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The Pact Stone Pyramid (Inactive)

Game Master Pact Stone GM

A Pathfinder Module, converted from 3.5 to the Pathfinder system, with a party of level 7.


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Jason Belleson wrote:

"Just the one animal, Donkor? If they are fresh wounds, then I wonder where the one that did that is?", he says.

Donkor nods, as the significance has not been lost on him either. The priest still has that distant thousand yard look as though his sight were focussed elsewhere.

Donkor Soroon:

Spoiler:

Donkor keeps the sensor in place for an additional round. The creature is quickly getting further and further away. The last piece of intel Donkor gathers before he cancels the sensor is that it is gradually winding slightly to its left. Rather than continuing to travel southeast, it's turning to travel more directly east.

Donkor then refocuses on the midpoint between the creature and the party, hoping to see what might lurk in-between. This time though, he really does see nothing more than sand.

OOC: Because there is nothing? Or because I just flubbed a Perception roll? See, you love it.


Male Human Cleric/8

Donkor's eyes refocus, and he begins paying attention to the immediate world once again. "I can see no others. But as I said, this one was being sneaky. It has veered more directly east, from it's original path of southeast."

Any results on my knowledge check at all? I think that this beasty is actually a bunch of beasty's that can combine together like some big scarred megazord, and that's why the multiple tracks went down to one. I don't want to say it in character though, because my knowledge check will probably tell Donkor that that's a really foolish idea.


Breach sniffs at the dry air in anticipation, as though he senses something on the wind.

Then the old dwarf slowly stretches his neck from one side to the next unintentionally creating a pair of rather loud sinewy cracks. At that, the dwarf readies his trademark wooden shield riddled with strange spine-like spikes. In his other hand he wields an axe, the kind of axe that is way to big to be wielded in two hands, let alone one, but the kind that every dwarven hand seems to know just how to wield with uncanny precision.

OOC: I'm happy to GM PC Breach him until Bilbo's return. Though he might have a slightly different look as I'll never find the correct avatar.


Donkor Sooron wrote:


Any results on my knowledge check at all? I think that this beasty is actually a bunch of beasty's that can combine together like some big scarred megazord, and that's why the multiple tracks went down to one. I don't want to say it in character though, because my knowledge check will probably tell Donkor that that's a really foolish idea.

I'm not sure of the Knowledge check result yet - I'll read up on it tonight and let you know. First though, I'll have to google Magazord.


Male Halfling Bard (Archivist) 6 / Pathfinder Delver 2
Pact Stone GM wrote:
First though, I'll have to google Magazord.

Isn't that some kind of Power Ranger thing?


Gandel wrote:
Pact Stone GM wrote:
First though, I'll have to google Magazord.
Isn't that some kind of Power Ranger thing?

Make me a Knowledge (youthful pop culture) check and I'll give you an outline of what Gandel knows on the subject.


Male Halfling Bard (Archivist) 6 / Pathfinder Delver 2
Pact Stone GM wrote:
Gandel wrote:
Pact Stone GM wrote:
First though, I'll have to google Magazord.
Isn't that some kind of Power Ranger thing?
Make me a Knowledge (youthful pop culture) check and I'll give you an outline of what Gandel knows on the subject.

Dude, I've got two boys ages 4 and 7, that should be worth a pretty hefty bonus.


+2 Aid Another (5 and 10 year old sons) :)


Cool.

My 10 seconds of research indicates Megazord is kinda like a good guy Destructicon.


OK Donkor:

Spoiler:

You got a freakin awesome roll - this is a really really rare beastie - even more rare is the desert variety.

Donkor believes he is (was) looking at an advanced variation of a splicer beast, a predator that tears itself apart into deadly duplicates when it needs to. So you were getting warm with the Megazord thing, but there's no size differential between the duplicates and the original.

You're killing me to give this up already. : )


Male Human Wizard Level 8 - Conjurer
Pact Stone GM wrote:


Re: Crossbow
Just to clarify, does that mean Moonpate is holding his mwk light crossbow? He's balancing it on his camel? Or he keeps it handy on his back? This is just for my personal edification - it's not a detail that will ever matter in any way.*

I imagine it hanging from the saddle where it can be reached quickly.


Male Human Cleric/8

Have a Power Ranger obsessed 5 year old here. We literally have every episode of Power Rangers ever made. All 700 or so of them. We're a power ranger family. Destructicon is so 80's. I don't count the crappy movie version.

