The Council of Thieves Adventure Path campaign is due to start as soon as everyone's schedule will permit, hopefully this coming weekend.
This campaign will inaugurate our group to non-society Pathfinder RPG play, with the intent to transition the player characters from CoT to Kingmaker, sprinkling bits and pieces from RotRL, 2D and LoF, most likely during the journey from Cheliax to the River Kingdoms. Beyond that remains to be seen...
Characters are generated on the 25 point buy with 175 gp starting wealth, 1 campaign trait and 2 "regular" traits gratis. Any one who chooses to play a tiefling has to select the pertinent campaign trait from the CoT Player's Guide.
I believe we have:
More info as it comes up!
I look forward to reading about your next campaign. As the Saturday group won't likely be venturing into the adventures you've selected for use, it will be the only read on the council of thieves, and the rest that I'll get. Enjoy.
^_^ That's the plan good sir, that's the plan.
I look forward to reading about your next campaign. Let me guess, da Pimp is playing the Rogue/Arcane Trickster?
Da Pimp is playing the would-be Arcane Trickster - my presumption is that his character is starting out as a Rogue before going one of the flavors of arcane caster. Generally Wizard is the choice, but there is no way to know until the multiclassing begins.
Ineptus apparently is stepping into the shoes of a yet-to-be-specified-divine-following Cleric.
Torsin is the Paladin - of either Iomedae or Saranrae, although I'm leaning towards the former as a guess. I believe the long-term plan is to take Paladin/Wizard, then either Eldritch Knight or Mystic Theurge. THIS will truly be a unique character to see in play ...
Jade is the Fighter going to Eldritch Knight - which arcane path she will undertake remains to be seen. I suppose it will depend on whether or not she starts with a 'mysterious spellbook' (which I highly recommend as a requirement for anyone intent on undertaking the EK PrC).
Da Fighter of Ranco fame (from the CotCT Beta playtest) is playing a Monk. Perhaps we will have another character making boots from his own feet...
To my players: I request that you spend the 15 gp for the blank 3 lb. wizard's spellbook from your starting equipment if you plan to multiclass into Wizard at a later point in your character's development.
Allen Stewart wrote:
Especially since he has already had one snuffed mightily ... Da Original Pimp, to be precise.
Eh, some players stick themselves in ruts... I've got one who will play a sorcerer unless you threaten to beat him with something blunt. And even if you manage to accomplish that, you keep having to raise the threatening object to prevent him from playing a psion or monk. Getting him to play "different" is like pulling teeth....
Turin the Mad wrote:
Did you can the original in the Sunday Savage Tide? I know I blasted 1 of Da Pimp's PCs with that infamous "Blasphemy heard around the world," which was then followed by a second demise of Da Pimp's character by your monstrous Kraken, on the same day no less. Ahh, the good old days...
Da Original Pimp died in that super-nasty "Death by One Thousand Destructions" trap from a certain module - largely due to misinterpreting the (admittedly minimal) instructions that came with the McGuffin to bypass it. This was prior to actually departing Sasserine in the STAP, correct.
Eh, some players stick themselves in ruts... I've got one who will play a sorcerer unless you threaten to beat him with something blunt. And even if you manage to accomplish that, you keep having to raise the threatening object to prevent him from playing a psion or monk. Getting him to play "different" is like pulling teeth....
Ayup, most players tend to do that I've noticed. Play in "a rut", at least for a time, or try out 'something new' before a messy demise sends them back to that which is comfortable.
With the new rules, character traits and Golarion as a campaign world, I'm having no problem doing something new - ironically, with my "old standby" classes because what they get to play with now are just plain fun.
PFS is also a good venue to experiment with - although depending on the scenario messy deaths can be frequent.
This past weekend I scored 1 permanent and 1 "temporary" character death. "Temporary" as in other players floated the gp to have the 3rd level character raised and restoration'd back into fighting form. That was an excellent scenario ... I almost had a TPK. Three character deaths so far in nine sessions of PFS play - I look forward to more - CoT is positively ripe with "dead by stupidity" moments, but not much else until Chapter 2 when Sir Richard Pett's "opus of the year" draws on the playwright skills of Knave Logue.
Chapter 2 of CoT is going to be FUN!! The players may even enjoy it too ...
And the Council of Thieves is slated to officially begin tomorrow afternoon - huzzah and huzzah!
Now, all I need are a few bad judgment calls ...
Oh, and the debut of the "Arrestor" is tomorrow as well. Time shall tell if the player characters actually taste the class' abilities or not.
Council of Thieves: The Bastards of Erebus, 1st Session
Dramatis Personae The characters' names are yet-to-be-determined, perhaps in anticipation of messy character deaths in the early part of the adventure path. The players' current 'handles' are shown for those who are following the campaign journal.
Third Starday of the month of Arodus in the 4709th year of Absolom Reckoning
Janiven invites the five player characters to attend an early supper meeting on this last work day of the week at four o' the clock, a few hours before sundown. The meeting took place at Vizio's Tavern, a large waterfront establishment named after the family that used to own the place before the passing of the clan patriarch. This let me use the handy flip-mat of the same name for the mat.
Several of the characters investigated the woman Janiven, finding that she is highly recommended in her work as a caravan guard, city guide and bodyguard. In this last capacity she currently enjoys the dubious distinction of having dragged her client half-dressed from a house of ill-repute so that the sorry sod wouldn't be eaten alive by the shadowy things that stalk the unlit streets from sunset to sunrise. The theory is that keeping the streets that are kept dark so as to prevent criminal activity...
Vizio's Tavern was once a place where guards working for mercantile guilds went to relax, gripe about their employers and seek more work. Several months ago the surviving family of the Vizio clan moved to distant Corentyn to live with kin. They also picked up on a new pair of owners - a woman matching Janiven's description and a half-elf man - having been taking their sweet time in reopening the tavern for business.
Janiven served a passable supper after giving the characters some time to introduce themselves to one another. Sir Ineptus picked up on her being worried about something as she glanced at the doors every few minutes before she locks the doors, shutters the windows and braces herself to make her pitch.
The gist of the pitch is that Westcrown should be free of the shadowy beasts that stalk the streets at night and that the safety from famine and war is too dearly bought in the coin of fear and obeisance to Diabolism. They should earn the admiration, respect and trust of the people of Westcrown. First to liberate the streets of the fell things of shadow, later perhaps to free the city from the yoke of the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune that has held the reigns of power in the nation of Cheliax these past 70-odd years.
Her words are of course treason, and the characters know it. Everyone knows a friend of a friend of a friend - or some one much closer to the heart - that has been taken away by a Hellknight or publicly executed after a swift trial for speaking words less treasonous than these.
As the player characters mulled these words over, an excited pounding hammered at the door. Janiven moves to the door with Da Pimp in tow, pops the view port open on the door, then swiftly lets in an out-of-breath and frightened-looking teenager by the name of Morosino. "They've got Arael!" The poor boy doubles over in a fit of coughing after his long run. Recovering, he sputters "The dottari nabbed Arael, the Hellknights of the Rack are trying to get custody of him! There's a bunch of Hellknights on their way here now! I only just made it here - they've already surrounded us!"
Unbeknownst to Our Heroes, there are 18 Hellknights, mostly grubastic Armigers lead by a trio of Sergeants (Fighter 3s), two Arrestor Lieutenants (Arrestor 4s) and an Arrestor Captain (Arrestor 7th). Arrestors are my 'spin' on a Lawful-variant Paladin.
