Slowly returning to blogging now that my broken wrist is mending. Just now able to type well again without pain.
We were traveling the old trade road up near the Blind Hills when we found it: an overturned wagon in the ditch. Evas took to the shadows, scouted ahead, and returned with strange details. The wagon had been transformed—such that it appeared to be a fierce fortress. Signs of goblin-work were apparent: broken shields reinforcing the walls, crude arrow slits cut into the driver’s bench, a makeshift flag hanging limply atop the whole affair. We left it alone, but even at a distance the smell of the odd fortress’s unfinished moat made us wretch…
The Impregnable Fortress of Dib is a location designed to offer a medium/easy challenge to four 1st- to 2nd-level characters.
Before you stands an unusual makeshift fortress. A large wooden wagon has been overturned a few feet from the road. An incomplete moat of sorts rings the structure; the vapors from its gelatinous contents reaching your nose even at fifty paces. The wagon has been reinforced with broken shields and scavenged planks; an unfortunate dead fox has been nailed unceremoniously atop a crude doorway. Slits and holes of various sizes have been bored and carved into the walls, and you hear wicked whispering and rustling coming from within. A flag made from cloth scraps hangs unmoving in the still air.
Dib Halfling-Chewer rules the fortress. Several months back, Dib and his cronies were ejected from a nearby goblin clan for indiscriminate wrestling. Since their expulsion from the clan, Dib and his minions have transformed a trade wagon into a dangerous roadside obstacle. The goblins retreat into the throne room when it is clear the fortress is breached. Assaulting the fortress is run as a combat encounter, with the fortress taking two actions on its initiative (+0). The fortress may:
- Arrow Barrage. Ranged weapon attack. +4 to hit, range 80/320 ft., two targets. Hit: 5 piercing damage.
- Spear Thrusts. Melee weapon attacks. +4 to hit, range 10 ft., two targets. Hit: 5 piercing damage.Spear thrusts have advantage against PCs attempting to lift the wagon.
- Warmed Oil (Recharge 5–6) Spray blobs of warmed oil at all creatures within 20 ft. Each creature must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or take 2 fire damage; a successful save halves the damage.
A general guide to assaulting the fortress is provided below.
Kicking in the Door. Forcing the door takes three solid kicks. Each kick uses an action and requires a DC 14 Strength (Athletics) check. Successfully kicking in the door allows the party to enter the area under the wagon (see below).
Lifting the Whole Damn Thing Up. Lifting and tipping the fortress over takes 2 rounds. Each round requires a successful DC 17 Strength (Athletics) check made by one PC. The DC of this check is reduced by one for each PC assisting. PCs involved in lifting the wagon may take no other actions that round. Failing the check on the second round results in the lifting PC(s) having to start over. Successfully lifting the wagon allows the PCs to enter the area under the wagon (see below).
Smashing a Hole. The fortress can simply be attacked with the aim of making an opening. The fortress (AC 12, HP 40) is considered defeated at zero hit points. Defeating the fortress allows the party to enter the area under the wagon.
Under the Wagon
Inside the makeshift stronghold, you find a dank and foul-smelling place. A small cauldron of rendered animal fat approaches boiling over a smoky fire. Two poorly made spears sit abandoned on the ground. A ladder suggests the wagon’s inhabitants have dug into the ground below.
Once their fortress is breached, the five goblins inside retreat into the throne room. A DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check uncovers an oily sack with 25 sp and some shiny rocks.
The Tunnel and Throne Room
You crouch and descend into the goblin’s burrow. The tunnel, precariously carved and shored up with planking, runs straight for 30 feet before turning sharply. Peering around the corner, you see the goblin’s living quarters. A single sputtering torch illuminates the small chamber and the makeshift throne at the far end. Evil eyes blink from behind five small mounds of dirt. Suddenly, you hear the sound of bow strings being drawn…
The goblins make ranged attacks from behind half-cover until forced into melee. At the entrance to the chamber is a simple spike trap. Noticing the trap requires a Perception (Wisdom) check of 12. Disarming the trap requires a DC 12 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. Failure to notice or disarm the trap causes six sharp spikes to spring out of the ground. PCs within 5 feet of the trap must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take 1d6 (4) piercing damage; a successful save halves the damage. The throne hides Dib’s treasure hoard. A DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals the seat of the throne is loose and offset. Inside the throne is a small wooden chest containing 60 sp, 15 gp, and a scrap of cloth with Dib’s fortress design notes scribbled in smudged ink.
by Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor | February 19, 2015 07:14am ET
ancient shrines, gegharot archaeology, divination, ancient hilltop fortress
A shrine excavated at the entrance of a fortress’ west terrace in Gegharot in Armenia. The stone stele like would’ve been a focal point for rituals practiced there some 3,300 years ago.
