over, we just rent the top five levels. Anyway, long story short, we lost about twenty guys, and the Boss is way too cheap to get them raised, so we’re pretty desperate for recruits. Now just sit tight, I’ll just be a minute.”

The barghest appears to be purchasing healing supplies from the clerics here. He notices that Kraashgar is badly wounded and offers him a potion – “We get a special discount for bulk orders, they crank this stuff out like you wouldn’t believe” – and the two head outside.

After a couple of tries Kraashgar manages to mount the pack-lizard. This just isn’t my day he thinks to himself.

“What did you say your name was?

“Kraashgar.”

Okay, Kraashgar, let’s get out of this pisshole… smells like trogs.” The barghest wrinkles his nose in distaste and lashes the pack-lizard. The lizard bears them out of Ool-Nacha and down one of the old roads, back to Mazinkor’s Shaft. They begin their climb up the shaft’s sloping ramp, heading towards some higher level.

Time passes, indeterminate, as they make a slow, crawling ascent. The lizard and Veth are untiring. The barghest advises Kraashgar to get some sleep.

He awakes at the mouth of a cave, from which an orange light emanates vaguely. Veth hands the goblin a small package that glows green from within and a flask of liquid.

“Here, it’ll be awhile till we eat again.”

After a brief meal of fungi, they press on into the caves.

“Now careful, here,” Veth warns. “These tunnels are infested with magmins, and they can be a real pain. Plus there’s bloody lava all over, so watch your step.” They dismount - the ceiling is too low to ride properly.

They cross a small stream of magma – Veth and the lizard making the jump easily, Kraashgar barely scrambling up the far bank, after timing a jump on a fragment of floating rock – before they encounter the magmins, elemental creatures like oversized infants, with too-large heads and pudgy limbs, flesh of black earth fissured with veins of magma. Steam issues of their little bodies, and they snap something in a language that sounds like crackling flames.

“Damn, I’d hoped to avoid this crap,” Veth curses. As the magmins scuttle towards them he snarls a quickened spell or two, surrounding them both with an aura of eldritch light that flares, then dissipates. “There, we’ll resist their fire attacks now,” he explains, while readying his shortbow. He looses a shaft at the nearest magmin, but the arrowhead turns to molten slag as it strikes, and the shaft bursts into flames. “Yeah, they do that sometimes. Okay, spot of training. Help me kill these things, okay?”

He hands the shortbow to Kraashgar and howls. His skin ripples with subcutaneous motion and his hair bristles. Suddenly a worg stands in pace of the purplish goblin-creature that had been there before.

The fight is swift, but dangerous: Kraashgar shooting arrows at the magmins while Veth savages them with his teeth, with a magma stream bubbling beside the path. They kill one of the creatures and wound the others, which slink back into the magma, but Kraashgar’s javelin is incinerated in the process.

“Don’t worry, we’ll arm you properly once we get to the Lair,” Veth assures our hero, after polymorphing back into his original form. “Come on, we’re almost to the lift.”

Episode 11: Meet the Boss



IMAGE(http://img37.imageshack.us/img37/5230/ogremage.jpg)



Kraashgar and Veth the barghest approach what looks like a precipice in the darkness. The magma stream flows across the lip of this vast rift, out into the emptiness beyond. Perched on the very edge of the precipice is a small iron gondola or lift, strung up to cables overhead that snake away between stalactites along the ceiling. A pair of grimlocks guards the lift, accompanied by a chained, slavering creature with a bird-like visage and scything blades for hands.

Veth presents some sort of document to the grimlocks. They run their fingers over the Braille on the scroll and hiss something in a language you don’t understand.

“Alright, we’re cleared,” Veth says. “Let’s go.” He motions that Kraashgar follow him onto the lift.

One of the grimlocks throws a lever and the lift clanks into sudden motion, swaying back and forth. Below, bright orange light emanates from the floor of the rift: a huge lake of molten rock, glowing from out of the darkness, fed by the trickle over the precipice and others like it. Soon the lift swings past the lake and through a small tunnel. It moves quite fast, cables whining and sparking as they whiz through the caverns. The tunnel opens, and Kraashgar gazes upon another huge cave that glistens here and there with silvery veins. They are far above the cavern floor, which is well beyond the limits of his Darkvision.

“We’re entering the old mines of the Gearhead Clan,” Veth explains. “There’s iron down here, and copper, and Mithril as well.” He points to something in the darkness. “See that?” Kraashgar peers down into the gloom and notes a sinuous, coiled shape rear up from the darkness before disappearing.

“Purple worms. The flayers that run the mines these days have had no end of problems with those things. Lost dozens of slaves, machines get smashed…” He trails off as they clank to a halt on a narrow balcony, at the far wall of the cavern; a square opening hewn in the cliff is the only entrance.

“How did they string those cables up through the cavern?” Kraashgar asks.

“Flight spells and enchanted discs, I think,” Veth says. He leads the goblin through the doorway and into a network of mine-tunnel hewn out of the rock, some of them glistening with glimmers of ore. Kraashgar spot several gray-skinned grimlocks and a few other humanoids laboring down the tunnels, all of them bound with glyph-etched slave collars. Once he thinks he catches a of glimpse a mind flayer, levitating a few inches from the ground and directing some slaves towards a nearby tunnel with silent telepathy, while a hound-like creature with a face like a massive brain pads about its hovering feet.

“Illithids run the Mithral Mines,” Veth says. “Drove the dwarves out over a century ago. They still want to reclaim them, but they rarely get very far before someone stops them. Course, our real problem these days is usually surface adventurers. Armed to the teeth, each one of them powerful as a small army. Nearly cleaned out the top level last time…”

They approach a carven doorway hewn into the rock and guarded by yet more grimlocks, and pass through into a large cylindrical shaft that rises up into darkness. Chains are anchored to the floor and run up the walls into the black, and there’s some kind of winch or lever system in the floor to one side. Veth struts up to the lever and pulls it partially forwards. There’s a sudden grind of gears and the floor begins to quake. The walls begin to move – they are ascending the shaft via a mechanical elevator, the chains clanking and clattering, hidden cogs and pulleys working to push you upwards. At first the walls are of hewn black basalt, then a duller brown rock. They pass what look like doors as you ascend.

“Obraxus – your new boss – runs the top five levels,” Veth tells the new recruit. “Bottom level mines are flayer territory, and floors six through eight are owned by a Beholder called Chalzesce the Mad. He can be a difficult neighbor to live with, but mostly we stay out of each other’s way.”

The walls have turned to dressed grayish stone. The elevator grinds to a halt beneath a domed ceiling.

“This is level five, counting from the top level,” Veth explains. “Alright, time to meet the boss.” He fits a huge key in the lock to the double doors and turns. There’s a hiss of gears and the doors grind open, revealing a huge, pillared hall beyond. Kraashgar and his barghest guide enter the hall. Kraashgar notes that the massive pillars are carved in the semblance of gargantuan dwarven warriors. All have been badly defaced and scrawled with graffiti, and some have even collapsed. Some torches gutter here and there, illuminating arched doorways on every wall.

Dwarfed by the enormity of the main hall are a pair of guards, a bulky orc in leather armor and a hunched, hulking ogre with a rust-spotted greataxe.

“Hey, Veth,” the orc grunts. “New recruit?”

“Yeah, some gobbo from the middle caverns. Picked him up in Ool-Nacha. Comes recommended. Boss home?”

“Yeah, he just came back from a raid. Pay-day soon.”

“Better be,” Veth growls. “Anyway, I’m going to bring the new guy up.”

“See you later.”

They traverse a network of rooms, with Veth advising Kraashgar of various passwords and how to avoid the lower level traps (such as an illusory floor, or a glyph of warding above a doorway). They move up two levels and through some more corridors – the dungeon is huge. It will take time for Kraashgar to get to know his way around the place. They come to set of double doors guarded by a large gnoll, who lets them in.

In the center of the chamber beyond is a large dais that supports some kind of translucent, arcane illusion that looks like a three-dimensional ma of some sort. A massively muscular, horned creature like a particularly large ogre with light blue skin and black eyes looms over the map broodingly, speaking in low tones with a wiry female drow. The ogre mage radiates power and authority.

“Hey, Boss,” Veth says. “Brought a new recruit.”

“Name’s Kraashgar,” Kraashgar says boldly.

“Uh, yeah,” Veth continues. “Picked him up in Ool-Nacha. Thought you’d better meet him.”

The ogre mage turns and fixes Kraashgar with his intense, scrutinizing stare. His pupils are white. He looks back towards Veth.

“He all you could find?”

“Yeah, not many takers down there. Hopefully Grognash will find some more guys soon.”

“Fine. We need all the help we can right now. Give him the tour and then dump him with Skelus. We need our traps reset, and fast. Godsdamn dwarves set everything off, there’s a huge mess on level one, and some idiot forgot a password and got polymorphed from a glyph. I think the dwarves are regrouping, so we need to be ready.”

He looks back at our hero again, fixing him with those eerie black eyes.

“Welcome to my Lair, Kraashgar. I hope you won’t disappoint me.”

...

Obraxus would, of course, have to be voiced by Tim Curry (link).

Episode 12: Maintenance



IMAGE(http://img33.imageshack.us/img33/7652/goggleskob.jpg)



After meeting his new boss, Obraxus the ogre mage, Kraashgar is ushered from the map room to the third level armory, where he is met by a scrawny kobold weapon master, Kurlok.

“Okay new guy,” Kurlok snaps. “You can sign out one weapon and one suit of armor. Now that’s not your property, it’s the Boss’s, so you break something or lose something, it’s coming out of your paycheck, got it?”

“Alright, shouldn’t be an issue.” Kraashgar selects a morningstar and a suit of studded leather armor from the trove and signs them out.

“Okay, then, I’m going to drop you off at Skelus’ workshop,” Veth tells our hero. “I think he’s got some jobs for you.”

