AP: Across the Memory of the Sea, to Hrel (and the Dry Lands)

Hi folks.

This is (vaguely) a follow-on from our previous AP.

Our adventurers remain:

  • Bricks the Boots (Halfling Guide)

Belief: As a Hendri and a Guide, I will not hesitate to forge the path needed, nor make the lost found.

Creed: Right to Roam: all have a right to walk paths and they must remain open. Paths write our stories and history into the land. To lose them is to lose a part of ourself. To destroy them is to cast away our history. They must be walked to preserve them and they must remain open.

  • Oddbjorn Bjornson (Bjorning Skald)

Belief: I will get my inheritance from the treasures lurking in the old places of the world.

Creed: Our names will be sung, so our deeds must match in glory and fame.

  • Osric Godtouched (Græling Shaman)

Belief: I will be more than the beast within me.

Creed: Only the Jotunn can give true power, mortal power is a pale, fleeting imitation.

  • Tösk (Changeling Thief - still played by @DaveHiggins, of this parish)

Belief: Ancient Secrets are more important than coin.

Creed: All living beings have an equal right to thrive.

We are sailing across the Memory of the Sea, part of the Ur-Menig, deep beneath the ground, where the ceiling is so high that no light can reach, and the “depth” of the non-existant sea is so deep that our adventurers cannot see the bottom.

With them, grafted to the front of their boat is Celdurxi (a Menaka - think somewhere between a DnD Beholder and Call of Cthulhu’s Great Race of Yith), whose magical organ was cut out, and who had been grafted onto the boat they are on. This happened some 30 years ago and, needless to say, this was all done against Celdurxi’s will.

The PC were not involved in any of that horror, but wish to free Celdurxi… who has told them that it needs the brain of a wizard. To that end, the PCs have convinced Elite Sorceror Plodinus Kest to join them on a “voyage of discovery”, which is definitely not an opportunity for the party to murder him.

They and (Elite Sorceror) Plodinus Kest have history. He’s a human-supremacist of the worst sort (not that there are any good sorts), and sees himself as superior to everyone. That the group lied to him so convincingly might indicate that this Elite Sorceror is not as “elite” as all that.

Still, the party do have morals, and cannot bring themselves to just up and murder the guy. Even if he is very annoying. Even if he is very annoying and wants to dissect / kill Celdurxi when he gets the chance.

It’s just “not them”, even if they lured this annoying sorceror down here with murder in mind. They need an excuse.

The journey in darkness across an invisible intangible sea is its own thing, with a few strange encounters out there in the darkness.

One such encounter is with another Magician, who skims across the sea on a large magical floating disk, on which the party also spots their enemies (a rival adventuring group).

The snide comment / glacial polite tones / taunts / etc. between both sides is a joy for me as a GM, especially as they are on a damaged boat taking on “water”, and their rivals are on some sort of conveyance that would look awesome on a heavy metal album cover.

Osric chooses to rend open not one, but 2 portals.

The first is into the Astral Sea of the Middle Reaches, as their boat is taking on “water” and starting to list badly. It’s hard to bail out our boat when you cannot see or feel the water, so being in the Astral Sea, where they can actually see such things is advantageous.

From the Astral Sea, after some serious navigation, and course plotting, Osric opens a second portal near Hrel, a fallen Dradkin settlement / island that Celdurxi wants them to head for.

Their course plotting and navigational readings in the Other World are such that when Bricks maps everything, they have a map that can not only guide them back through their two portals, but also to the following places:

  • the Silent Temple (where they sailed from)
  • the drowned temple camp (at “sea”)
  • Here Be Dragons (where they saw a fire-breathing dragon flying high above them)
  • the shadow court of the mighly Vafrudnir, Lord of Whispers (not yet visited!)
  • Jotnarsbru (the Bridge of the Damned, where they had one of their early adventures)

One of their final things they do in camp is research the Menaka, which makes two of them Afraid. It turns out, Menaka, as a group, are Not Very Nice.

