Friday, 24 February 2012

Dark Sun Marauders - Episode 17

The group moved on down the secret tunnel that led beneath the sand drake's lair, the goliaths having to duck as they wandered down. It went for some distance before ending abruptly, Kuroar!'s head finding itself against a trap door in the roof, which openend out into a corridor that ran East/West. The consensus was to head East and after examining the winding corridors, they came upon a door, which opened easily,. It revealed a room, the walls and roof painted again to resemble the open deserts of Athas, the sandy floor dotted with sizeable boulders emerging from the sands. Behind several of the boulders lurked a clutch of Thri-kreen, their leader a big warrior whose prowess gave the group pause, yet they did not attack.

Kulo, entered the room and began to edge past the wary kreen towards a second door to the north whilst engaging the leader in some sort of conversation. The absence of Tak-tha and his kreen ways was felt as in halting common the group learned of the plight of this clutch. Captured by Kalak's agents and imprisoned here, the kreen have been kept alive. Gretchan's arcane knowledge was able to locate a powerful ward placed on the exits to the room that seemed keyed to the kreen themselves as the companions seemed unaffected by it. Due to their predicament the kreen were unable to provide any further information about the ziggurat, though they did mention seeing Kalak perhaps 10 days or so ago briefly.

With the hope that the kreen may somehow be freed, the group continued on through the other door, winding their way cautiously along the passages until they stepped out into a silty waste of a room as the deafening sound of a twisting spiral of dust increased in intensity as they entered. The silt cyclone came at them as tendrils snaked out from the centre to trip up some and buffet others about the room. As the group saw more of the room a deep hole in the northern section of the room hid a fall to unknown depths. The swirling winds pushed Kuroar!, Kulo,, and Garidias close to the edge. The goliath's size prevented them toppling into the hole, but the slender eladrin was blown back and over the edge, crashing into a  substantial section of branches some 30ft below. The impact jarring the breath from his body and a hit on the head sent him into unconsciousness.

Meanwhile the remaining companions redoubled their efforts to disperse the cyclonic storm with Beren holding firm and shrugging off the effects of the silt and sand & Gretchan doing a good job of adding support from the safety of the doorway and corridor behind. Finally one of Kuroar!'s powerful charges was enough to discorporate the cyclone and the silt and dust settled all around the room, coating all with it.

Moving quickly Gretchan's mastery of travel through the dimensions allowed Garidias to be brought back up to the room and she was able to bring the eladrin back to consciousness. Not wishing to leave a stone unturned, the group explored the corridors to the west of where they emerged from the hidden passage and came across only another of the portcullis conundrums that this time crisped the hairs on Kuroar! before being successfully negotiated.

The group then lowered themselves down into the trees that Garidias had found and they were transported from the deserts of Athas to the woods of the Forest Ridge. The real location west of Tyr was known to be the haunt of savage tribes of halflings and even rumours of a few goliaths who had descended into the forest from the mountains. The trees seemed eerily quiet with no breeze rustling the leaves and no sound of birds. The group was able to pick up a set of human footprints after heading through the trees for a while, which they duly followed until they abruptly ended. A quick search of the surrounding area could find no continuing footprints, though they did find another set of smaller footprints, these fainter and harder to spot.

With more trekking, the northern and then western walls were located. This level of the ziggurat was not a series of rooms like the other, but appeared to be one enormous room. Further to the south and west a set of several smaller footprints were found, clearly an area with more traffic. Cautiously heading eastwards now, Gretchan spies ahead a small hut, hidden up in the branches of a large tree. Not a large house, but not the size of a child's play house. The companions moved slowly towards it, wondering what it may house.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Dark Sun Marauders - Episode 16

The group descended the stairs underneath the grisly room above. The floor gradually changed from stairs to a gentle slope that began to be buried under sand. The corridor brought them to a largish room, sand covering the floor in a recreation of the deserts of Athas. In addition to the sand, the walls had been painted with desert scenes, all in exquisite detail so that the sand floor blends with the painting to give the impression of being back out among the dunes. The bright sky adorned the roof of the room as well. Even the temperature in the room had risen to high levels. Tufts of grass stuck up from various parts of the room and 2 grooves that matched with someone being dragged were visible in the sand leading towards a cunningly designed door in the north wall. There was a smaller door that was spotted to the south.

