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Beetle

Pact Stone GM's page

2,856 posts (3,680 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 43 aliases.


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Thanks! (Now done)


OK, but how does one do such a thing?

All the best Javell - it has been a pleasure. Hope our paths cross again.


Phrip wrote:
One question I always wondered about: What was the Beetle's plan if Moonpate hadn't started the battle and we surrendered?

-

Khymrasa is merciful in her greatness. The Dune Squad would have been placed in the stockade. It would not have pleasant though as the Shrine of Horns would have been in charge of the hospitality.

There would have likely been an escape scene, or Thalia and the Sand Sage would have approached the Dune Squad in the same way she approached Donkor.

But then hey, you can always just gate to the elemental plane of water, right?


Javell DeLeon wrote:
And I got another question: What happened to your buddy, Monotony? Why did he quit?(If it's for personal reasons then I totally understand) And do y'all actually know each other personally?

-

Yes. Mr. Monotony was one of my live-game players for many years back in circa high school era (1st and 2nd edition). I found him a very entertaining player. He would never give up no matter how badly he got beaten black and blue. Always ready to try something wonky.

After we moved apart to opposite ends of the country he occassionally played in my PBeM's, but largely left the gaming scene for real life. We are in contact periodically and at some point I had promised him if I ever ran another PBP to get him an invite.

Years later I did, so I extended that invite, and he joined. He then had to learn Pathfinder on the fly which was good of him. As to what happened to him, I think you know almost as much as I do. In the late summer of 2013 he posted that he was going off line for a few weeks to go camping and asked to be GM PC'd. He never returned.

He is alive and well -- I have seen his facebook feed -- but it would be a bit awkward to ask him why he he did not return. I suspect when he signed-up he didn't realize the game was going to be quite as long as it was. None of us did. It's all good.

(Unlike Mr. Exciting, he is a real person, I promise.)


Dennis Harry wrote:
I second the Reaver's request regarding the fate of Xaven and Hrokon, I found them very entertaining.

-

I don't really know!

Xaven knew he couldn't leave the Dune Squad alone - he didn't trust them enough not to get themselves killed. But his ego prohibited him from being bullied, so he couldn't stay either. After Hrokon and Xaven fled, they went into "guardian angel mode" trying to do what they could to keep the Dune Squad from getting themselves killed.

This was not sustainable. The lower level just wasn't large enough for them to hide out forever. Eventually the Dune Squad would have fanned out or attempted magical detection or just ambushed them with Stealth.

It was a bit of a coin toss as to which scenario was going to happen first:

Either the Dune Squad would get in a further battle with Suekahn - in which case Xaven and Hrokon would rejoin the Dune Squad and help in any way they could (while Xaven heaped further abuse on his artificial allies). . .

Or Xaven and Hrokon would be forced to flee the lower level to escape the Dune Squad. They might have been caught and again taken prisoner- a good chance of that. If not, they would have fled up the song tubes.

Assuming Suekahn was still in control of the scry pool on the Throne Level, that would have been very bad. Suekahn would have spotted their flight. He would have teleported to either end of the tube and used his wall of sand ability to block off both sides. That would have put Xavkon on a countdown. Eventually their potions of gaseous form would wear off and they would be crushed inside the tube as their bodies rematerialized.

Either the Dune Squad would figure out Xavkon were in in distress by the strange sounds coming from the tubes, or Xavkon would have died, taking the whole pact with them.

Suekahn’s tube-kill maneuver is admittedly way too nasty. Incidentally, there’s another Pactstone PBP on the boards here in which Suekahn actually pulls that off on a PC (who was not in a pact). Ich! What a way to go.


Dennis Harry wrote:
Beetle - Hal tried to destroy the Pact Stone, assuming he was successful, what would have happened?

-

Unbeknownst to Hal, the Pactstone was actually a massive inverted pyramid shaped rock spearing into the ground. It was far larger than the Pacstone Chamber. The Dune Squad only saw the very center of it. It tuns out Ahn'Sehlota was built essentially as a way to hide the top of the Pacstone from the masses by raising a structure on top of it.

(See the map on the inside of the module cover for a picture to explain what I mean. As an aside, I had originally intended this to explain why pyramids have their mysterious shape, but since we now know Golarion has had pyramids for thousands of years before the Four Pharoahs of Ascension ever existed, that can't really be the case.)

It would have taken Hal decades to destroy it. It would be like trying to take apart a very large mountain.

Had he somehow suceeded, then I suppose it would have been "broke" and there would be one less mysterious artifact in the world to fall into the wrong hands.


GM JaceDK wrote:
Any requests as to what the theme of the game should be?

-

Anything that gets the GM jazzed.


Hurgah the Reaver wrote:
- will Hurgah ever achieve full draconic power and world domination?

-

I just assumed that was a given.


Karek Kogan wrote:

So, I looked back in the gameplay thread, looking for the scene I mentioned where he was suspicious of the elves. I found the scene when Xerissa fireballed the party on escaping from the coin room. Turns out, while I was clueless, but Karek was totally onto her. When he got fireballed, he couldn't help but identify Thalia as the culprit.

Beetle, perhaps you may have made something of that offhanded accusation if you wanted the party to figure it out. Off-screen sense motive rolls on both Thalia (unlikely) and Donkor (very likely), perhaps?

