[Author’s note: What are these “AoA” tags? Check out this post to know why I’m writing these and why they don’t have anything to do with superheroes. After writing only the occasional cut-scene, I decided to do a quick narrative before every Pathfinder session instead of a recap. We already had someone in the group writing recaps, so mine felt redundant, and there were too many opportunities for fiction writing that I was letting pass me by. Below are a collection of intros from our sessions. I don’t love using present tense, but it’s what fits best into these tabletop roleplaying sessions.]
Session 79: Book 4 Begins
Our scene opens in the hustle-bustle of a tavern.
“We’ve got three tables waitin’ for ale!” Roxie Denn shouts. “Move yer asses, ladies!”
Despite the words, Roxie is beaming. The Pickled Ear has never been more crowded. Every table full, standing room only, with the crowd spilling out into the street. She takes a deep breath and savors it. Alcohol, sweat, and a hint of vomit… the smell of success. She thwacks the shoulder of the enormous half-orc next to her.
“Ulgar, help me up, would you now?”
“Oh, uh. Sure Roxie. Is it time?”
“Of course it’s time,” she laughs.
Soon she is standing on one of her tables, banging an iron spoon on an iron mug.
“Alright, shut up, the lot of you!” she cries. “I said shut up!”
The room quiets to a murmur.
“You’ve heard the rumors, and I’m here to say the rumors are true. Tonight we have ourselves not one, but two performers, vying for yer love and coin.”
The crowd bursts into banging mugs on tables, wordless cries, and applause.
Into the noise Roxy shouts, “So let’s get it started!”
For more than a full minute, the cacophony persists, Roxy standing on the table with her spoon, mug, and satisfied smile. She waits, dramatically, until the crowd finally settles.
“They’re each gonna perform two songs, and yer noise is gonna determine the winner. Whoever you choose stays the rest of the night. So you ready to make some noise?”
The tavern erupts again.
“Alright then, you’ve been enjoyin’ ‘em the past month. So let’s see what they brought for a battle of the bands. First up we’ve got… the Drunken Dwarves!”
As cheers and good-natured insults fill the space, five dwarves in furs and studded leather take the stage in the far corner. Four of them have long, unkempt hair the color of dirt, their beards long and untamed. The fifth is as wide as he is tall, head shaved into a neat mohawk and beard braided. They gather their instruments and begin to play…
[song. roll Performance check]
“Alright, alright, settle down,” Roxie’s voice carries from the other side of the tavern. “You newcomers may not know our second performer, but he’s responsible for building the Pickled Ear back up when a bunch of awful villains trashed the place. Thank the gods, he’s now back from his travels. Give a Pickled Ear welcome to Coxsackie!”
[song. roll Performance check]
As you sit to begin his second song, you see a familiar face in the sweaty, raucous crowd. She is half-elven, armored, and beautiful, her brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. She has a serious face with a strong jaw, but when she catches Coxsackie’s eye she smiles brightly and winks.
Session 80: Crystals Crystals Everywhere
“Ah, visitors! I am Talamira. Welcome to the Jewelgate waystation, designed as a tribute to Yuelral! We have not had visitors in some time. I must warn you to beware the far end of the chamber, something… wrong… is…” and her face begins to look anguished and confused.
Session 81: The Purple Worm
While you all battle carnivorous crystals in a cave deep underground, we see Greta Gardania staring at a blank sheet of parchment lying on the desk in front of her. A knock on the door causes her head to snap up.
Standing in the open doorway is a gray-bearded dwarf with deep smile lines around his eyes and mouth.
“Greta? I’m sorry if I startled you.”
“No Jorsk. I was merely lost in thought. What can I do for you?”
“I was just wondering if you had word from Obedience and the adventurers?”
Greta grins. “You ask after them quite often, Jorsk Hinterclaw. Pining for your own days of adventuring back in Nirmathas?”
The dwarf chuckles. “Maybe some of that, sure, but that was many years ago. So, has there been word?”
“Well they’ve only just left this morning…”
“Ah, I hadn’t realized. Thought it was a day or so ago.”
