Chaos Monks: Snakes

Chaos Monks 2The dwarves expected Hum Lae (Max) to gather some fellow humans to help with tasks that needed doing. (Don’t all humans know each other, more or less?)

Hum Lae (now 3rd level) wandered around the neighborhood and saw a dice game going on with a couple new chaos monks garnering winnings.

Anju (Michael) was a coin clipper who had been captured with his gang, and while in jail lightning struck his cell and infused him with chaos. He managed to escape through the open door, helping himself to whatever was in the evidence bin on his way out.

Otivan (Oti for short) (Eamon) was a scrivener in a shrine to Tamash the Truthful, out in the countryside. He faithfully copied over a contract that breathed with dark energies, and some of that seeped into him; he was relieved of duty, and wandered to the Yellow City to find his fortune, with only the contents of the donation box and what he could buy with it.

Hum Lae offered the other chaos monks work, and they accepted. The neighborhood was coated with wet butterflies (it was the rainy season) and they inspected some to see that they were decorated magically as flying leaflets to the Leopard-Who-Laughs tea house, and each butterfly even included a coupon.

Leisure in Kuan Loon

They seated themselves in the bustling tea house, looking at the rough strangers in the place. Hum Lae saw a yakkish sitting alone with a hookah, and tried to make friends with him, but the yakkish was feeling hostile.

They were called over to a table where a bunch of bravos from the Small Swords Society were finishing up supper. They fell to talking, and found that one of them, Kammish, had an uncle who owned a hookah den, and they were all going there next. The monks went along.

The hookah den was in a basement, and knee deep in water in the rainy season, but there were floating candles and luminescent rocks in the water casting patterns of ripples on the ceilings and walls, and they sat on an island couch and shared a hookah. They talked with Kammish about the current dilemma facing the Small Swords.

The Guildmaster Sunli had been bitten by a tiny asp brought in by a snake cult assassin posing as an applicant. The cursed nature of the bite meant it could not be healed by apothecaries or priests, and he was dying by inches in spite of their best efforts. Ruten, Master of Arms, had the compound on lockdown–especially forbidding applicants to join.

They also talked about how the Small Swords Society had exclusive rights to salvage the Thousand Pagodas, and how they answered to the Jade Empress of Kwantoom, and other assorted lore and chit chat.

They decided that together they would take on the snake cult that was killing the Guildmaster of the Small Swords. In the morning. He was to be found on Weeping Yak lane and surroundings.

Infiltrating the Shrine

Anju and Oti would use the height of the five storey shrine to Roc, King of the Winds, to oversee Weeping Yak lane and its surroundings to get a sense what they were dealing with. While they were waiting, Kammish and Hum Lae went to get a fantastic pedicure and foot massage. (The woman who rubbed Hum Lae’s feet was apparently from his village back home; small world.)

Oti climbed the outside of the shrine to the third level, where he could see the rooftops with the snake cult. He saw some town guards try to go down the street, and a cultist strolled off the roof onto stilts and threw snakes at the guards to chase them off.

Oti climbed into the pagoda, near a shrine area where a sluggish meditated with a human guarding him. He found an abandoned shrine area and put on the clogs, robes, and fan of a visiting supplicant servant of the sluggish that owned the worship niche in the shrine. Then he headed downstairs to help Anju get in position.

Meanwhile Anju came in and introduced himself as Hum Lae. He suggested that he was trying to decide who was better, a snake cult or a bird cult. This offended the staff, so he found a different priest in the shrine, who told him about the time the Roc assumed the form of a human avatar, coming to the Yellow City as a chef. They went into that area of the shrine, where there was a bas relief carving of the avatar, an impressive muscled bald man with a cocked eyebrow. Apparently the scent of his delectable dishes once saved the Jade Empress, centuries ago. You could burn offerings reminiscent of his favorite dishes, like bacon flavored incense. You could smell what the Roc was cooking.

Oti talked with the shrine staff, who told him his master Delvis was behind on paying for his private shrine on the upper level. (Initial cost, 100 gp per floor, and 10 gp per floor per month, so for a shrine on the 3rd floor, 30 gp a month…) Oti promised to iron that out with his master, but in the meantime, told them his master mated with a human somehow, and had an unacknowledged bastard that needed to be kept out of trouble–Anju.

Oti and Anju went back up to the currently unused shrine niche, robbing it of about 100 gp and reclaiming Oti’s gear. They left the shrine, rejoining Hum Lae and Kammish at an outdoor cafe.

Infiltrating the Snake Cult

They planned their approach, and then went to the courtyard at the mouth of Weeping Yak lane. (Kammish declined to participate in their plan, as he had worked with too many chaos monks to believe things would go smoothly.)

The beggars shook their begging gourds to alert the cultists, then Oti loudly denounced Anju and Hum Lae as snake-loving frauds who were ejected from the shrine of the Roc. A cultist got on stilts and approached, tossing a snake at Oti, who was bit before he killed the snake. Oti staggered back to the Roc shrine, where the priests summoned an alchemist who had been treating all the snake bites in the neighborhood, and saved his life for the cost of 5 gold.

Meanwhile, the other two were not trusted by the snake cultists. They faced trial by snake; a cultist hurled a snake from his basket down at Anju. The monk caught the snake, and used his wilderness survival training and force of will to charm the snake. Impressed, the cultist escorted them some ways down Weeping Yak Lane.

They were brought up to the roof via knotted rope to a gazebo like structure where the leader held court with four ladies and a bunch of snakes, around a small shrine of black and green stone, about 2’x1’x1′. Anju again charmed the snakes so they could take a seat without being bitten; easier now that they were among relaxed, casual snakes. They met Kishori, leader of the Shimmering Scales gang, who spoke with annoyingly prolonged “ssss” sounds.

Anju introduced himself as “Yellowbelly the Unconquered” and Hum Lae as “Fang the Venomous.” It helped that Hum Lae had a snake tattoo as a sleeve on his left arm. They were offered the chance to join the cult, and they agreed. Hum Lae stuck his arm into the otherdimensional space in the altar first, and the ancient reptilian demigod liked his murderous and traitorous intent. He was allowed to grasp a charm that would prevent any snake from biting him as long as he was connected to Kulaja the Scaled.