Da Pimp, from his view point at the front door, easily sees three half-dozens of Hellknights approaching the tavern from both landward angles of approach. Janiven grabs the boy and hurries to the bar as the characters act quickly. "We must flee and quickly lest the Hellknights arrest us all."
This particular Hellknight Order is also the oldest of the orders - and particularly obsessed with preventing rebellion at almost any cost. Known as the Order of the Rack, the order has gotten lax over the centuries, overconfident, arrogant and often condescending to the general populace of the city.
With Janiven bringing up the rear, perhaps half of a minute ahead of the portable ram-toting Hellknights battering open the doors, the characters wisely beat a hasty retreat into the sewers of Westcrown rather than tackle what would probably be a very unpleasant capture and incarceration in the dreaded Hellknight Citadel Rivad. After Janiven explains the markings that should eventually lead the characters to a safe house elsewhere in the city, she unveals from a hidden cache in the wall of the sewer a small chest chock full of small vials filled with a light red liquid. "These are magical potions that restore light wounds - given that the Hellknights are going to doggedly pursue us all through the sewers for who knows how long, this is our best option to lose them without having to make camp in these sewers." Each player character is handed three potions of cure light wounds. She takes Morosino and departs, hoping that at least one of the groups makes it unmolested to the safe house.
I used the Sewers Map-pack for running the 'gauntlet' through the sewers of Westcrown rather than spend valuable time drawing out a series of hand-doodled encounter areas. These things are great, although I'm finding my preference is for the map packs rather than the flip-mats unless you have the ability to flatten the flip-mats in advance of play.
Our heroes wind their way through the sewers, first tangling with a trio of Hellknight Armigers on patrol - peons barely qualified to be considered Hellknights that were a hodgepodge armor stylized to closely resemble the plate armor worn by full Hellknights, they nonetheless represent a legitimate threat to a first level party. The armigers were busy squabbling with each other about which way to go, having set torches in sconces on the walls of the intersection they were standing in. The party struck - and many missed attack rolls ensued. The fight was a first-level slobberknocker as arrows whistled by ears, crossbow bolts flew thick and fast and melee ensued, with even more missed attack rolls, missed attacks of opportunity and just outright d20 hilarity ensued. Da Fighter's monk ate a critical sword blow, but stabilized at -2 hit points - and fortunately had not landed face down in the sewage. Slowly but surely the player characters pressed the assault, eventually getting a break when Maximilian tossed a torch onto the one wounded armiger twinking away with a light crossbow, hitting hard enough to drop the poor guy - and setting his soon-to-be-corpse on fire.
The octet of torbles proved entertaining - and the player characters I do not believe ever dealt less than the six hp per hit to outright kill a torble with each hit (that actually connected). Da Fighter's monk was once more on the receiving end of a critical hit by my dice - suffering a rather indignant critical hit dealing two points of torble mastication plus two points of acid damage. The torbles were pretty quickly put down in a messy, permanent state of death. Torbles, also known as ooze bugs (among less-formal circles) or chordoplams among the snobbish elite, are the rats of the sewers of Westcrown. Hand-sized spindly-legged blobs with antennae, they are some times adopted by alchemically-inclined arcanists as familiars.
Winding through a narrow single-file stretch of the Westcrown sewers, the player characters found out the hard way about how nasty a Pathfinder goblin with a rogue level is at Stealth - no one beat the DC 32 Stealth check by the goblin (17 +15!), so the aggressive football-headed little bugger hopped out of his hidey-hole behind the paladin, swung twice with his dogslicers - and scored an amazing 5 hit points or so of damage. Stunned at his combat prowess, the little scamp skittered off down the hallway behind the party, barely brought to ground by Maximilian via torch-imbued fiery death. At least the goblin rogue died happy, as only a goblin would truly enjoy death by Tiberium Candle Dance.
Later still they run into a trio of goblin rogues, rather handily slaughtering the sorry buggers. They enjoyed the cadence of the goblin song - sadly, no one spoke Goblin. One goblin died laughing at his fellows as Da Fighter held one in a grapple whilst Jade proceeded to gut him like a fish while Da Pimp skewered another like an ovoid shish kabob.
Later even further still they hear the clattering of walking bones. A trio of human skeletons and - as they found out - a pair of shambling zombies were the order of the hour. Fortunately for the player characters, they kept it mostly together, driving off undead via Ineptus' turn undead feat whilst Jade, Da Fighter and Da Pimp pummelled bones - Da Pimp by way of using his longspear as an improvised, seriously overlong baseball bat - and cleaved hungry flesh into so many piles of spell components and torble-kibble. Luckily for the heroes, it turns out that another Hellknight patrol had gotten themselves entagled with what was once a vastly larger horde of animated dead as attested to by a hallway virtually perforated by imbedded crossbow bolts, pulverized bones and hewn twice-dead corpses.
Along a quiet, almost dusty stretch of the sewers what must have been an hour or two since the last encounter they spotted a quartet of man-sized purple 'shrooms lurking amidst a massive archway. Knowledge (dungeoneering) checks flew, recognizing shriekers for what they are. Swift snicker-snacking by Da Pimp followed by focused-fire light crossbow volleys made short work of the shriekers - but not before one had briefly had time to scream its alarm.
Not far behind the noisesome hallucinogen sources an enormous 15-foot archway sat, etched in a dozen or more languages with the following inscription:
"To seek guidance without
A short distance beyond - perhaps five yards - a spiked silvery-metal banded arch softly emitting an azure light lurked past the inscribed portal. The actinic flicker of electrical energy plays from spike to spike, occassionally vaporizing a torble or other vermin that crossed close to or flew through the archway to the dark area beyond. Wisely, the player characters elected to continue moving on rather than brave what would almost certainly have equated to a giant bug-zapper...
Once again I love that the CoT presents opportunities for overconfident - or, better still, arrogant - players to get their characters permanently deceased in a right hurry. First with the Hellknights moving in to arrest them (admittedly not likely to be a TPK as I had statted them up, though pretty close to guaranteed to result in a few months of very unpleasant hard labor incarceration) and second with a "special" encounter in the sewer system itself. I truly hope to see more of this both in the Council of Thieves as well as in future adventure paths!
As they continued schlepping through the sewers, they manage to uncover a minor cache of coin, costume jewelry and another pair of potions of cure light wounds. At long last they finally escape into the surface streets once more, behind a condemned Shrine of Aroden - the fallen Gawd of Humanity, formerly the patron diety of Cheliax.
Our Heroes leave the next morning after breaking fast with Janiven to sell their loot, make some minor purchases and return discreetly to the shrine (that is the size of a cathedral - guess Aroden's followers didn't do "small"). Upon returning, they find Janiven, Morosino, Amaya, Ermolos, Fiosa, Gorvio, Larko, Mathalen, Rizzardo, Sclavo, Tarvi, Vitti and Yakopulio in an energetic discussion about what to call themselves as a group and what kind of emblem or symbolism they would use to represent themselves when acting to make things better for their fellow citizens of Westcrown.
Our heroes decide to call themselves - and by extension the entire group of technical traitors - the "Disciples of Starfall", wearing white tabards depicting a symbol representing the Starfall and using either hooded cloak, mask or full helm to hide their faces.
