Flames of Retribution Campaign

In the Beginning
...or why didn't I stay at home?

The story begins as a band of orcs waylays a merchant caravan en route to Hamptonshire. Of the survivors, a small group of caravan guards tracks the orcs to an underground complex not far away as the rest of the caravan continues to limp towards town.

Descending a long shaft into the complex, the would-be heroes find giant spiders, and a paralyzing death for one hero, awaiting them in a large chamber. After dispatching the spiders, the remaining party then found the orc band waiting in ambush beyond a door, and under a barrage of orc arrows the heroes retreated back up the shaft to safety with the orcs close behind—or two of the heroes anyway, as another was felled by multiple black arrows.

A third hero died under the light of a full moon as he bravely (stupidly) confronted the orcs as they poured forth from the ground. Hacked to easily cooked pieces, his sacrifice was not for nothing: the lone survivor of the group escaped to Hamptonshire and the Frothing Frog Inn to spread word of the orc den and the noble sacrifices of his team.

Among the audience in the Frothing Frog during the telling of this tale
was Collin Mudfjord, a local hafling ne’er-do-well of seemingly oblivious nature, Rolf Do’urgsh, a serious, protective Half-orc ranger with a fondness for Collin, Syrict, a reclusive hafling and relative newcomer to Hamptonshire, and Assuran, another gnome illusionist with an uncommon arrogance about her. After hearing the story of the orc raid and subsequent failed expedition, and wanting to earn gold and glory, the four friends decided to do what the caravan guards could not: rid the area of the orc threat.

Several weeks have passed since that fateful night. Over the course of several trips into the complex and once not even making it that far, the following events have occurred (in brief):

The complex is known to house at least goblins as well as orcs; just ask Rolf since he was almost killed by three—only three. Goblins, man!

The party was ambushed in the middle of the day during another expedition to the complex. Not yet reaching the complex and taken almost completely by surprise, the party was unable to immediately retreat because of casualties, but withstood several incursions by the orcs throughout the remaining day and night to limp back to town for recovery. Syrict was felled by a black arrow (damn those things!) as he attempted to hide in a makeshift blind of sticks and leaves—it didn’t help.

Asadi Adir, a cleric from the Dawn Temple escorted the party on one outing to provide healing support, but faltered when faced with combat and has since been content to remain in the temple ringing bells and saying prayers. It was while healing a seriously wounded Syrict that he detected a darkness about the halfling that left him feeling cold and shaken. He reported the occurrence to the Dawn Priestess who has since taken steps to learn of Syrict’s dark personality and has thus refused him direct aid from the temple.

During the group’s last investigative outing, they found a room with a hole in the floor and a clue that something was to be placed in the hole. After tossing a coin into the hole with no ill effects, ever inquisitive and ever imprudent Assuran shoved her hand in the hole only to have it immediately remove with a cleanly cauterized nub of an arm left. The immediate shock of the wound almost killed her, but she has since recovered to fall into a deep depression over not being able to cast spells anymore. She now is retired and abusing a rocking chair on the porch of the old magic-user’s home.

Rolf visited the Green Wizard’s tower and bartered his services to Gibway O’Shannahan for having a magic shield identified. He agreed to recover a local red dragon’s egg from the God’s Home Mountain range, in exchange he learned he had a magic imbued shield.

Syrict received a secretive message to meet a guild contact at the Forgotten King’s Barrow at high moon. That night he crept down the middle of the street to the bridge gate so he could cross the raging river, but being unable to persuade the guard to open the gates for him, he rowed a dingy out into the swift current. After losing one oar and then the other to be left at the rivers mercy, he was bashed against rocks and swept up in the current. Just before passing his rendezvous point though, he dove into the water chancing death to reach the bank in time to make his meeting. Refusing to ditch his backpack, he was twice pulled under the dark frigid waters of the Coldflow just to miraculously emerge once again gasping for air. Favored by his god, he made it to the opposite shore pulling himself onto a rock to realize then that he was saved from a watery death just to face a treacherous climb in the dark in a weakened, exhausted state. Lucky for him, his contact watched the entire river ordeal with much amusement and sent him down a rope to assist in his ascent. It was then that Syrict learned the guild had designs on infiltrating the local merchant guild and that he was to kill Sam Beckwith.

