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Delay due to an emotional breakdown on the part of one of the players, as well as reduced play time now that summer's over and many of us have university to attend. Here's the next update:
Part 12: Scarecrows
The distraught guard that met the heroes at Sandpoint’s gate explained that Hemlock had left while they were away, the sheriff having taken the clues found at the sawmill and the direction from which the attack there had come, namely from the river to the west, as an indication that his culprit was also to the west.
Hemlock had gone just slightly too far to follow and bring back when the farmer Maester Grump, lone survivor of a massive attack to the south had rushed into town begging for help. The guard didn’t know what to do, with Helock and the heroes gone, the town couldn’t afford to send out any more of the guards, so when the heroes returned, they were immediately begged to make haste to the scene of the latest attack, the Hambley Farm.
Lulu was slightly disgruntled about not having time to rest and regain her spent magic, and Atali wanted to stay long enough to find a gift from Shayliss that had somehow disappeared from her room. The gift was just a worthless trinket, but it was still of sentimental value after all. In the end though, they all listened to Grump’s story and agreed to go, informing the guard on duty of their suspicion of Foxglove, and their intentions to proceed to Foxglove manor after dealing with any trouble at the farm, without returning to Sandpoint in the time between the two.
The farm was far, so the group purchased a scroll for Lulu to study that would conjure mounts for them, as well as multiple scrolls containing a spell capable of curing ghoul fever that had not yet taken full effect, one of which they used on poor Grayst Sevilla, preventing him from succumbing to the affliction (though the man remained regrettably insane, which the group hoped they would be able to fix one day in the future, as their abilities seemed to be improving with great speed compared to those of the people around them). Of course they didn’t have time for Lulu to study the scroll and ready the new spells immediately, so they hustled the distance to the Hambley farm after the purchase, arriving just slightly out of breath as the sun was setting.
The heroes knew the stories of ‘walking scarecrows’ from what they’d heard from Grump, and from farms on the way, so when they approached from the north and saw their first scarecrow they were understandably cautious. The thing turned out to be a real scarecrow in fact, and so the group proceeded, taking care to let Uriel examine each batch of scarecrows from afar before moving in to inspect them directly. Many of these scarecrows were indeed ghouls left to hang in the fields, which the group meticulously sought out and destroyed, but two were different. The heroes found the still-living Lettie Guffmin in the south half of the field after their first few ghoul encounters, and cured her of the ghoul fever that had nearly killed her. Lettie weakly warned them of the ghouls in the farm’s barn, to which the group asked directions. Lettie was initially horrified that they intended to go directly to the place she’d warned them of, and even more so that they asked her to accompany them. She was quickly convinced however, that the safest place in the fields at night was at the side of her rescuers, and so she followed behind them, Lulu and Zaru staying close by her side to reassure her while Uriel and Atali took the lead.
When the group arrived at the barn, they found it empty. The farmhouse was another story however, and a battle against a trio of ghouls and the ghast leader of the farm was fought and won by the heroes, who came out with only a few wounds (though they’d used most of their healing magic in the process of the fight). In the kitchen, they discovered Mr. Hambley himself, who’d been sacrificed in the same way as Banny Harker from the mill. Pinned to Hambley’s corpse was a note like the one they’d found at the mill, once again addressed to Atali:
“Take the fever into you my love-it shall be but the first of my gifts to you.”
Ironically, as the group discovered the next day after finishing the rest of the farm’s ghouls, Atali was one of the only two members of the group (along with Zaru) to not contract ghoul fever that night! Fortunately Lulu had studied her new scrolls well, and the next morning was ready to begin curing herself and Uriel, while Lettie, as well as her husband Horran, who had also been found and cured of ghoul fever, were able to be safely escorted to a neighbour’s farm. The neighbours took a while to convince (and the first farm the group fell back to eventually had to be passed in favour of another), but eventually accepted that Lettie and Horran were sickly, but not dangerous. The group secured a safe room for the night, hoping that the extra delay of a day spent recovering wouldn’t add to the murder count any further.
With all the RotRL campaign threads popping up, it'll be interesting to watch the scarecrow encounter without the help of a paladin -- both our parties benefited from being able to detect/obliterate the ghouls from afar. I wonder what happens when the party doesn't have a handy-dandy evil detector.
University? What's that? I might have been to one once, many years ago...
Hehe, it's a thing that us of the younger crowd use to rid ourselves of all our money.
I think they were quite lucky to have Uriel's detect evil, namely because it let them spot the two still-living scarecrows. Atali's backup plan of "test each one with a volley of arrows" would still have worked on the ghouls, but it probably would have had unfortunate results for low-level NPCs with massive stat penalties already on them.
LOL -- that was Hi's entire solution: "We burn the fields, burn the farms, and know everything's dead without any risk. What? Innocents may be in there? OK, we shoot the scarecrows, burn the fields, light the barn on fire, shoot anyone that comes out..."
EDIT: OK, Hi's player is the ONE person in our group who doesn't post here, so since he can't defend himself I'll admit that's waaaay over-the-top compared to what he really said, but his very first suggestion at every site is to simply burn it all to the ground, because treasure is overrated.
Thanks again Gluttony. Good read. It brings back interesting memories. Your party was smart to bring extra scrolls for the Ghoul Fever. I had to give a battlefield promotion to the party Cleric, so he could provide a Cure Disease to a couple of others in the party. It was a tense situation. Sadly they were too late for both Lettie and Horran.
Look forward to you next post.
