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And a post from behind the scenes.
The Musings of a DM:
So, Maeve's player has not been able to rejoin the party (yet), though she might have some time in the near future according to her own words. For the time being, Maeve is chasing the second Dark Rider and kicking ass with her new Nature Warden levels, so she isn't behind the party in levels if she does come back.
I had to change a thing or two in Wake of the Watcher to keep things interesting. One of the Skum still had a shred of sanity left, and tried to help the party a bit before taking a chance to get the hell out of the caves near the end.
The Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath spawned earlier due to Antonio Counter-Songing the chanting of the Mi-Go and the humming of their machinery. Even without having another fight in-between the encounter, the monster did pose a serious threat if it had a chance to get the Fighter/Bard out of the way.
Also, due to the Order of the Palatine Eye having a direct agent linked to the PCs, I figured the Mayor got a better ending than on print. However, since Antonio (and the others) forgot to pack the other brains along, those are probably still in their jars under the lake. I don't know if they'd stay down, or start to slowly rise up to the surface.
Lastly, I never bothered with the Sanity checks. I had a lengthy discussion about the topic with my players, and we all agreed that if the campaign WANTED to make use of such, they should have been introduced from the get-go. After seeing ghosts, zombies, skeletons, werewolves, and many other horrors, the tentacular brainfarts of Lovecraft aren't THAT horrifying in comparison.
I made only one Sanity check for the players, and that's when they saw Shub-Niggurath attempting to enter their plane of existence. They all succeeded, though they were understandably a tad shaken in-character regardless, though Antonio was quick to make a taunting quip at it, as he often tends to do.
I have been having fun running this campaign. I hope I get to introduce the character-specific side-quests soon, so I can tie up some loose ends.
So, between being busy and exhausted, I have not updated in a while, but we recently wrapped up Wake of the Watcher.
Wake of the Watcher Part 3:
After finding some fishy business going on in the local church in Illmarsh, the heroes are tasked by the mayor to investigate the seemingly abandoned house of the local nobility, the mansion of House Undiomede.
While traveling there, the heroes ran into a gorgon, which managed to petrify Dampérenovich temporarily before being cut down. They then walked inside, tricking the Marsh Giant guarding the area before swiftly moving to deal with the rest of the cultists in the building.
Much to their shock, Albor Voltiaro's battle was interrupted by his head exploding into a mass of writhing tentacles, but the spawning abomination was slain by them nontheless. Rescuing the baby that the cultists had kidnapped and finding out that the villagers seem to have made some sort of pact with the local skum (while also clearing through a skum tunnel beneath the mansion), they return to Illmarsh only to find that the mayor, along with a few other people, have disappeared.
Antonio is soon given a new deal by the sheriff, who promised to pay him if the mayor is unable to do so. The heroes then consult Horace Croon, who mentions having just finished up his submersible not too long ago. He offers to help by letting the four use it, since the village's safety (and more) might be at stake.
Taking the submersible down, the group was ambushed by Dhauggota, but the monster was forced to retreat after repeated stabbings from Antonio left it badly injured. The skum scouting the area didn't spot the submersible (rolled bad Perceptions all around), while the party soon found the hidden entrance, choosing to enter the tunnels from there.
Fighting their way through Mi-go and Skum troops alike, the heroes then confronted the heretical head priest of the fishfolk before finding a few more Mi-go to cut down. Picking up a relic of Pharasma's church, they then found the brains of the lost villagers in some alien containers, including that of the Mayor. While some were begging for death and others waiting to be taken away, Antonio decided to take the Mayor's head along in hopes of restoring his body and mind later.
The heroes then stepped into the domed lab of the Mi-go, where they were soon confronted by the Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath. The creature's powerful abilities, its high AC and Malthazar's horrid luck with attack rolls made it a long and grueling fight, but the heroes ultimately prevailed, foiling Shub-Niggurath's attempt at entering the Material Plane. The four then returned to the surface with treasures in tow, including the stolen Seasage Effigy as well as the information they were seeking; One of the two Dark Riders is dead, while the other is heading to Caliphas.