In search of healing assistance for the party, Collin went looking for a cleric to hire. He was sent to the nearby monastery by Bombal Strunck and spent the majority of the morning learning that the brothers of the monastery have no identity and an unwillingness to affect an outcome of any situation. “Peace comes from acceptance that it is as it shall be.” Needless to say, Collin was given no help other than advice to embrace the “peace within.”

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In Ricketstowne

When last we saw our intrepid heroes…

…after procuring a cleric, they were preparing to venture forth once again to the orc and goblin warren to continue their cleansing. Upon arrival, though, they found the entrance shaft filled halfway with rubble and impassable.

Thinking to find another entrance, Rolfe lead the group along a clearly visible trail northwestward toward the mountains and into a dark wood. The party found a cold orc campsite along a creek with obvious signs that the rocks and debris from the creek bed had been moved from there, in all likelihood to fill the entrance shaft.

Despite having already walked for about 8 hours, but not deigning to make camp in orc detritus, the tired party continued northwestward along the orc trail, finally pushing out of the woods at dusk near a seldom used road on the edge of an abandoned Thorpe. After a brief scouting of the area, the party decided to make camp just inside the wood line as the last vestiges of light faded and a warm summer rain began to fall.

Awaking from sleep sometime later (Rolfe was supposed to be on guard) by an unusual silence that rangers know means something’s amiss, Rolfe woke Ough and Collin, who in turn woke Syrict from his perch in a tree by hitting him with a rock and causing him to fall from said perch.

The storm had passed and moonlight shone brightly as the group spied a lumbering figure crest the hilltop before them staggering their way. A baleful howl echoed across the fields nearby as our heroes prepared for the worst.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

When last we saw our intrepid heroes…

…they were sleep deprived and preparing to engage more zombies just outside of Ricketstowne, a small collection of homesteads that had been abandoned many years ago.

After surviving a third wave of undead, the party decided to move from the woods to the perceived safety of the abandoned thorpe. They soon learned that safety was not to be found, though. As the heroes entered the thorpe they were put on alert by the remains of two slashed zombies and one mutilated orc corpse lying in the center of the road.

Rolf and Ough began to methodically scout the nearby buildings while Collin and Syrict provided covering bow fire from the road. A low moan soon began to emanate all around them as Rolf and Ough were set upon between two buildings. The first zombie was quickly dispatched by a mighty throw of Ough’s hammer which blasted through the vile creature’s rotted skull to land in the high weeds some distance away. The second monster was felled by Rolf who then moved to confront any other threat.

Collin and Syrict moved to a better supporting position as Ough moved further away from his friends to retrieve his hammer. As more rotting corpses wandered from other buildings, Ough was surprised by a vicious blow from an previously unseen zombie. He killed it in time, just not in enough time to help Rolf fight off the two zombies that had closed in on him to pummel his head. Collin and Syrict moved in tandem raining barbed destruction down on everything they could.

The heroes progressed through the small group of buildings until they found the source of the walking dead: an old graveyard behind a worn, stone church. They continued to dispatch the abominations with relative ease until Ough’s god seemingly turned his back on him and refused to grant Ough the power to turn the undead, and Syrict’s bow string snapped and he was forced into battle with only his magical dagger.

The undead swarmed, forcing the party back into a tighter circle to support each other. Syrict was caught outside the protection of his friends, though, and was soon knocked unconscious by a hungry female zombie with matted, long blonde hair. At risk to themselves, Collin, Rolf and Ough each tried what they could to destroy the monster before it devoured Syrict, but their attacks failed and they watched in horror as Syrict was ripped open in a spray of blood and the golden-tressed corpse began to feed on his flesh.

