Hello everyone! This is V's Savage Tide Campaign Log. I'm V, the DM.
I kept promising and promising my players I'd put this online...so, here we go. There are 2.5 installments worth of backlog to go, so it'll be awhile before I get it up to the present, but it should be fun anyway.
Please don't write any spoilers for the campaign, as I want my PCs to be able to read this. Thanks!
Two of my players are veterans of my Age of Worms campaign (what a blast that was - thanks, Paizo!), while one started as a rookie but has been gaining experience as we go along. As of right now there are three players, with a fourth to join us sometime this summer after we finish "The Sea Wyvern's Wake."
We play with Pathfinder rules in the Forgotten Realms (1372ish DR, basically out of the excellent 3E FRCS bible). In general, I don't fudge die rolls and follow the rules strictly, but not slavishly. I also enjoy making them work for victory, both in and out of combat. Enough about me.
For today's installment I'll describe our party and their first encounter. All the PCs are good-aligned.
The party consists of:
The Scholar: Veerga Wasserkind, an aquatic elf druid/wizard going on mystic theurge, Veerga was adopted by an aquatic elf warrior taking part in a raid on a tribe of sahuagin. The infant Veerga was found in the hatching chamber, surrounded by eggs about to hatch, and rescued in the nick of time.
A wild, free-willed child, she was curbed from naturally rebellious tendencies only with extreme difficulty by her adoptive family, but her intelligence and inquisitive nature led her to be naturally curious about both the natural world and the supernatural. She became acquainted with D'razul Endlekind (see below) and got into a variety of scrapes with him, the most recent of which involved stealing a ship with several of their friends and sailing it (more by luck than anything else) from the Sea of Fallen Stars all the way to Tashluta - I mean, Sasserine, where they abandoned it and entered the city. Since then she's tried life out of water, trying to scrape up enough gold to safely make her way back home.
Played by one of the veterans.
The Noble Rogue: D'razul Endlekind, a rogue, the scion of a noble aquatic elf family, was groomed to succeed his father, liaison to surface governments for their city. Unbeknownst to his parents, however, he interspersed his studies of above-water culture and language with uncouth adventures shared with his good friend, Veerga Wasserkind, who his very traditional father would certainly have disapproved of.
D'razul did not share her free-spirited, spontaneous nature, instead preferring to plan his villainy where he could. Organizing several of their other friends, he masterminded the theft of a surface sailing vessel, which he and Veerga crashed on the rocks near Sasserine while squabbling over whose turn it was to be Captain. Sobered by the experience, he has been attempting to plan a way for himself and Veerga to get home.
Played by the newb. His weapon of choice is the harpoon.
The Hadozee Messiah: Ismat "Izzy" Madu, a witch, is the adoptive patriarch/matriarch of the hadozee citizens of Sasserine, having taken the position when his/her adoptive mother, "Mama 'Dozee," left on the Rage and never returned from the voyage. Izzy works tirelessly to better the lot of his/her flock, sadly downtrodden by the evil Lord Dracktus, Dawn Council representative for Shadowshore, where most of them live.
(If I didn't mention it yet, Izzy's true gender is a closely-guarded secret. Not even the DM knows which it is...yet.)
Played by the other veteran. His/her familiar is a thrush named Sie (pronounced "Zee") and s/he acts in a supporting role to everyone else. Also somewhat of a xenophobe, due to the way hadozee are treated as second-class citizens by some of Sasserine's more bigoted citizens.
What are hadozee, you ask? Big, bipedal monkeys with glidey wing-flaps and no homeland, they sail from port to port as crew on a ship. They're excellent sailors.
The Reformed Pirate: Eroknar B'kir, a half-orc axe-kensai (see this thread for the kensai base class I wrote - the version we're using is slightly different, but essentially the same in most respects). He used to work for Cap'n Harliss Javell of the Crimson Fleet corsair Wavereaper, feared scourge o' the seas. For reasons known only to himself, Eroknar renounced the Crimson Fleet and the worship of Garagos (his previous god) and took up the faith of the Red Knight. In fleeing retribution, he lost his ancestral axe and his honor, and he is working to find the one so he can regain both.
Played by everyone. We have a walnut shell we give to the person in charge of him at a given session. Also, he's QUITE the ladies' man, despite having 9 Cha. Wait 'til "The Sea Wyvern's Wake."
Session 1: One year ago, the Age of Worms was derailed in the city of Starmantle to the north. However, during the horrible time before those mighty heroes achieved victory, the hordes of Kyuss poured out of the jungles of Chult to the west of Sasserine, laying waste to all in their path. (The Spire of Long Shadows is in Chult.)
Everyone in Sasserine at the time was in a desperate struggle to fight for their lives. During our first session, four strangers united by fate found themselves battling zombies generated within the city by Kyuss's horrible minions. These strangers were the PCs. (SURPRISE!)
After battling their way through increasing numbers of zombies and saving several hapless civilians, the level 1 adventurers found a nobleman beset by a Kyuss spawn and several zombies. Against all odds, they were able not only to kill the zombies AND the Kyuss spawn, but also to save Vanthus Vanderboren from a fate worse than death - Veerga was able to hack the Kyuss worm infesting his body out before it could turn him.
Ahahaha, the looks on their faces later...well, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Then, they transitioned into a dream of the present day, dream 1 of the Savage Tide Dream Log:
"There Is No Honor" – Echoes Of The Past, Shadows Of The Future
You find yourselves atop a spire rising from a ruined, burning city beneath lowering stormclouds. Behind you lies the ruined corpse of a silver dragon; beside you stand an enormous, shaggy owlbear and a tall, beautiful woman with pale green skin and golden eyes. Before you rises a crude obelisk of black stone. As the woman turns to you in surprise, an enormous spiked mace erupts from the obelisk, crushing her into a bloody smear; with a roar the owlbear leaps forward, only to be contemptuously thrown from the spire by an enormous cloaked figure bursting from the obelisk's surface, a nightmare of writhing green worms given the semblance of human form by its tattered black cloak. As you turn to flee, two enormous worms slither tentaclelike from each sleeve of the figure's cloak, one enveloping each of you in hungry coils and retracting slowly, pulling you into the figure's shroud. The black cloth surrounds you, filled with the stench of death and the intimation of horrible movement.
The worm-tentacles relax their iron grip and you flail wildly in the suddenly limp black cloak. For just a moment the black cloth is bleached to white, and a fear greater than the fear of death and damnation grips you as you struggle to free yourself from the somehow horrifying white shroud. For a moment you think you have succeeded, before you realize you were struggling against the sheets of your own beds.
Today is the first day of the Wormfall Festival commemorating the destruction of Kyuss in Starmantle one year past. Over the next tenday, increasingly exuberant townsfolk will revel in the streets, rehashing tales of close escape and near death at the hands of Kyuss' servants. The festival atmosphere will build and build as traders and travelers arrive for the celebration, culminating in a day of uninhibited carnival that the Dawn Council hopes will bring morale and coin into Sasserine's coffers, both much-needed after the recently-ended Rundeen occupation.
Today is the first day of the Wormfall Festival. You have overslept. For a moment, you wonder what awakened you – before the knocking begins again. Someone is knocking on your door.
Note: In my campaign the owlbear was awakened by the cleric and became a ranger named Vlad. You have no idea how awesome it was, nor how unlikely. "Vlad the owlbear" is a legend among our circle. He didn't actually die fighting Kyuss, although it was a near thing.
After awakening, our heroes (wherever they were at the time) were greeted by the slightly terrifying Kora Whistlegap (another note: in my campaigns, the "small folk" - halflings, mostly - have the horror-movie-monster-like ability to appear right next to you, offer nominally-helpful but actually very awkward services, and just generally be veeerry creepy). Kora gave them an invitation to Lavinia Vanderboren's estate, where - when they arrived - she greeted them by name and told them she knew they had saved her brother's life during the Dawn of a New Age one year hence. Now, it seems, Vanthus is in trouble again - and she wants the PCs to find (and rescue, if need be) her little brother. And also to get her father's signet ring back from the Blue Nixie so she can get into her family's vault underneath Castle Teraknian.
The party (who really likes Lavinia already) ate some blueberry scones brought by the really quite terrifying but also very sweet Kora (who, as it happens, is Lavinia's majordomo - shudder) and said that of COURSE they'd save her poor little brother, he has such bad luck, doesn't he?
Session 2: Freshly full of blueberry scones, the party stayed to chat with Lavinia for awhile and learned that she and Vanthus "had been wild children" and, after some unspecified prank of particular bad taste occurring during their teens, had been separated. Vanthus had been sent "to the colonies," while Lavinia had been sent to the Thenalar Academy for Young Ladies, where she learned to play the piano, sew, and fence. At this point, the party is pretty sure that Vanthus has gotten mixed up with a rough crowd...Lavinia hasn't seen him since shortly after their parents died. How did they die? Ah...an accident, a tragic ship fire.
Apparently, Vanthus had left Sasserine again not long after the PCs saved him, returning several weeks before the accident. After some probing, she admitted that they had parted on bad terms, with Vanthus actually striking her at the height of their argument. She feels guilty about it, believing that his anger stemmed from shock at their parents' death, and doubly guilty now that he has apparently gotten himself into trouble.
Anyway, the PCs heard all about Soller Vark and how he stole her money and won't give her the Blue Nixie back. Lavinia gave them a writ claiming responsibility for anything they do in her name (what a nice woman she is!)...the party decided that if asking nicely wouldn't work, they'd be happy to do it the hard way. Working themselves up into good old-fashioned righteous indignation, they marched off to the docks, but cooled down enough on the way to wait until nightfall to reconnoiter, quickly discovering Vark's smuggling operation.
Veerga and D'razul swam over to the Nixie while Eroknar "borrowed" a boat for himself and Izzy to use. A quick fog cloud sufficed to confuse the deck watch sufficiently for D'razul to silently take them out with his harpoon. By the time the whole party got into the hold, they were psyched...unfortunately (for the thugs), the PCs remained stealthy and used good tactics, allowing them to incapacitate or kill everyone belowdecks. The rhagodessa went berserk at the smell of blood, and by the time Soller Vark and his remaining crew realized something was wrong, it had chewed through the hatch in its cage and attacked them. Between it and the party, it was a complete loss for the criminals, though Eroknar killed the rhagodessa in time to save some of the thugs for questioning.
A quick search of the ship revealed not only a lot of malnourished monkeys (which pissed off the druid and the hadozee) but Lavinia's father's signet ring as well.
Session 3: On the way back from the Blue Nixie, flushed with their victory, the party unexpectedly ran into Avner Meravanchi harassing a meat vendor in the middle of a crowd of festival partygoers. After an awkward encounter (the druid distracted him by showing a little skin), they made their way to the nearest Watch captain and turned over their captives, identified as "Lotus Dragons" by their distinctive tattoos.
"The worst gang of criminals and evildoers in Sasserine," according to the Watch captain, who was suitably impressed by their writ of authority and captives that he didn't give them any trouble about breaking onto a ship impounded by the Harbormaster. The party got a little insight into why the Harbormaster allowed such corruption...apparently, the man (one Keltar Islaran) is getting old and trying to find a successor.
A delighted Lavinia was only too happy to see the party. The outright horrifying (but so adorable) Kora Whistlegap brought them more blueberry scones than they could eat...Veerga especially became fascinated with this strange, delicious surface food and became pretty attached to the little halfling.
The party gallantly offered to escort Lavinia to Castle Teraknian. After a relatively uneventful trip through the city, they headed into the castle's bowels, passing two haughty-looking noblewomen on their way out of the vault...Lavinia identified them as the Kellanis, a family whose bad reputation is surpassed only by Lord Dracktus of Shadowshore.
Once inside the vault, the party quickly bypassed the cobra constructs when they realized that Lavinia's ring commanded them, and rapidly solved the combination lock on the vault.
Unfortunately, however, the vault's contents were mostly gone! Nearly in tears, Lavinia hurried from chest to chest, finding to her joy that at least one remained partially unplundered. She also found a vast quantity of notes and journals from her parents' travels, including (at the top of the stack) a thick journal detailing the existence of the colony of Farshore, which her parents had founded on the half-mythical Isle of Dread some years ago.
Hastening back to the receptionist in Castle Teraknian proper, Lavinia wrathfully demanded to know who had stolen her property - only to hear that it was her brother! The poor clerk, nearly at his wits' end with a furious noble denying any knowledge of Vanthus's whereabouts, knew only that Vanthus had come and gone several times since her parents' death.
(At around this time, Eroknar experienced a profound, unnatural wave of sadness welling up inside. Though disturbed, he kept it to himself for the time being.)
After cooling down, Lavinia realized that in order to have accessed the vault, Vanthus must have stolen or found her mother's missing signet ring. She now thinks that he has been blackmailed somehow into this treachery, and redoubles her pleas to the PCs to find him.
Again, Eroknar felt the inexplicable sadness, but this time he interrupted the conversation, asking Izzy and Veerga to scan him with detect magic. The two casters quickly found a locket in his pocket that hadn't been there before...a small, silver locket of exceptional craftsmanship, embossed with the image of a rose, and containing the miniature of a beautiful, sad young girl on the cusp of womanhood. In small silver script on the facing half of the locket is written:
je m'appelle c'est Fleur d'Amour
m'aimes comme je t'aime
A successful Linguistics check translates this as:
My name is Fleur d'Amour
Love me as I love you
The locket detects as magic, but Lavinia has never seen it before, and neither have the PCs. After several minutes of discussion and experiment, they discover that it empathically leaks sorrow onto anyone holding it when Vanthus's name is spoken nearby.
Session 4: Deciding to hang onto the locket as a potential clue for the time being, the party escorted Lavinia back to her manor and obtained several more writs (one for each PC) before splitting up to search Sasserine as efficiently as possible. D'razul questioned the various branches of the city watch, Eroknar took the dark slums of Shadowshore, Veerga the docks, and Izzy went among Sasserine's sizable hadozee population.
After several days of fruitless searching, the party simultaneously turned up two potential leads: the identity of his mistress, Brissa Santos, and (from a shady dealer in used boats), the fact that Vanthus had been seen in the company of one Penkus, a disreputable smuggler known to work for the Lotus Dragons.
Unfortunately, both avenues of investigation were dead ends: not only was Brissa nowhere to be found, but her house had recently burned under mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, tentative investigations into Sasserine's underworld revealed no trace of Penkus.
Instead, the answer came to them in the form of Shefton "Chef" Rook, a shifty half-elf beggar displaying all the symptoms of heavy drug addiction and accompanied by a voiceless beggar heavily swathed in rags. Approaching Eroknar and claiming to know Vanthus's whereabouts, Chef offered to guide the party to him...for a price. After dropping a copper into the beggar's begging bowl, Eroknar led the pair to the rest of the party, who agreed to Chef's price and asked him to lead them to Vanthus.
Showing remarkable foresight, the party decided to tell Lavinia where they were going (and that they were looking for Vanthus). They told her to send the Jade Ravens after them if they didn't return.
Chef and his silent companion led the party via boat to Parrot Island, where he gave them instructions to a secret smuggler hideout being used as a base by Vanthus's captors. Claiming to fear them, he refused to accompany them onto the island, but told them that the criminals were gone for the next few hours, providing an excellent opportunity for the party to explore the complex.
The party found and opened a trapdoor located next to a large standing stone. Again, showing remarkable foresight (I guess the veterans remembered my previous campaign :), they left Izzy's familiar Sie outside, with instructions to lead the Jade Ravens to the trapdoor if they didn't return. Finally prepared, they descended into the island's tunnels...
Session 5: Of course, everyone reading this will know who Chef's silent companion really was. Sadly, Vanthus's Disguise check beat the party's Sense Motive, and they didn't realize it was him until they reached the bottom of the rope...and Chef's lifeless corpse followed them down. The rope, cut from above, slithered down the shaft a moment later.
Vanthus Vanderboren, instantly recognizable from the portrait in Vanderboren Manor, stood at the top of the shaft, having cast off his ragged disguise.
"So, these are my sister's pets...a pity. You should have stayed away from us. I had hoped to one day receive you in our manor and thank you properly for saving my life. Unfortunately, circumstances make that...unlikely, so please accept both my gratitude and my regrets. I do not believe we shall meet again."
Vanthus pulled a small object from his sabretache, staring at it contemplatively before letting it fall. "Something for the ferryman," he called, a moment before it struck the floor with a metallic clank. "Give my regards to Penkus!"
In a moment he closed the trap door and the party heard an ominous grinding sound from above...
...which they correctly interpreted as Vanthus levering the large stone over onto the trapdoor. Hastily kindling light (they were well-prepared after all), the party investigated Chef's corpse, finding that it had been pierced with five silver pins tipped with opal. A Heal check revealed that the pins had probably been coated in poison. They also found the object Vanthus had tossed down: it was the copper coin Eroknar had given him while he was following them disguised. Eroknar pocketed it, swearing that Vanthus would be the one using it to pay the ferryman...
The party found that forcing their way through the trapdoor after climbing the shaft would be nearly impossible. However, reasoning that most smugglers would leave themselves a backdoor, they decided to explore the complex despite a cursory inspection revealing that it has been unused for decades at least.
