On the eve of Sandpoint’s Swallowtail Festival, four adventurers arrive separately in the harbor town, little realizing that they have been destined to play a role in the fate of all of Varisia!
Bey Lin, a seer of some skill who is loosely affiliated with the Church of Desna, arrives in Sandpoint wearing her trademark armor. The armor, which at a distance appears to be torn and ripped, is revealed to be exquisitely crafted when viewed up close. It draws strange looks towards the dark-haired woman in her thirties who makes her way down the streets of Sandpoint to the base of Old Light. This crumbled tower testifies to the existence of an ancient culture thousands of years old that long predated the settling of Varisia by the Chelaxians just three centuries ago (with the concomitant displacement of the indigenous Shoanti and Varisian peoples).
Bey knocks at the front door of an old stone building, haphazardly repaired, that sits near the base of Old Light, and is greeted by a balding, cantankerous old man named Brodert Quink. Quink welcomes Bey inside, as the two have been corresponding for a few years now about the history of Thassilon, the ancient empire which used to rule the land now called Varisia. Little is known about Thassilon, but Brodert Quink is a self-proclaimed sage and historian, and has recently taken to speculating about the purposes for which Old Light was originally built. His promise to reveal his theories to Bey is one of the reasons for her travelling to Sandpoint (the other is a meeting scheduled with a reclusive Varisian mystic named Madame Mvashti for 10 bells on 24 Rova). After some small talk, Quink goes on to share his theory about Old Light with Bey: he says it was never a lighthouse, like most scholars think, but in fact a weapon capable of hurling balls of fire hundreds of miles! He suggests that the power source for the weapon could be buried deep below, but he has no concrete evidence for his theory.
Nonetheless, he leads Bey outside so she can see Old Light up close. He leads her to a particular stone block that is, like the others, surprisingly intact given its thousands of years of exposure to the elements. Here, the runic language of ancient Thassilon provides the only real clue to Old Light’s purpose. Most scholars translate the runes to say “When risk is at its highest, the light shall shine”, but Bey realizes the passage could alternatively be interpreted to say “When danger is at its height, the fires of heaven shall be unleashed.” So intent are Bey and Brodert on translating and discussing the runes, they have no idea that a pack of dire rats (filthy rats the size of small dogs) have emerged from somewhere within the rocks and are about to attack!
Meanwhile, just down the street, a professional bounty hunter and wilderness scout named Oliver Turn has arrived at the Sandpoint Garrison, a stone fortress that serves as the headquarters for the Town Watch and Town Militia. Oliver, a weather-beaten ranger in his mid-30s, has come to Sandpoint for work; the sheriff of Sandpoint, Belor Hemlock, has quietly circulated word that the city is temporarily hiring freelancers to help patrol the Swallowtail festival, and is paying 5 silver pieces a day and providing free room and board at the Garrison. After waiting in line with many other freelancers for several minutes, Oliver is taken to Sheriff Hemlock, a grim Shoanti man. Hemlock asks each recruit to demonstrate why they deserve a job, and Oliver decides to show his skill with the crossbow by firing a bolt almost dead centre into a distant target. Hemlock gives his approval with a nod, and instructs Oliver to familiarise himself with Sandpoint before going on duty in the morning. When Oliver leaves the garrison, he hears shouts of alarm coming from just down the street in the direction of Old Light!
At the base of Old Light, four dire rats have surrounded Bey Lin and Brodert Quink. Quink shrinks back in fear, but Bey readies her quarterstaff and prepares for a fight. The two are bitten multiple times by the strangely aggressive rats before help suddenly arrives as Oliver Turn charges into the battle bearing a massive greatsword! His blade quickly cuts three of the dire rats in twain, leaving only one left. Bey’s eyes go black as she intones “the darkness is coming, you must be prepared” and magically gifts Oliver with even more fighting prowess. He kills the remaining dire rat, but not before suffering a vicious wound himself.
Bey and Oliver decide to seek help for Quink, who has been badly wounded in the attack. He sends them in the direction of the new cathedral in the hopes of finding Father Zantus. But before the pair of newcomers arrive, they’re distracted by shouts and the sound of breaking glass and splintering wood: an untamed bronco is bucking madly down the street, smashing barrels and windows with its hooves, dragging a poor teenager whose foot is caught in the horse’s saddle harness! Oliver runs and tries to leap on the back of the horse, but he catches a hoof right in the ribs for his trouble. Bey manages to dash in and free the teen’s foot just before the horse dashes further down the street and out of sight.
The teenager, who is shaken but not actually hurt, gives his name as Bimmy Bean and says the horse was a new acquisition by Daviren Hosk at the Goblin Squash Stables. Bimmy says he actually hates horses, but his father, a farmer, made him try to find work in town since the surly teen doesn’t enjoy life in the Sandpoint hinterlands. When asked, he does point them in the direction of the newly-built cathedral, the dedication of which will be the highlight of tomorrow’s Swallowtail Festival.
When Bey and Oliver arrive at Sandpoint Cathedral, they’re quickly directed to the town’s high-priest, a pleasant man named Father Abstalar Zantus. Father Zantus promises to send help to Brodert Quink, but he also diagnoses that one of the bites Oliver suffered from the dire rats may be infected, and that a mild disease known as “filth fever” can be carried with such bites. He tells Oliver to monitor himself closely over the next 24 hours and to return if symptoms set in.
That same afternoon, elsewhere in Sandpoint, a seventeen-year-old named Xeveg Kishalq arrives in front of Turandarok Academy. Xeveg has developed a keen interest in history and archaeology for one so young, and in recent months has been exchanging letters with Ilsoari Gandethus, the Headmaster of Turandarok Academy. Since it’s a Sunday, classes are not in session at the institution that serves Sandpoint as a school and orphanage, and Xeveg is soon led by the Head Mother, Dorienne, to Ilsoari Gandethus’ study. Gandethus, a stern-looking man in his 60s, is widely known as a former adventurer and dabbler in the arcane, and has promised in his correspondence to show Xeveg his collection of unique artifacts held in the Academy’s basement. As the two sip tea in the study, Gandethus tells Xeveg that western Varisia holds several sites of historical significance, and perhaps even ancient treasure! He mentions Sog’s Bay, where ships have been shipwrecked on the rocks for countless years, and the Whisperwood, rumoured to hold ancient ruins of old Thassilon. Gandethus is about to lead Xeveg to the basement when he’s called away by Dorienne; one of the boarding students has been injured in an accident.
Left to his own devices, Xeveg looks around Gandethus’ study but soon hears a crash followed by a strange thumping sound. When the youth goes to investigate, he sees the sound is coming from the stairway to the basement—and the thumping sound is a rabbit, clearly dead but somehow still animated, hopping up the stairs! In moments, a second such abomination appears. The creatures quicken their pace and hop towards Xeveg, clearly intending to sink their teeth into him! Fortunately, Xeveg had prepared a minor incantation against the undead, and his magical rays are able to slow the beasts. One is blinded in the battle and ends up falling down the stairs, destroying itself. The other leaps for Xeveg but the spritely lad jumps out of the way, and the creature crashes into the wall and lays still.
Seconds later, Gandethus and the other residents of the Academy arrive on the scene. Gandethus apologises for the attack, saying he recently obtained a strange coffin that displayed necromantic auras, and that he had placed the rabbits inside to see what would happen. He promises to show Xeveg his basement collection the day after the festival, when he’s had a chance to clean everything up. Xeveg gets directions to a nearby inn, the Rusty Dragon.
Sandpoint’s other inn and tavern, the White Deer, is crowded as merchants, tourists, and farmers have come to Sandpoint for the festival. It also serves as the destination for another newcomer to the city, a rugged-looking Shoanti man wearing hide armor named Felix Bloodrider. Felix, a wanderer by nature, has come to Sandpoint for supplies and has stopped at the White Deer specifically because he’s heard it’s an establishment particularly friendly to his people. The proprietor of the White Deer is a Shoanti man named Garridan Viskalai and he’s said to offer cut-rate prices to Shoanti who are willing to share news with him of the culture he’s had to cut ties with in order to live in Sandpoint with his wife and family. Felix makes his way through the crowd and takes a seat at the bar. He’s greeted by Garridan with a tankard of ale, and the two start to converse but are quickly interrupted by Garridan’s wife, Lartie. Lartie pleads with Garridan to call the Town Watch about a pair of drunken Chelaxian merchants from Magnimar at a corner table who are harassing the servers and shouting racist comments about Garridan’s Shoanti heritage. Garridan, however, refuses to call the Watch, stating that it will only bring his brother and he’d rather endure the insults of fat foreigners from Magnimar then have “Sheriff Hemlock” set foot on his property.
Felix decides to take justice into his own hands. When one of the merchants, a portly man named Nefus Dobiggle, heads to the latrines, Felix bribes Dobiggle’s bodyguard to go “check on the horses.” Felix then enters the latrine and with two quick punches knocks him out cold! The fat merchant’s unconscious form crashes through the door of the latrine and into the common room and full view. The other merchant, Tamsyn Hollirock, and his bodyguard make for the door, but Felix continues his assault. He dodges the shortsword thrusts of the guard and pummels him to the ground, and when the fleeing Hollirock vows revenge should Felix ever come to Magnimar, the crusader chases him down and lands a vicious two-handed punch to the back of the man’s neck!
When Felix re-enters the White Deer, he’s greeted with applause from the other patrons. Garridan offers Felix free room and board for the night, and a promise of a gold piece if he’ll attend the Swallowtail Festival tomorrow and keep an eye on his wife and kids, who will be running a lemonberry juice stand.
Four adventurers from disparate walks of life have thus come to Sandpoint on the eve of the Swallowtail Festival. What happens in the succeeding weeks and months may very well become the stuff of legend . . .
The PCs for the beginning of this campaign were:
Bey Lin, Human Oracle (Apocalypse Mystery)
Felix Bloodrider, Shoanti Brawler
Xeveg Kishalq, Human Wizard (Necromancy)
Oliver Turn, Human Ranger
Come back every week or so to see what happens next!
23 Rova 4707
When the dawn bells ring in Sandpoint, the day holds the promise of clear weather, the excitement of an upcoming festival, and the solemnity of the dedication of a new house of worship.
Bey Lin awakens suddenly in her room at the Rusty Dragon just after daybreak, covered in sweat and shouting incoherently about “blood and flame in the streets!” The ruckus startles Bethana Corwin, an elderly halfling maid at the inn, who had been across the hall serving Xeveg Kishalq freshly-baked bread and tea. After Bey opens her door to Bethana’s concerned knocking, the adventurer explains matter-of-factly that “the apocalypse is coming soon upon us all, but with luck you may survive.” A sleepy-eyed Xeveg does not seem impressed, nor does the reptilian bird that perches on his shoulder.
At the nearby Sandpoint Garrison, Oliver Turn awakens to the sound of morning reveille. He gets dressed and pins a cloth badge to his tabard identifying himself as an auxiliary member of the Town Watch. As he waits to hear his duty assignment, he sees Sheriff Hemlock receiving upsetting news. Hemlock motions for Oliver and another freelancer to follow him and they head towards the North Gate, stopping at a relatively new three-story building whose entrance is flanked by a pair of carved deer made from white birch. Hemlock strides right into the White Deer Inn and starts up the stairs (after speaking briefly with a maid), much to the surprise and anger from the inn’s proprietor, Garridan Viskalai.
The argument in the hallway between Hemlock and Viskalai is loud enough to wake Felix Bloodrider seconds before there’s loud pounding on his door. Hemlock, flanked by Oliver and another watchman, with Viskalai looking on angrily, confronts Felix with the news that word quickly spread of his assault on the Magnimarian merchants and their bodyguards last night. Hemlock says that if the victims hadn’t already fled and could swear out a statement, Felix would already be in a jail cell. Felix isn’t intimidated in the least by his fellow Shoanti warrior’s imposing presence, and makes the fact clear to Hemlock. The two look poised for an altercation until Hemlock declares he doesn’t have time to deal with Felix, and appoints Oliver to keep a close eye on him all day to ensure he stays out of trouble.
The Swallowtail Festival starts on time with a series of speeches by town leaders. Mayor Kendra Deverin thanks everyone for attending and says that the construction of a new church shows that Sandpoint has heart. Sheriff Hemlock asks for a moment of silence to remember the lives that were lost in the fire that claimed the previous chapel five years earlier. As Lonjiku Kaijitsu is ill, theatre-proprietor Cyrdak Drokkus takes the stage and tells a few jokes before introducing Father Abstalar Zantus, Priest of Desna. Father Zantus declares the Swallowtail Festival officially underway. Attendees scatter for food, games, trinkets, and more.
Xeveg makes the rounds of the local vendors, hoping to stumble across anything of historical interest. He notices a dull gray ioun stone, but the price is too high for him to afford it. Felix sticks close to the lemon-berry juice stand run by Garridan Viskalia’s wife and daughters before being asked to escort the youngest daughter, nine-year-old Mantha, to the games area. There, Felix tries “The Devil Hunt” (firing arrows at a wooden rendering of the legendary Sandpoint Devil) and “Raise the Shipwreck” (hitting a bellows so hard it knocks a bucket full of coins and candy off a pole). He doesn’t have much luck with either, and grouses about it loudly. For his part, Oliver keeps a close eye on the festival-goers but doesn’t notice anything suspicious. Bey shares her matter-of-fact confidence that the day will end in flames and death, leading most people to steer well clear of her.
At midday, the festival-goers assemble before the Cathedral again, where Father Zantus and his four acolytes have arranged for a covered wagon to be brought into the square. Father Zantus delivers a parable about how Desna, goddess of luck, beauty, and travel, fell to earth after being defeated by the vicious demon-goddess Lamashtu. Desna was befriended by a young blind girl who nursed her back to health, and in gratitude the goddess turned the girl into a Swallowtail butterfly so she could see the world of Golarion and explore it for all eternity. After the story is finished, the cover on the wagon is pulled back to reveal thousands of Swallowtail butterflies; the freed creatures fly up into the sky in a beautiful spiral of color.
Lunch is provided free to all by the proprietors of three local kitchens: Garridan Viskalai, Shoanti owner of the White Deer Inn; Jargie Quinn, peg-legged owner of the Hagfish; and Ameiko Kaijitsu, well-liked owner of the Rusty Dragon. Felix and Bey end up sitting next to one another, and Bey shares her belief that the streets will soon run red with blood. Felix is enthusiastic about the idea. On the other side of the square, Oliver cleans his nails with his shortsword while Xeveg tries various exotic foods and then plays chess with his familiar, much to the daylight of nearby children.
After lunch, Bey spots her recent companion in battle and asks Oliver how he is feeling. She observes that one of his wounds seems to be infected, and that although he may die, she hopes he’ll live long enough to join in resisting the doom that will soon befall them. In turn, Oliver expresses his confidence that he’ll be fine. The ranger continues to trail Felix at a distance, leading the heavily-muscled Shoanti man to introduce himself. When asked “what his quest” is, Felix replies “beer, food, and wenches!” Xeveg continues scouring merchant and junk stalls, and has a stroke of luck: mixed in with a pile of homemade jewellery and old war medals is a medallion depicting a strikingly beautiful but enraged human woman. Xeveg instantly realizes the medallion is both ancient in creation but relatively unmarked by the passage of time, and that it depicts one of the rulers of old Thassilon, the Runelord Alaznist. He can’t afford the initial price asked for, but negotiates a deal to buy it at a cheaper price if it hasn’t been sold by the end of the day. Bey Lin takes a break from the festival and visits Brodert Quink to see if he’s recovered from his wounds; though laid up in bed, Brodert says he’s getting better. The old sage is annoyed, however, because he’s lost his brass spyglass.
At sunset, it seems like the whole of Sandpoint has turned out in front of the new cathedral to witness the dedication ceremony. Father Zantus throws a thunderstone on the ground to get everyone’s attention and starts to speak, but his words are cut off by the sound of a woman’s scream, and then the sudden surge of strange, high-pitched voices chanting a crude song. The crowd parts as a dog stumbles through, its throat cut from ear to ear and spraying blood everywhere. Felix and Oliver spot a three-foot tall creature with a scrawny body dwarfed by a wide, ungainly head. A goblin! It licks the blood from the blade used to slit the dog’s throat and cackles in obvious glee. Other goblins are spotted all around, and people begin to panic!
Xeveg reacts instantly, magically blasting a goblin off a nearby cart and into a water trough to drown. Felix literally punches a hole in the skull of another goblin, while Bey and Oliver corner a goblin in a nearby residence. The giggling goblin hurls plates and silverware at the adventurers, dodging Oliver’s attempt to catch it in a blanket and Bey’s attempt to magically shatter its weapon. Seconds later, Felix reaches the scene and, learning that Oliver wants a prisoner to interrogate, gathers the goblin up in a chokehold and slams its forehead into a table and unconsciousness. Oliver quickly binds the prisoner with fishing line.
But the raid on Sandpoint is far from over! As shouts and screams and the sound of battle can be heard everywhere, the adventurers realize that a cart full of wood, intended for an evening bonfire, has been set ablaze by another group of goblins. They’re so busy dancing and singing that they don’t even realize they’re being watched, which gives the adventurers a chance to advance. Xeveg slips into the tent holding the Thassilonian medallion and stuffs it into his pocket; he starts to run away, but then changes his mind and returns to the battle. He and Bey work together to stop an emerging threat: one of the goblins has grabbed a brand from the blazing wagon and is trying to set the new cathedral on fire! Xeveg conjures ice and Bey conjures water to put out the goblin’s torch. The ensuing fight is a difficult one, as Felix and Oliver get surrounded by goblins and their warchanter before turning the tide and emerging victorious.
There’s scant time for celebration, however, as one last challenge remains. To the north of the cathedral, near the city gates and the White Deer Inn, a nobleman has been cornered by a goblin commando mounted on a goblin dog. Three goblins who had been hiding emerge from cover to cheer and caper as the commando decapitates a dog. Oliver fires a crossbow bolt into the commando’s leg, distracting the attacker long enough for Bey to run into position and use her bardiche to defend the nobleman. She’s left fighting the commando one-on-one for several moments as the other goblins charge Felix, Oliver, and Xeveg. Xeveg gets stabbed in an unfortunate place by a goblin “dogslicer” and drops to the ground, bleeding. But Felix is a one-man army, using elbow smashes, jump kicks, and roundhouse punches to quickly fell the attackers. He and Oliver then run to join Bey in fending off the commando. Felix does a flying double-elbow strike to dismount the commando, and Oliver’s greatsword takes off his head! Bey Lin sees to everyone’s wounds, and Xeveg regains consciousness.
The cowering nobleman, who gives his name as Aldern Foxglove of Magnimar, thanks the adventurers profusely. He says he’ll be staying in Sandpoint at the Rusty Dragon for a few days and he’ll reward them for saving his life if they come by before he departs for his townhouse in the city.
As the adventurers head south back into Sandpoint, they see that the goblin raid is over, with the attackers having been killed, captured, or driven off. The Swallowtail Festival has come to a perilous end and most residents of Sandpoint have locked themselves in their homes. The Town Watch now patrols in force. Ameiko Kaitjitsu is seen cleaning her rapier of blood, and when she sees the adventurers, she praises them on their heroism in driving off the raiders and offers them a week’s free stay at the Rusty Dragon.
For a new group of adventurers forged in bloodshed, questions still remain: how could such chaotic creatures have mounted a coordinated raid? What were they hoping to achieve? Is Sandpoint truly out of danger? The coming days promise answers and dangers alike.
I used material from the official forums to flesh out the speeches at the beginning of the festival and for the games. The PCs didn't make much use of the games, but I was glad they were there. I wanted the festival to be more than just something that passes by in a couple of lines of narrative, so I had each player tell me at least one thing their character was doing in the morning, and then again for the afternoon, and we role-played it out.
You get a glimpse of Bey's personality as an Oracle with the Apocalypse mystery: it comes across as almost bizarrely calm. The person running Oliver was brand new to gaming (not just Pathfinder), and we'll soon see how much fun that is.
The battles against the goblins went quite well and the PCs were impressive (especially Felix as a Level 1 brawler, tearing everything up). Poor Xeveg got caught with a crit and fell into negatives, but wasn't seriously close to death.
Having successfully defended Sandpoint from a surprise goblin raid, the adventurers return to the house where they left a bound goblin, hoping to interrogate it. Unfortunately, when they arrive they see members of the Watch removing the goblin and lifting it into the back of a hay-wagon containing a few other prisoners. Sheriff Hemlock is there overseeing events, and calls the adventurers over for a quick word. He says all non-emergency personnel should be off the streets, and asks them to come to the garrison at Nine Bells in the morning for a full report since they were spotted fighting goblins.
The adventurers head towards the Rusty Dragon. Bey, who oddly seems to see better at nighttime than during the day, notices Xeveg’s newly-acquired medallion and asks him about it. The two realize they have a shared interest in the history and language of ancient Thassilon. When the adventurers reach the inn, they realize they’ve become local heroes, as several townspeople come by to pat them on the back, shake their hand, or buy them drinks. The evening of drinking and companionship continues for some hours until interrupted by the inn’s front door slamming and the arrival of an older Tian man who is obviously angry. The newcomer shouts something in a language the adventurers don’t understand and then stalks through the common room as the previously boisterous conversation quiets completely. Bethana Corwin, the Rusty Dragon’s halfing maid, whispers to the group that it’s Lonjiku Kaijitsu; she clearly understands what he is shouting about. When Lonjiku sets eyes on the adventurers, he condemns their “antics” and derisively says they should have left the fighting to the professionals.
The adventurers argue back until the doors to the kitchen swing open and Lonjiku focuses his seething gaze on his daughter, Ameiko. Lonjiku shouts at Ameiko, again in a foreign tongue, and then grabs her by the hair as if to drag her out of the inn! Ameiko brains him with a soup ladle and Felix intervenes, restraining the enraged Lonjiku. The Tian man thrusts out a finger towards Ameiko and says in accented Common: “You are as dead to me as your mother!” Felix allows him to turn and head for the door, when suddenly, out of nowhere, Oliver does a running slam-tackle on the old man! Oliver makes as if to arrest Lonjiku, when he realizes everyone in the common room is shocked by his behaviour. A local at a nearby table whispers to him that Lonjiku is head of one of the town’s founding families, and Felix adds that as much as he liked the violence, it might not be worth antagonizing a town leader. Lonjiku himself spews an unending torrent of threats towards Oliver, including promises to contact the Sheriff, the Mayor, the Town Council, and even the Justice Court of Magnimar over the indignity. After chewing it over, Oliver decides to let Lonjiku go. The older man storms out, his clothes dirty and his face cut and bruised from the altercation.
Conversation in the common room starts to pick up again, as now the locals have both the goblin raid and an assault on the head of a founding family to talk about. Xeveg and Bey try to convince Bethana to explain what Lonjiku and Ameiko were arguing about, but she’s reluctant to discuss her employer’s family affairs with strangers, even if they are heroes. Oliver decides to ask Ameiko directly, and finds her in the kitchen trying to keep her composure; she kindly but similarly tells him to just let things be. Having had quite the day, the adventurers go up to their rooms, but stop to take note of a “Help Wanted” sign near the bar. It lists several opportunities, including dung-sweeping for someone named Gorvi, finding a lost spyglass for Brodert Quink, removing a snake from a well for Mayor Deverin, auditioning for a new play at the Sandpoint Theatre, and a bounty on goblin ears by Daviren Hosk at the Goblin Squash Stables. That night, Bey has a memorable dream about peering into a dark tunnel or hole and being lunged at by a fanged creature.
