At this point Karek begins his powerful but short-legged dash across the great white stone. Gandel falls in behind him, easily keeping up thanks to his ability to skate across any surface with his magic boots.
Karek runs 60 feet in a straight line south. Gandel double-moves. Just in case it matters, note that Karek loses his Dexterity bonus this round.
I was in the course of preparing what I had hoped would be a really funky post for Hrokon, when I belatedly realized: nobody can see him.
All I can tell you is Hrokon does not come crash landing down on the floor in front of Team Polymorph.
You can though hear loud noises from up atop the shaft, confusion or perhaps combat.
"The Neversword Rescue"
Initiative for Round 2
Low % roll equals Sceptre target's Hurgah.
High % roll equals Sceptre target's Moonpate (Hoffenburrow)
Percentage roll low vs high: 1d100 ⇒ 89 ("Success!")
Though I do despise a retcon. . .
Just before the bolt reaches the Dune Squad, Moonpate's famed ring commandeers the wizard's arm once again. It flings Moonpate's arm forward and forcibly waggles the wizard's fingers, ejecting the powerful store of energy hidden within the ring.
A second bolt, this one of a brilliant silver, races out to meet the first, canceling it out in a dazzling display of energy.
When the massive light show recedes, no one has been harmed.
-OK! I'll splash my thought process here.
Buzz kill here, but I see that a ring of counter spells does not work as against area effect spells. Lightning bolt is an area effect spell. The ring only works on spells that actually target the bearer.
While that's a correct ruling, in my view, it now causes some problems:
1. As he notes above, Moonpate loaded his ring with lightning bolt for the exact reason of countering a future sniper shot from Sceptre. He specifically alerted us that he was loading his ring with lightning bolt in a post and he recorded it on his sheet. Not realizing the problem at the time I didn't caution him. I feel like Moonpate would have known the limits of his own magic ring. One solution is to permit him to reload his ring with an alternate spell for which the ring will actually work.
2. Didn't the ring of counter spells previously work against the Sand Sage's merciful fireball during the distraction assault on khymrasa's camp? A strict ruling now causes a continuity problem. I might be able to harmonize that: we could say the Sand Sage was specifically targeting Moonpate, not an area. Why would he do that though? Maybe because a diviner who knows everything knows what Moonpate loads in his ring, and for reasons the Dune Squad still doesn't quite understand, he only wanted to look like he was battling the Dune Squad in their last encounter with him, rather than actually fight.
So here's what I'm going to do. We'll say Sceptre was specifically targeting an individual with his lightning bolt and not an area. We'll do that this one time only.
But here's the problem. How do we know Sceptre was actually targeting Moonpate? Well, OOC we know Sceptre mistakenly thinks Moonpate is Dr. Hoffenburrow and he's madly trying to kill him, so it's reasonable. But Hurgah was interposed in front and Sceptre's been trying to bag Hurgah almost since the start of the adventure. He could have been targeting either. It won't be Hal - the dwarf's just collateral damage at this point. Sceptre barely knows him, save for the one time he saw him when he emerged from the oasis after fleeing from Deca Jaws.
So we'll give it a 50/50 shot. If the spell targeted Hurgah it's going to fail.
That's going to suck though, I sure do love it when a plan comes together. . . so either way, I share Jace's view, well done Phrip.
Karek Kogan wrote:
-Roll away - Karek knows Hurgah was hit at least, and roughly where he is. Same goes for the rest of the Dune Squad.
That will buy me some time to catch up and sort out Moonpate's curve ball.
I should get the below cleared up though, as we'll need to know the answer to this before the start of the next round.
(I appreciate a map would have helped)
Pact Stone GM wrote:
Hurgah the Reaver wrote:
-Suddenly sheepish in the face of terrifying beast man, the halfling answers defensively:
"I was just agreeing with Beards over there," he says motioning to Halstadt with a turn of his head. "He's a wise man!"