After several minutes of uneventful exploration, the party decided to return to the trapdoor and write a message for the Jade Ravens telling them what happened. (Again with the foresight. I'm so proud! And we haven't even gotten halfway through the first installment yet.) Unfortunately, when they returned to the area below the trapdoor, they found a pair of zombies chewing on Chef's body. Combat had hardly begun when the sound of shuffling began to echo down the passage behind them...
Session 6: Despite their recent shock at Vanthus's treachery, and despite being pincered between two groups of ravenous zombies, and despite those zombies being backed up by a huecuva, the party's tactical superiority and coolness under fire netted them a complete victory! Everyone saved successfully against the huecuva's cause fear and they were able to kill all the zombies and drive the huecuva into a full retreat. Taking a moment to regroup and heal, they pressed their advantage, cornering and finishing the horrid undead off without further serious injury.
It was pretty close, though. That was a hard fight!
Further exploration led to the discovery of several mud crabs (which Veerga the druid befriended, resulting in enough XP to hit level 3) and some incidental treasure...and the body of Penkus the Lotus Dragon, his dying testament accusing Vanthus of treachery and murder, and revealing his true intentions: by murdering Penkus, Vanthus has usurped as second-in-command of the Lotus Dragons, the lieutenant of the Lady of the Lotus.
Session 7: In addition to Penkus's corpse and his damning last testament, the party discovered some treasure (including a gem of earth elemental summoning) and a pool. Knowledge (nature) checks revealed that the small waves in the pool meant that it was probably connected to the outside world; sure enough, the two aquatic elves in the party verified that a submerged tunnel led to the surface just offshore of Parrot Island.
The party decided that with this handy exit available, there was no need to use the gem of earth elemental summoning (their backup plan, to summon an elemental to move the rock blocking the trapdoor). However, Izzy didn't want to get his/her fur, familiar, or other belongings wet, so s/he and Eroknar decided to wait below the trapdoor for D'razul and Veerga to clear it.
The two elves traversed the tunnel, carrying the rope that Vanthus had cut, and made their way back to the trapdoor aboveground. However, it appears that Vanthus had left a guard on the rock! Three Lotus Dragon toughs lounged about, weapons at the ready.
They were no match for our heroes, however. Fired with the thought of bringing Vanthus to justice (something they counted on doing immediately, of course...heh) they ambushed the hapless thugs, killing one outright and sending the other two packing. An invigorating chase through the trees ensued, as the thugs raced to the safety (as they thought) of their boat.
Veerga caught up to one and netted him, saving him for interrogation...D'razul caught the other one as he was shoving off, and put a harpoon through his chest. The party was reunited and took the time to interrogate Frank the greenhorn Lotus Dragon, whose brothers Robert and Jacob the party had just killed.
"I just got the tattoo! We thought this would be an easy way to make money...but that Vanthus is a demon! He told us to keep an eye out for the four of you here...and now look, Bob and Jake are dead! What will I tell mother?! And if he finds out that I talked, he'll...he'll kill her, and then me!"
Convinced by his blubbering (and a Sense Motive check), the party agreed to put him and his family through Sasserine's Witness Protection Program...in exchange for everything he knew about the Lotus Dragon stronghold. Frank in fact sketched them a quick map that I stole from this thread (thanks, Lord Alarik The Fool!) and told the party to look underneath the Taxidermist's Hall, near Dead Dog Alley...
Convinced now of Vanthus's treacherous, evil nature, the party decided to let Lavinia know what had happened, despite knowing that it would be a horrible shock for her...as indeed it was. As they rested up in preparation for investigating the Lotus Dragon stronghold, they took the time to scan the mysterious empathic locket more closely. After a ridiculously high (for level 3 characters) Spellcraft check, the party discovered that the locket was in fact an intelligent item that they now believe is a spy for Vanthus that somehow got planted on them in Castle Teraknian...
Session 8: The party arrived at Vanderboren manor, handing off the mysterious locket to Eroknar with instructions to keep it far away from them while they broke the news about Vanthus's treachery to Lavinia. Veerga mustered enough courage to ask the inimical Kora to brew some strong tea and bring a plate of fresh scones to distract Lavinia...in some way that just wasn't right, they seemed to materialize right out of thin air before she had even finished the request.
Sure enough, Lavinia was shocked and horrified at the news...but unexpectedly rallied, ordering the PCs to do whatever is necessary to bring her brother back - alive, if possible. She realizes, though, that the charming, thoughtful boy of her youth may have changed in the intervening years beyond salvation. If the unthinkable should happen...she tells the PCs that their lives are not worth the life of a murderer, even if he is her brother.
After resting and regrouping, the party made their way through the city to Dead Dog Alley, passing between spontaneous parades and parties as the festival atmosphere approached the breaking point. Some of the party reconnoitered the warehouses while D'razul follow up a lead with a friendly female guard captain. One high Diplomacy check later, he had hints that the Kellani family was involved with the Lotus Dragons, confirming previous suspicions that a noble was backing them.
The party decided to handle the infiltration in the most classy way possible: using Izzy's near-messianic status among the hadozee community and several Diplomacy checks, they organized a mob of hadozee to loiter around the warehouses on standby while Veerga and D'razul fired several of the warehouses to distract the Lotus Dragons. Once the party had slipped into the taxidermist and had some time to work, the hadozee were to "spontaneously" organize a fire brigade, confining the fire to the warehouses.
It worked reasonably well, with no deaths. One family's dwelling was burned to the ground and their eldest son was badly burned saving his sister...but more on that another day. Other than that, it was pretty epic. And by epic, I mean AWESOME. I never expected my previously subtle and discreet party to go the "arson/kick in the door" route.
A short, sinister-looking man blasted them as soon as they entered the taxidermist shop, then vanished (concealed by a hasty fog cloud, actually - Veerga was surprised to have her own spell thrown back at her). The party hustled down the secret trapdoor after him, hearing shouts of "intruders!" preceding them down the tunnel. Soon they found themselves boxed in by a disorganized group of Lotus Dragon thugs, whom they quickly dispatched before following the fleeing illusionist.
After a second encounter with thugs that Nemien had sent after them as he ran, they took cover in a room to take stock and heal. Coincidentally, this room had until recently been occupied by Vanthus Vanderboren. As Veerga tended to Eroknar's superficial wounds, D'razul gave the room a casual once-over...discovering the previous occupant's identity and several belongings. Among these were several sheets of paper covered with Vanthus's bold, aggressive handwriting: his attempts to work out the combination to the family vault.
Session 9: The party killed several more Lotus Dragons, convinced that a) Vanthus was somewhere here, and b) he would get away if they took too long. They bought themselves some time by blocking several doors but were ambushed by Cruncher the worg, although aside from one round's worth of heavy damage he didn't accomplish much - D'razul and Eroknar sent him into full retreat the same round, and Veerga successfully netted and restrained him long enough for Izzy to grab her trident and finish the job!
After several minutes of much less exciting exploration, the party spotted Vanthus Vanderboren at the far end of the corridor in front of them! Izzy and Eroknar sped off in hot pursuit, while D'razul and Veerga ran to (as they thought, not unreasonably, based off of Frank's map from Session 7) cut off his retreat. Unfortunately the elves found their way blocked by a rock wall that D'razul immediately identified as a secret door...that he couldn't open from this side.
Just about then, Eroknar and Izzy caught up to Vanthus in the Crucible, where they cornered him. As a giant crocodile lumbered out of the cave behind him, however, he vanished - an illusion! (Apparently, Nemien was a little more savvy than they gave him credit for :) However, Eroknar, pretty quick on the uptake, let loose with a mighty "NEMIEN, I'M COMING FOR YOU!!" A very audible gasp of fear made Eroknar feel a little better.
D'razul and Veerga were hammering on the secret door as thugs closed on them from behind. Kersh the torturer leaped down from behind the illusory wall where he and Nemien had been hiding (well, Nemien hadn't been there until just a moment before, when Kersh helped him up through the wall just in time to escape the PCs - but they didn't know that at the time). Lotus Dragons slammed the floodgates into the Crucible and began filling it with water.
Session 10: Fortunately, Eroknar and Izzy heard their friends' calls, and Izzy evened the playing field by casting enlarge person on Eroknar, who tossed down his axe, picked that crocodile up in an enormous bear hug, and just about crushed the life out of it. (Hurray for unreasonably high CMB rolls!) Izzy dodged the reptile's flailing tail and opened the door, letting water out of the Crucible and letting their friends in. D'razul finished off the croc and Veerga cast some badly-needed cure spells. One hero point later and Izzy and Eroknar had hurled the crocodile corpse down the tunnel, crushing the thugs pursuing. Meanwhile, Kersh leapt down from the concealed observation area to beat on Eroknar with poisoned knives while thugs poured in through the doors. Nemien ran for it, of course, but the rest of them died to a man. (Good fight, party! They had to work for the win, though! :)
As a coda to that epic battle, the party captured three thugs alive - they were cornered and mostly out of their minds with fear at that point - and barricaded a panicked kobold (Churtle, of course - the party had reports of her from Frank as a decent cook, and the Lotus Dragons' poison-maker) in her own pantry.
Making their way into the final heart of the base, they found the Lotus Dragons' "war room," filled with documents, ledgers, maps and enough evidence to bring down the Lotus Dragons' operation and bring it all home to the Kellanis. They also found a blackboard filled with names (some of which had already been crossed off). To their delight, they found that on this board was written:
VANTHUS, FIX THIS NOW! -RK
They liked that a lot.
Finally, they found the Dragon Lady, Rowyn Kellani, waiting calmly in her own boudoir to greet them...and audaciously offer them employment in her service.
I would have noticed it earlier but the post is rather hidden away. Good job by the way.
Thanks as well! I'm trying to give credit where I can for tangible contributions I grab off of other threads, but in case I haven't mentioned it somewhere else in here, the Savage Tide threads on this site have been almost as helpful to me for ideas and inspiration as the magazines themselves.
By the way, if anyone reading this is running this classic (which is totally worth it), feel free to take any ideas you like, of course.
Session 11: Of course, our heroes declined Rowyn's offer with extreme prejudice. An all-out brawl followed, with both sides playing for keeps. At the end of several rounds of intense combat, Gut Tugger was knocked unconscious (having flanked, and nearly killed, Eroknar). (Why unconscious, you ask, and not dead? Well, the PCs - two of whom, as I have mentioned, are played by vets - realized that as a felldrake he was intelligent, and decided to keep him alive for questioning later.)
Rowyn Kellani, nearly out herself and seeing which way the wind was blowing, hastily pulled out a potion of gaseous form and quaffed it, laughing at the party's discomfiture as she made her escape...but, after a hasty glance through the rulebook to confirm that gaseous creatures are NOT immune to magic missile, Veerga and Izzy dealt just enough damage that the now-unconscious Rowyn collapsed in a floaty pile. The party stabilized her, scoured her room for clues and treasure while they waited for her to revert, and eventually tied her up as well.
The party found various items of interest in addition to more cashable loot:
-A scandalous dress of lavender silk that a delighted Veerga (unfamiliar with surface clothes) claimed and couldn't wait to show Lavinia
-Several bottles of exquisite perfume, including one labelled "Shendilavri" in flowing gold script, whose contents the party could not identify
-A sheaf of correspondence between their quarry Vanthus Vanderboren and the recently-vanquished Rowyn Kellani. While most were racy and irrelevant, several were...quite illuminating:
They've grown soft – this will be easy. Of course they suspect nothing, my delicate flower. The funds you've trusted me with have been more than enough to pay off the local guards and the harbor watch to say nothing about the new cargo...the crew even offered to help load the barrels! Of course, I didn't tell them what was inside – I'm sure they'd sing a different tune if they knew just how much naphtha we loaded into Father's new plaything. I'll be following the ship's progress for a few days to make sure the fire does the trick. Keep your bed warm for me.
It's unbelievable! It shouldn't matter that she's the eldest, she knows nothing of life! She spent the last half of her childhood in Thenalar learning how to fold napkins and play the violin! It just goes to show you how insane they really were...they left her EVERYTHING!
I suppose I should be philosophical about it, though – after all, she'll need the house to live off of. Don't think those naughty thoughts, my dear – you should trust me, and in any event we need to be careful. A second Vanderboren tragedy might get too many people curious. For now, the vault will have to be prize enough.
I wish you could have been there, my little dragon, to see their faces before I closed them in. Lavinia's never going to be a threat if that's the best she can do. They're strong – they won't die quickly – but they will die. I left a couple men there to keep an eye on things for a few days, just in case.
In any case, I have Brissa eating out of my hand. Don't get jealous! This is important: remember when I told you she was hinting about pirates in Kraken's Cove? She wasn't spinning tales – I've news that they'll be arriving within the tenday, bearing a particularly rich cargo. I'm taking a dozen with me – Brissa's our ticket in, and when they're not expecting it we'll fire their ships. It'll be a simple task to pluck the treasure from the water once they're all dead. There should be more than enough to make up for Lavinia's interference.
And don't worry – I'll take care of the old man on the way out of town.
Upon recovering from their horror, the party began discussing Vanthus's awful crime in hushed tones, only for Izzy (who had been holding the intelligent locket, which by this time the PCs had mostly forgotten about) to be overwhelmed with an empathic surge of shock, shame, and grief. At this time, the party decided that forgetting about the locket again might be a bad idea, but Izzy cleverly realized that the locket's reaction to the letters might indicate that it wasn't after all a spy for Vanthus. They cajoled the poor thing until she began speaking in a charming French accent, revealing that she was, until recently, Vanthus's. She believed that he loved her - and, with her 15-year-old girl's mind, she loved him. She has little memory of where he found her, except that it was a very lonely place, very horrible and very far away. She was very lonely for a very long time, and when Vanthus found her and took care of her, she lost her heart to him - but she never realized he was capable of such monstrous acts as these letters revealed. He abandoned her in the Vanderboren vault ("forgot" was her word, and she thought it was somehow her fault). She seized the chance to leave by dimension dooring herself into Eroknar's pocket - she can do so once per day - with the vague hope of finding Vanthus again.
Session 12: The party made it back to street level, Rowyn and Gut Tugger (oh, and Churtle - did I forget? The party spared her, and in fact - due to her slightly age-based confusion and her earnest pleas of loyalty - decided to keep her on as a hired expert on poison. Izzy washed his/her hands of any involvement, but Veerga started paying her 50 gp per month, deductible from the salary she gets from Lavinia. Why are large groups of kobolds slaughtered indiscriminately, but lone "named" kobolds invariably accepted into the party? :)
Anyway, the sight of so many strangely-dressed, strangely-equipped, or just plain strange people (including the PCs not least) started an impromptu parade that morphed into a kind of riot as the PCs progressed to the guardhouse. Rowyn, Gut Tugger, and some surviving Lotus Dragons were handed over to the guards, but Churtle was brought back to Lavinia's and ordered to whip up a couple tanglefoot bags while the party broke the truth about her parents' death to Lavinia.
She took it rather well, all things considered, going pale and asking to be left alone. The party took their respectful leave and spent some time nibbling Kora's unnaturally tasty blueberry scones. When she emerged from her room, red-eyed and pale, the party comforted her as best they could, presenting her a silver unicorn figurine they had found in Rowyn's lair. They also put Fleur into her keeping, reasoning (correctly, as it happened) that they would be able to somehow comfort one another. After a light supper (served by the ubiquitous Kora) Lavinia retired to her chambers and the party went to bed...and dreamed again. May I present dream 2 of the Savage Tide dream log:
"The Bullywug Gambit" – The Rising Tide
A fleet of ships flying the Lotus Dragon flag sweeps with measured inevitability across the surface of the moonlit sea, its numberless sails imprisoning the wind, its threshing oars pulled by slaves, its crew the dregs of Sasserine's worst criminals. For one horrible moment you fear that the sails are white – a thought that fills you with a nameless terror – before, to your relief, you realize that they are black after all. At the head of the fleet is a magnificent caravel with a figurehead in the likeness of Rowyn Kellani, gilded and elaborately carved above the waterline, but rotting wood underneath. The weather is clear and the sun glances off the dark waters.
Suddenly, clouds pile up on the horizon – towering thunderclouds that rapidly converge on the fleet from all directions, leaving no avenue of escape. The ships begin to founder as the waves mount, and despite the crews' efforts, within moments the Lotus Dragon fleet has been hurled down to a watery grave.
You find yourselves floundering in the sea amongst the wreckage, and all of you fight desperately to stay above the water. Bits of flotsam swirl around you as sharks tear the corpses to pieces. After what seems like an eternity, the storm finally passes and the clouds part to reveal a strangely darkened sky. The moon no longer shines – it is black, and you can only tell its position in the sky because of the stars it occults. Blood fills the air, but whether it is falling torrentially from the sky or rising from the surface of the sea, you cannot tell. The moon flares a bright green before splintering and splitting like a walnut smashed between two stones. Screams and howls rise towards you from the depths and something seizes your legs in its jaws.