Looks like my guess was pretty darn close though! I got the broad outline of the beasty, to Mike's chagrin, but no helpful tips like weaknesses etc.

Donkor speaks up again, "I've heard of this creature before. It is incredibly rare. I wonder what the odds are that it just happens to be where we are? Or do we have somebody already trying to hinder or kill us."

"At any rate, it's a variety of splicer beast. It can tear itself into duplicates when it needs to, not sure how many. And they are all the same size as the original."

"So basically we will never know how many of them might be around. It's only a few hundred feet ahead of us now. Perhaps we would be best off to charge after it, while it still thinks it has the element of surprise and >seems< to only have one copy available? If someone can guide my horse, I should be able to keep an eye on it with Pharasma's sight."

How fast was the beasty moving? I'm guessing not too quickly, since it was being sneaky?


Male Dwarf Barbarian (Breaker) 8

I'm againsd harin' afder id. If we dry do jumb da cridder, we jusd may be jumbed by da resd of id. Ye say ids goin' way? Keeb yer beebers oben, and yer webbons close. Dose of ye dat us'em, anywho.


Female Half-Elf Rogue (spy) 2/Druid (desert) 5

Thalia does not seem phased by her defunct deduction of what the vreature is doing, but instead, waits and listens.

"We could always ignore it, and watch our backs and blind spots. Donkor, you said the creature was hurt. If that is the case, there is a very good chance that it will not attack. How about we keep going toward our destination, and keep an eye out for this beastie. Less is gained by standing here talking about what we could and could not do in battle if the thing may not even be in the right shape to ambush us in the first place."

Thalia looks to the sky and weaves her fingers before her muttering in a strange whispering tone.

Cast Know Direction so I can pinpoint North from here, Thalia does not have a wayfinder, but she does have orisons :p.


Male Halfling Bard (Archivist) 6 / Pathfinder Delver 2
Thalia Xian'an wrote:
"We could always ignore it, and watch our backs and blind spots. Donkor, you said the creature was hurt. If that is the case, there is a very good chance that it will not attack. How about we keep going toward our destination, and keep an eye out for this beastie. Less is gained by standing here talking about what we could and could not do in battle if the thing may not even be in the right shape to ambush us in the first place."

"I agree. I think we should keep moving," Gandel pipes up. "By Venture Captain Krenshar's map (as poorly detailed as it may be) we need to keep heading east."


Male Human Cleric/8
Gandel wrote:
Thalia Xian'an wrote:
"We could always ignore it, and watch our backs and blind spots. Donkor, you said the creature was hurt. If that is the case, there is a very good chance that it will not attack. How about we keep going toward our destination, and keep an eye out for this beastie. Less is gained by standing here talking about what we could and could not do in battle if the thing may not even be in the right shape to ambush us in the first place."
"I agree. I think we should keep moving," Gandel pipes up. "By Venture Captain Krenshar's map (as poorly detailed as it may be) we need to keep heading east."

"Ah yes, indeed, we certainly do need to keep heading east. Which, as I mentioned, is the same direction it is travelling. I suspect it is travelling to it's choice of ambush locations, there to spawn multiples of itself and await us."

"Oh, and dear Thalia, I didn't say the beast was hurt. I said it was scarred, and I couldn't tell how old the wounds were. Now, if I'm right about it being a splicer beast, I suspect it just looks like that from where it splits apart."

Donkor settles himself and prepares to travel forward again, at the pace the party sets.


Male Dwarf Cleric 8

"We should move with haste then if we are not going to track it down. Better to put distance between us and it". Hal grimaces in disgust at allowing an opponent to move about his position freely without a challenge.


Jason follows along with the party. He shades his eyes with his hand as he peers forward. "How far away is this pyramid?", he asks.

I don't remember if this came up or not.


Male Half-orc Barbarian (Invulnerable Rager) 4 / Sorcerer 1/Dragon Disciple 3

Hurgah brings up the rear, his half-closed eyes drifting lazily over the dunes. There is a tense spring in his step though, and he opens and clenches his fists a couple of times in anticipation of a possible battle.


