Sunday, November 7, 2021

[Play Report] Land's End II, Session 1 - Jailbreak!

Unknown in-game date


Iron-In-Blood, Lizardfolk
Heka, Wildman
Floros, Human
Xenia, Planetouched
Pale-Heart, Lizardfolk
Duul, Wildman
Pallas, Human
Vorvou, Chthonic Elf
Agàta, Human
Kazik, Human
Dimemnu, Chthonic Elf
Gold-Foot, Lizardfolk
Hafza, Wildman


Life in the mountains digging obsidian for the lizardfolk is the same every day: Get up early. Dig up the glass. Get beat by the overseers. Go to sleep and do it all again. 

The slaves tell each other stories to pass the time, dreaming of escape to ZEMPHAS, the Lost City of Silver, where no being is made to serve another. One old warm-blood named Agàta said he heard of it from another who had actually been there - he described the argent towers, brass domes that blaze in the sunset and ethereal bells that ring through the city at dawn. He said it lies past mountains, jungle and desert on a vast blue ocean. It seems an impossible distance away.

One day, something changed:

Most obsidian mines are open-air trenches, but then a cave is found with veins of the black & green stuff running through it. The tunnels are deep cracks in the mountain, webbing out in every direction. The overseers sent groups down to extract more obsidian for the Black Wings’ war efforts and to enrich their warchief above all others in the Drowned Lands. 

The nightmares began soon after. Every time it was the same: 

…Horns ring out from the mountaintops. Strange constellations glitter, lighting an unknown earth. Floating in icy water, black and still. The taste of hot blood. The touch of fine-grained stone, cold and damp. Whistling music in the firelight. And voices echoing in a vast, timeless, frozen darkness… 

They persisted for weeks. One slave choked on his own tongue during the night and everyone else was terrified. The overseers & guards stopped going into the tunnels, since only those who work down there get nightmares. 

One day, Agàta made his rounds at mealtime. He was tired & sickly, the nightmares taking their toll on even his mighty frame. He spoke briefly, only to those who worked underground: 

“We’re getting out of here. Tomorrow. Tell only those you trust, ten or twelve at most. Spread the word tonight. They’ll never catch us. I’ve found a way out… down below!”


At the beginning of the workday the group followed Agàta down into the obsidian tunnels, trusting in his vague plan of an escape route. Each one knew they had until nightfall to get as far as they could before the overseers expected them back. Equipped only with stone picks, leather sacks & lumps of coal for light, they crept through dark tunnels deep within the earth, venturing farther and deeper into the mountains than they ever had before - until Agàta indicated a narrow crawlspace.

"Smell that? Bat guano. We've never seen bats fly through these caves, so there must be a way to the surface through there! And look what else I found!"

Agàta showed the group two strange relics: a chunk of yellow metal with writing on it, and an oddly-shaped... key?... with a glowing orange gemstone in the handle.

"Look at the lettering... this could be from Zemphas itself!"

Treasures? Clues? Relics?

Crawling through the narrow passageway, their backs scraped by the razor-sharp rock, the stench of guano got steadily stronger. The slaves emerged into a pool of the foul stuff, hearing the twittering and fidgeting of thousands of bats above their heads. Their faint coal braziers barely illuminated several narrow tunnels exiting the cavern.

"I've an idea," said Vorvou. "Let's disturb the bats, and see which way they fly!" 

The group assented to this plan, covering their lights while the two chthonic elves used their unnatural cave-adapted eyes to watch the bats. Throwing a few rocks caused the flock to exit to the left, but a few of the bats had a thirst - with a shriek, Vorvou was set upon by a few and his blood was drained in an instant! The rest of the group covered their heads with their leather sacks and hid at the bottom of the cavern, luckily avoiding the vampire bats' attention.