When the party awoke, covered in cold sweat, they found that Lavinia had gone to transact business in the city and Kora had (in some unspeakable, unknowable fashion) laid out clean formal clothes for each of them - in Veerga's case, the horrid little dear had cleaned and set out the silk dress Veerga had claimed from Rowyn's hoard. On each set of clothing was a neatly-folded slip of cream-colored paper whereupon, written out in Lavinia's bold, flourishing script, the party found invitations to a banquet being held that evening in Castle Teraknian.
As it happened, Lavinia had not retired for very long. Instead, she had interrogated Fleur and, later, Churtle, who corroborated the party's tale in full. She organized what she knew of Vanthus's whereabouts during the short time he had stayed in the manor. Most importantly of all, when Detective Veerga pointed out a red "X" over the Islaran Estate (see "Backdrop: Sasserine," published with the AP), the two of them made the connection between that and Vanthus's last letter. Lavinia had sent her unnatural majordomo quickstep to warn Lord Islaran, the harbormaster, of his danger...only to find his household in an uproar, as it seems that he had been murdered during the night...opal-tipped silver pins driven through his eyes. There was no sign of a struggle...
So Lavinia had presented all of this to an emergency session of the Dawn Council at, well, dawn that morning, assisted by her patron, Anwyn Arabani - the influential Dawn Council member in charge of Sasserine's Merchant district. All of this the party only found out that evening, when Lavinia presented them to the assembled nobles of Sasserine (including a shocked and furious Heldrath Kellani) and Anwyn presented them with the Spire of Sasserine, the city's highest honor. Later, Anwyn announced that she would be taking temporary control of the position of Harbormaster (a deal she and Lavinia had worked out with the Islaran estate, as none of his heirs wanted the responsibility), effectively making Anwyn Sasserine's most powerful noble, thanks in no small part to the party and to Lavinia.
After the ceremonies, Lavinia met the party and thanked them privately, explaining that the haste had been necessary to keep Heldrath Kellani from properly hiding her involvement with the Lotus Dragons. She was interrupted as a loutish, drunken nobleman - Avner Meravanchi by name - slapped her on the ass from behind. The party was about to take him down a peg or two, when his father - the imposing Lord Zebula Meravanchi - appeared behind him and slapped him to the floor himself, shouting that no son of his would embarrass the family in public. Avner hauled himself off in shame as Zebula formally apologized to the mollified Lavinia.
It's pretty fair to say that at the end of this party Lavinia had the party's sympathy, respect, and complete loyalty. As a show of this, they offered to track Vanthus to Kraken's Cove the next morning. Lavinia told them to bring him back alive, if possible - but not to risk themselves to do so. She wants to see him brought to justice.
So at the crack of dawn, the party hired a pinnace run by an old hadozee and his kids, sailing east along the coast. They didn't see much interesting on the way...just a tribe of bullywugs in the distance, one of whom appeared to be carrying an exceptionally large axe, heading in the general direction of Sasserine. But when they hit the 1-mile mark out from the Cove, things got weird. Plants and animals were twisted and tumorous, mostly dead, and frequently ripped apart in senseless savagery. Lingering Conjuration magic stained the air and earth. The party went the last bit on foot, avoiding a fallen, blood-spattered tree from whose hollow trunk came the sounds of tearing and chewing. When they made it to the cliff above Kraken's Cove, all they could see was smoke and all they could hear was the roar of the flames. The ships in the cove were burning! ...and there was movement in the smoke below.
With your permission:
je m'appelle c'est Fleur d'Amour
m'aimes comme je t'aime
A successful Linguistics check translates this as:
My name it's Fleur d'Amour
Me love as I love you
The exact English/French translation of the text would be:
Je m'appelle Fleur d'Amour
Aime moi comme je t'aime
Or more romantic:
Je m'appelle Fleur d'Amour
Aimez moi comme je vous aime
My name is Fleur d'Amour
Love me as I love you
Traitorous Frenchie ;)
With your permission:
je m'appelle c'est Fleur d'Amour
m'aimes comme je t'aime
A successful Linguistics check translates this as:
My name it's Fleur d'Amour
Me love as I love you
The exact English/French translation of the text would be:
Je m'appelle Fleur d'Amour
Aime moi comme je t'aime
Or more romantic:
Je m'appelle Fleur d'Amour
Aimez moi comme je vous aime
My name is Fleur d'Amour
Love me as I love you
Traitorous Frenchie ;)
Ah, actually, thanks! I'm not a French speaker, so...
A similar thing happened with some German I threw into a one-shot, except two of my players are German speakers. Whoops!
Out of curiosity: the original version I used was the grammatically incorrect version at the top of your post, and the "more romantic" version is the one you translated at the bottom. However, what's the difference between the romantic version and the one in the middle? Just curious :)
Anyway, I will make the appropriate surreptitious alteration to the handout I gave the party, so thanks!
In English there is I and you but in French the second can be translated by TU as in: je t'aime, it's direct and is used with friends, family and in business with workmates or persons under your orders (if you/they want) if it's your style.
Second translation: je vous aime: it's more romantic because in centuries past it was always used and is a sign of respect you keep a little space between each person today you use it when you don't know the person you speak to, in the street, in a store or to someone you give a lot of respect (or want to be respected) your director (not always I use TU with mine because it's his style and on top of that he is younger than me).
It also used when you speak to more than one person.
In some noble family or very catholic one the children use VOUS when they speak to their parents and older.
Aime moi is impératif it's a demand but can be heard like an order as in English Love me.
Using TU is called tutoiement
Using VOUS is called vouvoiement
In English there is I and you but in French the second can be translated by TU as in: je t'aime, it's direct and is used with friends, family and in business with workmates or persons under your orders (if you/they want) if it's your style.
Second translation: je vous aime: it's more romantic because in centuries past it was always used and is a sign of respect you keep a little space between each person today you use it when you don't know the person you speak to, in the street, in a store or to someone you give a lot of respect (or want to be respected) your director (not always I use TU with mine because it's his style and on top of that he is younger than me).
It also used when you speak to more than one person.
In some noble family or very catholic one the children use VOUS when they speak to their parents and older.
Aime moi is impératif it's a demand but can be heard like an order as in English Love me.
Using TU is called tutoiement
Using VOUS is called vouvoiement
Ah, thank you. Much obliged!
Session 13: The party made their way cautiously down to sea level by way of a rickety wooden walkway that wound its way down the side of the cliff. One of the burning ships snapped its moorings and crashed into the walkway, hurling it down in fiery ruin. The PCs were able to leap to safety just in time - only to be ambushed by a trio of mutated savage pirates who appeared to have killed and devoured all other life on the beach. Though gravely wounded, no one was killed. After this encounter, the party resolved to be much more cautious in their explorations...accordingly, they scoured the beach for more monstrosities before heading into the caves. (They found some treasure, but no more savage pirates.)
The caves themselves were in no better condition. The party faced several more savage pirates and cleverly surprised the hiding violet fungus instead of the other way around. (They are SO paranoid: "oh, there's a body in this room - better chuck some rocks into the room to see if anything mindless and hungry jumps out." Guess how well a violet fungus does if it can't get into melee range...) However, Navesh Wyvernsting, a savage hadozee, got the jump on them in the middle of another fight...only for the witch (the WITCH!) to grapple him and hold him down while the rest of the party went to town in melee.
They even surprised the savage deinonychus in the Hall of Hanging Silk - poor Ripclaw's leap attack was foiled when they brought a hanging down on him and beat him to death. And the krenshars were picked off with ranged attacks without being able to reach the party. Good for the PCs, bad for the krenshars :)
Session 14: Continuing their trend of just pwning Kraken's Cove, the party specifically noted to me that they were carefully watching the ceilings. Naturally, Brissa Santos - squirming along the ceiling like some noisome spawn from the deeps, her sucker-coated fingers clinging to the rough stone ceiling, her jaw unhinged in anticipation - was unable to surprise them either.
Pushing along after poor Brissa had been put out of her misery, they found themselves suddenly in the middle of a fight. A very tired Cap'n Harliss Javell was busy dismembering the last of a large horde of savage pirates. The party, of course, helped her finish them off - after which D'razul threatened her with violence if she didn't tell the party everything.
Wrong answer. :)
Sadly - from my point of view, at least - the rest of the party scented danger, mostly due to Eroknar knowing Harliss on a professional basis from his days as a pirate. They hauled D'razul back from the abyss at the last second. A hero point was added to an already-high Diplomacy roll, bringing the party to a total of 41. Cap'n Harliss Javell of the Wavereaper, scourge o' the seas, shifted from "unfriendly" to "helpful" by a gang of wet-behind-the-ears low-level PCs! She'll never live that down.
Kraken's cove...so many opportunities for a TPK, and the PCs foil all of them. And now this. Oh, well! Naturally, Harliss then told them everything: Vanthus accidentally triggering the shadow pearl, the ensuing chaos, Vanthus's escape (that slippery bastard!), and oh yes...Cap'n Javell told them too that her first mate, one Drevoraz, was going to grab a local tribe of bullywugs and kill Lavinia as revenge for Vanthus's treachery.
(Heh. And I thought they hated him when he trapped them under Parrot Island.) Anyway, after giving them one of her earrings to show Drevoraz (as proof that she wants him to back down, since she realized her mistake), Harliss booked it for Scuttlecove, leaving the party frantically hurrying to rendezvous with their ride, hoping to make it back to Sasserine before Lavinia pays for her brother's crimes...
Session 15: On their way to rendezvous with the pinnace, the party noticed that one of the Crimson Fleet ships was still afloat. Was it seaworthy? IT WAS. Was it free of monsters? IT WAS. Was it the Sea Wyvern? IT WAS.
So they took it. :D
With the help of the hadozee pinnace crew (who were convinced to leave their pinnace at Kraken's Cove for the time being) they started sailing the Sea Wyvern back to Sasserine. All the PCs have a lot of ranks in Profession (sailor) and with the pinnace crew bringing them above the minimum crew limit of 7 for the Sea Wyvern, it was easy.
Note: They asked me what kind of ship it was. I told them a caravel...but not just any caravel. A masterwork caravel. What does that mean, you ask? (What does it mean? I don't know, I was just BSing :) But what it means in in-game terms according to me anyway is that the first 10,000 gp worth of upgrades (or even completely rebuilding it to a different ship type) performed to it at a later time are free, though they still take the appropriate amount of time and can lose free gp of upgrading if the Craft check botches. Anyway, moving on with the story:
They parked the Sea Wyvern illegally in the harbor, after hastily reassuring the Azure Guard that the Crimson Fleet wasn't attacking. ("That's the Sea Wyvern?! I heard it never leaves survivors!" "Wow, you're right! Look at the scar on the hull! I heard it got that tangling with a kraken in the Trackless Sea!" "No, it was a dragon! A dragon off of the Sword Coast!")
The aquatic elves dove right into the slightly unwholesome water of Sasserine's canals, swimming directly for Vanderboren Manor, while the others followed over the rooftops. Creeping in through the small outlet beneath the wall, they noticed that the bars had been rusted away...and moments later, they surprised Chunkus, that same rust monster, tormenting one of the Jade Ravens (Liamae) for the amusement of his master, the horrible Chief Lorpth of the Trub Glorp bullywug tribe. A brawl ensued, with the PCs fighting in and around the canal as Lorpth attacked from one side and Huntress Lorb-Lorb Tub, drawn by the clamor, attacked from the other, followed by several bullywugs.
At the end of it all, Lorpth was dead, the party badly injured, and Lorb-Lorb Tub decided that she had had enough. She grabbed Liamae and shouted for everyone to stop fighting...apparently, she had thought the whole attack was stupid in the first place, and now that the Chieftain is dead, she doesn't want to lose the rest of the tribe to adventurers. She knew that Bua Gorg, the tribe's fanatical shaman, would prevent any warriors he could speak to from deserting, so she traded Liamae for safe passage out of the mansion for herself, Chunkus, and the surviving warriors on the first floor.
Eventually, the party made it to the second floor, discovering a bullywug corpse in Lavinia's room (go, Lavinia! Yeah!) before reaching Larissa and Verik Vanderboren's chambers. There, Drevoraz (Cap'n Harliss Javell's first mate) was trying to beat Vanthus's whereabouts out of the steadfast Lavinia, after torturing two of the Jade Ravens into unconsciousness.
And murdering Kora Whistlegap.
Yeah, the party wasn't expecting that. Everyone knows that the Wee Folk are...too horrible, too unnatural, too strange to die.
Wake up call time, heroes :)
After that, there was no mercy. Bua Gorg, the bullywug shaman, started gibbering about Dagon and "blood for the Lord of the Depths." Drevoraz tried to negotiate for safe passage (especially after seeing Harliss's earring) but...
A look passed between Lavinia and the party, and her lips moved soundlessly.
Fleur dimension doored into Drevoraz's face, distracting him for a critical instant. Lavinia, who had worked one hand free of her bindings, dove for the safety of the party. She grabbed D'razul's rapier (he was hefting bloodied harpoons by now) and turned to join the melee, just as Drevoraz disentangled Fleur from his face and hurled her into a corner of the room.
Eroknar noticed that the axe slung across Drevoraz's back was, in fact, none other than Trepaner, his own ancestral adamanatine axe. He howled and launched himself at Drevoraz, swinging his own axe.
And then there was carnage. :) Eroknar eventually finished his duel by disarming Drevoraz and, with his newly recovered ancestral weapon, bisected the unfortunate half-orc. The rest of the party killed off all of the other bullywugs...
...just as Bua Gorg, out of options, cast obscuring mist around himself. Thinking him relatively easy pickings, Eroknar attacked him in the mist, only to find that the wily shaman had taken the intervening round to cast enlarge person on himself, and poor Eroknar found himself grappled by a fifteen foot tall bullywug shaman with a bad case of crazy. That was the highlight for the baddies :)
Eventually, however, Eroknar escaped the grapple, and turned the tables with his axe, while the party tended to Lavinia and dragged the Jade Ravens to safety. (They figured they could trust Eroknar to take care of one shaman. Turns out, he could!)
And so ended the Bullywug Gambit. But hot damn, what a fight it was!
Session 16: The party got Fleur out of the corner, healed the Jade Ravens as much as they could with their now-depleted resources, covered poor Kora's corpse with a sheet, and began piling the bullywug corpses up to be removed. Veerga tried to comfort Lavinia for awhile, and eventually she and Izzy came up with the idea to find a replacement for Kora - someone dependable that they could count on to help Lavinia through these increasingly difficult times.
They also realized that they should probably register the Sea Wyvern with the Harbormaster's office.
Speaking of the Harbormaster's Office - hadn't Vanthus murdered Keltar Islaran on his way to Kraken's Cove? That bastard! But, wait - he left the Cove not long before the party arrived, right? And they came back posthaste in the Sea Wyvern, right? So maybe he doesn't know that the Lotus Dragon stronghold has been cleared out...if he comes back through the docks entrance, he wouldn't even see the burned warehouses! Then they can catch him!
...so went their logic, anyhow, and I can't fault it. So they set out into Sasserine's streets to find a new majordomo, stop by the Harbormaster's office, and rendezvous at the Lotus Dragon stronghold to ambush Vanthus, should he return. Of course, they told all of this to Lavinia, as they left her in the care of the Jade Ravens and marched into the celebrating city...
Only to be ambushed by stiltwalkers juggling flaming throwing knives and a cartwheeling, acrobatic assassin, name of Diamondback.
...well, maybe "ambushed" wouldn't be the right word. They didn't see Diamondback until she was almost on them, but they're pretty paranoid by now. Eroknar and D'razul both cottoned onto the stiltwalkers' hand signals, and everyone was ready when the stiltwalkers started tossing flaming daggers and flasks of alchemist's fire at them. After the first stiltwalker critically failed his attack roll with a flask of alchemist's fire and set a nearby building alight, the mood of the crowd turned ugly. Izzy, once again eschewing magic in favor of brute force, climbed the Vanderboren estate wall and performed a Hadozee Suplex Meteor Drive (read: charge + grapple) on poor Diamondback, pinning her the next round with a little help from her party. Lavinia, seeing it all from her window and now righteously infuriated (after all, these assassins ambushed HER friends in front of HER manor right after they saved HER LIFE), led the Jade Ravens out into the fray in time to incite the crowd with a fiery speech.
(The party now has an almost reverential awe for Lavinia's speeches. I'm quite good at improvising them, I guess :)
Anyway, the crowd pulled down the remaining stiltwalkers and...uh...mob justice. Diamondback was saved for questioning, and she quickly admitted that Heldrath Kellani had hired her and her troupe to avenge Rowyn's imprisonment and the downfall of the Lotus Dragons. The Jade Ravens took her off to hold so she could testify against the Kellanis.
The party finally registered the Sea Wyvern and found a hadozee admirably suited for the role of replacement majordomo - an intelligent clerk, name of Medea - who they escorted to Vanderboren Manor and introduced to Lavinia, who hired her on the spot and set her to work.
They ended the day by resting near the underground docks in the Lotus Dragon stronghold, leaving Sie (Izzy's thrush familiar) on guard in Nemien's taxidermy shop aboveground in case Vanthus should come in that way. They cleverly "disguised" him as a stuffed thrush. I love these guys!
|carborundum RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32|
This is great - I'm completely reminiscing about the start of my STAP campaign :-) Thanks very much for posting!
