Friday, October 21, 2016

Iron Gods - The Choking Tower 1

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign - spoilers ahead.

Following their successful defeat of Hellion at Scrapwall, the party headed back to Torch before deciding what to do next. They had heard about another Iron God called Unity which Hellion sought to destroy. They also heard about Casandalee which Hellion thought of as a sister and who may have escaped from Unity with useful information on how to defeat him. Casandalee was believed to be an android and was last reported to be in what is now the town of Iadenveigh. Although Casandalee most likely died many decades ago, she was said to have a device called a neurocam which can record thoughts and might contain vital information about Unity.

The people of Iadenveigh were rather insular and particularly hostile to high technology. Still, the company was able to earn the cooperation of the town's self-appointed guardian, Iadrin "Redfang" Ashworth and Ivek Gunnett, a member of the town council. Gunnet had reason to believe a spy from the Technic League was in his town and requested that the party investigate. They uncovered clues that led them to a group of Varisian merchants. Rather than presenting their suspicions openly, the party decided to befriend the Varisians. After a couple of nights of interaction, they learned that one among the troupe, a dancer by the name of Ilarris Zeleshi, was a very recent addition. A dancer fit with the information they had and the party realized they had unmasked the spy. Zeleshi soon realized she'd been made and fled at the earliest opportunity. Nonetheless, Nils was able to follow her to a well that had been covered with a capstone. She entered the well, but not before setting off some sort of glyph. The party followed after her, but had to fight through a cloud of nanites.

At the bottom of the well, they found an opening that led into another part of the spaceship buried underground. They came upon a room with computer terminal that still had some power. After some experimentation, they were able to get a video playback of the room on the monitor. It showed a human leaning over the computer. He mentioned something about having charged the computer with a magic spell, but that he couldn't learn anything useful. The man seemed to be talking to an invisible companion whom he called Sahasho. The companion, in return, called the man Master Xoud. The video ended as the man exited the room. The party explored further and battled several deformed androids. They determined that the section of the ship they were in was an android foundry, although the damage it had sustained degraded the androids produced. They also caught up with Ilarris Zeleshi. She was wounded from the glyph and the nanites and they were able to subdue her without killing her. They tied her up for later retrieval.

Moving on, the party pushed its way through a collapsed and trapped section of the ship. Once across, they encountered a group of gearsmen who demanded the immediate surrender of Casandalee. Unsatisfied with the inability of the party to produce her, the gearsmen attacked. Fighting through the gearsmen, the party uncovers a nanotech lab. The lab showed evidence of recent activity including a section of floor tile that had been lifted, exposing what appeared to be a power conduit. The company is addressed by a disembodied voice, which they recognized as that of the invisible companion in the video playback they saw earlier. The creature, which they identified as an invisible stalker, asked if there was any news from Master Xoud and if they had come to release it from its service. When it became clear the party did not come to free it, the invisible stalker attacked. It proved a formidable foe, but the party prevailed. Casandalee may have been here at one time, but it appeared Master Xoud may have left with her remains some time ago. Deciding to move on, the party noticed another door with a sign saying "Canister Access" in Androffan and a bright orange sigil displayed prominently upon it. Until next time...


Monday, October 03, 2016

Iron Gods - Lords of Rust 3

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign - spoilers ahead.

The time had come for the final confrontation with Hellion. Nalakai came before the group who had decided to occupy the abandoned ratfolk warren and informed them that Hellion demanded their presence for the final initiation into the Lords of Rust. Smangtooth, Targus and Grendel answered the call, accompanied by two members of Redtooth's Raiders. The new members, a pair of ratfolk rogues named Kodo and Podo, were brothers who were highly skilled in robot fighting tactics. The five gathered at the arena and were led to an underground temple. Awaiting them were Nalakai's acolytes. They gathered before a large holographic projector which suddenly sprang to life revealing a hideous demonic figure - Hellion. The image spoke, ordering the group to kneel and prepare for the final test of faith. As the party knelt, Hellion cast an unholy blight upon them. Their agonized response revealed they were not evil and, therefore, not worthy followers. Hellion ordered Nalakai and the acolytes to attack. Though fanatical, Hellion's priests were no match for the group and were quickly dispatched. Nalakai joined Helskrag, Meyanda and Kulgara on the list of deceased Lords of Rust.

