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wizardwooing

Chapter 1: Jungles of Phantog
. . .
“Master Mage, we are half a day’s trek from Apys, and that is as far as I have
contracted to transport you. We must make good speed now. There is something
that has picked up your trail, and I have not been able to hide your scent from
it. You must tell me now that you will honor our bargain.”

Kennarith Ko frowned. “How do you know that something has picked up my scent?”
he snarled. “If you had told me there was any necessity to hide my scent, I
could have been doing so for days. Perhaps it is you that something trails.”

“Perhaps, but I have been here before. When faced with a choice of taking me or
taking the wizard with me, it has always chosen the wizard. Perhaps it is magic
that the creature desires. You, you are full of magic, and I have none.”

The Huntmaster looked at Kennarith grimly, staring straight into the icy blue
eyes of the foreign wizard. “Think what you like,” he said calmly. “I need to
know. Will you pay me exactly half of the dowry you will gain should you win a
bride from Apys?”

“I told you I would,” answered the wizard, “but let us be clear about this. If
the dowry is money, then you can have it all. If the dowry is magical objects,
then we can divide them between us. but I get first choice, and we take turns
choosing the other objects. If there is an odd number then you can have the last
item. If the dowry is some spiritual thing,” he hesitated to let the concept
sink in, “if it is increased magical ability or souls or something as yet
inconceivable to me, then you get nothing. I am a wizard, yes, but I am no
master, and I cannot divide the intangible, nor set values on unknown objects.”

Krokett the Huntmaster looked disconcerted. No one had ever spelled out these
different possibilities for him before, but than no one had ever paid him
before. “Will you take an oath on those words?’ he asked.

Late afternoon sunlight slanted down through the heavy foliage above them and
stray beam caught the wizard and made him shine for a just a moment in the
general gloom of the forest. “I vow that I will pay Krokett, and only Krokett,
as I have sworn to do with the dowry from Apys. This I swear on my mother’s
head, and on my spirit’s freedom, and on he honor of the Wizards Guild of
Khazan.”

“I accept your vow. Try to keep up!” said the rugged huntsman. He strode off
between two trees and promptly vanished, just as if he had become invisible or
were only an illusion to begin with.

“So,” mused Kennarith, “The huntmaster seeks to test me. Very well!”  The bracken fern parted as kennarith swiftly followed after the Huntmaster. His years doing menial labor for his magical training had toughened not only his mind, but his reflexes as well. Indeed it had spared him from more than one mishap with Osrek the Alchemists… accidents. His side still tingled when he smelled distilled essence of flame demons.

Kennarith broke into a trot and followed the Huntmaster. He saw movement some forty feet ahead–something pushing through a tangle of vegetation. In seconds he reached it, and shoved through himself. On the other side were two paths leading in two different directions, and the guide was not visible on either one. How did he move so fast, and why?

One path was fairly open and empty as far as the eye could see. The other quickly clogged with the malodorous shrubbery that infested this jungle. Kennarith chose that one, and pushed rapidly forward.

A strong hand reached out from behind a tree and grabbed the wizard’s upper arm, pulling him roughly to the side.
The wizard breathed a sign of relief.

“Good, you kept up with me. Now get ready to fight. Watch!”

A strange beast appeared on the path the wizard had just left. It had the size of a large cat, the face of a fiend, and the tusks of a saber-toothed cave tiger. Krokett locked his gaze on its slitted yellow eyes, took one step forward with knife in hand and let out an explosive yell.

. . .
Krokett’s yell startled the Fiend, because in the blink of an eye, it was gone.

“Whew,” the wizard gasped. “What was that?”

“Don’t relax!” snapped the Huntsman. “It is only changing the direction of attack.  His head moved from side to side as he scanned the forest. Then he grabbed Kennarith’s shoulder and spun him to face the Fiend as it materialized in a leap coming right at him.

Kennarith Ko had thought about what to do, but when the time came for action, he reverted to the most basic kill spell he knew and he put all his wizardly energy into it.  The wizard’s staff crackled with purple energy and an eye-searing bolt of killing force shot out of it and struck the fiend fully in its tentacled chest.

The Thing fell to earth just shy of the two men because of the magical impact, but then shrugged it off, and gathered itself to continue the attack.  In that momentary hesitation, Krokett leaped on it, flailing madly with the great bush knife. Man and beast rolled across the ground in a cacophany of growling (from the man) and a kind of whistling screech (from the fiend).

For the first minute of the fight the wizard watched with eyes agape as man and creature struggled. He quickly understood that this was more than just a physical fight between a man and a beast–it was more of a spiritual struggle manifested on the worldly plane. Once he saw a fiendish claw rip a gaping hole in Krokett’s stomach, but neither blood nor entrail flew out of it. In the next instant the wound closed again af it had never been.

Then the two moved in his direction and it seemed as if the fiend would break free of the man. Kennarith threw off his horror and leaped into the fight, jabbing at the monster with his staff, wielding it like a spear to poke and smash the horrible creature. Every blow seemed to simply glance off the fiend, but Krokett threw him a grim smile, more of a twitch of the lips as battled. Every little bit helped.

And then it was over. With a final howl the unnatural beast stiffened and lay still. Now wounds began to appear on its body, dozens of wounds where none had been visible before. Dead!

Krokett forced himself to his feet, leaned down and cleaned his gore-encrusted blade on the animal’s hide. His clothing had been torn and slashed in many places. Purple bruises began to rise on his flesh.

“Are you all right?” the wizard asked.

“I will live.”

Krokett knelt and pushed a mass of tentacles aside, then made a deep incision in the fiend’s chest. Thrusting his hand into the bloody opening all the way up to the elbow, he felt around and then jerked his arm back out, bringing with it an internal organ.

“What?” The wizard gaped in amazement.

“Its heart. If I do not take it, the creature will live again. See, it still beats.” The bloody red organ still shivered and squirmed in the Huntmaster’s hand.

“What will you do with it?”