The barghest brings Kraashgar up a level and down a set of passages to a vaulted chamber with walls plastered with blueprints of every variety. Large benches and tables full of mechanical and alchemical devices dominate the room: gears and springs and coils, pipes and pumps, valves, small models, glow-globes, vials of liquid, beakers, and dozens of tools. Another kobold scurries about the room, followed by a goblin assistant. He wears enormous goggles, heavy black gloves, and a stained apron, and is quite occupied peering obsessively into decanters of silvery liquid and muttering to himself while his assistant proffers books or tools.

“Skelus, this is Kraashgar, a new hire. He doesn’t know his way around the dungeon yet.”

“Sure, whatever,” the kobold says irritably, not looking up from his work. Veth grins toothily, shrugs, and leaves. After a moment, Skelus looks up from some device he’d been fiddling with.

“Alright, then, don’t just stand there. The first level traps need to be reset. Here, you’ll need this.” He grabs an ornate wand and shoves it in Kraashgar’s face. “That’s a Wand of Detect Magic. It’s simple to use, just press the button on the side… that’ll let you reveal arcane marks on certain flagstones. Push those flagstones, and you’ll open a door to one of our maintenance tunnels. Now I’ll need you to reset the crushing-room trap first. And clean it out, will you? It starts to smell if you don’t. After that, reset the first level pit traps and the rock-and-a-sharp-place trap.”

“How do I get to the first level?”

“Ugh, I don’t believe this. Alright. We’re on the third floor sublevel. You have to leave this workshop, take a left, head down the stairs, then go straight, ignoring the side passages, up two flights of steps to level two. From there you go through the second level forehall and up the main passage to the central hall, near the mess hall. Take a left up the stairs from the central hall to the guard-room, then a right up the stairs to level one. The crushing-room trap is down the passage directly opposite the first floor guard-room where you’ll come out. Got that?”

“Uh, I think so.”

“Well, get on with you, we’ve got no idea when those damn adventurers or Zog knows that clan of bloody dwarves will be back…”

Kraashgar heads out of the trapsmith’s workshop and makes his way to the crushing room trap, getting lost only once along the way. He opens the door to the crushing room and finds a blank wall in front of him, with a seam down the center.. He activates the wand he was given and finds a nearby arcane mark, pushes the flagstone it was graven on, enters the passage behind the secret door, and swiftly locates the console for the crushing room; a peephole shows the current state of the chamber.

There are three levers. Kraashgar experiments; the first lever separates the two halves of the crushing room (floor and ceiling); the second lever doesn’t appear to do anything at all, and the third lever lowers only the ceiling portion of the trap, so that there is still space to enter the room (though an orc would need to duck). Kraashgar enters the chamber but hears a sudden click – the floor is now rising as well! He jumps back through the door and scurries back to the console. He resets the trap, lowers the ceiling, and now pulls the second lever. When he returns to the trapped room, the floor doesn’t rise – the second lever is a lock, a safety mechanism.

Something that might once have been a gnome is now a sticky red smear on the floor and ceiling. Kraashgar sweeps away the body parts and, after searching the surrounding chambers, locates a mop and bucket. After stumbling into the foundry room (tended by a salamander and his two mephit assistants) and a couple of guardrooms – one in which a pair of goblins and a troglodyte bet on a fight between a pair of live, oversized spiders – Kraashgar finds a fountain to fill the bucket, and sets about cleaning the room. On the advice of a goblin guard he deposits the larger chunks of gore in the bucket of bloody water and sloshes the vile mixture into the cage of the level one guards’ pet carrion crawler, which munches on them gratefully.

He resets the trap and locks it, then moves through the room to the corridor with the pit traps, following a similar process to the crushing room trap – find the secret door, activate the console, reset the trap. He also has to replace tripwires that function as red herrings – the trip wires don’t activate anything, but anyone jumping over one will jump straight onto the pressure plate for a pit trap.

Now, onto the rock-and-a-sharp-place trap.

Episode 13: Sidetracked

IMAGE(http://img199.imageshack.us/img199/7411/slaad.jpg)



Kraashgar heads up through the first level of the dungeon and makes his way to the rock-and-a-sharp-place trap. A huge block – part of the trap – blocks the corridor. Kraashgar attempts to use the Wand of Detect Magic he’d been given, but it doesn’t appear to be working – he doesn’t detect any magic, and so can’t locate the arcane mark that indicates the right stone to depress. He tries a few more locations, then returns to the pit traps. He tries the wand by the secret door he’s used before – it doesn’t work. The wand is out of charges. Since he left the pit traps locked, he simply jumps over the tripwires, returns to the crushing-room trap, finds the secret door to the right of the entrance by trial and error (since he’s used this one before, he knows roughly where to search), and returns to the trapsmith’s workshop.

“You finished resetting those traps?” The kobold asks. “Took you long enough…”

“Not quite yet. This wand is out of charges.”

“What? Take it to Thollom on level three. He can recharge it for you. His laboratory is just down from the cell block.”

“Okay.” Kraashgar saw the cellblock once, taking a wrong turn. He makes his awy through the dungeon corridors best he can, trying to remember landmarks – some Draconic graffiti, a rotten tapestry, a mound of rubble, runic engravings. Slowly he is getting used to navigating the labyrinth.

Finally he arrives at the laboratory: a long hall full of esoteric machinery, dominated by large cylindrical tubes of glass, each filled with a phosphorescent-green, alchemical liquid in which a different creature is suspended. Consoles graven with odd runes are set before the tubes, one of which a reptilian creature with grayish skin, red robes, and a complex-looking mechanical staff tinkers with, while a weird-looking beast like a bipedal blue lizard follows him around, snuffling and snapping its tri-fold jaw. Arched doorways reveal some side-rooms to the main laboratory, one of them with a blood-stained throne or chair, another filled with books and occult alchemical equipment.

The tubes contain some truly bizarre creatures: a beast like a manta ray crossed with a bat, a coiled, serpentine worm with many legs, a head with leathery wings for ears, a strange humanoid thing with four arms, a single foot, and six beady eyes, and a four-armed, red-scaled horror with insectile mandibles, to name a few. There’s also a large figure that looks pieced together out of oddments of flesh, mostly drow and orc, standing statue-like in one corner.

“Uh, sir?” Kraashgar asks. “I’m Kraashgar, the new minion. I need this wand recharged.”

“Recharged?” The Slaad turns. “Hmn, well. One thing you’ll learn in this place, little one, is the principle of quid pro quo. You do me a little favor, I’ll do you one in return, yes?”

“Uh, okay, I guess.”

“Good. Well, little one, here’s the problem. One of my, ah, projects has rather unceremoniously flown the coop, as it were. Naughty little fellow wriggled out of his fetters while I was working on him and got into the ventilation system.

“Now, fortunately there’s no way for him to have left the Lair: there are iron grills on all the outer exits. So I know he’s somewhere in the dungeon, and the kitchen staff have reported a couple of thefts from the pantry, so he can’t have starved to death. Probably just biding his time and hoping to make a break for it, the cheeky little thing.

“Anyway, I need you to wriggle on into the ventilation tunnels and see if you can’t track him down. He’s not very big mind you, just a wee little thing, quite a bit smaller than you. You can use this” – here the Slaad presents a large syringe filled with a black liquid to our hero – “To knock him out. Don’t kill him mind you! He’s very valuable. Oh, and you’ll also need these. ” Here the creature gives Kraashgar a pair of goggles with glyph-etched lenses. “The clever little rotter can turn himself invisible, but those’ll let you see him just fine.

“The vent is over there, in that corner. Now be careful! He stole a scalpel on his way out, one of my sharpest, and he’s bound to have a bit of pluck left in him, especially if cornered! You come back with him, though, and I’d be happy to recharge that wand for you. Sound fair?”

“Yeah, I’ll be back as soon as I catch it. What does it look like?”

“You’ll know it when you see it.”

Episode 14: Eavesdropping



IMAGE(http://img403.imageshack.us/img403/4199/beholder.jpg)



Kraashgar clambers up onto a bench and pulls open the grate that covers the shaft. He pulls himself up and into the tunnel; he has to crouch a little to enter, but doesn’t have to crawl on his hands and knees – one of the few advantages to being a goblin. He straps on the goggles, readies his syringe, and beings to creep through the shafts. The hunt begins!

The shafts are even more confusing than the rest of the dungeon. Kraashgar creeps through them slowly, pausing frequently to listen. He encounters a few other tunnel denizens that obviously aren’t the thing he’s looking for – a large rat and a bloated, oversized spider – but dispatches them without too much trouble, though he dose sustain a nasty bite from the rat. He looks through a hole in one wall where a flagstone is missing and briefly taunts an elf prisoner in the cells before moving on in search of whatever creature escaped from the Slaad’s lair. Wish he’d been more specific about what this thing looked like.

He attempt to navigate by peering through the grills that intersperse the stone corridors, looking down onto guard-rooms and into what look like the bottom of the pit-traps – he sees a multi-headed dragon-like creature and a pack of quilled, wolfish predators prowling about the floors of these. He descends ladders and sloped chutes, carefully maneuvering down the rusted rungs and narrow, slanting passages.

Kraashgar hears heavy booted footsteps echoing down one tunnel and scuttles over to a grill to peer inside, more curious than anything. Through the shaft’s small grill he can see a hexagonal chamber whose walls and floor are covered in glowing runes, surrounding an ornate series of concentric circles at the chamber’s center. There’s a pair of huge double doors on one wall and a smaller doorway on another. Obraxus the Ogre Mage, Kraashgar’s Boss, stands at the center of the room, alone. He speaks an incantation and a creature suddenly materializes in a puff of sulphurous smoke: a bat-winged imp with a barbed tail and a toothy grin on its face.

“What have you learned, Shez?”

“Ill news, master,” the imp replies. “The townsfolk have hired another party to, um, dispose of your eminence. It’s a vicious cycle: the adventurers show up, pump the local economy full of gold, get hired, die, and then use all the gold the adventurers spent on drinks and weapons and what-have-you to hire another party! The mayor’s a canny one, he’s only been giving them a quarter pay in advance, so the town’s still making a net profit out of all this, and the taxes are so high that the mayor sees a good portion of it himself. It might be wise to, ah, remove him from power.”

