[SPOILERS] Crown of Kings - Shamutanti Hills [SPOILERS]

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Al Livingstone
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Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:34 pm

[SPOILERS] Crown of Kings - Shamutanti Hills [SPOILERS]

Post by Al Livingstone » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:56 am

Having recently completed running the Shamutanti Hills section of the campaign for my group, I thought I'd post the session writeups here. A couple of the players have some half-remembered knowledge of the original gamebooks, so the campaign's opening scene was in the Mampang Fortress with a close-up shot of the Sorcerer's face as he speaks a word of power: "ZED". Whatever recollections the players have are rationalised as being their characters' post-time travel memories of their previous attempt to regain the Crown.

Please note that the summaries:
  • assume that the reader either played during the session or is otherwise familiar with the source material; and
  • will contain plot spoilers.
Thoughts, questions and/or suggestions are welcome.

The Analander Heroes
  • Yantris – a priest of Libra who travels the land seeking wrongs to right in the name of his goddess.
  • Nremyn Forestfire – an Elf Sorcerer, exiled from his woodland home.
  • Grom Deathfoe – a Dwarf axe-for-hire with odd beliefs about Elves being somewhat parthenogenetic.
  • Marie Anderlinge – a farmer’s wife who turned to the life of an adventurer after her family was murdered by bandits.
  • Jack Nightfinger – a reformed rogue who now uses his skills in the lawful pursuit of adventuring.
Last edited by Al Livingstone on Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

Al Livingstone
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:34 pm

Post by Al Livingstone » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:57 am

Part 1: Cantopani Gate to Kristatanti

It is in the following spring that Yantris, Nremyn, Grom Deathfoe, Jack Nightfinger and Marie Anderlinge are the subjects of a show trial in Arkleton. Their apparent public condemnation is followed swiftly by them embarking on a secret mission to recover the stolen Crown of Kings from the Archmage of Mampang. While the Royal Army would surely fail to cross the Chaotic land of Kakhabad, a small group of anonymous adventurers apparently unconnected with the King of Analand may just stand a chance...

The five heroes pass through the Great Wall of Analand at Cantopani Gate and head north towards the Shamutanti Hills. They deal with the trader in Cantopani, and drive off a band of THIEVES who attempt to ambush the Analanders as they leave the village. Jack bought information about the trail ahead from Cantopani's headman, so coming to a fork in the path is no surprise. The left fork leads down into the valley of the Elvins, a mischievous faerie folk, and the right rises up towards the Goblins and Ogres of the Schanker mines.

What the heroes did not expect at the junction was to encounter an old man stuck up a tree. He says he was travelling from Dhumpus to Analand, but was robbed by Elvins and then deposited in the branches. The heroes help the aged traveller to descend safely. He rewards the Analanders with his last possession, a page torn from a spellbook, and the lyrics of an odd rhyme. He then hobbles off in the direction of Cantopani despite the heroes' warnings about the roguish inhabitants of that village. Pausing only to obtain some honey from a hive of bees in the branches of the tree, the heroes take the uphill path. They make camp at an opportune spot when dusk approaches; watches are set and the night passes uneventfully.

In the morning they climb further up the path into the hills, which splits unexpectedly at a small clearing studded with severed heads on stakes. The heroes are unsure whether these grisly markers are intended to frighten the Schanker Goblins away or if they were placed by them as a warning. Nremyn attempts a sorcerous divination to best determine which route leads to Kharé but gleans only that both paths have roughly equal amounts of merit and peril. The heroes choose to go north and west on the left-hand path. Grom and Jack are keen-eyed enough to spot the foliage-covered pit trap in the middle of the tree-lined path. The heroes bypass it safely and continue with caution. Spotting huts through a slight gap in the trees, Jack scouts ahead and spies upon a village inhabited by cannibalistic HEADHUNTERS. More heads are mounted on poles in the village – Human, Goblin, Orc, and even Lizard-man. Jack reports back to his companions and the heroes ponder what to do. Unfortunately they are then discovered by headhunters and pursued by around two-dozen warrior from the village. Nremyn uses a spell to create a quicksand bog at a narrowing of the path by a sheer drop bringing the pursuit to a sudden halt. Crossbow shots and a magical fireball kill a few more and the survivors flee. The heroes make their way safely past the village, readily spotting and avoiding another covered pit on the far side. They become aware of birdcalls that should be foreign to the hills and Nremyn loudly threatens the headhunters with the magical destruction of their village should they pursue any further. The calls cease soon after.

The heroes then descend into a valley and cross a rope bridge over a river, which they follow northward along a path. They come across three huts around a bonfire with oddly-scented smoke close by the river. Grom, thinking of a warning from Cantopani's headman to avoid the fumes of the Black Lotus, uses a cloth drape from a hut's doorway, soaked in river water, to smother the embers of the bonfire. The heroes investigate the huts, hearing the playing of unseen musicians, battling with magically created guardian WOLFHOUNDS, and Jack suffers the curse of a malignant spirit called MANANKA – a spirit that claims to know of their quest.