“We should eat it. You helped beat it, so you are entitled to a share. Of course, it may poison us, but if it doesn’t . . .” he left the implications unspoken.

. . .
Kennerith’s mind raced as his stomach churned. The thought of eating a
still-beating heart disgusted him, but the though of facing a beast
immune to his spells a second time chilled him to the bone. Furthermore,
if the heart was unhealthy to eat, then letting Krokett eat it all would
place himself in dire peril as well. He could ill afford to let his
guide die – without his help he would quickly become lost in this
jungle, not to mention the other unknown dangers that could lurk in a
place where monsters had developed immunity to magic.

No, far safer if both he and Krokett became ill, but remained able to travel. of course, this was assuming that a single bite would not prove fatal…

This was no time for dithering. Faint heart never won fair maiden, and winning a fair maiden was what he was here to do.

“We’ll split it half and half,” said Kennerith reaching out his hand, “but perhaps it would be safer to eat cooked?” Fire appeared and danced in the wizard’s palm.

“Are you going to cook it in your hand, wizard? I think I’ll eat my part raw.” Krokett used both hands and tore the still throbbing heart into two pieces. He handed the smaller piece to the wizard, then bit into the larger one. Blood dribbled from the sides of his mouth and into his beard.

Kennarith Ko did cook the fragment of fiend heart in his hand. Spitting the fragment on the point of his own sax, he directed little blasts of flame at the meat until it darkened, stopped bleeding, and actually began to smell good.

(Lest you think that the wizard was fireproof, let it be known that calling flame in this manner is usually the first spell a wizard learns. The flame never actually touches him, but springs into existence far enough from the wizard’s hand to not actually burn him.)

“Mmmmm, chewy,” said the wizard as he bit into the fiend’s heart. When he swallowed it, it felt as if a ball of flame passed through his throat, through his chest, and into his stomach. But even as it went down he felt his body being recharged with the kremm energy of magic.

The huntsman washed his bloody meal down with several gulps from his canteen, then offered it to the wizard. Ko took it, wiped the mouth with the sleeve of his robe, and took a big gulp. He was in for it now, no point in being cautious or timid if he hoped to keep his guide’s respect.

“Let us go on,” said Krokett. We are not that far from our destination.” He stepped back onto the path he had been following and set off briskly. Kennarith grabbed his staff and hastened to follow him.

They walked for a couple of hours as the sky grew darker and afternoon advanced. They climbed, and the vegetation changed, somehow seeming lighter in both color and tone as they gained altitude. At the same time, the ground grew soggier, and the muddy forest floor squelched with every step.

Then they crested a ridge, and Krokett pointed. In the center of a rocky hollow stood a great hive building more than 200 meters in height and twice as broad, a building unlike any the wizard had ever seen before.

“This is it,” said the guide, “the home of the Manukans, the People of the Buzzing Bees. This is where you must go to win the Bride of Nature that you seek.”

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Bee_Soldier

Chapter Two: Into the City of the Manukans

Kennarith looked down and saw six soldiers striding up the eastern side of the crater towards him. They walked on stiff-jointed hind legs with a pair of similarly inflexible arms coming out of the mid-point of their bodies. The ebonic sheen of their chitinous skin was swathed with bands of shaggy brown-gold fur. Multi-faceted eyes and twin antenna completed the inhuman picture. Each guard also carried a large pair of diaphanous wings that vibrated as they walked, not enough to lift them into the air, but perhaps it lightened their steps because they approached swiftly. Each guard also carried a long bronze-headed halbard.

“I will leave you now,” said Krokett. “Remember our bargain, and seek me where we first met if you make it out of the hive successfully.” The Huntsman faded back into the jungle.

When they reached his side the leading bee-man looked the wizard over intently. Apparently satisfied, he began to speak in a buzzing version of the Common Speech. It took a few sentences for Kennarith to understand, but the bee-man rejpeated himself until finally Kennarith interrupted him.

“You speak my tongue strangely,” he said slowly, “but I am beginning to understand. You want me to follow you.”

“Correct.” The leader turned and strode away. Kennarith immediately followed him back down the hill. The other five fell in behind him.

In a short time they reached a broad ramp leading up into the hive-building. It led to an arched doorway illuminated by a large sphere that glowed with crimson radiance. Kennarith wondered how many men had passed through this ominous doorway. One of the escorts touched his shoulder and buzzed, “You are the seven thousand five hundred and sixty-first.”

The number seemed absurdly high to the Khazani wizard, but then he reflected that the Manukans were said to have been on Trollworld longer than the men had, and almost as long as the elves.

The soldier continued to speak. “This portal is a means of destruction should our queens decree. The photonic forces it subjugates may be released in any direction they desire. The effect is stark; existence is negated.”

The red light energy made his flesh crawl with a kind of tickling sensation as Kennarith passed through the doorway. The chamber inside held at least a thousand burning beeswax candles, and the air hung heavy, cloying and sweet in his lungs. A wave of sleepiness assailed him, but the wizard clenched his hands and fought it off. It would not be wise to lose consciousness here.

Many more of the soldier Manukans flanked both sides of the atrium. Kennarith could see now that it was but a passageway connecting the exterior with the interior of the structure. A larger, heavier beeman crawled from a passageway above and to Kennarith’s left. He fluttered down to stand directly in front of the wizard.

“You are the thirty-sixth and last of this cycle’s contenders for royal marriage,” he droned. “I repeat, you are the last. This means that the wooing will begin on the morrow.”

“I understand,” answered the wizard.

‘You may rest, take nourishment, and think about what level you would like to compete for.”

Fed with unfamiliar foods, lulled by the humming that seemed to permeate the strange city, Kennarith Ko was taken to a sleeping chamber and left to his devices. He quickly fell asleep.