I'm excited that Runelords has become such a popular AP, and especially to post gameplay logs on. I think I've mentioned I'm running the Anniversary Edition after we complete the Crimson Throne AP, and I get a lot of great ideas reading these campaign logs. I think it really helps me get into the setting, as well as plan ahead for all the crazy things a player may get into or do out of order.
As someone who has done both, I couldn't agree more.
Well, except maybe for the plague. The plague might just be worse than taking or grading midterms... Maybe.
This part was short, and intentionally so. It essentially consisted of the PCs delving just far enough into the Foxglove manor to reach 6th level before retreating to rest, intending to tackle the whole place once they were fresh into their new level.
Part 13: The House of Haunts
The heroes arrived at Foxglove manor in daylight, and even so it was an unsettling place. Crows lurked outside, mold grew in unnatural patterns, and things happened that couldn’t easily be explained. Atali found herself the focus of most of the unnatural events in the initial trip into Foxglove manor, nearly falling victim to the idea that Lulu was her daughter who needed to be saved from the house, being attacked by a filthy disease-ridden rat (which Atali killed with one stroke of her axe before it could even manage to bite her), suffering through an illusion of being strangled to death by Aldern while in the body of his dead wife Iesha Foxglove (an event Atali realized to be false just in time to escape Iesh’s final fate), and being caught up in a horrible dance of death with the strangled spirit of Iesha.
Zaru was attacked as well, by the sudden emergence of a flaming manticore from within the stuffed one in the front entryway. When the group decided that they needed to be better prepared and fell back outside, they were swarmed by thousands of crows (three-quarters of which Lulu fried in an instant with a massive bolt of lightning) which upon close inspection turned out to be undead beasts!
With their first quick taste of the mansion still fresh in their minds, the group set camp 20 minutes away from the house. They felt they would be better prepared the next day…
As I said with the last part, the party leveled up for this one. Atali and Uriel finally got access to their 2nd level spells.
Uriel - Male LG Aasimar Paladin (of Iomedae) 2/Bard (Arcane Duelist) 4
Lulu - Female CN Gnomeborn Changeling Witch 6
Atali "Inkskin" Saar - Female CN Human Barbarian (Titan Mauler) 2/Sorcerer (Wildblooded Tattooed Sorcerer, Pit-Touched Bloodline) 4
Zaru - Male CG Vanara Inquisitor (of Sun Wukong)(Sin Eater) 2/Monk (Martial Artist) 1/Fighter 1/Ninja 2
Lulu really got picked on by the haunts this time, hence the title.
Part 14: Lulu’s Pain
The group returned to find that no more danger awaited them on the ground floor, so the moved upstairs, under the logic that they knew how far up the manor extended, but not how far down into the cliff it went. Their passage upstairs was followed by the sound of footsteps echoing back at them, and by a growing sense of unease in each room they searched, and the unstable upstairs bathroom floor nearly dropped Atali into the room below upon collapsing. However it was not until they’d searched a majority of the floor’s rooms that they came across another malevolent occurrence. Uriel heard whispers creep into his mind for a moment, and afterwards expressed that he’d felt a deep misogynistic rage within him. It had come as a shock to the others when he turned on Lulu in a fury and drove his sword into her! Only the little witch’s forgiveness, and knowledge that the actions weren’t Uriel’s own, was enough to save him from an outright fall from grace!
The group concluded their exploration of the second floor by passing through the manor’s gallery, in which viewing portraits of the Foxglove family over the years showed the group what seemed to be the deaths of each of the Foxgloves, including the transformation of Aldern into a what appeared to be a ghoul. They feared for the worst, but were distracted somewhat when the portrait of Vorel Foxglove, the man who had created the manor, burst into an explosion of rapidly-spreading mold which quickly filled the room and then just as quickly disappeared. Lulu and Atali found that the mold left festering red sores on their skin which the others couldn’t see, but which Lulu was able to diagnose as a sort of magical disease which had yet to fully incubate. She promised to heal Atali, as well as herself, at the next opportunity, but urged the group to push on for now, which they did.
In the final room, a search revealed a dark blood stain on the writing desk which fascinated Lulu. While the others further searched the room, she examined the desk more closely and discovered an intricate silver-handled dagger, which brought with it the feeling that someone was dead. Lulu grew distressed at the thought that she’d killed the person she cared most about, and worse, that over the millennia she’d forgotten who they were. Name and face of her victim a blur, Lulu grabbed the dagger in a crazed sorrow and plunged it into her neck.
By some happy accident, Lulu aimed too low in her frenzy, and instead ripped the blade through her collar, catching it on the bone which jarred it from her hand. The weapon fell from her grasp, transforming before it could even hit the floor from a beautiful dagger, into the sharp wooden splinter Lulu had ripped off of the desk. The others quickly rushed to the witch’s aid with healing magic, and they all agreed it was best if none of them was left unsupervised in this place. They agreed to always keep an eye on each other, and proceeded upstairs, leaving Lulu with a scar on her collar and a lingering sense of uncertainty as to whether the haunted house had created false memories that she’d killed someone close to her, or whether it had simply uncovered memories that had been repressed or forgotten.
The very idea, combined with Uriel’s attack on her earlier, reminded her of her lack of real friends, and for the first time convinced her that the friendship of her current companions was more important than her secrets. She silently vowed that once they were done with the current matter of Aldern, she’d tell the others the truth about herself, regardless of the consequences…
Part 15: A Woman Scorned
The door to the attic stairwell was locked, and proved impassable to the group’s attempts at lockpicking until Atali offered an alternative solution, hacking through the wood with her greataxe to open the way. The upper floor turned out to be an attic, and from it they heard an unmistakable shriek of pain from a far room. Once again the door was locked, and while Atali chopped through it, the other three examined the two adjacent rooms.
