08 August 2003

Shipwrecked! An Adventure on the Elfdrown Sea

On the evening of the 23rd day at sea, the sky was clear and the Wayseeker drifted calmly at anchor just off shore from one of the small islands that dot this strange sea.  Pelor, God of the Sun, slipped under the distant horizon for the night letting the moons and stars guard the night sky.  The crimson sunset yielded to a royal blue before settling into blackness illuminated by a thousand incandescent stars.
The clear sky became blocked by great cloudy tentacles that seemed to twist into being above the Wayseeker.  The moons and stars winked out, hidden by dark, writhing tendrils of mist.  A blood red light seeped from the storm clouds and drowned, demented faces appeared in the wine red waters.  The wind whipped the sails, as the waves tugged hungrily at the Wayseeker.
The Wayseeker bound from the water and twisted momentarily in the air before lunging sideways back to the clutching waves.  The brave adventurers were cast from the deck into the warm waters amongst other tormented souls both real and imaginary.  The graceful Wayseeker was broken and rapidly sunk to her grave.  In the water, something large passed by.  Some swore a draconic head rose from the waves before pursuing Wayseeker to the depths.
The comrades woke the next morning on a narrow sandy beach.  At their feet the surf from the Elfdrown Sea lapped gently, all evidence of the witchstorm and the Wayseeker gone.  The beach was a broad V and only 20 feet across before ending again in the water guarding a stone ruin.  At each end of the sandy platform, crude driftwood bridges climbed to two small grassy cliffs.  The beach was pristine white sand, like that at the bottom of the Elfdrown, and was mostly unmarked except for the imprints of the heroes' bodies and several other large reptilian bodies in the sand.
Suddenly two 20 foot long salt water crocodiles exploded from the water, hungry and intent upon the shipwrecked comrades.  Unfazed they fought a retreating action back to the driftwood bridges.  They climbed to an islet, a square surface about 10 feet above the surf.  Thick grass and some palm trees covered this 40' by 40' platform.  Strange flowers and insects were in abundance, the area pungent with rich pollens and wet undergrowth.  On the opposite edge another primitive driftwood bridge stretched over to a larger overgrown square islet.  To the right the ruin continued, blocking the heroes view, while to the left the surf crashed at the base of this lush islet.  Unfortunately a 20 foot by 20 foot spiked pit trap was hidden at the center of the islet and injured the party.  The bottom of the pit was filled with coral stakes and the badly decomposed corpse of a dwarf lay broken and punctured at the bottom of the pit.  Small mounds of debris lay in the corners of the room, within one such pile they discovered elven chain mail.
The next islet was about 45 feet in both directions and mostly covered by grass.  To the left and ahead, the Elfdrown Sea stretched.  About halfway on the right side a bridge stretched to another islet of similar size. This slate island was bereft of anything alive except for five, bulky humanoids.  These creatures were about 7 feet tall and heavily muscled.  Light green skin, no, scales covered their bodies, their menacing yellow eyes glinting from beneath heavy brows.  They were armed and gesticulated with cruelly spiked greatclubs, hissing and chirping in an abominable reptilian tongue.
This was the advanced guard of the tribe of Falkiss, behind these the adventurers spotted eight more aggressive lizard warriors amassed and ready to attack.  The party dispatched the advanced guard before facing the next group, lead by a lizard folk fighter named Nazrik.  These lizard folk attempted to drive the party over the edge and back into the Elfdrown Sea to be eaten by a waiting chuul.  However they were unsuccessful and they fled by leaping over the edge.
After the battle, dead lizard folk lay twisted and broken on the sandstone structure, the malevolent glint forever extinguished from their alien eyes.  In the middle of the islet a short driftwood bridge descended slightly to a granite block in the shape of a trapezoid.  Off to the left, about 60 feet, several more lizard folk made ready to descend onto the platform via a second bridge.  Behind the granite block, the remnants of a round tower surveyed the scene.  From the tower chanting and drums began an ominous dirge, as they did a fog began to rise obscuring the islets ahead.  The granite platform became shrouded in mist, hiding the lizard folk.  Their talons scraped on the rock while the hisses and growls of their bastard draconic tongue punctuated the air.
