September 17, 2018 0 comments

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Quest against the Darkmaster (PbP)

Oh, my! I realize we need A LOT more lore/exposition.

While consulting, for a number of days that turn into, as expected, weeks, with Oberon, Ambrosius puts the last pieces together.

In ancient days, the Dwarf Smith Logi crafted a hammer that was capable of forging the greatest of artifacts. When he was captured by the Darkmaster of that age and compelled to craft terrible weapons, he lamented his tool. After that War was over and Logi was freed from captivity, he went to the tallest mount in the Starry Mountains and hurled the hammer into the heavens. At that time he said some words that was interpreted as a prophecy that the hammer once again would fall to earth.

Ambrosius and Oberon put some lenses together, and, after many evenings studying the stars, believe that they have located Logi’s Hammer, a red speck in the sky that is moving for earth. Having found it, Ambrosius and Oberon are able to predict precisely where Hammerfall will be, whereas before, with mere legends concerning the direction and time in which Logi hurled his hammer into the sky, Ambrosius was able only to calculate three possible sites.

The Council speculates that the Black Flame of Hate wants this Hammer of Logi’s to, presumably, once again craft weapons in his service. Perhaps he enslaved the Dwarves because he requires their expertise or knowledge. And perhaps he pillaged the Bloodbronze because these weapons can serve as a model for what he wishes to fashion.

The Quest of Hammerfall must be a race against time, sneaking into peril, and then what? The Council asks precisely that: What shall be done with Logi’s Hammer, even if we do obtain it before the Enemy? We know that it cannot be destroyed by any means within our ken. That is why Logi threw it into the Void rather than shatter it on his anvil. The Council is open to suggestions.

I’ll respond to your questions in #359 later and in a separate post.

[OOC okay, I know I put quite a bit up there in Q's etc. relating to rules, campaign past and to come NPC's etc. etc.  Fine if it takes some time to bake answers]

[As to suggestions, well 'paygrade comes into play here' (after all Frodo et al had to be told about Mt Mordor was the solution), so the fellowship's suggestions are likely in the range of those rejected by the Council of Elrond etc.]

Leofred, "I wonder if it can be true that the hammer cannot be destroyed.  One of the teachings of the Wise is that all life passes, all rivers run to the sea, all that is raised will fall, it is only the choices we make here and now that matter. By the same token, if something can be made it must be capable of being unmade.  Could it have simply been that Logi was unable to bring himself to destroy his greatest work?  Or was it that Logi foresaw a need for this hammer, perhaps to craft weapons against the Great Enemy?"

Gyantwaka says, "With all respect for this council, might not the answer be held by the dwarves?"

[OOC, Circling back to the idea of ancient giants who raised sky castles and reincorporating idea that one survives and is a destination at some point -  perhaps they were the first great civilization and taught the dwarves their arts (one reason dwarven halls are always built so oversized, they mastered their arts building for large guests), and there is a "Forge of the Giants" in which "anything created can be uncreated".]

A key question is "when" will the hammer come down.  Below, it's almost a month for the fellowship to get to the area it will descend in - if the fellowship can get there before it comes down they will have a "head start" on the deadliest lap of the "race".  However it is coming down this year, this year is more than half over.

Once the conclusion is reached, so at the end of the period when destination known, the fellowship will seek the aid of any in Elvendale who have knowledge of route.  Perhaps at a minimum hunters or others have traveled the woods to the west (area #1). Leofred has likely ridden the road route to the hill dwarves before but not taken the wood route.

They will consider provisions and any gear and plan again on taking their trusty pony but not be utterly reliant on it (do ponies gain XP? 😊). Gyantwaka can hunt for provisions in a pinch but that would slow travel.  Once they determine the volume of provisions and gear a travel-speed can be established and the season(s) during which the quest will be abroad figured out - they are likely Encumbered with a week's rations (would be Heavily but for the pony which carries an extra week's rations for each party member - I would say more but not sure how much a pony can carry {will explore that a bit in other systems perhaps, Rolemaster at one point said a 180 lbs}, assuming that when Encumbrance rules say "heavy wpn" it means the quality, none carries any so it's two weapons each not counting a knife/dagger - warclub&bow, arming sword and mace, spear and arming sword) so speeds of 30/15/8.