“Good work, Shez. It may be time to contact that dreadfully useful tiefling again, he did excellent work last time.”

Suddenly there’s a booming knock at the doors. Kraashgar tenses and edges to one side – he doesn’t want to risk being spotted. He can still hear, though.

“Enter!” Obraxus bellows.

He hears the doors open, and then a high, raspy voice speaks.

“I’m ever so sorry to bother you, master, but – ”

“Get to the point, Morkoth.”

“Yes, well, Chalsezce is here and he’s upset about something and he said he’d only meet with you. He’s in a bit of a mood, you know how he can get. Called me, a sycophantic newt. Told me I smelled like grick cheese.”

“Ha! He was being generous. Show him in.”

“I’m coming in and I don’t care if you want me or not,” a new voice says, nasal and unpleasant. “I’ve got a bone to pick with you, Ogre Mage, and I’m not leaving till this gets settled.”

“What is it this time, Chalsezce?”

“Some of your filthy employees have been using the fifth level fountains for baths, and who knows what else. You agreed at the last dungeon-inhabitants meeting that the fountain was a shared space. You know the sound of running water soothes me, and all I’ve got on my levels is that bloody cistern, doesn’t do the trick at all. But it smells horrible now, Obraxus, and it looks like something was drowned in the damn thing. The water’s filthy!”

“Look, Chalsezce, I sympathize, I really do, but I don’t really have time for this right now. I’m in the middle of a crisis here, I’m seriously understaffed and I’ve got dwarves attacking level three and this damn surface town keeps sending packs of bloody adventurers in through the front door. You don’t have to worry about them, you only need to perk up if they make it down to level six, and let’s face it, that’s not very likely. Can’t this wait till the next meeting?”

“No, it can’t, Obraxus, and I don’t give a high elf’s fart about any adventurers, that’s your problem and the price you pay for having access to the Overworld. I want the fountain cleaned, by your workers, and I want it made clear that the fountain is not for bathing, or drinking, or anything else! It’s purely decorative!” The voice sounds increasingly shrill.

“Fine, fine. I’ll ask Caustic to refresh everyone on the fifth floor etiquette policies, and we just hired a new minion so we’ll have him muck out the fountain. Okay?”

“Alright. You can tell Caustic that it’d better be done and done quickly, and the next time I catch someone befouling that fountain I’m going to personally float up here and petrify her. I’ll use her as a bloody hat-rack!”

“Yes, yes, I’ll pass it on.”

The doors clank shut. Kraashgar hears the Ogre Mage thud out of the room, grumbling under his breath. The goblin lets out a breath and continues his hunt.

Episode 15: Cyborg



IMAGE(http://img50.imageshack.us/img50/183/grig.jpg)



Kraashgar continues his hunt through the dungeon’s ventilation shafts, pausing and listening frequently. He hears a skittering sound down a side-shaft, and steals as quietly as he can towards the sound. He rounds a corner and a shape resolves out of the darkness: a small, scrawny creature with the lower body of a beetle and the upper body of a tiny, delicately featured humanoid. It clutches a stained scalpel in one hand. Its left arm, he notes, has been replaced with a strange, whirring clockwork appendage, stitched and wired into its flesh. Heh, I don’t think these things breed down here.

Kraashgar lunges towards it with the syringe, and it squeals in terror, flinging a weft or net of magical threads towards our hero! Kraashgar attempts to evade, but the shaft is too tight – he is entangled in the eldritch threads! He struggles and squirms, attempting to escape, but Thollom’s experiment has already scurried off down the tunnel.

After several minutes the arcane threads dissolve and Kraashgar is freed. He sets out again in search of the bizarre hybrid of creature and machine, scrambling down more ladders and through the confusing knot of passageways. He seems to have lost the trail, and curses the little beast silently.

Finally he hears the familiar skittering again and darts towards it, as silent as possible. The thing has its back turned as he comes up behind it. He aims carefully with the syringe, thrusts hard, and depresses the plunger. The cyborg squeaks, half turns, and then falls to the floor, unconscious.

Kraashgar throws the fey over his shoulder. Rather than attempting to get back the way he came he kicks open the nearest grate and drops into the room below – a shrine, smelling strongly of burnt flesh. A pair of braziers flare at the far wall, flanking a charred altar set before a gibbering clay idol depicting some bestial, monstrous-looking deity; some remnants of what might be dwarven ancestor-gods or something similar can be seen in niches about the room’s periphery, but most have been smashed, beheaded, or otherwise defaced, and spidery graffiti covers the walls.

A gray-furred gnoll seems to minister this shrine. When Kraashgar drops into the room she bristles, then relaxes.

“Uh, sorry about that,” Kraashgar says sheepishly. “I’m the new guy here.”

“What is that thing?” The gnoll priestess asks.

“No idea. It escaped from Thollom’s lab.”

“Typical. Are you wounded?”

“No – although I did get bitten by a big rat back there.”

Hm. Not much damage, but it could have infected you with something.” She mutters a spell.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”

Our hero heads back towards the lab, getting lost only a couple of times before he finds his way to the cell block and the Slaad’s rooms. He hefts the cyborg fey onto the ground.

“What is that?” Thollom asks, squinting, while his familiar sniffs at the unconscious creature.

“Uh – isn’t this the thing you wanted?”

“Never seen it before in my life.”

“What?! You mean I have to go back there?”

“Kidding! Kidding! Yes, that’s Subject E47-J. Here, I’ll recharge that wand.”

...

I allowed the grig to use entangle without the presence of plants. I can always say it’s a function of the clockwork/bionic arm. It certainly increased the player’s annoyance with the grig (already high), so just for that it was worth it – made it a lot more satisfying to catch it in the end.

I'm trying to begin ramping up both the humor and the horror in the campaign. I sort of want to take the story in dark directions, but while maintaining a very comic, madcap sort of approach.

Anyone have any suggestions? Criticisms of my DMing? There was a bit earlier that was somewhat railroady, but I think I got it out of the way, and it was sort of necessary to get the player to the dungeon itself.

Episode 16: Rock-And-A-Sharp-Place

IMAGE(http://img12.imageshack.us/img12/9410/maplmh.jpg)



His wand recharged, Kraashgar heads back to level one to finish resetting the traps there. He bypasses the crushing-room trap and the pit traps and heads up a spiral staircase towards the rock-and-a-sharp-place trap. As he scuttles up the stairs he meets another dungeon denizen – the drow woman he saw before, in Obraxus’ Map Room.

“Hey, you – you’re the new guy, right,” the dark elf demands.

“Yeah, that’s me. Kraashgar.”

“I’m Caustic. Number two round here. You do what I say, and don’t ask questions, we won’t have any problems. Now what are you doing?”

“Skelus asked me to reset the first level traps. I’ve done everything but the rock-and-a-sharp place.”

“Well, carry on, but after that go down to the fifth level and scrub out the fountain there, got it?”

“Will do.” (Yes sir?)

Caustic seems satisfied with this and heads down the stairwell without another word, so our hero hurries up to the slab blocking the corridor. He uses his wand, and this time an arcane mark appears. He presses the relevant flagstone and enters the maintenance corridor.

The console for this trap is complex: three levers, a winch, and a crank. The eye-hole reveals each relevant piece of the trap: a stone slab and a section of spring-loaded floor that flips up against it, studded with spikes that bury themselves in holes on the side of the slab.

He tries the winch. No luck. None with the crank, either. He tries the first lever and the spikes retract. Good so far. He pulls the other two levers, but they just click. He tries the winch and crank again but they’re still stuck.

Focusing, Kraashgar reasons that the two latter levers are probably safety locks, so he disengages them. This time the winch works, so with tiny muscles straining from the effort he winches back the huge stone slab, back into its position in the ceiling. Now he cranks back the spring-loaded floor section, resetting the trap.

Mission accomplished! There’s nothing Kraashgar would like more than to settle in for a hot meal and a rest, but he still has to scrub out the fifth level fountain. He trudges back, making sure that the pit traps have been activated on his way, and double-checking the crushing-room.

He’s barely made it to the second floor entrance when an alarm blares over some unseen magical speaker system. Caustic’s voice resounds from a nearby dwarf statue.

“Alright everyone, we’ve got incoming adventurers. Repeat, incoming adventurers. Everyone to stations!”

Looks like Kraashgar finished resetting the traps just in time! He wonders what he should do. Go to a guard-room? Continue with his allotted tasks? He hasn’t been prepped for this yet!

He looks back towards where he knows the secret door to the crushing-room trap is. He spent all this time resetting the traps, why shouldn’t he get to watch them in action? Making sure that the coast is clear, he uses his wand to discern the arcane mark, then enters the maintenance room behind the trap, to watch through the peephole. Hopefully some intruders are going to get pancaked!

Episode 17: The Crawl



IMAGE(http://img504.imageshack.us/img504/3614/adventurers.jpg)



Our heroes pause at the mouth of the fell Ogre Mage, Obarxus the Accursed. The huge, rune-etched doors of the monster’s Lair stand before them on the mountainside, a flight of stone steps leading upwards around the cliff-face. Tul, the half-orc fighter-rogue, spots some arrow-slits carved into the cliff along the stairway.

“Best we press ourselves against the rock,” he advises his companions, the canny half-elf sorcerer Kenneth and the formidable human cleric Cal. “Avoid their archers.”

The three stalwart adventurers thus approach the front doors, sidling against the walls, directly below and thus out of reach of any archers above.

The front door is sealed with a lock of ingenious dwarf make. Tul checks for any traps but finds none. Despite his best efforts the half-orc is unable to tease open the prolix tumblers within. He turns to Cal, who calls up the untold powers of his deity and offers up a mystic prayer. The Power answers, and Tul is blessed with Bull’s Strength. Combined with his Gauntlets of Ogre Power and his natural half-orc brawn, the mighty Tul manages to force open one half of the double-doors, his massive green biceps straining with the effort.

