I changed the grimlocks to morlocks because grimlocks haven't been developed under Pathfinder rules. I believe grimlocks are WotC closed content, and the morlocks were created to replace them in Pathfinder.
They appear in the Bestiary (p. 209), and are on the PRD.
I suspect it's partly because she'd rather have other spells memorized. The problem is that it would mean having raise dead and restoration memorized! and it also costs money. It's also because it's possible to simply use Prestige Points to get raised, so it doesn't cost them anything this way. And since they are always only a word of recall away, it's not difficult to pull off. It also gives them a secured location for resting.
It doesn't really slow the game down, to be honest, since Draco (or others) usually dies in big fights, before they'd want to rest anyway. And Viv can often use breath of life, avoid the use for raise dead altogether.
If Draco dies it's because, well, he's the barbarian, and that's unfortunately what barbarians do at high levels. Once you lose more than 10-15 hit points when you fall unconscious and exit rage, it's very hard to not die. Add to that the fact that the barbarian usually has a rather low AC, and you get a lot of dead Dracos...
But he's not the only one to die in Into the Nightmare Rift. ;)
I agree, I feel the same way about getting a bit bored with the characters after a year or so: already, by that time, concepts for a number of new characters begin to "pile up" inside my brain, and I'm itching to try something new. Same thing for the cool adventures I receive monthly (tantalizingly), faster than I can play them. :)
That's certainly something I can relate to! :)
I wanted to play Wrath of the Righteous next, but my players favored Way to the Wicked, so they'll soon play the very bad guys instead of the very good ones. I anticipate we'll finish Shattered Star before the end of January (because traveling and the holiday season means we won't play for the next month), and likely start with WotW straight after that. I'm curious to see how it plays out, and whether it gets boring after a chapter or two, or whether I can bring them all through 20 levels of wickedness.
It's funny, we play roughly the same number of games per year in my group, but we progress way slower. Maybe because our games last only 2.5 hours? Or maybe because some people around the table spend too much time talking about real life things... :|
I think that makes a big difference. We play 6-hour slots, but there is easily 30-60 minutes lost to getting started, stopping for a food break, ending slightly earlier because it's a fitting break point, etc. so with a 2.5 hour session, I imagine it's hard to really play more than 2 hours.
But the advantage of covering less ground during the games is that the logs are faster to write. I get the impression that it must be quite a...
There's a reason why I'm a few sessions behind! ;)
But since we are rarely able to go for long streaks of weekly session, I can usually find some time to catch up during the week we are not playing.
Very nice, as usual, Moonbeam. :)
Is your group very much into roleplaying, or is most of the flavor you put in your journal added after the fact?
I don't remember the Kuru from when I read this AP. Do you know if they were added by your GM or if they were in the original scenario?
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXXI
Kuthona 29, 4712 AR
Flying through the black fog that obscured any sight into the pit below, the Pathfinders soon emerged from the ceiling of in what was left of a Thassilonian library. Most books had turned to ashes over the eons. If the pile of leathery flesh on the ground attracted my agents' attention, it was in fact from the shadows of the domed ceiling that the threat soon appeared: two skullrippers, scorpion-like creatures of the times of Thassilon covered in skulls, moved to attack the unsuspecting companions with an incredible speed. If Laslo's bestial characteristics allowed him to react swiftly, all the others were taken aback, and soon overwhelmed by the monsters and their fearsome aura. It certainly didn't help that it took my agents a while to realize they were facing constructs and not undead creatures, leading Viv to waste a powerful destruction spell on them. In addition, the powerful grip of the skullrippers made it very difficult to escape their grapple.
Draco spent most of this fight in a duel of strength with one of the constructs, eventually abandoning all hope of escaping its grappling embrace and deciding instead to focus on ripping the monster apart with his raging claws, and with Nasim's help. The other creature almost proved Laslo's plight, until he remembered to activate his ring of freedom, a few seconds shy of being decapitated by the skullriper! And when he was finally able to escape its grapple the Ustalavian fell prey to the construct's aura of fear. He fled in the next room no one had yet explored, only to be surrounded by six statues of faceless angels! But luckily for him, the statues were just that, and they did not move to attack him. Eventually back in the library, Laslo teamed up with the cautious Viv (very wary of the skullrippers' pincers) to destroy the last creature, in particular with a well aimed disintegrate ray.
The Pathfinders, somewhat against there nature, decided not to disturb the library and only took the time to identify the leathery mound of flesh as the remnants of three cloakers, possibly destroyed by the giants some time ago. As they moved to the room with the statues, these uttered words of cautious against anyone who would dare disturb the "exhibits of the Hall of Arcane Wonder." Suffice to say that my agents were happy to have left the library mainly untouched. Viv did shudder, however, as she recognized the faceless statues for the abominations they represented: emissaries of the Faceless Sphinx, the Crawling Chaos, the Outer God Nyarlathotep…
Moving on with redoubled caution, the companions entered a series of room with the most puzzling and wonderful displays: a shrine to the Faceless Sphinx; a giant fireball of roiling fire stopped in the midst of its explosion; a tower surrounded by a spirally staircase, emblazoned with what could have been a rune of Desna, the tower emerging from the ground to merge into the ceiling, as if it intersected this room; a juggernaut, monstrous construct of the serpent folk, displayed like a spoil of war. Plagued by visions of dark spaces, a cold plateau swept by icy winds under a pale mournful moon, the Pathfinders only took the time necessary to gather a few items that appeared to belong to no one (a broken crystal ball, an incandescent blue ioun stone, a rod of the viper…) before they moved forward into the Thassilonian laboratory.
For, yes, it was clearly a laboratory they entered next. Four vats filled with a swirling green liquid were holding four indistinct shapes that a closer look revealed to be an aurumvorax, a roper, the partially dissected body of a phase spider, and a silver dragon. More of the eerie yet immobile faceless statues surrounded the vats. After a quick discussion, the group decided it was best to leave this room alone and they pushed through the only way out, a set of double doors. Yet, little had it revealed a large fountain in the next hallway that my agents triggered a sonic trap that echoed, deafening, through the complex. The vats shattered , pouring their liquid nutrients and their hosts onto the floor. If the phase spider was obviously dead, the other three creatures, apparently crazed from the long stasis, lashed, confused, at anything they saw. To make matters worse, the fountain in the next corridor started boiling to reveal two enormous water elementals that, although more than 15 feet away, instantly attacked Draco and Laslo at the door with their long reach.
The aurumvorax and the roper were too confused to be much of a threat to the companions and Nasim quickly dispatched them with Draco's help while Laslo tried to keep the elementals at bay. Viv, in the meantime, dealt with the dragon. Despite her reluctance at attacking the noble creature, she resigned to defend herself when the dragon engulfed her in her cold breath (for an instant, they were all worried at the sight of the cone of cold engulfing the statues of the faceless angels but these again did not react to the attack; maybe they were really just statues?). Viv's magic was not very efficient against the draconic creature but she eventually fell her with Laslo's help, the Ustalavian having abandoned the doors to join the cleric of Asmodeus. With the passage wide open, the elemental glided in the water that covered the laboratory, pummeling anyone they could in passing.
The dragon down, it looked like the fight against the elemental would be quick and easy, until an intellect devourer burst from the dragon's skull! Still shuddering at their previous encounter with such an aberration, in the derro's lair below the Deepmar mine, Viv and Laslo focused all their assaults on the walking brain, dispatching it before it could endanger them. That left Draco and Nasim alone to face the two elementals that had ample time to coordinate their furious assaults. Eventually, they were also dispatched by the Pathfinders once these were able to join their efforts against the waves made being.
All was dripping with water, or nutrient fluid. The bodies of the vat creatures oozed to nothingness, and silence suffused the halls again. My agents took a few minutes to recover from their ordeal before they moved forward again. A few other rooms displayed even more strangeness (balls of churning water suspended in midair; a chapel consecrated to the Outer Gods and the Great Old Ones; a mage's magnificent mansion whose access was a superb painting in a wall) and, yet again, the companions were assailed by more horrific visions: gaunt gargoyle-like creature hurling them into the black nothingness of space, a peek at the true darkness that awaited beyond the veil of reality… They shuddered at what they saw…
Eventually, they reached a hallway sloping downwards, escaping the laboratory. Extending for more than a hundred meters, its supporting pillars were all carved in the shape of the faceless angels, dozens and dozens of them. By now, my agents had learned to consider them as mere statutes so they were taken completely aback when two of them animated and attacked the Pathfinders with a supernatural speed. Only Draco was walking on the ground while his companions all flew, so the statues jumped on him, hacking at him time after time before he could react, opening nasty gashes with their siccatite swords. Just like at the entrance of the Lady's Light, these caryatid columns proved particularly dangerous to the group with their complete magic resistance and hard rock "skin." But, once again, my agents did not falter and they prevailed without losing anyone.
As the hallway ended, the companions were left standing at the edge of cliff. The opening revealed a large subterranean lake that expanded beyond the edge of their darkvision. Pillars of a long gone bridge marked a path into the lake that the Pathfinders decided to follow.
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 55 (a skullripper, squeezing Draco with his pincer)
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXX
Kuthona 28, 4712 AR (continued)
The set of stairs led down to a series of tunnels carved from lava tubes and ended in a large cave where two fire giant stood guard near a large fire. Although the Pathfinders attempted to communicate with the giant, just like they had in the steading above, these guards roared furiously, alarming other nearby giants, and reached for the pile of rocks amassed near them. This time, a fight was in order. The first volley of molten rocks welcomed my agents with pain, and the group of three hill giants that emerged from side tunnels made the battle all the more messy. Despite missing digits, an arm, or presenting nasty scars, the giants were efficient brutes. However, the Four Deadly Sins were quite deadly too: Draco stood his ground, hurling retaliating stones at the giants before moving in to block their advance towards his companions; Laslo, invisible, wreaked havoc on the giants tendons, soft and vital parts; Nasim blocked the horde of giants by greasing the ground under their feet; and Viv topped it off by wielding the doomsday staff she had looted from Kandamereus in the Windsong Abbey, and confused the whole lot of giants. Between two giants attacking each other, one pathetically crying and flailing helplessly as he was unable to get up on the greased floor, and the other two fire giants suffering from both magical cold assaults from Viv, and very physical assaults from Draco, these guards were in fact not much of a threat anymore.
Yet one of them fled down a lava tube, and could not be caught before it was too late. Fearing this lonely guard would raise the alarm, my agents soon ran after him through a couple of tunnels and unoccupied rooms. They quickly reached a grisly sight: a long hall entirely covered in limbs and entrails, heads and viscera, so much of it, in fact, that it was difficult not to slip on all the blood and ichor that coated the floor. Behind twenty meters of that gore, the hall was cleaner until it reach a set of double doors, now guarded by three giants — the fire giants who had fled in front of the Pathfinder and two Guiltspur hill giants — who awaited my agents. As soon as they appears at the other end of the hall, the giants hurled stones. These would have splattered any heroes less experienced than the Pathfinders, but they shrugged it off. Laslo dashed forward, flying just above the gore on the ground, while Nasim clumsily danced his way through it and Draco trudged forward with strength. Standing in the back, Viv once again called on the doomsday staff to confuse the giants, but when she finally decided to cross the hall, a trap opened just under her feet and she fell through a chute into a pit in a nearby room.
The confused giants would keep themselves busy so the other companions investigated Viv's fate and, after a time, decided to follow here down the chute. In the meantime, in the pit with the Asmodean cleric, a pathetic hill giant with no hands or legs prostrated himself in front of our hero, begging for her not to kill him. But if she did not, the rift drakes overseeing the pits did not take kindly to the intrusion and rapidly moved to breath corroding acid on the companions, now gathered with the hobbled giant. Their savage bites, combined with their speed surges, left nasty marks on Laslo and Nasim (Draco had eventually decided to stay in the gory hallway so he could deal with any giant who would bypass the confusing effect of the doomsday staff). Eventually, the Pathfinder prevailed over the draconic creatures and they could learn of the tribe from Togbad, the crippled giant who had been hobbled so by Jubbek after he had attempted to aid a group of Shoanti prisoners escape. The poor thing was obviously not evil and explained to the Pathfinders that Jubbek and his retinue resided behind the double door at the end of the hallway of gore. In exchange for this information, Togbad was let go to join General Stom and what would soon be her tribe. He crawled away as best he could.
Once they flew out of their pit, my agents spotted two other such pits in the same large room. One was populated by a dozen trolls, while the other hosted three giants. All were crippled at one stage or another. A consequence of Jubbek increasing wrath, Togbad had said. The Pathfinders let the crippled in the pits as they did not want to waste their precious resources on them, but did not want to free them either. Back in the main gory hallway, Draco had dealt with the final hill giant, lone survivor of Viv's confusion spell. As they stood in front of the doors to Jubbek's quarter, my agents bolstered themselves with magic: mirror images, barksins, heroism,… many spells were cast before they pushed the double doors open and faced Jubbek.
But the giant chief was not alone: just past the doors, four poorly disguised hill gaints, pretending to be Shoanti barbarians were performing the mockery of a play in front of Jubbek, who stood further away, slouched on an immense throne made of wooden timbers and mastodon bones. Around him, a fire giant bodyguard and a concubine, as well as his faithful giant smilodon pet, Skullcracker. The giants did not take kindly to the interruption yet, before they could move their large carcasses to face the enemy, Viv's fireball was already flying on the stage, hurting the four hill giants who could do nothing else but stand there. Draco and Nasim quickly followed to wrangle with them, while Laslo, as often invisible, sneakily made his way next to Chief Jubbek, a towering hill giant that soon seized his morningstar and his shield. There, he pondered. Should the Ustalavian kill the mighty fire giant bodyguard, or should he slither his blade between the chief's shoulders? He decided to go for the chief, and hope that his invisibility would preserve him from the bodyguard's assaults. And it did, but Jubbek, a powerful hill giant, was barely stopped by the damage he sustained.
