Dark Sun: Grave Burden

E01: Cursed Awakening

A recap on the first few sessions (March or April 2011)

The campaign begins in the 190th King’s Age, year of Priest’s Defiance (the default starting year for 4E Dark Sun, though we began this game using the Savage Worlds system.

We converted to using Basic Roleplaying 4E sometime in the summer of 2011. After buying the Trailblazer RPG rules optimizer in autumn 2011 for a D&D campaign, I converted our game to D&D 3.5 with Trailblazer when I ended the game’s haitus in early 2012. In the summer of 2012, I (again) switched systems to RuneQuest 6E. Despite the constant system-switching, the characters who have survived from the beginning have kept a solidly familiar core. The story remained fluid.

The starting party is comprised of:

Dalamar, a rogue dune trader who left his elven tribe to explore the city-states.
Kathaalis, an afidaen mercenary.
Asis, Kathaalis’ main squeeze and Stockholm’d basement catch.
Maddson, a blind psion/monk Half-giant who sees through his mind’s eye.

Campaign Background

The player characters are assuming the roles of simple money-hunting adventurers in the scourged desert world of Athas. The set of the campaign is based on the recent past dealings of these characters. The party discovered a strange obelisk in an old temple located far out in the desert. The party takes the artifact to a druid named Veloc at his home in the rocky badlands between South Ledopolous and the city-state Balic. The hermit studies the obelisk for awhile on his own and attempts to decrypt it for the characters to determine its purpose and worth. With Veloc’s limited knowledge of old scripts, he only makes out that the obelisk’s runes seem to be referring to god or gods of some sort, but may be empowered. He suggests that they take it to the Praetors of Balic to have them appraise it. Veloc warns the party to feign illiteracy if they are capable of reading, as the templars there have a tight grip on what sort of knowledge is allowed to be free in their city. If the obelisk was important, the templars might be more likely to give an appropriate reward to the characters (more appropriate than some uneducated street merchant).

So, the party journeys to Balic, nearly 60 miles away. They follow the Road of Legions over the course of days beneath the murderous heat of the dying sun. They enter the city of Balic and arrange a small meeting with a few Praetors to discuss their find. The templars take the obelisk to analyze it, but they return to the meeting room with nothing and say nothing. The characters are confused, and ask what the templars have agreed upon for their deal. The Praetors then incant templar magic, granted to them by their Sorcerer-King Andropinis. The templars channel a spell and unleash it upon the party, causing them to experience a brief episode of agony before losing consciousness.

It is assumed that the characters are dead.

Opening vignette

You awaken in a claustrophobic pitch darkness. A desiccate and stale air entangles you. In this air hangs the scent of death. A faint light flickers from the presence of a distant corridor. The dry mason walls dress themselves with tiny dancing shadows. The ground you lay on is dense, and littered with solid bits of jutting objects. Your body is racked with crooked kinks and pain.


Breeze 10th, Year of Priest’s Defiance

The characters awaken in a pitch black pit, aching heavily and scrambling on top of packed dirt and jutting rubble. Maddson, the blind half-giant psion, is the first to get to his feet. He realizes that he and his fellow adventurers are laying in a large chamber of bones, buried or half-buried in the ancient dirt below. There is a strange circular device in the ceiling. He ‘sees’ a torchlight coming from a distant corridor through his psionic vision, and approaches it. There are additional corridors, but none seem to be lit.

The party gathers into the first room, where they encounter the walking dead. Skeletal animations with glowing eyes that attack them on sight. The characters deal with the undead with force, and nearly escaping a hissing armored wight in one of the other chambers before shutting a stone door and hustling up some old spiral stair room to a level above. From here, the party is confronted by the wight, who opened the door in the tomb below. Dalamar, Kathaalis, and Asis keep going while Maddson remains in a rotating sarcophagi room to intercept the approaching wight. Maddson attempts to fend off the horrifying creature with his bare hands and body. This develops into a test of sharp obsidian versus monastic training and willpower. Maddson is wounded in the fight, but he slays the wight. The wight’s obsidian-plated leather armor and obsidian blade is taken.

The party discovers a room with two apertures constructed within it; one on the floor and another directly above it on the ceiling. Given their shock and surreal experience of waking up in a crypt, they do not think much of these devices. The party continues on, noting that their encounters with the undead become stranger; the walking dead no longer attack them (in fact, they barely seem to notice the PCs). The characters have some other strange experiences, including witnessing streams of irregular light pass through their peripheral vision, and glowing skeletons. Eventually, the party makes it up to a huge indoor cemetery. There are many tombs within, as well as several passive raaig ghosts who stare at the characters, but do not interact with them. The party finds that a large, winding stairway creeps up the walls to a large door a few stories up.

The characters climb the stairs, nearly reaching the top before they are attacked by aberrant darkmantles. The party tries to fight them off, but Maddson -who is in the front of the group, is brought to his knees when a darkmantle lands on his head and attempts to strangle him. Maddson, who was already wounded in the crypts below, seems to be encroaching upon incapacitation. Dalamar sees a giant darkmantle begin flying over to them like a creeping doom. The elf assesses the situation for a few seconds, and decides that Maddson is not worth saving or dying for. He edges past the goliath, his thin frame slipping past like a cool draft in an open house. Kathaalis is not as graceful, and pushes past Maddson with Asis in hand. The force of them knocking Maddson to the ledge, where he hangs on with one grip. The darkmantles descend upon him, and Maddson falls to his death into the tombs below. The party touches upon their decision to leave Maddson soon after. They agree it was necessary or else they all would have died.

When the three surviving characters break out of the boarded-up crypt doors, they find themselves on top of a rocky mountain in the thick heat of Athas. The party discovers that they are overlooking Balic, the city of Sails…

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