The door gives, exposing a dark room beyond. With his darkvision Tul can discern a few details: another door at the fair end, some loose rubble, decapitated dwarven statues, and a graffiti-marred mosaic on the floor. He sticks his head in to get a better look and is almost skewered by arrows, as hidden archers in an unseen gallery let fly! Their arrows clatter of the iron door and Tul jerks his head back.

“One-Eye’s Empty Socket!” Tul curses. “More bloody archers!”

“I’ll take care of them,” Kenneth proclaims, rolling up the sleeves of his robe. Ioun stones swirl about his head, and his palms crackle with eldritch puissance as he swaggers into the chamber, already intoning an arcane incantation. He channels raw magical energy and a swarm of magic missiles burst from his hands, squirting with uncanny accuracy through the arrow-slits. There are yelps of pain and sounds of sizzling flesh.

The other two enter the front chamber and Tul rushes to the far door, lest reinforcements arrive. While Cal and Kenneth cast divine and arcane shields on themselves Tul busies himself with the next lock, and this time manages to defeat the dwarven mechanisms. The doors swing open, revealing a huge, pillared hall beyond. More arrow slits are evident along the walls, and an impressive wooden door is evident at the end.

“Okay, guys,” Tul growls. “Get ready to run. I’m going to charge that door. You guys follow and draw their fire.” His companions nod. Tul braces himself, then launches into the hall.

Arrows whiz past him as he darts between pillars towards the far end. One grazes his head and others bounce off his enchanted chain shirt. He hears Kenneth grunt in pain and looks back to see the half-elf wrench an arrow from his side while others bounce harmlessly off his arcane shield.

Tul works up as much momentum as he can and rams the door, shattering it from its hinges, just as an arrow buries itself in a shoulder-joint. He yowls with pain and ducks into the room beyond, his companions close behind.

“Looks like we’re safe here,” Cal notes, before mouthing a few low-level healing spells to close the arrow-wounds of his companions.

The room our heroes find themselves in is small and spare, with a single exit. This they take, all three straining for a moment to batter it down before it yields in a burst of splinters.

The corridor beyond is crooked. Tul gestures that he will scout ahead and begins searching for traps along the passage’s walls and floor. He’s made it halfway through when he hears an ominous clicking sound, and a section of the ceiling descends rapidly towards him! He attempts to use his rogue’s reflexes to avoid the trap, but is too slow, just barely stopping the block from crushing him entirely by using his immense strength, still augmented magically, to hold the block up; pain hammers through his arms and down through his body, and he can feel his bones jarred nearly to the point of snapping. A section of the floor swings up and spikes pop out, but fortunately Tul is too far away to be impaled, and his companions are too far back. With prodigious effort Tul pushes the block back into the ceiling, then carefully forces the floor-panel back into place. His companions follow after him, Cal already speaking another healing spell.

The descend a flight of spiral steps and pass down a corridor, Tul now checking for traps with typical adventurer’s obsessiveness. The three eventually pass through a small pillared hall and into another corridor. Tul spots two tripwires and slinks forward. He cuts the first expertly, rolling backwards to avoid any danger, but nothing happens.

“Clever trick,” the half-orc mutters, now groping for a seam or pressure-plate. He finds one and gingerly depresses it, so that a pit gapes open harmlessly in the floor. The three easily make the jump across, and Tul repeats the process with the second trap, spitting derisively into the latter pit before pressing forward.

He kicks down the door and discovers a guard-room. Three gnolls and an orc stand in the room, tables overturned, weapons drawn! The half-orc unsheathes his greatsword and his companions ready their own weapons.

The melee is short and bloody. Two gnolls head for Tul, obviously the strong-man of the group, while the orc and remaining gnoll focus on the cleric and sorcerer. Kenneth attacks with a sheet of flame, searing one gnoll, while Cal swings his massive mace, crushing the orcs skull, though not before taking a wound of his own. The burnt gnoll howls with pain and rage and swings its flail, nearly breaking Kenneth’s concentration as the sorcerer finishes him off with a Scorching Ray.

Tul’s armour protects him from the gnolls’ attacks as he lays about with his enormous blade. He overpowers one gnoll’s parry and wounds the creature badly, parries its counter-attack and ripostes with a vicious sweep that cuts the bestial humanoid in two! He cleaves, allowing his inertia to carry him forward, and lops off the other gnoll’s arm. The horrible creature growls and slashes madly before Tul decapitates it.

The minions lie dead. They loot the bodies swiftly, adding some imperceptible increment to the huge hoard of gold they already possess, tucked safely inside Kenneth’s Bag of Holding. Now Tul turns to the door the creatures were guarding: iron, again, though unlocked. He checks for traps, but finds none.

Still breathing hard, Tul enters the chamber beyond: a hexagonal one, with slightly stained floors. He hears a click, and turns back to find the doors suddenly closing – he must have missed another trap! This is not the half-orc’s day. He hurls himself back towards the closing door but bounces off as it snaps shut with grim finality. He hears muffled voices behind the door as his companions attempt to breach it with magic, just as he notices that the floor is rising and the ceiling dropping. He feels an upwelling of panic. This can’t be the end – not like this! Claimed by some wretched trap? Surely if he was to die it would be in single combat with the Ogre Mage itself, just after dealing the evil thing a mortal wound!

Tul has a few brief moments of pure terror and regret before the crushing room reduces him to a pulpy greenish-red paste.

Peering through a peephole in a hidden corridor, a goblin chuckles with satisfaction.

...

The player played Tul (Rogue 3/Fighter 7) this Episode. It was something of a challenge for him not to meta-game, but he did fairly well (yeah he searched for traps, but he did so whether he knew there was a trap or not, and when he failed a Search check he plowed straight on through. Hence the squishage). Kraashgar will return next Episode, when he finds out how Caustic got her name.

Episode 18: Charm Person

IMAGE(http://img257.imageshack.us/img257/9971/caustic.jpg)



Kraashgar smirks with pleasure, the screams of the foolish adventurer still echoing through the dungeon halls. Suddenly he hears a sound at the secret door entrance – voices, in a language he doesn’t understand, followed by the sound of the door grinding open! The goblin grits his teeth, raises his morningstar, and charges down towards the secret door, hurtling out of the darkness like a small, furious, green missile. He strikes the first opponent he sees – a half-elf in blue robes. The adventurer yells in surprise and pain as Kraashgar prepares for another blow!

Before Kraashgar can attack again the sorcerer has retaliated, spitting forth a quick incantation. Our hero feels a strange sensation overcome him which he tries and fails to resist. Suddenly he realizes something obvious: the half-elf isn’t his enemy, but his friend! He knows this intuitively and indisputably: the sorcerer is his eternal ally, and he must do all he can to assist him. The strange creature speaks – if only Kraashgar could understand him! The other intruder – an armoured human – says somtheing else, again in an unfamiliar tongue, and the sorcerer speaks again, touching Kraashgar lightly. Suddenly their gibberish resolves into speech.

“Goblin! We need to find the Ogre Mage Obraxus. Lead us to him!”

“Uh, why do you need to find him?”

“We have come to slay the hideous beast and cleanse the land of his foulness,” the human declares.

Kraashgar considers this. On the one hand, the half-elf is his friend, and the human is his companion. On the other hand, Obraxus is his boss, and he just got this job. He wrestles with the decision.

“No way I could persuade you to, maybe, turn around?”

“My friend Cal is just joking,” the half-elf says, glaring at the human. “We just need to talk with your master. First, deactivate the trap.”

“Okay, sure.” Kraashgar pulls the lever and the trap opens. He locks the crushing room for good measure – he wouldn’t want his new friend to activate it by mistake!

“Now come with us, goblin,” the half-elf commands. Kraashgar doesn’t feel compelled to obey, but it seems much easier to just go along with what the adventurer tells him. The three enter the room: the gory remains of the half-orc glisten on the floor.

“Not enough to raise,” the human notes. “Gods, not enough to bury.” The Overworlder glares at Kraashgar with barely restrained malice.

“Well, he could be sort of an oaf anyway.” The half-elf shrugs. “We can take the Ogre Mage by ourselves. Now, goblin, lead on!”

Kraashgar thinks long and hard. Part of him doesn’t believe the half-elf. Maybe the creature cast some sort of – but no. The adventurer is his friend; he wouldn’t wish Kraashgar any harm.

“Okay, I’ll try. It’s my first day, though,” the goblin says sheepishly.

“Great,” the human grumbles. “Of all the minions we could have picked, we got the new guy.”

“Come on, let’s just follow him” the half-elf says.

Kraashgar leads the intruders through the maintenance corridor and out into the cross-section. He guard-room is up ahead. He’s sure if he just explains that the half-elf and the human aren’t a real threat, the guards will understand…

He opens the door. The adventurers push past him as the troglodytes, orcs, and kobolds inside charge forwards.

Kraashgar’s shrieks of protest are quickly drowned out as the battle begins. He slinks to a corner, paralyzed with indecision, while the adventurers and the dungeon guards engage one another. Spells fly, weapons clash, and blood spatters the flagstone floors. For a moment it looks like the intruders will overcome the defenders – and then Caustic ascends the from the second level, a pair of minions beside her, glowing with a greenish aura. She speaks a spell and the green glow extends to the remaining minions (including Kraashgar); then, as the adventurers begin mouthing their own incantations, she makes a furious gesture and an acidic green cloud erupts from her fingers, filling the guard-room! The half-elf manages to squeeze off a quick spell, but it rebounds off Caustic, repelled by some unseen force. The sorcerer and cleric scream in pain as their flesh blisters and melts, sloughing off their bones. The corrosive gas reduces them to piles of bones; the other minions, protected from the spell’s effects, are unharmed.

Caustic grimaces and strides over to Kraashgar, speaking another spell. The goblin’s horror and intense sorrow at his friend’s demise dissolves instantly, and he realizes with an epiphany of self-disgust that he had been duped and ensorcelled.

“The Boss is going to have to hear about this,” Caustic declares, his voice dripping venom. “You lot, clean up this mess and check to see if they have anything valuable. And someone rest the bloody traps. And you – ” she looks down at our hero “ – are coming with me.”

