Weekend in Thule

Many times life interrupts gaming, friends move or work gets in the way. This was the case for a group I played with 20 years ago. We were playing 2nd edition D&D at the time and after 4 years of gaming our campaign came to a close when life interrupted. Fortunately, I’ve stayed in touch and we will occasionally set up a weekend to play D&D together again.

At the other end of things, my oldest son (age 11) commonly observes my current gaming group and I  playing D&D. He asked if he could join us on our next adventure and it happened to coincide with one of these rare weekend games with the old crew. I was elated and invited him to join us for his first game of Dungeons & Dragons!

A weekend game with old friends always takes the form of a one shot and it was my turn to jump behind the DM screen. I decided we would step into the world of Primeval Thule and I would run Richard Baker’s, Secret of the Moon Door. I’m a big fan of this setting and I wanted to expose more of my friends to it. Baker did a great job with this module and its very easy to customize.

With a table of friends (some from the past and others from the present) and of course my son, we ventured into the Atlantian colony of Katagia. We solved the disappearance of the sage Ghilean. We discovered a lost temple to the dead goddess Selene and unlocked the Secret of the Moon Door.

THE GOOD:
I tried something a little different and let the players design the NPC Ghilean. They all knew Ghilean was a sage/historian, but they each had to answer three questions at the beginning of the session. First, how did they meet Ghilean? Second what was one thing they liked about her? Lastly, why are they answering her letter for assistance? As we went round the table each player’s answers begun to flesh out Ghilean and the type of person she was. The players were immediately invested in the NPC because they had help create her.

THE BAD:
We ran a little short on time. The module is broken up into three parts and unfortunately the final part had to be trimmed so that we’d reach the final battle with the villain. I think I needed the equivalent of one more session (4 hours) to really do the third part justice. However, I think most players still enjoyed themselves and understood we were under time constraints.

Black Goat Campaign 06

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Six

DM NOTE:  It is important to note that with the death of Lyonesse and the retirement of Faye, there are no heroes that witnessed the original dark pool. In fact other than Brona, none of the remaining heroes were present for Parts 1-3. Our tale could have ended here… but it didn’t. Brona took up the cause of Darkwood Abbey with new allies.

CAST:
Brona, Wood Elf – Druid
Bjorndar, Hill Dwarf – Cleric of Ulaa
Zetvosk, Human – Fighter
Wyleros, Half Elf – Sorcerer
Vale, Wood Elf – Ranger
Clarion, Tielfling – Rogue

The heroes began exploring the barbarian barrows, but found nothing until they entered the “King’s Barrow”. Named for its relative size compared to the other barrows, the “King’s Barrow” was massive and contained three separate entrances. Inside they found a dark altar and trinkets honouring Shub-Niggurath. They didn’t get too deep inside before a pair of ghosts aged Zetvosk into his 70s.

The heroes retreated to Darkwood Abbey, where they discovered a small fortress had taken up residence overnight. The Red Queen’s banners flew from its tower and a large garrison of Dark Sun mercenaries had arrived with it. Worse the Abbey was under attack by an aggressive goblin warband that would unleash mutant monstrosities against the town. With the assistance of the heroes and the Queen herself unleashing her magics the warband was defeated.

Following the raid, the Queen herself acknowledged the heroes’ contribution. She told them that she had learned of their quest and asked for an update. However, the heroes were deceptive and it was obvious the Queen did not get the answers she was looking for. The Red Queen offered to have her clerics reverse the aging of Zetvosk and remove the swamp hag’s curse that plagued Brona. However, they would be in her debt and for payment of this boon they would return to the “King’s Barrow” and bring the Queen their findings. The heroes grudging agreed to these terms.

The heroes would not return directly to the barrrows though. Instead they traveled northward into the Great Wood. Their motivations for seeking the elves and the Darkwood tree were unclear and driven by Brona’s motivations more than anything else. While in the forest the heroes would make contact with the wood elves a few times. Some of these meetings were friendly and others were violent. Vale made an ally, Asha a druid of the moon who assisted her in gaining more information.

What they learned was troubling. The Goat and her goblins were using strange grubs to kill Darkwood trees. The goblin offensive was succeeding in the eastern reaches of the forest and there was a rumour that the Goat and her minions could listen to the Darkwood trees. The wood elves most strategic advantage (Darkwood Trees) could no longer be used for fear that the goblins would eavesdrop.

Their journey into the Great Wood came to an end when they finally reached an eastern Darkwood Tree, guarded by a druid and his dire wolf pack. The heroes defeated the druid after he refused to let them near the tree. Brona reached out through the Darkwood roots trying to send a message to her druid allies. However, the Darkwood trees were more silent than she’d ever witnessed before.