(We're at the end of City of Broken Idols now)
Ah, terrific! This is such an awesome campaign, I'm glad that other people are still playing it!
Please don't post anything else about CoBI though (or even the titles of other installments) - I'm trying to keep this thread strictly spoiler-free so that my players can read it eventually. I think they can handle one installment title, though - especially when they don't even know which one it is!
Session 17: After setting Sie on watch (I think I mentioned this earlier, but it's really easy to disguise a thrush as a stuffed thrush - just put him on a shelf in a taxidermy shop!), the party rested. And...may I present dream 3 of the Savage Tide Dream Log:
"The Sea Wyvern's Wake" – Memories of Sasserine
Lavinia's parents' bedroom is cleaned of blood and bodies, and once again white dust sheets cover the furniture. On the bed, a shrouded, unmistakably feminine figure is stretched out as though for burial, but her face is covered and you cannot tell who it might be.
Against your will your feet move you towards the bed, your footsteps muffled by the thick carpeting. Your gasping breath is the only sound as you bend over the body, your hands mere inches from the shroud, your face directly above the face hinted at beneath the masking cloth. You can make out the hints of eyes, a nose, lips beneath the shroud.
Suddenly you realize that the eyes are open and staring at you. Able to move again, you turn to flee – only to be seized by strong fingers as the others in the room press forward. Rowyn Kellani, her blazing eyes filled with hate, grins derangedly into your face as her nails press painfully into your flesh. She leans forward to whisper into your ear: "Weren't expecting me, were you, poor thing?"
Another, smaller set of hands clutches your thigh – looking down, you see poor Kora Whistlegap smiling kindly at you, tilting her head back to peer up at you – her slit throat grinning at you with demonic glee.
Thick, brutish fingers clasp your right hand – these belong to Drevoraz, his hulking body spilling entrails and blood from horrific wounds. Pressing up behind him, the soft bodies of bullywugs pierced and mashed crowd about, reaching for you. Lotus Dragons crowd towards you from the left, Brissa Santos pushing her way through them, her once-beautiful face twisted as fangs force their way past her lips.
You cannot escape. Dozens have crowded their way into the room from the hall, and more shuffle and push outside as they attempt to get in. They force you back into the embrace of the shrouded figure, now sitting up in the bed. She wraps you in her arms and legs in a smothering embrace, and the white shroud clings tightly to your body, slithering from her skin to yours, binding your movements and choking your breath as they lay you down in her place.
Against the light streaming in through the windows you can make the woman's figure out through the thin wrapping as she stands beside the bed, holding what looks like a gleaming statue of gold. She places it on your chest, the weight of it driving the breath from your body. As you slip into suffocating unconsciousness, she bends down and places a kiss upon your brow, searing you with cold. You awake, bathed in cold sweat, blood streaming from your forehead. A lingering whisper from the dream accompanies your waking – a woman's voice, low and mocking: "You weren't expecting me, were you?"
For the interested (like one of my PCs who asked, and rolled the requisite Heal check), the clinical term for "sweating blood" is "hematidrosis." At this point the party is beginning to suspect that these aren't ordinary dreams...the fact that they are shared, apparently somewhat prophetic, and...well...the hematidrosis...however, they have no idea where they are coming from.
Anyway, around this time they hear Lavinia's voice floating down from the taxidermy shop. "Weren't expecting us?" she said. (Cue party paranoia :) As it happens, Lavinia was speaking to Nemien the illusionist, who had returned hoping to retrieve money before fleeing the city and had been caught by Lavinia and the Jade Ravens as they arrived to look for the PCs. Apparently (they told a surprised party), the PCs have been missing for two days! Even Sie was apparently out like a light. That particular dream must have been a strong one.
After dropping Nemien off at the jail where most of the surviving Lotus Dragons were being held, the party accompanied Lavinia back to Vanderboren Manor, having concluded that 1) Vanthus hadn't returned to the Lotus Dragon stronghold (since they hadn't been murdered in their sleep) and 2) if he wasn't coming back in two days, he had probably skipped town.
Lavinia had a surprising proposition for them: she asked them to accompany her on a journey to the Isle of Dread! She explained that she had deciphered her parents' notes and legal papers that she discovered in the vault, and in fact they had founded a colony, Farshore, on the Isle some years back, and had been planning to return soon with additional colonists and supplies. However, when Vanthus burned their new ship to the waterline, their plans were killed with them...until now. Unfortunately, she needs another ship to accompany her to carry enough people and supplies. Fortunately, the PCs have just acquired a perfectly seaworthy vessel by right of salvage!
Of course they love her so much that they agree practically on the spot, provided that they have time to go back to Kraken's Cove and look for clues (they do) and that they can help ready the ship (they can). They leave the general crew in Lavinia's and Medea's hands, jaunt over to Kraken's Cove - where they find the depleted remains of the detonated shadow pearl - and return just in time to meet Avner Meravanchi again, who is apparently accompanying them.
Oh, what a fun conversation THAT was.
It turns out that Lavinia's expenses are quite formidable, and though Lady Arabani has committed substantial funds, the financial support of another noble was essential to the expedition - and only Zebula Meravanchi, Avner's father, was willing to invest.
Avner, full of himself as always, thinks it is because his father wants him to "look after the family interests" in Farshore. As it happens, the Meravanchis have financed the Vanderboren investments there in the past - so much so that, as a member of the founding expedition, Zebula's eccentric brother Manthalay is a leading figure in the community. Lavinia confides to the party (some of whom already had suspicions) that Zebula just wants Avner out of the city for awhile so he can learn to control himself in public before he embarrasses the family any more. Since the outbound and return voyages are 3 months each and Lavinia plans to stay in Farshore for 6 months or so, Avner will be gone for a year or more.
Lavinia also offered the party a chance to invest their own capital in Farshore. Many of the PCs took the chance - several thousand gp worth of supplies were loaded aboard the Sea Wyvern in anticipation of rich return on investment, a good-sized stretch of the Isle of Dread to call their own, positions of importance in Farshore, or a combination of all of the above. They developed quite a sizable and detailed list, too much so to reproduce here, although maybe I'll mention items off of it later. One item in particular is going to come up again - Veerga bought a very, very large roll of lead foil...just in case. Lastly, the party bid farewell to favored haunts in Sasserine - Izzy in particular had to see to the wellbeing of his/her flock - and performed some minor repairs on the Sea Wyvern, mostly to the weapons, which appeared to have suffered some damage in Kraken's Cove. The firespout built into the wyvern figurehead was beyond their ability to repair before they had to set sail, but two light bombards were installed aboard the ship. It's a dangerous voyage they have ahead...better to be prepared :)
An interlude! This one is on hadozee culture, since it plays a big part in this campaign, and since I didn't talk about it much in the original post. It's also important to understand the next post, so...
If you don't own Stormwrack: hadozee, besides being large anthropomorphic monkeys with glidey wing-flaps, are inveterate and expert sailors. They have no homeland per se, in fact spending more time on ships than land. Since they are so attached to their ships, their social structure tends to be clannish, with family relationships as dependent on shared sailing experience as blood ties. Hadozee do not often take surnames, instead taking a "ship name" based off of the name of the ship they sail on. An example of this will be provided in the next post :)
A second interlude!
May I introduce the crew of the Sea Wyvern, the intrepid colonists she carries to the Isle of Dread, and anyone else aboard the ship. These are people that the PCs will interact with on a daily basis, in some cases forming close relationships. In fact, they owe their lives to at least one of the people on this list...turnabout is fair play!
The Vanderstorms - this is the name the party had decided on at the time they set sail. No comment :)
As ship owners, they are the boss of everyone on the ship, answering only to Lavinia. They also provide security (being adventurers) and are backup crew for the ship - all of them have quite good Profession (sailor) modifiers.
The Crew - a diverse crew made up of humans, hadozee, and one, ah, tiefling.
_[CAPTAIN] Amella Venkalie - slight, blonde, and scarred, Amella has been hired to captain the Sea Wyvern by Lavinia. She seems confident, haughty, and experienced, but reluctant to form attachments.
_[1st MATE] Madee Wyvernscream - Cheelor's mate and a seasoned fighter, Madee is even older than he, and carries a brace of Lantan pistols thrust through her bandolier at all times. She is taciturn around non-hadozee, preferring to let Cheelor interact with them, though she has no qualms working with them on the ship. A bass, and also percussion.
_[2nd MATE] Lirith Veldirose - a red-haired, flamboyantly-dressed tomboy, Lirith is the most noticeable of the Sea Wyvern's new crew. She has sailed with Captain Venkalie before, and appears quite comfortable on the sea. A talented, if somewhat unrefined, alto.
_[NAVIGATOR] Skald - a shifty-looking, stoop-shouldered man (and a tiefling, as it happens), Skald's nasal voice and high-pitched laugh set your teeth on edge, as does his nervous habit of constantly looking over his shoulder. Nevertheless, he has a reputation as a skilled navigator, tracker, and explorer. A fantastic mandolineer.
_[CABIN BOY] Tavey Nesk - A young and excitable lad, Tavey is the Sea Wyvern's cabin boy, a good-looking boy who appears to be under Lirith's and Amella's joint protection. This looks to be his first long sea voyage, and he's looking forward to seeing some real adventure. Quite the contra-tenor.
_Cheelor Wyvernscream - Formerly Cheelor Stormrage, this strapping orange-furred hadozee sailor is the head of the family that signed up for the voyage. He's quite old, and missing three fingers on his right hand, lost fighting Rundeen pirates during the scouring of Sasserine decades ago. Dual-wields bandoneón accordions (he has four "hands," after all), a feat made all the more impressive by his missing fingers.
_Habeego Wyvernscream - one of Cheelor's and Madee's daughters, Habeego is a skilled flyer as hadozee go, and as fierce as her mother. She is powerfully built and fond of drink, carrying a flask of ale strapped to her hip. Another bass/percussionist.
_Cheeskak Wyvernscream - Habeego's sister, she is smaller and quieter, with large eyes and a long tail. She is the family's lookout, and spends a lot of her time in the crow's nest when she isn't working elsewhere on the ship.
_Edward Wyvernscream - Cheelor's half-brother, Edward is the sole survivor of the ill-fated Eking Kite, lost to sahuagin attack in the Sea of Fallen Stars seven years ago. He took his name from a human sailor with whom he had a close friendship, torn to pieces by sharks during the attacks. Also the ship's cook, he is a miracle-worker with salt meat.
_Pembrooke Pete - An old, experienced hand, Pete is a well-known fixture from the docks of Sasserine, a native of the city who has lived his entire life on the sea lanes that connect Sasserine to the rest of the world. Most recently, he was the mate of a whaling vessel just retired due to age and a general lack of seaworthiness. He also appears to be a superstitious rumormonger. Pete can’t sing, but sometimes thinks he can when he’s drunk.
_Crench the Mute - A late addition to the crew, Crench is a burly, almost freakishly muscular half-orc sailor. His larynx was ruined in a Crimson Fleet attack, and he's illiterate. He communicates mostly by gestures, and occasionally by violence.
_Isis Wyvernscream - Another late addition, Isis is a hadozee pyrophile with silky black fur. When it's repaired, she'll be in charge of the firedrake. She's the only Wyvernscream not related by blood to the others.
The Colonists - they've been underestimated more than once. The most important thing to remember about these people is that they are planning to settle on the Isle of Dread. They know what they signed up for, and they have the badass to back it up.
_Penelope Jask - A colonist along with her husband Oscar, Penelope is a kind-faced woman whose pregnancy is just beginning to show. Despite her condition she and Oscar are determined to make a life for themselves and their unborn child in Farshore. She is a smith, and among their cargo is a full forge waiting to be assembled in Farshore. (Note - hmm...human, just entering the 2nd trimester of her pregnancy, signing up for a six-month voyage...)
_Oscar Jask - A broad-shouldered man with dark skin, Oscar is Penelope's husband and a skilled carpenter. He hopes to make a good life for his wife and child there.
_Nerlur Hapsbarren - Nerlur and his family owned a ropewalk in Sasserine that was burned down when the Lotus Dragon warehouses went. He is eager to leave that bitterness behind him and has decided to move them to rebuild in Farshore.
_Brie Hapsbarren - Nerlur's wife, she oversaw the ropewalking process herself, leaving the financial and market aspects to her husband. An imposing woman with a ready laugh, worry lines around her eyes hint at the difficult times the family has suffered.
_Waldam Hapsbarren - The right side of his face scarred during the fire that claimed the family property, Waldam was injured saving his sister Alea from the blaze. Nevertheless, he is a cheerful young man, his ready smile twisted by the scars.
_Alea Hapsbarren - A beautiful girl just entering womanhood, Alea is fit and athletic, delighting in feats of acrobatics on tightropes. She enjoys clambering about the rigging, and is looking forward to a new life even more than her father.
_Durgan Stonethroat - His velvety baritone belying his name, Durgan is trying to make a new life for himself. He seems reluctant to talk about himself or his past, but the dwarf is a skilled architect and worker of stone. Lavinia hopes that with his help, Farshore will be able to construct a small quarry to mine local stone, and possibly mine gems for trade. As I said, a baritone.
_Belkor Steelthew - Another dwarf, Belkor is silent where Durgan is talkative. His heavily scarred skin is a peculiar grayish hue, and though his limbs are thin he can move heavy cargo with apparent ease. He signed on with Durgan, and the two are rarely apart.
Miscellaneous - this category is for everyone else.
_Father Feres - A priest of Tyr anxious to spread the faith beyond Sasserine's walls, Father Feres is a small man with an easy smile and nervous, edgy demeanor.
_Avner Meravanchi - A slanderer, deflowerer of maidens, and utter cad. Despite recovering a good portion of her stolen wealth, Lavinia needed additional financial support to launch the expedition. Lady Anwyn Arabani donated a large sum of gold, but Lord Zebula Meravanchi's support was also critical. He has sent Avner along to “oversee the support of his investment.” (i.e. “get the hell out of Sasserine before you embarrass me further.”)
_Thunderstrike - Avner's stallion, a magnificent white warhorse. Veerga more or less convinced the other PCs to allow him on board...she is a druid, after all.
_Barnaby Chisk - One of Avner's body servants. A paunchy man with watery brown eyes.
_Quenge Asper - The other of Avner's body servants. A tall, thin man with brown skin. He doesn't speak much. Apparently a skilled closet tenor.
_Urol Furol - A bent old gnome smelling of earth and plants, Urol is a scholar and expert on natural lore. He has been to the Isle of Dread once before, although his stay was cut short “due to events beyond his control.” He volunteered himself for the journey, offering his skills as a healer and naturalist to the colony of Farshore. Currently expecting a short side trek to the ruins of Tamoachan.
_Churtle - Churtle!
That's a total of 30 people, not counting Thunderstrike or Penelope's pregnancy. As you can see, the party has one hell of a band hidden amongst their crew. :)
Session 18: The second full session spent preparing to set sail.
The party spent a good deal of time roleplaying with the crew, getting to know their various idiosyncrasies and quirks, and helping them get comfortable on the ship. One unforeseen complication arose when Urol Furol and Churtle ran into each other for the first time - apparently, as likeable as Churtle is, she still isn't overfond of gnomes. Urol, normally so amiable (and chatty!), hates kobolds. Racial enmity can be such a drag...but not in the face of stellar Diplomacy from Veerga. As Churtle's employer and latest savior, she had no problem making it clear that no gnome-murdering pranks would be tolerated...while as a druid and scholar, her natural affinity for Urol gave her an edge in convincing him that Churtle would be a valuable (and safe!) member of the crew. The fact that she is almost the only member of the crew willing to listen to his endless rambles on the subject of the natural world and archaeology in general and the Isle of Dread in specific didn't hurt, either.
Speaking of Urol, Veerga also spent some time scrutinizing his map of Tamoachan with Lavinia, who has herself recently acquired a lot of familiarity with maps, especially of the coastline on their route. The two ladies determined that it's at least not an obvious forgery. The idea that the many-times-explored ruins of Tamoachan could have previously-unexplored chambers, however, is somewhat unlikely - although Urol explains that the area around Tamoachan has recently experienced some seismic activity, and this may have opened up a previously-sealed portion of the ruins.
After spending one or two last days enjoying Sasserine - Veerga in particular got to do something she had always wanted, spending an enjoyable afternoon shopping with Lavinia and trying on human clothing - the party finally set sail for the Isle of Dread on a bright, clear morning. (Thanks to the party's "Diplomacy" - read "Intimidate," this time - and Veerga's Animal Empathy check to get Thunderstrike up the gangplank, Avner didn't even delay them that much.)
A few of the "miscellaneous" crew got a little seasick. Izzy went around dispensing an alchemical brew to the afflicted, clearing that right up...except for Avner, who s/he felt would be more productive vomiting over the back of the ship than interacting with the crew. (He didn't exactly get on anyone's good side that first day.)