Several days pass as the first set of crude tabards are fashioned when the news arrives: Arael, founding member of the newly-named Disciples of Starfall, is being transferred from the custody of dottari to Citadel Rivad, under the "gentle" escort of the Order of the Rack. A cunning plan involving the NPCs (save Jade's boy-toy Maximilian) drawing off the Hellknight cavalry into a prepared field of caltrops whilst the characters liberate Arael from the prison carriage. They prepared either end of the bridge with oil, lay in ambush primarily at the west end (towards the citadel) with Da Pimp behind the intended ambush point at the east end of the bridge.
The ambush is executed perfectly - the cavalry mocking the amateurs on the road some 200 yards ahead arrogantly ride into mayhem and foolishness as the NPCs scatter like cockroaches in a suddenly bright room. The player characters are not nearly so nice, despite advice from Janiven that killing the Hellknights might not be in the long-term interest of the Disciples of Starfall.
Maximilian, having been instructed to toss a torch on the western-end oil patch, handily beats the rest of the group on initiative. One of his talents they found out about in the sewers was his ability to ignite and quench torches seemingly at will. Rather handy for a torchbearer. The toss went off well, then mayhem and violence ensued.
The sorry Armiger manning the small ballista atop the prison carriage was perforated in short order, whilst the 1st level cleric of Asmodeus effectively amounted to little more than an arrow-and-action sink, his horrid demise sealed by alchemist's fire. Maximilian proved to be very adept at using his heavy wooden shield to protect himself, as neither crossbow bolt nor sword blade found his skin. With the benefit of the Quick Draw, Catch Off-guard and Throw Anything feats (being a 1st level Fighter) the combination of hot GM dice saw the hired help score multiple critical hits against the sorry Armigers - resulting in the first being pulled into the western patch of burning oil and two more Armigers being criticalled in the face with a lit torch - multiple Tiberium Candle Dances ensued. The four heavy horse Armigers, huffing and puffing as they ran back to the carriage, are ruthlessly mowed down in a hail of arrows and crossbow bolts. All eleven of them are decapitated, their heads piked atop the bridge - with the tabards of the Disciples of Starfall affixed to several of the pikes - and the loot thoroughly plundered. The headless bodies are tossed into the river.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, our heroes come up with the bright idea to frame Whitechin the self-styled Goblin King as responsible for the murdered Hellknights. Immediately they set off to Whitechin's unfinished lair, setting about getting a pretty rough scrap with Whitechin (goblin ranger), Blackeyes (goblin bard), Rednails (goblin sorceress - abyssal bloodline), a goblin dog and four goblin mooks. After two sleep spells and a few thorough whuppings, the group staggers back to the scene of the crime, loads the goblin corpses into the carriage then fires the vehicle.
Whilst the corpses of the Hellknights can tell no tales - by autopsy or magic - the complete lack of goblin scat and tracks - as well as the complete lack of dead horses - will easily put truth to the attempted cover-up. There will certainly be rumors and speculation regarding whether or not the Disciples of Starfall are somehow enlisting the aid of lowly goblins. And rest assured that Hellknight Captain Ferruccio Pugnochioso - who had led the attempted arrests at Vizio's Tavern about a week prior - will not easily be dissuaded in his investigations...
At the end of the session, the group has earned enough XP to exactly make 2nd level, resulting in:
The characters have earned two (2) Fame Points, reunited Arael with the rest of the Disciples of Starfall and are on the cusp of making both a chance encounter and an important decision in light of the letter from the mayor of Westcrown to Citadel Rivad regarding a second request that the Order of the Rack deal with a group of bandits called the "Bastards of Erebus"...
Turin the Mad wrote:
I am loving this house-rule for permitting both players and NPCs - such as the aforementioned Hellknight Captain Ferruccio Pugnochioso - to add some more depth and 'flavor'. Such as said Captain's Profession (investigator) skill ...
As a side note, the torch-waving henchman Maximilian cannot at the present time select Weapon Focus (Improvised) as the rules currently stand. So as part of his back story, he has been busy crafting a few things ... the main one of which will come into play at the end of the Bastards of Erebus Chapter of the thus-far enjoyable Council of Thieves adventure path.
The real carnage should begin next session when Our Heroes tangle with the Bastards themselves in a single-location slobberknocker that will generate the experience points necessary to launch the fledgling adventurers to the lofty heights of 3rd level.
Will Our Heroes die en masse to the nefarious banditry of the Bastards of Erebus? What is the story with Maximilian? For that matter, what the he*ck are the player characters' NAMES?! Why does the henchman have a name and not one of the rest of the actual player characters do? What does the henchman eat for lunch while adventuring? Are the Bastards of Erebus loaded to the gills with loot and swag?
And what will our heroes DO with nearly thirty potions of cure light wounds?
Although I do believe Da Fighter's monk has a couple of "non significant" pets - the first a unique tiny viper that secrets a poison analagous to drow sleep venom, the second a young twelve pound meatloaf of a house cat dubbed "Tribble". Said cat is *mine*, and doubles as a Tarrasque emerging from its slumber ... The viper is merely a backstory explanation for how he will be able to make Craft (alchemy) checks to acquire his own supply of that same poison. He still has to (a) make the Craft checks, and (b) pay the materials costs, so I'm ok with that.
For the edification of others, I staged Whitechin as follows:
“Yappy B*tch” Female goblin dog (CR 1, 400 xp) [Pathfinder #1, p. 87, CMB +2, CMD 14]
Four goblin mooks [Dungeon Denizens Revisited, CMB +0, CMD 10]
Speed 20 ft (due to encumbrance), Init +3
Senses: darkvision 60 ft, Perception +5
AC 18, touch 14, flat-footed 15, flat-footed touch 11
Hit Points: 15 Fort +1, Reflex +6, Will +3
6 Str, 16 Dex, 12 Con, 13 Int, 10 Wis, 17 Cha
Traits: Focused Mind (total +7 for concentration checks), Armor Expert
BAB +1, Melee AB -1, Finesse/Ranged AB +4, CMB +3, CMD 10
SQ/SA: Bardic Performance (9 rounds/day), Bardic Knowledge +1, Well-Versed
Skills: Perform (sing [versatile = bluff, sense motive]) & (dance) +8, Acrobatics +8 = +5, Climb +3 = +0, Diplomacy +8, Escape Artist +8 = +5, Knowledge (local) +6, Linguistics +6, Perception +5, Ride +7, Stealth +16 = +13
Languages:Goblin, Common, Varisian, Draconic and Elven
Mwk chain shirt, Mwk light steel shield, shortbow, quiver of 20 mwk arrows, whip, dagger, traveler's outfit (medium encumbrance)
Shortbow +5 ranged attack (1d4-2)
Blackeyes has a serious weakness for booze - offering high quality alchoholic beverages as part of an attempt at Diplomacy counteracts the usual -10 penalty for attempting such a check in less than a minute.
I will post the other two goblins on the morrow.
Allen Stewart wrote:
Fantastic Turin. I always enjoy your stat blocks. They never disappoint. They should have you working at Paizo.
^_^ There is always the next round of Society Open Calls ...
Keep in mind that I'm rather simplifying the stat blocks I use in play - it's much easier for me to have pretty much everything statted up in advance on my homebrew blocks.
BTW, I sent you the CR 12 revision of Belphorax ... he should be satisfactory.