When he awakened he found cool water and a scroll waiting for him on the bedside table. He washed his face and quenched his thirst. He had eaten so well before his sleep that he felt no hunger. Turning to the scroll he read these cryptic words:

YOU MAY CHOOSE YOUR OWN LEVEL OF COMPETITION:TWO, THREE, FIVE, SEVEN, TEN OR THIRTEEN. IF YOU OVERCOME THE OTHER FIVE CHALLENGERS AT YOUR CHOSEN LEVEL, YOU MAY BE ACCEPTED BY THAT LEVEL’S QUEEN, AND YOU MAY HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMPETE AGAIN AT A HIGHER LEVEL OF YOUR CHOICE.

There was a space to indicate his choice, and a pen and ink for writing it.

After some deliberation, Kennarith Ko decided to go for the easiest challenge, and wrote the number 2 in the space provided. As soon as he had done so, the paper magically faded out of his hand. At that moment he realized that he was sensing magic from all sides, and was unlikely to have any warning should enchantment come upon him.

His chamber door opened and in came the large man, or his twin. “Be thou ready for your challenge?” he asked.

“What is my challenge?” asked the Wizard.

“You have chosen to woo Apida the Harvest Queen. It is her duty to ensure that the Phantagonian flowers come to no harm, that they are free from disease, and protected from herbivores that her people may be assured of plentiful pollen supplies.”

“Sounds like a vital task,” Kennarith muttered to himself.

The guide led Kennarith to another chamber deeper inside the hive. Five other wizards were already there. The bee man made introductions and Kennarith Ko met Nux Fractor, Spontaneous Combustius, Perry Stroika, Ali Bongo and Sly Toffand. All were human except for Perry, who despite have rounded ears, was a half-elf.

The bee man led the six contestants into another chamber even deeper inside the hive. There, draped languorously upon a couch reposed the young queen, Apida.

As Manukan women go, Apida was truly lovely. She sported a full and firm thorax, cute stripes of ochre and burnt umber, two lively antennas, and bee’guiling. (Ken’s note: Mark has filled this section of the adventure with as many bee puns as he could come up with, and they are plentiful, but I may skip most of them. If you want to bee entertained by them, get the adventure.)

Apida was besotted with all her suitors. She clapped her four hands together and dismissed the bee man, whose name was Bee’de. “My bee’trothed must have a fine voice,” she buzzed. “You shall all sing for me.” She opened a cabinet and brought out 6 scrolls. “These are some of my most bee’loved songs. Each of you shall choose one and sing for me.”

The six songs are:
1. Honey for my Honey
2. Let it Be’e
3. Be’e My Baby
4. The Buzz of it All
5. Just Can’t Help Be’elievin’
6. Be’e Good to Me

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

By the luck of the draw, Kennarith Ko got to be the last singer.

The six wizards studied their scrolls for a few minutes. None of them were puzzled by them, though some figured then out a little faster than others. Their bee’havior was very civilized, and they took turns singing for the queen. It took a little about an hour for them all to have a turn.

The queen kept score in her head, but did not give any sign of whose singing she liked it best. (the adventure as written says to give the 6 contestants wooing points. Having made all the necessary attribute and saving rolls this is how it stands after the first round of competition:

Perry–200
Ali–200
Spon–100
Nux–500
Sly–200
Kenn–400)

When the singing was over Bee’de the bee man attendant came in with a tray upon which there were six golden goblets, each brimming with a thick brown brew. An overwhelmingly sweet aroma rose from the liquor.

“Drink, or do not drink, as you choose,” said the bee man, “but be aware that this is very potent liquor, and it may becloud your thinking.”

Because he was the last to arrive, Kennarith was the last to confront the queen and give her his one word description. Though many ideas had run through his head, the word he finally decided to use was “majestic”.

After seeing what had happened to Sly, none of the other wizards dared even touch the queen. When his turn came, Kennarith simply knelt before the queen and said “you are the most majestic person I have ever met, but then again, I not met many kings or queens.” A line like that would have made most humans smile, at least, but Apida’s face showed no emotion.
——————
The tests had been gentle so far, but Apida’s thoughts turned to the physical.  She feared that her mate might break during the exchange of genetic material  that must eventually come. It had happened in the past, and so, a test of physical capability was developed.

The queen retired through one door, and the bee man Bee’de took the six of you off in another direction. He brought you all to a hollowed-out honeycomb that was a replica of the queen’s nuptial chamber. There were six divans made of sculpted wax, and he told  you all to lie down upon them.  He then began to spurt honey on Perry from a bell-shaped receptacle on wheels with a hose and nozzle attachment.

“Ewww!” said Perry.  When Bee’de finished he was completely immersed except for his head.

“Are we in any danger from this?” asked Ali Bongo.

“You will not be harmed if you do not struggle,” answered Bee’de, “but you may be seriously injured if you resist.”

It occurred to Kennarith Ko that he as a wizard, and that whatever was in store for him when he was coccooned in a Manukan miasma of melted molasses (okay, honey, but the feeling would be much the same), he should not just take it lying down as a warrior would. He might be able to do something to himself as a wizard, and he wondered what spell he might cast upon himself to better his chances.

Because he was the last to arrive, Kennarith was the last to confront the queen and give her his one word description. Though many ideas had run through his head, the word he finally decided to use was “majestic”.

After seeing what had happened to Sly, none of the other wizards dared even touch the queen. When his turn came, Kennarith simply knelt before the queen and said “you are the most majestic person I have ever met, but then again, I not met many kings or queens.” A line like that would have made most humans smile, at least, but Apida’s face showed no emotion.
——————
The tests had been gentle so far, but Apida’s thoughts turned to the physical.  She feared that her mate might break during the exchange of genetic material  that must eventually come. It had happened in the past, and so, a test of physical capability was developed.

The queen retired through one door, and the bee man Bee’de took the six of you off in another direction. He brought you all to a hollowed-out honeycomb that was a replica of the queen’s nuptial chamber. There were six divans made of sculpted wax, and he told  you all to lie down upon them.  He then began to spurt honey on Perry from a bell-shaped receptacle on wheels with a hose and nozzle attachment.

“Ewww!” said Perry.  When Bee’de finished he was completely immersed except for his head.