Male Dwarf Barbarian (Breaker) 8

Okay, wait. I guess I got confused by the description. This creature is heading in the same direction we're going? If that's the case, we have nothing to lose by chasing after it. Somehow, I got the impression that it was going a different way. I was against chasing after something that may or may not be a threat if it would cause us to deviate from our course. Can we get a clarification on this point, Donkor?

Edit: Reading your post again, that would appear to be all the clarification we need. So, scrap my old post, and who's up for chasing this thing down?


Male Human Cleric/8
Karek Kogan wrote:

Okay, wait. I guess I got confused by the description. This creature is heading in the same direction we're going? If that's the case, we have nothing to lose by chasing after it. Somehow, I got the impression that it was going a different way. I was against chasing after something that may or may not be a threat if it would cause us to deviate from our course. Can we get a clarification on this point, Donkor?

Edit: Reading your post again, that would appear to be all the clarification we need. So, scrap my old post, and who's up for chasing this thing down?

Sorry if I wasn't clear on this before. When I first saw it, it was travelling southeast from where we were stopped, near the end of my spying range. Say 6-700 feet. The next round it veered more east. So the creature should now be slightly southeast of us, travelling east, say 800 to 1000 feet ahead of us. We are also travelling east, is my understanding. so my thinking is that the more time we give it to keep dividing and prepare for us, the worse off we are.


Jason Belleson wrote:

Jason follows along with the party. He shades his eyes with his hand as he peers forward. "How far away is this pyramid?", he asks.

I don't remember if this came up or not.

OOC:

The Venture Captain described it as a three day journey - he didn't indicate a distance in terms of miles. Currently you are just over a half day in of travelling east.

* * *

Ah, decisions, decisions. Is this a delicate window of time which is fast evaporating? Or is the party poised to rush into something better left avoided?

Stay tuned for the answer, right after this commercial break.


Male Human Wizard Level 8 - Conjurer
Donkor Sooron wrote:
Gandel wrote:
Thalia Xian'an wrote:
"We could always ignore it, and watch our backs and blind spots. Donkor, you said the creature was hurt. If that is the case, there is a very good chance that it will not attack. How about we keep going toward our destination, and keep an eye out for this beastie. Less is gained by standing here talking about what we could and could not do in battle if the thing may not even be in the right shape to ambush us in the first place."

Moonpate rubs his bald head in a clockwise fashion before speaking.

I have never heard of such a beast, but I would surmise that it is already stalking us and that charging it would do little but tire our mounts and make us even more susceptible to ambush. Donkor, if you are able to maintain sight of the beast then we become the stalker and our options multiply. As my master was wont to say, "A mosquito can make the lion's eye bleed". Ahhh, but for this infernal heat, I could have used my flagon of wonders to send me flying above the beast. I could have carried Master Gandel and dropped him on the unsuspecting critter like the legendary Roc drops a boulder upon thieves counting coins. Oi, what a tale that would be for your chronicles my dear Gandel, eh!

After a brief chuckle that turns Moonpate's face a deeper shade of red, he suddenly frowns in deep thought.

Still, the thought of doing something now before this beast multiplies like boils on a hag's backside has merit. Perhaps we can drive it off with illusion or conjurations both arcane or animal. Whilst we ponder, let us do keep moving and not lose sight of the beast. If we let it choose the ground, I am still not too worried as long as we know the where. I can conjure a doorway through dimensions that can bring me and two others to the ground of our choosing and turn this to our own ambush.


Donkor Sooron wrote:
Donkor speaks up again, ". . . I wonder what the odds are that it just happens to be where we are? Or do we have somebody already trying to hinder or kill us."

Woah! Ten paranoid points to Donkor! (Or is it ten acuracy points. . .)


Hmmmm. One drawback with nine PCs is that when the party is split in opinion, it's tougher to mobilize. We might need a rotating party "caller" like in the good old blue box days.

It sounds like the majority at least wants the camel train to start advancing forward while you consider whether to race after the beast. So for now, unless I hear otherwise, the party has started slowly moving forward (east) once more.

If someone does plan to go after the beast, and if they intend to follow by way of the creature's tracks, I'll need a Survival check. With the prevailing wind condition, the desert is relatively forgiving area to track targets that have passed recently, but it's still not automatic.


Male Dwarf Cleric 8

Maybe we should pick a leader for each scenario we get into (such as here in the desert). That leader will analyze all of the opinions and make the final call. I suppose that is similar to a caller but decided in game by the party and is ona rotating basis depending on the scenario.