Allen Stewart wrote:
Many thanks. I have the sinister critter in my maniacal paws at this moment. I expect to team him with Cardinal Devious during the big confrontation slated for December of this year. The PCs will be level 9 at the time of the encounter in December.
Ah, well, then the *cough*dragon*cough* perhaps will not be necessary then ...
Tomorrow-ish - well, Sunday the 27th of September - Our Heroes Five (plus Henchman) assail the Bastards of Erebus' stronghold... will they prevail, or wind up reincarnated after a lengthy period of being dead?
Stay tuned for the gory details!
Turin the Mad wrote:
*cough* Perhaps not, but they'll nonetheless run into the "pink dragon" on (I think) October 17; and our favorite dragon, "Scorch" will see action against the PCs in late January or early February of 2010...*cough*
Allen Stewart wrote:
Heh heh heh ...
NE Female Goblin Sorceress 2 (Abyssal bloodline); CR 1 (400 xp)
Hit Points: 14 (2d6 +2 Con +2 favored class)
Speed: 30 feet
Senses: Darkvision 60 feet; Perception +0, Sense Motive +0
Initiative +3 (Dex)
Ability Scores: Str 6, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 10, Cha 17
Traits: Focused Mind (+7 total concentration check bonus), Sorcerous Aptitude (levels of sorcerer grant both the bonus hp and skill rank from favored class)
SQ: Bloodline Arcana (summoning subschool spells grant DR 1/good to the creatures summoned)
Base Attack +1
Skills (5): Craft (traps) +6, Knowledge (planes) +6, Ride +8, Spellcraft +6, Stealth +12, Use Magic Device +8
Languages: Abyssal, Common and Goblin
Spontaneous Arcane Spellcasting:
Gear: Small Traveler's Outfit (1 1/4 lbs); stash of 780 gp; red-painted finger and toe nails (she wears sandals and fingerless gloves to show off her 'pretty' nails)
Tactics: Rednails when encountered is just polishing off one of her favorite things in the world - an enormous bar of chocolate, mostly visible as brown smears on her hands and around her mouth. She loses it when either the goblins' goblin dog(s) are fragged or her summoned "goblin dogs" are killed off by "big meanies". However, she has a serious sweet tooth - offers incorporating 10 gp or more worth of confections offset the standard -10 penalty to attempt a Diplomacy check in less than a minute.
Since there was no available stat block for a fiendish riding dog - in Rednail's case, "Goblin Dogs from the Maelstrom" - I put together the following stat block for any such pooches that she did manage to summon:
"Goblin Dogs from the Maelstrom"
NE Medium Magical Beast (Augmented Animal, Extraplanar)
Hit Points: 13 each (2d8 HD +4 Con)
Base Attack +1
Smite Good (Su) 1/day: As a paladin's Smite Evil; doubled damage bonus applies to good-aligned dragons, outsiders with the good subtype and Paladins
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 3, Wis 12, Cha 6
Feats: Alertness, Iron Will
Skills: Acrobatics +8, Perception +5, Swim +3, Survival +3 (+7 to track by scent)
And last but not least, the mildly infamous, self-styled ...
Goblin King Whitechin
NE Male Goblin Ranger 2; CR 1 (400 xp)
Hit Points: 20 (2d10 +4 CON)
Speed: 30 feet
Senses: Darkvision 60 feet, Perception +9
SQ: Track +1, Wild Empathy (d20+4 or d20), Favored Enemy (human) +2
Traits: Suspicious, World Traveler
Base Attack +2
Gear: Mwk studded leather, Mwk greatsword, dagger, shortbow, quiver of 20 mwk arrows, trap maker's tools
Feats: Iron Will, Point Blank Shot
Skills: Craft (traps) +7, Handle Animal +7, Heal +7, Knowledge (local) +8, Perception +7, Ride +12, Sense Motive +8, Stealth +16, Survival +7 (track = +8)
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 17, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 15
Languages: Common, Elven, Goblin and Varisian
Bastards of Erebus, Session 2 of 2
Our Heroes are tasked by Gorvio to return the horses that the Disciples of Starfall "borrowed" to lay the ambush of the Order of the Rack's prison carriage last session.
Upon arriving at the stables in question near one of the city gates, an arrogant jack-ass known as a local actor and opera singer of some repute by the overlong name of Thesing Umbero Ulvauno was berating Uncle Jacovo.
Turning on the characters, he asserted that the very horses that they borrowed are perfect for the evening's "impromptu" performance of The Elopement of the Dowager Princess.
"So, we need to keep them for a few more days on behalf of Sebastian Bellasarra. Who are you again?" As it turns out, Sebastian is Ulvauno's arch-rival on the stage scene of the city of Westcrown. Torsin tossed Uncle Jacovo a gold piece for the additional rent of the horses, then Our Heroes returned to more important affairs. Da Pimp faintly heard the wet smack of fish on face as Uncle Jacovo gave Ulvauno some comeuppance.
Later that night Da Fighter and Jade attended Ulvauno's less-than-stellar performance of the aforementioned play, earmarked by not-quite-good-enough singing and an actor getting his chest nearly stove in by a horse.
At the end of the week Our Heroes are approached by Arael and Janiven with more solid information about the wretched band of villainous tiefling scum known as the Bastards of Erebus. Being ever-inventive, Our Heroes elect to ambush the Bastards at what their gathering of information determines to be the next best target: an armorer that should be completing two suits of full plate armor commissioned by the Hellknights.
Da Pimp sneaks into the armorer's house during the dead of night while the other four characters and the henchman wait outside across the street in a derelict stable. He fails to rig the armor suits to noisesomely collapse, though he sneaks around upstairs and locates the armorer's safe in the floor. However, he does make ready to toss a table down from the upper floor to the lower...
Meanwhile, outside Jade readies her new wand of sleep with 10 charges while Torsin readies her longbow and Ineptus with Da Fighter ready light crossbows.
As the four Bastards quietly break in to the armorer's shop, nerves tense but itchy trigger fingers are wisely held back. As the first two exit the shop with bags in tow, all Hades breaks loose.
Da Pimp tosses a table from above onto an unsuspecting Bastard, directly clobbering the unsuspecting thug for 13 points of sneak attack damage as he cried out "Thieves! Thieves!".
Crossbow bolts and an arrow flew across from the stable to the two sods outside as a sleep dropped in their midst. While the arrow missed, each thug ate a crossbow bolt as the magical sleep sent them all to la-la land. Da Pimp stepped off to the side as the armorer woke, candle stick in hand ... and was whalloped up the back of his head with a sneak-attack sap, being punched out like a light. His wife comes out, blows her Perception check ... and has her lights punched out by way of sap as well.
Da Fighter's Monk grabs the candlestick and brains the four thugs, saving the fourth for last as the thugs are killed off in such a way as to portray the innocuous armorer as a true hero of the people, having bravely fought off the Bastards of Erebus, with an "unknown party" making off with the two suits of armor and the 500 gp stashed in the armorer's safe.
At sunrise, Our Heroes make their way to the lair of the Bastards of Erebus, approaching as it turns out by the woodcarver's house. They hear two people inside "going at it", then they see the look out at the top of the bell tower. A sleep fails to take the guard out, but a volley of crossbow bolts and arrows mow the sorry sod down in a violent perforation fest.