The battle turned into a bloody mess when the giants were joined by the chief's concubines, as well as his pet smilodon. Confusion spells flew, the powers of Hell were channeled, axes hacked, the dervish danced, and the Ustalivian targeted vital organs one after the other. There was no pretense at strategy on either side. What only mattered was to wade through the enemy. From the hall the Pathfinders had just crossed, a troop of hill and fire giants closed to join the fray when Nasim blocked the passage with a well placed wall of force. Seeing the gory fight, these giants wisely decided not to circumvent the magical barrier and quietly left the scene (later to be picked up and added to General Stom's tribe). Eventually, Draco struck the killing blow on the giant chief. Another duel of titans, each of the two hitting harder than the previous blow they had received, again and again. And, barely standing, Draco almost cleft the giant in half. But his joy was short-lived as, seeing his master fall, the smilodon Skullcracker pounced on his master's killer and proceeded to rip Draco to pieces. In its frenzy, the giant tiger dismembered the human, and sent his limbs flying across the room. The mighty Don Zerba had fallen again.
Without their chief, the remaining concubines and giants were easily dispatched by the remaining three Pathfinders. The fight over, my agents first collected the body (parts) of their fallen companion, before they turned to the chief's quarters, intent on finding the Shard. That was not difficult for it was embedded in the giant's morningstar. Theirs. The Shard of Wrath was now theirs, ours, and only the Shard of Sloth was missing. We are this close to reforging the Sihedron! Focusing on the newly found artifact hinted that the last Shard was hidden deep within Guiltspur. With Cadrilkasta? Could she have fallen to the curse of the Shard of Sloth, thereby explaining her absence for the past months? The Shard of Wrath indicated that the way forward was through a side-passage that opened onto a pit of roiling back fog and darkness. My agents would soon dive into the pit but, first, they climbed back up to the surface and showed General Stom that they had upheld their part of the bargain. The fire giant upheld hers and her tribe promptly left this forsaken place.
Viv then recalled everyone back to Magnimar so Draco could be raised from the dead. The reckless man is really trying the influence of the Society in Magnimar and, this time, it was quite difficult to convince Jyronn Imikar and the church of Abadar to perform the ritual. But Draco was eventually raised that very evening and, after only a night of rest at the manor, Viv recalled the group back to Guiltspur so they could delve deeper into the ruin of Karzoug's embassy and laboratory of the strange and unexpected.
Death: Draco (-90) ripped apart by Skullcracker, Jubbek's smilodon, after Draco had killed his master.
I unfortunately lost the sheet that listed the damage dealt and sustain during this session. But that was nasty
Yep, I did this when I played AoW a year ago. The Citadel of Zon-Kuthon actually marked the end of the campaign. The group fell in the arena trap and died there despite putting up a good fight. So be careful there! I don't think my changes made the campaign deadly. This module is just quite deadly to start with.
I used the citadel almost as is, except that I replaced the boar with a hell hound. I made Theldrick into a cleric 5 with the darkness and destruction domains.
In my campaign, the other two deities were Norgorber (the tengu labyrinth), and Rovagug (the morlocks, who replaced the grimlocks in my game).
As usual, thanks for the kind words, Moonbeam. :)
Great job writing the journal, as always! I especially enjoyed your description of the encounter with Yamasoth, that felt quite scary...
The best part there is that I actually had everyone on the edge of their seats in-game. That was quite rewarding, as you can imagine! :)
It's strange how the group went through the fourth adventure: they started with the 2nd half, which was quite hard (I guess they were one level lower than expected, among other things). That was unexpected, and quite cool. But then I guess when they went back upstairs to "clean up", it might have felt a bit anti-climactic, and they also missed out on some cool encounters, experience, and treasure. I thought it made sense the way you played it: that some of the denizens had left the region, knowing/guessing that their master was dead. But how did you like the sequence of that adventure, as it unfolded in your campaign?
It was fine. In fact, it was better in the sense that we went through this book quicker than we otherwise would have. It's quite a long dungeon and after 4-5 sessions, things get a little stale because it seems that there is no end to the number of rooms that need to be explored. At least, the way the players did it, they was always a clear driver: getting in, exploring, getting to Ardathanatus as quickly as possible, (getting killed,) getting back as cautiously, but still as quickly as possible.
A few nice encounters were skipped, but that doesn't hurt the story, so I don't mind too much. As you mention, going back for the exploration of the upper levels after dealing with Ardathanatus was a little anticlimatic, but that's also why I assumed that most of the threats had left the abbey. So it only took us a couple of hours to wrap this up, at the end of the session. I made sure it wouldn't last longer than that. At least it provided a positive end to it all since the PCs went out of their way to make sure the doomsday door would remain secret.
Then you guys already started the 5th adventure. You seem to be going through the campaign at a swift pace! Especially if I compare it to my group's progress through Skull and Shackles, we only did an adventure and a half after one year!!!
I need to catch up with the write-ups, but we're now half-way through The Dead Heart of Xin! :)
We try to play once a week, but that usually turns into ~30-35 sessions a year, and it takes us about 5-7 sessions to go through one of the chapter, on average. I feel we're still enjoying the scenarios and getting the most out of it. Taking longer would likely make the campaign less appealing. I find it hard not to get a little bored of the campaign and the PCs after a year in real life. If the end is in sight by then, it's very motivating, otherwise I get the feeling everyone is slightly less motivated.
Admittedly, they just did last session what they had done for Beyond the Doomsday Door, and skipped a third of Xin's palace! They were clever, used other means of bypassing difficulties, and I always think it should pay off for the PCs. They miss a bit on the backstory, but they still get a lot of the background anyway, so I don't think they feel cheated, or lost.
It liked the idea that the group passed by Fort Rannick: did you guys play through Rise of the Runelords? If so, was there some nostalgia on your group's part at being back to that location?
Yes! And that's why I offered for the group to stop in Fort Rannick if they wanted to (the other solution was Kaer Maga). Out of my four players, three were players of mine in our Rise of the Runelord campaign that we stopped after the Hook Mountain Massacre. So freeing fort Rannick was their moment, 4-ish years ago. It didn't go without a couple of deaths, so I think it was nice for the players to go back there and see it rebuilt. The fourth player also played RotR, albeit with another group, so he also knew what Fort Rannick meant.
It was also fun for me to place them in this situation. At least there was no need to introduce new NPCs to give them the information about the Cinderlands and how they could reach Guiltspur.
And I noticed that the group did a long and arduous journey on foot instead of using high-level magic such as Wind Walk to make the trip faster and easier. Was that a decision based on role-playing concerns? Did it originate from the players, from you, or perhaps from both?
The players decided the PCs would travel by foot. I think they simply did not have other means of traveling to Guiltspur. The only two spellcasters are the cleric, and the magus, and neither had access to teleport, or wind walk, or anything like that at the time. Their UMD is also pathetically low. They could have bought a few scrolls, but I guess it never crossed their minds, or they figured it's something their PCs wouldn't do. It was good for me, though, since that meant I could add some content to compensate for the large chunk of the Windsong Abbey they hadn't explored. Even though we ditched XPs for this campaign, I don't like giving them 2 levels in quick succession.
The encounter in the valley with the ghosts of Tar-Baphon's followers was unusual: was that taken from an adventure, or did you create it yourself?
That was my addition to the adventure. I used the framework of the original module published in Dungeon, but the details were very much a succession of combat encounter, which I thought was quite boring. So I re-flavored everything for Golarion (linking it to the knights of Ozem and the fall of Tar-Baphon), re-flavored encounters with dinosaurs into the encounter with the bhuta that the PCs could decide to roleplay through instead of fight through if they wanted to, and I added the chase scene through the canyon to make it more dynamic than a succession of fights (which can easily take 30-60 minutes at this level). In the end it worked okay, despite the mechanics being a little too visible for my taste when we played through it. But the players were very inventive, that evening, and that helped a lot to make it heroic. They could have gone for the simple rolls of this, or that, but they sometimes went for unexpected spells (breath of life against the dragon haunts, wall of ice to ride over threats,…), which added a nice breath of fresh air.
My PCs went a more conventional route and killed the hydra, but your idea of doing a chase is brilliant. That should work! What I wonder is what happens when the PCs reach the boggard village. The hydra should be so upset at the PCs by then that I'm not sure it would attack the boggards. Or maybe since the group was proactive and had a neet idea, I would just decide it randomly attacks PCs or boggards once it's in the village, leaving the chance for the group to get out of the way if they are lucky and want to?
I completely understand the goal here. Nice touch! I'll keep it like this. :)
It'll work to power the rather low damage of their touch attack. I don't mind flying PCs being mainly impervious to the living runes, especially given how much they hate swarm-like creatures. Some abilities should make life easier. But poor barbarian who is the only one not flying. ;)
Thanks, Brandon, and well done on the adventure. It's a well crafted piece of work that nicely concludes more than a year of gaming for my group and I! I particularly like that there aren't many evil opponents in this one. That's a nice change.
Did anyone figure out whether the touch attacks of the living runes' power Symbols of Power are supposed to be melee touch or ranged touch? I'd venture ranged touch but…
It seems clear the intention was to not have these symbols target all characters who can see the living rune, but it seems to me further restricting it to a touch attack make it mostly useless to flying/ranged opponents.
The way I did it is allow my group to buy anything they'd like that is less than 8,000 gp. Items between 8,000 and 32,000 gp only have a 75% chance of being available this week. A new check can be made every week.
Remember that if you're using the Fate/Prestige Point system, they quickly get to shave off 10% from the cost of items below 10,000 gp.
All of this has worked out fine for my group of 4 PCs, 15-point buy. With 6 PCs, I'd advise you to keep the treasures in the scenario as they are, and to not increase them to their 6-PC equivalent. The AP already gives out a lot of treasure (and powerful artifacts, and free ioun stones), so your 6 PCs should still be fine and it'll make your GM life easier.
I completely agree. That's why I'm happy to play with a 4-player group. It keeps the game reasonably fast, even though it's now slowed down at level 15, with so many options the PCs can use. That would also be my worry with 6 PCs. Not increasing the number of opponents makes the action economy strongly favor the PCs, even when increasing the opponent's hps and adding advanced templates on them, and increasing them makes the game slow down to a crawl. Tough situation… I suspect playing online makes it easier, but it's still quite a challenge.
Yes, I know they are 10-foot wide square, but it can still get very cramped with, say, 8 PCs and bolstering the Tower Girls numbers from 15-ish to 25-ish. Later dungeon can also smaller (Windsong Abbey, for instance), or some of the Guiltspur-related dungeons.
You sure you can't split your current group into two different groups? Because these numerous dungeons can become very crowded with eight PCs in addition to NPCs. Some of the dungeons have quite large hallways, but other have narrow corridors. I'm thinking of the Crow, in particular. That could lead to player frustration when fighting mites, or tower girls, in 5-foot wide passages. It's also very hard to keep a group of eight focused on the game when every player has so little time in the limelight. It can already be the case with 6 players, from my experience.
I'd also recommend going for a 15-point buy, or maybe even 10 with such a large group, so you don't have to add 50% more NPCs. Otherwise, eight PCs, and 50% more NPCs… I'm not even sure if this fits in some of the dungeons!
I've been playing the whole Shattered Star campaign for my group of 4 15-point buy PCs and it's been fairly balanced so far, if a little tough at times.
As for experience, I'd just simply drop XPs so you're free to level up the PCs when the story calls for it, without having to worry about giving them too much or too few experience points.
I always find that they don't use consumables enough, except for one player (who was playing the paladin in Kingmaker), but they certainly always stock up on healing before they go adventuring.
If you see them running out of healing, you can always add a wand or two in a treasure trove. Same thing with (lesser) restoration scrolls.
Where it gets more difficult is with Nyrissa's blinding beauty that requires more specific spells like break enchantment and remove blindness. It's easy to add one or two scrolls here and there, but that may well not be enough since the PCs will typically need to save against Nyrissa's aura every round. That's where my PCs' consumables came in handy. The bard cohort also helped.
I'm currently playing with a group of level 15 characters so I know how powerful high-level play can be. :)
For my group in Kingmaker, they fought the black dragon outside, and she was destroying them, until I rolled a 1 on her baleful polymorph save. The fight against the linnorm was dead easy for them, same thing against the jabberwok (the paladin charging on her flying pony had the shining knight ability to make the charge target flee if they failed a save, and the jabberwok failed this save), and the worm that walks was a little more problematic, but once they spotted it, it was reasonably easy with some dispel magic. The naga was also a very easy fight for them and I had not placed the hag cleric in Nyrissa's castle.
So these fights used some of their resources, but not very much. Of course, my PCs had it easy since they uprooted Thousandbreaths!
I think you'll have ample time to figure the best way to do this fight if you still have 6-7 levels to go. And, yes, Nyrissa should definitely have resist energy on against the alchemist's bombs. ;)
I forgot to mention that my group also had crafting feats, so they were likely above WBL.
I can see it being tough with only 3 PCs, but I always find it difficult to add too many accompanying NPC without slowing down the game a lot, and detracting the attention from what the "heroes" (the PCs) are doing. One option I would consider is to have the PCs be one level higher than expected by the AP to compensate for them being 3 plus a cohort.
The fact that two of your PCs (plus the cohort?) are focussing on ranged attacks may actually make it easier for them than for my group. The antilife shell is moot with the alchemist and the ranger, and the alchemist only needs to hit touch AC, so that's going to be much easier than my group needing to hit AC 50-ish.
I could see your group missing the ability to "de-buff" Nyrissa, or counter her spells, and that's where the oracle could come in handy. But it depends so much on whether the PCs take Nyrissa by surprise or not, whether they could prepare or not, etc that it's hard to guess.
The PCs were actually quite powerful, without being overly optimized. The players are very experienced, and know how to play the game. We had a group of 4 PCs, one with a cohort, and we use 15-point buy. Core and APG were allowed, as well as other Paizo supplements from the Campaign Setting and Player Companion lines.
I don't have the character sheets, but the group was, overall, more powerful than I would have liked for some parts of the campaign. They steam rolled quite a few encounters (which is not surprising with Kingmaker), but difficulties of the last fight stemmed from the conditions:
In the end, I was very happy, because this final fight was very climactic. The PCs didn't do anything really wrong, that is just a very tough fight. :)
Today, the group recovered the Shard of Sloth from Cadrilkasta's cold, dead claw. That was not without sacrifices…
Name: Laslo Grigorovich Budynek
The Gory Details: Cadrilkasta was back after having almost killed Viveltre, the group's cleric of Asmodeus, but also after she had been forced to teleport away to heal herself. This time, she was angry, but cunningly invisible. Laslo was the only companion with see invisibility, so he cautious went forward to warn his companions where the dragon was. He was welcomed by a prismatic spray, got hit by a poison ray (green), and promptly dropped dead cold. (That's what a 1 on a save does for you.)