“They were waiting for Sabine Sterling to return. She apparently did, finally, though I didn’t get a chance to see her. Then they were off. But you’re in luck. There has indeed been word already. Jacques just let me know.”
“Is that right?”
“Indeed. It seems there was a ghost and some accursed crystals in the waystation, and several ancient elven tomes besides. Jacques says they’ve cleared the danger and have stepped into wherever that portal leads.”
Jorsk’s gray eyebrows are bushy and wild and have climbed up his forehead.
“Ghosts and accursed crystals, you say? Well, isn’t that something.”
“Let us hope they discover the Scarlet Triad threat on the other side and are as easily able to deal with that. I grow quite tired of feeling in constant danger.”
“Well, cheers to that. Which reminds me, has that group Captain du Tank sent south to clear the roads returned?”
Greta frowns. “No, in fact. I’d forgotten about them.”
“Must be going on two weeks now, eh?”
Greta grunts. “Yes. I don’t like that at all. I’ll talk to Jacques.”
“Good, good. We don’t get many visitors from that Five Kings Road, but something seems surely to be keeping them away. Sorry to give you another thing to cause you worry.”
“There’s as much hope as worry, Jorsk. I said the same to Obedience Fletcher before they left. I’ll be sure to let you know as I get further updates.”
“I do appreciate it, Greta. It’s somewhat fun to imagine. Ghosts and cursed crystals! Ancient tomes! Sounds exciting, eh?” “Not for me, my friend. I’m afraid that, unlike you, I have no stomach for adventuring,” Greta answers, but she’s speaking to open air, as she hears Jorsk muttering happily to himself down the hallway.
Session 82: Back Into The Breach
Before we dip back into the crystal caverns, let’s peek back into the very Town Hall you all saved from fire…
“Jorsk! Jorsk! Jorsk, a word!” a voice echoes down the hallway.
The gray-bearded dwarf blinks and looks around. “Hm? I say. Whozzat?”
A goblin scurries towards him, hampered by a long white robe with blue trim dragging behind her. She wears a flat-topped black hat as big as her head, along with ostentatiously large earrings. Around her neck, bouncing as she runs, is an enormous silver butterfly on a thick chain.
“Ah, Ms. Bumblebrasher. Nice to see you this morning. How are you, Warbal?”
Her red eyes squint. “You getting deaf in your old age? I almost had to use my goblin screech.”
“My apologies, Warbal. I was… lost in thought is all.”
“Well, you’re smiling so it can’t be too bad. What’s on your mind?”
“Ah, just heard word that our famous adventurers have begun another adventure! Fighting ghosts and accursed crystals everywhere they turn! Has me pining for my youth, I suppose.”
“Oh my! Are they okay? Is– Is Obedience Fletcher hurt?” Her eyes have gotten impossibly large.
“They’re fine, from what I hear. But such concern, my friend. Might that be a bit of a crush on our local hero, eh?”
Warbal waves the idea away. “No, no. It’s Helba who has the crush. Asks after him almost every– Oh! Helba! That’s why I was hollering after you!”
“The Bumblebrashers are out of food.”
Jorsk sighs. “Again?”
“Well, there are more of them now. More every week, actually. Have to feed the babies, you understand.”
“I see, well. Fine. I’ll talk to the Council and ensure more food gets to the caves.”
“Much appreciated, Jorsk! And they say especially more pickles! Seems to be a tribe favorite these days.”
“Of course, of course. We’ll make sure pickles are part of the delivery.”
“Desna’s grace upon you, Councilman Hinterclaw!” Warbal smiles, and begins waddling away down the hallway.
Meanwhile, back in the Crystal caverns, we find a bit of a situation on our hands…
Session 83: Welcome to Saggorak
As Obedience describes in whispered words the chamber beyond, a thought passes through the party. This thought takes different form in each mind, expressed in as diverse ways as the members themselves. But the essence of this thought is the same, tickling at the back of each person’s neck.