The companions headed into the room, following the tracks, when a large creature burrowed through the sand from one corner and eruped, snapping huge jaws. It was a silt shark! Everyone quickly mobilised, and landed several blows on the creature, but it disappeared beneath the sands out of the reach of blades and spells. At one point Kulo, had stumbled near a patch of the grass, which closed around his leg like a set of plant jaws, holding him tight. The shark erupted once more, going after an isolated Gretchan, wounding her badly, but they were ready and Kuroar!'s blade and Garidias spear bit deep, opening nasty wounds on the beast.

This caused it to burrow away once more, but Kulo, was able to corral it with his chain and with Beren's help, finish it off. Taking a short breather, the group followed the dragging marks through the door into the next room.

They were greated with a similarly painted room, yet this time in the centre was a silty oasis area, surrounded by trees and cactus. Hanging from one of the trees was a humanoid figure. His scaled skin and build marked him as a Dray or Dragonborn, dressed in leather armour and he appeared quite dead. Kuroar! and Garidias went to inspect more closely and confirmed the deceased nature. Not seeing any further footprints, they concluded this was the victim who had been dragged from above.

The calm didn't last long as firstly the tree adjacent suddenly lashed out at the inspection pair, but was poorly aimed. This could not be said for Kuroar! who proved to be an expert at deforestation, his blade carving limbs off here and there and driving it deep into the wood, causing the tree creature to shriek in extreme pain! From there it was on the back foot, or root, as the group pressend the advantage and had the creature crashing down quickly, but by then a new threat had emerged!

A large fruit-bearing cactus began to lumber slowly from from the far edge of the silt, but it did not batter the party with its spikes, but it reached out and affected their minds. Psychic attacks ignored armour and physical strength and sapped the wills of the group. At one point, Garidias, Kuroar! and Kulo, had all fallen under its power as the cactus itself commanded them to turn on each other! Fortunately, there seemed to be a deep-rooted sense of a bond between them and their attacks on each other were often mis-aimed, or lacking in power.

Finally shaking free from the mental thrall, they all set about bringing a physical pain to the rampaging plant, if it could feel such things. The cactus was tougher than it looked and took a huge amount of punishment before succumbing to the bloodied and battered fellowship. Gretchan stepped in and took a fruit from the plant, examining it and found that should anyone eat the fruit, they would see their own fellows as enemies.

Taking a moment to clean their wounds after a nasty fight, they all took the north door out of the oasis room and found themselves in a series of corridors painted to resemble natural caverns and tunnels. Along one stretch of tunnel, they encountered a portcullis blocking the passage and three levers. Kuroar! examind them and pulled down the first as the rest of the group nervously backed away.

The only effect was that it brought down a second portcullis, several feet down the passage they had just walked down and just in front of where Kulo, had backed up to. Shrugging and pulling the second lever resulted in Kuroar! taking on a crispy-fried appearance as the whole area between the portcullis was engulfed in flame, validating the groups' earlier nervousness. The final lever opened the portcullis in front of Kuroar! and he gratefully stepped through, but the rest were still trapped back down the corridor. A final flick of the first lever opened that one and they all continued on exploring.

The caverns and tunnels would around for some distance, one of the branches leading back to a concealed door that led back to the oasis room. The only way forward led to a bigger cavern which had two painted doors leading east.

The doors opened into an enormous cavern, some 100ft long and almost as wide. Sand still covered the floor and several outcroppings of rock jutting up from the sand could be seen around the cavern. From the darker, far end of the cavern came a terrible creature that resembled the description of the Dragon of Tyr, but somehow seemed much smaller and lacked wings, but its reptilian body was well suited to living in a sandy wasteland.

The drake was a formidable opponent, its powerful exhalation of breath throwing up an enormous cloud of stinging sand that blinded and stung those that remained in the area. As the warriors approached, it met them with claws and teeth that could cause serious wounds. Also similar to the shark, it was able to burrow through the loose sand to cause more troubles for the heroes, but in the face of it all, they stayed firm. Garidias' commanding voice helping Kuroar! and Kulo, positioning themselves well and to best effect.

Wounds were grave, with the drake taking down members of the group, some almost losing consciousness from the bleeding of their wounds, but finally the great beast was defeated and crashed to the ground in a cloud of sand.

The group took time to search the cavern once all were roused from their efforts and Gretchan found a small hidden door in the side of one of the rocky outcroppings. Stone stairs led down into it, leading to a small open area and then continuing on into blackness.

