“Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus,” Session 39.34 — The circle of death

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 39.34, which Brian W. hosted in Newton, Mass., on Monday, 3 March 2014:

In one ancient world, there was a region where strange majicks and demihuman races thrived. The “Vanished Lands” were blessed by the gods and cursed by prophecy. Travelers became adventurers, and adventurers strove to be heroes in the face of many perils and wonders.

Various groups of mercenaries and diplomats have fought humanoids in the northwestern borderlands, encountered pirates on the Sea of Nagendwa, and wandered the hostile Halmed Desert and the wide Plains of Sathendo….

“Vistel’s Circus,” Player Character Party 39 in Gene D.’s ” Vanished Lands ” heroic fantasy campaign, using the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game, as of spring 2014:

  • Giacomo ‘the Mysterious’ Du Vane [Beruk A.]-male Hifalendorin human Mage (Gypsy Wizard) and stage seer, embittered by experiences in Hesolin’s Magisterium; with homunculus familiar Gerald; NGc, Lvl. 7
  • Hamfast Hammerfist [Brian W.]-male Zeda (proto-Germanic) human Fighter, mountaineer, “barbarian” strongman, and laborer; TNg, Lvl. 7
  • Scully Strongbow [Sara F.]-female albino Gnoll (Flind) Ranger, archer, knife thrower, and scout, with owl “Owlicious”; NGl, Lvl. 7
  • Corwin Windsong [Bruce K.]-male Half-Elf Bard, runaway aristocrat, ladies’ man, and former ringmaster with a mandolin; CNg, Lvl. 7
  • Elsa Fairbottom [Rich C.G.]-female Hill Dwarf Druid outcast, cook/brewer, and animal handler with Banuq (winged cat) Penryn; NGc, Lvl. 7
  • Tempestade [Josh C.]-male Barbari human Monk (Battledancer/capoeirista from outside the “Vanished Lands”), former roustabout, now a follower of Otih; CGl, Lvl. 7
  • Sir Torrel [Alex W.]-male Hifalendorin human Paladin of Otih, the lord of the sun and justice; LGn, Lvl. 7
  • Radius [Jason E.R./departed]-male Modron Paladin of Primus, lord of Nirvana; exiled to the Prime Material plane; LGn, Lvl. 5
Zebra and hyena
On the savannas of Salhonif Island

“19 to 24 February 1227 B.C.E.:” On Salhonif Island, the explorers visited Estu, a village of civilized apes. They found Reptile Folk ruins, a disguised spy of the devil in the Ibafen Mountains, and a ziggurat with an idol and the Eye of Heaven, a magical gem possibly protecting the apes.

“Vistel’s Expedition” heads northwest toward the city-state of Selifa, across savannah rather than jungles. Scully and scout Makena Walabu lead the way across the dry grasslands. Giacomo’s back itches because the “Mad Mage” Ezra trapped in his tattoo senses the evil temple at volcanic Mt. Tilefa.

Hamfast explains to Elsa that their adventuring party chose the plains route over the rain forest because the latter has more spies of the Pit Fiend. Corwin reminds his companions that their primary mission is to get help from Queen Zapanga to find and free Lady Shadira, an Efreeti trapped in Shambling Mound form by devil Schm*ckF*ck.

Tempestade considers his plans to free fellow slaves from his own time by using a magical obelisk in the barbaric port of Gisar. He and Sir Torrel guard the porters and supplies.

The onetime performers’ hike is interrupted by seven hyenas. Flind Scully tries to warn them off with a snarl, but yelps indicate that the predators are surrounding the caravan. Hill Dwarf Elsa tries to Speak With Animals, but the hungry beasts continue to tighten their noose.

Hifalendorin human Giacomo casts Magic Missile, immediately killing three hyenas. Corwin wants to try Fireball, but the Ranger and Druid recommend against that in the dry brush. The Half-Elf instead casts Mirror Image.

Elsa Summons Woodland Beings, and two baobab Treants appear. Scully slays two of her distant cousins with arrows. Zeda human Hamfast swings his maul, mainly to clear the tall grasses around them and to fend off the creatures.

Tempestade, Sir Torrel, and Makena try to protect the porters. The pack runs around the large Treants. Elsa Wild Shapes into a lioness, and the remaining hyenas reluctantly lope away to rejoin the circle of life and death.

The Treants also leave. Scully uses the Lens of True Sight to verify that the dead are actually animals and not humanoid slaves or spies Polymorphed by the Baatezu.