Anju tried next, and he was not quite as murderous and traitorous, so the demigod demanded a price from him; the dark spirit curled up through him and transformed his eyes to snake eyes. He too got a charm to protect him from snakes. Then they had a good time with some mild drugs and relaxing decadence for about a half hour.

Confrontation

Back at the shrine to the Roc, King of the Wind, Oti spun a tale of how the snake cult grabbed “Hum Lae” the bastard offspring of the sluggish Delvis, and how they needed to get him back. This was the last straw with the shrine of Roc, so they called in a favor with a club fighting guild, the Octopoids, and sent them to retrieve the bastard.

So it was that the rooftop party was interrupted by a dozen hard-bitten pit fighters showing up ready for murder. The snake cultists snapped into action, flinging snakes on them and raining down javelins and daggers, leaving only the four women and snake pit guarding the altar. Kishori, the leader, had a sort of palanquin on stilts with blades on the legs, and he fought from that as the pit fighters threw spiked bolas and the mayhem escalated.

Instead of joining the fight, Hum Lae persuaded the ladies that the shrine needed to be underground, it was an abomination for it to be in the open air like this. The ladies agreed, and they climbed down to the street on the other side of the block from the fighting.

Oti, injured but upright, was rushing to rendezvous with his fellow monks. He rounded the corner to see them standing there with the portable altar and the four snake women.

Betrayal, Murder, Theft

Anju was caught between pretending to fight Oti or actually fighting the snake women. Hum Lae opened things up by killing one of the snake women outright, and Oti held back and flung acid into the face of a snake woman, killing her outright before he pulled out his crossbow. Battle was joined, but Hum Lae was too much for the snake women; Anju helped him cut them down, and the last survivor ran, only to be felled by Oti’s hurled spear.

They swiftly harvested the heads of the snake women (who had grown scales and fangs and become quite formidable right before getting mowed down) and took the altar, making a run for the Roc shrine, since Hum Lae had been injected with a massive dose of venom.

The alchemist saved him for another 5 gp, and the monks met up with Kammish and ran to the Small Swords compound.

Victory

Kammish vouched for them, and they had snakey heads and a portable altar, so they were allowed in to see the ailing Guildmaster. Anju begged Kulaja the Scaled to relinquish the curse on Sunli, and Kulaja was convinced only after granting Anju a forked snake tongue that could grow to be a couple feet long. (He can also see through cloth with his magical snake eyes.)

Anju “ate” the curse, swallowing it down, and then Hum Lae used the healing perfume to restore the Guildmaster.

Hum Lae, Anju, and Oti were inducted into the Small Swords Society as a reward for their service. They donated the snake altar, which was put in the vault under the compound. They also split the stolen gems and statues and goods from the shrine niche for 30 gp each, and 10 gp to the alchemist for saving their lives.

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Blades in the Dark: Audacity

BitD Title_01 by James Dudli

Previous adventure: Soulsword. Adventure two! Everyone returned but Ashes the Spider. Here are their preferred vices:

  • Echo. (Iris) An Akorosian Whisper. Opium.
  • Needles. (Matthew) An Iruvian Cutter. Familial obligation to maintain a hidden shrine to the Forsaken Legion, by burning objects of power.
  • Pledge. (Elizabeth) An Akorosizan Slide. Theater and related luxuries.
  • Zero. (Simon) An Iruvian Hound. Exotic tobacco laced with other drugs.
  • Deadlock. (Shaun) A Dagger Islander Lurk. ALL THE DRUGS.

They got 8 coin from their last heist, selling off Skovlander rare treasures (except for the sword and dagger.) They paid off the Crows, to keep the peace. Since one of the Skovlander guards was killed, they ended up with 4 Heat, and they got 3 Rep.

For an entanglement, they found themselves under attack by the Grinders. A Skovlander woman approached Zero while he was buying eels and shrooms for supper, and tried to shoot him in the face. He made a quick getaway, but she cornered him–along with her two tough Skovlander buddies. The three of them attacked the harried Hound, and he called in his hunting cat to even up the odds, startling them with the leaping creature and a couple pistol shots. After a brutal fight, two bluecoats rounded the corner in time to see him bathed in the arterial spray of the Skovlander on the ground getting knifed by the embattled Iruvian.

The bluecoats pursued him, and the net closed around him as he scrambled around the crew’s hunting grounds. Only a pre-prepared escape tunnel let him slip the net of the bluecoats before he was surrounded and treated to a proper kicking. He warned the rest of the crew, and they were far more cautious, keeping an eye out for Skovlanders.

Turns out she was a killer in the employ of the Grinders (-1 faction), a group of Skovlander agitators. It couldn’t be a coincidence that both they and Ulf were Skovlanders, or that Ulf did not move against them directly.

Downtime

Deadlock started investigating how to put together some potential buyers who don’t like Skovlanders who might be able to afford the sword with Ulf’s life force. Others helped in that process as well. Zero also began a process of putting together a cohort to answer to him personally, lookouts to keep the crew’s hunting grounds aware of threats so no one would get caught off guard again.

Several crew also worked the gossip circuit to try and reduce the heat on the crew.

Needles showed up after a couple days, her scars reduced to scabs; she was proper stabbed, but she was pushed back against the red-hot shield wall of the Forsaken Legion, and they shoved her back into the world, her work in their service not yet completed. The experience made her more vicious.

Red Sashes Return

Baszo had a pleasant lunch with Pledge, and gave her a job; he was contacted by someone in the government, and he didn’t want that work as he was doing significant work to rebuild the Lampblack hold in their territory after an incident. Pledge decided to look into it, going to the permit office with an application to the Spark Grounds, for long-term camping. The permit was escalated to the back office, because there were questions.