Sneaking up to the next building, they catch a trio of thugs literally with their britches down. Da Pimp impales one from behind via sneak attack long spear death, then barks an impressive Intimidate check: "Surrender." Not being particularly fond of the idea of death before breakfast, the two survivors do, are bound and gagged, then sapped into never-never land.
Our Heroes continue sneaking across to the derelict church of Erastil, hear the poor dog Scabby snoozing at the front door. They are successful in stealthily opening the door, bypassing the lock and sapping the dog into doggy nap-time. They lay the pooch outside, enter and secure the door behind them.
Descending the door they open the door into the Ancient Crypt (area G2), with the odd feature of a plethora of pillows on the floor. Da Pimp sneaks forward, skewers one of the thugs - slaying the thug outright - followed by another sleep that dropped one of the three thugs into nap time.
Ostengo fled after magic missiling the rogue, just making it 'round the corner. The thugs hold their own for a little while before one getting his throat ripped out by the monk's Belier's Bite feat, rapidly bleeding to death. Maximilian winds up spending two full-round actions coup-de-gras'ing (via torch) the dying and the sleeping tiefling thugs.
As the monk seeks to chase Ostengo down, he rounds the corner ... and sees a trio of slavering Heck Dawgs, then beats a hasty retreat back closer to his allies. The Heck Dawgs and Ostengo valiantly attempt to maul Da Pimp, but two consecutive sleep spells and concentrated firepower eventually put to messy demises all three mutts and the "mummy"-looking tiefling sorcerer.
Patching up wounds and looting the fallen, Da Pimp discovers a secret door. The characters also notice that reinforcements appear to be coming down a narrow corridor broken about thirty feet away by a short set of stairs leading up to a barricaded door.
The characters set up to maximize their concentrated threatened area, and many missed attack rolls ensue. Seven tiefling mooks, Vethamer and Dravano the Digger are in a line extending up the hallway - Vethamer and Dravano are the last two in the line.
The first to fall is the monk, the extremely unfortunate recipient of two nat-20 die rolls (confirming the critical hit) from a volley of five crossbow bolts, placing him at 2 hit points before a magic missile from Vethamer perforates him and dropping him to -1 hp. Ineptus' cleric channels positive energy, restoring enough hp to the group to return the monk to functioning form.
Jade spends two consecutive rounds exercising her +9 Intimidate bonus in combination with her Dazzling Display feat, sending six of the seven mooks in a frightened scramble away from the scary woman with the gore-streaked sword. Two mooks start ripping the boards off of the boarded-up door, rather to Vethamer's dismay. The seventh mook teams up with one of the other frightened thugs, accelerating most rapidly the dismantling of the boards securing the portal shut.
Drevano charged down the hallway, tangling with clawed hands with the paladin - who declared him her smite - the fighter/sorcerer, the monk and for a time the rogue/wizard. His 18 AC and 24 hp hold him in good stead for a protracted period ...
However, things got really ugly for the Bastards when the two thugs ripped down the last boards and booted open the door into the basement of the Shoemaker's House. The Giant Rot Grub of Doom critical-chow-pounced the first thug, killing him in a single bloody bath of innards. As the characters lay the beat down on Drevano, the grub dropped the next thug, then - as Da Pimp's well-placed flask of alchemist's fire bathed a 15' stretch of hallway in cleansing fire - bound off after Vethamar's girly-screaming sissy rear end.
Maximilian found the secret door leading from the hallway into Palaveen's throne room, opened the door and commented "Oh, it's going to suck to be him." The Giant Rot Grub of Doom critical-chow-pounced Vethamar AND Palaveen, the latter didn't stand a chance against the Rot Grub of Slaughter (which rolled five or six consecutive critical attack rolls, literally chewing through the 4th level cleric's 33 hit points and most of his 10 Strength in about 3 rounds). Adding insult to injury the rogue/diviner dealt a sneak attack alchemist's fire (his last flask) to the jumbo-sized maggot, which wound up extinguishing itself in horrifically grisly fashion inside the still-twitching thoracic cavity of Palaveen.
Seeing wisdom in avoiding further direct confrontation with the Super Maggot, Maximilian ties Drevano's severed head (courtesy of the paladin after the monk grappled him into helplessness) to a long rope and leads the Giant Rot Grub of Doom to the still-noisesome Woodcarver's House, waits for the hideous screaming to start then fires the house and returns to the PCs. Thorough looting and pillaging ensues, the stolen property is returned and the remaining mini-onions are readily dispatched via channeled energies and heavy ranged weapons firepower.
As it turns out, ol' grub-bait Palaveen seems to have gotten thoroughly on the nerves of some "Council" or another. I guess that particular nuisance is no longer a matter of concern.
Cast of Characters
having earned a total of 5,000 xp per character
Zin Serrn, Da Fighter's Monk 3
3 for the Disciples of Starfall
1, posthumously awarded, for Whitechin's goblin band (having earned credit [ret-conned after discussion at the beginning of the sesion] in their pyhrric victory over the Hellknights of the Order of the Rack.
1 for the yet-to-be-named armorer who "bravely" fended off the terrible menace of the Bastards of Erebus. Apparently in a thoroughly alchohol-induced state of martial awesomeness and invincibility, some say Cayden Caylien stretched out his inebriated benevolence to protect the armorer.
'Sebastian Bellasarra', Turin? Really?
On Scaling The Sixfold Trial
As written, the play itself is suited for 3rd level characters. On another thread, however, it was mentioned that perhaps a 7th level group would undertake this endeavor. I recommend the following for scaling the first part of the Sixfold Trial by 4 levels:
Scale up the DCs for interactions and performances by 5 to 10, depending on the magic items they have (if any) for improving Perform checks/Charisma checks.
Treat the "Beast" as full-on immersion in acid [against which a judicious combination of protection from and resist energy spells should prove plenty effective]. Increase pertinent DCs by 5 or 10 as outlined above.
Have the torturer character use a vicious +1 whip in the 2nd act - and direct a full-round or vital strike whip attack be done for each of the 10 lashes at full Strength (provided so courteously by the "prop and monster miester" Cleric of Asmodeus - bump him to 10th level caster via ioun stone or something), while strapping 'Larazod' into a real rack (should you have access to, say, the BoVD perhaps).
Act 3's rot grub "flukes of Asmodeus" should be applied for several rounds' time - to give the audience proper time to appreciate the ecstatic performance you see before the knives will work to aid the characters in excising the "ecstasy flukes". I suggest 3 rounds as the minimum time of grub-chompage. Or worse, have them impart an ecstatic reaction to the Con-chomping little buggers while requiring some time "chowing down" before they are to be excised, perhaps imparting an equivalent to either the sickened or nauseated conditions while they are being snacked upon.
Act V and VI involved summoned devils (1 per character) and animated skeletons. Rather than mere lemures, use oh ... five bearded devils instead (via a scroll with five summon monster V spells on it for the cleric). If you are feeling particularly nasty, a higher end scroll bestowed by a mysterious benefactor just for the purpose of this auspicious occassion ... perhaps even the one who originally wrote the play... Tack on 5 points of DR/good as well as the benefits of Augmented Summoning (+4 Str and Con per bearded devil) and you have a good fight. Arriving round-by-round (instead of all at once) is easier - but the foes are much tougher too, so balance this as you deem necessary. Replace the two troll skeletons with four ettin skeletons benefiting from having been created on desecrated ground and operating under the benefits of unhallow courtesy of said cleric. After all, the cleric did "bless" the theater in Asmodeus' name - who is to say that it was not taken a bit 'further' than scripted? ^_^
Turin the Mad wrote:
(edited, compulsive rephrasing)Well it sounds [or reads] as if you're all having a lot of fun. Is this one going better than the Curse of the Crimson Throne one, do you think?
Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Yes, yes they are. The players are discussing the possible alignment/code of conduct ramifications after the fact, but I'm not overly worried about it at this point in time.
Overall I believe CoT is better that CotCT, especially since the players have also gotten better at adapting and improvising.
House Rule #4: Intimidation is classified as an extraordinary mind-affecting fear ability. Bonuses on Will saving throws and specifically against fear effects - such as a Fighter's Bravery, a Bard's Inspire Courage, various morale bonus to saving throws and the like. This is the way we've been playing it, and the DC for succeeding on an Intimidate check is low enough that I have no problem with this.
Allen Stewart wrote:
Turin, is Da Pimp carting around henchman and a wagon AGAIN, like he's done several times before at low character levels? Or is he actually risking his tail like any other respectable rogue/wizard PC?
Not so far ... there is one henchman (under Jade's employ - effectively a DMPC), and I made it very clear that all henchman/hirelings were under MY perview to stat up AND that they do not come with free gear. (As deliniated in the combination of PRPG/3.5 DMG.)
Quick n Dirty version: Our Heroes, courtesy of a preemptive e-mail outlining the introductory text, succeeded in performing the Six Trials of Larazod without a fatality. They raked in just over 1,000 gp each for their cut of the house take and are poised to infiltrate the lord-mayor's manor under the guise of the post-performance 'party'.
Disappointing for you I'm sure to have them get through the rigging without any splatterin's. :) Congrats to all.
It was a lot of fun to run, as even the GM gets "speaking parts" in the play.
I tip my hat to Sir Pett and Sir Logue for the adventure and play respectively. Excellent work!
Now, to kill them horribly in the ...
Council of Thieves: The Sixfold Trial - Episode Two
All characters achieved 4th level during the dinner party known as the "Cornucopia".
Torsin's Paladin of Iomedae
Maximilian Fighter "bearer of the torch and carrier of loot" (high quality henchman, definitely not a mini-onion)
Da Pimp's Rogue/Wizard (Diviner) was covering the group's rear in absentia, distracting the servants and "participating" in the after-dessert "party". Presuming that the player is in attendance next session his character catches up to the party at that time. Otherwise, said player character will have been 'overwhelmed' in the ... activities.
As a result of the stunning success in performing The Six Trials of Larazod, the player characters are invited to attend the Lord-Mayor of Westcrown's notoriously decadent "dinner party". Over the course of six hours, five extravagant meal courses highlighting the pinnacle of Chelaxian fine dining are served. Each course arrives at the top of the hour. During the aftermath of each course, the player characters mingle with the guests and are eventually successful in shmoozing the information out of the various NPCs. These include such notable social figures as the Lord-Mayor himself; the mayor's majordomo Crosael Rasdovain; General Vourne (commander of the Gemcrown Bay Imperial Fleet and sourpuss extraordinaire); Chammady Drovenge (in her borderline scandalous gown and wolf-headed winged serpentine fur); Eirtein Oberigo (noble scum); and Sascar Tilernos (noble scum with a serious weakness for wine).
The player characters slink off with Max in tow after keeping their wits about them. Had they failed to do so, serious Wisdom damage would likely have ensued from the "special spices" laced into the food, the potent tobacco products and the very high-quality wine served throughout the night. They infiltrate the northeastern wing of the house, immediately finding the secret treasure stash in A30. They promptly flip the chest onto its side, bash out the bottom, burden Max with over 100 pounds of coin and set the chest back onto its belly. After reconnoitering the rest of the rear ground level rooms (A29-A24), they make their way upstairs to A40. While the player characters were mingling, Max stealthily got away between dinner courses, purloining the really nice wine in A18, swipes the majordomo's stash of cash, the majordomo's map of Aberian's Folly and the stash of goodies in A25 that the player characters themselves missed by 5 or more on their Perception checks...
The PCs swept south through areas A41 - A44, snuck west across A43 into A31 before hitting A34 and taking the stairs up to A45. They do a sweep and clear of A45 - A50, take the stage curtain from A49 to the stairs coming up. After securing the massive sound-baffler in place, they bash the padlock off the door from A45 into A51, rummage in A52 then pop the door into A53 - and enter the infamous Asmodean Knot itself.
At this point they had earned enough XP to advance to 4th level.
The Asmodean Knot, Part One
The characters loot the dead elf's corpse on the floor in B1, making extensive use of the detect magic-and-Spellcraft trick to identify the various magical items: a handy haversack, a pearl of power II, five scrolls (chill touch, command undead, ray of exhaustion, vampiric touch and false life) and the infamous piece of tattered parchment. With a bit of stubbornness, they figured out the trick of the runecurse, succeeded on the money on the preliminary DC 22 Will saving throw to resist the curse's taking hold and leave the parchment behind.
Venturing into B2, they tango with the howler, the monk's stunning fist pretty quickly shutting down the creature. Its DC 12 howl was easily resisted by the entire party, and most of the damage suffered was from the quills. Only the paladin briefly had to suffer the quills before the cleric quickly removed them. They pilfered the 400 gp value book Drowned Jabe and His Miserable Brothers and Sisters from the rack of books on the "fine art" of torture for both entertainment and interrogation.
While B3 "The Tower of Perpetuity" was disorienting, the characters found the room rather taxing. The players enjoyed the Escheresque nature of the room immensely. The players were having a difficult time with the encounter, as the shadows spawned from B4 simply came out of the walls, then - when turned - fled back into B4, returning to attempt to slurp more Strength as they made Will saves to overcome the need to flee induced by being Turned.
The cleric and paladin seem to have come to the conclusion that Turn Undead is only valuable against the animated dead (which is true - and against such undead the feat is invaluable), quickly resorting to channelling positive energy to deal damage to the shadows. The monk, with a combination of ki expenditures to add to his AC along with either fighting defensively or total defense greatly helped in thwarting the potentially lethal touch of the shadows.
As the mirrors spawned in the next pairs of shadows, the flash the mirrors created I ruled outlined the secret door into the room from behind. The characters eventually beat down three out of six shadows before getting that door open and leaving Max to charge in. With a nat-20 sunder on the mirror, I ruled that - as with constructs - one can critical hit objects. With a single Power Attack Sunder, backed by a natural 20 battle axe strike on one of the mirrors, a staggering 3d8+48 points of damage shattered the mirror in a single blow. A "coup de gras" against the second mirror put paid to the two remaining shadows (out of six, four had been brought down by the player characters) and cut off any further influx of Strength-draining monstrosities.
With literal leaps and bounds, the player characters secure passage from the northern B5 Everpit - securing rope across the way to ease their return passage - into B6, the "Halls of Special Guests". A combination of cells and asylum observatories, the area is creepy. One cell was empty, nine occupied by mummified corpses and the tenth by an imprisoned creature waving a glaive around. Cursing its combination of boredom, imprisonment and apparent betrayal by some chowder head by the name of "Dargentu Veed", the Cloistered Cleric briefly interacted with the Bearded Devil. Sadly, the player characters elected to leave the fiend within its cell. Also very sad was their refusal to open the normal view port - having previously figured out the "one way mirror" effect of the observation windows - which would have permitted ...