24 Rova 4707
Having forged a bond the previous night, the four adventurers decide to breakfast together in the morning. They discuss the Help Wanted board and decide that, after meeting with Sheriff Hemlock and accepting Madame Mvashti’s invitation to have tea with Bey and her friends, they should perhaps help Mayor Deverin with her snake problem. The adventurers see three liveried servants, obviously not staff of the Rusty Dragon, carefully preparing a table for one. Some minutes later, Aldern Foxglove makes his way down to breakfast, looking far more composed than when the adventurers encountered him the previous evening. He is delighted to see his rescuers and invites them to dine with him. He eats daintily and delicately, but is quite personable. As a reward for saving his life, he invites the adventurers to go on a boar hunt with him in nearby Tickwood. He offers to buy the adventurers mounts and boar spears, which they can keep, and says he plans to depart for the hunt at dawn the next day. The group accept his offer and hurry off to their appointment with Sheriff Hemlock after reminding Oliver he needs to dress in more than a simple bathrobe!
Sheriff Hemlock is in a conference room littered with maps and reports when the adventurers arrive. He says he’s heard several reports of the adventurers’ running battles against the goblins, and after asking them to confirm several details (which Xeveg does aptly), he offers sincere gratitude, even going so far as to tell Felix that he’s willing to give him another chance. Sheriff Hemlock tells Oliver that he is more than welcome to maintain his provisional status in the Town Watch. Hemlock explains that he has his deputies investigating several locations where goblins were spotted last night, and assigns Oliver to follow up on two leads: the Boneyard and Junk Beach.
Before leaving the garrison, the adventurers decide to personally interrogate the captured goblins, four of whom are held in a basement cell. Xeveg is able to speak the guttural goblin language and translates (sometimes quite loosely) for his allies. At first the goblins refuse to provide any useful information and make fun of the adventurers, but when Xeveg bluffs them into thinking they’ll be executed by horse-trampling if they don’t cooperate, they begin to talk. The goblins, two of whom are from Mosswood and two of whom are from Shank’s Wood, say that lots of goblins from all over were in on the raid. Two say they were snuck into Sandpoint in a covered wagon, while the other two came over a wall via ladder, and all were instructed by their boss, a “longshanks”, to kill and burn at will. The Shank’s Wood goblins confirm they never go to nearby Tickwood because of the wild boars there. While the interrogation is going on, Felix encounters the town jailer, a Shoanti man named Vachedi.
The adventurers head across town towards Madame Mvashti’s residence. Bey has a difficult time convincing her allies that it’s worth their time to meet with the seer, but they reluctantly go along. On the way, the adventurers receive further evidence of their popularity in the harbor town; Aneka Avertin of Sandpoint Savories rushes out with a gift basket of pastries for the “Heroes of Sandpoint”, while Felix and Oliver receive seductive smiles and winks from a ginger-haired beauty they haven’t met yet. Madame Mvashti’s house turns out to be a sprawling, decrepit mansion. After being welcomed in by her niece, Gianya Frallino, the group is taken to Madame Mvashti’s sitting room which is chock-full of bizarre trinkets, concoctions, wooden masks, and more. Madame Mvashti throws the bones and does a reading for the group. She says that trouble has been brewing for five years now, and that it’s about to erupt from above and below. Last night’s raid was just a drop in the bucket of the devastation sure to come to Sandpoint, but there’s still a chance the fates can be swayed if heroes arise to stem the tide. She finds Oliver particularly amusing, saying he has heart but no head, and gifts him with a dusty jar full of briny liquid to drink when “things are at their worst.” She also expresses her fondness for Xeveg, who is clearly sceptical of her ability to foretell the future, saying that he has head but no heart and that perhaps he and Oliver can learn from each other. Madame Mvashti finishes by saying it’s time for her nap, but that Bey and her friends are welcome to come again.
The newly-built Sandpoint Cathedral is the adventurers’ next destination. It’s the town’s largest building by far, home to chapels to six different faiths (Abadar, Desna, Erastil, Gozreh, Sarenrae, and Shelyn), and features an open-air courtyard with ancient standing stones that served as a place of worship for the indigenous Varisians for generations. Sister Arva, one of the temple’s four acolytes, expresses her willingness to heal the adventurers in gratitude for their valour the night prior. The adventurers then travel through the cathedral and out a back door that leads directly to the Boneyards, Sandpoint’s cemetery. The Boneyards overlooks the Turandarok River, and in addition to the expected grave plots it features dozens of stone vaults owned by the more affluent members of the community.
Xeveg’s keen eyes quickly spots where the goblins climbed over the wall. Oliver’s woodland skill in tracking reveals that there were six goblins and one lightweight humanoid. The ranger follows the tracks from the wall to a particular vault whose heavy square door still hangs ajar. Felix puts his shoulder to the door and forces it open further, revealing four stone sarcophagi inside. But far more pressing to the skilled brawler are two skeletal abominations that leaps out at him with rusty scimitars and bony claws! Fortunately, Felix dodges away from their attacks and shatters one of their skulls with his fist! Xeveg’s darting ray of positive energy and Oliver’s greatsword make short work of the remaining skeleton. After the battle, Xeveg examines the remnants of the skeletons and realizes they were magically conjured from nothingness and were never the bones of an actual corpse. Inside the vault, he sees the lid to one of the sarcophagi has been pried open and is empty; a plaque on its side reads: “Father Ezakien Tobyn, Honoured Citizen of Sandpoint and Priest of Desna.” In addition, crumpled up in a corner of the vault is a black robe that Xeveg realizes has some sort of connection to necromancy. He stuffs it in his backpack. The group look for a secret door but do not find one.
Oliver discerns that the intruders then went towards a cemetery gate, but he loses their trail once it leads onto a cobblestone road in the town proper. The adventurers decide to return to the cathedral and confer with Father Zantus about the missing body. He is distraught at hearing the news that Father Tobyn’s body has been stolen. He explains that Father Tobyn died in the same fire that burned down Sandpoint’s previous chapel five years previously, and that he was a mentor to many in the community, including Father Zantus himself. He has no idea why someone would steal the body of a priest. The adventurers decide to stay for the noon dedication ceremony of the cathedral, which is a much quieter and more intimate affair than the interrupted ceremony planned for the night prior. After the ceremony, Bey takes the opportunity to ask Mayor Deverin about the request she placed on the Rusty Dragon’s “Help Wanted” board. Mayor Deverin confirms that one of the wells at Deverin Manor has been befouled by a snake, and that the adventurers would be rewarded if they can remove it. She says to speak to her groundskeeper for more information.
The adventurers head to Junker’s Edge, a clifftop overlooking the sea and a junk-covered beach below, in order to follow-up on the second goblin spotting that Sheriff Hemlock told them about. Hoping to kill two birds with one stone, Bey mentions to the others that Brodert Quink may have lost his spyglass in the area. Xeveg and Felix work together to determine the most likely spot on the beach below that a spyglass would end up if it were to have dropped accidentally. Felix spots a narrow channel down the side of the cliff-face that could provide a safe path down to the beach below, and everyone sets off. Oliver slips on the way down and crashes into Bey, and both end up with scrapes and bruises. When everyone reaches the beach, they split up to look for the spyglass. Bey is poking through various bits of debris when she suddenly hears a shriek right underneath her feet; a goblin had hidden himself in the sand and junk and fallen asleep, and Bey stepped right on him! His shriek awakens three other goblins hidden nearby, and in moments a fight is on.
The goblins are undisciplined, easily distracted combatants. Nonetheless, Oliver quickly drinks the strange concoction given to him by Madame Mvashti for emergencies and discovers that it is a powerful healing potion; but as he hadn’t yet been wounded, it has little effect. Bey tussles with one of the goblins only to realize it’s attacking her with a brass spyglass; when Oliver kills it, Felix does a diving leap to catch the spyglass before it crashes into the ground. Having exhausted his offensive magicks, Xeveg uses a shovel to fight the goblins and nearly decapitates one. Felix continues to prove himself a master of unarmed fighting and in seconds all of the goblins are dead. Oliver collects ears for the bounty, and the adventurers espy a burlap sack containing a mixture of rotting garbage and semi-valuable items like a copper necklace and a filthy but workable hand crossbow. The climb back up the cliff is again perilous, as Xeveg falls twice before being pulled up with a rope lowered by Felix. As the adventurers catch their breath, they notice a horse-drawn cart arrive with more junk to drop over the side.
The inhabitants of Sandpoint have quickly taken to Bey, Oliver, Xeveg, and Felix, and the local heroes have continued their record of success by uncovering the theft of Father Tobyn’s body and catching four more goblins. But will their encounter with Lonjiku Kaijitsu come back to haunt them?
One of the minor additions I've made to the adventure path that has worked extremely well is posting various items to the Rusty Dragon's "Help Wanted" board. This has served as an excellent way to introduce minor side-quests and add some character to events happening in the town. The incident at Junk Beach is taken from the encounter of the same name from the Dark Waters Rising hardcover (collecting the first six issues of the Pathfinder comic). That comic has proved to be an excellent resource to flesh out Sandpoint and its surroundings.
Having successfully retrieved Brodert Quink’s spyglass, the adventurers make their way to the sage’s residence near the base of the ancient crumbling tower known as Old Light. Inside, Quink gives the group a sizable reward and explains his theory about the true purpose of Old Light to a sceptical Xeveg. He also mentions to Bey that he suspects there may be an underground chamber below the tower that acts as its power source, but she convinces him that if there is one, he must not explore it alone.
Next, the adventurers travel to the Goblin Squash Stables. They notice the dozens of goblin ears nailed to the rafters, each with the goblin’s name branded into the dried leathery skin. The surly teenager Bimmy Beems, rescued a few days previously from a wild horse by Oliver and Bey, motion the group to the rear of the barn when they ask about the horses promised them by Aldern Foxglove for the next morning’s boar hunt. They pass by a large jar on a pedestal containing the preserved corpse of goblin chief, and then come to the owner of the stables, a retired ranger named Daviren Hosk. Hosk speaks dismissively of “that fop” Foxglove, but says his coin is good and that the adventurers can choose from the mounts he has available. Bey ends up with a horse who bites but that Daviren promises will be good on a boar hunt. Felix chooses a horse that nuzzles him as an act of submission, while Oliver settles on a heavy draft horse. Xeveg leaves suddenly and waits for the other adventurers outside. They remember to turn in the pairs of goblin ears they’ve collected for Daviren’s promised 5 gp/pair bounty, and find a glint of pleasure in the man’s eyes for the first time.
As he drops off some of the group’s captured equipment in his room at the Rusty Dragon, Xeveg notices two teenage girls slipping a note under the door to Felix’s room. He uses a minor incantation to retrieve it and then shows it to the Shoanti man, who uses the note expressing affection from “secret admirers” to wipe goblin blood off of his boots.
Next stop is Deverin Manor, reached by crossing Sandpoint Bridge and then following along a road overlooking Sandpoint Harbor. A groundskeeper who neither asks nor offers his name directs the trouble-shooters to a well on the estate grounds that has been befouled by a snake. Oliver ties one end of his rope to the wood-and-metal frame that supports a chain and bucket, gives himself about 10’ of slack, and then dramatically jumps in! With an everburning torch in one hand, he drops a bundle of bread and ham into the bottom of the well with his other hand and is rewarded for his efforts by seeing a serpentine head emerge from the water to snatch it! After Oliver is pulled back to the lip of the well, the adventurers discuss what to do. Xeveg can tell from Oliver’s description that the creature at the bottom of the well is a goblin snake, a cruel and impulsive sentient creature that cares for little besides its next meal. Bey volunteers to be lowered down since she can see surprisingly well in the dark and trusts her bardiche to keep her safe. The plan works almost to perfection, as when the goblin snake springs from the water to bite her, she lops off its head with a single slash! But the serpentine menace had just enough time to belch a poisonous gas in Bey’s direction, leaving her feeling sick and nauseated as she’s raised to the top. Her illness soon passes and Oliver cleverly uses the camouflage netting from his pack to scoop out the body of the goblin snake. Witnessing the Deverin Manor well problem solved in an unorthodox but speedy fashion, the pleased groundskeeper distributes five gold pieces to each adventurer.
Felix finds an enticing opportunity waiting for him outside the Rusty Dragon when the group returns. A voluptuous, red-haired beauty named Shayliss Vinder introduces herself as part of the family that runs the town’s general store and says there's a problem with giant rats in the basement that only Felix could solve. Felix doesn’t hesitate to go along. The general store has a handwritten “Closed, Back in Five Minutes” sign on the door as Shayliss leads Felix inside and down into the basement. There, behind several barrels of grog, Felix finds not rats but a cot! One thing leads to another until footsteps are heard on the stairs. Ven Vinder, Shayliss’s father, comes down the stairs with a box of empty bottles in his hands and is stunned to see a barbaric outlander seducing his "naïve, virginal" daughter! He shouts for Shayliss to go upstairs and hurls the box of bottles at Felix, who dodges adroitly. Vinder promises to give Felix a beating he’ll never forget and takes wild swings at the interloper, but Felix keeps his cool, dodges, and calmly heads up the stairs to impotent shouts of rage from below. On the street outside, Shayliss says she’ll try to sneak out some night soon to see Felix again.
The rest of the evening passes uneventfully in the common room of the Rusty Dragon.
25 Rova 4707
Dawn sees the adventurers assembled early for a boar hunt with Aldern Foxglove and his three manservants. Everyone receives a specially-crafted boar spear and instructions on its use. Xeveg asks Aldern if he can ride tandem behind him, and although the nobleman’s horse shies away at first, Aldern manages to calm his mount and pulls Xeveg up. Aldern leads the group north and then east across Tanner’s Bridge to trot on the Lost Coast Road. To their left, the Varisian Gulf sparkles before them, with small fleets of fishing vessels already plying their trade. The group see a ragged range of broken hills to their right (Ravenroost) as Aldern, who is clearly a morning person, makes sure conversation continues to flow. He alternates between being astounded and amused by Bey’s talk of a coming apocalypse, tells Xeveg about the hundreds of books he has in his townhouse (purely for decoration), asks unknowingly ridiculous and condescending questions about Felix’s Shoanti heritage, and offers to assist Oliver in becoming Sheriff of Sandpoint by using his pull with the Justice Court of Magnimar to make it happen. He invites all of the adventurers to visit him in Magnimar as his personal guests to experience the city’s art galleries, theatres, and sparkling soirees.
The travellers soon find themselves with forestlands to their left and their right. To the left lies Shank’s Wood, which Aldern says is full of goblins and a notorious highwayman. To the right lies Tickwood, a perfect place to catch boar. Oliver puts his wilderness lore to good use, expertly finding the tracks of a boar and leading the group to a thicket of bushes. He scares it out, and the hunt is on! Felix tries to stab it with his boar spear but misses, while Oliver wounds it slightly with a crossbow bolt. Bey tries to spear it but is unused to fighting from horseback and ends up stabbing herself in the leg! Aldern gallantly ties his own silk scarf around the wound to try to staunch the bleeding. The boar sprints away but Felix gives chase and stabs it hard, only to find his upper thigh gored in return! Aldern, Felix, and Xeveg manage to finish off the hardy beast, and the nobleman’s manservants hog-tie the body for the return to Sandpoint. Aldern is clearly elated with their success and invites everyone to dine with him that evening at the Rusty Dragon, promising that Ameiko Lonjiku is an excellent cook. The hunters make it back to town well before lunchtime, and Aldern excuses himself to freshen up.
The next few hours pass quickly with various errands taking up most of the group’s time. Xeveg uses divination magic to discern that the black robe found in the stone vault at the cemetery is a robe of bones, presently exhausted but in the past capable of magically conjuring undead creatures. He likes the look of it and decides to wear it. A journey is made to the local armory, Savah’s, to sell some spoils of war and buy new ones. The eponymous owner is ecstatic to see Sandpoint’s newest heroes in her store and she offers substantial discounts on her wares. With their coin purses jingling, Bey and Oliver visit the town’s bank (underneath the Town Hall) and are assisted by Sister Arva, priestess of Abadar, with exchanging silver and gold for platinum.
As everyone is on their way back to the Rusty Dragon, they witness a middle-aged woman running frantically down the street, holding a baby in one arm and dragging a little boy behind her in the other. She shouts that her husband is alone in the house fighting a vicious goblin! The woman, Amele Barrett, hurriedly explains that each night after the goblin raid her son Aeren has awoken in the middle of the night screaming about a goblin in his closet. And each time, her husband Alergast went to investigate and found nothing awry. Today though, when Aeren was taking a nap, he woke up screaming and when Alergast and Amele went to check, they found a goblin chewing on his arm! Amele dragged Aeren to safety and grabbed her infant while Alergast attacked the goblin. The adventurers immediately rush to the house and to a child’s room on the second floor. There, they find the legs of a man sticking out of a dark closet. Felix flips the body over to reveal that Alergast’s throat has been slashed and that his face was being gnawed on! The distraction allows the goblin, who had been hiding in the back of the closet underneath some pried-up floorboards, to leap out and attack. Oliver’s greatsword and Felix’s fists are too much for the starved, crazed goblin and it collapses to the ground. Xeveg decapitates it with his shovel. On their way out of the house, the Town Watch arrive and take over the scene. One of the guards says that Sheriff Hemlock was looking for them, so the adventurers head for the town garrison.
A tense meeting is underway when the adventurers arrive. Mayor Deverin and Sheriff Hemlock are hearing a report from an elven ranger named Shalelu Andosana. Shalelu, who happens to be an old friend of Oliver’s, spends months at a time in the wilderness of Western Varisia working as a scout and bounty hunter for various small towns. She says that she’s hurried to Sandpoint with ominous news: there are multiple reports of goblin raids on farms and caravans in the area, and, even worse, it seems that several goblin tribes are working together. She explains that usually the various chaotic and short-sighted tribes keep each other in check through infighting, and that only a powerful leader could succeed in getting them to act with unity. Shalelu says she plans to set off again in the morning to try to gather more intelligence. Sheriff Hemlock receives Mayor Deverin’s approval to set off that very night for Magnimar to press for a contingent of soldiers to help protect the town against a further raid. After hearing about the goblin attacks at the Barretts’ and Junk Beach, Mayor Deverin asks the adventurers if they’d be willing to stay in Sandpoint and maintain a very public presence for a few days to help reassure the citizenry that everything is under control. The adventurers agree, with Xeveg advising house-to-house searches to ferret out any remaining goblins and Bey suggesting that any goblin sightings, however unlikely, be followed up on immediately. Mayor Deverin agrees.
Before going to ready his mount for an overnight ride to Magnimar, Sheriff Hemlock stops and talks with Oliver about the altercation with Lonjiku Kaijitsu at the Rusty Dragon on the night of the raid. Sheriff Hemlock says the locals seem split on whether or not Oliver acted appropriately, but that Lonjiku himself has surprisingly kept a low-profile and is apparently working on a secret project at his glass factory. Hemlock says that a member of the Town Watch, even a provisional one, must walk a fine line between avoiding excessive force and not backing down when the law must be upheld.
After the meeting, Shalelu asks Oliver and his new friends if they’ll accompany her for a seafood dinner at the Hagfish, promising to fill them in more on the goblin threat.
The adventure path treats goblins in an interesting but occasionally confusing way. They're treated as both comical and murderous. They're sentient creatures, but bounties are offered on their ears with no questions asked.
The goblin snake encounter was one I made up, and it turned out quite well. I think it's good to give the PCs some easily-achievable mini-quests early in the campaign to build up their teamwork and sense of accomplishment. After all, things will get much harder down the line!
As the adventurers get ready to depart the Sandpoint Garrison in order to dine with Shalelu Andosana at the Hagfish, Bey suggests someone should notify Aldern Foxglove that they may be late to the planned boar-roast. Oliver volunteers, and after delivering the message to one of the nobleman’s manservants, notices that some new opportunities have been posted to the Rusty Dragon’s Help Wanted board. Along with requests to find a missing horse and catch a bandit in Shank’s Wood, there’s a mysterious message about a ghost-talker. Oliver returns to the group just as they reach Sandpoint’s harbor area.
The Hagfish proves to be a raucous and popular seafood restaurant. The proprietor, Jargie Quinn, tells Felix a ludicrous story about a whale biting off his leg before being shrunk, caught, and thrown into the aquarium behind the bar. The adventurers quickly learn about the Hagfish’s long-running sport: anyone who can keep down a ladle-full of water from the aquarium of the repellent Varisian hagfish named Norah is entitled to a purse full of silver and their name carved into the rafter above the bar. Although Felix looks intrigued, he’s beaten to the punch by his allies. Xeveg quickly drinks a ladleful and, although looking a bit queasy, manages to keep it down and receives general applause and the prize money. Bey follows suit and succeeds as well, but when Oliver tries, the slimy and foul-tasting water is regurgitated all over the floor to even louder applause and jeers.
At a corner table, Oliver’s old friend Shalelu orders several seafood platters before being asked if she knows of anyone who has a grudge against Sandpoint, as the adventurers suspect that the mysterious “longshanks” who is leading the goblin raids against the town may be a local. Although Shalelu has been coming into town for years, she rarely stays more than a day or two at a time and isn’t able to help. She is, however, able to share some general information about the so-called “Late Unpleasantness.” About five years ago, a series of tragedies struck Sandpoint in quick succession: a fire destroyed the town’s chapel and led to the death of Father Ezakien Tobyn and his daughter Nualia; the wife of Lonjiku Kaijitsu (Atsuii) fell off a cliff near the family home; and a serial killer nicknamed “The Chopper” preyed on over two-dozen residents before being caught and perishing in a mutual battle to the death with the town’s previous sheriff, Casp Avertin.
Shalelu intentionally turns the conversation from the past to the present, as she expresses her concern over the suspected unification of the nearby goblin tribes under a strong leader. She provides a brief overview of the five tribes: the Birdcrunchers of Devil’s Platter (traditionally the least aggressive); the Licktoads of Brinestump Marsh (excellent swimmers); the Seven Tooths of Shank’s Wood (scavengers); the Mosswood tribe (the most numerous); and the Thistletop goblins (who have the best lair, a small island off the coast). Oliver suggest an expedition to wipe out the strongest goblin tribe to end the threat, but the others remind him that they’ve been asked to stay in Sandpoint and maintain a public profile to reassure the townspeople. As the food and drinks continue, discussion turns to the items on the Rusty Dragon’s Help Wanted sign.
Bey pays close attention to the town bells and, after a farewell to Shalelu (who hopes to return with more intelligence soon), gets her companions to the Rusty Dragon in time for supper with Aldern. Aldern turns in early citing an early departure the next morning for Magnimar, but before going he engages in an unintentionally but incredibly offensive colloquy with Felix about Shoanti living in trees and chasing buffalo. Oliver circulates around the common room asking about the missing horse (“Shadowmist”) and learns that it apparently bolted after travellers were mugged near Shank’s Wood. After Ameiko plays a few beautiful songs on her lute, the adventurers stay late drinking and discussing what to do the next day; they remain divided between an expedition to Shank’s Wood to collect the 250 gp bounty on the legendary highwayman Vyron “Shank” Jethezme or staying closer to Sandpoint and perhaps investigating the “ghost-talker” request.