-

In Karek's post of April 21, Flamethrower has Karek shout "Dalia" when the party is hit by a fireball. I remember rocking back in my chair. I thought there would be more, but it didn't come.

I agree. In hindsight, I should have typed something to egg Karek on, something like:

"It certainly did look like a Thalia fireball."


Phrip wrote:
. . . I did notice the Campaign Info tab and Xerissa's profile, so I knew that Thalia was in our mix and probably not for altruistic reasons. . .

-

He knew the whole time! (You bugger!) : )


Karek Kogan wrote:


Was Karek's outstanding plot point, his mother, somewhere in Osirion?

-

I never forgot this, but never found a way to work it in. At one time, I had considered making Thalia Karek's mommy, but I never figured out how to make that work. That, and eww.

Karek Kogan wrote:
Just which of these dwarves was actually the youngest? Both Hal and I seemed to insist on it.

-

That was Karek, or at least I always thought. Hal was just younger compared to Breach.

Karek Kogan wrote:
I'm going to have to change my default posting alias. *Sigh*. It's been a good run.

-

Me too! I'm going to have to make a whole new account for a new game. Can't wait.


Karek Kogan wrote:
If I would have taken notice of your out of character hints, that would have tipped me off. (Her descriptor really said Druid/Rogue for the last year or so? /blind.)

-

Not as long as a year - I exagerate. Looking back at the boards, I estimate it started in October of 2013.

Karek Kogan wrote:
I don't think I could have in good faith acted on anything like that. The closest I came to being suspicious of anything was the Keen Eyes moment you mentioned. If I recall correctly, I reaffirmed that I hated elves and things that looked like them, and was suspicious of both Xerissa and, collaterally, the (harmless?) Mithral Scarab. Not suspicious enough to think about a Perception check to see through a disguise, or a Sense Motive check to see through a bluff, though.

-

I remember that now! I didn't make the connection and suspect you were on to her. Ha! It works both ways.


Dennis Harry wrote:
I skimmed through the module the other day. It seemed that one of the main objectives for our party would have been recovering the seeds that were in stasis. Was there a different goal that you had in mind for the group Beetle?

-

One of the ways the module falls flat as a PBP game is a lack of clear objectives.

I actually like this in a live game as it let's the PCs do all sorts of zany things. But I learned early on this game, player's need a really clear goal to push towards, otherwise they just don't know where to go or what to do next.

The game starts out with the goal:

"Stop Khymrasa from uncovering the pyramid"

Then there's a bait and switch:

"Actually, go in the pyramid - make sure Khymrasa doesn't get the Pactstone."

(From reading on the boards, I've learned many players do not like bait and switch. It's a common and exciting element in TV and movies but I may need to re-think it's application in RPGs.)

Then the adventure has a bunch of anciliary goals. One of them is indeed the ludicrously rare and expensive seeds - capable of feeding a desert army. Venture Captain Krenshar doesn't actually know about them when he dispatches you though. The Mithral Scarab does, but she urges you not to care - you've got bigger fish to fry, she says. Professor Hoffenburrow and the Decemvirate really care, but the professor never meets the party until the end.

Then there's the Sand Sage's goal to find the countdown clock (which later became Donkor's goal), but we never quite made it there.

But we did get Hal's goal:

"Destroy the fiend lurking inside the pyramid." - which was very helpful.

Finally, the end game likely becomes:

"Get out of the pyramid, escape passed Khymrasa and her Chelaxian allies and tell the world what she's up to (a conspiracy to assume power). Save Osirion."


More Clues to Thalia’s Identity

The Xerissa character sheet was a fabrication and in hindsight, quite unfair. Everything on it was either, a druid spell or an ability she didn’t actually have. I played the actual Thalia using the original character sheet from Peebo, Thalia’s original creator. I did though give her a big bunch of potions, courtesy of the Sand Sage to help with her cover. A number of those she gave away as bribes to help get her accepted into the party – who doesn’t like a gift?

Anyways, this is one of the reasons Xerissa was so useless. Thalia’s design isn’t capable of doing too much, and besides, she preferred to make the Dune Squad do everything for her. The Dune Squad was very patient with her dead weight.

It was also a huge problem for me in that I didn’t want an NPC dictating the Dune Squad’s choices. As such, Thalia weighed in on very little decision-making. This made her even more of a dead weight character and she actually started to contribute to the PBP’s decline – she was a player with all the worst attributes in a PBP player. Whoops! Didn’t think of that one.

For fun, here’s are just a few of the smaller clues I can remember:

  • I tried to pick a profile picture that looked as close to Thalia’s I could find. But clearly that could be a coincidence.

  • When the PCs first entered the pyramid, “Xerissa” worked with Breach and Donkor to build an exploding trap on the door. In actuality the trap was useless. Not being capable of building bombs, Thalia had no such exploding chemicals. They were all fake. She told Donkor as she thought it was funny. Sooron (Monotony) was not amused. Later, at one point Xaven tried to ask about why there was a defunct trap on the door, but nobody liked Xaven enough to follow-up on it.

  • Speaking of bombs. There were multiple fight scenes where “Xerissa” threw bombs. You may recall 90% of the time she would just hold them in her hands coming up with one excuse or another not to throw them. She was the queen of the delay action. I thought someone would get cheesed off by that, but you were all very patient with her. That may have been unfair as you probably thought she was the GM’s good friend, so whatcha gonna do?

