Friday, February 24, 2012

Carrion Crown: Broken Moon pt. 1

A week passed, and Aldarion decided to remain at Count Caromarc for further studying (yes, his player had to cancel in the last moment) leaving Mutt the barbarian, Edgar the cleric, Vincent the sorcerer and Galfür the inquisitor to fend for themselves, as they rode towards Shudderwood. Before they left, the count had told them that he knew the Whispering Way, a notorious cult of devius necromancers, headed towards the gloomy forest. What they sought in there was uncertain, but the count was quite convinced that they would make their way past the old hunting lodge ”Ascanor”. Ordinarily visited only by the high nobility with a taste for hunt, Ascanor was the sole remaining bastion of civilization in the wilds.
The most reasonable thing, the count said, would be to ride to the south-east and follow the old hunting trail into the forest. From there, it was a three day journey in quick pace till they would reach the lodge.

So the heroes bit him and The Beast goodbye and rode towards the black carpet of trees on the horizon. Along the way, they made stop at the small trading outpost of Edgewood and spent some of their hard earned cash removing Mutt's and Galfür's negative levels. (Edgewood is not 'official' Carrion Crown, but a small element I added myself. Seeing as the players are currently unwanted in Lepidstadt after their actions in Trial of the Beast, this seemed to be the fastest way forward.)

Talking to an old, drunken priest of Shaundakul, he informed them that the merchants around would possibly have some items that could help them on their journey. As everyone knew, Shudderwood housed plenty of perils, including the notorious werewolf tribes. A lot of noble travelers passed through town these days, and one in particular had made sure to buy their entire stock of Wolfbane (this was Duristan, as the players would later find out). Some also claimed to have seen noble woman pass by, likely heading for the lodge.

The heroes stocked up on silver and a new wand of cure light wounds before heading out. With only but a few rumors to go on, they decided to deal with things as they appeared, although the view of Shudderwood wasn't exactly an inviting one. The tall pine trees nearly blocked out the sun, leaving the still blanket of needles on the sandy ground barely visible. The occasional gust of wind would gently dance through the stems but swiftly die out, as if some force was severely preoccupied by stopping every kind of movement. Various small animals were quick to take cover and the birds took to the skies as the party gently rode in on the old hunting trail. There was no doubt that the forest was old, judging from the various brown and green lichens, moss and fungi clinging to the roots among the undergrowth.
Being careful not to make any unnecessary noise, the heroes progressed for about an hour and then suddenly heard a woman screaming for help. It was followed by a rough laughter from a man.
Immediately, Mutt dismounted and headed after the voice. Same did his companions, albeit with a certain degree of reluctance. The screams grew louder, after all, and they couldn't bring themselves to ignore a woman in need.
They suddenly found an old torn dress on the ground and went to investigate it. At that time, sticky webs exploded right at them, and four chittering ettercaps descentet from the trees, hungrily looking at their trapped prey (here's an interesting piece of trivia for you; according to sources, the word 'Ettercap' derives from the Danish words 'Edderkop' which means 'spider'). With Edgar, Galfür and Vincent all being entangled, Mutt went into berserker rage and unleashed hell upon them. Even when they managed to get in a few hits, the mighty fortitude of the barbarian was more than enough to keep the incapacitating venom at bay. The few who attempted to escape were either cut down by reach weapons or burned to death by a flaming sphere before they got that far. The heroes emerged victorious, even though Vincent managed to lose a solid bunch of dexterity due to the Ettercap-poison.

As they recuperated, they all suddenly noticed a strange harp-like melody on the air. It was faint, as if coming from further within the forest. Never being one for curiosity left alone, Mutt immediately decided to sneak after it, and with a hopeless sigh Galfür followed. Deciding for the more cautious way, the sorcerer and cleric decided to stay about 25 feet behind them.
And thus the journey went onwards into the deeper reaches of the wild. The haunting melody grew in intensity, and eventually became really pleasing to their ears. In fact, so pleased that Mutt unconsciously speeded up and soon after reached a clearing in which the ruins of an old watchtower rested. With the rest of his group opting for the more careful approach, the barbarian immediately set into a fascinated sprint and entered the tower. Galfür vainly attempted to constrain him, and realized the only way to get the barbarian out would be to go in after him.

As the heroes caught sight in the dusty darkness, they were shocked to find several thick silky strands of web decorating the walls and floor. In their midst, several cocoon-like objects lay lifeless, containing things best left to imagination. To the far north, an old hole had been primitively dug out in the stone floor.
”Mutt,” Galfür said ”why are you doing this? Why that stupid gaze in your eyes? We should get out of here!” The dwarf didn't like that melody. Not one bit. It seemed to originate from the hole.
Edgar and Vincent remained close to the entrance, and carefully inspected the strands of web. They were unlike anything they had previously encountered. Light and elegant, as if spun by a true artist.
”Mutt, god dammit! Get out!” Galfür sneered. Then he suddenly noticed.


The music had stopped.
Instead he noticed a slight trembling sound as if something huge was approaching.
”GET OUT!” he yelled and tried to pull Mutt out of the tower, but in vain. The barbarian was too keen to investigate further. He was distracted, however, by the thundering approach of a towering abomination emerging from the hole, with the shape of a huge worm, carrying a woman's deformed face and torso, wildly flaying long purple tentacle-like arms from side to side. With a shriek, she hurled a net at the barbarian and began pulling him closer.
Galfür furiously drew arms and attacked the beast, splattering gore and blood all over himself. It howled in pain, which only served to increase its furor. Vincent hurled a scorching ray towards it, but managed to inflict only moderate damage. As the beast finally came within reach of the barbarian, it dug its long, poison secreting nails deeply into his shoulder. With a natural 1 on his fortitude save, Mutt was paralyzed and it hungrily picked him up in its claws. Hammering it for another round with rays, acid and bane weapons, the remaining three party members failed to down the creature, and it impaled Mutt in a howling coup de grace, tossing his mutilated corpse into a corner.


Galfür sliced the beast for a very grave wound and Vincent managed to roll near maximum damage on his rays, blowing off the head of the beast. It fell to the floor with a loud thud and a filthy gurgling sound. As silence settled over the room, the heroes gracefully loaded Mutt on to their horses and searched the room. Finding a collection of assorted coins they also dug up a ring of feather falling and a potion of heroism. In another cocoon a relatively fresh corpse was discovered, carrying a bloody invitation for Ascanor Lodge. It appeared to belong to a minor noble called Echtmoor Dravin, who was to arrive a week ago. They did realize, however, that going on into the wilds without Mutt would likely be suicide, so they decided to head back to Edgewood trade post and recover.