  • If the distances/terrain are as above that's 75 rough km (5 days) and 90 arduous km forest and 40 arduous mountain that count as 80km for 170 km  (22 days) - the rough/arduous combo being why this is the less-expected route - so almost a month of travel leaving aside any "oh well I guess we need to camp while that heals" time. On the way back the mountain path would be known so not count double anymore, shaving 40 arduous km off trip, making that trip 17 days.
  • Some nice compact-for-travelling elven fare would definitely be useful.

[Weeks for the finding on location mean we likely move into the last week of the 3rd Moon of Summer, presumably Fall is soon with us and Mountains in winter would be particularly challenging. There doesn't seem to be a Travel impact in rules though one could imagine travel slower, I know RM had snow cutting speed in half or so overland, though Gyantwaka's people likely know some tricks such as snow shoes etc. - this all depends on how long group is in the destination before turning back.  Whether winter travel is needed depends on when the hammer comes down. An idea of when snow starts to block what paths there are in the mountains would set a "deadline", though coming back they would know a path through mountains so that leg is cut in half]

While the deliberations are on there is no way of knowing how long they last so no one among fellowship is going too far afield.  They will find some way to occupy their time, starting with:

  • Leofred (WL2) will see about obtaining at least one an extra bandage (Fare 1), if we say he can "spend" from his WL weekly, make it 3 bandages.
  • Gyantwaka will find more conservable herbs to stock up with, at least 3 checks perhaps.
  • Hopefully Ambrosius restocks his Healing Kit the ‘bandage and associated materials’ used to on Olwen’s bleeding wound – though the future movements of both Ambrosius and the kit remain TBD.

[OCC, I've reviewed and will check again but I don't think anyone is planning on getting better armour etc., Leofred already did last time and I think everyone is at the point where better armour hinders some things too much.  Gwenhild is the one I'm pondering most.  She'll likely get a suite of Boiled Leather to replace her Leather if we say Leofred can buy it for her.  She would get a Breastplate if there was money for it but it is beyond Leofred's means.]

Of course, Olwen's disposition seen to and his security overseen hopefully.  As well, him being "out of the loop" of course, unless he can be used to feed false information to the enemy.


  • What role did the burn on your arm play in the Darkmaster sending the Gnome?

The Darkmaster, the Black Flame of Hate, is summoned to the flames -- though it is his spirit only, lest you misunderstand -- through pain and blood and iron and flame. It is a self-inflicted wound with a hot iron, according to the dictates of the summoning spell.

  • This Master Rune, is it something you know how to make or a particular 'gnome stone'? (assuming that the term's meaning is not already clear)

It is something I know how to make. I use it to summon a Gnome.

  • Do you mean the Darkmaster himself sent the Gnome or that a sorcerer in his service sent it [OCC, if the Darkmaster can pop Gnomes up anywhere or even just around his servants like Olwen that's something to know!]?

The Darkmaster himself sent the Gnome, since I no longer had access to my gnome stones and had not the devices or wit to make one at the moment.

  • How did the Darkmaster contact you the first of the two times?

I summoned the Darkmaster using the spell I described. I have cast the spell only twice. The second time was in desperation. Every other time I have communicated with the Darkmaster by using the Gnomes as emissaries.

  • So there was no person alleged to have first poisoned Master Ambrosius at the inn - it was all you?

It was all me.

  • What do Ambrosius and the elves think of his story and this talk of ghosts?

... There are many tales of ghosts.

  • How learned in magic must Olwen be to make use of this Master Rune and use spells to contact the Darkmaster? [I know the answer to 2nd part of question, do the elves and Ambrosius?  If Leofred did he would again be thinking back on that first encounter when Olwen raised his arms, was he about to cast "Agony", because if he can cast a 3rd level Sorcery spell..., I was thinking the Gnomes were a variant of the 5th level spell]

[Olwen is a 1st Level Wizard. I don't know how "by the rules" we need to play this. I'm happy to learn what your expectations may be in the matter. But I had been thinking that this spell would be anything anyone could learn (though I'm unclear what mechanics would be used, if there came a call for it).]

  • Gyantwaka shows the assembly the 'gnome stones' he confiscated and volunteers they can be turned over to anyone for study.  Leofred wonders if there is some way to contact the gnomes and find out if they are willing servants of the Darkmaster or bound by some means that can be undone.  He also wants to know if they have any use other than compelling gnomes.