“Are we in any danger from this?” asked Ali Bongo.

“You will not be harmed if you do not struggle,” answered Bee’de, “but you may be seriously injured if you resist.”

It occurred to Kennarith Ko that he as a wizard, and that whatever was in store for him when he was coccooned in a Manukan miasma of melted molasses (okay, honey, but the feeling would be much the same), he should not just take it lying down as a warrior would. He might be able to do something to himself as a wizard, and he wondered what spell he might cast upon himself to better his chances.

Kennarith thought about the warning–he had been told not to move, and the one spell that would freeze him in his tracks was Hold That Pose.  He cast it on himself at level 3, knowing that would hold him for up to 8 minutes, and hoping that would be enough.

The honey was extremely hot, and beneath it the wizards heated up very quickly. However, all of them had the same thought, and all had cast Hold That Pose. They all endured the heat well enough, and a few minutes later, Bee’de brought attendants to clean them off. He was somewhat surprised to see that all six contestants came through the ordeal unscathed.

The Queen took one look at her wooers and smiled slightly.

“And now, my would-be wooers,” she buzzed, “it is time for us to take a walk in the forest.  Gather what protective gear you may have, and meet me at the entrance to the hive one hour from now.” She departed to make herself ready for the excursion.

Kennarith did not have much in the way of special provisions to make for himself. He had no armor and little in the way of weapons, since he had counted on the Huntsman to protect him in the jungle. Instead he made certain that he had plenty of water in two canteens, some high energy food, and he put two healing potions in the  pockets inside his robe. He wore knee-high boots and a leather cap inside his wizard’s cowl, and hoped that would be sufficient.

An hour later the six wizards stood at the entrance to the hive. Apida appeared with an escort of 20 soldiers, all fully armed and armored.  The bee men and the queen have protections that outsiders such as Kennarith and the other wizards would never dream of. No such protections were offered to the wizards.

“This walk may be extremely dangerous for you,” warned Bee’de. “Before you risk your lives in the Phantagonian jungles, think, and if you wish, you may back out now.”

The bee soldiers escorted Apida, Perry, Ali, Spon, Sly, and Kennarith along a trail visible only to them. Nux had announced at the beginning that he really didn’t feel up to trekking through the jungle that day, and had retired back to the hive. The constantly beating wings of the soldiers did at least provide enough of a breeze to evaporate the sweat off your body, and thus provide some measure of coolness.

After several minutes of walking, Ali Bongo sidled over to Kennarith and began to speak in the Thieves Cant of the Khazan ghettos. “Ey, matey, ‘ow you like der tests zo far? Gotta offer for ya. Innerested?”

Kennarith looked at the other wizard coldly. “Wotch gots in yer mind?” he answered in the same almost unintelligible jargon.

“Look ere, Palzy. Itz gonna be hard ta know how to win dis ere game. Wotcha say we nooj der oddz a bit. Iffin I wins, i do give you a top job ere, an’ you does der same fer me iffen you gets der young missy. And,” he waggled an eyebrow knowingly, “we alzo duz  wut we kin ter ‘elp each udder wen we kin gainst der odders ere. Woddya say? Deal or no deal?”

Kennarith smiled at Ali, and made a
thief’s sign with his left thumb and forefinger. “Deal,
Palsy,” he whispered, “but keep it on der downlow, hokay?”

“Ri-ite!” grinned the other wizard. “Laters!” He wandered
off. As the walk continued, Kennarith noticed that Ali
approached some of the other wizards as well. Sly gave him a
big grin, Spontaneous looked confused and Perry said, “Wut?
Get away from me!”

Suddenly the brisk march through Phantog ended. The party
entered an octagonal clearing filled with luscious
lascivious, lurid blooms of epic proportions.  Another
twenty Manukan soldiers were standing around the clearing to
protect these flowers.

Some workers opened a large wooden chest they had been
carrying and took from it several large goblets carved from
a translucent, jade-like stone. They gave one cup to each
wizard.

“Go to the flowers and collect the pollen within them,”
buzzed the queen.

The wizards set to work.  For a half-elf, Perry did not
seem to react very well to plants. After only a short time,
he sneezed so hard that he dropped his collecting cup and
spilled what little pollen he had gathered on the ground.
Bee’de approached and told him to stop–his part of the test
was over. The others all managed their tasks with varying
degrees of success.  Surprisingly, Sly was the best at
accumulating flower pollen. When he presented his cup to the
queen, it had half again as much pollen in it as the second
best (Ali) and nearly three times as much as Kennarith had
collected. On the other hand, the other wizards all looked
both tired and dehydrated after collecting pollen for half
an hour, but Kennarith, who had brought plenty of water, and
drank liberally from it as he worked, just felt better and
better.

Just as the queen finished checking Kennarith’s cup, a
strange beast charged into the clearing–a wide-nostriled
mucous wrangler.  It charged, head down, nose down,
firing a shower of snot pellets in all directions.  One
noxious missile hit Ali in the forehead and spattered all
over his face. He went down flailing; his skin turned green,
and he began to vomit, all very quickly.

The soldiers ruahed to attack the elephant-sized beast. It
had already trampled one flower and was bearing down upon
the queen.

With 40 guards coming to the defense of the queen, not to mention three other wizards, Kennarith figured that his best option was to try and save Ali’s life.

His first action was to cast a Call Water spell and wash the poisonous mucous off of Ali’s head, reasoning that the sooner the infection was removed, the less damage would be done. He wished he knew a Too Bad Toxin spell, but he didn’t. It was within his powers to cast it, but a fourth level spell, and as a 2nd level wizard who had recently graduated to 3rd level, he simply hadn’t learned it yet. 4th level spells cost 1500 gold to learn, and the truth was that many wizards learned their higher level spells by getting  more advanced wizards to simply teach them outside the guild offices.

Ali still looked like he might die, his complexion distinctly green and his breath coming in short harsh gasps. Kennarith reached into one of his inner robe pockets and pulled out one of the two healing potions that he had brought with him.  He poured it down Ali’s throat and hoped for the best.