  • Occasionally though she would instead detach a missile from her necklace of fireballs – anybody remember Thalia had a necklace of fireballs? If you read the text by the GM, you will see that every time “Xerissa throws a bomb” in blue OOC the black flavour text of what actually happens describes a fiery missile streaking straight towards a the target and then exploding. There is no flavor text that Xerissa actually ever threw anything. Neat eh? It’s like reverse metagaming.

  • Remember when the Moonpate used his dimensional steps ability to escape the crushing coin room? If you were metagaming, you would have read posts that Thalia was going to throw bombs at the wall to try to blow open the wall to save the party. In actuality she was using her necklace of fireballs. That’s right, Moonpate teleported into an exploding fireball. Thalia did actually mean to rescue the party, and the attack was unintended, but she did rather enjoy burning you all.

  • I wouldn’t expect anyone to catch that by the way. You were kinda busy trying to stay alive at the time – and this was GM trickery that probably crossed the line.

  • Here’s another subtle one. At one point, the supposedly human “Xerissa” casts the spell keen senses, ostensibly to give herself low light vision. Thalia, of course, an elf, already has low light vision. She cast nothing. If you read the flavor text, there was an actual reference to her “elven eyes”. This would have been fairly interpreted as an effect of the spell, but in reality it was just written as a statement that Xerissa had elven eyes – cause she was an elf.

  • During the trap with the doubling coin – Xerissa was outside the room and had to make a Will save to disbelieve the illusion which concealed the wall of stone that sealed off the door. She rolled with her bonus of +10. That bonus belonged to Thalia. Xerissa’s character sheet listed only a +5. I don’t expect anyone to actually catch that, I just mention it.

  • When Xerissa gave Gandel her +1 cloak of protection , it suddenly became a +2 cloak. Thalia has a +2 cloak, whereas Xerissa a +1. That’s pretty subtle.

  • Later the party faced off against the weird magic of the “Heart Beat Chamber”. Xerissa created a heart tonic to try to help Gandel. She had no such ability to create such a thing. Monotony was pissed that she was fooling around. At one point, Gandel attempted to aid Thalia in preparing the tonic and I thought he would discover that Xerissa did not know what she was doing and a major clue would be revealed – but he botched his roll! Nonetheless I had Gandel make a comment that he didn’t understand what Xerissa was doing and he hesitated before drinking. This was too subtle – it could easily be interpreted as Gandel had just failed a roll.

  • I had Thalia try to identify the gaseous form potion in the “Pool Room”. As the GM, I declared she couldn’t ID it. She’s supposed to have something like a +20 Alchemy score. Attempting to draw this discrepancy to your attention, I had Mr. Exciting complain bitterly in OOC on more than one occasion but it backfired and instead wound up making excellent cover.

  • Xerissa had no way to identify Hurgah’s mystery fang potion. Eventually after he kept asking, I had her step in and make something up. If I recall correctly she told Hurgah it was a +3 magic fang or something like that. In actuality it was a potion of protection from good. Thalia has no idea.

  • After Mr. Monotony left the game, I started having Donkor get repeatedly annoyed with Thalia. Fortunately, everyone respected his privacy, having enough to worry about on their own. Every time Thalia mentioned her cover story, her lost Father Auraruan of the lost scroll, Sooron got annoyed. He knew the real Auraraun – they were adventuring comrades - and it was pissing him off that Thalia was using it as a jape.

  • Finally, during the whole blow-up with Xaven and Hrokon, Thalia got frustrated and took matters into her own hands. She used her insane Diplomacy score to mollify Hrokon, something Xerissa simply did not have. I tried to emphasize who excellent her Diplomacy score to arouse some curiosity, but all I did was reinforce in your minds that Xerissa somehow had a good Diplomacy score.

    When you see it all together, it looks really obvious, but piece by piece I have discovered, it is too subtle to be detected. Urp.


  • The Adventures of Thalia and Donkor

    So there’s a long story here and I’ll give you the really short strokes, cause it was quite a saga. It involves Donkor.

    After Thalia turned on the Dune Squad she tried to get in tight with Khymrasa. She had modest success. However, she soon figured out that she wasn’t the only 'con man' in Khymrasa’s inner circle.

    The other one was the Sand Sage. He too had a mystery agenda. It turns out the Sand Sage was manipulating Khymrasa’s to use her massive fortune to excavate the pyramid. He fuelled her excitement over the Pactstone so he could get access to the pyramid himself. To be fair, he was after something completely different, and not necessarily at odds with Khymrasa. His research lead him to believe (correctly) that Ahn’Sehlota was also concealing something called a countdown clock – a treasure item largely unrelated to the adventure, but part of a larger Osirion meta-plot.

    The countdown clocks relate to a conspiracy possibly involving the undoing of the world as we know it. The Sand Sage considered it pretty important to get to the bottom of it – saving the world and all.
    He recruited Thalia. She’s a selfish neutral, but it turns out that deep beneath it all, she’s down with saving the world.

    The pair then recruited Donkor, in the hopes of using him to access the Dune Squad to explore the pyramid for them.

    You may recall a scene where Donkor (still played by Monotony) decided to wander off on his own in the desert. Perhaps not his best moment. He ran into Scepter and got captured.

    The story he gave you guys when he returned was that he fought his way out. He didn’t. He was rescued by Thalia and the Sand Sage.