That was the coded signal that put them in touch with Holtz Clermont, city clerk. He told them the Red Sashes used to be big business in Crow’s Foot, but they lost a gang war and were reduced to a gang attached to the Lampblacks. However, with new leadership from Masterblade Solomon Trusaan, they were becoming a crew again. The Lampblacks recently had some disruptive events, and the Red Sashes were looking to emerge as a faction once more. Money from Iruvian nobility who were related to former and current Red Sashes let them rebuild their base, and now they have ambition.

Apparently they got their hands on some decisive clue about the location of Limptwitches’ Stash. Limptwitch was a whisper who interrogated ghosts to find treasure, and he built up this fantastical cave of wonders called the Grotto. He died in Ironhook under heavy interrogation, but never gave up its location. The Red Sashes think they know where it is.

Furthermore they are looking to hire Lord Orlan Booker, a bored aristocrat who plans intricate scores and sells the information to crews who act on it. The Red Sashes must want Booker to organize their attempt to harvest the Grotto for themselves, giving them sufficient wealth and arcane power to rise through the ranks meteorically.

Pledge agreed her crew would do something about it.

Under the Temple

Zero took his friend Valeris the spy into the sewers under the Red Sash temple base, and got super lucky; they found a massive stone seal on a wall, obscured by filth, that was a Spirit Warden rapid-entry seal. The Red Sashes had sanctioned ghosts under their temple, and Deadlock was pretty sure he could trick the door into opening even without a custom Spirit Warden gauntlet of authority.

Needles cozied up to some of the Iruvian countrymen and found out that they had ghost hounds in an enclosure below, because they taught techniques for killing ghosts as well as people, and they needed a supply to practice; the Spirit Wardens gave them permission to turn hounds into ghosts for practice purposes.

Echo talked to her friend Quellen the witch about how to neutralize the threat of ghost hounds. Quellen prepared a ritual for her, so if she stood in a circle of salt and quicksilver and snapped the neck of a mirrorcat, that would shiver the Mirror like a tympani, and the ghosts would be disrupted; but it could be damaging to people as well, so control the radius.

[Radiant energy works great with plants, and okay with insects and fish, but with mammals? It doesn’t go well, and it’s really unethical to continue experiments, considering the disasters that have resulted. But mirrorcats have electroplasmic nodes fused in their spines, and it turns their eyes to something like molten silver, mirrored spheres. They are stiles in the fence that is the Mirror, so that skilled individuals can use them to traverse the barrier without the barrier being dismantled.]

Meanwhile, Ulf Ironborn was not talking to anyone; not his friends, not his enemies. He prepared the funeral for his son, and sent him out on a pyre boat, and still he was not talking. Everyone around the Skovlanders was tense, wondering if there would be war.

Raiding the Catacombs

On a dark and stormy night, they splashed through the runoff underground, getting to the sealed wall.

Deadlock managed to use wrecking tools, arcane implements, and lockpicks to simulate the effect of the spirit warden gauntlet, with Zero’s help. As they tampered, a long-dormant aetheric alarm began to activate; Echo managed the docile mirrorcat and also managed to shut the alarm down. They unlocked the seal, and Echo prepared the ritual. Deadlock rolled the stone door aside, but slipped and could not run fast enough as the pale hound ghosts closed in.

Zero activated the ritual anyway by snapping the mirrorcat’s neck, buffeting Deadlock, but he resisted the effects and the hounds were dispersed for up to five minutes. The crew went into the catacombs under the Iruvian temple, and found a large chamber with a stone column holding the hound skulls that bound the hounds to this location.

Zero also found a human skull (so there must be a human ghost down here too, and that was NOT supposed to happen!) and he triggered the secret catch to open the stone column, revealing a treasure hunter’s diary. They took the book and retreated the way they came, sealing the chamber behind themselves.

Downtime

The bluecoats swept up Valeris for skulking in the sewers, and the crew paid them off to get the spy back unquestioned. Their secrecy was so good, and their strike so surgical, they got no coin, rep, or heat. Yet.

Various members of the crew asked around about a good buyer for the sword with Ulf’s spirit, culminating in Pledge talking with Mercy, an extortionist (who was Needles’ friend.) Mercy sat on her four-poster throne with its curtains, on a dais, flanked by windows, holding her cup enchanted to detect poison. She suggested they not think in terms of factions, but in terms of the remarkable nature of the sword itself. She set up a meeting for them with the Dimmer Sisters, who would surely pay a handsome sum for the sword. The meeting was set for three days.

Echo checked with Flint, a spirit trafficker, to see about supplies to taxiderm the mirrorcat corpse.

Looking at the treasure hunter’s book, they saw that Limptwitch figured out how to make a ghost door to get into the sealed off catacombs under the Rowan House, one of the Six Towers that gave that district its name and one of two that were still owned by their aristocratic families centuries later. The Grotto must be down there somewhere.

A Night at the Theater

It wasn’t about money, and it wasn’t about violence; it was about savvy, and prestige, and audacity. The crew found out that Lord Booker, the heist planner, went to the theater two nights a month, and during those visits he met with customers who wanted to buy scores. They decided it was time he knew who they were.

Security at his favored theater was tight, with elite guards. Deadbolt tried to scope the situation but ended up sort of stalking the ladies room, so he was escorted out. Zero’s scouting was interrupted by a Grinder trying to shiv him; there were several Grinders there, not for Booker but for the crew. The guards took the Grinder to the basement, and sent Zero outside.

Echo managed to corral a number of emissaries of the Cyphers (-1 faction) so they couldn’t reach Booker, making a hole for Pledge to get an uninterrupted chat with Needles at her elbow. Booker had a bodyguard of his own, an attractive woman with a silver cane; the cane-wielding bodyguards checked each other out as the slide got down to business.

Pledge explained to Booker the Red Sashes did not have the information they claimed to have, and that she felt he should know that so they don’t waste his time. And she said they might have reasons to work together in the future. (This revelation triggered 3 Rep and 2 Heat from their previous exploit.)

The crew strutted out, business done.