Birth of a Kingdom

The Kingdom was formed out of a necessity for defense against the goblinoid hordes of Hildrakk. The Lords of South Khrullion formed an alliance to defend their homes and families in 1216KD. Goblin raids declined for a short time against the united defenses. A bugbear chieftain named Hulgat rose to power in 1218KD. He led the largest goblin horde the people of Khrullion had ever seen, into the lowlands through the Drakk Pass. Hulgat sacked the city of Northgate and threatened its neighbouring cities.

Lord Takkar, displaced from his home in Northgate, rallied the free peoples of South Khrullion and formed an alliance with the Gael barbarians to the south. Together they took back the city of Northgate and following the battle the Kingdom was born. Lord Takkar was crowned the King of Khrullion and during the ordination the capital was renamed King’s Gate.

King Takkar ruled well until his death in 1248KD. Under his son’s (Takkar II) rule the Kingdom’s wealth would grow, large quantities of silver and iron were drawn from the Dragonscale Mountains in the West. The increased presence in the western foothills angered the dragon Cinderfang, who claimed the domain as his own. Tension between the Kingdom and the dragon rose, until at last the beast razed the town of Riverwatch in 1262KD. A band of heroes quickly retaliated against Cinderfang and the beast was slain.
In the year 1267KD a plague known as the fire fever swept across Kingdom. The fever took many lives and it did not discriminate, rich or poor. King Takkar II, fell ill and died to the fever during the year long plague.

This left the Kingdom of Khrullion to his son Takkar III. King Takkar III was soon ordained after his father’s death and almost immediately wed Lady Avarin of Tylis. His reign was short lived; an unknown ailment overtook King Takkar III and he died suddenly. With no heir, Lady Avarin became the Queen of Khrullion in 1272KD.

Shortly after mourning the loss of her husband, the new Queen imposed sweeping changes upon the Kingdom. Doubting the wisdom of her rulership, many Lords spoke out against her. Lords who opposed her changes began to disappear and there was talk of assassinations. Lord Jerem of Wyvernmoor was the loudest of these rebels and renounced the Queen, accusing her of murdering Takkar III.

The Queen’s army would siege Wyvernmoor in 1274. Her elite guard, known as The Black Suns, dragged Lord Jerem from his keep and executed him for treason. His heir, Rayan was not found and the Queen declared the young noble a traitor, seizing all of his wealth and lands. Those who witnessed the siege of Wyvernmoor, tell tales of demons fighting alongside the Queen’s army.

Following the siege, the Kingdom saw more change. The Queen rose above the laws of the Kingdom and traditions were thrown aside. Taxation and extortion became rampant. The penalties for breaking the laws of the land became extremely harsh; unless, you  could afford to pay off the so-called justice.

In the spring of 1279KD the city of Tylis ended its fealty to Khrullion. The holy city looks to Paladin-Lord Tamiel to lead them. Fearing the demonic allies of the Queen, Tamiel ordered the holy city be purged of all tieflings. The Knights of the Silver Shield burnt hundreds of tieflings at the stake in a single evening. This genocidal act is now remembered as The Night of Light.

It is now 1280KD, Khrullion is the domain of Avarin, The Red Queen. Her alliance with a dark power is undeniable; The Black Suns (her elite guard) mix their ranks with cambions and worse. The capital, King’s Gate has become a terrifying sight to behold. Peasants toil in the shadow of its great walls and strange winged demons patrol the skies. The people are crippled beneath the Queens demonic influence and tyranny.

The city of Tylis stands as a beacon on the edge of Khrullion. Its knights keep its borders secure against all manners of evil. However, Tylis shows signs of fanaticism and zealotry. It began with their purge of tieflings, then their formation of the inquisitors, what next step will be taken in the name of safety? Cool heads try and keep the balance in Tylis, with the hope it does not slip into the encompassing darkness.

Black Goat Campaign 05

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Five

After many weeks, the heroes returned to Darkwood Abbey. During their return they stopped again in Mistdale and tried to uncover the swamp hag that had evaded them before. Unfortunately, the hunt again ended in failure. When they finally reach the Abbey it was early autumn and only Brona and Lyonesse remained from the original party. Although, retired from adventuring they were reunited with Faye who was now serving the Abbey as a sister of St Cuthbert.