    Montony and I had a lengthy solo RPG session via email. It was tons of fun (but I may have burned him out). The Sand Sage and Thalia convinced him to join them. He was pretty reluctant as he didn’t want to lie to you guys – he wanted to tell you all the truth and persuade you to join up too. Thalia though insisted, quite positive it would never work without deception. Eventually Donkor relented and made a promise to keep her secret. The Sand Sage cemented the deal with magic. Donkor was of the view that due to the power of the Sand Sage if Thalia was discovered and any harm came to her, he would die. In reality that was a bluff, he only had a mark of justice which is not nearly quite so dire. he voluntarily agreed to fail his save as a sign of faith so to speak.

    I thought for sure this would never actually work. I assumed Thalia would be discovered in the first few weeks and there would be a big drama in which Donkor would have to persuade the Dune Squad to stand down long enough to help them in their beneficent side quest. What a cool roleplaying scene, right? Could he pull it off?

    But dammit, you guys refused to figure it out. It turns out once you get a spy inside, using improper OOC whitewash, it’s impossible to uncover. There’s just too much trust in the GM-Player bond. Only a bastard would mess with that.

    Here were the clues. They range from the way too subtle to pick up on to what I thought were pretty clear indications.

  • Check the Campaign info tab. It openly states that Xerissa is Thalia. That’s been there since almost the beginning. Turns out though nobody actually reads Campaign Tabs.

  • Read Xerissa’s profile. It also says Xerissa is Thalia. In your defence though, it didn’t say that until after a couple months.

    Then I got really desperate.

  • Once the Dune Squad formed a pact with Thalia, I figured they ought to sense something was wrong with her. To simulate this, I changed Xerissa’s profile from alchemist to druid,/rogue (spy) – Thalia’s actual class combo. This then showed up at the top of every Xerissa post for the last several months. I figured there was no chance that would be missed. It turns out nobody reads that grey part above the picture on individual posts – who knew?

    Alternatively, I began to suspect you had all figured it out long ago and your plan was to punish me by just pretending you didn’t pick up on it. There were a number of days where you can see on the boards where I am left talking to myself like an idiot, never exactly sure who is tricking who.


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    Whatever Happened to Thalia?

    OK,

    I did a bad thing.

    In my defence, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    I had so much fun with Thalia, I had to scheme a way to get her back in the party. But there was pretty much no way that was going to happen without Karek and a few others taking her head off.

    You remember this? We had a replacement player appear - a Mr. Exciting to play an alchemist named Xerissa.

    Javell DeLeon wrote:

    I see. A friend of either yours or Donkor's I'm guessing? Seeing how he's new on the boards.

    Or is it another one of your inventive schemes by creating a new account--either yourself or Donkor--and being really secretive about it? And if that's the case then I must say... clever. One can't help but appreciate the sneakiness of it all. :)

    Well Javelle is a pretty sharp guy. He was right on and didn’t fall for it, not for a second.

    Xerissa was indeed a sock puppet (operated by myself). Moreover, she was Thalia in disguise.

    Technically, you can see in the thread that I didn’t actually ever deny it, but there’s no doubt there was at least misdirection if not outright deception involved.

    (If you're still here - stay tuned. . .)


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    How the heck was the Dune Squad ever going to defeat Suekahn?

    Good question, but admittedly that 600hp might have gone a long way.

    Contrary to the Dune Squad's reasonable assumption based on what they saw, Suekahn couldn't actually teleport as a swift action at will. He was limited to thrice per day. But even still - that's pretty freak'n nasty, especially when you have fast heal on top of it.

    I had though, if you'll allow the conceit, a cool idea - or more accurately - one of you did. Inside the treasure vault (the room the Dune Squad was headed for recently), there were treasure items called wish boxes. I re-jigged one of them so it could provide this cool item:

    Jacob Trier wrote:

    Bracer of Forceful Restraint

    Aura moderate abjuration and evocation; CL 11th
    Slot wrists; Price 25,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.
    Description
    This massive metal bracer features the image of an armored knight holding a furious barbazu devil by a taut chain.

    On command, the bracer launches a translucent green chain at a single creature within 30 feet. If the wearer makes a successful ranged touch attack, the chain envelops the target, shackling the creature to the wearer's wrist. The target is entangled and cannot move more than 30 feet from the wearer. The chain is a force effect and cannot be damaged, but can be dispelled or escaped with a DC 30 combat maneuver or Escape Artist check. The wearer can dismiss the chain as a free action.

    Besides physically restraining the target, the wearer can also use his own life force to prevent magical escape. If a bound target attempts extradimensional travel, the wearer can choose to make a Fortitude save with a DC of 10 plus the target's HD. If the save is successful, the chain acts as a dimensional anchor. Regardless of the outcome, the bracer deals 2d6 force damage to the wearer after each restraint attempt.

    Only one creature can be bound at a time. The bracer functions for 11 minutes each day. The duration doesn't need to be continuous, but must be used in 1-minute increments. A bracer of forceful restraint may be worn on either wrist, but takes up the wearer's entire wrist slot. An arm with an active bracer can't be used to wield a weapon or shield, or cast spells with somatic components.

    Construction
    Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, dimensional anchor, leashed shackles; Cost 12,500 gp

    Seems only fair that Suekahn ought to face it.