Meanwhile, outside, Derrit (a big Skovlander enforcer) and his people brought a message from the Grinder leader, Hutton, to Deadbolt and Zero. The Grinders wanted a gift from the crew in two days, or it would be war. (The gift was hinted to be Ulf’s sword.) They turned and vanished into the turgid night.

Two days until the much tougher Grinder crew would face off with the crew, and three days until they would meet to sell Ulf Ironborn’s sword to the Dimmer Sisters…

[Grinders, -2. Ulf Ironborn, -2. Red Sashes, -2. Lampblacks, +1.]

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Blades in the Dark: Soulsword

BitD Title_01 by James Dudli

My home table is giving Blades in the Dark another try, Rules as Written.

  • Ashes. (Kristy) An Akorosian Spider, bffs with Salia (an information broker) and frenemy with Jerren (a bluecoat archivist.)
  • Echo. (Iris) An Akorosian Whisper, bffs with Gellen (a witch) and frenemy with Sattara (a demon.)
  • Needles. (Matthew) An Iruvian Cutter, bffs with Marlene (a pugalist) and frenemy with Mercy (a cold killer.)
  • Pledge. (Elizabeth) An Akorosizan Slide, bffs with Baz (leader of the Lampblacks) and frenemy with Nyrx (a prostitute.)
  • Zero. (Simon) An Iruvian Hound, bffs with Valeris (a spy) and frenemy with Casta (a bounty hunter.) Pet is Ishtera, a shape-shifting puma who can be a kitten or a great hunting cat.
  • Deadlock. (Shaun) A Dagger Islander Lurk, bffs with Darmot (a bluecoat) and frenemy with Frake (a locksmith.)

This savvy crew of shadows has a lair in the clocktower over a pub (cleverly named “The Clocktower.”) Their hunting ground is everywhere the clocktower light touches. They inherited the lair from the Gondoliers (+1) who left it packed with stuff (packrats).

They have retained the services of a doctor who frequents the pub, named Doctor Albus Feelgood. He used to be on call for the Cyphers, looking after their endless stables of prostitutes, but he wanted out of that work and the crew gave him protection so he could leave (Cyphers -1). The doctor is grateful to them, and effective enough when he’s sober (loyal, unreliable.)

They are good friends with Amancio, the deal broker. He has contacts with the Iruvian Consulate (+1) and there’s bad blood between him and the Grinders (-1) who lack finesse and resent his refusal to send work their way.

The crew has paid off the Crows, who will look the other way as long as they don’t get too rowdy. Now it’s time to make a name for themselves in Crow’s Foot.

The Sea Witch’s Ghost

Amancio had tea with Ashes and her crewmates, and told them about a ghost on the canal that was frightening people. He heard that it was offering people a job, and he though that this fledgeling crew might be interested.

sea witch ghostAshes and Echo went to talk to the ghost, and found her restless as she appeared to them on the canal walkway. She told them if they could get Wulf Ironborn (son of Ulf Ironborn, apparently the family adds a letter to the first name every generation) to go to the tower overhanging the canal, they could get a treasure that only he would have access to. What would the treasure do? The ghost whispered that answer into Echo’s ear, and sealed it so Echo would remember when the time was right.

The ghost of the sea witch also told them her corpse was rotting above, in the basement of the overhanging tower. And, if they brought her Wulf alive so she could destroy him, she would reward them.

Riding the Wulf

They did their due diligence, then made their move on a night when the Skovlander refugees were celebrating and there was a big party in the public house that Wulf frequented, a few blocks from the guard tower.

(Ulf Ironborn acts as a goon, as a regulator; if the oppression of the Skovlanders gets too bad, he and his tough warriors strike back brutally, so there are some lines that the dominant culture is reluctant to cross in treading on the Skovlander refugee community.)

They found out Wulf liked to hire exclusive escorts from the Dusky Rose service, so Needles dressed herself provocatively with Zero as her bodyguard. Ashes helped them navigate their way past the doorkeeping woman who guarded access to the upstairs, where Wulf and half a dozen massive Skovlanders were enjoying their own little party.

They persuaded all the men to leave (except Goff, a massive stupid man who was determined to guard his boss.) Then Needles persuaded him to take her to the tower, which was apparently a secret treasure stash where Ulf kept unique valuables for the refugee community beneath the notice of the greedy government.

The Tower

The guards reluctantly opened the door for Wulf, who dismissed them, leaving Goff to guard downstairs while he went upstairs with Needles. Meanwhile, Deadlock had climbed up to the top of the tower, with a block and tackle ready to lower loot down to a waiting gondola on the canal.

Deadlock climbed down and entered the tower’s upper level, as Needles distracted Wulf with her feminine charms. The two of them knocked Wulf senseless, and Needles sent Goff to go get something to drink; the two guards sullenly returned as Goff left. They were summarily disabled by Needles and Deadlock, who opened the way for the rest of the crew.

Pledge and Echo dragged Wulf’s senseless body around to the stairs and down, but ran into two bluecoats who casually moved to apprehend them. Zero fired his gun and ran off, but didn’t quite rate a response from the bluecoats who smelled more money on those dragging a Skovlander down the stairs.

ghostkilling daggerThey changed their tune when the sea witch’s ghost showed up. The sea witch’s ghost dragged Wulf down into the canal, and offered up in exchange an iron Skovlander combt dagger that Wulf had been carrying, now infused with ghost energy so it could wound the incorporeal.

Goff came back to check on things and found his master being stolen and Needles betraying them. He fought her, and she managed to fend him off, but his brutality drove her away down the street, and her crewmates could not find her afterwards. (Trauma’d out!)

Meanwhile they looted the tower of its understated yet gaudy riches. One of the boxes was well locked, secured far beyond the others, and radiating energy into the ghost field. They loaded all the loot up and made their getaway with the gondola.

The Blade in the Box

Ulf's BladeBack in the clocktower, they took their time and jimmied the box open. It contained a finely crafted iron sword. Upon seeing it, Echo remembered what the sea witch told her; that blade contained Ulf Ironborn’s life force. So long as it was unbroken, he would survive, but should it shatter, so too would he.

They killed his son, and now they held his life in their hands.