In any case, after berating the cleric for alerting a fiend to their - or, at least the cleric's - presence in the Knot, the characters press onwards to area B10 "The River of Tears". With a stunning series of 20+ Perception checks, Our Heroes easily notice the trio of lacedons lurking in the churning, murky waters just ahead of them.
With focussed fire they mow down the lacedon ghouls and even poor Drowned Jabe the lacedon ghast in short order. They learned a painful lesson from the last PFS scenario I ran - frag ghasts first! The monk strips and spends some time dredging the floor of the pool, eventually dragging up all the loot to be found. The fighter/sorcerer cleans him off with prestidigitation and they move on to B11 "The Shadow's Throat".
After noting the steepness of the descent, they wisely elect to secure more rope. In this case, easing passage both down and back up in anticipation of returning by this way.
Our Heroes are at the intersection leading towards areas B12 (to the west, their right) and B13 (to the south, their straight ahead) behind a closed door. Should Da Pimp be in attendance, he joins the group at this point in the Asmodean Knot.
Will Our Heroes, now very low in spells after patching up injury and downing a few lesser restoration potions, press on without pause to rest? This is a legitimate concern, as the party at most gives them one nine-hour rest period plus anywhere from 3 to 5 hours' adventuring time in the Knot before late morning. As the session came to a close, in game time it is about 2 a.m., most of the characters' spell resources are depleted and they seem rather torn between getting rest and surviving the travails of the Knot - and being caught exiting the Knot by the Lord-Mayor...
If they pause to rest, that leaves them anywhere from one to three hours' game time before their estimated window of safety starts to close...
The Sixfold Trial - Part Three
The Asmodean Knot - Part Two
Our Heroes peek in at the Big Ball of Animated Chains in area B12 and decide that hacking apart hardness 10 steel chain is perhaps not the wisest of options.
Instead they head through the door south and explore the "sanitarium" of the Asmodean Knot, finding naught but dessicated corpses littering the floors of the various chambers. Pressing forward into area B20, the disgusting, roiling fluid within the vast chamber dissuades them from pressing further and tangling with a disease-riddled Large Water Elemental, let alone the nausea-inducing fumes that the churning waters would produce in a fight.
Back in the Observatory, they pop the lock on the western wall, open it ... and find themselves staring at a rock wall. Heading back to the north, they take the passageway that winds west into the Knot's Heart.
There they tangle with Sian, using a ring of feather falling to coast down the shaft and feather the paladin twice with two sneak attack-enhanced spider poisoned hand crossbow bolts. Da Pimp got lucky and Sian failed her saving throw to resist his mage handing the bolt case off of her waist belt, although she did perforate Da Monk Zin Sern with a critical hand crossbow bolt hit. Having lost her ammunition, on her next pass down the shaft she glided over to the ledge, intent on stabbity death via shortsword.
In the meantime, Max the torchbearer found out he was still the last "owner of record" of the runecurse found early on. The osyluth pops in and zaps him with a hold person. Ineptus' cloistered cleric begins using his wand of cure light wounds to patch up Torsin's paladin.
As Da Pimp, Zin Sern and Jade grapple, pin, sneak attack and carve up Sian in the one room, Torsin and Ineptus beat on the wall of ice the osyluth cast to isolate his quarry from any allies. A foot thick slab of ice closed off the tunnel.
As a full minute passes, Max wages a running battle with the osyluth, quickly cornering the fiend in a squeezed fit in a narrow stair well from which he enjoyed the benefits of higher ground and a foe squeezed into a space too small for it to normally fit.
Torsin catches up in the aftermath, firing off a channel energy, providing the necessary healing to keep Max alive long enough. The osyluth loses the round it would have needed to complete the runecurse and dismember the torchbearer, isolating itself and its prey from the rest of the party by raising another wall of ice across the chamber behind it.
In what is fast becoming a tradition, the henchman confirmed a fortunate critical hit with his trusty battle axe, dealing a lethal 62 hit points to the bone devil and sending the fiend screaming back to the Nine Pits of Hell.
After looting mightily and liberal applications of cure wand and potions, they work their way through the Knot's Heart. After coming upon the western side of the diseased water elemental's chamber and filching the crude unholy symbol of Asmodeus, they eventually make their way to the Crux Sanctuary. They did figure out the "falling creature" method of getting the Knot to 'spin' its portals, thanks to Sian's ring.
A horrific battle ensued amidst the sickening sludge of the Sanctuary, the Outcast King outright slaying the cleric in a vicious full-round attack, taking the cloistered cleric from full hit points to negative CON in a single round of attacks, without even applying 2d6+10 constriction damage as insult to messy death. At the most desperate moment, Ineptus was slain, Torsin's paladin was 1 hit point from death, Da Monk was similarly 1 hit point from death and Da Pimp was 2 hit points from falling over. Brave deeds of derring do saw attacks of opportunity eaten, bleeding wounds inflicted upon the Outcast King led to the BBEG's death by exanguination and both Da Pimp and Max suffering one and three infernal wounds respectively.
At the end, only Ineptus was deceased, to be reincarnated as a half-orc. I very nearly had a TPK with the Outcast King and his pet lemures running interference.
The campaign is slated to resume in three weeks' time, to address the matter of opening the Chelish Crux, getting paid by the Pathfinder Society's representative for retrieving said Crux, advancing to 5th level and spending 30,000 gp of accumulated loot. The player characters and torchbearer are all 5th level at 15,000 total xp each.
Will Our Heroes venture forth into Delvehaven and die horribly, devoured by Shoggoths and Paragon Stirges? Stay tuned...
It seems that Chapter 3 calls for player characters to be half-way to 6th level prior to starting in.
^_^ Which means yours truly gets a crack at a first home-brew "side quest" between Chapters 2 and 3 under the "still has the new game book smell" rules of PRPG.
Aaahhh, the possibilities...
Turin the Mad wrote:
Partially adapt Pathfinder #2 if you don't ever intend to run the Runelords Path? (Which would of course continue with the 'Pett' flavour from where it has just left off, and certainly offers opportunities for urban mayhem, but I'm not sure if the resultant deaths should properly be counted as Council of Thieves or Rise of the Runelords demises...)
Charles Evans 25 wrote:
:) Actually, I have an excerpt of the Hook Mountain Massacre slated to be the first adventure Our Heroes get to tangle with post-CoT.
However, that is a most excellent suggestion Sir Charles. After all, Westcrown is rife in certain areas with long-abandoned homes ...
Sunday Our Heroes get to tangle with a Wiscrani PRPG version of the conclusion of Pathfinder #2 "The Skinsaw Murders", courtesy of the infamous Richard Pett.
Naturally, this has been given a touch of "the Turin Treatment" in the hopes of much player character death, dismemberment and mayhem.
It seems that Chapter 2 of Rise of the Runelords is gauged for a 7th level group instead of a 5th level one.
Our Heroes, at the end of a long week after liberating the Chelish Crux from the Asmodean Knot - and departing by way of the 'escape hatch' doors found just outside of the final room - have not seen the torchbearer Maximilian in a few days.
Bored, four of the player characters you know, the ones who attended ;) arrive at Maximilian's humble house in the poor section of town. This section of Westcrown, like so much of the city, is rarely patrolled by the dottori during broad daylight, let alone as close to dusk as it is when the characters arrive.