The barbarian-alchemist, Draco, swiftly grabbed Laslo's body to bring it to Viveltre, who breathed life back into Laslo.
And a few seconds later…
Name: Draco Don Zerba
The Gory Details: For maybe the tenth time, Cadrilkasta hurled electricty at the group of Pathfinders. This last attempt was too much for Draco, who could not resist the electrical onslaught and dropped dead. (The breath brough him to -37, he dropped out of his rage, and went all the way down to -86. Truly dead.)
The companions brought Cadrilkasta low seconds later and Draco was eventually raised from the dead back in Magnimar, a few days before the ritual to reforge the Sihedron.
I placed my campaign in Varisia (until my PCs TPK'd in chapter 2):
A pitty we never got to go past chapter 2…
I wrote this thread at the end of my Kingmaker campaign. Some of my posts in this thread dwell on the issues you mention and how we dealt with it (dropping the hexploration rules after book 2, dropping the kingdom rules after book 3, etc).
Hope this helps!
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXIX
Kuthona 24-28, 4712 AR
Two days later, my agent finally emerged from the haunted valley, on the foothills of the Kodhar mountains. Another two days of stealthy traveling through the badlands, in valleys carved by the winds through millennia-old lava flows, and they finally arrived at their destination: Guiltspur. An obelisk made of a green metal towered above a plateau, next to a wooden two-storied house built for giants. On top of the ledge that led to this plateau stood three ballistas maned by giants and ready to be used against intruders. The valley itself was blocked at the foot of the plateau by a wooden barricade whose only passage was a closed gate flanked by two tall guard towers.
The group barely had the time to gauge the situation that their lack of discretion meant that the giants guarding the towers immediately spotted them. As a powerful hill giant blew into his mastodon horn to alert his companions, the other started hurling stones at the Pathfinders, quickly followed by ballista bolts from the giants on the plateau. The giants proved pathetic with the siege engines, but remarkably accurate with the big rocks they hurled and, before my agents could get much closer, they had already been hammered by a few of these. Draco rushed forward after ingurgitating a couple of protective extracts, Nasim boosted himself with magic, Laslo turned invisible, and Viv provided the artillery as she wrecked the ballistas and the giants manning them with fireball after fireball.
While she took care of the giants in the back, her companions took on the hill giants at the gate. Two stayed in their towers, hurling rocks, after they had opened the gate for two terror inspiring mastodon riders. This battle turned into a bloody affair. Despite Laslo's well aimed clawing, Nasim's shocking grasp assaults, and an enlarged Draco's powerful hits, the giants were still giants and could take on an unbelievable amount of abuse before they would fall. But the companions slowly did away with the giants, Viv taking the time to wreak destruction on one of the two guard towers flanking the closed gate. There was now a way in.
Things didn't go so well for the reckless Draco who, emboldened by his powerful attacks, took on mastodon after giant after giant. It was eventually down to the giant hurling rocks from the only tower still standing, an instant before another wave of the monstrous humanoids arrived, preceded by crazed mastodons they had lit on fire. So Draco climbed the remaining tower as his companions got ready for the new wave, and he took on the hill giant on his own. He prevailed, but his health was eventually so low that only his rage sustained him. He rushed to the Asmodean cleric, but his superstition of all things magical meant that Viv's healing magic had little chance of being very helpful. Eventually, he resolved to leave his raging state, and hope that his aegis of recovery would save him. But it did not, and Draco exhaled his last breath. Again… Viv hastely breathed life into him. Again… And she brought the not-so-invulnerable rager back to life.
When Laslo and Nasim killed the last mastodon, the remaining giants decided their salute was in a retreat and they rushed back to the giants' steading. One of them did not run fast enough and Nasim cut him down, yet the last one entered the building as the Pathfinders were only halfway up the ledge. So as not to give the giants too much time to prepare, my agents quickly congregated and exchanged healing spells before they rushed to the entrance of the steading.
The door to the building with adorned with a tapestry that represented crude figures of giants jumping on crude figures of elves. Laslo recognized the symbol of the Elfstompers, a well-known tribe of violent giants said to roam the Cinderlands under the vicious rulership of Chief Jubbek. My agents pushed the door open, ready for anything… except what they found. Half a dozen giants stood alert in a large smoky room around a bonfire, ready for a fight, yet they did not attack. Instead, on the balcony that overlooked this main room, a towering female fire giant slowly clapped before complimenting my Pathfinders on their combat prowess against the guards outside.
Uneasy and unsure what to do, my agents decided to have Viv (who had cast tongues on herself) discuss the situation with the fire giant leader, who called herself General Stom. It quickly became clear that the General did not believe that the blue dragon Cadrilkasta who had been ruling the tribe above Jubbek still lived. If the Pathfinders were ready to kill chief Jubbek below, in the hallways the giants had carved our of lava to access Guiltspur, she would take all the surviving giants and simply leave this accursed place to head back to the Cinderlands. Although she was not very open on what had happened to the dragon, my agents and Stom quickly reached an agreement. They would kill Jubbek, as much for them as for her.
Two fire giants led the Pathfinders to a set of stairs carved out of lava and leading to the darkness below. "She's a really hot babe," dreamily added Viv, referring to General Stom.
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 57 (a Guiltspur giant charging Draco with his lance, on his mastodon).
Death: Draco (-30) as he left rage in an attempt to get healed by Viv. She had to bring him back a second later with breath of life.
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXVIII
Kuthona 22-23, 4712 AR
Advancing through the valley, there was rarely any choice of direction as the canyon slowly wound its way through the Cinderlands, never larger than a few hundred meters. Any crack in the wall that escaped the main gorge soon dwindled to passages too narrow to be followed. Sunlight was a rare sight in the valley as only a small openings in the rocky ceiling let any light through. At first, the Pathfinders were surrounded by luxuriant vegetation and they could spot dinosaurs in the distance. But after the first day, the vegetation took a sickly turn. Scrawny trees were soon the only sight around. Pools of fools orange-tinged waters replaced the initial lakes, and foul clouds of miasma exuded from geothermal springs, when they did not spurt forth because of a hidden geyser. Silence took over the hidden valley, and signs of life became very sparse.
For their second night of camping in the valley, the Pathfinders were very quiet, obvious intruders in the desolate landscape. They set up guards for the night and, awake, Viv noticed her companions shifting in their uneasy sleep. Yet, before she decided to wake them up from whatever nightmare plagued them, she heard the sound of massive beasts crashing through the thin vegetation to reach the camp. The group barely had time to get ready that the camp was surrounded by three gigantic tyrannosaurus rex. The beasts appeared charmed, or under the influence of a compulsion as they did not right away attack the camp. Instead, a deep voice rumbled between the walls of the canyon, demanding for the Pathfinders to explain the reason of their presence. A bhuta soon made itself visible, flying twenty feet above the dinosaurs. As her companions tensed at the encounter and the obscure goals of the undead, Viv recognized in it a creature born of horrible death or murder in a natural setting, a manifestation of rage at the injustice of a death that interrupted some important goal or unsated desires. Diplomatically, the cleric of Asmodeus explained that the group needed to traverse the valley but that, if the undead would be kind enough to explain what wrong it had suffered, they would attempt to help him.
It rapidly became clear that the bhuta was a former Knight of Ozem who had been hunting for the lost treasure of the Whispering Tyrant. The Pathfinder pieced together that centuries ago, as Tar-Baphon had been dealt a major blow by Aroden himself, his armies fled to the west, back to what would become the Hold of Belkzen and, beyond, into the Cinderlands. Rumors abound of a small part of the Tar-Baphon's army disappearing in this part of the Cinderlands with the remains of the Whispering Tyrant's treasures. Centuries later, the bhuta had led a group searching for this treasure, only to lose his life to the dangers of the haunted valley. The companions vouched to look for the treasure and to remove it from the valley if they could. Apparently satisfied, the incorporeal undead became invisible again and disappeared, soon followed by the three tyrannosaurus. Nasim was the only Pathfinder unhappy to have avoided a fight: "And now I won't know how efficient this new spell I learnt to fight incorporeal undead creatures really is…"
My agents' sleep was still troubled, that night, but not to the point that they could not sleep.
Kuthona 24, 4712 AR
That day started well: more light from the outside world seeped into the canyon, and the Pathfinders journeyed efficiently despite a couple of geysers spurting scalding water a little too close to them. In the darkness of the afternoon, though, they started feeling more and more oppressed. They pushed their horses, but that would not be enough. Slowly, ghosts emerged from the ground behind them. First one, then two, then five, then ten, then dozens… Before they could realize what had just happened, a whole army of orc-like ghosts, some missing limbs, others their incorporeal guts spilling from their incorporeal, swollen bellies. The ghosts of Tar-Baphon's army blocked any way back, and advanced towards them. That could not be! Focussing all their will, they hoped for this vision to be an illusion. It was not and, soon, the army was joined by ghosts of red dragons emerging from the canyon's wall. Flight was the only option! But the ghostly army had timed their ambush well for in front of the Pathfinders, the valley narrowed to a crack.
Draco dashed forward, abandoning his horse. His keen eye spotted that, if at ground level one needed to squeeze between the rocks, a small ledge higher up led to a large opening between the walls of the canyon. He quickly climbed the ledge, soon followed by a flying Laslo, while Viv and Nasim conveyed flying powers to their horses before they also followed, doing their best to reign in the animals as the ghosts grazed them. The canyon opened again and the Pathfinders hoped for a second that the narrow crack would prevent the army from getting through. But the ghosts soon emerged from the obstacles, on their tracks, accompanied by even more ghostly dragons, and wyverns, and ogres that came out of the neighboring walls. Their escape would not be over for long.
Soon, the ghost of a red old wyrm rose into the air. The valley was so narrow that the tip of his wings merging with the canyon's cliffs. And he dove, ready to blanket the ground with fire that would surely engulf my agents. Viv recognized the haunt for what it was and, knowing it was vulnerable to positive energy, she pushed her horse ever higher and higher, reached the ghostly dragon, and blasted it with a breath of life spell. A lake of brackish water now blocked the way forward, except for a small passage on its side, hugging the crumbling cliff. If Draco took no time to dive in and cross the hurdle with powerful strokes, Laslo simply flew over the obstacle, and their companions rode their flying horses across the water. Nasim's horse reluctantly kicked out for a few seconds, allowing the ghosts to get even closer, sucking some of the Qadiran's life.
Beyond the lake, the miasma they had often spotted in the haunted valley had accumulated and engulfed most of the canyon. Pressed for time, they pushed through, either holding their breath or sneaking between the bulk of the poisonous fog. Finally, they could see the end of the canyon and the valley opening again. Relieved, they dashed forward, but stopped dead in the tracks when more ghosts rose from the floor, blocking their only way out. They were now cornered by the ghostly armies of Tar-Baphon! Undeterred, Viv pushed her horse to rise higher, and higher, and higher, climbing so hard in the air that she even passed over the ghostly giants ahead. Relying on his own wings, Laslo more easily followed, while Draco chose to climb the sheer cliff. The climb proved so difficult that he was too focused on his moves and did not notice some of the ghosts caught up with him. Yet he overcame their soul-sucking touch. In the meantime, Nasim knew he did not know the ways of animals well enough to force his horce to simply rise into the air. Instead, he created a wall of ice between the ground and the cliff above the ghostly army blocking their way forward. With ground under its feet, the horse was much easier convinced to rise into the air and leave behind the ghostly troops.
The valley had widened again at the location of a bubbling geothermal lake that the ghosts seemed reluctant to get close to. The Pathfinders had overtaken the armies of the Whispering Tyrant, but their joy was short lived, for from the mud banks around the lake soon rose the decomposed bodies of three undead creatures. Viv recognized two of them as soul-sucking wight lords, who were protecting what could be nothing else than a grand priest of Tar-Baphon, or what was left of it. The ground around was littering with the remnants of a long gone caravan. Had they just found the remnants of Tar-Baphon's treasure, guarded by the leader of the ghostly army. We would never know for fireballs soon flew over the battle field, quickly followed by flame strikes and lightning bolts from the grand priest. Laslo and Draco took on the wight lords and Nasim provided support. Out of evocation spells, Tar-Baphon's minion summoned many crawling insects. But if they slowed down the Pathfinders, they did not threaten their lives. Soon, the undead creatures were overcome, leaving only the ghostly armies, threatening them from the narrow canyon. But even these shortly merged back into the ground and walls with a screeching sigh.
My agents did not waste anytime checking whether the haunt that was casting a pale on this valley had been entirely lifted, or merely postponed. They grabbed all they could from the remnants of the caravan, and carried toward the north and the Kodar mountains.
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 24 (a wight lord on Draco, with a falchion swing).
Thank for the kind words, Monrail. :)
It was guarding the prison in which they found the despondent priest of Erastil. The fight didn't last long because, by that time, the PCs were quite powerful, and also because that was after the main fight, when they were cleaning up the abbey, so I didn't want to waste too much time there.
Looking forward to the group's antics in Guiltspur (and hoping for less character deaths this time ;-)).
Well, for the moment, Draco died twice, out of stupidity, and heroism. And I expect it won't be all as we finish Into the Nightmare Rift this week. ;)
I'm actually quite happy with the deaths in this campaign: there are a few, but there aren't too many that the game grinds to a halt, and the deaths happened at high enough level that the PCs could deal with them with breath of life and raise dead. Quite a few of these Prestige Points given at the end of each AP volume have already been used for raise dead and restoration combos!
I think death should be part of high level play, otherwise the game just becomes too easy.
After Beyond the Doomsday Door, the PCs were about half a level lower than required, and the journey to Guiltspur was going to take 3-4 weeks anyway, so I squeezed a modified version of the module "The Hateful Legacy" from Dungeon 131. So be aware that this entry and the next one spoil parts of this scenario.