We certainly can study it, but to use such craft to compel another to our will -- even to bring them and question them regarding their own compulsion from the Darkmaster -- that is an act that would be repellent to us. In time, the Elves don't believe that there is any application other than compelling Gnomes, but specific shapes of the runes inscribed on the stones could specify certain commands or tasks for the Gnomes to perform.

  • Is the Elven Court able to ascertain if Olwen is a Servant of the Darkmaster [OCC - If the elven court has access to wizards and any of them have the Detections spell lore (3rd Level Detect Darkness) they can readily tell if Olwen is a direct servant of the Darkmaster.  Now I admit in a campaign I ran that spell probably wouldn’t exist or would be modified (at a minimum, the detect servant of Darkmaster function would have a Save perhaps and recasting would not yield different results, and save improved if no darkmagics worked lately etc).  I like mysteries in games and I don’t like spells that are “instant solution, as in reveal the traitor” as logically that means anyone with sufficient resources in the form of a handy wizard can’t have such traitors in their retinue etc. or else counter-items start being distributed like candy.  Figuring out if someone is a Gollum or  Wormtongue shouldn't be as easy as casting a spell.]

[So there is a spell in this game that's like Detect Alignment, but specific to people who are serving the Darkmaster? Yeah, this is a weird one. Olwen most certainly was a servant of the Darkmaster. Does that mean he still is? I don't know. It's certainly not in his interest right now to be serving the Darkmaster. Any guidance from you on this matter is appreciated.]

  • If he knows anything about the battle(s) in question he would know if anything seemed off about them, units ordered to the wrong places, enemy knew plans etc. - who the enemy was could be something to establish, was this a 'civil war' with a obstreperous baron or a war with the horselords or some third party - the quest may have to cross such lands.  That's probably a Songs and Tales if a check is needed it's 94 (if there's a famous mishap in the battle like a Charge of Light Brigade he likely won't need a check).

[This may be another instance of me using the word "treachery" in too loose of a context. This is a word that Olwen used as given him by the ghost of his father who, as you have suggested, may or may not even have been his father. Leofred knows of nothing out of hand that would constitute "treachery," unless one considers the propensity of kings to commit men to war in the first place, which is the sense that the ghost of Olwen's father was using the term. But Leofred can make a Songs & Tales roll, if you like. Let's call it Difficult (-10), since Leofred doesn't precisely serve King Ethelred the II. Oh! And Olwen's father served King Ethelred I, anyway. I'm thinking the transition of power was pretty recent, see Ambrosius's changed situation.]


So let's see:

re Gnome Stones, Gyantwaka asks for their return then - unless they can be a means the Darkmaster has of detecting/contacting bearer (see next paragraph!).  His own thought was that the next time they face one of these things, if like last time they can drive it off, before it goes they make sure it sees them smashing these stones and proclaiming their opposition to enslavement of these creatures.

1st level wizard doesn't really explain what's been going on re "making a Master Rune" and contacting Darkmaster (since it's supposed to be 3rd level and more importantly not 'wizardry' but 'sorcery' [I view 3rd level as meaning not every 1st/2nd level evil magic user is able to tap into "evil central" for marching orders as part of the grand plan and in any evil cult/organization that ability is the one the leader has or at least claims].  That it's Sorcery seems more important in a "if you can do that you're a sorcerer and that makes you someone beyond pale." So I think the fellowship and elves should regard him as more dangerous than "1st level" label suggests (whatever that amounts to in-game).

  • If instead any 1st level wizard can create a "ham radio" tuned into the Darkmaster that would be okay but something to know and something that would considerably increase suspicion of wizards to a near-hysteria I suspect unless there was some 'proof of virtue' test, which comes back to that Detection spell.

I suggest that either the Darkmaster has an ability to reach out and target people (quite possible but hopefully not infinite) or Olwen was unlucky enough to come into contact with something cursed/carry something cursed etc. (like rings in a certain book - that would be the explanation I would favour rules balance wise) - which brings us back to spells that detect such because the Elves would definitely want to keep their homeland clear of such stuff.

re the Detect Darkness spell, if it exists in this setting I'm sure the elves would make use of it as "servant of Darkmaster" is pretty much a "KILL ME" sign for all who see it, even those given to mercy etc., as I said perhaps it has a save and every week since use of dark magic gives a +5 to the save (so the guy who's been clean 6 months is pretty hard to spot, but Olwen hasn't been clean that long in any event it seems).  Use of it for demons, undead etc. seem appropriate enough.