(There’s misprint in the original adventure, giving the worm a +18 to initiative. This is wrong. It’s only +8 according to Paizo forum)

With the reward from Count Caromarc and selling some of their old magical items, they managed to raise enough money for a Raise Dead as well as a Restoration for one of his negative levels. However, as the barbarian had recently recieved an alleviation of a negative levels through these means, the party had to wait in Edgewood for a week, in which they decided to shop and do some crafting. Among others, they got their hands on a Cloak of Resistance +2.During their second stay, they also had the opportunity to do some asking around among the traders and hunters, about the blood-soaked invitation, and this Echtmoor Dravin. After many purchase mugs they finally learned that he was a good friend of Cilas Graydon.  Margrave and retired military commander. But even in retirement, his strategic opinions held great value to the Palatine Council. Last time anyone heard, he was heading for Ascanor Lodge as well.

As prepared as they could possibly be, they now headed back into the breach...

Shudderwood, take two!

Deciding to ignore any woman crying for help from then on, they rode for two days without any significant event happening. Only around noon on the third day, they encountered a strange sight within the depths of the forest. It looked like a man around his best age, being tied up to a tree with tight bonds. He was obviously dead and naked, bruised and pale. His mouth was full of a purple sort of flower, and a silver dagger had pierced his heart.
Cautiously looking at each other, the heroes decided that what was in his mouth was Wolf's bane. The poisonous herb often used to treat the contagion of lycanthropy. Mutt slowly got off his horse and went to inspect the victim more closely. As he did so, he suddenly sprung a pressure plate in the forest floor, triggering a hailstorm of silver bolts from the numerous crossbows hidden among the trees. The crossbows even managed to score a critical hit, nearly sending the Barbarian to his death once again (I'm frankly happy it was the HP-sponge who did this, as two consecutive character deaths so early in the adventure would have been demoralizing for the group, so say the least).

Coughing up a stream of blood, Mutt stood quite still while Egdar healed him with the power of Gond. Meanwhile, Galfür carefully searched the area and decided that a group of people had been here and shuffled around with the traps some time ago. Obviously, whoever had done this wanted to send a signal to...someone. Nonetheless, they decided to grab the herbs, which netted them a total of three wolfbane-doses. And then they moved on, pretty much agreeing not to touch anything in this forest till they reached their destination.
On the final day, there was much rejoice as the heroes reached the deep heart of the forest; the elite hunting retreat known as Ascanor. From their view, it resembled a majestic two-story building in classic architectural style. A couple of smaller buildings surrounded it and indicated stables as well as sheds, minor lodging houses and so on. Around the entire complex, a palisade of wood thickly screened much activity off from the outside world, leaving a large gate as the only entrance. As afternoon was quickly approaching, the heroes approached swiftly.

As they reached the gate they were stopped by a couple of guards. They seemed confused, especially since they hadn’t been noticed about any new arrivals. When showed the letters of recommendations from Count Caromarc, they were initially befuddled and decided to send for Belik, the lodge’s porter. A neatly dressed halfling showed up and slowly read over the documents before looking up at them over his glasses.
“I am still not quite sure of the intention behind your visit,” he began, barely hiding a frown “except for your names. Which clearly indicates that we haven’t been informed of your arrival.”
“Yes, it was quite a recent decision, I assure you,” Vincent said “nonetheless it’s really important that we get in and are allowed to stay for a while. You must understand that we are on an urgent mission for the Count.”
“A mission that is strangely enough mentioned in these papers?”
“…so the Count made a mistake, you say?”
“Oh no, not in any way, good Sir. I am sure the Count has his paperwork and intention most sincere. It’s you people I truly worry about. Judging from your look, you honestly seem like…trouble.”
“So, what do you want us to do? Ride back to Castle Caromarc and inform the Count that he needs to be more specific?”
Belik lighted up in a poisonous smile. “What a MAR-velous idea, young man. Now, if you’ll be off, I have other duties to attend t—“
“This is important!” Edgar interrupted, sourly. “You need to let us in, we are in good graces with the Count and much is at stake here!”
“What exactly is it you want here?” Belik annoyingly asked, eyeing them suspiciously. As they looked around, the heroes noticed a large crowd of people had gathered on the other side of the gate, attracted by the loud voices and now taking in the show.
“We’re looking for someone,” Vincent said and waved a hand dismissively “now, will you please-“
“Who?”
“…who?”
“Yes, Who? Who are you seeking so desperately?”
“We’d be more than happy to tell you more about it once you let us in.”
“No. No, I don’t think so. I am commissioned by most noble Estovion Lozarov to keep this place free of troublemaking scum such as you, and I am not letting anyone in before I am absolutely assured they carry no ill intentions towards us OR our guests. Are you going to tell me what you’re doing here or not?”
The heroes briefly looked at each other.
“We’re looking for the ‘Whispering Way’. We believe they’ve headed through here!” Vincent suddenly said, loudly. Everything felt silent. Belik stared at them. This time, confusion was his.
“The whispering what?” he mumbled.
“Cultists,” Edgar said. “Men, likely clad in black with a sinister appearance. They would likely have been through here some time during the last couple of weeks. Have you seen them?”
“I…” the halfling began, nervously twitching. He didn’t need any further reply this time. It was no match for the heroes to detect his knowledge of this subject. “Yes,” he finally croaked. “Yes they were here… but, what you seek is no longer here. They left. I do not know where to, but you should do the same now and le—“

Suddenly, additional shouting broke the scene.
“For the last time, Duristan” a rough, worn voice shouted “I will take you there, but I ain’t bringing my dogs!”
“All fine and well, Delgros,” a younger and quite more energetic voice replied “with our combined cunning no werewolf in these woods should ever feel safe. Why would we even need dogs?”
Breaking through the crowd was another, yet minor, gathering. Led on by a person best described as ‘seasoned’, wearing brown and green clothes, a black beard and a mighty bow of a huntsman, he shook his head and said “Don’t get cocky, really. One day it will get the better of you.” Judging from his rough voice, he was the one called Delgros.


Besides him, escorted by six less incompetent looking men, was a smiling man whose enthusiasm was doubtlessly higher than his looks. With thin brown hair and a long pale face, he didn’t express the noble traits of the other guests, nor the battle hardened looks from the warriors and hunters. He kept on talking in his high fast voice, pointing out how fine a day it was for another good hunt. According to logic, this would be Duristan.