That was where things stood a few (real world) weeks ago.

I want to talk, briefly I hope, about the following session, during which they were involved in 3 Conflicts.

Camp is done, and whilst (Elite Sorceror) Plodinus Kest strikes out on his own across Hrel, the group want to aim for an abandoned temple, to find things to help Celdurxi, and investigate the religious beliefs of the Dradkin.

Reader, they have yet to reach this temple.

There are strange shadows and dangers that lurk on Hrel, so they decide to climb up onto the ruined walls and make their way to the temple from above. Tösk skips up to the top without a problem, spots the temple, and they turns to assist the rest of the group.

This goes… poorly. They have lifted their backpacks up to Tösk, but as the rest of them try to climb, they are rushed by 9 isopods. A Kill conflict ensues, where the group is triumphant! Even though 2 of their number are afraid. Hurrah!

They loot the corpses, butcher some of them for (much needed) meat, and drag all of that back to the boat / camp.

Back they go to their wall-climbing endeavour, pushing over a pillar to afford them an easier path up.

However, as they are climbing up, it (again) does not go well for them (another failed roll!). They look back, to see (Elite Sorceror) Plodinus Kest heading back to the boat, muttering darkly, with obvious plans to “deal with” Celdurxi whilst our adventurers are otherwise occupied.

They rush back, managing to get there before the Sorceror are kill Celdurxi.

With Osric stepping forwards as a distraction (and Execrating their victim/enemy), the group fall onto Plodinus Kest, with murder in mind.

Plodinus Kest is, indeed a rather Elite Sorceror (Magician level 8), with higher Might than the party. However, we see Tösk use the dagger of Vali Kinslayer (which is more than Plodinus Kest sees), so it Goes Poorly for their enemy are Goes Well for them: they have successfully murdered Plodinus Kest (and avoided damaging his brain).

But that is not the end of their troubles.

Three Menaka are suddenly there, and… well, the optics are not good. There they are, on their boat, to the front of which is stapled a mutilated Menaka.

Some (very) quick convincing is called for, against master-manipulator Menaka…

It’s… a horrible brutal Convince Crowd conflict.

The Menaka are Might 5, have , and this is right in their wheelhouse. There are 4 party members (plus 1 follower), but 2 of the party are Afraid, so Help is less than usual.

Added to that, the Menaka have 12 Hit Points (10 + 2 Help), whilst they have 9.

This goes right to the wire, as the 2 (non-Afraid) characters are knocked out of the Conflict (along with the follower), and it is just Bricks the Boots (the Guide) and Oddbjorn Bjornson (the Skald) still standing.

Amazing well-thought out scripting (they outscripted me in that last round something chronic), wonderful insightful dialogue… and an incredible Defend by Oddbjorn that brought them back to full hit points before the deciding blow fell… meant that they won without compromise.

What a rollercoaster of a session!

And then we played again last night…


Last night’s session… did not go anywhere that I thought it would.

However, it aptly demonstrated what a resourceful group I’m running for.

The party is in a rather bad way, with people being a mix of Hungry & Thirsty, Afraid, and Exhausted.

Tactically, they work out the best way to finesse the Prologue, and then loot Plodinus’ body (getting his spellbook, and adenture lead (to where they might find the tree of Yðunn)… and some earrings (the last being a Loot Roll, where the former 2 being placed loot).

They enter camp with 8 checks to sort them all out.

Bricks cooks to help the rest of the group alleviate Hungry & Thirsty.

Osric tries (unsuccessfully) to recover from Exhausted, which is where things start to… go sideways.

When the roll fails, I Twist to have Celdurxi (with their looming Menaka buddies) interrupt them to explain that it will be leaving soon, and is there anything that it can do for them? As repayment for the party rescuing them… a repayment from a being from a million or more years in the future, with untold magics, and inhuman views of how things work.

