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NOTE TO THE EDITORS: I realize the first 10-15 posts read far more like "fan fiction" and belong in a different thread, but I really will be taking characters through the campaign, honest! But do feel free to move the thread to a location you feel is more appropriate; just make sure I can find it! ;-)
NOTE TO OTHER GMS: I would really, really LOVE suggestions as you get ideas, but PLEASE put them behind spoiler tags. My party members will be reading this thread as they go through the campaign.
Shiroi-Jikkou-Sha (Shiro): Male Kitsune Bard
Rae'Sheleth (Raesh): Female Drow Paladin of Sarenrae (!!)
Hi Ichiban (Hi): Male Gnome Sorcerer
Halek-Kai (Halek): Male Human Barbarian (Shoanti, Lyrune-Quah, GM NPC)
When I first switched to Pathfinder, I came to these message boards and asked, "Which Adventure Path should I start with?", and the answers varied wildly. I started with Curse of the Crimson Throne (LOVED IT) and started posting my own Overall CoCT Review. Much to my delight, other GMs started providing feedback on my campaign, and I made many new online "friends", like Tels, Mikaze, Walter McWilliams, CaroRose, and Midnight_Angel, all of whom gave me fantastic advice and/or feedback to improve my campaign. It was such a positive experience that I wanted to do it again, but my Kingmaker campaign has 9 (!!) players in it, and is just too unwieldly to be any measure of an AP.
So I hand-picked my 3 best 'roleplayers' and set out on my 'Super-Secret Pathfinder Campaign' where roleplaying is key -- these are players who would rather take a STR of 8 and roleplay the idle life that made them such weaklings than take a STR of 18 to do more DPR. Since I didn't expect to have the AP (even in PDF form) until July 18, I asked each PC for a name and a brief background for their character, and I wrote a set of e-mails setting the scene for them.
After the players repeatedly used the term "epic" to describe my e-mails, I thought it would be nice to stoke my ego and start my own thead here, posting first my series of e-mails, and then my players' exploits as they worked their way through RotRL.
So here, without further ado, and with no apologies, is our RotRL campaign...
Shiroi-Jikkou-Sha (Shiro), Part 1
You grew up in a fairly wealthy merchant family in the small city of Kitoyo, part of the Minkoi Empire of Tian Xia. While Kitsune are uncommon in Kitoyo, your father is well-known as an excellent trader and host, and therefore he (and his family members) are welcome and well-known throughout the city. Your father travels frequently for business, and you note that he always takes on his human guise when he travels. He tells you, "Not all humans are as fair-minded as those of the People's Empire."
While your older brother, Matsui, is in line to inherit the family business, your parents expected you to assist him in every way, particularly in negotiations, as you are far more charming and silver-tongued than he could ever hope to be. Unfortunately, that's not what you're looking for in life, and you frequented the local taverns and squares listening to storytellers tell of far-off lands and adventures beyond imagining: Knights in full armor battling fire-breathing dragons; giants storming iron-walled castles; gods falling from the sky and wounds opening in the ground and pouring forth demons; those are the kinds of stories you're interested in. You even took up the lute and learned some of the simple ballads and songs of the local bards. You also made excuses to visit the local academy to study history, languages, religion, magic, and so forth, expanding your mind and your horizons.
Unfortunately, your parents, especially your father, did not approve of this "frivolous" pursuit, and made it known that they wished you would stop. Your father considered it shameful that a merchant's son would debase himself by performing for commoners. Your mother worried about what might happen to you, as she had heard stories about what happens to traveling minstrels; especially young, attractive minstrels of either sex.
For several years, you and your father remained at an uneasy impasse; he did not approve of your activity, but your ability to negotiate deals paralleled his own, so he grumbled and looked the other way.
Then Emperor Shigura disappeared.
The Higashiyama clan (his clan) claimed that they took him into protective custody due to a legitimate threat on his life, but as days became weeks became months, and the Jade Regent proved grossly incompetent at running the empire, unrest grew. As unrest grew, business stagnated, and your father became more and more bitter. Requests to stop your performances became out-and-out demands, and polite arguments became screaming matches. To be able to continue performing, you had to travel father and farther outside of the city to escape your father's notice. Like your father, you took human guise to travel. Unlike your father, you conducted the family business as a human, and performed as a Kitsune, so no one was the wiser that you were keeping up your performances. Unfortunately, one night in a particularly crowded and rowdy tavern, you were performing a particularly bawdy favorite of the locals when a heavyset human stood up and revealed himself to be... your father!
"This is the final straw, Shiro! Your mother and I have asked you repeatedly to stop this nonsense, and you have ignored our wishes and shamed our family. And now I find you on family business, performing like a commoner, singing a song your mother would blush to hear. You shame me! You are no longer my son! Do not return to my home!"
On returning home, you found that you had been locked out of the house, and the servants had been ordered to prevent you from entering. Your younger sisters have always been fond of your performances, and they snuck your meager belongings to you while the servants weren't watching. As you regretfully turned from home, Matsui caught up with you with a bundle wrapped in silks.
"Your lute, my brother! How will you feed yourself if not for your song?"
With that, you venture forth on your first adventure...As you ponder where to travel, you realize that the only logical place is the free city of Goka -- a man (or Kitsune) could spend a lifetime learning its secrets...
Rae'Sheleth, Part 1
The year was 4608. Aroden, god of light and wisdom, was dead. Cheliax, Aroden's home country on Golarion, was in civil war. The Worldwound had opened, spilling demons across the northlands and overwhelming the nation of Sarkoris. To the west, a massive storm named the Eye of Abendego formed off the coast, drowning the nations of Lirgen and Yamasa. Absalom, city of light, was in chaos.
It was the perfect time to strike.
The drow poured forth from the Five Kings Mountains, overwhelming the dwarves who had long held them at bay and poured southwards into Andoran, figuring farmers and halflings would make excellent slaves (for as long as they lasted), and Cheliax was in no shape to protect its erstwhile colony. Even better, Andoran considered itself the "birthplace of freedom" and the origin of the worldwide abolitionist movement, so its people would provide great entertainment as well as half-decent labor. Sure enough, the drow easily cut a swath of destruction through Andoran, returning thousands of slaves to their caves in the mountains. Hope seemed lost. What god or nation would intervene?
Sarenrae took offense.
Sarenrae herself manifested in her temple in Absalom, ordering her paladins to form an army to deter, and, if necessary, exterminate the drow menace. The paladins worried; their forces were vastly insufficient to engage in full-scale war, and all the neighboring nations were already dealing with their own internal wars. They would obey their goddess, but their cause seemed doomed.
The paladins assembled their meager forces, bolstered by volunteers from Absalom who had relatives in Andoran, or who merely wanted to help. Their ships were to sail at dawn, as was their custom.
As dawn broke, sails were spotted. Hundreds of sails. Thousands of sails. The crusaders of Aroden, tasked with civilizing the entire southern continent, were coming home, led by Aroden's herald, Iomedae. They had gathered by the hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands in Osirion after Aroden's death, and Iomedae tasked them with sealing the Worldwound. Absalom happened to be "on the way". Hundreds of Aroden's paladins, bolstered by dozens of clerics and thousands of support troops agreed to join Sarenrae's crusade to wipe the drow off the map. There were many bitter discussions; Sarenrae's forces merely wanted to drive the drow back underground. Iomedae's forces wanted them exterminated. At the end, it was agreed they would "play it by ear" and the combined armies sailed northwards.
Against an army of paladins, the drow had no chance. They were slaughtered by the thousands, and the armies drove them back into the mountains and even pursued them into their caves.
And there, it happened. Icobar, paladin of Sarenrae, was traveling alone through a drow tunnel deep in their caverns when he heard a commotion ahead -- the screams of women and children, and the sounds of steel on flesh. He charged forward, unthinking, and struck down the men who were in the drow nursery, slaughtering the drow nursemaids, children and infants. Icobar stared in horror at the scene. Every drow was dead, even the infants. The men had committed atrocities beyond mere acts of war, transgressing into acts of unspeakable evil against the innocent babes. Icobar wept at the death around him. As his sobs echoed through the chamber, another cry joined his: A tiny drow infant was still alive! He used the last of his goddess-given abilities to heal her, tucked her in his arms, and carried her to the surface. Most of the warriors, and many of the paladins of Iomedae begged him to put her to the sword, but none dared face his wrath, and Icobar merely repeated, "She is a sign from Sarenrae that even the most evil of races may be redeemed. She is my charge. I name her Rae'Sheleth, Watched Over by Sarenrae."
Icobar was true to his word. He returned with Rae'Sheleth to Absalom, where he personally took to raising her as a proper student of Sarenrae's ways. Her temper frequently got the better of her, but Icobar was infinitely patient, and utterly dedicated to the notion that if he could redeem her, he would redeem himself and all of the men who gave their lives or committed atrocities in the name of fighting the drow. Unfortunately, men's lives are short, and Icobar grew old and died while Rae'Sheleth was still but a child. The high priest of Sarenrae in Absalom believed in Icobar's path, and took it upon himself to continue her training. For the first few decades, most other temple members shook their heads at the folly of raising a drow as a faithful follower of the Dawnflower, but as she grew, her control over her temper matured, and by the time the priest died the young 50-year-old drow was a model of decorum compared to other human children her equivalent age.
Rae'Sheleth continued to live at the temple, a legacy of the old priest and paladin that none dared break. And her behavior was downright tolerable; she was not the worst offender among the young trainees, and even when she lost her temper and beat a cadet senseless or bit his nose off, she would profusely apologize, and spend days in self-induced exile praying to Sarenrae for forgiveness and guidance.
She continues to live at the temple, still relatively young and impatient at the tender age of 99, and the clerics keep telling her it will be "only a few more decades" before she is ready to venture forth as a full-fledged paladin of Sarenrae.
She can't wait.
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Shiro, Part 2
The first few days of Shiro's journey were an absolute joy of unmitigated freedom: Gone was the onus of conducting his father's business everywhere he went, so he could focus on the people, the places, and the events around him. He was well-known in all the nearby towns, so he received warm welcomes, had silver (and even gold) tossed at him for his performances, slept in feather beds at fine inns, and ate like a young prince. Life as a traveling minstrel was Good.
Unfortunately, the moment he traveled beyond his father's influence, reality set in. Guards did not greet him at city gates, and instead questioned him suspiciously about his intentions. They usually let him in, but rarely without a comment along the lines of, "Just what we need, another damned bard." Instead of being welcomed at inns and taverns, he had to use his best diplomatic skills just to be allowed to play; and on occasion he had to play in the streets because no inn or tavern would let him in. The words, "We've already got a bard," became the song of his disappointment. Once he was even run out of town as a vagrant. The silver and gold that had been thrown at him became a trickle of coppers, and feather beds and fine meals became straw mattresses and gruel. The spring rains soaked him, but the first time he took his true form to stay warm the humans around him raised an alarm and chased him off, so he was stuck traveling in human form, wet, cold, hungry, and miserable. Goka MUST be better than this!
As he approached Goka, his lot did indeed improve. Travelers from all over the world wanted to hear "local flavor", so young local bards were welcomed at many of the inns. Even better were the travelers themselves: Shiro had read that humans came in many different colors known as "races", but he'd never seen a non-Tian before. As he approached Goka, humans of every shade of brown appeared, from the nearly-black skin of the humans from the southern continents, to a dizzying selection of browns, to the pale, almost-ashen white of the northern barbarians. With the humans came dozens of languages, some sounding like birdsong, and some like rutting warthogs. Even better, non-humans began to appear in greater and greater numbers. First were the halflings, tiny men and women acting as stewards and porters for their masters; good-natured, quick-witted, and quick to drink, dance, and make merry. Shiro was very fond of halflings, as they paid him far better than humans. Next came the dwarves, gruff and surly on the road, but loud and boisterous once their travels were done and they were settled and drinking in taverns. Shiro picked up some dwarven drinking songs, and quickly found that he could easily pay for his night's lodgings by starting the evening with at least one dwarven song. Next came the gnomes. The gnomes. You could hear a gnome traveling party from at least a mile away. Most sensible caravans moved to the side of the road to let the gnomes pass. Shockingly boisterous, wearing garish colors that clashed with their garish hair, the gnomes took greater joy in travel than any group or race Shiro had ever seen. The gnomes couldn't travel half a mile without playing a practical joke on each other or another traveler, so their parties moved slowly (but joyfully) through the land. They would sing along (loud and off-key most of the time) with anything Shiro sang, whether they knew what they were saying or not. After the gnomes, elves and half-elves began to appear, aloof and distant. Even half-orcs showed up on the road as bodyguards, porters, and drivers. The road was slow going from the spring rains and thick mud (thanks, <Our RQ GM>, for ruining muddy roads forever!), but the neverending tableau of foreign races fascinated Shiro, and traveling was a joy again.
Finally, Shiro approached Goka. While rationally he understood that Goka was one of the largest cities in the world, that knowledge did nothing to prepare himself for the sheer magnitude. Goka was MILES across, populated by hundreds of thousands of people representing every civilized race (and some not-so-civilized) on Golarion. The wide road leading into the city passed through an archway, and there were guards at the archway, but they were paying no attention whatsoever to the travelers passing through. Shiro felt completely lost: Where was he to go in such a huge city? What would he do? Would he be able to make a living? On the other hand, in Goka was countless centuries of knowledge, tens of thousands of interesting people to meet, and an entire massive city to explore. Shiro cheered up, shouldered his pack and his lute, and walked through the gates.
Shiro, Part 3
Although Shiro had never encountered a city even 1/10th the size of Goka, he was still streetwise enough to avoid the merchants' stalls right at the entrance to the city. Sure enough, even in his human form his nose was sensitive enough to catch the tickle of rancid meat on the back of his throat, and the acrid odors of rotting vegetables abounded. He followed the caravans through the throngs of beggars, peddlers, and shysters to move on into the city proper. Having no idea where to start in such a huge city, Shiro continued to follow the caravans as they moved into town; he knew that although they wouldn't take him to the best parts of town, they'd take him somewhere with reasonably-priced inns, decent taverns, and perhaps a spot of food and a corner to play in.
After more than an hour of walking into the city, Shiro was hopelessly lost. He hoped that he would be able to turn around and follow the main road back out of town, but he wasn't sure. Some caravans turned off the road here. Shiro knew these would be local supplies for the city itself. Far more interesting were the caravans that continued onwards; those packed with exotic goods for shipping to foreign lands. It took the better part of the day to make it all the way across Goka to the harbor district, but it was worth it. The city was a marvel of chaos. Every conceivable architecture jutted from the streets, buildings that looked like they dated back thousands of years stood shoulder-to-shoulder with brand new construction. Homes and shops intermingled with complete randomness. The people were just as random; you were almost as likely to step on a gnome or bump into a half-orc as you were to meet a fellow Tian. At some point in the early afternoon, Shiro's stomach had begun rumbling, and he paid a few coppers for some skewers of herbed meat (delicious) and a tray of vegetables that looked like nothing so much as tiny trees (meh). It was still a bit early in the season for fresh fruit, but he did manage to purchase a handful of strawberries from a kindly (if hopelessly portly) woman at an almost-bare fruit stand.
Once in the harbor district, he was in his element. The men unloading the caravans into the harbor warehouses might as well have been from Kitoyo. Yes, there were far more demi-humans than Kitoyo had ever boasted, but the work was the same, the language was just as course, and the smell was just as bad, though mingled with the hint of fresh sea air it seemed not quite so bad, and even slightly alluring. Shiro quietly followed the merchants away from their caravans and, sure enough, they led him unerringly to a group of inns and taverns set a few hundred yards away from the harbor warehouses: Far enough to avoid the smells and the sounds, but close enough if any emergency (or last-minute bargain) could be found. The next day the haggling, bickering, negotiations, promises, trades, and procurement of space on ships would be dealt with; tonight, the merchants were in a celebratory mood, and it was Shiro's best chance to make some coin to tide him over until the next caravan came in.
The choice of inns was small; it seems like three main inns serviced the harbor merchants, and none looked much finer or much worse than the others. "The Sunken Chest" depicted an ancient treasure chest sitting on the sea floor. An obviously-newer, competing inn had named itself the "Chest of Plenty" and depicted an overly-buxom mermaid clutching gold and jewels against her ample endowments. The "Old Sea Dog" showed a sodden cur looking downtrodden in a horrific storm. Needless to say, Shiro chose the Chest of Plenty.
He spoke briefly with the innkeep about a corner to play in, and received permission to play that evening. He stepped out for a bit, explored the local area, and, deciding that the city was such a hub of races from all over the world, decided to perform in his true form.
At the appointed hour, he entered the inn and smiled inwardly at the open gapes some of the foreigners gave him. He was putting on a show! He sat down, started tuning his lute, and barely noticed as, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something small and metallic flying towards his head. His startled reaction saved his life as the starblade flew by, embedding itself in the wall. A dark-skinned human yelled, "Raksasha! Kill him! He will devour us all!!"
Others took up the cry, and patrons stood and drew their weapons. Tables were overturned, chairs fell, chaos erupted, and Shiro thought he might have breathed his last.
As the dark-skinned man charged forward, a strange curved shortsword in hand, a gauntleted hand caught his.
"Hold, friend. That is no Raksasha, and I will tolerate no violence towards him."
Shiro, Part 4
Shiro looked at his rescuer. He was a human of medium height, with pale skin and dark hair. His hair was immaculately-styled, and he was clean-shaven. His "dress" was even more unusual: Here, in an inn in one the biggest trading cities in the world, was a man in full dress plate mail. The mail was highly polished, with an elaborate sun motif, including suns to hold his crimson cloak. In the center of the breastplate was a stylized fire-winged angel in gold, and a scimitar hung as his side, while a large shield was strapped to his back. In spite of the obvious decorative nature of the armor with the gold embellishments and the high polish, it showed signs of use, including a huge mostly-repaired gash that started from the middle of his right ribcage and proceeded all the way across his stomach to his left hip. Shiro doubted that anyone, anywhere in the world would fail to recognize this man as a paladin of Sarenrae, the Dawnflower.
The room froze for a moment. Patrons stood, weapons half-drawn, staring at the tableau of the dark-skinned attacker, right hand in the iron grasp of the paladin, goggling wordlessly at the paladin's calm, confident face. Then, his left hand shot up, smashed his tankard across the paladin's nose, the paladin staggered backwards, and chaos re-erupted.
"Vors! Get the Kitsune to the Eastern Star! I'll hold them off here!"
A small, unshaven youth scurried under the melee, grabbing Shiro's arm and whispering, "Please, sir, come with me if you want to live."
The boy was perhaps 14 years old, wearing a white tunic with a motif matching the paladin's, carrying a backpack and a crossbow that was obviously too big for him. He led Shiro deeper into the inn as the paladin fell over backwards, overwhelmed by at least half a dozen drunken patrons, all smashing at him with great vigor with their tankards and their fists. As the boy helped Shiro jump from a low window from the second floor, Shiro felt powerful magic being cast downstairs, and a collective gasp from the paladin's would-be attackers.
In the street, the cry for the guards was already raised, and Shiro heard running feet everywhere. "Please, sir, turn human right now, if you would, and hand me your lute."
The boy shed his tabard as if he'd practiced his exact maneuver hundreds of times, dropped it in the mud below the window, and quickly handed Shiro the crossbow and donned the lute. In other 10 seconds, Vors went from paladin's squire to traveling minstrel's child. The transformation was astonishing and instantaneous. Shiro put on his human guise, slung the crossbow over his back, and promptly resembled nothing so much as the dozens of mercenary muscle wandering the docks, looking for work guarding caravans traveling east or west.
Vors led Shiro towards the docks. Shiro was concerned. "What about your master?"
"Oh, Olytrius? Don't worry about him? The biggest trouble he's going to have is not accidentally hurting one of those drunken buffoons. He's been in far worse scrapes than that. He'll meet us at the ship."
At that moment, the author was kidnapped to help prepare the kids for an optometry appointment, and the town went silent...
Shiro, Part 5
Vors led Shirro unerringly to the docks, where a ship of obviously-Western design lay moored. The ship itself was decorated in a Sarenrae motif, from the figurehead of Sarenrae herself on the front, to the polished brass suns and flames along the sides, to the orange-painted, "Eastern Star" in both Common and a language Shiro didn't recognize on the stern.
A voice called from this ship, "Ho! Vors! Where's your master? And who's that you have with you?"
"He's out in the taverns beating miscreants again, m'lord, he should be along shortly. And my friend here would seem to be a bard who likes to cause spectacles."
Shiro was about to voice an objection, but saw the smile on Vors' face as he said it, and realized it was a jest.
They were welcomed aboard the ship by two stout-looking human sailors. Their skin was a bit tanner than Vors' or Olytrius', but they were obviously from the same lands, with similar hair and facial features. Shiro felt that he was becoming a quick study of human variegation; at a later date he would love to assemble the crew and try to guess which of them were from their original land, and which were from elsewhere. However, his arrival did cause quite a stir; at least half a dozen sailors stirred from their posts and came to pry, and Shiro was promptly overwhelmed by their differences. Just as in Goka itself, the boat had humans with dark skin, humans with light skin, and even two humans who looked remarkably like the dark-skinned one who had attacked him.
Just then, the doors to the cabin opened and out strode an older human in white robes trimmed with orange flames, and a sunburst pattern on the chest. Behind him walked a dwarf in sooty plate mail wielding a two-handed hammer. "Vors, please explain what is going on, and who our visitor is."
"Beggin' your pardon, your worship! Olytrius and I were settling down in the Chest of Plenty for a final shoreside meal when this fox-faced gent (and here Vors gestured at Shiro) came in, calm as you please, and sat down with his lute to start playing us a tune. Well, there was a Vudran in there who just went crazy, yelling, 'Rakshasa' and hurling a star knife and trying to get at him. I don't know what Olytrius saw, but he got between the Vudran and this gentlemen (sorry, sir, I never did think to ask you your name...)"
"Between the Vudran and Shiro, and a fight broke out. Olytrius yelled at me to get the kit, kit, ..."
"Kitsune," the man in white robes interjected.
"Olytrius told me to get the Kitsune to the ship. So I guessed he'd be able to take human form like most animal folk,"
"Kitsune," repeated the man in white robes. "Don't be rude."
"Well, I figured he must be able to look human, so I threw out my tunic, switched equipment with him, and we snuck back here. I left Olytrius in the bar fight."
The man in white sighed. "Has it ever occurred to you, my young squire, that one of your duties is to keep Olytrius OUT of such trouble? And another of your duties is to NOT deface, discard, or destroy the sign of your goddess?"
Vors looked utterly abashed as the man continued, "However, in this case you have done well. The Vudrans are notoriously suspicious of anyone with a tail, and it is likely you and Olytrius saved young Shiro's life. Shiro, would you care to join me in my cabin for some tea?"
Shiro, the dwarf, and the man in white went below to a small room with a cot, a writing desk, a wardrobe, a chamber pot, and little else. Shiro was astonished that such an obviously-important man would be given such a small cabin. The three of them barely fit in the room, especially after the dwarf and man pulled a small ingeniously-folded table and four chairs out from under the cot.
"Going to teach him Harrow and steal all the lad's money already, Nars? That's unkind, even for ye."
The man in white (Nars) gave the dwarf a stern glare. The dwarf grinned broadly and winked at Shiro.
Nars rang for tea and asked Shiro about himself. Where had he grown up? What did he do? Were Kitsune common where he came from? What did his parents do? Why did he leave? When he learned of Shiro's disownment, he clucked and shook his head. "Ah, fathers worldwide are the same. They want nothing but the best for their children, but in their drive to forge their children into something great, they forget that the greatest gift of all is happiness."
"I'd be a lot happier if there were a spot o' something stronger in my tea."
Nars glared at the dwarf again. The dwarf grinned and winked at Shiro again.
After Shiro told his tale, Nars told theirs.
Once a year, the temple of Sarenrae in Absalom sends a caravan of missionaries, foodstuffs, and dwarven-forged steel through Kelesh and Vudra to Tian Xia, and in return receives spices, scented candles, and fragrant woods that are burned in the sacred ceremonies to Sarenrae. Many of the dwarven merchants still remember the War of Darkness against the drow nearly a century ago, so the temple receives the dwarven goods for an incredible price, and the trade not only spreads missionaries and acquires the desired ceremonial materials, but is quite profitable and helps fund the temple. When Nars mentioned the discount, the dwarf piped up, "Aye. No priest or paladin of Sarenrae from Absalom will ever pay anything beyond cost in the Five Kings Mountains. Dwarves remember long, and well, and you did us a right good turn back then."
Sensing a story, Shiro asked about the War of Darkness, and listened raptly as both Nars and the dwarf recounted the horrors the drow visited on the dwarves and the people of Andoran, and the rise of the Goddesses' Host to smite the drow and drive them back to their deepest caverns. Only a lack of light and a dearth of fighting-age dwarves prevented the drow from being exterminated entirely, but the drow have not returned, and the dwarves are recovering quickly. ("Aye. I was but a wee lad, but I had my first hammer at the ready and the mail my da had made me for my 10th birthday, but they said I was too sma' ta go to war.")
Nars continued. Their trade was done, the ship was full, and they were only waiting for dawn to set sail to return to Absalom. It was a long and perilous journey, traveling during the summer through the heat of the Windswept Wastes, but all of the nomads in all of the tribes worshipped Sarenrae above all others, so the caravan may move freely through the wastes, and frequently has company as the tribes view the caravan as "neutral ground" where they can trade with each other and with the caravan. "Indeed, young man. If you truly wish to be a bard, you should come with our caravan one year. The nomads may seem quite barbaric, but they play such haunting hymns to Sarenrae on their bone instruments that I am often moved to tears. If you could learn but one or two of their hymns, you could spread Her light far better than any ten of my missionaries..."
As they sat, they heard a voice call out, "Ho, Ser Olytrius! How goes!"
Shiro was astonished to realize that they had been speaking for nearly 3 hours, and was a bit alarmed that it had taken Olytrius so long to return. As he entered the small cabin, he looked dour. "Small furry friend, I am truly sorrowful to see you here. That was no Vudran sailor who assailed you, but a young Vudran noble of high birth. While the guard did their utmost to calm the man, he really was quite pigheaded and idiotic. We are to sail with the tide, as planned, but they have quarantined us. No one is to leave this ship."
Everyone sat back in their chairs, stunned at the news. Nars, mouth agape, searched for words. The dwarf looked ready to take his hammer and 'negotiate' with the guards himself.
Suddenly, Shiro made the most momentous decision of his young life.
"I'm going with you."
Shiro, Part 6
Unfortunately for Shiro, "going with" the caravan wasn't so much an option; "working for" the caravan was a far more apt term. Shiro was given the bunk space of one of the departed missionaries, and every morning awoke to new and harder duties. At first, his only jobs were to swab the deck and assist the cook. As he became more familiar with the equipment being used, he had to fetch items for the sailors. Soon, they found that his nimble hands were ideal for mending sails and tying knots, and his lute callouses helped him work longer hours than most "green" recruits. In the evenings, the sailors insisted that he perform for them. On ship, they demanded that he play in his true form, and every night they oohed and aahed and gasped appreciatively as he transformed from Kitsune to human and back again.
Seasickness was not an issue for Shiro, and by the end of the week he was in the rigging assisting with the sails.
** CHARACTER TRAIT: SHIRO MAY ADD "PROFESSION: SAILOR" TO HIS SKILLS AS A LEVEL 1 SKILL **
The voyage to Vudra was hard work, but pleasant and uneventful. Every morning at sunrise and every evening at sunset Nars and Olytius led the crew in prayers and praises to Sarenrae. Shiro learned that Nars was a mid-level cleric at the temple, and Olytius was his paladin/protector/bodyguard. Olytius' rank was a bit high to be reporting to a mid-level priest, but Olytius explained that he greatly enjoyed seeing the world, and studying the sentient races, a hobby that he'd had ever since his days at the academy in Absalom.
The dwarf's name was Agron Thickbristle, a dwarven smith from Taggoret in the Five Kings Mountains. His job was to ensure the safety and authenticity of the dwarven wares for the journey. Although his father had survived the War of Darkness, many of his friends lost their fathers to the war, so when it was time to learn his father's trade, he dedicated all of his attention and talent to it. As a result, he was one of the most highly-regarded smiths in all of Taggoret, and was granted the honor of accompanying the Dawnflower's caravan this year. Now that his goods were sold, he had nothing left to do but drink, spin tales, and listen to other's tales. Excellent company for a young bard looking to gain some stories and songs.
As they were landing in Vudra, Nars approached Shiro. "As you may know, Vudra is the homeland of the Raksasha, evil, voracious outsiders who embody the worst of the hedonistic sins and take them to their utter extremes. Raksasha have been known to bring down entire civilizations on a whim, or for their own pleasure. Unfortunately, Raksasha take the form of humans with animal heads, explaining the young Vudran noble's reaction to your appearance. To protect themselves, many cities have guards who use True Seeing to see the true form of all newcomers. I ask you to stay in your true form for our entire journey through Vudra. I will show you how to wrap these scarves around your head to cover your face. It will be stiflingly hot, I'm afraid, but if we are found out we can show them your joints (Raksashas' always have at least one backwards joint) and point out that we did not intend to deceive them. Hopefully, that will be enough to get us safely through Vudra. It is a wondrous land, but with its many wonders come many threats."
Shiro took his true form and Nars carefully wrapped his head in silks. A careful observer would be able to see his nose and would know that he wasn't human, but even within a few feet a casual passerby would most likely mistake him for human.
The next portion of their journey was overland along the Golden Path, first through Vudra, then Kelesh, and finally on to Qadira and across the Inner Sea to Absalom. The crew of the Eastern Star would sail the ship around the Casmaron peninsula and reunite with the caravan in Katheer, but the overland journey was considered worthwhile to maintain good relations with the Kelesh nomads. Shiro stayed in the background while the crew and some local laborers transferred the cargo to elephants, of all things, and those who were to travel with the caravan were helped into howdahs on the elephants' backs, while all of the cargo was in vast baskets on the elephants' sides.
The caravan traveled through Vudra. It was a hot, humid slog through mile after mile of jungle. Biting insects made sleeping during the day impossible, while the noises, strange eyes staring from underneath the canopy, and flashing lights in the sky filled Shiro's nights with nervousness. Olytius seemed totally unaffected by all that surrounded him; his snores were the only constant of the evenings, and no member of the caravan, not even Nars, rested half so well as Olytius.
--> Note to Shiro's PC: I am intentionally leaving these travels as an environment with a "blank slate" so you can insert your own tales as to what happened during them at your leisure as we game
When the caravan reached the Vudra/Kelesh border, they swapped their elephants for camels and moved on. The insects during the day were gone, but the heat was brutal. Almost every day they were visited by Kelesh nomads seeking to trade meat, hide, bones, or magic for trinkets, and Nars met with each and every group that came. Shiro noticed that Nars' strategy was to encourage groups that arrived at the same time to trade with each other as well as the caravan. He then volunteered to help with the negotiations between the two groups, and eventually Shiro realized that the caravan itself traded almost nothing; it was instead acting as a 'facilitator' to assist the nomadic tribes in trading with each other.
--> ...and we continue the 'blank slate'... don't forget that these barbarians focus on 'bone music', so you can talk about how you learned to play a particularly haunting song from them...
The caravan eventually arrived at the port of Katheer in Qadira, and spent several days there before the Eastern Star arrived. Finally, they sailed to Absalom.
As the ship approached Absalom, Shiro marveled. Broken masts, moldy hulls, and other wreckage littered the sea for miles around the City that Would Not Fall. The captain himself stood at the helm, carefully steering the ship down a path that only he knew, finally reaching their berth in the late summer of 4707...
Shiro/Raesh Crossover, Part 1
Absalom was like nothing Shiro had ever experienced. From the wreck-littered bay to the massive white walls to the skeletons of hundreds, or even thousands, of siege engines littered on the fields surrounding it, Absalom screamed, "Impenetrable." Every street was designed with defensibility in mind, and hence not a single street led from the outskirts of the city to the interior. Instead, visitors had to traverse a maze of side streets, slowly making their way inwards to reach the heart of the city, as any defenders would have rained death upon the invaders. The city itself was a maze of monuments, temples, shops, and shrines, populated by peoples from throughout the known world, and probably even some unknown worlds. Goka stood head-and-shoulders above any city of Tian Xia as the trading hub of the East. Absalom stood worlds above Goka as the trading hub of the world.
As the Eastern Star pulled into the docks, a crowd of white-clad youths with sun motifs gathered. Two of them ran off to alert the temple, while the rest stayed to help with the transportation of the cargo. As Shiro, Nars, Olytrion, and Agron Thickbristle debarked, Olytion turned to Agron. "An excellent journey my friend. Thank you for your assistance. May you live long, craft well, and father many children."
"Not so fast, Oh Shiny One! I've just spent months of me life travelin' with the likes of ye, and ye expect me to wander off without ever seein' yer temple? Not on your life?"
"Ah, Agron, you are indeed 'unique among dwarves'. We've never had a dwarven visitor who wanted anything other than to get back to the Five Mountains as soon as possible before. Of course you're welcome to come with us to the temple!"