26 Rova 4707
As they come down the stairs for breakfast in the morning, the adventurers are stunned to see a flyer for a new play listing them as participants! The play, “Local Heroes,” purports to depict the heroic defence of Sandpoint against the goblin raiders and will be held in the evening at 8 bells. Xeveg is insulted at being linked to a character named “The Diabolist,” whereas Felix (“The Savage”) is excited about being a celebrity and Bey (“The Doomsayer”) is eager to attend as she feels that doom will surely accompany such a production. Oliver (“The Maverick”) is more interested in collecting on a bounty. Upon noticing that the usual array of fresh fruit, warm baked breads, and platters of deliciously prepared cured meats and eggs have been replaced by day-old pastries, Bey heads into the kitchens to see what’s going on. She sees a troubled Bethana Corwin speaking to another staff member, and convinces the halfling maid to explain what’s on her mind: it seems that Ameiko, who is always up early to prepare the breakfast service, hasn’t yet made an appearance. Bey senses something may be wrong and persuades the reluctant maid to open the door to Ameiko’s room. Inside, they find a bed that hasn’t been slept in and a handwritten note from someone named Tsuto to Ameiko. The note says that “father” may have had something to do with the recent goblin raid and that a way has to be found to make sure he’s punished. It concludes by asking Ameiko to come to the delivery entrance of the Glassworks at midnight.
Bethana realises that there’s no point in keeping secrets from the adventurers any longer. She explains that Tsuto is Ameiko’s half-brother. Both of Ameiko’s parents were human, and when Tsuto was born a half-elf, it was clear that scandalous infidelity was involved. Tsuto was cast out of the Kaijitsu family and sent to grow up at Turandarok Academy as an orphan, and Ameiko didn’t even learn of her brother’s existence until she was ten years old. Once she did learn, however, she befriended him. After a year abroad adventuring in her teens, she returned to Sandpoint for their mother’s funeral. At the funeral, Tsuto accused Lonjiku of murdering his mother and Lonjiku beat the boy with his cane. Tsuto fled Sandpoint and hasn’t been seen in years. Bethana explains that the night the adventurers witnessed Lonjiku and Ameiko arguing, Lonjiku had determined to move the family back to Magnimar and was trying to get his daughter to come along.
Bey hurries downstairs to share the news with her adventuring companions. Xeveg agrees that the Glassworks should be visited for any signs of Ameiko, though he explains that he has an important errand to run first. He hurries to the Sandpoint Cathedral and talks with Father Zantus, kindly offering to help repair and make presentable for funereal rites any corpses that come in. Father Zantus is sincerely touched by the offer and promises to keep the young man’s offer in mind. Xeveg reunites with the others outside the cathedral and, as a thick fog begins to roll into the harbor town, he and the others decide to make a brief inquiry about the “ghost-talker” request and travel, as directed, to the corner of High Street and Festival Street. There, they see several residences and a sign featuring two massive red mastiffs peering at an anvil: the Red Dog Smithy. The group surmise that perhaps the local blacksmith has placed the advertisement and, noticing that the smithy is closed, they make their way to a small loft at the rear.
Despite repeated shouts to go away (and to do quite vulgar things to themselves), the adventurers persevere and eventually see the door opened by a bald, muscular man: Das Korvut. Korvut, after finally realizing the adventurers aren’t there to mock him, explains that he wants a ghost-talker because he’s recently seen the ghostly figure of his son, Simon, across the bay on Chopper’s Isle. Korvut, who has clearly lapsed into an angry depression and alcoholism, says that his wife and son went missing during the Chopper murders. Although his wife’s body was found when the home of Jervas Stoot (who was really the Chopper) was searched, no sign of his son was ever found. The Stoot house was burned to the ground, and there’s never been any proof of what happened to Simon. After promising to help, the adventurers leave and discuss the matter. Xeveg says that usually, in cases of spectral apparitions, a spirit will voluntarily depart if whatever unfinished business is tethering it to the material plane is completed. Bey asks Oliver if he can get records of the original investigation into Simon’s disappearance, and the provisional town constable says he’ll try.
The adventurers arrive at the glass factory on the western edge of Sandpoint to find its rooftop chimneys blowing smoke and a handwritten sign on the front door stating “Closed for Special Project.” After the special knock on the delivery entrance indicated in Tsuto’s letter has no effect, Bey decides to take matters into her own hands: with several swings of her bardiche, she chops the door into pieces! A small crowd of locals assemble as Sandpoint’s newest crop of heroes are apparently breaking into a building in broad daylight. Most prominent among them are Ven Vinder, proprietor of the town general store, Alma Avertin of Sandpoint Savories (the local bakery), and Sabyl Sorn of the House of Blue Stones. Sabyl immediately questions the adventurers’ legal authority to break and enter the Glassworks, and is not persuaded by their cryptic references to a letter and Ameiko not turning up at breakfast. Oliver almost provokes a fight by trying to intimidate the slim but unshaken monk before Xeveg brokers a truce by promising Sabyl he’ll be personally responsible for any damages caused to the Glassworks should Ameiko’s disappearance have a perfectly normal explanation.
The suspicions of the adventurers are immediately confirmed as they enter through the shattered delivery entrance and find an opened, empty safe on the floor of the delivery room. Their search of the factory soon leads them to a long, narrow glass-firing room full of ovens, tables of tools, and raw materials. But most prominent is the ghastly sight of eight goblins cavorting around and mutilating the bodies of the Glasswork’s slain employees. Even worse, in the center of the room, Lonjiku Kaitjitsu’s corpse can be seen through several melted sheets of glass. Noise from the furnaces and the goblins’ sick revelry masks the adventurers’ appearance, and they catch their foes off-guard. Felix strides boldly into the room and ends up fighting four goblins at once, bare-handed! Bey and Oliver join the fray with polearm and greatsword respectively. The goblins, armed variously with dogslicers, tongs of molten glass, and other improvised weapons, are outmatched and quickly routed. Xeveg shouts at the survivors to surrender, and two of them make a run for it. Felix catches up to one of them and slams his fist through the goblin’s back! The lone survivor is cowed and starts to grovel and beg as Oliver collects ears for Daviren Hosk’s bounty. Xeveg interrogates the goblin and learns that their leader and the “girl longshanks” are in the basement. Sabyl Sorn is summoned to secure the scene and the goblin prisoner, and, witnessing the truth of the adventurers’ claims, tells Xeveg she owes him a debt of honour.
With her uncanny ability to see in total darkness, Bey leads the adventurers into the basement. They come across two locked doors and a section of brick wall that has been recently broken through to a subterranean tunnel that branches into three parts. Backtracking, Felix punches through one of the locked wooden doors to reveal Ameiko, bound and gagged, laying on a pile of sandbags! But the noise hasn’t gone unnoticed; the other door just down the hall springs open, and Tsuto is ready for a fight!
The PCs decide to follow a Chopper's Isle adventure hook in this session. I stuck pretty closely with the premise of the scenario written by James B. Cline in Wayfinder # 7. I thought the sheer darkness of the story fit perfectly with the tone of Rise of the Runelords, though, as we'll see in a subsequent session, I made it even a little bit darker. The one thing I was irritated about my depiction of Das Korvut and the Red Dog Smithy was that I completely forgot about his hounds! And the place is named after them!
I really liked the little detail of the PCs deciding to break their way into the Glassworks and having to justify their actions to several concerned locals. PCs are used to being a law unto themselves, and sometimes forget that not every encounter site is a dungeon.
For all the set-up and the great setting, the fight against the goblins in the Glassworks' furnace room was a cakewalk for the PCs. I don't know if the goblins hit them at all. But I didn't mind; I knew there was enough tough stuff coming their way little in the adventure path to make up for it.
In the basement of the Sandpoint Glassworks, a team of adventurers has discovered the whereabouts of Ameiko and her kidnapper (and brother), Tsuto. As the team is distracted by seeing Ameiko’s unconscious, bound, and prone form, Tsuto launches a surprise attack. His punch, aimed for Bey’s throat, slides harmlessly off her armor and the battle begins! Tsuto’s quick reflexes and mobility are of limited use in the narrow basement corridor, and soon he’s wounded from multiple strikes while barely landing a glancing blow on Bey’s jaw. The kidnapper turns and runs for it, but the adventurers give chase! Xeveg and Felix manage keep up with the spritely half-elf, and corner him in a small cul-de-sac in one of the long tunnels. Xeveg conjures a freezing ray and Felix punches Tsuto square in the nose, and in moments their target is unconscious. They drag him back to the scene of the initial attack and Xeveg uses the ropes binding Ameiko to bind Tsuto instead. The group exit the Glassworks carrying the unconscious siblings and receive general applause from the small crowd of townspeople assembled outside. Ameiko is taken to the Rusty Dragon to rest while Tsuto is deposited in a jail cell underneath the Sandpoint Garrison. Bey estimates the villain will awaken naturally in a couple of hours and can then be interrogated.
The adventurers discuss whether they should go to Chopper’s Isle and investigate Das Korvut’s believe that he saw the ghost of his missing son Simon there. The thick fog, 120’ high cliff face, and realisation that the isle can only be reached on foot at low-tide lead the group to determine they should wait for a better opportunity and gather additional information. After Bey delivers a note asking for an audience with Madame Mvashti to discuss spirits, Felix suggests that a conversation with the locals about what happened five years ago during the “Late Unpleasantness” could be useful. They talk to Jodar Provolost, a part-time member of the Town Watch. Provolost tells them that five years ago, in a span of just a couple of months, three tragedies struck Sandpoint: Lonjiku Kaitjitsu’s wife, Atsuii, slipped and fell to her death from a cliff near the family home; a fire consumed the town chapel and resulted in the death of Father Ezakien Tobyn and his foster-daughter, an aasimar named Nualia; and a serial-murderer nick-named “The Chopper” terrorized Sandpoint and claimed over two-dozen victims. The Chopper was revealed to be an eccentric but seemingly gentle man named Jervas Stoot, beloved in Sandpoint for the delicate and graceful wood carvings he did of birds. Stoot built his home on the small tidal island just north of Old Light, nimbly climbing up and down the cliff face in good weather until the townspeople chipped in and had a set of wooden stairs built. After Stoot’s crimes were discovered and he perished in mortal combat with the town’s previous sheriff, the house and stairs on the isle were burned.
As they wait for Tsuto to awaken, the adventurers go through the half-elf’s possessions which have been piled neatly outside of his cell by the town jailer, Vachedi. Bey and Xeveg work together to determine that Tsuto carried a magical potion of healing and minor ring of protection, and each are assigned to Felix. Tsuto’s journal is also found, and when read reveals that the real goal for the raid on Sandpoint on the night of the Swallowtail Festival was the theft of Father Tobyn’s body. Tsuto writes that his “love” burned the remains at a shrine in Thistletop to “start the transformation” and remove her “celestial taint”. The journal also mentions the names Ripnugget, Bruthazmus, Malfeshnikor, Lamashtu, and a potential plan to have a mysterious quasit attack Sandpoint from below using the old smuggler’s tunnels under the Glassworks. Xeveg recognises the name Lamashtu as the demonic goddess of deformity, miscarriage, and madness, while Bey makes a connection between Father Tobyn’s body being stolen and his foster-daughter being a member of the celestial aasimar race. To test the latter theory, the team ask one of the longest-serving members of the Town Watch, a grey-haired veteran named Bosk Hartigan, about Nualia. He says that Nualia was presumed to have died in the chapel fire, but that her body was never found. He describes Nualia as having been a great beauty, so much so that she could be off-putting to regular people. After Bosk departs, the group speculates whether the fact that next month is Lamashan (named after the demon goddess) could have special significance. Bey says that if the group can’t figure out when the true invasion will occur, they may need to evacuate the town!
Tsuto awakens with a groan, and realising his situation, he sits with his back to the adventurers and starts meditating. At first he ignores them entirely, but Bey and Xeveg manage to get a reaction out of him by mentioning his “love” and his deceased father, respectively. Xeveg suggests that Bey poke him with the blunt end of her bardiche through the bars of his cell, but when she does so, Tsuto suddenly jumps around and pulls the weapon from her hands! He stabs Xeveg with it and then starts attacking the cell’s lock. He tells the group he’ll see that they’re treated mercifully if they let him go, but Oliver draws his greatsword and impales Tsuto! The prisoner slumps to the ground, hovering on death’s door before Bey manages to stabilize him. The commotion draws Vachedi and other guards from the garrison. Vachedi takes Felix aside and says that he’s happy to give his fellow Shoanti plenty of lee-way when it comes to interrogation, but he’ll have to be more subtle next time, especially once Sheriff Hemlock returns.
The adventurers decide to discuss Tsuto’s journal and the discussion of further attacks with Mayor Deverin at the town hall across the street from the garrison. Mayor Deverin grants them an instant audience, and is horrified when shown Tsuto’s journal. She exclaims that the tunnels below the Glassworks need to be secured and asks the adventurers to scout where they lead. The potential menace of Thistletop is also discussed, though Mayor Deverin is loathe for the town’s new heroes to be publicly seen leaving during this time of crisis. She says she’ll trust in the adventurers’ expertise, however, as they’ve always come through for the town. She agrees to post guards in the Glassworks’ basement and at each entrance to the town.
Xeveg decides that research in the library at the House of Blue Stones could be useful in gathering more information about some of the names mentioned in Tsuto’s journal. He is admitted entry by Sabyl Sorn in order to discharge the debt of honour she says she owes the group for doubting their word outside the Glassworks that morning. Inside, Xeveg sees that the interior of the building consists of a single large chamber, the floor of which is decorated with polished blue stones set within winding pathways of reed mats. Sabyl lifts a particular reed mat to reveal a trapdoor leading into a library of scrolls below. She lectures Xeveg about the rules for using the collection, most of which she says was gathered by her now-deceased father. She also stays and watches Xeveg at all times. Although he turns up nothing in regards to the name “Malfeshnikor”, he is able to set aside at least one theory: the cultists of Lamashtu are not known to pay any particular reverence to holy months, days, or the lunar calendar.
After waiting outside for some time and realizing they have no idea how long Xeveg could take, the other adventurers decide to return to the Rusty Dragon for the afternoon. They learn that Ameiko has been visited by Father Zantus and has been healed of her physical wounds, but has kept to her room. As Madame Mvashti has not left word for them, the group ask around and learn that the aged seer is often taken on walks throughout Sandpoint or its environs by her niece Gianya. The trio wander around Sandpoint hoping to run into them, but the fates are not with them and they end up back at the House of Blue Stone to wait for Xeveg. After the young wizard emerges and shares what he’s found, Bey expresses excitement about attending the play “Local Heroes” at the Sandpoint Theatre that evening. Xeveg adamantly refuses to attend, but the others decide to go and even show up early.
Bey, Felix, and Oliver find that the theatre’s box office is attended by surly teenager Bimmy Beems, who explains that he quit working for Daviren Hosk “because horses are stupid.” Beems says that the actor’s entrance is around the side and, intrigued, the trio use the door to enter backstage. Cyrdak Drokkus, proprietor of the theatre is there, and he enthusiastically welcomes the group. Although they refuse Drokkus’ attempt to get them “in costume,” Felix is ambushed by a make-up artist before the play “Local Heroes” begins before a packed house. Local children dressed up like goblins riding broomstick goblin dogs rush on stage to “attack” the heroes (with Bimmy Beems taking on the role of Xeveg). Bey recites impromptu dialogue that goes over spectacularly well with the audience before whirling her bardiche impressively. Felix is grabbed by two “goblins” and he spins the youths about, but overdoes it and one of them vomits! Oliver does equally as well as the group saves “Aldern Foxglove” in the final scene. The crowd loves the production and claps frenetically. Cyrdak follows through on a promise to split the take with the performers and then the cast and crew head to the Rusty Dragon for an after-party.
During the party, Ameiko comes out to the common room and everyone hushes. She offers her sincere thanks to the adventurers for saving her life and gives the room a strained smile as she says she’ll be back to normal in no time. Later, Bey speaks with Ameiko about Tsuto; Ameiko says her brother can be extremely stubborn, and will never talk unless forced to do so by magic.
27 Rova 4707
At breakfast that morning, Shayliss Vinder enters the common room and draws Felix aside for a private conversation. She implies that she is pregnant and asks Felix for 25 gp so she can “take care of it.” Felix clearly disbelieves her, leading Shayliss to start sobbing uncontrollably, drawing everyone’s attention to her. When Felix turns to leave, Shayliss’ tears suddenly dry up and she coldly says he better pay because she wants a new necklace; if she doesn’t get the money, she’ll ruin him! She says he has 24 hours to make up his mind. Felix returns to his allies and explains the extortion attempt, but says he’s not worried about “women’s gossip.”
The adventurers decide to investigate the tunnels underneath the Glassworks, but their first stop is to dispose of some of the spoils of war they’ve accumulated to date at Savah’s Armoury and a store filled with an eccentric array of items named The Feathered Serpent. There, Xeveg makes an arrangement with the proprietor to be informed if any rings of sustenance become available for sale.
One of Sandpoint's most popular citizens has been rescued by its newest heroes, but what secrets lurk in the catacombs beneath the town?
I'm glad that the writers of the adventure path put a lot of letters, journals, and other forms of exposition into the game; they help explain the story to PCs in a way that might otherwise be quite fuzzy, and it's always fun to have handouts.
I was glad to see my players do some research into the Late Unpleasantness. All of that backstory, much of it quite important, shouldn't go to waste!
The bit with the play was my own addition. I just thought it would be fantastic fun to see how the PCs would "act" if forced on to the stage, and although none of them had any ranks in a Perform skill, the results weren't *too* bad. I really wanted to play up the PCs being treated like heroes, and having a play produced about their exploits was a good way to show the town's enthusiasm for them.
Really careful readers familiar with Sandpoint might notice a minor mistake on my part: I shouldn't have had the "after party" at the Rusty Dragon, as, for a mysterious reason, Cyrdak Drokkus and Ameiko Kaijitsu don't get along at all. I just have to assume that, for this session, Cyrdak was swept up in the high spirits of the success and forgot about his grudge for a night.
The session ended on a downward note, as appraising and selling the loot took a long time and wasn't especially exciting. I try to handle that sort of thing via e-mail between sessions when possible, but sometimes it isn't and it can be quite important for PCs to be properly equipped. I do a better job in some later sessions of role-playing the shopkeepers to add some better flavour to scenes set in The Feathered Serpent and elsewhere.
The adventurers set off towards the basement of the Glassworks, planning to explore the recently-discovered tunnels branching off of it. On the way, Xeveg shares what he knows about quasits, a type of creature mentioned in Tsuto’s journal: that they are tiny winged demons from another plane of existence and are resistant to fire. In the basement, the adventurers see the sentries posted by Mayor Deverin. The sentries say they are stretched thin guarding the multiple approaches to Sandpoint, as there’s only a dozen guards in the Town Watch. One of them, Jodar Provolost, says that if things get worse and Sheriff Hemlock hasn’t returned from Magnimar yet, Mayor Deverin may have to call out the citizen militia.
The adventurers face a choice of three directions when they enter the tunnels: northeast, east, and west. Xeveg suggests the group choose the west route, and they do. A rough-cut passageway, it meanders for about fifty feet west before turning north for another hundred feet and continuing down through a torn-down brick wall. From a side-chamber barely visible in the light of Oliver’s everburning torch, a monstrous form suddenly appears! The creature, a hairless humanoid with back-bent dog-like legs, tiny arms with three-fingered hands, and a mouth full of sharp teeth immediately leaps to attack Felix. The Shoanti warrior is scratched by one of its claws but he fends it off and then pummels it to the ground as Oliver’s greatsword and Bey’s bardiche slash it to pieces. The terrifying incident is over almost as soon as it has begun. A search of the rough-hewn chamber reveals nothing of interest.
The tunnels continue north but also branch off to the east. Choosing east, the adventurers discover a solid, worked stone wall that has been torn down to reveal a finished underground complex. Still filled partially with debris, a heavy stone door is pushed open to reveal corridors winding north and east. The adventurers again choose east, and as their footsteps echo heavily through the ancient darkness, they come across a small shrine to an unknown entity. Steps lead up to a platform of gray stone, and sitting atop the platform is an altar, little more than a jagged block of black marble with a shallow concavity on top of it. The basin is filled with what appears to be filthy water, but Xeveg insists it is, in fact, holy water. Oliver decides to drink some and immediately becomes queasy and ill. After he recovers enough to continue, the adventurers examine a locked set of stone double-doors leading off of the shrine room. Oliver spends several minutes loudly picking the locks, but finally a rusty tumbler turns and the doors open.
A large underground cathedral reveals itself. With small stone doors hanging just ajar on either side of the main entrance, the walls of the cathedral are carved with strange, spiky runes. In the center of the room is a large pool with a ring of polished human skulls balanced on stone spikes around it. At the far end of the room, a pair of stone stairways lead up to a dais on which sits a second pool, this one filled with churning, glowing orange liquid. But what demands the adventurers’ attention is the sudden appearance of a quasit hovering above the pool. “How dare you intrude in the Mother’s sanctum!” she shouts before slashing the palm of her hand with a dagger. Blood drips into the churning pool, and the quasit becomes alarmed as the orange glow diminishes noticeably. But from out of the pool, another monstrosity like the one that guarded the approach to these catacombs emerges. It sniffs the air and moves to attack the intruders.
An epic battle begins! The monstrosity is soon felled before the adventurers’ might, but the wily winged quasit flies out of reach and turns invisible at crucial moments. It hurls spells and charms to vex the adventurers, such as magically compelling Felix to flee twice! The quasit, whose name is revealed to be Erylium, shouts that the adventurers are committing blasphemy merely by setting foot in her “empire” and that she will punish them on behalf of the Demon Mother. Xeveg is the subject of several magical attacks but manages to fight them off, and then, through either desperation or mistaken strategy, decides to cut his own hand and drip blood into the cauldron of bubbling orange liquid! Another abomination emerges and attacks the young wizard, rending at him with claws and teeth! The adventurer falls to the ground, unconscious. As the battle rages on, a stalemate begins to show: Erylium has exhausted most of her magic and has only a tiny dagger to harm the adventurers, but her ability to fly out of their reach combined with demonically-strong skin and the ability to slowly heal wounds means neither side can gain an advantage.
Bey, realizing that Erylium is paranoid about protecting the pool, conjures a rush of water into it to force it to overflow. Erylium screams in rage that if the adventurers do not flee, she’ll slit the throat of their downed companion. But the remaining adventurers keep fighting and Erylium follows through on her threat! In seconds, Xeveg’s lifeblood splatters the floor and walls of the cathedral and he dies. Recognizing that Erylium is both visible and near the ground, Felix leaps and grabs the demon before she can escape! He squeezes to crush her frail bones and punches her repeatedly in the face, and it looks like she’s about to succumb until somehow she squirms free of his grasp and flies away!
The adventurers give chase as she hurtles out of sight into the darkness. They hear her shouting at someone to “gather everyone to repel the invasion!” and, after a few moments’ equivocation, they decide that a retreat is in order. The adventurers make their way back to the Glassworks, with Oliver dragging Xeveg’s body with a loop of fishing line around the corpse’s neck. Jodar Provolost is sent to get reinforcements as the adventurers spend tense moments wondering whether an attack is imminent. He returns with the skeleton crew that had been manning the garrison, and says that Mayor Deverin is calling out the militia. Meanwhile, Oliver starts stripping Xeveg’s body of wealth and possessions. A couple of hours later, Mayor Deverin arrives with several townspeople serving as volunteer soldiers. Felix notes that an attack hasn’t come yet, and suggests another expedition into the catacombs. Mayor Deverin, worried that an attack could come from anywhere, says she can spare two members of the militia for the scouting mission. The group select Vachedi and Sabyl Sorn, and prepare to set forth again.
The big event in this session, unfortunately, was the first PC death of the campaign. Although Erylium is extremely hard to kill (fast healing, flying, invisibility, DR), she does an incredibly small amount of damage with a Tiny-sized dagger. The reason Xeveg died was that the players at the table, other than the one running Xeveg, either didn't know about or forgot about the coup de grace action, and thus didn't take Erylium's threat to slit Xeveg's throat seriously. The dagger did 1 point of damage, doubled to 2 with the automatic critical hit, resulting in a DC 12 Fortitude save for the wizard to live or die. Alas, the check failed. It was sad at the time, and still a bummer, as I thought Xeveg was a really interesting character with a lot of potential, and having a full arcane spellcaster is something that would have made subsequent encounters later in the campaign *much* easier.