Sotiria, as a representative of both the Church of Pharasma as well as the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, promised that she'd find a way to restore the Mayor's body and sanity, making well on that promise before offering to hire Antonio to help the rest of the crew in stopping the Whispering Way's plot. She also granted honorary membership in the Order to Dampé and Celeste, as the two had requested it earlier. However, she made it clear that they will not be instantly given rights beyond those of an acolyte, and there was still much more work to be done...
So, I had to condense this to a larger recap due to passing by a few earlier ones, and because I might not be able to give one in a while. I do not have the last two books of the adventure path (yet), and there are some other issues that need addressing. Mostly of the IRL issue variety, but also some party composition issues along the lines of "when can I get everyone under the same roof on time" and such.
The campaign has been advancing in a relatively straight-forward manner.
Wake of the Watcher Part 2:
When we last left off, the heroes had arrived at Illmarsh to hear dire tidings. People have been disappearing, and the Dark Rider is nowhere in sight. The only good news is that the Whispering Way's agent couldn't have gotten any further, as the town is more or less a dead end due to the local wilds being impossible to pass through unless you had a flying mount.
Due to the strange occurences in town and the local church's failure to respond to them, the mayor asks the heroes to help him out, taking down the clergy so he can have more of a say in how the town should be run, and also in finding out just what exactly is going on behind the scenes. When they arrive, the lobby is empty aside from an extravagantly dressed man named Antonio Romano, who informed them that he's at the church at the behest of the mayor. He had been promised a reward for helping out with local issues (and keeping an eye on these strange folks coming down from Thrushmoor), deciding to join the group due to mutual interests.
Malthazar, Celeste and Dampérenovich explained the scope of the situation to Antonio, the Whispering Way's plot and the fact that a man working for them happened to get into the town itself. Afterwards, the four teamed up to investigate the church itself, where they were met with hostility from the local clergy. Beating them down, they soon found out that what appeared to be a church of Gozreh was actually a temple of Dagon, a demon lord of the seas. They soon confronted Caleb Voltiaro, one of the cult heads and defeated him, finding signs of a disturbing deal between the locals and some type of fish people in town after also slaying the local guardian chuul, the Scion of the Sea.
Before they left, the group split up in two to investigate. Malthazar and Antonio found a young couple of locals (Rufus and Irma), whom Malthazar explained the situation to after calming them down. They told that they had given their child away to the cult, as was the tradition in town. While at first in disbelief of the truth, they realized what had been done and broke down, asking that the four get their child back. Meanwhile, Celeste and Dampérenovich found a room with headless corpses, an unusual sight which almost proved their undoing, as a few worm-like monsters jumped at them. The duo cut them down, noticing something very wrong with them and informing the other two of them before leaving.
With all that they had found out, the four consulted the mayor once more, and he said that the house of the local nobility might yield more answers since the odd happenings at the church seemed to answer none of the current ones while also raising a few more questions of its own. The session ended with the heroes getting ready to enter the nearly decrepit House of Undiomede.
We had the third session today, but I'll have to do that recap a bit later.
Better late than never, I guess.
Wake of the Watcher Part 1:
Chasing one of the Dark Riders to the town of Thrushmoor, the party is warned to be careful on their journey by a slightly more openly talkative local. Both the town and nearby Illmarsh (where one of the two Riders seems to have gone) were said to be the type of places that don't take kindly to strangers, and were implied to be holding some dark secrets underneath them. After realizing this, they try to continue the chase as quickly as they could, only to find themselves getting ambushed at the local livery stable, as the owner (Clanartus Viliras) turned out to be a Whispering Way agent. Despite him and his two ghoul lackeys having the element of surprise (and giving Dampé a nasty stab with his dagger), all three were quickly dispatched by the heroes, who went onward towards Illmarsh.
