GAMEPLAY RULES AND INFORMATION
Do not make rolls for NPCs. If you provoke an attack of opportunity, the GM will resolve it. If the outcome of the attack that you provoke has any bearing on the rest of your actions (if any) that round, you can halt or "pause" your turn until after the GM has resolved the attack of opportunity.
Everyone stand by, the opening post will set the scene later today, or tomorrow. Please DO NOT POST until then.
”You know the assignment, so. Um. Alright; introductions are in order, I expect. And then we should get moving. And by we, I mean you…”
The voice belongs to Venture-Captain "Dandy" Dandle Highwind: a cultured, educated, practical, and world-weary middle-aged Chelaxian with piercing blue eyes. Despite a wealthy upbringing and an exhaustive education, Dandy is straightforward and mostly lacks the pretentiousness typical of the Chelaxian high-born. Despite all appearances, he is also an accomplished archer.
The Venture-Captain dabs his forehead – it’s early morning and the wooden planks and field tents that make up the Pathfinder Society waystation do little to stifle the oppressive heat of the jungle. Fortunately, the camp is situated in a relatively safe location – a huge clearing, with the off-putting but Society-friendly Rumawa tribe patrolling the jungles that surround the site.
”Right, so. I don’t believe any of you knows our dwarven friend just yet. This is Mister Kargath Thunderstrike. Mister Thunderstrike will bravely be electing to replace the late Mister Deegan in the role of physical applications lead and has a lot of experience with both single combat and small-unit field tactics. He should work out nicely.
Kargath tries to remember the last time someone called him “Mister Thunderstrike,” and comes up blank.
”Also new to the Expanse is our esteemed diviner, Mister Elsir Thran. Formerly something of an… administrator, Elsir has decided to try his hand in the field, and we are glad to have him.”
Then, raising his eyebrows at Elsir: ”I have to say, though. You picked a hell of a place to start.”
"In any case, Mister Thran will be your go-two knowledge base and arcane expert. This is something we’ve not had a need for in past endeavors, but delving the Drowning Stones will not amount to just another jungle hop. Please don’t be hesitant to make use of his skills.”
”Now then, Misters Thunderstrike and Thran. You’ll be joining what’s left of our field operations team. The gentleman to my right is Mister Nesipho Inkosi, and to his right is the esteemed Druid Ojore. Both men belong to the Ilanga tribe, with whom the Society has established an excellent relationship. Mister Inkosi has been with us a very long time – almost ten years training and serving with the Society. Ideal field agent. A locks and traps man, a great fighter, magically adept, cunning in the extreme, and very knowledgeable when it comes to the Expanse. The wise Druid Ojore has similarly made the Society his ally and did recently join us in a conditional capacity. As long as our work keeps us within the Mwangi Expanse, Ojore is on board and effectively acting as a Society Pathfinder in all respects. In turn, Ojore acts as an Ilanga liaison, and helps us to make sure that the good work we do does indeed serve this ancient and storied land.”
”Aaand lastly, Inquisitor Nicoleta Mashrava has been quite instrumental in establishing and maintaining contact and positive interaction with some of the local tribes – the Rumawa and the Ilanga included. Actually, the Stones were until recently quite infested with the ulat-kini – those unfortunate humanoids which adventurers often call “skum.” Inquisitor Mashrava has come a long way to be here and has – with the help of the Rumawa tribesmen – done quite a lot to trim their numbers back to virtually nothing. She’s a skilled infiltrator and close-quarters combatant, and also a dutiful servant of the Lady Luck. Misters Thunderstrike and Thran, I hope I don’t offend your religious sensibilities when I say that out here, you’ll learn to pray to whomever listens. I recommend you spare a prayer for Densa when you can, because sometimes luck seems to be all that holds this place together.”
Dandy pounds his fist against a wooden post, which immediately breaks.
The venture captain squints as he peers around for a member of the maintenance staff.
”Any questions?” he asks, distractedly.
At her name, Nicoleta Marshava smiles a little awkwardly but does not speak up. The dusky-skinned Varisian woman looks terribly out of place in the midst of the Mwangi, although her light clothing appears to be comfortable and allow easy movement. She seems twitchy, rarely still - even while nodding through the introductions, she shifts from foot to foot, and she twirls a starknife from hand to hand with unconscious, practiced movements.
When Dandy asks about questions, Nicoleta shakes her head; she knows the assignment. Her only reply is to resettle the pack - surprisingly large for such a small woman, and she hefts it with astonishing ease - and look toward the others.
GT: If I recall correctly, Desna is a fairly commonly-worshipped goddess in the Mwangi. Is that perhaps the form of outreach Nicoleta's provided to the local tribes?