Bricks wants their (family heirloom) broken compass repaired, to aid them in navigation (Gear for Pathfinding, including in unusual ways), the result of which definitely looks strange and unnatural, leading @DaveHiggins to use the phrase “armillary tessaract” to encompass its not-always-Euclidean geometry.

(Thank you @DaveHiggins for the correction - it had previously read “tessaract orrery”, which was my fault)

Tösk wants arcane knowledge (which I rule as him not having the +1Ob spellcasting penalty when he gets to level 6). To do this, Celdurxi temporarily remove Tösk’s brain from his skull, so that it can operate on it appropriately, before it being reinserted by the nostrils.

Oddbjorn wants to live on in song! Right in line with his Creed. He is momentarily converted into a visible soundwave, before snapping back to normal(ish). On his character sheet, the “Dead” condition is now replaced with “Lives on in Song”.

Osric, though? Osric is just so very tired, and just wants to sleep. Celdurxi casts a variant of “Somnific Trance” on him, and he falls into blissful sleep (removing Exhausted when he later wakes, as well as clearing his Burden).

So… we’re still in Camp Phase, and this has only taken 2 checks (out of their 8).

Oddbjorn tries to recover from afraid, but even with wine, he comes up short… as howling and strange noises from the island of Hrel drift closer, as they hunt for the group.

Tösk, though, has Plans, and Plodinus Kest’s spellbook. It’s glowing strangely, but our Thief knows what’s what: he moves some distance away, and cleverly opens the spellbook in the “away” direction, allowing the Swarm spell to flash outwards and away.

Unfortunately, there is a second spell-trap, and even his (Thief level 5) Mechanic benefit does not prevent him from triggering the trap: the Inclusion of the Hugr, which sucks Tösk’s soul out of his body, to trap it in the gem on the spellbook’s cover (the vs. test between Plodinus’ Arcanist and Tösk’s Will did not go well).

We’re now 4 checks into our Camp phase, with 4 left. One party member is deeply asleep, one has their soul in a gem, one of them remains afraid.

Still, minor setbacks, right?

They carefully close the book, which makes a little “Ow!” sound in Tösk’s voice (Gallows Humour was awarded at this point).

Bricks is all for effectuating a rescue and all, but making some fireworks first sounds very useful. Right?

Now we, as an adventuring group, should embrace a “no blame” culture. It is not important whether or not someone tried to create fireworks, nor how poorly that went.

There’s hardly anything on fire, the echo of the blasts have now dissipated, and we should really concentrate on our current problems, rather than issues that occurred deep in the past of 30 seconds ago.

Besides, now that Osric is awake, perhaps he can contribute to how to rescue Tösk?

Options are discussed. Investigations are made. Tösk is woken by tapping on the gem, allowing him to give his own squeaky insights into ways forwards.

Do they remove Tösk’s eye and replace it with his soul gem? Should they maybe smash the gem, and have Tösk’s body between the gem and the soul-sucking shield, so that he can grip on to his body, before his soul is trapped in the shield?

Questions to ask, decisions to make…

Eventually, they make various preparations, sealing Tösk’s body within a protective salt circle, before heading back onto the Astral Sea through the nearby rent in reality that Osric created.

From within the Other World, using Bricks’ armillary-tessaract-compass, the three (non-trapped) companions make their way into the gem (Ob 5 Pathfinder check by Bricks, there!), and are then able to lead Tösk back out.

Tösk is able to make his way back into his body, and all is Good Once More! Phew!

Still, says Osric, looking at their soul-trapping shields. Shouldn’t we, maybe, get these souls out of the shields and on to where they belong?

Maybe they can call for Hrym, Captain of the Dead Ship that Sails Between Worlds, Lord of Undeath?

There is Some Discussion. The eventual conclusion is that, whilst the soul of Plodinus Kest could totally be taken by Hrym, for all the party cares, the other souls trapped within the shields do not deserve such a fate.

