CHAOS RAINS, PART I: ECHOES UNDERGROUND
Chapter 1: A Grand Day Out
As all stories do, it started in a tavern. This tavern, the Lime House, located in the Wandering Woods of the northwestern county of Joi See, was not known for its sense of intrigue or unusualness, but that day was different: three strangers had entered, separately, each of them unique in their own way, and altogether unlike the rest of the simple folk who frequented the roadside locale.
Although strangers, the three of them got to talking, sharing their stories.
There was the young mercenary fighter: he was garbed in sturdy chainmail, with dark red hair, pale skin and bright blue eyes. Name of Andrew Finch, he had been recently discharged from five years of hired service with the Aspark military, fighting in the Aspark—Candlemass civil war; he had travelled up from Aspark weeks earlier, and was making his way up to the capital city of Joi See County — Joi See City — to find further employment. A fine bastard sword was strapped to his back, marked with the symbol of his old clan.
Then, there was the amnesiac paladin: standing at a great height and also clad in chainmail, his hair and eyes were dark, his skin lightly dusky, perhaps showing Skellein County lineage. He knew himself only to be Sir Samp Sampington IX, and nothing more. His memory had slipped so acutely that he knew not how he had found himself in the woods, or even the tavern. His shield bore his family crest — a rising sun — and his dress indicated him to be of high nobility.
Finally, the unstable greatsword-wielding barbarian: known distinctly as Barb, the bald, bearded warrior made an imposing sight, and had a penchant for raw meat. He had spent many years away from society, this being his first human contact in some time.
This meeting of minds was interrupted quite suddenly by another break of the status quo: a man crashed through the door, speaking loudly, incoherently. Barb quietened him with a swift slap, and then helped him into a seat and provided him with a beer. The man told the trio that he was Roy, the baker, and that small hooded figures had kidnapped his son, Tim, by the roadside not far away.
The three newly-met heroes knew exactly what to do: deliberate. After a great deal of this, they agreed to go and search for the missing boy, upon payment of twelve loaves of bread between them and five silver pieces each, with the loaves being given to them then as a down payment.
At that moment, something struck Samp: this man could be an impostor; a fiend or other-like wicked being intending on tricking them. He used his holy divine sense, to seek the grim truth: it transpired that, in fact, Samp had been wrong, and no evil lurked in the walls of the establishment. With his holy duty complete, Samp and the others set off.
Not far away, they found the spot where the boy had been captured, and discerned a trail through the woods. This they followed, until the saw the trees break into a clearing: a distance further, and a stone entrance could be seen built into a small hillside. Three figures stood outside, squat and black-hooded. The heroes attacked from range with their javelins, scoring a few hits, but one of the figures made their way into the dark passageway beyond, whilst the other two rushed forward to engage our plucky protagonists.
Not long after, the hooded figures were slain; one of them was lifted into the air by the brutal Barb, his eyes pulverised by the barbarian’s strong hands. The heroes unmasked the figures, and found exactly what they had expected: poglins. These nasty, chaotic porcine creatures were a blight upon common people all across the continent of Ambion.
They looked through the entrance: the walls were red brick, much like the architecture of Joi See City itself, but past that, it trailed down into darkness. Not a sound echoed beyond the shadows.
So the gang of three lit some torches and entered the poglin hideout, Barb tripping down the first set of downward-leading stairs for no reason. They heard noises, and called out for whoever was down there to surrender.
“Go away! Leave us alone!” came a shrill, frightened voice.
The heroes continued on regardless. As they entered a small room, lit up by torches and with a large bowl of disgusting-smelling (and looking) broth in the middle, three poglins ambushed the party; although these crafty creatures had the advantage, their scimitars just weren’t enough to stop the wave of destruction wrought by our fledgling adventurers; one poglin was cut apart from shoulder to shoulder by Barb, becoming almost like a bust, a statue of death. Nonetheless, the battle took a toll on the party; in particular an incident involving Samp falling and striking his head on the soup bowl after a mistimed strike with his longsword.
They inspected the room: the walls were adorned with bas-reliefs of an ancient hero, one who slayed porcs and poglins with his bare hands. It seemed that these poglins had found an ironic use for what could have been that great man’s tomb. Nobody tasted the soup.