The caravan proceeded up the maze of winding streets. Shiro stared agog. Raven-headed creatures argued with bipedal frogs over the price of fish. Elves bickered with dwarves over the price of rivets for their armor. Bound djinni shared the streets with Summoners' Eidolons. It was said that a man could spend a lifetime in Absalom and learn only 1% of its secrets; Shiro felt that that was a gross overestimate.
After what seemed like hours, the party arrived at the Temple of Sarenrae in the Ascendant Court district of the city of Absalom. Nars and Olytrion stepped forward to present themselves at the gates. A purple, brown, and white streak danced from ledge to ledge, finally resolving itself in a young woman, perhaps 15 or 16, clad in leather armor with purple skin, white hair, and shocking white eyes. She fearlessly darted forward, embraced Olytrion, and announced, "So, Farm Boy, what did you bring me?"
Agron's hammer was out in a flash, darting down on the intruder's head. "Die, drow scum," he screamed.
Olytrion's scimitar was faster. It locked up with Agron's hammer.
Shiro had heard of the rage of paladins before; how the entire world came to a standstill as the paladin surveyed his victim; "foe" was too strong a word for those who opposed the will of a paladin enraged. He had never felt anything like he felt now. Olytrion was steel. The air around him froze in anticipation, and his fury could be tasted on the breeze. Agron could not move. Olytrion's voice was a growl so menacing it sent chills down the spine of all those around him. "You will stand down. You will apologize to my friend. You will put that insipid hammer away and beg for forgiveness, or I will kick your ass down that hill and smite you until your armor lies scattered in pieces upon the ground."
Agron spat. "You and what army, old man?"
The world stood motionless. Where the eager young purple woman had stood before was a statue; a perfect semblance of a being in such iron repose that Shiro could not guess at her emotions, or even if she felt any. The retainers, squires, and porters stood frozen in terror at the tableau before them. Even Nars was beyond words.
Winter Solstice, 4672 A.R. (35 years ago):
Raesh sighed and steeled herself for the inevitable response, but knew that she must make herself known. She squared her shoulders, listened for her name to be called by the herald, and strode into Grand Cleric Balador's presence. "Your Eminence."
"Cadet Rae'sheleth. It is a pleasure that you seek our presence. To what do we own this honor?"
"Your Eminence, I fear that you may have forgotten that last year I submitted a formal request to be relieved of cadet training duty until further notice, considering the incident with cadet Gellius last year. I do not wish to appear impudent, but I do not work well with others, and the priests who performed the Healing feared that had I not been restrained, I might have killed the young man."
"Cadet Rae'sheleth, it pains me to hear you speak so. Young cadet Gellius was fully healed, and our investigation into your motives confirmed what I have felt all along; you had no intention of causing him permanent harm, you just wanted to teach him a lesson for calling you 'grape face'. I have considered your petition carefully, and I feel that it is Sarenrae's will that you continue training the cadets. They are the utmost test of one's patience, and therefore there is no better test of your resolve than to deal with their 'idosyncrasies'. I acknowledge but deny your request to be transferred out of cadet training. You are one of our most highly-skilled trainers, yet you look no older than they do. You have a rapport with them that none of our other trainers can come close to matching.."
Raesh sighed for what seemed like the hundredth time this day, and strode surlily into the training arena. For the sixteenth time in sixteen years, Trainer Gorkath started his same, tired speech. "You have come here today seeking to be paladins of Sarenrae. Of every hundred of you that try, only two will succeed. Those of you who fail must understand that it is not lack of love for Sarenrae that will cause you to fail, but your own personal weaknesses..."
Ah, Trainer Gorkath, such a charmer. She remembered fondly when he'd been a cadet and she had beaten his arrogant noggin senseless while the previous trainer hadn't been looking. Training, training, training. What was it good for if you never got to leave the temple, and lived your life as nothing but a showpiece for the current high priest to show off how dedicated he was? Unworthy thoughts! Unworthy thoughts! Get it together, Raesh! Sarenrae grant me the strength to deal with this buffoon's idiocy for just one more year...
Once Gorkath was finally, thankfully, blissfully finished, Raesh strode forward to confront a new cadet; a young human boy of around 11 or 12. He clearly wasn't from Absalom; the homespun clothes and thick ropy muscles around the arms and wrists screamed, "Rural". He was handsome enough in his own way, with the dark hair and the shapely nose, but his vacant happy expression told Raesh all she needed to know. He was eager. He was probably devout. But he wouldn't last. Just like all the others, he would succeed or fail and be gone, and Raesh would go back to her life of solitude. She didn't particularly care one way or the other. Just another farm boy to train and beat and possibly send on to greater things, all while she sat alone at the temple...
"Your skin! It's purple! That's neat!"
"I'm a drow. We're evil. We enslave entire races and torture people for fun. Put your guard up."
"No you're not."
"You're not evil. We are in the temple of Sarenrae on Absalom. Sarenrae burns the evil out of people, and if she can't burn out the evil, she burns the people alive. That's what my pastor said. And you're alive. And you're not burning. So you're not evil."
The boy's logic was unfortunately infallible. Raesh smiled inwardly despite herself. He had a point. How could she be living in the temple of Sarenrae in the heart of civilization if she were truly evil?
"What's your name, boy?"
"Olytrius, my, er, girl? Lady? What are you, anyway?"
"Your worst nightmare. Put up your guard!"
She didn't beat him nearly as soundly as she usually beat the new recruits, and when she went to bed, she surprised herself by thinking of the new recruit Olytrius fondly, and smiling. "What's wrong with me," she thought.
*** CHARACTER TRAIT: RAESH MAY TAKE AN OVERALL +1 BASE ATTACK BONUS (BAB) TO REFLECT HER EXTENSIVE TRAINING IN THE TEMPLE OF SARENRAE ***
Summer, 4677 A.R. (5 years later)
Olytrius stepped into the workshop. "What are you doing up so late, Raesh?"
Raesh tried to hide what she was doing, but she knew better. Olytrius' natural curiosity was normally a blessing to the temple; he spent every spare moment researching one race or another. Ever since he'd met her, he'd become obsessed with which races were "redeemable" and which weren't. These studies lead to significant real-world advances; he was barely 5 years in and he'd already defused two major misunderstandings between rare races in Absolam, and merchant groups were already coming to him for advice on interracial relations. But tonight it was a pain.
She groaned and showed him the partially-completed pull-horse.
"Toys?!?!? My big-and-bad mentor, death to a thousand heretics, makes TOYS in her spare time?"
"It's just cooler down here in the workshop, and darker, and I need to do something with my hands."
"So my little snow leopard makes toys?!! Do you sell them for extra cash to buy implements of torture to torment the new cadets?"
"What did you call me?"
"My little 'snow leopard'. I read up on them. They have white fur with black spots. Exactly like you do after Maester Griddledygig's alchemy lessons..."
She only beat him someone senseless that evening; it was too hot for a serious beating. It really didn't help that he giggled the entire time she was pummeling him.
Spring, 4679 A.R.
"So you're leaving me as well?"
Olytrius knew that Raesh never showed her emotions. Even the question reflected the depths of her despair at yet another of her human friends maturing and leaving her, an adult in a child's body, still at the temple to do the same tasks she'd done for a century. Even the thought of it depressed Olytrius. Couldn't they have found ONE elf or gnome to train with her? He loved Sarenrae with all his heart, but the politics of the temple depressed him. They would rather parade around their pet drow and talk about how great they were for redeeming her, instead of actually TALKING to her, getting to know her, and finding out what they could do to make her happy. Internally, he swore that if he were ever raised to high enough rank in the temple, he would get her out. Even if everyone else said she was too young, and even if he had too oppose the Grand Cleric himself, Olytrius would see Raesh free in his lifetime.
"I swear this to you, my little snow leopard. I will always return to you. And I will always bring you something that you may know me."
He leaned down and kissed her on the top of the head. She slapped him.
"Don't do that! It's degrading1 I trained your grandmother, for Sarenrae's sake! Show some respect, Farm Boy!"
Olytrius hugged the ancient woman in the 12-year-old's body and headed off on his first mission, hoping beyond hope that he would return so she would know that Sarenrae's light was true.
Winter, 4680 A.R.
Raesh finally heard the news she had been expecting but dreading for months: Olytrius' ship had returned. She knew what she would find. Her favorites never lasted. Humans who were tolerant and trustful of drow were inevitably tolerant and trustful of other races as well, and that trust inevitably led to their dooms. Raesh felt the anger wash over her in a tide, and, instead of suppressing it, she reveled in it for a moment. Some day, the temple would HAVE to free her, and then the evil races would learn exactly how bitter betrayal would taste. She imagined cutting them open, pulling out their entrails, bathing in their blood.... and stopped herself short. No! This was NOT her. She was a paladin of Sarenrae. She was the epitome of redemption. She would give her enemies every chance to renounce their wicked ways and join her on the path of light, no matter how painful the light was to them. And if they refused, THEN she would disembowel them.
She walked towards the docks, squinting against the harsh daylight. The ceremonies were hard enough, with their bonfires and reflected sunlight, but being out in full sunlight was still hot, and blinding, and unpleasant. She walked in the shade as much as possible as she approached the docks. The men disembarked from the ship, and she saw no sign of Olytrius. She sighed. Another one lost. And yet there! In the dented armor, carrying the oddly-shaped sack! She flew forward and, without thought of dignity or propriety, flung her arms around Olytrius. He hugged her back, and whispered, "Ow! Too hard! That otyugh was bad for my ribs, little snow leopard!"
They returned to the temple and, once they were in their quarters, he handed her his sack.
"What's in it?"
"Open it and find out!"
She dumped the sack on the table. Inside were half a dozen of the most intricately-designed toys she'd ever seen. "What are these?"
"They're gnomish toys! You turn a handle and it winds a spring and they move on their own! No magic! I thought you could take them apart and see how they work and use them to design your own toys!"
Raesh hugged him again, and they spent the night taking apart toys and talking about how they could use the mechanisms in other toys.
Spring, 4697 A.R.
Raesh was depressed. Just like all the others, Olytrius was aging. She might have the body of a 14-year-old human, but he was well into his 30's, and she was beginning to worry that he was slowing down. No matter what anyone said, paladin missions were dangerous, and even the loss of a tenth of a second in reaction time could mean the difference between life and death. Even worse, more and more often he spoke to her as a father instead of as a friend, and she had to keep reminding him that she was the far older of the two. But one night, everything changed. He hurried into her room, excitement visible on every feature, and declared, "I've done it!"
"What? Learned to close the door on the latrine before you urinate? Congratulations! I trained my chimp to do that two weeks ago, but the betting pool was three weeks, so you win."
"No, no! I've been assigned the Tian Xia caravan! I get to travel halfway across the world and see sights few humans ever see in a lifetime!"
Raesh' depression deepened. "So you'll be gone for half a year, and I'll have no one to talk to except a gaggle of cadets who see me as nothing more than a curiosity to be studied, and a horde of priests who trot me out at every diplomatic opportunity just to prove how open-minded they are!"
Olytrius' jaw tightened. "I cannot deny that humans have their shortcomings. But in less than 80 years you have met both Icobar and (I flatter myself) myself, and you'll meet others, whether or not I return! And I'll see things I would have no chance of seeing any other way! YOU have a thousand years to explore this world! I have less than a hundred! And I take offense that you doubt my word that I WILL return." He turned and stormed out, praying that he would return safely.
Late Summer, 4697 A.R.
The caravan returned. Raesh held her breath and tried to stay angry, but she couldn't. She rushed down to the caravan. Olytrius was one of the first to emerge, the familiar canvas sack over his shoulder. She rushed forward, gave him a cursory hug, grabbed the bag, and scurried back to the temple. She could hear the startled expressions from his comrades, but Olytrius just laughed. All was forgiven.
And oh, the toys! Intricate folded papers in the shapes of cranes and dragons that moved when you pulled on their tails, puzzles that even the wisest sages couldn't decipher, intricate mazes and puzzles; years' worth of work in a single trip!
Over the next decade, Olytrius kept his promise to Raesh. He no longer took core missions, but instead went with the caravan. And every year he returned with new and wondrous toys for her to disassemble.
Until this year, when the dwarf's hammer started to come down, and Olytrius spoke...
Hi Ichiban, Part 1
Well, now that we have Shiro and Raesh in a safe place, let's turn to Hi Ichiban's story...
On the day he was born, Hi Ichiban's house burned to the ground. His parents celebrated this sign of good luck.
On his naming day, his house caught fire once again, and three neighboring houses burned as well. His entire community celebrated. The gnomes expected great things of him.
Hi Ichiban was born under a lucky star. Spontaneous combustion is always a sign of greatness, but to have a special shipment of dwarven mushroom beer "fall off" a cart on his naming day so his relatives could all be especially drunk before calling out his names was something truly special. His full name reflected that: Hi Ichiban Whoop Griggledy Piggledy Wonk Wonk Great Googley Moogley Ow My Finger Don't Hit Me It Wasn't My Idea Fig Fig Banana Fo Fama Whomp Whomp Whoopledy Doo Zzzzzzzz was a name that could only lead to greatness, though the gnomes found making the snoring noise provided by old Uncle Brikkeldy to be a bit harsh on the ears.
His father was a fireworks craftsman by trade, working out of the East Shore district of Korvosa because the Korvosan Guard didn't want him anywhere near the city proper. His father bore an eternal look of surprise, due to his missing eyebrows and the patchwork of burn scars on his forehead. Whenever anyone asked why he didn't have them healed, he snorted and said, "Missing eyebrows are a craftsman's mark of honor. Eyebrows are a sign of weakness!" So, of course, every time he got drunk the other gnomes drew eyebrows on him in various positions with charcoal, and so he frequently awoke to being called "Angry Nur" or "Sad Nur", or, in one gnome's artistic magnum opus, "Existentially Uncomfortable Nur". Every winter was spent at home in the shop, carefully (and sometimes not-so-carefully) crafting fireworks for sale, and every spring Hi Ichiban and his family would meet with the Varisians of Trail's End and join an outgoing caravan. While most merchants are maddened by the Varisians' wandering paths, the gnomes agree with the Varisians that "the journey's the thing", and so Hi Ichiban's father, Nur Einspiel, sold his wares at whatever town or encampment they happened to be near. When they happened upon a town festival, he made excellent profits. When they happened upon a band of marauding goblins, the goblins eagerly agreed to take the fireworks in exchange for not attacking, then promptly burned and injured themselves and ran off. Goblins quickly learned to avoid "the black-haired gnome and his loud fiery gifts". His parents and the other Varisians taught him to recognize Sczarni caravans, and he was warned, "They are Varisians, so they are kin, and we must love them. But they are not like us. They love gold above all else, and will do unspeakable things to get it. Do not associate with them."
*** CHARACTER TRAIT: HI ICHIBAN MAY TAKE CRAFT: FIREWORKS AS A CLASS SKILL, AND MAY TAKE 1 LEVEL IN IT
*** CHARACTER TRAIT: HI ICHIBAN MAY TAKE VARISIAN AS A BONUS LANGUAGE, THOUGH HE MUST PAY FOR IT NORMALLY
Hi Ichiban's childhood was one of unbridled joy and entertainment. Very early on, they learned of his ability to summon fire on command. His father was immensely proud. Being gnomes, no one thought to keep him out of the fireworks factory. Non-gnomes became extremely scarce in the area. Gnomes flocked to the area. His father ignored requests from the Academy to send his son, saying, "My son doesn't have this god-given talent so some wizarding school can come along and ruin it. He makes FIRE, for gosh' sake! Not magic!"
Unfortunately, an untrained sorcerer is a very dangerous thing, so by the time he was 20 Hi Ichiban's relatives mentioned that the burning houses and exploding fireworks just weren't as funny any more, and insisted that he receive some training. Nur reluctantly agreed, and hired a goblin sorcerer to train Hi. Ten minutes later, as the goblin was trying to gnaw off Hi's arm, Nur realized his mistake. They dispatched the goblin with some difficulty, and found an exiled Shaonti barbarian of the Sklar Quah (sun) tribe who could provide Hi with some minimal training. The barbarian hated city life, and so traveled with the family on their journeys through Varisia.
*** CHARACTER TRAIT: HI ICHIBAN MAY TAKE SHAONTI AS A BONUS LANGUAGE, THOUGH HE MUST PAY FOR IT NORMALLY
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Shiro and Raesh, Final Pre-Campaign Background
Like a crack of thunder, a voice called out, "HOLD!"
Shiro couldn't move. It was like every muscle in his body was suddenly no longer his to command. Agron stood, still as a statue, hammer still raised. All around him, Shiro saw complete stillness. As far as he could tell, not a single person in the courtyard could move, though for all he knew, the purple woman was still free; she hadn't stirred a muscle or betrayed a hint of an emotion since the dwarf's outburst.
Olytrius lowered his scimitar and turned to face the temple entrance. "Nice timing, old man! Next time try to be a bit earlier, though. That could have been ugly!"
Footsteps rushed down the stairs. "How DARE you!?!?! In Sarenrae's name, how DARE you bring combat to the very steps of your temple?!?!?"
A portly purple-faced older man in Sarenrae's familiar white robes with orange-and-gold trim stormed into Shiro's view. He was screaming at Olytius, spittle flying from his lips. "The dwarves are our stalwart allies! They have protected us for decades! I ask again, how DARE you, ser!"
"He was attacking one of our cadets. I stopped him."
"He was attacking a drow, as is his nature! He cannot be faulted for that! Let her defend herself!"
It was Olytius' turn to darken with rage. "And how dare YOU, your 'eminence'?!?! Have you learned NOTHING in all your years of Sarenrae's teachings? She seeks the redemption of ALL creatures, not just those you deem worth redeeming! Raesh has lived here for almost a century, and has NEVER given us cause to doubt her devotion or her inner faith, and you would let her be beaten to death on your own temple stairs because she happens to have purple skin! For shame, Gregory, for Gregory you are, as no title is deserved to one who forgets Sarenrae so easily."
Shiro's eyes started to fail. As the cleric and paladin argued, the cleric's robes dimmed from white to ivory to dull grey, and the golds and oranges of his robes faded to yellow and tan. As he dimmed, Olytius blazed. His armor was painful to look upon, and the decorations were no longer gold, but living flame burning upon his armor. A crowd began to gather, gazing in wonder at the high cleric and a paladin in heated argument. Olytius glanced around. "We will continue this inside. Balder, Wilhelm! Escort Mr. Agron to his carriage. You two! Make sure no harm comes to those frozen here; the spell should wear off in a few moments."
The paladin and cleric stormed inside, but as soon as they were inside the door they were screaming again. No one on the steps could fail to hear them, and not one person made a sound, eager as they were to hear.
"Your fondness for the drow has blinded you, Olytius! We NEED that alliance with the dwarves! She is a perfectly adequate cadet, I'll grant, but we cannot risk our alliances for the sake of a single cadet who won't even be ready for the field for another twenty or thirty years!"
"You are a tired old blowhard, Gregory! She has been training for a HUNDRED YEARS! She may LOOK 15, but she is ready! She regularly trounces other cadets who have been deemed ready for the field! Give her SOMETHING! I don't care whether it's dedicating a half-assed temple in some podunk town in the middle of nowhere! Let her be SEEN! Let the world know that even drow can be redeemed by the light of Sarenrae! She is the single greatest asset this temple has had in centuries, and you treat her like something we should be ashamed of. She is a drow! She is a PALADIN! Let her go forth and show the world what Sarenrae's light is capable of!"
"Fine! Getting her away from you is a fine idea! You're on temple duty for the rest of the year! And I know exactly where to send HER!"
An hour later, Raesh was summoned to the high cleric's chamber. Shiro had no idea why he was there, but as Olytius had personally asked him to be in the audience for this, he stood there, watching, along with a sizable crowd curious as to the fate of the temple's 'pet drow'. Raesh strode into the chamber, looked around at the crowd, and Shiro thought he might have detected the faintest hint of displeasure in her face, but she was almost impossible to read. She turned, faced the dais, and said in a loud, clear voice: "You called for me, Your Eminence?"
"Rae'Sheleth, adopted daughter of Icobar, Paladin of Sarenrae, you have been called to serve your goddess. What say you? Are you prepared?"
Stony-faced, she replied, "I live but to serve, Eminence."
"Excellent. Acolyte Nemar, step forward."
A young, portly, pale-skinned acolyte in plain white robes stepped forward. "Yes, Your Eminence?"
"It has come to our attention that a small town in Varisia by the name of Sandpoint has requested that a cleric of Sarenrae from the temple in Absalom be present to re-dedicate their Temple of the Six Gods. While we normally would not have the staff to honor such a request, I understand that you are originally from Sandpoint. Is that correct?"
"It is, your Eminence."
"Then I request that you set forth immediately, with Rae'Sheleth as your paladin, to go to Sandpoint and assist the local cleric in dedicating the temple. Is this clear?"
"Yes, your Eminence."
The ceremony concluded, the audience started filing out, disappointed in such a mundane first assignment for the drow. Shiro was still wondering why he'd been asked to be there when Olytius caught his arm.
"Shiro, I know that you owe me little beyond dragging you halfway across the world to an island with ten bards for every tavern, but I ask a favor of you: This is Rae'Sheleth's first journey outside of Absalom. Little does she know the loathing towards drow that she will encounter in the wider world at large. As a Kitsune, you have had a small taste of that loathing. You might be able to get her to talk to you, to express herself, to let you know what she's thinking. Don't get me wrong -- she's a closed book with a lock tighter than a nun's chastity belt, but she needs a friend, or at least a companion she can vent at. Nemar's an idiot. He'll find a way to screw up this assignment. That's why Gregory sent him. I need someone to look out for Raesh for me. Can you be that person?"
...and that's where we'll start Shiro and Raesh' PCs on Saturday...
Hi Ichiban's Final Pre-Campaign Background
As the years went on, Hi's father's tolerance for goblins became an obsession; he was convinced that they were cursed gnomes, afflicted with ugliness, stupidity, and viciousness, and all they needed was a gnome to give them love and care. The fact that he, his family, and anyone who traveled with him bore the scars of this particular 'eccentricity' did nothing to dissuade him. Anyone silly or patient enough to argue with him quickly learned his key points:
- Gnomes and goblins were about the same size.
- Gnomes and goblins both like to ride dogs.
- Gnomes and goblins both like fire.
As a result of this, and memories of his unfortunate first tutor, Hi went in to business on his own the moment he was old enough. He and his father made the fireworks together (and in all honesty, he was now quite a bit better at it than his father, as he seemed to have an absolute knack for all things pyrotechnic), but they would each choose a different Varisian caravan to travel with. As more and more of Nur's caravans returned with the scars of his 'goblin enlightenment campaign', Hi became more popular, and more able to steer the caravans, though telling Varisians where you wanted to go was more akin to herding cats and squirrels AT THE SAME TIME than anything else.
His adventures were too numerous to count.
--> Free rein here. You're a gnome loose with a Varisian caravan in the wide-open plains of Varisia. Make stuff up. And if I say it didn't happen, it doesn't much matter, does it? You're a gnome! <--
There was the time his Sklar Quah mentor convinced him that they could return to the Cinderlands together, and his mastery of fire would ensure their acceptance by the tribe. On cold mornings, Hi could still feel the ache in his ribs from when the Raven totem in the trial of the totems nearly crushed him, and Kargor was laughing so hard he couldn't pull the totem off the poor gnome. He felt better thinking about the stinging arrows the Sklar Quah had sent zinging into Kargor's backside to chase him right back out of the Cinderlands. He frequently asked Kargor about his banishment, but the best he ever got was when Kargor muttered in a drunken haze, "Never trust a shaman's daughter..."
There was his introduction to Riddleport, where a pickpocket had relieved him of his purse only to catch fire. The constable quickly apprehended the suspect, took his complaint, fined Hi the entire contents of his purse for unlicensed pyrotechnics, and split the amount between himself and the cutpurse. Hi was still convinced they had looked remarkably alike, but the constable assured him that all humans in Riddleport looked alike. Or their disastrous visit to Janderhoff where he convinced a dwarven smith that his smoke powder would make the dwarf's forge burn twice as hot, only to have the dwarf test the powder right then and there. Fortunately, the massive plume of smoke and Hi's small stature allowed him to escape unscathed; sometimes it's good to have plain old dark-colored hair instead of the technicolor marvels sported by his kin; had he had the horrific pink of Brilly or even the striking purple of Trig, he would have been caught for sure. Scholars argued endlessly about whether Korvosa or Magnimar was a better place to live, but both cities were magnificent in their own way; Magnimar with its ancient crumbled bridge to nowhere and Korvosa with its striking Thassilonian pyramid capped by Castle Korvosa itself. Hi's personal favorite was Harse, a tiny town north of Korvosa where a large family of gnomes maintained the most spectacular alchemy lab in all of Varisia. Sure, the stock exploded every week or two, so you were unlikely to be able to actually BUY anything from them, but participating in their experiments was guaranteed to be a blast!
In Spring of A.R. 4707, Hi learned that the little hamlet of Sandpoint was planning a huge festival on the Autumnal Equinox to celebrate the re-opening of their Six Gods temple. He remembered the horrors of five years before, that the locals in their infinite delicacy called the Late Unpleasantness, and was happy to hear that they were finally beginning to recover. Finding out that your local whittler whittled people as well as woods and having your church burn down both in a single season smacked of bad luck, and the festival was intended to wash that bad luck right out of town. They would need fireworks. LOTS of fireworks. And fireworks without 'goblin helpers' who set them off at the wrong time or bit the children or ate the pets. Hi was fortunate enough to find a Varisian caravan heading 'in that general direction'. It took some serious direction ("Today is the 7th day of the month. Even though that's an odd number, so you'd normally go right, it's also a prime number, which reverses your previous decision so we should go left. But following the signs without stopping to ponder the consequences is bad luck, so we should probably go right. What's that? You want to go left? OK, whatever you decided..."), but eventually the caravan arrived in Sandpoint, three days before the festival...
...and that is where we're going to leave Hi...
"Marathon" 8 1/2-hour session last night (yeah, I know, I'm an amateur) with 3 near-death PC experiences. I took it as a very good sign that the players kept trying to roleplay through "what's next?" even as I was packing up all my things.
I should have the summary ready by tonight or tomorrow morning.
Hopefully the next session will be Memorial Day weekend in 2 weeks; we just have to check the other players' schedules.
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July 21, 2012
Note that I've bolded PC names just 'cause there's so many NPCs...
Raesh returned to her room to 'pack', but realized that, after a hundred years, she owned nothing of any significance; just her practice armor, practice sword, holy symbol, and toymaking tools. She went to the quartermaster and requisitioned chainmail, a scimitar, and a heavy wooden shield. The quartermaster raised his eyebrows a bit that she didn't requisition any travel gear whatsoever, but he didn't care for drow, so he let her make her own mistakes. Once she had her gear taken care of, she rushed to the wood shop and worked through the evening, so thoroughly engrossed that she never noticed when the candles sputtered out, only re-lighting them when she needed to paint the result.
In the morning, she hurried to Olytrius' cell and knocked on the door. He answered promptly, and, before he could say a word, she said, "I have a gift for you," and handed him a canvas bag.
"Should I open it now?"
Olytrius opened the bag. Inside was a carved wooden toy: A slide with a snow leopard on one side and a hole on the other. When you pulled a lever, a jowly, familiar-looking rabbit poked its head out of the hole as the snow leopard pounced on it. "Oh, little one, it's absolutely perfect," he gushed.
He leaned over and kissed her on the head. "Thank you, little one!"
She shied away. "Be respectful to your elders!"
Then she rushed up, hugged him, kissed him on the top of the head, and scurried away before he could react. Olytruis could do nothing but laugh.
In the morning as she was performing her morning prayers, Nemar approached. "This is my big chance, drow. Don't screw it up."
"I will do my best to perform my duties, m'lord."
"Good, good. See that you do."
As Raesh approached the ship, Olytrius approached. "Don't you owe me a promise, little one? That you'll be back?"
"I promise that I will be back."
The voyage to Magnimar was somewhat uneventful. Shiro volunteered to help with the ship and, after showing borderline competence at the task (Skill Check = 6), he was allowed to assist the crew. Nemar spent the entire voyage seasick, alternating his time between the rails and his hammock, though he managed to spare time to complain about the food, the quarters, and the company. Raesh spent her days below and her evenings on deck, watching the stars and marveling at the comfort the darkness brought her, and the vast expanse of the ocean around her.
Unfortunately, Shiro decided it was time to entertain the crew. For his first performance (Performance Roll = 1) he told the story of a dwarf who had been enchanted by a succubus and caught 'in the company of' the local goats. Said dwarf was now on the crew, took offense at the tale, and punched Shiro for 4 points of nonlethal damage before the other crew members could pull him off. The first mate rearranged the schedule so that Shiro was on duty when the dwarf was asleep, and Shiro was asleep when the dwarf was off-duty, avoiding any further incidents. Shiro did not try to play again on board the ship.
Six weeks later, the ship arrived in Magnimar. Nemar immediately took offense. "Why isn't anyone waiting for us? Don't they understand the importance of our mission!??! I can't believe no one is here to receive us!"
Shiro defused the situation by offering to take care of things for Nemar. Nemar immediately handed Shiro a pile of gold and said, "Take this and take care of things." (GM Note: Be CAREFUL telling characters this! Shiro KEPT THE MONEY and freely spent Nemar's gold throughout their journey, much to my chagrin when I finally figured out where they were getting all the gold he was spending.... Nemar ended up being FAR more popular than he deserved...)
The first thing Shiro did was to seek out the most likely tavern the crew would go to, and give the innkeep a handful of gold to pay for a few drinks for the crew for having to put up with Nemar.
He then showed his more honest side by procuring an inn, equipment, provisions, and riding animals for himself, Raesh, and Nemar. The trio spent the evening at a pleasant inn in Magnimar, and, in the morning, headed for the Lost Coast road.
Favorite line so far: When Shiro went to the inn to secure lodgings for the evening, he told the matron, "But I have to warn you about something..."
Everyone waited to hear how he was going to explain the drow...
"Our cleric is a complete jackass."
It took at least 5 minutes and a round of drinks (for the players) to recover from that one. I did roleplay that the innkeeper was so worried about the cleric that she kind of ignored the drow, which was exactly what the wily bard had planned... Nemar got treated like royalty, basked in it, and tipped the serving boy by leaving two coppers on the table for him. A moment later Shiro passed by and the coppers were mysteriously replaced by a gold piece.
As they traveled through Magnimar, Raesh noticed the massive temple of Iomedae. She told Nemar, "We should stop and pay our respects."
Nemar replied, "We don't have time to visit every temple of every two-bit god or goddess we come across. We're not stopping."
When Raesh insisted, Nemar realized that he couldn't stop her from visiting a temple, so he and Shiro waited outside as she stepped into the entryway and waited.
As expected, in a heartbeat she was hit with at least a dozen "Detect Evils" and quite a few higher-level spells searching for her alignment, her motives, and whether she intended harm to the temple. Once she was determined to be 'clean', a high-level paladin approached her and welcomed her to the temple. She sent greetings from the temple of Sarenrae in Absalom, and the paladin and high cleric welcomed her to the temple. As the high cleric showed her through the temple, the paladin walked outside and had words with Nemar. Nemar paled visibly and came inside to participate in the visit. Once the visit was concluded and the paladins of Sarenrae and Iomedae had exchanged pleasantries, the trio proceeded to the Lost Coast Road.
Transition to Korvosa
Hi Ichiban wandered through Trail's End, asking each group of Varisians where they were eventually headed. He finally found a group that intended to attend the Swallowtail Festival in Sandpoint: An elderly matriarch Mabel, her three sons, their three wives, two of the wives' sisters, and three children: An 11-year-old boy, a 7-year-old girl, and an 18-month old boy, all the children of the eldest son Antonio. As Hi pulled his cart into the caravan, the young girl (Nictiana) jumped into the seat next to him. She looked him over. "You're small."
*The player responded with the usual innuendo, I reminded him that she was only 7, and he said, "Oh, that's right! Oh, well, it probably went right over her head." *
The little girl smiled at him, leaned against him, curled up, and went to sleep. Hi sighed. It was going to be one of *those* trips.
Hi endured the usual Varisian caravan. He wanted to go west, so they went northeast. He wanted to go south, so they went northwest. He was accustomed to the Varisians' eccentricities, and knew he would (eventually) find himself in Sandpoint, but every time he turned around, Nictiana was near him. She brought him food, slept next to him, and seemed to have "adopted" the gnome as her own personal friend. Hi tried to ignore her attentions. Every night as they danced and sang, he would work on his fireworks and put on a small show for them. They traveled through Harse and met the gnome alchemists, then Abken, Biston, Ashwood, Ilsurian, Whistledown, and finally Nybor. They then traveled cross-country towards Sandpoint.
About two hours out of Sandpoint, Hi spotted (PER roll = natural 20) trouble. On the road ahead were two obvious Shoanti: An elderly man slouched over on a small, slow-moving pony, and a man-mountain who dwarfed the horse he was riding on. Hi didn't think the Shoanti would cause trouble with Varisians, so he allowed the caravan to approach. Once they were within about 100 yards, Nictiana screeched, "It's old man Tolmar!", dismounted Hi's cart, and rushed forward to the Shoanti.