Following the flock of bats took the group to a narrow chimney they couldn't climb. Well, so much for that plan. Unwilling to backtrack towards servitude, the party continued their exploration of this hostile & bizarre cave. They came upon a vast underground lake that stretched into darkness, the only sound a distant drip of water. A narrow ledge stretched along the lake's edge, but nobody dared chance the crumbling stonework so they moved on.

Climbing upwards they found a glistening, iridescent trail of slime on the ground that led them to a room with a huge rainbow snail-shell. Assuming this was the territory of some bizarre invertebrate, they hurried onwards. They passed a room with a black handprint burned into the wall but decided not to investigate.

At the shores of a cold and swift river they disturbed a school of ravenous piranhas who leapt out of the water in hungry pursuit! The group made a terrible tactical mistake, which luckily didn't work out too badly - they fled forwards into unknown territory pursued by the hopping, gnashing school of fish. 

They ran down a narrow tunnel and broke into a round room of worked stone. A pattern of stars was carved on the ceiling, and an ancient stone bed lay to one side. A layer of scented dust covered every surface. 

Thinking quickly, the slaves jammed the old bed against the crack in the wall - the tiny land-piranhas couldn't jump over it and gave up pursuit, retreating to the river. Behind the bed was an old brass tablet with obscure markings, which the group took.

The slaves pressed on through this constructed area. They entered a rectangular room covered in carvings showing a robed humanoid figure floating or flying through a field of constellations. In a small alcove guarded by an ancient, collapsed pit-trap they found a purplish crystal skull (definitely not human) that looked valuable and three tiny metal cylinders with threaded ends, glowing with a faint reddish light.

In another domed room smelling of old incense and dust, they found a metallic skullcap with a cluster of silvery filaments extending outwards from it in intricate, twisting patterns. Nobody was willing to try it on, so they took it for later.

Then they entered the Room of Stars. Seeming to float in the void of space, the group could barely navigate the room without falling over it was so disorienting. As the approached the back alcove, the stars shifted along the walls, coalescing into a glowing doorway of light. Nervously, Agàta reached out to open it and the group entered.

The deep obsidian caverns

The group found themselves in a narrow hallway of worked stone, leading to a small room with four bronze statues of spearmen, ready to throw. Entering the room cautiously, the inevitable happened: the statutes animated, hurling their spears towards the group! Everyone tried to duck, but Hafza the wildman was too slow and was impaled.

The statues didn't seem to present further danger after this, and the group took up the finely-crafted spears for themselves. 

The next room was a large chamber with a huge statue in the center of a robed man holding a tablet in one hand, while his other pointed imperiously forward. Three other doors were visible. Gold-Foot and Agàta entered, noticing that the statue swiveled on its base, continuing to point at them wherever they roamed in the room. Nervous about this, they tried to leave when blasts of fire issued from the statue's finger! Gold-Foot was burned to a crisp while everyone else ducked for cover.

When the jets of flame ceased, they heard only triumphant crowing: "Hah! Stupid magic statue, you think you can get the best of me?" Proving himself a tough old man once more, Agàta had survived another scrape.

It seemed the statue had exhausted its magic and the rest of the slaves contemplated their next move: three doors presented themselves, but this area was obviously quite dangerous. What to do?


And so it begins! 

A brand new in-person Land's End game with a very small group! "Season 2" is set a little ways off from the original Land's End theatre of action. It maintains a handful of connections to the original (the Black Wings lizardfolk and their slaving ways, for example) but with a slightly different focus. 

Follow along with us as we uncover more mysteries, explore more snake-men tombs, and get trench foot in the jungle again! We begin on the right footing by killing a handful of PCs in this introductory funnel. I've always wanted to run a "no equipment, no abilities" adventure, a trope that's been floating around forever but fits Land's End quite well - a setting where even established adventurers struggle to find decent gear! 

Some readers may recognize the first few rooms of the Dungeon Crawl Classics 0-level funnel "The Door Beneath The Stars," which has been modified a little bit to fit the setting.

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