Suddenly, more lizard folk attacked from the rear, effectively catching the doughty heroes in a pincer formation, just as suddenly the drums stopped and the arcane fog dissipated in the harsh tropical sun.  From the tower above a giant lizardman gesticulated wildly and pointed at the fray, a ball of flame bound from his hands expanded and began bouncing intelligently into the party.  By the slimmest of margins, the heroes battled out of the pincer and hid from the lizardman shaman.
This connecting islet was similar in shape to the granite one below, a large trapezoid nearly 40' across and twice as long.  Although covered in dense vegetation this was clearly the remnants of an elven city manor, ruined walls jutted up here and there and badly decayed furniture was covered in flowers and vegetation.  In the center of the ruins, a broken staircase vanished into the depths. At the end of the ruin a simple bridge stretched to a similar but perpendicular ruin. Far below and to the left lay the beach that our heroes washed up on.  While on the right loomed the tower, the lizardman spellcaster once again taking aim.
Escaping down the stairs, the party found one big chamber, divided by shattered walls.  The thick smell of reptiles and their shed skins could be seen twisted into what must be sleeping quarters.  Some light came in through ruined windows on both sides, showing both the tower and the open sea.  Disgusting offal lined the floor but both this and the level below seemed deserted.
Reluctantly leaving the relative safety of the lizard folk den and quickly scaling the bridge to the next islet, this morass of tropical vegetation and stone was linked by three bridges.  One led to the tower, where the massive lizardman shaman, Falkiss, waited with a huge club gripped in hands, his corded muscles trembling with rage.  Across the trapezoid, a bridge ran to the last ruin guarding the tower.  To the left about 60 feet away, the last bridge was being pitched into the sea by two lizard folk on a square ruin.  Several other lizard folk scaled down the far side of that islet, along with 15 or so hatchlings.  All but the lizard folk shaman fled the colony and left it to the victors.
Standing to one side of the tower, Falkiss, the huge lizard man brandished a tree sized club.  A frightening specimen indeed, nearly 9 feet tall and almost 400 lbs of cable-like muscle.  His green scales had golden high-lights and yellow eyes that were flames of pure hatred.  He wore a large turtle shell as armor and a thick leather belt around his waist.  On the other side of the tower, a huge viper, fangs dripping poison uncoiled itself and joined the lizardfolk shaman like some obscene pet.  After a grievous battle the giant viper was destroyed although Falkiss escaped by leaping over the edge.  The party examined the area and found a secret door with steps descending into the darkness.  At the bottom of the stairs a 30 foot by 30 foot square room strewn with gems, coins, weapons and other treasure.  The room itself appeared to be the crumbling remains of the upper floors of a rich elven family home and smelled pleasantly of dried herbs.
Another of the connecting islets was similar to all those that ring the tower, a long 40 foot trapezoidal ruin.  This one being the one from which the lizardfolk ambush was launched.  This islet was also covered in lush vegetation.  In the center of the islet rested a large mound of moist debris and compost.
The top level of Falkiss' tower was in surprisingly good repair, perhaps elven magic can out last the depredations of wind and sea.  A lean-to sat in one corner, perhaps the shaman's quarters.  The center of the tower was dominated by a large circular door, set in the floor stones.
Opening this door, caused a hiss of pain and a scampered retreat from Pelor's light.  A bodak was found within and dispatched.  This chamber also had a two move chess puzzle, which was solved releasing an alien, stone guardian who swore fealty to the solver's of the puzzle.  A series of twisted tunnels connected Falkiss chambers to a dungeon below.  At one point the party heard distant voices through a grate in the floor.  This turned out to be another adventuring party who had found entrance to the deeper levels of the Imperial capital of Tasehaleen.  Unable to reach or aid one anther the groups parted.
They followed a rough, wet, twisted corridor and came upon an undersea cave, the home of Auqutorus, the ancient dragon turtle that the lizard folk worshipped as a god.  Here a mighty battle ensued, and was almost lost when Falkiss reappeared and stealthily entered the fray.  But good prevailed and the draconic beast and its servant laid low.  Safe to depart the island, the party crafted a raft and escaped taking with them the extensive treasury of both the lizard folk and Auqutorus.