I had to improv, of course, Mayor Deverin's response when the PCs retreated, but I thought it worked out pretty well.
The adventurers, along with Vachedi and Sabyl Sorn, begin walking back down the tunnel towards the mysterious chambers they were forced to retreat from just hours prior. But as they reach the point where the tunnel turns from west to north, Daviren Hosk appears with a message for Vachedi. The adventurers can't hear their conversation, but it's clearly heated and at one point the two scuffle before Felix intervenes and breaks it up. Vachedi stalks off back towards the basement of the Glassworks, while Daviren explains that he's gone to fetch something to aid the adventurers on their mission and they should wait for his return. The stable-master goes on to say that Mayor Deverin has asked him and Sabyl Sorn to separately scout the other two branches of the tunnel to ensure Sandpoint can't be invaded from any previously-unknown entrances to this subterranean network. The two head off on their mission, leaving the adventurers to wait for Vachedi's return.
Sometime later, the town jailer does arrive pushing a wheeled cage. Inside, bound to an upright wooden-frame, is a masked, heavily-muscled figured. Vachedi scowls as he starts the laborious process of unlocking the multiple sets of restraints that keep this figure restrained. Vachedi tells the others to watch their backs before sighing and unlocking the final restraint. The figure steps out of the cage as Vachedi kicks over a bag of gear, and the former prisoner starts donning armor, weapons, and a strange mask from the bag. Vachedi gives a meaningful look to Felix before heading back down the tunnel.
In a deep, gravelly voice, the newcomer asks for a report on the nature and disposition of enemy forces. The others provide a summary and the whole group begins marching again. Soon, the rough-hewn tunnel reaches the point where the adventurers were first attacked by a strange monster in these catacombs. This time, no monster lurks in the side chamber but a giggling voice taunts them from further north. It is clearly Erylium, and she says that she's ruled this "empire" for thousands of years and that the adventurers are foolish to return, for they will surely meet their doom just as their wizard companion did. The adventurers follow the sound down the tunnel until it turns to the right and emerges in a chamber of worked stone with three passages (north, south, and east) branching off. In the center of this room stands a red marble statue of a beautiful, enraged woman holding a glittering metal-and-ivory ranseur in one hand and a book with a strange seven-pointed star on the cover in her other hand. Bey's research into ancient Thassilon leads her to believe that the star symbol is called a Sihedron, and that each of the seven points represent one of the types of Sin Magic, which is how Thassilonian wizards divided schools of magic. The statue matches the medallion previously worn by Xeveg, and clearly depicts Alaznist, the Lord of Wrath.
The mocking voice of Erylium continues from the north. The adventurers know they're being led into a trap, but they're determined not to let the quasit escape them again. They soon find themselves atop a rickety wooden platform overlooking a large stone chamber with several barred cells. When they get close to the edge of the platform, two of the monsters with three-fingered hands attack from the darkness under the platform, trying to knock the intruders to the ground! The battle is hard-fought by both sides, but soon the adventurers emerged bloodied but victorious. Erylium's voice echoes from the west, stating that she's sending another gift now that her "sinspawn" have properly welcomed the group. The adventurers hear the sound of something moving towards them quickly and take up defensive positions. Seconds later, a massive three-armed, deformed goblin charges into the fray! But the adventurers were ready for them, and he's dropped in seconds. The group’s new ally, who gives his name as Nedrin, quickly strips the attacker of weapons. The adventurers conduct a search of the chamber and notice that one of the cells has a secret tunnel leading to the rough-hewn passages that brought them to this underground complex. But unbeknownst to the adventurers, the strange goblin attacker possessed the ability to heal his own wounds! He rises to do battle again, but is again defeated and this time the group show him no mercy, stomping his skull into thin paste.
During the battle, Nedrin briefly removes his mask and is revealed to be a member of the militaristic and expansionist race known as hobgoblins! His new companions pay little mind, however.
Erylium mocks the group again, but Felix discerns the tremor in her voice that makes him realize she is actually terrified and is just trying to lure them away from the cathedral. The adventurers give chase and reach an ancient interrogation chamber full of rusty torture devices. A small chamber to the south is filled with rubble and debris, but Bey cleverly uses a spell to determine that there is one item of note within: a black vellum scroll that is magical.
The adventurers continue to the east and see a large chamber that features large square wooden boards in a regular pattern on the stone floor, with another passageway heading south. Strange moaning sounds can be heard from somewhere below. Erylium makes herself visible, obviously hoping to trick the adventurers into treading on the boards, but they're too clever and avoid them when they attack. Erylium still has some tricks up her sleeve, however, and uses powerful magic to make Bey fall asleep. And then, the tiny demon manages to push the adventurer onto one of the wooden boards, which collapses and sends her tumbling into a deep pit containing an undead abomination! The other adventurers frantically try to both contain Erylium and rescue Bey, but succeeding on both tasks simultaneously is difficult. Oliver tries to fashion a make-shift lasso to grab onto Bey, but his wild swing instead entangles Felix! Fortunately, Bey wakes up after being repeatedly smashed by her zombie attacker and manages to climb out of the pit on her own, just seconds before she would have succumbed.
Nedrin fires a powerful composite bow at Erylium and his arrows seem to have an effect. When she flies close to the ground, Felix leaps on her and locks his grip tight. The seconds that follow see everyone trying to stab, cut, and stomp their demonic tormentor until Erylium pleads for mercy and even telepathically offers to make Felix her "general" if he lets her go. But when he angrily refuses, she summons all of her wiliness for one last desperate maneuver. She slips free of his grasp just long enough to roll onto one of the wooden boards herself, fall into the pit, and then fly free! Near death, she turns invisible and flies away frantically. The adventurers give chase to the west but can't keep up with her.
They decide that they should seek out what she obviously cares about the most: the strange pool of orange liquid in the cathedral. They find their way back to the shrine adjacent to the cathedral and realize that Erylium has set one of her minions to guard the chamber. This strange creature looks like a demon's head with bat-wings, but although it unleashes a piercing shriek to paralyze its foes, the adventurers' anger and frustration give them strength and they resist the effects. The last sentinel before the cathedral is quickly and efficiently slain.
Twice now the heroes of Sandpoint have fought Erylium, and twice now she's escaped their clutches. The adventurers are badly hurt and low on resources, but Erylium has unleashed her "armies" on the group to no avail. A third, and final battle, is ahead, and only one side will emerge victorious . . .
Erylium's ambush plan was pretty good and in-character for her, but the PCs had no difficulty with any of her minions. Indeed, Koruvus, this three-armed mutant goblin with a terrifying picture, got curb-stomped and I don't think he even did a point of damage to the PCs. The battle against Erylium was another long, frustrating one, and I think I was hoping for her death as much as the PCs. Still, I had to play with as much cunning as a I could. I made a rules mistake when it came to Bey and the zombie pit--I forgot that the first time the zombie did damage to her, she should instantly wake up. I'm really glad she survived, because I would have felt quite guilty if my mistake had led to a PC death.
It's kind of funny that many gaming groups happen to skip the Catacombs of Wrath altogether, whereas my group spent three full sessions on it . . .
Standing before the doors to the subterranean cathedral to the Mother of Monsters, the adventurers discuss whether to press ahead or retreat. Bey expresses a strong preference to return to Sandpoint for healing and Nedrin agrees, citing the need to discover the quasit’s weaknesses before battling it again. Felix says he would rather continue the fight now and smash the profane cathedral to pieces, but after much discussion and (seeing he is outvoted), he reluctantly agrees to return to Sandpoint with the others.
The group reach the basement of the Glassworks without further incident. In addition to the expected sentries, they also see Das Korvut measuring the width and height of the point where the tunnel meets the basement; it becomes apparent that he’s been retained by Mayor Deverin to install a thick steel door. The adventurers are told by members of the Watch that the militia has been fully deployed and that all known entrances to the town are being guarded.
The Sandpoint Cathedral is the first stop for the adventurers. Father Zantus happens to know a little bit about quasits and shares with the group that they are vulnerable to cold iron weapons. He provides them with some emergency healing but is loath to expend too many resources given the widespread fear that an invasion is imminent. Before the adventurers depart, Father Zantus leads them over to a side chamber. There, in a stone alcove, lies the covered body of their deceased adventuring companion, Xeveg Kishalq. Father Zantus asks if anyone knows where in Varisia he hailed from, but no one does. Father Zantus says he’ll ask around town and then arrange a suitable disposition of the body. The adventurers go through Xeveg’s possessions (to the distaste of Father Zantus) and Bey takes the medallion of Runelord Alaznist.
The adventurers discuss whether to return to fight Erylium immediately or instead spend a few days recovering from the day’s intense fighting while planning a fresh assault. Oliver is reluctant to wait, but he is persuaded by the others and plans are made to reunite on the morning of 1 Lamashan.
28 Rova 4707 to 30 Rova 4707
Over the next few days, the adventurers try to make the most of their downtime.
Felix trains vigorously with Sabyl Sorn at the House of Blue Stone. She is impressed by his ferocity in hand-to-hand combat but dismayed at his lack of discipline. One night, returning to the Rusty Dragon covered in sweat and fresh bruises, Felix runs into Lartie Garridan. Lartie asks if Felix wouldn’t mind paying a visit to the White Deer. She explains that there are very few Shoantis in Sandpoint apart from the jailer Vachedi and some of the bouncers at The Pixie’s Kitten, and that her husband would surely appreciate Felix’s company. She says that Garridan has sacrificed his ties to his tribe in order to be with her and that, although he’d never admit it, he is lonely. More to the point, she adds, the adventurers’ custom of spending all of their time at the Rusty Dragon has proven to be a draw that the White Deer Inn can’t match. Felix promises to try to stop in more often.
Oliver also spends time training, though his exercises take place in the courtyard of the Sandpoint Garrison. After one practice, part-time guardsman Jodar Provolost congratulates Oliver on his new position. Oliver is confused until Jodar explains that a courier arrived from Magnimar just a few hours ago carrying a commission from the Justice Council appointing him as Deputy Sheriff of Sandpoint! Along with the letter of commission and a metal insignia of rank came a personal missive from Aldern Foxglove. This letter begins by thanking Oliver again for saving his life, praises the ranger’s martial prowess, states that Aldern pulled some strings with a friend on the Justice Council for the commission, and promises that after a respectful amount of time for the sake of appearances, Belor Hemlock can be removed from office and Oliver appointed in his place.
Oliver is quite pleased with the news and goes to visit Mayor Deverin. She is not nearly as pleased, and notes that he must have friends in high places as the commission by-passed her traditional prerogative to appoint law enforcement officials in the town. She extracts a promise from Oliver to take his new rank seriously and to confer with her before ordering the Town Watch into taking any drastic action. The discussion turns to the potential threats facing Sandpoint. Mayor Deverin says that no further dangers have manifested and that perhaps the whole thing was overblown. She’s stepped down the commitments of the members of the citizen’s militia, citing their need to return to families and businesses. She reports that their scouts have returned from the other two branches of the tunnels leading off from the Glassworks basement and that one leads to a dead end and the other leads all the way to a cave on the side of a cliff overlooking the Varisian Gulf. Given the crude collection of goblin beds and remnants of meals, this latter route must have been the surreptitious entrance taken by Tsuto and the goblins occupying the Glassworks. Finally, she confirms that she’s asked blacksmith Das Korvut to fashion a steel barrier or door to block off access from the tunnels to the Glassworks, since it is obvious that brick walls are not enough of an impediment.
Bey spends the days holed up in her room at the Rusty Dragon attempting to develop a new spell, but her efforts prove fruitless. One night, after throwing her books down in frustration, she hears a knock at the door. The visitor is a stern-looking older man named Ilsoari Gandethus, former adventurer and headmaster of the town’s school, the Turandarok Academy. Ilsoari explains that Father Zantus asked him to come see Bey after learning that Ilsoari knew Xeveg. Ilsoari explains that in some of his letters, the youth had mentioned growing up in the nearby town of Galduria with his adopted father. Ilsoari says merchants from Galduria come to the Sunday markets in Sandpoint and that he could arrange for Xeveg’s body to be returned, but that if Bey and her companions would like to escort the body and explain to his father how his son died they would be welcome to. Bey expresses no interest in the idea and Ilsoari leaves.
The seer instead seeks out her old friend Brodert Quink to ask about the figure on Xeveg’s medallion, Runelord Alaznist. Brodert explains that much of what he believes can’t be proven to the satisfaction of scholars, but that he thinks ancient Thassilon was a vast empire ruled by powerful wizards, as the massive monuments they left behind testify to the extent of their might. He says that Alaznist must have been one of these powerful wizards known as “Runelords” and that each ruled a particular region of Thassilon and was linked to one of the seven schools of magic recognized by the ancient empire. He adds something that Bey already knows: the seven Thassilonian schools of magic were also said to correspond to virtues and their concomitant vices.
Nedrin’s experience in Sandpoint is much different than the others. Whereas they are known as local heroes and often receive praise and discounts from shopkeepers, Nedrin is forced to wear a mask to conceal his hobgoblin heritage and is increasingly the subject of rumours and hostile gossip. The warrior spends his time crafting arrows and sells a batch of them to the Town Watch for a small profit. As he leaves the garrison, Nedrin sees that Daviren Hosk is waiting for him, holding the reins of a beautiful, well-muscled stallion. Daviren is terse as always, but says that the horse is partial repayment for the debt he owes since Nedrin’s father saved his life. He adds that he’ll stable the horse for free as long as Nedrin wants, and then departs.
1 Lamashan 4707
After spending a few days apart, the adventurers meet up in the common room of the Rusty Dragon for breakfast. Felix says that Sabyl was a harsh taskmaster but good at what she does. The Shoanti man notes that Nedrin’s presence in town has made him seem less threatening in comparison! Bey expresses her frustration at having failed her spell research but then turns the conversation to the future. She says the adventurers should investigate the purchase of cold iron weapons and then return to the catacombs for a final confrontation with the quasit.
The adventurers’ first idea of a place to obtain cold iron weapons is the Red Dog Smithy. Inside, they see Das Korvut working on a massive rectangular sheet of steel propped up by wooden blocks. All around him are empty liquor bottles, and his large red mastiffs snore lazily near the rear. Das swears at them when they ask about cold iron weapons, annoyed that they can’t see he’s busy and that they haven’t followed through on their promise to investigate the sighting of his son on Chopper’s Isle. When Oliver presses, Das grabs a massive forging hammer and advances threateningly. The adventurers depart to the sound of a door slamming behind them.
Next, they try Savah’s Armory. The proprietor, Savah Bevaniky, is happy to see them but says she can’t offer quite the discount as before: Sandpoint’s heroes have lost some of their lustre in the locals’ eyes given recent events, and she alludes to Felix’s “ungentlemanly” treatment of Shayliss Vinder, Oliver “going behind Mayor Deverin’s back” in being appointed Deputy Sheriff, and the general presence of Nedrin. Still, she’s more than willing to do business with them. Nedrin sells the silver dagger he took off of Koruvus’ body and uses the funds to help Felix buy a cold iron shortsword. Bey and Oliver pool their resources so that the latter can buy a cold iron greatsword.
From there the adventurers head to The Feathered Serpent, a cramped and cluttered shop smelling of exotic incense and spice. Vorvashali Voon greets them enthusiastically and says he has a lead on the ring that Xeveg is looking for; the adventurers decide not to divulge that the young wizard is dead. They ask Vorvashali about potions or scrolls of see invisibility but he says the former are impossible and that the latter are quite expensive. They follow his suggestion, however, and buy sacks of flour from the local bakery.
Before heading back to the Glassworks, one final stop is made: at the athedral. Inside, Bey asks Father Zantus if he would give or loan her a holy symbol of Desna to aid in the coming fight against Erylium. Father Zantus hesitates and pulls Bey aside. He explains that he doesn’t want to embarrass her or cause a problem since the adventurers have been so useful, but that he believes her frequent prophecies of an impending apocalypse are heterodoxical to Desna’s teachings of optimism, luck, and joy. Bey explains that her prophecies are, ultimately, optimistic because they allow for the apocalypse to be prevented with luck and courage. The two debate the teachings of Desna for some time. At one point, Father Zantus is about to accede but further argument hardens his position and eventually he refuses while still wishing the group luck in its efforts.
In the middle of the afternoon, the adventurers decide to return to the catacombs before Das Korvut can finish installing the thick steel door. The group travels single-file in total darkness, trusting Bey’s and Nedrin’s ability to see in the dark to lead them. The reach the ancient underground complex without incident and make their way straight for the cathedral. Oliver pulls out an everburning torch to reveal that the cathedral’s stone doors bar their way, but Felix and Nedrin put their shoulders to it and eventually burst through. The repeated pounding has alerted Erylium, however, and she stands ready for a last, desperate battle. “I will show you no mercy!” she vows. “Soon my general will arise, and then your precious Sandpoint will be destroyed!”
The battle begins in earnest as Nedrin, Bey, and Oliver shoot arrows and crossbow bolts at the quasit while Felix closes the doors to bar escape. The barrage of projectiles rarely strike Erylium, however, and when they do few manage to even pierce her skin. The ancient demon responds with a succession of summoning spells that manifest goblin dogs and dire rats to fight for her followed by enchantments to try to paralyse her foes. The adventurers are able to fight off most of her magicks and eventually slay the magically-summoned creatures, but one of Erylium’s spells has a dramatic effect: Nedrin falls prey to a command to approach Erylium, stepping into the strange orange pool to do so! He instantly becomes enraged and turns on his allies, attacking whomever is nearest with the full force of his longsword. Oliver is on the receiving end of a vicious slash from the hobgoblin’s sword, leading the ranger to respond in kind using his greatsword! Oliver decides that he has no choice but to subdue Nedrin, and despite the calls of Felix and Bey, turns his attention away from Erylium, leading to much cackling laughter. Nedrin succumbs to Oliver’s assault, bleeding and unconscious, but alive. The ranger quickly binds Nedrin.
Erylium casts a hex on Bey to make her fall asleep again, but Felix moves quickly and wakes her before the demon can slit her throat. Bey retaliates by uttering a divine curse which succeeds in shattering Erylium’s magical dagger. The stunned quasit is then on the receiving end of a leaping charge by Felix, who manages to grab her by the throat! He begins pummelling her and stabbing with his new cold iron shortsword while Oliver joins in with his cold iron greatsword. Erylium struggles frantically to get free, but this time her luck runs out: with a mighty overhead swing, Oliver cuts the ten-thousand year-old demon in twain!
With victory at last in hand, the adventurers have a difficult decision to make: what to do next?
I thought the trick Erylium pulled on Nedrin was pretty clever and wicked, which fits the quasit's profile well. Things could have gotten pretty bloody if Oliver hadn't subdued Nedrin so quickly. Speaking of Erylium, I think we were all relieved that the PCs finally managed to take her down. She took up three sessions of gameplay!
In the aftermath of their victorious battle against Erylium in the hidden cathedral underneath Sandpoint, the heroes search the dead quasit and the room, finding little of interest. Bey magically heals Nedrin’s wounds and, after some minutes, the hobgoblin stops trying to burst his bonds. Judging that the effects of the magical orange liquid that enraged him have subsided, the other members of the group untie him. Nedrin rails at Oliver for having attacked him, but Bey speaks up in the ranger’s defence. For his part, Oliver merely sharpens his sword and fills a canteen with the glowing orange liquid.
After informing the sentries in the Glassworks’ basement that the demon quasit has been slain, the adventurers return and search the rest of the underground complex. With bows and crossbows they destroy the zombies in the pits without putting themselves at risk. Down a side tunnel, they find a spiral staircase descending down; alas, it is completely blocked with rubble. Another room presents a strange sight: several objects floating gently in mid-air! The walls of this spherical room are plated in sheets of strange red metal that ripple periodically with black electricity that occasionally coalesces into ancient Thassilonian runes of anger, wrath, and revenge. After much discussion and cautious trial-and-error, the adventurers retrieve a bottle of wine (of recent vintage), an arcane scroll, an ancient, ragged book written in an unknown tongue (with illustrations depicting grisly and cruel rituals), and an iron wand that Bey identifies as a wand of cure light wounds. Another previously-unexplored room holds a pool lined with skulls, and the last features a spiral staircase around a pillar leading into darkness above. Exploration shows that passage upwards is blocked by tons of stone that has collapsed from above, but that small fissures allow air to flow to and from the surface. After speculating about where this complex lies in relation to Sandpoint, the adventurers work together to confirm that the fissures place the staircase somewhere below an alleyway between Tower Street and Junker’s Way.
Having completed their exploration of the catacombs, the adventurers walk to the Sandpoint Cathedral. They arrive in time to witness the end of a memorial service for the victims of the goblin raid on the Glassworks and for Xeveg, who heroically fell during the initial foray into the catacombs. After the service is completed, Bey speaks with Mayor Deverin about the fissures from the surface to the catacombs. Mayor Deverin promises to have the alleyway inspected and paved over with stone tiles. Mayor Deverin reports Brodert Quink’s impatience to explore the catacombs, though Bey warns that the aged sage should not be allowed to enter without an escort. Father Zantus approaches the group after he finishes consoling some of the families of the murdered Glassworks employees. When asked, he assures Felix that the severe rash that broke out on the brawler’s skin from fighting the goblin dog should pass in a day or so. Bey shows Father Zantus the book found within the strange spherical chamber; he identifies it as a prayer and ritual book to Lamashtu, and states that it must be burned immediately. Bey is reticent to have it destroyed at first, but eventually agrees; due to suspicions raised by Oliver that Father Zantus may be misleading them, the entire group of adventurers go with the priest to his private study to witness the book being reduced completely to ashes in his fireplace.
Later, after Felix learns the hard way that what Bey identified as a wand of cure light wounds was actually a wand of shocking grasp, Nedrin is filled in about the adventurers’ activities in Sandpoint to date. They provide him with Tsuto’s journal to read, discuss Nualia, and mention that they’ve also taken a commission to explore Chopper’s Isle. Nedrin says that he’s been placed within the care of the group and that staying with them is the best alternative to being imprisoned or forcibly run out of town.
The adventurers settle in for an evening in the common room of the White Deer. Felix buys everyone a round and introduces Nedrin to Garridan. Bey begins drinking quite heavily. Cyrdak Drokkus, the local theatre director, comes in alongside a somewhat stiff middle-aged man. Bey goes over, and the stranger is introduced to her as Sir Jasper Korvaski, day manager of the Sandpoint Mercantile League. Bey, who is getting drunker by the minute, tells Cyrdak about the fight in the catacombs and he enthusiastically promises to use it as the basis of another theatrical production. Bey also mentions her friend Bodowen, a well-known actor and singer in Magnimar, but Cyrdak scoffs at both Bedowen’s and Magnimar’s “unearned” reputations. Over at the bar, Nedrin suddenly punches Felix in the mouth! The two tussle until Felix lands a solid blow, dropping his new ally to the floor. It turns out, however, that the fight was a friendly one to add a little excitement to the common room (though Garridan is not best pleased). As the evening goes on, Oliver brings the suspect bottle of wine from the catacombs over to Cyrdak’s and Jasper’s table and watches them drink it with no ill effects. He quickly discerns that the two are lovers, and hears how the Sandpoint Mercantile League can arrange journeys by boat or carriage all over Varisia, deliver messages to distant communities, handle land purchases and construction contracts, and arrange for the import or export of valuable trade goods. Over a few hours’ time, Jasper begins to loosen up a bit and shows a dry sense of humor. After a heavily-intoxicated Bey singes her hand in the fireplace trying to prove something, she’s put to bed. Nedrin retires as well, while Felix and Oliver stay up late into the night gambling with Cyrdak and Jasper.