"I am for Donkor tracking it and moving forward towards the dig. If it starts towards us though we should confront it. Ambushes usually end poorly. Since Thalia here is the most familiar let her make the call".


Thalia Xian'an wrote:


Thalia looks to the sky and weaves her fingers before her muttering in a strange whispering tone.

Cast Know Direction so I can pinpoint North from here, Thalia does not have a wayfinder, but she does have orisons :p.

Thalia is very certain the party has been heading due east (and is doing so even now). She is also confident she could find her way back to Sothis if need be.


Moonpate wrote:
. . . Ahhh, but for this infernal heat, I could have used my flagon of wonders to send me flying above the beast. I could have carried Master Gandel and dropped him on the unsuspecting critter like the legendary Roc drops a boulder upon thieves counting coins. Oi, what a tale that would be for your chronicles my dear Gandel, eh!

A friend of the little people, Breach bristles at the thought of the wizard mistreating the exuberant halfing that the dwarf has grown so fond of in such a short span of time. However, the Shattershield quickly recognizes the remark for what it is: Moonpate simply retreats to humor in times of stress.

Breech looks over to his brethren, Hal and Karek. "If we be ambushed, rather than face the creature and his twins single file, I say we circle up. Us armored types on the outside, and the magic-ones in the center. There we can protect them long enough so that they can do their thing."

Then he looks over to the half-orc who seems to have developed a slight twitch in his hands. "Think you can cover a small corner there Hurgie?"


Male Human Cleric/8

It seems like majority consensus has us moving forward slowly and cautiously, so I think it's safe to proceed on that basis sir GM? In a table-top game, I would do a lot more discussion on this, but I feel bad that I've already monopolized over 2 days of game time with my slow and cautious approach here. The idea of a caller certainly has merit in speeding things up, but I think it would create hard feelings in the end, if a character ended up dying from the decision of another character.

"Unfortunately, friend Moonpate, I can use my far-seeing ability for only a few moments longer this day. And even the last time I saw the thing, it was very near at the edge of my range. As most of us seem to wish to proceed slowly, let it be so. Friend Breach, I would certainly welcome a circle to protect me from the multitudes of splicer beast that wait ahead."


Male Dwarf 5 Fighter/2 Rogue

"Now it would seem we should leave the thing alone in my opinion,young brothers. Injured beast are often far more dangerous than healthy ones. We are aware of it and I am sure that our friends and their spells can help on watch tonight. If it makes you feel better, we will pick a defensible position tonight, and I will rig the area.", Breach says glancing back at the rest of the group.

Looks like I will be given access over the course. You never know what the Army will do with ya, lol. Thanks for wanting to keep me on, folks.


Male Dwarf Barbarian (Breaker) 8

Hooray for Breach!

Unless sommun be willin' an' able do oudrace da cridder and surbrise id, I'm afreid we hab no choice bud do follow and wade.

Karek looks Donkor up and down. Ye look preddy duff, lad. Hurgah, Breach, we dake da oudside. Bud if any ged drew, pud a sdop do id.

Karek glances in Thalia's direction. Sommun needs da see do da camels, if we be addacked.


Male Half-orc Barbarian (Invulnerable Rager) 4 / Sorcerer 1/Dragon Disciple 3
GM PC: Breach Shattershield wrote:


Then he looks over to the half-orc who seems to have developed a slight twitch in his hands. "Think you can cover a small corner there Hurgie?"

Hurgah sends Breach a toothy grin in response to the comment. He does not say anything, but you can clearly see his eyes shine with amusement.

Welcome back, Breach!


Male Dwarf Cleric 8

"Aye I can handle the edge. I will have a surprise for any approaching enemies such are my gifts from Angradd!"


And with that, the party resolves to slowly advance eastward into the desert, once again inching towards the fabled Ahn’Selota. As it does so, all eyes remained peeled for the deadly ambush predicted by Soroon. Every dune of sand conceals a potential point of ambush.

  • Blinky shudders one last time as the pharaoh dog gingerly steps over the last of the claw-toed tracks and puts them behind him.

  • Thalia retains the lead and the camel train gradually picks up speed, almost to it’s previous rate of Speed 40.

  • As the dwarves travel, they quietly fine-tune a plan to ‘circle the wagons’ and protect the vulnerable in the event of the attack. Breach further concocts a plan to protect their campsite once night falls.