The heroes leave the huts ablaze and continue northward. They cross a rickety wooden bridge and then begin climbing into the hills once more. As the adventurers leave the valley they are pelted with acorns by giggling ELVINS in tree branches overhead. However these faerie creatures flee at the news Mananka is abroad. The heroes continue on their way, wondering how they came to be in the Valley of the Elvins rather than the Schanker mines. Dusk sees the adventurers approaching the hillside village of Kristatanti, where the men and women wear their hair long and piled high upon their heads.

Al Livingstone
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:34 pm

Post by Al Livingstone » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:58 am

Part 2: Kristatanti to Birritanti

Kristatanti's inn is quiet and the village tavern, with only two other customers, doesn't seem much livelier at first. However the heroes get into conversation with a hill farmer with whom they sing a song and share jokes about Goblins. The farmer also warns them that a Witch named Alianna dwells in woodland between here and Dhumpus, the next village, and to keep their wits about them should they meet her. In the background, the village idiot periodically shouts 'Snattacats!' at anyone who will listen to him. Nremyn explains to Jack that a Snattacat is essentially an invisible Tiger; the hill Farmer and the tavern-keeper provide reassurance that there are none hereabouts – though Skunkbears and Werewolves are a different matter. As they leave Kristatanti the next morning, the heroes refuse a lift on the hill farmer's ox-cart in order to speak with a blind beggar. In gratitude for the alms he receives, the beggar gives them the key to a jailhouse in Kharé – he worked there until 'the Red Eyes' blinded him and took it over. Pleased by this stroke of good fortune, the heroes press on with springs in their steps.

The road forks halfway through the morning's walk; the heroes select the forest path rather than climbing further into the hills to their right. It comes as little surprise to them when noon brings them to a signpost marked for 'Dhumpus' ahead and 'Alianna' to the west. They take the western path, with Jack hoping aloud that the Witch may be able and willing to lift Mananka's curse. They find Alianna, an attractive young woman, trapped in a large metal cage in her cottage by Elvins two days ago. Jack tests a key he found in the same hut as Mananka and it fits the lock of the cage. Alianna tells the heroes that the cage cannot be affected by magic and she had intended to trap Mananka, still bound in its box, within it. The Witch rewards each of the heroes with a gift, including prayer beads for Jack that will help him to break the curse. She also calls Mananka a thing of malice and lies and tells them to pay scant heed to its words. The heroes remain concerned that the spirit claimed to know of their quest and they even mention the name of 'Mampang' to the Witch as their destination; Alianna chides them for speaking that word and says she must be about her preparations to recapture Mananka.

The heroes return to the main path and reach Dhumpus before nightfall. There they visit Keshav the Trader; among the various transactions conducted, Nremyn agrees to dig Keshav a new cesspit. The Elf Sorcerer magically grows to twice his normal height and is able to make fairly short work of the task – a sight that provides the villagers with great entertainment.

On the fourth morning of their quest, the heroes depart Dhumpus. The locals tell them that both the northerly roads from the village will take them to Birritanti before nightfall. One path leads uphill to the village of Gorretanti, which a recent traveller reported to have been stricken with a plague. The other way descends towards the Troll Wood, so named for the monstrous folk that prey on those who travel through it. The heroes dislike the thought of plague and decide to take their chances with the Trolls. Their chosen path forks at the outer edge of the Troll Wood – one branch leads through the trees, the other crosses the chasm by means of a rope bridge. A bizarre hunchbacked figure, who speaks only in rhyme, emerges from a hut by the bridge and challenges them to answer its questions before they will be allowed to cross. The hunchback gives its name as 'Vancass' – Yantris vaguely recalls a tutor once mentioning this as the name of a supernatural entity. While Grom accepts the challenge, it is Jack and Marie who are quick to provide the correct answers. Vancass calls out a rhyme of warning about a 'cave-demon's maze' to the heroes as they cross the bridge.

Crossing the rope bridge allows the heroes to bypass the Troll Wood and they reach Birritanti with only one further incident on the way – they meet a Minimite, a diminutive winged faerie creature that calls itself Jann. Jann speaks with Nremyn, claiming to perceive a bond of Fate between them and to sense that Nremyn has (and/or will) cast 'the Ultimate Spell'. The Minimite says that instabilities in the fabric of reality caused by this spell could endanger the very existence of both Jann and Nremyn. They must be careful not to disturb the strands of their own destiny by acting too directly upon one another. Neither should choose to part company with the other, instead allowing circumstances to dictate the duration of their relationship. Also sensing a twisting of Fate and Time around them both, Nremyn is inclined to agree with the Minimite's assertions.

Birritanti is in the midst of the Festival of the Young and the village is busy with travellers and folk from nearby hill-farms. Children run wild, drinking alcohol and fighting with each other; they even push over adults, none of whom may gainsay them until the festival runs its course. The heroes visit the Crystal Waterfall, a mystical place on the outskirts of the village. The attendant agrees to let them bathe in the cool healing water of its pool in exchange for their news of the plague in Gorretanti and the opportunity it presents for him to sell healing water there. The heroes then spend the evening in Glandragor's Tavern, being bought drinks by drunken children in exchange for providing entertainment. Nremyn magically makes the tavern keeper dance while the children stamp their feet and clap along in time. Jack's sleight of hand tricks prove somewhat inept, much to the children's raucous delight, and they take great pleasure in loudly pointing out whenever he secrets away a coin or palms a small object.