The day ended with a celebratory feast organized by Lavinia and held in the evening aboard the Blue Nixie. Everyone got involved singing a bawdy sea shanty divided between the women (italicized verses) and the men (bolded verses) of the crew. (Everyone got a printout of the song and, since there are two men and two women in our group, we all had a blast. Especially since they couldn't really read ahead while singing :)
I knew a maid across the waves, so innocent and pure -
And she was sweet and so petite, but somewhat too demure.
I loved her well, but what the hell, so long she made me wait,
That soon enough I found myself outside the whorehouse gate!
I knew a man who lived on land and feared to sail the sea -
His skin was pale, his breath was stale, his verses flowery.
I tried him once when I was drunk and wish that I had passed,
For worst of all he flew his flag upon a dinghy's mast!
I took a wife once in me life, a woman like a queen -
Her skin was fair, her flamin' hair set off her eyes so green.
But pirate women make poor captain's brides, you must agree,
For when our honeymoon was done she led the mutiny!
I knew a man who left the land to brave the Trackless Sea -
His ship sank and the sharks took every inch below his knees.
I tried him twice he was so nice, nor did he have to beg,
For best of all, I tell you all, he had THREE wooden legs!
After the ship set sail, Lavinia shared something special with the party...her mother's journals, which the enterprising noblewoman had spent the last month or so translating in between negotiating with the Dawn Council and fighting off bullywugs.
NOTE: the main entries in the journal may seem familiar to some of you (I adapted them from Dragon 351, with some important changes). However, some of the appendices (more of which will be forthcoming) are entirely new. So enjoy!
Selected Excerpts From The Journal of Larissa Vanderboren
A Travelogue of the Isle of Dread
Translated from the Sylvan by Lavinia Vanderboren
Today I leave the safety of the colony for the village of Tanaroa. We've been here for several months on the Isle of Temuté, overseeing Farshore's development and attempting to build relations with the natives – Olman, they call themselves. While these proceedings are important for our family's – and, indeed, all of Sasserine's – designs on these far-flung shores, I find them rather tiresome. Thus I've convinced Verik of the value in exploring and documenting the mainland – the Isle of Dread itself! While obviously concerned for my safety, he has sense enough to recognize that I can take care of myself.
Within the Fangs of Zotzilaha – 21 Flamerule 1365
I have returned from a journey with the Tanaroans to the volcano Nextepeua, one of the twin volcanoes known as the Fangs of Zotzilaha. The Tanaroans make annual pilgrimages to offer appeasements to the bat-god Camazotz. I had agreed to the trip to display our good intentions to our Olman neighbors, hoping to further Verik's goal of establishing good relations. I admit, I was uncertain about the shaman leading the pilgrimage – he is apparently the master of the Tanaroans' zombie cult – but he seemed genial enough, and was almost as eager to learn about Eldath and the other gods as I am to learn about the mysterious gods of the Olman. The journey to the fangs was interesting, with dozens of the shaman's zombies shuffling mutely along beneath packs, mingling with the living.
The Fangs are an imposing site, rising up to dizzying heights and dwarfing the scenery around them. From their heights billow pillars of black, acrid smoke visible for many miles by day, polluting the air with ash and debris. Muffled rumbles growl from deep beneath the peaks, suggesting the incredible activity of the world's bowels. The fields surrounding the Fangs steam with slag and knee-deep ash, while the grounds closer to the peaks are riddled with lava tubes. Some evidence of flowing magma colliding with underground water exists, as poisonous gas belches from deep vents and fissures. It's no wonder the Olman fear this place – they live under constant threat of an explosive eruption.
The Tanaroans explained that we must wait until nightfall, when the volcanoes' sacred baboon guardians retreat to their caves. The baboons – omnivorous, and dangerously ravenous – live out a pitiful existence, surviving off sparse vegetation and huddling together around the few pools of stagnant rainwater.
When twilight fell, hordes of great bats swept out from the lava tubes and fissures, blacking out the smoke-clouded sky. I was startled by the creatures' physical size, some with wingspans of up to 15 feet. In spite of their mass, they exhibited surprising maneuverability, both in the air and on the ground. The sight of so many of them, a colony of several thousand strong, instilled a primal fear within me. Although they drove the baboons hooting back to their caves, the bats ignored us completely, enabling us to approach unchallenged – an event that, to the Tanaroans, was a sign Camazotz himself had granted safe passage.
Once inside Nextepua, the shaman, began repeating a rhythmic chant he maintained as long as we were within – the effect was similar to endure elements, enabling us to withstand the heat emanating from the walls and the occasional blasts of scorching air. The searing volcanic fumes made breathing difficult, even with the cloth masks we used, and the rumbles that had seemed muffled outside were deafening this close to the volcanic core. The smoke and heat waves made navigation nearly impossible – I would surely have been lost within these hellish depths forever had not the Tamaroans been so familiar with the way, seemingly capable of making the trek without the need for sight.
After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at the Shrine of Camazotz. We hurriedly placed our offerings before a soot-covered idol carved in the shape of a great bat, wings outspread. I offered a pair of charms Lavinia and Vanthus gifted me as children, for the Tanaroans believe that Camazotz accepts only offerings near to your heart.
I felt...something in the cave before we left, as though I was being watched from the shadows. I had no desire to investigate however, especially in the company of the Tanaroans.
Apparently the shaman was most pleased with my gift – when we returned to Tanaroa, he offered me the services of two zombies from his retinue, apparently a great honor. I had no choice but to accept. What is Verik going to say when I get back with these?
Ecology of the Phanaton – 9 Elesias 1365
While wondering the central jungle, stubbornly classifying the island's endless varieties of flora, I caught sight of a diminutive primate. Carrying a spear, it had a satchel slung across its shoulders and appeared to be rummaging for mushrooms in the spongy ground. It hadn't noticed me so I approached for a closer look.
Little more than 2 feet tall, the creature looked like a raccoon, with dark fur around its eyes and ringed stripes on its prehensile tail, but displayed a thin membrane of skin stretched between its front and back legs (later I would observe that, like the hadozee, it used the membranes for gliding – in its case, between trees).
Its eyes suddenly met mine, and for a brief moment I thought the creature looked inquisitive, but then it started shrieking in a shrill, warbling cry. Almost instantly, more of the creatures came rushing through the bushes and dropping from the trees – too many to count. Before I could act, a primitive net woven from vines ensnared me, and the creatures began pummeling me with their clubs and the butt-ends of their spears until I lost consciousness.
I awoke with my hands tied behind my back, lying on a wooden platform supported by the boughs of an ancient deklo tree. I could sense that I was high up in the jungle canopy, and I noticed my provisions and research notes dumped out next to me. As I looked around, I could see more platforms in the surrounding trees, connected by treacherous-looking bridges made of knotted vines and strewn with simple wooden huts. These creatures had built an entire village among the trees. Scores of the small creatures watched from nearby platforms, through tiny hut windows, and from the foliage of branches above, spying on me curiously as I came to my senses.
As I composed myself, one of the tiny creatures – this one wearing unique, brightly-feathered adornments – made his way through the crowd and unbound my hands. He shocked me by speaking almost perfect Druidic – distinguishable phrases interspersed with soft hoots and odd clicks of the tongue. Once he was sure I understood him, he apologized for the inconvenience and explained that I had surprised a group of his people while they gathered roots and medicinal herbs from the forest floor below. He had looked through my journal – he had been able to read the Sylvan words – discovered that I am a kindred druid, and was very apologetic for the misunderstanding. What a stroke of fortune this is! Though our traditions are different, we are unquestionably children of the same mother – even the language is almost unchanged after who knows how many centuries of isolation! He invited me to a feast and the following grooming session that evening as a token of good will.
I stayed with the creatures – who I came to know as phanatons – for three days thereafter, learning of their society and culture. When I left, the one that I had first spied offered to join me as a guide – a sort of peace offering. His name is Hatoi. At first, he was shy, but with time I began to connect with him. He (like the rest of the phanatons) speaks a distorted dialect of Sylvan, and we understand each other well enough. He is fond of my sketches, particularly of the island's plant life, and will no doubt prove invaluable in classifying the jungle flora.
The Effects of Loco Weed – 16 Elesias 1365
For the past several days, I've been observing a herd of ankylosaurs that graze near an inland lake in the northwestern reaches of the isle. Within this group, one male in particular has been very curious behavior, of hostile and unsocial bearing. I've come to blame this comportment on his consumption of a toxic and narcotic weed that grows in patches along the lake's eastern banks.
Several minutes after eating the weed, the ankylosaur begins taking short, shallow breaths, and seems a bit unsteady on his feet. Once the drug fully takes hold, he exhibits increased blood flow – evidenced by his overall pinkish hue – and begins to drool. Other effects of the plant are rapid eye movement, loss of balance, occasional vomiting, and highly aggressive behavior.
The amount of weed consumed has a proportional effect on the ankylosaur's belligerence. On a normal day, he eats only a small quantity – enough to become easily agitated. The rest of the herd has learned to avoid him during these episodes, as he swings his massive tail at anything that approaches. Even when docile and not under the influence of the plant, the herd and other local herbivores give him plenty of space, not wishing to incur his wrath. A bruised shin is apparently enough to make even the largest diplodocus wary of him.
Larger meals of the plant have a more powerful effect on the giant dinosaur, causing him to become extremely aggressive and attack anything he sees. His depth perception seems altered at this level, as yesterday I observed him charging into the jungle only to run headlong into a tree trunk. He became so enraged that he smashed down nearly thirty trees before disappearing into the jungle.
After about 2 hours, the drug begins to wear off. The specimen exhibits lack of hunger, lethargy, and impotent irritability – he usually collapses wherever he finds himself after the plant's effects have run their course. Once he is fast asleep, the herd resumes its daily grazing.
When I asked the Panitube about the weed, they smiled and laughed to themselves as if privy to some private joke. I overheard one of them calling it "cualoco zacatl," which roughly translates to "angry grass." The natives who speak the trade tongue just call it "loco weed."
Territorial Behavior of Terror Birds – 19 Eleint 1365
Concerning the flock of terror birds that I have been studying near the Isle's eastern peninsula, today I witnessed a pack of males force a dimetrodon away from its kill. The creature had wandered into the high grasses of the flock's territory and brought down a giant scorpion, an easy catch for the giant dinosaur. This was soon to change, though, for terror bird scavengers can be very persistent when it comes to robbing meals.
The tall birds slowly encircled the predator, assessing the situation. At first, the dimetrodon seemed indifferent to their presence, continuing to eat while only occasionally snapping at birds that got too close. As the flightless avians gained confidence, they began flaunting – rising up to their full height and fluffing their colorful head plumes. They strutted back and forth, low resonating grunts emanating from deep within their chests. When their displays failed to intimidate the feeding predator, some of them began turning their hindquarters toward it and kicking dirt into its face. This immediately garnered with dimetrodon's full attention.
Unwilling to give up its kill, the dimetrodon flushed the sail on its back, bared its teeth, and began bellowing at its attackers. This show of force came too late, though, as the birds had worked themselves into a frenzy. The flanking terror birds nipped at its tail, hitting and running, much to their target's frustration. While doing little harm, it made the dimetrodon spin around to snap at them. Taking advantage of this momentary distraction, the other birds rushed in for quick strikes, butting and biting quickly with their powerful beaks. At one point, the dimetrodon actually staggered to keep its balance. Finally having had enough, the dinosaur abandoned its meal and fled. The birds gave pursuit, screeching as they harried it from their territory. Once the predator was gone, they dragged the predator back to the waiting chicks and females of their flock.
In other parts of Toril, these flightless birds are apex predators, but here they are clearly bottom-feeding scavengers. If it were not for their strength of numbers, they would certainly be at an insuperable disadvantage and might have long ago disappeared from the island. They have adapted quite well to their situation and exhibit a remarkable ability to drive off most predators that threaten their nesting grounds.
Tyrannosaurus Rex! – 1 Marpenoth 1365
In gathering data for my documentation of the island's food chains, Hatoi and I witnessed a tyrannosaur consume a lesser theropod in the northeatern grasslands. The prey was too small to sate the giant beast's hunger, and once it caught our scent and spotted us, it charged – frighteningly fast for a creature of such size. With simian agility, Hatoi scrambled up a nearby weir tree. Terrified, and against all instinct, I held my ground, knowing that fleeing would certainly be my last act.
I attempted to speak to it to try to calm the massive beast, but it ignored me, slowing its advance only slightly. My heart pounding, I redoubled my efforts and the rex came to a reluctant halt. I have heard tales of other druids who consort with these beasts, but it seemed a dangerous proposition. Verik would no doubt scold me if he knew I had even attempted it.
The titan lowered its head to sniff me with one great nostril, its scimitar-sized teeth scant inches away. Fascinated, I reached out a trembling hand to touch it, and just then, Hatoi leapt from his tree and landed squarely atop the tyrannosaurus's skull. I yelled for him to stop, but it was too late. The tyrannosaur raised its mighty head and let out a deafening roar. It began thrashing and spinning its body to shake off the small nuisance, snapping its great jaws in anticipation of the morsel. As Hatoi raised his spear, I cried out to prevent what was to occur, but too late. He plunged his spear deep into one of the tyrannosaur's eyes, blinding the giant and sending it into an uncontrollable rage. Between roars, it swung its tail wildly while clawing impotently at its face, unable to remove the tiny spear.
The last I saw of the rex, it was bullying its way into the jungle to the west, splintering the innocent trees as it ran. The sound of its flight turned abruptly to the sounds of intense struggle: the trees began shaking violently and a shocked reptilian roar reverberated through the jungle. Reappearing from the undergrowth, Hatoi began frantically waving his hands as though warding off some perceived evil. When the tyrannosaur suddenly became quiet, choked off in mid-roar, and the tops of the trees slowly stopped waving, the wide-eyed phanaton started making loud, agitated ticking sounds. He wanted very desperately to leave the area, pulling my hand to lead me away from the mysterious and disturbing sounds – a slow, somehow brutal tearing and crunching, the sound of bones snapping and flesh tearing unmistakable in the new silence.
Not questioning my native guide's obvious urgency, I quickly followed him back to the village. Later when I asked, Hatoi refused to speak of his actions, becoming frightened and emotional – an attitude I've found echoed by all those in the village. For the first time I've realized that the phanatons are keeping certain truths pertaining to the Isle secret from me.
Ecology of the Masher – 14 Marpenoth 1365
My interactions with the natives are beginning to bear fruit, as they have begun trading with Farshore, eager to exchange pearls harvested from oysters that live around the coral reefs of the island. Following rumors of huge pearls, we've bartered for two canoes with the fisherman of Burowao, as well as guides to lead an expedition of our people to a reef where they claim giant oysters make their homes. I went along with the explorers to investigate the reports of such giant mollusks and to learn more about the island's aquatic inhabitants.
We anchored at a reef off the northeastern shores of the island. Our guides spoke of monstrous, territorial eels that feed on the coral there – a trait that has since earned them the name "mashers." With the help of the fishermen, we devised a strategy for harvesting the pearls. Approaching the reef in outriggers, we maneuvered into shallow water less than 2 feet deep at the top of the reef and disembarked. Walking on the reef proved difficult – a misstep would have spelled a broken ankle for one of us. Our mission was to attract the attention of the mashers by dislodging chunks of the reef with long poles, hoping to provoke a feeding frenzy, giving our divers the necessary distraction to gather the pearl-bearing oysters.
Within moments of breaking off the first coral chunks the mashers responded. Several sets of the eels' wicked black spines broke from the water, serpentine in their movements as they approached. Some looked to be in excess of 30 feet long, making them more than a match for many of the predators inhabiting these foggy waters. As the monstrous eels gained speed, I realized their intention and yelled for my companions to retreat. The mashers' skulls bear thick growths of bone, with which they began relentlessly ramming the reef, sending jarring shockwaves through it, knocking us from our feet. A great chasm opened in the coral we stood on, and the solid surface beneath us was suddenly gone, sunk into the lower underwater mazes, leaving us treading water that was now deep enough for the mashers to navigate. Two of the men who chose to swim to the canoe are no longer with us. One moment they were there and the next they were simply gone, nothing marking their presence other than a cloud of turbulent bubbles and blood.
One of the Burowao tribesmen pulled me from the water. Half-blinded by the salt spray I may have been, but I know what I saw in the instants before he changed back. The other Olman pretended to have noticed nothing, and the Farshore colonists (and Verik) were too distracted – I will say nothing, but that was no druid's wildshape.
As we emerged onto the remaining reef, I noticed that one of my savior's arms was hanging limp at his side, quickly turning black – he had brushed against one of the poisonous spines on the mashers' backs. Cursing myself for lacking the vital spell, I tried to treat the poison but was unsuccessful – the black discoloration quickly spread to the rest of his body, coursing across his skin. He began shivering and babbling incoherently with dementia, finally going into shock as fits of vomiting and convulsions took over. When his eyes bulged, I knew it was too late, for inflammation of the brain is fatal. The poison had killed him within moments.
We had suffered three fatalities and our divers had managed to bring up only four normal-sized pearls from the depths. Appalled, Verik has decided that further risk outweighs any value of the still-rumored giant pearls and has forbidden any further diving expeditions to the mashers' reef. One of the pearls went to the bereaved of the Burowao deceased families – two to the family of the man who saved my life.