Credit: Photo courtesy Professor Adam Smith
Three shrines, dating back about 3,300 years, have been discovered within a hilltop fortress at Gegharot, in Armenia.
Local rulers at the time likely used the shrines for divination, a practice aimed at predicting the future, the archaeologists involved in the discovery say.
Each of the three shrines consists of a single room holding a clay basin filled with ash and ceramic vessels. A wide variety of artifacts were discovered including clay idols with horns, stamp seals, censers used to burn substances and a vast amount of animal bones with markings on them. During divination practices, the rulers and diviners may have burnt some form of substances and drank wine, allowing them to experience “altered” states of mind, the archaeologists say. [See Images of the Divination Shrines and Artifacts]
“The logic of divination presumes that variable pathways articulate the past, present and future, opening the possibility that the link between a current situation and an eventual outcome might be altered,” write Adam Smith and Jeffrey Leon, in an article published recently in the American Journal of Archaeology. Smith is a professor at Cornell University, and Leon is a graduate student there.
The fortress at Gegharot is one of several strongholds built at around this time in Armenia. “Evidence to date suggests that this coordinated process of fortress construction was part of the emergence of a single polity that built and occupied multiple sites in the region,” write Smith and Leon.
Smith believes that Gegharot would have been used as an occult center for the rulers. “I would think that this is probably a cult center largely specializing in servicing the emerging rulers from the ruling class,” he told Live Science in an interview.
At the time, writing had not yet spread to this part of Armenia so the name of the polity, and its rulers, are unknown.
Predicting the future
Smith and Leon found evidence for three forms of divination at Gegharot. One form was osteomancy, trying to predict the future through rituals involving animal bones, in this case the knucklebones of cows, sheep and goat.
The knucklebones, which were covered in burns and other markings, would have been rolled like dice in rituals attempting to predict the future, Smith said. “You would roll them and depending upon whether the scorched side or the marked side came up you would [get] a different interpretation,” Smith said.
Lithomancy, trying to predict the future through the use of stone, also appears to have been practiced at Gegharot. Inside a basin at one shrine, archaeologists found 18 small pebbles. “These stones appear to have been selected for their smooth, rounded shape and their color palette, which ranged from black and dark gray to white, green and red,” Smith and Leon write. How exactly these unmarked stones would have been used in rituals is unknown.
Flour for the future?
At one shrine, on the fortress’ east citadel, the archaeologists found an installation used to grind flour. Smith and Leon think that this flour could have been used to predict the future in a practice called aleuromancy. [The 7 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]
“What is conspicuous about the grinding installation in the east citadel shrine is the lack of a formal oven for bread baking,” Smith and Leon write. The shrine’s basin “was clearly used for burning materials and certainly could have been used to bake small balls of dough, but it is unlikely that it would have been used to cook loaves of bread.”
Stamp seals found at the shrine would have allowed people to punch a variety of shapes into dough. “One possibility (admittedly among many others) is that the stamps marked the dough that was then used for aleuromancy.”
The shrines were in use for a century or so until the surrounding fortress, along with all the other fortresses in the area, were destroyed. The site was largely abandoned after this, Smith said.
At the time, there was a great deal of conflict in the south Caucasus with a number of regional polities fighting against each other, Smith said. The polity that controlled Gegharot seems to have been wiped out in one of those conflicts.
Although the rulers who controlled Gegharot put great effort into trying to predict and change the future, it was to no avail — their great fortresses being torched in a cataclysm they could not avoid.
Excavations at the shrines are part of the American-Armenian Project for the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies (Project ArAGATS).
The west terrace shrine was excavated in 2003, the west citadel shrine in 2008, and the east citadel shrine in 2010 and 2011.