Gulp.
I thought a brief synopsis migth be in order to introduce readers just starting out (I reailze there's quite a bit of text up there). I hope people are enjoying this!

Dramatis Personae



In Order of Appearance

IMAGE(http://img269.imageshack.us/img269/5340/kraashgar.jpg)Kraashgar – Our hero. A young goblin warrior from the Great Below, his tribe has been slaughtered by adventurers.

IMAGE(http://img188.imageshack.us/img188/4459/ysshera.jpg)Ysshera – Ettercap merchant. Gave Kraashgar a lift to Ool-Nacha.

IMAGE(http://img529.imageshack.us/img529/7866/rancid.jpg)Rancid – Troglodyte and wealthy merchant. Runs Ool-Nacha.

IMAGE(http://img406.imageshack.us/img406/6994/alabastor.jpg)Alastor – Tiefling bounty hunter and assassin. Kraashgar impressed him by killing a derro in a knife-fight at the Blind Beholder tavern.

IMAGE(http://img406.imageshack.us/img406/7603/shub.jpg)Shub – Unusually friendly roper. Bartender at the Blind Beholder in Ool-Nacha.

IMAGE(http://img156.imageshack.us/img156/9639/grognash.jpg)Grognash – Orc minion of Obraxus, in charge of recruitment. Poor speller, but smart for an orc.

IMAGE(http://img39.imageshack.us/img39/9534/veth.jpg)Veth – Barghest Ranger. Minion of Obraxus. Helped Kraashgar kill some magmins and escorted him to the Lair.

IMAGE(http://img391.imageshack.us/img391/1540/obraxus.jpg)Obraxus – Ogre Mage. Kraashgar’s Boss as of Episode 11. Rents the top five levels of a former dwarven stronghold from Illithids. Quite intimidating.

IMAGE(http://img115.imageshack.us/img115/2529/cautisc.jpg)Caustic – Drow Wizardess. Obraxus’ second-in-command. Specializes in acid magic. Hard-ass.

IMAGE(http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/6091/kurlok.jpg)Kurlok – Irritable kobold weaponmaster. Minion of Obraxus.

IMAGE(http://img379.imageshack.us/img379/2427/skelus.jpg)Skelus – Absentminded kobold trapsmith. Minion of Obraxus.

IMAGE(http://img196.imageshack.us/img196/136/thollom.jpg)Thollom – Gray Slaad. Sublets a laboratory in Obraxus’ Lair. Had Kraashgar catch an escaped grig he was experimenting on.

IMAGE(http://img404.imageshack.us/img404/1649/shez.jpg)Shez – Imp familiar of Obraxus.

IMAGE(http://img132.imageshack.us/img132/316/chalsceze.jpg)Chalsezce the Mad – Cantankerous Beholder that rents the dungeon levels below Obraxus’ Lair from the Mind Flayers. Germophobe.

IMAGE(http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/5512/tul.jpg)Tul – Half-orc Fighter/Rogue and adventurer. The party strong-man and skill-monkey.

IMAGE(http://img404.imageshack.us/img404/5751/kenneth.jpg)Kenneth – Half-elf Sorcerer and adventurer. Party mage. Charmed Kraashgar.

IMAGE(http://img210.imageshack.us/img210/1351/calh.jpg)Cal – Human cleric and adventurer. Party medic. A trifle grumpy.


The Story So Far



Fleeing from the adventurers that destroyed his home, Kraashgar the goblin warrior found himself lost and hungry in the endless maze of caverns known as the Great Below. He had a few near misses with some cavern denizens (a troll and some grimlocks) before straying into kobold territory, where he triggered a trap and slew several kobold guards on his way through a fungal village. While in the nearby caverns he also discovered a former kuo-toan shrine and pocketed a holy symbol there, and found some fish and clean water.

The goblin eventually found his way to a subterranean highway, where he hitched a ride with an ettercap merchant called Ysshera, in exchange for the kuo-toan symbol. She took him to the troglodyte-run town of Ool-Nacha, a former duerger outpost, by way of Mazinkor’s Shaft. Once in the town, he cleaned out a nest of stirges in a kuo-toan temple in exchange for healing.

Woozy from blood-loss but otherwise unharmed, Kraashgar made some gold at the local fighting pits, then headed to the tavern, an establishment called the Blind Beholder owned by a roper named Shub. After killing a drunken derro in a knife-fight he attracted the attention of a tiefling named Alastor, who recommended Kraashgar look into a job opportunity as an Ogre Mage’s minion.

After a rest and some food, Kraashgar headed to the bazaar, where he found Grognash the orc, a recruiter for the Ogre Mage Obraxus. After a short interview and a practical test that left him nearly dead (he had to fight a gnome zombie, to prove that hiring him alive was more cost-effective than killing and raising him), he was hired and sent to the local trog temple to find another employee of Obraxus, Veth the barghest.

Veth took Kraashgar up Mazinkor’s Shaft to a series of caverns en route to Obarxus’ Lair. Here they fought off a few magmins, then took a grimlock-operated gondola/lift through to a set of Illithid-owned Mithril Mines. From here they ascended to the Lair proper, where Kraashgar met his new boss, Obraxus, and became acquainted with some of the dungeon personalities, such as the drow Wizardess Caustic, the weaponmaster Kurlok (from whom he acquired new equipment), and the kobold trapsmith Skelus. His first tasks required him to reset the traps on the first level, since an adventuring party set them off before being stopped. He was given a Wand of Detect Magic to reveal arcane glyphs that mark secret doors in the dungeon.

After resetting most of the traps on level one, Kraashgar’s wand ran out of charges and he was forced to seek the assistance of another dungeon denizen, a Gray Slaad called Thollom, in order to get it recharged. Thollom had Kraashgar catch an escaped experiment of his, a cyborg grig that got into the dungeon ventilation shafts. While hunting the grig Kraashgar overhead a conversation between Obraxus, his imp familiar Shez, and a beholder called Chalsezces the Mad, a neighbor. He ascertained that a local Overworld town is hiring parties of adventurers to attempt to rid themselves of the Ogre Mage.

After getting his wand recharged, Kraashgar finished resetting the traps – and just in time! A party of adventurers hired by the town of Gloamwood arrived at the dungeon’s front door and quickly penetrated the outer defenses. They lost their Fighter/Rogue, a half-orc named Tul, to a crushing-room trap, before discovering Kraashgar ina secret passage. The party’s half-elf Sorcerer, Kenneth, cast Charm Person and thus enchanted our goblin hero forcing him to lead the party deeper into the dungeon.

Fortunately, the party was stopped before they were able to descend any further, as Caustic, Obraxus’ second-in-command, appeared in the first level’s main guard-room and laid waste to the remaining party members (Kenneth and the party Cleric, a human named Cal) with a maximized Acid Fog spell, while sparing Kraashgar and the other minions.

Kraashgar is now being taken downstairs to give his report to Obraxus…
Good work so far! Always interesting to see a 'reverse campaign'.
Thanks! It's definitely got a reverse sort of thing going on.

Anyone know of any similar "reverse" projects out there (for me to mine for ideas?).
It's a decent enough read. The only source of ideas I can think of is a comic based on the same premise as yours in that it's about goblins who decide to become adventurers but I'd avoid that as you don't want to seem derivitive.
You could always try 8-bit theater.
I've actually read that one, it was one of the things I had in mind when I started the campaign.
. The only source of ideas I can think of is a comic based on the same premise as yours in that it's about goblins who decide to become adventurers ....

He said in his first post, that's where he got the idea for this.

On topic: I think this is VERY enjoyable, and I really like how you have your PC change around who he controls as it seems fit. The twists and turns make this all the more enjoyable, because while you can ALMOST predict what would happen, it takes a turn because this is from the minion's eyes, not the stereotypical "noble hero".
Thanks, CrossBlade! I'm really glad people are enjoying this.

I do tend to let the player change characters temporarily, mostly because as a measly goblin warrior he doesn't get much of a chance to kick down the doors or otherwise stomp about like a typical DnD badass. I don't know how many other DMs have experimented with character-switching, but think it probably wouldn't work as well in a multi-player campaign. My player's enjoyed it so far, though.

It's good that the "through the minion's eyes" thing is coming through; I was worried that it might start to read too much like a typical Underdark jaunt, so I keep trying to emphasize the particular perspective of the character. It's a fine line to walk: too "adventury" and the uniqueness gets lost, but conversely, too "miniony" and the campaign could resolve into simple drudgery, which would get tedious very fast. Now that Kraashgar has reset the first level traps I've decided that that particular set of tasks can simply be roleplayed in a few moments, unless anything unusual occurs while he's performing his chores. This may allow us to skip over longer sections of time.

Episode 19: Redemption

IMAGE(http://img154.imageshack.us/img154/2152/zetch.jpg)



Kraashgar is shown into the map-room; Obraxus glowers as the goblin delivers his report.

“In the future,” the Ogre Mage rumbles, “report to the nearest guard-room instead of skulking around the maintenance corridors. The next time, you will not be shown clemency. Now, Caustic, take this little wretch down to the fifth level fountain. That’ll get Chalsecze off my back.”

The drow lieutenant nods and Kraashgar scuttles from the room behind her, filled with a mixture of terror and relief. The two head down several levels to the fifth floor; Kraashgar notes an old dwarven council-chamber filled with carven thrones, and another room containing what looks like a free-standing doorway, covered in inscrutable runes, but they pass by both chambers, arriving at a hexagonal room with a central fountain, a tiered thing with fish-like statues spouting murky-looking water.

“The valve controls are over there,” Caustic says, gesturing. “You’ll find cleaning supplies down the corridor. When you’re done you can get a meal in the mess hall on the second level. Disappoint me again and your ass is out of here.” She strides away.

Kraashgar hurriedly begins cleaning, first draining the fountain’s water supply, then fetching a brush and cleaning agents to scrub out the foul stains encrusting the fountain. He is almost finished when a strange warbling resonates through the air behind him. He turns.