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXVII
Neth 23, 4712 AR
Back in Magnimar, the Pathfinders focused on their latest discovery, the Shard of Envy, to determine the location of the Shard of Wrath. The vision revealed a towering green spire, emerging from a ragged landscape of long-frozen lava spills. Recent scaffoldings and signs of construction indicated that someone, or something, was already investigating the spire. Laslo quickly recognized Guiltspur, a site located on the northern end of the Storval Plateau, near the Kodar mountains. Said to be cursed, Guiltspur is a Thassilonian ruin that is rumored to have been both a laboratory for the Runelord Karzoug, as well as an embassy for some of his strange, otherworldly allies. Little more than rumors until a few years ago, the Ustalavian had heard, when he was still studying at the University of Lepidstadt, that the great blue dragon Cadrilkasta had forced entire tribes of hill and fire giants to excavate the ruin. For what reason, no one knew, but with the Shard of Envy pointing in this direction, we could only guess that the recent excavation was tied to the Shards.
Cadrilkasta… A name to be feared for sure. Even Nasim who hails from the distant lands of Qadira knew that the blue wyrm once terrorized even the Hold of Belkzen. A true monster's monster, she was rumored to have abandoned her lair a few years ago, after she had explored and destroyed a Thassilonian ruin, and moved west into the Cinderlands in order to excavate Guiltspur. Many a giant who rebelled against had faced her increasingly violent behavior and been slain. Now a small army of these served her… Discussing with my agents, they ventured a timeline that, I must admit, would make a lot of sense. What if Cadrilkasta her discovered the Shard of Wrath in this first Thassilonian ruin she had explored in Belkzen, only to be overcome by the curse of wrath? The Shard then could have led her to Guiltspur where the Shard of Sloth would await its discoverer. But if that was the case, the great blue wyrm would soon know the location of the Shard of Pride that Viv was carrying! Or, worse, the dragon already knew where the Shard was! Time seems to be of the essence here, especially since the journey to Guiltspur will take most of a month!
Neth 24-30, 4712 AR
My agents nevertheless took the time to prepare themselves for the dangers to come. One does not just walk into a great wyrm's lair unprepared and expects to survive. Viv's growing clerical powers allowed the group to teleport to Absalom to purchase powerful magic item. Whilst there, I know that the Grand Lodge took the opportunity of the presence of this active and renowned group of Pathfinders to have them lecture the younglings on the dangers and joys of the life of a Pathfinder. In the course of only a couple of months, my agents have become truly famous, even beyond the borders of Magnimar, and even Varisia. I am proud of them and what they accomplished.
Whilst they were absent, I secured a passage for them on the Lucky Jenny, a halfling trading boat that was headed for Fort Rannick. Although heading for Kaer Maga before crossing the Cinderlands was an option my agents considered, I eventually convinced them that heading for Fort Rannick and asking the Black Arrows (the resident group of rangers, defenders of this part of Varisia against ogre and giant incursions) for a way to cross the deadlands to Guiltspur was a more sensible option.
Kuthona 1-4, 4712 AR
The voyage to Wartle on the Yondabakary river, along the Mushfens, was not the most leisure of voyages. The boggards of the Mushfens were restless. Something, or someone, had riled them up and they now more frequently attack lonely barges or boats. A group assaulted the Lucky Jenny, one night, but the powerful Pathfinders swiftly repelled them. The discovery that they proudly wore a very ancient Thassilonian rune that could be tied to Lust, or the Runelord Sorshen, troubled my agents. They fear, as I do, that Ashamintallu has turned into a real danger. She will need to be dealt with.
Kuthona 5-8, 4712 AR
The journey to Whistledown unfolded without event.
Kuthona 9-10, 4712 AR
After a good night of rest under a roof, and in a proper bed, for once, the Lucky Jenny departed for Ilsurian, across Lake Syrantula. These commerce lanes are well traveled and rarely disrupted by danger.
Kuthona 11-12, 4712 AR
The last stretch of the journey led the Pathfinder to Turtleback Ferry, an inconsequential little town that had come very close to being destroyed by ogres and the destruction of the dam of Skull's Crossing some years back. We have the heroes of Sandpoint to thank for repelling the ogres and saving the dam. Maybe one day the heroes of Magnimar will be remembered for similar high deeds?
Kuthona 13, 4712 AR
After a final halfday of travel on dirt roads, the Pathfinders finally reached Fort Rannick. In much better shape than 5 years ago when it had been overtaken by the Kreeg ogres, the Fort now hosted a company of more than twenty Black Arrows, along with at least as many Magnimarian soldiers, for we shall not forget that the Fort is a Magnimarian holding!
The Black Arrow hosted the travelers well, along with a young noble woman from Korvosa who had left the city for fear of its turmoil. The dinner was enjoyable and the conversation straddled many topics, from Korvosan to Qadiran politics, the Pathfinders' adventures, and the current situation at the Fort. The Black Arrow leaders, Jakardros Sovark and his lieutenant Vale Temros, looked alarmed when they learned that my agents were planning on crossing the Cinderlands all the way to the Kodar Mountains. According to them, the giants were restless in the north. Since the disbanding of Karzoug's army in Xin-Shalast, scores of giants had fled the ruins of the mighty Thassilonian city, only to form their own bickering bands and fight for the possession of their own territory in the Cinderlands. Even mighty rune giants had been spotted in the deadlands and, according to Vale, the crossing to Guiltspur was no less than a suicidal mission.
Towards the end of dinner, Jakardros nevertheless reluctantly offered another option: if the Pathfinders were to keep to the western shore of the Storval Deep instead of heading straight towards Guiltspur to the north-east, they could reach a hidden rift that, rumor had it, extended from the Iron Peak, all the way to the foothills of the Kodar Moutains, not two days away from Guiltspur. Of course, the valley was said to be haunted by the ghosts of the orc hordes, servants of the Whispering Tyrants, which had fled in front of the victorious knights of Ozem, so long ago when the Whispering Tyrant had been repelled and imprisoned in Gallowspire. And to add insult to injury, the only known entrance into the valley birthed in the ruins of a troglodyte fort that hosted a large tribe of ogres… The Pathfinders debated their options but eventually decided that, the next day, they would head for the Iron Peaks and, following Jakardros's indications, they would find this hidden valley and travel through it to Guiltspur.
As they all retired to their rooms, Nasim had the satisfaction of realizing that he had most impressed the young Korvosan noble, and they spent a rowdy and sleepless night together. Things were not so sublime the next morning when the "woman" grew dark wings, claws, and haughtily told the Qadiran, with disgust in her tone: "Nasim ibn Asad ibn Shahzad al-Fahim, you are as stupid as your fathers' fathers. Now that I have what I need, we will see how much smarter than you your offspring is, and we will see how your father takes the news of where you squirm on this world." She laughed, and disappeared in a puff of sulfur before Nasim could overcome his surprise.
So it seems Nasim's past has come to haunt him… Let us hope this does not interfere with the search for the Sihedron Shards and that the Whore Queen herself does not come on Golarian to deal with her spawn herself. Erynies, I believe my agents can deal with. The mother of all erynies, I do not think so…
Kuthona 14-20, 4712 AR
The journey through the moutains along Storval Deep proved grueling, with many climbs and descents for little gained distance.
Kuthona 21, 4712 AR
Following Jakardros's indications, the Pathfinders eventually reached the Rock Tower that guarded the entrance to the haunted valley. Before they got too close, they spotted an ogre lookout, far above the ruins of the old fort that merged with the rock. Flying under the protection of invisibility, they slaughtered the ogre before it could notice their approach. Laslo pounced on the ogre so violently that he severed the creature's spine and paralyzed a cry of pain in his lungs. Next were four sentries. These lasted a little longer, but they could not resist the onslaught of magic and violent assaults. Finally, the Pathfinders gained the core of the rock fort that opened onto a narrow canyon hosting luxuriant vegetation. But before they could enter the canyon, they had to contend with the whole tribe of warrior ogres and the mighty hill giant that served as their leader.
Viv stood her ground at the entrance of the large cave in which the ogres had built their village amongst older ruins. Protected by Draco, she could spam fireball after fireball, wreaking havoc among the many groups of ogres. The flying Nasim and Laslo took on the hill giant leader. Hitting like a titan, his blows crushing bone and life at the same time, his fighting style was nevertheless ill-suited to cope with the deft Qadiran dervish and the invisible Ustalavian vivisectionist. He dealt a couple of powerful greatclub blows to the two Pathfinders, but they retaliated by quickly cutting him down. The remaining warriors fought to the death while the young and old ogres in the village, along with a couple of pregnant female ogres cowered in fear in front of such power. The shaman of the tribe, an old female ogre, stayed those who were not warriors and, when the calm settled back in the cave, she was instrumental in letting the Pathfinders pass through to the canyon. Not caring a Shackles' rat for the ogres' political strife, my agents resolved to simply pass through the remains of the village and enter the haunted valley, or so it had been called by the Black Arrows…
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 35 (an ogre power attacking Laslo with his ogre hook).
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXV
Neth 19, 4712 AR (continued)
Yet, with a quick succession of strategic moves, the dire situation promptly turned. Kandamereus's attempt at dispelling the effects of the blasphemy spell on Nasim failed, so the weak Qadiran sluggishly danced his magic away from Ardathanatus to benefit from Viv's healing powers; in an instant he went from the doors of the Boneyard to full health, before he dived back in the melee, dancing like never a dervish had danced before. This matter handled, the cleric of Asmodeus, took precious seconds to also heal Laslo. Even though his invisibility meant he had not suffered much damage in the battle, his plight had been his failure to resist Nasim's stinking cloud. However, the upheaval in his empty stomach resulted in very visible bile appearing in the room, where he stood. Without this, it would have been difficult for Viv to touch the Ustalavian tiefling and infuse him with the restorative magic of the Duke of Hell.
Draco, in the meantime, battled the remaining sinspawn guard who would constantly retreat to shoot his remaining human bane arrows at the barbarian. Shot once, twice, Draco still relentlessly axed at the aberration and, eventually, cleft it in half. One of the shadows gone in the blade barrier, the remaining one battling the last gongorinan, it was down to the Four Deadly Sins against Ardathanatus. The crazed elf stood his ground, promising tortures beyond death to the Pathfinders, but he eventually fell. Cornered by Nasim, Laslo, and Draco who hacked and hacked again at him, supported by Viv's channelling, Ardathanatus first lost his dangerous halberd in an ill-advised move. Facing the onslaught of claws, scimitar, and greataxe attacks, he resorted to heal himself, but his caution while casting in battle made him lose the thread of his spellcasting and the magic fizzled. It was not long until Nasim brought him down with a final series of assaults.
Ardathanatus had passed away. The sick green light that exuded from the doomsday door's cracks disappeared. The mighty breathing that had healed evil and hurt good stopped. All went silent, and dark. The companions' lights had trouble piercing the surrounding darkness. As they caught their breath after yet another victory, Nasim made sure the elf was dead and Laslo got closer to the doors under Kandamereus's guidance to attempt to close them. This is when he came, in his full, horrific self…
With a bang, the doors slammed open, just in front of Laslo, and Yamasoth, the Polymorph Plague, stood at the edge of this world. His (its?) gigantic tentacled body was blinking in and out of existence but, still, this was a sight to behold. A horrific sight. Their blood curdled in my Pathfinders' veins. Laslo, standing but a mere few feet away from the qlippoth lord could do nothing but gaze at the demi-god with terror. Nasim felt the insidious evil of the ancient abyssal lord snake into his mind, promising him all he had ever wanted; the Qadiran had to focus all his willpower in an attempt to resist the unforgiving taint on his soul. Draco and Viv looked in horror as Yamasoth's multiple tentacles entered this world and repelled the companions, crushing bones and leaving sickly colored bruises behind. But the worse was that tentacle that had wrapped itself around Ardathanatus, threatening to drag him back to Sekatar-Seraktis, and with him the Shard of Envy!
They could see the artifact on the elf's belt. Draco dived and, bending his muscles like he had never before, he attempted to break the tentacle's hold on Ardathanatus's body. To no avail. Viv touched the corpse, Nasim and Draco with it, and wish her recalled to Magnimar. To no avail, as her magic was not powerful enough to overcome the power of a qlippoth lord. And already, the elf's body, with the Shard, was sliding ever closer to the door. Reaching it, Yamasoth opened her mouth to eat Ardanathatus's body and they all saw it. The Polymorph Plague's eye. The size of a giant, red, evil. They all felt the powerful gaze caress them, and their awareness of who they were slowly dissolved. But our agents are Pathfinders, among the best. They dug to the heart of their conscience and resisted the powers of a demi-god.
Laslo was our only hope. He alone stood close enough to the doors to attempt an ultimate move before the Shard disappeared forever. Breaking out of his terror, he dived on Ardathanatus's body and snapped the Shard of Envy from his belt, a mere instant before Yamasoth dragged the body through the closing doors, peeling it of its armor like a fish at the monger's. The doors shut in a thunderous crash. The Shard was in Laslo's trembling hand.
The four companions collapsed on the ground, their knees buckling under their own weight. They had glimpsed at a qlippoth lord, a demi-god, and they had survived. We do not fool ourselves, though, in believing that this was not Yamasoth's doing. Had he cared about my agents, they would have died there and then. Or worse. Yet it was Ardathanatus that the Polymorph Plague wanted, that day, not our companions.
It took a long time for the Pathfinders to get up again and overcome their dread at what could have come to pass. Among the haphazard bits and pieces of equipment that had been peeled off Ardathanatus and scattered throughout the room, my agents finally found one of the doomsday keys, which they used, under Kandamereus's guidance, to lock the doomsday door. This is when the companions decided that no one should ever know about the deeper levels of the Groetan temple under the Windsong Abbey. They committed to finding the other doomsday key Ardathanatus had given to one of his minions, and to only compile the truth in this volume of the Pathfinder Society, now safely secured in the deepest vaults of the Grand Lodge of Absalom. As the wise reader knows, only the expurgated version of this volume made it to the public, and the tale of the Shard found in the rubble of the abbey, destroyed by a rampaging group of giants leftover from Karzoug's army is only this: a tale.
When Kandamereus moved to uphold his guardian role again, Viv started doubting the abilities of the grand priest of Groetus, in her eyes responsible for Ardathanatus accessing the doomsday door and almost connecting Golarion to Sekatar-Seraktis. The mummy took offense at such accusations. With an imperious voice, he asked the Asmodean cleric if she challenged him and his millennia of guarding the doors. Spells started flying as soon as she simply replied "Yes," but the mummy, surrounded by my agents, did not last long. The outcome could have been very different had his confusion spell laid waste to the Pathfinders, but they are now well protected against these effects that assail them time after time.