I apologize for how stilted this story is.  I do not remember the names of the characters but I do remember the players.  Furthermore this is written up from my adventure notes, presentation, and memory of a single night 10 years ago.  This adventure was the first time I made an audio-visual presentation for Dungeons and Dragons.  I developed a series of coded PowerPoint slides with animated images and sound clips.  As the adventure was quite linear we essentially proceeded through the presentation along with adventure.  We used a borrowed projector to put it on the wall, and if only some of the player characters saw something I asked only those players to look at it.  I had a "soundtrack" which I played on a CD player.  I had already copied two or three sound effects CDs to my iTunes and played additional soundbites from there.  Prior to the adventure I had designed each islet as an Adobe Illustrator file which I printed onto an overhead.  This could be laid out on a gridded mat and then the figurines placed on top of this.
There was so much stimulus that with the first sound clip played, one of my players, Chris, lost it and began giggling hysterically (e.g. Tasha's Hideous Laughter) and of the three players two of them, Greg and the recovering Chris, didn't even notice that a projector was being used until I drew their attention to it.  After everyone settled down, the players became very engaged and enjoyed themselves, although I did set a new bar for my dungeon mastering with all these extras.

28 July 2003

The Elfdrown Sea

Many centuries ago the elven empire of Tasehaleen ruled the known world.  The elves of Tasehaleen were the masters of war, magic, and science.  Their power was great and their pride greater.  In the end this arrogance angered the gods who sunk their beautiful empire beneath the waves, forming the Elfdrown Sea.  The Elfdrown Sea is a great shallow, calm crystal sea dotted with numerous treacherous snags, reefs and small islands.  Like great teeth, granite mountains ring the sea.  The Elfdrown Sea is a treacherous water but with many rewards.   The waters are shallow enough that divers can easily reach the bottom and retrieve elfgold and arcane treasures, if they survive the horrid abominations that make the Elfdrown their home and the frequent witchstorms, fierce magical tempests that rage briefly and disappear as quickly as they came.   It is also rumored that some of the islands are clumps of petrified trees or buildings and serve as entrances to a great dungeon beneath the waves.  In addition, rumors abound of pirates and other cutthroats using the small islands as bases or even creatures making them their homes.  All elves feel a great melancholy upon these waters and no sea elf lives within the Teeth of the Elfdrown.
Noloc Maps is a cartographer of some note and greater greed.   In an effort to reap even more bounty from the Elfdrown he has planned the single greatest cartographic project of the Elfdrown Sea.  Noloc plans to create a series of maps detailing the thousands of islands, snags and reefs of the Elfdrown Sea, as well as density maps of witchstorms and the foul creatures that make these cursed water's their home.  To this end he has hired the PCs to serve as explorers, sailors, cartographers, etc. aboard his ship the Wayseeker.  The adventurers will start on the Wayseeker after several days travel upon the Elfdrown Sea.  So far you have noticed several things:

  • Sound does NOT travel very far over the waters of the Elfdrown Sea the whole area seems muted or muffled.
  • Magic is usually "well-behaved" but seems to be the catalyst for a witchstorm.  Woe to spell-caster who uses magic during a witchstorm.  However it seems to take 2-4 days before a witchstorm can occur again within a certain area.
  • Even though the waters are usually crystal clear, threatening creatures seem to appear out of nowhere. Glass sharks here are fast, big, and blend almost seemlessly with the sea floor.  The great rager crabs are belligerent and very territorial.   The only welcome creatures have been the locathahs who like exchanging fish for small trinkets and saved a man from drowning.