Also, haven’t they got an abandoned temple on Hrel that they’ve been trying to get to?

More discussions ensue, as they debate what to do, and how to do it. There are some brief discussions by certain members of the party about (temporarily) killing Radulf, Oddbjorn’s Skald apprentice, so that Osric can cast the invocation Supplication to the Queen of the Dead (… and meet Halja, Queen of the Dead in person). This is dropped as an idea (thank you all), but never let it be said that my players aren’t prepared to go big.

Eventually, they decide to “just sail to the Dry Lands”.

It should surprise no one that this is the first time I get to say something like that in one of my games.

They sail there successfully, and beach on the bones-and-skulls shore of the land of the dead.

There, they construct a funeral pyre, and set about performing a funeral not only for Plodinus Kest, but also for the other 33 souls trapped in their shields.

They construct effigies of them all, using skulls marked with the runes of brotherhood for dead dwarves (courtesy of the boss from Osric’s old shield, that had belonged to a dwarf), and marking the other skulls meant to represent the dead Dradkin with appropriate symbols from their book on Dradkin culture.

Additionally, Osric had previously researched the “idol of an unknown religion” they had found on Hrel, identifying it as being of Kranish (a Dradkin Sea Lord god, captain of their ships), which they also brought to bear.

They also had some “indecipherable notes” (courtesy of the Stuff Loot table), which stood in for that which they did not know of these people’s lives and deaths.

I mean, that’s a “Good Idea” right there, right?

Especially as Osric (and Osric’s player) has been misleading us a bit.

You see, saving these souls is definitely a deed he wants to accomplish.

However, the soul of Haathor-Vash has been trapped inside his body back since their first adventure (and the group’s second session of Torchbearer).

Osric wants rid of this ancient entity. And now they are on the shores of the Dry Land, holding funerals for the dead…

Haathor-Vash is riding his body, seeing through his eyes, so he has been cautious not to talk about it, although, just before this Conflict, he writes a brief note without looking at it, to let the others in on the fun.

Osric steps into the flaming funeral pyre, Invoking Apotheosis of the Lords of Law, raising group’s Might.

Tösk tempts Haathor-Vash with the copy of the runes of Immortality that he also made way back in Session 2.

The group now launches into an Abjure conflict, seeking to finally destroy the soul of Haathor-Vash.

The session ends with them defeating Haathor-Vash, albeit with a minor compromise…

So, last night, we had:

  • A character who will never die, but live on in song
  • Someone’s soul trapped in a gem, only for the group to walk through the Other World to find and free them
  • A trip to the Dry Lands to lay to rest the souls trapped in their shields… and use the opportunity to destroy the soul of an evil spirit that has been stuck inside a party member since session 2.

… and I’ve missed describing fully just how much fun we all had with this!


Tessaract orrery?

Pshaw! 'Tis an armillary tessaract, sirrah!

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Eek! My fault! Let me get that corrected in Post-Production.

Bravo! Maestro! Maestro!
Bis! Bis!


All credit to the awesome players, as always.

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Pish. A true collaboration for all parties.

I don’t know Trilemma that well. What elements of the setting are Prescott and what are the novel bits?


Also, how are your players so lucky?! Some of those tests and conflicts were scary dangerous, but they emerge with barely a scratch!

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He did leave out the bit where Tösk ended losing a point of Nature to tax while trying to resist the soul trap; so, not quite unscathed.

We are (sort of) playing in the Middarmark setting. However, the Trilemma adventures have a chunk of hinted-at setting elements, which I blend in.

Does it always fit seamlessly with Middarmark? No.

Does that bother me? Also, no.

If different people in the setting have different interpretations of where the world came from, what gods are, etc. etc. then that just makes a much richer world to deal with.

For this “adventure”, there is just a large scale map, and a few encounter tables.

The Memory of the Sea is pure Prescott and such a wonderful weird place that its discovery by the characters and players is pure exploratory joy.