The party descended further into the structure beneath the arena. They battled other followers of Hellion, notably dark folk, orcs and another member of the Lords of Rust, the ettin, Draigs. She put up a respectable fight, but at this point, the company was not intimidated by the Lords and they slew her as ruthlessly as they had the others. After some exploration, the party realized they were exploring a huge, buried vehicle. They located another holographic projector which displayed the vehicle in its entirety, revealing it to be an enormous excavator. They also located the central processor and were able to install the inhibitor facet they had acquired earlier. This caused Hellion to terminate its connection with the central processor, but the damage was done. The AI was infected by the disruptive program, weakening it for the final battle to come.

The company exited the excavator and entered the caves around it. They came upon a cave with a pile of fairly fresh orc, ratfolk and human corpses with their torsos burst open. A crude painting of a red, four-armed demonic figure adorned the wall of the cave. Continuing on, they entered another chamber occupied by a figure appearing very much like the painting. The creature, a xill, introduced herself as Zagmaander, At last, the mysterious final member of the Lords of Rust was found. Zagmaander did not immediately attack. She indicated that she knew they were there to destroy Hellion and that she could assist them if they could help her. She was cursed to spend eternity in her cave unless someone could remove the curse. The party discussed it among themselves, but in fact, none of them had the ability to cast the remove curse spell. The xill reasoned that if she could not be freed, she would use them to implant more of her offspring, the same fate as that suffered by the corpses in the previous cave. Zagmaander swung her swords, fired her laser torch and even employed her paralyzing bite, but outnumbered 5-to-1, she didn't last long. She welcomed the release of death.

Finally, the company came upon their ultimate foe. At the far end of excavator, the giant bucket wheel protruded into a large cavern. Plenty of debris and partially-constructed robots lay about. A large scorpion-like robot rose up before them. Hellion had retreated to an arachnid robot chassis.

It opened fire on Smangtooth with its plasma beam as the ratfolk charged up to engage. Using its claws to fight the ratfolk and its plasma gun to strafe Smangtooth, Hellion fought hard. It concentrated its attacks on Smangtooth and being a divine creature with mythic power, it had many attacks. Smangtooth struck repeatedly with her chainsword, while Kodo and Podo teamed up, stabbing with their adamantine rapiers. Grendel and Targus followed up, surrounding the 'bot. Weakening quickly and still confused by the inhibitor facet, Hellion directed all its mythic attacks at Smangtooth. The orc barbarian was hideously battered, but still barely held on through sheer force of will as Podo drove home the killing blow. Unfortunately for Smangtooth, Hellion's robot chassis exploded. Everyone was caught in the blast, but for Smangtooth, it was too much. Her scorched body fell to the floor. Smangtooth was dead.

Good thing they still had that scroll of resurrection.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Iron Gods - Lords of Rust 2

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign, spoilers ahead.

After defeating the Smilers and rescuing Whiskifiss, the company paid a visit to the hangout of Redtooth's Raiders. Redtooth was greatly relieved to have her brother returned safe. The party learned that Redtooth and her gang were fighting a small-scale insurgency against the Lords of Rust. The party agreed to help and Redtooth told them she believed there were some explosives in a wreck of a small vessel in a fog-shrouded canyon at the far end of Scrapwall. She wanted to use the explosives to destroy the arena and the receiver array, two structures that were important to the Lords of Rust. The party agreed to retrieve the explosives.

To avoid the eyes of agents of the Lords, the party took an unwatched route guarded by a mutant manticore. They defeated the monster, but Smangtooth suffered a nasty radioactive bite resulting in a serious bout of radiation poisoning. Although she was weakened, Smangtooth and the rest of the party pushed on. The small ship was suffused in necromantic energy. The group fought shadows and skeletal champions before a final battle against a wraith. They acquired a number of useful items including three explosive charges and an inhibitor facet, a valuable weapon to use against artificial intelligences.