Between the death spells of the other wizards and the furious halbard work of the bee soldiers, the mighty Mucous Wrangler didn’t last long. One soldier was hit by the falling monster and squashed flat.

Queen Apida noticed that three wizards had cast spells in her defense, but that Kennarith had rushed to the aid of the only person in serious danger from the attack. She awarded points to the three wizards who defended her, and none to Kennarith and Ali, but kept in mind that Kennarith had kept his head during the emergency and preserved a life.

When the excitement subsided it was time to return to the hive. The cups full of pollen were closed with lids on top, and the four functional wizards were told that they must carry their cups back to the hive balanced atop their heads in order to leave their hands free for self defense. Kennarith and the other wizards tried balancing the flat-bottomed cups on their heads, and managed for a short time, but they were constantly in danger of falling off.  “This is silly,” Kennarith declared. He removed the cup from his head, pulled open his robe, placed the sealed cup in his largest pocket, and then proceeded along the path with little danger of losing the precious pollen. The other three wizards made similar arrangements.  Sly simply used his hands after the first near mishap, figuring that there were plenty of soldiers to defend him in case of another attack.

Suddenly Apida pointed into the dense lushness of the jungle. “We will take the short cut back. There is something I want to show you. Quick! Find the secret door and we shall be safe and have time to play!”

Perry, Spon, and Sly dashed forward, magic crackling from their fingertips.  Ali remained in the litter that two of the soldiers were carrying. His condition had stabilized, but he was still in no shape for a rigorous walk in the woods.


The following strange tale comes to me from a member of Trollhalla, one Roy Cram by name.  Back in the day he published a couple of solo dungeons with Flying Buffalo.  He mentions places I’ve never heard of, and mating practices that seem unlikely to say the least.  He seems somewhat confused, but I’ll let him tell his tale.  The troll mother he describes must be one of the fleshy trolls and not a true rock troll as rock trolls do not mate and reproduce in the fashion he describes.  Aside from that I suppose we should believe most of this delirium–after all, we do actually have Yorrdamma Vrsash himself as proof that some sort of miscegenation produced him.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

combination Goblin and Troll--guess at the appearance of Yorrdamma Vrash.

Yorrrdamma Vrash’s story part one

Oh Great Khenn Arrth:  I, Yorrdamma Vrash, crave Your attention. Attend me I beg you. Here,  on this crude stone altar that I raised, I offer You the life blood of this Goblin who, with his companions, now dead, tried to murder me as I rested here in the midst of the Mistywood (Sound of squealling cut short by the Whack! of a Sax severing a neck). Long I have wished to tell my story, and since the recent battle with the goblin thieves has made sleep impossible, I now propose to narrate the tale of my life. May it please You to hear it.

If not, You are a Deity, and can do as You please. If I displease You, pray do not smite me.

Ignore me if I am beneath or unworthy of Your notice, but my life passes burning through my memory now, and tell the tale I must, if only to these four dead Goblins and these mist enshrouded trees.

Yorrdamma was born in the Troll warrens beneath Castle Gedokrist on Mount Angwich. This was in the days before Zekrim Gedokrist buried the great city of Mora beneath a sea of mud. It was in this time that the Gedokrist was busy raising a huge army to make war on his half-brother, King Valikorum of Valesia. Zekrim was determined to have a large contingent of Trolls in his army for ‘shock’ troops. Since the hill and rock trolls of this region were unruly and mostly opposed to serving as his vassals, Zekrim assigned the wizard Aylgamer to ‘recruit and train’ a group of Troll soldiers. To this hard task Aylgamer diligently applied himself.  He rounded up a large number of trolls and began to ‘train’ them, using magic and harsh discipline. In addition he started a series of experiments in selective and magic enhanced breeding to produce a creature more suitable than the rough and hard to control feral Trolls. His efforts began to create a race of Trolls that were smarter, tougher (!), more tractable, and able to sustain exposure to sunlight. All seemed to be going well.

Yorrdamma’s mother was one of the first generation progeny using Rock Trolls. She was impressive physically and relatively docile, but smart enough not to let on to her masters that she was a good deal smarter than they thought she was. When she reached the age of bearing young she was impregnated with Troll semen laced with traces of magically enhanced human, Ogre, and Demon seed.  Her gestation proceeded at a rapid pace, and Yorrdamma came into the world early and unattended. He was tiny and ugly, a ‘runt’ troll or Trollish equivalent to a human dwarf. But Urdammu’s heart was overwhelmed with love for this tiny ugly helpless creature. She had seen the progeny of her Troll sisters removed from them at birth, and knew that this babe would go straight to the kitchen to enrich some pot of stew. This was the first thing in her life that she felt really truly belonged to her. So, when Aylgamer’s Orc assistants saw she had borne offspring and tried to take the whelp from her, she tore the arm off the first and beat the second one to death with the bloody end of the amputated limb.

Now at this time Zekrim was mustering his army for the assault on Valesia and there was much confusion in the camp.  Urdammu wrapped her baby in a blanket, put him in a box of supplies, found a big cudgel and took off through the camp looking like she had business to attend to. She left in her wake, with crushed heads, a couple of orcs who dared to try and hinder her with questions, and made it to the woods before her escape from the warrens was noticed and an alarm raised.

This is the end of part one – part two to follow soon.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Here the narrative breaks off, although the writer has promised me more of this weird tale.  Note the antique language–orc instead of uruk, also the antiquated notion that gods require blood sacrifices.  In these modern times blood isn’t that much good to us.  Money is the sacrifice we really want from our followers.

Well, we will see what comes of Yorrdamma Vrash’s autobiography.

end

 


The Trollgod talks about the Way Things Are Meant to Be

Some question has come up about what I might have meant when I say the GM is
God. It’s a common principle in all role-playing, so let’s talk about it a
bit.