“Alright then,” the younger man conceded “if you don’t feel sure about this, we’ll bring more sword arms. You there!” he vigorously pointed at the heroes. “Fall in, we need as much as we can get. We’re hunting werewolves!”
“I DIDN’T say it was werewolves, per se” Delgros said, slowly getting annoyed. “Just that something big with claws had been out there. It could be anything around here!”
“A werewolf, yes. So, are you gentlemen in?”

The heroes blankly stared at eachother in fascinated horror. Not really sure who to take initiative, Vincent looked at their newest patron and gently coughed.
“Well, yes,” he began “but you should know that we, of course, won’t be added to the common staff.” He sent the six followers a short gaze.
Duristan stared at them for some seconds. Then the penny dropped.
“You’re ADVENTURERS!” he almost gasped. A grin wide enough to cut off his ears spread on his face. “Blessed be us! Did you hear, Delgros?”
“Yes”
“These people have come from afar to aid us in our struggles against the werewolves! Truly, this will be glorious! Are you staying overnight, good sirs?”
“Well,” Edgar said and sent Belik a narrowed gaze. Duristan joined in.
“Are you giving these fine people trouble, Mr. Belik?” he asked.
“No, Sir Duristan. But regulations are regulations and we must see to-“
“Listen up! Do whatever your regulations and rules require of you, but whether or not you intend to let these noble heroes in, they WILL be staying as my guests tonight. And you can tell Estovion that I said so. Do I make myself clear?”
“Perfectly, Mr. Duristan”
“Good. Now,” the young man folded his fingers and turned towards the heroes. “Care for a thrilling hunt?”


On hunting we will go

And so the hunting party set out through the dimness of Shudderwood. They travelled for several hours, with the party mainly splitting its social attention between the front row, in which Delgros solemnly led the way through the sparse trails and the back. Here Duristan happily made sure to tell Vincent about his time in Shudderwood and the successful werewolf kills he’d gained so far. He even told them of a new trap put up the other day, which he really hoped had netted him another good kill.
Asking about more information about the werewolves of Shudderwood, he told the heroes that they were currently separated into five different clans, each usually keeping to its own territory of the woods. Although each clan had a leader of sorts, that would usually make sure to keep them in rank, something of late had stirred unease amidst their ranks, and lately there had been a lot of aggression between them. Luckily, Ascanor Lodge had yet remained untouched. And if they’d ever try and make a move on it, he would make sure they wouldn’t get far. He proudly pointed to the old pelt hanging around his shoulder and smiled. Mutt knew, however, that werewolves always turned into their human form upon death, but chose to keep his mouth shut.

Up front, Delgros wasn’t much for small talk, but Edgar made an attempt none the less. He shortly told them that he was Ascanor’s hunts master, officially appointed to lead many of the noble guests on their hunt. The life around the lodge usually didn’t interest him much, instead he preferred to captivate and arrange hunts for truly exotic beasts. When asked, he couldn’t reveal much about the life around the lodge. People pretty much came and went, and Delgros didn’t bother who they were or what they wanted. He arranged the hunt, nothing else.
He was also aware of the recent uprising among the werewolves of the forest and that the clans were fighting internally due to an unknown reason. Not much was in general known about them, he told. Plenty of rumors told about an ancient place, somewhere in the forest, where they would usually meet and hold council. It was supposed to be sacred to them and bear the name “The Stairs of the Moon” but Delgros wasn’t exactly sure where it was. If the heroes were interested, he recommended checking out the old library once they got back to the lodge.

After a couple of hours dusk was about to fall, and the party reached a small clearing in the forest. According to Duristan, Delgros had led a hunt of a golden buck earlier this day, but found it horribly slaughtered inside this clearing. The mere sight was too horrible for the guests who fled back to the lodge, but in the ears of a trained hunter (such as Duristan) this was an obvious case of werewolf attacks. Werewolves that needed to be put down.
Excitement ended, however, once their gazes had franticly searched for the corpse of the buck for some seconds. Only a very large pool of blood remained.
“It’s…gone?” Delgros said. “Someone took it?”
“Don’t worry,” Galfür said and began looking around. “They didn’t exactly take great care to hide their tracks. You can even see the obvious prints in the ground. Paws from dire wolves, if I recognize correctly. And look, these could be from very large boars. Dire boars perhaps?”
Duristan nodded. “Most likely,” he said “let’s find out!”

Together, they set out on the trails of blood and soon after heard a grunting in the bushes. Jumping the dire boars, the party quickly annihilated them, especially thanks to two fireballs soon after spreading the sweet smell of bacon across the forest. As they then noticed, the boars were feasting on the remains of the buck, but closer inspection revealed that it originally dies from severe lacerations, likely from claws. This was enough to convince Duristan to remain here during the night and set up a trap if the werewolves were to return. Delgros, however pointed out the folly in this and thought enough was enough. He took what he could from the boars and then headed back home to the lodge. Duristan on the other hand, ambitiously instructed his followers to set up camp and lay the perimeter with silver-inlaid traps for their special guests.
From his own bag, he dug out a good flask of brandy with some glasses, and invited the heroes to sit down and tell more of their great deeds.

And so then evening went by, the heroes told Duristan about their adventure in Ravengro and the cleansing of Harrowstone. He listened wide-eyed and full of attention, and the bottle of brandy quickly emptied. There was no doubt that the young hunter nurture a deep fascination with the heroic tales and accomplishments told by heroes from across the world, and he more than often remarked how much he wished he could have been part of it.

They also had the chance to ask him about the Whispering Way. Duristan didn’t recognize the name, but he did seem to recollect Quiene, the stable master, talking about some sinister looking men with black robes, arriving some weeks ago. One of them apparently had a wicked looking creature on his shoulder. He didn’t recollect much she said, except that she saw the hunter Ostovach follow them one of the nights inside the grounds. They might consider talking to either of them. As far as he knew, Ostovach accompanied Markiza Welgory on an erotic adventure to the lodge. As he remarked, this was quite interesting, taken into consideration that the markiza was married.
He also showed them his ‘wolf ward’. An exotic looking scar on his shoulder that a local witch had blessed upon him. It was said to protect anyone wearing it from the curse of lycanthropy. If the heroes were interested, he’d be more than happy to introduce them.

As the heroes were about to begin on their tale from Lepidstadt, they suddenly heard a loud scream from the darkness. Not long after, another one emerged from the opposite direction. They had company.
Buffing up with spells, they all set out to the east and soon after found and flayed carcass of two of Duristan’s followers. A towering lycanthrope looked up with deep, glowing yellow eyes and sneered. They set upon it with a vengeance.