    Whatever Happened to Professor Hoffenburrow?

    Coming all the way from the Crown of the World, he was late - but not that late. He was intercepted by the Shrine of Horns (the Asmodean monks). He was taken prisoner by Master Soan and becomes a hostage in the final chapter of the adventure.

    Poor Sceptre: he died never realizing that Moonpate wasn't the Hoffenburrow he was actually after. Mistaken identity is a Be-atch.

    Incidentally, Lydia (the Mithral Scarab) was also supposed to be taken hostage along with Hoffenburrow, but you guys changed up the script when Halstadt insisted on taking a low-level NPC along into the pyramid. It made sense at the time and I enjoyed the chance to keep her on hand as an NPC.


    Nasty, Nasty Swarm

    Since so many of you have the module - when you get the time, check out area #3 "Four Pillars of Ascension".

    That was the only room in the main level the Dune Squad managed to pass on. It was also arguably the most deadly in the entire pyramid - unfair and lethal. (And a really short word count, if anyone cares about that sort of thing.)

    The Dune Squad missed it largely due to good luck and the timely use of a divination spell asking the right question. I can tell you Ro Ap Han was working heard to try to lure you guys in there, but he could never get anyone to take the bait.


    Jacob Trier wrote:
    Now, the timing of all this is actually pretty good. I finished the PbP I have been running as a GM for the past three years just a few days ago.

    -

    I have followed it over the years. I am most jealous that you succeeded where I did not.

    For those of you who have not seen it, you should check it out. Jace did an awesome job on it and you would do well to get in on his next one.

    Jacob Trier wrote:

    I'm planning to start up a new game, and all of you are welcome to a spot if you want it, our esteemed GM included.

    Much like the Beetle, I plan on using the game to practice my design and writing skills.

    If you are interested, let me know and I'll post a link to the recruitment thread once I get it up.

    I will keep an eye out for that link. Let's see if the timing works!


    Karek Kogan wrote:
    Hit me up for future games if you want. You know we're a faithful bunch! I promise I'll play an opinionated go-getter!

    -

    Thanks for this! (And thanks to you all)

    I don't know if I will run another game just now or not. Inevitably I will - I can't help it.

    I already have an idea, or two, or three, based on what I've learned from this experience, but I will probably want to think it over for a time before diving in too quick.


    If he needs a reference, I can vouch that Dennis is a frequent poster!


    Dear Friends,

    I think it is time to concede that this game has finally died on the vine. It has been a blast, but I feel I need to recognize the truth that we have all moved on some time ago.

    Although I previously indicated I wanted to reach the end of the module, sometimes I feel as though I am merely writing bad fan fiction and overstepping my bounds as I dictate the PCs' actions.

    We’re down to 4 of our original 9 players and the posting rate is no longer sustainable, unless we perhaps finish in the year 2017. I think we’d all prefer to invest our energies in other projects at this point.

    This need not be negative. This game started in March of 2011 and lasted over 3 years and over 6,500 posts. I think it’s amazing that we held each other’s interest that long. We had some huge highs and some very memorable moments. I will not forget the Dune Squad.

    When I started this, I was hoping for a creative outlet to let me practice my descriptive writing and brush up on my Pathfinder mechanics. I planned to go for at least 1,000 posts or 6 months. Metrics achieved. You’ve all committed for far longer than I ever expected you to. I don’t think any of us expected it to require quite so much of an investment -- you deserve to be released. Your loyalty has been appreciated.

    My one regret is that there are a significant number of unrevealed secrets – one in particular which probably shouldn't go unaddressed. I intend to spend some time posting some additional reveals and then wrap this up.

    I have enjoyed playing with you all immensely and hope our paths continue to cross. My very best to you and yours.

    Special thanks to Paizo for giving this game a home.

    --The Beetle


    The scrawl reads:

    "Remember! Touch Nothing You Imbecile!"

    [The message then goes on to make an unsubstantiated inference as to the reader's parentage and overtly implies that the reader's primary reproductive organ is smaller than the norm for their race. It is crudely put.]

    "Don't Do it!"

    Gandel returns safely to the group and several seconds later his 30 second spell wears off. Like the rest of the squad, he is once again 50 feet away from the alcoves.


    Finally! Freakin Sarcophagi!

    From 20 feet Gandel can see a number of additional things of note:

    1. Each of the four alcoves contains an upright sarcophagus. Each one is composed of a jet black stone, identical in appearance to the stonework that frames the arch. The sarcophagi are equal in size, each one rising 6 and half feet in height.

    2. There is a further chalk message on the floor, while it is hard to read from here, it is likely scrawled by the same author as the last.

    3. The room beyond the black arch appears to be a vault. There are a series of stone chests within.


    The Dune Squad passes the off-shoot passage to the east and continues a long silent sojourn north, taking care to study the walls, floor and ceiling as they progress.

    A couple hundred feet or so later, Gandel’s double-helix of light finally reveals a change in the passageway:

    Alcoves.

    There are four of them, two to each side. Each is perhaps the size of a coat closet, carved into the bedrock of the pyramid.

    Beyond the four alcoves the corridor terminates in another arch. This one though is composed of a jet black stone. It is much smaller than the archways surrounding the Pactstone Chamber though, and devoid of any markings. Beyond the arch the corridor would appear to enlarge into a chamber beyond, but it is impossible to see much more from this distance.
    -----

    I have the Dune Squad’s front rank (Gandel and Karek) currently 50 feet away from the alcoves.