[2 Lamashan 4707]
In the morning, the adventurers head in the direction of Junker’s Edge to inspect the tides in preparation for an expedition to Chopper’s Isle. On the way, they see Jodar Provolost and two new members of the Town Watch, youthful recruits from Magnimar named Jeyver and Bothon. Jodar says that Sheriff Hemlock wasn’t happy with the condescension he received when asking for help in Magnimar, and that he was even more steamed to return to Sandpoint and find out that a “deputy” has been appointed without his being consulted. After asking some questions about Chopper’s Isle, the adventurers decide they had better visit the Garrison to talk with Sheriff Hemlock.
At the Garrison, the adventurers see Sheriff Hemlock and grey-haired veteran Bosk Hartigan drilling the raw new recruits. Noticing his new audience, Hemlock shouts an order for Oliver to follow him and stalks off towards his office. Once there, he angrily demands Oliver’s immediate resignation. The ranger refuses. Hemlock asks how Oliver managed to get the position, and the latter shows the former the letter from Aldern Foxglove. After reading it, Hemlock crumples it up and says that if Oliver won’t resign, things are going to have to be done the hard way. He orders Oliver out of his office. On the way back to the others, Oliver passes by Bosk Hartigan; the older guardsman makes it clear he’s not happy at being passed over for promotion after having been a founding member of the Town Watch more than 40 years ago.
The local heroes reach Junker’s Edge and climb down to the beach below without difficulty. Having timed their expedition correctly, they wade over the slippery rocks between the beach and the base of Chopper’s Isle. Once there, they spot an area in the rounded cliff face where stairs had once been affixed before being burned along with the house itself. Felix adroitly climbs the face of the rock and lowers a knotted rope for the others. Everyone assembles at the top to see a windswept area of about two square acres. Heavy moss sags from the branches of old oak trees, nearly every branch of which has been carved in the shape of owls, hawks, eagles, and vultures. In the distance, little can be seen beside the remnants of a small, burned down cottage overgrown with tangled weeds and vines. Searching the clifftop, the adventures find tracks belonging to what Oliver says is a three-clawed large winged quadruped. The tracks lead to a small cache of gnawed bones, both recent and years old.
Felix is the first to enter the burned-out cottage, and pays a price: rotted floorboards crack underneath his feet, sending him tumbling hard to a hidden basement! Nedrin tries to climb down to lend a hand, but slips and falls as well. Oliver and Bey secure a rope around the base of a nearby tree and manage to descend safely. The basement has walls of packed earth and shaky wooden support beams, all carved with bird motifs. Two narrow passageways lead off in opposite directions, while the center of the room is dominated by a man-shaped wooden statue with the legs and talons of a giant eagle, two sets of eagle wings, a snake in place of its genitals, and a gem-studded avian head. The sound of whimpering and distress is heard by Nedrin and Bey, though Oliver and Felix hear nothing.
Nedrin angrily pushes over the statue and the group head down one of the side tunnels. The hobgoblin takes the lead, using his excellent darkvision to good effect. He turns a corner and sees a small chamber, the walls of which are covered in small alcoves. In one corner of the room is a pedestal with a dusty tome. Nedrin uses the blade of his longsword to flip open the cover of the book, and suddenly finds himself being attacked by the Chopper! Nedrin tries to fight off the nightmarish attacker, but his longsword passes right through him! Eerily, the others see no attacker; only that Nedrin is bleeding from several deep red wounds carved in his flesh in the shape of birds! At the rear of the single file line, Oliver feels a gentle touch on the back of his neck, and loses the ability to speak!
Facing an attacker he cannot harm, Nedrin runs for it. Oliver looks terrified and gives mute gestures to indicate his inability to speak, leading everyone to decide to escape the basement while they still can. A furious scramble up the wall keeps the adventurers alive, and they regroup to discuss what to do next. Nedrin says the group should leave Chopper’s Isle and tell no one what happened below, but Bey insists that the group would get reputations as cowards and failures. The consensus is that it’s too dangerous to return to the basement, at least for the moment, so the group scour the clifftop for any other clues and, finding none, wait for low tide before climbing safely down to the base of Chopper’s Isle.
The rumours that Chopper’s Isle is a forbidding, haunted place have been proven true. What remains to be seen is if Sandpoint’s local heroes will find the courage to return . . .
Everyone was aghast that Oliver would intentionally test out what could be a poisoned bottle of wine from the Catacombs on two perfectly innocuous NPCs. Fortunately, it really was just ordinary wine so he didn't have murder on his hands. Speaking of Oliver, the stuff with him getting named Deputy worked out quite well and was probably the highlight for the character. Later, when the player ran a different PC, the new one just never really gelled.
The group first got the adventure hook for Chopper's Isle back in Session # 4, and I was happy to see them follow through. I had to do some quick Googling to figure out how tides work (i.e., the time between low tide and high tide), but I was happy without the characters' terror of the place.
As the adventurers cross the short distance between Chopper’s Isle and Junk Beach, they discuss what transpired in the basement of Jervas Stoot’s home and whether they should return. Bey is keen to return in the morning, but Nedrin says the ghost of the Chopper will kill them! Felix whispers to Bey that perhaps Nedrin isn’t right in the head, as no one else saw a ghost. Bey confirms, however, that she did hear the ghostly sobbing of a child, and if they can find the ghost’s mortal link to the material realm, perhaps they can lay its spirit to rest. The consensus is that the group should return to Chopper’s Isle, but that they’ll avoid the area with the book and prepare by asking Father Zantus specific questions.
The return to Sandpoint is uneventful except for the adventurers’ failure to anticipate that a load of junk would be dumped down the side of Junker’s Edge while they were trying to climb up! Nedrin takes a hard fall, but survives. Once in Sandpoint, the adventurers head straight for the Cathedral. There, they see Father Zantus finishing a homily about Desna to a small crowd of worshippers. Once the ceremony is over, he sees the adventurers lurking at the edge of the audience and greets them with a wry observation about their frequent visits despite their observable lack of interest in religious matters. Felix relates what happened on Chopper’s Isle. Father Zantus explains the difference between ghosts, complex manifestations of the dead that may be intelligent and mobile throughout the material realm, and haunts, spectral phenomena that convey the memory of a traumatic experience but that are bound to specific areas or objects. When asked about the wooden statue, Father Zantus says that it sounds like a representation of Pazuzu, Demon Lord of Avians. Finally, conversation turns to the tracks and bones found atop the foreboding island. Father Zantus is dismissive about the suggestion that they could belong to the legendary Sandpoint Devil, stating that reports of a mythical, winged, fire-breathing horse-like creature that devours animals and brings curses upon anyone who sees it are unfounded and uncorroborated. He notes that his friend, Ilsoari Gandethus, is quite interested in the folklore surrounding the Sandpoint Devil.
The adventurers walk across town to Turandarok Academy in order to speak to Ilsoari, headmaster of Sandpoint’s school and orphanage. They’re reluctantly escorted in by prim House Mother Dorienne Vilch. In his study full of exotic souvenirs from his adventuring days, the normally reserved Ilsoari is quite interested in the group’s tale that they may have found signs of the Sandpoint Devil. Ilsoari explains that he politely disagrees with Abstalar Zantus about the veracity of sightings of the creature. He admits that few who claim to have seen it can offer concrete descriptions, for it always appears at night or under the cover of fog; some describe it as a strange horse, others as an enormous bat, and still others as a saurian behemoth. Ilsoari goes on to say that the signs the Sandpoint Devil leaves behind are more common than actual sightings: deep, hooflike prints carved or even burned in places no hoof prints should be found, like the tops of high roofs or on the side of cliffs; missing or partially burned livestock; strange illnesses; and more. Ilsoari says that although no one knows for sure where the Sandpoint Devil has its lair, some believe it lies in the nearby rocky plateau known as Devil’s Platter. Ilsoari gets more and more excited as he continues his stories, and eventually talks the group into letting him come along on the next morning’s planned expedition to Chopper’s Isle.
The adventurers find accommodation for the night, with all but Bey staying at the White Deer. Apart from a heated argument between dwarf carpenter Aesrick Battlehorn and a lanky wheelright named Bilivar Wheen (which is settled by the timely intervention of Lartie Viskalai), the evening at the White Deer passes quietly. Bey stays at the Rusty Dragon and starts an enjoyable game of blindfolded, backwards darts (losing to Ameiko in the process). She also converses with a farmer named Maester Grump; he and some other farmers hint at a reward if the adventurers can stop the Sandpoint Devil from devouring their livestock.
Late that night, the adventurers are awakened by messengers sent from the Sandpoint Garrison, with those at the White Deer receiving a visit from Bosk Hartigan and Bey encountering one of the new recruits, a nervous lad named Benmo. Each messenger says that an emergency meeting is being held by Sheriff Hemlock, and that the adventurers’ presence is requested. The adventurers get dressed hurriedly, apart from Oliver who inexplicably goes in his bathrobe. Once inside the garrison’s war room, the adventurers see that Sheriff Hemlock has been joined by limping elven scout Shalelu Andosana. Shalelu hefts a large sack onto the conference table, unties it, and turns it over; a small goblin spills out, bound and gagged! Shalelu explains that this goblin, whose name is Grizzlenik, has something important to say. She holds a knife to his throat until he explains that he’s a member of the Thistletop tribe who was sent by Warchief Ripnugget to tell the other goblin tribes in the region to get ready for a big attack on Sandpoint in a few weeks’ time. Grizzlenik goes on to say that he was instructed to say that any day now an invincible ally will be set free to aid in the attack, and that this time Sandpoint will be razed to the ground! Nedrin interrogates the goblin about the defences of Thistletop and learns that it consists of a wooden stockade atop a small island, with a rope bridge leading from the mainland. Access to the bridge is guarded by a goblin named Gogmurt and his pet cougar. When the goblin has finished revealing what he knows, Shalelu tosses him back in the bag and into a corner.
Everyone assembled discusses what to do next. After raising and discarding some initial proposals, the group accedes to Bey’s suggestion that a small strike force could raid Thistletop and at least discover what the goblins are doing there. Bey tells Sheriff Hemlock that she and her allies will undertake the dangerous mission, but only if the town supports them by making weapons, adventuring gear, and even healing potions available. Recognising the extreme risk the adventurers are taking, Sheriff Hemlock agrees. Shalelu says she would like to accompany the adventurers, but that she’s limping from an arrow fired by her bitter rival, the bugbear Bruthazmus. She says that as soon as she’s healed, she’ll be back in the field. The adventurers settle on a plan to explore Chopper’s Isle first thing in the morning, and then travel the six miles to Thistletop at sunset, with a plan to camp overnight and attack at dawn when the goblins will be asleep and unable to make full use of their advantage in being able to see in the dark. Nedrin surprises the group by stating that Grizzlenik could be very useful, and receives permission from Sheriff Hemlock to oversee the prisoner for the duration of the raid.
After the excitement of the late-night meeting, the adventurers return to their rooms to rest. Bey has a strange dream of being entangled in sharp-thorned vines.
[3 Lamashan 4707]
The adventurers assemble at Junker’s Edge at seven bells (with Nedrin carrying Grizzlenik in a sack), and see Ilsoari Gandethus waiting for them. Felix and Oliver had difficulty getting back to sleep, and each is dragging as the group make their way back to Chopper’s Isle. Once they arrive, Oliver makes the surprising decision to curl up for a nap, while Ilsoari investigates the nest of bones and the other adventurers return to the burned-out cottage. Nedrin, Bey, Felix, and Gizzlenik carefully lower themselves into the basement and take the tunnel opposite the room where Nedrin believes he encountered the ghost of the Chopper. They reach a small circular chamber littered with tiny bone carvings of horrific winged creatures and leathery papers. In the center of the room is a small hole in the floor, along with a bucket tied with a rope to a metal ring. Bey lowers her bardiche to disturb a small pile of clothing at the bottom of the hole and uncovers a child sized skeleton. Immediately, she feels something trying to push her into the hole! She resists, however, and the adventurers act quickly to lower Grizzlenik into the hole to recover the bones. They then make a run for it, with Felix growing progressively more and more tired from the chilling touch of a ghostly figure that looks like a sad little boy. The adventurers reach the surface and hurry away from the remnants of the Stoot house. The tragic story of what must have happened to Simon Korvut is all too clear.
The adventurers make their way back to Sandpoint, leaving Ilsoari behind at his own request to further investigate what he believes are signs of the Sandpoint Devil. Once back in town, Oliver and Felix spend the afternoon resting. Bey and Nedrin (with Grizzlenik in a sack “for his own safety”) take the skeletal remains to the cathedral. There, Sister Giulia says she will arrange for a suitable disposition of the body once Das Korvut arrives. The adventurers shoulder the burden of informing the blacksmith of what they found on Chopper’s Isle. Das is overwrought and rushes to the cathedral to say a final farewell to his son.
Late that afternoon, the adventurers assemble at Savah’s Armory. Sheriff Hemlock, true to his word, has arranged for the town to cover the cost of weapons and armor needed for the planned expedition to Thistletop. Felix arms himself with a bola, while Nedrin is thanked profusely by Grizzlenik for the gift of armor and a dogslicer. The grateful, but gullible, goblin is even happy to wear a dog-collar (with attachable leash) purchased from Rovanky Tannery “to protect his neck.” The adventurers purchase additional supplies from Nisk Tander, half-elf proprietor of an alchemical supply store named Bottled Solutions. With the day’s shadows lengthening, the adventurers make final preparations for the coming journey.
Having solved the mystery of Chopper’s Isle, the adventurers now ready themselves for a very different adventure: a raid on the most fortified goblin tribe in the region!
Sometimes a little information can be a dangerous thing, as the player running Nedrin was convinced that the spectral apparition initially encountered on Chopper's Isle was a ghost (and thus extremely hard to kill at low levels). In fact, it was a haunt and not nearly as dangerous.
I played up Ilsoari's interest in the Sandpoint Devil, and, although I have to be careful about what I say since the campaign is still on-going, I'm happy with his portrayal as someone with a keen interest in local legends and superstitions.
In the adventure path, Shalelu's arrival to talk about Thistletop is done as more traditional exposition. I tried to add some colour to it with the idea of the captured goblin, Grizzlenik, but little did I know that Nedrin's player would seize on the opportunity to take a veritable slave. It was a fun twist, so I rolled with it.
Having made the final preparations necessary for their impending raid on the goblin fortress of Thistletop, the adventurers collect their mounts from the Goblin Squash Stables and leave Sandpoint. Their departure is punctuated by excitement when their goblin prisoner, Grizzlenik, runs away rather than being seated on a horse; after a lengthy chase, Grizzlenik is subdued with a modicum of violence and the journey begins.
The adventurers set off east along the Lost Coast Road, expecting the six mile journey to Thistletop to take only a couple of hours. Short after leaving Sandpoint, however, they notice a listless cow swaying oddly on the road in front of them. Noticing that blood seems to be dripping from it, Oliver approaches to see if the animal is hurt when, much to his disgust and dismay, two dire rats leap from a wound in the cow’s side and attack! The ranger is bitten by one of the rats, but his companions react quickly, with Felix stomping one and Nedrin killing the other with his longsword. The group continue east, passing by the broken hills of Ravenroost, the boar-hunting ground called Tickwood, the goblin-infested Shank’s Wood, and the stony hills known collectively as The Tors. There, just before reaching the western edge of Nettlewood, the adventurers decide to go off road and head north to the cliffs overlooking the Varisian Gulf. They set up camp and post sentries before experiencing an uneventful night.
[4 Lamashan 4707]
The adventurers are startled during their morning routines by an uncanny squeaky howl coming from nearby. Felix and Nedrin react quickly, realizing that a pack of the mangy, beady-eyed canines known as goblin dogs are slinking towards the campsite! Believing they’ve found easy prey, the craven creatures encircle the adventurers and attack. Oliver suffers a serious bite to the abdomen, while Felix, who has quickly mounted his Shoanti-bred steed, takes a minor wound to his leg when flanked by two goblin dogs. But the skilled pugilist responds in kind, lashing out with both legs simultaneously to either side of his horse and kicking the beasts in the head. Nedrin circles the campsite on his mount and comes to Bey’s aid by having his horse stomp on a goblin dog’s back. Oliver and Felix make short work of the last attacker, and the battle is over almost as soon as it began. Bey exhausts her reserve of healing magicks to address Felix’s and Oliver’s wounds.
It’s a cold, crisp autumn morning when the adventurers talk over how they should approach Thistletop. They settle on a plan to scout the goblin fortress during the daytime, rest nearby overnight, and then launch a raid at dawn. Oliver’s wilderness skills come to the fore as he leads the group through the dense, tangled undergrowth of Nettlewood. At about midday, the adventurers reach a hedge wall made of thistle and sharp brambles. Grizzlenik is persuaded to reveal where a secret door can be found, so the adventurers tie their horses in a safe place nearby and prepare for their first incursion into Thistletop.
The secret door made of a rigid mat of thistles and nettles is pushed open easily to reveal an unexpected sight: a veritable maze made from 4’ high hedges that grow together at the top to form a thin canopy overhead. The adventurers are forced to crouch to navigate the goblin tunnels and, with no reason to pick one direction over another, decide to follow the eastern path. After passing next to a chamber containing a hole from which the distant sound of sloshing waves could be heard, the adventurers stumble unsubtly into a goblin-dog kennel! Four of the mangy mutts are tied to wooden stakes by fraying rope, and they begin to howl when they scent intruders. One of the goblin dogs breaks free and jumps at Bey, while Oliver gets too close to another and is bitten viciously under the armpit. Bey cuts deep into one with her bardiche and drops it as Oliver begins hurling flasks of fire and acid into the kennel. Nedrin lines up a seemingly-impossible shot with his longbow, but somehow the arrow flies true and catches a goblin dog in the eye!
The immediate battle is won, but the results have been disastrous: Thistletop has been placed on alert! The first defenders to arrive on scene, seconds later, are the goblin druid Gogmurt and his beautiful firepelt cougar, Tangletooth. Gogmurt literally steps out of a hedgerow towards a startled Felix and slashes him across the chest with a blade made of fire! Simultaneously, Tangletooth pounces on Bey’s back and knocks her to the ground unconscious! To make matters even worse, Grizzlenik’s predictable betrayal occurs, as he stabs Nedrin in the back with the very dogslicer the hobgoblin gave him! The adventurers seem moments away from being completely routed by the surprise attacks, but, somehow, they rally. Felix gets Gogmurt in a headlock and begins punching the druid in the face, while Oliver and Nedrin combine their efforts to cut down Tangletooth. Grizzlenik changes sides again and helps the adventurers. Seeing his dearest companion dead, Gogmurt draws upon his magicks to change into a dire badger! Although Felix tries to hold on, Gogmurt wriggles free and burrows into the ground to make good his escape.
The heroes of Sandpoint make an immediate decision to withdraw before more reinforcements arrive. Felix uses a healing potion to awaken Bey, and the group quickly makes their way out of the hedge maze and back to the horses. Disoriented from their hasty flight, the adventurers find themselves temporarily lost in Nettlewood and have difficulty finding a safe campsite. Eventually, after unfortunate run-ins with stinging nettles and goblinberries, they are able to make camp. Nedrin uses corporal punishment on Grizzlenik for his earlier betrayal. Desna favours the adventurers, and they face no further dangers in the night.
[5 Lamashan 4707]
Bey’s divine abilities to heal the adventurers allow them to return to Thistletop immediately. This time, Felix bursts through the thistle door to see ten goblins ostensibly on sentry duty. Alas, some are napping, others are distracted with arguing or playing games, and only a couple are ready for a fight. Rather than repeat the mistake of fighting the goblins in the cramped tunnels, the adventurers cleverly lure the goblins to the entrance and fight on their own terms. The disorganized, easily distracted goblins are mowed down in seconds.
The first battle of the group’s second incursion into Thistletop has been a rousing success! But will their good fortune continue?
The first intrusion into Thistletop really was as suspenseful as the recap described. As the GM, I was shocked that Gogmurt (a goblin druid) and his animal companion were doing so well but then, somehow, the PCs turned things around and narrowly won the day and escaped with their lives. They were wise not to press on any further, and were lucky the rolls were with them to avoid further random encounters while they rested.
For the second intrusion, I had to make notes to remind myself that the goblins should be really bad--verging on ridiculous--when it comes to combat. It's part of their schtick that they're easily distracted, take ridiculous risks, and are the furthest things from sensible tacticians. But since the PCs will face plenty of much harder challenges down the line, I don't mind throwing them some softballs early on.
Having had great success defeating goblin reinforcements sent to guard the entrance, the adventurers decide to push further into the thistle maze. They advance in single file to the north and come to an intersection of sorts, only to find vines and brambles animating and trying to entangle them! Oliver finds himself fully wrapped up, but the others fight their way free and soon realize the source of the verdant attack: Gogmurt. The goblin druid tries to stab Bey in the back with his flaming blade, but she manages to twist away just in time. And in response, she conjures magical fire around herself like a sheathe, leaving herself unharmed but Gogmurt singed. Before their head to head battle can continue any further, Felix picks his way through the writhing undergrowth and launches a single punch at Gogmurt’s face; the blow connects with an audible crack and Gogmurt is instantly knocked unconscious! The Shoanti brawler then finishes the fight permanently by stomping his foe’s skull and crushing it. A subsequent search of Gogmurt’s corpse reveals several enchanted items, including a cloak, a suit of leather armor, and two wands (one of which Bey is able to identify as a wand of tree shape).
Further search of Thistletop’s outer defences reveal an abandoned watch post to the west, a chamber to the east containing little but a matted nest of red and black hair, and a chamber just to the south of that containing the remnants of several meals and gruesome décor. Another abandoned watch post to the northeast offers Felix a first view of Thistletop itself. Connected to the mainland by a swaying rope bridge stands a wooden stockade built atop a rounded, flat-topped island about sixty feet away. Two tall guard towers are visible, and Felix can discern movement within as well as four goblin commandos mounted on goblin dogs performing a regular patrol. He descends from the watch post to formulate a plan with his allies. Bey first suggests trying to swim across, but the daunting height of the cliffs leads to that idea being quickly discarded. Nedrin suggests picking the defenders off from a distance using bows and crossbows, while another idea is floated to set the stockade on fire to draw the goblins out. As the group discuss the pros and cons of various ideas, some members of the party with keen hearing hear shouts coming from the stockade. Although meaningless babble to most, Nedrin is able to translate the shouting: “Gogmurt sent the thrush! They’re on their way!” The hobgoblin ascends the watch post and sees that the mounted goblins have taken up defensive positions on the far side of the rope bridge with shortbows at the ready, and that one has positioned himself to block invaders from setting foot on the island.
A plan is quickly settled upon: with Nedrin providing ranged cover with his bow, the other three adventurers will charge quickly across the bridge so that the goblins won’t have time to cut it. Nedrin misses his first shot as Felix bravely charges across the rickety bridge. The skilled pugilist is grazed by a few arrows from the four mounted goblins and the four sentries in the guard towers, and soon finds himself in hand-to-hand combat with the commando blocking his way off the bridge. Bey runs across next, without incident, but the second Oliver sets foot on the bridge disaster occurs! Suddenly, the western ropes tear free from their supports, tipping the bridge on its side! Felix and Bey manage to grab the eastern ropes and hold on, but Oliver doesn’t react quickly enough and falls 80 feet into the surf below! The impact knocks Oliver out cold, and he begins to take in water. In seconds, the unconscious hero succumbs to his sad fate and drowns.