Some GMs like a free form game. They set up a situation and let the
players do whatever they can with it. I’m like that most of the time.

Other GMs have a story that needs to be told. The characters become
actors in that one story, and have very little freedom. Certain things have to
be done or the story doesn’t get told.

In the first case you don’t have
to mess with the rules much at all. The only thing that can trip you up is the
unspoken/unwritten rules. If the player misses a saving roll and dies, let him.
If he takes on a monster that’s way too tough for him and dies, too bad. The
players have a responsibility to make good decisions and have a good game.

In the second case the story is paramount. If a player gets himself
killed, and the story needs that character, then the god GM can fudge the
results. What should have been a killing blow to the head turns into a glancing
blow that only knocks the character down. Unconscious and left for dead, the
character lies there and takes no harm while the fight moves on. This is good
storytelling. It can make for a great game. It ignores the fact that the GM
threw the game rules out the window in this one case. A skillful GM would never
even let the players know what he had done. After all, it is the GM who narrates
the action, and if he narrated a knockout instead of a kill, then that’s what
happened. That is what I mean when I say the GM is God.

Another
example–could happen in my kind of game. The party is dying, down to its last
few hit points and surrounded by Uruks. You know that the way the dice are
rolling, they will die on the next combat turn. So, suddenly the GM says, “You
hear a loud whistling noise. The Uruks look startled. They turn and run for
their lives, completely ignoring the party. Some of them even drop their
weapons. The party looks around in astonishment. What the heck was that? They
may never find out, but they are alive, and not dead. The game can continue. Did
I break any rules there? No. But the GM played God and saved everyone. The game
continues, with the players wondering what saved them. It may even turn into a
plot hook for later.

The GM has a responsibility to his players–he’s
not there to either pamper or torture them. He’s there to provide a good, fun,
challenging game. Show off the game world. Display your GM creativity. Make
people laugh! Believe me, it takes godlike powers to do all that, so . . . the
GM is God.

T & T can be played mechanically, obeying every “rule”,
but such a game has no “heart”. I want you all to invest your own creativity in
play and in game/world design. Trollworld is my world. You’re welcome to play
there, but you don’t have to. Other worlds may work a bit differently–voila!
House Rules!

You will forgive me if I spend most of my time and effort
working on my own world. When I go play on Beanworld, or Glorantha, or Middle
Earth, it’s different, and I play by the local rules. You should, too, and if
you don’t care for the local rules, don’t bitch about it. Just don’t go back.
I’m a big believer in voting with your feet. The object is to enjoy your gaming,
not to make others unhappy.

Go forth and do great things!”


17 is for Morning Star.

My apologies, brave ones–as the d numbers get bigger, it gets harder and harder to add anything significant about T & T.  I’m really just continuing this because of the challenge I set myself.

17 is for Trollworld basketball player.  When rolling 3D6 for a human character’s height, a 17 generates a height of 6 feet 11 inches tall.  It generates a weight of 310 pounds.  And that’s all pure power-packed barbarian muscle.

17 is the Strength required to bend an extra-heavy bow (one with a draw weight of over 100 pounds.  17 is also the Strength required to wield a heavy mace or a morningstar.

It seems to me that 17 was a magic number in 1st edition Dungeons and Dragons, being the number of character levels possible.  In my naivete circa 1975, I thought 17 was as high as levels needed to go in role-playing games.  Thus, my ultimate magic spells in 1st edition T & T were 17th level, and they were Summoning, Banishing, and Deluxe Staff.  The Deluxe Staff spell is kind of special: the text reads: This is a spell you can’t do, folks.  You may buy deluxe staves from the (Wizards) Guild (5000 gold pieces), but they are actually made by a small, very secretive clan of wizards who like their privacy.  There is no such thing as “deluxe staff material” for weapons or armor.  Considering that the deluxe staff is described as absolutely indestructible, that’s a good thing.

If you know any other good 17s for Tunnels and Trolls, feel free to list them in the comments below. I’m a day late on these blogs already, but I’ll catch up some time.  (ha! and if you believe that, I have some swamp land I’d like to show you.)

–end


The Troll's treasure hoard.

Fifteen is for the Troll’s Hoard in Trollstone Caverns.  TC is the short GM adventure that I wrote for 5th edition T & T.  While much of the text in 5th edition actually came from Liz Danforth, the Trollstone Caverns is all mine.  The map has 18 key locations, but location 15 is the deepest point, and the spot where any adventurers are most likely to get good loot.

Fifteen is a number widely used in the weapons tables of the 5th edition.  Medium self bows and medium longbows both require a DEX of 15 to use them.  I took 2 semesters of archery a million years ago when I was in college.  It’s harder than it looks.  Really light bows don’t have much penetrating power.  Heavier weapons that take more strength to draw tend to wobble.  Modern bowmen all want to be sharpshooters–too much of the Robin Hood legend, I think.  Ancient and medieveal bowmen didn’t worry so much about shooting straight.  They were grouped in companies, and they laid down barrages of arrow fire by making high arcing shots.  The bow was the artillery of its time.

15 is also the number of weapon adds that all the early forms of pistols get in combat.  If your character gets shot with a gunne in T & T, he/she is gonna get hurt, and hurt pretty bad.

Yes, there are guns in Tunnels & Trolls. They are rare, but deadly.

There is one 15th level spell in 5th edition T & T.  Air, Earth, Fire, and Water allows the caster to conjure an elemental to use as a servant for 5 game turns.  Its monster rating will equal the total of the caster’s attributes times two.  That will usually generate a humongously powerful servant.  300 years later in 7th edition T & T, this spell has been lost.

If you can think of any other fine fifteens used in Tunnels and Trolls, please list them in the comments below, and come back tomorrow to see what I can do with sweet Sixteen.

–end


Oz, the god wizard of the land of Oz. Being a god can be a lot of work.

Fourteen is for fortnight–a term never once used in Tunnels and Trolls.