    Following Karek, the Dune Squad marches through the Firefly chamber, continuing their journey westward. As ever, Gandel sends his trusty quartet of lights spiraling thorough the halls, corkscrewing through the dark shadows that fill the stone tunnel ahead. Meanwhile Donkor’s forehead phylactery acts as a headlamp, lighting the immediate space around the party. The walls are cold, dark and unadorned.

    After a short time, the corridor turns right. With no other option apparent, the Dune Squad follows the 90 degree turn, redirecting itself north. This hall appears to be exceptionally long, with no end immediately in sight. It conjures up memories of the long entry shaft to the pyramid far above, though this corridor remains flat. There is no detectable grade or slope.

    A few minutes later the corridor reveals a branch leading off to the right (east). Gandel’s lights indicate that the branch leads to a short flight of stairs headed downward.
    -----
    Continue straight (north) or turn right (east)? Or another option?


    I'm taking this IC chat as a consensus sufficient to act as instructions. . .
    -----

    The Dune Squad advances south, carefully slipping past the four darkwood rods topped with gemstones. Gingerly they step over the chalk message left by Xaven, none willing to overtly admit they have accepted his counsel. At the same time the Dune Squad passes under the patch of off-gradient stone in the ceiling identified by Karek earlier and in so doing, they pass beneath the four (now three) mystic auras detected by Gandel and Moonpate.

    With the unexplained set-up now behind them at their back, the Dune Squad is free to traverse freely down the 10-wide corridor. Slowly the men and women progress a further a further 50 feet reaching the 90 degree elbow-turn, previously spotted. The Dune Squad follows the turn right, changing their bearing to west.

    After advancing a further 30 feet westward, Gandel's bouncing light show has more to reveal.

    The corridor widens into a smallish chamber, though the corridor itself actually continues through it heading further west.

    The corridor also contains a bas relief (a kind of stone carving) in the south wall. It appears oddly familiar. When the Dune Squad advances closer, they see the bas relief depicts an Osirion Firefly.

    You've been here before.

    There is no doubt. Should you head into that room, you have every reason to expect you will find there is a large circular hole in the ceiling, one that leads to a tube traveling up to the Mosaic Chamber above.

    No doubt, although you can't see it from here, there will also be a branch of corridor off the Firefly Chamber headed north. it should lead to a flight of descending stairs which will take you back to the Pacstone Chamber.

    It would appear the Dune Squad has just traveled in a circle (or perhaps a square would be more precise).
    -----
    If you trust Xerissa's mapping, you would conclude you have yet to explore the westward branch off of this chamber (i.e. head straight through the Firefly Chamber). It is also possible to turn right, return to the Pactstone Chamber and explore the tunnel running west from there--that too is unexplored.


    Just so I have it right, is this simply discussion, or is this what is happening? The Dune Squad is going to advance south down the corridor, past the rods, but avoid touching them? (In default marching order.)


    The dead man's scroll dissolves in Moonpate's hands as he reads the words upon the parchment aloud. When he completes the final phrase, a cone of silvered light flashes outwards at the ceiling. A moment later the splashy light show is over and the gloomy darkness of the corridor seeps back in.

    Both Gandel and Moonpate quickly re-cast their cantrips to survey the level of success.

    Both conclude there are now only three detectable auras up in the ceiling.


    The wizard steps forward, joining Karek and Gandel as he unfurls one of the scrolls he recovered from his dead comrade, Belleson.

    -----
    That sounds like a targeted dispel.

    The Potentate will need a Dispel check (what we used to call a caster level check, just a D20+8 for his level)

    Having perhaps cast detect magic himself before hand, like Gandel, Moonpate will know there are 4 distinct auras in or above the ceiling to target. Unless they are intertwined in some way, he's likely to only dispel one with a single casting. Did you want to also pick a number between 1-4 or shall I just roll at random?


    While it is a favored spell of his, Donkor appears to be out of dispel magic. The Mithral Scarab is not high enough in level.


    Crossing his body with a flittering wave of his gloved hand, Gandel summons a potent mystic charm. He suddenly feels lighter and leaner. He can sense his core strength and balance gathering within him—a useful thing should he need to spring back suddenly.

    It gives him the confidence to continue to approach ever closer.

    As he advances, Karek steps alongside him.

    Gandel then gets a better look at the rods (or staffs or sticks, whatever). They are made of darkwood, an impossibly dense wood of the deepest chestnut brown – a true rarity in the deserts of Osirion. Each darkwood staff has been topped with a blood red gemstone, a stone generous in size that seems to somehow drink in the light from Gandel's dancing motes. The rods are all of identical length.

    Next, Gandel turns his attention to the chalk on the floor. It is indeed writing—someone has sketched a message on the flagstones in chalk. Remarkably, the script is not Ancient Osiriani or even present-day Osiriani. It’s been written in the crude cursive of the common tongue. It reads:

    Chalk Writing Text:

    ”I said don’t touch anything you stupid moronic twits!”

    The author appears to have taken the time to underscore the words “don’t” and “stupid”.