'Mister' Kargath Thunderstrike looked around at the others, and wiped sweat off his own face. The face, scarred from hundreds of fights, seems as dominated by the piercing gray eye as by the puckered scar tissue surrounding his empty left eye socket. The network of overlapping scars appears on every visible patch of skin. The knuckles of his hands, sticking out from well-made and functional half-gloves with spiked metal studs on the strikeplates, are gnarled and huge.
Kargath grinned at the group around him, showing almost as many gaps as teeth. "Ye'll know when ye've offended me, Cap'n, when ye feel me boot up your arse! 'Role of Physical Applications' indeed. Well met, all. I' be a good thing t' be workin' here, the heat be damned!"
Nesipho listens closely as the Venture-Captain speaks, squatting on his haunches, the butt end of his short spear planted firmly in the ground. After the introductions he rises to his full 5'2". A surreptitious look toward the dwarf and a faint smile is telling that he is glad not to be the shortest for once.
"Venture-Captain, you say the", his voice is one of disgust as he speaks the next word "amazala numbers have been cut back to virtually nothing. Do you have any idea how many are left in the area? And what can you tell us of their tactics should we encounter any of them?"
The captain addresses Nesipho, straight away.
"Well, that's an unfortunate detail. They're quite savage, and members of their tribe claim to be in thrall to an obscure demon lord called Sifkesh. There are dozens left, but the situation is nothing like it was. We believe there is or must be a temple or shrine somewhere within the ruin, though initial divinitory research indicates that the complex is quite large, and possibly connected to the Darklands - so that could be anywhere."
Venture-Captain Dandy chews his lip.
"As for tactics, they're not stupid. Extremely hardy and quite stealthy for such a hunched and bloated breed - especially in the water. Some of them may even practice some form of bonded demon worship - clerical or otherwise, I couldn't say. No doubt the tribe has turned wholeheartedly to Sifkesh in this trying time. Be wary of demon's tricks."
"They like to jump out of ambush," Nicoleta adds, chewing her lip. "Especially out of water. Be careful near streams or pools." She frowns at the mention of Sifkesh, and her grip on the starknife she is twirling suddenly tightens.
Squatting beside Nespiro in exactly the same position, holding a near identical spear is another mwangi local. Ojore differs from his brother in build, being both larger and heavier, but is easily recognizable as being related to his older sibling. His dress is vastly different though. He wears hides and feathers and has little about him to mark him as a pathfinder or indeed anyone that has even seen civilization.
He also stands when introduced, and being tall for his people, towers over his brother by a good 4 inches. When he stands you note the strange glinting breastplate he wears. It is some kind of hide but seems to be made up of individual large green scales expertly worked together into armor.
In slightly broken common he addresses the group quite formally. Gozreh bids me travels with you. I will support this team and fight there is need. This I promise. Finished with his words he squats back down, quite comfortable and waits to see what questions others will ask.
Did I miss the assignment? lol
Hear his name spoken for the first time Elsir looks up from his examination of the camp "Ah yes thank you Venture Captain, it's good to be here." Reaching into the leather satchel handing from his thin shoulders Elsir retrieves a handkerchief and begins to dab the perspiration from his forehead. "After reading reports for years and examining cultural artifacts, it really is fantastic to, as they say "put boots on the ground, yes? Now my good man, what can you tell me about this site? And please spare me no details" With that Elsir, reaches into his satchel again and retrieves a small notebook and ink pen and prepares to take notes.
Knowledge pertaining to Drowning Stones:
Knowledge (geography) +8 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (4) + 8 = 12
Knowledge (history) +8 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (13) + 8 = 21
@ Ojore: There will be a convenient "recap," but the assignment amounts to what the campaign description said. "Explore the dungeon," in short. The Society isn't sure what to expect, so their instructions for now are "observe and report."
Venture-Captain Dandy shakes his head. "That's a question with a disappointing answer, Elsir. Very little is known about the city that we now call the Drowning Stones. Though the city is old - how old we do not know - and sinking into the soft earth of the shallow swamp it occupies, the Rumawa tribe considers it to be holy ground. There is a fortress at the center of the city - this was the highest part of the city and the only structure that seems to remain more or less above-ground dry."
"Now the Rumawa have their own names for the site, but they vary. Names meaning things like "sacred site" or "honored place." What the true name of the city was - along with it's history and origins - is lost to us. It is often called the Drowning Stones because the huge standing pillars that comprise the central forum seem to be sinking into the swamp, along with the rest of the city."
The captain holds up one finger.