In the first room, Lulu found her head filled with exotic memories of adventure, memories that this time she was sure weren’t hers. She realized that they were unfulfilled opportunities, adventures she’d missed out on during all those years, but blocked the regret from her mind with the knowledge that she was having her own adventures right now, with her new companions.
In the other room, Zaru wasn’t so resistant to haunting energies. He succumbed to the sudden idea that he’d been lit aflame, and desperately leapt at a stained glass window, which depicted the harlot queen of Geb, Arazni. Zaru shattered through the glass and fell to the shingles below, his addled mind believing that a fall to the water 300 feet below would save him from the imaginary flames. He nearly fell too, narrowly missing slamming into a weather vain, and failing to grab hold of it as he passed! He just barely managed to catch himself on a windowsill of the floor below, realizing the fall would have been his death.
Zaru scrambled back up and into the attic just as Lulu finished looting her room of treasures, and Atali finished chopping through the locked door.
Within the corner room the group faced an interesting spectacle. A sobbing woman bundled in a blanket whose appearance matched photos of Iesha Foxglove, Aldern’s wife. The group initially pressed to help her, but turned reluctant upon the realization that Iesha was undead, she had become a creature known as a Revenant, furious souls fuelled by anger towards the one who killed them, and bound by self-loathing at what they’d become in death.
After some debate, it surprisingly turned out to be the paladin Uriel, logically the one of them who should have had the greatest desire to destroy the undead woman, who suggested handling the situation delicately, and peacefully. By Uriel’s guidance, and careful choice of words, they were able to coax the name of Iesha’s killer from her own lips without unleashing her wrath upon them for bringing up the matter. With a choked cry, followed by a vengeful shriek, Iesha uttered one word.
The groups fears were confirmed. They knew their culprit for sure now, and so they smashed the room’s mirror, and unleashed Iesha Foxglove on the manor.
They needed only to follow in her wake…
Wow! Just... wow!
So much richness in such a short post!
Both of my groups (RotRL and Carrion Crown) have been bemoaning the ridiculous strength of the interior doors in Varisia. A DC 24 STR check or DC 25 Disable Device check to open an attic door? Seriously? The contractors really overbuilt!
I *love* that Zaru not only got the burning plummet haunt, but failed so many of its saves. I was laughing out loud when I first read it, and was sorely disappointed when Hi (in my group) made his very first save. Pesky gnomes!
And yep, paladins seem to have a soft spot for revenants. Must be that whole, "I was wrongfully murdered and will now only rest peacefully once I rend my murderer into itty bitty pieces," motif.
Zaru's save rolls were pretty much perfect for this. I'm thrilled that he failed so many because of the drama, but I knew he pretty much wouldn't fail the last one. A natural climb speed made it pretty much inevitable that he'd catch himself at the last moment.
On the doors: Yep, Atali just went with outright attacking rather than making the Str check, counting on her d12 greataxe and her barbarian strength to surpass the wood's hardness little by little and deal damage to the door, directly reducing its hp rather than going for the one-shot break (nobody in the group could hit the break DC of 24 without a natural 20, except Atali, but even still she could only hit it on a 19 or 20, and that's with her rage going.
I'm glad that the few Paladins I've seen over the years (2 that I've GMed for, 2 that I've played alongside, 1 that I've played as) have been more interested in roleplaying their character as a paragon of good, rather than being overzealous in their destruction of evil. Mentions of paladins on these forums can be scary when it comes to the realization of what paladins can be, and what they apparently are in a lot of other groups.
(And in the same week that I ran this session, I also ran another similar encounter...
I ran the encounter in JR's The Hungry Storm of the revenant Tuezar and the greater shadow Ivol Vuutiin the day after running this one.
The two were played by entirely different groups, but once again the other group sided with the revenant. I'm beginning to think that maybe I just run revenants as very sympathetic.
This update's Silver Tsuto award goes to the Skaveling, who heard the sound of combat and squeezed halfway through the tunnel from its lair to get to the PCs... And then got stuck there. It rolled failure after failure on its escape artist checks to squeeze any further in the narrow tunnel for the entire duration of the group's battle with Aldern. In the post-dungeon cleanup that they always do, the group found it still stuck in the tunnel and easily cut down the helpless undead bat.
Part 16: The Skinsaw Man
Iesha stormed past the group with single-minded determination, leading them in the very direction they all suspected she would, down. Revenant in the lead, they all returned to the manor’s main floor, Iesha stopping atop the most unusual patch of mold they’d found in the house, one shaped like a green stairway spiraling downwards.
With a shriek, Iesha began tearing through the moldy floor, creating her own way down. In less than a minute, the group had followed her into the basement below. But she wasn’t done. As illusory ghouls poured from the smashed entrance of a spiral stairwell that lead even further down (one which mirrored the mold above), Iesha descended. The group braved the army of false undead and followed her, wary in case any real ghouls may have been among the mob.
In the caverns below the manor, they found the real ghouls, and had to desperately fight through waves of the monsters to keep up with Iesha, who was fortunately stopped by one final door at the end of her route. In the end they confronted the ghast Aldern, who had become a sadistic monster known as the Skinsaw Man, and fought against him alongside his wife, who dealt the killing blow, finally bringing peace to Iesha through the destruction of her murderer.
A search of Aldern’s things revealed a number of missing items, most of which were easy to identify as Atali’s. The disappeared trinket she’d received from Shayliss was among these lost objects, and the group realized truly just how much danger they’d been in. Worse yet, they discovered a letter to Aldern instructing him in the massacre he’d been carrying out. They had few clues to go on from just the letter alone, but they knew the mystery wasn’t yet solved.