Tolmar-Kai was an ancient (103 years old) shaman of the Lyrune-Quah clan of the Shoanti. Every year, he told everyone that this would be his last Swallowtail festival, but every year, he found a way to be there. This year, his son had finally abandoned him to his follies, and so his guardian was his grandson, Halek-Kai. The Varisians swarmed around Tolmar, asking him for news of the Cinderlands and pestering him for what he thought would happen at the festival, while his grandson silently looked on, not saying a word. Hi suspected that the grandson didn't speak a word of Common. Tolmar's pony was specially-trained to walk without jostling the rider at all; as a result, it traveled at less than half the speed of the caravan. The Varisians wouldn't hear of passing Tolmar; they joined him and sang and danced for him and his grandson as the grand procession proceeded into Sandpoint.
Nemar was apoplectic. No one was waiting at the Sandpoint bridge to welcome them to Sandpoint. He hammered on the door of the Two Knight Brewery, and, once Gaven answered the door, insisted that Gaven send his boy *immediately* to notify the mayor and the temple that Nemar had arrived. The trio left their horses at the Goblin Squash stables and proceeded through town, Nemar embarrassing them at every opportunity with his self-importance. By the time they traveled through Market Square and Nemar yelled at the children playing there for being in his way, Shiro had had enough and started throwing (Nemar's) coppers behind him in a massive trail. Nemar did not appreciate the horde of screaming, giggling children that followed him to the temple.
On arriving at the temple, Father Zantus welcomed the trio to the new cathedral. Nemar demanded to speak to Father Tobyn, and was only slightly disparaged when Zantus informed him that Tobyn was dead. Zantus showed them through the temple, and described the planned festivities for the 22nd. Nemar was incensed. "Sarenrae is the Dawnflower! Her dedication MUST take place at sunrise. THEN you can deal with all that other nonsense!"
Zantus was at a loss for words, but a soft voice intervened, "And that would be most appropriate for a temple whose sole goddess was Sarenrae, but as it is shared by Desna, who would rather see the dedication at midnight, I think you might agree that sunset is the ideal compromise."
Nemar whirled to confront the intruder, but came face-to-belly-button with Talmor's grandson, Halek. For once, Nemar was at a loss for words. On looking UP at Halek, Nemar declared the current plan "acceptable". Nemar stormed off. Raesh and Shiro dutifully tracked him down, finding out that he was staying with his doting mother. When Raesh dutifully offered to stay at Nemar's mother's home and protect him, he said, "Get away from me," so she assumed she had the evening off, and turned away with the first full smile she had shown the party.
At this point, the three PCs (Raesh, Shiro, and Hi) were finally together. On the evening of the 19th, they headed for the Rusty Dragon for dinner and drinks, but met Hi's Varisian caravan in the market square instead. Singing, dancing, and performing ensued, and Shiro yet again failed his performance roll. (For the entire 8.5-hour session, I'm pretty sure he never rolled a performance over 5. I was truly impressed.) Antonio asked to borrow the lute, and promptly rolled a natural 20 to put on a performance for the ages. (As the player put it, "So much for blaming my lute for my bad performances!") Being only a few hundred feet from the Rusty Dragon, Ameiko Kaijitsu and her wait staff arrived with trays of roasted chickens, potatoes, ale, and sweets, all "on the house". Nictiana approached the drow and asked the 'purple lady' to dance with her. The purple lady politely declined, and gave the little girl a wooden pony. (As Nictiana put it, "Pony pony pony pony pony pony pony pony pony squee!") Sheriff Hemlock tried to break up the festivities at 9:30 pm, but the crowd was too enthusiastic, so he let them party on until 11:30 pm, at which point he asked them to please break it up. The people who wanted to continue the festivities returned to the Rusty Dragon, where Ameiko more than made up for the food she'd given away in extra food and drinks sold to the revelers. Hi and Shiro camped with the Varisians, while Shiro arranged for a room for Raesh at the Rusty Dragon.
In the morning, Raesh hammered on Nemar's mother's door. Nemar yelled at her to go away, and not return until the 22nd. She dutifully obeyed, tracked down the bakery and returned to the Varisian encampment with half a dozen loaves of batard and a dozen sweet rolls. The trio explored the town. Notable encounters included the map collector, from whom Raesh purchased a magnificent map of the southern continent for Olytrius, the book collector, from whom Hi attempted to purchase obscure works, and the Thassilonian scholar, who fascinated Hi with his descriptions of a tower that could spew fire for miles around. After a lunch of lamb pasties from the bakery and a decadent lunch of lobster chowder at the Hagfish (the drow is apparently a growing girl), followed up by Hi's hopeless attempt to drink from Norah's tank (can you say failed Fort save followed by barely-made follow-up save?), the group watched an excellent production of Korvosa's founding put on in the theater. After the play, they returned to the Varisian camp for more festivities. I believe Shiro failed his perform roll yet again, but at this point I was just taking it as a given. Raesh took a long bath and then learned the wonders of dessert. (Truffles, to be exact).
The trio explored the rest of the town, the only notable incidents being an attack by one of the local dwarves on the drow, and the revelation that the sheriff had been following them in case of just such an emergency.
The festivities started as planned, with speeches by Mayor Deverin, Sheriff Hemlock, and theater owner Drokkus making speeches. Somewhat worrisomely, neither Lonjiku nor Ameiko Kaijitsu were available; Lonjiku claimed illness, and Ameiko claimed she was cooking. There were games in the morning. Much to Shiro's surprise, he won a climbing contest. To everyone's surprise, the man-mountain Halek was good with kids, and engaged 8-10 small children in a hopeless game of tug-of-war (for them). Hi spent the entire day guarding his fireworks, and Raesh spent the entire day guarding Nemar. As lunch was served, Shiro got extra plates for Raesh and set them aside for her, knowing that she wouldn't eat while she was on duty.
As evening fell, Mayor Deverin tried to start her speech, and the goblins attacked.
NOTE TO GMs: If you *ever* need goblins in a combat, get an 11-year-old boy to play them. My son came in just as the combat was beginning and asked whether he could play. I handed complete control of the goblins over to him. Their first act was to completely ignore the Grease spell that Shiro had placed in their path and fall all over each other. As Hi set a goblin (and hence the grease) on fire, they beat each other with their dog slicers to put out each other's fire. Once their fires were extinguished, a paladin AND a barbarian were right there, so one ran away and the rest played dead. Unfortunately, one of the 'dead' goblins tried to sneak away and fumbled his Stealth roll, catching his ear in the paladin's belt. Then the second set of goblins arrived, and the first set decided it was time to attack again, even though they were hopelessly outclassed. It was, quite simply, the most realistic set of goblins EVER: Total ruthless bloodthirstiness combined with utter cowardice when faced with superior forces. I had a blast. My son had a blast. My wife said, "I don't want him playing goblins again. He's too bloodthirsty." I'm sorry. I still chuckle at what my son did with the goblins. In 10 years of training, I could never have achieved such absolute goblinness. He was a PERFECT goblin! I was proud!
PHASE 1: Instead of 3 goblins with a bard hidden somewhere in the background, I put in 4 goblins, 2 goblins riding goblin dogs, and no bard. The first goblin arrived, and, much to everyone's surprise, Nemar charged forward, cursing the goblin for ruining 'his' ceremony. The riders rode forward and did me proud -- a critical and a regular hit, and Nemar fell in two pieces to the ground. Hi hit one of them with Snapdragon Fireworks and Shiro greased the area in front of them. As mentioned, as soon as my son took over, the grease became an insurmountable barrier to them. No one else was laughing, but I *really* had trouble running the combat as the four greased, burning goblins beat on each other in some bizarre attempt to put each other out. Don't ask me; I wasn't in charge, but damned if it wasn't the best goblin behavior I've ever seen.
The next round, Halek charged forward and demonstrated that taking Power Attack and Cleave as a 1st-level barbarian wielding an Earth Breaker is NOT a waste of a feat -- think Gallagher on speed and you can imagine the two riding goblins. 2d6+8 is NOT funny to a goblin.
Similarly, Raesh charged forward and criticalled on her first attack, and Hi moved towards the goblin dogs. Things were going well. Oh, except for the Nemar thing, but no one but Raesh seemed upset, and she seemed to be really *trying* to be upset. Unfortunately, the surviving goblin dogs were smart enough to not attack the man-mountain in front of them, but charged for the gnome and the ancient druid.
I was really proud of Tormal. I did such a good job of integrating him into the scenario that the players thought he was an AP NPC. He was absolutely perfect. But on a random roll, the dogs decided that he looked tastiest, and they rolled near-max damage. Tormal went to the dogs.
Other than the two dead NPCs, Round 1 was a catastrophe for the goblins. Once Tormal was dead, Halek raged. If 2d6+8 isn't funny to a goblin, 2d6+11 is downright rude to a goblin dog. The riders were down, the dogs were down, one of the four goblins had fled, one was dead, and the other two were playing dead and hoping that the paladin would be nice to them. Needless to say, she tried to stabilize them, little realizing that one of them was still conscious...
As Halek arrived to crush the wounded, Shiro recognized the issue of "raging barbarian killing all downed enemies" vs. "paladin stabilizing all downed enemies" and used Ghost Sound to lure the barbarian away from the downed goblins. (Barbarian will save = hilarity).
PHASE 2: The three goblins and the bard blew up the fireworks cart and attacked from the south. In an epic battle, Hi first used Burning Hands on them twice, dropping one of them, then engaged them hand-to-hand with his dagger. A brave move for a sorcerer, but quite reckless, as his colleagues were all the way across the map. The goblins started beating Hi to death with their torches, and the sheriff managed to lose his re-election campaign right then and there (6 rounds. Rolls of 2, 4, 5, 5, 5, and 6. Stoopid sheriff). In the single-most memorable moment of the day, I sent in Nictiana, figuring we needed another dead NPC and someone other than Hi for the goblins to beat on. She promptly rolled a natural 18, nailing the goblin in front of her for 1 point of non-lethal damage. I checked my chart and found that he had 1 hit point left. A 7-year-old girl not only took out a goblin, but de-flanked the sorcerer at the same time. Hi got dropped, but at that point Zantus was there to heal him. Halek arrived, being a wee bit fast. Goblins dislike being crushed by giant hammers, and tried to flee. Bad things happened to goblins. Nictiana continued to pummel her unconscious goblin, making her parents proud, and causing Hi to beam with pride.
PHASE 3: The group heard the screams from the north, and Raesh, being closest, ran ahead. She found that three goblins and a goblin commando had cornered a local noble, and opened a can of Smite Evil on the commando. 3/4 of his hit points later, his goblins rushed forward to defend him. Unfortunately, it was a hot night, so I'd removed the GM screen, so everyone could see what I rolled. Double critical from the first goblin. Critical from the second goblin. 24 hit points later, Raesh was at -10 HP with a CON of 12. Her initiative was immediately after the goblins, and she failed her Fort save and went to -11 HP. The player gave me her exact and precise opinion of my providing such an epic background to a character I was going to kill in the very first combat. The other players arrived, and Hi greeted the latest batch of goblins with another Burning Hands. The goblins proceeded to crit the barbarian for 13 of his 15 hit points. Nasty little buggers. About the only bright side was that the goblin commando's attacks rivaled the bard's performances: Nothing over a 5, so the AC 9 commoner hiding behind a barrel managed a miraculous survival.
Speaking of the bard, I can't really give him enough credit here. He rushed in and healed the paladin, stabilizing her. Given the choice of pulling her away from combat or putting himself in the way of harm, he stepped right in. And started kicking goblin booty. The barbarian was ready to drop, but the goblin dog managed to miss him (don't ask me how; he had an AC of 10 and 2 HP left), and he hit the dog, ending its miserable existence. Hi was holding his own against a goblin at the end. It was up to the bard to take on the commando. Unfortunately, the paladin had hit the commando once with Smite Evil, and that was pretty much all his hit points, so the first time the bard hit him, he dropped.
Shiro nobly tried to carry Raesh back to the temple for healing, but on hearing the question, "What's your STR, again?" decided to let the barbarian do the heavy lifting. Once the party was healed, the grateful noble immediately invited Raesh to dinner, or to go boar hunting with him, and, flustered, she told him she had to hold vigil at the temple that night for her fallen charge. Not to be dissuaded, he said, "Another day, then?" She left.
After the cleanup, Halek sat in the place Tolmar had died and refused to move. "I have failed. My life no longer has meaning." Raesh approached him. "I was also guarding someone and I also failed, but your loss is far greater than mine. I will be holding a vigil for my charge tonight. Will you join me?" (Extra EXP for the drow paladin)!
As Halek and Raesh held vigil for their lost charges, Shiro and Hi accompanied the sheriff as he 'interrogated' the goblins. He tied each goblin up, put him in the stables, and let the horses walk around him. The goblins were surprisingly willing to talk. The group learned that the goblins had instructions to "kill everyone and burn everything", and the instructions had come from a "longshanks". The only other word they got out of the goblins was, "Graveyard."
The group did its best to roleplay through continuing their investigation, but 8 1/2 hours in, I called it a night...
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As mentioned previously, Raesh and Halek retired to the cathedral to hold silent vigil in honor of their charges. Hi and Shiro returned to the Varisian caravan camped in the market square, where Antonio and his brood were making a great fuss over Nictiana and her brave (but foolish) deeds. As soon as the "heroes of Sandpoint" arrived, the Varisians started an impromptu celebration, and there was much singing, dancing, and music. Within the hour, Ameiko arrived with a 5-gallon keg of ale, roast lamb, and potatoes, and declared that, "No hero of Sandpoint is going to sleep in the dirt unless they want to!"
She offered both Shiro and Hi free room and board for the week at the Rusty Dragon. Shiro politely refused, indicating that he was enjoying his time with the Varisians, and Hi hinted at "other plans". As the party wound down and Nictiana was safe in bed, Hi stole off to the Pixie's Kitten, where he asked for a companion whose endowments were "as big as his head". This was arranged for the paltry fee of 5 s.p., and Hi slept soundly and comfortably with his new friend Fannie.
Raesh rose to perform her morning prayers, only to find that Halek was already active, carefully painting silver war paint of bears, wolves, bats, moons, and stars across his face and torso. Halek turned to Raesh and said, "Today we hunt longshanks."
Father Zantus brought them a simple breakfast of oatmeal, and they soon headed for the Varisian encampment. Raesh stopped by the bakery to buy some bread for the group, and was rather appalled when Alma shoved half a dozen loaves and a dozen sweet rolls into her arms, along with a small basket of pastries. Alma refused payment, insisting that no "heroes of Sandpoint" were going to pay for breakfast the day after they had "saved the town". Raesh was taken aback, and did her best to pay for the food, but Alma wouldn't hear of it, and eventually Raesh gave up and brought the food to the Varisians.
Shiro was still trying to sleep when breakfast arrived. In a big way. Ameiko brought frittatas, quiches, sausages, bacon, and scrambled eggs, along with assorted fruits. Ven Vender brought several pots of imported coffee. Shiro ate, Raesh nibbled daintily, and Halek absorbed food in a rather alarming manner.
Raesh gifted Nictiana and her brother wooden swords and shields. She warned them to use them properly, or they would be her students. Within 5 minutes, Nictiana's brother had a knot on his head, and Raesh told Nictiana she'd see her the next day.
Shiro stopped by the cathedral and gave a small prayer of thanks (and a donation) to the shrine of Shelyn.
At around 11:00 am, Hi finally reappeared, a huge grin on his face. He was perfectly happy with the leftovers. They were just deciding what to do with their day when Sheriff Hemlock arrived.
The party agreed to travel with Sheriff Hemlock, and, as they walked, he talked to each of them in turn, with the notable exception of Raesh: Where are you from? What brought you to Sandpoint? What did you do before you came to Sandpoint? How long do you plan to stay here? What do you plan to do once you leave? What do you think of the drow? Is she trustworthy? The party was amazingly good-natured about his questions, and answered them all honestly and openly (as far as he could tell), so he was feeling rather comfortable when they got to the cathedral.
They met up with Naffer and Father Zantus in front of the cathedral, and Naffer led them to the graveyard and pointed out the vault.
A quick scan revealed that there were goblin tracks all around the vault, and Halek took one look at the tracks and identified them as belonging to six goblins and one human ("the longshanks"). After some discussion, the party decided to send Halek in first, with Raesh and Hi backing him. Before his eyes could adjust to the dimness, he was attacked by a pair of skeletons. The cluttered doorway and their mindlessness combined to make their attacks weak; only one of their claws managed to draw blood. Halek responded by demonstrating what an earthbreaker does to a skeleton. Raesh had room to get in a blow with her sword, but the bladed weapon didn't seem to have much effect on the skeleton, nor did Hi's snapdragon fireworks. Shiro inspired competence, but it was far more like inspiring incompetence in the skeleton, as it fumbled and broke its foot. A few rounds later, both skeletons were destroyed, Halek was mildly bloodied, and everyone else was fine. Shiro healed Halek, and Raesh went into the vault. Ah, the sweet cool relief of near-pitch blackness!
Raesh searched the vault and found that Father Tobyn's remains had been stolen, and a black robe left on the floor. She called in Hi, who quickly identified the robes as a spent Robe of Bones. Curious, the party tracked the goblins through the graveyard to the wall, where they found a ladder going over the wall. They questioned Naffer about missing it, but he pointed out that he usually started his rounds near Father Tobyn's vault, so when he saw it open he came right to Father Zantus and hadn't had a chance to explore the entire graveyard.
The party asked Father Zantus what a cleric's remains could be used for, other than the obvious (Speak with Dead, Raise Dead, or Create Undead). Father Zantus pointed out that desecrating a cleric's remains was also a way to perform powerful rituals to some of the evil deities, so perhaps his remains had been taken by followers of a chaotic god such as Rovagug. Raesh hissed the name, and told everyone that followers of Rovagug should receive no quarter. Sarenrae's wounds run deep.
When the party realized that the remains were most likely part of an evil ritual, and that the temple wouldn't be dedicated until the next night, they deemed it unacceptable; it had to be dedicated as soon as possible! Halek ran to the White Deer to gather its owner and patrons; Shiro went to the Rusty Dragon, Hi went to the Varisians, Sheriff Hemlock to the mayor, and Father Zantus to the streets. Raesh remained at the temple, guarding the entrance against all comers. A woman came seeking healing for her son, but Raesh made her wait until Father Zantus returned, at which point she helped the woman retrieve the boy and Father Zantus used a wand of Cure Disease to heal him. (Stupid paladins and their stupid Fortitude saves!)
The gathering for the dedication was rather small; around 120 people, but it progressed without incident. The party noticed that most of the 'major players' in town weren't there; Mayor Deverin was there, but there were no representatives from the Scarnettis, Valdemars, or Kaijitsus. The party found Lonjiku's continued absence quite disturbing. As the party was leaving, Hi noticed an attractive young halfling woman giving him the Big Eyes. He went over to talk to her. She introduced herself as Rilka Asyra, a washerwoman from Undercliff way who admired his bravery. They strolled off together while Shiro and Raesh returned to the Varisian camp and Halek returned to the White Deer. After the usual Varisian festivities, Raesh retired to the Rusty Dragon.
As usual, Raesh was the first one up, and headed straight for the Varisian camp. She woke up Nictiana just after dawn, and said, "It is time for your training. You have skill, but no discipline. Before you can have your sword back, you must prepare your body and your mind with the proper exercises." Within 3 hours, Nictiana was exhausted and in tears, and Raesh relented and let her rest for a bit. However, Nictiana recovered enough after lunch that she was demanding more training, and Raesh spent a satisfying day training Nictiana and her brother. Shiro told Raesh that he had something to show her after dark.
The rest of the party went its separate ways during the day. Hi visited Brodert Quink and asked whether he'd learned anything new about the Old Light. Brodert excitedly led Hi into the Old Light, and showed him a new pictograph he'd uncovered; this one showed six figures standing around stones in a circle, raising their arms towards a seventh figure in the center of the circle. Their aura seemed to be powering the lighthouse. In a truly spectacular demonstration that sometimes the dice just hate you, Hi failed a series of INT rolls and could not for the life of him figure out what the pictograph meant.
Shiro first investigated the glassworks. He walked around the building, and noticed that all the windows were open, smoke was pouring out of the smokestack, and workers came and went. He went in to the display room, where he met Lonjiku himself, walking with the help of a cane. Shiro noted that the "longshanks" in the graveyard hadn't walked with a cane, so he made his excuses and moved on. Next, he researched ladders. He learned that Ven Vinder sold ladders at the general store, but was rather alarmed when Ven told him that he sold 3-4 ladders a week. "This is a growing town, with lots of construction going on, a lumber yard, and a shipyard. Yeah, you'd think a ladder would be built to last 20 years, and these ladders are, but we're a growing town, and accidents happen more often than we'd care to admit."
The ladders had no maker's mark, and the ladder from the graveyard matched Vinder's ladders quite well, though it was a bit older. No one had reported any stolen ladders in the last week or two, nor had any long-time residents come by to purchase new ladders. The ladders seemed to be a dead end as well.
Finally, he searched the town for anyone else who had come down with any illnesses in the last few days. Again, he found nothing unusual.
While Shiro was investigating, he was approached by Shayliss Vinder, who *really* needed him to "kill some goblins the size of rats" in her cellar. Shiro ascertained her intents instantly, and performed a masterful Diplomacy roll that got him out of the situation with no hard feelings, nor anything else.
That evening, the party decided to dine together at the Rusty Dragon, and Hi invited Rilka along. After dinner, Hi and Rilka headed back for her house, Halek went back to the White Deer, and Raesh and Shiro were alone. Before they could proceed up to her room, they were approached by Aldern Foxglove. Shiro took immediate offense at his name. "What, you make gloves out of foxes?"
"No, no, my good man! We wear gloves when we go HUNTING foxes!"
It did not get any better for poor Aldern. He went on about what clever little pests foxes were, and how 'sporting' it was to have his hounds chase them down so he could shoot them out of a tree or dig them out of their burrow. Shiro managed not to harm him. Aldern then turned to Raesh and invited her to come along on a boar hunt. The notion that she spent 80 years of training just to be invited to waste it all hunting down a poor defenseless animal did not go over well with her. Aldern was shuffled out the door, and Shiro returned to the Varisian camp.
Raesh spent the day training the kids; in particular, she focused on training Nictiana's brother in use of the shield. Shiro checked again to see whether anyone else had come down with any diseases. Hi stopped by the local alchemy stores to pick up additional fireworks supplies and handed out a few smoke bombs to the local kids. Sheriff Hemlock was not amused, and reminded Hi of the rules they had established the LAST time he was in town...
That evening was the 'celebration' for the dedication. It was hardly a celebration, as only 50-60 people arrived, the Varisians being the most notable guests. The party immediately noticed that there were no town guards in attendance, nor was Sheriff Hemlock there. Although the guards' absence alarmed them, they felt that they were "the only thing between the crowd and whatever comes," so they decided to stay.
The woman was Amele Barett, carrying her infant daughter Verah and leading her 4-year-old son Aeren. She told Raesh that Aeren had seen the goblins performing atrocities at the first celebration, and had had nightmares every night since then. Her husband, Alergast, told Aeren to "be a man" and threatened to lock him in the wood shed, so tonight had been quiet until their dog Petal yelped and Aeren screamed. Alergast ran in and found Petal dead and a goblin on Aeren's chest trying to eat him alive. Alergast chased the goblin into the closet and started tearing it apart trying to get at the goblin, while Amele fled with the kids to get help.
Raesh scanned the crowd for her party members, and spotted Halek's head rising far above the other revelers. "Halek! I need you," she yelled. Halek bellowed, "Party! To me," shouldered his earthbreaker, and strode through the crowd. Shiro and Hi followed in the wake with ease.
Amele led the party to her house, and Shiro sent her on to the barracks to get help while they went inside. They found a bloody scene in the bedroom. Petal lay dead at the foot of the bed, a broken knife in his ear, while Alergast lay face down and motionless halfway into the closet. Raesh approached the closet and was attacked by a berserk goblin. His first blow slid harmlessly off her chainmail. So did his second. But his maniacal dancing prevented her from hitting him, either, and Hi didn't dare cast any fire spells in a wooden building. Shiro tried to pull Alergast to safety, only to find that his face and much of his torso had been eaten. Halek didn't have room to swing his earthbreaker, so he reached in and tried to grab the little bugger. Seeing a softer target, the goblin started stabbing Halek's arm with great enthusiasm. After a few good gashes, the goblin had the misfortune to be grabbed by Halek. Goblin pinata time. Raesh sent him to negative hit points with ease, and insisted that Halek not kill him so they could question him. They confirmed that Alergast was dead.
As they tried to decide what to do next, Sheriff Hemlock arrived. He took in the scene, and asked Hi to go under the house and check for more goblins, After many precautions, Hi went below and found signs that the goblin had been living there for days, but no sign of any other goblins. Shiro went down, crawled around, and confirmed the finding. The party was absolutely sure that the goblins were using tunnels to move around under the city. The asked Hemlock about the possibility of tunnels under Sandpoint, and he pointed out that the only ones he'd ever heard of were some smuggler's caves under the glassworks, but he know Lonjiku's father had blocked them off, but they did lead to an opening somewhere north. Hemlock took the goblin off for "questioning". The party expressed concern about Amele and the family, but Hemlock told them she was already at the temple. The party went to the temple and gave her the bad news.
Irritatingly enough, Hemlock crit his interrogation roll, so they learned that the goblin had indeed been living alone under the house since the raid.
Raesh returned to the Rusty Dragon, Hi to Rilka's, and Halek to the White Deer. Shiro stopped by the Varisian camp first, and then went on to the Rusty Dragon. When Shiro got there, he saw Lonjiku hobbling up. Shiro hid under a window and listened. Fortunately, he spoke Minkai, so he understood the entire conversation. Lonjiku demanded to see Ameiko. When she came out, he told her that the goblin incident was the last straw, and they were leaving for Magnimar the next morning. She said she wouldn't leave, and Shiro heard the sounds of a struggle and then a clang. Lonjiko hissed, "You are as dead to me as your mother," and stormed out the door, soup trickling down the front of his suit.
Shiro went in just as Ameiko was picking up the ladle and saying, "Now I have to wash this. I wasn't serving jackass soup!"
He checked on her, but she assured him she was OK, so he went up to Raesh's room. Shiro asked her to turn out the light so he could show her something. He described how she knew all about people who looked evil, but weren't, and who were mistaken as evil and attacked just because they happened to look like something evil. He said he was going to show her something, and reverted to his true form. He tried to guide her hands to his face so she could feel his muzzle, but she quizzically asked, "What are you doing?"
"Trying to let you feel my face."
"What? The fox face? I can touch it myself if I want to."
"What?!! You can see!?!?!"
After a bit of embarrassment, Shiro learned that drow have darkvision, so hiding in the dark hadn't been extremely effective. But he revealed that he was a Kitsune to Raesh, took his leave, and returned to the Varisian camp.
In the morning, the party found the Varisians packing up to go; the celebration was over, and it was time to move on. Heartfelt goodbyes were exchanged, and both Hi and Raesh gave Nictiana big hugs. Raesh gave Mabel the kids' weapons and told her to only return the weapons to the kids "when they are ready". She was fairly sure that Mabel was going to decide that the kids were ready about 10 minutes out of camp.
Shalelu then debriefed the party on the goblins in the area. There are 5 major goblin tribes in the area, and 6 goblin heroes. The tribes are: The Birdcrunchers on Devil's Platter (the least aggressive bunch, so it would take a charismatic leader to get them to join), The Licktoads of Brinestump Marsh (excellent swimmers), the Seven Tooth tribe of Shank's Wood (they are the ones who frequently raid Sandpoint's junkyard), the Mosswood goblins (the largest tribe, but usually split into factions, so not usually a threat. It's a BIG concern if they are united), and the Thistletop tribe (smaller, but in a highly-defensible position on a small island). The heroes are Big Gugmut of the Mosswood tribe, a huge goblin rumored to be the offspring of a bugbear and a boar, Koruvus of the Seven Tooth tribe, who used a human-sized magic sword, but vanished months ago after finding a "Secret Hiding Place", Vorka of Brinestump Swamp, who eats other goblins, Rendwattle, chieftan of the Brinestump tribe, Ripnugget, chieftan of the Thistletop tribe, and Bruthazmus, a bugbear ranger of Nettlewood, and Shalelu's personal nemesis.
That afternoon, Shalelu and the sheriff set off on their ways, and the party was left to guard Sandpoint...
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A simple reminder: If you are going to run RotRL, find a pair of boys around 8 and 11. Purchase them from their mother. Lure them into your gaming room with Twinkies and Coke. Do whatever is necessary to get them to join your group for one simple fact: Young boys ARE goblins. Once again, my kids played every goblin described below. Once again, the goblins were far more psychotic, bloodthirsty, cowardly, and generally goblin-y than I could ever have achieved.
As the party left their meeting with the mayor and the sheriff, and they watched the sheriff gather his men and leave for the south, they came to a horrific realization: The Varisians had headed northeast along the Lost Coast road, straight into the heart of the goblin (hyper)activity. Raesh "ran" to get the horses (paladin, remember?), while Shiro asked Shalelu whether she would accompany them to help them find the Varisians. Shalelu agreed. Raesh tried to get all 4 horses and Hi's pony from the stable, but Halek's steed from the Cinderlands refused to follow a non-Shoanti. She returned with the others' horses, where they quickly learned that none of them had invested in Riding, so they set off at a brisk trot. To add insult to an already-poor start, Halek crit his Riding roll and caught up with them before they had gone 2 blocks. They trotted into the wilderness.
About an hour along the trail, Raesh crit her Perception roll, and heard the sounds of battle ahead. The party had plenty of time to prepare themselves, and all of them chose to make their untrained Riding rolls to gallop forward. They came upon a scene of horror: A dozen goblins, led by a goblin commando mounted on a goblin dog, had come upon the Varisians' 3 wagons. The party could reconstruct the fight in their minds: As the goblins moved in, each man had stepped out of his wagon to defend the women as the women moved forward to provide a unified front in the front wagon. Antonio and his brothers were all lying bloodied and motionless on the ground, but 4 goblins had fallen to their swords. At the front wagon, Antonio's wife had jumped down to shield him with her body, and his son (Nictiana's brother) was facing down a goblin with his wooden sword and shield, but the sword had broken and the shield was riven in two. Mabel lay motionless on the other side of the wagon, pierced by 3 short bow arrows. The goblin commando was carrying a short bow. The remaining women (4 of them) and Nictiana were crouched in the front wagon, keeping the goblins at bay with short spears.
The party charged forwards. All except Shalelu, who blew two Riding rolls in a row and tumbled to the ground as her first action. Raesh and Shiro dismounted and rushed forward. Hi tried to rush forward on his pony, but one of the goblins cut its leg and it bucked. Hi made an Acrobatics roll to land on his feet, doing Mary Lou Retton proud. Halek galloped in on his steed, and, using his earthbreaker as a polo mallet, turned the first goblin he reached into goblin mush. The goblins rushed into disarray. The one next to Halek tried to stab his horse, only to have his dogslicer break. The two at the next wagon charged the party. The four at the front wagon didn't know what to do. One, after several vain attempts to feint in and light the wagon on fire, decided to start stabbing Mabel, as unconscious old ladies are MUCH easier targets than adventurers. Two others started stabbing Antonio's wife. While she was prone. The fourth attacked Nictiana's brother, swung back with his dogslicer, and watched the blade go skittering off into the woods. Nictiana's brother punched him solidly in the face. Those kids are going to go far. The commando rode forward and hid from the raging barbarian between the front two wagons.
The next round, the goblins all decided that hiding between the wagons was the best way to get away from the nasty adventurers. One group gathered into such a convenient cluster between the back two wagons that Hi couldn't resist lighting them all on fire with Burning Hands. Halek charged the goblins stabbing Antonio's wife, but this time couldn't get in a clean swing for fear of hitting her and missed. Shiro moved forward with his bow along the side of the wagons opposite the goblins and inspired competence. Raesh continued to enjoy paladin-level movement, and figured the goblins would be in trouble eventually. For good measure, she invoked Smite Evil on the goblin commando, figuring if she ever got close enough, she'd carve him to pieces. Shalelu stood up and fired one arrow, killing a burning goblin instantly. Shiro was inspired. The goblin commando changed tactics and rushed Halek from behind, focusing all his attacks on the accursed horse. Success! The horse tumbled to the ground. Unfortunately, Halek landed on his feet. Other goblins continued to stab downed family members. The goblin facing Nictiana's brother tried to bite him, but his head clearly wasn't in the fight, and he missed.
The third round determined tactics for the rest of the fight. Shiro moved up the wagon train, shooting hiding goblins with his short bow. They rushed out to attack him, but his AC of 17 was too much for them to overcome. And being out in the open with Shalelu firing arrows from off-map was not tactically sound; each goblin would rush out, attack Shiro, and drop with 2-3 elven arrows piercing its body. Being goblins, they never did figure out this tactic. Hi moved forward, hitting visible goblins with Snapdragon Fireworks. Halek brought his earthbreaker down on the goblin commando, and, thanks to the extra 1 point of damage from inspire competence, dropped him. Raesh continued her approach. (I cannot help but think of Sir Lancelot from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) Unfortunately, Nictiana's brother was bitten by one goblin, and stabbed by another. Fortunately, they both rolled 1 point of damage, and he was still in the fight.