    A half hour later. . . .

    Spoiler:

    . . . nothing happens. Except maybe that Hurgah and Hal seem to exhibit signs of disappointment.

    An hour later. . .

    Spoiler:
    . . . nothing happens. Some among you begin to wonder if perhaps you are in the clear.


  • And then SUDDENLY:

    Spoiler:

    Nope! Still nothing. That was just a desert mouse making its way over a sandy rise. Seriously, get a hold of yourself. Nothings going to happen.


    Male Half-orc Barbarian (Invulnerable Rager) 4 / Sorcerer 1/Dragon Disciple 3

    Those with Detect OOC Actions active only:
    Hurgah suddenly reaches out and grabs something off the sand. You manage to catch a glimpse of a small gold and green colored beetle of some sort struggling to escape from his massive fist, before the half-orc stuffs it in his mouth. A loud crunching sound is heard, followed by a gulp. The Reaver spits a piece of shell onto the dunes, then smiles a blissful smile.


    Male Human Cleric/8

    Ack, the suspense is killing me. Only figuratively. the actual attack will be what's killing me. argh!

    Donkor will be creating water liberally as required for his and any other animals during the journey, at optimal levels to keep them as refreshed as possible. I'm not sure how often this will necessitate stops, but I think quite frequently.

    1d20 + 8 ⇒ (3) + 8 = 11 Survival roll? to best gauge how often the beasties need water.

    If we survive the day, I will probably grab another endure elements tonight for my wee horsey.


    Jason chuckles to himself. He looks down and sees the shimmering field of protection still surrounding him.

    "Well, that one fearsome creature certainly put us on edge...aye, lads?", he says to the group.


    Male Halfling Bard (Archivist) 6 / Pathfinder Delver 2

    Gandel scratches Binky between the ears as he consults his map during one of the water breaks.

    "Hmmm. A bit more detail to Krenshar's map would've been nice," the halfling scholar thinks to himself for the umpteenth time. "We've passed that red granite obelisk and the cliff wall with the giant figures, but there's not much else noted between there and Kymrasa's dig site. If we veer too far north we should still be able to find the Heavenscape of Tumen, and from there we could just head south to the dig site. I just hope we don't veer too far south and tumble into the Sinkhole of Anu'Telam."


    Gandel wrote:
    . . . I just hope we don't veer too far south and tumble into the Sinkhole of Anu'Telam."[/i]

    The sinkhole of what?!

    Oh man, I mean I know they talk about sand box adventures being all the rage these days, but I didn't think they meant it literally. : )


    Hurgah the Reaver inexplicably wrote:
    ** grotesque spoiler omitted **

    Cousin Willy! Noooooooooooooooooo!


    The Waiting Ends

    Late in the afternoon, as your shadows begin to stretch longer and longer in front of you, the wait finally comes to an end.

    As the party descends into a shallow valley-like depression, a lone vaguely wolfish beast appears on a rise about 50 feet away, as though it means to blockade your path. The creature is covered in scar tissue, suggesting it has been badly injured at one time. It has three massive tusks which jut from its lower jaw and cold blue eyes. It lowers its head in a low guttural growl. Donkor recognizes it at once – this is the dread creature he saw before.

    The beast is a diversion.

    Suddenly several of its pack-mates (with the same identical scar tissue) come pouring out from all sides, running down towards you. The creatures travel on all fours with very powerful hind legs.


    OOC:
    Let’s check for surprise – to see who can participate in the surprise round. Given the prior warning and general expectation of an attack, I’ve given everyone a +4 circumstance bonus. Since Donkor further knew the exact creature involved and expressed an almost certainty that this was going to come, I’m giving him a +8. It seems that when Pharasma gives him a hunch, he doesn’t question its accuracy.

    Perception:

    Gandel: 1d20 + 11 + 4 ⇒ (9) + 11 + 4 = 24
    Thalia: 1d20 + 18 + 4 ⇒ (6) + 18 + 4 = 28
    Halstadt: 1d20 + 8 + 4 ⇒ (2) + 8 + 4 = 14
    Breach: 1d20 + 10 + 4 ⇒ (20) + 10 + 4 = 34
    Karek: 1d20 + 12 + 4 ⇒ (17) + 12 + 4 = 33
    Donkor: 1d20 + 4 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 4 + 8 = 27
    Jason: 1d20 + 6 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 6 + 4 = 14
    Moonpate: 1d20 + 4 + 4 ⇒ (19) + 4 + 4 = 27
    Hurgah: 1d20 + 0 + 4 ⇒ (16) + 0 + 4 = 20

    Opposing Stealth check by the ambushing creatures: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (11) + 6 = 17

    The following PCs are in the surprise round:

    Gandel, Thalia, Breach, Karek, Donkor, Moonpate and Hurgah.