This seemed to be one of only two ways of moving on, with the south door of the first room on this level, still remaining unexplored...

Friday, 30 December 2011

Dark Sun Marauders - Episode 15

The group finally ascended the magnificent stone edifice that was the ziggurat of Kalak. Each layer of stone was coloured to match that of a rainbow, with red at the top and descending through the colours. Two guards stood implacably at the obsidian stone door and they stood aside at Mavar's command. He gestured and they opened the doors, which swung silently open. The group headed into the darkness, lighting torches as the went in, the door softly clicking into place behind them.
Moving out through one of the 2 doors that led away from the initial pillared room. The walls fashioned entirely from obsidian as the first door was. Making their way along the passage they emerge into a small room, which sported three darkened arches on the far wall. Each arch had an inscription that was written above in common.

The first arch had "Your spirit shall soar with the kestrekels", the second was inscribed with "Your name will go down in the annals of history" and the third was "Your thirst shall be slaked a thousand times".

After some debate the centre arch was chosen and one by one they disappeared through the magical blackness, only to arrive in a small alcove that opened onto an empty room. Exploring further, they came to an enormous room lined with many diverse tapestries and statues, all commemorating famous victories in battle. All were carefully created so that the figure of Kalak was prominent in all of them. The statues were made up of ones of Kalak himself, and some of perhaps his closest military and high ranking Templars.

Garidias was fascinated by one statue of Kalak in particular, in that the weapon seemed to be real rather than carved from the same material as the statue. Along with help from Kulo, and Kuroar! they managed to pry loose the obsidian-bladed spear from the statue.

Taking their new prize, they ventured further into the ziggurat, coming across a series of halls that contained yet more statues. This time, more warrior-like, they stood on guard all around the three rooms. The group investigated the statutes as the moved through the rooms, but once they were all within the centre room, the stone warriors stepped down off their pedestals and moved toward the group, weapons held high.

All fought hard to avoid being surrounded by the stone warriors. Their attacks seemed to cause the stone of the floor to form around their feet, pinning them in place, the shards of obsidian digging into their flesh. Each warrior was surrounded in a palpable aura of dread that only seems to intensify the more there were.

With Kulo, and Beren holding down the warriors at either end, it was up to Garidias, Kuroar! and Gretchan to clear out the centre and then move to help the goliath and the mul as they weakened from the warrior's assault. The fight was bloody and vicious, with several of our heroes succumbing to unconsciousness, but the inspiring words of Garidias kept them in the fight on more than one occasion.

The heroes did triumph and took stock of their wounds for several minutes after they secured the area. During that moment of rest, Garidias received a mental image of an unknown hand driving a spear much like the one he wielded through the body of what appeared to be a defiling mage clad in rich robes. The image came and went quickly.

Continuing on the group emerge in a large room with stairs descending away on either side, but the room also contained several bodies left on the stone floor. Quick investigation of the bodies revealed they had died from blows by a bladed weapon, or claw some time ago. The approx time seemed to coincide with the entrance of the last group sent into the ziggurat. On one of the bodies a small amulet was found around the neck and a check revealed it to be an Amulet of Life, which had clearly not helped its previous owner.

There was however a streak of blood that led off down one set of stairs. Gretchan's healing knowledge concluded that there had clearly been another member of the group that was either dead or dying and had been dragged from where they fell and down the stairs. With that ominous thought, the group descended the stairs, which wrapped around the main body of the room and descended below...

Friday, 11 November 2011

Tyr's Ziggurat!

If you have read at least Episode 14 of the trials of the Dark Sun Marauders, then you will know that they are about to enter the huge ziggurat in the centre of Tyr to look for (potentially) Kalak's body and definitely for an object named the Orb of Dust. Here is a description on the huge monument:

¨The great ziggurat towered above the squalor of the sun-baked city. Each level of the terraced pyramid was finished in glazed brick of a different color: gleaming violet at the base, then indigo, azure, green, yellow, fiery orange, and, finally, scarlet. In the center of the huge structure, a pair of mighty bastions marked each of the seven levels. The bastions flanked an enormous staircase, which ran straight from base to summit, reaching for the flaxen moons that hovered over the monument’s lofty crown and infused the hazy predawn sky with an amber blush.¨

Of course, my mind has been turned to what sort of fiendish creations and horrible things might lurk within the ziggurat! Now, I won't reveal too much here, lest some of my players happen to drop by.