With Syrict’s fate sealed, the remaining heroes redoubled their efforts and soon destroyed all the zombies. Exhaustion beginning to overwhelm them, the group collected Syrict’s personal belongings (to settle his affairs when they returned to Hamptonshire, I’m sure) and then began searching the sturdy church building for a safe place they could spend the rest of the night. Finally, barricaded in a small windowless library, they closed their eyes and slept, unconcerned about what might be happening just outside their door.

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A Poisonous Bite

When last we saw our intrepid heroes…

…they were in a chapel in Ricketstowne resting in a small, windowless room, pushed to near exhaustion by multiple battles with zombies.

Secured in the room, the three remaining members of the party slept soundly until late morning before Ough was awakened by a mouse crawling across his bearded face. After awaking the others with his surprised flailing, he, Collin, and Rolf eschewed breakfast and began searching the building of their refuge.

They found the building empty for the most part: broken furniture in bed chambers, table and chairs in a meeting room, an empty vestry. But in a small, private altar room they found the hidden treasure of the prior occupants.

Upon inspecting the private altar, Rolf located a small catch near its base. He then had Collin search the altar for traps before triggering the catch that released the altar, which was then pushed aside. In a hollow beneath the altar, they found a large chest filled with large sacks of coins—copper coins. After taking three sacks of coins, they left the rest behind to explore further. Meh, it’s only copper, the coin of the poor and destitute. Who needs it?

After making their way back to the sanctum’s entrance, they pushed the large double doors open to reveal a pentagonal room with late morning light flooding in through a partially collapsed ceiling and broken stained-glass window; a natural stone, flat-topped altar rose from the floor near the center of the room with debris scattered about and wisps of cobwebs hanging from the darkened corners of the rafters.

Ever sharp-eyed, Ough was the first to spot the skittering of small spiders in the webbing near the breached ceiling, so naturally he was the first to move into the room and brave their wrath, calling upon the power of his god to smite the little beasts. His call went unanswered though, for like forgetting to eat breakfast, he also forgot his morning prayers. He settled for bashing the spiders with his hammer like a true dwarf…or at he least tried to.

With the appearance of more spiders, to include a larger, more menacing monstrosity, Rolf made his way into the room to fight while Collin stayed in the doorway and provided more supporting fire with his crossbow—something he does well and often.

After a heated battle in which the party learned it was easier for a spider to bite an armored warrior than for an armored warrior to hit a spider, the party prevailed with only Rolf and Ough injured—Ough being near death and paralyzed—and Collin unharmed as usual.

Collin used a magical draught to stabilize Ough (though he was still paralyzed) while Rolf blasted the head from a lost zombie that stood looking in the window. And then, within two hours of awakening, the party again retreated into the small, secured room to lick their wounds—and maybe eat something.

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Fortuitous Events

When last we saw our intrepid heroes…

…they were sleeping off the effects of spider venom and blood loss. Their 22 hours of rest was uninterrupted, and they once again rose with the sun.

A lot has happened since that early morning, and as I’ve been remiss in my duties as chief chronicler I’ll just quickly synopsize the party’s heroics (or heroic attempts at least).

Unlike the previous morning, Ough remembered to pray; during that time the rest of the party continued their search of the chapel. During their search, they encountered a druid and barbarian down from the mountains also tracking orcs. After much discussion and finding common purpose, the two parties joined together to bolster their strength.

After moving from the chapel to the graveyard to find and eradicate the source of the zombie infestation, the party unwittingly opened a crypt harboring a malicious wight protecting a sizable treasure, the glint of gold just visible in the dank corners of the crypt.

The party defeated the wight in time, but not without incident: Rolf once again received the brunt of their enemy’s wrath, giving up a small amount of his life force in defense of his companions when the sharp, fetid claw of the evil creature tore into his shoulder. Weakened, Rolf sought his cleric for healing, and though Ough could mend Rolf’s physical wounds he could do nothing for the bone-deep weakness that overwhelmed him.

During the battle with the wight, Mismoul the half-elf druid, located a secret door to an ancient buried tomb which held the remains of the fabled draconian hero Bakashar Al Jarrah. The party found Bakashar’s remains untouched by time and adorned in his resplendent armor. To the dismay of others in the party, Rolf was the only one deemed worthy to claim the legend’s battle gear, for as he lifted Bakashar’s sword from its resting place (something everyone else failed to do), Bakashar’s remains fell to dust and his spirit appeared, shimmering in radiance before Rolf whom he saluted and in a booming voice ordered, “ON YOUR FEET!”