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Daokan of the Black Suns

The Great Wood had become fully engulfed in conflict during their absence. The Abbey had seen several goblin raids and the wood elves were now killing any non-elf on sight. The Queen of Khrullion had sent a large garrison of Black Sun mercenaries to Darkwood Abbey. This force was led by a cambion named Daokan. Things were grim at the Abbey and its people were fearful.

The heroes revealed everything they had found to the  Archdeacon and his council. The council consisted of: Archdeacon Torel, Daokan, Captain Artur and Ambassador Ashlyn. They elaborated a fair bit about the barrow scrolls and it became obvious that the Archdeacon had not brought the council up to speed. The council suggested that the heroes investigate the barbarian barrows to see if any other information about Shub-Niggurath could be found.

The heroes agreed to search the barrows, but first Lyonesse asked the clerics of St Cuthbert to remove the curse that bound her to the sword she found. An exorcism was preformed on the blade and the spirit within, but it released the ogre-mage that was trapped within the sword (wounding Brother Jacob in the process). Later Lyonesse was found dead on her anvil where she had been crafting a new magic blade.

Archdeacon Torel is sequestered by the Black Suns following the council’s meeting with the heroes. His whereabouts during this time were unknown and it is unclear what happened to him. It is assumed some sort of interrogation took place and a few days later he was returned unharmed.

Black Goat Campaign 04

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Four

The heroes would travel south to Wyvernmoor by-way of the seaside town of Mistdale. While visiting the town they would try and overthrow a swamp hag that held the town ransom. Each summer the townspeople would have a lottery that contained the names of all the children between the ages of 5-8 years old. The child would be given to the hag for a year’s worth of good fishing and good tidings. This is something the town had been doing for more than a generation.

This side trek to battle the hag would prove futile and costly. Brona fell victim to a curse and their ally Grendel would die within the hag’s lair. Faye their cleric of St Cuthbert would be overcome with grief and return to the Abbey with Grendel’s body. The hag had escaped them…

The heroes left Mistdale behind them, crossing to Wyvernmoor aboard a ferry. Within the war torn city they learned the wizard they were looking for was currently in the neighbouring hills. Anton was a archaeologist of sorts and was excavating an ancient ogre ruin. The heroes joined him at his dig site and agreed to enter the ogre ruins to retrieve a bloodstone (arcane item) in exchange for him re-translating/sharing what he knew of the barrow scrolls.

The ogre ruins would prove to be a traumatizing and harrowing experience. Portions of the ruins were infested with aberrations known as grick. Worm like creatures with beaks that could snap bone and armour alike. Worse still, the ancient ogres had made pacts with devils and harnessed blood magics to ensure their secrets were protected. The heroes would be decimated within the ruins. Three died and Lyonesse found a cursed blade that would possess her every thought.

During the exploration two portals were discovered leading to two separate mountain ranges. On the summit of one of these mountains the heroes met Lady Wind, a cloud giantess. The giantess lived in a cloud castle and for a time allowed the heroes to rest there. As she learned of their quest, Lady Wind asked them not to turn the bloodstone they found over to Anton. Instead, she proposed they take the scrolls from the wizard and that she would translate them. In exchange they would give her the bloodstone as payment.

They agreed to this new proposal and to his displeasure terminated their agreement with Anton. Lady Wind explained that the writing on the scrolls were actually blood runes and that most likely human blood would be required to unlock them. Zetvosk cautiously agreed to donate some and the scroll’s writing twisted into arcane texts.

Now more easily read, the scrolls detailed that there were indeed three dark pools in the woods (but made no mention of their locations). The barrow scrolls named the pools as holy sites to The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, also known as Shub-Niggurath. This entity was best described as an outer god of fertility and mutation. Although Shub-Niggurath was banished from this world, its avatar has the power to open a rift using the three pools as arcane foci. The final scroll revealed an image of Shub-Niggurath’s avatar… it was a clear depiction of the goblin’s Goat!

Black Goat Campaign 03

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Three

Upon returning to Darkwood Abbey the heroes learned that the Archdeacon and Brother Jacob had made some progress on their research. The eldritch glyphs matched a trio of scrolls, known as the barrow scrolls. The scrolls belonged to the Abbey’s archived collection and were said to be unearthed from a nearby burial mound. The barrows belonged to the barbaric culture that preceded the founding of the Kingdom.

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By: zarono on Etsy

However, the scrolls were written in an unknown language and the Abbey’s librarians could not translate them. There was a wizard (Anton Valchrist) who visited the Abbey a few years prior and had studied the barrow scrolls. It is believed that he was able to translate them, but he returned to Wyvernmoor without sharing his translation with the Abbey’s officials.