"What we do know - or strongly suspect - is that the Drowning Stones themselves may mark the entrance to some kind of temple or holy place. To hear the Rumawa tell it, anyway. Otherwise, this'll be the very first true exploration of the ruin, so there's not much to say. Elsir, you're an academic and an administrator above all else, so we're going to elect not to send some fragile scholar with the team. You'll document the events and the sights."
This meshes up with all that Elsir already knew or suspected.
Standing again Ojore asks And the path to this place? You have a map? Is there a recommended trail or path? And what is known of the dangers along the way?
After listening carefully he will continue. Will we be establishing a outpost there or base came? Are you assigning us porters?
"The Society has provided a guide in Inquisitor Mashrava - she is indeed a survivalist and has made the trip many times. So too can the Society provide porters as needed, but not now. As for the path, there is a... trail... if you could call it that, and you know better than I, Druid Ojore, do that no place in these jungles is truly safe. It's safe enough, though, and it'll only get safer as we mop up more of the surviving ulat-kini."
Displaying a curiosity and understanding of engineering and architecture that his previous look and behavior had hidden, Kargath asked "What be th' rate o' sinkage? Be th' temple, or fortress, or whatever architecturally sound? I know we be workin' on hearsay and stories, but mebbe there be somwha' o' a hint on i'? Is th' sinkage laterally uniform, or be i' conjunctive?" Seeing the looks on some of their faces, he clarified, "Is i' sinkin' straight down, or all wobbled like?"
Venture-Captain Highwind gives Kargath a thoughtful frown, as though considering the dwarf for the very first time.
"Indeed, Mister Kargath, the sinking appears to occur at a uniform rate, which further cements the idea that this fortress sat at the highest place in the city, and was thus a place of some importance."
"It seems to me that the first order of business then should be to clear the nearby areas of any remaining amazala. Old ruins can be dangerous enough without extra critters running around, or a swamp trying to suck the lot of us down with it." Despite his obvious Mwangi heritage Nesipho speaks the common tongue with only the slightest hint of an accent.
"Captain or Miss Mashrava, is there a means of approaching the stones from high ground or from the cover of the jungle that we might get a better view of the surroundings? Or spy out any obvious places where something wishing to lurk might be spotted?"
"You could climb a tree," Dandle suggests with a smile.
"But generally, no. As I said, the pillars were built on the high ground at the center of the city. You could avoid and disregard the trail. Though the journey itself is short and straightforward, we do have maps, if you choose not to walk what little path has been cleft through the wilds."
I agree. We should take the trail where we can. If there are ambushes along the way, then people know we are coming. We need to know that, and should deal with them now instead of later.
Taking a second look at all the scars crisscrossing Kargath's arms, hands and face, "Ben biraz daha Sizinki değer daha derimin değer düşünüyorum ve ben sadece geri vurmak almadan onları vurmak için tercih ediyorum."
"I think I'd prefer coming across them blindly then having them ambush us. But Miss Mashrava has been in there before and knows the situation, I will follow her lead in this, whether to take the path or go cross country."
"I have no further questions Captain."
Venture-Captain Highwind nods.
"Right; so. Um. Let's see. Right of Conquest is the rule of the day out here in the Mwangi - you're entitled to what you find out there, barring objects of particular historical, literary, or linguistic significance. Said significance to be determined by Society experts, of course. Strictly speaking, the ruin itself is a Society delve, no third-party activity shall be permitted in or around the site."
Dandle fiddles with the wooden post that he broke.
"To recap, your objective for now is to enter the ruin proper, see what there is to see, and - er, clean up all you can. Evaluate and eliminate threats for the eventual historical team that we'll send up once the site is tidy and monster-free."
"As always, feel free to return to the waystation whenever you feel unsure about what to do or how to proceed, or should you encounter something within the city ruins whose value or significance you're unsure of... though as a general rule I'd advise you all to defer to Mister Thran's expertise in such a case."
Finally, Dandle folds his hands in front of him. Somewhat solemnly, he concludes:
"And, per usual, a recovery team will be assembled in the event that no member of your delve returns within the space of a single month. Good luck, Pathfinders."
Your slowest party member moves at 20 feet, which amounts to 16 miles per day, or 12 miles per day through the jungle with a road or trail to follow. The site is 24 miles off, so that's two days, making camp just once, inbetwen, then camping again at the site before entering. Potentially, travel time could amount to less than that if a forced march is an option for you guys. Aside from that thought, I have two questions for everyone:
1.) What is your marching order for the trip?
2.) What weapons or objects do you have drawn, readied, or equipped? Include things like weapon cords and locked gauntlets. If you don't declare it, you don't have it in-hand.
I don't see the need for a forced march. Two days is just fine with me.