Not long after, another werewolf joined the fray, managing to inflict a deep bite in Galfür’s shoulder. The party, however, had their preparations in order and met the werewolves with a heavy armament of silver, and with their magical buffs the beasts soon met their demise. Upon its death throes, the female uttered “Your efforts are meaningless! Go tell whoever sent you to stay out of wolf affairs! Let him know that his dealings with Mathus Mordrinacht and the Silverhide pack do not sit well with the other tribes of this wood..there shall be much blood spilled between our kin before a Silverhide packlords sits upon the Highthrone. Mathus the betrayer shall never claim the title, and should you and yours continue to support him, the wrath of the wolf packs shall fall upon him! Now leave our territory and return to your cozy wooden den…or share the same fate…as these…poor…little…sheep….”
As she succumbed to her wounds, the heroes heard a wailing carpet of wolf-howls spreading among the trees. It sounded as if it got closer. At this time, Duristan slowly backed away and mumbled “I think it’s about time we got out of here…”
Mutt nodded and said “I think you’re right. Let’s go!”

Thus they ran as fast as they could back towards the lodge and arrived a couple of hours later. It was dark, but they clearly saw the shape of Belik the halfling waiting outside with a small tray with drinks. A lot of pride had apparently been swallowed by the porter, as he smiled slyly and greeted them. He apologized deeply for the embarrassing misunderstanding before, and that he would like them, on personal invitation from lodge-warden Estovion, to stay as long as they wished. In fact, the warden would be pleased to see them and bit them welcome right away. So if they would be so kind as to follow him?

Duristan smiled and told them to head on. He would catch up with them later in their rooms.
And so the heroes gathered their belongings and headed off through the gates of Ascanor Lodge, unaware of the adventures waiting on the inside.

To be continued this Wednesday.

(As you might’ve noticed, there have been surprisingly few GM comments this time around. This is mostly because there isn’t really that much to say and I ran this segment very close to the book. The few things I could comment on, would likely be spoilers and since some of my players read this blog, I am saving them for the end.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Descent: Giants

Next in the line of Descent miniatures is the Giant. In fact there are two of them, and usually I’d aim for a photo of them side by side. I’ll have to admit, though, that this fucker gave me a lot of trouble and I imagine it’s due to a latent hatred of this monster. I’m pretty certain that giants have killed me more than any other creature in Descent: Road to Legend, perhaps with the exception of Gold Skeletons.

He turned out to be much more cartoonish at first, even though I wanted him to be a bit grimdark initiatlly. I had to repaint the entire upper body, and even in this case I don’t like how his flesh turned out. There is too much of it, and I wasn’t really skilled enough to layer it sufficiently. So it had to work with a simple layering on the outer points, and that’s it. Pretty much the entire model gave me shit, so I don’t think I’ll ever return to it. Even the blood turned out feeble.
For the same reason, the base is purely experimental. I made some mushrooms and bricks in greenstuff and added a tiny running river. This I’m quite happy with. The healing potion (yes, it’s a potion) is…well, experimental. They aren’t even red in Descent.
ANYWAY,
I can’t be bothered by it anymore. After all, Descent doesn’t hold the same standards of miniature standards as Warhammer, in my eyes. As long as they look good in the brief time they’re on the table, I’m happy. Sort of like painting the D&D miniatures.
Coming up next: Hellhounds, I imagine.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Carrion Crown: Trial of the Beast pt. 6