Re the battle and if the ghost's claim has any credence, Leofred already made his check (above, he rolled 94 before mod, so 84 after, partial success).  Leofred will ask Ambrosius about sentiments concerning this battle if it was under Ethelred I who he served since Ambrosius would presumably know that much more than he.  Leofred will voice his extreme suspicion of a "ghost" counselling dealing with the Darkmaster - that sounds very dubious unless serving the Darkmaster is a family legacy.

All told, this still leaves Leofred with view that "however you got into a life of crime, you answer for your crimes - even if your father was betrayed by his king serving the Darkmaster is hardly the answer and it does not justify a crime".  Olwen's immediate fate is for the Elves to decide - he admits to being able to contact the Darkmaster who can then send summoned creatures to attack people, unless the elves have a way to negate such abilities it is not practical to expect he can be watched so carefully continually that he can't do this.

Gyantwaka, drawing on his own people's "trial by action" views, suggests that if, and only if, his ability to communicate with the Darkmaster can be reliably negated Olwen can be put with a "fake expedition" to draw away attention and if he (and it) survive his future decided then.  If his ability to communicate with the Darkmaster cannot be reliably negated, he is an ungoing threat. What that means, he too leaves that to the Elves.

They both leave Ambrosius to make his own plea for mercy if he wishes but do not see a path to leaving Olwen alive that doesn't revolve around trusting him to change a loyalty he has held for years - the entire time he was in Ambrosius' service, during which time he must have read of the all the atrocities the Darkmaster has been responsible for.



I'll add re "Detect Darkness" that "servant of the Darkmaster" can be read to only mean those taking orders directly (such as through that 3rd level Sorcery spell).  Using Middle Earth as example, Nazghul are Servants as were the Orcs of Mordor, but Gollum wasn't, Wormtongue wasn't (he served Saruman), the spiders of Mirkwood weren't, Smaug wasn't, Saruman wasn't (really he was a traitor planning treachery) and by extension his orcs weren't, Denethor wasn't (he was misguided/being misguided), Shelob wasn't, even the Balrog wasn't (he was a different older evil) etc.

In a game I ran the "intermediate plots" heroes would likely come up against would be those of "independent evils, being manipulated by the Darkmaster but not knowingly serving him/her/it".

The "detect curse or evil spell influence" aspect of the spell is likely the more practical application.

Oh, I'm a little surprised you haven't surveyed the spell lists for DM servants?

Oh, I've read the book cover to cover.

Olwen and his place in the plot developed fairly organically. When I had to decide on his "level," I went with 1, because he's an apprentice, after all (I don't think I ever will understand how Rolemaster levels approximate certain levels of expertise in a simulationist world). Perhaps he even would, more realistically, be "0-Level." But then I also had to give him some means of communicating with the Darkmaster. Well, I guess I didn't have to, but it seemed the most exciting thing to do, so I gave him a magical connection.

So I see two ways of handling it now: Either Olwen is Level 3 (and we can use "Dark Contact" as an application of what has been going on here) or the dark tomes in Ambrosius's library has garnered Olwen some means of Overcasting.

I'm also going to say that Sense Darkness, when cast on Olwen, reveals that he most certainly was a Servant of the Enemy, he most probably is now (though the reading is ambivalent now that he has been removed, in part, from the direct influence of the Evil One), and that he is not the subject of a curse or compulsion. The Elves still think that Olwen can be rehabilitated, that having once served does not necessarily disqualify one from later redemption.

Leofred remembers the battle which claimed the life of Olwen's father: The Battle of the Fields of Omber. It was one clash, a show of strength, during a trade dispute with the neighboring Kingdom of Omberlin. There were some casualties there, and Olwen's father was one of them.

I think I need to find some time here to make a very large world map so that we can begin our quest in an informed way.

Thanks, yes I think perhaps (the 2nd option) he had access to a "special book" (remember I play/run Call of Cthulhu, "special books" are a go to) that amp'd up his powers and learning (one reason it was in that special off limits collection).  Vague dreams and messages promised him he could avenge his father if he found it which is why he went into Ambrosius' service.  That leaves him without the book as level one wizard (with that tainted background). If his "current reliability" or his "usefulness" could be established he could be the 'wizard' in the fellowship even though it would take quite the proof for Leofred and Gyantwaka to be willing to have him around.