Xaven has more to say, in a post to follow, but I have a sense that after that, Hurgah, or perhaps someone else, might just re-gag him. If not, more to follow. . .
Halstadt Morgrym wrote:
Hal trails behind the others to see if the Half-Orc follows his advice.
How far back does Team Polymorph want to withdraw? The best you could do would be sixty feet, but that might look like a hasty dash back as opposed to the cautious pull-back being described.
I've got Hal and Moonpate side-by-side with an enlarged Hurgah taking the rear.
Gandel and Karek approach the northern arch. But to Gandel’s disappointment the pictograms that adorn the arch, are not iconographic – that is to say, they do not match any known symbols that Gandel is aware of, or any of those found inside his collection.
However, his disappointment turns to delight when he realizes that what he is instead looking at is quite possibly just a straight up illustration. It doesn’t mean anything linguistically because it might just be a true picture.
On the arch is a depiction of four well adorned Osiriani aristocrats, three men, one female. They are standing inside what looks to be a large ring. Each has their empty hands pointing skyward, while their gaze is likewise drawn upwards.
He also makes one other observation. The bottom of the picture suggests it wraps around from the front of the arch – on the side you cannot see. You might be looking at the tail-end of something that begins on the other side.
Do Gandel and Karek dare to venture across the threshold of the arch? Beyond appears to be a corridor heading north which also eventually reaches a flight of stairs heading upwards.
Breach Shattershield aka Javell wrote:
. . . The only thing I'm needin' ta know now is: How the blazes do we get outta here?" He looks around, wondering which way is the right way.
-Yes, with no apparent way to get back to the upper level - the song tube appears to have been a one way trip - Breach would be experiencing a sense of confinement.
How does one get the heck out of Ahn'Sehlota?
And next up is. . .
Suddenly from the top of the shaft there is a horrible cry! The sound changes to a scream as someone is flung down the shaft. Whomever it is, they smash against the side of the tube like a bouncing ball and their cry is cut eerily short. A half-moment later, the corpse tumbles out the bottom of the shaft in the ceiling above you. The battered bag of corpse-flesh drops right in front of Hurgah with a disgusting crumple.
Although it is hard to make out now, based on his garb, the victim appears to have been one of Khymrasa’s Osiriani slaves.
Also, for anyone on Team Polymorph who can succeed on a DC 14 Heal check
Although, the dead slave clearly died from his fall, you can also see the tell-tale marks of pincer wounds. This looks to have been the savage work of Suekahn.
Hurgah the Reaver wrote:
. . . And now you have me wondering if Hrokon somehow knows more than we do, or if he was just making bluster that happened to be very true.
-I hadn't considered that. At the risk of lifting the veil, that line was a bizarre coincidence.
Hrokon has no idea that, technically, he is in far greater danger than his comrade he's trying to rescue. He doesn't know he's facing "The Pool" which is a pretty scary beast. Xaven, while quite neutralized (at least for the moment) probably stands to live a much longer life, for at least as long as the Pact exists.
Hurgah the Reaver wrote:
. . . On the other hand, if Hurgah had made a coup-de-grace against him, we would likely all have died.
Though that would have meant a complete TPK arising from a magical effect that, not only did it not provide for a save, the party wasn't even notified they were affected by it. And so they all died because they took a single simple action which under the circumstances was far from unreasonable.
That would be pretty harsh - even for me.
Fortunately, Halstadt's principled position made it unnecessary for me to chew my fingernails over that one.
The Neversword Factor
As it happens, the Dune Squad pool is even bigger than expected.
One extra person happened to be touching the giant white rock when the partial pact effect activated. His name is Xaven Neversword.
He shares in the pool, with all the benefits and all the draw backs.
This has a lot of ramifications. The most immediate of which is it is a good idea you all decided against murdering him - it would have gone poorly for the pool.
But geeeeeze - hopefully this partial pact thing isn't permanent!
A Partial Pact
OK, so now it's initiative.