After the spirit faded back to his eternal rest, Rolf struggled into the new armor and knew immediately that he would never choose another set, that this armor was his armor now, and always would be. He also knew, somehow, that no matter how much he might want to, he could never willingly dishonor the armor, Bakashar’s legacy, or himself by deceit or deed.

While all watched in wonder as Rolf claimed his prize, Collin slipped unnoticed back to the wight’s crypt and removed, and hid, a large part of the great horde the band had fought so hard to obtain. And surprisingly, no one else in the party seemed to notice the reduced gains which they split evenly among themselves. With pockets full, the newly formed party began the trudge east back to Hamptonshire.

Back in the safety of the town walls, each sought the comfort of sleep in his own way. Early the next morning Collin promptly and secretly hitched his cart to his pony and began to travel back down the West Road to recover his loot. How he wasn’t attacked by rogues or bears of any other number of things go bump in the night—or the day—is a mystery. The gods must be kind, indeed.

But during this time, suspicious of Collin’s absence when he could not be found in the Frothing Frog Inn trying to wrangle a free meal; Rolf hired some urchins to keep a watch for Collin and report anything they learned back to him. He further tried to persuade local shopkeepers to report to him any business that Collin might try to conduct in the sale or purchase of valuable items. Only the urchins were swayed by the meager silver Rolf offered in payment and quickly ratted-out Collin upon his return.

Mismoul and the barbarian to the opportunity to eat heartily and converse with Bombal Strunck, the keeper of the Frothing Frog, about the region and current happenings. It was they that learned of Farmer Johnson’s demise at the hands of an orc raiding party and that his son was missing, presumably taken by the orcs. The two also decided to use the lull in activity to search the countryside for an animal companion for Mismoul who was missing at night the warmth of a furry friend. And so, in the nearby forest, Mismoul befriended a wolf just in time to fight and defeat some bandits who had been preying on unwary travelers in the area.

That evening all the party met back at the Frothing Frog to discuss their next step. Upon hearing of farmer Johnson’s son, Rolf vowed to recover the boy or uncover the truth of his demise and would not be swayed from his purpose. Mismoul argued to keep the big picture in mind and wait until morning to venture forth. During their discussion, Mismoul also suggested that Rolf might have sympathies for the orcs due to his mixed heritage and might be trying to deter his investigation into the increase of orc activity in the region. Of course Rolf took great umbrage to the slight and duly reacted by severing ties to the two adventurers and immediately leaving town with Collin and Ough to find the Johnson Boy.

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Another One Bites the Dust

When last we saw our intrepid heroes…

…they were fractured into two groups, with one group led by Rolf heading into the night to save a boy in distress, and the other group deciding the larger events of the region needed investigating more than a missing child.

Rolf, Collin, and Ough trekked through the night to the Johnson farm where Rolf was able to pick up the trail of the orc band easily enough and track them into the countryside and back to the area of the original orc and goblin den. Finally arriving at a newly excavated tunnel, barred with a crude wooden door, the group decided it prudent to rest and begin the search anew in the morning after everyone was refreshed and Ough had time to pray for his spells.

The night passed quietly and the following morning during Ough’s prayers Rolf scoured the nearby country for a short time in search of food—since no one thought to pack any in their rush to save the boy—but returned to camp empty-handed. However, unbeknownst to Rolf, and luckily for that matter, he was being tracked by another who approached the camp warily upon Rolf’s return. After tense introductions, and an offering of rations by the stranger, the half-orc Vurtog was asked to accompany the group into the warren since their objectives seemed to align.