On the way there, they ran into an unusual scene by the lakeside. An aged man was on a raft with a strange device, ready to crash into the rocks as the waves had gotten the better of his vessel. They rescued the man and his works, and he introduced himself as Horace Croon, a local workshop owner and scientist of sorts (Amusingly enough, the players called him either Horus or Horatio since his real name was apparently too outlandish). He told the players to tread lightly, and had little to say about the Dark Rider itself, as he was focused on his invention for the most part.
The heroes made their way into the town itself, where the locals were kind of gruff and distant, as well as having an oddly fish-like pallor to them. Their investigations soon led the four into the mayor's office, where they quickly used a mix of Diplomacy and Sense Motive to find out that the town did indeed have a few skeletons in its closet, which mostly traced over to the local church and the associated noble house. The mayor asks the player characters to find out why locals have been disappearing, as it may have a link with the poor fortune the village has been having in general.
While they took up the task, the heroes did not immediately set foot into the Hall of the Recondite Order of the Indomitable Sea (as in, the local church) as something began to stir at the docks. An overly large octopus, infuriated by something or someone, attacked the locals at the bay, but the heroes stepped in and managed to kill it off before it could kill anyone or run away. After doing the quick good deed of the day, they set their sights on the mysterious church, ending the session as they stepped in.
And by part 2, Maeve has left to track down the second Rider, and a new party member joins, hired by someone to help the town out in secret.
This part ended as quickly as it had started, surprisingly.
Broken Moon Part 2:
Due to the way things played out in the mansion and other stuff, the pacing as well as certain events didn't exactly go as they would have originally gone in the book. Anyway, the heroes told the folks at the mansion to stay put while they went towards the Stairs of the Moon, telling Duristan that he'll get his chance to hunt werewolves after making sure everyone at the Ascanor Lodge is safe and sound.
Also, because Malthazar had given his word that he'd find out who killed the previous werewolf packlord (and because Maeve is a werewolf too, sort of), the patrolling Vollensag Stalkers let them through. The other werewolf guards didn't spot them, and they soon confronted Mathus, who was speaking of his next move as the new leader with Cybrisa. Malthazar presented the evidence against him, and denounced him out loud so every werewolf in the area could hear of what had happened.
The fight against Mathus was short-lived, and Cybrisa backed down from fighting fairly quickly, offering to take up the title of packlord, only to be stopped as the Prince's Wolves arrived at the scene with their leader, the roguish Rhakis Szardo. He tells the heroes of what the Demon Wolves and the Whispering Way were up to, then asks them to step back while he and Cybrisa fight over Mathus' heart and the title of packlord.
With news that the Whispering Way was heading towards Feldgrau, the heroes quickly made it back to the Ascanor Lodge to get some steeds, and heard that a werewolf patrol had attacked the building. While Duristan managed to fend them off with his crew, he was bitten and soon disappeared from the scene. As it was a full moon, the heroes were understandably a bit annoyed with the hunter's antics, but soon set out towards the ghost town. On their way there, a mysterious mothman soon floated over to them, filling their minds with visions of things to come before disappearing into the darkness.
During the trip, they ran into the now-infected Duristan, but quickly subdued him and gave him Wolfsbane to cure him. They dragged him back into the lodge, where Sotiria casted Atonement, clearing that subplot rather quickly but leaving Duristan himself rather disillusioned with himself.
Once they set foot to Feldgrau itself, Maeve quickly recognized the nearby tree as a Hangman Tree, with four werewolves hanging from its vines. The four set the thing on fire and kill it before settling in the farmhouse, though they soon encountered a few of Rhakis' spies, who mentioned that the Demon Wolves and the Whispering Way have been scouring the village and seem to have set their bases to the south. With that, they then left the heroes to sneak around.
After sneaking past some patrols, they found the Demon Wolves hiding in the mill. They dealt with Adimarus and his men rather quickly (and Malthazar was uncharacteristically enraged when confronting them), the werewolf being confused as Celeste's fists pierced through his tough hide thanks to her Smite Evil and Flurry of Blows combo as a Champion of Irori. Once he was downed, Maeve cut the demon worshipper's head while Malthazar destroyed the Unholy Symbols they were carrying.