Floating towards our hero is an enormous levitating orb with a mass of writhing eyestalks and a huge, bloodshot, central eye, accompanied by a scuttling duergar; they emerge from the gloom of an arched doorway.

“Ah, you must be Obraxus’ new peon.” The Beholder proclaims.

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Chalsecze, and this is my servitor, Nhazgar.”

“Kraashgar.” The goblin gulps.

“Were those alarms I heard earlier? More adventurers, I suppose?”

“Yes. Three of them – a human, a half-elf, and a half-orc.”

“And how did they fare? Snared by the defenses, were they?”

“The first level traps had just been reset, so the half-orc got caught in the crushing room. Caustic took care of the other two.”

“Of course she did – such a capable woman!” The Beholder blinks its huge eye. “Mm, yes, well, I’m glad we had this little chat. Thank you for humoring me, Kraashgar. And indeed, for cleaning the fountain! Nhazgar, throw him a tip, for gods-sake!” The Beholder winks at the goblin with one of its eyestalks while the somber duegar flips something shiny through the air. Kraashgar catches it and examines it: a small, golden ring, set with a central jewel like a staring eye.

“A token of my appreciation. Well, ta then, Kraashgar…” Chalsecze floats away, leaving the goblin to complete his task.

After turning the water back on Kraashgar makes his way back up to level two and locates the mess hall, where he is served a salty stew of some sort filled with lumps of meat, which some of the other denizens joke must be the remains of the adventurers. Kraashgar avoids the noisy table of the gnolls, the reeking table of the troglodytes, the table filled with burly orcs and ogres, or the one with snooty-looking drow and heads to a table where kobolds, goblins, and several others are gathered, including the barghest Veth (who he has identify the ring - it carries a minor protective charm)!. After the meal card-games are played; Kraahsgar loses a few silver pieces. Finally he staggers to his barracks and falls asleep almost immediately.

He is awakened by a kobold he doesn’t know.

“Caustic wants to see you, new guy,” the reptilian yaps. “Something about a special assignment. She and a bunch of others are up in the front hall on level one. She said to give you these keys so you can get up there.”

It hands Kraashgar a ring of keys.

“Better hurry.”

Anxious not to ruffle any more feathers Kraashgar hastens upstairs, circumventing the traps. Finally he arrives at the front hall.

Caustic stands in the center of the hall, addressing a small group of dungeon denizens: two gnolls, a troglodyte, and an orc. Beside her is a much stranger creature: a massive beast with thick chitin armour, glistening mandibles, and meaty limbs, somewhere between a gigantic ape and an insect. Perched atop this monstrosity is a small, spindly creature like a giant spider but with a long, sinuous neck and an evil-looking, eel-like visage.

“Ah, Kraashgar, glad you could join us.” Caustic does not sound glad at all. “I’ve decided to give you a chance for redemption after the charm fiasco. You’re going to be part of a surface raid.

“Now, most of you here know Zetch and his associate, Mr. Pincer. They're going to be leading your raiding party. The target is a merchant caravan heading to the Overworlders’ town and carrying what we think is a shipment of dwarf-made firearms and ammunition, all Gearhead make. It’s coming from the dwarf’s citadel, but it’s going to much simpler to ambush the caravan once it makes it topside, rather than trying to intercept it while it’s still Below.

“You’ll head out at night. Zetch will lead you to where the caravan should be if our intelligence is correct. You’ll strike hard and fast, taking the dwarves by surprise. They’ll be well-armed, but they’ll be skittish about using firearms around such a large supply of blackpowder.

“If those weapons reach Gloamwood, our raids are going to get a lot more complicated. Conversely, if we manage to obtain the weapons for ourselves, we stand a much better chance dealing with the humans’ militia, and with any intruders.”

“Thank you, Caustic,” Zetch whines, in flawless Undercommon. “We’re going to move fast and we’re going to move quietly. We’re aiming to kill, but ideally we want to keep at least one of the dwarves alive for questioning. We’ll be moving at night, so sunlight shouldn’t be a problem.

"Any questions?”

Episode 20: The Surface

IMAGE(http://img188.imageshack.us/img188/5773/dwarfghoul.jpg)



The front doors of Obraxus’ Lair swing open and Kraashgar steps into what he can only conceive of as the largest cavern he’s ever entered. The roof is enormous, yawning above him like a huge black shroud, dotted here and there with tiny lights like distant, white torches and dominated by a blindingly bright white orb. Our hero’s mind struggles to comprehend so much open space. Below him, stony cliffs ramble down towards a mass of dark shapes he thinks might be vegetation.

“First time topside?” One of the gnolls asks. “You get used to it. Name’s Wrask.”

“Kraashgar.” Our hero struggles not to retch with the hideous emptiness of the place, the obscenity of so much space.

The raiding party descend steep stone steps. Arrow slits carved in the walls look down upon the path. Cold wind blows against the cliffs, bringing with it a spray of liquid. The droplets of huge stalactites, perhaps, hung high up in the sky? The troglodyte, an adept named Xug, grumbles about “rain.”

The trek down the mountainside continues, Zetch and his Umber Hulk, Mr. Pincer, leading the way. They pass massive stone statues of dwarven warlords, eroded by time and weather, as featureless and deformed as figures of melting wax. Distant thunder makes Kraashgar’s heart pound. As they round a craggy corner Kraashgar notices a series of strange holes in the cliff above them: black, square openings of regular shape, around which he perceives a number of intricate runes.

“Quiet here,” Wrask growls. “Those are crypts, where the old dwarf hill-tribes used to bury their dead, long before the Gearhead Clan built their stronghold in the mountain; they were defiled, long ago, and sometimes – oh crap.” The gnoll bristles and looks upwards. Kraashgar follows his gaze up the cliff: something is creeping from one of the crypts, scuttling out on all fours, spider-like and agile. Its posture is hunched and bent, and the creature looks small and somewhat frail.

There is a sudden scratching noise right above, as of long nails clawing at stone, and Kraashgar is horrified to see a pair of gaunt, pallid arms emerge from a lower opening, followed closely by a bald, shaggy-bearded head and an emaciated torso. He can see mottled, necrotic flesh drawn tightly over clearly visible bones; the creature is squat and stocky, hunched, draped in a tattered funerary shroud that flaps in the wind like an aura of black flame. A pair of hellish red eyes peer out from sunken sockets as a low hissing sound fills the air. Kraashgar barely has time to ready his morningstar when the creature leaps down, baring its fangs!

“Ghouls!” Zetch shrieks, as more of the undead abominations issue forth from the orifices in the cliff-face. One particularly malignant-looking creature leaps atop Mr. Pincer; a vile stench, as of putrid carrion, assails Kraashgar, who gags and vomits noisily, even as the nearest ghoul advances!

The combat is swift and deadly. Kraashgar swings his weapon but in his shaken, nauseated state his fighting skills are impaired: he misses widely, even as the creature scrabbles at his studded leathers and gnashes its teeth. It closes its jaws on his arm and bites, drawing blood; Kraashgar fights off a fresh wave of sickness, as a crippling numbness begins to spread up his arm. He grits his teeth and batters at the creature till it releases him, then makes another swipe; this time the force of his swing and the dizziness gripping his brain make him overbalance, and he stumbles backwards, off the cliff altogether!

Our hero scrambles madly at the edge of the precipice, trying to get a grip, but he can feel himself slipping. Suddenly a hairy paw seizes his forearm – the gnoll Wrask! His companion is laughing with battle-fever, tongue lolling, axe spattered with ghoul-blood; he swings Kraashgar up easily, and the goblin nearly collides with the ghoul he’d been fighting. Back to back with Wrask he attack again, dodging the ghoul’s claws and brining his morningstar down on the creature’s head, shattering bone and spraying gray-matter into the wind.

The ghoul hisses and presses its attack, unperturbed. Wrask, having slain his own ghoul, turns and lands an axe-blow on Kraashgar’s opponent, nearly felling the creature; Kraashgar, fighting through his nausea, grips his weapon with both hands and brings down the spiked head of the mornigstar on the ghoul, again and again, before kicking and smashing the undead’s pulverized corpse off the cliff and into the rainy darkness below.

He breathes heavily and looks up to the rest of the fight, catching a glimpse of Mr. Pincer picking up the ghast and hurling it, screaming, over the edge. His first hour in the Overworld and already something tried to eat him – fantastic.
So did our hero get affected by Ghoul Fever or did he make his save? Clearly he wasn't paralyzed. And were they attacked by Ghasts or Ghouls? Gouls don't have the stench ability.

And since it's his first time on the surface; would he know what wind and rain are? There might be some breeze in the underdark.. if he lives near the surface; but I recall with my mother's 2 house cats, that were brought outside once [and only ever once... ok, the fat one escaped once when it was young, but it wouldn't have remembered, I guess], they were freaked out by the feeling of wind.
Granted a goblin is a sentient creature; with human intelligence; but the surface world is completely alien to him. He likely wouldn't even know what sunlight is like.
The sunlight reference probably went over his head, the moon is blinding, and he struggles with rain, comprehending it as drops of water from massive stalactites hung somewhere in the sky. Wind I figured would be a bit less difficult; I couldn't think of a cave-based analogy so I just assumed he knew what it felt like.

I had the player make a save vs. fear to reflect the intense agoraphobia; he failed (he can retry every hour, with -1 DC, to reflect his gradual acclimitization). He also failed to resist the ghast's stench: one ghast and 6 ghouls attacked the group. He did save against paralysis and Ghoul Fever (I simply described the numbness to remind the player that ghouls paralyze), but got a critical miss on his attack, so I ruled he almost hurled himself off the very narrow cliff path, but he made his Reflex save to grasp the edge, and Wrask made a Strength check to help haul him up. Fortunately he got an 18 on his next attack against the ghoul, so even with the -4 penalty from the agoraphobia+stench he managed to scrape a hit, and rolled an 8 for damage (-1 is 7), nearly destroying the ghoul; Wrask almost finished it off but rolled low, so Kraashgar was able to administer the final blows.