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Chaos Monks: Finishing Move

Chaos Monks

Lightcrash the Silver Edge (Patrick) and Huan (Tyler) returned, and while walking through the city they met with Jatya (Richard) who was a priest for an aristocratic household that was struck down by a curse, and he got a little on him, becoming a chaos monk. Now he was doing softshoe busking for coin, and Lightcrash recruited him for their show. It was the rainy season, so rain fell through the whole adventure.

They were having supper with Na Li Ka, the rocherd, when they were joined by Chan Chal, the apprentice crabbish breeder for the Shellshock Crabbish Stable. He brought along a cousin, Mukta the Fine (Tomer) [Curse my too-slow note-taking for how he became a chaos monk.]

Mukta made friends with the snailish, flirting with Slick and getting a bunch of extra rat corpses from them (the snailish catch them with mucus pad traps and eat them raw, but share them for their human friends to cook.) He had a dozen to use to make friends with animals and monsters the next day, as needed.

Bounty Crabbish

Turns out the Shellshock’s prize stud and warrior crabbish, Tatat, was prodded by Jayanti, a sluggish of the Dipaka family. Tatat sort of accidentally sheared him in half, and now Pakpao, leader of the Dipaka family, put a 100 gold piece bounty on his shell. Joshi, owner of the Shellshock stable, wanted to smuggle Tatat out through the sewers to meet a pirate ship to get out of the city until things cool down. The chaos monks were hired to do it, for 100 gold. They agreed, after being well plied with banana wine.

The next morning, they shook off their hangovers as best they could and headed over to the stable. The plan was to leave at midday, to get out of the sewers at dusk, so they wouldn’t be underground at night and wouldn’t miss the pirate ship (and would dodge as many of the bounty hunters as possible.)

Mukta agreed to lead the crabbish, so he got the harness with the jellies to attract, repel, and otherwise manage the crabbish. They hit it off. (Especially impressive was the crabbish’s oversize killing claw, with “Finishing Move” carved in the chitin in 3 languages.) They headed into the pool after getting the big iron key from Joshi, the owner, and struggled to open the gate underwater. They only managed it because Huan cast his spell to make a key lever and grant advantage.

  • Transmuting Thorn. Must be cast on a thorn switch (vine or branch), turns it into an enchanted object adding +1 combat per level OR an object granting advantage to a task, lasts 1 minute per level.

The Sewers

They got down into the sewers that were swollen with rainwater (rainy season) and navigated as best they could, following the flow towards the river with Lightcrash scouting and the others holding on to the swimming crabbish. At one point they were snagged by a sewer octopus, but Lightcrash ended the fight with it by using its luminescence against it.

  • Lightning Light. Cast on a light source within 10 feet per caster level, the light arcs to the target (who must be within 10 feet per caster level) and automatically hits for 1d6 per caster level. The light that arcs goes out.

The crabbish feasted on the devilfish remains in the dark, then surfaced, and they headed out. They made it through the end grating, with Mukta luring it out the narrow pipe and reconvening everyone on the beach.

To the Pirates

They headed towards where they saw the junk anchored off the coast and a longboat pulled up on the bank. They were accosted by a bandit, and shot him in the head, but he seemed invulnerable to their arrows; to stop him before he could signal to others, Lightcrash hurled an enchanted stone at him.

  • Enlightening Stone. Cast on a stone, which is touched to a target, who must make a Will save or be stupefied for 1 minute per caster level, or until the target takes damage.

While he was incapacitated, they hustled along the beach to the fight. They joined in with the pirates against armored foes with horrible faces (hobgoblins) and broke their morale, as they hurled ranged weapons against the armor and saw Tatat kill an armored foe with each swipe of Finishing Move. Mukta rode triumphant on the crabbish, leaping down to strike with a spear, as others fired their ranged weapons at the armored bounty hunters.

Mukta was impressive at controlling the crabbish, and got Tatat on the raft, kicking to propel it, and onto the ship. The relieved pirates withdrew, and their captain, Ganin the Grinder, sent Yoshi back with them to report on their success so they could get paid by the stable. Mukta stayed with the pirates for the short voyage to deliver the crabbish.

Celebrations Gone Awry

They got paid, and used their newfound wealth to rent a grotto in the Singing Koi block. They blew some wealth on celebration, too; unfortunately, Lightcrash tangled with some guards when the bar fight should have been over, and got thrown in the stocks, where he was mercilessly tormented, robbed, and pelted with filth by urchins.

However, he was next to a glum wannabe adventurer, Jago. Turns out Jago wanted to join the Small Swords, but they weren’t seeing anyone, since their leader was suffering from a magical snake bite. This reminded Lightcrash that he was supposed to save the leader of the Small Swords, it was his destiny. (They also found out that Jago fell afoul of dwarves after throwing one through a paper wall in a fit of pique, and they hurt him variously and personally after that, and he also ended up in the stocks.)

Also, in telling their story about the bandit who got shot in the head and didn’t care, people waved that off; it’s a known fact that there are wererat bandits that frequent the banks, and they can’t be hurt by regular weapons. So, that’s good to know. (Silver and magic are the way to go for them. And don’t let them bite you.)

When they got out, they celebrated again, this time with a bit too much abandon.

Jatya found himself lost in the Little Heavenly Murder Tengu ghetto, within sight of a dwarven block, naked. Not sure how that happened. Shrugging he strode confidently towards home.

Lightcrash lost in a dangerous game of dominoes against Shen the Yakkish, and escaped with minimal cost but having earned the enmity of the tough gangster.

Huan can’t remember what he did, but he has a thank-you letter from the Tranquil Trail Thinker’s Guild, signed by its leader Tynabi, thanking him for his donation and his use of specialized skills to further their cause. Whatever that means.

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Chaos Monks: Tengu and Dwarves

Chaos Monks

After two weeks of traveling and working on their show, the chaos monks finally closed in on the Yellow City. They scraped together enough from their performances to buy passage on a barge into the city.

