Warning: Potential spoilers below for the adventure, Lair of the Vermin Lord, from Triple Ace Games.
After having been away from the Freeport campaign for such a long time, I’ve decided to go ahead and start up the Hellfrost campaign instead of going back to Freeport. The current PCs include:
- Cuðbert, a Saxa ex-logger and “host” of Gaupa, Spirit of the Forest Lynx (played by Jamie)
- Lia, a Hearth Elf Road Warden (played by Robert)
- Sebbi ap-Howell, an Anari Heahwisard and Lord of Clachmore (played by Todd)
- Skuli Odwinsunu, a Saxa Iron Guild Mercenary (played by RJ)
- Tor Bearstrangler Brighthammer, a Frost Dwarf Warrior (played by John)
- Wulfwynn Wiglafsdohtor, a Saxa Reaper of Eostre (played by Rachel)
As we sat down to start with Triple Ace Games’ Lair of the Vermin Lord, it seemed appropriate to have an appropriate drink to begin the game. I got a bottle of Dansk Mjød Vikingernes Mjød…the Mead of the Vikings. It was very tasty and definitely a good drink to start a Hellfrost campaign with.
Below is the campaign journal, in the two half-line style of certain prose, written by Jamie. Some comments from yours truly follow the prose.
We began the game with the four PCs in the town of Aslov, separate and not knowing each other. Each saw a posting seeking individuals of stout heart and strong arm to travel and deliver some much needed foodstuffs. The posting is to the left. Each of the players had to provide their own reason for why they were answering the post…pretty much all centered around wanting to help folks. Each also saw the posting late the day before that they should be in Dalsetter. Fortunately, Dalsetter is only about a day’s travel from Aslov. Each PC set off for the Four Sheaves in the moring and, surprisingly enough, they were the first four to arrive and take up spots at the corner table by the fire.
I had intended to use the arrival of numerous other folks seeking the work as a tool to bring the group of PCs together. Robert was going to be playing a Frostborn Hrimwisard who would have not only had a -4 Charisma but, given how Frostborn and Hrimwisards are typically viewed, also not be very well accepted by most. Some Saxa that showed up would have been quite vehement…possibly to the point of violence…that no Frostborn should get the job. The employer would have been very hesitant about a Frostborn being involved as well. Robert, however, showed up for the game with a different character without warning so I didn’t really push this “group” building element of the meeting and just moved on.
Rodgar ap-Annwyn is a merchant in Dalsetter. He had been informed that the baker in town was low on flour and needed some folks to take a cart to the village of Dunross, where most grain was stored and milled before being shipped to other villages, and gather flour from his warehouse and deliver it to the baker here in Dalsetter. Each of the four would be paid 50gs for completing the task. Even though it was the start of winter and travel wouldn’t necessarily be the most pleasant of things to be doing, the job shouldn’t too difficult. The PCs accepted the job and Rodgar gave them a map of the area as well as a letter authorizing release of the flour. Concerned that some of those turned away from the work might take offense and nefarious action, most of the group slept in the stable with the cart and horses provided by Rodgar to prevent such.
In the morning, the group bundled up in their furs and warm clothing and headed off on the two day trek for Dunross. After a short break for lunch and to rest the horses, Surefoot and Thunder, the group pushed on to reach a Travel Tower that Lia knew about to shelter for the night. However, they did not arrive without incident. A small group of orc archers ambushed the party. Although Lia was shot with a couple of arrows, the party dispatched the brutes with relative ease and Wulfwynn was able to heal Lia with Eostre’s blessing. The orcs were searched; a few coins were found as well as a dagger of fine craftsmanship (obviously not orcish) and a pair of heavy riding boots (ruined by an orc with too large of feet wearing them and his toes poking out). The orcish weapons were broken as best as possible and left behind.
The party reached the Travel Tower without any further difficulties but found it to have been the sight of a fairly recent tragedy. Two small, covered wagons were outside the tower but no horses were to be seen. Both wagons had their coverings largely shredded and the wood of the wagons was covered with numerous small scratches or gouges. Still visible on the wagon covering, however, was a symbol of two crossed barley stalks over the letter “D.” The party cut the symbol from the covering and held onto it along with a small piece of wood from the wagon (with the scratch marks).