Nedrin, and his coerced ally Grizzlenik continue shooting at targets across the channel. Felix and Bey manage to make it off of the precariously dangling bridge and on to the far side of the island, where they face a brutal fight against the mounted commandos in front of them and the archers above them. Felix fights bravely, elbowing goblin dogs in the face and pummelling other defenders with his fists, while Bey joins with her bardiche. She manages to trick one of the goblins into thinking that Oliver carried secret defense plans for Sandpoint, and the deluded goblin jumps to his death trying to recover them. Felix and Bey establish a beachhead by finishing off the commandos and their mounts, but a fusillade of arrows continue to rain down. Dozens of small wounds take their toll, leading Felix to dive for cover in order to survive; but Bey pulls her crossbow out and fires back at the archers! Meanwhile, across the channel, even more dramatic events occur: Grizzlenik turns on Nedrin again! The goblin fires an arrow at his “master” at point blank range but misses. The two tussle until Nedrin drags Grizzlenik (who is connected by a rope leash around Nedrin’s waste) with him to cling onto the surviving rope strands halfway between the mainland and the island. The two try to stab each other to death but are tangled up so tightly neither can get the right angle. Finally, Grizzlenik tries the most desperate maneuver of all: he tries to cut both strands of the rope bridge! But luck abandons him, as his dogslicer is only able to cut through one of the two strands. Nedrin’s brute strength allows him to get the upper hand, and he stabs Grizzlenik and then cuts the goblin free to send him plummeting to his death below.
Nedrin makes it to the island to join Bey’s exchange of projectiles with the goblins in the guard towers. She shoots one through the elbow and it falls to its death, while Nedrin’s sharpshooting sends arrows through the eyes of two others. Soon, the defenders are silenced. At the base of the stockade, the three adventurers hastily discuss whether to press forward or back. Bey is eager to continue on, but Felix is severely wounded and persuades her that a retreat is in order. With only a single strand of rope now connecting the island to the mainland, even withdrawing has major risks. Felix and Bey manage to make the exhausting hand over hand journey back, but Nedrin slips and falls! Careful planning saves his life, however, as the adventurers tied another strand of rope around Nedrin’s waist with the far end being held by Felix. Nedrin’s fall turns into an arcing swing and he slams into the cliffside with great force. Still, he survives and is pulled up by Felix.
Deciding that a renewed assault is not tenable, at least for the time being, the adventurers decide to try to contain the threat of the Thistletop goblins by cutting the last strand of rope between the island and the mainland. They then make their way out of Nettlewood and back to Sandpoint. They head directly for the Cathedral, where Felix, barely conscious and slumped over his mount, collapses on the ground. Father Zantus rushes to revive the fallen warrior, and the surviving trio of adventurers relate what happened to the town’s Deputy Sheriff. Father Zantus hears about Oliver’s fate, and promises to hold a memorial service in the ranger’s honour.
Bey, Felix, and Nedrin then walk to the Garrison, where they find Sheriff Hemlock and Bosk Hartigan drilling the new recruits on how to march in formation. Despite everything, Sheriff Hemlock is not pleased to hear about Oliver’s death; he berates the group for failing to notice such an obvious trap given the animal cunning possessed by goblins and the warnings that the Thistletop tribe had the most heavily fortified goblin lair in western Varisia. Nor is Sheriff Hemlock mollified by the destruction of the rope bridge, stating that the Thistletop goblins could very well escape by boat to continue whatever plans they have for Sandpoint. He says that he’s trying to get the recruits up to basic proficiency as quickly as possible, but if the adventurers plan to raid Thistletop again, they might find Shalelu’s leg has healed and that she’s up to the task of accompanying them.
Shalelu is sharpening arrows at a table in the common room in the Rusty Dragon when the adventurers seek her out. She is deeply saddened to hear about her old friend’s death, and keen to avenge him. She promises to hire a small boat from the Mercantile League so that the adventurers can approach Thistletop by sea, scale the cliffs, and perhaps catch the tribe by surprise. While she sets off to make the necessary arrangements, Nedrin and Felix discuss a plan to try to smoke out the Thistletop goblins so that they leave their fortified stockade and can be dispatched in the open. To this end, they visit Nisk Tander’s shop and, after some haggling and a deal to promote Bottled Solutions when they act in Cyrdak Drokkus’s next play, the two adventurers leave with a bundle of smoke sticks each.
Bey is waiting outside for the pair, and relates distressing news. Her revelations have revealed to her a simple truth: if Bey accompanies the adventurers to Thistletop, everyone will die! Bey says that she has foreseen every possible permutation, and that the only scenario with a chance of success is one in which the adventurers go without her but are accompanied by Shalelu and another figure she doesn’t recognize. Having relayed the ominous news, Bey bids the adventurers farewell for the near future and sets off to talk about Thassilon with Brodert Quink.
The morning’s raid on Thistletop proved a pyrrhic victory; the adventurers established a beachhead but could not hold it, and lost one of their teammates in the process. Now, they plan to approach by sea rather than land, guided by the expertise of Shalelu Andosana. But who is this mysterious stranger Bey foresaw in her mystical glimpse into the future?
Having returned to Sandpoint from their first journey to the goblin fortress of Thistletop, Felix and Nedrin sell some of the spoils of war and resupply for another planned raid. Felix sells a magical suit of goblin-sized armor to Vorvashali Voon at The Feathered Serpent, and, for a small fee, learns that the cloak taken from the body of the goblin druid Gogmurt is actually a cloak of resistance. A journey to Bottled Solutions for healing potions leads to a hair-raising experience as a small explosion occurs amongst a concoction that proprietor Nisk Tander is brewing. Meanwhile, experienced elven scout Shalelu Andosana walks to the harbourfront and hires a small rowboat from the Mercantile League. While there, she notices a human wearing a steel breastplate with a greataxe strapped to his back. Shalelu correctly deduces that the man is a sellsword and persuades him to join the planned attack on Thistletop in exchange for an equal share of whatever treasure is found within.
The adventurers reunite at the Rusty Dragon, and Shalelu introduces the sellsword, Arnald Swiss, to Felix and Nedrin. Felix makes a joke about Oliver which doesn’t go over well with Shalelu, and she retires to her room once the decision is made to depart in the early morning hours for Thistletop. Nedrin also retires early, but Arnald and Felix spend the evening in the Rusty Dragon’s common room. Arnald sees Daviren Hosk, and Felix realizes that the two know each other: Arnald helped keep Daviren out of a goblin cookpot when the latter had a vendetta against Chief Whartus and the Bonegrinder tribe. Daviren warns Felix to be careful in Thistletop and to watch out for Warchief Ripnugget, as he’s known to try to lure his enemies into traps. Later that evening, Felix tells Arnald a humorous story about accidentally burning down an inn in Magnimar (and having to escape the city in a hurry!) while Arnald boasts about fighting and travelling throughout the land. Arnald also hears a story from Ameiko about a legendary monster in the Varisian Gulf named Old Murdermaw that can bite a boat in half!
[6 Lamashan 4707]
The crisp autumn day sees little wind and smooth rowing for the adventurers, and in just a few hours they approach Thistletop from the west just as the sun appears over the horizon. A decision is made to do a full circuit of the island instead of just scaling the western cliffs, and the group’s patience is rewarded as they notice a small cave on the eastern face of the island, about twenty feet below the clifftop. A goblin in the southeastern guard tower spots the rowboat, but Nedrin reacts instantly and shoots an arrow to kill the sentry before it can sound the alarm!
Felix’s upbringing as a Shoanti of the Storval Plateau allows him to scale the damp rock face, but as he nears the cave, something up there starts to move! Before he can react, a dark blue creature with long tentacles emerges from the cave and crawls down the cliffside towards him One of the creature’s tentacles is pointed and barbed, and cuts into Felix’s shoulder, dislodging the warrior’s grip and sending him tumbling into the water below. Fortunately, Felix executes a skilled dive and Arnald jumps in to assist him in getting back into the boat. The squid-like creature continues its search for prey by wrapping a tentacle around Arnald’s neck and trying to drag him upwards until Shalelu unleashes a fusillade of arrows to kill the creature. Arnald, in a bout of dark humour or eccentricity, hollows out the creature and pulls it over his head as a sort of ghastly costume!
Felix resumes his climb and makes it to the cave, which has a strangely smooth, polished floor and passages heading off of it in three directions, one of which ends in a wooden door; the adventurers have taken an unorthodox approach but have pierced the outer defences of Thistletop! Felix throws down a rope which is tied to one of the slats in the centre of the rowboat, and, after the others climb up, he ties the other end to an arrow which Arnald jams into a crevice in the rock-face. If everything holds, the adventurers have secured an escape route and have chosen a propitious time to investigate Thistletop, as most of its denizens will still be asleep.
The group begins by venturing into the southwest tunnel, noting that the worked stone passages here are clearly man-made, and that lit lanterns hang in the hallways. The tunnel ends in a storage room full of junk obviously scavenged from elsewhere, but a wooden door to the west indicates an exit. The adventurers instead head back to their entry point and explore the northern passage, which leads to what must be the lair of the tentacled monster they just slew. Several seabird and even goblin corpses are scattered around the room, each consisting of just skin and bones as if their insides have been somehow drained. A search of the goblin corpses shows that one died in possession of high-quality dog-hide armor and a skilfully crafted shortbow. Felix and Nedrin take the former and latter, respectively.
The intruders gird themselves for battle behind the wooden door heading directly west, but when it opens, no enemies lay on the other side. Instead, the corridor leads to a pair of large stone doors, their faces carved with images of horrific, deformed monsters clawing their way out of pregnant women of all races. Wooden doors lay to the north and south, and the adventurers decide to try their luck south. They find stairs leading up, which they avoid for the nonce, and a depressing chamber that passes for a nursery in Thistletop: cages along the walls containing dirty mounds of straw and three goblin infants. Arnald callously asks the others what goblin infants are worth on the free market, but Shalelu says there will be no talk of slavery in her presence.
Felix opens another door, and the time for cautious exploration is over! Inside, a harem of goblin females lounge while a massive, 7 foot tall bugbear mounts one of them. Shalelu shouts “Bruthazmus!” as Felix lights and throws a smokestick into the room. A furious battle takes place in the doorway, as Shalelu’s rival, unarmoured and taken by surprise, nonetheless gives a roar and rushes to crush his nemesis’s skull with his flail. Shalelu responds with her blade, and both take wounds in the battle in which no quarter is given. Arnald’s massive axe whistles through the air and lands a telling blow in Bruthazmus’ abdomen, and another stab from Shalelu’s sword is enough to drop the giant goblinoid. She shows no hesitation in slitting his throat. She refuses to have anything else to do with his body, but a search by Nedrin reveals four masterwork arrows with the goblin runes for “Elf Hate” etched into them; he adds these to his quiver. The goblin females, still dazed and disoriented from the smokestick, are tied up and the door to the harem room is closed.
The adventurers decide to pause their explorations of the southern corridors and instead make a foray through the northern doors. They find what looks like a crude goblin art gallery, filled with drawings of goblins engaging in violence against humans, horses, and dogs. One picture is much larger and more complex than the others, and shows what appears to be a massive goblin with snakelike eyes in a chamber in the subterranean centre of the island. An adjoining room is clearly a war room of some type, and the adventurers find notes indicating that once “the whispering beast is tamed”, another raid on Sandpoint will be launched in the space of mere weeks. More stairs leading upward are nearby.
Just off the war room is a study, but this one is occupied. A woman in her early twenties with dark skin and long hair braided into cornrows is sitting at a table, poring over books, scrolls, and stone fragments. She looks up as the adventurers enter, annoyed at being disturbed, but Nedrin keeps her from becoming alarmed by cleverly making a counter-intuitive decision: he lifts his mask to show her that he’s a hobgoblin! The woman, who gives her name as Lyrie, assumes the newcomers are reinforcements hired to replace the guards killed in the previous day’s raid, and she tells them that they’ve taken a wrong turn and are interfering with her research. Nedrin asks Lyrie where he can find “the boss”, and she says Nualia is either in the chapel behind the carved doors or a level below. Although the group’s deception is going well, Arnald inexplicably asks, right in front of her, whether they should tie Lyrie up, which leads her to try to cast a spell. It fails, however, and, cornered by four heavily-armed warriors, she submits to being tied up. The adventurers’ surreptitious entry into Thistletop is further rewarded by their discovery of a secret door that Lyrie has left ajar, on the far side of which are stairs leading down. The adventurers force Lyrie to move into the room that served as the lair of the monster she says was called a tentamort.
The adventurers return to their search, deciding to save the chapel for last in case Nualia is there and can summon reinforcements from elsewhere in the complex. The adventurers find a torture room with several unoccupied cells, and Shalelu suggest moving their prisoners there if they can find the keys. Another corridor leads to several doorways, and, opening the first one on the right, the adventurers barge into a mercenary finishing his breakfast of bread and smoked salmon. The ruggedly handsome human is heavily armored and has a shield and a bastard sword laying nearby on the bed. Nedrin plays it cool, however, and once again bluffs the man into thinking they’re sellswords hired by Nualia, recently arrived by boat since the bridge has been cut. The mercenary, who gives his name as Orik Vancaskerkin, says that Nualia pays well but is involved in some “creepy” things. He offers to show the “new hires” around Thistletop once he finishes his meal. Nedrin thanks him and shuts his door.
The adventurers have acted boldly and luck has been with them, as they’ve penetrated deep into the goblin fortress of Thistletop and, through a combination of quick thinking and luck, have caught the defenders completely by surprise. If they can continue to exploit their advantage, they may just make it off the island alive!
With Bey's player away, I ran Shalelu as a DMPC for the rest of Chapter 1 so there would be 4 party members.
I remember doing prep work for this section of the adventure and reading in the forums about groups who ended up entering Thistletop through the tentamort's cave, and thinking at the time how unlikely that was since it would require a) an approach by boat; b) a conscious decision to survey the far side of the island from where the boat would come from; and c) a high Perception check to notice the opening. And, of course, the PCs in my group did all three! I'm just happy that I had the sub-level prepared, otherwise I would have been super stressed.
I may have talked about this before, but I often get a kick out of how the adventure path sometimes puts so much effort into developing NPC antagonists (back-stories, full-colour artwork, connections with other NPCs, etc.) and then those NPCs die in a round or two of combat and all of that work is wasted. In this session, Bruthazmus and Lyrie were disposed of, and next session will see Orik get taken down quite quickly.
As the recap notes, the PCs really did stumble upon the perfect timing and approach to entering Thistletop, purely through luck. Alas, their luck won't hold much longer and tragedy will be the result.
The adventurers open the door across the hallway from Orik Vancaskerkin’s room to find a bedroom with a faint musty odor and a stack of birds’ feet heaped on the blood-stained floor. A search of the room turns up nothing further of interest, but by the time they’re done they hear Orik moving about and getting ready to start his day. A quick whispered conversation is held, and the adventurers agree on a plan: “kill him!” The moment Orik steps out of his room, the adventurers attack. Nedrin begins to shimmer for a moment and then stabs Orik through the abdomen with his longsword, and the others pile on. Orik tries to make a deal as he fights frantically for his life, but no quarter is given and the “Heroes of Sandpoint” slit his throat once he falls unconscious. Arnald takes Orik’s bastard sword and heavy steel shield that has been designed to resemble a human face. The other rooms at the end of this hallway also turn out to be bedrooms. Nedrin finds a chunk of obsidian he considers quite valuable, and underneath it are drafts of plans written by Tsuto Konjiku for the initial raid on Sandpoint.
As the adventurers leave the area and reach the point where they slew the bugbear Bruthazmus, a goblin strolls to the bottom of the stairs with a tray in its hands. When it sees the puddle of blood outside of the harem room and an elf (Shalelu) standing next to it, the goblin shrieks, drops the tray, and bolts up the stairs! The adventurers don’t react quickly enough to stop him, so instead of chasing him they prepare for the inevitable goblin counter-attack and take up defensive positions. Nedrin hears a booming voice from above shouting in the goblin tongue to “send the fodder down with the hounds”, and, sure enough, four goblin dogs and three goblins charge down the stairs. But the adventurers are ready for them and let loose with a barrage of arrows. The skilled archery of Nedrin and Shalelu, combined with Arnald’s massive great axe and Felix’s fists of fury, quickly create a pile of dead assailants at the bottom of the stairs. The heroes emerge from the battle unscathed!
Shalelu shouts “let’s finish this!” and charges up the stairs with the others at her heels. The adventurers find themselves in a trophy room of sorts, as poorly preserved horse and dog heads are mounted along one wall while a large pair of black-feathered wings are tacked to another wall with several daggers. A large pair of double-doors, barred from the inside, indicate the front exit of the stockade. The intruders first scout down a western corridor to find a guard tower that’s empty except for a stashed jar of half-eaten pickles. Turning north and moving further into the stockade, the party reaches an open-air courtyard. Doors along the southern wall lead to rabbit cages and a food storage room. To the north, two dead goblins lay slumped on the ground near a door that has been nailed shut. Hearing thumping from within, the adventurers prepare for battle as Arnald cuts the door down with his axe. He’s surprised to see a black and white horse inside, starved nearly to death, frantic with fear and hunger. It bites Arnald before passing out from sheer exhaustion.
A search of the seemingly empty stockade continues, as the adventurers find a filthy latrine (“we’re not searching through that!” says Felix), a barracks, a planning room, and more. When they reach a locked door, Felix puts his ear to it and his keen hearing picks up whispering on the other side, which Nedrin then translates: the goblins inside know the adventurers are coming. Rather than force the issue now, the group decides to continue searching the rest of the stockade.
When the group reach the eastern guard tower, Nedrin scales to the top and sees the body of the sentry he so aptly targeted when the group made their seaborne approach to Thistletop. Nedrin takes a careful look to ensure the group’s rowboat is still tied to the cliffside, but instead he spies something very different: Lyrie Akenja has somehow gotten free of her bonds and is rowing the boat towards the mainland! The adventurers are not about to let a former captive escape with their best way off the island, so they unleash a volley of arrows at the ill-fated scholar. She’s pierced through and through with arrows, and although she somehow survives long enough to jump into the water to try to swim for safety, Arnald finishes her off with an expert shot and her body floats gently on the waves.
The determined adventurers return to the first subterranean level of Thistletop so that Felix can scale down the side of the cliff and then swim out to recover the boat. He also pulls Lyrie’s body on board and (after fending off and throwing her cat familiar into the sea) strips the body of possessions, including going so far as to remove the woman’s pearl earrings. He dumps the corpse, along with a thick book she was carrying, into the water and rows the boat back to the island. There, the group work together to secure it again. The adventurers return to the stockade on the surface of the island and prepare to attack what they surmise is Warchief Ripnugget’s throne room. Arnald chops down the door to reveal Ripnugget mounted on a giant gecko. Ripnugget’s planned trap is foiled when Felix notices three goblin commandos hiding behind spiked timbers and a warchanter crouching behind the throne. Ripnugget tries to lure Felix further into the room, but the Shoanti warrior is in no mood for conversation. The battle begins! Arnald charges into the room and is quickly surrounded before falling prey to a malicious enchantment cast by the warchanter, which leads the mercenary to fall into bouts of hysterical laughter! Nedrin doesn’t leave his ally defenceless, however, as he enters the room and kills Ripnugget’s mount with a single arrow. Felix also enters to fight next to Arnald and taunts Ripnugget, but the powerful goblin chief responds by stabbing the pugilist in the belly. As Shalelu fires arrow after arrow, Nedrin draws his sword and lands a telling slash on the back of Ripnugget’s neck. The battle is over almost as soon as it began, and the entire Thistletop goblin tribe has been wiped out.
After looting the corpses and completing a search of the stockade (finding an armoury and a butchery in the process), the adventurers return to the lower level. After further exploration turns up the keys to the cages, Felix shows mercy by putting the goblin females inside along with the infants. The adventurers continue their exploration and open a door that turns out to be the southwest entrance to a chapel dedicated to the Mother of Monsters, the demonic goddess Lamashtu! Along with stone fonts, a black marble stone altar, and a ten foot tall statue of Lamashtu, the chapel is home to two unearthly hairless canines that fly and exude an air of menace and cruelty. Sensing intruders, they let loose with a terrifying, uncanny howl that echoes through the entire complex. Nedrin manages to stand firm, but all of his companions flee in panick! The hobgoblin wisely retreats, shutting the doors to the chapel behind him. The creatures, known as yeth hounds, begin slamming their bodies against the doors to break free.
The adventurers come to their senses and gather their courage to make a stand in the prison chamber just seconds before the yeth hands break the door down. Nedrin and Arnald are knocked to the ground repeatedly by the hounds’ unrelenting bites. Shalelu fires a veritable quiver-full of arrows to kill one of the creatures, while Arnald’s axe opens huge gashes in the other before Felix manages to finish it off with a punch into the back of its throat!
The adventurers have triumphed over every obstacle so far, but they’re beginning to get worn down. Yet their task is unfinished, as the true mastermind behind the assault on Sandpoint has not yet been brought to justice . . .
Felix's remark about the latrine, "We're not searching through that!" will prove amusing to GMs who have run this chapter.
This iteration of the party was quite bloody and brutal! Slitting poor Orik's throat and drowning Lyrie's cat are good examples. I was actually really surprised they managed to see Lyrie rowing away with the boat, as I had expected they would go to leave and be surprised to realize that the boat was gone.
The battle against Ripnugget was pretty easy. As this point, goblins just weren't going to be a threat against the adventurers. Yeth hounds, however, are a whole 'nother kettle of fish. Will saves were not the PCs' strong suit, and this would prove their undoing next session.
Having defeated two yeth hounds in a difficult battle, the party discuss their next course of action. Nedrin suggests barricading a room and resting for the night, but Shalelu urges her allies to press on before Nualia, the mastermind behind the raid on Sandpoint, can escape. Encouraged by Shalelu’s liberal use of a healing wand, the group agree. They quickly search the chapel that had been guarded by the yeth hounds. Felix spends several minutes yanking free the two glowing kukris held by the statue of the demon goddess Lamashtu.
The adventurers then head for the “secret” door they learned about by surprising Lyrie Akenja during her research. Arnald takes the lead as the group head down a flight of stairs to emerge at a deeper subterranean area. This level is canted, forcing the adventurers to walk at an upwards angle as they move east. They pass through a large room containing several statues of a man in robes clutching a book and glaive, but it’s clear that whatever ancient upheaval tilted the floor also severely damaged the statues. The eastern door is ajar, and when Arnold opens it, the end begins for two of the brave explorers.
The doorway leads to a short, narrow hallway, with alcoves to the north and south containing statues of stern men wielding glaives. At the end of the hallway are two sets of stone doors to the north and south, but standing at that point is the group’s quarry: Nualia! The beautiful silver-haired aasimar has madness in her violet eyes, her left hand has been transformed into a red talon, and she wears the distinctive scars on her stomach of one specially favoured by Lamashtu herself! “The so-called Heroes of Sandpoint have ventured thus far,” she spits out arrogantly, “so come at me then, if you dare!” Arnald takes the challenge and charges down the hallway, only to fall prey to a cunning trap! A pair of metal portcullis slam down right in front and right behind him as he crosses the area right in front of the statutes, and then the glaives begin hacking downward. Nualia laughs maniacally and enters the room to the north, but from the same doorway emerges one of the dreaded yeth hounds.