Realising that they haven't seen the Minimite since leaving the Crystal Waterfall, the heroes exit the tavern and find Jann outside playing sing-along games with a gang of children. The heroes camp for the night at the edge of the village as they cannot afford the expensive rate at the crowded inn.

Al Livingstone
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:34 pm

Post by Al Livingstone » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:58 am

Part 3: Birritanti to Torrepani

The heroes set out from Birritanti on the fifth day of their quest. Jann talks to Nremyn about the role the Minimites played in ending the Rise of Kakhabad hundreds of years ago. As they travel, the tiny winged being also gives the Elf some tuition to better understand 'the Ultimate Spell' - just in case he should ever need to cast it (again?).

It is late morning when the heroes are ambushed by an ASSASSIN and some BANDITS in dense woodland. These desperadoes do not achieve complete surprise over the heroes and the Analanders make fairly short work of their foes, even managing to take one alive, despite the drawback of Jann's company becoming apparent during the fight - Nremyn's spells do not work! To make matters worse, after the Elf perceives the source of the problem, Jann dithers rather than departing when Nremyn yells at him to go away. After the skirmish ends, Jack takes Jann back down the path a sufficient distance to permit the Elf to work his Sorcery. Jann explains to Jack that he is afraid to initiate any actions concerning Nremyn, for fear of triggering a catastrophic magical backlash if the chains of destiny that bind them are damaged. This is why the Minimite is reluctant to deliberately leave the Elf's company unless a third party intervenes, such as Jack has just done.

Meanwhile Nremyn resurrects the Assassin, who Grom killed just as he was turning to strike one of the Bandits. The Elf has an intuition (a fragment of future memory?) that this man is of more use to the heroes alive than dead. Once restored to life, he gives his name as 'Flanker' and says that he managed to escape the group's vengeance by seizing command after carrying out a commission to eliminate 'Grimfang', their previous leader. The Assassin has led the Bandits for only a day and hadn't yet found a good opportunity to escape from them and return to Kharé. Flanker agrees to accompany the heroes to the infamous 'Cityport of Traps' and provide them with some information about getting around. Talking with the Assassin, and interrogating the captured Bandit, reveals that Grimfang's followers were dedicated to the service of a 'cave demon' near Torrepani, a village of 'sub-human' Man-Orcs. Flanker says the cultists boasted of having kidnapped the Chief of Torrepani's daughter and thrown her in to the cave as a sacrifice.

The road to Torrepani leads past the home of Ghaza Moon, a self-professed Witch with a strong distaste for Minimites. After demonstrating her power by 'suggesting' to the disrespectful Bandit that he cannot breathe; at the heroes' request she permits him to live in order that he may find justice in Torrepani. The Witch talks about having been robbed of a page from her spellbook by a young thief upon who she cast a spell of rapid aging. Ghaza Moon is pleased indeed when the heroes present her with the page they were given by the 'old' man outside Cantopani. The Witch reads the spell aloud, causing it to bind itself within the book once more. Various vermin and other pests disappear from the vicinity as she reads aloud; with an anguished cry, Jann is also sucked away into thin air! While it is unclear whether the Minimite had imparted to Nremyn all his knowledge of 'the Ultimate Spell', there is nothing the heroes can do to retrieve Jann – even if they had preferred his company to the Elf's ability to cast spells.

It is late afternoon when the heroes arrive in Torrepani, the village of the Svinn tribe of Man-Orcs; the shadow of Kharé can be seen stretching across the distant horizon. The surviving Bandit receives summary justice at the end of a rope within moments of being brought before Torrepani's Chief, who then beseeches the heroes to rescue his daughter from the cave-demon. They set off within the hour, though Flanker remains behind to continue recuperating from his resurrection. The heroes follow Vancass's cryptically-rhymed advice once they enter the caves and find a Man-Orc child hiding in a partially collapsed tunnel. A glimmer of daylight and a gust of fresh air come from beyond the pile of rubble that narrows the passage. The heroes press on and discover that the 'cave-demon' is actually a MANTICORE. Grom, Marie and Yantris engage the creature in combat while Jack seeks to approach it by stealth and attack while it is distracted. However, it is a lightning bolt loosed by Nremyn's magic that blasts the life from the Manticore.

With the 'cave-demon' slain, the heroes turn their attention to a door that they bypassed on their way through the tunnels. Fortunately Jack notices the deadly-looking trap that guards this door. Rather than risking the lives of the entire group for unknown reward, if any, the heroes return to Torrepani with the Chief's daughter. The Svinn lavish the heroes with gifts and praise so that some even find themselves thinking that the Man-Orcs are the most generous folk they've met for a while.

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