The party's exploits had finally attracted the attention of the Lords of Rust. Nalakai, a half-orc cleric of Hellion, came before them with an invitation from the Lords of Rust. Helskrag, the troll master of the arena, offered them a chance to join the gang in a trial by combat. They agreed to battle the following day only to find out they would be fighting Helskrag herself. Riding an enormous chariot pulled by two ogres, Helskrag charged toward them. As she closed on Smangtooth, she fired her autograpnel at Targus, embedding in his chest. Nils and Fact opened up on one of the ogres with laser rifle and alchemical bomb respectively. It proved too much for the ogre who staggered. The chariot crashed into Smangtooth, who was thrown twenty feet in the air, while Grendel moved up to engage in melee. A short, but bloody battle ensued. Nils concentrated his laser fire on the troll, knowing she could not regenerate the damage, while Smangtooth got to her feet and proceeded to dispatch the remaining ogre. Targus got mauled pretty good by Helskrag, but gave a good accounting of himself. In the end, they were battered, but victorious and offered membership in the Lords of Rust.

Fresh off their victory over Helskrag, the company was feeling confident. They had now slain two members of the Lords of Rust and were keen to collect another trophy. In accordance with the rules of the arena, they called out Kulgara, orc barbarian and leader of the gang.

She accepted the challenge and the next day, the group found themselves facing off in the arena against the orc leader and her elite ogrish bodyguards.The roar of the crowd and the rumbling of Kulgara's chainsaw was deafening as she started off by lobbing an inferno grenade. The group scattered to avoid the blast and the melee was on. Blood splattered everywhere as Kulgara's chainsword chewed into Smangtooth's flesh, but she gave as good as she got. Grendel battled two ogres, while Targus fought the other two. Fact and Nils concentrated their ranged attacks on Kulgara. Things looked bleak as Grendel went down from a massive strike by one of the ogres, but luck would smile upon the company at just the right time. A well-aimed blow from Smangtooth slipped past Kulgara's parry, crushing her skull and killing her instantly. Silence settled upon the crowd as Smangtooth picked up the chainsword, checked its heft, then slung it over her shoulder and walked away, leaving the orc warchief's ruin upon the field. Hellion awaits.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Is the Mythos becoming cool again?

I recently bought the first issue of the new Strange Aeons AP. It isn't the first Pathfinder AP to incorporate elements of the Cthulhu Mythos, but it is the first to use it as the central theme of the campaign. When I first became interested in tabletop rpgs back in the early 80s, Lovecraft's work was obscure and only the nerdiest among us knew of it, either through Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu game or the much sought after 1980 edition of the AD&D Deities & Demigods (which I have seen, but do not own). Sometime since then, Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos became widely known. Old Squidface himself eventually became this:
 Not exactly the epitome of cosmic horror Lovecraft intended.

Lately though, things seem to be turning around, although perhaps not for Cthulhu himself (besides, with Trump in the race, Cthulhu may actually be the lesser of two evils). The new star of the show seems to be Hastur; The Unspeakable One, Him Who Is Not To Be Named, The King in Yellow. I've always been a fan of Hastur, brooding in his cyclopean citadel of Carcosa on the shore of the Lake of Hali on a distant world in the Hyades star cluster, infiltrating the dreams of artists and poets with his dark visions.

The first mention of Hastur dates back to a short story by Ambrose Bierce called "Haïta the Shepherd" from 1893, although he was a benign god of shepherds back then. Hastur became much more menacing in Robert W. Chambers' 1895 anthology "The King in Yellow", a series of short stories in which a play of the same name appears in each story. The play is a source of great scandal, having the power to drive men mad. In this work, Hastur still wasn't fully developed and, in fact, the name seemed to refer more to a place than a creature. The next step in Hastur's evolution involved Lovecraft, who mentioned Hastur in his 1931 story "The Whisperer in Darkness". Although it was only a passing reference, it established Hastur as part of the Cthulhu Mythos. Finally, it was several stories by August Derleth, a contemporary of Lovecraft, which developed Hastur as he is thought of today, a Great Old One, spawn of Yog-Sothoth, half-brother of Cthulhu, the King in Yellow.

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.
Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.
—"Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

My first inkling of Hastur as the new hotness was the first season of the HBO series "True Detective". Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey play Louisiana detectives investigating several murders of women and children. They uncover a cult of prominent local citizens engaged in child abuse and murder. Throughout the series, there are repeated mentions of the Yellow King and a place called Carcosa.

