Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #40 – “A Heart He Keeps”

The Company:

  • Hendrik (MU6)
  • Jürg (F6/T2)
  • Claus (T4)
  • Jonas, Kjell, Agnes, Finnian (heavy foot)
  • Enie & Flurin (porter)


  • Splendid sapphire ring
  • Bear skull
  • Lead box containing a beating heart

Casualties: None, dratnabbit!


Ten weeks pass as the company wait for poor Hendrik to recover from his feeblemind affliction in the hospital.

People in town say the prefect was struck with some awful sickness and is either dead or dying…

An agent of the Royal Mail delivers a parcel containing a bone flute, care of Judges Guild.

Finnian, the heavy foot in heirloom plate, who previously fled the fight against the Frankenstein monster, presents himself to the company for continued service.

Jürg haggles with Mordechai over an unopened parcel addressed to Vincent-Godefroy Malévol and ends up acquiring it in exchange for 550 GP. When he opens it he finds it contains a high-quality powdered gentleman’s wig.

Jürg also has a run-in with some shady types in The Tap who are looking for a book called Libellus de Alchimia. They explain it was penned by the famed Albertus Magnus, can be used to dispelled summoned creatures, and must be in one of Xyntillan’s numerous laboratory libraries. Having insulted his intelligence, Jürg later waits for them in an alley, puts on his ring of invisibility, and kicks the living daylights out of them.

Hendrik studies one of the tomes he stole from Aristide’s laboratory, titled Conjuration & Invocation, and learns that it holds several extremely powerful spells.


The company decide it is time to take their shot at acquiring that mysterious heart they’ve heard so much about. They burn incense at the reliquary, and Jürg has a vision of passing through the upper library, then a lounge with snarling heads, entering a hallway where it is very cold, and finally arriving in a hunting lodge.

They enter through the grand entrance, swiftly make their way up to the 2nd floor of the gothic wing, and are just about to enter the library when they hear a bone chilling voice from back the way they came saying something about “they went that way”. They stop, turn, form up and wait. A large group of druids led by a man who must be Runcius, wearing crown shaped like thorns, enters their torchlight. Runcius wants the staff of the deep woods, plus a human sacrifice. Before anyone can do anything, Jürg blasts them with his horn. At the same time, Hendrik whips out and lets loose with his wand of cold. All of Runcius’s men are instantly killed. The leader draws a bone dagger and attacks Hendrik, grabbing the staff and stabbing away while growling “I’ll perform that sacrifice right here and now!” Hendrik is hurt but not killed. Claus stabs him in the back. Jürg chops him with his axe. The druid cries out in pain and anger and shimmers out of existence.

The company take a moment to catch their breath, and speculate about the degree to which Runcius has been definitively defeated. Then, they continue on their way.

They make it up to the third floor library, pass through the lounge with those snarling heads, and enter a door to the north-east. In the hallway beyond, they try the first door east, from which they hear faint sounds of music. It opens on a small balcony littered with broken musical instruments, a wardrobe along one side. Jürg steps onto the balcony, which creaks ominously. He opens the wardrobe and the corpse of a conductor comes rolling out, followed by a swarm of rats. Non-plussed, Jürg steps back into the hallway, and dispatches the vicious rodents without breaking a sweat.

They continue on their way.

The door at the end of the hallway, heading north, leads to a bedroom that has been torn to shreds. They hear chittering and occasional flapping. Up in the rafters they see a large sack sitting on a beam. A ladder stands against the beam. Claus shoots at the sack, hits it, but it does not fall from the beam.

Jürg climbs up the ladder and shimmies along the beam towards the sack. It turns out to be the corpse of a matron, crawling with vampire bats. She is wearing a remarkable ring. So Jürg takes his axe and chops off her hand at the wrist. It drops to the ground. The bats, disturbed, fly up from the corpse and attack. Jürg nearly falls from the beam but manages to hold on. He makes it down the ladder while fending off attacks from bats. The things attach themselves to several party members and proceed to suck at the wounds. But eventually most are destroyed and the remainder flee.

They turn their attention to the next door, leading south-west.

Hendrik uses a clairvoyance spell to see behind the door. It is poorly illuminated so he can only make out faint outlines. They open the door, and find a room hung with rotting animal skins, and a large wooden throne. The sounds of metallic clinking come from the rafters. There is also the sound of rattling from behind the northern wood panel wall. Hendrik uses his remote viewing to see what is above them, and sees seven huntsmen swinging by their legs, their swords softly beating against their chainmail vests.

Huntsmen on their way (Pieter Bruegel the Elder)

Jürg discovers a secret door in the wood paneling, opens it, and is showered with bones. A disembodied animal roar emits and dies away. The door reveals a cell with broken chains. Whoever or whatever was held here has clearly escaped…

They take the next door south-west.

It turns out to be the hunting lodge of Jürg’s vision. There’s a long table, rustic chairs, and tankards. The walls are decorated with trophies and tapestries. A large moldy tapestry covers the entirety of the north wall. It depicts seven huntsmen led by a galant figure.