In the margin beside this entry is a tiny side-note: A week afterward, I found myself summoned to the Burowao zombie master's hut. I don't know what I expected, but certainly not this! The family of the dead man requested that his service be given to me – according to the beliefs of the Olman, a warrior has two lives to give in the service of another: since he gave his life to save mine, the man must serve me again until he is released by a second death in my service. The blank stare of the zombie disturbs me deeply, as I recall the quick intelligence and hidden nature of the man...but the Burowao would no doubt be deeply offended if I were to have refused. Eldath preserve me! Only Olman shamans have retinues of these "honored ancestors." And yet I am a druid – in some sense, I am a sister to these people. At least they meant well by it all. Verik will be furious when he finds out. For now, he can join the other two in the basement...but I must make a habit of bringing them with me when I speak to the Olman – I have a feeling that it's expected of me.
Physiology of the Greenvise – 28 Marpenoth 1365
Today I came upon a clearing where it seemed a herd of dinosaurs had recently stampeded. The footprints were massive and the devastation to the area immense – likely caused by a herd of diplodocuses or other large herbivores. There were no signs of an attacker's footprints, leading me to believe that the panic's source had come from the sky.
As I was studying the ruined landscape, I discovered a large plant, a greenvise once nearly 15 feet tall, fatally trampled into the ground. Its still huge, traplike mouths twitched violently – seemingly hungry even in death – and spasms ran down the length of its main stalk, causing the plant's tendrils to flutter and make a sound like a tree in high wind.
About halfway down the stalk that served as the greenvise's throat a pulsing bulge appeared to be the source of the plant's post-death contractions. Whatever was inside the carnivorous weed was still alive, struggling to escape. When I sliced open the stalk to try to free whatever was trapped within, I encountered some resistance – the greenvise's thick stem proved tougher to carve than a ripe melon. Viscous froth spewed from the incision and oozed its way to the ground, reminding me of the saliva of a fleshy creature – except that this reeked of sap.
Lining the inside of the stalk ran rows of dense thorns protruding down towards the plant's gut, arrayed in such a fashion as to prevent captured captured prey from escaping back up into the maw. I could see a sizable frog peering up at me through the thorns, desperately trying to push past the barbs to reach the opening I had created. I spoke to it in an attempt to calm it, but the traumatized thing was fully intent on escape. The frog must have kicked one of the rooty organs that once guided the greenvise's locomotion, for one of the plant's tendrils convulsed, knocking me off my feet and pinning me to the ground.
Struggling to free myself, I heard the flap of powerful wings and stilled myself at the sight of a pair of wyverns scouring the carnage. These creatures were likely the culprits behind the stampede, returning to pick over the devastation. Instinctively, I shifted myself into a small snake and slowly slithered away from the remains of the man-eating bush, seeking a hiding place where I could wait for the predators to depart. Behind me, I heard the dragonkin tearing into the greenvise, not discriminating between frog and plant. At least the poor creature did not suffer long.
Araneas – 13 Uktar 1365
I cannot put to words the sense of grief and guilt that consumes me. By now, Hatoi is surely dead, the victim of an unspeakable fate I unwittingly wove for him. If only I had heeded his warnings, he would still be here with me as I write this. For the thousandth time, I asked why I ignored him, foolishly venturing into that darkened hollow. It was a shadowed place, a valley in the eastern jungle where I had noticed even the thunder lizards feared to tread. There, my curiosity cost my friend dearly.
As we entered the vale, made eternally dark by the dense jungle canopy, I immediately felt something was watching us. At first, I shrugged it off as nerves, but it became increasingly difficult to keep Hatoi calm. When he suddenly stopped and started hissing, staring intensely into the darkness, I halted in deference to his keener senses. It was then that I became aware that we had been walking beneath a floating maze of spider webs strung through the trees above. What haze had been over my mind that I had not noticed this until now? Disgusting corpse husks dangled from the rope-thick strands like macabre Midwinter ornaments. Yet, even more terrifyingly, something had purposefully positioned the carcases, forming rotting shelters as sickening as they were crude.
All of the hairs on my body stood on end when I caught a glimpse of movement. Praying for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, I could barely see them: horrifying spiders descending from their webs, seemingly shifting to other, stranger shapes when I looked away from them. It was as if they were hovering in mid-air, gesturing with their front appendages – disgustingly elongated arms with multi-knuckled hands. Although I had never seen one, I took these creatures for aranea – spiderlike bogeymen storeyed to carry ill-mannered children off to their evil forest kingdom.
I didn't have the opportunity to look closer or attempt to speak to the creatures as the surrounding jungle suddenly came alive with indistinct, sinister shadows and the sounds of slinking things. Despite the activity, I could sense nothing other than Hatoi, the spider things, and myself. Even now, I don't know if there was something actually there, or if those images and noises were mere figments meant to drive us to some deadlier trap.
Regardless, an overwhelming need to flee consumed me, and my mind blanked. I remember Hatoi, chittering with terror as one of the creatures, its arms and face momentarily seeming to be those of an ancient phanaton – knelt to embrace him. I heard him calling out to me as it gently looped him with its silk, and through my own screams I thought I heard a chittering arachnid laughter that will forever torture my nightmares.
Conclusion – 19 Nightal 1365
Some time has passed since I left Farshore, and – in light of the recent tragedy – this is likely to be my last entry. When we return to Sasserine, I shall deposit the bulk of this work into the family vault for safekeeping until such a time as I can organize my notes and publish a full dissertation of the island's ecosystem. Whatever final form my observations take, though, I plan to dedicate this work to those souls who lost their lives in that unforgiving land. I hope their sacrifices might serve as a warning of the savage nature and primal ferocity that epitomizes the aptly-named Isle of Dread.
In the blank space after the conclusion ends, you see another note: The tragedy referred to is likely the destruction of the Dawn Seeker, which was wrecked shortly after leaving the Isle of Dread on my parents' last return voyage from Farshore. L.V.
Appendix I: Excerpt from The Olman Mythos (Oral Tradition)
In the beginning the People came from the west, seeking conquest at the bidding of Many-Winged Qotal. But Zaltec came invisible among the fleet – the Eater of Hearts brewed a storm and many of the People drowned and were lost.
Yet Zaltec was hasty and his evil was vain, for the Huethoxis [Note: these are the "lost gods" of Olman legend – see Appendix IX. L.V.], called by Qotal, came to us sailing on the wings of the storm itself and lifted us from the shark-churned waters. The Huethoxis were not as we, nor their gods our gods, yet their eyes were wise and their hearts kind. In their great vessels, many-masted and silver-winged, they brought us to Xic Chih [Note: this is the name by which the Olman refer to the Isle before the catastrophe. L.V.] and welcomed us as their own lost children.
Long we lived in their great spiraling cities – yet in time we hungered to live as men, and not as Huethoxis. She-ah the Great King of Xic Chih spoke, and his servants raised land for us from the sea. His sorcerers chanted, and the land became fertile. There we built cities of our own kind, steep ziggurats and avenues of stone. There we dwelt beneath the Huethoxis in peace for three turnings of the Great Wheel.
Yet when She-ah raised the land, he angered the Lords of the Deep. From the depths came the legions and hordes of Ap!xilc, numberless as the waves of the sea. From Kolic-morc below they swarmed like locusts, driven to kill and devour. We cast Hishna and Pluma against the depths and She-ah brought forth the might of Xic Chih and the tide was slowed, yet not stemmed. So Tlaloc's Tear we made, and drove all life from Kolic-morc and the kings of Ap!xilc – yet our victory was hollow.
Into the lifeless corpse of Kolic-morc the slaves of the Savage One stole in secret, building and working their vile spells among the dreaming Ap!xilc. In time the Shadow came, and from it came the Tide of Madness. In one night, Xic Chih was emptied of reason. Huethoxis and Olman butchered one another, and the Savage One was pleased to watch.
Now the Huethoxis are gone and only we remain, to remember the shadow of yesterday. None go to their cities, for it is forbidden. None dare the mainland – only here, on the peninsula where the Great Wall stands, are we safe. Those of the Olman beyond the wall are devils in man shape, and cannot be trusted.
Yet one day, just as we came from the sea, it is said that the lost gods will return one day and Xic Chih will rise again, renewed ten times greater.
[Note: "!" is meant to be vocalized as an alveolar release. L.V.]
Appendix II: The Seven Villages
Each of the Seven Villages is constructed according to a common plan, with four buildings arranged at the points of a square dominate the layout: the "mens' lodge" and "womens' lodge," the shaman's hut, and the moon lodge. The mens' and womens' lodges are restricted to their respective genders; ceremonies for naming and death are held at these lodges, and births take place exclusively at the womens' lodge.
The shaman's hut is where the tribe's shaman and his acolytes dwell, and it is the center of the ancestor or zombie cult in the village: under certain circumstances, due to obligation or choice, a warrior may be reanimated as an "empty walker," or zombie. These zombies play an integral part in the Olman religious landscape, and are treated as members of the tribe. The shaman and certain honored members of the tribe are given retinues of these creatures, while others guard the village, perform manual labor, or guard the places of burial.
The moon lodge is shrouded in mystery. I have my suspicions, but know nothing for certain. Only some members of each village are permitted within, both men and women, and these are always warriors. They are always led by an elder who acts as a sort of counterpart to the shaman – some kind of religious leader. Apparently membership in the moon lodge is sought after by many, but granted only to a few.
There are seven villages on the peninsula southeast of the Great Wall. Though there are rumored to be others on the mainland, they are universally reviled as savages and cannibals and the Olman we know have cut off all contact with them. They are:
Burowao: The finest fishers and aquatic hunters among the Olman, the bold young warriors of the Burowao prove themselves by braving the terrors of Widow's Reef far from their cliff-top villages. They sail war canoes and glide atop the waves on polished boards shaped of koa, a type of wood found only on the Isle of Dread and sacred to the Burowao. Damaging koa groves is blasphemous and highly insulting to the Burowao. The shark is sacred to the Burowao as a totem animal.
Dawa: Nestled in their ancestral cove, the Dawa appear to have chosen a life of secrecy and concealment. While all Olman are stealthy, the Dawa specialize in it, maintaining control of their territory through guerilla tactics and shadow warfare. They are highly paranoid, but peaceful enough if they do not feel threatened. The crocodile is sacred to the Dawa.
Kirikuka: The Kirikuka revere bats primarily, but also other aerial creatures. During my brief stay in their village I saw dozens of statues and idols of couatls, pterosaurs, and great birds. They are on good terms with Farshore, and are friendly enough.
Mora: The Mora are stoic and generous, frequently offering shelter and asylum to even strangers (as I found out, several Farshore explorers had been saved from the jungle by young Mora warriors). They revere martial prowess, as their fighting traditions are central to their tribe's culture; they have developed a sophisticated form of unarmed combat called Kahiko that emphasizes soft holds and sudden strikes.
Their zombie masters are reputed to be the most powerful among the Seven Villages. They revere the sun bear as their totem.
Panitube: The Panitube welcomed us with open arms – they are interested in foreign trade and customs far more than their more traditional brethren. Our cultural influence has already undermined their own traditions to a degree I find unacceptable – but am powerless to do anything about. However, they are fair and shrewd traders, and it cannot be denied that Farshore has prospered from their trade. The Panitube hold the rat as their animal totem.
Tanaroa: The Tanaroans are ruled by matriarchs, in contrast to the other six villages. By far the fiercest warriors of the Olman, the Tanaroans have been valuable allies. This martial prowess is by necessity – closest of all the villages to the Great Wall, the Tanaroans play an important role in protecting the peninsula from the rare invader from the main body of the Isle of Dread. The tiger is sacred to them.
An Eighth?: The rumored Eighth Olman Village may or may not exist. Certainly there are abandoned settlements scattered across the peninsula, remnants from the time before the Seven Villages stabilized, yet none of them is inhabited. Yet rumors among the tribes are persistent in their stories of another, hidden village pursuing a policy of complete isolation surpassing that of even the Dawa. I have no way of knowing if it is true or merely a tale.
Appendix III: The Infamous Seven
While the Isle of Dread is populated by uncountable dangers, there are seven creatures in particular that figure heavily in Olman legendry. Rarely glimpsed, these are the "Infamous Seven" – monsters as much myth as fact. Yet oral accounts among the Olman are remarkably consistent with fragments I was able to piece together from conversations with Hatoi – make of that what you will. After my own harrowing experiences there, I hesitate to discount any of their stories, however wild they may seem. Here is a brief summary of the Seven, along with what little I know:
Baaragrauth – Perhaps a masher of legendary proportions, Baaragrauth is revered as a minor sea deity by some Olman. An unpredictable and violent serpent of colossal size, he reputedly dwells near to the Seven Villages in a hidden undersea grotto. Longboats that vanish out of sight of the shore are reputed to have been dragged down by Baaragrauth.
Cerattakatha – A nightmare of uncertain aspect, Cerattakatha may be the ultimate among the deadly insect life of the Isle of Dread, as he is constantly compared to the scorpions and great spiders of the jungle. Supposedly confined by the old gods upon Scorpion Isle off the west coast, he burrows beneath the surface in search of food to sate his unbearable hunger.
Emraag the Glutton – Emraag's existence, at least, is beyond question. He it was that destroyed the Dawn Seeker within sight of the Isle's shores as we departed for the northern seas – I saw it all. An enormous dragon turtle, he capsized it by rising beneath the hull and crushed the entire ship to kindling. We had no choice but to flee – it could have just as easily been us.
Temauhti-tecuani – The Emperor of Tyrant Kings, Temauhti-tecuani is reputed to be the greatest of tyrannosaurs on the Isle. There is some evidence that the name has been applied to several different tyrannosaurs – certainly Temauhti-tecuani figures in legends centuries old.
Xiureksor, the Viridian Suzerain – A true dragon, if the legends represent her accurately. According to Olman legend, she slumbers beneath Dragonhaunt Hollow, awakening once every five or six generations to feed and pillage the villages for tribute. Oral tradition holds that if a particularly brave Olman warrior confronts her in battle and survives long enough to gain her respect, she spares him and his village – provided he fathers a child on her. Her children supposedly roam the Isle near her lair, guarding her domain. Several powerful chieftains in the Olman's past supposedly were the half-breed children of Xiureksor and an Olman hero.
King Simasheti – The Olman revere Simasheti as a king of apes, claiming that he is the last of a breed of long-lived behemoths bred by the Huethoxis to protect Xic Chih. He is described as a white ape larger than any tyrannosaur, an ancient golden collar the symbol of his lost servitude. He has no fixed dwelling, but roams the island freely, unafraid of any of its other inhabitants.
He-Who-Hums – Perhaps the most mysterious of the Infamous Seven, even the most inventive storyteller will not claim to describe He-Who-Hums. "His flight is the sound of thunder," they say, "his voice the song of Death," yet though he has been heard, he has never been seen. Sometimes a strange, contralto humming echoes from the interior plateau of the Isle, or is heard after thunderclaps from the skies during a storm. I have heard tribesmen imitate this humming with hollowed trees through which they blow – an eerie, resonant vibration that sets the teeth on edge.
Session 19: The first few weeks of the journey were relatively uneventful. Eroknar and D'razul decided to alleviate the monotony and train their shipmates by holding sparring matches on the deck, and it soon caught on with the crew. Izzy and Veerga, each able to cast create water, spend part of that same time filling barrels with clean, fresh water. (Tavey, who is fascinated by both the magic and the weapon play, alternates between watching the sparring and watching the magic users.
One night, Pembrooke Pete claimed (loudly) to have seen ghosts floating around the crows' nest...based on his description, they could have been dancing lights, as unlikely as that may be, but who would have cast it? More likely, they were simply a mundane electrical discharge (Saint Elmo's fire - I mean, Saint Geldar's fire).
Of course, they could also have actually been ghosts. D:
The smooth sailing could not last forever, of course. The party ran into a ship sailing from Lantan (the gnome island to the west - where most guns and cannons are manufactured) packed with refugees. It seems that some kind of magical disaster has struck the island...unfortunately, the refugees don't know many details, and the party sent them on their way after resupplying their ship. Lavinia wrote them a letter of introduction to Lady Anwyn Arabani, promising that she would help them when they got to Sasserine. (This way, Lady Arabani will also have advance warning that the price of Lantan-made guns is about to skyrocket...clever girl!)
Apparently, Lavinia's parents had placed an order for 2 masterwork cannons with the Lantan gnomes in preparation for the voyage, shortly before their murders. Lavinia worried that the disaster might make it difficult for her to pick the cannons up...
...a fear that was justified when they were stopped by a gnome blockade. The party and Lavinia went aboard the flagship Golden Carbuncle to parley with Commodore Jean Kiez. He regretfully informed Lavinia that Lantan was turning away incoming vessels "for your own safety" - and that, so sorry, Lantan could not fill her order at this time "due to unprecedented magical disruption of our industrial facilities."
Fortunately the negotiations quickly turned to the nature of the "disruption," and to the Commodore's surprise, the party was familiar with the symptoms. Flash of green light? Check. Sudden deformities and insanity? Check. Cannibal gnomes running rampant?