Which brings me back to Pathfinder. In the Golarion campaign setting, the Cthulhu Mythos is called the Dark Tapestry which exists in the Void beyond the stars. In the Iron Gods AP, we learn more about the Dominion of the Black, an organization of emissaries who represent or serve the Dark Tapestry in some fashion. It was a confrontation with the Dominion that caused the alien ship to crash in Numeria. Next year, Paizo will be releasing a new space fantasy game called Starfinder and early indications are that the Dominion of the Black will be a major antagonist. I am eagerly awaiting this game to see what role the Cthulhu Mythos will play. Given Hastur's somewhat more cosmic fantasy horror style and new popularity, I hope and expect the Yellow King will figure prominently.

Hastur! Hastur! Hastur!


Sunday, September 04, 2016

Iron Gods - Lords of Rust 1

We begin the next chapter in our Iron Gods campaign; Lords of Rust. As always, spoilers follow.

The plans of the android cleric had been thwarted and the forge of Torch had been relit, but the city council were concerned that the danger to the city had only been temporarily defeated. So they summoned the company once again to offer them another commission. The offered 8,000 gp to remove the threat to Torch permanently. The party countered with a proposal of 10,000 gp, which was accepted. As the party left to prepare for their journey to Scrapwall, the Brigh cleric Jorum Kyte pulled them aside and asked a favour. He mentioned a friend named Dinvaya Lanalei, another cleric of Brigh who had been hiding in Scrapwall after running afoul of the Technic League. He requested that they make contact with her and let her know that the Technic League has lost interest in her and that she can come to Torch. In exchange for this communication (or a report of her death), Jorum offered his lesser rod of extend as reward. The party accepted the offer. They were off the next day.

It took several days of travel to reach Scrapwall. On the way, the party came upon a ruined keep known as Aldronard's Grave, a common stopover for crusaders heading north to the Worldwound. Expecting to find crusaders, instead they found horrors. A gang of cannibalistic thugs known as the Smilers had set up camp in the ruin. Named for the horrific facial disfigurements they inflict upon themselves, the Smilers had captured several followers of Saranrae and had already butchered and eaten some of the prisoners. Disgusted by what they witnessed, the party slaughtered the Smilers and freed the remaining prisoners, a paladin and three acolytes. Fortunately, the prisoners had overheard their captors' conversations. They had learned that a new gang called the Lords of Rust had taken over in Scrapwall. The Smilers and many of the other gangs had allied themselves with this new group. They also found out that one of the members of the Lords of Rust had recently been killed while on a mission which has proven a major setback to the plans of the group. In an effort to find out what happened, the Lords of Rust have started pushing their members to leave Scrapwall and investigate. That is why the Smilers were occupying Aldronard's Grave.

The next day, the company arrived at the main gate of Scrapwall. It was controlled by a gang called the Steel Hawks. They peacefully negotiated their entry and made contact with the leader of the group, a human named Sevroth Slaid. After satisfying herself that the party were not crusaders looking to cause trouble or Technic League spies, Sevroth warmed to the group and saw them as a way to deal with a problem she had. The Lords of Rust had installed a Smiler to lead the Steel Hawks. They were ruffians to be sure, but the Steel Hawks weren't cannibals and they wanted no part of Smiler depravity. If the company could destroy the Smiler leader, a ranger named Birdfood and his orcish lieutenants, Sevroth could resume control of the Steel Hawks and aid the party in any way she could.

The company devised an elaborate plan to provide poisoned ale to Birdfood's orcs, but it proved difficult to manage and in the end, just decided to have Fact pose as a capo of the Smilers and drop off a keg of ale to the orcs in hope that they would be too inebriated to resist. After much hilarity as an android posing as a gangster convinced a bunch of orcs to accept the keg as a gift from Marrow, the head of the Smilers, the orcs accepted and as expected, got drunk. The next morning, the company showed up again with another keg. This time the orcs eagerly let them in without much scrutiny and were promptly massacred. Birdfood was also killed in the melee and the company earned some respect among the gangs, "scrap-worth" as it is referred to by the people of Scrapwall.