Vurtog, it turns out, hates his orc heritage more than even Rolf. Being the product of a violent rape, he has vowed to kill all orcs just to make sure any that could be his father dies, and that none of his cursed ilk may be born to fester in this cruel world. The orc taint in his blood has marked he and his mother as outcasts his entire life, a life made unnecessarily hard by others and ultimately leading to his mother’s suicide. As such, he is bitter and self-loathing, but not without purpose. In any case, he was up for killing orcs, and that made him valuable to the party.

  • Elsewhere that morning, Mismoul and Kollick also woke early, and after a good meal at the tavern, set out into the wild on their own to continue their investigations.

While back at Rolf’s camp, with stale bread and moldy cheese in their stomachs, the new friends tore open the makeshift door to the tunnel and descended into the dark. In short order they emerged in a room recognized by Rolf and Collin, though with much debris from the tunnel dig filling it, cementing in their minds that they were indeed in the right place. It didn’t hurt that orc and goblin footprints marked every inch of the room, and Rolf’s keen eye also discerned a larger set of booted tracks, hinting at a possible larger foe deeper in the dungeon.

The party followed the tracks through familiar rooms before stumbling onto a goblin training area. After pretty easily clearing the goblins with only one escaping, they continued to search the complex for the missing boy. Soon, they surprised a group of orcs in a bunk room. The battle was intense but the heroes emerged victorious, though Ough expended his allotment of spells in the process to keep his comrades healthy.

So despite only being awake for about four hours, the heroes decided to secure the doors to the room with pitons and rest until the following morning. Ough and Vurtog removed their armor to sleep, whild Collin crawled under a bunk and was soon asleep also. Rolf maintained watch. They tried to rest at least. For unbeknownst to them, they made camp in an orc high traffic area, a single room that connected to several other areas still occupied by the filthy beasts. Soon heavy banging sounded from a side door giving just enough warning to the party before it exploded open and a rush of new orcs spilled into the room, taken aback only momentarily by the stinging torch light.

Battle raged anew. Rolf responded first by quickly moving to the doorway to hold back the tide of orcs though some had already gotten past him. Ough and Vurtog both rushed to put on armor only to realize it was too late and instead took up arms to defend themselves. Collin continued his nap undisturbed for a while as combat ensued. Rolf did his best at the door but found himself wrestled to the ground which led to a more orcs in the room to attack the unarmored fools…er, uh heroes…who were desperately trying to stay alive. And one of them did, barely.

Collin awoke during the fight, but seeing the peril before him decided to remain unseen and un-attacked in his hiding spot beneath the bunk. Ough fell to a nasty sword wound in the thigh and bled out quickly making it easier for the orcs to gang up on Vurtog. By the time Rolf had extricated himself from his assailant, and killed it, Vurtog was barely able to hold his sword in defense. And by the time Rolf came to Vurtog’s aid, he had succumbed to the many wounds he had suffered in the fight. Rolf skillfully dispatched all but one of the remaining orcs, but not before his two comrades lay on the floor before him in their own blood. One orc he kept alive for “questioning”, and through various means learned that the orc leader resided on a lower level of the dungeon and indeed had the boy. All of this was spilled before the pitiful creature made a desperate escape attempt and died for his efforts.

As the battle ended, Collin crawled from hiding and claimed the deaths of at least two orcs. He and Rolf checked their fallen friends and found that Vurtog yet lived. Despite Collin and Rolf both being disheartened by the death of Ough, they knew they had to escape the dungeon and regroup—or retire. Rolf being unwilling to leave a suffering, living friend to the monsters of the warren, lifted Vurtog onto his mighty shoulders, and with Collin helping recover Vurtog’s gear, carried the fighter from danger and back to the relative safety of the surface world.

I’m sure Ough made a nice gristly stew.

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Fresh Meat
or another character for Gavin to kill! Ha ha!

When last we saw our intrepid heroes…

…they had just escaped from the orc and goblin infested dungeon historically known as Crissingen’s Lair, but did so without Ough who had regrettably fallen in combat.

It was good to be away from the fetid air of the dungeon, and resting just briefly to enjoy the fresh air of the late summer evening, the group soon was on their slow way back to Hamptonshire. By the time they made it back to the River Road, both Collin and Rolf were struggling with the extra weight of their comrade and his gear. They continued on, though, doggedly retreating to the safety of town, one weary step after another. And just as they felt they could walk no more, they were approached by six men on horseback.