There was another behind the murders. All they had to go on was a name. Xanesha…
This part, and the next one were very difficult to write up, and have been even more difficult to finalize, even months after playing them, into posts that all four players approve of. Despite that however, they pulled off some of their best roleplaying to-date around this point, and really showed the merit of planning backstories as a group.
Part 17: Home
Sandpoint’s heroes returned home to joyous celebration, and not one they cared to dampen the mood of with their news of Aldern’s role in the troubles, and of the continued presence of the mysterious Xanesha. They let the majority of the happy townsfolk celebrate, content with the knowledge that they’d destroyed the undead ruler of the ghoul plague. A truth, if not a whole one.
It was only to three of their four closest allies; Belor Hemlock, Brodert Quink, and Ameiko Kaijitsu (Shalelu Andosana having once again left Sandpoint for the hinterlands) that the group voiced their concerns more fully. The name Xanesha remained a mystery for now, but each promised to look into it through their own sources.
For now there was a minor issue the group had to contend with upon their return. Their restoration of the Thistletop fort into a stronghold for Sandpoint, the Lost Coast, and of course themselves was progressing nicely, but workers had run into some trouble with a giant hermit crab in one of the back rooms and were asking for the heroes help in dealing with it. Agreeing that it was for the best, the group set aside some time to travel to Thistletop and drive out the crab. Their decision turned out to be more than worth the effort when they found that in place of a shell, this crab wore a massive golden helmet upon its back, and rested upon piles of coin and gemstones!
With that the group paused for a much-needed talk in the chamber in which they’d once fought against Nualia. Lulu revealed the true extent of her massive lifespan and, to the shock of the others, introduced her familiar; a fey sprite named Pix whom Lulu claimed had kidnapped her over 6000 years earlier. Lulu admitted that everyone she once knew was gone now, and that she’d never see them again, and expressed gratitude for the companionship of her new friends.
Lulu’s revelation was then followed by a less-surprising one from Atali, that of her relationship with Shayliss Vinder. Somewhat unimpressed at the group’s lack of response at this, Atali went for a bigger revelation; that her own childhood had been one of torture and slavery. Orphaned as a baby in the unforgiving Sodden Lands, Atali had been captured and abused by slavers for years until the day she was freed by a group of barbarian warriors. She explained that the tribal tattoos she now wore so proudly were forced onto her. She`d endured horrible pain at their extensive and unrefined tattooing process, but had since come to understand that it was a rare act of kindness from her unforgiving tribe. Beneath the tribal tattoos, her body was scored with a different kind of marking, symbols of slavery, marks that identified her as property rather than a person.
In response to this, Uriel spoke. He revealed that, to his dismay, Atali’s past was partially his fault. Her parents had made horrible, unforgivable deals with devils over the years, and Uriel had played a part, as a squire, among the group of paladins who had killed them both. It had been Uriel himself who had taken the infant Atali away to the orphanage where she would eventually be kidnapped. He had done it in the hopes that the child would not follow the same path of evil as her parents, and had had no way of anticipating the cruel childhood that she would suffer for it. Upon learning of Atali’s capture, he’d even attempted to track her down and rescue her himself, but had had no success. When he’d met Atali again among the tribal people who’d taken her in, the girl now on the verge of adulthood and too young to have remembered Uriel in their first encounter, he`d seen the situation as a chance of redemption offered to him by Iomedae, though he’d since come to treasure Atali’s friendship.
With that the room settled into an uncomfortable silence. Atali’s hand tensed on the hilt of her axe momentarily before she rose to her feet and stormed out of the room.
Lulu and Zaru exchanged a quick glance. With a nod from the vanara, Lulu rushed after Atali.
The party hit 7th level after beating the giant hermit crab last time. Witch 7th, Bard 5th, Sorcerer 5th, and Inquisitor 3rd all happen to be very boring milestones for abilities. Aside from Lulu's improved familiar, pretty much everybody complained that this level gave them nothing interesting.
Uriel - Male LG Aasimar Paladin (of Iomedae) 2/Bard (Arcane Duelist) 5
Lulu - Female CN Gnomeborn Changeling Witch 7
Atali "Inkskin" Saar - Female CN Human Barbarian (Titan Mauler) 2/Sorcerer (Wildblooded Tattooed Sorcerer, Pit-Touched Bloodline) 5
Zaru - Male CG Vanara Inquisitor (of Sun Wukong)(Sin Eater) 3/Monk (Martial Artist) 1/Fighter 1/Ninja 2
Zaru has had one of the least-traumatic backstories I've ever seen at my table.
Part 18: For the Future
Lulu found Atali behind the Thistletop fortress, sitting on the edge of the cliff and staring out to sea. Plucking a flower from the grass, Lulu sat down beside her and waited. It was a few minutes before Atali spoke. She was understandably angry at Uriel for the damage he’d done to her childhood, and for seeing his reunion with her as a chance of redemption. Atali had believed Uriel had seen her as a friend, and felt betrayed. She expressed aloud a wish that Uriel hadn’t told her the truth, and bemoaned the potential future that had been taken from her.