  • You don't have to reveal but one of the DM options includes ability to send dreams etc

Re Maps, I'm fine with the sketched maps you've been providing.  In-game PC's shouldn't have access to anything near a modern map's accuracy.  Historically travel used "itineraries" which is like the local helpful guy or your onboard navigator giving driving instructions.  These could be verbatim or "dot to dot" maps as in "along the river to the bend then across the woods to the hill that looks like an acorn, then north to the lake" etc.  These might be illustrated and look nice but be in no way to scale.  They could also simply a straight line even though there are bends in the route.  Of course, these were all between inhabited points etc. as no sane person set off across uncharted wilderness.


I took some time just now to really study and internalize the Five Areas you Mythic-ed out for the Quest of Hammerfall. These are really good regions. Thanks for doing this work!

So I think all that remains is to decide which route you're going to take -- the pass at Gray Deep, which most certainly will be expected and watched by the Enemy, or the much more exciting and interesting overland trek to the west and north.

I think you are 100% correct in that this rough idea is all we need to keep playing. It feels much like The Lord of the Rings, in which the lands beyond are largely unknown outside of stories, and they really aren't revealed until characters enter into them.

I'm gonna roll a d10 to determine how many weeks go by in Elvendale: 1! Wow, the Elves are really in a hurry. Logi's Hammer must be on its way.

Which reminds me. I think this story very much can be a "race against time," but I see no reason to granularize that unless it becomes relevant (i.e., hard choices: do you help out X even though it may prevent you arriving on time -- determined by a percentage roll? -- at Hammerfall?).

No worries about taking time, as I said there's quite a bit in those posts and this is your "other gaming activity" not priority (which I get).

Unless the Elves have profound concerns (e.g., they know what's up with the Trackless Forest and "NOOOO you must not!") it will be that route through those regions per Mythic rather than the Gray Deep one.  If we fail the 'secondary objective' and end up angering an Eerie of Eagles we may have to come back the other way.

  • If I was GM I know what I would have be up with it 🙂

Only 1 week in Elvendale, making it 11th day of 3rd moon of summer, well that cuts short herb hunting or what-not but is very much to the fellowship's satisfaction, they will want to get underway pronto, rolling up above:

  • Can we get some elven fare to expand our rations capacity on trip?
  • Okay for Leofred WL2 to get Gwenhild some Fare 1 Boiled Leather (unless the elves are generous and will hand out something Fare 2 like a breastplate)
  • Gyantwaka makes one herb gathering roll?
  • Views on adding a 4th to fellowship?

The wise Ambrosius may well have not figured when just where (e.g., you may know when but not player).

I can give a time if you want to be completely random assuming it's sometime in the 1st week of fall through year end that it comes back.  Too soon and we're not there yet, too late and its winter!  I can Mythic that out (each question is tested and next only if question tested answers no) for an answer with the "more dramatic" responses being most likely as in "Chance it will arrive shortly after 1 month" (making trip a test to not be slowed down) Likely, if that fails "Chance it will arrive in a bit less than a month" then Likely (e.g. could arrive before if travel faster than expected or just after, could be coming down out of mountains and see it falling)., Chance it will arrive soon (during trip) "Likely", "Chance it will arrive later but before snow falls" Likely, and if all those no then "It will arrive on the last day of the year" (dramatic).  Each "Likely" is 01-75 Yes, 76 on No.

And yes, choices along the way, hard choices etc.  Perhaps "passion choices" or "choose between". As a GM I like a game that makes players "show who that PC really is" though not making it all a Japanese tragedy (irreconcilable conflicts of loyalties resolved only by dying).



  • Can we get some elven fare to expand our rations capacity on trip?

Certainly! It is done.

  • Okay for Leofred WL2 to get Gwenhild some Fare 1 Boiled Leather (unless the elves are generous and will hand out something Fare 2 like a breastplate)

The Elves gift Gwenhild with a a breastplate.

  • Gyantwaka makes one herb gathering roll?


  • Views on adding a 4th to fellowship?

I'm totally cool with it, as long as you can handle it. I'm expecting that this is "our" game, number of PCs to be modified only if other players express interest in joining us. Did you develop an Elven Wizard, after all?