The band of horsemen soon surrounded our three heroes cutting off any escape they may have had. Rolf readied for a fight while Collin considered how best to survive the situation. But the leader of the group surprised them both when he called out to Rolf amiably and by name; it would be hard, after all, for any citizen of Hamptonshire, much less a lieutenant of the Town Militia, to not recognize the sickly green skin and permanently dour scowl of the city’s only resident half-orc.

Though it took them out of their way of their patrol route, the militia carried the party back to town doubled up on horseback. Rolf was offended that they dropped them off at the city gates with a severely injured hero to carry into town, but the militia explained as the rode away that they had a patrol to complete and that a little gratitude would be appreciated.

Luckily for Collin and Rolf—and Vurtog by extension—a travelling Knight, with aspirations of being a cleric, was just entering the town as well and offered to help them get their friend aid. The knight introduced himself as Varis, Knight of the Order of the Rose and devoted adherent of Aonghus, the god of love. Happy for the help, despite Varis’ creepy touchy-feely habits, the party took Vurtog to the Frothing Frog Inn and was able to convince Bombal to let the half-orc recover from his wounds on a cot in a back supply room—the inn being, um, fully booked and all.

When Vurtog was situated, Rolf tried, to no avail, to convince Bombal to rally the town to his cause. Bombal assured him that though he was empathetic to Rolf’s situation, he was just a lowly inn keeper and no orator or great leader of men. Dejected and with nowhere else to turn, Rolf sought an audience with mayor, Garrett Roundshield, to beg for assistance with the Orc den.

After finally meeting with and explaining the dire situation with which the town was faced—that being the possible death of the farmer’s son at the hands of orcs, not to mention the orc threat in general—the mayor agreed to call a meeting of the town council to weigh the matter and take recommendations of actions, because after all, no official action could be sanctioned without proper scrutiny of the matter and its affects on all entities involved, as well as a survey of all possible courses of action to rectify the matter and the affect those courses of actions may have on the various entities involved both in the present and the future; a risk-reward analysis had to be made.

So, late that afternoon the council convened in the meeting hall, some not too happy about having their plans interrupted to attend the emergency gathering. Present were the mayor, Rolf, the priestess Kerrianne Kensington, three prominent Guildmasters, the Green Wizard and his apprentice Gibway O’Shanihan, and Captain Oren Sorel, commander of the Town Guard and Militia. The meeting was begun with Rolf’s introduction by the mayor and a brief history of the party’s previous commission by the town. Rolf was then allowed to elaborate on his findings and make his plea to the council, finally fielding questions from the committee.

As an orator, Rolf left much to be admired, but he was able to convince enough members that his request was in the best interest of the town. And given the already known facts that orc raids were already sending refugees streaming into Hamptonshire from the west, that sporadic raids locally had already caused delays in trade shipments, and that the financial implications of ignoring the situation would be costly indeed, the council voted to support a military incursion into the orc den. Great news for Rolf, but they were only able to provide nine men of experience to bolster his numbers while the town guard and militia handled other matters of concern related to the orcs, namely the aforementioned raids and refugees.

Rolf reluctantly agreed to wait three days before leaving again, mainly to prepare and organize the troops. But Rolf had other, secret needs to attend to: he could fel the change coming on and wanted to be in a safe place when it did. He soon disappeared from the town.

So for three days the party recovered and resupplied, ate heartily and drank merrily despite the wretched refugees crowding the streets with nothing to eat. And they learned just how suspicious the town had become of outsiders, especially those tainted with orc heritage, as was Vurtog.

On the third evening in town, the party was told by Lt. Hammerstein that the unit would be moving out at late morning the following day. All were present when the wagon wheels began to turn, Rolf and Collin, though, running to catch up. They traveled by wagon and horse, and with Rolf showing the way, arrived at the dungeon entrance that evening. Not slowing to rest and bent on saving the boy, the party once again descended into the dark depths of the dungeon.

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