Fourteenth-level Spells and Beyond: Spells of 14th level and higher are not sold by the Wizards Guild in the Empire of Khazan.  There are rumors that they can be learned from the Nagas, but they are generally considered to be god-level magic and should be distributed only at the discretion of the GM.

Which leads me to talk for a little bit about god-level wizards.  Originally, there were no gods postulated for Tunnels and Trolls.  The game developed in a religious vacuum.  As far as I know, no human society yet has ever existed without the idea of gods.  The gods might be benevolent, malevolent, or indifferent, but there were always gods.  On some basic level, people need to believe in powers greater than themselves.  They need explanations for such questions as “why is there lightning?”

Well, we all know the answer to why questions.  The answer is because.  There is lighting because Zeus is throwing thunderbolts at things on Earth.  Or if not Zeus, then Thor.  How can they be powerful enough to hurl lighting?  They can do it because they are gods.

On Earth we made up gods to explain the unexplainable.  In Trollworld, there are people–wizards–who can do unexplainable things.  They can fly.  They can cast lightning bolts.  They can disappear and reappear in different places.  These people are wizards–magic users.

And some wizards are clearly more powerful than others.  Some wizards like Gristlegrim or Loopo the mad mage are so powerful that they have created whole new races/kindreds to be their people.  Gristlegrim literally made the Dwarves of Trollwold.  He carved them from stone and brought them to life.  Loopo made the uruks.  He warped and twisted the basic nature of elves into a vile parody.  Yet, elves and uruks can mate–Lerotra’hh, the Death Goddess of Khazan, is one such example of what happens when such a mating takes place.

Wizards who have learned to transcend any imaginable limits of power are known as god-wizards.  They can do anything.  They use the natural kremm energy of Trollworld itself to get their effects.  The only ones who can oppose them are other god-wizards.

You should have noticed that I’ve avoided giving these so-called god-wizards any other supreme titles.  None are known as all-wise, all-loving, all-evil.  That is because they are not supreme gods–not even real gods.  They are just beings of such power that they might as well be considered to be gods.  Some of them even think of themselves as gods.

They aren’t gods.  There are no true gods on Trollworld.  There are, however, a lot of god-wizards.

That’s all 7th edition theology, or lack of it.  There is a 14th level of spells in 5th edition T & T, though it only has one spell.  Force Shield is the 14th level spell in the old days.  A force shield is a wall of colored light that cannot be penetrated by any lower-level magic or weapons.  The wizard can shape and move the Force Shield as he wishes.

Fourteen is used frequently in the weapons tables as STR or DEX requirements for various hard to manage weapons.

If you can think of any notable uses of 14 in T & T, please add them in the comments below.  And come back tomorrow to see if there is anything good to be said about the number 15.

end


Hey, wow, it’s Friday the 13th!  I haven’t seen one of those in a long time.  On this day associated with bad luck I’ve had one really bad leg cramp at 3 in the morning–I’ll be limping for the rest of the week, and I’ve experienced a bit of lethargy, but that’s all.  However, your bad luck is just beginning.  Read on!

You could be born again in Tunnels and Trolls buy you might come out looking like this.

Thirteen is the highest level of spells available from the Wizards Guild in Trollworld.  There is only one spell, and it is the Born Again spell.  The fifth edition featured two level 13 spells: Invisible Fiend and Wizard Speech.  Ot the three, I’d say Wizard Speech is the most useful–it is a universal translator for the wizard.  The Born Again spell has to be cast in advance, and it allows the character to re-materialize in a younger form when he dies.  Only high level wizards capable  of spending 208 WIZ at a shot can cast it.

Tunnels and Trolls never had the endless reincarnations so prominent in D & D.  Dead is pretty much dead in Tunnels & Trolls unless the G.M. wants to bring your character back to life.  Yes, characters come back sometimes as zombies or vampires, but you can’t just haul the body to the nearest temple and come back to life.  The gods could do that for characters, but mostly they don’t, so be careful when you’re playing.  Dead is dead in T & T.

Dead is usually dead in Tunnels and Trolls. Try not to die.

One of my favorite swords is the falchion–a kind of wide-bladed sabre with a heavy slashing head that bends backwards a bit towards the swordsman.  It requires a DEX of 13 to use it effectively.  So does the black-eagle blade and the fish spine sword.  All of these weapons do more damage than the standard broadsword, but the falchion is the best of them.

As warrior maids go, she could use better armor, but she has a real nice sword.

If you know any good 13s that I’ve missed for T & T, please list them in the comments below, and come back tomorrow to see if I can do anything with the number 14.

end


Well, actually it’s day 10 in the mundane world, so I’m still behind.  If I make the D9 blog short, maybe I can catch up with the D10 blog tonight.

Nine is for Death Spell #9.  The name kind of implies that there ought to be death spells one through eight and maybe ten and higher, but there aren’t.  The only one called a death spell in Tunnels and Trolls is Death Spell #9.  I must admit that the inspiration for the spell name came from the song “Love Potion #9”.

Death Spell #9 is a 9th level spell.  It has a range of 100 feet, although in retrospect I should have given it a range of 99 feet.  It happens instantaneously when the magic-user casts it.  The spell cost is 81 WIZ  points which is 9 times 9 for 9 times the deadliness.  You can power it up by making it harder to resist.  Death Spell #9 was a first edition spell, and it was more powerful back in the day.  It was meant to be the spell that would kill almost anything.  The spell description reads:  The target of the spell must make a L9SR on Luck or have all bodily functions cease at once, resulting in instant death for any living being. (DS9 doesn’t work on the undead or on non-living magically animated beings.)  The spell can only target one being at a time.  Before the 7th edition, that spell would kill anything less than a 10th level monster most of the time.  Now, however, the spell has been weakened.  It won’t affect a target with a higher WIZ rating than the caster, and the caster has to make a L9SR on INT or the spell fizzles and rebounds upon the caster.  That’s a serious drawback, and a player character would have to be pretty desperate to try casting the Death Spell #9.

When you see this sign, you die!