Before shaping the tunnels that led to the doomsday door into an inaccessible maze, the Pathfinders cleaned up the rooms above to recover the other doomsday key. In a prison, they found the Abbey's former priest of Erastil, a broken and despondent man who had lost his faith in the gods after all he had seen, culminating in Ardathanatus's swift destruction of Windsong. They also located the former priest of Zon-Kuthon whose body was covered in scars, apparently tortured to death. Finally, in the neighboring quarters, they tracked down Zolerim, the traitor priest representing Nethys, to whom Ardathanatus had given the second doomsday key. He posed no significant threat to the Pathfinders who could easily retrieve the key.
By the time they cleared the deeper levels of the Groetan temple, none of the redcaps, qlippoth, or giants remained on the surface, nor in the top levels. They must have sensed their master's demise and fled. In a room of the Abbey, the Pathfinder discovered an incredibly detailed statue of Koriah and they realized with horror that our friend and companion had been transformed into stone. It did not take long for Viv to break this enchantment and Koriah could reveal that she had come here after receiving a panicked sending from her father, the Abbey's resident priest of Desna. Koriah had fought bravely, but had eventually been overwhelmed by the giants, and transformed into stone by a medusa, companion of Ardathanatus. With no sign of her father in the Abbey's ruins, she feared he had pursued the fleeing troops of the now dead elf. She left the Four Deadly Sins report back to me on their discoveries and the situation. In the meantime, she would follow the tracks she had found in the hope to catch up with her father before the giants and redcaps noticed they had a tail. I am glad Koriah did not die despite her foolish attempt to solve this problem on her own… We later heard that she had safely reunited with her father.
Neth 20-22, 4712 AR
The Pathfinders' journey back to the City of Monuments was uneventful and they could finally rest again in their own beds before embarking on the next step of their journey for the Shards, and the Gods know this was amongst the tallest steps to climb…
(And this concludes Beyond the Doomsday Door, which turned out to be quite a thrill, and quite dangerous for the group of Pathfinders!)
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 30 (Ardathanatus hacking at Draco with his flaying halberd)
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXV
Neth 17, 4712 AR (continued)
The last wave of undead Groetan priests proved too much for Draco to withstand and he collapsed on the ground, unconscious. As his wrathful energy stopped sustaining him, he once again exhaled his last breath. Yet, Viv, protected by her last standing companion saw the big man fall and quickly preyed to Asmodeus so that He would breath life into Draco again. Nasim, in the meantime, destroyed two of the last three standing mummy. It was down to one mummy, towering above a now barely conscious, prone, but revived Draco. Abandoning all pretense at sanity, the hulking man slashed and thrashed as hard as he could at the undead abomination with his claws and fangs and, in a final puff of dust the Groetan priest was no more.
The companions were beaten up, barely standing, and very low on resources, so Viv recalled them all back to the Heidmarch Manor, in Magnimar. For the heroes of the Champion's Games (and the heroes who had destroyed tribes of derros, and much, much more), it was relatively straightforward to set up a raise dead ritual for Laslo at the church of Abadar. I could easily convince Jyronn Imikar, who was aware of the Pathfinders' goal, to perform the ritual this very evening once he had expedited the numerous obligations he had to attend to as the grand priest of the city's Abadarian clergy. The other companions took this opportunity to better equip themselves.
Neth 18, 4712 AR
The next morning, as my agents were enjoying a hearty breakfast in the manor's kitchen, a fire mephit just appeared out of nothingness. Past the first moment of surprised (and tongues cast by Viv to understand the outsider's complaints in Ignan), the mephit, Gogorog, explained that he had been sent by the efreeti Beshka to reward them for their help in fulfilling her duties to Ardathanatus. He offered them a blade, just before he disappeared in a puff of smoke. The blade was beautiful, carved in the shape of a flame. It took us all most of the morning to identify what it really was and I must admit that, at first, I couldn't believe the outcome of our arcane research: this was a potent luck blade with still one wish attached to it! Viv secured it at her belt, if only to benefit from the good luck of the sword.
Soon after, Viv recalled the Pathfinders back to the sea drakes cave that she had thoroughly studied before for just this purpose. On their way to the dungeon's lowest level, they saw a guarding gongorinan qlippoth dimension door away. Someone was now aware of their presence ...
As they were no more in a rush, my agents took the time to quickly explore the rooms they had previously bypassed in the crypt. One of them was an ossuary, another one an embalming chamber in which Viv recognized embalming tools used in Groetan rituals. Laslo uncannily noticed that these embalming tools had been transformed so they could potentially be wielded on their user. That creeped Nasim out.
The final side room they explored had its door locked by yet another doomsday lock, which Viv bypassed with another clever use of stone shape. Nasim was incredibly excited when he realized that they had entered a treasury room; less so when he noticed that most of the coins on the ground were mere silver coins. On further inspection, however, they were Thassilonian and of such old make that they would likely still fetch a good price. Among minor gemstones and nice pieces of coral, the only thing worth noticing in the treasury room was a set of five large clay urns. Nasim and Viv, conferring together as their companions were standing guard outside the room, realized that the foul residue that coated the inside of the urns indicated that they had once been filled with water from the River Styx. Even more surprisingly, each urn contained a magical item. But when the first one Nasim checked turned out to be a cursed amulet, and another one was revealed to be a cursed stone of weight the Pathfinders decided not to trust the other three items (a ring, bracers, and a medallion). They nevertheless careful stored them in their handy haversack for further study at the manor, but, yes, after we studied them together once my agents were back, we realized they were all magical items which had been cursed by too long an immersion in the corrupting waters of Abaddon.
My agents proceeded through the old crypt in which they had encountered the hive of Groetan mummies and reached the unexplored parts of the level. As Laslo snuck forward to scout for danger, he soon entered a spectacular tomb, hosting nothing but a large sarcophagus lit by four braziers. The only way out of this room was a set of double doors, each sporting a doomsday lock. In front of the sarcophagus stood the mummy of a grand priest of Groetus. His attire was spectacular, and clearly from eons ago. Despite the undead creature uttering an imposing "Halt!" in Thassilonian, despite the fear-paralyzing aura of the mummy, Laslo pounced forward just after turning himself invisible. But as soon as he got within a few feet of the mummy, he became visible again. Undeterred, he still assaulted the grand priest, although most of his claws attacks got entangled in the cloth shreds that covered the mummy. Still, it would call for the attack to stop, protecting itself with an antilife shell and giving my agents one last chance before they would be destroyed. Viv diffused the situation when she eventually entered the room and started asking question. Kandamereus, the grand priest of Groetus, forcefully put the Pathfinders back where (he thought) they belonged. Not answering any questions, he demanded answers to his own questions about the state of the world, 10,000 years after the fall of Thassilon.
It appears my agents answered to his satisfaction as he shared with them his worry that the elf Ardathanatus was not opening the doomsday door in the nearby temple of doomsday to usher forward the end times, but only to bring forth a small localized apocalypse or, worse, for his own personal benefit. Groetus and his grand priest would not allow this to happen, and Kandamereus would team up with the Pathfinders to destroy the elf. The mummy explained that opening the set of double doors (and the one behind these to reach the temple of doomsday) required two doomsday keys. He knew that Ardathanatus had one of the keys, and that he had given another one to a minion in the upper levels of the temple. The third key, Kandamereus thought, had been lost a long time ago on the surface. The Pathfinders, newly anointed Champions of the God of the End Times, decided they would bypass the locks like they had before. With Kandamereus's approval, they rested in his crypt until the sun set on the outside world and Viv could prey Asmodeus to grant her her daily magical powers.
(The PCs level up to level 12)
Neth 19, 4712 AR
The tunnel Viv opened in the wall next to the doors led to a T-shaped junction guarded by two gigantic stone golems. The Pathfinders overcame them quite easily through a combination of a grease spell and furious assaults. This had not been quiet, though, with the stone golems toppling on the ground and shattering. The dwellers of the doomsday temple now knew enemies had come to deal with them. With some stairs leading below blocked by a gigantic cave-in, there was only one way forward, through another set of double doors with doomsday locks. My agents only took a minute to cover themselves in protective and bolstering magic before Viv carved another way through the wall to bypass the magically warded doors. They saw the doomsday temple ...
The passage opened into a grand cathedral, shimmering with a sickening pale green light. To the north, a pair of towering wood-and-metal doors lied closed, if maybe slightly ajar. The nauseating green light was coming from its edges, pulsating with a foul rhythm, leaking into this world in writhing streams, as if the light seeped in the air at a very slow speed, almost alive. The twisted bodies of many sinspawns were sprawled in front of the doors and a strangely disturbing wind, akin to the breathing of a mighty beast pulsed in the very air. In front of the door stood Ardathanatus, a tall and pale elf. Before he put the helmet of his new armor on, the Pathfinders could see his left eye was missing, leaving but a sickening hole in its orbit. Turning to my agents he uttered but a single sentence, "Yamasoth will appreciate your sacrifice," before the battle started. In the midst of the action, Viv recognized the name of Yamasoth, one of the monstrosities of the Abyss, a qlippoth lord itself ... "Surely he can't be trying to bring such an abomination onto this world?" worried Nasim. "I think this is exactly what he is trying to do," gloomily replied Viv. It is with redoubled fury and fear that my agents engaged the crazed elf, his sinspawns guards, and the two gongorinan qlippoths that stood very near the door they had bypassed ...
The two qlippoths reacted first; one dived forward to block the entrance, spewing a web at Viv (whose freedom of movement already proved useful), while the other one attempted to polymorph her into a snake, but Asmodeus was looking over her and the magic fizzled. Laslo took the queue and dived through the passage, just under the qlippoth's crab legs, invisible. He clawed at the creature, which was now aware of his presence. From the other room, peaking into the doomsday temple, Nasim disrupted the enemies plans with a well aimed spell. Black tentacles rose from the tiled floor in front of the doomsday door and grappled the four sinspawn guard who could do very little against the magic. Ardathanatus, on the other hand, was impervious to this magic. In an attempt at freeing the passage, Draco dived through as well and attacked the gongorinan which resisted valiantly. Also just peaking through the passage she had carved, Viv unleashed the very fires of Hell onto Ardathanatus and the sinspawn. As the empowered fireball exploded, it almost wiped two of the sinspawns out of existence, the other two still sustaining a lot of damage. Even the crazed elf suffered from the assault as Yamasoth did not seem to protect him from fire. He quickly retaliated with a protective shield and a repulsion effect that engulfed the whole room. Getting closer to him now felt like fighting one's way through molasses!
The inhaling and exhaling of the breathing that suffused the room showed their foul power, in turn healing chaos and evil, or damaging law and good. In the back, Kandamereus started an incantation that would bring forth a couple of shadows to help the Pathfinders. The sinspawns, still entangled in Nasim's magic, were failing to free themselves and both Laslo and Draco could focus their efforts on the qlippoth blocking the way. The abomination retaliated on the barbarian before it was killed. So as to further hamper the enemies in the back, Nasim engulfed the other side of the temple with a stinking cloud that proved inefficient, except later when Laslo fell into it. Viv's additional call to the fires of Hell were more efficient and destroyed two of the sinspawn guard, rendering them into puny piles of ashes. As the remaining qlippoth was busy with the shadows, all the companions but Viv entered the room unhampered, although a web spun on Draco stopped him for a few seconds.
This is when Ardathantus revealed himself to be quite a threat as he called on sickening green fire to engulf Nasim, Draco, and Laslo. The divine fire would stick to them damaging Nasim quite significantly. The Ustalavian retaliated by pouncing Ardathanatus, closing the distance between them at an incredible speed. Yet, the elf's new armor, that the Pathfinders had helped forge the previous day magically protected the cleric of Yamasoth. Most of Lalso's claw strikes proved ineffective at bypassing the enemy's stoneskin. Yet Laslo had bypassed the repulsion sphere, and so did Nasim. That was at least a small victory, even though Viv took the time to nevertheless dispel the effect a few seconds later.
Answering a call from Ardathanatus, the screams of thousands of dead souls echoed through the doomsday temple as blasphemy temporarily dazed all three companions in the room, weakening them at the same time. The elf further displayed his power by creating a blade barrier across the room, targeting the dazed Pathfinders. If neither Draco nor Nasim were hurt, Viv was now on the other side of the blades and Laslo, in a rash move to avoid the wall of swords, dived into Nasim's stinking cloud. The foul stench of the Qadiran's magic incapacitated him. He could do nothing else but puke. At least, he was still invisible and not an obvious target for the enemy.
Viv got inside the room and carefully took the time to walk over the blade barrier so she would be on her companions' and Ardathantus's side of it. With Laslo out of the picture, Draco got closer to the cleric of Yamasoth, but his assault got blocked by the last remaining sinspawn guard. The only one able to strike Ardathanatus was Nasim, but he was so weakened by blasphemy that his usually beautiful scimitar dance was but a parody of itself, dealing only feeble damage to the elf. With my agents in sorry shape surrounding him, Ardathanatus took a gleeful moment to channel the revolting powers of Yamasoth into the room. Forced to breath this foul mist, Nasim almost collapsed to the ground. He was now barely standing ...
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 23 (a stone golem, slamming Draco).
Death: Draco (-31) pummeled to death by wave after wave of Groetan mummies. Brought back to life with a breath of life.
I'm slowly going through the entries. Poor characters, they are all being mistreated one after the other. :( Now I just read up where Laslo got infected with a Qlippoth egg.
It turns out that Beyond the Doomsday Door is pretty brutal! I hadn't realized it when I read it. Maybe it's also because the PCs entered through the backdoor and were one level lower than they should have been at this point. But my players are good, so that's usually not too much of a problem. Mind you they have enough resources at this level to deal with death.
I've only read this Adventure Path, never played it, so it's interesting for me to see how it comes to life in real play.
Yes, I always like that too. That's the case for me with your Skull & Shackles campaign!
Great job again with the logs...
Thanks a lot! :)
Some of the sins were assigned as they went so the first four Shards would be distributed among the four characters, out of fairness. So Gluttony and Envy are the least fitting to the characters and the choice also comes from the mechanical benefits for these. But Viv can be so unsecure about everyday life, and men in particular, that it's actually quite fitting that she's envious of those who can understand the non-adventuring life better than she does.