Despite the fatal defeat and sacrifices made last week, the heroes were eager to begin this time around and we managed to start an early session.
Making their way back outside the guard house, they happily realized that Aldarion had recovered from his almost-fatal-wounds and was ready to push on. When asked about Grendell the three heroes stood in solemn silence before breaking the bad news. Grendell the Halfling was not coming back.
So in deep sorrow, they all set back into Castle Caromarc. It was 2:00 PM, so the sun still illuminated the tall, majestic buildings rising above the roaring waterfalls below. An eerie silence dwelled in the long corridors, only interrupted by the echoing steps from carefully moving boots. Without Grendell, the heroes were well aware that any upcoming traps posed a significant danger.
Moving on to the third door upstairs, besides the personal chamber of the Count, they had a strange encounter. A sturdy dwarf, gagged and tied to an overturned bed, was angrily stomping his foot into the floor. Once released, he presented himself as Galfûr, travelling merchant and courier from Cormyr. Apparently, he was sent on a mission to Castle Caromarc with a valuable crate for the Count only, but alas he was ambushed and robbed by the Cult of the Whispering Way, shortly upon arrival. Luckily, he managed to hide some of his most vital equipment and through some scavenging; he accumulated additional possessions from the castle. Galfûr expressed his desire to join arms with the heroes and search for his lost package and get revenge on the necromancers who jumped him. He proudly identified himself as a most noble member and inquisitor of the Church of Waukeen, ready to aid them in their quest.
(There may be some loose ends in this whole explanation, but then again I really hate letting players sit back and wait too long before they’re back into the game. It might make sense that he originally fled, attempted to hide some of his possessions, but was then knocked unconscious, since the cult didn’t perceive him as any significant threat.)
With their new comrade in arms, the party moved on and searched the small rooms below. They mainly consisted of recreational themes, such as a smoking room and a billiard room, some containing minor treasures they decided to take along. In the dining room they found some masterwork halberds along with a secret door to the north. Beyond it they found another bridge, leading to the second complex. Mutt, not wanting to take many chances, gently moved to the other side and opened the door.
The only thing left was rubble from what had likely been an alchemist-lab once. Now, a severe explosion had blasted everything into pieces, including large parts of the wall, and in the floor several gaping holes were easily spotted. Whereas it would likely hold the weight, any significant strain or exposure to fire, had the potential to send anyone falling for 200 feet towards the roaring waterfalls below.
Bringing some rope along, the barbarian immediately decided to tie it on to an old part of the western wall, so his friends on the other side of the bridge had something to hang on to, in case they should fall.
Alas, he didn’t notice the chirping sound behind him until it was too late.
Immediately, two antennas stroke his breastplate, turning it instantly into a pile of fine rust swept away by the wind. Mutt quickly turned around and saw two happy rust monsters behind him. He tried screaming for help, but the wind, faint roars from the waterfalls and the distance made it impossible for his comrades in arms to notice anything unusual. Instead he drew arms.
Rust Monster
With swift initiative, the monsters managed to degrade Mutt’s favorite halberd ‘Betty’ to broken-condition. The barbarian once again howled for help and inflicted a severe wound on one of the beasts. This time, Galfûr noticed and immediately led the party across the bridge. Aldarion moved things along with a haste, and on the following round the battlefield was set.
Vincent the Sorcerer opened the ball with fire, which doesn’t necessarily click well with old, fragile floors made out of wood. In fact, out of the 10% chance of a mishap, it chose to happen at this exact time, meaning the very foundation beneath the hero collapsed and sent them all screaming through the air. Mutt, Edgar and Galfûr managed to grab on to parts of the remaining debris, while Vincent and Aldarion saved themselves with feather fall and managed to avoid drowning in the rivers below.
(There are a couple of ways to read this rule in the adventure. One way says that only part of the floor is blown away, whereas another way says that the entire thing collapses. I went with the second one, because it seems more logical and dangerous)
Making their way back up while drying their robes, the arcane casters rejoined with the party and quickly moved on to the next bridge leading west to the third complex. This one was really unstable, taken directly out of Temple of Doom. Mutt and Edgar quickly noticed that moving along it would take a certain amount of acrobatic skill. Again they decided to send Mutt in first.
The barbarian made good progress, till he reached the 30 foot marker. Then he sprung a trap, and out of the blue a red, fiendish portal opened in the sky above them, sending a howling Erinye. “You will never reach the cult!” she screamed, and unleashed a hail of fiery arrows on Mutt. The barbarian managed to make it back into safety in the old laboratory, and the devil hurled a magic rope at Vincent meanwhile. Then a very long firefight broke loose, with the heroes taking fortification behind the broken walls of the laboratory, exchanging snapshots with her.
Erinye
Vincent and Aldarion both attempted to make good use of their Magic Missiles but were either blocked by the ensnaring rope or failed to overcome her spell resistance. Blessing Mutt’s crossbow, Edgar quickly moved on to heal those wounded by the Erinye’s shots, which included Galfûr. The dwarf evoked the power of bane on his bow and got in some good shots, which did some pain to the devil. Sneering, she returned the favor and downed the inquisitor in two rounds.
Edgar immediately brought him back to his feet, allowing the dwarf to get up and take another shot at the opponent, before she dropped him once more. “I can keep this up as long as you can, cleric!” she hissed and flew into a better position. Insisting on being brought back, Galfûr stood up, fired an arrow, missed his target, and was resolutely hit by a critical strike as well as an ordinary flame arrow. With a moan, he dropped dead.
Mutt, having popped in an out of the laboratory the entire fight, finally scored a solid hit and Vincent got through with an empowered magic missile in the end sending the Erinye to its death after nine rounds of solid combat.
Pressing on for a while, the heroes opened the door to the third complex, in which they found an unusual lobby. Tons of old glasses, scriptures, texts, jars, vials and aquariums were placed on the various shelves, many containing exotic and disturbing parts of various creatures. It reminded them of a museum, most of all. With three doors leading out from there, they decided to catch their breath and search the room. Much to their joy, they discovered a long forsaken scroll of raise dead.
(There are two ways to handle this magical trap, depending on whether you’re collecting Light- or Dark Side points. As written, there are more than one Erinye, which is a beastly setup for a sixth level party. As far as I’ve come to understand on the Paizo-forum, the intention is to teach the players that running away is sometimes necessary. Needless to say, I did make sure my players understood that this was a summon monster trap, and at one time in the trenches they even discussed whether to run away, which they quickly dismissed since the Erinye could easily catch up with them and perhaps even knock them off the bridge once more. And I suppose it can. Same rationale goes for the huge air elemental mentioned in former post. In this case the party would likely have suffered severe casualties. Also, there is no scroll of raise dead in the original Castle Caromarc. I felt sorry for the player, as he managed to play his new character for less than an hour before being sent back into the grave. Had it been any of the other players, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye.
Besides, two negative levels for the rest of the dungeon seemed like punishment enough. After all, being healed to just about 10 hp and standing up in front of a CR 8 archer with three attacks is bloody well stupid and deserves to be punished. I can be merciless and don’t have issues slamming my players, but I want them to feel they could’ve done better/wiser in order to avoid it.
On the light side, the party should be able to handle a single one of these babes. Granted, it isn’t easy. They easily manage to stay out of reach and they hit like a truck. One good way to use them, is to remind your evocation focused spell casters that they need to think in bigger perspectives than spells that allow spell resistance. But on the other hand, Castle Caromarc is one huge reminder of that…)
It belongs in a museum!
Having raised Galfûr from the dead, the heroes inspected the foyer more closely, before heading south from where they heard a strange brushing sound. It revealed the ‘sea’ area of the museum, with plenty of aquatic creature in vials and glasses. Tapeworms, octopi, strange mutated fish and much more dominated the majority of them, and in a vain attempt to spice up the atmosphere, someone had scattered sand all over the floor and cast a permanent ghost sound spell of waves trashing up on the beach (personal detail I decided to add, it seemed so fitting! If you actually have a recording of waves at the beach, it works wonders in here). Searching through the room, they quickly found a hidden door in the northwest, revealing a staircase leading up. They decided to explore the current floor first.
In the second room they found the theme of ‘earth’ and the old bones of a Bulette. Nothing else besides more stuffed animals and various parts were found here. To the north they revealed a big chamber, in which to sarcophagi rested, to the west and east respectively. An old stair led down in the corner, and an iron door in the northern wall seemed to lead outside of the complex.
This time, not featuring Scorpion Kings
Browsing through the room, the heroes decided to unearth the western sarcophagus, but as they had the lid partly moved, Aldarion’s detect undead gave strong readings, and they immediately moved into combat position. With a fierce smash, the mummy made its way out, groaning. Immediately the heroes attacked, sadly without their arcane casters who both trembled in paralyzed panic by the mummy’s aura. This meant that the undead monstrosity had a turn to inflict Galfûr with mummy rot (yeah, really not his night…) before succumbing. It didn’t end here, though, as everyone failed to notice the second sarcophagus that had now sneaked up on them, revealing itself as a DIABOLICAL MIMIC! Grinningly, it caught Vincent in its grasp and began constricting the poor sorcerer. The rest of the group immediately came to his rescue, hammering the aberration with brute force. Barely avoiding getting his halberd stuck to it adhesive surface, Mutt slew the beast after a couple of turns, saving Vincent who was five hit points away from death at the time.