Hal, you can re-roll. Let's keep it to Team Polymorph for now, but that will change very soon.
You see, for the entire Dune Squad, regardless of where they are, is suddenly aware that Hurgah was just injured.
Because they all felt it.
It just so happens that when the Dune Squad wandered on to the strange white rock, their fates were unknowingly intertwined in a deep and weird mystical way.
In game terms all of the Dune Squad (with one important exception) has now combined all of their hit points into one giant pool.
When anyone is hurt, the pool decreases.
When the pool runs out - you all die.
More accurately: When the pool hits zero, you are all disabled. When it goes into negatives you all get the unconscious and dying conditions. If the pool falls lower than the highest Con score of the Dune Squad, all pact participants die as if their had exceeded their own negative Con score.
The good news, is that's a humungous pool of hit points. It will take an awful lot of doing to deplete it. I haven't calculated the total yet, but Karek and Donkor alone, for example, are donating a lot of Hit points to the collective cause.
Better still, the clerics can heal the pool simply by healing themselves. Hopefully you will be feeling a bit immortal and a cocky enough to make a mistake going forward, because otherwise it will probably take a large army to drop you.
This "Pact" the Dune Squad now enjoys or suffers from depending on your point of view) is not total. It only applies to hit points. It does not include other effects like stunning or ability damage. Such effects remain individual. With one important exception: if for some reason, any individual member actually finds a way to die though, say by suicide or disease, every participant in the pool dies.
When I get a chance I am going to tally the new Dune Squad hit point pool and post it.
A split-second later, Hal's firebolt fires up the shaft. I totally missed this but it has a range of 30 feet, so it can't actually reach Hrokon above. But if it makes you feel any better it would have just missed in any event. A touch attack though was a very good strat against this particular opponent.
Well that’s a development!
We’ve got ourselves a bit of a chain reaction issue going on here – as there is one more log for the fire.
It turns out, and this may not be a huge surprise, Hrokon, has a readied action to fire his toy should the members of the Dune Squad attack (at least those members he can see).
Technically, I think RAW that makes Hrokon go first. As it happens, his readied action is to shoot Hurgah. In theory, while unlikely, it is possible Hurgah won’t be around to attempt such a grapple.
However, I think I’ve indicated before, that I find readied actions in Mexican stand-off situations very unsatisfying – especially since here, in a way what Hal did was arguably a readied action too. Instead – and you’ll forgive this departure because it works in your favor – I’d like an initiative roll between Halstadt and Hrokon. Hrokon has a +4 circumstance bonus on account of his readied action.
If Hal wins, Hurgah gets his attack of opportunity as described above. I guess since it is a spell-like ability it does draw.
And while I’m at it, perhaps Jace could confirm Hurgah’s AC when enlarged and protected by shield.
I'm predicting all of this rather interesting hoopla is going to result in a trio of anti-climactic misses.
Hurgah the Reaver wrote:
"Listen, when someone points a crossbow at me, I get irritated. And when I get irritated, I get angry. And when Hurgah the Reaver gets angry, thats when people accidentally get their heads bitten off. Now, I don't want that. And you don't want that. And our little tomb-raider here DEFINITLY doesn't want that. Now, we've been through too much crap to get here to just let you clowns just waltz in and grab the prize from under our noses. So how about you pack up the attitude and stop mistaking us for a bunch of spineless sell-swords fresh off the boat who would actually fall for bluster like that."
-OOC: I feel like this would have made a nice Oscar clip from Dune Squad, the movie.
Xerissa Auraraun wrote:
Hahaha! Nice one. HEY PACTSTONE! Our half-orc is cooler than your half-orc! Also, I bet that hand-crossbow, if that is what it is, has a range increment issue if he's at the top of a 60 or 100 foot shaft or whatever it is. P.S. I'll ID that potion for you once this new encounter is over.
-I'd say both these half-orcs are pretty cool, but I appreciate our respective biases.