The rest of the fight was mop-up. Halek got bit by the goblin dog, but made his Fortitude save and crushed the dog. The Shiro/Shalelu combo continued to kill a goblin a round. Hi arrived to assist Halek and Nictiana's brother, and Raesh finally arrived and took down two goblins, critting one for good measure.
As soon as the fight was over, Raesh rushed to stabilize the fallen humans. She crit on Antonio, saving his life. While she was busy checking on the humans, taking her time once she had taken care of the ones in immediate need, Shalelu checked on the goblins. Mysteriously, they had all died of their wounds. Once Raesh had finished all the humans and goblins on one side of the caravan, with a stony face she deadpanned, "All the goblins on this side appear to be dead already. This is very tragic. I will now walk slowly around the back of this wagon and see if there are any to be helped on the other side." Mysteriously, the goblins on the other side perished as well.
Raesh decided that she would not question how every single goblin could have died; every time she looked, Shalelu was simply standing over a goblin, checking it for vital signs. Raesh would return to her work helping stabilize the Varisians, and Shalelu would confirm that the goblin she was examining had died of its wounds. Sarenrae must have hated these goblins. Deep in her heart, a twinge of guilt warred with burning rage, but the goblins HAD been stabbing innocents while they were helpless on the ground, so it seemed like Sarenrae wasn't TOO angry with the proceedings. (The GM clarified that this was a somewhat unique situation: Because of the goblins' treatment of the helpless, she was allowed to look the other way in this situation. But wholesale slaughter of the defeated was not something to be tolerated lightly.)
Shalelu told the party that this was a group of Seven Tooth goblins, as indicated by their toothed necklaces. They searched the bodies, but beyond a healing potion carried by the commando and their very slightly magical necklaces, they were carrying nothing of worth.
The death toll was devastating: Antonio's brothers, wife (Nictiana's mother), and mother (Mabel) were all dead. Antonio was sorely wounded. As the party gathered to help the surviving Varisians back to Sandpoint, Nictiana's brother stormed up to Raesh. Tears in his eyes, he cried, "These didn't work!" and hurled the broken sword and shield at Raesh's feet. She looked down at him and said nothing, her face an expressionless mask. Antonio called the party to him. "Thank you, friends. You have saved our lives. I have little that I can give in thanks, but I would like you to have this," and he gave Shiro his masterwork lute, "Perhaps, if you practice, you will one day be able to play wonderfully."
The party asked Shalelu to accompany back to Sandpoint, and she would hear of nothing else. They put the fatigued, horseless Halek into one of the wagons and made the long, sad trip back to Sandpoint. The Varisians could no longer use the Market Square, as market day was coming, but Father Zantus agreed that they could set up in the courtyard in front of the temple. The party started helping them set up. About a half hour into their setup, the onlookers gasped and parted. Madame Mvashti herself walked slowly into the camp. "No Varisians who have suffered what you have shall lack for comfort and shelter! You are coming with me!" The Varisians dutifully re-packed their gear, and traveled with Madame Mvashti back to her house.
Once the Varisians were safe, the party set about defending the town. Sheriff Hemlock had only left 6 guards with them, and with 3 entrances to town, there just weren't enough guards to man all the shifts at all the entrances. They needed 'volunteers'. They first traveled to the nobles' estates south of town. The Valdemars insisted that they could defend themselves, and would not help at all. The Scarnettis also declared themselves well-defended, and even went so far as to lend two footmen to the town's defense force. The steward at the Kaijitsu household informed the party that his master was working on a 'special project' at the glassworks and would not be returning this evening, and so he could not condone sending men to town, but he appreciated the warning and bolstered the mansion's defenses. Mayor Deverin herself greeted the party at the Deverin estate, and she took their warnings very seriously, closed up the estate, and moved her entire household into the city proper.
Raesh had the brilliant idea of protecting the northern bridge with horses: The goblins would either kill the horses, making noise, or would be unwilling to pass the horses, protecting the town. Unfortunately, Daviren Hosk was totally unwilling to have his horses used in this way; they were his charges, and he would not willingly put them at risk. The party used their own horses to help guard the bridge. Fortunately, Mayor Deverin knew a couple of old mercenaries who frequented the Hagfish, and Gaven Deverin and Ven Vinder were both willing to stand watch. With the guard effectively doubled, and Hi, Shiro, and Raesh taking shifts (Raesh taking a double), the party spent a nerve-wracking night waiting for a goblin assault that never came. The party was very careful to separate the two Scarnetti footmen, so they were not watching the same bridge, and they were on duty with the mercs Mayor Deverin had recommended.
*** The party leveled up to Level 2 ***
The party arose from its exhausting night and Raesh had to make her first Fortitude save as a 2nd-level paladin. It was not difficult.
As they gathered in the morning to decide on their next course of action, they were approached by Bethana Corwin, an older halfling who was part of Ameiko's staff at the Rusty Dragon. She didn't want to alarm the party, but for the first time that she knew of since she'd been working for Ameiko, Ameiko had not come down to start preparing breakfast for the guests. Bethana went to Ameiko's room to investigate, and found that the bed hadn't been slept in, and found a note written in a mysterious language.
The party asked to see the note, and Shiro quickly recognized the language as Minkai, and read the note aloud to the party. The note was written by someone name Tsuto, who referred to Ameiko as "sis", and claimed that he had evidence implicating Lonjiku in the recent events. He wanted to meet her at the glassworks at midnight to discuss the issue further. When Bethana heard Tsuto's name she started a little, so the party asked her about him. She told them that he was a year older than Ameiko, born to Ameiko's mother while she was married to Lonjiku, but, "He's a half-elf. And you know, neither Lonjiku nor Atsuii were elves." She talked about how good and patient Lonjiku was to stay with her after this incident, and how Tsuto was sent off to be raised at the Turandarok Academy. Ameiko learned of his existence when she was 10, and started visiting him frequently. Unfortunately, six years ago they had had some kind of fight, and Tsuto hit Ameiko and she left Sandpoint for a year, not returning until her mother Atsuii fell to her death 5 years ago. Tsuto spread scandalous rumors that Lonjiku had pushed her to her death, and this came to a head at the funeral, where Lonjiko struck Tsuto with his cane and Tsuto left Sandpoint. He hadn't been heard from since.
They raced to the glassworks, only to find the windows closed and shuttered and the doors locked, though the smokestack was still running strong. Shiro focused on the scent of the smoke: Was it any different than regular smoke? Hi, experienced in all manner of fire and smoke, crit his PER roll and definitively stated that there was some kind of organic pollutant in the smoke. They asked Halek to "open" the door, and he obliged somewhat spectacularly (House Rule: For breakable items such as doors and when using proper tools (an axe or earthbreaker, for example), you CAN crit the door, representing hitting it in a 'sweet spot'. Halek crit the door, and the x3 from the earthbreaker was enough to render the door kindling in a single blow.) They moved quickly through the loading room and listened at the double doors. It was Shiro's turn to crit (apparently the dice were apologizing for Shiro's previous performances), and he definitively heard goblins through the door. The party prepared, Shiro opened the door wide, and the party rushed in.
The scene inside was horrific chaos. One group of goblins was pouring molten glass over severed arms, legs, and heads, trying to create some kind of sculptures. Another group was chucking body parts towards the open furnace. The astonished goblins were quickly in trouble; Hi roasted a group of them with Burning Hands, yelling that he was so going to toast marshmallows over their burning corpses, and Halek charged forward, crushing a goblin with his earthbreaker. Shiro charged forward, and Raesh quickly cleaved through a slightly-singed goblin. The remaining goblins rushed about randomly. One of them tried to trip Halek, but a 2'6" goblin trying to trip a 6'6" barbarian never ends well. In moments, five of the eight goblins were down, and the remaining three tried to run. Halek chased one down and crushed it, and Hi's Snapdragon Fireworks dropped another. The final goblin tried to escape out the front door, only to remember that it was locked. He danced about frantically, trying to get the door open, and slipped through just as Halek's hammer came down on the spot where he'd been. The footrace down the street was short-lived, as Halek was raging and far faster than the poor goblin. He was splattered a few doors down.
Halek staggered back to the glassworks, spent. Raesh, Hi, and Shiro examined the carnage. Hi toasted a few marshmallows as the goblin bodies burned in the furnace. There were pieces from at least half a dozen humans here, but none of the pieces seemed to belong to Ameiko. Lonjiko was eliminated as a suspect, as he sat here on throne of glass, obviously having been encased in molten glass while still alive (at least for a few moments). The goblins were not Seven Tooth goblins; they lacked the tooth necklaces, and instead had little half-skull tattoos. They recalled that Thistletop was supposedly shaped like the top of a skull, and guessed that this was a group of Thistletop goblins. They explored the rest of the glassworks, finding goblin sign everywhere: The pantry had been broken open and its contents devoured. The same had happened to the cleaning room. Raesh wondered what manner or god or goddess would create such vile, insane creatures, and whether it had been deliberate. They found the dormitory and realized that the goblins had attacked the workers silently, at night, and slaughtered all of them. They tried to gather all of the body parts into one area so that the workers could have a proper burial at a later date. The kitchen was destroyed, and much of the cookware showed signs of having been used in impromptu fights, most likely between goblins.
After much searching, they found stairs leading down into the basement. They proceeded, in a race against time to find Ameiko...
The next game is scheduled for August 13.
I am going to have to agree with your player's use of the term 'epic'. You are an awesome storyteller and really brought their stories to life!
I'm really excited to continue to follow their journey through the campaign!
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I am going to have to agree with your player's use of the term 'epic'. You are an awesome storyteller and really brought their stories to life!
I'm really excited to continue to follow their journey through the campaign!
Aw, you make me blush! ;-)
Seriously, though, thanks for posting! It lets me know that at least someone outside of our group is reading/enjoying the stuff.
And I doubly appreciate it that it's one of 'our CotCT crew' (I did call you out in the first post, really I did!)
One of these days I'm going to convince my kids to go back to Crown of Fangs, but right now they're having waaay too much fun being goblins!
August 13, 2012 Game
Sometimes role-playing is replaced by roll-playing, as the dice decide that they hate you. What should have been a terrifying and eerie search of the Catacombs of Wrath turned into a comedy of errors for both sides. And Tsuto, poor, poor Tsuto. Tsk, tsk, tsk...
The party crept down the stairs, Raesh in front to take advantage of her darkvision, followed by Hi, Shiro, and Halek. To the non-drow party members' relief the basement was well-lit by everburning torches; obviously the glassworks was wealthy enough to afford decent lighting in the basement. However, the two wheelbarrows and several barrels full of chemicals gave them pause; why would anyone store chemicals down here in the middle of the hallway? They used Detect Magic and searched for traps, but, spotting none, they finished coming down the stairs. They explicitly told me they were doing their best to move slowly, carefully, and quietly.
The party then checked for tracks, and found goblin tracks throughout the area, along with a few human-sized tracks. Halek told them there seemed to be more goblin tracks in the left passage. Following the passage left, they found a hallway with 3 doors in it. Opening the first door, they saw a small room with a pitch-black passage. Both Hi and Shiro made their Dungeoneering rolls to confirm that the passage was hundreds of feet long, and led to somewhere outside. There were signs that the passage had been bricked up until very recently. Someone had chiseled away the bricks from inside the room, and hauled the bricks away. The party's immediate conclusion: This wasn't done by goblins. They decided they would explore that passage last, and returned to the hallway, closing the door behind them.
Opening the next door led to the first
Tsuto had been sound asleep, sleeping off the drunk of the night before. On seeing an adventuring party, he thought fast. "Thank heavens you've saved me! There are goblins everywhere! We need to find my sister and get out of here!" His 29 Bluff was the only thing Tsuto would ever have reason to celebrate again. Raesh's 23 Sense Motive wasn't enough to see through his falsehoods, but my group is a suspicious lot.
Raesh responded, "The goblins are dead. Where is your sister?"
Tsuto insisted that the goblins had beaten them both unconscious and dragged them apart, but Shiro was far too perceptive: He saw the strung short bow hanging from the bedpost, along with the quiver of arrows. A barrage of questions followed: "If you were captive, why wasn't the door locked? Where are your wounds? Why do you smell of alcohol?"
Tsuto insisted that he was indeed wounded under his clothing, and asked Raesh to come closer and inspect his injuries. She moved forward, pretending to trust him, but used her Detect Evil ability. Unfortunately, at 4th level, Tsuto 'pinged' as evil, and Raesh drew her sword on him. The jig was up.
Tsuto moved like lightning, attacking Raesh with Flurry of Blows and Stunning Fist. A 1. A second 1. A 3. I ruled that the double fumble was one from each fist. The first card? "Stop Hitting Yourself". Tsuto was in such a hurry to rush past Raesh that he slipped and cracked his head, stunning himself (yes, he failed his save, too, thanks) and causing a minor cut. The second card? "Unintentional Move". Tsuto staggered backwards through the door, stunned, provoking attacks of opportunity from Raesh, Shiro, and Hi. Raesh struck him with the flat of her scimitar, doing a slight amount of nonlethal damage. Hi attacked. And crit. After I explained that rapiers don't have significant enough "flats" to use for nonlethal damage, Shiro rolled for lethal damage. And crit. (We don't use the crit deck, so Tsuto just took lots of damage). Tsuto's high initiative did him no good, as he was stunned. Raesh hit again. Hi crit again. Gnomes apparently have racial hatred of elves. Who knew? Shiro hit again. Tsuto dropped like a bloody sack of potatoes.
They quickly searched him, finding a potion, a few bags of gold and silver powder, a ring of protection +1 (quickly identified by Hi), masterwork thieves' tools, a masterwork flute, silver earrings, and 10 platinum pieces. Raesh insisted that they NOT take his personal possessions; the money was probably ill-gotten, but she would not hear of taking his jewelry. Shiro started searching his clothing carefully for any escape tools he might use to get away if they bound him. Halek, tired, cranky, and angry that he missed the entire fight, could not understand why they were treating the prisoner with any dignity at all, and ripped his clothes off of him. They found no additional items.
The journal was disturbing.
The journal showed the details of the previous attack on Sandpoint, and plans for an upcoming attack involving at least 200 goblins. It also discussed a quasit living in the caves (Shiro promptly crit his Knowledge: Planes so he got to read the Bestiary entry on quasits), mentioned that 'she' was going to burn Sandpoint to the ground as a sacrifice to Lamashtu (none of the characters recognized the woman sketched in the picture, though Hi recalled something about an aasimar being involved in the Late Unpleasantness), and mentioned a shrine at Thistletop. It also mentioned that Bruthazmus the bugbear was involved, as well as some being named Malfeshnekor that the woman is trying to free.
They proceeded to the next door, with Halek dragging the unconscious and bound prisoner by one foot. The door was locked, and yet again the party stopped to debate what to do. Halek, tired of so much inaction, assaulted the door, and a STR roll of 22 broke the door in. Raesh chastised Halek, and told him never to do something so foolish again. Inside the room, the party found Ameiko, bound, unconscious, and heavily wounded. Raesh rushed in and used her first Lay on Hands ever to wake Ameiko up.
Ameiko started awake and warned the party of the goblins and her brother's treachery. They reassured her that the goblins were dead and her brother was subdued. She asked them to warn her father, but they told her that he had died at the hands of the goblins and her brother. They told her about the journal, and Tsuto's plan for Sandpoin. They asked her what they should do with Tsuto. She replied, "He has committed high treason against Sandpoint. The penalty is death."
The party quickly decided to take him to the sheriff for sentencing, Raesh responded, "The sheriff is in Magnimar." The group quickly asked, "Who's in charge?" It was a comical 2-3 seconds before the party realized, "We are!" They quickly had a trial. Between the journal, Tsuto's attempted attack on Raesh, and Ameiko's testimony, the group unanimously found him guilty of treason. Raesh quickly and cleanly beheaded him. She felt that Sarenrae was pleased that she had given such a despicable man a fair trial and a clean death.
The party searched the other rooms quickly, and, finding nothing, rushed Ameiko to the surface. Halek dragged the body along so it could receive a proper burial.
Their first order of business was to get Ameiko back to the Rusty Dragon. As they entered, Bethana rushed out, and the formerly-mild halfling started barking orders at the other staff members like a drill sergeant. Ameiko was quickly settled in with a bath, a hot meal, and halfling-enforced bed rest. Bethana chastised Ameiko, saying, "How dare you leave me AGAIN!?!? You don't know what I went through when you ran off adventuring, and now you went and did it again?! You need to be more careful!"
Once they were sure Ameiko was in good hands, they returned to the mayor's office with the body and the journal. Mayor Deverin met with them immediately, approved of the execution, arranged for cremation of the body, saw the immediate threat to the city, and offered them any help or equipment they needed.
Hi immediately headed for the alchemist's and confiscated enough ingredients to make two very large bombs, which he spent the entire afternoon making. Raesh, Shiro, and Halek first went to the weaponsmith. They had no composite longbows for Raesh's strength, so she took a regular longbow. However, an unusually-strong mercenary had pawned his composite longbow (+4 STR), and Halek took that. While they didn't have any masterwork scimitars or earthbreakers, Shiro received a masterwork rapier, and Hi a masterwork dagger. The store had no cold iron weapons to sell whatsoever. At the armorer's, the only armor that anyone wanted was some ceremonial plate from a southern noble family named the Waterdowns that fit Raesh adequately well. It wasn't as good as 'real' full plate mail, but it was better than the chain she was currently wearing, so she took it. Shiro researched sources of light, since Raesh didn't seem in the least bit interested in them, and learned that his best choices were either lots of sunrods, or a few everburning torches. He decided that sunrods would be easier to manage if things got tight or dicey, and collected 20 sunrods. They asked Father Zantus what he could do to help, and he provided them with several flasks of holy water.
By the time they were prepared and equipped, it was early evening. Hi stopped by Rilka's house and told her what was happening. She paled, but told him to be careful and gave him a knitted woolen scarf to remember her by. They went to the Rusty Dragon for dinner, but the food was nowhere near up to snuff, barely being 'adequate for a tavern'. The chicken was undercooked, the stew was nearly flavorless, and the beef was cooked to grey toughness. Bethana was storming through the kitchen, imploring the staff to "make everything taste better!" The party ate quietly, without complaint, and asked Bethana whether they could please see Ameiko. She let them upstairs, and they visited Ameiko in her room. Considering that she'd just lost her brother and her father and been beaten nearly to death by goblins, she was in remarkably good spirits. She was far more concerned with the smells coming from the kitchen than the news of her family, but she was extremely worried that she was now the head of the Kaijitsu glassworks, and a high-ranking noble in town. The party recommended that she hire a good foreman to manage the glassworks, and send a proxy to attend the town meetings.
With that, she relaxed a bit and told them everything she knew of what Tsuto had told her. Unfortunately, she had little news that they didn't already know: Tsuto had approached her, telling her she needed to come with him to Thistletop to be safe, as all of Sandpoint was going to be burnt to the ground. When she rebuffed him, he had his goblins attack her and beat her unconscious. She remembered little else until the party came to rescue her.
The party took their leave of Ameiko and planned for the evening. They decided that their 10 loyal guards (they had dismissed the Scarnetti footmen) would patrol the streets in shifts of 3-4-3, while the party would guard the tunnel below the glassworks. Hi, Shiro, and Raesh took shifts, while they let Halek sleep off his fatigue. The night passed uneventfully.
As soon as Raesh finished her morning prayers, the party headed into the tunnel. Just a couple hundred feet in, the tunnel split, with a branch straight ahead and a branch to the left. Once again, the branch to the left had been until-recently bricked over. Raesh felt a sense of uneasy evil to the left, while Shiro and Hi knew that the straight trail led to the cave exit, and that was where the goblins most likely came from. The party chose to explore the left passage first. As they moved along, Hi and Shiro recognized that the passage was very hurriedly and crudely dug, as if whoever dug it had been trying to get somewhere specific as quickly as possible.
After 50', the passage turned sharply right. After another 100', it bent a bit left. Shiro and Hi once again used dungeoneering, and estimated that they were roughly under the armory, a good place to steal weapons or free prisoners. The passage widened into a room, and as Raesh stepped into it, a horrifying creature with long clawed arms and huge side-opening mandibles assaulted her. Unfortunately, its claws and mandibles scrabbled uselessly at her armor, and she went on the offensive. Shiro readily identified the creature as a sinspawn, even as Raesh and Hi cut it to pieces. Hi tried to use his Elemental Ray, but fumbled and had to take -1 on all attacks until his next critical. It managed to get a claw into Hi and do some significant damage before it died. Halek was beginning to regret always being asked to be in the back. Shiro made no effort to hide his nervousness; it was one thing to face down a goblin or two to protect a fallen friend, but sinspawn were in a different league. They searched the sinspawn's room, but found nothing but old rat and bat bones, and a pile of offal; the creature was intelligent enough to hunt and use a midden, but didn't seem to leave its room often. They continued to follow the right wall, and were somewhat surprised when the crudely-dug dirt gave way to well-cut ancient stone. The room was full of old detritus they couldn't figure out, but the whole room had a vague sense of magic. Yet again Shiro aced his Spellcraft roll, and determined that there was some kind of preservative magic keeping the entire structure sound; they might be in a ruin that was thousands of years old. They immediately suspected that these were Thassilonian ruins, and determined that they should bring Brodert Quink down as soon as the area was secure to let him have a look. The followed the passage out of the storeroom, and both engineers had a hearty laugh at the winding passage that SOMEONE had paid to have cut out of the rock -- the contractors had obviously taken the original owner for quite a bit of cash. (That's the problem with GM'ing engineers -- they'll spot things like that right away).
As they proceeded down the long passage, the sense of evil got stronger, until the room opened up to an obvious temple to Lamashtu (yeah, even the paladin made her Knowledge roll on this one). I didn't have rules on temple defilement handy, so when Raesh prayed to Sarenrae, poured holy water into the waters of Lamashtu, and then had Halek hit the marble altar for whopping 19 points of damage in a single hit, I determined that they had successfully broken the altar and defiled the temple. (As I pointed out to the group, I broke a marble cutting board by dropping it 12" onto concrete -- marble isn't the strongest stone in the world). There was a horrible scream from beyond the double doors, and chanting in a language that Shiro identified as Abyssal.
The party flung open the door in time to see Erylium's (the quasit's) blood drip into a well, and a sinspawn crawl forth and charge forward. Raesh called out, "Halek, deal with THAT!" and indicated the sinspawn, as she drew her bow, invoked Smite Evil on Erylium, and stepped into the room, letting the sinspawn hopelessly flail with its attack of opportunity. But she held her attack. Erylium flew upwards and turned invisible.The greatest comedy/tragedy of our modern age then played out. Hi tried another Elemental Ray and got another 1. Shiro inspired courage. Halek hit the sinspawn for little damage. The sinspawn attacked Halek, fumbled, got "Caught your attack", and Halek tripped it. Erylium started casting Summon Monster II, but turned visible during the casting and Raesh used her saved attack to put an arrow in her. Erylium blew her Concentration check and the spell failed. The next few rounds were tragic: Halek smashed the sinspawn easily enough, but then drew his bow and joined Hi and Shiro in attempting to hit Erylium with ranged weapons. Not one of them rolled over a 5. In about 15 attacks. Erylium knew that Raesh was the only threat to her, and tried Hold Person, Cause Fear (which did cause Shiro to run away for 2 rounds, so he took some time getting back and re-inspiring courage), and her dagger, but nothing affected the paladin. In the meantime, the paladin never rolled below a 17, filling Erylium with arrows that even her Fast Healing couldn't keep up with. In spite of the bumblings and tumblings of the other party members, Erylium realized she couldn't take the paladin, and decided to leave on her next action. So, of course, Raesh criticalled just ahead of her and pinned her tiny pea brain to the wall. Raesh rushed over and made sure Erylium was dead. Very dead. They searched her body and found a broken tiara, magical tiny dagger, black silk gown, and unholy symbol of Lamashtu. Raesh smashed the unholy symbol and decided that the gown would make a good handkerchief once she had it monogrammed. Hi and Shiro toasted 'victory' marshmallows.
The party had no idea what to do with the mysterious well that created the sinspawn. It had obviously waned in power when Elyrium dropped her blood into it to bring forth the sinspawn, but no one liked the idea of using their own blood to find out what would happen. So they moved on through the complex.
Their next stop was at a statue of an incredibly beautiful, incredibly angry-looking woman wielding a ranseur, but they couldn't find any writing or secret compartments, and wouldn't steal the ranseur on a dare. At the next door, they heard a pair of sinspawn arguing, and snuck in to find themselves on a wooden platform, 10' above what looked like a significant prison area with many cells, and with two sinspawn on the ground floor fighting over some old bones. Raesh took the lead, blocked the steps, and had the other party members open up with their bows. They were no better this time. Elemental rays bounced off walls. Halek dropped his arrow and kicked it off the platform, and Shiro saw the movement and shot at it. Raesh sighed and shot one of the sinspawn, and both charged up the wooden stairs.
So Hi opened up with Burning Hands. Onto the rickety wooden stairs. While they were on the rickety wooden platform. The sinspawn and the stairs went up in merry flames. One burned to death, Raesh dispatched the other, Shiro poured water on the top step, and Halek smashed the second step, breaking the stairway loose and saving the platform. As Hi surveyed the burning remains of the steps, grinning broadly, he noticed the other party members staring at him. "What?" Hi asked in bewilderment.
At that point, the party knew that it had two passages left that they hadn't gone down: One past the angry woman statue, and one across the wooden platform. They chose the angry woman passage first, and found a room with a small well in it. As Raesh stepped into the room, a bat-winged tentacled head (a vargouille) dropped down and tried to bite her. Again, her armor was too much for it. Shiro recognized it and warned everyone to avoid its kiss. Halek knocked it away from Raesh and it charged him, biting him on the shoulder. Everyone simultaneously said, "PLEASE let it be a Fortitude save!" It was, and Halek rolled a natural 19. Vargouille venom was no match for his constitution. Raesh hit it for a bit more damage, but then Halek got a good solid hit, smashing it against the wall. They dispatched it with extreme prejudice. The next room had nothing but some blocked-off stairs leading to the surface, so the party first determined their location underground ("Not under anything important"), and then went back to the wooden platform.
The door beyond the wooden platform led to a torture room, next to which was a study. The party wondered at the type of person who would enjoy studying while listening to the sounds of torture. After rifling through the study and its adjoining cells and finding naught but a scroll and a few hideously-mutated skeletons, they went through the next door to find stairs going down into a large room. They walked down the stairs, and found themselves looking into a large room with many trapdoors covering the floor, being charged by an angry hideously-mutated 3-armed goblin. They immediately recognized him as Koruvus, hero of the Seven Tooth clan (don't ask me how -- they just knew as soon as they saw the medium sword). Shiro asked the GM several times: "So he's running at us? Full speed? Blindly full of rage full speed run?" I kept answering yes, and then he dropped his Grease spell on poor Koruvus.
As it had gone for my bad guys for the entire night, Koruvus failed his Reflex save and tumbled to the ground, only to have Hi cast Burning Hands and ignite all the grease. Just because she's mean, Raesh shot him. He put out the fire on himself, stood up, and breathed acid on Shiro. Shiro Did Not Like, and used Prestidigitation to try to remove some of the acid. Halek had had enough. He walked up to Koruvus, swung a mighty blow, and, as my night just HAD to be perfect, criticaled with his earthbreaker. 39 points later, Koruvus' legs squipped out in opposite directions from beneath the earthbreaker, but the rest of him was a messy pancake. They entered the room and opened one of the nearby trapdoors. To their horror and disgust, they found a zombie, thousands of years old, trapped at the bottom of an oubliette. "What kind of sick monster won't let his enemies rest, even in death?" Raesh wondered. With little equipment with which to put the pitiful things out of their misery, Hi rained Acid Splashes on them to dispatch them.
The party gamely continued on, coming to a large spherical room with red metallic walls, in which floated six items: A dead raven, maggots, a book, a bottle of wine, a scroll, and a wand. Raesh declared the room Bad and wanted nothing to do with it. Shiro looked for and spotted dead flies around the walls, then used Mage Hand to start retrieving items. The wand seemed harmless enough, so he retrieved the scroll. He examined the wine and determined that it was of recent and local vintage, so it could not have been here for thousands of years. He then retrieved the book, but for whatever reason decided not to take the raven or the maggots. Their final room for the night was the stairs down, blocked by hundreds of feet of stone. Even through the stone, they could hear howling, as of desperate and hungry wolves eager to be set free, and an overwhelming sense of evil beneath them. The party was greatly disturbed, wondering what evil lay trapped beneath Sandpoint. Unfortunately, there was no way to get through the rock, and they weren't sure what they would be able to do against such a creature even if they got to it. They decided to leave the stones undisturbed and continue their exploration of the rest of the smuggler's tunnels.
Eventually, they found the exit in a small smuggler's cove just northeast of the city. There were obvious signs of goblin encampments in the cove. The group returned to the city, retrieved Hi's explosives, warned the mayor, and blew the tunnel entrance down, ensuring that no goblins would be entering Sandpoint by that cave any more.
** Hi, Shiro, and Raesh reached 3rd level ** (Halek doesn't get 'good roleplaying' EXP, so he's a little behind them).
The next game is scheduled for Saturday, August 18.
I think you made a mistake by making Aldern unlikeable
Having a bit of flirtation with Aldern is incerdibly useful for setting up The Skinsaw Murders. I had a flattery and gifts until Aldern got a bit too keen and finally got the brush-off. She was then totally weirded out by the time the were halfway through Foxglove Manor.
I think you made a mistake by making Aldern unlikeable** spoiler omitted **
I was aware that Aldern is an important NPC, but since I'd already blown it with him in the first encounter, I went over-the-top in the second (tonight's post). Don't worry; I have plans...
August 18, 2012 Game
A short-but-satisfying session, with some truly epic bumbles by both the GM and a couple of the characters...
NOTE: I've stopped doing spoiler tags. Please let me know if you want me to start using them again.
RETCON: Raesh insisted on offering Tsuto's money and gear to Ameiko, as she was his next of kin. Ameiko took the money, but let them keep the gear.
28-Rova-4707 (Continued from previous session)
As Hi and Shiro rejoined Halek and Raesh in front of the Rusty Dragon, watching the lovely mushroom cloud that had once been the entrance to the smuggler's cave, Raesh asked Hi the all-important question: "What did you do with the second explosive?" Hi insisted that it was perfectly safe at Rilka's house. When the party expressed concern that it might be dangerous, Hi insisted that it was perfectly stable. Shiro opined that the explosive was certainly no more unstable than the gnome. The debate on where to put the explosive to "make it safe" was quite entertaining: Hi first wanted to put it under the bridge. When the rest of the party didn't like that, he suggested burying it in the middle of the road along the main trading route to Magnimar. Perhaps in the Catacombs of Wrath? Raesh asked, "Isn't that directly under City Hall?" Finally, they decided that the only safe place to put the charge was at the end of the collapsed smuggler's cave. They placed the explosive and returned to the Rusty Dragon. As it was close to dinner time, they finally decided that they would grab a quick meal at the Rusty Dragon before dealing with the night watch.
Halek spoke: "I would speak. I have grown fond of you. You helped me avenge Tolmar's death, and slay the longshanks who caused it. I may now return to my clan with my honor intact. But you still have a problem with these goblins who would destroy Sandpoint. I would help you with this problem, if you would have me."
The party welcomed Halek to their group and headed into the Rusty Dragon. Raesh walked straight in, but Hi and Shiro were both distracted by a server with spectacular 'assets', ran into each other, and tumbled to the floor. (I swear, I say, "Make a Perception roll," and 2 out of the 3 players fumble. What the heck?!?!?) Halek stepped cleanly over the fallen. Raesh noticed Aldern Foxglove just a moment before the commotion beneath her attracted his attention. He walked over and started to speak, but Raesh walked past him towards the kitchen without a word. Ameiko was in the kitchen running the show, but she was clearly not herself. The bruises from two days before were fading to a dull, ugly yellow, and she walked with a limp. The dinner was simple: Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and fresh bread. It was simple enough that the staff could manage most of it, but Ameiko still hovered over everything, making sure that the disaster of the night before would not befall her kitchen.
Aldern would not be dissuaded. "Excuse me, my lady!" Raesh paused just long enough to fix him with a stony gaze. "I am busy at the moment. I will be with you shortly." And she turned and walked purposefully into the kitchen. "May I help you, Ameiko?"
"I don't know. Where did you learn to cook?"
"I do not cook."
"Then how are you going to help me?"
"Please allow me to heal you."
"Oh, OK. Go right ahead."
Raesh used her more powerful Lay on Hands on Ameiko, adding the Cure Fatigue mercy. Ameiko immediately brightened up, emitted a massive sigh of relief, and said, "Oooh, that feels MUCH better! I don't know what I would do without you!" Within moments, she was storming through the kitchen, snapping orders and fixing dishes. the limp was gone. Raesh headed back out.