(I like this encounter. It’s a good breather for the heroes after some very nasty challenges.)
As they headed down into the basement, it wasn’t long until they were greeted by the loud sounds of movement further on, followed by tiny squabbling voices. Pondering upon their origin, they slowly recoiled as the blind guardian approached them. A beastly golem led on by a solid handful of homunculi.
But despite the creatures’ fearsome appearance, the heroes made surprisingly short work of it by slaying the accompanying homunculi and then focusing their attention on the big guy. (It was a surprisingly short combat indeed, but somehow I think they deserved it : P )
 With the basement revealing nothing of interest, the heroes made their way upstairs to the attic. It looked abandoned for quite some time and contained nothing of interest except for three black crates tightly locked up, along with a major box in the corner. Carefully picking up one of the black boxes, the heroes attempted the open it, resulting in an explosion of spores all over, attempting to choke their way down their throats. Everyone managed to shake them off before any harm was done… except Galfûr (of course) who suffered from moderate constitution damage.
Quickly leaving the room to Mutt, the party let the barbarian deal with the two remaining boxes. In the first an explosion of yellow mold forced him to run out of the room screaming and the second involved the head of a hag which was luckily saved against. The heroes decided to call it and instead investigate the tiny trapdoor in the attic, which resulted in another trap, as an acid fog consumed the entire area. Yelling in pain, the entire party made its way down the stairs, violently coughing and bleeding.
(One thing has to be said here. At this point my party was royally pissed. There was hate in the air and it was so thick you could slice it. They literally wanted to tear this entire place a new one and didn’t care one bit for any further amount of exploration. The only thing on their mind was to get to Caromarc ASAP and shit down his neck.
In a weird sense, this really reminds me of that one scene in Home Alone at which both burglars are laying in the foyer, coated in tar, wounded, burned and with teeth missing. And the way they look at each other with the “THAT’S IT!!!” look…
I’ll admit, at this time I was willing to put money on them killing the count before he even got to speak. Their rage was surely up for it.)
It is time for more… experiments.
As they assumed, the door led them outside on the cliffs once more, on which a narrow trail headed north towards the fourth and final complex. It was mostly dominated by four huge, round halls interconnected by walls and a single bridge leading on to a major dome with a lightning conductor at its top. The path seemed to end at a single iron door.
Catching their breath, the heroes soon after attempted to open the door without luck. Through brute force, Mutt and Galfûr pushed it open and quickly realized the amount of water gush out on their feet. Apparently, a significant part of these corridors as well as the connected rooms were flooded.  An old ladder, now beyond repair, had been smashed at the end of the hallway, and judging from its placement, it likely used provided access to the upper railings. For now the heroes were stuck at the ground floor, and slowly began the descent into the depths. The water was cold and reached their waists, as they reached the first intersection and decided to head right. Not long after they reached a door, but also noticed a hidden trapdoor below water. Setting up positions, they sprung the trap and met the rising four wights in front of them with true blood lust. (Originally, this encounter involves another kind of undead, Draugr, I think the name is. They’re one of those monsters you suddenly, mid-session, realize appear in Monster Book 2, so if that becomes an obstacle, I recommend just using the wights that will anyway appear later on, and reward the XP later)
Correct, you remember Draugr from Skyrim.
Moving on, beyond the next door they found a circular room with a low floor, meaning they had to swim in order to pass it. Approximately 30 feet above them, an old railing rested against the wall, providing access to two doors and a lovely view of the room. Sadly, the ladder leading up there had disappeared.
The heroes attempted to scout the room by lobbing a stone with light into the water. As it reached the floor, Galfûr noticed a slight movement. It was subtle and quick, gone in the next second.
“Guys,” he nervously said, as Mutt had started paddling in the water with a halberd “I really think we should get out of here…”
Ignoring the advice of the dwarf, the rest of the party kept staring nervously into the depths.
And then the depths stared harshly into them.
A transparent basilisk suddenly broke through the surface with a roar, its eyes glowing brightly. Everyone screamed, especially Mutt, who suddenly realized that he was the only one screaming. Around him, everyone had been turned to stone.
Thus began another brutal encounter, in which Mutt immediately shut his eyes tight and started swinging his weapon wildly. The basilisk hurled itself at his and sank his teeth deeply into his leg, and for a long time the two combatants dueled. Finally, the beast was slain by the barbarian, who immediately tapped the creature for enough blood to restore Edgar, Vincent and Aldarion (‘Yeah, sorry Galfûr, but you’re the new guy…) Letting the statue rest for a while, the party investigated the room to the north but quickly noticed a huge black pudding clinging to the ceiling. Hushing and mumbling they left it to itself and instead conquered the broken stairs with a levitate spell and a rope. Up on the railings they found discrete passages along all four basins, along with a small niche containing some alchemically preserved basilisk blood along with a wand of charm monster and potion of displacement. Restoring Galfûr to life, they took a very brief look into another room containing three headless monkeys in cages (so brief they didn’t trigger the relevant encounter). From thereon, they headed east towards the final bridge, and slowly approached the final tower. From the looks of it, the lightning conductor seemed old and likely used.
They had a shock, however, as a huge blow landed on the metal door from the inside, making a huge dent. In the second blow, the door flew off its hinges and a towering brute stepped on to the bridge. It was the guardian of the tower; a juggernaut of sewn-together flesh-pieces, now staring at them with a grin.
“The meddlesome pests,” it said in thundering voice “you will never reach what you seek! You will die on this bridge! Prepare to—“
The guardian was interrupted by Aldarion’s summoned pit spell and fell to the bottom with a howl (the interrupt-the-villain-speech gag never gets old). Then battle began. (I actually considered using ‘Clash on the Big Bridge’ from Final Fantasy, but nobody in my party would get it).
Mutt and Galfûr made a blockade on the middle of the walkway, keeping the rest of the party behind them. Drinking his potion of displacement Mutt had little trouble avoiding the golem’s attacks, and with an aimed grease spell, Vincent made sure it stayed prone most of the fight. The golem did inflict some wounds, though, and when it did, it hurt hard.
(Originally, you’re supposed to use the golem inside the tower, but then again – I think this makes somehow a more epic scene? Not sure if it’s able to talk either, but at this time we’d spent so much time drawing on battlemats, I needed just a little RP).
The final fight
(The ending of TotB has been widely discussed and is, in my optic, beyond doubt the weakest link in an otherwise brilliant adventure. To make a long story short, in the original setting, the players are supposed to go in, talk to Caromarc’s servant, realize they’ll have to climb/fly to the top and activate the Bondslave Thrall in order to summon The Beast of Lepidstadt. The Beast then shows up, smashes the living snot out of the CR 11 end-boss and everyone lives happily ever after. Some people (me included) are not big fans of huge NPC’s doing the players’ dirty work for them. Knowing my players, I was pretty sure they thought so too.
If this is the case, you have some options. If you want your players to have an epic final battle against the abomination, you can have the Beast fighting it once they enter the room. The creature than stuns The Beast in its webs and turns to the party.
The Aberrant Promethean is CR 11 and while a seventh level party might tackle it with a few casualties, you can downgrade it to match. This is the setup I used for a sixth level party with five players.