That night, Elsa casts Grove of Respite, which creates fruit-bearing trees and a pool of potable water in the middle of the savannah! Hamfast and Corwin take the first watch and worry about disease-bearing insects and ravenous dinosaurs.

During the second watch, Giacomo and Scully hear the thunder of approaching hooves. A herd of zebras, which they have never seen before, streams around the camp. One of the striped equines at the back of the stampede falls, writhing in pain.

Ranger Scully wakes Bard Corwin, and they sneak out for a better look. The hapless zebra is covered in swarming army ants, which threaten to engulf those outside the oasis. The spellcasters protect themselves — Wizard Giacomo casts Invisibility, and Druid Elsa casts Repel Vermin.

Elsa then runs to the zebra to cast Cure Light Wounds, and Corwin casts Fly to stay above most of the insects. Giacomo joins him with Levitation. Scully runs back to the camp, where Fighter Hamfast and the others stay asleep.

Elsa uses Commune With Nature to assess the local area and sends the zebra back to its herd. Scully notes that other predators may still cull it, but that’s the way of nature.

The next day, the group beholds Selifa’s white stone walls. Guide Makena says that not only is the ancient city-state on the Bisuna River, but it’s also located where the plains, forest, and mountains come together, enabling farmers, hunters, and herders to coexist and contribute.

Corwin asks Makena about local inns, and she names the “Agali’s Cape” and the “Tilefa’s Tears.” The expedition goes to the first one to try dinner. Yetunde, the matronly proprietor, welcomes the visitors in Suthern.

Giacomo burns his tongue on spicy food, but Hamfast enjoys the shared meal enough to recommend staying at “Agali’s Cape.” Scully doesn’t like Yetunde’s wide hat and takes particular interest in the brontosaurus carpaccio.

Corwin offends their host by asking for female companionship for the night, so Elsa smoothes over the faux pas and trades plum wine for date wine. Makena later reports that the “Tilefa’s Tears” is quieter, but the group is satisfied with its choice.

The travelers retire to one of Yetunde’s guest houses, which has a fire pit surrounded by concentric clay ledges. The bottom one is for sitting by the fire and eating, the next ones are for storage, and the top tier has pillows and blankets for sleeping.

The next day, the former members of Vistel’s Circus hire a young man to wait in line to get them a royal audience. They then go to one of Selifa’s bustling markets. Coffee, chocolate, tropical fruit, and exotic stews fill the air with fragrance.

Most of the people are colorfully clad humans of certain tribes, with some tall plainsfolk, robed coastal traders, or stocky jungle dwellers. There are also Lizard People and a few demihumans in the city, including Agogwe (Halflings), Kitunusi (Gnomes), Ngoloko (Orcs), Utuchekulu (Dwarves), and Wakyambi (Elves; see D20 Nyambe).

Kobolds lurk in alleyways as bright clothes hang overhead. Elsa talks with Uzoma, an Utuchekulu whose tribe worships a mountain orisha. Her talk of sacrifices scares away the rest of the party. Giacomo buys spell components.

Hamfast buys souvenir fetishes and a flute, and Scully inquires about dyes and jewelry. She learns that gold and diamonds are somewhat more common in the Zarendo Islands than on the mainland, but iron and pearls are rarer and thus more valued.

Musa, an Ngoma (Bard), tells Corwin that artists gather in front of the palace each night to perform and compete for audience favor and coin. Elsa buys a bagpipe, and Corwin practices on the drums.

Hamfast and Elsa also notice various temples to the Zarendo pantheon. Elsa buys a long masterwork shield to present to Queen Zapanga. Giacomo and his homunculus familiar Gerald busy themselves enchanting his Wizard’s Staff.

Akinwole, who had waited in line, promises the outlanders that he will obtain a royal audience for the next day. As dusk falls, crowds move from the market to near the palace, where drummers and dancers quicken the pulse.

Hamfast and Elsa enjoy street food, while Elsa realizes that she needs to practice the bagpipe. Corwin strums his mandolin, and even though most of the islanders don’t understand what the Saganim prince is singing, they appreciate his melodies.

“Vistel’s Expedition” returns to the “Agali’s Cape” to await its summons to Selifa’s royal court….

I look forward to seeing everyone’s “Vanished Lands” characters in the new D20/FATE format on Obsidian Portal soon. Let me know if you need any help or if there are any people, sites, or items you’ll be looking for in Selifa before next Monday’s game.

In the meantime, I also look forward to our upcoming “Vanished LandsA New Dawn” and Jason E.R.’s “Glassworks: the Devil’s Den” sessions, as well as non-gaming events.