With miles of earth and rock above them, a crystal chamber untouched by society for ten thousand years behind them, and a fortified stone wall twenty feet thick before them–The thought each of you ponders silently settles into your bones, and that thought is this…
You were meant to find this place. It somehow, some way, fits into the larger tapestry. What looks like a crevasse formed by time or ancient siege begins to feel divinely crafted. You may deny this thought, this nascent belief. You may choose not to share it with the others. But the thought is there, nonetheless.
The horrors beyond are calling to you.
Session 84: So Much Eating
Margaret’s small, round eyes penetrate the darkness of this ancient, dwarven hallway. A black, mold-like growth spills out of the cracks in the stone everywhere, connecting in a web of tendrils accented with twitching bulbs. Doorways line the hallway on either side, one to the left and four to the right.
The hallway ends in what appears to be a large room. There, lounging in clear view, are two gugs, seemingly oblivious to the sounds of the earlier combat. At first Margaret thinks the monstrosities are talking in low whispers, but then she sees it clearly – they are eating, slowly and contentedly. She watches as a small hand disappears into one of the gugs’ serrated mouths, while the other carefully peels the flesh from what appears to be a leg. They are murmuring happily, like lovers taking lunch on the edge of a pond.
Session 85: Grikkitog and Xevalorg
As Leilani approaches the ancient hearth, Obedience Fletcher speaks up from the hallway.
“I wouldn’t touch it if I was you, Leilani. Something is not right.”
The oracle pauses mere feet from the hearth. The spectral eyes in its depths narrow, and the entire room seems to… growl. It’s a low, deep sound, a mix of an animal’s predatory warning and the rumble of an avalanche.
Every wall in the kitchen begins sprouting more pairs of spectral eyes, like bubbles escaping to the water’s surface. Dozens of them watch Margaret and Leilani, surrounding the pair of adventurers.
And that is when the jagged, rocky mouths begin to appear…
Let’s roll for initiative!
Session 86: Welcome to Kovlar
The enormity of Saggorak surrounds you. Scarred stone buildings of all sizes stack through the underground cavern endlessly. You can hear movement in the ruins, plus shrieks, moans, and roars. For Obedience, there is a strange similarity between Saggorak and the Mwangi Expanse in that way, a sense that untold life is teeming beyond your vision.
Standing not twenty feet from you, though, is a startled and very alive dwarf, her eyes wide in the darkness. She wears white, padded armor over dark pants and boots. Her round face is framed by a silver headband, matching the silver in her buckler and warhammer.
“Greyara? Is that you? By Magrim’s hand, child, how can it be?”
Session 87: The Regents’ Requests
[In the last session, someone made a joke that I should do a Public Radio show with my honeyed (okay, I may have inserted that adjective) voice, so I decided to ham it up for this intro]
Hello and welcome to session 87 of the Age of Ashes campaign. So glad you could join us this evening. I’m your GM Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, and as always I have with me Dylan (playing Margaret A-ROH-den-ey), Jared (playing Obedience Fletcher), Marcus (playing Leilani Greyara), Ryan (playing Sabine Sterling), and Owen (playing Toshifume Takakiyo, or Tak).
Tonight we’re back at the Court of Regents in scenic Kovlar. In our last session, Leilani’s mentor, Gwenryl Longbraid, hustled you, the party, to this little-known dwarven settlement after encountering you in the horror-strewn ruins of Saggorak. Gwenryl advised you enlist the help of the Regents, who each represented powerful guilds in the city — she also let it be known that Kovlar had its own problems, and maybe they were linked to yours.
Thus began ten interviews, one by each Regent, as the Court determined if they could trust these outsiders. You’ve completed 7 of the 10, and by your estimation four now trust you, while three remain skeptical. We will begin tonight’s session with the eighth Regent’s interview.
Before we jump back in, let’s take any questions from the audience about our current situation. Remember the toll-free number is 1-888-AGE-ASHS, that’s 1-888-243-2747. You can contact us on Twitter or Instagram at @ageofashescampaign.
Alright, let’s get started…