Lulu just smiled sadly and flicked her flower over the edge of the cliff. Pix came to a rest on her shoulder, and Atali realized the weight of her words. “How do you handle it?” she inquired, having realized at that moment that Lulu herself was good friends with the one who’d robbed the witch of her own future. Lulu glanced at Pix and the sprite lifted off her shoulder and flitted around the fort for a minute or two before heading back inside towards Zaru and Uriel. Lulu sat silently for a while and then offered a simple idea. She didn’t consider her future lost, she’d just been given a different future. Pix had singled Lulu out and taken her from her original home into the First World because the fey had believed her to be special. Lulu knew that Pix had seen some potential in her above everyone else, and that he had thought his actions would give her a better future than the one that had lain ahead of her 6 millennia ago. Despite her best efforts to hold a grudge and regardless of whether Pix would turn out to be right or wrong, Lulu admitted that she couldn’t hate him for that.
In the dungeons below, Zaru spoke to Uriel. The vanara explained the task that has been set to him by his own deity, Sun Wukong: To attend Sandpoint’s Swallowtail festival, and “set right what has gone wrong”. Zaru didn`t know what the quest entailed. He’d considered that each trouble they’d encountered in their adventures may have been the wrong he’d been sent to right. He’d quickly lost track of whether he was still journeying with the others for the sake of his deity, or because they were friends, and he’d eventually decided that it was foolish of him to try and name just one reason. Zaru had decided that though he held an obligation to Sun Wukong, that obligation was not the only reason, or even the primary reason he strove forwards. He then claimed that if Lulu, his first and best friend in Varisia, had asked him to renounce his god, he would do so in an instant.
Zaru and Uriel paused for a moment, and then Uriel asked how the vanara could speak so poorly of his patron deity. Zaru countered that he wasn’t speaking poorly of Sun Wukong at all, but rather he was speaking highly of Lulu. He admitted that he would put his relationship with the Monkey King, one of the most important factors of his life, in Lulu’s hands because he had as much faith in her as he did in the god. He believed in Lulu enough to trust that she would require nothing of him that would require him to go against Sun Wukong, and he believed in Sun Wukong to the same degree, admitting that he wouldn’t follow a deity if he suspected that deity would ever turn him against the interests of his friends. In short, his friend was not an afterthought to his god. He held her at the same level as him.
Uriel bemoaned that he hadn’t held Atali at that level, having placed the interests of Iomedae before her. Zaru simply offered the idea that every mistake was a learning experience, and that he was sure Lulu was helping to settle Atali’s own feelings at the situation.
At that, Pix entered the room and circled the vanara repeatedly. Zaru took it as a sign that they could proceed outside to rejoin the other two, and got to his feet. The two moved to the hallway and almost turned to head upstairs when Pix noticed something; a statue near the door in the next room had a small slot carved into it, the size of a gold piece. Zaru noticed the sprite’s interest, and with Pix’s guidance located the slot himself.
The vanara inserted a coin and the statue moved, opening the way to the hidden rooms beyond. Zaru realized there was more to the Thistletop dungeons that they had not yet explored. He was reminded of a goblin-drawn mural they’d found on the floor above, one which had depicted a goblin of immense stature contained within the depths of Thistletop…
Ah smite evil and judgement, these abilities really are lifesavers sometimes. Big M's DR is ridiculous.
Part 19: Behind It All
The group came together again somewhat silently and only Zaru spoke much, explaining what he and Pix had found, and showing the group the newly uncovered room. The room was a T-shaped hall with three sets of doors, and the group decided at random to take the central one. Their first choice was a room filled with gruesome surgical tools and a deformed skeleton that crumbled to dust upon examination. The group gathered up what they thought might be valuable from the room, and in the process came across an odd Sihedron-shaped device.
The device, it turned out, was a key that fit perfectly into a hole on the hall’s southern door. In the fiery glow within the room they all recognized the shape of the monster that stood before them, a greater barghest! The monster jolted to attention upon the opening of the door and cast a spell upon itself, beginning to wink in and out of existence as it uttered an insane snarl towards the adventurers.
The group recovered from the initial shock quickly and only momentarily entertained ideas of diplomacy before Zaru unleashed a volley of bolts at the monster, which soared through its body as it blinked away at the most inopportune moment possible! Not one to be deterred, Atali drew her own weapons, casting a spell that would steady her aim when she entered combat. Uriel then attempted and failed to daze the monster with magic, while Lulu went the most direct route and fired a massive bolt of lightning across the room, painfully blasting the barghest! The battle from there went slowly, with the monster’s constant blinking making pinning it down difficult, and its ability to seemingly ignore most of Atali’s powerful attacks forcing Uriel and Zaru, supported by Lulu’s magic, to do most of the actual work in defeating the monster. It presented very little actual threat though, and in the end was felled by a magical ear-shattering scream from Lulu! After it fell, Atali beheaded the monster, unknowingly breaking up the Thistletop goblin tribe entirely, and the group cremated its body in the room’s central firepit! The group then gathered the source of the room’s glow, dozens of magical candles, and found a magical ring that they would later sell stashed away in an alcove. Finally, they moved on to the last room.
A voice greeted them in the final room, telling them to take their work to their graves. Those in the group who understood the language the voice spoke were immediately put on guard, but discovered the voice to simply be the work of a flickering magical image. The image depicted an elaborately dressed man sitting upon a throne, seemingly addressing someone as his message repeated itself again and again. They all sat and listened to several repetitions, thinking on the words that this image spoke. In the end they could only find one thing in his words that sounded to be of significance, the name ‘Alaznist’, which the man practically spat with disgust. They didn’t recognize the name, but thought that their ally Brodert Quink might know more. After all, this image spoke in a worryingly familiar long-dead language, and Quink was a local expert on Thassilon…
Interesting read on the the Barghest fight. My group just did this last session. The one thing that frustrated the entire party was the blink spell. I was rolling for the 50/50 miss chance openly. I rolled so well that I was starting to fear a TPK and started to feel bad. To give you an idea out of the paladins possible 13 attacks he only landed 2 in the entire fight.