  • Hum Lae. (Max) Rough warrior. (Storyteller and strongman.)
  • Lightcrash the Silver Edge. (Patrick) Extravagant performer. (Sleight of hand and drone pipes.)
  • Huan. (Tyler) Pragmatic opportunist. (Audience interaction.)

Lightcrash had a spell ready.

  • Soothing Cauldron: A spectral cauldron forms around a willing target within thirty feet. Caster must concentrate for five minutes, during which time the target is pulled down into the cauldron. At the end of five minutes, the cauldron dissipates, and the target has healed 1 hit point per caster’s level, OR been cured of one poison, curse, or disease. (Magical or powerful maladies or ruined organs/lost limbs may require an additional cost of the caster, GM decides.) The target will not remember what was seen and heard within the cauldron, only that it was wonderful.

They were traveling with Cho Juny, a snailish, and his tribe with their shell. Cho Juny knew Na Li Ka, a roacherd (cockroach herder) in the Kuan Loon neighborhood of Kwantoom, the City of Innocent Deaths (which was a walled city on one of the delta islands of the Yellow City.) For the traveling show, the snailish did wibbly dancing, and Curves was skilled in sphereplay to delight the crowds.

The last night they performed, a local roacherd gave them a roach to eat (about two and a half feet long, hefty and healthy) but instead of eating him they adopted him as Hum Lae’s pet Mr. Whips. (He got some nonobad jelly and some reward jelly to help train Mr. Whips to leave some things alone, and get a reward.)

Little Heavenly Murder (the Tengu ghetto)

They disembarked, taking the snailish with them, and while the snailish separated and chowed down on a municipal park, the monks tried to book passage downstream to Kuan Loon without success.

Hum LaeThey met a tengu named Zissix, who offered them a place to stay and a place to perform with lots of people nearby if they would just take out some garbage every day. They went with him, to the Tarmath Rookery, a five story building where tengu lived on every level. They had posts sticking out into a central shaft, where they would release their droppings; the monks could stay in a stifling underground gallery and perform in the square, but would have to haul out three carts of guano daily. (The humans already living there doing that didn’t seem happy.)

The monks declined, and offered Zissix a place in their performance (he didn’t hide his contempt of their show very well.) He let them leave, but offered the blessing of his people first, sprinkling them with a clear liquid.

As they rejoined their snailish and left, the snailish commented on their horrible smell; like yak gland or something. (The humans couldn’t smell anything.) Except Hum Lae, who smelled cooking from his region of the Mountains of the Moon, where he grew up.

They found The Teat, a teahouse selling pungent yak butter tea. Hum Lae was happy to get fried rice like at home, and the others got food as well. While they were there, they were approached by a dwarf, who offered them work that probably involved killing. They agreed, even though it was off-putting that he only acknowledged Hum Lae as a person. Leaving the snailish in a nearby park, they headed out.

They were following the dwarf back to his “yurt” when they were attacked by tengu thieves. The monks murdered them in short order, and looted their money, their message ribbons, and some of their weapons. (A kusarigama and some katar.)

Drinking With a Dwarf

They entered the dwarven ghetto within the tengu ghetto, with its tall polished walls and its windmill tower well over a hundred foot tall with fifty foot sails. In the stone “yurt” they shared a flask of dwarven drink with their still-nameless host. It exposed them to a stone’s view of time, and robbed them of three days as they lived through the effects. After that, they knew instinctively their host’s name was Skelman, and he acknowledged each of them as people.

They were worried about their snailish, and found them working in the scullery of a tea house, unhappy about this turn of events. They urged the snailish to be patient a while longer, while they helped the dwarf Skelman.

Skelman wanted to open a new goldsmith shop in Kuan Loon, and he wanted them to help him move his gold and supplies, and protect them. He had a contract to lease a building, that was very costly and time consuming to acquire.

They went with him, taking four big crates of gold and supplies, protecting it down the river and into Kuan Loon, where they took posession of his trapezoidal stone fortified shop. He was satisfied with its condition, and they enjoyed the rooftop garden it had, and admired its armored basement with its own well water supply.

Errands

Huan stayed to guard the shop, and Lightcrash took a crabbish boat upriver to deliver a message to the rest of Skelman’s people that the shop was ready for them. (Skelman took a big risk coming downriver without scouting it first, but saved a pile of money since the risk paid off and the shop was ready for him to take possession.) Also, to bring the snailish downriver.

Hum Lae took his pet roach Mr. Whips with him and spread some money around to find Na Li Ka. He closed in on the Singing Koi block, where she had her flock of roaches around a pond where the paving gave out at one end of the courtyard. Hum Lae told her who he was, and that the others were coming. (He also found out she had a club foot.) They chatted for a while, and he left Mr. Whips to breed with the Empress, one of the roaches “in heat.”

Na Li Ka also heard from Chan Chal, an apprentice crabbish breeder at the Shellshock Stable, that they might have some work for “flexible” people like chaos monks. They could check into that further, she could talk to Chal that night.

Meanwhile Lightcrash delivered the message to the dwarves and arranged passage for himself and the snailish on the barge. He went to collect the snailish, and a sneering thug with two thug buddies had a crabbish, and claimed the snailish shell as the payment for defaulting on the “contract” to work the scullery.

The thug attacked, battering Cho Juny down, as Lightcrash fought the crabbish. It sheared the blades off two of his spears, then cut one of the thugs in half (it was easily confused.) The other thug ran. Meanwhile, the leader attacked the snailish, who all piled on him and crushed/ate at him to death.

Lightcrash dodged the crabbish, who started eating the dead thug, and got all the snailish into the shell. They retreated, and the crabbish followed, causing trouble on the street and becoming the town guard’s problem. Once on the boat, Lightcrash used the Soothing Cauldron spell on Cho Juny, who recovered enough to make the rest of the snailish throw up the pieces of human they ate. (That’s not civilized.)

Kuan Loon

They all met at the docks, and Hum Lae agreed with Huan that working with dwarves (who were goldsmiths and had lots of money) was better than the life of a wandering performer. Lightcrash went with the snailish to the Singing Koi block, and the monks were separated.