They went on, further into the structure. Barb’s impatience led to him struck by a bolt from a trapped crossbow, but he swiftly tore it from his flesh and ran on, greatsword in hand. They came to the next room: a decorated shrine to the porcicidal champion depicted in the other small chamber.
At the altar, there stood three more poglins, one dressed in strange, seemingly ceremonial robes. In the corner was a cage, a scared young boy contained within. The poglins, readied for the attack, unleashed all they had; but yet the hardied heroes prevailed, with the leader struck to the floor, an enraged Barb crushing his head into chunks with his bare feet, and whatever bizarre ritual had been planned was put on indefinite hiatus. So the boy was saved, but the brave heroes felt something amiss with the room; upon the walls were these words emblazoned: “WHAT IS PINK AND RED AND DEAD ALL OVER?”
They looked around them, at the dispatched poglins. Then, Finch looked back at the words, and said:
“A dead pig.”
With those true words spoken, a secret passageway was revealed. They followed it through, and found four sarcophagi in a small room, and a small plinth at the back with a box upon it. Finch made his way over to the box swiftly and opened it.
The sarcophagi opened. From inside crawled four creatures, each one as sickening and aberrant as the last: they were of humanoid shape, but constructed entirely of tongues. These foul monsters lunged for Finch.
The child, Tim, fled at the sight. Samp, concerned for the boy’s safety, immediately followed, leaving Barb and Finch to fend for themselves. Outnumbered and almost overpowered, the two warriors fought back with the fervour of ones faced with almost certain death. Barb fell, knocked unconscious, but only after he used his greatsword to carve one of the tongueflesh’s form to pieces with his expertise in raw meat preparation.
Finch seemed doomed, but he fought on. Just as it seemed hopeless, Samp returned, carving a path with his longsword. Victory was pulled from the jaws, or tongues, of defeat, and the last monstrosity was slain. They helped the injured Barb to his feet.
Finch went back to the box to claim his treasure, and found an ancient tome, dusty but well-preserved. Finding no interest in such matters, he passed it to Samp. It was titled Infinite Jest. Samp seemed happy with this result, and they left, but not before the hungry barbarian Barb collected a number of the tongues — which he correctly identified as pigs’ tongues — to consume later. They wandered out to meet Tim. Samp offered young Tim some bread to cheer him up, but Tim replied that he “ate enough of it at home.” Thus, the victorious heroes returned to the Lime House, and collected their bounty: five silver pieces each.
So this new band of adventurers struck out, heading north, towards Joi See City. Three heroes, never to be parted: Finch, Samp, Barb.
Dungeon Master’s Postscript
This was the first session of Dungeons & Dragons I ran, back in September, 2017. It was directly influenced by good old Matt Colville and his Running the Game series on YouTube. Of course, like many, I was also inspired to DM from watching Matt Mercer on Critical Role, as well as my own DM, who I thank for introducing me to the fantastical world of D&D. But this first session is all Colville.
Unlike session 3 onwards, I don’t have an audio recording of this one, so it has been constructed from my memory and notes taken at the time. The session was run in September 2017, so there are a few moments of necessary mythologisation, to fill in the gaps. Also, I wasn’t really sure what I was going for yet, so the tone is kind of all over the place (including one questionable real-world cultural reference), but those issues soon sorted themselves out in future sessions.
Much of the following section, Echoes Underground, is directly based on the official 5e starter adventure, The Lost Mine of Phandelver, but some names and situations were changed to suit my own purposes. From the second section onwards, it’s almost entirely homebrew.
For general reference, we play 5e, and from the second section of the campaign onwards, started using maps and miniatures, so this first section of the campaign was all theatre of the imagination (which I think has its own benefits, at the occasional loss of a sense of coherence).
Due to the time-consuming process of transcribing the audio of these sessions (I seem to frequently run sessions of up to nine hours in length), this will be a project I work on slowly. Furthermore, due to the length of certain sessions, I will have to separate them into individual chapters. With all of this said, I hope you enjoy future installments of this campaign diary, as our plucky heroes slowly delve further and further into the mouth of madness and horror.
[This is the first installment in a campaign diary series, Chaos Rains, transcribed from the Dungeons and Dragons sessions that I run for my friends. Further information will occasionally be found at the end as a Dungeon Master’s Postscript, but otherwise, I hope for the story to tell itself.]