Episiode 1: Where our heroes fail their persuasion rolls …

Descending the stairs into the crypt, the crew encounter Lord Priest Symond Jara and his acolytes, royal protectors Bail and Amos standing behind an altar pulsating with an odd blue glow.

Behind the room’s residents stands a three panel bass relief wall. On the right, an image of an obviously power female spell caster,  her arms raised, casting forth a glow of healing power over her subjects. On the right, what appears to be the same caster, arms raised, casting forth a baneful blight over her subjects, now appearing as the walking dead. In the middle, a swirl of chaos and magic separates the two.

Failed negotiations lead to what could truthfully be the only possible outcome and the three reveal their true forms – undead guardians of the place.  The groups engage in combat, skeletons pouring from rooms on either side of the chamber. Ultimately victorious, they sits to rest and regain their strength, healing those among them who lay battered from the battle.

Episode 0, Part 2: Where our party decides it’s all about the Benjamins

Our party gets closer to beginning their relationship with their new employer.

  1. They agree to their first assignment, despite being informed by Benefactor 43 that prior to every job they will only be told of the goal, but not who is paying their employer for the job.
  2. Payment, starting at 250 g.p. per mission and increasing as the difficulty increases, will be provided in whatever form they want.
  3. Additional perks include medical treatment, room and board. The latter coming in the form of houses of of their own choosing.
  4. Before beginning, Benefactor 43 handed each a leather bracer, a strange glyph embossed on its side and glowing orb, strange lightening courses though its inside.
  5. Stepping through the portal took them to an abandoned keep/watch tower, sitting in the middle of a barren land extending as far as the eye can see.
  6. Outside of the keep stood six massive, ancient statues facing out and keep watching across the landscape. But whether guarding against those coming in or going out was unknown.
  7. Stretching  between the statues was multicolored shards of light, barriers to the entrance of the tomb.
  8. A quick flick of a wrist and the skeleton keys known as “thieves tools” opened the way, down into the crypt.
  9. Unknown to our party, a mysterious figure peered at them from the shadows as they passed through the portal. “My Lord,” said the figure, “It begins …”

Episode 0, Part 1: Where our party enter the sunny vale …

  1. Our four friends met through battle on a field filled with orcs.
  2. As they realized the battle wasn’t going their way – a fact made obvious by the every increasing number of adversaries – they realized discretion was the better part of valor and decided to flee in the direction of their destination, the Knotted Oak.
  3. As they ran, descending the mountain, they lost their pursuers, eventually coming upon a man-made path that led into a sunny vale, a “bowl” inside the center of the hostile mountain range.
  4.  Vilurian, fearing for the safety of the residents, tried to warn them. But his alarm was met with curiosity, mirth and a child who teleported out of the Dark Elf’s grasp.
  5. Ruric, tried to determine if any presence of the fae was detectable. Oddly enough, despite fae magic existing across the world, there was an absolute dearth of it in the valley.
  6. Hrolth, tired of the party’s efforts to learn more of the strange valley decided his time was best served entering the Knotted Oak.

Next up … the Knotted Oak, new opportunities and a new benefactor.

Pre-Episode 0 … questions to be answered.

(DM Note: I decided to start the campaign with some foreshadowing questions to provide possible fodder down the line …)

Why was the Storm King directing his forces toward the Stronghold of the Gargoyle Countess? What’s the name of Storm King’s second-in-command?

To which Hrolth replied, “The Storm King rides to recover a weapon, his deputy Dragger by his side.”

Vilurian , at the last Commemoration of High Day, you committed a now-legendary faux pas. What was it?

“I had the misfortune of walking in on the High Lord as he was … pressing himself … against the High Septum,” he explained. “A quick leap through a window and I made away.”

Vaudin, centuries ago your family’s ancestral weapon, Luminous Vengeance, was lost. What type of weapon was it and how was it lost?

Remembering the tales told for centuries by generations of his family, Vaudin shared that, “Our two-headed war hammer,  beak on one side, claw on the other.  It was lost by the expedition sent into the Highlands to seek out my family as they were forced to make their way to lower ground.”

A few years ago Ruric offended the head of the Thieves Guild in the Floating City of Caleah. What is his or her name and what did you do?

Smiling mischievously, Ruric recalled ignoring the romantic overtures offered by the head of the guild, Avlye, choosing instead her ginger-haired second-in-command, Sasha. “I always was fond of the redheads,” he said, laughing.

Vilurian, trader in valuable things

(This character background contains in-game backstory, portions of which have been removed to maintain role playing storytelling …)

The thing you must understand is that culture really matters.

Oh, its true what they say about us – sure, but that is because we have chosen to be that way. Good and evil are irrelevant concepts. The only thing that matters is what we as a people believe is appropriate behavior. That is the power of culture, and it allows for fantastic accomplishments, or disastrous outcomes.

There are merits to our way of life. When you live in the darkness you must struggle to survive. Trust needs to be earned, and morality takes a back seat to more pragmatic considerations. We evolved to suppress those emotions that create weakness, and focus our energies on maintaining order and security. If that sounds harsh to you, well… you might never have faced the kinds of realities that we do on a daily basis.

Religion goes hand in hand with culture. We chose Lolth as much as she chose us. We understood her on a visceral level, and she saw in us worthy creatures ideal to represent her on the material plane. Although she sows discord and betrayal amongst the people, she does so to keep us sharp and fortified against the true evils of this world. However, Lolth is not the only deity we worship. Some of us, like myself, also adhere to the Masked Lord Vhaeraun. He knows the truth – that males and females are of equal importance, and that we have a role to play in making our people strong and prosperous.

Lolth has taught us much – but the price she extracts has become too high. Vhaeraun has seen a path forward for us, and has recruited a handful of males like myself to venture into the up-world. We are all under guises that conceal our heritage, and our mission is to find the non-Drow servants of Lolth wherever they are – and eliminate them. Vhaeraun knows that this will weaken her but not harm our people – thus opening the door for him to bring balance to our culture. Together they will be able to unite our fractured people, and forge a new era of power and prosperity for our race. We are after all the most deserving of that honor.

have taken up this calling.  I am Vilurian, a high elf who wanders the kingdoms in search of precious trinkets and valuable information. I trade in these to gain knowledge of, and access to, the servants of Lolth.  That is my culture – and culture matters.

Character Sheet: Vilurian,