One other footnote from that fight is since the Barghest could not leave the room he waited invisibly occasionally taunting the party and moving (I kept track of his movement on a hidden map). This went on for 3 rounds as he was hoping on getting everyone in the room before attacking. I was totally surprised at this as one of the players had relieved Lyrie of all of her scrolls... One of which was see invisible. When I pointed this out to everyone there was a certain amount of good natured player on player mockery.
On Gluttony's 'regrets' thread I said I regretted not having 'Blink' going (I ruled that he wasn't going to start buffing himself until the party actually opened his door, and then the gnome sorcerer just opened the door and strolled on in, which was too much for him to take.)
But he was a fumble away from killing the sorcerer, so even without Blink he was a 'kill at least one party member' fight.
Malfeshneor's blink only really helped him at the beginning against my group. It gave him enough time to cast his preparatory Bull's Strength and get one good full attack against Uriel, despite the party having taken him by surprise. After that though, blink let pretty much all of their attacks past without negating anything.
Part 20: The Calm
The next few days in Sandpoint provided some much-needed respite for the group to unwind, rebuild broken trust, and commission more suitable equipment for adventurers of their ability. Lulu sent out an order to neighbouring Magnimar for a magical cloak that would cause her body to waver like mist, occasionally allowing attacks to pass through her unharmed, while Atali settled for the more local Red Dog smithy, pitting her own temper against the volatile mood of local smith Das Korvut, eventually emerging dominant as the smith agreed to craft her a powerful magic greataxe to replace to mundane one she’d been carrying so far. Uriel and Zaru opted to seek out less powerful, but therefore less expensive and easier to acquire upgrades to their weapons of choice.
Despite the best efforts of the group and their allies, research on Thassilon, Alaznist, and Xanesha produced very little result. Running out of ideas, they began to look into the personal histories of Aldern Foxglove and Nualia Tobyn, hoping to find some clue. What was known of Nualia’s past had been all but destroyed by the Sandpoint church’s fire years ago, unfortunately, and there was little more on the secretive Aldern. Growing worried that Xanesha, wherever she was, would strike again while they were idle, the group began to consider that the clues and people they sought might not be in Sandpoint at all. They were considering leaving the town to see if they could find more in neighboring communities when they were finally approached with news, though not the news they were expecting.
The caravan master Sandru Vhiski had come from Magnimar, bringing Lulu’s new cloak along with other goods for the town, and his own trade. Lulu and Ameiko met him at the town gates where he stared grimly at the ground before turning to Ameiko.
Tsuto had been released to the streets of Magnimar.
This point of the adventure marked the first time the group made any major purchases, aside from scrolls for Lulu to learn spells from.
Lulu bought a minor cloak of displacement, which is augmented by her Mist Child racial ability (MCoD grants 20% concealment constantly, Lulu's mist child ability grants her a bonus 5% concealment whenever she has concealment).
Atali bought a +2 Greataxe.
Uriel bought a +1 Longsword.
Zaru bought a +1 Repeating Crossbow.
I tried to give them hints to that stuff, but they and all of their allies managed to fail every skill check involved in any parts of the investigation that would actually yield answers, reserving the natural 20s and other high rolls for meaningless red herrings. I had always planned to re-use Tsuto, but in a sense I was kind of forced to throw him back in earlier than I'd intended so that I could use him as a tool for pointing them back in the right direction towards the plot.
I'm pretty sure they've found, looted, and saved pretty much every last gold piece worth of treasure that's been available in adventure so far, having sold a majority of the magic and mundane items they picked up in order to get all that cash. The purchases did put them back close(ish) to bankrupt, but they definitely got some good stuff out of it.
...It helped their wallets that Uriel's the only one who wears armor. Armor is costly at lower levels.
With your party around 7th level, +1 weaponry and the rare +2 should be obtainable. But it should also be a drain on the resources too, especially the +2.
Does you party know to head to Foxglove's house in Magnimar? I had to drop a few reminders to push mine in the right direction.
Actually I'm curious how other GM's are handling PC's selling loot. Am I correct in only giving my PC's 50% of market value (with some wiggle room for high CHA PC's). Also I'm curious if GM's are using settlment base price stats for generating magic items for sale?
I'm a 'strictly 50%' kind of guy, and I usually roll the 75% to see whether the item they ask for is available.
On the other hand, I do have the townsfolk provide mundane items (food, lodgings, arrows, repairs, and even horses) for free because it's kind of stupid to have people refuse to equip the town's saviors.
I'm just teasing Gluttony because my group gave away *everything* -- if they could find someone who might remotely be called the 'rightful owner', they gave it to that person. If they couldn't find an owner, they donated everything to Father Zantos. It wasn't until Magnimar that they started keeping the loot they were getting.
@Mazra: Nope, as of this update they are unaware that.
It's a really easy clue to miss, unfortunately. Fail to refurbish Iesha's portrait and take no interest in a random shop name on some furniture, and the PCs pretty much get stuck at a dead end.
@Mapes: In my games, pretty much all loot can be sold for half the value that you could buy it at. Some items are so expensive that you can't get them in a community that's too small, or you can't sell them because no buyer nearby can afford it. In the case of my most recent update, Lulu's cloak was too expensive to be a standard item in a small town like Sandpoint, hence why she had to order it from Magnimar.