While Raesh was in the kitchen, Shiro and Hi approached Aldern. Aldern started a well-rehearsed speech: "Gentlemen. I realize that we did not part on the best of terms at our last meeting, and that was entirely my fault. I had completely forgotten my etiquette, and to assume that a paladin of Sarenrae could be bothered to go on such a frivolous outing as a boar hunt was indeed poor of me. I have come to make amends, and would hope you will accept these gifts as tokens of my sincere apologies."
Aldern handed Shiro a box, and Shiro gingerly accepted it, treating it with more dread than one of Hi's infamous bombs. He peeked inside, and, not being harmed, open the box enough to see what was there. It looked like a pair of ordinary leather gloves.
"When you expressed such curiosity in fox gloves, my friend, I realized that it was terribly rude of me to assume you'd be familiar with the craft. So I had these made for you over at old Rovanky's. Finest tanner in the area, even if he is a bit on the surly side. Try them on! They're truly exquisite! I am a good judge of size, if I do say so myself, and I believe you'll find they fit perfectly, and are so wonderfully made that you can play your lute with them on!"
"They're fox gloves?"
Hi couldn't resist piping up: "Will they make him play better?"
Aldern responded, "Yes, they are the finest fox gloves you'll find outside of Magnimar, and probably even there. And no, my small friend, they will not make him play better, but they will not interfere with his craft."
Shiro was still worried, "And what animal are they made from?"
"They're from a cow, my good sir, as all good leather is!"
Aldern turned to Hi. "And for my little friend..."
Hi showed no hesitation in ripping open his package, finding it stuffed with candy. "All right!!! Candy!!!"
"Yes, the finest candy from Magnimar, hand-selected and shipped just for you..."
Aldern was interrupted by Raesh's approach.
"Ah, and you, my lady, suffered the most significant insult, and so of course must receive the greatest gift."
"I need no gift."
"Oh, but please do accept it! I insist!"
Aldern opened the box himself out, and pulled out a white fox fur stole. Shiro paled. Aldern continued, "After we spoke, I just HAD to make one for you. The white foxes are very hard to find! In Tian they are considered oracles..."
"They are Oracles! You KILLED AND SKINNED A SENTIENT CREATURE ON MY BEHALF!" Raesh darkened. Shiro was clearly thinking of murder. Halek rolled an 18 on his Sense Motive to have a clue of what was going on. Hi had candy.
"No, no, my dear! Foxes aren't sentient! They're filthy little vermin! That's just what those backwards people in Tian think..."
"Those backwards people like OUR HOSTESS?!?!"
"Oh, no, no, no! Ameiko was raised here. She's civilized..."
Raesh held up a hand, silencing him. "I will not accept your gift. First you come to me with the skin of an animal, claiming that it could be considered sentient, and then you stand before me in the inn belonging to Ameiko Kaijitsu and tell me that Tians are stupid and superstitious. Clearly your attempts at improving your diplomacy have failed. You need to go home and work harder on it. Good day."
Raesh put the stole back in the box and handed it back to Aldern. Shiro closed the box with the gloves and returned them as well. Hi kept the candy. Aldern started trying to speak again. Halek had had enough. "Where's MY gift?"
"You come to us, and you give each of my friends a gift. But you bring me no gift. Why do you insult me?"
Aldern stared up at the towering, angry barbarian and quivered, "But, but, you weren't here last time! I didn't know! I'm sorry!"
He backed out of the tavern, but Halek would have none of it and pursued him. "Come back here and give me a gift! COWARD! I demand my gift!" Aldern broke into a run, and Halek called after him, "Run, little man, run! Go home and get me a gift!"
Halek returned to the tavern, roaring with laughter, slammed a fist on the table, and bellowed, "Ah, that was thirsty work! ALE!!!"
Raesh snapped at Halek, "Inside voice, Halek."
The party had a pleasant, excellent dinner. After dinner, the ten remaining night guards showed up, looking exhausted from three straight nights on the wrong shift. Shiro suggested that they had just killed Tsuto and destroyed the Catacombs of Wrath, they would probably have at least one quiet night. They sent all but the regular two night watchmen home to rest, and Raesh joined them on watch for a portion of the night. Halek returned to the White Deer, and Shiro, Hi, and Raesh spent the night at the Rusty Dragon, planning for the next day.
Shiro paused a moment, unsure how to proceed, and made a decision. He approached Ameiko. "Do you have a moment? I have something that I would like to show you. Upstairs."
Ameiko smirked. Bethana frowned. Ameiko agreed to go upstairs. Shiro and Ameiko went to Ameiko's room and Ameiko closed the door. As the darkness trick never worked, Shiro simply watched her reaction as he reverted to his true form. Ameiko gasped, "Ah, a Luckbringer! Welcome to my humble establishment, Luckbringer!" and gave him a small bow and a smile.
Shiro explained that he had had bad luck showing himself to people outside of Tian, and he had hoped that she would recognize what he was. He was hoping that she would do him a favor, and start rumors around town of his true nature. Slowly at first, but so that eventually everyone would know what he was. She smiled and said, "Of course I can do that, but you know Sandpoint is a provincial town. They know nothing of raksashas or kitsune, and would be more curious than murderous if you were to walk out of here as yourself."
Shiro insisted that he wasn't ready to try that yet, and returned to his human form. Ameiko stepped forward, hugged him, thanked him again for saving her life, and promised she would start the rumors. Shiro sighed, wished she had a tail, and returned to the party.
Raesh awoke at dawn and performed her morning prayers. Shiro arose shortly after she finished, and just as Halek was arriving. She started her morning exercises, and Shiro was surprised to see Antonio and his entire remaining clan approaching. Antonio approached Shiro, clasped his hand, and said, "Ah, my friend. It is good to see you again. Tell me, where is Raesh?
Shiro pointed to Raesh exercising in the yard, and Antonio headed to speak with her. Nictiana popped out of the crowd. "Where's Hi?" Raesh responded, "He is still asleep. Why don't you go and help him remedy that?" Nictiana was off like a streak. Some might have said that there was a slight smirk on the drow's face. Moments later, there was a curdling scream as Hi was awoken by Nictiana jumping up and down on his bed. Moments after that, both Hi and Nictiana were jumping up and down on his bed. Antonio called Nictiana down and explained their presence: The times were dangerous, and they had lost a third of their clan because they weren't good enough fighters. Raesh had once offered to train Nictiana and Nick (her brother) in combat. Antonio was hoping that Raesh would be willing to teach them to fight.
Raesh bowed her head. "Not only have you done me honor, but you have offered me redemption. I would be proud to train your clan. When should we begin?"
Nictiana and Nick rushed forward and hugged Raesh. Those with high Sense Motives might have noticed her smile.
Antonio indicated that they were ready to begin. Raesh said she'd need to talk to Shiro and Hi and then she'd be right there. Nictiana hugged Hi and the Varisians returned to Madame Mvashti's. After a brief discussion as to plans for the day, and that Shiro and Hi were not to go to the Catacombs without her, she headed for Madame Mvashti's. Raesh arrived at Madame Mvashti's, knocked on the door, and the ancient woman herself answered it. Raesh fumbled her Sense Motive roll (yeah, we REALLY should buy new dice. As soon as it stops being funny.) and was absolutely convinced that Mvashti was delighted to see her. She found that the Varisians had already set up a training area in the back yard, but their crude wooden weapons were clearly grossly inadequate for any real training. Raesh set about teaching them to make decent training weapons.
Hi, Shiro, and Halek decided that their first order of business was to talk to Brodert Quink. When they arrived at his house, they found that he wasn't there. As they approached the lighthouse, they saw him on his hands and knees, carefully brushing dirt from the floor and examining each square inch with a magnifying glass. As they entered, Brodert fumbled his Perception roll (yep) and fled from the "goblins with tiny feet". After they'd calmed him down, Hi started in with a fairly lengthy tale of how, in the course of investigating the goblin attack, they had reason to explore the smuggler's cave, and had Brodert known about the smuggler's cave, and while there they found that some bricks had been chipped away...
Shiro became impatient and blurted out, "Yeah, we went down there, and we found some ruins, and we think that they might be Thassilonian."
As a GM, sometimes you mess up big-time. I responded with, and I quote, "Brodert gets all excited and says, 'Take me! Take me now!'" The entire table went silent. I looked up to see what had just happened to my players. And they exploded. After several minutes of, "You know what I meant!" and waving Brodert's picture at them, we managed to continue.
The group rushed back to Brodert's house, convincing him to wait at least long enough for them to get Raesh. Halek sprinted off to get her. Brodert rummaged through his house, filling a pack with a pair of wands, some scrolls, parchment, ink, and a blank notebook. Hefting it to get an idea as to its weight, Brodert handed it to Shiro. "Here. Carry this for me." Even the 20-pound pack felt a bit heavy to Shiro, but he figured it was the least he could do for Brodert's help.
At Madame Mvashti's, Raesh was just starting the Varisians on their exercises when Halek arrived. She called Nick forward. "Nick. I have trained you the most in defending yourself with your shield. You will now train your family in the techniques I have taught you. I will be back in a few hours."
Nick straightened up, put his shoulders back, and proudly strode to the front of the training area. He started barking out commands, and Raesh knew he would be harder on his family than she ever would be. She noticed when, as they left, Madame Mvashti said something to Halek in Shoanti and gave him a hug.
The group reassembled at Brodert's house. Brodert took one look at Halek, took the pack from Shiro, and started stuffing it with thick tomes. "What are you taking, the entire history of Thassilon?" he asked. "Oh, just the entire known history," Brodert responded. The group realized that, while they were deputized and could probably go wherever they wanted to, they should probably get Ameiko's permission to go back into the glassworks. Shiro volunteered and ran off, while Brodert seemed bound and determined to see just how much the huge barbarian could carry.
Shiro arrived at the Rusty Dragon mid-morning, so the place was nearly empty, and Bethana and Ameiko were sitting at a table, relaxing and chatting. Shiro asked Ameiko about going back into the glassworks, and she responded. "You saved my life. You made me a noble. I own a glassworks and I have no idea what to do with it. You may use my tunnels any time you need."
Bethana leaned forwards and pointedly looked at Shiro's backside. "Don't you have a tail?"
Shiro looked around. There were two or three other patrons around, so he wasn't comfortable reverting to his true form. "Yes, but it's tucked in."
"Doesn't that hurt?"
"No; you get used to it."
Shiro returned to the party, and they quickly returned to the Catacombs (Brodert helped himself to an everburning torch, and Shiro pointed out that he had to return it when he was done) and found the first dead sinspawn. Brodert was fascinated, and wanted to stay and study it, but they reminded him that the better ruins were farther in. They took him to the statue of runelord Alaznist. Brodert promptly crit his knowledge roll and poured forth: The statue was a statue of the runelord Alaznist, runelord of wrath and ruler of Bakrakhan, the Thassilonian nation that fell into the sea. She was the one who used the lighthouses, while her rival, runelord Karzoug, runelord of greed, ruled over Shalast and used giant statues of himself to watch the border. Rumor had it that Thistletop was the head of one such statue and was riddled with similar catacombs, but as Thistletop was infested by goblins at the moment, Brodert hadn't had a chance to go there and investigate personally yet. Even more interestingly, Alaznist was unusual among the runelords in her creation of minor runewells: Most runelords created very powerful focuses for their sin magics known as runewells. Alaznist didn't believe in concentrating so much of her power in a single location, and spread minor runewells throughout her land, where she could call forth her favorite shock troops, sinspawn, to do her bidding.
The party continued. The temple of Lamashtu was perfectly in keeping with Alaznist's followers: Runelords considered evil deities to be not deities but powerful demon lords they could negotiate with to gain greater power, so shrines to Lamashtu, Urgathoa, and Zon Kuthon were not unusual. Azmodeus was less common, as he was too good of a negotiator, and Rovagug was right out, as being far too chaotic and destructive for their ends. They visited the runewell, and Brodert rolled an 18. Technically, he needed a 19, but I figured with the previous crit I'd cut him some slack. He immediately identified the runewell, was VERY concerned that it was active, and told the characters that in order to deactivate it, they had to use their own blood to summon sinspawn until it was drained. To destroy it, they had to boil holy water in it for 24 hours. After realizing that the cost of the holy water alone would be well over 10,000 g.p., the party decided they'd deactivate it for now, and destroy it at a later time. There was some debate as to whose blood they would use. After one comment about "wringing out the old man over the runewell", they realized that Halek was the ideal candidate: A pure-blooded human with lots of hit points and constitution was unlikely to call forth anything unusual. They prepared their weapons, surrounded the well, and Halek dropped in the first drops of blood.
The first sinspawn crawled forth. Shiro missed. Hi missed. It bit Hi and he failed his save, becoming overcome with wrath. Raesh hit. Halek missed. It became clear that the rest of the party was no better with their regular weapons than they were with their bows. But then, Raesh had at least 50 years of experience on them. They dispatched the first sinspawn, healed Hi, let him calm down, and summoned the second. This one bit Raesh, she failed her save, but she was so accustomed to suppressing her rage that she hit anyway, and they finally killed it. On the third attempt to summon a sinspawn, the well deactivated.
The party explored more of the catacombs with Brodert: The clear pool that had the vargouille was a cleansing pool to wash your feet before entering, and the stairs up were the original entrance. They next explored the torture chamber (Brodert was gleeful, causing the characters a bit of discomfort with a man who would take such joy at seeing implements of torture), the library (where Brodert managed to find some books he could preserve, and piled them into Halek's pack), and the deformed prisoners (again, Brodert was uncomfortably happy with this discovery). Brodert pointed out the sihedron rune as the symbol of the runelords. Brodert was sorely disappointed that they had killed all the zombies, as they would have been political prisoners, traitors, and other hated enemies. He asked them to preserve the next zombie they found so he could study it. The party started worrying about Brodert's sanity. Even Brodert was shaken by the stairs down, and quickly retreated. He suggested that perhaps the shrine of Lamashtu on this level was only a minor shrine, and perhaps there was a major temple to her below the rubble. He recommended not digging it out. Finally, they reached the meditation room, Brodert could read the Thassilonian that appeared on the walls, but it made no sense, as if written by a madman. Brodert wanted to go in, but Shiro would not allow him to go in without testing it himself. Shiro went in, and, one Will save later, was floating pleasantly in the room. He asked Brodert whether two people could use the room simultaneously, and Brodert responded in the affirmative. Shiro looked thoughtful.
Brodert spent a few minutes in the meditation chamber, and then declared that he wanted to stay down in the catacombs and study some more. After some discussion, the party decided to leave Halek with him; after all, Halek was accustomed to following ancient old men around and carrying things for them.
Hi, Shiro, and Raesh returned to Sandpoint. Raesh returned to the Varisians to resume their training. Shiro visited Ameiko to ask her what she knew of Thistletop, but she knew very little about it; only that it was a strongly-defended goblin lair on an island, with a single rope bridge between it and the shore. Hi visited Rilka and asked her whether she knew any good seamstresses. Rilka pointed out that her friend down the street was a competent seamstress and would do a decent job of patching up the quasit's dress for a low price, but the best seamstress in town was Rynshinn Povalli at Vernah's Fine Clothing. Hi went to Rynshinn, and asked her whether she could convert the dress to an embroidered handkerchief. Rynshinn had lost her father to goblins, and her mother in the late unpleasantness, and wouldn't hear of charging one of the goblin-slayers for such a minor task. She took to work immediately making Raesh's handkerchief. In the meantime, Hi purchased a fine white-and-blue silk scarf (30 g.p.) for Rilka, and kept it to give to her on 'a special occasion'. Once Shiro was done with Ameiko, he joined Raesh and the Varisians. He greeted Madame Mvashti in Varisian and she smiled and welcomed him in. She was busy scrubbing the floor where the drow's feet had touched. His arrival disrupted the training, but rather than yelling at him, Raesh called for a break. Antonio welcomed Shiro and asked how his lute training was going, and insisted that Shiro play for them. In an abject miracle, Shiro rolled a 21 Perform check. The Varisians were impressed, and Antonio slapped him on the back. "You have been training hard, my friend! I told you that with practice you could be great!"
Shiro said that he was grateful for the gift, and wanted to give something to Antionio in return. He handed Antonio Tsuto's masterwork flute. Antonio rolled a 2 for his Perform check and burst out laughing. "Ah, lesson learned, my friend! But you wait! I will practice as hard as you, and soon I will play this flute beautifully!" Antonio wandered off, playing the flute.
The rest of the day passed peacefully. Shiro volunteered to join the theater company on stage, and was welcomed. He even made 42 silver pieces for his performance on stage, as the owner had time to advertise that Shiro would be making a cameo and could charge a bit extra.
Next scheduled session: Either Friday, August 24, or Saturday, August 25
I find Aldern's bumbling with the party actually quite funny.
It was just one of those things -- the person playing Shiro took offense at his name, and I started stumbling, and then the person playing Raesh got hugely offended at the boar hunt idea, so I figured, "In for a penny, in for a pound" and rolled with it.
Yes, it will make his future interactions with the characters FAR more entertaining, and I've already read ahead and mapped them out. I'm good. Unless the players decide to mess with me again...
EDIT: And the gnome with the candy. Man, that player was saying, "I need to play a human! I don't want to play any other race!" It took a LOT of convincing to make him play a gnome. And just wow! What a gnome! "I like candy! I'm keeping the candy! I don't know what's wrong with you guys! I like Aldern! He gives me candy!" (The white fox stole was too much, though; Hi knows that Shiro's a white fox, so he got a bit less happy about the candy after that. But he kept it.)
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Your social encounters are fun and your players seem really great. I love the personailty you've given Quink and anll of the stuff you have done with the Varisian caravan.
Minor Runewells are artifacts with a CL of 20. That means Quink needs to make a DC35 Spellcraft check to identify its properties.
I would be wary of giving out piles of information from the start: your players know it is called Rise of the Runelords but if they've figured out Karzoug's childhood pets' names by the end of Burnt Offerings then you've got nowhere to go with the pleasure of unearthing a mystery. Gradually picking up hints here and there is part of the fun of this AP, those moments when the players flick furiously back through their notes, screw up their brows for a moment and then proclaim: "Oh, I get it..." before getting to explain their idea to the group and have them all talk it over.
My group were really chuffed when they found out that the statue was of some ancient ruler called Alzanist and immediately wanted to take the polearm to Magnimar and find an antique dealer to sell it to, the whole antique-selling expedition was cool in itself and let the players feel like they had earned both some extra cash and some extra information.
I'm expecting to tease them with a few sinspawn coming up when they are higher level so that they have to find a (perhaps temporary) solution to the runewell problem until they get to the library and figure out the real solution.
Your social encounters are fun and your players seem really great. I love the personailty you've given Quink and anll of the stuff you have done with the Varisian caravan.
Minor Runewells are artifacts with a CL of 20. That means Quink needs to make a DC35 Spellcraft check to identify its properties.
I would be wary of giving out piles of information from the start: your players know it is called Rise of the Runelords but if they've figured out Karzoug's childhood pets' names by the end of Burnt Offerings then you've got nowhere to go with the pleasure of unearthing a mystery. Gradually picking up hints here and there is part of the fun of this AP, those moments when the players flick furiously back through their notes, screw up their brows for a moment and then proclaim: "Oh, I get it..." before getting to explain their idea to the group and have them all talk it over.
My group were really chuffed when they found out that the statue was of some ancient ruler called Alzanist and immediately wanted to take the polearm to Magnimar and find an antique dealer to sell it to, the whole antique-selling expedition was cool in itself and let the players feel like they had earned both some extra cash and some extra information.
I'm expecting to tease them with a few sinspawn coming up when they are higher level so that they have to find a (perhaps temporary) solution to the runewell problem until they get to the library and figure out the real solution.
As I posted in another thread, I set Quink's Knowledge at +16 (7 levels + class skill + 16 INT + skill focus feat) and he crit when he saw her, which is a DC 41 skill check in my game (+5 for the crit). I figure he'd be about the same in SpellCraft (how else would you build a 7th-level Thassilonian expert with the old age mods?) and he rolled a 34. I gave him the 35 because of the previous crit.
But yes, there's always a delicate balance between "core dumping" and "hinting at things to come".
And please spoiler tag things -- my group reads this thread.
The 'information overload' may indeed have unfortunate consequences, though. Shiro's player believes that Alaznist is their foe, and they're going to be spending the campaign tracking down and shutting down runewells. They're going to thoroughly search Thistletop for a runewell. Unfortunately, that will probably free Malfeshnekor, and given a non-optimized, inexperienced group, I'm worried that we're going to see our first death or two when they meet him. Hopefully they'll have enough money for a resurrection by the time that happens; I'm rather fond of the PCs.
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Well, we had our first terrifying near-TPK, brought on by ludicrously harsh rules (-4 AC AND -4 to attack in the nettles?!?!?), a GM house rule (you can't swing an earthbreaker effectively if you can't even stand up), and a poorly-behaved GM NPC ("I'll run forward into the group of goblin dogs, forcing the group to disperse and get in 1-on-1 fights with goblin dogs at huge penalties.")
Fortunately, Gogmurt proved equal to the task by failing 8 easy Perception checks in a row, and the bard did something I thought was hopelessly foolish but that saved the entire party, and so they live on...
(Seriously. I thought I'd add to the drama by setting Gogmurt and Tangletooth's perception checks at 10 (-10 battle + 10 thick foliage + 10 distance) and 18 (-10 battle + 10 foliage + 8 distance + 10 asleep), respectively, just so the PCs would get 2-3 rounds of fighting with the goblin dogs to get the upper hand before I hit them with the big guns. On 8 rolls, Gogmurt never rolled above a 5, and fumbled once (lose a round of Per checks). Poor guy!)
Note: For those of you using Hero Labs, you'll notice a minor issue here. Shiro's player dutifully purchased Hero Labs and the Pathfinder plug-in, then used it to build his bard. In the write-up you'll see him use Windy Escape, a first-level Bard spell spefically for Sylphs. But he's a Kitsune. Apparently either Hero Labs can't tell the difference, or I'm missing the reference where Kitsune can use Sylph spells. So if your players are using Hero Labs, double-check those spells!
Note 2: I got the Rise of the Runelords battle case just before the game. Way fun using 'real' figures instead of paper (as Shiro's player said, "Wow. Now that we have these the paper minis are OK for downed or fleeing opponents, but these are way cooler!"), but I have to say that the hefty price tag of the full case plus the random distribution makes me recommend buying the figures you want in the after-market instead. I know I'll be selling quite a few 'unique NPC and bad guy' figures over the next few weeks.
Note 3: Announcing the "Silver Tsuto Award", awarded to the worst fumble of session. (We hand it around as people fumble, and vote on which fumble was 'worse'.) I got THREE Tsuto's in the battle case, so we're going to behead one, keep one intact, and paint the third one silver and put him on a pedestal as an award.
As Raesh continued training the Varisians and Hi visited the seamstress, Shiro decided that stealth might be the order of the day when approaching Thistletop, so he decided to pay Rovanky Tannery a visit to see what they had in the way of leather armor. He knew that Larz had quite the reputation as a mean employer around town, but made the best leather goods in the area. As he entered the tannery, he was met by a young man who smiled and said, "Welcome to Rovanky Tannery. How can I help you?" Behind the young man, Shiro could hear Larz shouting. "The acidity of this vat is too high! And on this vat it's too low! What do I pay you idiots for!?!?! Can't you do even the simplest of tasks correctly?" Larz' angry tirade continued through their entire conversation, but the young man seemed able to tune it out without a thought.
Shiro asked about leather armor, and the young man smiled, answered that of course they carried armor, and led Shiro to the store attached to the tannery. Shiro immediately recognized the quality of the goods there: Gloves, boots, reins, coats, and all manner of other leather goods were perfectly arranged for display on shelves and hangers. The young man (whose name I never made up) led Shiro to the armor section and showed him the fine leather armor available. While Shiro was attracted to the leather, when the young man mentioned that they could easily provide him with masterwork studded leather for only 175 gold, Shiro decided that he would save his money for now and buy the masterwork armor later. He thanked the young man and headed back to the Rusty Dragon.
Raesh finished training the Varisians and recommended wine for those who could drink it that evening, plus warm baths. Antonio replied, "Wine we can do. But do we really have to take baths?" Raesh told Antonio that they would be much better off if they soaked some of the soreness out of their muscles, and departed for the Rusty Dragon. As she left, she thought she spotted an almost-imperceptible nod from Madame Mvashti.
The party reconvened at the Rusty Dragon to decide what to do about Thistletop, and decided they needed a map of the area. They headed over to The Way North, and paid 5 s.p. for a waterproof map of the area around Sandpoint. Veznutt helped them with local knowledge as they tried to decide on the 'when' and 'how' of Thistletop: Along the road and then through the Nettlewood seemed like the most direct route, but the notion of dragging a 6'6" scantily-clad barbarian through a forest full of nettles did not sound like the wisest of plans. They asked about cutting through the Pauper's Graves to the coast and then following the coast, but Veznutt pointed out that the Pauper's Graves were infested with ghouls, and might be dangerous at night. Shiro's player asked whether goblins were nocturnal or diurnal. One fumbled knowledge check later, he was absolutely certain that goblins only arose at sunrise and sunset, as evidenced by their attack on Sandpoint at sunset. They decided they would leave in the morning and travel through the Pauper's Graves, in spite of watching the GM set up multiple ghoul figures as they talked.
After deciding that they would indeed leave the next day, Raesh hurried back to Madame Mvashti's. Mvashti was not pleased to see her return, but dutifully bellowed for Antonio in Varisian. Raesh let Antonio know that they were off to investigate Thistletop, and might be gone for 2-3 days. Antonio wished her luck and safety, and she departed. In the meantime, Hi went to Rilka's house, told her they were leaving for a few days (which horrified her), and invited her to dinner. That evening's dinner was a citrusy beef dish (orange peel beef) with added coconut milk to give it a creaminess not usual in the dish. Shiro sighed and reminisced; this was one of the dishes his mother used to cook for him, and he thought fondly of his mother and sisters so many thousands of miles away. Shiro and Raesh shared one table, giving Hi and Rilka their privacy at the other. After dinner, Shiro had to rush off to 'perform' in the play again (a paid cameo), while Raesh asked Ameiko whether it might be possible that she could get a bath and "more of those.... truffles?" Ameiko burst out laughing and stormed into the kitchen, ordering Bethana to grab bowls, chocolate, flour, eggs, and butter. Raesh realized too late that Ameiko was going to make fresh truffles just for her. She wished she felt a little more guilty about it...
When the town guard checked in, the party informed them of their plans, and, much to the guards' horror, told them that they would be in charge of the town's defenses in case the party didn't return.
At Hi's table, Hi handed Rilka the package. "As I think of you when I wear this scarf, I hope that you will think of me as you wear this" as he gave Rilka the package containing the silk scarf. Rilka opened the box and gasped; it was by far the finest article of clothing she had ever felt, much less owned. In near tears, she hugged and kissed Hi. After she opened it he told her "I now you don't want me to go but I must do what I can to protect Sandpoint and all those who call it home, including you." After dinner, he walked her home, and, like a gentleman (boo!), he kissed her goodnight, said "I will return to you", and headed back to the Rusty Dragon and went to bed early.
Raesh awoke and performed her morning prayers, then went up and knocked on Shiro's door. After a bit of mumbling, and another knock from Raesh, he responded that he would be there soon. She then knocked on Hi's door (several times) until he finally indicated that he would be coming down. Raesh sat down to another ornate breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, french toast, seasoned potatoes, and oatmeal for people who had stayed up a wee bit too late drinking the night before. About 15 minutes later, Shiro joined her and started nibbling at the food. Ten minutes after that, Hi finally arrived, looking disheveled. They got around to planning their trip to Thistletop.
All of them agreed that it might take several days at Thistletop to thoroughly investigate, so they would need supplies. Raesh asked whether there was an inn near Thistletop. Both Shiro and Hi blinked at her. Shiro asked, "You know that bedroll that I bought for you when we were getting supplies for Nemar? What do YOU think it is used for?"
"Well, obviously you use it to sleep on the floor when the inn or temple is too full to have a bed for you. I have had to sleep on the floor many times."
Shiro and Hi exchanged another glance, and explained to Raesh that she could use the bedroll to sleep outside, on the ground. Hi waxed poetic about the beauty of the stars and the crisp night air. Raesh wasn't convinced, but agreed that she would be willing to try it. But they had better not be joking about people really sleeping outside of buildings.
They arranged with Ameiko to provide them travel lunches for the day, and Raesh asked Shiro and Hi to fetch Halek while she visited Father Zantos. She told him of their plans to scout out (and possibly storm) Thistletop, that they would be gone for several days, and that they were leaving the rest of the city watch in charge, and Father Zantos was very concerned; he didn't know what he could do to help her, but he pressed a potion of Cure Light Wounds on her and asked her to be careful. In the catacombs, Shiro and Hi found Brodert tossing small steel spheres into the meditation room, watching them bounce off the opposite walls, and taking copious notes. Halek sat to the side, bored out of his skull. He practically danced with glee when Hi and Shiro showed up. "Is it time for us to go?"
Hi and Shiro asked Brodert whether he would be all right without Halek's help, and he absentmindedly muttered, "Oh yes, yes..." without turning away from the meditation room. Hi and Shiro were a bit hesitant to go, so they asked again whether he would be OK. He reassured them that he was fine, and he had plenty of supplies, so the three of them headed back up and met up with Raesh. Around 10:30 am, the party finally headed for Thistletop.
The first hour was a pleasant enough walk down the well-worn Lost Coast Road, but as they started passing the Shankswood they focused their attention, scanning for ambushes. Sure enough, Halek crit his Perception and spotted the ambush: 6 goblins and 2 goblin dogs creeping through the woods towards them. All represented by realistic plastic minis! Oooh! Aaah! (Brief pause for the GM to show off as much of the kit as he felt the players were allowed to see). As soon as the goblins realized they had been seen, they charged forwards, hoping to overrun the PCs. The party had several rounds to prepare, but the goblins in the trees had significant cover and the party didn't want to waste arrows, so they waited. (The kids took over as the goblins.)
The fight was short and brutal. The two goblins riding dogs tried to spur their dogs to gallops, only to both badly blow their riding rolls and fall off. The dogs, confused, turned around and trotted back to the goblins. (One kid was the dogs, the other was the goblins. It was awesome chaos.) The other four goblins charged into combat minus their companions. The goblins used rudimentary tactics, such as flanking Shiro and attacking Hi, but couldn't even hit the sorcerer. Halek was far less effective than usual with his earthbreaker, but Raesh fought well, Shiro inspired courage and did well for himself, and Hi got in a few hits. By the time the riders finally figured out it was probably better to just walk to the fight, it was already hopeless, and the dogs and riders were quickly dispatched. Two goblins broke and ran at that point, but, being goblins, they fled into the wide open south of the road instead of the forest to the north. Hi used Elemental Ray on the first. Everyone winced, expecting his usual accuracy, but he managed to hit and drop the goblin. Shiro, Raesh, and Halek fired their bows at the second, and the goblin pincushion fell to the ground. Raesh conducted a very short trial: The goblins had been attempting to attack them, so were clearly part of the raiders killing merchants along this route, and therefore were guilty of raiding, and almost certainly murder. The rest of the party agreed, and Raesh neatly beheaded the surviving fallen.
They cut through the Pauper's Graves without incident, and made their way to Thistletop along the coast, finally arriving around 1:00 pm. Unfortunately, they found themselves at the bottom of a steep cliff, across the water from Thistletop, with no clear way in. They backtracked far enough to get to the top of the cliff, then Halek attempted to lead them through the tangled thistles and briars on the top of the cliff. Unfortunately, the overgrown desert barbarian had no experience whatsoever with such terrain, caught his foot on a root, and tumbled into a thicket of goblinberries. (Fumbled Survival Check = A visit from the Silver Tsuto Award). Only his high fortitude and his leather armor prevented him from being more seriously hurt. Hi, familiar with Varisian terrain and small enough to make out the holes goblins had made through the thickets, led them to the goblin paths near the Thistletop entrance. (Crit Perception; 16 Survival by Hi). There were two apparent entrances to the area near Thistletop: One tangle of wood that was being used by a single goblin and a large cat, and another wall of nettles used by all the other goblins. Shiro examined the many-goblin entrance and immediately recognized it: Back in Minkai many of the meditation gardens had such vine walls to provide peace and privacy without disturbing the sense of surrounding nature, and the doors were nothing but mats of woven vines around bamboo staves, that could easily be lifted for entrance. This was exactly the same kind of door, except made of briars and thorny vines instead of wisteria and bamboo. He pointed out the mechanism to the rest of the party and carefully opened the door. (Shiro crit his Perception as well.)
The uncomfortable closeness of the thistle tunnels made everyone but Hi miserable. Halek had to put away his earthbreaker and take out a dagger, and he was so bent over he was almost crawling. Raesh had to stoop a bit less, and her plate mail protected her well from the thorns and bristles. Even Shiro wasn't entirely happy with the situation. They let Halek take the lead, and decided to follow the passage to the right.