I would like to hear any suggestions from my global readership as to nasty, vicious, horrible, interesting, surprising things that I could throw at the group within the pyramid. Just leave your suggestions in the comments area of this post :)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Weekly sports round up!

Another week of sporting brilliance in the books and the results were good, if not spectacular...

Man Utd 1, Sunderland 0
Putting in a rather nervous performance to celebrate Sir Alex Ferguson's 25th anniversary in charge of the Red Devils (yes, I can remember when he started!). The only goal coming from a rather generous own-goal from Man Utd old boy, Wes Brown, who obviously could not bear to see Fergie lose on this auspicious occasion. Next game is a trip to newly-promoted Swansea after the international break.
Full match report here on

San Francisco 49ers 19, Washington Redskins 11
The Niners continue on their merry way, moving to a 7-1 record with a solid defeat of Washington, who are on a 4 game losing streak. The 49ers defense forced 3 turnovers and kept the Redskins out of the end zone until the final minute in a dominant display. Frank Gore set a franchise record with his 5th straight 100yd+ rushing game.

Next up is a home game back at Candlestick Park against the in-form New York Giants. A win would go a long way to securing the NFC West title, potentially by Week 11.
Full game report here at

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, New Jersey Devils 3
Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 1
Boston Bruins 7, Toronto Maple Leafs 0
Two good road wins ended in a sudden halt as Boston thumped the Leafs at home on Saturday. It will remain to be seen how they bounce back this week after that demoralising loss. Overall the play has been good, but a good start needs continued work to make the playoffs.

Clarke McArthur has been on a hot streak with points against the Devils and Blue Jackets to keep the wins coming. Phil Kessel still leads the Leafs in points, despite being held scoreless for the third time against his old team, the Bruins.

Full game recaps here:

Upcoming games include a home date vs Florida (played today), a trip to St Louis on Thursday and then two more home games against Ottawa & Phoenix on Saturday and Tuesday respectively.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tuesday Morning Quarterback

The latest edition of Gregg Easterbrook's long-running column is available!

Mostly worth a look if you are a fan of NFL football, but he waxes lyrical on many other topics, including government waste, the inevitable creep of celebrations earlier and earlier each year (Christmas decorations in stores in August, for example), picking apart the crazy premises of Hollywood sci-fi and action films, as well as TV (Terra Nova recently attracted Gregg's ire!).

Get all the information on ESPN's Page 2

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Weekly sports round-up!

With the sporting weekend now at a close once more, my teams had a pretty good time of it, recording mostly solid wins!

Everton 0, Manchester United 1
Man Utd get back on the horse, so to speak, with an uninspiring, but effective win to grab another 3 points and stay second in the English Premier League. Javier Hernandez grabbed the only goal to keep the champions 5pts adrift of the summit with a long way to go in the season yet. Read the report here on

Next up is a Champion's League game against Otelul Galati (yeah, I have no idea who they are either) early Thursday morning, which should prove no problem before welcoming Sunderland to Old Trafford next Saturday.

Cleveland Browns 10, San Francisco 49ers 20
The 49ers continue on their winning ways with a solid win over the Browns on Sunday, their 5th consecutive. This sort of commitment and consistent performance is something we haven't seen since 2002! Keep it going, I say. Read the full story on the Niner's win on

Frank Gore has been back to his best of late and the defence is performing exceptionally well. Just 3 more wins could see the 49ers clinch the NFC West by the end of November, with a trip to Washington to face the struggling Redskins next on the agenda.

I have included a link in my "These are cool too..." links to Mike Sando's ESPN NFC West blog, which is a great read for fans of the 49ers and the other teams in the division.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2, Ottawa Senators 3 
Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 4
Back-to-back games for the Leafs this weekend, splitting the two results. A very good performance at home vs Penguins was undone by a determined Senators team keen to keep their winning streak going. All signs for the Maple Leafs are good, though, with a nice start to the gruelling 82 game season (7-3-1) and star Phil Kessel banging in the goals (a league-leading 10 now). Full recaps available on
Just need to keep the effort going to establish themselves as a playoff contender, a stage they haven't reached since 2004, much to the chagrin of my wife. They travel to New Jersey to take on the Devils on Wednesday night followed by a trip to Columbus on Thursday before returning home to take on the Bruins on Saturday.