As for Sloth, we'll have to see who volunteers, although the mechanical bonus from this Shard may well mean that Nasim will let no one else keep it! :)
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXIV
Neth 17, 4712 AR
The Pathfinders proceeded with the exploration of the long-forgotten temple of Groetus, under the Windsong Abbey, in the hope of finding the Shard of Envy and, hopefully, Koriah. Back at the level on which they had fought the sinspawns and the boogeyman, the started systematically exploring the rooms behind the mundane doors they had so far left untouched. The first one they opened led them to a simple warehouse. The wooden boxes and the sacs present had been there for much too long and they crumbled to dust as soon as my agents inspected them. However, they found a dagger with a dull blade under one of the boxes. A bit of cleaning and Nasim's keen inspection with detect magic revealed it was in fact an unholy magical dagger. Not the least disturbed by this malevolent item, they pocketed it and proceeded to the next room.
When they opened the door, my agents were assailed by a waft of scorching air, and a sight that would not have been out of place in the City of Brass. Four pillars carved with blazing flames supported a vaulted ceiling forty feet above, leaving the center of the room for a diamond-shaped pit of roaring fire in which sat a magnificent forge. A tall woman of fire was toiling at the forge, assisted by a handful of smaller fiery creatures. Viv was in awe in front of so much fire, the beauty of its snaking flames, this woman whose skin was the color of brass and whose jet-black hair entwined with the flames as she worked on the forge. Nasim, hailing from the south, rapidly recognized her as a powerful efreeti, accompanied by her cohort of salamanders. Annoyed at the disturbance, she turned to my Pathfinders and, in strongly accented Common told them: "I've only got one more day here. Leave without a fuss and I won't be forced to burn you alive." But they had no intention to leave. Draco was too absorbed by this beautiful forge that reminded him of home, Viv was entranced by all this fire, Nasim curious of the efreeti, and Laslo couldn't help but wonder what she was doing with this forge.
A tensed conversation began, as Beshka, the efreeti, was loathe to lose even a minute on this plane. My agents, through a combination of cajoling and honesty nevertheless learned from her that she had been bound by an elf, Ardathanatus, to craft two powerful items with this forge: a magical halberd she had already delivered, and a magical armor whose forging would take her another day. Ardathanatus ... That was the name of the cleric of Pharasma who, in a crazed rampage, had slaughtered the Masked Abbot at the time of the death of Aroden and caused the fall of the Windsong Abbey. Could he have come back? And, if so, why?
So they could learn more, and not make an enemy of the efreeti, my agents offered to help her forge the armor, which Beshka accepted. And so they toiled at the forge for the next hours. Draco brought his knowledge of mundane crafting, Laslo and Nasim their knowledge of the alchemical and magical powers, and Viv her intimacy with fire. Forging the armor in coordination with the salamanders and the efreeti, they worked well, and as they did, the Pathfinders took this opportunity to learn more about Ardathanatus. Yes, it must be the same Ardathanatus who was the local Pharasman, more than a century ago, who had returned to the Abbey, and wrecked it as my agents had found it. The efreeti knew he dwelled further into the underground levels of the temple, likely on the lower level the Pathfinders had found blocked by a doomsday lock and, yes, she had seen him absent-mindedly playing with a piece of green noqual that resembled the Shard of Envy.
The powerful armor forged after hours of work, the Pathfinder faced a dilemma: let Beshka bring the armor to Ardathantus, at the risk of making him more powerful, or prevent her from doing so, but that would likely mean killing her here and then. They could not bring themselves to do so and let the efreeti teleport herself to the elf. If they could just rush after her via more mundane means, they might still have an edge ... Beshka, not liking in the least to have been bound by the elf gave my agents all the information she could on Ardanathus's location and added, before leaving, that their help at the forge would not be forgotten once she was back in Bayt al-Bazan, in the City of Brass, on the Plane of Fire. She disappeared at this instant, whisked away by teleportation magic.
My agents rushed down to the door with the doomsday lock on the lowest level they had explored and where Ardathantus laired, according to the efreeti's indications. They were taking a big risk: with no time to cook new mutagenes for the alchemists, or to prepare new spells for the spell-casters, they were not going to be at their optimum. But that was a risk they needed to take. Down below, the Groetus lock still blocked the door, and they still had no key to open it. The magical aura of abjuration on the door did not inspire confidence and a deeper look made them suspect a magical trap. Spitting on the ground, cursing magic, an enraged Draco sundered the magical effect with all the might he could muster, leaving Laslo to attempt and pick the magical lock. However, with the complex combination required to open the door and the mouth of the Groetan symbol closing on his tools, it was a nigh impossible task, especially as Laslo wasn't boosted by the chemicals he usually injects in his bloodstream. They had to find another solution, so they decided Viv would carve a passage in the wall, next to the door. The wall itself was not warded and she started shaping stone it in the form of a narrow tunnel until it bypassed the door. That is when they came ...
... Shadows in the dark, emerging from the new tunnel, from the walls, from the floor! In all, there must have been at least four powerful shadows which, in a single touch, almost killed Laslo, Viv, and Nasim. The Pathfinders were truly unprepared for this assault! They had to act quickly, or die there and join the ranks of the incorporeal undead creatures that were marching on them! With a few quick moves, they all gathered around Nasim, who teleported them to the upper level with a well timed dimension door. That had been close ...
When my agents eventually came back down, they were prepared, weapons ready, magically created armors and shields up. They sustained the full brunt of the shadows' assault. Even the mighty Draco, who did his best to bait the undead so his companions would survive, was severely damaged by the shadows. The Pathfinders retaliated with a mix of magic and brawn and it seemed they would prevail, with the shadows' numbers dropping from four, to three, to two ... But the last two cornered Laslo, their inexistent arms passing through the Ustalavian's body, sucking the very life out of him. He collapsed on the ground, dead. Worse than that, his shadow right away started to decouple itself from his corpse. He would himself soon be another shadow, unable to separate friend from foe, only attracted by life that needed to be snuffed. Unable to counter this curse, the companions swiftly dealt with the remaining two shadows and, when Laslo's shadow attacked them, they forcefully destroyed it. Their companion was no more, but at least, he had only turned into an undead for a mere few seconds. Now if only they could bring him back to life ... The philosopher stone they had found earlier was an option, but so was a word of recall back to Absalom or Magnimar to get him raised from the dead, or resurrected.
The companions decided on this latter option for the moment, but going back to the city meant losing days, at least, so they first resolved to push as far as they could in the Groetan temple before Viv would teleport them out. They shoved Laslo's body in their bag of holding and pressed onwards into the next room, from which the shadows had emerged. It contained nothing but a set of sarcophagi. Dust on the ground showed clear signs of recent disturbance. The companions continued forward, leaving a tunnel to the north to continue further east into another crypt sporting more sarcophagi, decorated with runes and symbols of skulls and moons. A passage to the south had collapsed, so they continued even further to the east, despite it leading them away from the supposed location of Ardanathatus to the south-west.
The companions penetrated a hall whose walls were beautifully decorated with yet more Groetus-related mosaics. A pillar at the center of the hall bore Thassilonian blessings to the God of the End of the Time but before Viv could comprehend their meaning, a sense of doom took hold over the companions and the lights that had illuminated the wall mosaics came to life and assaulted the three Pathfinders. Balls of light, they would release bolts of cold magic and zig-zag around at an incredible speed. They quickly cornered my agents, who unleashed all they could at the Groetan candles: axe swings, channeling of the powers of Hell, and electrical magic. But the latter proved completely ineffective against these things, and so did all other form of magic. Slashes and gashes it would be, then, supported by Viv's channeling. Slowly, but surely, they overcame the candles at the cost of a significant fraction of their health.
Yet, the Pathfinders still proceeded to the south, through more crypts, full of sarcophagi. It is only when my agents finally reached a dead end that the sarcophagi revealed their true nature as they disgorged wave after wave of mummies. Paralyzed for an instant at the powerful vision of this horde of undead creatures assailing them, my agents retreated into a blocked passageway, where they fought for their lives. The mummies would bash, and bash, and bash. Blood was spilled, bones cracked, wounds opened. The most powerful magic the Pathfinders could still muster was used in retaliation: Nasim's storms of electrical magic combined with his furious dance of blades, Viv's fireballs, particularly effective against the desiccated undeads, Draco's wide swings of his hammer. All these slowly brought down mummy after mummy, but at great cost, and still the mummies were invading the corridor, risking to overwhelm the cluster of three Pathfinders at any second ...
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 25 (a Groetan mummy pummeling Draco with a power attack slam).
Death: Laslo (0 Strength) brought down by the greater shadows assaults.
Has anyone done the Shattered Star? I read a bit about it and it seemed like a good start, especially since both groups are familiar with Varisia. I don't have access to the Magnimar splat book though so that could be a problem?
My group and I have been enjoying Shattered Star quite a lot. Although it's very dungeon heavy, the dungeons are very well crafted. They are flavorful and allow for a lot of roleplay. You can check how things unfolded for us in our campaign journal.
It's easy to get the PCs to get a feeling of their surroundings and why what they do matters because the AP takes place in Varisia and Magnimar, which they've already visited in RotRL.
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXIII
Neth 16, 4712 AR (continued)
My agents took some time to recover from the violent fight with the sinspawns. Viv's brush with death meant that it would be a while before the infernal healing closed all the arrow wounds she had sustained. The quarters in which the sinspawns had been hiding contained nothing of interest, except for a privy. At least the latter, having not been used in ages, was not stinking like the rotten bowels of Kabriri!
This corridor a dead end, the Pathfinders opened the door they had bypassed earlier, to their left. Laslo, who was leading the way, noticed right away the invisible creature that stood in a corner of this library. The permanent see invisibility spell he had had cast on him(*) before leaving Magnimar revealed a tall, lanky humanoid, with very long, pointy ear, an oval-shaped head, and absolutely no mouth. That did not prevent it from "talking" with an echoey voice that resounded next to his head: "Ah, you see me. This is not expected, and it's not supposed to happen. I will have to remedy that." The Ustalavian only had time to warn his companions that the bogeyman — for Nasim would later realize this evil fey was one of those bearers of the darkest fears — attempted to destroy him. Although the illusion of the phantasmal killer did not fool Laslo, the bogeyman became visible and his aura assailed the three companions present with their greatest fears.
That's before we realized see invisibility cannot be made permanent
Viv saw herself imprisoned in her parents villa, ready to be married in an arranged wedding of the Vanderale's heiress with a member of another Magnimarian noble family, ready to be chained for life. Laslo saw himself in Lepistadt, caught by an angry mob of so-called people of "science," ready to roast him on the pire for his despicable acts. Nasim saw her; her tail, her large, graceful wings, her small horns protruding elegantly from her forehead, and this naked body of hers, oh her naked body ... Yes, it could only be her! She had found him!
Although staggered at the sights of their most dreaded fears, the companions still engaged the bogeyman, whose other magic proved inefficient to bypass the Pathfinders protections. Viv's conjuration of a wall of ashes prevented the fey from turning invisible again, while Nasim and Laslo cornered it betwixt claws and scimitar. A few seconds, and the bogeyman was no more. The fears yet persisted and it was not before another quarter of an hour that my agents felt strong enough to forage into the library.
As Laslo was cooking up another one of his extracts, Viv and Nasim riffled through the books. Meanwhile, Draco was standing guard in the corridor. It turns out the books, now safely stowed at the Heidmarch manor, are written in Thassilonian and cover the topic of the worship of Groetus (the god of empty places, ruins, and oblivion, the End of the World). They describe apocalypses of the past and future, and catalogue ruins. They are quite outdated, dating back to the Thassilonian age, but they are still a valuable addition to the Pathfinders' library!
The continuation of the corridor led to the set of stairs going upwards that my agents had already noticed, in a room whose walls had been carved in wonderful forestry sceneries from green marble. There, a door stood, with an intricate lock shaped in the form of a blue skull-faced moon. Viv recognized a very old symbol of Groetus. Perusing the library, she learned it was likely a doomsday lock, an intricate magical lock that required a specific key, a doomsday key (big surprise there ... ), to be turned with a specific combination before the door would open. In addition, the constant humming that emanated from the door convinced Nasim that it was a malfunctioning portal to a destination that had now been destroyed. Wisely, they decided to give the doomsday lock and the door a wide berth.
Instead of taking the set of stairs going up, my agents proceeded to the other flight of stairs they had found earlier, leading deeper into the earth, to a small chamber whose only exit was also closed by a doomsday lock. This door wasn't humming, though. After some pondering on Laslo's ability to pick the complex magical lock, the Pathfinders decided to investigate other options before turning to such extremities. After all, the door was exuding an aura of abjuration and the lock a strong aura of transmutation. Before they left, the companions noticed that the stone wall on the western side of the chamber had been shaped via magic. Maybe this led to the natural cavern they hadn't explored on the beach? Backing up, they went up to the previous level and, from there, climbed one of the other sets of stairs to reach the unexplored level above.
The hall they entered was magnificent. The plastered walls of the room bore an incredibly realistic mural of the interior of a ruined cathedral. It felt as if they stood at the center of a much vaster chamber than it truly was. Archways to the north, south, and east appeared to be freestanding stone arches that looked almost like strange portals, while the stairs they had entered through gave the impression of disappearing in an endless pit. The depicted cathedral must have been so magnificent before its decay into ruins that a crushing sadness overwhelmed my agents. Laslo were particularly hit by anguish that he started crying at the lost beauty of the world. No one would have expected the heartless Ustalavian to be so moved by destruction.
All at their gaping, the group did not notice that amidst the carving of ruins stood one of the boulders they had seen before. It's only when the gongorinan qlippoth transformed into its repulsive abyssal shape that the companions noticed it. Laslo incapacitated, Draco delayed below, the onus was on Nasim and Viv to destroy this monstrosity. But the cleric of Asmodeus felt quite lonely when Nasim succumbed to the qlippoth's confusing aura. She repeatedly called on Asmodeus's negative energy to damage the monster, its spell resistance and thick hide jeopardizing the efficiency of all other assaults.