After making contact with Dinvaya Lanalei and passing along Jorum's message, the party decided to reveal to Sevroth that they were in Scrapwall to investigate the events that occurred in Torch and it seemed the Lords of Rust were involved. They asked how they could find the Lords of Rust. Sevroth suggested that if they earned enough scrap-worth, the Lords of Rust would seek them out. She went on to suggest taking out Marrow, the necromancer boss of the Smilers, as one way to earn some. So, without hesitation, they headed off to take out the cannibal Smilers once and for all. The front door, chained from the inside and covered by a mounted laser rifle proved one of the biggest challenges. Eventually Smangtooth, aided by Targus and an enlarge person spell from Augusto, was able to break through but not before several party members got scorched. The party then mowed through more than two dozen of Marrow's minions including Smiler gang members and various weird zombie-like creations, some living, some undead.

Finally, Marrow herself, was slain and a great deal of loot was recovered. The company also released a prisoner, a ratfolk named Whiskifiss. He said he was the brother of Redtooth, leader of Redtooth's Raiders, a ratfolk gang of some repute in Scrapwall. It seemed another useful ally had just been acquired.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Iron Gods - Fires of Creation 5

Continuing with our Iron Gods campaign, as always, there will be spoilers.

The next day, the company headed out to Garmen Ulreth's warehouse to confront him on his activities. They decided to use the direct approach, walking right up to the door and knocking. One of Ulreth's men answered the door, but refused to allow them in and told them to go away. Smangtooth took umbrage at that and proceeded to smash in the door. This led to a brief battle between the group and Ulreth and his men. Ulreth proved to be little challenge. The party then searched the building, uncovering the item they sought. It wasn't a magic item at all, rather it was a power relay, taking energy from a source somewhere inside Black Hill, amplifying it and transmitting it to a location somewhere off to the northeast. Further examination revealed the destination to be Scrapwall, a lawless region several days travel from Torch. Targus decided to shut down the power relay, assuming this would be necessary to restart the forge.

The company then headed back to the caves. With the coupling for the elevator repaired, they were able to activate it. Only one destination was available, the engineering deck, so that is where they went. The encountered a group of orcs and ratfolk who battled hard, but ultimately proved little threat to the group. Moving on, they came to a large domed chamber. A machine with a large holographic projection showing the habitat section of the ship shared the room with some bizarre statue of an upraised claw made of broken bits of technology. The statue has the appearance of a crudely-built altar to some unknown deity. As they examined the room, a hulking gargoyle entered. The gargoyle was covered in bits of broken technology. Despite its fearsome appearance, the gargoyle was defeated easily. The reactor core and a final confrontation awaited beyond a pair of immense black metal doors.

At the heart of the room was two huge cylinders pulsing with violet light. Hovering around them was a collector robot which moved down to attack, while the purple-haired woman fired some sort of crude laser pistol from a platform above. A tough battle followed. The purple-haired woman was revealed to be an android and a cleric. As she died, she called out to a god she called Hellion.

With the defeat of the android cleric, the company was able to disable the power transmitter that was feeding energy to the relay in Ulreth's warehouse. This re-engaged a fail-safe venting system that provided the fire to the forge. Torch was saved...for now.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Iron Gods - Fires of Creation 4

We proceed with the next chapter of our Iron Gods campaign, spoilers ahead.

It took some effort getting Khonnir Baine and Sanvil Trett back up to the surface, but eventually they managed. The Brigh cleric, Joram Kyte, examined Baine. With healing magic, he was able to cure Baine's wounds and temporarily recover his faculties, but some sort of infection continued to ravage his body and mind. The infection resisted Kyte's magic, suggesting it was some sort of nanite disease requiring a technological cure. Thinking back over their time in the ship, the party recalled that each of the passageways into the habitat dome had a small room with some sort of spray apparatus, which could have been a decontamination chamber.

The next day, with Joram's help, they got Khonnir into sufficiently good shape to make the journey back into the caves. They took him to the room which, they hoped, would heal him. Targus and Smangtooth were able to get the machine working and Khonnir was sprayed. They promptly returned to the surface to wait and see if the nanite infection was removed.

Meanwhile, Sanvil Trett had regained consciousness and was willing to talk in exchange for leniency. He indicated that he had once worked for the Technic League, but had fallen into disfavour and was hoping to find something here in Torch that he could present to his former employers to get him back in their good graces. He said before the company had come along and started bringing technological artifacts out of the caves, he had actually been more interested in Garmen Ulreth, a prominent local businessman and owner of Silverdisk Hall, a gambling house. Trett mentioned that he had been spying on Ulreth and overheard mention of a new business partner and the arrival of a valuable magic item which would be stored in his warehouse until a buyer could be arranged. Trett was fairly certain whatever Ulreth was up to had something to do with the extinguishing of the torch.