They notice that the neighborhood is usually quiet. Most of them notice that the nearest house's front door sways eerily to and fro, creaking on its hinges in the breeze coming off of the river. The cleric catches the stink of day-old blood and gore, both from the neighbor's house ... and from Max's.
Eager to see what the problem is, Zin Sern bounds forward and plants a booted foot squarely on the front door, busting the door open and sending the chair wedged against it to keep it closed.
The interior is a slaughterhouse. Dismembered and decapitated corpses are strewn around the perimeter of the one-room cottage - many of whom the cloistered cleric recognizes as people from this very neighborhood. Furniture is knocked over and mostly up against the wall as most of the center of the floor has been hacked out and nailed up over the windows. When they close the door they can tell that every crevice and nook of walls, windows, door and even the roof has been tarred, sending the interior into pitch blackness.
Using a sunrod, they also note that the "group" handy haversack as well as Max's pair of belt pouches have been left behind, hidden beneath an upturned table. On the wall in drying blood a message:
Xanesha at the old clock tower
A note, sealed with a blob of wax and bearing Jade's name is found sticking out of Max's pouches.
"As I lay dying here my thoughts are of you. I do not know what is wrong ... *smudged out words* ... take these items and avenge me!
Find a brother torch-bearer...
Moments later, they hear the pounding of a young man's feet and winded breath as small fists batter the door. Opening the door, little Morosino stands gasping, face flushed with exertion, trembling with fatigue.
"The man! The man with the mirror eyes! It's horrible! At the sanctuary!"
Quickly hustling Morosino inside, they are quick to distribute the massive pile of loot in Max's pouches, send Morosino running before sunset to a safe (ish) place to stay and set off to the dilapidated clock tower near the towering ruins of a bridge that no longer spans the river. The characters have decided to avenge what they believe to be Maximilian's untimely demise, despite the lack of a corpse or part of one they know to be his. The sanctuary of the Disciples of Starfall, they determine, can wait.
They found a king's ransom in items in Max's pouches, my attempt to level the playing field between the characters and the clock tower inhabitants. A jar with 5 doses of stone salve, 8 potions of CSW @ CL 10, 8 elixers of extended divine power @ CL 10, 2 scrolls of dispel magic x4 @ CL 8. Little did I know that would not be really sufficient...
As the sun is setting Our Heroes arrive at the foot of the massive clock tower, its face stuck at 3 o' clock. Wasting little time, they pry open the doors, get the flavor text and two of the four beat The Scarecrow's 33 Stealth check.
Combat ensues with the sentient flesh golem. Three characters slather on stone salve - the paladin, the monk and Jade's fighter/sorceress - in the beginning round of the fight. The Scarecrow charges, whiffing the monk with his enchanted scythe.
Things took a grim turn for the worst when The Scarecrow's wicked scythe lashes out and disembowels the paladin. My first attack roll against the paladin are nat-20 confirming with a nat-20. At that point I belatedly realize that any time I crit with this monster against this group, the damage bonus of +80 with a Large scythe is instant-death. I failed my Will save and caved into the group's heated complaints, swapping the scythe's crit range from 19-20/x4 to 17-20/x2, retaining the base damage of 3d6+20 with Power Attack. Basically using a greatsword in scythe form. Entrails spilling onto the floor, the Paladin of Iomedae collapses.
Several rounds of furious combat ensue, the paladin's smite and several confirmed critical hits - after the cleric was wise enough to break out the wand of cure critical wounds - by said paladin combined with the aspiring eldritch knight's golembane scarab finally brought the behemoth low. They shut the doors of the clock tower as the last rays of sunlight fade over the horizon.
Wisely, they hole up in the larger of the collapsed offices and the cultist cloistered cleric replenishes his depleted spells before setting off up the stairs towards the top of the tower. They did handily note the spacing required to advance up safely, and off they go, eager to take advantage of the remaining hour from the stone salve.
Looming overhead, four massive bronze bells sit. As they approach to within 100' of the top of the tower, two humanoid forms can be seen as they hear the snapping of ropes and wood - a bell breaks free!
Smashing its way through stairs, railings, dust bunnies the size of mules and who knows what other detrius the bell clips the cultist, nearly tearing him from the stair. Barely succeeding on his Reflex saving throw, he hangs on for dear life with a broken shoulder. Once the other characters pull him back from the edge of death 100 feet below, he drinks one of the precious cure serious wounds potions and groans in pain as the shattered bones reknit and restore his arm anew.
The faceless stalkers, poorly named to me, but sufficient to provide them the few dregs of xp they will need before entering Chapter 3 lurk in the top of the bell tower. They offer little threat to the characters, feebly swiping at them. The pair end up dying as they attempt to escape down the bell ropes, attacks of opportunity making them unconscious and the 200 foot fall splattering them all over the floor below.
Xanesha, hovering outside, waits for the characters to be on the scaffolding ascending to the roof before making her presence felt - in the form of a pair of zorching rays (electricity damage versions of scorching ray) tagging both the monk and the paladin. Catching onto the severity of the situation - by way of a minimum caster level 7th opponent of Large size and serpentine persuasion floating in the air before them - ineffectual ranged weapon attacks ensue, along with much cursing when they realize that her AC is very ... very high.
Over the course of the first two rounds most of the characters are at half or fewer hit points as a result of Xanesha's zorching rays, the first dispel magic thrown by the party removes her haste. The second is the more crucial - it had a one in five chance of removing her fly spell, and Jade rolled the right number, sending the lamia matriarch plummetting to the ground to the tune of 69 points of falling damage.
In what I think is a mistake, they called for a saving throw vs. massive trauma for her. I pointed out that they are going to implement it for them too, which they were fine with. I did not roll quite that low.
On her next action, as the characters down "Power Juice" - the elixirs of extended divine power - and cure serious wounds potions, Xanesha dimension doors back to the top interior floor of the clock tower. Thinking the wicked creature would have to ascend back to the roof the old-fashioned way, Jade jumps off along the side of the clock tower by way of her ring of feather falling, descending 60 feet. Jade manages to catch herself back onto the side of the tower and start climbing back up.
Zin Sern moves to block her, followed by the paladin and the paladin's second smite evil declaration. During the three rounds that Jade takes to ascend the clock tower's outside, both the characters and Xanesha whiff mightily. With the 'power juice', smite evil and a prayer from the cleric - who used both of his prayers during this fight - the paladin found she could hit the critter on a natural 10 or better. Needless to say, the paladin's d20 got hot and crits started flying.
Over the course of the clock tower, the paladin delivered six confirmed critical hits while smiting evil. She almost single-handedly dispatched the Scarecrow, took a faceless stalker from full hit points to near-death in a single blow [without smite evil] and delivered either three or four such critical hits to Xanesha herself.
This same paladin nearly died twice, once by The Scarecrow, and the second at the business end of Xanesha's spear, both from critical hits. My players have to come to despise my "Cthulhu" dice, just as I despise Da Fighter's blue d20. This same d20 does not do well for him - but it does very well for any one he lends it to.
Very near to the end of game time sadly, Xanesha steps back after getting a bleeding wound from Zin Sern, makes her concentration check handily and dimension doors to safety.
I 'borrowed' the end scene from Pathfinder #2 for this part of the interlude. And I now have a nasty villain to use post-CoT as well, should the fancy still remain next year...