My formula is based on some homebrew editing of settlement rules:
- If an item's purchase cost is below the base limit of the settlement, it is generally guaranteed to be available (thus Sandpoint can offer most low-level scrolls, potions, and masterwork weapons).
@NobodysHome: Aww, your group is so heroic. XD There's no way anyone in my group would stand for giving away more than a little bit once in a while. Even Uriel believes in keeping the cash for the group, because they seem to be using their wealth to fight evil more than anyone else nearby.
Joining the party as a guest PC for several sessions, a long-time player of mine came up to visit and took command of Ameiko Kaijitsu.
Uriel - Male LG Aasimar Paladin (of Iomedae) 2/Bard (Arcane Duelist) 5
Lulu - Female CN Gnomeborn Changeling Witch 7
Atali "Inkskin" Saar - Female CN Human Barbarian (Titan Mauler) 2/Sorcerer (Wildblooded Tattooed Sorcerer, Pit-Touched Bloodline) 5
Zaru - Male CG Vanara Inquisitor (of Sun Wukong)(Sin Eater) 3/Monk (Martial Artist) 1/Fighter 1/Ninja 2
Ameiko Kaijitsu - Female CG Human Aristocrat 1/Bard 3/Rogue (Rake) 1 (Guest PC played by a visiting player)
Ameiko's low level compared to the others somewhat offsets the visiting player's extensive experience compared to the others.
Part 21: City Folks
There was no argument or debate of what to do. In less than an hour the group had gathered, Ameiko had retrieved a horse from the local Goblin Squash Stables, and Lulu had summoned mounts for herself and the other four. Leaving the Rusty Dragon in the hands of her halfling employee Bethana Corwin, and Sandpoint itself in the hands of sheriff Hemlock and the town guard, the group and Ameiko set off toward Magnimar.
The group made it only a fifth of the way to Magnimar when Lulu’s spell expired, dismissing her summoned horses and forcing the group to continue on foot. By the end of the day they were roughly halfway to the city, and camped with a Varisian caravan they met on the road, avoiding being accosted by any monsters due to sleeping among such a large group.
The next day Lulu summoned horses again, and they walked the remaining distance over the course of the day after her magic expired, finally coming into sight of the city of monuments as the sun began to set! They finally made their way into Magnimar itself as night fell, and immediately sought the courthouse for more news of Tsuto. They had little to go on, aside from the knowledge that they’d captured him in Thistletop along with the wizard Lyrie Akenja, and that all of Nualia’s surviving accomplices at Thistletop had been taken to Magnimar to stand proper trial. According to what Sandru had told Ameiko, Tsuto had been deliberately released for some inexplicable reason.
They arrived too late to investigate the courts for the night, and found the building closed for the evening. The next day following would be Sunday, so the group realized that they would likely have to wait through the weekend until Moonday to get any official information.
…They opted for the unofficial instead. With Ameiko’s expertise in her chosen line of business, they quickly located Magnimar’s Lowcleft district, and singled out a promising tavern inn, with a sign reading ‘The Brass Helm’, that looked as though it would cater to travelers and adventurers.
Within the doors they saw an unexpected and familiar face at the bar. There, their once-ally Orik Vancaskerkin slowly nursed a drink.
Part 22: Redefining Justice
Over a few flagons of ale and progressively drunker antics from some of the group (only Zaru seemed able to hold his liquor), the adventurers reunited with Orik, and received a first-hand retelling of events. Orik had willingly gone to Magnimar to be tried along with Tsuto and Lyrie due to Uriel’s urging and, he admitted, an infatuation with the wizard Lyrie. Once there the three were tried for their crimes while associating with Nualia and, for some reason that Orik couldn’t explain, were found innocent by the judge despite their obvious guilt.
Orik recalled the judge overseeing the trial, one justice Ironbriar, having approached him in the tavern after he’d been granted his freedom. Orik had already begun drinking by then and was fuzzy on the details, but Ironbriar had mentioned an organization whose name Orik couldn’t remember, and may not have been mentioned, that welcomed men like Orik with “difficulties in their past”.
The sellsword, wrapped up in his drink, had brushed the man off and learned no more about Ironbriar’s offer, but Zaru found it somewhat suspicious. Orik, Tsuto, and Lyrie, all of them obvious criminals had been found innocent by a judge who had then proceeded to approach an obvious criminal in a tavern with talk of a mysterious organization of some sort.
Zaru entertained the idea that perhaps this mystery organization was to aid in the rehabilitation of people like Orik, who’d had brushes with lawlessness in the past. He wasn’t particularly convinced however and decided that Ironbriar was worth looking into.
That was a task for the morning however. Zaru quickly booked two 3-person rooms and ushered them all to bed before Atali’s cloak, which was coming dangerously loose, came off in public in a city where the group were not recognized as heroes who happened to have some quirks about them. Lulu’s slurred talk of filling the tavern with lights and glitter was also concerning.
Ameiko, Atali, and Lulu were put to bed in one room, and Uriel and Orik were dragged to the other, where they were joined by Zaru. As five of them drifted into dreams, Ameiko muttered Tsuto’s name in a restless sleep. Lulu caught Pix’s eye in the dark, the insight behind her gaze betraying her sobriety.
The witch and sprite waited in feigned sleep for a few dozen minutes, and then slipped out into the hallway…
Looks like Orik is with the party. I like it that you had Orik reject Ironbriar's offer. And Ironbriar didn't send some of his goons to arrest him again.
It seems that corrupt trials with Ironbriar as Judge is a fairly common occurrence.
At least you didn't have Xanesha as the DA, as I read in some other thread. That is corruption to an Nth degree. Magnimar is such a great city.