Definitely check. :)
They explained to the good Commodore that this disaster was caused by a weapon known as a shadow pearl and that a certain evil individual, one Vanthus Vanderboren, was to blame. In fact, the party even has the remains of another (already detonated) shadow pearl that had been targeted at Sasserine, but that had been detonated prematurely...and they would be happy to trade it to the gnomes in exchange for the cannons the Vanderborens had ordered months ago.
Naturally, hoping that the Lantan arcanists could make something of any lingering enchantment on the pearl, the Commodore changed his tune right away, and ordered two masterwork cannons loaded from the Golden Carbuncle onto the Sea Wyvern and the Blue Nixie. Veerga brought out the lead-lined trunk in which she'd stored the remains of the shadow pearl and handed it over to one of the Commodore's cannon golems, who mounted a guard over it as everyone said their farewells.
Several more days of sailing passed through a slow drizzle before the party reached Fort Blackwell and the sun came out just in time to set beautifully. Lavinia ordered a second feast as the ships anchored in the harbor near the fort...Churtle volunteered to help Edward with the cooking while most of the rest of the crew went on shore leave.
Session 20: One of my favorite sessions so far. Hoo boy, I might have gone a bit overboard with this one, if you know what I mean!
...it's funny 'cuz they're on a ship. Okay, here goes:
While Lavinia was dickering with the soldiers of Fort Blackwell about supplies, the party (and most of the colonists and crew) took a little shore leave within the safety of the fort's walls.
Father Feres, Quenge, and the Jasks spent some time praying in the fort's chapel, which included a small shrine to Tyr.
Veerga, in a surprisingly successful attempt to bond with Avner Meravanchi, offered to help him exercise Thunderstrike in the fort courtyard. What began as an attempt at conversation by our doughty Veerga quickly escalated into an all-out swearing contest. Veerga's Profession (sailor) roll (a nat 20, of course) landed her the victory, after which the awed soldiers of Fort Blackwell gave her the honorary title of "Admiral," and invited both of them to share some of their brew, a spicy concoction distilled in-house from local fruits.
(It was at this time that Veerga, D'razul, Eroknar, and Izzy realized their true calling - manufacturers of fine alcohol. Their new goal, after saving the world from Vanthus Vanderboren, is to make the "Sea Wyvern's Breath" line of fine spirits and ale famous throughout the land. They plan to sail from port to port on the Sea Wyvern, which they will convert into a ship-based brewery, selling alcohol brewed with "yeast from the depths," "hops from the Isle of Dread," and other exotic ingredients. Izzy bartered for a spare still from the soldiers...however, his/her first attempt at brew resulted in what has come to be known as "Sea Wyvern's Disgrace," marketable only to the very cheapest of taverns. They haven't given up, however...)
Anyway, night soon fell. There was a feast! Bowing to requests from the crew, Skald produced his mandolin and began strumming a tune. Quenge joined in with his clear tenor, and Lirith and Amella backed them up. The hadozee got out their accordions and drums.
And I turned on "The Mariner's Revenge Song," by the Decemberists.
If you've never heard it, it is a song played with accordions, drums, a mandolin, and a couple of other instruments. There's a tenor singing the lead, and he is backed up for the chorus by a couple of sopranos. The tune is sprightly, upbeat, and cheerful. The lyrics are...very disturbing.
But everyone was too busy enjoying the feast to pay much attention to the lyrics, and none of them had ever heard the song before. So, Edward and Churtle bring out these heaping platters of food. Izzy, almost as a joke, casts detect poison to make sure that Churtle didn't accidentally poison the food. Veerga, in the spirit of solidarity, did the same thing. (Here it comes!)
Izzy detected nothing. Veerga, on the other hand, detected poison in all of the food, and most of the drink. (Ah, the looks on their faces!) So the two casters have a hurried conversation and Veerga jumps on the table and starts spouting off a toast to Lavinia (to stall people from eating). Izzy surreptitiously tastes the food, using his/her keen alchemical skill to investigate its contents...and discovers, to his shock, that the food was heavily laced with arsenic!
Right about now everyone got reeeeeal quiet for a second, and the chorus to "The Mariner's Revenge Song" started playing...it goes like this: "Find him, bind him, tie him to a pole and break his fingers to splinters. Drag him to a hole until he wakes up, naked, clawing at the ceiling of his grave."
Ahhh...didn't I say this was one of my favorite sessions?
Veerga and Izzy start shouting that everything is poisoned. Pembrooke Pete, who had started drinking a little early, starts screaming that he's dying and goes into (fortunately non-fatal) convulsions. "Saint Geldar's fire" - Pembrooke Pete's "hauntings" - began shining around the mainmast. Almost everyone panicked.
In short, chaos ensued. ^^
It only got worse when, on their way to explain things to Lavinia, Veerga's detect poison (still active, and scanning everything around her) showed poison on herself, Izzy, Eroknar, D'razul, Quenge, Churtle, Crench, and Avner. A quick check revealed that each of these people had an empty flask with whitish residue inside, which a shocked Churtle identified as more arsenic. No one knew how these vials appeared in their belongings.
Anyway, there was a lot of really high-quality roleplaying for the next hour or so as the PCs attempted to figure out what had happened, unfortunately deciding nothing for sure except that none of the other food in the hold was poisoned. Plans to prevent this from happening again were drawn up. One event of note was that, due to being overly paranoid, the party stumbled onto Tavey's secret: that "he" is actually a young girl who, as the sole survivor of a Crimson Fleet attack, was rescued from the burning wreckage of her ship by Lirith and Amella about a year ago. She was raped repeatedly at that time by the vile pirates, and her current male persona is partly due to her tomboyish nature and partly a coping mechanism. The party was pretty sure at the end of it that Tavey didn't poison the food, though.
Everyone slept very uneasily that night :)
In the morning, the little fleet set sail from Fort Blackwell...in the evening, the southern sky was lit up, as if by fire. In the morning, an Olman village was found in ashes, and a check of the shore revealed pirate bodies among the slain villagers. Other than that, the next few days were quiet enough. Izzy began researching a variant of zone of truth called truth tea in which anyone imbibing the enchanted tea would be compelled to tell the truth, with the intention of interrogating the crew about the poisoning.
Unfortunately, there was one more disruption. During the night a couple days out from Fort Blackwell, as a storm brewed overhead, Father Feres suddenly went into convulsions and collapsed in the hold. The screams brought the party into the hold, where to her horror Veerga saw something moving around beneath the good father's skin. Frantically scrabbling in her healer's kit for a scalpel, she cut him open to reveal the tail end of a segmented green worm as it crawled its way towards his brain - a Kyuss worm!
As horrified crew held Feres's thrashing body down, Veerga chased the worm up his belly, finally grabbing it near his clavicle and drawing it out of its body where it thrashed and squirmed in the air, covered in gore and trying to twist around to reach her exposed skin. Eroknar brought one of her lead-lined boxes and they threw it in to wait while Veerga patched up the (fortunately still - barely - alive) Father Feres up. Tavey, always eager to see his heroes in action, had to be told to leave the room...and Oscar Jask hastily removed his pregnant wife to safer quarters.
It was later determined thanks to a Knowledge (religion) check that the good Father must have somehow ingested a "slow worm" - a type of Kyuss worm that is inserted into food or drink and lies dormant in the body for days before activating. However, since Kyuss's downfall over a year ago, Kyuss worms of all sorts have become very rare, and no one knows how this one got into Father Feres's rations.
Tensions are running high...and as the storm worsens, the party and Lavinia decide to pull their ships into a conveniently nearby river mouth to ride it out.
Nice. :) I love when my players worry. For more music, check out anything (really) by Great big sea. Captain Kidd, Excursion around the bay, Boston and st johns, Drunken sailer, and Barrett's privateers or Northwest passage by Stan Rogers.
Thank you, I will. Music (the right music) can be a great way to set the mood for a memorable encounter...I'm sure my players would agree with me :P
Session 21: Well, now the DM has had his fun. After nearly wiping his players out with a surprise Kyuss spawn army (ah, the nostalgia), he begins plotting how best to kill his PCs next...
...only for them to do all the work for him. :D
Izzy, feeling more than usually paranoid, asked D'razul to go overboard and check to see if the (at this point, purely hypothetical) saboteur had perhaps dived into the water. D'razul of course complied, correctly reasoning that he could probably outswim almost anyone, what with being an aquatic elf.
So, he dove practically into the middle of the flotsam ooze that was even then seeping up from the sea bed below to attack the two vessels. Unfortunately he evaded its grasping pseudopods long enough to get his head above water and scream for the crew to get ready for something BIG. He scrambled over the side of the railing just in time to avoid the ooze (which had started chasing him) as it crashed into the side of the ship and started heaving its bulk out of the churning waters of the bay.
Eroknar, used by now to tanking the big creatures, seized his beloved axe and leaped into melee. One mighty Attack of Opportunity from the ooze later, Eroknar teetered on the brink of death, not having damaged the ooze at all. Izzy and Veerga had to wait awhile for their turn in the initiative.
D'razul's shouts had not gone unheeded by the badass crews of the Sea Wyvern and Blue Nixie, however, who had loaded their bombards. D'razul, in one bound, was at the Wyvern's starboard bombard, which he took command of and fired at the ooze...
...confirming a critical hit. 165 damage later, the ooze had died ignobly, without killing anyone, and without giving the Blue Nixie's sadly underrepresented crew a chance to fire. In celebration the party of course decided to name one of their new "Sea Wyvern's Breath" alcohol products the "Flotsam Booze" in tribute to this victory. While they were congratulating D'razul on the quality of his shot, Tavey brought them some "cookies" (really ship bread sprinkled with sugar) as an excuse to see "his" heroes again.
Izzy and Veerga took the next watch to keep a recovering Eroknar company, while D'razul headed off to sleep in his tub. (Aquatic elves need to spend several hours a day immersed in salt water or they suffocate, so our two aquatic elf PCs have large tubs that they sleep in.) Unfortunately for D'razul, he was not alone in the cabin...
After he had drifted off, a slow dusting of black powder fell from an unseen source into D'razul's tub, slowly clouding the water as it dispersed. D'razul made some Fortitude saves...
Veerga and Izzy collapsed on deck, while Eroknar felt a little woozy...
Skeletal apparitions appeared around D'razul's uneasily sleeping form, and suddenly the already dark water was filled with his red blood as an invisible blade pierced his chest! Weak and dizzy, he nearly died, but miraculously survived the coup de grâce and was able to make it to the room door, shouting for help...only to find it locked.
Eroknar, only then realizing that Izzy and Veerga were unconscious, shouted for assistance from the crew (the rest of whom were belowdecks) as he took his axe to the door of their cabin, getting D'razul out just before a fatal blow would have pierced his guts. Father Feres, still awake as he said his prayers, hustled up on deck and began stripping Veerga naked.
After a moment he realized that there was no Kyuss worm and that this was probably another poisoning attempt (he has a decent Heal check, after all). Still, to make sure, he checked Izzy as well, since poison is slower than Kyuss worms. Fortunately, he had a vial of antitoxin on him and after ascertaining her poisoned condition as well, trickled it down Izzy's throat, giving him/her another Fort save to wake up...which he made, joining the initiative count.
Crench the Mute burst out and, seeing Eroknar and a badly wounded D'razul dueling an invisible opponent, seized an oar and waded into the melee.
Urol Furol, being a gnome, had more antitoxin on his person. After appearing he tossed a vial to Feres, who began treating Veerga. Unfortunately, he was too slow to wake her up before the invisible assassin gave her a coup de grâce, disemboweling her completely, before disappearing without a trace as a furious party searched the deck.
Fortunately, Veerga had just enough hero points to survive the attempt, and with the help of the antitoxin, also made her save to wake up. She tracked footprints in her own blood down into the hold, where she lost the trail - but not before determining that the footprints belonged to a human of medium size. In other words, no hadozee, gnomes, or dwarves, not Tavey, and not anyone with unusually large feet (like Crench). So the list of possible suspects narrowed considerably.
Last, she and Izzy made a sweep of the ship with detect poison and detect magic. They didn't detect any poison (except in D'razul's tub) but...they did discover an enchantment on young Tavey. Specifically, she was, unbeknownst to her guardians Amella and Lirith, cursed with a lesser geas. (Note: we discovered, as an aside, that "geas" is pronounced "gesh." Apparently it's Gaelic. Who knew?) After being discovered, Tavey launched a deadly (but futile) assault against her heroes, who subdued her, but were at a loss how to save her from the debilitating effects of the curse, since none of them had remove curse...
As they worried and seethed with anger at the treacherous saboteur (they discounted the apparent involvement of ghosts almost immediately), Tyr had mercy and sent them inspiration. After a short query, they discovered that Father Feres in actuality can cast the vital spell. He stayed in prayer by Tavey's bed throughout the night praying to Tyr for remove spell. The party of course enjoined him to keep the fact that the geas had been removed a secret, so the assassin would think Tavey still ensorcelled. And as dawn broke, the spell was cast and young Tavey saved.
Session 22: After saving Tavey, the PCs decided to try to track down the culprit. Tavey was able to tell them only that a female voice had ordered her to deliver the cookies, then (if addressed by the same voice) to provide reports, and above all to avoid arousing suspicion. Tavey had been in the hold when she heard footsteps behind her; before she could turn to see who it was, the voice addressed her and she was unable to move. (That would be the geas spell.) Izzy had finished researching her new truth tea spell overnight; at the first opportunity they started interviewing the crew and colonists with the object of narrowing their suspect list still further. Eroknar's amazing Sense Motive check was employed as a backup to the tea.
In the meantime, a thoroughly worried Lavinia went over the ship herself and reassured herself that her good friend Veerga had survived being...well...disemboweled without permanent damage.
The tea was a resounding success, with 0 confessions of sabotage :\
...however, the party did learn several interesting items of background information about several crew members. For example, Pembrooke Pete drinks so inveterately to forget the horrors of past voyages, and in fact served the Vanderborens on their first voyage to the Isle of Dread. Quenge and Barnaby had until recently served Avner's father Zebula before being sent on this journey...apparently (the party concluded), Zebula wanted none of Avner's own cronies with him on the journey. Etc.
Fortunately, the party was about to anchor at Fort Greenrock; as the crew went onshore for their last leave, the party hoped to have the opportunity to watch for suspicious behavior...
...except that Fort Greenrock was deserted and badly damaged. The party found evidence of possible savage creatures from the acid scars on and around the walls...a quick exploration of the fort revealed the remains of a fairly recent carnage, hasty barricading, and the following in a badly-damaged journal in the fort's chapel:
......avel Grinvela...........Sasserine dock.....today. All papers........der. Captain requested we.................three sick men .......................................tracted some.........of fever on their last..........Viewed the men – they........................sweating and hot. All......................................................attack – suspect poison. Agreed.............................
...............worse. Bl.......rash spreading................ wounds. Had to..............them – thrashing and................................their sl...
........-ti sighted moving...........jungle in large........................reblood speaker hailed.............med to ..............................ness in the................eatened our ........ruction unless we........the sick men o.......... them. Did ...........this?
...............worsening. Screami................p. Black ............................bones or..............................but continues to............
Two of the sick..........scaped after attack...........ir guards, bit..............clawing most......agely. The guards ...........................barely human,................................def..............selves.......... swords barely scratched .............
.....................................e yuan-ti! Seven casualt.....: Mor............v, Elaun, Sawm.........argar..... Fre......que, and Orrin. They........abomination – we..................m back.............. cannon. They.......... never att.............e fort before. We are........ree-quarters............... now.
The snake-peo.........turned, driving.......onstr.......beast................... – a hydra....................e third sick man......... berserk when................the screams of......dying, and...........................rough the bars ofhis.................where..................................he could..............................his...................happened to these men?
Two...........................................................from the water during the.........ck – they slew.........al of the..............attacked the hyd.............................killed them. The third................joined the..........before.........cut down. The y.....-ti withdrew............................not before we........twelve more ........Replacements...............................three months yet.
......all have it now. The.......rds .......their sickness unt..............too late – I’ve.........bitten. ..................Palen are finally..................se of us still .........o walk..................to kill .........omrade............ then ourselv......f we can, together ........nrise.
Sounds like sailors infected with savage fever had sailed in from somewhere, infecting the men of the fort when they tried to help. Yuan-ti from the jungle attacked in an apparent attempt to stem the tide...instead, the savage ones attacked them.
Shortly after learning this, as they were attempting to salvage the cannons from the fort, the party was ambushed by the very hydra mentioned by the dying man's last testament! A squamous, squirming monstrosity now, it had been infected by savage fever. It pulverized one of their landing vessels and attacked the party on the shore. Tolin of the Jade Ravens was able to lend his aid, but Eroknar and Veerga were the real heroes here today. Izzy enlarged Eroknar and he waded in with his axe, barely keeping his hit points above the amount of damage the hydra was doing as he whittled down its heads. Veerga charged bravely into melee range with the beast and cauterized the stumps with repeated castings of burning hands. At the end of it, Eroknar's hp were in the single digits (and was slightly dizzy due to his brand-new infection of savage fever) and Veerga was out of spells, but the hydra was dead! For their bravery, I awarded them both hero points (it really was an epic fight).
