Saturday, June 9, 2012

Welcome to the Caves of Chaos

Different countries, different races or tribes, all with with different languages, and even cultures as old as the ages all have made reference to the caves. The actual words or the titles applied to this location may be different, but their intent was all the same. This particular corner of the world, this little hell’s half acre, was a foul and odious place, a blight on the land around it and on the planet on which it resided.

Some believed the caves were crafted by an evil god at the beginning of time as a place where his kind could hide, breed, grow, perfect their dangerous schemes on each other, and to provide a home from which its evil residents could then wreak havoc on the world around them. Over the centuries armies have swept through the caves, purging them of their purveyors of mayhem, but time passed, armies moved on, and evil has always crept back into the caves. Was this drive for creatures to migrate over long distances part of their afflicted soul? Was there a power that remained behind hidden deep in the bowels of the caves, left untouched over the many centuries, that served as a beating heart of evil that drew these creatures to its bosom?

The Caves of Chaos resided in an otherwise innocuous looking box canyon. The mouth of the ravine was perhaps 200 feet in width, with its two walls reaching upwards of 100 feet in height, coming to point along the western wall about 400 feet deep. Thick patches of trees and shrubbery dotted the floor and walls of the canyon and provided some level of obscurement from an otherwise innocent passerby. At a distance the area looked much like any other canyon in this mountainous area. It was only that when one drew close to the mouth of this particular ravine did that opinion begin to change.

As one approached the mouth of the ravine the air appeared to grow thicker and filled with the scent of death. The sun seemed to be partially blotted out by an ever present smoky haze. The groves of trees and bushes seemingly transformed into tangled messes that also included vines, brambles, briars, and thorns. The walls of the canyon were dotted at different heights with what appeared to be cave mouths. Most of the openings were unadorned, but some of the openings had structures built on to them. Thin plumes of smoke seeped out of several of these openings, as did the occasional inhuman roar or shriek that emanated from exactly who knows what.

As one stepped into the mouth of the ravine they found themselves greeted with the raucous cawing of ravens as the ominous black birds seemingly laughed and taunted their new visitors. The ground was covered with rubble and boulders, but also with the bones of animals, humanoids, and things unrecognizable. The sudden recognition that this was a killing field was matched with an ever growing smell of death that would cause even the heartiest of adventurer to shiver as the pervasive feeling of evil reached down into their bones.

Welcome to the Caves of Chaos.

Last night in town each of you reviewed your equipment (look at your character sheet). Your armor and weapons were deemed ready, foodstuffs have been procured and stored, and you pondered if you really had everything you needed. Each character had some amount of gold and the town had an ample supply of the mundane items (Pg 19-20 of the Playtest Handbook) - was there anything else you wished to acquire before heading out?

As a group you reviewed what you had come to learn over your weeks and months of preparation. There was an entrance on the lower level along the north wall, just beyond one of the gnarled grove of trees. Beyond that … who knows. The caves likely extended and wrapped around the depths beyond both sides of the canyon faces, and there were stories of even deeper, darker places within the maze. The stories also included tales of traps, secret doors, dead ends, and even some places from which there was no escape.

Most of the stories included tales of lizard-like kobolds with their green skin and rows of shiny teeth. Vicious goblins and hobgoblins were known to roam the halls as well, their misshapen forms and crude but deadly weapons always a danger. You have been warned more than once - in both cases it was their captains that you truly needed to be cautious of. There were also stories of religious fanatics who have flocked to the caves in search of a great power. Tales of outlaws and outcasts hiding from the wrath of the civilized world have been told as well. Skeletons and zombies have also been known to wander out of the caves and into the surrounding area - the hints of other undead monsters did little to settle your already queasy stomach. Rats, bugs, other creatures that liked to hide in the dark were certain to be present as well.

As a party you have carefully laid your plans and built your strategies. You have gathered information, learned what you could, and you look forward to the challenge ahead of you. But why would you do it? The "why" of it was something everyone must answer for themselves. Was it treasure, revenge, a holy calling, a chance for glory, or perhaps there was a secret that was so dark you dared not mention it aloud. Regardless of motivation here you stood, a band of adventurers that had decided to take the risk, to seek their reward, and all with the full intent of living to tell the story afterward.

As the party stood just inside the mouth of the ravine they paused for a second to adjust their senses and to gather their bearings. Ahead to the right is a tangled grove of trees - the entrance should be just beyond that ...

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