The Archdeacon also told them of a dark tale that some elders tell their grandchildren. About three brothers and three dark pools in the woods. The brothers searched for the pools to ask for blessings. The blessings granted were mixed in nature and the tale had moral lessons attached to it. There was no evidence that would lead anyone to believe these tales were true. So, it was simply passed off as a bit of folklore that had been passed down over generations. The  clerics of the Abbey dismissed them as boogeyman folklore.

One of the heroes a fey-touched elf named Lyonesse, put more faith into the folklore and went so far as to wonder about the Abbey’s location. “Holy sites are commonly built on places of mystical power. Could one of the pools be here, in or below the Abbey?” The Archdeacon avoided this line of questioning, but did admit that the Abbey had a set of vaults beneath it guarding something. He then asked the heroes to pursue the translations of the barrow scrolls. The heroes obliged him and set out for Wyvernmoor, to find the wizard Anton Valchrist.

Black Goat Campaign 02

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Two

The heroes express their fears of more goblin attacks to Archdeacon Torel at Darkwood Abbey. They describe the pool and show examples of rubbings they took of the eldritch glyphs in the goblin caves. The Archdeacon assigns the abbey’s librarian, Brother Jacob to research the pool and the glyphs.

In the mean time, the heroes hire a half-elf guide (Allendel) and take their Darkwood Acorn into the Great Wood. They are hopeful that the reclusive wood elves might have knowledge of its power. They are met inside the border by a large retinue of elf warriors, who stand vigil over a dying Darkwood tree. Darkwood trees are sacred to wood elves and allows them to commune with one another over great distances.

The elves are aware of the goblin incursion, skirmishes are rampant along their eastern border. This retinue is lead by Ry’ll a renown champion of the elves who insists the heroes surrender the acorn to him. The heroes question his intentions with the acorn, but the arrogant champion does not respond. They refuse to hand it over and instead are joined by a wood elf druid (Brona) who assumes guardianship of the rare acorn.

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Darkwood Entrance by Yesterdawn

Brona secretly leads the heroes north, unbeknownst to her kin. They continue deeper into the Great Wood, hoping to reach a healthy Darkwood tree where she can contact the elf druids about the acorn. They are ambushed by elf trackers sent by Ry’ll. The ambushers are defeated and the heroes continue their journey northward. They finally reach a Darkwood tree, but are immediately attacked by its wood elf guardians. As the heroes fought with the elves the sound of battle drew the attention of another threat. A goblin war party, led by “The Goat” herself joined the melee, the heroes and wood elves soon found themselves battling their common enemy.

The war party was driven off and the wood elves made a brief truce with the heroes. They turned over the acorn to a druid named Taryelle. Taryelle stressed how rare their Darkwood acorn is (one has not been seen in an generation), but that she sensed this one had been tainted and held no power. She also told the heroes that the Guardian of the South Wood (Ry’ll) had declared them enemies of the wood elf people and that Brona was to be exiled for bring the heroes north. Taryelle returned the acorn to Brona and bid them to leave immediately and not return.

Black Goat Campaign 01

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Goblin hunter by FLOWERZZXU

Black Goat of the Woods, Part One

This tale began on the road from King’s Gate to Darkwood Abbey. Four would be heroes arrived in the village of Creekford. While they rested in the Blushing Pony Inn, goblin raiders sacked the village. They took two hostages and all the town’s blackroot. A root used to dye cloth and tan hides.

The heroes tracked the goblins into Syla Thalor or as the men of Khrullion call it: The Great Wood. During their pursuit they learned the goblins were gathering: blackroot, dellberries, spiralweed and human blood. These ingredients were then brewed into a strange alchemist mixture.

Within the Great Wood, the heroes discovered a goblin encampment and a set of ancient watery caves. The caves were riddled with eldritch glyphs and carvings of goat eyes. Their gravest discovery was a dark pool filled with a sickly black ichor (created from the alchemist mixture) that moved of it own volition.

It was here that the heroes would be defeated by “The Goat” (a powerful spellcaster revered by the goblins). Defeated, but not slain, they escaped with scars and the knowledge that a large goblin war-party was stalking The Great Wood. Prior to departing they flooded the goblin’s caverns hoping to seal and bury the dark pool.

After returning the hostages to Creekford, the heroes would continue their trek to Darkwood Abbey. They would again find trouble when they reached the doomed village of Split-Pine. Overwhelmed by a large spider infestation, its population was decimated. They heroes tracked the source of the infestation to a powerful ettercap lair. Upon defeating the spider-like monster they found a Darkwood Acorn among the bones of its victims (a rare treasure indeed).

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