When the company enter, the tankards lift up and slam the table. A loud “huzzah!” rings out. Jürg instantly responds with a “huzzah” of his own. All is quiet again.

Peeking behind the tapestry, Jürg sees a passage scattered with detritus. Vines growing in the passage come alive and attack him. In the ensuing confusion, Finnian attacks Jürg from behind, trying to grab his horn of blasting. Several retainers wrestle him to the ground while Jürg continues to fight the vines. Finnian manages to escape and runs from the room. Claus strikes him with an arrow in the back, but does not kill him. For a moment, Finnian transforms into a disgusting grey rubbery humanoid before disappearing.

The vines are destroyed without too much trouble. They search the passage, and find a lead box, vibrating with something rhythmically beating inside. At the end of the passage is the mural of a doorway, strongly radiating with magic.

The company decide it is time to head back. They manage to escape the castle without further trouble, and travel back to town without issue.

When they arrive at their residences, they see Othmar, captain of the guard along with a sizable detachment posting outside their door, waiting for them…

Referee Commentary:

Our 40th session! A rather momentous occasion I would say. Things continue to hurtle towards a finale of some sort almost of its own accord.

A few quick thoughts. I was probably a little too lenient with the first round of combat with Runcius. I should have allowed for missile fire from the druids before they were blasted by Jürg’s horn and Hendrik’s wand. Or at least, I should have rolled for initiative.

The secret cell in Hubert’s room is mentioned in the key but missing from the map. That there me off for a moment, and I ultimately decided to simply add it by hand to the player’s map on an ad-hoc basis.

We ended on a cliffhanger this time around. I thought I would change it up for once. Players have gotten very used to the fact that town is a safe haven. But when they choose to send a lethal item to the prefect, there has to be consequences. So when we pick up next session, we will do a cold open on the confrontation with Othmar and the guard, and take it from there.

Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #39 – “Appearances Can Be Deceptive”

The Company:

  • Jürg (F6/T1)
  • Hendrik (MU6)
  • “Fancy” Julia, “Chicken” Kjell & “Prickly” Agnes (heavy footpersons)
  • “Bland” Enie (porter)


  • Ledger listing the provenance of stuffed mimics
  • The Manual of Intelligence (formerly The Tome of Learning)
  • Ring of invisibility
  • Alchemical materials
  • Tomes “Conjuration & Invocation” and “Ephemerality”

Casualties: Julia, sucked dry by a glittercloud.


An agent of the royal mail delivers a set of silk gloves, care of Judges Guild.

Heavy footman Finnian returns to town, eager to rejoin the company for the next expedition. No word of Alyssia though…

Poor porter Noel is found one morning, hanging by his right leg from a tree near the company’s residences. His entrails have been arranged in a circle around the tree. A note is stabbed to his chest with a bone dagger. Written in blood, it reads: “Leave the staff of the deep woods at the indoornesse entrance before the next new moon. This is your final warning”.

A tax agent of the town prefect, Richard Justin Saint-Égréve, visits the company accompanied by Othmar, captain of the guard, and a couple of guardsmen. The tax agent inquires after the treasure the company have been liberating from the castle. Does the company realize the prefect was appointed by the current head of the Malévol family, count Jean-Giscard, who resides in the Chamrousse summer palace? Furthermore, do they realize any treasure recovered remains property of the count, and should therefore be presented to the prefect for safe-keeping?

Jurg hands the prefect a box that holds a cursed silver cross. “Here you go, sir, as a token of our appreciation. Please send that Malévol our best.”

The tax officer takes the box, “it’s a start, we’ll hand it over to the prefect” and leaves. Othmar leaves as well, grumbling all the way.

They also try to open the mysteriously rattling mahogany box they took from Aristide’s upper laboratory. Magic weapons, fire, knock spells, etc. Nothing seems to do the trick.

Hendrik gets the wand of lightning recharged, and scribes another knock scroll.

They do the rounds of the local bars, and find number of new retainers foolhardy enough to accompany them.


The company decide they want to continue their pillaging of the late Aristide’s lab. This time, they will try their hand at the lower level. They enter through the rose garden again, swiftly make their way to the upstairs hallway with the eerie singing, head into the wax works room, through the hole in that was blasted in the wall there, into the room with the defunct coils, and through the large double doors into the upstairs lab which they so expertly stripped of its valuables during the previous expedition.

They head down the spiral staircase. At the bottom they see demijohns with suspicious-looking liquids inside. They head into the lab proper, and see a vast array of alchemical equipment, materials, and huge metal vats wafting acrid vapors. A large book sits on a lecture stand facing a large dark mirror. Shelves hold many books. At the far end there is a hallway that dead ends, and along the south wall are four closet doors.

Aristide in his younger days? (James Nasmyth)

Hendrik collects a pair of magical books from the shelves. Jürg takes a moment to study the Castle Xyntillan guide book, but learns nothing of relevance. Meanwhile, Hendrik, intrigued by the tome near the mirror, can’t resist the temptation to peruse it, and is instantly struck by a feeblemind spell. He is reduced to 1 INT idiocy, and has lost all his magical capabilities.