Good point on the range increment - so noted.
It would be nice if the party alchemist successfully identified at least one potion this game.
Karek Kogan wrote:
Donkor, not wanting to be left alone, follows Xerissa and Breach. He examines whatever they are following and tries to determine if it is safe to grab.
-The Scarab does likewise. Though just like Donkor, she can't actually see whatever it is that Breach and Xerissa are stalking - at least not yet. The things damn near invisible. They do though have a pretty good idea of the vicinity as they can see Xerissa and Breach staring at it.
Halstadt Morgrym wrote:
If the half-orc speaks instead of dropping the x bow I interrupt with a fire bolt.
-The ambusher does not drop his weapon. He does attempt to start to reply, in which case Halstadt fires away as soon as his lips move.
I think I need to clarify something though. A few moments ago, Hurgah stepped in front of Moonpate and Halstadt. To some extent this does not matter as the parties are largely firing "up" and "down", but depending on the angles it could come into play.
Does Halstadt step away from Hurgah? (Losing the potential advantage of cover but ensuring he has a clear shot.)
Or does Halstadt fire from behind Hurgah (Retaining cover while potentially affording his opponent cover.)
Once I know this answer, there's more to come.
Meanwhile, Team Polymorph is only ten feet away from the firefly statue when. . .
Hurgah, still carrying the bound Xaven in one hand, suddenly comes to a stop as the tiny hairs on the back of his neck suddenly stand on end. Something’s wrong.
“That’s far enough,” a gruff echoing voice calls out.
It’s coming from above. More specifically, from that blasted shaft in the ceiling which leads to the mosaic room the Dune Squad previously came from.
The imperious command continues. “You’re in my sights. Put the halfling down and step away. Otherwise I’ll shoot you up with so much poison you’ll—“
At this Hurgah and Breach are able to look up the shaft and see the outline of a lone figure with a hand crossbow aimed at one of you. The figure also carries what looks to be an over-sized shield.
It sounds as though the ambusher has more to say, but I’m stopping there in case one of you intends to suddenly explode into action as PCs are wont to do.
In case it matters, Hurgah is still shielded and enlarged.
And I can't believe I neglected to comment on this!
Hurgah the Reaver wrote:
-That is an awesome name. I can't decide between "The Reaving Pharaoh" or "The Pharaoh of Reaving", but either way. . .
As a practical matter, assuming this was not mere musing on Jace's part, and assuming the Dune Squad really has found the fabled Pactstone, Hurgah does not currently know how he would use this over-sized rock to magically anoint himself a pharaoh. According to Lydia, Khymrasa does have this missing piece, or perhaps her aide, the Sand Sage does. But surely having actually secured the Pacstone is the greater part of the equation.
So to help us keep track of positioning, Breach's comment can be heard by:
Too far south, approaching the room with the shaft and firefly bas relief, is Team Polymorph:
Moonpate the Potentate
Too far north, approaching the north arch is:
For Breach and Xerissa only:
Xaven's backpack remains sitting in a pile of gear half-haphazardly piled near the room's center.
You have spotted something silently slither out of that backpack. Whatever it is, it has chameleon-like abilities. It blends with the floor, taking on the same soft-whit hue.
It looks vaguely like a net or perhaps a small rug. Whatever it is, it is silently making its way towards Team Polymorph.
There was an off-screen Perception check performed.
Karek Kogan wrote:
Anything in at least the west archway before Karek goes to protect the professor?
The west archway leads to a short set of stairs rising upwards. The stairs appear identical in size and length to the set the Dune Squad descended when it entered the chamber from the south entrance.
Looking ahead, Karek can see at the top of the stairs the corridor stretches onwards for about 20 feet or so. From there it appears to hit a T-section with branches headed north and south.
No signs of life (or unlife).
Gandel Trapspringer aka Dennis wrote:
Gandel would like to cast a second dancing lights spell and use it to shed more light on the room. Does there appear to be any further hieroglyphs or any mechanism that may activate motion for the room?