The first clearing they approached was huge, with a high roof almost open to the sky, and a large hole near the center. Raesh approached the hole and looked straight down an 80' drop into a dimly-lit pool in a cavern that obviously ran under the cliffs. She couldn't think of a use for such a hole, but Shiro suggested using an illusion to make the hole appear somewhere else in the clearing, then leading goblins towards them to fall in. They decided to keep that tactic in mind as they proceeded. As they started towards the next chamber, Halek stepped on a dry branch and snapped it with a loud crack. (To be fair, the dogs crit their Perception check.) Halek spotted four goblin dogs rousing themselves from slumber, charged forward, and planted his dagger in the eye of the first dog. (-4 to hit, -4 AC, and the stupid barbarian still crit on his first attack and did enough to drop a goblin dog.)
Unfortunately, the fight went rapidly downhill. The rest of the party tried to catch up with Halek, but moving through the thistle tunnels was extremely difficult for the taller characters, while Hi has little bitty legs. Hi did the best he could, running forward to look down the passage across the clearing and make sure no reinforcements were coming. The dogs distributed themselves: One on Halek, one on Shiro, and one on Raesh. Halek's fight went poorly, as the dog tore into him with great gusto, and he no longer seemed to be able to hit with the puny dagger. Raesh and Shiro held their own, though Shiro had to use his Windy Escape spell to avoid being hit. After Hi confirmed that no one was coming, he turned around to attack the dog attacking Raesh.
Then came Round 4. The dog fighting Raesh turned and bit Hi. From behind him, Tangletooth sprang from down the corridor he had turned his back to and bit Hi in the neck, dropping him to -3 HP. Raesh moved to help Hi, but provoked an attack of opportunity and the goblin dog crit for 13 points. Halek was down to half his hit points. Raesh hit Tangletooth, slightly wounding him, and Tangletooth hit Raesh with a bite and a claw for 15, dropping her as well.
So there I sat. Two of the four party members were at negative hit points. Halek was at half hit points. And three dogs and Tangletooth were still very much alive and well. I figured this story was going to have a really sucky ending.
Halek raged, moved away from the dog on him, and hit the dog on Hi. His rage was enough, and he dropped the dog. Tangletooth ripped into Halek, taking another quarter of his hit points. I asked Shiro what he was going to do, figuring "not much" would be a perfectly fair answer at this point. Shiro slid over, took the attack of opportunity from the dog, and healed Raesh. Raesh awoke, slid her hand over, and laid hands on Hi, waking him. Hi, not being the subtle type, fired an Elemental Ray at Tangletooth from the ground, but missed wildly. The dogs all missed. (I can understand missing Shiro, but when you have a +2 attack bonus and the raging barbarian has AC 7, it takes some work to miss.) Tangletooth dropped Halek to 8 hit points, including his rage. I figured he probably didn't want to stop raging any time soon. Halek hit Tangletooth with the dagger, merely annoying him and pretty much guaranteeing Halek's early demise. Raesh stood up, swore an oath to Sarenrae, and criticaled Tangletooth. Tangletooth dropped. A dog bit Shiro, but he was the only one in the room with double-digit hit points. The dog on Halek performed a miracle by missing a second time. And that quickly, it turned around. Shiro dropped the dog on him, while Raesh, Hi, and Halek dispatched the other. The party, bloody and wounded, realized that Raesh had 1 hit point, Halek had 2, and Hi had 3. Shiro doesn't get honorable mention; he was still over 20.
They killed the animals, then fled as quickly and quietly as possible, and it was a good thing -- Gogmurt finally rolled a 10 on his perception, but the fight was over and the party was being as stealthy as possible, so he STILL didn't know anything was up.
Unfortunately, morale was low. The party had been at Thistletop a grand total of 60 minutes, nearly lost their lives, and had nothing to show for it but four dead goblin dogs, a dead firepelt cougar, massive wounds, and the distinct possibility that they would not survive the night if they didn't get back to Sandpoint. They raced through the thistles as quickly as possible, and now that Halek knew what to look for in the goblin paths, he had no trouble leading them to the road. A couple of miles down the road, they found it blocked (ironically enough) by half a dozen boars, but high animal handling rolls by Halek and Raesh allowed them to circumnavigate the boars without incident. Karma, baby!
The battered party arrived back in Sandpoint to grave concern. Who had done this? Was an attack imminent? Would the goblins seek revenge? Father Zantos organized the town's healers and managed to get 12 Cure Light Wounds cast; it healed everyone except Halek, and Zantos promised to heal him the rest of the way in the morning. Rilka ran forward, hugged Hi, and begged him not to go out again. "Look at you! You're a wreck and a mess! You're not leaving my house until those clothes are clean! Please stay home tomorrow!" Hi told Rilka that their work wasn't finished, and he was going to have to return to Thistletop the next day, clean or dirty. Rilka teared up, hugged him, gave him a quick peck in a clean spot, and rushed home. Even Ameiko came to see the return, gave them a weary smile, and said, "I'm glad to see you all made it back." It might have been Shiro's imagination, but it seemed to him that she was looking particularly hard at him when she said that.
We're going to stop there on Friday night, because it was late and we broke it off to resume on Saturday. That write-up should appear in a day or two.
Next game: Saturday, August 25 (already run)
Out-of-context summary: At this point, I had to decide what Gogmurt and Ripnugget were going to do. Gogmurt found his beloved Tangletooth slain, and rushed to Ripnugget to tell him of the attack. I played Ripnugget (in my head) as arrogant and confident in the extreme: Sandpoint sent its best 'heroes' to best him, and they couldn't even get past a small group of sleeping goblin dogs. Of course Gogmurt was upset because he'd lost his 'pet cat', but this attack just proved that Thistletop's defenses were sound. If it would make Gogmurt feel better, he'd put a couple of riders on patrol in the nettles. Gogmurt snorted at this pathetic offer and stormed out, declaring, "They'll be back! Maybe not today or tomorrow, but within the week they'll be back! In greater numbers and better prepared!! We MUST call for reinforcements!"
Ripnugget, not wanting to appear weak in front of his men, raged at Gogmurt, "They're pathetic longshanks and our dogs tore them to pieces! Don't let your weird fondness for that cat cloud your mind! We don't need any help! We will repel any attack they care to throw at us!"
However, Ripnugget was not a fool. He sent half a dozen goblin riders led by a goblin commando to track down and kill the wounded adventurers.
Something was wrong. Shalelu watched the raiding party ride by again. They were searching right in the area of Thistletop, as if there had been an attack. But she hadn't heard anything, and the goblins were getting along frighteningly well at the moment. She crouched closer to the ground and crept closer. "...those longshanks on their spindly legs with their pink skin! So disgusting! I don't even like the way they taste! I wonder what drow tastes like..."
Shalelu allowed a thin hiss to escape through her teeth. The 'heroes of Sandpoint' had tried to assault Thistletop! What were they thinking? She had to get to Sandpoint and find out what was going on there...
Some days just go well. Some days... well, three of the four of us used the term "afterglow" on Sunday morning. (And I didn't talk to the fourth, so maybe he did, maybe he didn't...)
Good, good game!
And here we go:
30-Rova-4707 (Continued from previous game):
As the worried townsfolk continued prying them with questions, the party broke apart. They were well aware that they needed far more healing than they currently had, so they sent Hi to the Feathered Serpent to try to trade in the wand of Shocking Grasp they had recovered for a wand of Cure Light Wounds. Halek declared himself inadequately armed and armored for such close-quarter fights, and wanted permission to use party funds to buy better weapons and armor. Both Shiro and Raesh expressed astonishment that he was familiar with heavier armor. Halek assured them that he was familiar with all manners of light metal armor, such as scale or chain, and had even been trained to use a shield before he chose the earthbreaker as his weapon of choice. So Halek wandered off to Savah's to cash out some of their credit and better equip himself. Shiro decided to go with Hi and explore the wares at the Feathered Serpent. Raesh accompanied Halek. Halek picked up a short sword and heavy wooden shield from Savah's, but had to go to the Red Dog Smithy for armor. Raesh stood, stoically absorbing abuse while she made sure that Halek's armor was up to snuff, and Halek argued with Das. Much screaming, cursing, and threatening later, Halek had a suit of chainmail that fit him adequately, and neither Das Korvut nor his precious hounds were damaged. Halek carried his gear to the Rusty Dragon, while Raesh hurried ahead for reasons Halek could not fathom. As soon as she got there, Raesh said, "Ameiko. I would like to purchase a gift of appreciation for Shiro. I noticed that he very much liked your tea. I was hoping you would help me select some tea that he might like and sell it to me."
Ameiko smiled, and started discussing the virtues of various teas: Black, green, oolong, herb, and more. When Raesh responded that to her, teas were nothing more than leaves boiled in water, Ameiko laughed and agreed to help. At the Rusty Dragon, she went through her stock of teas imported from Minkai, and found a particularly fine green tea that came in its own carved wooden box. "Now this is quite expensive, but I think Shiro will really appreciate it..."
Raesh cut her off, "I'll take it."
Ameiko smirked, wrapped the box, took Raesh's money, and handed Raesh the package. Raesh hid it in her room before Shiro returned.
Hi and Shiro learned that they were a few hundred gold short of being able to afford the wand, but a quick trip to Savah's to cash out some of their credit there took care of the problem. Hi headed for Rilka's, and Shiro to the Rusty Dragon.
As Halek entered, Ameiko took Raesh aside and asked her to please bathe her barbarian. Raesh declared that the first order of business was baths for everyone, BEFORE dinner. Halek bitterly objected. Raesh pointed out that his stench was enough to warn goblins of his presence from a hundred feet away, and they needed stealth if they were going to return to Thistletop. When she pointed out that most 'civilized' people took baths at least twice a week, Halek disagreed, told her she had misheard, and that the proper number of baths was twice per year. "What about the children? If you bathe them in winter, they will become cold and die! You would kill children with your obsession with bathing!"
Raesh was not swayed, and a grumbling Halek went up to his room to bathe, "But just this once!"
After their baths, the party descended back to the common room to a dinner of chicken friccassee with a hint of curry, accompanied by rice and some tiny cabbages sauteed in olive oil, butter, and salt. Shiro wondered aloud whether there was a community of tiny fey living near Sandpoint, who had tiny farms and grew tiny cabbages just for his enjoyment. He was delighted.
After dinner, Shiro approached Ameiko. "I was wondering... if you're not busy... if you'd like to go to the play with me tonight?" Ameiko pondered for a moment, and then smiled broadly. "I'd be delighted to! Give me a few minutes to get ready! Bethana! Take over the kitchen!"
The other patrons groaned and glared at Shiro.
Ameiko slipped upstairs and returned a few minutes later in a form-fitting red blouse, black pants, and her hair up in a bun. She smiled at Shiro and teased, "Well, aren't you going to offer me your arm?" Shiro offered his arm and the two of them strolled to the theater. Tongues wagged and jaws gaped. Ameiko NEVER went out!
As soon as Shiro was gone, Raesh stole into his room, wrote a quick card ("You have saved my life twice and feel it would be appropriate to show my appreciation with a gift. This is for you. Raesh.") and placed the wrapped box on his pillow. She returned to the common room, spent a bit of time in woefully disappointing conversation with Halek, and decided to turn in for the evening, but not before obtaining a bowlful of truffles left over from the previous night. Halek followed suit (minus the truffles).
At the theater, Shiro was a bit taken aback when the ushers immediately led him and Ameiko to a formal box; he'd completely forgotten that Ameiko was now the head of one of the four noble houses of Sandpoint, and had her own personal box at the theater. She admitted to him that she hadn't ever used the box before, but her father had loved the theater. She sighed a bit and looked sad at the memory of her father. Shiro could well understand such a love/hate relationship with one's father. Fortunately, the play was the ultimate remedy: A history of Minkai. When the first kimono-clad woman came onstage and Ameiko leaned over to Shiro and whispered, "Wow! I've never seen an obi tied THAT particular way before," they were off. The props were beautifully made and mostly accurate, but horrifically misused. The tea ceremony was a travesty. When the warrior strode in with his katana strapped on backwards, Ameiko and Shiro had to suppress giggles. Other patrons glanced up, possibly to complain, but saw Ameiko out and about and on a 'date' and immediately quieted. The play brought back pleasant memories of home for Shiro; for Ameiko, it made her think of her ancestral homeland thousands of miles away, that she had learned so much about in her upbringing, but that she had never visited. She longed to go there, and pondered that perhaps the enthusiastic young bard beside her might show her around some day, if they were to meet again after his adventures.
After the play, Shiro offered his arm to Ameiko and she teased, "Good sir, would you be so kind as to walk me home?" They walked together back to the Rusty Dragon and entered. The food didn't smell anything like it had when they had left. The patrons looked far surlier. Bethana peeked out from the kitchen with a mixture of relief at seeing Ameiko and irritation with Shiro at taking her away. Ameiko hugged Shiro and wished him good night. There was a long, awkward pause, and Shiro said, "OK. Good night." Ameiko might have looked slightly disappointed, but offered him a formal Minkai bow. "Thank you for a wonderful evening, Shiro-San." Shiro returned the bow and headed up for his room, as Ameiko headed in to rescue the kitchen.
Shiro sighed and smiled. He had had a very nice time, but Ameiko wasn't a kitsune. She didn't even have a tail, as far as he could tell! What was he going to do? He opened his door and saw the mysterious package on his pillow. He approached cautiously and looked at the card. Before touching the box, he checked the handwriting to see whether it was Raesh's or Hi's. It was indeed in Raesh's handwriting. He sniffed carefully. It smelled like... tea? He opened the wrapping paper and saw the finely-carved wooden Minkaian box. How had she obtained such a thing? He opened it and found REAL green tea from Minkai. He inhaled deeply. The aroma was heavenly! He closed the box, ran down the hall, and knocked at Raesh's door. Raesh awoke instantly, grabbed her scimitar, and quickly answered the door, ready for trouble. Shiro darted in, ducked under the scimitar, and hugged her. "Thank you for the tea!" As Raesh blinked, Shiro scurried back to his room. Raesh shrugged, closed her door, put away her scimitar, and went back to bed.
Raesh awoke at dawn and headed for the courtyard to perform her morning exercises and prayers. She was mildly surprised to find Halek already up, practicing with short sword and shield. While he was obviously somewhat trained, his form was of one accustomed to using brute strength to overwhelm opponents, with no room for subterfuge, feints, or finesse. Raesh hurried over and corrected his form and his posture, made him place his feet a bit closer together, and to protect himself a bit more with his shield. Halek was an obedient, fairly adept student, far better than many she'd trained at the temple, and within 15 minutes she was satisfied that he could continue his training without her. She returned to her prayers, and the two of them spent a near-silent hour in the courtyard, punctuated only by Halek's grunts or the occasional sound of steel on wood.
Once she was done with her prayers, Raesh headed upstairs to wake Shiro. Halek followed her. She knocked politely on the door, but the only answer was a low moan. Halek reached over her head, banged on the door, and bellowed, "Time to get up, Shiro!" Raesh reminded Halek yet again to use his 'inside voice', as several doors in the hall opened and they were subjected to angry glares. Shiro took his usual 15 minutes to get up and come down. To their surprise, today's breakfast was markedly different: There was a thin reddish-yellow soup with tofu, rice, grilled eel with a red sauce, and assorted steamed vegetables and grilled meats with simple sauces. Shiro immediately recognized a traditional Minkai breakfast when he saw one. While his mother had never made something so elaborate, and the grilled eel was something he'd seen in restaurants but never tried, he was perfectly willing to give it a go. First, he approached Ameiko in the kitchen. "I was wondering whether you would make some tea for me using this," and he offered her the box. She smiled, replied, "Of course," and pulled out an imported Minkai teapot. Shiro was a bit disappointed to see that the pattern on the teapot did not match the pattern of the box. He would find Raesh's supplier yet!
The tea was divine. The breakfast was quite good. This was the first morning they broke their fast with Halek, and they were a bit taken aback when Bethana approached with an enormous plate twice as wide as she was heaped with boiled beans, shredded grilled meat(s), a few pieces of flatbread, and some greenish-gray mush that looked like it might once have been vegetables. Halek tucked in to the monstrosity as if it were manna from heaven, so Raesh and Shiro shrugged and decided it had to be some 'barbarian thing'.
Sated, they waited for Hi. By 9:00 am, he still hadn't appeared. They decided to head for Rilka's and find the cause of the delay. When they arrived, Rilka was outside in the morning sun, happily scrubbing clothes and hanging them to dry, while humming a merry tune. "Oh, you'll be wanting Hi, then," she said, and called out, "Hi, your friends are here! You folks can go in and get him if you like. He doesn't have any clothes at the moment, but it's nothing you haven't seen before, only smaller..."
Raesh declined the invitation. Shiro and Halek went in and woke up Hi. Hi searched the room, and finally called out in exasperation, "Rilka! Where are my clothes!?!?!"
"Oh, they're out here, dear. I've just finished washing them and got all the bloodstains out quite nicely, thank you very much. You'll have to dry them yourself, though."
She took Hi's clothes to him, and held them out while Hi dried them. Finally dressed, he kissed Rilka goodbye, grabbed several of the Seventooth clan totems he had recovered during the Varisian fight, and the party headed back towards Thistletop.
At the cathedral, Raesh asked the party to wait for her for a moment as she went in and spoke with Father Zantos. She told him they were headed back in, and that she fully expected they would have to desecrate a temple of Lamashtu. Was there anything he could offer her that would help? Unfortunately, although the cathedral was grand, its supplies were extremely limited, so he didn't have anything to offer but another vial of holy water and the suggestion that she just pour holy water on the altar and smash it. She rolled her eyes (a hard trick for a drow), thanked Father Zantos, and rejoined the party.
They set out towards Thistletop with a bit of apprehension; Halek was much better-equipped, and they had the wand of Cure Light Wounds, but would that be enough? About 100 yards out of town, Hi spotted movement in the trees to the right. The party stopped and armed itself. Shalelu stepped out. "Well, it's good to see that you're at least competent in the woods."
Shalelu asked them what had happened at Thistletop to cause such a commotion, and, once she heard the events of the previous day, she asked, "And what makes you think that today will go any differently?"
Raesh scowled. "We were taken unawares. It will NOT happen again."
Shalelu shrugged. "If you believe so. Now, may I ask you a question? You are a drow. Yet you are a paladin. How can that be?"
Raesh provided the minimum possible answer: As a baby, she had been rescued from death by a paladin and brought to a temple of Sarenrae to be raised. She had never known any other life. Shalelu continued her questioning. Raesh answered tersely but truthfully. For the next hour, Shalelu and Raesh walked at the front of the party, Shalelu quizzing Raesh about everything about her upbringing, her training, and what it was like to be a drow in the daylight. Raesh bore the questioning without comment, and did not offer any information more than what was asked, but did not refuse to answer. They passed the Shankswoods without incident and approached the Nettlewoods. Shalelu turned to the party. "Now you must all be very quiet. We must use all possible stealth to approach Thistletop again."
Raesh was fairly sure it was the first time in her life anyone had told her to be quiet, and chose against pointing out that the only reason she'd said anything was because someone had been questioning her for the last hour and a half.
As they approached the entrance to the nettle tunnels, Raesh turned to Shalelu. "Yesterday, we put Sandpoint in great danger because we left it almost defenseless, and with no warning if we were to fail. Today I would ask you to watch Thistletop from here for us, and, if we have obviously failed, to return to Sandpoint and warn them, and to help with their defense."
Shalelu looked into Raesh's eyes. "No goblin will escape Thistletop alive, and that will keep Sandpoint safe." Raesh decided that that had to be good enough. Shalelu vanished into the woods (crit stealth check for a ranger in the woods = woo hoo cool vanishing).
As they approached the nettle door, Halek heard someone casting spells behind it. (Pretty cool -- Halek and Gogmurt heard each other at exactly the same time.) He tore the door open, ignoring the damage to his hands and arms, and exposed a single goblin in robes, standing 30' from the door, a sparrow in his hand. Gogmurt smiled, a mad look in his eye. "I knew you would return. I knew it. You murdered Tangletooth, and now I will have my revenge. Welcome to your death!" Gogmurt released the sparrow, and we went to combat rounds.
And Gogmurt earned the Tsuto Statue of the moment by fumbling his initiative when faced with an entire party of adventurers. (I love my group -- they all called out simultaneously, "We caught him monologuing!")
Raesh barked out orders. "Halek! Get him! Everyone else! The bird!"
Halek raced forward, raged, and even in his armor reached Gogmurt and struck him with his short sword. Gogmurt Did Not Like. Raesh and Shiro fired bows at the bird, but missed wildly. (Shiro did fire in the correct general direction, which was a definite improvement.) Hi introduced the bird to Snapdragon Fireworks. It was VERY loud, but the bird Did Not Like. A puff a burning feathers floated to the matted nettles below.
Gogmurt took the attack of opportunity (a miss) to activate his flame blade, and smirked as the others made their slow way towards him. He would ditch this oversized pink moron in the bushes and come at them from behind...
Halek hit him again. Gogmurt was really beginning to dislike Halek. The others continued their approach. Gogmurt tried to make good his escape into the bushes. Except Halek crit his attack of opportunity and dropped Gogmurt right there. Apparently Raesh's training had paid off.
Raesh stepped forward, hissed, "You have confessed to being the companion of the animal who nearly slew Hi," and slit his throat.
The sun dimmed. Raesh's armor faded. She scowled and rebelliously thought, "What!?!? We were going to kill him anyway! What difference does it make? He didn't suffer!"
In her heart, she felt, rather than heard the reply: She had slain him not out of a sense of justice, but out of a sense of rage. She argued that it was maybe 50/50 justice/rage, and why should it matter? Did they really have to stand there like idiots and judge him when they knew there were other goblins around who might have heard the fireworks?
Again, she felt the answer: The furious rage she had shown was unacceptable, and could not be a part of any justice. Before she executed anyone else, she must take a deep breath, calm her mind, purge it of all rage, and perform a just, dispassionate execution, not a barbaric act of murder.
Raesh spat back, "I do not understand why it is a bad thing to desire the execution of a confirmed murderer," but started working on calming herself, as she had done so many times over her lifetime. Calm the rage. Calm the fury. Be dispassionate. Be stone.
Her breathing calmed, and she signaled the others to search Gogmurt's body. They found two potions, two wands, his armor, and his cloak. Not wanting to spend too much time in one place, Hi and Shiro spent a minute each identifying two of the items. They determined that one of the potions was a potion of Cure Light Wounds, and one of the wands was a wand of Tree Shape. They had Halek carry the gear and the corpse, and carefully approached the hole they had seen the previous day. As they looked down, a large shape, perhaps a whale, surfaced below and bellowed. They dropped Gogmurt's body, and the whale-thing grabbed it and dragged it under. Convenient!
They returned to the dog kennels of the previous day, but nothing was there, not even the dog corpses. Searching the rest of that area, they found Tangletooth's bed, and Gogmurt's bedroom, but found nothing of value. They worked their way along and spotted the bridge to Thistletop, but did not approach it, wanting to finish searching the thistle tunnels before risking the bridge.
They let Shiro take point, sneaking a bit ahead of the others. At one large clearing, Shiro peeked in to see a large number of goblins, perhaps 8 or 9, hiding in the bushes. They had clearly heard the fireworks, but instead of attacking, were cowering in fear. The party formed at the entrance, and still the goblins continued "hiding". Raesh stepped forward, feeling a bit silly. "Goblins! Surrender now and admit your misdeeds, or suffer my wrath!"
The goblins, not understanding a word she said, charged. Unfortunately, the ceiling was high enough for Raesh and Halek to stand to their full heights, they were both in full armor, and Halek could use his earthbreaker. A group of four goblins pounded on Raesh's armor, sounding like a Jamaican steel drum festival. Another three goblins managed to give Halek a few minor cuts, but nothing he would call a wound. Hi snuck a Burning Hands between them and hit 5 of the goblins. Shiro inspired courage. Another round, another steel drum session, and Halek out-and-out won the Silver Tsuto Award for the session by hitting himself for 17 points of damage; more than all of the goblins combined. Hi used Burning Hands again and four goblins dropped. Shiro used the wand of Cure Light Wounds to heal Halek. The goblins finally found the loose flaps in Raesh's cheap ceremonial armor and started hitting her for significant damage. (My only explanation for the sudden spate of 18's, 19's and 20's was that one goblin had lifted an armor flap and the others were stabbing into it.) Raesh dispatched another. Hi tried an Elemental Ray, and the party screamed in fear, but he didn't hit anyone. Halek was obviously confused by hitting himself, and started missing consistently. Fortunately, with Shiro in the back healing and Raesh in the front mopping up, the rest of the goblins were an easy fight.
Raesh sat, meditated for a minute, took a deep breath, and turned to the group. "These goblins are at Thistletop. We know the goblins are planning on destroying Sandpoint. They attacked us as soon as we approached, though I clearly gave them a chance to surrender, even if they did not understand my words. I believe they should die for this transgression. What say you?"
The vote was unanimous, and Raesh calmly and dispassionately beheaded each goblin in turn. The sun brightened a little. Hi noticed that these were Birdcruncher goblins, not Thistletop goblins. He placed one of the Seventooth tokens in the clearing, as if it had been torn off during the fight.
They transported the corpses back to the hole. Below, they finally got a good look at the creature: It was a bunyip, waiting for its next meal. They dropped a dead goblin down and it eagerly snatched the goblin out of the water and started devouring it. Raesh watched. "Aw. Who's a good bunyip?" she deadpanned.
By goblin five or six, the bunyip started looking up at them as if to say, "Are you kidding me?" Shiro and Hi decided it needed a name, and they dubbed him Yippy. They started cutting the goblins into parts to make them easier to digest, but Yippy just didn't seem interested in any more food. They threw the goblins down anyway, figuring Yippy could save them for a rainy day.
They returned to the bridge, and Shiro approached stealthily. On the other side of the bridge, two sentries on goblin dogs waited in front of a large wooden fortress, with two 30' watchtowers. There was no way they could stealth across the bridge without alerting the sentries. After some discussion, they decided to set up an ambush. Halek, Raesh, and Hi hid in an alcove, while Shiro crept forward and created a silent image of Gogmurt shushing the guards and frantically waving them across the bridge. One hopelessly-blown INT roll later, the guards trotted across the bridge and right into the ambush. Shiro greased the ground under the goblin dogs. Halek decided that he wasn't satisfied with the SILVER Tsuto award, and wanted to go for the gold. He fumbled, flung his earthbreaker 6 hexes away, and flung it straight towards the cliff. Unfortunately for him, the cliff ended up being 7 hexes away, and the earthbreaker landed just short of its demise. No gold for him!
The other party members showed extreme competence and quickly dispatched the goblins with hardly a fuss. Hi ignited the grease, and while one goblin dog bravely stood its ground and defended its master, everything else went to pot, and when that dog finally fumbled and fell into the burning grease, the party members had a wee tiny bit of sympathy for it. But they all died, and in to Yippy's pit they went. Yippy pondered filing a formal complaint with management. Once those guards were dealt with, they checked for more guards, and waited a few minutes to see whether the first guards would be missed. Considering how bored the guards had looked, they suspected that the shifts were pretty long, and they would have some time. Shiro tried stepping on the bridge, but it creaked alarmingly, so they tied a rope around Hi and sent him across. He got across with no trouble, untied the rope, and it was Shiro's turn. Shiro asked to do an Acrobatics roll to stay right on the edge of the bridge the whole way, I allowed it, and he succeeded. There was some debate as to whether Raesh or Halek was heavier, but eventually Raesh came across next, and Halek brought up the rear. Halek fumbled his Perception roll (he really did have a good night, didn't he?), decided the bridge must be trapped, and tried to leap across several planks. Unfortunately, he made his Acrobatics roll, and didn't pointlessly fall off the bridge (that would have been a gold Tsuto award as well).
They quickly plastered themselves against the entryway, but found it barred from the inside. Shiro knew that he had the tools to try to raise the bar, but if he slipped while lifting the bar with his tools, the bar would clatter to the ground loudly. The only other entrances were the two watchtowers, neither of which seemed to be manned. (Goblinned?) Raesh said mysteriously, "I can get someone into one of those towers." Halek pointed out that he was quite a good climber, so they crept along the wall to the western tower. Halek stripped off his armor, strapped his earthbreaker to his back, a rope over his shoulder, and climbed the tower. Sort of. Continuing his epic afternoon, he fell. Raesh made a gesture and he stopped, mid-fall, and floated gently up to the tower window. Shiro and Hi's eyebrows raised. They looked at each other, and Shiro said, "I didn't know she could do that!" (Guess who took Drow Nobility as her 3rd-level feat?) Raesh said, "I don't want to talk about it."
In the tower, Halek found two sleeping goblins, reeking of pickles. His pathetic Stealth roll was only outdone by their pathetic Perception rolls, and he hurled the first out the window. This one landed with a thud, woke up, and was quickly beaten to death by Hi, Shiro, and Raesh. While they were busy with the first goblin, the second flew out the window and landed nearby. Unfortunately, in addition to fumbling its Perception roll, it rolled max damage on its fall, and broke its scrawny neck. They tossed the bodies off the cliff, were a bit disappointed to see no more bunyips, then climbed the rope Halek lowered to them. Raesh chose to maintain her dignity, and simply tied a loop in the bottom of the rope, put her foot in, and had Halek haul her up.
Once they were in the tower, they had an excellent view of the 'compound'. It was a poorly-constructed wooden fort, built from wood salvaged from shipwrecks along the coast. The other two goblins who were supposed to be patrolling were engrossed in some kind of a sadistic game with a seagull; one of them was holding a piece of twine connected to the seagull as it tried to fly away, and the other was throwing rocks at it. They looked like they might be entertained in this way for hours, so the party decided to save them for last. They spotted four goblin dogs in a courtyard below, occasionally sniffing and pawing at a door. Raesh recognized the behavior as predator/prey behavior, as if there was something they wanted to chase behind the door, and they decided that they would need to check that door for captives as soon as possible.
Once down the stairs, they started exploring the compound. The first passage led to the dogs, so they took a second passage and found a nailed-shut door. They left that for later as well, and found themselves in the entry hall, decorated with dozens of horse and dog heads, and an enormous pair of black wings (identified by Hi as harpy wings) tacked to the wall with daggers. Shiro tried to Detect Magic but found nothing, so they unbarred the front door and moved on. They next heard goblins loudly orating, and Shiro crit his Performance: Oratory check, so even though he couldn't understand the language, he could tell that someone was putting on a play. This meant that they had time to explore, so they left that room alone as well. They found stairs leading down and definitely didn't want to try those. The next door had the sounds of goblins snoring.
Raesh was torn. Going in and slitting the throats of helpless enemies felt very wrong and unworthy of a paladin, but leaving them alive would jeopardize the mission. What could she do? After a minute or two of thought and discussion, Shiro asked, "Why don't we just go in and knock them out?" Halek stripped down, and he and Shiro sneaked in. They successfully did nonlethal coup de graces to the first two goblins. A third goblin crit his Perception and awoke, but Shiro crit him with a nonlethal blow and dropped him back into lala land. There were no more disturbances, and all 6 goblins were quickly rendered unconscious(er). Halek, clearly experienced with orc prisoners, stripped the goblins naked, bound them, gagged them, tied them in a circle, and moved anything that might help them with the ropes out of the room. Raesh stepped in. Immediately, her armor brightened. She had found a solution that did not involve slaying helpless enemies out of hand.
They moved on to the other watchtower. Halek and Shiro sneaked up the stairs, and Shiro tried to use his lockpicks to determine whether or not the door was locked. Unfortunately, his pick turned over one of the cards the goblins upstairs were playing with. Fortunately, the goblins thought it was other goblins playing a prank on them and ripped open the door, only to be woefully surprised at what they found. Shiro scurried into room. Halek used his height and the length of his earthbreaker to simply smash the visible goblin in the face. The goblin collapsed in a heap. Shiro was in a one-on-one fight with the other goblin, but it coveted the Silver Tsuto award too much. After yelling towards the other tower to sound the alarm, it performed a double fumble, deafening itself with its own dogslicer before embedding its weapon in the wood of the fortress. Shiro, utterly stunned at the goblin's attempt to cut off its own ear, missed. Halek climbed up to assist Shiro, and as soon as he saw his chance, Hi hit the goblin with a Flare. The deaf, blind, weaponless goblin was still determined to do something, and yelled in what it thought was the direction of the other tower. Halek squished it.
As they reconvened at the bottom of the tower, they decided it was time to deal with whatever the performance was. Halek re-armored himself and they moved as stealthily as possible to the door of the room where the performance was taking place. Fortunately, the performance was loud enough that they succeeded, and Shiro could tell that the performance was reaching its climax, and that a bard was involved. Before they opened the door, they discussed tactics: Raesh and Halek would stay close, but Halek's job was to take out the bard. Shiro gulped. Hi and Shiro would provide support from the door, and Raesh would stay close and guard them.
Halek raged and burst through the door. There, in the middle of the room, was a reenactment of the battle of Sandpoint. Four horrific caricatures of the party members fought three goblins in hopeless parody, cowering and fumbling and ducking and running into one another. (GM: I wish I could describe the caricatures to you, but some of the players banned me from doing so. So I figure I did a good job.) In one corner a goblin bard was directing the caricatures, and on the other side Ripnugget the chieftan of Thistletop sat on his throne, his riding gecko Stickfoot at his side.