There’s another 9th level spell that has some 9s in it. Oddly enough, it’s a life spell called Pygmalion.  The WIZ cost is 99, and it happens instantly.  Yes, friends, it is quite possible to have attributes in Tunnels and Trolls of 99 and above.  You won’t start with anything that high, but you could get there in a year or two of play.  The caster can bring stone statues to life and turn them into playable characters.

If  you know any great connections with 9, please list them in the comments below, and come on back tomorrow when I will be a day late with the D10 section of this blog.

–end


Hah!

The D6 blog is, of course, about the D6–the six-sided die.

Dice are very important in role-playing games like Tunnels & Trolls.

Tunnels and Trolls is the original D6 roleplaying game.  When I first wrote it back in 1975, I had never seen any other form of dice.  You didn’t buy dice at a game store, back them.  You took them from other games–most notably Monopoly and Yahtzee, but sometimes from wargames like Battle of the Bulge or Civil War.  Even in my earliest dreams of T & T, I knew that dice would be important, and so I decided to use the most common dice of all, the six-sider that came in all my other games.

1D6 is what anyone gets in unarmed combat.  What really makes the difference is combat adds.

Tunnels and Trolls originally had only 6 attributes.  They were–in the order in which I thought of them–Strength, Intelligence, Luck, Constitution, Dexterity, Charisma.  And yes, that looks a lot like early Dungeons and Dragons.  The difference is that T & T has Luck, D & D has Wisdom.  There are also differences in how the attributes are used.  T & T uses the attributes directly in the saving roll process–your chance to succeed in anything is proportional to the magnitude of the attribute being tested.  Thus, T & T has more of a probablity factor in play that relates directly to the characters.

6 is also for 6 feet tall.  That’s the ideal height for a man, imho, and I used it as the basis of the height and weight chart in the early rules.  It also happens to be how tall I was back in the 70s when I still had a lot of hair on my head.  Now that I’m bald on top, my height has gone down to 5’11.75 inches.  Rats!

Come back on May 7 for the importance of 7 in Tunnels and Trolls!

–end


Welcome back to the Numerology of Tunnels and Trolls!

When it was all said and done, I realized that I left out an important 4 thing in Tunnels and Trolls.  In 7th edition  you learn that Magic can be divided into 4 schools: (1) Combat Magic  (2) Cosmic Magic  (3) Conjuring Magic, and (4) Metabolic Magic.

Combat Magic deals with all spells meant to be used to  harm foes.  Its most famous example is: the spell called Take That You Fiend!  TTYF does the caster’s INTelligence rating in damage to the foe’s CONstitution rating.  At higher levels it does multiples of the Casters INT in damage.

Cosmic Magic deals with all spells that have a direct effect on the ral universe including “divinatory”‘ magic.  Levitation is a cosmic spell.

Conjuring Magic deals with all spells that summon, banish, or control beings, substances, and energies.  Summoning Invisible Fiends is conjuring magic.

Metabolic Magic deals with all spells that directly affect character health or attributes.  Attributes in T & T are used much more directly than they are in D & D (and its many clones).  For this reason, metabolic magic could be called Constitutional Magic.  Although the 4 C’s of magic sounds pretty good, I used metabolic instead, as I didn’t want anyone to get confused and think the 4th type of magic dealt with writing political and governmental documents.  🙂

Now on to D5:

This is how T & T looked in its prime.

Five is for the classic 5th edition of Tunnels and Trolls.  Rewritten from my notes, organized, and mostly illustrated by Liz Danforth in 1979, back in the days when we honestly thought we might compete with Dungeons and Dragons and get into book and game stores all over the country, the 5th edition was the definative form of Tunnels and Trolls for about 25 years give or take half a year.  At the end of 2004 Rick Loomis decided to increase the size of the fifth edition and add a few new rules and articles.  Although the job didn’t get back from the printer until early 2005, edition 5.5 was conceived at the end of 5 times 5 years of plain old 5th edition.  Many gamers still consider 5th edition T & T to be the best and classic form of the game.

But the truth was we really needed something new to invigorate the game.  In 2005 Jason Kempton and the Fiery Dragon staff proposed a 30 year memorial edition.  They had an idea for a kind of miniatures game based on T & T which they would sell in one of their trademark tin boxes.  When I heard of this, I offered them a complete rewrite of the T & T  rule.  Jason very kindly allowed me to do that, and so the 7th edition of Tunnels and Trolls came into being.

5 can also be for Fifth Level spells which contains the all new Trollgod’s Blessing combat spell.  With little touches like this, I inject a tiny bit of my own wacky, chaotic personality into the rules.  I don’t know if the revered Mr.Arneson or Mr. Gygax ever did anything like that to their frp rules.  (I really haven’t read them.)  The Trollgod’s Blessing spell (created by Trollhalla member Mahrundl who lives in South Australia–isn’t the worldwide web wonderful?) has this description: A large club appears avove the head of the target and “blesses” him–that is, hits him on the head.  The club does 5D6 points of damage plus the caster’s personal adds.  Only head armor may absorb the damage from this effect.  If the caster fails his INT saving roll when trying to cast, the Trollgod’s Blessing hits the caster instead.

I think that’s pretty cool, and it would be absolutely hilarious in a game.

The Trollgod's Blessing just waiting to happen . . .

5 is also the number of Humans and humanoid races.  Human is a 5 letter word.  Oddly enough, Troll is also a 5 letter word.  So is Dwarf.  So is Fairy.  So is Hrogr–the real word for Ogre.  5 is an important number for kindred types.  Humans have 5 appendages on the body–1 head, 2 arms, 2 feet.  Each hand should have 5 fingers.  Each foot should have 5 toes.  5 is a prime number, and the only prime number that actually ends in 5. 

Come back again on May 6, and I’ll tell  you the importance of the number 6 in Tunnels and Trolls.

end

P.S.  Please feel free to point out any other numerical correspondences in your comments.  I write these blogs fairly fast, and it’s easy to miss things–even important things.

–Atroll