-          A minus 4 penalty to hit and AC (if your party is not min/maxing, you can decrease to-hit by six instead, still leaving it with a +14 to hit)
-          The Promethean only hits for 3D6 (might increase to 4D6 if you feel they can take it) This reflects it chaotic nature, a bit like Chaos-creatures in Warhammer, that sometimes do nothing and other times hurt a lot.
-          It has miserable saving throws which can be kept safely as they are
-          Lower its DR to 5/Adamantite
-          Leave the Moan ability as it is.  Consider lowering the difficulty of Paralytic Tentacles by 2.
Even in this state, the Aberrant Promethean is a decent challenge for many a party. The key to making it work, is to look at your own group, really. After Castle Caromarc you should have a pretty solid feeling about their capabilities, so use what you know so far and they should manage.
If your party has fallen behind on XP to a significant degree, consider awarding them the full XP-sum even though the creature was nerfed. It’s a good way to catch up.)
Meeting with Caromarc’s homunculus, the heroes got the impression that something bad and sinister awaited up ahead. Thus they armed and prepared themselves and kicked in the door to final laboratory. In the middle of it, they noticed a woman encapsulated in a tank of fluid. She looked unconscious. Next to her, entombed in an metallic prison, sat a person whose eyes only were visible. They stared desperately at the heroes and the showdown in the middle of the room. The Beast was fiercely trading blows with the most hideous creation they’d seen in the castle so far.
Resembling a horrific mix of s spider with a flesh golem’s upper body, on which limbs from chuuls and chokers had been attached, was the Aberrant Promethean. It sneered and with a growl knocked the Beast into a pillar of webs, before rushing towards the heroes.
Being fully buffed, they all hurled themselves at it, hasted and bolstered. Mutt was hurt badly in the first turn, being almost brought to his knees. With a cry of rage, Galfûr sliced his glowing blade through the things hardened body, splattering foul blood over the floor. Summoning patches of grease below it, Vincent managed to keep it down for a round, and Edgar called out to Gond for aid. Healing the wounds of his comrades, the clerics made sure nobody ever reached the brink of death, even though the damage of the Promethean was significant. In the second round of combat, the piercing shriek sent both Edgar and Galfûr running in blind panic, leaving the remaining three party members to juggle with the monster for a long time. Saved by his rage hit points, kiting and a very lucky miss, Mutt managed to remain standing till the cleric returned.
The Beast fighting the Aberrant Promethean
In the end, the total of stacking acid arrows, bane weapons and power attacks cut their way through the 117 hit points, sending the abominations gobbling to the floor.
With a relieved sigh, the heroes sat down on the floor and breathed heavily. They then cut out The Beast (“FRIEEEENDS!!”) and released who turned out to be none other than Count Caromarc himself.
The Count thanked them from the bottom of his heart and politely asked the heroes about their business at his castle. When hearing about the deeds of the Beast, he quickly defended it, revealing that his deeds in Lepidstadt were in fact controlled by the Whispering Way. The cult overwhelmed him in his castle, and not only released the myriad of foul beasts, but also got their hands on the bondslave thrall which is the only way of directly controlling The Beast of Lepidstadt. Through this they broke into the university and stole the seasage effigy and from there left the Count to rot among his creations.
Although Caromarc didn’t know much else about the Whispering Way, he overheard them occasionally speaking about the journey on, which involved the enormous forest of Shudderwood to the east. The only branch of civilization to be found there are the old hunting grounds of Ascalor Lodge, an exclusive recluse housing invited guests only. It was more than likely that the cult had made a stop there at least.
The Count could write them a letter of recommendation and reward them a generous amount of gold, if only they would remain silent of his experiments. Settling for a 4000g reward, the players received letters of recommendation from the Count and recuperated for some time. They then told the Beast and Caromarc goodbye, and rode towards the old hunting trail leading into the dangerous territory of Shudderwood…
And thus ends chapter 2 of Carrion Crown.
Coming up next: Broken Moon.
(It’s interesting to notice that we spent six sessions in total on chapter 2, just as we did with chapter 1. I wonder whether the same counts for chapter 3?
So, all in all, this was Trial of the Beast. From a GM-perspective, I’ll attempt and share some of my thoughts in general:
I was a huge fan of Haunting of Harrowstone, but Trial really topped it in my book. This adventure is brilliant in so many ways, there are so many things going on and a couple of ways you can handle them. Whether your players are Shakespearian or just want to tear monsters a new one there are plenty of opportunities to satisfy both.
On the positive side, I especially liked the investigation a lot. There was a lot of atmosphere when investigating the old university and the swamp of Morast. Even though we didn’t get to Sanctuary, I’m sure it would have been great too.
The trials were brilliant and if you have players with a taste for RP, I strongly urge you to play them out at least briefly. On the top of that, the nightly attack by the angry mob was one of my favorite parts.
If you love monsters of the dangerous kind there are lots of opportunities to satisfy those needs in TotB. Actually, it occurred to me how often I’ve written stuff like ‘ooh this encounters is hard’, ‘you should really look out for this one!’ and so on. And it’s because it’s just how it is. A more min-maxed party with access to books beyond core and advanced (and in this case, you only have yourself to thank for allowing them, really) would likely have an easier time.
I, however, found them to be pretty damn near the optimal level of frustration for my players. I prefer battles to be serious most of the times. They should something you consider avoiding if you can. So, if you’re plainly allowing core and maybe the advanced player’s guide, I can say from experience that these WILL test yourplayers. This adventure is, after all, written by Richard Prett, famous author of the Skinsaw Murders.
On the negative side I have a couple of comments.
It takes some work to truly incorporate the Crooked Kin (the circus from the start of the adventure) and it really depends on your players preferences. They will easily become trivial or uninteresting. Same counts for the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye of which Judge Embreth is a high ranking member. In my case this lead fell to the ground, mostly because my players left her in pretty bad standing. I don’t think it’s crucial to miss these elements, though. As long as they have a patron of sorts, be it her or the Count.
Castle Caromarc is interesting but in the end quickly turns into one long grind-session. I think it took its toll on my players who seemed to lose attention and patience around the end. They did end up skipping the flying medusa-heads, the vargouilles, the black pudding, the leech-swarms and the violet fungi. Depending on your preferences, they might really miss out on a sum of XP’s in this regard. It’s up to you whether to reward them anything or not. In my case, with five players, it doesn’t matter much if they’re a little bit behind schedule. They should be seventh level before heading into Shudderwood, though.
The castle could’ve been more interesting with added RP-possibilities.
The final battle is a severe lackluster as written. As I pointed out earlier, not everyone wants to see an all powerful NPC beat the BBEG at the end. Even when the players are allowed to control the NPC. It would have been nice with an option to simply fight him as he is.
Also, the artwork showing him and The Beast fighting is honestly…really, really bad. At first I thought the Beast was actually crying, to be honest.
My advice to any GM’s about to run this:
- Read well up on the trials in advance. There is a lot going on, and keeping it smooth makes for better scenes.
- Make yourself familiar with the XP-gains along the adventure. There are a lot of them, and they can be easy to miss.
- Know your party and look over the encounters with that in mind.
- If you want the festival in Lepidstadt to be a bit more memorable, I recommend my own (of course) guide to festivals: http://negativethac0.blogspot.com/2011/07/d-festivals-and-you.html 