Given that Nicoleta moves at 40 feet, which is twice the party's average pace, I had thought to have her take point, moving 40 feet as a move action and then using the "intentionally searching for stimulus" Perception action on her other move action - hopefully allowing me to take 10 (or at least get an active roll) even against traps, ambushes and so on. Regardless, she carries her quarterstaff (used as a walking stick most of the time) in one hand and her loaded crossbow in the other while traveling.
With Nicoleta at point, Ojore and his cat can take the rear guard. But please use him to assist with survival roles as needed (he assists on a 2) and can also cast Guidance on you, giving a net +3 on the roll. He can come up to help any time. He will travel with shield on one arm and his club, weapon cord attached, in the other. His spring loaded wrist sheaths are loaded with wands of Cure Moderate Wounds and Cure Light Wounds. The last three hours of travel he will cast Longstrider on himself and increase his move speed to 30.
Nesipho walks alongside Elsir when the trail allows, or just behind him when it won't. He chats with him quietly in elvish, prodding him with questions about magic, history, cataloging, elvish culture, and anything else the elf is willing to discuss. He carries his short spear in one hand and a wand (wand of shield) in the other.
When the elf grows weary of speaking Nesipho drops back to chat with his brother about the tribe and their parents, and his study in druidism.
I also see no reason to do a forced march at present.
@ Ojore: Where is the lion? Or have you not called your companion yet? (Also: Some druids name their companions, and some don't. Does the lion have a name, or shall he simply be 'lion?')
Second: I've touched on this before, but I'll go over it again. I'm not tracking food (or arrows) until the party gets cut off or stranded. It's not fun and therefore not worth the trouble to track it on a routine basis. This means that as long as you guys are safely free-roaming and the waystation or some other proper source of supplies remains intact, you're good.
But the moment you get trapped by a rockslide? The only food you have is what's included on your character sheet, plus food for one trip back to the closest supply point. If you're listing rations on your character sheet, your PC is carrying more than just the expected amount of rations. This system is slightly unrealistic (how does every PC know exactly how much food to bring under normal circumstances?), but it means less inventory micro-managing (while still allowing for the implementation of the thirst and starvation rules).
@ Ojore: I meant where, in-game, but I see now that your post says he's with you. I missed that.
@ Nicoleta: You can't take 10 on any check that has a penalty or consequence for failure, so no (unless the Survival skill text says differently).
@ Everyone: Updated the thirst & starvation recap to include a caveat that I forgot.
The moment you get cut off from your supplies, the only food you have is what's included on your character sheet, plus food for one trip back to the closest supply point (the assumption being that you had enough to get back, and would not have otherwise run out of food if you hadn't been cut off.
@ Nicoleta: You can't take 10 on any check that has a penalty or consequence for failure, so no (unless the Survival skill text says differently).
That's a common misconception, but that's the rules for taking 20, not taking 10. You only can't take 10 on rolls when you are in immediate danger or distracted. In fact, the most common reason to take 10 is to avoid an unnecessary failure.
Elsir will stay in the middle of the group chatting with Nesipho about a varity of topics both arcane and historical. Occasionally he will drif off into silence, as his thoughts catch upto him.
Elsir will try to stay in the middle of the group during the trek
@ Shisumo: You are correct about taking 10. In order to get the bonus, it looks like you'd have to slow your overland speed by half, should you ever find yourself in dangerously hot weather while travelling. Also, I lied. It's Con checks for a forced march and Fort saves (not Con checks) for extreme weather.
Except for biting insects and the oppressive heat, the first leg of the journey is uneventful. Even the jungle itself is fairly quiet. When it comes time to make camp, everyone is no doubt grateful for the chance to rest.
@ EVERYONE: Unless someone says otherwise, I'll assume your standard marching orders match those given above. Now, for camping conventions. What'll the shifts be? Remember: more shifts means less time camping, but fewer PCs on each watch.
We might also consider resting for the worst part of the heat every day as well, if it should come to that. If we wind up traveling 8 hours each day, but with a three hour break in the middle, would that change our speed calculations or count as a forced march?
Breaking would not change your speed calculations - it's assumed that any given PC spends 8 hours working (adventuring, marching, crafting, fighting, etc.), 8 hours sleeping, and the other 8 hours eating, taking care of bodily functions, resting and recouping, tending to equipment, reflecting on their experiences, studying up on spells and skills, and so on. Stuff that we don't need to address every day, in other words. Exactly when these three eight-hour activity blocks occur or how they're broken up doesn't change your overland speed-per-day, though it might change what time of day you spend doing each set of activities.