For a moment, the company do not know what to do next. Then, they decide to press on anyway. Hendrik may be dumb as a rock now, but he can still hit stuff with a stick, and is tougher than one might at first think.

Jürg proceeds to inspect the closets, one by one, working from west to east.

The first contains what turns out to be a crystallized gelatinous cube, lots of detritus floating in mid-air. Jürg blasts it with his horn. The cube turns out not to have held anything of value. The closet is otherwise empty. Suspicious, Jürg inspect the rear wall, and indeed, it turns out to be a secret doorway.

Jürg opens the door a tiny bit and peers inside. He sees a large number of skulls float about. Not one for subtlety, Jürg goes “hello!” and opens the door all the way. He tries to chat up the skulls, and the things are stupid enough to reveal they are guarding a ring of some sort. When he tries to bullshit them into leaving, however, they turn vicious, and attack. Before they can do much harm, Jürg blasts them with his horn, and swats the remainder from the air. Only a single skull manages to escape into the castle’s dark hallways.

Jürg then enters the room and looks for the ring that was mentioned by the skulls, but does not find anything. Maybe it’s invisible, he thinks to himself, so he goes down on hands and knees and feels around and sure enough he comes across what must be a ring, entirely invisible.

The next door they open reveals a huge mouth on the far wall. It licks its lips and whispers things about revealing secrets in exchange for food. Jürg tosses one of the defeated floating skulls at it. The mouth greedily gobbles it up, but demands more. Jürg goes “nah” and shuts the door.

The third door opens on a closet holding variety of furniture covered by sheets. When Jürg enters to search for valuables, four huge corpse birds with oily feathers and long sharp beaks emerge from the shadows. They peck at his chest. Jürg once again whips out his horn and blast the creatures, but they continue to try and attack. One manages to dent Jürg’s breast plate, but he manages to cut them down without too much trouble.

The final door opens on a collection of stuffed mimics, and a pedestal with a ledger on it. The company don’t trust it, and expect the book must be a live mimic. So Jürg enters the closet and makes to tip over the pedestal with his axe. But the pedestal itself comes to life and attacks. Again, Jürg dispatches it without too much trouble.

As they make up their minds about what to do next, they hear footsteps and voices from the top of the spiral stairs coming their way. They pile into the east most closet to hide. They hear a large group enter the room, and begin to search it. Soon enough, an undead lord opens their door. Jürg was ready with his axe, and cuts the thing down right away. However, there are 14 more lords to contend with. They demand the company leave the castle and never return, or else. The company decide to humor them, and begin to head for the exit. The lords follow in a column. Then, Jürg suddenly whips around and blast them with his horn. Many perks outright. Two lords were carrying large flasks containing glitterclouds, and one was holding a sack of hands. The containers burst open and the monsters attack, as do the few remaining lords.

What follows is quite the fight. Jürg is hypnotized by a glitterclouds. Julia is sucked dry by another cloud. The hand swam begins to chortle Jürg. Hendrik tries to get the fighting man to snap out of it. He does, and proceeds to dispatch the hands crawling all over him. Hendrik raises his staff and charges the glitterclouds. Jürg gets rid of the hands and follows Hendrik. The remaining lords follow and begin to stab the fighter and magic-user in the back. The retainers in turn follow, and stab the lords in the back. The tide is turned, and the company prevails.

They catch their breath for a moment. Spooked, they decide to make sure they have a quick way of getting out of the castle. They use the horn to blast a hole in the outer wall. They go back and search that corridor that dead-ends, and find a bricked-up doorway. They decide they’ve done enough blasting for one day. They collect some of the alchemical materials. They also mess with one of the demijohns at a safe distance, and it explodes in an acrid cloud of smoke. With that, they leave, and safely make it back to town in one piece.

Referee Commentary:

An eventful session, even though they have explored just one room. But what a room it was.

The feeblemind at the beginning of the session really caught the players off guard a little. I softened the blow a little bit by suggesting that there might be a way for Hendrik to recover. And so the player leaned into the being dumb bit, and had a fun session anyway. I also commend them for being foolhardy enough to just read the damn book and not play it safe. Safe is boring.

Again, I have some ideas in hindsight about what I could have done differently in the big fight in the end. I could have, for example, had the lords try and grab a character and toss them in those vats of acid. That would have been fun. In general it’s easy to forget what’s in the environment when you get in the rhythm of running a fight.

I continue to find the glitterclouds awkward to run — their blood suck attack is a ranged attack, which doesn’t feel quite right to me. And then there is this hypnotize power they can use once per day, but it’s not clear what that triggers off of. I guess I just lack experience with this kind of monster.

There were more than a few fun interactions with monsters and NPCs. In general, if there is an opportunity for players to chat with monsters, I should always take it. It adds a little spice to the proceedings.

Jürg really is incredibly powerful with the combination of that horn of blasting and his crusader’s two-handed axe. But it’s well-earned, and I do feel like the whole game has started to hit overdrive and we are zipping towards what I hope will be a satisfying finale of the campaign.

And yes, all the way at the top of the session, during downtime, Jürg did indeed hand the prefect’s agents a cross bearing a lethal curse. I’m sure that won’t have any consequences down the line…