    As he inches closer, Karek discerns that there is a square section of stone on the ceiling which is of a slightly different gradient texture then the surrounding stone. Kogan's seen these human pyramid builders try this at least once before. They think it's identical, but it's clearly not - the stone has been worked in a different way. The offending square on the ceiling matches the area where Gandel has reported sensing magical auras - right in-between the four wooden rods.
    -----
    Stone cunning continues to be worthwhile. . .


    Gandel advances, carefully stepping forward from the rest of the party, once again for the thousandth time, contemplating the wisdom of his surname.

    The professor does not see or otherwise sense any evidence of a trap, mechanical or magical. What he is able to better pinpoint is that there are actually four separate and distinct magical auras up in the ceiling (enchantment sub-school, primarily).

    Also, when his dancing lights glyde close enough to the floor, he can now see that the chalk dust is actually some kind of writing. Unfortunately he is too far away to make it out in the darkness.


    I've placed Gandel 30 feet away currently - how close is a bit closer?

    Same question for anyone else who intends to get in on this.


    Gandel Trapspringer aka Dennis wrote:
    Gandel will, predictably, Detect Magic.

    -

    Sounds like disciplined adventuring to me.
    -----
    Gandel configures his forefingers and thumbs into the shape of a diamond and holds it up in front of his right eye like a lens.

    There is indeed magic mid-way down the hall, multiple auras in fact.

    But it is not quite what is expected.

    The detected auras do not originate with the rods, or the jewels on their tips. Instead, the auras come from the ceiling, at a point in-between the rods—or more accurately, at a point slightly above the 15-foot ceiling.

    Gandel’s study reveals another detail, previously missed. When he hovers his dancing lights amongst the rods, he spies a light dusting of chalk on the floor. The residue might not be random, it’s hard to tell from this distance, but it might be forming a pattern. The chalk is non-magical.


    Four Jutting Rods
    -----
    The Dune Squad slowly advances east down the ten-wide corridor. The party follows the hall as it turns right, changing the party’s direction to due south. The tiny professor and the armored dwarf continue to take the lead.

    The corridor is a long one, but as Gandel sends his magic lights skittering and bouncing through the darkened hall he can see that it will eventually turn once more—this time right, headed west.

    But the hall is not empty.

    Mid-way down the hall are four wooden rods jutting straight out from the wall at shoulder-height, two each on either side.

    It is difficult to see from so far away, but each staff seems to be topped by some kind of jeweled ornament.

    The rods are only 3-4 feet long and so it is possible to pass down the corridor's center without coming into contact with them.


    Moonpate wrote:
    Question: Does use of that wand take a full round for the critter to manifest, just like the spell?

    -

    It does, I fear.

    The wand is made from a metallic alloy of inter-planar origin, stretching as long as the wizard's forearm. Each inch of the wand has somehow been carefully notched in segments like a totem-pole, depicting the head of some strange beast or elemental. Every so often, the eyes of one of the creature heads suddenly flare open, briefly glowing red before fading away.


    The Dune Squad heads back south, passing the “Boot Room”, returning to the Pactstone Chamber. From there, the brave professor guides the party left, headed east, keen to discover the mystery behind the disappearance of Moonpate’s summoned direbat.

    Exiting the chamber of the great white stone, the party travels up a short flight of stairs, now headed east. Gandel’s quartet of motes quickly reveal that the corridor travels not much further than 60 feet or so and then turns to the right (south).

    The walls are unremarkable: quality stonework, but unadorned. No sign of light or sound.

    Continue?


    If I follow correctly then, option #1 below has been crossed-off. Where to next?

    Pact Stone GM wrote:

    . . . As the Dune Squad is now loosely clustered in the Pactstone Chamber, you can see there are numerous unexplored avenues:

    1. You could return north and head past the Boot Room and see where the form that turns left (west) goes. I am a bit worried though, this would be a third attempt with the previous two attempts resulting in aborted combats. Could there be an ancient mummy curse?

    2. You could take the west branch off the Pactstone Chamber. (Where Hrokon initially tried to flee to but never made it).

    3. You could take the east branch off the Pactstone Chamber where Moonpate sent his celestial dire bat to explore - and it never returned.

    4. You could return south to the firefly chamber, wher Xaven and Hrokon have just fled to. You know there is a fork which heads west and a fork which heads east, neither which have been investigated.

    5. Another option I have overlooked?


    As the drama of Xaven and Hrokon's defection winds down, the Dune Squad reforms back into order and marches north, back to the “Boot Room”. From there Gandel takes the party west, turning left.

    The halfling doesn’t have to travel far before his quartet of bouncing motes of light reveal a dead end. The corridor just comes to a close. The sides of the corridor have stylized carvings, but they are not hieroglyphs. They appear to be simply decorative rather than convey any meaning.

    At the corridor’s base is a slightly raised dais, not much more than a half-inch off the floor.

    Perhaps of greater interest is the small funnel-shaped pinhole in the far west wall at chest level (or rather above-head level for Gandel).

    You believe you have seen this marking before—at least twice now.

    You saw an identical hole at the same height in the “Pool Room” where the Dune Squad first took a journey deeper into the pyramid in gaseous form through the “Song Tubes”. The second time was upon exiting in the “Mosaic Room”, where the Dune Squad battled Suekahn.


    It sounds like there is something of a new consensus and so I will end initiative.

    Xaven rounds out of sight to the east, following Hrokon.