Laslo eventually overcame his grief to help his companions, which allowed Viv to heal Nasim, thereby focussing his confused mind.The Qadiran later vanquish the confusing thoughts that assailed his mind whenever he got close to this qlippoth and my agents proceeded to destroy the abomination through a thousand paper cuts, slowly killing it with many small wounds that could barely bypass its resistance. The creature's keen, stalked eyes would always allow it to move before Laslo could apply his best knowledge of vivisectionism.
Just as they were about to rejoice at the destruction of yet another dweller of the abyssal fiend (after a hard fight, at that), another gongorinan phased in the chamber! Again, the fight was tense as the outsider's abilities seemed to counter my agents' niche abilities particularly well. Things took a grim turn when the qlippoth, focussing his assaults solely on Laslo, pinned the Ustalavian with its pincer. Neither Nasim's scimitar assaults, nor Viv's major image of an enlarged Draco rushing up the stairs, ready to smash the qlippoth, would stop the monstrosity from jutting out a slimy stem that swiftly entered the helpless Laslo. In a sickening noise, the vivisectionist's ribcage cracked, and he screamed. His screams redoubled as he felt the qlippoth implant an egg in him. When the gongorinan retrieved its stem, Laslo's mind was abuzz with the confusing thoughts that exuded from the foreign body in his chest. However, at least for now, he could still move as the qlippoth released him.
The gongorinan focussed its attention on the illusion of Draco and wasted precious seconds that allowed the impaired Laslo, the confused Nasim, and the frail Viv to finally destroy this other qlippoth before it could dimension door away. Yet the egg was still gestating in Laslo's chest and Asmodeus would not grant Viv's break enchantment the power needed to annihilate the foul pregnancy. The Pathfinders decided it was time to retreat and rest. Their magic was almost completely exhausted, and Laslo needed to be taken care of. The sea drakes' cave seemed like a quiet, out of the way site for a shielded rest.
As they woke up in the middle of the night, Viv's regenerated powers would be able to destroy the gestating egg before it hatched.
(The PCs rise up to level 11.)
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 18 (a gongorinan qlippoth slashing at Nasim with its scimitar).
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXII
Neth 15, 4712 AR (continued)
Silence fell over the village after the brutal slaughtering of the small army of ettins and hill giants. With the sun diving into the ocean, the winds changed and the tune of the Windsong Abbey quietened. Laslo decided to use the benefits of his mutagened wings, his invisibility extract, and his darkvision to scout the abbey grounds without being noticed (or so he hoped). Of the wooden floors of the abbey, extending above the stone walls of the ground floor, one building had been completely burned down, but the two floors of the watchpost still stood above the gate. The floor of the main housing buildings was also still sound, and Laslo noticed a group of four redcaps on a balcony, standing guard above the courtyard. They were armed with very large crossbows for their small size and their caps were dripping with fresh blood. Luckily, they did not noticed the invisible Ustalavian.
From the housing floor, a wooden gallery extended in an arch over the crashing surf, its walls holding many stained-glass windows. Beyond the gallery, a simple room overlooked the ocean, above a hollow stone pillar that dived in the waves more than 100 feet below. Despite a thorough inspection, Laslo noticed no hidden way to enter this isolated room. What he did notice, though, was the collapsed cathedral of the abbey, which seemed to have been at the epicenter of a massive earthquake. In the ruins the vivisectionist spotted two disgusting monstrosities, masses of floating intestines tangled around a fanged mouth, the tips of their coils also ending in toothy maws. These things were slithering on the debris guarding this gaping entrance into the abbey. Above the courtyard, the main white marble tower, iconic building of Windsong Abbey, soared more than a hundred and fifty up in the air, untouched by the destruction that had been laid to the famous site.
After Laslo's scouting, back in the village, the companions confered on the best possibilities to enter and explore the Abbey. The Pathfinders quickly decided that they would try to enter the isolated room above the ocean. Everyone had a way to magically fly, at least for a few minutes, and Viv's stone shape spell should allow the cleric to shape an entrance in this single room. But with Draco's and Viv's need for light at night, they resigned to postpone their infiltration to the next day so they wouldn't be flying beacons of light in the middle of the dark night. The group moved a couple of miles away from the abbey's destruction to rest, making sure to set guard duties.
Neth 16, 4712 AR
The next morning, my agents snuck to the small harbor of the village. From the piers, they followed the beach that the low tide had revealed, all the way to the cliff that plunged just below the abbey. There, they spotted the entrance of a cave that had gone unnoticed to Laslo in the darkness of the previous night. In addition, Laslo also saw the signs of a submerged tunnel, just beyond the shoreline. Before they would proceed further, Draco decided to explore this submerged tunnel. Could it be a hidden entrance into the abbey, looming more than a hundred feet above?
Pushing aside curtains of seaweeds, the barbarin swam in the dark for maybe fifty feet before he reached a natural grotto inside the cliff. Blind in the pitch black cave, Draco did not get the time to light his wayfinder that he heard the upset hisses of a group of creatures. Whatever they were, they seemed big! Draco attempted to dive back in the water before it was too late, but he wasn't quick enough. The cavern suddenly lit up with an electric blue light and the barbarian could see, horrified… Six massive sea drakes, more than 10 feet long each were already assaulting him. As three of them dived on him and furiously bit him, the three others expelled balls of lightning that snaked in the room before hitting Draco for a massive amount of electrical damage.
The barbarian was brave, but not completely suicidal, so he swiftly retreated back through the submerged tunnel to his companions. He was crawling back on the beach in front of his puzzled friends, covered in his own blood, when three of the sea drakes burst from the waves and attacked the group. They had followed their quary, soon joined by their three other companions. A violent fight ensued, Laslo's sharp claws answering to the drakes fang-full maws, Nasim's deadly dance retaliating over the draconic mortal embrace. But when Viv started to hurl fireballs onto the battle field, three of the sea drakes stroke back by engulfing my four agents in an explosion of lightning that coursed through all of them. Poor Draco who was attempting to stay out of harm's way got hit by the full blunt of this assault. His already overworked heart stopped in an instant and his charred body collapsed on the wet beach sand. The youngest of the Don Zerba had died again.
As Laslo and Nasim teamed up against the remaining three drakes, flanking them efficiently despite the creatures' immunity to the Qadiran's shocking grasps, Viv rushed to Draco's side. She called on the dark powers of her Lord to snatch her fallen companion's soul from the path to Pharasma's lands. Asmodeus was only too happy to oblige and the breath of life brought Draco back to the beach. Eventually, all six drakes died to my Pathfinders who, after a moment of doubt as the surprise took over their hearts, turned into the efficient killers they have become.
Draco had seen a set of stairs going up inside the drakes' grotto so the Pathfinders decided to all swim through the submerged tunnel. The tunnel was short enough that even Viv and Nasim who couldn't swim well succeeded at enter the natural cave. On a ledge the drakes' hoard was piled on a high ledge; the companions swiftly shoved all these coins in their handy haversacks. The ring of wizardry and the amulet of mighty fists ended on Nasim's hand and around Draco's neck (whose aegis of recovery was rendered useless by his death).
The stairs led to a complex of clearly old corridors and room. Was that a Thassilonian architecture? Not even the educated Viv could confirm it. The first room they reached placed a pale on their mood. It appeared to be a torture chamber, and Laslo recognized the components to craft an alchemical golem. Only the centerpiece of the golem, a human brain, was still missing. "Facinating," he breathed…
The Pathfinders explored the corridors beyond, which appeared empty until Laslo stopped dead. These two large boulders, there… The Ustalavian was sure they had "twitched." Something wasn't right and my agents initiated the casting of their defensive spells, but before they could complete their incantations, the stones did move, taking the shape of human-sized crablike creatures, scuttling on six stumpy legs, with a pincer, and a sting, and a barbed tentacle, and a gaping mouth, and a hand armed with a scimitar! Qlippoths! These were other qlippoths! Abominations from the Abyss!
Despite their horrific appearance, the Pathfinder focussed on destroying these things, and were quite successful at it. The gongorinan qlippoth's magic wasn't very efficient against our companions, but their multiple appendages sporting multiple method of inflicting pain did hurt my agents, especially since these took a while to be efficient against the outsiders: Nasim's shocking grasp at first couldn't bypass the qlippoth's magic resistance (but then, oh, did it), Laslo couldn't find a good flanking position against the cunning creature he was fighting and Draco, although his beautiful hurling charge did a lot of damage, gathered many bleeding wounds from the qlippoth, keeping Viv busy at healing the barbarian. Eventually, Draco massacred one of the gongorinan. Soon after, the other one was whisked out of sight by a dimension door.
Afraid the qlippoth could be setting another ambush (and feeling their enhancing magic was nearing its end), the Pathfinders rushed through the corridor, leaving quite a few closed doors behind them, as well as two different flights of stairs going further up into the cliff. Eventually, they reach a set of half a dozen small rooms, quarters that might have one day belonged to monks, or priests. The companions had not been very discrete so when they got jumped on by a group of particularly wrathful sinspawns, all but Laslo and Viv were taken by surprise. If the sinspawns were decent fighters in melee combat, they were particularly deadly with their bows. Laslo was going claw to claw with two of the monsters, while Draco and Nasim thought everything was fine as they protected Viv from the last creature. But when more of the bedrooms' doors opened, revealing three more thassilonian aberrations, two of them with a direct aim at Viv, she couldn't react as she had just unleashed a fireball on the first group, targeting Laslo to maximize the effect.
The sinspawns were particularly ruthless against humans and, shot by four human bane arrows, Viv collapsed on the tiled floor, going from full health to laboriously breathing as she struggled to survive. Desna must have been looking over Draco's shoulder, for when the sinspawns turned on the barbarian, most of these arrows missed. In the meantime, Laslo had dealt with one of the aberrations, but he was finding it difficult to deal with the second one. As he aimed for the creature's mouth, he fumbled and opened his side to a bite from the sinspawn. The sinful magic of Thassilon that enliven the creature transferred to the Ustalavian. Overcome by wrathful thoughts, he started to feel unwell; despite it, he killed this last threat. In the meantime a relentless Nasim litterally got one of the sinspawns to explode under the assaults of his shocking grasp. His dervish dance was not even necessary since, as soon as the tip of his scimitar touched the beast, it exploded from inside, vanquished by the Qadiran's magic. By this point, only two sinspawns were left and they were quickly dealt with by the group. Viv, still down had at least stopped bleeding.
After the fight, the Pathfinder took the time to recover, healing Viv with infernal healing and letting Laslo alone so he could wish away his sinful thoughts.
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 25 (a sinspawn guard sniping at Draco with a +1 human bane arrow).
Unconscious: Viv (-1) transformed into a porcupine by two sinspawn guards shooting human bane arrows, with favored enemy (human).
More or less. The players actually decided out of character which of the seven sins (and therefore Shards) would be a better fit for their character. That way it's fairly obvious who gets which Shard. Some of the links are a little hit and miss, but it's a good fit overall.
So we have:
Last summary that spoils The Champion's Belt, Chapter 5 of the Age of Worm adventure path.
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XXI
Neth 12, 4712 AR
The matter of the assassins taken care of, the companions went back to rest before the big day, for their final battle was to take place at midday. Despite the night's interruption, they were able to benefit from the calm Coenoby to rest a little more in the morning. No tension transpired from the underground rooms as both Auric's Band and the Four Deadly Sins isolated themselves to focus on the upcoming battle. The breakfast was only interrupted by Draco's gluttonous appetite.
(The PCs are now level 10.)
A few minutes before midday, a group of guards in full parading livery led Auric and his wizard companion, Khellek, to the Arena. Little after, if was the Four Deadly Sins' turn. As the lift brought them in the full daylight, in the center of the arena, a massive crowd cheered the Pathfinders. From were I stood in the official gallery, I could see them revel in the crowd's support. I even heard a few calls to the Pathfinder Society amid the shouts for the Four Deadly Sins, Wildfire, or the name of her companions. Even if they were not to overcome their opponents today, they would have already succeeded in boosting the Society's standing in Magnimar.
Maybe not very surprisingly, Jorston was not in the official gallery to introduce the last two fighting teams (we would learn later that he had already fled Magnimar by that time), but Talabir Welik swiftly took over, his magically enhanced voice booming over the wild crowd. As he described the numerous deeds of Auric's Band and the Four Deadly Sins, the two teams started their preparation, covering themselves in enhancing and defensive magic. As Auric stood at the front of their zone on the arena's sand, his two-handed sword ready, surrounded by the Leatherworks (the band's two leather golems), Khellek flew to the edge of the allowed zone. In the meantime, Laslo grew his wings and hovered over the battle field, already eying the wizard, while his companions boosted themselves with more discrete spells.
When the battle finally started, it was quick and brutal. Khellek was the quickest to react. Fearing Viv's fireballs he snuck in her mind and attempted to reduce her to a mindless idiot with a feeblemind spell, yet the Asmodean cleric relied on her archdevil god to overcome this mundane effect. A quickened shield further protected the frustrated wizard. Auric's reckless assault on Draco took everyone by surprise. Flying barely above ground, he covered a large distance to hack at the barbarian, who couldn't help but groan under the blow. But that may have been his undoing as Nasim took this opportunity to haste his companions and, even though Laslo simply turned invisible (under the crowd's jibes), Draco unleashed his fury on Auric. Too close to the champion, he unexpectedly went at him with his claws and bit. The crowd went wild at Draco's rage. After this feral assault, Auric was in poor shape, bleeding profusely, and his golems rushing to protect him were not quite fast enough to reach him and shield him. Viv's fireball slowed down the construct, even further limiting their involvement in the battle.
Khellek worried about the invisible Laslo, cast confusion on where the Ustalavian stood just before, but the Pathfinder had learned a lot from his past encounters with Ashamintallu and he was able to resist the magical compulsion. He retaliated by charging and pouncing the wizard, even though his spectacular assault was completely lost to the crowd as he was invisible. The attack scared the wizard, who quickly realized he wouldn't survive two of these assaults. Only one of the claw attacks overcame his mirror images, but there weren't many of these left when Laslo was done. The wizard's stoneskin also helped him, but Laslo's attacks expertly targeting weak spots still hurt.