Additional Characters
In Order of Appearance



IMAGE(http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/4965/morkoth.jpg)Morkoth - Unctious troglodyte sycophant and minion of Obraxus. Named after a slimy fish-like creature.

IMAGE(http://img148.imageshack.us/img148/9140/nhazgar.jpg)Nhazgar - Taciturn duergar. Minion of Chalsezce - his "servitor" or major-domo. Gave Kraahsgar a small Ring of Protection.

IMAGE(http://img41.imageshack.us/img41/6260/misterpincer.jpg)Mr. Pincer - Umber Hulk, enslaved by the Neogi Zetch.

IMAGE(http://img154.imageshack.us/img154/384/zetchi.jpg)Zetch - Neogi raid-capatin. Minion of Obraxus.

IMAGE(http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/3866/wrask.jpg)Wrask - Gnoll given to fits of high-pitched laughter in battle. Minion of Obraxus and companion of Kraashgar on a surface raid.

IMAGE(http://img40.imageshack.us/img40/3359/xuga.jpg)Xug - Troglodyte adept and minion of Obraxus. Companion of Kraashgar on a surface raid.

Episode 21: Through the Woods


IMAGE(http://img12.imageshack.us/img12/7590/forestgnomes2.jpg)



The path winds down the mountainside into the depths of the eerie green-black mass that Zetch terms a forest; the raiders, healed by the troglodyte adept Xug, push on into the verdurous depths with unshaken purpose. Twisted boughs like gnarled, slender limbs intertwine above the path, blotting out the moonlight, making the path into a sort of tunnel. Kraashgar finds the forest comfortable, almost like being back underground, but it is still a strange, alienating place. His agoraphobia has faded, but odd scents assail the goblin’s nostrils, issuing forth from garishly coloured blooms or strange toadstools unlike anything he’s seen in the Great Below. The exotic arboreal perfume makes Kraashgar a little drowsy.

“Don’t drop your guard,” Zetch says in a low voice, addressing the group, who now troop single-file down the narrow, viridescent path, deeper into the dense green darkness so utterly unlike the pitch black of the underworld. “There are predators here, and fey, and a tribe of forest gnomes… keep your eyes peeled.”

They continue, swallowed by the wood. Kraashgar assumes a position between the two gnolls of the party; Zetch and Mr. Pincer lead, the Umber Hulk and its Neogi master almost brushing against the canopy overhead; Xug and the orc bring up the rear. The raiding group cross small streams and turn down trails that meander through the morass, labyrinthine, some of them so narrow that Kraashgar can barely see them, even with Darkvision. Mr. Pincer, though surprisingly quiet for an Umber Hulk, leaves a flattened swathe of undergrowth wherever he treads. Knotholes peer like black eyes from the trees, and skittering sounds surround them.

Suddenly there is a swift whizzing sound and a strangled cry from the rear of the group. Our hero turns, and sees the orc rear-guard fall forwards, a crossbow bolt protruding through his neck, two more feathering his back! The raiders draw their weapons but the gnomes are already upon them, emerging out of the foliage from impossibly well-concealed hiding places, brandishing short blades and wicked crossbows!

In the narrow confines of the forest the combat becomes utter chaos. Kraashgar almost immediately takes a crossbow bolt to the upper chest, nearly felling the goblin warrior. He snarls and leaps forward, cursing in his native tongue, swinging his morningstar like a diminutive battle-god! He flails at he nearest gnome, who squeaks and dodges backwards, trying to reload her crossbow, but our hero manages to land a blow and smash the forest gnome’s skull with a sickly crunching sound. Zetch has enslaved one of the other gnomes, which fights its fellows before being stabbed to death; Wrask and the other gnoll make short work of two other gnomes, and the remainder of the attackers retreat into the forest, immediately concealed by the nigh-impenetrable underbrush.

Kraashgar grunts and rips free the quarrel from his chest in a spurt of blood, then checks the gnome’s body. He finds a small sum of gold – nearly doubling his current trove, which has dwindled recently, after purchases in Ool-Nacha and losses at the gambling table in the Lair – and straps on the gnome’s light crossbow and bolt-case. He also finds a small glass vial, filled with some sort of elixir, which Xug quickly identifies as a healing potion of some sort; Kraashgar downs the bitter concoction and watches his bolt-wound close up and scar almost instantly.

“Damn half-pint tree-lovers,” Wrask growls.

“Let’s hurry,” Zetch whinges. “We’ve been delayed too long. We’ll have to move fast if we want to catch the caravan before sunup.”

I know there've been quite a few fights the last couple sessions, which is kind of unusual for the campaign; for one I wanted to give the player a chance to be part of a party, but this specific encounter had the purpose of equipping him with a ranged weapon, which was very useful in the upcoming firefight with the Gearheads.

Episode 22: Firefight

IMAGE(http://img44.imageshack.us/img44/2128/dwarfpunk.jpg)



The skirmish with the forest gnomes resolved, the raiding party continue to thread their way through the unsettling green corridors of the forest. They encounter no other creatures save a spooked owlbear that lopes across their path, turns its head round and hoots twice, then disappears into the wood. Truly the Overworld is an odd place, Kraashgar thinks, if such abominable creatures make their home upon its barren, vulnerable surface.

After some time Zetch and Mr. Pincer lead the raiders out of the forest and onto the open plains-country below. The crippling agoraphobia that had so shaken Kraashgar before returns in the face of such ghastly openness, such terrifyingly boundless hugeness, but the goblin suppresses his fear, gulps, and hurries onwards to keep up with his party. The country is covered in tall, blade-like plants and scattered with copses of the unlikely plants Kraashgar recognizes now as trees. The moon glares down, hideous and inescapable, like the visage of some watching demon. A light drizzle of rain spits upon our hero and his comrades.

Zetch gestures with a thin, chitinous limb down the gentle slope of the plains towards a sinuous line – a surface road.

“That’s where the caravan’ll pass through,” the Neogi tells them quietly. “We’ll find some cover and set our ambush.”

They make their way towards the road, using as much stealth as they can muster, eventually finding a cluster of trees that overlooks one edge of the road. Some boulders that might be rubble and a few vandalized statues, mossy and mutilated, also stand here; Kraashgar takes up a position behind one, not far from the Umber Hulk and Neogi raid-captain, while the gnolls and Xug move into their own positions behind trees, directed by Zetch.

Time passes, indeterminate. The sky begins to almost imperceptibly lighten, as if some huge and terrible flame were moving towards them.

At last the clop of hooves and the grind of wheels become audible, and the caravan appears out of the dwindling night. Three wagons, packed with kegs and crates, plod down the road, drawn by strange beasts the like of which Kraashgar has never seen, long-necked and shaggy-maned things with glinting hooves and dense, muscular bodies. Already the goblin can make out the dwarven guards, perched atop the wagons or on mounts of their own, making their way towards them.

Zetch signals for complete silence. Kraashgar’s heart thuds loudly in his ears: surely it will give him away? He can feel cold sweat on his brow, as he tries to quiet his breathing. He checks his newly acquired light crossbow, carefully reloaded and wound, ready to fire.

The caravan rolls past the copse of trees. Embers glow from the dwarves, the soft lights of cigars. Zetch holds the attack till the last possible moment – and then the ambush begins.

Our hero has the honour of the first shot, a crossbow bolt that takes one of the dwarven guards in the back. His war-pony neighs and bucks as the rider swears and urns, leveling a squat pistol at Kraashgar and firing with a blaze of fire and pungent smoke. The dwarf’s bullet whizzes past and into the darkness, even as the rest of the combatants appear from their hiding places and enter the fray.

Everything seems to happen at once. Kraashgar reloads, fires, reloads again, drops his target with a second bolt between the eyes. He hears an ugly shattering sound as one of the gnolls’ heads is blown into wet, pulpy mush, like a rotten fruit. Mr. Pincer has jumped atop one of the wagons and is tearing apart Gearhead clansmen, interrupting their cleric’s spells while bullets whine off his thick, organic armour, Zetch struggling to keep hold, enslaving dwarves with his mind-powers and sending them like suicidal wind-up toys against their own comrades

Three dwarves rush out of the darkness with warhammers and battleaxes and blunderbusses, firing and hollering in their accursed tongue, straight towards our hero. Kraashgar slings his crossbow over his shoulder and reaches for his morningstar, then charges towards them, yelling his own battle-cry, filled with a sudden lunatic courage. Through luck or perhaps fate he lands the first blow, felling one of the dwarves with a lucky strike. He dodges aside as the second swings his warhammer while blocking the goblin’s blows with his shield. Kraashgar ducks beneath a low swing and lands a strike on the dwarf’s torso. This close he can discern the creatures properly: pallid, bearded things, some with bodies partially sheathed or integrated with hissing, steam-powered machines. True monsters!

For a moment it looks like Kraashgar will be outmatched, but Mr. Pincer suddenly appears, leaping from a wagon and thundering into the two dwarves, crushing one with a meaty fist and seizing the other, which Zetch disarms handily. Only a few of the guards remain. Xug is casting a spell, Wrask – still alive, but wounded – is fending off a gore-spattered clansman and a mounted dwarf with a heavy firearm is circling around on his pony, taking aim. Kraashgar snarls and backs away, reaching again for his crossbow, but the dwarf marksman ahs already fired. He misses the goblin – but hits one of the wagons. There is a blaze of orange light and Kraashgar is thrown off his feet, lapsing into unconsciousness!
Bravo, keep writing!
Thanks for the encouragement!

Episode 23: Kidnapped!


IMAGE(http://img65.imageshack.us/img65/9107/worg.jpg)



Kraashgar awakes, singed but without pain, with Xug the trog adept still standing over him, the glow of a healing spell lingering about the creature’s scaly fingers.

“Nearly lost you, man,” Wrask says, laughing.

The group stands just outside the smoking remains of the caravan. Fire has spread from one of the wagons to the nearby trees, smoke issuing upwards in clots, flames lapping at the sky, incandescent, reducing the figures of Zetch, Mr. Pincer, Wrask, Xug, Kraashgar, and the ponies to small black shapes.