  • Bad news for Jason and Hal - they have to sit the surprise round out. Grrrrr.

  • Woah there Breach! Save those 20's! Or is this going to be a habit?

  • Thalia that is an insane Perception skill you got there. More than just a pretty face.

    Let’s move then to initiative.


  • Male Dwarf Barbarian (Breaker) 8

    Finally! Do we have a map?

    Finally! Karek roars, as he half-leaps, half-falls off of Aleson. His hammer is in his hand as he bounds towards the defensive position he had discussed with Breach and Halstadt - somewhere in front of Thalia, positioned to take his portion of the charge.

    I guess in game terms, that will be a dismount with his single action in the surprise round. Sound about right?


    Initiative for the Surprise Round

    Here. . .
    comes. . .
    the rolls. . .

    Gandel: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (5) + 5 = 10
    Thalia: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (15) + 3 = 18
    Breach: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (1) + 2 = 3
    Karek: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 2 = 6
    Donkor: 1d20 - 2 ⇒ (4) - 2 = 2
    Moonpate: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (1) + 3 = 4
    Hurgah: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (10) + 2 = 12

    The Creatures (who conveniently act on the same initiative count): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (10) + 6 = 16

  • Ugh! Rough rolls all around. Maybe you guys are just trying to dis your opponents by refusing to pull out your A-game.

  • The good news is that Thalia will get to act first - there will be a post giving more detail as to the lay of the land shortly.

  • Remember, until your PC acts, he will be flat-footed. But hey, how many rogue levels can a quadruped really have?


  • Male Dwarf Cleric 8

    Do we have a count of how many there are?


    Male Dwarf Barbarian (Breaker) 8
    Pact Stone GM wrote:
  • Remember, until your PC acts, he will be flat-footed. But hey, how many rogue levels can a quadruped really have?
  • My guess (my hope?) is that the answer is less than 11 - which means I'm not actually flat-footed. I just seem like it.


    Current Initiative Order

    For reference,
    Here is the current initiative order:

    Thalia - 18
    The Forces of Unstoppable Power Expertly Controlled by the GM - 16
    Hurgah - 12
    Gandel - 10
    Karek - 6
    Moonpate - 4
    Breach - 3
    Donkor - 2


    The Situation

  • Thalia’s in front – 50 feet away from her on a rise to the east is a single creature snarling at her.

  • To the north is a pair of beasts, each circling out from either side of the same dune. They are racing towards the front of the camel line, at Karek, Breach and Hal.

  • To the south is another pair of creatures. They are doing the same – heading for the dwarves, but on the opposite side.

  • Also north of the camel train, but further west towards the back of the train is another pair working in tandem. They are headed towards Moonpate and Gandel.

  • Opposite, on the south side of the camel train, a second pair streak towards Moonpate and Gandel.

  • To the far west, a lone beast slowly stalks towards Hurgah at the back of the train, as though deliberately keeping some distance.

  • Jason and Donkor are in the middle of the camel train, there does not appear to be any beasts charging at them (yet).

    OOC: When the round starts all of the creatures will be 50 feet away. I used the single-file camel train order previously set.

    Remember in a surprise round you only get a single standard or move action (plus any free actions).

    Thalia, you are up!


  • Karek Kogan wrote:


    I guess in game terms, that will be a dismount with his single action in the surprise round. Sound about right?

    Possibly - one of the neat quirks of the game is that the fast dismount maneuver, which let's you dismount as a free action, has no penalty for a failed attempt. I recommend Karek at least try it when his turn arises. If he makes his DC 20 Ride check, he's off his mount and saves his standard/move action for something else. If he fails his check, which is likely, then yes, it takes a move action, his only action in the surprise round, to dismount.

    Without a move action available, he won't be able to interpose himself between Thalia and the snarling wolf. (Though Thalia could in theory move herself behind Karek as he is right behind her in the camel train.)

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