    As the Dune Squad is now loosely clustered in the Pactstone Chamber, you can see there are numerous unexplored avenues:

    1. You could return north and head past the Boot Room and see where the form that turns left (west) goes. I am a bit worried though, this would be a third attempt with the previous two attempts resulting in aborted combats. Could there be an ancient mummy curse?

    2. You could take the west branch off the Pactstone Chamber. (Where Hrokon initially tried to flee to but never made it).

    3. You could take the east branch off the Pactstone Chamber where Moonpate sent his celestial dire bat to explore - and it never returned.

    4. You could return south to the firefly chamber, wher Xaven and Hrokon have just fled to. You know there is a fork which heads west and a fork which heads east, neither which have been investigated.

    5. Another option I have overlooked?


    Karek Kogan wrote:
    Do they have any Gaseous Form potions that we know of?

    -

    Unknown. . .

    Or maybe the more precise answer would be, "No, they don't have any that you know of."


    Hurgah the Reaver wrote:
    "I guess it's a good thing we made him hand over those potions up front. Then again, we're inside a magically sealed pyramid. How far can they expect to run?" Hurgah rumbles wryly. He does not appear inclined to give chase.

    -

    Total tangent here and nothing that will affect Hurgah's view, but this may warrant some clarification - probably caused by my muddying - but here it is:

    As far as the Dune Squad knows, Ahn'Sehlota is not magically sealed. It should be quite possible to trace your steps and exit the way you came in.

    It wasn't clear to me how the Dune Squad intended to get back up from the lower levels without potions of gaseous form to re-navigate the song tubes, but now that they have plenty that doesn't seem to be an issue (as far as you know).

    (As a further aside, one solution might have been to use Gandel's one potion of extended gaseous form to send a single person to travel back up to the pool and gather up more for the rest of the party and then come back - but I suppose that would be a risky solo mission.)

    You may also recall, Donkor stoneshaped a wall over the entryway (and Xerissa and Breach planted a trip wire bomb trap on it). That might be the magic seal Hurgah is referring to. But it was barely an inch thick. Presumably Karek could give it a love tap and it would crumble. It is not a true obstacle to exiting.

    It also stands to reason that Sceptre, Xaven or Hrokon already dealt with the stoneshaped wall (and trap) when they first entered the pyramid. I cannot recall if Xaven was ever asked about that, I seem to recollect he might have said something about that, but I can't be sure. So the wall might not even be there still.

    Now Hurgah might also be refering to the info from 'Breach from the Future' in which he described that at some point in the future the Dune Squad discovers that the pyramid entry shaft is not safe as it is being watched by Khymrasa, but I don't believe Breach from the Future indicated it was actually sealed physically.

    It is also possible Hurgah discussed with Donkor the priest's experience in the Veinstone Pyramid (not Ahn'Sehlota) in which Donkor talked about how his former adventuring party was trapped inside after that pyramid was magically sealed. But Donkor has no knowledge that this pyramid has been sealed as well.

    All of this to say, the pyramid may very well be sealed and you may all be hopelessly trapped inside, but as far as you know, it's all good.

    Whew!


    "Keeping Enemies Close, Redux"

    Round 3

    Hrokon the Assailant - 13++

    Xaven Neversword - 13+

    Karek Kogan - 13-

    Halstadt Morgrym - 9

    Moonpate the Potentate - 9-

    Donkor Sooron - 9-

    Gandel Trapspringer - 9--

    ---
    Hurgah the Reaver, Lydia and Breach are on delay.

    You know you're making copious uses of readied actions and delay when the initiative of 10 people includes only two numbers.


    Gandel Trapspringer aka Dennis wrote:
    Gandel will reach into his bag and grab the Wand of Scorching Ray and charge forward as far as he can get but no closer that 5' behind Hal.

    -

    This happens next, though he doesn't get quite that far. After he uses a move action to retrieve the wand, he can make it as far as next to Karek.


    Moonpate grips the wand and whirls it in an obscure pattern, releasing the remainder of the power stored within.

    A bright flash sails towards the red-faced Xaven, as he argues vorciferously with Halstadt, momentarily surprised by the sudden dropping of the wall of fire.

    Will save for Xaven versus DC 13: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (20) + 3 = 23 (saves)

    The flash strikes him in the head, but the halfing is too upset and too pumped with adrenaline for the magic to take hold.


    My short answer is "Yes, I think so".

    To "turn off" a spell, the spell's description has to include a "D" which means it is dismissable.

    Wall of fire does not have the required "D".

    However, it has a duration of concentration. Spells that require concentration are always considered dismissable, even without the "D".

    But, wall of fire is not just a concentration spell, it's a concentration spell plus an additional 1 round per level. You could argue that means once Hal dismisses it it continues for another 8 rounds.

    But I think it's implicit that even concentration + spells are dismissible. Otherwise the higher in level you get the less control you have over your own magic which is counter-intuitive. Also I can't find an example of a "concentration + rounds per level" spell which has the "D". That doesn't mean there isn't one, just that I didn't see one with a quick look.

    So "Yes, I think so" and it's a free action to do so.


    Pact Stone GM wrote:
    Breach Shattershield aka Javell wrote:
    Question: Did the wall not stop the non-dynamic duo?

    -

    I can't answer that for Breach at the present moment. Perhaps that is a question better posed to Karek or Halstadt.

    -

    Well now I can:

    No, it didn't. It is possible to pass through a wall of fire by taking damage.

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