“Aright, hurry up and take what you can from this wreck,” the Neogi orders, directing its Umber Hulk to start dragging kegs of blackpowder from the debris.

The raiders are swift. They detonate the remaining barrels when they are finished, sparking two more huge fireballs. When the party slips back into the woods, the evil yellow of pre-dawn light growing behind them, Mr. Pincer is carrying a keg of blackpowder under each arm, while Zetch totes pistols; Xug and Wrask carry kegs and more weapons, and lead two of the war-ponies through the forest paths, one of which the dwarf hostage is tied to. Kraashgar carries a small pistol, bullets, powder, and a round bomb, plus a dwarven waraxe; he, too, leads a war-pony along the trails, laden with weapons and ammunition and bucking periodically, still spooked by the explosions an the unfamiliar smell of its new masters.

Kraashgar is following Mr. Pincer through the woods when he feels the hairs on the back of his neck prickle and raise. He turns, perceiving a low, dark shape, and hears a sudden growling sound; he has grabbed his pistol and is about to alert the others when the undergrowth explodes as something large and hairy bursts onto the trail! It is a wolf-like creature, with eerie red eyes and shadowy fur.

Kraashgar snarls, aims, and pulls the trigger of his pistol. There is a huge boom and the goblin is knocked backwards by the recoil, but he hears a whimper – he has hit the wolf! More shots ring out as his companions try to hit the beast, but they ricochet off trees and into the forest. The wolf, startled and bleeding, plows into one of the war-ponies, the one with the dwarf strapped to its back, and the three go down in a flail of limbs, tripping up Wrask the gnoll. In the ensuing chaos the wolf manages to rip the dwarf free from the war pony and drags him savagely into the undergrowth, the bearded thing cursing in dwarven under his gag. Zetch desperately tries to turn Mr. Pincer around, but in the cramped space the Umber Hulk has difficulty maneuvering.

Kraashgar, the least dazed of the group, is hurriedly trying to reload his complicated pistol, but the wolf is gone.

“Everyone okay?” Zetch asks. “Godsdamn wolf! Odd to see one solitary – they’re usually pack hunters. Anyway, we need that Gearhead. Obraxus’ll flay us alive if we don’t get him back. Wrask, you have a good nose, right?”

“Heh, yeah,” the gnoll smirks.

“Alright, let’s track this thing. Come on.”

The party heads into the wood. They follow the smell of blood – Kraashgar’s bullet has wounded the wolf badly, and drops of the stuff spatter the forest floor intermittingly.

Wrask leads them to a large mound of earth with a huge oak atop it. A small hole is evident at its base.

“He’s in there,” the gnoll growls. “The dwarf, too.”

“Wolf-den,” Zetch proclaims. “Mr. Pincer could burrow through, but it might collapse the whole place. Kraashgar, you’re up.”

Grumbling, our hero gets on his hands and knees and squeezes himself into the hole, tumbling into a low, dark chamber with roots protruding from the ceiling. It reeks of fur and death; a little ways on, the goblin finds some small, pallid bones and rusting bits and pieces that look like they might once have belonged to forest gnomes. He hears a mumbling sound from a small side-tunnel and half crawls, half walks to its location – a rough, shallow chamber of sorts, in which the Gearhead dwarf has been unceremoniously dumped. Using his goblinoid stealth Kraashgar creeps forwards, intent on retrieving the hostage. He sees a sudden fear in the dwarf’s eyes as they flicker behind him and he spins, groping for a weapon.

Two red eyes glare down on him out of the gloom. Yellow fangs; black fur; a long, canine snout. And then a voice, in Goblin of all languages:

“A goblin, is it? Foolish to enter a worg’s den uninvited.”

Kraashgar is silent. He readies his morningstar. The worg chuckles.

“Don’t make me laugh. I could tear you a part in an instant, you wretch. What is your name, little goblin?”

“Kraashgar.”

“Mine is Svaroch. You have come for your friend there, I take it?”

“No friend, but yes, why else would I be here?”

“Explain to me why I shouldn’t devour you on the spot!”

“Come and try!” Kraashgar senses that Svaroch is bluffing, partially. If the worg was so intent on killing him, it would have done so without talking; and, despite its threats, he can see that it fears him. The bullet-wound he gave it still seeps blood.

Svaroch growls, and for a moment it looks as if the two will fight, down amongst the roots, but the wolf-thing speaks again.

“What would you say to a trade?”

“What kind of trade?” Kraashgar is wary.

“There is a huntsman, who lives on the eastern edge of the forest. He murdered my pack, my mate, my young: a foul and sadistic human. I will keep the dwarf alive if you bring me this man’s corpse.”

“Very well. The dwarf must be unharmed and whole when we get back!”

“Fine,” Svaroch grudgingly assents.

Kraashgar worms his way out of the den; the worg watches him as he leaves, sizing him up, pacing.

Episode 24: Vengeance



IMAGE(http://img195.imageshack.us/img195/4264/vengeancet.jpg)



The raiding party are crouched about the huntsman’s shack, splayed in tactical positions: Zetch and Mr. Pincer some ways from the clearing, guarding the ponies, the beasts surprisingly calm in the presence of the enormous ape-insect and its spidery puppetmaster; Xug the trog at one window, Wrask at the (locked) front door, Kraashgar at the second window. Our hero emerged from the worg Svaroch’s den having agreed to deliver the murderer of the creature’s family in exchange for a dwarf hostage. He thought, absently, of threatening to lob in the bomb he looted from the Gearhead caravan, but the detonation would endanger the dwarf: the threat would be hollow, and Svaroch would be intelligent enough to know it.

Thus they stand poised. The cabin is small and squat, built of logs. A thin trickle of smoke rises from the chimney. A stump nearby had a large axe lodged in it: Kraashgar threw this into the woods.

The team agreed that he would be the ideal assassin, as the smallest and quietest of the five. The window shutters are partially open; Kraashgar can reach through them. Our hero unlatches the window and clambers inside, quietly as he can. Idiot. Why bother locking your front door if you’re going to leave your window open?

Inside, the shack is adorned with worg-pelts and the hides of other animals. A large crossbow leans next to the smoldering fireplace, with bolts quarrels hung on pegs above and around it. A man slumbers in a cot in the corner, unshaven and grizzled-looking, snoring under another worg-pelt.

Kraashgar unsheathes his bone knife and creeps towards the sleeping huntsman, draped in the skins of Svaroch’s kin. Red dawn light filters into the room, as if anticipating the bloodshed to come. Our hero places the knife against the human’s stubbled throat, then stabs it in and wrenches hard. There is a huge spray of arterial blood; the huntsman’s eyes flicker open and he emits a choked cry. Too much neck-fat! Gotta really get this thing in there!

The man tries to batter the goblin off, but Kraashgar is relentless. He twists the blade, removes it, stabs again, and again, till the human’s arms go limp. Kraashgar wipes the blade on the pelts.

Ugh. Dead human.

The room smells of sweat and slaughter. Kraashgar drags the huntsman out towards the door, pulling him out from under the pelts. He wrinkles his nose in distaste: dead naked human.

No way to pull him through the window. Kraashgar searches for a key, finds a leather purse and pockets its contents, including a small sum of gold. He opens the door and drags the hefty, nude cadaver out into the forest.

“Bastard’s nearly as hairy as I am!” Wrask jokes. The raiders regroup, head back towards the den.

Kraashgar drags the body down into Svaroch’s lair. The corpse is too big: he has to strain to pull it through, tugging on the man’s hairy ankles. When he turns around the worg is there, sitting on its haunches and watching him with beady red eyes, the Gearhead dwarf behind him, still bound.

“This is the guy, right?” Kraashgar gestures to the dead huntsman.

“That’s him,” Svaroch growls. “I will feast on his flesh.”

“Well, a dish best served cold, or whatever.”

“Thank you, goblin. Kraashgar.”

“Just doing my job.”

Our hero approaches the dwarf. The Gearhead’s eyes widen behind his goggles and he begins to flail, until Kraashgar puts a pistol to his temple and marches him out through the burrow; the dwarf has trouble squeezing his bulk through the opening. Kraashgar hears messy chewing sounds as he exits the den, and doesn’t look back.

The rest of the journey back to the Lair is uneventful. The dawn sun is still sliver on the horizon when they return just in time to be spared the bright horrors of a surface day.

Inside, they are swiftly debriefed by Obraxus and Caustic, and their spoils taken to the armoury; Kraashgar is permitted to keep the pistol and bomb, though he gives up the waraxe and the light crossbow.

“Take the prisoner down to the cell-blocks, Kraashgar,” Caustic commands. “We’ll deal with him later.”

Our hero leads the dwarf down to level two, to the cell-blocks that precede the Gray Slaad Thollom’s laboratory. He shoves the dwarf into one of the empty cells and removes his gag; the dwarf begins to spit Dwarven curses, which Kraashgar ignores.

“I’ve been through a lot of crap to get you here,” Kraashgar says, drawing his bone dagger again, still flecked with the huntsman’s blood. “Nearly been killed three times, had to face down a worg that could have eaten me alive if I said the wrong thing, and got stinking human blood all over me.”

He approaches with the dagger.

“Ye gonna kill me, greenskin filth?” The dwarf speaks in heavily accented Undercommon. “Yer boss won’t be too pleased bout that!”

“I’m not going to kill you,” Kraashgar tells him, smiling.

“I’m going to shave you.”
This just gets better and better. If you ever want to run another campaign like this, I'd love to play online.
This just gets better and better. If you ever want to run another campaign like this, I'd love to play online.

Ditto. Still doing great work there.
The campaign is going to take a hiatus come september so I may be seeking out an online game, but I may be too busy... thanks for the responses, in any event.
About how often do you post new responses?
In an online game, or for this? I've never DMed an online game before, so I hadn't worked it out. In any case, like I said, I couldn't commit to an online game at this point: it'll depend on how busy I find myself (starting a Master's in English).

For this, I've been posting responses in 2-5 episode clusters every week or so; usually a session breaks down into about 3 episodes.