"Ain't no need t' be watching me. Ye and yer lion ken be takin' first watch, though, and lookin' outwards, mind ye! Me an' Nicoleta'll be takin graveyard, an' Elsir an' Nespho be bringin' in th' dawn watch. If'n that don't suit, we'll change i' up later. If'n ye see somethin', don't ye be waitin' fer ever'one else. Shout like a banshee and hit i' a'fore i' hits ye!"
As we travel Ojore will talk quietly with Elsir, pointing out flora and fauna to him and specific landmarks that Ojore knows and relating some to childhood memories of adventures or dangers or even favorite foods. I know you have studied these lands, but I have lived them. They are my home and dear to my heart. Yes they are wild and dangerous, but they are full of life and mystery as well.
I doubt that Celeador will object, and I have 4 votes approving Shisumo's shift proposal otherwise, so I'll continue.
The party makes camp on the trail, and quickly establishes three shifts. The first three hours of Ojore's watch are uneventful.
Shange's Perception skill check: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (6) + 6 = 12
Elsir's sleeping Perception skill check: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (11) + 12 = 23
Kargath's sleeping Perception skill check: 1d20 ⇒ 3
Nesipho's sleeping Perception skill check: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (5) + 2 = 7
Nicoleta's sleeping Perception skill check: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26
???: 1d20 ⇒ 4 (modifiers withheld)
Ojore's keen ears pick out a soft sound during the fourth and final hour of his shift, like the barely-audible creak of a bowing branch. Shange - Ojore's young lion companion - seems to notice it, too. Scanning the jungle, Ojore picks out a terrible sight. Fifteen feet up the trunk of a tree adjoining the trail, and not twenty feet horizontally from where Nicoleta and Kargath sleep, creeps a monstrous spider covered with sickly, off-white and slightly-yellowed fur. Stranger still, the creature's many appendages are adorned with armlets, bracers, and other jewelery - all golden, and some gem-studded. The creature even wears several amulets and chains around it's midsection.
Elsir's Knowledge (nature): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (1) + 10 = 11
Elsir @ 25 (asleep, may choose to act)
Kargath @ 19 (asleep, no surprise round actions)
Nicoleta @ 18 (asleep, may choose to act)
Shange @ 17
Ojore @ 14
Giant Spider @ 13
Nesipho @ 9 (asleep, no surprise round actions)
Elsir's initiative check: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (10) + 15 = 25
Kargath's initiative check: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (16) + 3 = 19
Ojore's initiative check: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (12) + 2 = 14
Nesipho's initiative check: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (6) + 3 = 9
Nicoleta's initiative check: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (11) + 7 = 18
Shange's initiative check: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (15) + 2 = 17
???'s initiative check: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (9) + 4 = 13
The spider (?) is climbing a tree, there are fifteen feet between it and the ground. Those of you who are sleeping are prone. Waking up does not require an action, but standing up does.
As a general rule (as long as Shange's actions conform to the tricks he knows), Ojore may control Shange in battle as long as he can successfully use Handle Animal to direct Shange's actions.
Read the map key, and mind the rules for light and heavy undergrowth.
Assuming he chooses to wake up, Elsir is up first.
Laying in the campsite, Elsir meditates on the past...
A field north of Absalom, a younger Elsir sits, with a radiant raven haired beauty. Our first anniversary, gods do I miss her. Turning to the woman Elsir continues to mediate on the past. "I'm thinking of taking a job with the Grand Lodge, Lisabeth. They offered me a job in their research department. Its a good offer, what do you think?" The woman smiles, then looks over Elsir's shoulder. "Elsir, look out! The woman exclaims pointing over Elsir's shoulder. That's not how it happened...
Snapping his eyes open, Elsir quickly looks around and spots the spider. A dream, or portent? Prescience "How perturbing... and why the jewelry? Clearly an indication of sentience... uh... Awake! Get up!" Standing up Elsir quickly catalogues his options. Web unlikely due to work due to the genus, Pit as well due to ability to climb. On vertical surface, excellent, grease it is.
Elsir will mutter an incantation and rubbing a piece of lard between his fingers. Then, pointing at the tree, he causes it to become covered a magical grease, hoping to cause the spider to take a 20' fall.
Prescience use (6 remaining) 1d20 ⇒ 3
Falling damage: 1d6 ⇒ 3
Elsir's spell works like a charm. Flailing wildly, the great spider crashes to the ground fifteen feet below, and is worse for the wear. Prone and lightly injured, the creature's fall is accompanied by both the sound of crunching undergrowth and jangling jewelery - though the creature itself makes no sound whatsoever.
The map has been updated and now includes combat notes. Kargath cannot act in the surprise round, so it is Ojore's turn to take a single action.