Eroknar now had 4 hero points. What to do with the extra one? Well, my players apparently knew the answer to that. May I remind you all, before you pass judgment, that half my players are women, and it was their idea O_o
Session 23: In the morning, Izzy memorized remove disease and cast it on Eroknar to cure the savage fever that was even then staining the skin around the hydra bite scars black. More paranoid than ever, s/he also cast it surreptitiously on Lirith and Amella in order to keep it from spreading.
Everyone congratulated Eroknar (except Veerga, who had been mildly interested in the good kensai) and made fun of him.
Lavinia, who had until now spent all of her time aboard the Blue Nixie, signaled her desire to come aboard and spend a tenday on the Sea Wyvern to help stabilize morale in the wake of the recent...happenings. She was received aboard with mixed feelings of delight (because everyone loves Lavinia) and concern (because now she's exposing herself to the saboteur's treachery). Veerga in particular was both happy and worried to see her friend. Tavey as well; she has an almost reverential awe for the great lady who is so well served by the heroes of Sasserine.
Once Lavinia was safely ensconced in the best cabin (which she is now sharing with the party), the PCs embarked on the most thorough search of the ship yet. Detect magic, detect poison, repeated Perception checks, and more pots of hot, delicious truth tea - all for naught. (No further clues or traces were discovered.) There was one interesting (and unexpected) outcome - the party, in convincing the recalcitrant Avner to let them search his quarters, rolled three nat 20s on their Diplomacy checks, swaying Lord Meravanchi's opinion of them considerably.
Life continued quite peacefully (as much as an armed camp can be considered peaceful) as the little fleet made its way to Tamoachan. D'razul and Eroknar continued their afternoon sparring matches, which were joined by Lavinia (who fenced D'razul to a stalemate) and a good deal of the rest of the crew. Tavey joined in as well, and was tutored in the rudiments of arms by the two men, while during the evening, Izzy taught the young cabin boy the first steps of witchly magic. When Eroknar retired to Lirith and Amella's cabin for the evening, Tavey would lay on the floor of the PCs' cabin and sketch or talk to Fleur, while Lavinia and Veerga pored over Larissa's journal and searched through Veerga's small library, hoping to find something that would be of use to them once they reached the inhospitable Isle.
Alas, the peaceful times could not last. The party eventually reached Tamoachan, and the four PCs (accompanied by Urol Furol) set out to explore the ruins hastily, leaving Lavinia, Lirith, and Amella in charge of the fleet. Little did they know that upon their return to the ships, all hell would break loose...
...but first, they explored. Lost Tamoachan, no longer truly lost: a massive, crumbling Olman ruin built into the side of a cliff. As Urol frequently reminded the party, the map he had acquired back in Sasserine indicated a suite of chambers only recently opened by tectonic activity in the region, and (probably) still unlooted. As he chattered happily about the practices of the Olman rulers of ancient Tamoachan, he let slip that the man who gave him the map had narrowly escaped death by basilisk glare in the region.
"Of course, the Olman didn't call them basilisks," the indefatigable gnome continued, practically bursting with eagerness to see one. "No, they trained them and kept their eyes sheltered beneath stone helms, hence their name: the Olman name for basilisk is -"
At which point the party interrupted him, demanding to know why he hadn't mentioned this earlier. Urol stared at them with wide-eyed gnome innocence: "Eh? Why is it important? I've got plenty of stone salve, and besides, you're great heroes!"
Well, of course, the basilisk they eventually encountered petrified Izzy. So much for the "great heroes!"
Actually, however, Izzy was de-petrified before the combat was even over, and two rounds later, the party was happily skinning the basilisk and carving great, juicy, delicious basilisk steaks to take back to the ship while Urol hopped up and down in impatience to continue his archaeology.
A gibbering mouther was crushed beneath a large statue. D'razul triggered, narrowly escaped, and then disabled a flame wall trap. Typical dungeon crawl. In the last room they explored this session, the party came across a series of wall carvings in good condition, depicting the Olman court in all its majesty and splendor. Detective Veerga, always one to pick up the details, noticed that behind the king-figure, in what might be the position of advisors, were two anthropomorphic simians. With no prompting from me or anyone, she immediately decided that the "Huethoxis" mentioned in Larissa's journal and the hadozee are one and the same, basing this wild, unfounded speculation off of the fact that the names are suspiciously similar, and the supposition that the "lost gods" of the Olman might have followed them east when they sailed to the shores of Faerûn.
Hello, anyone who has read my posts! You might notice that there haven't been any new ones for awhile...well, that is because after the last one above, we launched the beta version of our personal campaign website and went live! From the original four, the party has increased to 9: Veerga, Izzy, D'razul, Eroknar, and 'Akahi - a "very trustworthy" Dawa ninja who joined after the party had just begun to suspect that an "unseen thing" (Olangru) was toying with them - are the PCs, and all but one of them has a cohort. They are Mano'moke (a Burowao tetori reincarnated as a terlen), his brother Nohokai, the crippled oracle of the Sun, Tavey Nesk (my personal favorite! Now a magus, thanks to the combined influence of the whole party, who appears to be taking more than her share of punishment), abd'Idris, a survivor (via temporal stasis) from the days when the hadozee ruled the Isle of Dread, wielder of the esoteric "deathstick" of her people.
What a list, huh? You can follow their further adventures at Go to our website at this link. It says "Adult Content Warning" but really there's nothing even NSFW there.
In addition to the detailed chronicles of their exploits, you can find there new magic items bestowed upon the party by the grateful Zotzilaha, the Sun mystery specifically designed for the party's oracle (rather proud of that one), and an UNABRIDGED version of Larissa Vanderboren's experiences on the Isle of Dread, complete with appendices and addenda composed by Lavinia and her assistant/scribe Veerga.
There you will also find a variety of modifications I've made to the campaign, including heavily modified accounts of Vanthus's activities during his long absence from the party's radar. I've been trying to make him a more capable villain than I felt he was in the original version, not just in terms of the much-lamented Aristocrat class levels, but in terms of his gradual (and then much less gradual) descent into darkness. The party ended up doing quite a bit of detective work once they got to Farshore, and...uh, but I shouldn't post the entire campaign now!
For the record, I suppose, Vanthus ended up as a CR 17 Lemorian half-fiend Antipaladin 9/Assassin 5 with a nightmare mount :3 Best encounter since Rowyn Kellani or Olangru! So sad he died T_T But in the end, Farshore's assault force included 9 ships, each with its own half-fiend captain, a flight of 14 wyverns, 6 flesh golems, a contingent of necromancers there to animate the slain and exhume the graveyard...and, uh, I'm doing it again. But Lavinia killed him mid-air as his nightmare was shifting them to the Astral Plane, after leaping off a flying shark, dealing the last 6 hp of damage without any fudging on my part!! I swear, it was awesome!!! (Never have I loved an NPC so much, but he had the best death ever.) OK, I'm shutting up now. Just go to the website <<
And read all sorts of other fun stuff! Come on over and check it out! You're welcome to use any materials you like in your own campaigns, of course or send me a message on the Paizo boards, or leave a comment on the website itself, although it might be awhile before I notice...happy gaming :)
It is with great regret that I announce the indefinite hiatus of the campaign due to irreconcilable real-world differences between two people in our group, and certain real-world issues that made it impossible to replace anyone with a new PC.
To anyone who will ever play in one of my campaigns, stop reading, because there is a nonzero chance I will someday DM the Savage Tide again, and major spoilers follow. :)
It is doubly a shame because the most exciting part of the campaign was coming up, full of plot twists both written into the AP by its authors and of my own devising. In my opinion neither Vanthus, the Crimson Fleet, nor the Savage Tide itself were really credible threats as written by the time the party invades The Wreck (having already killed Vanthus once and destroying the source of the shadow pearls), and so I had planned to remind everyone exactly what the world stood to face. Here are the major changes that I was going to incorporate, for the benefit of any DMs still running this excellent AP. They're in no particular order.
1) The semi-prophetic dreams the party received at the beginning of each installment were sent by the ancient obyrith lords of the Abyss. Most of them were from Pale Night, but Dagon and Pazuzu each contributed one, and Obox-ob was going to send one of the remaining ones. It was to be revealed in "Enemies Of My Enemy" that the entire campaign has been orchestrated by the obyriths in a bid to retake the Abyss from the tanar'ri. I was going to replace Iggwilv and to some extent Malcanthet with Pale Night and while Orcus and Malcanthet were going to play roles in the final alliance, mostly it would have been the obyriths. Dagon's millennia of advice to Demogorgon at Wat Dagon were subtly steering him towards the Savage Tide, setting up a scenario the Upper and Lower Planes alike would unite behind stopping, leading to his death. Pale Night planned to guarantee that the Crown of the Abyss would pass back to Obox-ob by offering to trade the Abyssal layer of Androlynne, which she rules, and in which she torments and hunts an entire generation of celestial children, for the Crown if a PC were to take control of it. What heroic PC could resist the trade? They would save a generation of celestials from certain, eventual doom, and avoid their own inevitable descent into evil if they took up the title of Prince of Demons.
2) Vanthus was going to come back...again. After being killed in Divided's Ire, his soul would, with no help from Demogorgon, be transformed by the Abyss into a balor (because Vanthus is just a total badass, let's face it). Seething with hate, he would have approached Demogorgon and offered to guard the Master Pearl, knowing that the party would eventually make their way to him. During the final battle, he would help Demogorgon kill everyone, but when the Prince of Demons fell, the final, traitorous blow was to have been by Vanthus's blade...after which he would then claim the Crown of the Abyss and become the next Prince of Demons, as well as the *real* final boss of the campaign. I can't express how much I was looking forward to this :(
3) Vanthus sired a bastard son on a succubus in Scuttlecove while still a human. This cambion was in fact Tyralandi's nephew, as the succubus involved was her half-sister Tyranell. There's been a kind of theme that developed throughout my Savage Tide campaign just sort of on its own: saving children. First Tavey, from Rowyn ("The ]i]Sea Wyvern[/i]'s Wake"), then the twin children of two colonists, from Olangru ("Here There Be Monsters"), and now this kid. Since Lavinia had ended up in a relationship with Veerga, who is (a) another woman and (b) a sterile malenti, Lavinia was never going to have any kids of her own, which would have meant that the Vanderboren family would end with her. Adopting Vanthus's cambion son and raising him into a righteous paladin would have solved that problem and been a lot of fun :) My next campaign starts a hundred years after the events of "Prince of Demons" in Farshore, so he will show up there. Vanthus's grave in Farshore was also going to become a permanent gate to layer 88 of the Abyss, opening each year for one day on the anniversary of his claiming the Crown, which would have made the city much more interesting...
4) Before the fight with Cold Captain Wyther on the Wreck, he was going to mock them and fire a cannon in the general direction of Scuttlecove. Instead of a cannonball it would have been an activated shadow pearl...which would then have transformed Scuttlecove into a real City of Chaos...The party had built up a good relationship with Tyralandi, whose alignment I had changed to CN and whose involvement in the Protectorate I had made more earnest, albeit from a desire to control the city more than any real altruism. (She would still have been a hell of a lot better a ruler than the current crazy setup there.) After the party cleared the Wreck they were going to get a sending from one of Tyralandi's pet magic users that she could really use some help getting her people out of the city. All of this was supposed to be a reminder that the Savage Tide was a real threat, since the party hadn't really seen it in full swing since Kraken's Cove, although there were a few other encounters scattered around. Plus, I was going to have Lord Mayor Lavinia allow Tyralandi to set up shop in Farshore. Again, making Farshore more interesting :)
5) As an aside, talking about making Farshore more interesting, by treaty Xiureksor has a permanent seat on the city council in exchange for helping the city fight off the Crimson Fleet. She mainly leaves the town alone because (a) the Isle of Dread teaches all it's inhabitants they are not immortal, and she has no illusions what would happen if she wiped out the colony (adventurers! the bane of every villain), and (b) she makes a ton of money from investing in the town.
6) Back to Cold Captain Wyther...he was going to have had a couple stashes of gunpowder primed and fused in the Wreck, and during the fight there would be explosions and falling ships. He can fly, so what does he care if everything falls down?
That's really about it in terms of big plot adjustments. Personally I think they would have made the campaign much more exciting at the end, particularly (1), (2), and (4). If anyone ever wants to use them in their own campaign, go for it!
If, someday down the line, I start another Savage Tide group, I will probably update this thread accordingly. In the meantime I am writing my own campaign from scratch, and there may be updates about that in another thread starting in a couple months or a year or so. Happy gaming everyone!
I know, right?
While I'm here, I did forget to mention one other small, but important, alteration to the overall backstory of the campaign: somewhere on the boards, way back, someone had suggested that Vanthus may have been shipped off to the Isle of Dread to separate him from Lavinia (so they would stop getting into so much trouble). The idea was that while Lavinia was sent off to the strict Thenalar Academy for Girls, Vanthus would be learning the value of hard work and simultaneously becoming more involved with the family business, which he would one day likely be involved in.
Well...we all know how well that turned out, right?
Anyway, I filled in what had happened to him a lot on the trip. Crimson Fleet pirates attacked the expedition and his parents and Uncle Ventrue led the crew in repelling the attackers. (Ventrue, remember, was a wizard/retired adventurer, and I can't remember if it was canon or not but in my campaign at least, his mother was a druid with access to at least 5th-level spells, and his father was a fighter). I had the young and impressionable Vanthus sneak into the fight and, through massive luck, escape a narrow death at the hands of a brutish pirate, instead killing the man himself. (Whether this was due to the protective influence of scheming obyriths whose plans required him to stay alive for a few more years was never really answered, but there was a lot of speculation amongst the party when they read about this in his journal.) His parents were veeeery mad at him for not staying in the cabin like he was supposed to.
There was also (I'm not really telling this in chronological order...) a hadozee mate on the Blue Nixie who Vanthus was supposed to learn good habits from. During the course of his diary Vanthus matured a little, his diary entries going from outright racism and resentment to eventual respect and even interest in, among other things, navigation by the stars. It looked like our Vanthus was going to turn over a new leaf!
Sadly, Vanthus also had his share of disreputable associations at Farshore...among which was an encounter with one of Xiureksor's numerous children. Vanthus was attacked by the half-dragon but during the intervening time since the first time he killed a man, his hadozee friend had taught him various underhanded ways to defend himself (read: rogue) and he managed to kill his attacker with a poisoned blade. On the body he found Fleur, the intelligent locket that came into the party's possession in "There Is No Honor" in Teraknian vault, and which caused some drama once they encountered the previous owner's mother on the Isle itself.
Ultimately, though, he seemed to be making progress...until his parents sailed for Sasserine without him. They had good reasons for doing so (details in Vanthus's journal on the above-linked campaign site), but...whoops.
So Vanthus regressed rapidly and ended up summoning a demon lord with uncle Ventrue's book of infinite spells...except that rather than having him summon one of Demogorgon's random generals, he summoned Pazuzu.
That's actually what inspired the whole obyrith conspiracy plotline anyway. But...really...it just fits so well.
Anyway, that's it. Someday I will probably run this campaign again because it's just too good not to finish. If that ever happens I will probably come back to these boards to say so. In the meantime I will be around periodically, I'm sure. If I have the chance I will post some of the illustrated handouts I produced for the site, and at some point I will probably post the finished version of the Kensai class and the Sun oracle mystery I wrote for the campaign. If anyone has any questions or requests for information or whatever you can PM me and I will *try* to remember to check for PMs every now and then. I make no promises, though. Happy gaming!
1) I don't know much about Mythic stuff (I have taken a look at it but not an in-depth enough look to know whether I like it better than the horribly broken Epic system - although I trust Paizo more than WotC).
2) I don't have Skull and Shackles.
3) Due to the circumstances under which this campaign fell apart, it will probably be some time (if ever) before I consider revisiting it. I have the feeling I would be constantly comparing new PCs to old ones, subconsciously shoehorning old relationships (Vanthus, a PC's romance with Lavinia, Tavey becoming a cohort...) into the new campaign, which I would hate if I was a PC...
4) While I'm here, I would like to add one random plot deviation I forgot (I may come back to add more later, if I ever remember :)
...it's a small-ish detail, but I was really looking forward to seeing the looks on everyone's faces: when Charon rises up out of the Styx pool after the party recovers Shami-Amourae (and by the way, I was always worried about that encounter...Styx water flooding the pit seemed like an easy way to (i) TPK, and (ii) permanently destroy the memory they were looking for, making the adventure impossible to conclude), I was going to have him act more or less the way he does as written...but when the party finally readies their assault on Gaping Maw, I was going to have him appear again in similar fashion, rasp out something like "permission to come aboard?" and basically pilot the Sea Wyvern. I had this epic vision of the Sea Wyvern, piloted by Charon himself, sailing into Gaping Maw at the head of a fleet of demonic ships, celestial dreadnaughts, and whatever else they had come across.
Honestly, like I said, it's a fairly small change to the scenario...but Charon piloting the Sea Wyvern! Much better than him being off somewhere commanding a yugoloth army or something.
...alas, that it will never be. *sniff*