The dwarves went to the new goldsmith shop and sang low resonant tones to each other while their hooded and masked human servants (and the chaos monks) looked on. Then they were officially installed there, and ready to set up for business.

After sleep, they got spells. Huan:

  • Transmuting Thorn. Must be cast on a thorn switch (vine or branch), turns it into an enchanted object adding +1 combat per level OR an object granting advantage to a task, lasts 1 minute per level.

Lightcrash:

  • Enlightening Stone. Cast on a stone, which is touched to a target, who must make a Will save or be stupefied for 1 minute per caster level, or until the target takes damage.
  • Lightning Light. Cast on a light source within 10 feet per caster level, the light arcs to the target (who must be within 10 feet per caster level) and automatically hits for 1d6 per caster level. The light that arcs goes out.
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Chaos Monks: Suckage

Chaos Monks

They began as prisoners in the Nine Towers prison. Stirge had been flying down among the prisoners and guards, causing deaths, including the death of a friend of theirs in the prison. His name was Win-Lur, and he was a sorcerer. They were gathered around him when he died, and the pinhole to the Chaos Realm breathed on them and they were changed into chaos monks.

  • Hum Lae. (Max) A tough fighter who likes to tell anecdotes.
  • Lightcrash the Silver Edge. (Patrick) A flamboyant monk performer.
  • Tsung Lao. (Tyler) He could use a lute for a weapon.

Lightcrash and Tsung Lao swirled with spellcasting energy.

  • Probability Nexus. After casting, for 10 minutes or 1 fight, can add advantage to 1 roll per level per encounter (after rolling.)
  • Time Silencing. As a free action, stop time. Get 1 extra attack per level, or 1 minute of movement per level.

The Warden pulled them in (and some other hapless prisoners) and told them that they could earn their freedom by going into Tower Seven, which was where the stirge were coming from. After they agreed to do that (or be thrown down a long staircase back to the prison) they talked to the Captain, a tough woman who told them that Sook-Jit took his gang and was banished to that tower so he’d stop fomenting unrest in the prison.

First they got an assortment of gear, whatever recent prisoners had confiscated that wasn’t yet parceled out or thrown away. Then they were given a portable altar to the Purple Lady, goddess of luck and latrines, and told to burn incense for an hour under the stirge nest to clear out the infestation. They were sent across the wall to the tower.

The Tower

They entered to find three gang members, who they put down with a brief fight. Then some tiny stirge swarmed them, and they managed to knock them down (Hum Lae resorted to using his shovel, gaining the nickname “Angry Shovel” which may or may not catch on.) They roasted and ate some of the little stirge in the small campfire before heading further up into the tower. (Better than prison food.)

They ran into some tougher foes who were lounging under the stirge nest, which was fleshy and leaking royal jelly as well as horrible stirges. After scouting the location, they were caught. They had a brutal fight where Hum Lae almost fell to a cleaver staff from the leader, who did actually kill Tsung Lao with hurled stirge-beak darts.

Fortunately, Huan (Tyler) was cowering on the stairs, and the touch of Chaos moved him to join in the fight. Clever use of time-stop, marbles, and bear traps carried the day along with violence, and they set up the altar and incense under the nest.

They heard a scout approach from below, and they ambushed him and wiped him out. Stirge flew down to investigate all the blood, and there was a short brutal fight where several of them lost more blood than they could easily spare. Woozy, they resolved it was time to move on. But there was something else downstairs.

Stirgeman

They went down to find an open secret trapdoor, and a tough guy with a stirge head emerging. In a burst of heroism, Hum Lae charged him and knocked him down the stairs. Unable to leave his brave companion, Lightcrash followed with his spear. Huan slammed the door behind them and nailed it shut with shivs as best he could.

The monks tumbled down the stairs with the stirgeman, stabbing and clawing and biting. Just as the stirgeman pinned Hum Lae and prepared to kill him, Lightcrash finished the stirgeman off with the spear. They retreated back up the stairs, not wanting to investigate deeper. Huan reluctantly let them out, but hurried up as the buzz of stirge approached.

They raced out to the sunlight, catching their breath and binding wounds. An hour later, they went back in and retrieved the shrine, seeing dead stirge all over and the nest badly damaged by the divine outhouse stench.

They were released down Justice Way, and they rejoined the world as free men.

Traveling Show

Hum Lae, Lightcrash, and Huan formed a rag-tag group of buskers to stretch the 10 silver they got from the Warden as far as possible. A week later, they managed to get enough coin from busking to carouse.

Lightcrash got a quest from the chaos-touched wife of a cockroach herder (Kim), who told him it was his destiny to save the leader of the Small Swords.

Hum Lae woke up to find he had a tile with an address; he remembered some low-level functionary plying him with alcohol the night before until he signed a contract of some kind, but he couldn’t remember what that was about.

The Contract

Hum Lae sold the group on his contract as a good thing, and they agreed to back him up (after a retelling of the story of how he heroically led the charge against the stirgeman.) They went to the posh mansion pagoda of a slugman, Yon Dae-Ho.

They met with the aristocrat, who explained one of his favorite gardens was currently infested with a shell of snail people, and they were to get rid of the snail people either by luring them away or murdering them all and leaving no witnesses (as he did not want to start a feud with the snail tribes.) They were promised 50 silver each if they succeeded.

They talked with his functionary, Yun, who explained snail people were like gypsies who traveled in a shell per family. He sent them on a wagon to the garden, where they saw the slime trail over the wall.

Snail People

They went into the curated garden, and saw how the snail people had already started eating the immaculate landscaping. (Snail people apparently love the plants slug people like to decorate with.) It pleased them some to see the order disrupted by hunger.

They found the shell, and the snail people around it. Snail people have only one eye stalk, and are slim and more eel-like than the slug people, bowed and spindly of limb and slick of body and mouth.

The chaos monks tried to persuade the snail people to join their traveling show, and put on a show for them; at first, they were losing the snail people’s interest, but then they used magic and talked about how the slug people were degenerate offshoot of snail people, and regained their attention.