As always, look forward to your next post.
In response to your spoiler:
We don't actually know if that's the case. Orik's not the greatest at paying attention or remembering details, and Xanesha's name is one that holds no meaning for him, so why remember it if he ever heard it? ;)
Part 23: Into the Night
Lulu crept from the inn, Pix concealed beneath the shadowed brim of her hat, and began to seek out those late-night drinkers who were still awake and wandering the streets of the Lowcleft district. From them she learned of spates of murders rumored in Magnimar, and of a familiar seven-pointed rune upon the bodies. They were in the right place, it seemed.
Lulu concealed herself in the shadows outside the inn, and Pix hid himself near the windows of the rooms where their companions slept. Sure enough, before too long a shady looking man crept from the alley and began to work a lockpick on the inn’s front door. Lulu cloaked herself in invisibility and then flew silently through the air, positioning herself right behind him as he worked. She followed him in when he unlocked the inn and they proceeded straight upstairs where the man began to attempt to pick the lock of the room Atali and Ameiko slept in.
Before the man even knew what was happening he had been dropped into a deep sleep, and was thoroughly bound, gagged, and stuffed into a sack by the witch. She then quickly unlocked her room’s door, dragged the sack inside, closed and re-locked the door, and then settled down to sleep.
In the morning, Ameiko woke, somewhat confused, to the sight of a squirming sack in the corner of their room.
Lulu's a clever girl -- wish some of my parties had thought of that! (Would have saved my Red Mantis assassins in CotCT signficant embarrassment if they'd just been captured quietly. Instead they bet their hypnotic dances against a high-level wizard's Will save. It wasn't pretty...)
(I'm celebrating from having just finished my last written exam of the semester, so here's an update for you all.)
Part 24: Missed Connections
It didn’t take long for Atali to break their tight-lipped guest, and the group soon learned that the man was in fact a shapeshifting monster known as a faceless stalker, sent by a mysterious group known as the Brothers of the Seven to assassinate them upon their arrival in Magnimar. The stalker wouldn’t reveal any more, unfortunately, but the information was enough for the heroes to finally begin making connections to seemingly unrelated clues. They recalled Xanesha’s letter to Aldern, which multiple times had made reference to ‘the Brothers’ and had referred to Xanesha herself as Mistress of the Seven. They quickly concluded that in their pursuit of Tsuto, they’d accidentally stumbled upon Xanesha herself.
But there was more than just Xanesha to think about. Ironbriar had approached Orik with mention of an organization, and the group had to consider the possibility that this too was a reference to the Brothers of the Seven, which would imply a direct connection between Tsuto and Xanesha. The idea that the connection between those two might have once taken the form of Nualia, and may have since shifted to Ironbriar was enough for everything to fall into place. They knew now that their enemies were almost certainly in Magnimar and that all that was left to do now was find them.
To this, Lulu offered that the solution was already in their possession. Without explanation, she drew an exquisite handheld silver mirror from her bag, and then turned to Ameiko, asking if she carried anything with her that Tsuto had once owned. After a moment of thought, Ameiko produced Tsuto’s diary that they’d retrieved from him earlier, and Lulu began to cast a spell, channeling her magic through the book and into the mirror. She explained that her magic would take some time to take effect, but that when it did she would need them to be ready.
An hour later, the group (aside from Orik who was suffering a nasty hangover) returned to the room as Lulu’s spell took effect, displaying Tsuto’s image on the mirror’s surface. Lulu quickly handed out orders, Tsuto was on the move in the streets and Lyrie Akenja was with him. Uriel quickly hoisted Lulu onto his shoulders so that the group could travel faster, and Lulu constantly directed their movement, adjusting whenever they saw Tsuto pass a monument, or a sign displaying the name of a street or well-known shop. Eventually they caught up close enough to Tsuto that Lulu’s scrying magic was no longer needed to follow him. Trailing him and Lyrie stealthily from the crowd, they hatched a quick plan that would rely on Ameiko’s deceptive abilities.
Lulu turned Uriel and Atali invisible, Zaru scaled a building to observe from the cover of the rooftops, and Lulu herself ducked into the thick of the crowd as Ameiko called out her brother’s name, closing half the distance towards him with a feigned smile of relief on her face.
(I didn't want to miss the 100th post in my own topic. Thanks to everyone who has been reading and commenting.)
Part 25: The Father
Ameiko proved herself to be an exquisite actor, playing the part of the concerned sister who only wanted to settle the tension between herself and her brother. Lyrie Akenja was suspicious, but Tsuto ignored her concerns. He seemed to be fully taken with the idea that his sister was interested in cooperating with him, and surely Ameiko’s fondness for Sandpoint could be worked around for his goals. It wasn’t long before he was willingly revealing the secrets of justice Ironbriar to his sister and the hidden eavesdroppers.
Ironbriar, it seemed, had approached Tsuto and Lyrie just as he had Orik. The group he had been recruiting for however was not the Brothers of the Seven as expected. Ironbriar led a double life as the leader of Magnimar’s skinsaw cult, in worship to the god Norgorber in his most notorious aspect as Father Skinsaw, a sadistic god of murderers.
The group, listening in on the conversation in hiding, each recalled Aldern Foxglove’s undead identity as the Skinsaw Man.
Tsuto and Lyrie, both rather unscrupulous in their desires for revenge and power, had happily embraced Norgorber and the cult, and Tsuto hoped Ameiko would do the same. With the perfect amount of feigned hesitation to make her words seem believable, Ameiko agreed, and asked to be brought into the cult of Father Skinsaw...