The leather bindings on the hitching post had been snapped rather than cut or untied…suggesting that any horses tethered here had broken free. The wagons were both snow-covered…indicating that they had been for at least five days since that was the last real snow…and had traces of flour inside them. No tracks were found…the snow had covered any that might have been left.
The door to the Travel Tower was also standing open…a very disturbing sign. Gaupa, Cuðbert’s lynx companion, was very nervous at the door of the tower and would not enter. Inside, the first floor was in complete disarray. Firewood was thrown about. Supplies had been strewn about and ruined. A trail of blood splatters led to the stairs leading up to the second floor. Wood had been stacked in the fireplace but had not been lit…Lia went ahead and started a fire.
Heading upstairs, the group found a scene of carnage. Four skeletons lay on the floor and the floor itself was covered in frozen blood. Although the clothing on the skeletons was in tatters, the party could make out that the same symbol as on the wagons was upon their clothing. They also noticed that none of the skeletons had any flesh left upon them at all.
Checking to make sure that the tower’s door could still be secured (it could) and bringing the horses inside, the party spent a nervous night in the tower. In the morning, they chipped the bodies free of the ice and used the abandoned wagons as pyres. Lia, being a Road Warden (after a reminder from the GM), had the others help him clean the tower and restock it as best as possible. With those tasks completed, the party continued on towards Dunross.
After a few hours of travel, they came upon a dead horse, riddled with arrows. It was not covered by snow. Looking around, the party found its rider…an arrow in his back. The arrows matched those of the orcs they had fought the previous day. The horse looked as though someone had crudely butchered it. The rider was missing his boots but had a note crumpled in his pouch. It was from the mayor of Dunross and addressed to the Baroness of Aslov. It pleaded for aid against a plague of rats that had descended upon the village and the grain.
Pushing on to Dunross, the group found it shut up tight and guarded. The guards stated that the village was quarantined due to not just the rats but the sickness they were spreading. No one was allowed to enter. Wulfwynn stated that she was a healer and after she proved it by healing the guard’s cut hand, the party was allowed in. The guards were not kidding…rats were everywhere. They were scurrying over the ground, up buildings, in buildings, and even up the legs of people. The horses and the cart simply could not avoid running over rats as the group went forward. Gaupa the lynx was clearly disturbed by all the rats and climbed up on Cuðbert’s shoulders and has not yet come down.
The party met Agnes, a priestess of Eostre. She took them to the mayor who was quite distraught to learn that his messenger had not reached Aslov…including blaming the Road Wardens for not maintaining safe roads. The party also met with the town’s healer who stated that she was overwhelmed and completely out of supplies. It became increasingly clear that the party could do little to assist in terms of healing the infected.
Heading to the granaries, they meet with Ulfwyn, the Master of the Granaries. He helps make the point that the rats cannot be dealt with in a conventional fashion. He pretty much states that the only solution is to burn the village down…oil, in fact, has already been spread around the village. The party learns a few other things from him. They learned that one merchant had come just before the rats arrived and took out all his flour. He doesn’t remember which merchant it was but does remember that the man leading the caravan was named Otto Edmundsunu and came from Dalsetter. Another merchant had come a bit after the rats showed up with a couple of small wagons and left with a load of flour…destined for The Citadel. Turns out that merchant’s mark was two stalks of barley over the letter “D”…the same wagons at the Travel Tower.
The party shows the letter from Rodgar and Ulfwyn opens up the appropriate granary. Rats have already damaged a good portion of the sacks of flour. Most of the party starts to load what can be salvaged. Wulfwynn, in a fit of eloquence (multiple raises on the Persuasion check), convinces Ulfwyn that he needs to let them investigate the other granaries to try and learn what is going on. The first granary…the one from which the merchant removed his flour before the rats arrived…is completely untouched by the rats. There is absolutely no sign of them inside it or upon it. It is discovered that the wardings of Eostre which are normally carved upon granaries…in the hopes of keeping vermin out…still exist on this granary but have been scratched out on all of the others.
Just as the party finishes loading the salvageable sacks of Rodgar’s flour and Wulfwynn is investigating some of the other granaries, a scream is heard. A woman is pointing towards the walls over which a massive horde of rats is streaming. Interspersed in the horde are rats the size of a pony! A scream from the other direction shows that a similar horde is streaming over the opposite wall.
That, of course, is where we ended the session…