  • Maddening Pyramid. Grants 1 armor, and foes must pass a morale test to attack you while the pyramid spins over your head (optionally spewing conspiracy theories.) Lasts 1 minute per level.

The monks offered the snails tasty reeds, elsewhere, and the snail people agreed to join their show. The snail people all smooshed together into one massive foot body, and went up in the shell, righting it, and slithering out of the garden and over to a pond with the monks.

They talked about what their show would be like. The snails were led by Cho Juny. Others didn’t share names, only nicknames; Slick, Curves, Slider, Crispy, Eyebite, and Mr. Salt (who looked kind of eroded and pickled.)

Juny’s clan offered them a gift of a jade coin each (worth a piece of gold) and 7 doses of the Perfume of the Perfect Cure. They were officially business partners. (And was romance budding between Hum Lae and Slick?)

Next stop: the Yellow City.

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Chaos Monks: Audition

Chaos Monks

They decided to join the Small Swords Society so they could raid the Hundred Pagodas, but first there was an audition. The night before they were in a crazy game of dominoes, so they ended up with a strange assortment of equipment (and no money to speak of) as they entered the Small Swords compound.

  • Branford (Slade) was once man overboard on a ship, and when he crawled out of the sea in an unfamiliar place he was not the same.
  • Shep (Dylan) was a coin clipper who was locked in a box by some angry customers once, and eventually the box broke open and he went on with his life, but something changed in him during that experience.

Small Swords

They saw the others trying to join; a champion of order and his entourage, a tough crabbish with some jewels in his carapace, a handful of street thugs, and more. They got their turn, talking with the Master of Arms Mochi Ruten during their audience with the guildmaster Hizen Sunli, a teenager.

Their task was to restore the mind of Waki, the top fighter of the Bronze Teeth club fighters. After all, they must be resourceful and clever, not just violent, to succeed in the Small Swords. They were given an introduction symbol to show Yaparkpangri, the tough leader of the club. Then they were sent out through a side door. Good luck!

Azulian House of Healing

They decided the best approach was to find someone with quality bandaging, find out where they got it, and consult healers about a head injury. They spotted a hobgoblin duke with bodyguards, and told the seneschel that intercepted them that they were arguing about whether the Duke got treatment from the best or not. The seneschal pointed them to the Azulian House of Healing, and the palanquin went on its way.

They saw all the beggars at the gate held back by guards, so they cased the huge compound, and saw several entry points. They ended up climbing a tree to get up on the wall, then following that to climb up to a balcony and get in to an upper level.

They snuck into a supply closet to find a female guard and a male nurse making out; interrupting the nookie session, they threatened to turn the lovers in. The guard attacked, and was battered unconscious while the nurse was threatened to keep quiet. They let the nurse bandage the guard (who they did not kill) in exchange for cooperation, the nurse leading them to a brain expert among the sluggish scholars here in the tower.

The nurse, Tam, complied and was eager to help them so they’d leave without things getting worse. She led them to Kyramana, the sluggish brain specialist, in the sluggish lounge where the scholars were relaxing. The monks prodded Tam to ask the sluggish how to treat a bad head injury without the advantage of sluggish expertise.

Kyramana explained that certain alchemical solutions were made for just that purpose, like the Sixty Two Feather Potions he had just made and given to the Arch Mage Fei-Ta. One of those potions would set everything right.

Grateful, Tam and the others withdrew (the monks stealing some healing supplies and at least one robe each because they felt so nice.) They disappeared into the city, and Tam gave them a twenty minute head start before reporting the break-in.

Fei-Ta’s Tower

They asked around and found their way to the ancient tower, and Branford disguised himself as a healer as Shep posed as the bodyguard. They talked to Yukkur, the solicitor eunuch, who had an eyepiece that let him identify them as chaos monks. He was delighted to see them, as he was worried about his master, who was projecting astrally that he was in trouble.

He had taken the Sixty Two Feather Potions up to his summoning chamber, and the summoning went wrong, automatically locking the chamber. Arch Mage Fei-Ta must have made it to his safe room, an interdimensional Casket of the Secluded Island. But he was trapped there.

Yukkur gave them a rune badge to back off the wind spirits bound to protect the tower, and took them upstairs and showed them the ledge to follow around to get to the window entry. Yukkur also gave them each an elbow-length glove that would lock in place on stone, to help them not fall.

The wind spirits bothered at them, but when the big wind spirit arrived, it begrudgingly acknowledged its service. Instead of them falling over a hundred feet to certain doom, they were blown into the chamber.

There they saw a mess, and the tipped-over casket. They activated it, going in to the otherdimensional refuge.

The Casket of the Secluded Island

There they ran into awkward swan-people-constructs, and had a bit of a scuffle on the dock before they just ran around them and got up to the gazebo. It had recreational scrying capacity, so they found the Arch Mage Fei-Ta and the potions. Then Shep took medicine for the massive resulting headache. They ran past more swan things to get into the house.

There they saw the courtyard was defended by a buzzing infinity-shaped segmented hummingbird thing. They tried hefting it out of the courtyard it was covering, but they were touched by stunning tendrils. They recovered in due time, but realized the arch mage had been stunned and his physiology was not as robust at rebooting as theirs.

They carried his couch in to the house and used medicine to revive him. He outfitted himself and sent his swans out in the yard, where a giant flying crystalline angelfish destroyed them, and the chaos monks hustled the arch mage down to the docks and through the dimensional portal.

Pain the the Brain

The arch mage gave them promise of a favor, and 100 silver for their help, as well as the potions they sought. They left the tower, talking to one of the less invisible spies around the arch mage’s territory and gaining a guide to the Bronze Teeth’s hangout. There they met with Gree, and Branford insisted it was about wanting to see Waki fight again; Gree bought it, and took them to the disabled fighter.

They administered the potion, and Waki recovered fully and immediately. They slipped away during the celebration, returning to the Small Swords compound.

Master of Arms Ruten was suitably impressed, and granted them each a sash/band with the Small Swords emblem. Then they feasted.

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