That night, as he slept in preparation for the next day and a confrontation with Garmen Ulreth, Targus had a vivid dream. Great battles fought on distant worlds, flying ships, titanic war machines, powerful magic and advanced technology, men in armour fighting horrific monsters and hatred of an ancient enemy known simply as the Dominion of the Black. Targus snapped awake and instinctively reached for his sword. The strange black blade he had carried for years, indeed, he could not clearly recall a time when he did not have it, nor could he recall where he got it. The sword now displayed a string of dimly-glowing red runes along the whole length of the blade. Targus could sense its consciousness at the edge of his own. Two had become one.


Iron Gods - Fires of Creation 3

Continuing with our Iron Gods campaign, as before, there are spoilers ahead.

The death of Edvin was a grievous blow to the party. They mourned his passing, but were gladdened that he had joined the Lady of Graves in the afterlife. Fact informed the group that he had personal obligations to attend to and would meet up with them at a later date. This combined with the loss of Edvin left the company dangerously short of men. So they turned to a woman...sort of. During their time in Torch, the party had met many of the locals including an orcish giantess named Smangtooth. Though orcs are generally viewed poorly in these parts, Smangtooth was more than capable of discouraging the local thugs and had kept out of trouble in town long enough to earn a grudging amount of acceptance. Her fighting prowess and surprising degree of expertise in technology made her highly valued by the company and she was invited to join.

Descending once again into the caves of Black Hill, the party proceeded to the one remaining door they had not yet entered. They came into a large room with a desk and some glowing panels and patches of mould. More importantly, a dried blood stain covered the floor near a set of double doors. After looting the room of everything of value, they followed the trail of blood. Eventually, the came to some sort of lab containing many rock and soil samples. Featured prominently in the room was a humming machine containing a flickering sphere of reddish-brown mud. As the company examined the device, a hideous creature emerged from the shadows.

Augusto, having some learning of such things, identified it as an alien horror from a distant world called a cerebric fungus. Luck smiled upon the company as they did not succumb to the weird mind-altering powers of the creature and they were able to kill it without loss of life.

With a sense that they were close to uncovering the fate of Khonnir Baine, the party pressed on. Following the blood trail, they eventually came upon a chamber that may have once served as a hospital of some sort, but had recently seen a great deal of violence as blood splatters could seen everywhere. A medical robot and a collector robot occupied the room. 

In violation of their standard operational protocols, the two robots attacked with great ferocity. By this point, the party had some experience fighting robots. They eventually succeeded in destroying the aggressive robots. With a moment to catch their breath, they could hear muffled screams. The noise came from a large metal pod in one end of the room. Opening it up, they found Khonnir Baine, alive, but badly wounded and clearly delirious. They administered to him as best they could, but he clearly needed more healing magic than they could provide. They decided to check out the remaining parts of the ship in case some useful medical technology might be found. During their exploration, they encountered a group of vegepygmies, the spawn of the unfortunate party of Brigh worshippers who made up the fourth expedition. They had apparently ran afoul of some russet mould, probably mutated by the weird fluids that oozed and pooled in parts of the ship.

They also came upon a small chamber which appeared to be a transport device of some sort. The device did not work, but after some study and a few nasty electrical shocks, Nils was able to remove a piece of equipment that needed to be repaired to return function to the device. He figured Baine could probably repair the part once he was returned to health.

Having found nothing that could cure Khonnir Baine of whatever it was that ailed him, the party headed out. As they passed through the large cavern where the skulks once lived, they were set upon by a group of men with swords and crossbows. The leader of the brigands was a hooded figure of some prowess with both sword and spell. The battle was hard-fought, and the struggle between Smangtooth and the bandit leader was particularly ferocious. In the end, the company was victorious, though all were bloodied. The bandit leader lay on the ground, bleeding, but not yet dead. Nils moved to attend to the villain in order to keep him alive for questioning and trial. Pulling back the hood, the bandit leader was revealed to be Sanvil Trett, a local technology merchant the party had met a few days before. He had offered his services if the party wished to identify or sell technological items they found. Hopefully, he would have some useful information to barter in exchange for his life.