In the meantime, Auric took a step away from Draco, tossed his shield on the ground where it magically animated and protected its owner, and imbibed a healing potion that had little effect on the large gashes left by Draco's claws and fangs. He wouldn't go far, though, as Nasim's black tentacles engulfed him and the golems, grappling all of them. Draco couldn't resist such a tempting target and, still with his claws, he dropped Auric before turning on a golem. But what would happen if the tentacles were to kill the former champion after he had fallen unconscious? Would that disqualify the Four Deadly Sins? Viv didn't want to risk it and she dived on the battle field and attempted to drag Auric from the spell's tentacles. She completely failed, and even got hit by a golem in the process. Nasim consequently wasted a few seconds to dismiss the spell.
At the other end of the battlefield, Khellek stepped out of the range of the invisible Laslo (who quickly stepped up to him) and tried to frighten him with a fear spell, maybe not the most useful spell against an Ustalavian, as these are renowned for their brush with unspeakable things in their dark land. The magic failed and Laslo, still invisible, further assaulted the wizard. A few seconds later, one of the golems taken care of, the other one blinded by one of Viv's walls of ashes, his mirror images vanished, Khellek grimly surrendered to the Four Deadly Sins…
… The crowd erupted in celebration for the new champions, screaming their names (except for Laslo's whose knack for invisibility did not please the audience). The stewards had a hard time preventing crazed supporters from jumping on the arena and directly celebrating the Four Deadly Sins. I have to admit that I was overjoyed by this swift victory and what it meant for the Pathfinder Society. The mission at the Serpent's Run was a complete success: the recovery of the Shard of Gluttony, the destruction the Apostle of Kyuss whose awakening could have destroyed Magnimar, and finally the victory in the Champion's Game! Much celebration was enjoyed for the remainder of the day, some of them political with the most prominent figures of Magnimar coming on the arena's sand to congratulate our champions: Mayor Grobaras himself, Toth Bhreacher (the leader of the Golemworks), Jyronn Imikar (the prominent leader of the Magnimarian church of Abadar), and many members of the noble families of Magnimar. The only ones who hadn't come to enjoy the celebrations were apparently Viveltre's parents, still unaware of their daughter's recent history, who threatened the group that there would be consequences to their daughter's disappearance. I couldn't help but sigh, but Viv would be kind enough to later write a letter vouching she was fine, but far away, in case the Vanderale would press charges.
It's only later in the evening, when we were all together at the Manor, that Draco found the time to focus on the Shard of Gluttony so it would reveal where the next Shard awaited discovery. There was no mistaking the tall, magnificent white marble tower that he saw, rising high over an abbey like a lighthouse. The Shard of Envy was in the Windsong Abbey. But it was ruins of the Abbey that Draco saw! A grim turn of events for sure. What could have possibly happened at the Abbey. Sure, the death of Aroden and the Pharasman priest of the time killing many of his companions in a crazed frenzy had hurt the ecumenical ideal of the Abbey. Sure, the Abbey wasn't anymore the sanctuary where the priests of twenty of the twenty-one core deity of Golarion (all but Rovagug) were gathered to peacefully exchange and share. The Abbey's influence had waned over the last century but, if I remember well, there were still priests of five deities (Desna, Erastil, Gozreh, Nethys, and Zon-Kuthon) who remained full-time in the monument. Serenrae's followers had never come back after their priestess, the Masked Abbott (i.e. the leader of the Abbey) was assassinated by the Pharasmin Ardathanatus when came the time of the Death of Aroden, but the religious site had nevertheless survived these hard times. What could have possibly happened for the Windsong Abbey to appear in ruins, as if hit by an earthquake in Draco's vision, the neighboring village a smoldering pile of ashes?
Neth 13-14, 4712 AR
My agents took a couple of days of rest to recover from their fights in the Serpent's Run. Although they were highly celebrated in the city, they took only the time they needed for their purchases before they headed for Sandpoint, which was on the way and maybe knew more about the Abbey's demise.
My husband, who was still exploring the Sandpoint ruins, would indeed be able to help them and point them to an old Varisian woman who had gone by the Abbey a few days ago, only to be welcomed by a rock hurled at her by giants. She had fled swiftly, but not before she recovered a blood-soaked cap, the sure sign that, in addition to giants, evil maniac and murderous feys called redcaps were involved. The news turned even grimer when Canayven, my husband, told my agents that, a few days ago, Koriah Azmeren had passed by Sandpoint and told him that she had decided to stop at the abbey to run an errand before she would head further north to explore an entrance to the Darklands that she had recently uncovered. I shudder as I think of what could have happened to my dear Koriah…
Neth 15, 4712 AR
At dusk the next day, my agents were viewing the destruction that had been wrought onto the religious buildings. Ettins and giants were roaming the village, preparing a house for a bonfire to roast a cow that was mooing as if the Abyss itself was looking upon her. A try at communicating with the giants failed and the Pathfinders had to stand in front of three waves of enemies that proved no more than a very mild threat as my agents slaughtered them one after the other.
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 29 (Auric charging Draco with his +1 greatsword).
And I finally found the time to write this missing session summary! We will likely wrap up Beyond the Nightmare Rift in a session or two, so expect a clear acceleration of this journal's postings as I catch up with where we currently are.
Once again, this summary spoils The Champion's Belt, Chapter 5 of the Age of Worm adventure path.
The Pathfinder Chronicles of Magnimar, Vol. 7, Chapter XX
Neth 10, 4712 AR
The wake up call, at dawn of day 3 of the Champion's Games was rough on my agents who had spent a large fraction of the previous night gallivant in the Thassilonian levels below the Serpent's Run. Six teams remained in the Coenoby and, by the end of that day, there would only be three. Before the start of the fighting day and its three major battles, each pitching one team against another, the religious Asmodean Brood spent their morning absorbed in prayers to their Dark Lord, acknowledged by Viv; the Snow Mammoths tended their rides and exercized their strength, while the Skulls of Murq prepared and feasted on a revolting stew that clearly contained body parts. That left only three teams around the breakfast tables: Auric and his wizard companion, Khellek, both so confident in their abilities that they were friendly to the other teams; the two foul-mouthed dwarf brothers of the Pitch Blade; and the Four Deadly Sins. Antagonism was patent between the dwarves and my team but things did not escalate beyond a few bad words despite the dwarves' taunting.
A herald announced the drawing for that day's fight just after breakfast: it would be the Asmodean Knot against the cannibals of the Skulls of Murq, Auric's Warband against the Snow Mammoths, and the Pitch Blade against the Four Deadly Sins. The dwarves welcomed this turn of events with a wide grin, although it later dawned on us that the game may well have been rigged all along so the frenzied barbarians would battle my agents in the arena, attempting to kill them in the process. An hour later, though, it became obvious that if this was indeed the intention, the mastermind behind it had utterly misjudged the abilities of the Four Deadly Sins…
The fight started with the two dwarven barbarians bolstering their abilities with magical potions and raging, their mouths frothing with hate and insults. In the meantime, and as Talabir Welik recounted once again their high deeds, my agents themselves enhanced their abilities with their usual spells and tricks, flying over the battle field. The battle was brutal, and short. Mainly, the dwarves were quickly overwhelmed by "Wildfire" and her companions. As Draco charged Drusfan, the first of the two brothers, Laslo and Nasim quickly followed and teamed up against Pharbol. Add to this Viv's fireballs cast from the safety of distance and the fight was over in less than thirty violent seconds. The two dwarven fellows did not survive the end of their frenzy and gurgled their last breath on the Serpent Run's sand. That was deserved if, as we feared, the Pitch Blade had entered the battle field to "inadvertently" kill the would-be heroes of Magnimar.
Again, the crowd rejoiced as the Four Deadly Sins moved on to the next round of the Champion's Game. Surprisingly to us at the time, Jorston Droaeb, the ruler of the Serpent's Run, showed clear discomfort at their victory, but he quickly hid his feelings to congratulate me and my team, offering us the victor's rewards. When I later visited them in the Coenoby, my agents pointed out that they too had noticed Jorston's unease and they asked me to quietly investigate the dwarf's affairs from outside. Could it be that he was in any way involved in the foul ritual my team had disturbed the previous night?
With their victory, our team joined Auric's warband who had defeated the Snow Mammoths, thereby unveiling the trick they hid in their large wooden boxes (a pair of leather golems that obeyed their every orders), and the Asmodean Brood whose ruthless Chelaxian efficiency had overcome the chaotic magic of the Skulls of Murq with difficulty.
Neth 11, 4712 AR
To everyone's surprise, and contrary to the tradition that the previous year's winner displaying its talent in an exhibition fight against a monster while it came to the other two contenders to fight they way to the final, the Four Deadly Sins were chosen for the exhibition battle. At first, it seemed it would be a nice resting day for my agents, especially since they overheard some of the guards complaining that Madtooth the Hungry, the monster they would face, was a forst salamander whose cage was difficult to keep cold enough. But already Viv notice this was likely false information they were being fed. These suspicions were confirmed when, later this day, it certainly was not a frozen cage that was pulled in the arena by a dozen scared guards. If the cage indeed read "Madtooth the Hungry" in tall red letters, the sloshing sound that escaped the cage made it clear an aquatic or amphibious monster inhabited it. To make matters worse, the heroes' introduction to the crowd was so long, before the battle, that the bolstering magic my agents had cast on themselves, as usual, expired. Someone clearly wanted them dead.
When the scared guards finally pulled the ropes that opened the cage, the Pathfinders were scrambling to once again protect themselves with magic. And now they were also facing an infuriated froghemoth. The beast quickly leapt forward and almost as swiftly grabbed Draco in its powerful maw. It would have gobbled up the barbarian had Viv not freed him just before it was too late with the freedom of movement spell, freeing Draco from the beast's maw and effectively rendering him immune to any further grabbing attempt. Laslo used this distraction to sneak around the abberation, but one of its three stalked eyes always followed the Ustalavian's every movement and he was unable to place himself in a good enough position to carve out the beast's vital organs. In the end, it was the unexpected outcome of Nasim's shocking grasp assault that turned the tide in this fight: it turned out that, if froghemoths are immune to electricity, they are still sensitive to it. So instead of sizzling the creature, the spell slowed it down, to the point that, staggered, it could not flay its multiple tentacles around while also biting. Viv's fireball, combined to her channeling to powers of Hell, added to her companions' physical assaults eventually overcame the monster.
The crowd turned crazy at the victory of their champions who had reached the final. Yet, once again, Jorston clearly showed unease at the victory of the Four Deadly Sins and, once again, he hid his true feelings when the time came to reward the victors. My investigations later this day hinted that Jorston could indeed have been responsible for the ritual involving the Shard of Gluttony as I found proof of him abducting beggars and other poor people, likely having them transformed into the army of undead my agents had destroyed under the arena. Sadly, I could not get this information to my team before the assassination attempt that took place that night, and by the next day, Jorston had left the city.
For, yes, in the quiet Coenoby, that night, my agents had not organized any guarding duties, despite the numerous attempts on their lives, and they suffered from the sneaky assault of a group of assassins. Led by the captain of Jorston's guards, Okoral, they almost dispatched Draco in his sleep. But, luckily, Nasim woke up in the nick of time and his shouts got everyone on their feet in no time. Without the element of surprise, and despite the confusion, the four guards and their leader did not stand a chance against our trained adventurers. Questioned later, Okoral would reveal that Jorston had not taken kindly to the Pathfinders meddling with his secret affairs in the Thassilonian levels of the Serpent's Run. To avoid any disruption of the Games before their victory, my agents resolved to bring the assassins who were still alive to the ghouls. These agreed to keep the prisoners alive for a day in exchange for the "tasty bodies of the two fallen assassins," as Lockerby Brast crudely put it. Being eaten by ghouls should be the fate of no human being. whatever their misdeeds…
Largest amount of damage taken from an attack: 29 (Orokal, sneakily attacking Draco).
Smarnil le couard wrote:
Certes, mais le passage avec les gardes, dans les égouts, m'a beaucoup fait rire ! ;)
I'm a bit of an annoying situation with all of the ~10 sessions of the last few months written up, except for the one that come just after what I've already posted here. Once I find the time to write that one, there should be a flood of write-ups! :)
Then they can use the Move option of Maintain a Grapple to fly with the prey, returning to the nest (etc).
As an aside, it is actually a standard action to maintain a grapple to move your prey.
Name: Draco Don Zerba
The Gory Details: The fight against Jubbek and his giants was brutal and the Pathfinders dispatched the hill giants in a mere few seconds, forcing Jubbek to join the fray. He didn't last long, but the duel of titans with Draco took its toll on both sides. When Draco killed the giant chief, he rejoiced, but Chief Jubbek's pet smilodon didn't and the animal ripped through Draco. A tensed ten seconds later, Skullcracker was down to 10 hit points, but Draco was bitten, clawed, and raked to pieces and scattered throughout the room.
He was at -90 hit points and would later get _raised_ in Magnimar by the grand priest of Abadar. Even the Pathfinders are starting to wonder how much they should invest in this suicidal barbarian. Draco is reaching the limit of his Prestige.
The campaign summary can be found here and will soon be caught up to the start if Into the Nightmare Rift. It is getting quite brutal at this level…
Name: Draco Don Zerba
The Gory Details: The Pathfinders spotted the stockade blocking the entrance to Guiltspur at the same time they were spotted by the guard giants. The fight was brutal and the barbarian Draco, at the forefront of the assault, took the full blunt of the giants' hits. He eventually hovered close to death (and he would certainly die if he ended his rage). But being the superstitious being he is, Draco is somewhat impervious to his friends' healing magic.
He nevertheless jumped from the tower next to his cleric companion (taking some damage as he did). He ended his rage, hoping that his _aegis of recovery_ would keep him alive long enough. But it didn't and Draco quickly dropped to -30 hit points. Next to him, Viv, the cleric of Asmodeus in the guise of Sorshen, sighed and revived him (again) with a _breath of life_ spell.
No one killed Draco, this time, he killed himself.
Name: Draco Don Zerba
The Gory Details: Down to three heroes, the alchemist dead only minutes ago to shadows, the Pathfinders nevertheless proceeded further. They eventually got cornered in the Groetan crypt by the swarm of Groetan mummies. Draco did his best to protect his companions and send the undead back to the death they never should have left but he was eventually overcome.
A second later, he was brought back to life by Viv, the cleric of Asmodeus, with a _breath of life_ spell.