Halek raced across the room and crushed the bard to pulp in a single blow. Raesh stepped in. "Warchief Ripnugget, for crimes against the town of Sandpoint, I demand that you surrender yourself or be cut down where you stand!"
"You killed my bard! Drop dead!"
A grim smile crossed Raesh's lips. "So be it!"
Those of you who have read my Curse of the Crimson Throne threads know that bards cause me unending pain. And yes. Shiro's player just sat there and smiled at me as I called for Shiro's action.
"I Grease the saddle."
I checked for saving throws. I checked for resistances. I checked for anything that would prevent this hopeless travesty of such a cool boss. Nope. After Raesh hit a commando, it was Ripnugget's turn, and he leaped into the saddle. I was overjoyed when he made his Reflex save and stayed on it. I was less overjoyed when he blew his Riding roll and was stuck clinging for dear life as Stickfoot attacked Raesh. She barely noticed its soft snout bumping against her plate mail.
Then Hi ignited the grease. Because it's what he does. It's what he lives for.
A raging Halek charged forward and crushed one of the commandos. The other commandos had clean misses. To add insult to much personal injury, Shiro stepped forward and successfully stabbed the burning Ripnugget. Ripnugget was enraged, to say the least. Raesh took a stab at him but missed.
And of course, on the second combat round, Ripnugget failed his Reflex save and fell off Stickfoot. He made his Acrobatics roll but couldn't reach Shiro, and stabbed at Raesh instead, missing. Hi stepped in to flank him and took a swipe with his dagger, missing. Shiro smiled at Ripnugget and took a 5' step backwards. Raesh dropped a commando. The remaining commando looked around him. His companions were down. His bard was dead. Stickfoot was burning. And he was flanked by Raesh and Halek. But Ripnugget was staring right at him, so he had to do SOMETHING. He stabbed Raesh. And fumbled. And broke his weapon. His ears drooped and he started to cry. Fortunately, his sadness was short-lived as Halek turned around and crushed him for max damage. Stickfoot continued to burn, unable to make a Reflex save to save his life (literally).
The fight got ugly fast for Ripnugget. He took attacks of opportunity from Raesh and Halek just to get a stab in at Shiro, but hit for minimum damage. Shiro smiled. "Is that all you've got?" On Ripnugget's next swing, Shiro used Windy Escape to force a miss and then stuck his tongue out at him. Soon enough, Raesh crit Ripnugget and dropped him, because it wouldn't be a boss if Raesh didn't crit him to drop him. Stickfoot never did make a save, but the party put out the fire once he was unconscious.
Feeling sorry for the hapless gecko, the party debated what to do with it. Finally they decided to lock it in a room (quite unconscious) and ask Shalelu about the nature of goblin-trained creatures and whether they could be retrained.
After Ripnugget lost his head, Hi grabbed the all the clan talismans he could find, with the intent of disrupting the goblin alliance by placing them carefully in strategic locations.
Raesh stood over Ripnugget. "Beneath me, we have the goblin chieftan who would burn Sandpoint to the ground. For this, I condemn him to death! What say you?" The rest of the party agreed, and Raesh quickly and cleanly beheaded him. The glow of her armor brightened. Hi regretted that they were so far away from Yippy that they couldn't feed Ripnugget to him. They searched Ripnugget's corpse and found three potions, a magical short sword, a crown, and a key ring. Shiro Detected Magic all around, and found the magic items on Ripnugget, plus a strange, fainter aura to the west. They tied up Stickfoot and put him in with the other goblin prisoners and continued their search. To the east, they found another locked room. As Shiro started picking the lock, Halek pointed out the keys he was carrying. Surprisingly, one fit. They found the food storage room, including all manner of animals, plus many human body parts, including heads. Shiro was sure that one of the heads was King Eodred of Korvosa. (Thanks, Shiro!) Raesh recognized two heads as belonging to merchants from Sandpoint. Raesh thought coldly of the goblin prisoners, and knew that for this crime they must die, yet chose to leave them as they were for the moment. The armory had nothing they wanted, though Shiro was certain that several of the dogslicers on the floor were masterwork. (He was really having quite the afternoon.) They searched Ripnugget's room and found his secret key and the holy symbol of Lamashtu, which Raesh destroyed.
After finishing what they could reach at the moment on the first floor, and having no desire to descend to the second floor at that time, they went around the side of the compound and filled the two goblins playing killgull with arrows. And their dogs. They then put Hi on the roof and rained acid on the goblin dogs in the courtyard, dispatching them with ease. Now that all of the goblins and goblin dogs they were aware of were dead, they went to the closed door the dogs had been sniffing. Shiro tried to communicate with whatever was inside, but to no avail. Hi tried. Again no luck. They were about to leave when Raesh gave a listen. It was clearly a horse. They pulled open the door and found a starving, half-mad horse, covered with cuts. Raesh tried to approach it but it shied away. Halek tried and it tried to kick him (and missed). (Fumbled Handle Animal). Raesh went out front and picked some long grass. Halek tried to grab some hay from the goblins' quarters, but Raesh pointed out that it smelled like goblin, and would scare the horse. They returned, and Raesh managed to coax the horse out with the food and kind words. It seemed drawn to her plate mail, and, looking at the riding tack still intact on the horse, it was clear that this had once been a fine warhorse. The name on the bridle was "Shadowmist". They left Shadowmist with some fodder as the party searched the last few rooms beyond the courtyard.
They found the second set of stairs down and the latrine. They were about to move on when they remembered the faint magic aura. Shiro Detected Magic again, and this time got the distinct impression of Rovagug (Yep. Three fumbles in three rooms. And still no Tsuto for Shiro!) Raesh blessed the latrine and poured holy water into it. Hi couldn't believe that it was the latrine that was cursed, and started examining the back panels for pieces of a cursed shipwreck. As soon as he was in the latrine, he recognized that the back panel was simply a door (crit Perception). Within the secret compartment was a chest. Shiro moved in to check the chest for traps and managed his fourth fumble, setting off the trap. A filth-encrusted rusty blade swung out and caught Shiro on the side of the head, criticalling him. He also failed his Fortitude save, contracting tetanus at the same time, so it was good all around. Raesh moved forward and used the iron key to open the chest. They sorted through the piles of gold, silver, copper, and cheap jewelry to find a chain shirt decorated in the symbols of Sarenrae, a masterwork scimitar, and a golden holy symbol of Sarenrae. As Raesh touched it, the aura of magic vanished.
GM House Rule: If your god/goddess is pleased with you, he/she can cause his/her holy symbols to detect as faintly magical.
Making a mediocre Heal check, Raesh was fairly certain that Shiro had been exposed to some nasty disease, but had no notion of its nature. And now she knew that the goblins had murdered a cleric of Sarenrae. She declared their lives forfeit. "Would anyone argue?" No one did. She calmly and deliberately pulled each goblin out of the room, bent him over, and beheaded him with the masterwork scimitar. She claimed it and the holy symbol as her own. They still had no idea what to do with Stickfoot, so they left him in the room, wondering whether he would eat the goblin corpses if they left them together. As for the chest, Halek heard the three most dreaded words of Common: "Halek, carry this."
At one door, Raesh opened it and found a room full of caged rabbits. The nailed-shut room was full of food supplies, including a broken-open barrel of pickles.
Raesh made a decision: They had to get Shadowmist to safety and Shiro must be seen by a healer, so they would leave Thistletop for the day. She asked Shiro to see whether he could figure out a way to reinforce the bridge ("Bards know something of engineering, don't they?"), and he crit, easily finding the secret reinforcing ropes and securing them. As they crossed the bridge, Hi was lagging behind. "Wait, guys! I don't think these rabbits are going to be able to cross the bridge by themselves."
The party turned around. There, on the bridge, was Hi. Carrying a bunny to safety. The entire party "awwwwed", Raesh managed to keep it internal, although her eyes widened. The notion of freeing two dozen rabbits in the goblins' thistle maze delighted the party, and they promptly set to helping Hi free the bunnies. Once the bunnies were safe, they tied a rope to the end of the bridge, then cut its lines, dropping it partially into the chasm. People from their side could easily use the rope to pull the bridge up, but people on the other side would have a hard time pulling their own weight plus the bridge's. It was the best they could do.
They existed the thistle tunnels and met with Shalelu. Raesh said, "The goblin chieftan is dead. We must return to Sandpoint immediately."
Shalelu was overjoyed. They headed back to town in triumph. Halek complained bitterly about the weight of the chest, and kept asking why the horse couldn't carry it, but Raesh pointed out that the horse was sick and injured, and he was strong and healthy, so he should be able to manage a little chest.
The party didn't arrive in Sandpoint until after sunset, but as soon as they entered, a crowd started gathering. Shalelu prompted Raesh. "Say it! Say that Ripnugget the goblin chieftan is dead!" Raesh dutifully called out that the goblin chieftan was dead, and the town exploded in celebration. Rilka grabbed Hi's scarf and dragged him home. Hi waved to the party. "Goodbye! See you in the morning!" Raesh dragged Shiro to the temple, ready to physically carry him to a healer if need be, Halek trailing behind. She asked Halek to hold Shadowmist, but Shadowmist tried another kick (a second fumbled Handle Animal = permanent horse hate.) She approached Father Zantos and told him of the filth-covered blade. Father Zantos made a successful Heal check to diagnose the disease, and led Shiro to his office, as Raesh and Halek headed for the Rusty Dragon.
While Father Zantos wasn't high-enough level to cure disease, he had been provided with a wand of Cure Disease for dire emergencies, and he felt that tetanus was just dire enough to earn a user or two. Fortunately, he succeeded on his first try, and Shiro left the temple relatively quickly.
Raesh led Shadowmist to the Goblin Squash Stables with Halek, although Shadowmist seemed to know the way and did not require much leading. Shiro caught up with them on the way. Raesh peered hard at him, "Are you well?" Shiro nodded, and Raesh grabbed Shiro in a rough but brief hug. Releasing him nearly instantaneously, she resumed leading Shadowmist before anyone could react. Once they were at the stables, Daviren said that the horse looked familiar. Raesh pondered that maybe a knight had lost him, but Daviren assured her that many knights around these parts went broke before they earned their keep, so knight's horses were frequently the first things sold, as mercenaries were eager to get well-trained horses. Shadowmist probably originally belonged to a knight, but ended up in the hands of some two-bit mercenary who ended up getting killed by goblins while guarding a merchant caravan. Daviren agreed to take care of Shadowmist, but said the first week or two would be pretty expensive, considering the shape he was in, and so he wanted 5 silver pieces a night. Raesh gave him 3 gold pieces, and his stable hands set to work grooming and feeding Shadowmist. Shadowmist seemed content. "Good horse." Raesh mused, scratching him under the jaw "We'll get you more goblins to step on shortly." Daviren grinned.
As they entered the Rusty Dragon, Ameiko rushed out of the kitchen. She grabbed Shiro's head, and carefully examined the wound, then nodded. "Next time be more careful!" Raesh indicated that they would once again need baths before dinner. Halek raged against this, but Raesh told him to calm down; people did not come to dinner covered in goblin blood in this particular town. Ameiko looked them all up and down and asked them whether they would need assistance bathing that evening. Raesh declined. Shiro declined, and there might have been a hint of wistful disappointment on Ameiko's face, quickly vanishing as she turned to Halek. Looking thoughtful, Raesh asked Ameiko whether there might be anyone around who would not mind scrubbing Halek's back. Ameiko snorted. "How many 'volunteers' do you need? He may be ugly as sin and polite as Larz Rovanky, but he's a giant of a man built like a stone cathedral. I think I can handle that request."
Raesh responded that *one* volunteer would be sufficient for Halek, and Ameiko called out for Rosette. One of Raesh's eyebrows raised slightly and Shiro visibly paled when a 13-year-old girl responded to the call. Ameiko turned to her: "Rosette, be a dear and take this note over to Kaye's, OK?" Rosette rushed off. Shiro and Raesh did not wait for her return, but headed up to their baths. About 15 minutes later, it was loud and clear that Halek was in his bath, and enjoying himself immensely.
Dinner was far more simple fare than usual; simple roasts and steaks, complimented by steamed vegetables and roast potatoes. It seemed like Ameiko was trying to find something Bethana could manage well. Unfortunately, dinner was punctuated by Halek's bath, it was clear that he did not find it objectionable in the least. Raesh's initial smugness gradually gave way to stoicism, and then some embarrassment with perhaps a hint of alarm. "At least we should not have to argue with him over bathing in the future..." Halek did not come down for dinner, so some food was sent up.
As they ate, Shiro could hear the conversations around him. People were staring at him. "I hear he's a fox-man." "No, a lizard-man." "No, he's a cat-man." "I hear he's a centaur hiding his back half!" After dinner, he asked Ameiko whether he could put on a performance, and she agreed. He took the bard's corner, and announced, "Now, I know that there are a lot of rumors going around that I'm not human. And they're true. I'm a kitsune, and I'd like to perform for you."
With that, he revealed his fox form to the audience. They gasped and applauded, and Ameiko rushed forward and grabbed a furry hug. Shiro spent the evening performing for a very appreciative audience (Perform Check 20). Shiro glanced again at Ameiko, and Halek's bath noises did nothing to ease his troubled thoughts...
Raesh and Shiro finally retired around 11:00 pm, but shortly thereafter Shiro knocked on Raesh's door. She didn't even bother with the scimitar this time. Shiro thanked Raesh for the hug, he knew it was difficult for her so it meant a bunch to him. He returned to his room and spent some time identifying all of the magic items they had retrieved from Thistletop.
All four party members leveled up to 4th level.
The next morning, Raesh got up, performed her morning prayers, and was not surprised not to see Halek. She woke up Shiro and they had breakfast together, but Halek still didn't appear. Around 9:00 am, Hi appeared. Finally, Halek and a red-haired woman staggered down the stairs at around 9:30 am. Halek beamed at the party and bellowed, "Baths GOOD!"
The woman departed, reminding Halek that tonight her name would be "Tatiana". He nodded knowingly, clearly having no idea what was going on.
Minutes after her departure, Nictiana and Nick came screaming into the Rusty Dragon, and without so much as a "Hello" to anyone else, they demanded to see Shiro's tail. Shiro complied. Nictiana squeed, and played (painfully) with Shiro's tail. Hi reminded Nictiana that the tail she was pulling on was still attached to Shiro. After a few minutes, Antonio retrieved them.
Halek looked very seriously at Shiro. “You are a shaman.”
“No, I'm a kitsune.”
“You take the form of a fox, as my shamans take the forms of wolves and bears. You are a trickster shaman. I have not treated you with the respect you deserve. I apologize.”
Shiro didn't know what to make of this turn of events, and responded, “Uh, OK. I'd rather you just keep treating me the way you have been treating me.”
“No. I must be more respectful.”
After that awkward conversation, the party finally got on their way back to Thistletop.
Shalelu met them on the path again, and they had a pleasant walk to the thistle tunnels, now infested with bunnies. They took the same approach, leaving Shalelu to warn and defend the town if something happened to them.
They approached the bridge to pull it up, stopping to peek down at Yippy the bunyip, who was still fat and sassy with a pile of uneaten goblin corpses next to him, and found that their rope had been cut. The bridge lay hanging against the opposite side. The break was clearly not done by a sharp instrument or small creatures gnawing, but more like a large-toothed creature biting through the rope. There were no marks in the ground, as if the creature had flown in, bitten through the rope, and flown away again. The party thought of dragons...
Next scheduled game: Saturday, September 1, 2012
Thanks! I always like to point to the July 27 game as the 'ultimate example' of this group's style: An 8-hour session, they killed all of 2 skeletons and a goblin, and yet they all LOVED the session.
I'm really glad you're still reading -- I was worried that the August 25 post was going to scare off even the most dedicated readers.
But yeah, it was a good time...
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Wow! I wonder if there are gonna be goblin babies in cages?
Entertainingly enough, that was the origin of the drow paladin -- the player was reading that thread, and was intrigued by the idea, "If paladins are required to rescue the babies of evil races because they might be able to be redeemed, what happens when those babies grow up?" After thinking about it for a few days, the player came up with the idea of a drow baby rescued by paladins of Sarenrae, because the player:(a) Felt that paladins of Sarenrae in particular would have to make this choice, and
(b) Loved the dichotomy that for a drow, even simple worship services of her goddess are painful for her.
So the comment is more apropos than you think.
And definitely thank you for making it a comment, rather than a critique; I was worried that after my post from last session, this was going to turn into Yet Another Paladin Thread.
As I've posted before, I warn my players that it's not easy being a paladin in my campaigns, but I give plenty of warning and guidance; I'm not a, "Hah! Fooled you! It wasn't a goblin behind the curtain at all, but a little girl! You're de-paladined!" kind of GM. I'm fairly strict in my interpretations of what each god/goddess would approve or disapprove of, but very communicative so my players never feel blindsided by my opinions.
And don't tempt me on the goblin front -- we'd probably end up with 2-3 full sessions of them traveling Varisia, trying to find Hi's father so the psychotic gnome could raise the little buggers.
Ugh. Now you've got me thinking about it. Darn you! ;-)
Omg I've just started reading the pc backgrounds and I'm already fully immersed in the story. I was asking just few days ago for AP tales amd what I find on the messageboard... I'm going to read everything you wrote soon and for now I just can say that your knowledge about golarion is impressive... If the rest will be as the first part I read this will be my favourite reading for a long long time. Thanks for sharing this...
Omg I've just started reading the pc backgrounds and I'm already fully immersed in the story. I was asking just few days ago for AP tales amd what I find on the messageboard... I'm going to read everything you wrote soon and for now I just can say that your knowledge about golarion is impressive... If the rest will be as the first part I read this will be my favourite reading for a long long time. Thanks for sharing this...
LOL -- thanks!
I'm a former teacher/trainer, and I always like to say, "Teaching is nothing more than stealing and lying," (much to the chagrin of my manager):
- If you see another teacher doing something really cool, steal it!
- Convince your students that you know far more than you actually do.
My "knowledge" of Golarion came from Googling each area I was going to talk about, then making stuff up on the fly. I suspect it's not exactly 'canon', but I'm glad I fleshed it out enough that it feels 'real' to you.
I am fairly pleased with my knowledge of Varisia, but that's because I ran a similar group through Curse of the Crimson Throne, and the notion of them actually sitting around in Korvosa instead of exploring the whole country was completely foreign to them; we spent many a session just wandering Varisia because they felt like it.
Anyway, happy reading! I've been ecstatic with the feedback from my non-players, and my players tell me that they really like to read this thread after I post, even though they get edits and final say via e-mail before I ever post here.
So I'll keep posting throughout the campaign, or until Paizo starts complaining about my disk space usage.
On the other hand, it isn't a paladin, monk, or 'power gamer' thread...
I'm about half way through my reading and until now I have especially appreciated your lucky removing of the two npcs (shaman and cleric), the image found by brodert in the old light and the explanation about the origin of foxglove surname.
Why Hi's father was thinking both goblins and gnomes like to ride dogs? Goblins one are not usual dogs... Probably he was not aware of this.... However fantastic reading. Gratz and thanks again for sharing. Today I hope to finish it.
I just know what one of these days someone's going to Personal Message me with, "I found your thread at work and just spend xx hours reading it! Then my boss caught me and now I'm unemployed! You OWE me!!!"
Nemar (cleric) was doomed from the start -- I needed a reason for the paladin to stay in Sandpoint. Tormal (shaman) suffered from a distinct lack of hit points and an unfortunate roll. I was trying to kill off Nictiana when she ran forward to punch the goblin, but she connected, dropped him, and has become a party favorite. I think if I kill her off now I'll get lynched.
Aldern Foxglove I just blew it. Sometimes (frequently?) I'm annoying. But I have to admit, he's turned into an epically-memorable NPC for the party, even if it's for all the wrong reasons... (I LOVE my drow's player. The player said, "All three of us got cupcakes (Rilka, Ameiko, Aldern), and my cupcake is rotten in the middle!")
And honestly, gnomes are mostly insane in my game. Hi's father is just more insane than most...
We finished Burnt Offerings this session, making it 8 sessions over 6 weeks, not counting next session, which may not involve the next module at all. So even at this breakneck pace (that I don't think we'll be able to maintain indefinitely), that puts us at roughly a year for the entire AP. Not bad at all for the price!
The Silver Tsuto Award for the session goes to none other than Malfeshnekor himself, whose double (and nearly triple) fumble during the surprise round saved the life of our erstwhile sorcerer, and who then managed to get criticalled by BOTH a paladin smiting evil and a raging barbarian! Way to go, Malfeshnekor! Your incompetence rivals Tsuto himself! (Note from Malfeshnekor, "Not my fault... don't got thumbs! :P")
02-Lamasht-4707 (continued from last game)
The party stared at the severed bridge, pondering options. Should they lower Halek to the raging surf below, hoping the barbarian (who had never swum before) could use brute strength to overcome the waves, and any creatures he might encounter? Could they come up with a clever use of Mage Hand that would allow them to loop some rope around the fallen bridge? They discussed it while on a lunch run for the group, out of the GM's hearing, and when they returned, I was informed. "That's it. Halek's going to hammer toss Hi while Raesh casts Feather Fall on him. End of discussion. We just want to see what happens." Shiro's player pointed out that there was only one person at the table with a degree in physics, so if anyone could figure out what happened, he felt that I was best qualified.
A quick trip to Google brought up the world record hammer toss at just under 90 meters for a 16-pound hammer. Even using the inverse square law for Hi's extra weight (triple the weight = 1/9 the distance) got 10 meters, and that was obviously too short, because the record 240-pound caber toss was nearly 20 feet. Feather Fall could easily double the distance. So I ruled that a STR 19 barbarian could get the distance, but, untrained, it was a CR 20 DEX throw to get Hi to go in the right direction. Each missed point would be a missed compass point, and a fumble would be massive entertainment as Halek plowed Hi into the ground and then risked staggering off the cliff himself. The party's response to all of this: "Sounds good! Just roll so we can find out where he ends up!"
Shiro inspired competence, we heard a mysterious drum roll, and Halek let fly. A natural 18 dropped Hi safely and soundly across the chasm, trailing a rope. Rather than pulling up the bridge, the party decided to secure the rope at both ends, put a loop of rope around each party member's waist and the rope, and shimmy across. I pointed out that this made a hasty retreat impossible, and the party responded that this would be true for both them and the remaining denizens of Thistletop. I swear, one good session and your PCs start getting overconfident...
Once again, the party found the front door barred, and once again, Shiro found that the DC 25 Disable Device roll to unbar the door was beyond his ability. Once again, they had Halek try to climb the western tower, and once again, Halek fell. But wait! Shiro had taken Gallant Inspiration, and added 6 to Halek's roll. With a quick word of encouragement as Halek was about to fall, Shiro inspired Halek to success. Halek lowered a rope, and once again pulled the party into the tower. This time, the trap door was locked from the inside, but Shiro quickly disabled the lock, and they were able to proceed downstairs. Hi muttered, "They tried to lock us out. They're scared."
They very carefully searched the upstairs, but found nothing had changed. They put down Stickfoot as mercifully as possible, though one might argue that starving him for 24 hours and then putting him down wasn't the most humane act ever. Shiro stealthed down the southern stairs and peeked around the 180-degree turn...
...only to see a welcoming committee waiting for them. A large (15' long) dining table had been tipped on its side and was facing the stairs. Behind the table stood a human in banded mail and a bugbear, both with composite bows drawn, pulled, and pointed at the stairs. They had obviously heard the door opening, but hadn't spotted Shiro. The bugbear (who they identified as Bruthazmus) had a separate quiver with 4 arrows in it; obviously some kind of special arrow (Shiro crit his Perception). Shiro also noticed the necklace of elf ears around Bruthazmus' neck, and guessed that he wouldn't mind adding some purple ones to his collection. Around the table were four female goblins with shortbows drawn, all in harem garb. Coming down the stairs was a death trap.
GM Side Note: I have both the paper minis for Burnt Offerings and the WizKids Battle Pack of painted plastic minis. I think it's worth having both just to have the harem goblins. They are so vile that all three players picked them up just to stare at them and make disparaging comments, especially the one in pink striking a pose (the harem goblin, not one of my players).
The party convened just around the 180-degree turn to discuss how to proceed. The enemy forces heard them, and the party heard Bruthazmus call out an order, a door open, the patter of little feet, and a door close again. Shiro cast the Ghost Sound of the party's footsteps coming down the stairs, and Raesh enhanced the effect by running up and down the stairs. He then cast a Silent Image of himself and Raesh charging around the corner. I let the enemy make an INT check, since they'd heard spellcasting in the stairwell and weren't completely unfamiliar with mage tricks. A 3. Apparently they were completely unfamiliar with mage tricks. Arrows flew harmlessly through the Silent Image as the party charged forwards. Two of the harem goblins were missing, obviously having run off to summon reinforcements. The other two were to the left, next to the human. Shiro ran in, moving to an open corner on the right, while at the same time maintaining concentration to have the Silent Image of himself move to the left to engage the harem goblins. Hi rushed in and ducked behind the table, taking cover from the remaining bowmen. Raesh moved in, but didn't have enough movement to do more than get there. Halek raged, raced in, and demonstrated the foolishness of hiding from a 6'6" barbarian behind a 3' table, landing a solid blow on the human mercenary. Bruthazmus got an evil gleam in his eye, and shot Raesh with a +1 elf bane arrow. Raesh Did Not Like. The human (Orik) took a swing at Halek but missed. The goblins engaged the Silent Image. The second goblin received the first Tsuto statuette by fumbling and getting, "You provoke an attack of opportunity from all adjacent opponents." She was adjacent to the raging Halek, and was quickly rendered paste. For the second round, Raesh and Bruthazmus closed to melee combat and exchanged vicious blows. Halek missed, but Shiro was feeling particularly evil so he used his second Gallant Inspiration and Halek crushed Orik, two-shotting the poor mercenary by rolling near-max damage both times. Hi tried to Flare Bruthazmus but he resisted. The final goblin was stuck in a corner, unable to escape without provoking an attack of opportunity, so she took a 5' step and stabbed at Halek, missing horribly. Over the next two rounds, Shiro and Halek joined Raesh against Bruthazmus, the goblin took additional 5' steps to get to a door until she could escape, and Hi did something very clever: He spent each round moving to a door and tying a rope to the doorknob, so that by the end of the second round of this, two doors were tied shut.
Bruthazmus was in a bad spot: Flanked by a paladin, a bard, and a raging barbarian, and knowing full well that escape was impossible and surrender was death, he kept hacking away at Raesh until he dropped. The raging Halek ran after the fleeing goblin and there was a loud splat in the next hall. Raesh looked down at Bruthazmus. "You are a goblin hero, well known to have killed many merchants along the Lost Coast road. You proudly wear a necklace of elf ears, and carry arrows designed to slay elves. For that, I sentence you to death!" None of the other party members disagreed (well, Halek was out of the room, but everyone agreed he was probably OK with it), so she beheaded Bruthazmus then and there. "We must return his head and the ears to Shalelu. She will know how to give them proper rites, and she will be glad to have his head." (Raesh’s player points out that the whole party was quite inistent that the ears be given to Shalelu.)
The GM kept the party in combat rounds, so they knew something was coming. Shiro healed Raesh as quickly as possible, but she'd lost a lot of hit points. Halek came out of his rage, and Raesh used Lay on Hands to cure his fatigue. Hi continued to tie ropes to the remaining doors. Two rounds later, the north door rattled, and a human woman spoke in Common, "I told you idiots to open it!" The responses were clearly goblin voices, though the party couldn't understand them. As the party arranged themselves, the human spoke again, "I don't hear fighting any more, I need to go warn the mistress."
Halek cut the rope, Shiro opened the door, and Raesh headed into the hall, seeing a woman in white robes fleeing, followed by the two harem goblins. Once again both hating and loving her heritage, Raesh filled the hall with Darkness. The goblins turned to block her way as the human stumbled along through the dark, trying to cast Light to no avail. Shiro, Hi, and Halek were also unable to see through the darkness, and gathered at the door of the entry room, waiting to hear from Raesh what was going on. Raesh realized that she would not be able to catch up with the vastly-slowed human before she escaped through the doorway at the end of the hall, so she called out, "I'm being blocked by goblins! Everyone get ready.... NOW!!!" She dropped the Darkness.
Halek raced down the hallway and finally got to use his Improved Bull Rush. On a goblin. He and the goblin flew 15' into a wall. The harem goblin Did Not Like. Raesh cut down the other goblin, clearing the way. Shiro filled the room the white-robed woman was going into with Grease, and Hi ignited it. The poor woman fumbled her save, falling to the ground, taking max fire damage, and losing her action. Shiro dismissed the grease and Halek rushed in, intent on crushing her. Unfortunately, he didn't notice the bar going across the room at forehead level, plowed straight into it, and knocked himself out. (A fumble, "Catastrophic Failure, fall unconscious for 1d6 rounds" and a failed Will save.) The party promptly realized that Halek was unconscious and helpless right next to the woman, and she could easily coup de grace him with her next action. (And that would have been a Golden Tsuto Award for Halek -- he seems to *almost* earn one of those every session.) Shiro rushed in and dragged Halek to safety. The woman didn't have time to open the door before Shiro and Hi were upon her, so when Raesh declared, "Surrender and redeem yourself in Sarenrae's eyes, or be cut down," the woman didn't hesitate to surrender. They bound her, gagged her, and dragged her back to the dining hall where the other prisoner (Orik) was. They questioned her, and she admitted that she had been hired by Nualia to perform an archaelogical dig on the site. Nothing she said was a lie, but she was not revealing something, and her hatred for the party was palpable.
With his usual efficiency, Halek stripped Orik, searched him, bound him, and put his gear in a pile. The woman (Lyrie) looked alarmed. Raesh took pity. "Halek. Leave her undergarments on." Halek grunted and complied, stripping her to her underclothes, searching her, and putting her gear in a pile. Once they'd searched all of the bodies, Shiro used Detect Magic on the gear, and was unsurprised to find a large amount of loot: The three remaining magic arrows and a potion from Bruthazmus; magic banded mail, a potion, and an everburning torch from Orik; and a potion, five scrolls, a wand, a cloak, and the spellbook from Lyrie. After some discussion, they carried the prisoners upstairs and put Lyrie (bound and gagged) in Shadowmist's stall, Skivver (her familiar) in one of the rabbit cages, and Orik (bound and gagged) in the pickle room. They returned downstairs and began their explorations.
They first searched in the direction Lyrie had been running; they found her workshop, filled with shelves of books and scrolls and archaeological tools, but the Grease-n-Burn had reduced anything useful in there to ashes. (I was having trouble with the tiny italic font on the map all night, and switched D13 and D15 (and D3 and D5) but it didn't cause significant issues to move the rooms a bit). The next room was clearly a war room where they had planned the assault on Sandpoint, complete with a table map of Sandpoint and a large piece of slate on the wall with various attack plans. At the end of the passage, they found a room full of goblin "art", with crude drawings of goblins killing horses, dogs, and humans. One wall had an enormous mural depicting Thistletop in cross-section, with a 30' tall goblin with snakes for eyes at the heart of it. Once again, they found nothing. (Not a single double-digit roll among four players. Wow.)
They were convinced that they'd missed something (Lyrie was running to warn 'the mistress', so there HAD to be something there, right?), but decided to come back to it if they didn't find anything else. They returned to the dining hall and started checking off the exits one-by-one. The first door (that the harem goblin had run down) let to a natural cave that was being used for storage. Shiro searched, and quickly learned that goblins stored crap. Bits of rope, pieces of wood, rotten flour, barrel staves, bits of metal, and other random junk filled boxes and barrels in the room, but there was nothing of value. A stiff sea breeze was blowing in from the north passage, so Shiro stealthed up the passage. The next cave had a mysteriously-smooth floor, and Shiro spotted a tentamort sitting in an opening in the cliff face. As he watched, the tentamort lashed out with a tentacle, snatched a seagull out of the sky, and started sucking its innards out. He rolled his Knowledge check and nearly crit, giving the rest of the party an accurate and fairly gruesome description of tentamorts: Ambush feeders that used one long sticky tentacle to grab victims, and a second barbed tentacle to inject poison, dissolve their innards, and suck them dry. Larger ones were even known to be telepathic, and intelligent enough to converse with their dinners as they ate them. He had no idea how far the tentacles could reach, so the party decided not to enter the cavern.
The next door out of the dining room led to a neat guest bedroom (the D3/D5 switch I mentioned, but I wasn't going to put in goblin babies anyway, as the party expressed a distinct interest in NOT dealing with it). The next led to a hallway, so they left it for a moment and opened the final southern door. Seeing and smelling the goblin harem room and pondering what had happened there was too much for them; they cast Detect Magic to see whether there was anything worth looting, but otherwise didn't even go in. They saw it, produced a communal "Eeew!", and closed the door. The hallway led to five bedrooms; they identified them as Tsuto's, Bruthazmus', Orik's, Lyrie's, and Nualia's. The only items of interest they found were more of Tsuto's journals, including the entry:
I have him! Podiker told me to pass on that the Sczarni used too much, and a better cleric than Zantos might have determined that the death wasn't natural. I asked around, and one of the glassworks' rabble rousers recently died of 'a mysterious illness'. Father will comply or I'll have Zantos dig up the body. They also found a letter of rejection from the Pathfinder society to Lyrie, citing the curious deaths of two of her competing applicants, and the possibility of reporting the matter to the authorities. The signature was illegible to the party, but was carefully circled and had a skull and crossbones next to it, along with several X's.