The hunt for the leader of the Whispering Way in Feldgrau continued, and the heroes soon found themselves in the haunted inn, where the morose ghost of a man named Ulcris Sedmir resided. Malthazar managed to talk the man down, and he told them that the ghosts of the village need to be put to rest after the dread necromancer Auren Vrood began desecrating the graves of the locals. He also offered to rip the memories out of his head, both as revenge as well as to help the four. He tells them of his small treasure stash before telling them that the old watchtower might be where the enemy is hiding.
With stealth, skill and a dash of magic, the four (as well as Sotiria, who chose to come along since Feldgrau was said to be haunted) arrived at the tower, sneaking in and opening the door only to trip Auren Vrood's alarm. He taunted the heroes and told them to come face him, which they soon did. The fight was rather devastating despite being short-lived, as Auren Vrood's Circle of Death spell killed Malthazar, while the necromancer himself was killed by a maximum damage critical hit arrow to the face from an angered Maeve, who just happened to have humans as her second Favored Enemy. Malthazar was brought back to life with a conveniently placed scroll courtesy of Sotiria, who then attended to the dead of the village to make sure their souls would rest in peace. However, she also did something to Vrood's soul, which unnerved the four who went on to report their success to Ulcris.
Honoring the deal they had, the ghost pulled out the memories from the necromancer's head (which Maeve had cut off), showing them that the Whispering Way has been gathering ingredients and sent a rider towards the town of Thrushmoor...
I am still trying to process how we managed to end Broken Moon in just two sessions. Either way, not sure when we're starting Wake of the Watcher.
So, the start of Broken Moon went surprisingly fast.
Broken Moon Part 1:
After their chat with Daramid, the heroes began to follow the trail of the Whispering Way, finding themselves going towards the Ascanor Lodge, which itself is hidden in the depths of the Shudderwood. On the way, Maeve felt an odd presence and it seemed like the local wolves had their eyes on them as they arrived near the end of the road. As the coachman refused to go any deeper into the spooky woods, the heroes continued their way on foot, only to find some ettercaps lying in wait for them. The aberration's ambush quickly turned against them, as the four surprised them and shot them down.
They then found a lone tower in the distance, deciding to check it out. The weaverworm residing inside did not take kindly to the intrusion, but it was soon put down by a flurry of blades and arrows. Much to their horror, the monster had already claimed a few victims, and they gave them a proper burial before venturing on. Someone had laid a trap near a suspected werewolf, but they disarmed it without much of a fuss.
Soon enough, their journey led them to the lodge itself, where their invitations are initially rejected and their motives immediately called to question, though they are eventually led inside. Estovion, while initially jovial, quickly withdrew and let the heroes chat up Duristan instead, even though the braggart werewolf hunter was the one who was willing to turn them away at the gate. Once he found out that the four were experienced monster slayers, Duristan brightened up and asked the four to accompany him on a little hunt in the Shudderwood, to which they reluctantly agreed.
Once there, things went fine at first, but then the had a run-in with the Vollensags, a local tribe of werewolves who did not take kindly on the intrusion. They told the heroes to stay out of werewolf business, while also expressing confusion at Maeve's accompanying of the crew, saying that she's "one of them" and such. This revelation shocked the hunters, but the adventurers found no reason to judge Maeve by her heritage.
When they returned to the lodge, the four had realized something was awry. I do not recall the exact details, but they rather quickly figured out Estovion had quite the skeletons in his closet, and managed to apprehend him before he could wreak havoc with the Vilkacis he claimed to control. After finding the trail of the Whispering Way, the session ends with the heroes heading to an abandoned temple of Desna.
The next session is this weekend.
And now, the conclusion of the second book.
Trial of the Beast Part 4:
Shortly after dealing with the first batch of trolls, the heroes step forth to defeat Grork, who ends up falling off the bridge into the waters below. Afterwards, they see the golem hound guarding the entrance and fetch the uniform left behind at the watchpost, Malthazar first Mending it and then putting it on.