The Dradkin, Menaka and isopod-obsession are also Prescott.

However, being stat-less, it has been great fun for me to work out how to interpret the denizens of his adventures (for instance, I quickly used a tweaked Troll Haunt as a rough stand-in for the Menaka in their Conflict) .

Dradkin are a Folk, so outside a special rule or two, they’re people.

For the isopods, Cave Stitcher and Chitin Drakes from our previous episodes, I spent time working out how they would work, along with Nature, Might, Descriptors, special rules, etc.

That stood me in excellent stead for when the PCs encountered them all.

The most fun, and where the magic really comes from, is how we pull parts from one place to another, and how these then interact. There’s a lot of presenting situations to the players, and watching as they dig into resources, and approaches I had not considered.

For instance, Plodinus Kest is a few sentence summary from the “Clutch of Shadows” adventure.

Celdurxi is, similarly, a few sentences from “Into the Silent Temple”.

Bringing them together is where it all gets fun!

Additionally, what makes random tables work for me is when I can draw links between things, or find a spin that allows links to be drawn.

For instance, an encounter of “secretive surface sorceror” becomes Archmage Vrell (who has an antagonist relationship with Plodinus), on a floating magical disc, complete with the party’s adventuring enemies.

Similarly, with the gifts from Celdurxi, they had freed it from a 30 years of servitude, killed a wizard to give it a brain, and also convinced 3 other Menaka that they were not to blame for its imprisonment and butchery.

It seemed appropriate that Celdurxi would offer them a reward, and given what it is, and that the players really played their characters to the hilt, them ending up with weird and creepy interpretations of what they wanted seemed perfectly in keeping! I mean, who doesn’t like being able to “live on in song”, or have their brain removed so that it can be operated on in front of their eyes? So much fun, and the players really leaned into “no, my character will NOT clarify further - they’re not thinking this through!”.

Piercing the Veil to shortcut travel,via the Other World(s), is player-driven… but then we’ve got a couple of impressive holes in reality.

The soul-imprisoning trap is on me, but fits with having an obnoxious “Elite Sorceror”, and what said individual would do to his precious tome to prevent “lesser beings” from accessing his knowledge. Still, that’s straight out of Torchbearer (Numinous Sigil + Inclusion of the Hugr).

And then, it feels like it’s about following the logic of what has come before, right?

Well, they do have a map to get them into the Other World. Once there, you can try navigating to the Dry Lands.

I’m describing a shore of bones and skulls, and they start talking about performing a funeral. They pull together all of these elements, and it becomes a Good Idea at that point, especially as there’s suddenly this juicy (rematch) Conflict with Haathor-Vash!

It all, just, flows.

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As for how the players remain so lucky?

Well, they have managed to blow all sorts of rolls up until the important ones, where they manage to pull crazy resources to bear, saving their Persona for adding in their Nature / rerolling with their Wises, etc.

The Convince Crowd Conflict against the 3 Menaka was truly an epic fight, especially given that 2 of the party were down, and the other 2 were Afraid. The players were on the edges of their seats throughout that entire conflict. Very very close, but that incredible Defend at just the right time pulled them back to full Disposition.

I make sure to script before they do, playing as the opponent, and locking it in (hidden away, of course). They then strategise and script, but they have devious minds, and a good knack for the flow.

The last Conflict against Haathor-Vash was a doozy, as Haathor-Vash has seen every one of their Conflicts since Session 2, and I was scripting knowing their habits. They out-thought me on that one, with some very decent “she knows, that we know, that she knows…”.

They also had a tough choice, when Osric had to go first in Round 2, and had equipped a Feint weapon… which Haathor-Vash also knew.

They wisely scripted a Defend, against what turned out to be an Attack from her. Well played, my friends!

There’s also some consequences waiting in the wings, that the players are aware of, from the Cave Stitcher planning on hunting them down, to the soul of Plodinus Kest escaping the Dry Lands.

We’ll see what comes out next!


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