They next decided to brave the temple doors. The doors were carved with images of monsters clawing their way out of pregnant women of all races, so they knew they were facing another temple of Lamashtu. As Raesh opened the door, a baleful baying echoed through the halls. Everyone attempted a Will save. The party spotted Fifi and Fido, Yeth hounds of the apocalypse (well, just Yeth hounds), floating in the temple. Raesh stepped in and invoked Smite Evil on Fido. Fifi flew down and bit into Raesh, not only damaging her but tripping her and dropping her to the ground. Fido flew down and flanked her, biting but missing. Halek screamed and fled northwards at full speed. Shiro knew Raesh was in trouble, so ignored the panicked Halek and bull rushed the second door open, breaking the flank but coming face-to-teeth with Fido. Hi tried to Flare Fifi but to no avail. Raesh knew that standing up would cause her to take massive damage from attacks of opportunity, so she smote Fido while still prone, hitting and doing decent damage. She got another bite from Fifi for her troubles, but continued making successful Will saves to avoid being shaken. Fido was irritated with Shiro for messing up his fun and bit him, tripped him, and Shiro failed his Will save, becoming shaken. Halek continued fleeing, his screams fading in the distance. Raesh suggested that Hi do something that did damage, as the party was not doing spectacularly well at the moment. Hi used Elemental Ray on Fifi, hit her, and did some damage. Raesh took the attacks of opportunity to stand up (both missed), struck Fido again, and dropped him. Fifi bit Raesh yet again. Shiro stood up and healed Raesh. Halek continued fleeing, and was now out of hearing range. Hi used Elemental Ray again, and this time Fifi fumbled her save and took massive damage, but stayed standing. Raesh finally hit Fifi, but the blow slid off her DR. Fifi finally missed an attack. Shiro handed Raesh his magic longsword. Raesh promptly criticalled and the fight was over. Raesh quickly put down both dogs, and Shiro spent quite a few rounds healing Raesh. By the time he finished, Halek had sheepishly returned. Raesh was extremely displeased with him, but Shiro said he understood that it wasn't Halek's fault; the dogs had terrified him as well.
By this point, smashing temples of Lamashtu was old hat. They put holy water in the fountains and Halek smashed them. Halek smashed the arms and legs of the statue of Lamashtu (he couldn't reach the head), and after Raesh applied holy water to the altar, Hi used Acid Splash to weaken it enough to be broken. They were exhausted, and ready for some angry priest to come running in to attack them once the altar broke, but the temple remained silent. There was one other exit from the temple, and it led to a short 10' hallway (once again, the engineers in the party laughed at having a 10' hallway with doors at both ends) that led into the prison. There was a collective "D'oh!" from the party as they realized that they could have locked Orik and Lyrie here, but then they realized they didn't have the keys, so Hi used Acid Splash to disable all the locks. Unfortunately, the very next room they searched was the jailor's, where they found the key ring, evoking a second collective "D'oh!" The final hallway led back to the dining hall where they'd started, so they knew they were missing something.
They returned to the tentamort's cave, and Shiro slipped into the one cave they hadn't explored; one that headed north out of the tentamort's room. The tentamort started moving slowly towards him, but as soon as he was out of its sight, it returned to its perch on the cliffside. The cave beyond was unlit, and Shiro had to use one of his sunrods, but he was disappointed in what he found: Six drained goblin corpses, along with countless other bird and small animal corpses, in what was obviously the tentamort's lair. A Detect Magic revealed that one of the goblins had some magical gear, but Shiro was unwilling to risk traversing a room that might be filled with baby tentamorts nesting inside of drained bodies just to get goblin gear. He rejoined the rest of the party. They were at a loss. They decided to re-search every single room on Lyrie's path, taking 20 if necessary, to try to find any kind of secret door. I had them roll in every room, and, in a remarkable display of competence, they crit in every room. Raesh crit in the goblin art room, finding the secret door that led to the stairs down (final reminder that I switched D13 and D15 by accident), and the party Stealthed (laughably) down the stairs. (Paladin with -8 armor check = awesome stealthiness).
The second level of the Thistletop dungeon was obviously canted to the west; this provoked a great deal of discussion as to how the first level must have been carved out AFTER the collapse, while the second (and lower) levels were original. (Worth noting for future APs -- we do have engineers who play this game, so the flat level 1 and canted level 2 does lead to significant, "Exactly HOW did that happen without evidence of major structural damage?" questions. I was under the impression that Level 1 was original, but maybe I'm wrong.)
The party found a partially-ajar stone door showing signs of being forced open with chisels and hammers. Beyond was an entry hall with four horribly-damaged statues. The next hallway (E3) provoked hopeless giggles from my party when I drew it on the map (go ahead. Look at it out-of-context and see what you see), but was so obviously trapped that when Shiro crit his Perception roll to see the trap, there was no astonishment. They heard a woman chanting ahead of them and wanted to hurry, but they didn't want to try to jump over the trap, so they let Shiro try to disarm it. Another high roll and the trap was disarmed, but loudly enough that the chanting stopped and the spellcasting commenced. The party rushed forward, but before they could reach the end of the hall the third Yeth hound (I named this one Opus) stepped into the hallway and bayed. It was Shiro's turn to panic. Shiro ran, Raesh engaged Opus, and Halek stood helplessly behind her, trapped by the narrowness of the hall. Raesh cut Opus deeply, and Hi hit him with an Elemental Ray. Nualia finally appeared, an evil grin on her face, and cast Shatter on Raesh's sword. Unfortunately, Raesh was still wielding the +1 longsword Shiro had loaned her, and the spell failed. Raesh called out, "Nualia! I know what you have been through! I know what they tried to make you! I have been through it myself! You do not have to follow this path!"
Nualia's response was as brief as it was rude: "Die, whore!"
Another round, another miss by Opus, and Raesh had the party back into the entry hall to give themselves more room. Opus missed his attack of opportunity as well, and charged forward. Unfortunately for him, being hit by Raesh, Hi, and Halek was too much for him, escpecially since Halek yet again rolled a 10 on 2d6, and he dropped. Nualia charged forward and cut into Halek, doing 16 points. Raesh stared into Nualia's eyes and saw no sanity left there. She and a raging Halek both hit, and Nualia quickly realized she could not survive this fight. She tried to cast Obscuring Mist, but both attacks of opportunity hit her as well, and with that, Nualia dropped. Shiro finally returned a couple of rounds later, and gave Halek a sheepish look. Halek responded, "Those dogs are scary!" Shiro replied, "I know."
Raesh knelt and cradled Nualia's head in her lap. There, but for Sarenrae's grace, was she. She sighed and brushed a lock of white hair (nearly matching her own) from Nualia's preternaturally beautiful face. "Ah, Nualia, I wish I could help you. I wish I knew of a way to remove this taint that has taken your mind from you, and return you to who you once were. But I do not, and I cannot do anything but give you the gift of a merciful death, and commit your soul to Sarenrae's care." With that, Raesh lovingly slit Nualia's throat. Observant party members might have seen a glistening in Raesh's eyes that might be mistaken for tears. Observant players might have noticed other players (and a certain GM) tearing up a little. A moving moment, and an epic speech by the paladin. (I wish I could have recorded it verbatim. It was awesome!)
The party observed a moment of silence in memory of the Nualia that had once been, and moved on.
Raesh turned to Halek and apologized to him for being less-than-understanding about the fear. She said that not everyone was meant to be a paladin, and to criticize him for something that he couldn’t control was unworthy of her. Halek accepted the apology surprisingly gracefully for a barbarian.
Nualia's research room was a mess. A bubbling fountain of frothy blue water was the centerpiece, but all around were pickled monsters in jars, books, scrolls, and other items holy to Lamashtu. Much smashing and burning ensued, and the room began to reek of burning pickles. The party could not figure out how to disable the fountain, so they left it, figuring they would ask Brodert once they returned to Sandpoint. Continuing their search of the level, they found a hallway that ended in a pillar of golden coins. None of the party members were silly enough to come within 10' of the pillar. The next door led to a crypt, and, though Shiro didn't *quite* see anything in the room, Raesh decided to use her Detect Evil on each sarcophagus in turn, and a fumbled 'location' roll put one of the shadows hiding in one of the sarcophagi, so she spotted it. The party did not consider themselves ready to confront even a single shadow, so they decided to leave the shadow(s) alone and ask Father Zantus how to deal with them.
Finding nothing else on the second level, the party returned to the bridge, pulled it up, strung it across their existing rope, and re-fastened it securely. (Hi crit his roll, so there wasn't much difficulty.) They brought out their prisoners and Bruthazmus' head, and sent up a signal for Shalelu (Snapdragon Fireworks). A few minutes later, Shalelu appeared across the bridge. When she saw Bruthazmus' head, she smiled. The party realized that it was the first time they'd seen her smile.
Raesh spoke, "Nualia is dead. We know that Bruthazmus was your enemy, and we present you with his head."
Shalelu's grin broadened as she came across the bridge and cheerfully kicked his head off the cliff. "Oops."
Hi pulled out the ears. Shalelu's smile vanished. Hi spoke, "He was carrying these, and we do not know the way of your people. We thought it would be best to present these to you to give the proper rites."
Shalelu thanked the party, carefully wrapped the ears in cloth, and placed them in her pack. They marched the prisoners across the bridge when suddenly Raesh realized they were forgetting something. They rushed back inside (while Shalelu watched the prisoners), grabbed the harem goblins, and went to Yippy's hole. Yippy was indeed running low on fresh goblins, so they called out, "Yippy! Yippy!" Yippy's head appeared and he barked at them. They tossed the harem goblins down. Yippy happily tucked in. Raesh's lip quirked a little and she murmured, "Who's a good bunyip?"
They healed Orik enough so he could walk, and he frantically nodded and gestured at his gag as if he wanted to say something. After a few moments' debate, they pulled down his gag. "I can give you information! I know where Nualia is! I know the layout of the place! I can help you! Let's make a deal!"
The party informed Orik that they had already slain Nualia and searched the dungeon, so there was nothing he had to offer. He straightened his shoulders, nodded, and indicated they could re-gag him. The trip back to Sandpoint was singularly uneventful, but as they arrived in the early evening darkness, they saw several children stand up and run off in different directions. Returning to town in secret seemed impossible. Shalelu took her leave, asking, "Are we going back tomorrow?" The party nodded assent. A few moments later Father Zantus approached. Raesh spoke, "Nualia is dead. Thistletop is fallen."
A cheer went up from the small gathering crowd, but Father Zantus asked, "Is that it, then? Is Sandpoint safe?"
"We do not know. There was more to Thistletop than we knew. We must explore it more tomorrow. But first I would speak with you. Let us get our prisoners safely stored and then I would like to speak with you."
Rilka appeared and dragged Hi off by the scarf. Convenient, that. The rest of the party escorted the prisoners to Town Hall, but it was already after dark, and they were informed that the mayor had retired to her home for the evening, They took the prisoners to the armory, where two of the night guard agreed to keep the prisoners in cells until morning. They warned the guards that the woman was a mage, and shouldn't be allowed to remove her gag. Raesh objected to taking any of the mercenary's gear as of yet, because he hadn't been convicted of anything. Hi's arguments that they were 'spoils of war' and any mercenary would expect to lose his gear if he were on the losing side fell on deaf ears, and Orik's equipment, as well as Lyrie's non-magical equipment, was left in the armory under the care of the night guards.
Once the prisoners were locked up, Halek raced off towards the White Deer. Raesh and Shiro proceeded at a more leisurely pace towards the cathedral. By the time they arrived, Halek was already walking back towards the Rusty Dragon, sucking on one of those goatskin things. Walking was already too strong of a term; weaving and staggering was more accurate. They decided that Halek was a big boy, and could probably make it to the Rusty Dragon without help, so they visited Father Zantos. First, Shiro recited in detail the events leading to Nualia's death, and the desecration of the temple of Lamashtu. Father Zantus took careful notes, and told Raesh and Shiro that he would be sending a report to Magnimar in the morning. They asked him whether he knew anything about the bubbling blue fountain, but he was at a loss. Similarly, he had never encountered anything about shadows, but he promised to research his library that evening and find out what he could about the creatures. He was very concerned that the shadows would follow them back to Sandpoint, but Raesh reassured him that that wasn't likely. Shiro and Raesh returned to the Rusty Dragon, first stopping at the Goblin Squash stables. Raesh slowly introduced Shadowmist to Shiro, and eventually convinced him to take an apple from Shiro's hand. Shiro hoped that Shadowmist would recognize him in the future, but wasn't quite sure.
When they got to the Rusty Dragon, they found that a bit of a crowd (5-6 people) had gathered outside. They worked their way through the crowd, only to find that Halek hadn't quite made it to his room. He was sprawled lengthwise in the dining room, face down, one arm still wrapped around his precious goatskin. Some wag had put a tablecloth over him and set place settings and chairs, so he remotely resembled a lumpy snoring table for gnome children. Ameiko rushed out of the kitchen and checked Shiro over. "You were more careful this time," she smiled.
"Getting hurt hurts," was Shiro's reply.
Dinner was a savory eel-and-fish pie, washed down with a light but pleasant ale. Bethana took full credit for the meal, but Ameiko quietly admitted to Raesh and Shiro that she had made the crust. And the gravy. And the vegetables. And the fish. But Bethana had indeed boiled the eel, and it was perfectly edible. After dinner, Ameiko announced, "OK, joke's over," and Ameiko, Raesh, Shiro, and several volunteers dragged Halek up to his room. Bethana insisted that they leave him on the floor. "No, it's a barbarian custom: Hard floor, soft head. They believe sleeping on hard surfaces cures hangovers." Not being able to tell whether or not Bethana was joking, they left him on the floor with his goatskin and a blanket. Halek snored in appreciation.
It had been a long and somewhat depressing (though victorious) day. Raesh and Shiro retired to their respective bedrooms, took hot baths, and retired early.
Raesh performed her morning rituals in silence. To her amazement, Shiro woke up early and joined her. After a few minutes of watching him flail around, she corrected his stance, his posture, his grip, and his attack. They decided that they had many orders of business that day, so once Raesh's prayers and Shiro's exercise were complete, they went inside for breakfast. Hi joined them a short while later. They didn't bother waiting for Halek. They first went to visit Mayor Deverin. She had no advice on the prisoners, other than to wait for Sheriff Hemlock so he could send descriptions of them to Magnimar to see whether they were wanted for anything. Next they went to Father Zantus. He had learned nothing new about shadows, so they tried The Curious Goblin. Again, books on the undead weren't especially popular, but the one book that was there was extremely useful. Shiro inspired competence, and Raesh scored a 26 on her Knowledge: Religion, learning much about incorporeal creatures in general, and shadows in particular. She got three questions: What hurts them? What are their attacks? And what is their expected behavior? When she learned that they were most likely guardians of the crypt, she decided that they didn’t need to go and deal with them immediately, especially since it would take magic weapons to hurt them at all, a luxury the party sorely lacked. They went searching for Brodert. He wasn't in his hut nor the lighthouse, so had to be in the catacombs. They went down and found him at the statue of Alaznist. He'd removed the ranseur from her grip and was eagerly polishing it. As soon as he saw them, he got very excited (sorry, couldn't resist) and asked them whether they'd learned anything new. Shiro told him that they had found Thassilonian ruins on Thistletop that dwarfed these measly caves, and Brodert insisted on heading off immediately. Raesh objected, and Hi explained that the ruins weren't safe yet, and they'd take him as soon as they were. Brodert was content with that, and went back to polishing his spear. They asked him about the blue fountain, but he had no idea what it could possibly be, nor what could be done about it.
Hi went to check on the explosives at the end of the cave. To his dismay, someone had placed plants on the barrel, and put an everburning torch exactly 10' away on the ground. 20' later was another plant, then 20' later another torch. Then 30' to a plant, and 30' to a torch. Hi sighed. Brodert and his experiments were going to get him killed one of these days!
Raesh went to Savah's armory to special-order herself a composite bow and +1 shield. Shiro explored Sandpoint. Halek finally staggered along, seeming only slightly the worse for wear. Hi went to have lunch with Rilka. As Raesh was shopping, Shalelu approached. "I thought we were going to Thistletop today."
Raesh apologized, and pointed out that they had found too many things to do in town, and perhaps the next day would be better for Thistletop. Shalelu nodded and went back to the woods. While he was wandering, Shiro heard many disturbing rumors:
"I can't believe that arrogant adventurer is eating her out of house and home."
"She makes him meat! Every day! Never makes a peep about it, poor dear! She says she loves him too much to make him unhappy, but the poor dear is starving herself to feed an adventurer! He's probably swimming in gold, and can't be bothered to think of the little people!"
"Oh, he probably doesn't think a thing of it. Adventurers probably eat meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so he just doesn't know how much it costs."
"He's a gnome! He's probably got a temper! I mean, he's a dashing young lad; I'd grab him if I could! And he does take her to the Rusty Dragon every couple of days; I've eaten there, and it's heavenly!"
"Oh, but he gave her that glorious scarf! I bet you've never owned such a fine thing in your life!"
"Too true! But you can't eat scarves!"
Shiro rushed off to find Hi. He subtly suggested that perhaps a washerwoman in a small town might not make a lot of money, and perhaps Hi should consider chipping in. Hi was utterly horrified. He raced to Rilka, and told her, "We're going shopping. Now." He handed her two platinum pieces and said, "Buy what you need, and keep the change."
"But, but, Hi! The change alone is more than I make in two months! You can't do that!"
"You're the most important thing to me in this town. You're the reason I protect it. Don't let money be a problem for you. Ever."
Rilka hugged Hi and squeezed 'til his eyes bugged out.
Halek appeared long enough to have breakfast and ask for a bath.
Raesh spent the afternoon training the Varisians. She was a bit surprised that Madame Mvashti greeted her in halting common: “Thank... you... for... helping... my... children.” Shiro joined her. Nictiana made Raesh promise that she would be back the next day. Raesh had Antonio teach her a sentence in Varisian. When they arrived at the Rusty Dragon, Halek was already enjoying his second bath of the day. This time, he was quite obviously (and loudly) not alone. Hi took Rilka to the Rusty Dragon for dinner, and afterwards Hi, Rilka, Shiro, and Ameiko went to the evening's play; a horrifyingly mushy romance, over-acted and under-written, but fun was had by all. Raesh had another bath (alone). Hi returned to Rilka's. Alone with Ameiko, Shiro decided to take the plunge. He leaned down and kissed her. She returned the kiss with enthusiasm. They smiled at each other. "Sleep well, my kitsune friend," she said, and they went to their separate bedrooms.
Everyone slept well that night, so they were ready to leave at an unheard-of hour; perhaps 9:00 am or so. As they were heading out, Father Zantus intercepted them. He informed them that he had received a Sending, and Sheriff Hemlock finally had the troops mustered, and should be back in 2-3 days. They left town, met Shalelu, and proceeded to Thistletop. As usual, Shalelu stood guard as they searched the lower floor again. They were extremely thorough, Sifting the room the shadows were in, pinning the trapdoor of the trap open and checking the pit below, and otherwise taking 20 in every room, but they found nothing. They finally approached the pillar of coins. Shiro's Spellcraft was enough to tell him that it was a Permanent Image, but his attempts to copy the runes on the coins' edges resulted in nothing but a headache for him (failed Will save). Raesh tried as well, but she also got a headache (failed Will save). However, they did finally spot the slots to either side of the column. They decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and Raesh had promised to train Nictiana, so they returned to Sandpoint. Raesh trained the Varisians. She tried her Varisian on Madame Mvashti, and actually got a smile out of her! “You... are... not so bad.” Hi spent the afternoon helping Rilka with her work, washing and drying and doing whatever he could to make her life easier. Shiro went to the Rusty Dragon, took on his natural form, and started performing. Word spread quickly, and soon the tavern was overcrowded. Ameiko sent Rosette to buy more ingredients, and dinner plans changed from anything elaborate to simple roasts, steaks, and soups. Halek sat quietly at a table, drinking small beer and watching Shiro. Raesh arrived and sat watching Shiro with a glass of wine. Ameiko slipped a plate of fresh-made sushi and warm sake in front of Shiro so he could eat while he performed. Within a few minutes, three more drinks appeared on her table, "Compliments of that man over there," Bethana would say, but Raesh did not acknowledge them. One sent her a glass of ale, another a small glass of something reeking of alcohol, and a third a glass of something milky, white, and foul-smelling. Eventually Halek took an interest. "Are you going to drink those?" Raesh responded that she wasn't going to drink them, so he drank the ale. He timidly sipped the stronger alcohol, made a face, and put it back down. Finally he tried the milky stuff. He spat it on the floor and bellowed, "Who bought this for her!?!?! I will crush you!!!"
Raesh glanced around and saw a human out-of-town farmer visibly pale and turn away. She did not point him out to Halek. She did have Bethana pass on her thanks for the drinks, even though she would not drink them.
Hi arrived with Rilka, and Rilka and Bethana rushed together, squeed, and started gossiping wildly. Was it any wonder the town knew everyone's secrets when these two couldn't gossip at under 100 decibels? Rilka was obviously in MUCH better spirits. Shiro stopped playing for the evening, and Ameiko rewarded him with a platter of homemade sashimi. Once again, Halek retired early. Shiro tasted the white drink. It tasted like vodka mixed with cheddar cheese. He did not choose to drink any more. Ameiko slipped Raesh another bowl of truffles. Hi and Rilka retired to Hi's room for a bath. Shiro turned to Ameiko. "You know, I'm thinking of taking a bath tonight, and I think tonight I will need some help scrubbing my back." Ameiko smiled and escorted him upstairs. Raesh bid goodnight to Bethana and went to bed herself.
Once again, the party got off to an early start, arriving at Thistletop mid-morning with Shalelu. They went to the golden pillar, balanced a gold coin in each slot, and Shiro used Mage Hand to push in the coins one at a time. The pillar sunk into the floor, revealing a room beyond. The dust on the floor indicated that the room hadn't been visited in years, if not centuries or even millennia. There were three double door exits from the ancient room. They proceeded cautiously. Shiro listened at the first door, detected traps, opened it, and peered inside. There was a faint repeating image on a throne (I described it as "a black-and-white projector on cellophane"), speaking in a language they could not understand. Shiro used Detect Magic, but other than the image, detected none. The second door was locked and had a strange seven-pointed indentation, as if there were a sihedral key. At the third room, Shiro once again listened, checked for traps, and opened the door. It was an ancient surgical room. Instead of going in, Shiro used Sift, crit, and found the key he was looking for. Rather than going in, he used Mage Hand to pull the key out of the room. They proceeded to the locked door and inserted the key. At this point Malfeshnekor knew that they'd found the key and were coming in, and started taking actions. He used Invisibility Sphere and moved into an ambush point behind the door. I figured I could start adding the other buffs as the party spent time trying to Sift and Detect Magic on the room. Unfortunately, there was fire in the room, and that made Hi throw caution to the wind, so Malfeshnekor didn't get any more actions before we entered combat.
Hi, juicy little tidbit, walked alone and unprotected into the room. It was WAAAAY too much for Malfeshnekor, and as I rolled, I commented, "I can't believe that on the one room where it was incredibly important, you didn't do any of your usual Detect Magics or checks!" I rolled a 1. Not a problem; Malfeshnekor couldn't miss again unless I rolled another 1. A second 1. A third 1. And a 3. If it had been any other character, Malfeshnekor would be looking at a triple fumble. As it was, he tore a muscle (-1 damage per hit) and gave Hi an opportunity to trip him. Watching the gnome try to trip Malfeshnekor was entertaining, but had little other effect. Malfeshnekor made up for his fumble by going first the next round, and hit Hi all three times, including a critical. 35 points later, Hi was at -7 HP and looking like very dead meat. Raesh took the attack of opportunity to drag Hi out of the room (a miss), and Shiro healed Hi. Halek stood his ground, blocking the doorway to prevent Malfeshnekor from pursuing Raesh down the hall. Malfeshnekor took the bait and tore into Halek... sort of. A single bite for minimum damage wasn't enough to make Halek blink twice. Raesh stepped forward, invoked Smite Evil, and rolled a critical threat. Fortunately, she didn't confirm, but Shiro used Gallant Inspiration. A quick discussion and check of the rulebook, and I allowed it, but pointed out that enemies would be able to do it in the future. So a confirmed crit on a first-round Smite Evil on an evil outsider dropped 30 of his hit points right off the bat. Halek hit him for near-max damage, and even with a DR of 10 he lost another 15 hit points. It was time to regroup. He tried to use Invisibility Sphere; I figured he had plenty more hit points to survive the attacks of opportunity and to something nasty. Raesh hit again for another 12 points. This was going to be close. Then Halek rolled a dead-up 20. I winced. Well, his AC was high enough that it was unlikely Halek would confirm, right? A 15. Malfeshnekor was on the receiving end of a x3 crit from a raging barbarian. 73 points later (only 63 with damage resistance!) the side of his skull was caved in, and portions of his brain hit the far wall. Raesh moved in to cut out his heart to be sure, and he slowly dissolved. Waiting 10,000 years to get an attack apparently made him pretty rusty. We immediately voted unanimously to give him the Silver Tsuto Award.
Once Malfeshnekor was defeated, they set about searching the room. The magic from the eternal firepit and candles was disruptive to the scan, so Shiro moved around the room, finally deciding that the only magic areas were the fire pit, the candles, and one of the two looted alcoves in the back. Fumbling his Spellcraft check, he decided that the alcove must be some sort of a teleportation device, so he stepped in and started calling out destinations. He didn’t teleport. Raesh searched the alcove, found a hidden drawer, and within found a silver coffer. After taking thorough precautions, they opened the coffer and round a ring, which they eventually identified as a Ring of Force +2. The party voted to give the ring to Raesh, as, as Shiro put it, he used the wand of Cure Light Wounds 22 times during this session, and 17 of those were for Raesh.
Hi decided that, being fire resistant (10 points), he would search the embers. Unfortunately, his clothes weren’t fireproof. Even more unfortunately, this did not dissuade him. Shiro and Raesh politely turned their back as their sorcerer stripped down and skipped through, er, searched the coals. Halek kept watch. It wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before, only smaller. Hi found nothing, so he put his clothes back on.
The party returned victorious to Sandpoint. Hi went to Rilka’s to help her some more. Raesh and Shiro went straight to the Varisians. Shortly thereafter, Halek showed up, said something to Madame Mvashti in Shoanti, and they went upstairs. Shiro commented, "Boy, he really does like helping old people, doesn't he?"
When he came down, Halek was very quiet and introspective.
That evening, he ate his meal quietly, with no ale, and went up to bed early and alone. Raesh and Shiro wondered what had happened upstairs with Madame Mvashti. Raesh decided to see a play. It turned out that it was the play about Minkai, so Shiro and Ameiko eagerly agreed to come along. Once again, Shiro and Ameiko tittered; the play was beautifully written and acted, but the props were completely wrong. Shiro explained things as they arose to Raesh so she wouldn't feel left out. As they returned to the Rusty Dragon, Shiro started speaking to Ameiko in Minkai, "You know, we should really stop laughing at the players and help them sort things out."
Ameiko responded in Minkai, "You're right. But it's so fun!"
As they entered the Rusty Dragon, Raesh snapped, "Thank you for the play," and headed towards her room. Ameiko was distressed, "Oh, Raesh! I'm sorry! We didn't mean to exclude you!"
"There is no need to apologize." Raesh went to her room. The mood was broken.
Shiro looked at Ameiko sadly. She sighed. "May I ask you a personal question before you go to bed?"
"How do kitsune kiss?"
"I'll show you."
He reverted to his kitsune form, gave her a quick lick on the cheek, and she smiled a bit, but said, "Ah. I'm afraid I prefer the human style."
He returned to his human form and they kissed each other goodnight. Ameiko went to her room, while Shiro went to Raesh's room and knocked on her door.
As always, she answered wielding a scimitar. He hugged her. "I'm sorry if I upset you!" and scurried back to his room.
All party members went to 5th level
*** END OF SESSION***
Next Scheduled Game: Unknown, but I'm hoping for Monday the 9th to do a full nothing-but-roleplay session.
Addendum from last post:
I forgot to mention that they found Nualia's journal in her research room and learned more of her childhood, her betrayal by her lover Delek Viskanta, her Lamashtu-tainted pregnancy, and her descent into madness. They had heard most of the story before (even if I didn't manage to type it up somewhere up there), but learned new things:
(a) Nualia knew how to deactivate a runewell.
(b) There is a mysterious group in Magnimar called the Skinsaw Cult that helped Nualia murder Delek, and gave her the Sihedron Medallion they found her carrying.
I also didn't mention her loot: The Sihedron Medallion (+1 to saves, False Life once per day, and Gentle Repose if you happened to die while wearing it), a +1 bastard sword, and a +1 breastplate.
Yes, according to the AP, goblins call humans "longshanks", so I used it liberally. Hope I didn't misuse it somewhere.
It's so much fun reading your gaming updates. And poor, poor Malfeshnekor! I remember our original group's fight with him. Near TPK. My fiance doesn't remember much of the AP but he remembers that guy.
It's so much fun reading your gaming updates. And poor, poor Malfeshnekor! I remember our original group's fight with him. Near TPK. My fiance doesn't remember much of the AP but he remembers that guy.
Oh, as I posted on Gluttony's "What did you do right/wrong?" thread, I thought that Blink was so over-the-top as to be a TP Killer. How I wish he'd had it on, if only to make him SEEM scarier!
And the naked gnome prancing in his coals did nothing to mitigate things...
EDIT: On the other hand, two sessions ago we had the goblin dog near-TPK (saved by a single (public) die roll when Shiro healed Raesh enough to wake her up), and this session both Halek and Hi ended up a single enemy action away from death, so I don't feel like I'm pulling my punches TOO much. The party's finally got the cash and the wherewithal to resurrect a fallen comrade, so I'm getting less worried about some of the nastiness that's coming in Module 2.
Yeah, I do have a contingency plan for what happens when Xanesha does her near-inevitable TPK, but there's no way to resurrect a party post-TPK without major cheese, so I'm really hoping they'll take some of my hints and not go in 'guns blazing'. On the other hand, they've been lucky with the bosses so far; it's the groups of lesser troops that are giving them fits. Give us a month or two -- I'm hoping to have them face her right around Halloween so the decorations will match!
We just have a group where permanent deaths are very rare (one in the last 3 years in our RQ campaign, with something like 10-15 resurrections)), so killing the party and leaving them all dead would almost certainly end the campaign. And I'm really loving the campaign, so I don't want it to end. (Gamers: Dorkness Rising).
TPKs can be rough,but there can be ways to soften the blow. I remember one Dm in a Shackled City game just handwaving creation process"Don't worry about backstory for now. Just get the PCs up and running." So perhaps having a new team come in soon after the last of the party goes down(Sent in too late as back up by someone that first group had made friend with.)
The reinforcements could mop up or drive off the monster sif possible, giving people the option of raising the first group or ding replacements.
TPKs can be rough,but there can be ways to soften the blow. I remember one Dm in a Shackled City game just handwaving creation process"Don't worry about backstory for now. Just get the PCs up and running." So perhaps having a new team come in soon after the last of the party goes down(Sent in too late as back up by someone that first group had made friend with.)The reinforcements could mop up or drive off the monster sif possible, giving people the option of raising the first group or ding replacements.
It's more that this particular group is extremely invested in their characters. Post-TPK, they would be more likely to say, "Well, that was fun, but depressing. What else do you have?" And I have a full backlog of APs to choose from (Carrion Crown, Jade Regent, Shattered Star, plus Slumbering Tsar) that they would have fun coming up with characters for. So while rolling up a "rescue party" has worked in the past, it's more coming up with a reasonable reason the rescue party would bother resurrecting the original party; otherwise the group would probably rather just move to a different AP.
Fortunately, it's all theoretical at the moment. Just a GM worrying aloud. I'm not the quiet sort. ;-)
Most of the time, you can get away with a TPK by having the villain capture the unconscious survivors and take them prisoner to gloat. Then you get the fun of having the characters come up with a way to escape from the bad guy's clutches, retrieve the bodies of their fallen comrades, and regroup. Incredibly clicheed, but I suspect this group wouldn't mind running through something like that. Trouble is, while many of the later BBEGs would love doing this out of sheer sadism, my take on Xanesha is that she's too careful to be that stupid, and would just kill them all.
Ah, well, I'm probably worrying about nothing. She'll perform an epic quadruple fumble and impale herself on a random set of knitting needles someone left lying around...
I read the first couple posts, but then my ADD kicked in. I scrolled down only to realize this thread never ends. Looking back in horror, I feel as though I've found my undoing.
Really cool stuff. A lot of work put into it. I'd love to read it all... but, I don't think I have it in me.
I think I lost SAN :>