-Unfortunately the spell description provides that you can only have one dancing lights spell in effect at any given time (the equivalent for 4 torches).
I think the reason for this is because now that the spell is a cantrip (level-0 spell) if you could cast it more than once you could have infinite dancing lights.
Gandel has spotted hieroglyphs on the far arch way to the north. He cannot read them from here (the center of the room) though. Headed that way?
Karek Kogan wrote:
He's also looking out for any, y'know, creatures. Like vampires, or demons, or monks, or Sceptres, or whatever.
-I see Karek recalls Donkor's most recent divination warned of creatures that from their description Moonpate suspects are vampires. Definitely something would want to watch out for.
The Secret of Ahn'Sehlota
Through a combination of tapwork and his inherent stonecunning abilities, Karek determines that the floor is just the top of a gigantic single stone, spearing down into the earth. Whatever this white rock is, it goes deep - very deep. He's getting a 'tip of the iceberg' or 'thin edge of the wedge' feel.
Yeah, somebody went to great pains to hide or protect this white rock, by building an entire pyramid overtop of it.
On to the west archway. . .
Hurgah the Reaver wrote:
I have no idea of how long it's been, but I suspect both Hurgah's shield spell and the enlarge might be on their last couple of minutes, even considering their metamagic extension.
-Thanks for that - for simplicity let's say he's got a minute left on each. Quite some time was spent on the slow march chasing Xaven out into the giant circular chamber. By the time he's done with Xaven's transformation, they should be expired.
OK! So we have "Team Polymorph" (Hurgah, Moonpate and Halstadt) headed back south to the lower level firefly bas relief in order to transform the tied, gagged and blind-folded Xaven and then re-capture him inside a flask, possibly Hurgah's fang flask.
The balance "Team Conspirators" are going to remain in the giant chamber next to Xaven's stuff and continue to examine the strange chamber and discuss what to do with what they think they have found.
Halstadt Morgrym wrote:
Hal will approach the Halfling with his axe out in front of him and begin to search him.
-Hal quickly disarms the halfling, acquiring Neversword's sap, his sling, a weapon that looks something like a morning star and at least two daggers (all of it size-Small).
Morgrym finds the halfling has a lot of equipment dangling on his body with straps or held in quick access pockets and belt pouches. Much of it is strange gear-like contraptions, which are beyond Hal's ability to identify. His best guess is it is an elaborate collection of thieves tools.
Halstadt has though found six stoppered flasks so far, and Hal knows enough to know that's a good sign - unless they're poison flasks of course.
There's also a thunderstone, a smokestick and a tanglefoot bag.
All of this without searching the halfling pack - does Halstadt's search include his pack?
Jacob Trier wrote:
Fun fact: While I'm having a fantastic time, I also can't wait for this adventure to conclude, so I can run off and read the adventure to figure out just how much of our crazy antics have deviated from what is actually in there.
Thanks for that. I too am keen to reach the end as I think we've all invested too much at this point not to make it! We'll have to drag each other over the finish line. I'm not sure the game can survive the loss of another player so everyone hang in.
[This is all code for my posting might be spotty next week.]
But what I wanted to mention was if you don't have a copy and are still interested, the module has gone on sale through Paizo for only 2 bucks this month. Though shipping cost might be an issue depending on location.
Karek is now aware of all the information in the post above titled "Gandel's Discovery".
He believes the two separate structures are both independently stable and doesn't see any indication it is rigged to come crashing down - then again he is not a professional trap detector.
Karek thinks Xaven is indeed a shifty type, but as far as his detective training goes, he can't see any indication the tomb raider has been anything other than truthful. His attitude seems to be that he has nothing to hide.
I re-rolled your Sense Motive off screen.
As for the rest of the party, Karek can sense the Dune Squad is starting to get a bit edgy. The constant pressure is starting to wear on them. They could use some R&R but will likely have to go without for some time.