Felix comes to his trapped ally’s aid and helps Arnald lift up the portcullis that served to cut him off from the others, and the rescue came at a good time, as, seconds later, a pit opens on the very spot Arnald had been standing on! When the trapdoor raises shut, the other portcullis also raises up and the statues stop their attack. Shalelu, Nedrin, and Arnald decide to fight the yeth hound from a distance with archery, but the creature darts pass their barrage of arrows and flies over their heads, landing behind them to cut off their escape. Then the creature unleashes its horrific howl which sends Shalelu, Felix, and Arnald fleeing in absolute terror to the east . . . right into the grinning visage of Nualia, who has returned fully prepared for battle! Able only to cower in fear, Felix soon falls before the demon-worshipper’s bastard sword. “Your blood is well-spilt,” she cackles, “and will only speed the cleansing of my revolting celestial taint!”
Nedrin is the only adventurer capable of fighting, and heroically duels the yeth hound one-on-one. The hobgoblin is sorely taxed but ultimately prevails and decapitates the creature! Nualia shows admiration rather than anger, however, and starts channelling waves of pure demonic energy through the room, sapping the adventurers’ strength! “You will make a fine sacrifice to the Demon Mother,” she promises Nedrin, as the hobgoblin finally falls. Shalelu and Arnald, badly hurt but finally recovered from the supernaturally terrifying howl of the yeth hound, have no choice but to flee from the almost completely uninjured cleric of Lamashtu. “The bones of my father were but the first to be burned on the Mother of Monster’s altar,” Nualia shouts as they flee, “and soon all of Sandpoint will be next!”
Shalelu and Arnald run up the stairs and over to the cave where the tentamort once looked out over the waves below. They hurriedly climb down the rope and into the rowboat tethered at the bottom of the cliffside. Their return voyage to Sandpoint is a solemn one of shocked silence. When they arrive back at the community, the pair leave the boat at the docks and walk in silence to the Garrison. There, they deliver the news of the group’s failure to Sheriff Hemlock. Hemlock says it’s regrettable to hear about the deaths of Felix and Nedrin, but that another assault will have to be made on Thistletop to bring Nualia to justice before she can gather reinforcements and launch another attack on the town. He promises to look into finding others who would be willing to take on such a dangerous mission.
Once they reach the Rusty Dragon, Shalelu pushes through the lunchtime crowd and heads straight to her room. Arnald quickly knocks back a tankard of ale and speaks to the tavern’s halfling barmaid, Bethana Corwin. Arnald explains that he’s in Sandpoint to protect it and drive off the goblin threat, but that his cause has suffered a severe setback. Bethana mentions that adventurers who tell an entertaining or moving story to their fellow patrons receive a room at half-price, but Arnald explains that he’s not in the mood. He does find himself the object of attraction for a fellow newcomer to Sandpoint: a new acolyte at the Cathedral named Sister Celia, an attractive woman in her early 40s. Sister Celia explains that she worships Shelyn, goddess of beauty, love, and dance. She flirts with Arnald but he rebuffs her advances and leaves to resupply for another expedition.
Visits to Savah’s Armory and Bottled Solutions are productive, but Arnald unwittingly walks into an argument when he visits the town’s general store. The proprietor Ven Vinder is yelling at his daughter Katrine that he doesn’t want her “going around with that fellow from the mill anymore.” Katrine shouts back that she loves “Banny.” When Vin sees Arnald enter, the storekeeper shouts “no adventurers!” and threatens the sellsword with his cudgel while angrily denouncing Felix (whom he doesn't know is now deceased) for “violating my chaste princess” (referring to his other daughter, Shayliss). Arnald wisely leaves before violence ensues. Instead, he walks over to the Goblin Squash Stables and buys some barding for his horse. Conversation turns to the local goblin tribes, and Daviren explains that in Mosswood, the tribe is broken into several warring families and that one of the families is deformed and rumoured to worship Lamashtu. Arnald makes one final stop, this time visiting the cathedral where he meets the other new acolyte, a halfling priestess of Erastil named Sister Erica. Arnald is disappointed when, instead of the powerful magic he seeks, Sister Erica offers him spiritual development by letting him help out in the garden behind the building.
Arnald returns to the Rusty Dragon as the sun sets. He sees Sister Celia flirting with Vorvashali Voon and awkwardly intrudes, before heading up to his room for the night.
[7 Lamash 4707]
A new day dawns over Sandpoint. But after the raids on Thistletop, is the town safer or in even more danger?
Felix just got worn down over several rounds and expired unceremoniously, while Nedrin put up a heroic fight in destroying the yeth hound before being repeatedly assailed by something he couldn't do anything about: Nualia's ability to channel negative energy. It was sad to see both characters die, especially Felix since he was one of the starting characters for the game.
I really liked the idea of the canted level giving an advantage over combatants on higher ground, but despite making myself a reminder card I think I and the players consistently forgot to apply it. Sometimes with so much going on, it's really hard to remember little bonuses! I'm also not the best (though I try) at having NPCs talk, mock, and reveal some of their personality or backstories during battles, otherwise they're often complete enigmas. I'm sure that during the battle, I didn't word Nualia's statements quite so articulately, but that's one of the advantages of a recap.
There's a very quick appearance by Katrine Vinder because I wanted to introduce her ahead of what I knew was going to happen in Chapter Two. Alas, I don't think it helped in terms of narrative because Arnald's player didn't remember meeting her (and I can't really blame him).
As the first rays of another autumn morning begin filtering through the shutters into Arnald Swiss’s room at the Rusty Dragon, a sharp knocking can be heard at his door. The cause of the noise proves to be Shalelu Andosana, fully outfitted for travel. She brusquely tells Arnald that she didn’t sleep well and doesn’t want to wait for Sheriff Hemlock to turn his attention away from training the new recruits to finding experienced warriors to help continue the search for Nualia. Instead, Shalelu explains, she plans to take a risky course of action in order to capture or kill the silver-haired worshipper of Lamashtu before the cultist can obtain reinforcements or find the mysterious weapon boasted about in Tsuto’s journal. Shalelu says she’s long heard tale of a pair of dangerous outcasts living just a couple of miles south of Sandpoint. According to local gossip, they’re dangerous and untrustworthy, but after the death of Felix and Nedrin, she’s decided that it may just be time to throw caution to the wind and fight fire with fire. She gives Arnald time to get dressed before setting off at a quick pace.
She and Arnald pass sleepy guards as they leave Sandpoint via the southern bridge and walk briskly along the Lost Coast Road before reaching the area where a wide stream disappears into the rocky hills south of town. There, at the abandoned Bradley farmstead, an old fisherman’s shack serves as the home of two of the area’s most disreputable occupants. Shalelu nocks an arrow and motions for Arnald to ready himself for battle as the two approach the shack cautiously. Inside, however, the visitors’ approach has not gone undetected. “Not so fast, one more step and it’ll be your last!” a voice rings out. Shalelu shouts back that she’s come on business, and succinctly summarizes the threat posed by Nualia and the events of the previous raids on Thistletop. Tense negotiations lead Shalelu to grudgingly offer those inside the shack one of her personal magical items, an enchanted amulet, in order to purchase their loyalty for the mission to come.
The ill-fitting door to the shack creaks open, and a figure emerges: a powerful-looking half-orc, wearing a kilt and a long-sleeved tunic, with a long braid of hair. Accompanied by a goat, the half-orc, whose name will eventually be known as Eugeni, approaches as, by arrangement, Arnald delivers the magical amulet. With terms agreed upon and payment rendered, the door to the shack opens again and the remaining resident emerges: a member of the feathered, bird-like species commonly known as tengu. The tengu, whose name is Ome, is accompanied by a startling sight: a massive giant wasp, the size of a full-grown cat! The two pairs of adventurers watch each other tensely.
Shalelu proposes that, before attempting their ultimate goal of dealing with Nualia, the four adventurers should learn to evaluate each other’s strengths and weaknesses by undertaking an easier task. The four settle on attempting to collect the bounty offered by the Sandpoint Mercantile League for the capture or death of the notorious bandit Shank, known to have operated for years from the small forest that now bears his name. For almost four years now, Shank has been plaguing the Lost Coast Road, holding up lone travellers and entire carriages, leaving his victims poorer but alive. Yet in the past six months, the highwayman has turned to kidnapping—-with no ransom demands having been made!
The newly-formed hunting band follow the Lost Coast Road back through Sandpoint and out the northern gate. As the road continues east parallel to the coast, a brightly-coloured wagonful of the area’s indigenous Varisians wave and smile. Later in the morning, the adventurers reach a patch of the road just south of Shank’s Wood where Shalelu says the highwayman was last known to have attacked. Ome kneels down to look for signs, and although it’s been weeks since the attack, the tengu is confident she’s found tracks heading into the forest! Shalelu is dubious of Ome’s findings, but reluctantly agrees to accompany them into the woods. Ome reports that several sets of goblin prints criss-cross the area and make tracking difficult, but after about a mile she suddenly stands up and points. A gurgling brook runs from east to west in front of them, spanned by a mossy fallen log. On the far side of the water, an old trapper’s cabin made from scavenged timber and driftwood can be discerned through the treeline.
Arnald, as the most heavily armoured of the group, is chosen to take the lead in approaching the shack. He calls out, and soon the poorly-hung front door opens. An older man with unkempt grey hair peers out cautiously. When asked about the bandit Shank, the man says he hasn’t had any run-ins with bandits but that there are several goblins about. He says that he’s a trapper and fisherman, and invites Arnald in for a cup of tea.
The interior of the cabin is dark and smoky for some reason. Arnald loses sight of the man and the next thing he knows, a thick leathery arm is wrapping around his head! Arnald calls out in distress as something sharp sinks into his neck and a sloppy sucking sound can be heard. Shalelu rushes into the shack, but although she hears Arnald yelling she can’t tell exactly where he is because of the smoke. She notices a small firepit on the ground and, thinking quickly, smothers it with a blanket. Seconds later, Eugeni makes a dramatic entrance: having become magically twice as large, he smashes through the wall of the shack, sending shards of wood everywhere! Ome follows through, bow at the ready. The air begins to clear as the three adventurers see that Arnald is struggling futilely against his attackers grip. And, for the first time, they realize his attacker is no elderly trapper: it’s a grotesque, faceless creature with leathery skin!
The creature, which Eugeni identifies as an Ugothol (or “faceless stalker”) continues to squeeze and drain the life out of Arnald as the others attack it and inflict several deep wounds. The aberration offers to let Arnald go if they’ll let it go, but they refuse; when bartering fails, the creature threatens a lifetime of stalking the adventurers, as they’ll never know when they’re safe. But when the Ugothol pushes Arnald away and tries to flee, Eugeni knocks the creature to the ground and then Arnald finally gets vengeance and cuts the creature in twain with one might swing of his greataxe! Eugeni and Ome quickly scour the interior of the shack and discover a small cache of money and magical items hidden underneath a filthy bed made of fur and branches. The two adventurers use their bodies to shield their find from the others, and keep most of the treasure to themselves. Outside, Shalelu finds a ten-foot deep pit containing mud, decomposing bodies (“Shank’s” victims), and a disgusting maggot-like grub the size of a small dog! Arnald is very interested in searching the pit, but the others persuade him to leave it alone.
Shalelu announces herself more-or-less satisfied with the newcomers’ skill in battle. Although it’s out of their way, the group must return to Sandpoint before tackling Thistletop because the elf’s bow splintered in the battle against the faceless stalker. They reach the town again in the early afternoon and Shalelu leaves the other three to wait at the northern gate while she goes to buy a new bow. While she’s gone, Ome asks Arnald for more information on what happened on his previous foray to Thistletop. His answers are vague and full of jokes, much to the tengu’s annoyance. Eugenie quietly tells his long-time friend that the human sellsword is clearly not the brains of the operation. The three talk about passing the time gambling, but realize they don’t have dice or a deck of cards to play with. Arnald heads into town and to the general store. Seeing the “No Adventurers!” sign in the window, he tries to disguise himself by pulling up the hood on his winter cloak. But Ven Vinder isn’t fooled, and when Arnald is slow in leaving, Ven swings his cudgel so hard it makes an audible “crack” when it connects with Arnald’s skull! The mercenary gets the message and leaves before further violence erupts.
Once the four adventurers are back together, they head back east. Shalelu is able to find a route through Nettlewood that avoids most of the dense forest’s obstacles and dangers. Soon, in the later afternoon, they stand on the edge of the promontory, across from which is the isle fortress of Thistletop. Shalelu, Arnald, and Ome are able to scramble down the 80’ cliff and into the water below with little difficulty, but Eugenie slips and tumbles awkwardly, hurting himself in the process. Fortunately, the half-orc’s friend is able to draw up divine magic to heal him. The group then swims across the narrow channel and are able to scale Thistletop using the rope to the former lair of the tentamort. The adventurers make haste towards the research room containing a secret door to the stairs below. Shalelu notices that many of the books and scrolls that had been there are now gone.
Once the adventurers are on the second subterranean level of the complex, Shalelu and Arnald point out to Ome and Eugenie the exact spot where the corridor ahead is trapped. The four spend a long time discussing various ways to get past the trap until Shalelu, frustrated, backs up and leaps over the pressure plate on the floor! The other three follow her lead without incident. Surprisingly, however, Nualia is nowhere to be found. A cursory look at the room she had been in before shows it to be a study of some sort, as it contains various small tables and chairs and is well-lit by enchanted blazing skulls. Wide stone ledges of red marble line the curving walls of the room and contain strange scrimshaw artwork, taxidermied animals and limbs, and several spots where the dust has been recently disturbed as if things that were once there are now gone.
The adventurers move on to another chamber across the corridor. Here they find an “L” shaped hallway, the southern part of which ends at a pair of stone doors carved with the depictions of two skeletons reaching out to clutch a skull between them. The walls of the eastern part of the chamber narrows down to frame a circular carving of what seems to be immense stacks of tens of thousands of gold coins rising from floor to ceiling. Eugenie casts a minor divination spell to discern that the stacks carry with them the aura of illusion magic.
Pressing on, the adventurers open the skull-marked stone doors. Four pillars support the vaulted ceiling of the room beyond, while alcoves containing standing stone sarcophagi line the walls. The centre of the room is dominated by the statue of a stern man wielding a glaive and holding a book. The adventurers decide to split up and take their time looking for secret doors, but their search is interrupted as insubstantial, inky black, vaguely humanoid-shaped shadows emerge from three of the sarcophagi and fly towards the intruders! Their touch is witheringly cold and drains the vitality of living creatures, a fact Shalelu discovers all too well before retreating out of the room. In her haste, she fails to account for the trap the group bypassed earlier and suffers multiple cuts.
Ome, Eugeni, and Arnald fall back as well and soon realize the manifestations of spiritual energy are bound to the crypt and cannot leave. Ome, having come prepared for many eventualities, coats the tip of several arrows with an alchemical compound that will allow the projectiles to harm the ghostly figures. Eugeni manifests blast after blast of eldritch fire to burn the creatures, and the renewed battle goes well until Arnald strays too close to the entrance to the crypt and gets swarmed! His body grows incredibly weak and he is barely able to fight off the siren song of death before Eugeni destroys the last of the undead lurkers.
A third and perhaps final raid on Thistletop has begun, yet Nualia is nowhere to be found. Has she slipped through the adventurers’ grasp?
Speaking of Thistletop, I had to put some thought into deciding what Nualia would do. The adventure path has instructions for what happens if she escapes, but she actually won the battle and it was the PCs who retreated. But, she was also almost the only living creature alive in the fortress and I didn't want to have a video game style campaign where the boss just sits around waiting for the heroes to come back. So the PCs lost out on a clear victory, some XP, some treasure, and a lot of information when she abandoned Thistletop. She makes a return appearance in Chapter Two, however, and the PCs luck will prove much better.
GMs will note something major in Thistletop that the PCs missed, but that's okay. Not every party has to have the same experiences, and it's good that the adventure path isn't on rails.
I was nervous about the fight against the shadows since they can easily overwhelm and kill PCs, so I was impressed with how well the group did against them.
After the difficult battle over the Shadows in an ancient crypt below the surface of Thistletop, Ome finds a secret door hidden in an alcove. Arnald, weakened from the strength-draining touch of the creatures, takes off his armor and gear and decides to rest while the others continue exploring. The secret door leads to a passage sloping steeply downward, and eventually ending in what was once a treasury but is now partially submerged under seawater. Two of the remaining walls of the chamber depict carvings of incredible treasures, while the third shows a towering mountain, its peak carved in the shape of a stern face above a great palace on the side of the mountain, overlooking an immense city of spires. Eugeni draws closer to the pool of water and notices thousands of coins glinting from the light of Ome’s everburning torch. The pool contains a stranger treasure, however: a massive helmet, almost five-feet wide, made of gold. But as Eugeni looks at it more closely, he sees eyes move within it and then the helmet rotates!
The giant hermit crab which has adopted the helmet as its shell watches the adventurers closely. Shalelu tells her allies that, obviously, Nualia is not here and that they should depart, but Ome and Eugeni are transfixed by the amount of treasure in the pool and decide to attack! Eugeni transmutes his hair until the strands are dozens of feet long and wrap around the hermit grab. Ome and Shalelu begin shooting arrows into the trapped invertebrate, but then it breaks free and charges towards the adventurers, opening and closing massive pincers! Shalelu shouts in agony as one of the pincers crushes her ribcage and throws her unconscious form against a wall. Some distance away, Arnald hears the cry and decides to come to his companions’ aid.
As Ome darts in and out of the chamber to avoid the giant crab, Eugeni tries to entrap it again with his magically-enhanced hair, but he gets caught by a pincer as well! Arnald arrives on the scene and revives Shalelu with a healing potion, but no one is fast enough to aid Eugeni as the half-orc is grievously wounded and tossed aside like a rag doll. Ome appears cornered, but manages to tumble her way free and runs out of the room to rejoin Shalelu and Arnald who have already withdrawn. With all of the intruders out of sight except for the unconscious Eugeni, the giant crab begins to devour its fresh kill. Ome returns to the chamber just in time to see her friend die and cries out in sorrow. She begins firing arrow after arrow into the crab until it finally succumbs. The overwrought tengu tears the crab apart with her bare claws before realizing something significant: with all of the treasure in the chamber, perhaps she could pay a cleric to bring her friend back to life! The three survivors work hard to collect the thousands of coins, precious stones, and other treasures in the chamber and then return to the surface stockade. There, Arnald takes the lead and uses his axe to chop down enough planks to build a makeshift catamaran capable of hauling the adventurers, Eugeni’s corpse, the coins, and the massive helmet back to Sandpoint. Exhausted and demoralized, the invaders rest in a secure chamber for the evening.
[8 Lamashan 4707]
The adventurers row, with some difficulty, the makeshift catamaran all the way back to Sandpoint. At the dock, Shalelu says her farewell for the time being, saying she plans to rest and then head for the wilderness to see if she can find any trace of Nualia. Ome and Arnald haul the thousands of coins and the massive golden helm to the town hall and barter with Sister Arva, the town banker, to exchange the treasure for platinum pieces. Subsequent visits are made to the town jeweller and the Feathered Serpent, the proprietors of each of which watch Ome quite closely as the reputation of tengu as thieves and scoundrels is well known. At the cathedral, Father Zantus is saddened to hear that yet another has died to protect Sandpoint. When pressed, he acknowledges having a single scroll with the power to raise someone from the dead, but claims it is intended for the truest of emergencies only (such as the death of Mayor Deverin or Sheriff Hemlock in a time of crisis) and that he can’t guarantee it will work. He is reluctantly persuaded to use it on Eugeni on the condition that the funds necessary to replace the scroll are provided to him as soon as possible. Ome and Father Zantus agree that, in the morning, Eugeni’s spirit will be contacted through magic to determine if the half-orc would wish to return to the mortal plane.
Later that day, Ome visits a location she is quite familiar with: the Pixie’s Kitten. Many of the employees of Sandpoint’s elegant and tasteful brothel are fellow devotees of the goddess Calistria, and Ome is personal friends with the owner, Kaye Tesarani. Ome receives consolation on her friend’s death and a safe place to sleep for the night.
[9 Lamashan 4707]
In the morning, Ome and Arnald meet at the cathedral where Father Zantus has prepared a spell to speak with Eugeni’s spirit. Although the answers received are brief and cryptic, those assembled understand them to mean that Eugeni’s spirit is willing to return and that, if necessary, his possessions can be sold to raise the necessary funds to do so. Father Zantus suggests the ceremony should take place at dusk, and says he’s willing to go forward with it even if the adventurers haven’t quite raised the total funds necessary to replace the scroll. However, he notes again that there is a risk of failure, and that clerics in Magnimar will prove more capable than he; but also, less willing to be as understanding about payment.
Ome decides to sell a dagger, possessed by Eugeni, that is made out of the rare and valuable metal adamantine. She first visits the Red Dog Smithy and sees Das Korvut hard at work on a bardiche; the blacksmith sends the tengu over to Savah’s Armory. There, after repeated assurances and even a signed document attesting that the dagger came into her hands lawfully, Ome is able to sell the dagger for over 2,000 gold pieces. Later, she persuades Arnald to do the talking when the pair walk to the headquarters of the Sandpoint Mercantile League to collect the posted bounty on the bandit Shank. However, not having obtained any proof of their deed, the adventurers are turned back. Ome spends the rest of the afternoon at the Pixie’s Kitten, drinking and telling stories to his friends about some of the previous adventures she and Eugeni had. Arnald, having been turned away at the door by Shoanti bouncers due to a refusal to have his weapons checked, waits across the street.
At dusk, the final preparations are in place at the cathedral. Eugeni’s body lies on a stone altar in the centre of the cathedral, under the open sky of the central courtyard. Father Zantus has assembled all of his available acolytes to assist him with the complex spell, and thus represented are the faiths of Desna, Gozreh, Abadar, Shelyn, and Erastil. Receiving a final nod from Ome, Father Zantus unfurls the scroll and begins intoning its pleas for the spirit to return to the flesh. But whether from Father Zantus’ inexperience or the will of the gods, the spell summons not life but a bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky that incinerates Eugeni’s corpse to ashes! “This was a being never meant to return to life!” shouts Father Zantus, interpreting the result as divine disapproval. Ome is furious at what she perceives as Father Zantus’ bungling, and she demands a return of the several thousand gold pieces she gave him to conduct the ceremony. But Father Zantus is uncharacteristically unyielding and says that the gods have spoken and that the scroll must be replaced. Ome calls him a thief, eliciting a gasp from the assembled acolytes, before scraping the ashes into a porcelain jar to be given to Eugeni’s parents.
Thus ends the beginning chapter in an epic story of ancient threats risen anew and the heroes who will face the greatest of perils to stop evil from sweeping across the land.
The death of Eugeni was a disappointing but avoidable one, and perhaps encapsulates the theme of adventurers and their greed. The timing of the battle was unfortunate, as Arnald had decided to rest in an adjoining chamber, Shalelu was badly hurt, and Eugeni's and Ome's players were still learning the best ways to use their characters. The battle started off well, but then went downhill fast. Giant hermit crabs are tougher than they look! On the other hand, no risk, no reward. That's the life (and death) of adventurers.
The disaster of the attempt to cast raise dead on Eugeni was because Father Zantus was much too low of a level to automatically succeed in using the scroll, and thus had to roll a caster level check: he rolled a natural 1. Natural 1s on rolls are treated as automatic failures and critical fumbles under our house rules, so I had the body struck by lightning and the scroll destroyed. The scroll being destroyed was a mistake, as I assumed it automatically happened with the failure to use a scroll, but I didn't discover I had messed up until talking with a fellow GM a couple of days later. I gave Eugeni's player the option to assume another scroll became available, but he was happy to move on and work on another PC--and this one would go on to survive the entirety of Chapter Two!
In the month following the second failed raid on Thistletop, the adventurers go their separate ways.