The golem and other beings (the apparatus) left the party be as they were mistaken for guests. They checked the rooms carefully, choosing not to loot the place since that would be stealing, finding the engineering notes and other hidden clues to what's been going on. After checking through the rooms, they approached the ruined workshop, killing one of the Rust Monsters and scaring the two others off. Before they could get to face the most annoying / deadly encounter of the book, they found the trap on the bridge and disabled it, avoiding the fight against the erinyes. They then enter the private museum, dispatching the mummy and bargaining with the mimic before running into the blind golem and its homunculi helpers, whom I figured could be dissuaded from attacking due to the guard uniform.
Learning of what happened to the lord of the castle, they then entered the drowned menagerie, where they fought the vargouilles and climbed up to the upper levels. Once they find their way to the last tower, the four-armed guardian is dispatched by a critical hit from Dampé's scythe and a few arrows from the others. At the upper levels, the heroes first have a brief chat with the homunculus Waxwood and sift through the notes regarding both the Bondslave Thrall and the Storm Caller. They then step into the top floor and fight the Aberrant Promethean, with help from Gregor / Beast of Lepidstadt, whom Dampé proceeds to control with the Bondslave Thrall.
The fight has both severely injured, but with the Promethean killed by an arrow to the head from Maeve. Once they free Caromac, the heroes find out that the Whispering Way is heading towards Shudderwood. Deciding to leave the professor be, the heroes are given a goodbye hug from Gregor, and then head to have a chat with Daramid, who asks the heroes to give chase to the Whispering Way and offering the help of Order of the Palatine Eye in addition to the gold she had promised. Dampé and Celeste seemed curious about the order, Malthazar didn't want to join but does want to exchange help for info, while Maeve had no interest whatsoever. Before they head out on the road, Daramid sends an agent of the order to help out, who turns out to be Sotiria, the tiefling priestess from the start of the campaign.
I will be having another session today, so the story isn't about to slow down.
Sad to say Rakshaka, but that didn't happen.
Trial of the Beast Part 3:
So, last we left off, the heroes had found some evidence of Vorkstag and Grine being involved in not just criminal activities around Lepidstadt, but also in framing the Beast / Gregor for their own crimes.
Now, the next part is what surprised me. They rounded up the evidence, asked around for what people knew about the duo, and set about ringing their doorbell in the evening. Grine came up to respond in a terse tone, only to have cold sweat running down his brow as Malthazar calls him out and says they're going to arrest both him and Vorkstag due to the evidence pointing at them as the culprits. Thinking long and hard on this, Grine offered to have himself spared if he handed Vorkstag over. The heroes agreed, though Dampé chose to cast Invisibility and sneak over to see what was going on after Grine tossed an unconscious Vorkstag to Malthazar. Grine, desperate to get out of the line of fire, began dousing the workshop (minus his and Vorkstag's rooms) with gasoline, grabbing his belongings before trying to run off.
Realizing this thanks to a few quick moves by Dampé and Malthazar, the heroes manage to stop the fire from destroying any more evidence AND capture Grine as he tried to escape with his research documents in tow. In the end, the trial ended up with the Beast judged innocent, though the heroes were then asked to check the Schloss Caromac, where the Beast had headed a bit later.
On the road, the four meet a band of Varisians, with a Harrower willing to read their fortunes for them. To keep things simple, I only asked them to draw one card. Unless I recall wrong, Dampé drew the Rabbit Prince, Celeste drew the Uprising, Malthazar drew the Marriage and Maeve drew the Mute Hag. With that done, they reached the gates, which they promptly climbed up after Maeve managed to get the trollhounds to quiet down and not raise the alarm with a well-rolled Wild Empathy check. Reaching the top of the gate, they then saw some trolls messing around with some goblins, proceeding to ambush and kill the former. The latter, happy to have their abusive masters disposed of, warned the four of a golem and the boss of the trolls lying ahead, and the session ends there.
So yes, a few unusual twists and turns, but an interesting session either way. Also, Maeve is now a DMPC due to the player having to leave to finish up stuff.