-  You can find a HUGE help in the GM-helping-sheet by Daniel Langenhan: http://langenhan.info/RPG/ This helps you keep track on several elements of the adventure, such as the many, many clues. The one for TotB can be found here: http://langenhan.info/RPG/TotB_GM_Material.pdf I HIGHLY recommend using this! Really! I command it! And a BIG thanks to you, Daniel, for the amazing work you’ve put into it.
So I will see you guys again in a week, when we explore the mysterious Shudderwood!)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Descent: Beast Men

A thing I’ve always wanted to touch more upon on this blog is board games, but I’ve refrained from doing so due to my limited experience with them. Not that I haven’t seen my fair share of the more popular candidates on the market such as Munchkin, Junta, Betrayal, Arkham Horror, Bang and so on.  I just don’t spend enough time with them to have anything remotely interesting to say, except for joyful outbursts when I win and whining when I lose.
One game that definitely does deserve mentioning, however, is Descent: Journeys in the Dark. Or, to be more precise, the later expansion(s) that were added by its founder Final Flight Games, among which we’ll find Road to Legend among others.
If you’re already familiar with Descent you’ll perhaps agree with me that it’s one of those games with a certain learning curve for the inexperienced. Those of you uninitiated; think of the old board game ‘Hero Quest’ , now on steroids.
If you don’t know about either you’re either young or ignorant (or both) and really ought to give them a go, although the premise of these games might seem almost archaic to some, now that pretty much the same thing can be achieved on the computer.
At the core of the game, up to four players each chose a character with special powers (in Hero Quest you chose between a barbarian, an elf, a wizard and a dwarf) and you went down to the dungeon in order to smash up monsters. Said monsters dropped loot that allowed you to purchase meaner weapons so you could more efficiently smash monsters. And so on. Old formula.
A lot of people I know got into D&D by playing Hero Quest or its much less renowned cousin ‘Dragon Strike’. For the same reason, a lot of people wished for an updated version of this brilliant game and in the end, the dark abomination known as Descent: Journeys in the Dark was conceived.
Without getting too much into details and rules about Descent (and trust me; there are a LOT of rules in Descent) this game followed the same mechanics but was way more involving. First and foremost, the Dungeon Master (or, Overlord as it might be now) is no longer your friend and story teller. It’s his job to absolutely screw with you, slay, maim, abuse and foil you at every turn. He hates you and if you don’t see him as your primary antagonist, you’re setting yourself up for a bad position way from the start.
As you and your three friends choose your heroes, you quickly notice you’re way past the original four from Hero Quest. In fact you chose from more than 20 or so, if you count in the expansions. Each excels in either melee, archery or magic some way or the other, and an important challenge is matching up a party that covers a lot of ground. Secondly, as you traverse the dungeons you have to absolutely forget your inbred D&D thoroughness. Descent is a race, the Overlord grows stronger for every.single.turn. For every move he gets to make he draws more cards, traps and ‘mana’ to power his moves. He can summon additional monsters or traps out in the open, and thus clearing an entire dungeon is pointless. You WILL get overwhelmed if you dally.
The heroes are stronger than the monsters but they’re by no means invulnerable. Foolish moves will annihilate them, and for every hero the Overlord slays he becomes more powerful. Descent is therefore a game of priority management and endless line of sight debates above anything else. So much that I at times get seriously pissed off about it.
Yet, it also helps me understand people living in abusive relationships, somehow. Why do we always come back?
As for Descent, this game does have an undeniable charm to it. It’s very thoroughly executed, illustrations and miniatures are quite nice and in general it can be really good fun. But it’s beyond doubt a game that seriously benefits from having an entire group of seasoned people.
So, getting to the point, I sat down and decided to paint something else besides Warhammer. It was time to work on those Descent-minis. Actually, a lot of my first painting ever took place with these models. And it showed. They were downright ugly. So it was on with the brush and getting off the old layers first, after which I threw myself at the Beast Men. The shock troopers and piper tigers of the game, easily able to overthrow a hero in one turn, but they get torn apart easily. Therefore, I might as well start with them:

They are made to look good at distance, so going closer reveals their lacking amount of details. They do look really nice, actually even better than on the picture I think.
As for the colors I went with

Flesh: Tallarn Flesh, Ogryn Flesh wash, (optional for darker models) Devlan Mud wash, Tallarn Flesh highlight, Tallarn Flesh+Elf Flesh (roughly 1:1) highlight, Pure Elf Flesh highlight.
Mane: Fortress Grey, Devlan Mud wash, Fortress Grey
Loin Cloth: Gretchin Green, Devlan Mud wash, Gretchin Green highlight, Gretchin Green+Bleached Bone (roughly 1:1) highlight, Pure Bleached Bone highlight. As for the blue I simply used Ice Blue and Mechrite Red+Blood Red for the red. The dolls were done with Ivanden Darksun.
The tiles on the base were made by:
Khemri Brown the entire base
Paint different tiles with Kommando Khaki, Codex Grey, Tausept Ochre and Astronomican Grey. Give them a faint wash with Devlan Mud and highlight the edges with the original color. Easy as that. It gives a really good blend into the Descent dungeon tiles.

Coming up next: Hell Hounds.