Arnald spends many of his days drinking and looking for work. Occasionally, he assists Shalelu Andosana in trying to verify sightings of a “silver-haired witch” in the Sandpoint hinterlands. On one such venture, he and Shalelu are ambushed by a group of goblins in Mosswood. The last surviving goblin flees and tries to climb a nearby tree, but Arnald has no difficulty catching up to it. “Wait!” the goblin screeches. “Axeman and the Hunter Elf! I can help you!” The goblin has just enough time to say something about “Longshanks Silverhead” and the Bloodfangs before Arnald mercilessly chops its head off. When Shalelu catches up and asks what the goblin was shouting about, Arnald replies simply “nothing important.”
Ome devotes her time to singing melancholy songs at the Pixie’s Kitten and collecting dossiers on certain members of the Sandpoint community. One afternoon late in Lamashan, Ome arrives at the Pixie’s Kitten to see that a staff meeting is underway: discussion is being held about how to respond to a new push by Titus Scarnetti, conservative head of one of Sandpoint’s four founding families, to have prostitution made illegal in the town. Scarnetti has posted fliers about a public meeting on 4 Neth at the town hall, and rumors are spreading that he and his backers are going to start a “name and shame” campaign against the clients of the Pixie’s Kitten. Although some of the bouncers and working girls think Scarnetti is all hot air or that Sheriff Hemlock’s “being sweet on” Kaye Tessarani will be enough to protect the brothel, the establishment’s proprietor is clearly concerned. Ome listens and offers her support, but the meeting ends inconclusively.
Bey has spent the last several weeks helping her old friend Brodert Quink continue his study of Old Light. Quink remains convinced there must be chambers underneath the rubble, but after laboriously moving heavy stone blocks and examining every surface for runes, the pair’s efforts to find anything has so far come to naught. Near the end of the month of Lamashan, Bey is working at the site one day when she sees Madame Mvashti slowly trudging across the street towards her with the help of a cane. The aged Varisian seer seems unconcerned by the fact that a wagon pulled by two strong horses is bearing down on her quickly, and that the wagon’s driver is busy shouting at someone behind him! Bey moves quickly and dashes in to save Madame Mvashti, but she need not have bothered: instants before a fatal collision would have occurred, the wagon throws a wheel and the horses drag it to a stop with inches to spare. Madame Mvashti mumbles something about having told the wagon’s handler to get that wheel fixed and then shares with Bey her purpose for coming. “What started five years ago ain’t done yet, cheri,” she says. “Sandpoint’s gonna be in flames, no stoppin’ dat, but you an yer friends can keep it from getting’ too bad.” Madame Mvashti goes on to say that although she was already old when Sandpoint was founded over forty years ago, this is her last winter and the town will need someone with their inner-eye open to help guide it when she’s gone. Bey is completely nonplussed by the seer’s words.
Meanwhile, over fifty miles away in the city of Magnimar, a member of the City Watch named Artemis Lahs has just finished giving testimony against an offender in a courtroom in the Pediment Building. Artemis is a tall, muscular man with an odd line of scales along the sides of his face and a pronounced ridgeline on his brow. Once Artemis leaves the courtroom, he’s surprised to see his watch captain, Gibble Fank, waiting for him. Fank explains that something unusual has come up, and that Artemis has received new orders. Moreso, a member of the Justice Court (the city’s highest court) has instructed Artemis to come to his chambers. When Fank and Artemis reach the elegant oak door bearing the nameplate “Justice Ironbriar”, Fank stops and actually looks a bit nervous. “In ya go, lad,” he says. “Mind yer manners in there! Ironbriar’s been alive longer than both of us put together, an ya don’t wanna cross him!” Eventually, a law clerk leads Artemis into a massive office dominated by looming bookcases and a wide desk. The person sitting behind the desk is a stern-faced elf wearing an elegant red and purple cloak. He doesn’t stand up when Artemis enters, but instead says in a crisp Chellish accent “Staff Sergeant Artemis Lahs. You have a clean record. Three commendations for valor. A wife, no children. I think you’ll do. You’re being transferred. Sandpoint. You’ve heard of it, yes?” When Artemis replies in the affirmative, Justice Ironbriar explains that the Shoanti sheriff of the town has made several dubious reports lately about goblin armies, demon cults, and more. Artemis is to keep an eye on the situation and personally report, by letter, to Ironbriar every week.
[1 Neth 4707]
In Sheriff Hemlock’s “war room” in the town garrison, an unlikely combination of people have gathered at his request. Present are Arnald, Ome, Bey, and Artemis. As, apart from Sheriff Hemlock, only Arnald and Ome have met each other previously, introductions are made. Sheriff Hemlock explains that, just hours ago, a goblin bearing a white flag arrived in Sandpoint hoping to claim part of the bounty on Nualia, the demon-touched former resident of Sandpoint responsible for masterminding attacks on the town. The goblin said that Nualia has been living with the Bloodfang tribe in southern Mosswood at the foot of the mountains. Sheriff Hemlock says that he’s received strict orders from Magnimar to “avoid arousing the anger of the surrounding goblinoid inhabitants.” Thus, Hemlock can’t take any official action to investigate the sighting. He mentions, seemingly off-hand, however, that the bounty on Nualia is 2,000 gold pieces, dead or alive. Further, he says that Artemis isn’t officially on duty until Hemlock signs his commission papers, and that southern Mosswood would be the perfect place for a hunting and fishing trip this time of year. Hemlock then dismisses the group. Artemis and Ome instantly get the hint and explain it to Arnald, while Bey is consumed by one of her mystical visions.
Artemis has prepared for his secondment to Sandpoint by studying maps of the local geography and is able to lead the group towards Mosswood with little difficulty. The journey east along the Lost Coast Road is uneventful, and in just a few hours, the group is at the northern borders of the forest. It’s a beautiful autumn day, and the leaves on the trees have turned into gorgeous shades of red and yellow. With little to go on besides word that the Bloodfang family of goblins lives near the mountains in the southern portion of the forest, the group pushes into Mosswood itself. Their progress slows as they move off the road. Several times they see signs that goblins and other creatures are in the area, but luck or the imposing sight of four heavily-armed warriors keeps anything from attacking. Eventually, the bounty-hunters decide to set up camp near a stream so they’ll be fresh to push on for the Bloodfangs the following morning.
As dusk begins to fall over the camp, everyone present can hear the distinctive shrill voice of a goblin approaching. The goblin is loudly lamenting his chore of fetching water and is oblivious to the fact that he’s almost walked right up to the campsite! Artemis and Ome instantly take cover, but Arnald rushes the goblin, axe at the ready, and terrifies the creature into utter submission! The goblin, who gives his name as Gurthak, is hard to get useful information out of given his low intelligence and bewilderment at his situation, but Ome is able to extract additional clues about the location of the Bloodfangs. The group decide to pull up stakes in case other goblins use the stream. They head further south, dragging Gurthak with them. A couple of hours’ journey into darkness, they set up another campsite. A debate ensues about what to do with Gurthak: Arnald wants to kill him for the bounty on goblin ears, Artemis says it’s too dangerous to let him go, and Bey says the pathetic creature shouldn’t be murdered in cold blood. Eventually, Ome kills the terrified creature with a point-blank arrow shot and Arnald cuts the ears off Gurthak’s corpse.
[2 Neth 4707]
The group’s journey south continues. While crossing a portion of the forest composed of rocky, forested hills, the group pass by a small cave and unwittingly frighten a giant, furry bat nearly the size of an ox! The creature, a dire bat, screeches and attacks, but Ome’s and Artemis’ archery skills combined with Bey’s bardiche are enough to fell it.
The travellers come upon a stroke of luck a little later in their journey. They crest a small hillock and see that below them is a small clearing to the south that contains a handful of huts and a large bonfire. With small mountains in the distance, the group rightly suspect this could be the location of the Bloodfangs. Artemis climbs a nearby tree to get a better vantage point, and is able to discern a single goblin walking around the near side of the clearing. In the hopes of killing the sentinel silently to pave the way for his allies to approach, the Magnimarian watchman takes careful aim with his bow and releases an arrow, but the goblin is still hundreds of feet away and the shot narrowly misses. The goblin, realizing it is being attacked, rouses the camp!
Arnald charges into battle, while Artemis and Ome stay behind and rely on archery. Bey, alas, has slipped into another mystical trance and provides no assistance. At first, the Bloodfangs are confused about where the attack is coming from and scatter. But they’re clearly more disciplined than the rabble the invaders have encountered before, and soon Arnald is surrounded! The Bloodfangs have teeth stained a frightening shade of red, and, unbeknownst to the attackers, are part of a cult devoted to the demon-goddess Lamashtu. One of the Bloodfangs runs to summon their chief while the others attack. Arnald fights valiantly and is able to kill several of the goblins with his greataxe while Ome and Artemis stay hidden and fire arrows. Even the Bloodfang’s pet wolverine is slain! But suddenly Arnald is paralyzed as Big Chief Wortus, leader of the Bloodfangs, casts a spell and reveals he has approached while invisible!
Ome is close enough for Big Chief Wortus to see and thus draws his attention. The goblin chief used the early seconds of the battle to prepare, and illusory duplicates of himself consistently foil the outsiders’ attacks. Fortunately, Artemis and Ome keep Big Chief Wortus distracted by the hail of arrows long enough for the badly-hurt Arnald to shake off the malevolent enchantment and withdraw. The axeman decides to change his tactics and draws his own composite longbow. With a single pull of the bowstring, he succeeds in doing what his allies couldn’t! Big Chief Wortus dies with Arnald’s arrow protruding from his throat.
With all visible opposition slain, the group enter the Bloodfangs’ campsite. Arnald tries to persuade Ome to magically heal his wounds, but instead the tengu offers to sell Arnald healing potions at the guileful price of 49 gold pieces each or two for 99! The dim-witted mercenary takes the deal. Ome casts a minor divination to discern that Big Chief Wortus carried an enchanted falchion and two magic wands in addition to other valuable, non-magical treasure. Ome and Artemis persuade Arnald, who is still badly hurt, to take the lead in searching the huts one by one. One hut contains a stack of polished human skulls, while another seems to be a crude workshop for the manufacture of dogslicers. A third hut is barred with a wooden door and its outside is covered with layer after layer of tar, blood, and leaves to prevent even the smallest light from penetrating. Arnald cleaves the door in twain with one swing of his greataxe and sees a flash of silver hair in the darkness inside! But good sense overwhelms instinct, and Arnald refrains from attacking immediately. Instead, he hurls his ever-burning torch into the hut and realizes it is not Nualia he has found: but instead, Shalelu, bound and gagged, her hair alchemically dyed silver!
The protectors of Sandpoint have defeated the Bloodfangs and avoided a cunning trap to rescue an ally they hadn’t even realized was in danger. But are they any closer to finding Nualia?
Since Bey's player was back after a while away and Xeveg/Nedrin/Eugeni's player was debuting a new PC named Artemis, I again thought it might be a good idea to start the chapter off with a more straightforward one-session adventure to help the group bond before launching into the main storyline in the next session. I also wanted to remind the players about Shalelu (since she otherwise wouldn't appear in this chapter) and tie in Nualia's escape at the end of the previous chapter. I used the "Bloodfang Goblins" encounter from the first hardcover volume of the Pathfinder comic as a basis. The encounter was fun and reasonably challenging without being overly difficult. I was pleasantly surprised the group avoided (what I thought was) Nualia's clever trap of trying to get the PCs to kill Shalelu.
Having a member of the Magnimar City Watch as a PC was fantastic for story purposes and really added some extra dimension to later events in the chapter. I had Justice Ironbriar appear now so that the revelation he was the head of the Skinsaw Cult would have some extra impact, because as the AP is written, he might be a perfect stranger to the PCs. As an unrelated PC note, whenever the recaps describe Bey as "going into her mystery" or "entering a trance or vision", that's code for the player needing to do either babyminding or taking a nap--it's hard to game as the parent of an infant!
I'm still surprised by the bloodthirsty end of poor Gurthak, a goblin I made up on the spot when the random encounter table told me that 1d6 goblins would approach and the die result was a 1. I liked the poor little guy, and I thought his end was rather cold and cruel.
Everyone gathers around to hear Shalelu’s tale of how she saw strands of silver hair on some tree branches and followed them straight into an ambush! Nualia knew she was being hunted, and, having captured Shalelu, sent a goblin to the Sandpoint authorities to set up a trap. Nualia used an alchemical mixture to dye Shalelu’s hair and hoped to enjoy the exquisite revenge of seeing the elf killed by her own over-zealous allies. Shalelu says she’s been held in the complete darkness of that hut for days now, and that Nualia is probably long gone. Bey, who has come out of her trance, helps tend to her wounds.
Ome decides to investigate a large, artificial cavern at the eastern end of the clearing. The structure was made by covering several fallen trees with dead leaves and furs, and, as the largest area in the clearing, was probably the home of Big Chief Wortus. Ome searches the place carefully and finds a hollow log stuffed with Wortus’ personal treasure trove! Gold, jewelry, a mithral buckler, and a forked crystal rod that proves to be a magic wand are discovered. Ome decides to repeat Arnald’s search of the other huts, and in one finds a polished human skull full of gold and jewellery.
The group escort the badly-beaten Shalelu out of the clearing and back the way they came through Mosswood. A couple of hours’ journey sees them reach the Lost Coast Road, and from there they turn west. Soon they spot a caravan of about twenty wagons headed towards them, with several guards mounted on horseback. Arnald waves two of the guards over and asks them where they’re headed: they explain that they’re taking food to Galduria. Arnald asks them some unusual questions about Galduria, leaving the suspicious guards to return quickly to the caravan. About an hour later, the group see a wagon sitting in the middle of the road. It clearly has a broken axle, and a terrified-looking farmer is standing in the wagon bed scanning the area with a nocked longbow. Beside him is an adolescent girl who appears far less panicked. Ome approaches slowly and tries to calm the man down enough to offer some assistance, but the farmer is so frightened he threatens to shoot if Ome takes one more step! Artemis tries to offer help as well, but is equally rebuffed. The group circle around the wagon and continue on their way, promising to contact Billivar Wheen in Sandpoint to render aid.
The travellers reach Sandpoint in the early afternoon. Noticing that the guards at the northern gates seem agitated, Artemis asks what’s going on. They reply that there were two murders last night! Banny Harker, co-operator of the Sandpoint Lumber Mill, and Katrine Vinder, daughter of General Store owner Ven Vinder, were found dead. After Bey tells the guards about the stranded wagon on the road and Shalelu departs to rest and resupply (determined to strike out on Nualia’s trail again as soon as possible), the group head straight for the mill. When they arrive, they see several members of the Town Watch outside, some searching for clues while others make sure the small crowd of townspeople that has assembled stay back. A breathless Jodar Provolost waves the four travellers in, saying that Sheriff Hemlock mentioned wanting to talk to them.
Sheriff Hemlock is just outside the entrance to the mill, speaking with his deputy, Bosk Hartigan. Hemlock finishes giving Hartigan instructions and then turns to address the group. Hemlock starts by saying that he’s speaking with them because, other than himself, they’re the only people in Sandpoint he’s absolutely sure aren’t responsible for the murders, since they were out of town last night. Hemlock says that early this morning, the bodies of Banny Harker and Katrine Vinder were found by the mill’s other operator, a man named Ibor Thorne. Hemlock says he and his officers are trying to keep the mill locked down to prevent a panic, because if people saw what was inside they’d be horrified and think the Chopper was somehow back. Even more disturbing, Hemlock adds, is that the two bodies inside the mill are the second set of murders in the past few days: three known con men were found murdered in an abandoned barn on the old Bradley farm near Cougar Creek, just a half-mile or so from the old fisherman’s shack that Ome claims as home. Finally, Hemlock says another personal link exists between the murders and the adventurers: a bloodstained scrap of parchment was found pinned to the sleeve of Katrine Vinder by a splinter of wood, and Bey’s name was on it! Hemlock has his lead investigator on the case, Bosk Hartigan, show the group what the parchment says: “You will learn to love me, desire me in time as she did. Give yourself to the Pack and it shall end. Your Lordship.” Hemlock says he has more to share but will have to meet with them at the garrison later as he’s pressed for time. He asks them to take a careful look around the mill to see if they can uncover any clues that his officers have missed, with Artemis to report directly to Hartigan if they do.
Inside the mill is a ghastly scene: the body of Banny Harker has been affixed to the wall with lumber hooks, while mangled lumps of flesh and a decapitated head testify to the grisly fact that Katrine Vinder’s corpse has been through the logsplitter. A handaxe is embedded in the floor nearby, and the whole area carries the lingering scent of decay, a curious fact since the bodies were found just this morning. Artemis begins his investigation with the axe, and sees there are bloody handprints on the handle and bits of rotten flesh on the blade; the experienced guardsman is overcome by the nauseating scent and has to run to the pier outside for fresh air. Bey is able to discern from the amount of blood-spray on the wall near the logsplitter that, distressingly, Katrine Vinder was alive when she passed through it. The seer speculates that the attacker must have felt great rage or great disdain to do such a terrible thing to a young woman. Next, Bey turns her attention to Harker’s body. She sees it’s been mutilated, with the face and lower jaw missing entirely. The body’s bare chest has been defaced as well, carved with the distinctive seven-pointed star that Bey instantly recognizes as a Sihedron rune, a glyph from ancient Thassilon that symbolizes power, magic, and mortal sin. She’s also able to discern that Harker was killed by deep gouges to the abdomen made by claws, and notices that the rotten smell that permeates the room seems even stronger near these wounds.
Meanwhile, while lurking in the corner to allow his more experienced allies to conduct the investigation, Arnald notices an important clue! Bloody footprints in the sawdust head towards the small pier outside the lumber mill. Ome follows Arnald, and together the two discern that the attacker must have clambered onto the pier from the muddy area directly underneath it, scaled the outer wall, and entered the building through a second-floor window. Arnald notices a spot on the opposite bank of the river that would make a perfect vantage point for anyone watching the mill. He and Ome set out to investigate it more closely and find a relatively dry spot that carries the lingering smell of rotten flesh. Curiously, the barefoot human-like footprints reveal tracks leading from and into the river, but never further inland.
The members of the make-shift investigative team assemble to discuss their findings. Bey surmises that Harker was the first victim, and that Katrine was the second, as she interrupted something and caught her attacker by surprise. The hand axe was probably used by Katrine to defend herself, which is why it shows petite handprints on the axe and rotten flesh on the blade. Ome agrees, suggesting that Harker had probably been waiting for Katrine when he was attacked by the murderer. To confirm Ome’s theory, the group scour the lumber mill for further clues and uncover a blanket and a bottle of wine hidden in a toolbox in Harker’s office: further proof of a planned romantic liaison. After reporting their findings to Bosk Hartigan and learning that Katrine had been seen coming to the mill late at night on previous evenings, their theory seems confirmed. Bosk says that Ven Vinder and Ibor Thorne are in custody at the garrison for questioning, and that he can arrange it if anyone in the group wishes to speak with them.
Additional lines of enquiry are made that prove fruitful. A sample of the rotten flesh is taken to Father Zantus and to Sabyl Sorn to see if either can identify its source. Father Zantus is nauseated by a mere whiff and isn’t helpful, but Sabyl Sorn says she’s seen the like before on the bodies of the walking dead! Bey takes a sketch of the Sihedron rune found on Harker’s body and shows it to Brodert Quink, asking whether it can be tied to a specific sin. Quink’s knowledge of ancient Thassilon is unparalleled, and he says that the rotation and placement of the rune indicates it is related to the sin of greed.
The group take their findings to Sheriff Hemlock at the garrison and offer their conclusions that the attacker must have been a “corporeal undead” and that Harker’s death had something to do with greed. Sheriff Hemlock is impressed, and adds that Harker was well-known in town as a penny-pincher. Hemlock carries out his promise to tell the group more information about the first set of murders, which were discovered just two days prior. He explains that a patrol of the Town Watch was making may their way south along the Lost Coast Road when they were assaulted by a deranged man near the old Bradley homestead. The man, whose clothes were caked with blood, was obviously sick and insane: flesh fevered, eyes wild, and moth frothing. Bey gives a gasp because she’s recognized something crucially important, but Hemlock keeps talking. The guards subdued the deranged man, who was later identified as a Varisian thug named Grayst Sevilla, but when they followed his tracks back to the Bradley barn, they discovered the mutilated bodies of three men inside! The bodies of the men bore the same seven-pointed star marking, and from a piece of parchment found in one’s pocket, Sheriff Hemlock concludes that the bodies belong to con men well-known to him: Tarch Mortwell, Lener Hask, and Gedwin Tabe. He adds that the three bodies are in the garrison’s basement if the group think they could learn anything from an examination of them.
Once Hemlock’s explanation is over, Bey adds her surprising insight: Grayst Sevilla is suffering from ghoul fever! A mere description of his symptoms was enough for the oracle to identify the cause, and the fact ties in perfectly with the strong stench of rotten flesh (a well-known attribute of ghouls) found at the crime scene in the mill. Bey says that Sevilla must be treated immediately lest he spread the disease elsewhere. Hemlock says that the man is in the care of Dr. Erin Habe at a sanatorium south of Sandpoint. Hemlock says he’ll write a letter of introduction for the group, and, when asked, says he’ll arrange for the town to pay for the magical scrolls that Bey said could be used to cure the man. Before they leave, Artemis relates the details of the failed mission to capture Nualia and of Shalelu’s rescue.
The investigators walk to the basement of the garrison, where Vachedi shows them the three slabs holding the bodies of the con men. Bey confirms that each has the same Sihedron-marking and claw wounds as Banny Harker. Bey is careful to note that, because the bodies’ faces have been mutilated, there is no absolute confirmation of each victim’s identity. Next, the group manage to get the attention of Vorvashali Voon in his shop (even though it’s now after dusk and closed), and are fortunate to find that he has two magical scrolls containing spells to cure diseases.
Sandpoint is again the target of a serial killer, but this time the clues are being assembled quickly. What will the investigators discover when they question someone who could be the only surviving witness to the murders?
The return to Sandpoint sees the start of the murder mystery that officially kicks off Chapter 2 in the AP. I thought this was a great part of the adventure path, as it gives the players a chance to do something different than pure combat (CSI!). It definitely ups the stakes when it comes to death and horror (that lumber mill scene is nightmarishly grisly), and I really liked the direct tie to one of the PCs built into it. Mysteries are really hard to do in role-playing games because the GM (or scenario writer, in this case) has to try to plan for all sorts of spells and special abilities the PCs may have, as well as provide contingencies in case important clues are misunderstood or simply overlooked. If anything, there were probably too many clues at the crime scene as it wasn't hard at all for the players to deduce that the murderer was a ghoul, but I didn't mind because they were diligent in collecting information and intelligently talked over its implications. It's always fun to see the players think up stuff that I (and the scenario writers) never would have expected, like taking the bits of rotten flesh to other learned people in town to see if they could identify it.
I loved how naturally the tie-in to the sanatorium worked. I know from past experience running mystery plots that it's very easy for the players to think an important connection to the next stage of the adventure (like the crazed survivor has been put into care) is simply a throwaway line for flavour. I originally thought there was a fair chance they wouldn't make it to the sanatorium at all. They did skip interrogating Ibor Thorne or Ven Vinder, but didn't miss much.
My only disappointment was that the players (and their characters), having just reached the conclusion that the murderer was a ghoul and that ghoul fever was a thing, were expecting a battle in the morgue when they went to look at the bodies of the con men. It was a bit of a let-down when the corpses really were just corpses! I perhaps such have exercised some GM discretion and had one of the bodies suddenly lurch into motion . . .