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After a near-5-year hiatus, the kids (Impus Major and Impus Minor) have demanded that family game night return to Pathfinder. It's been hard, as I've been running 3 other campaigns, NobodysWife is running a campaign, Impus Minor's abortive attempt to run Mummy's Mask ended after only a handful of sessions, and Impus Major is being utterly crushed (in spirit) by homework, because, y'know, being a sophomore in high school means you shouldn't have any free time at all, right?
So I told them: "I'm retiring from running 2 of my other campaigns. I'm not going to spend any time at all prepping. On Tuesday nights, I'll just read the section you're in, run it ad hoc, and that's all I'll promise."
They both perked up and are ecstatic that we're doing Pathfinder as a family again.
We'll see how long that lasts when they see just how convoluted a tale an unprepared GM can end up telling.
On the other hand, it's Strange Aeons. "Last session was all a dream" is pretty much par for the course, so I figure I've got some leeway here. Let's see how it goes...
Aaaand here we go:
Name of PC: Hans Zweigar
Player: NobodysHome (GMNPC)
Race/Gender: Human Male
Class: Possessed Shaman
Familiar: Skitters the Mongoose
Background (if any): Virtually none whatsoever. I gave him the Sensitive Mind trait (seems appropriate for a possessed shaman), but otherwise I'm letting him be a "blank slate" the other players can use to enrich their own background details.
Since we don't remember our backgrounds, I figure it'll be more fun as the AP plays out for the PCs to remember little facts about their pasts as we move on. We'll see how that works out as well...
Name of PC: Blackwing III (but who's counting?)
Player: Impus Major
Race/Gender: Tengu Male(?)
Background (if any): Pity poor Blackwing. Impus Major originally created him for our Council of Thieves game back when the kids were tired of being "good guys" and wanted to try an "evil campaign". Turns out that if your characters are evil and behave in-character, they have no reason at all to help a bunch of would-be rebels, and the AP peters out. Go figure. I was proud of their roleplaying, but it did kill the AP almost instantly.
So Blackwing I lasted a few sessions, and was utterly hilarious in hoarding shiny pebbles, hissing at his fellow PCs, pecking bad guys, and otherwise proving that a tengu necromancer is indeed something to be laughed at.
When Impus Minor started Mummy's Mask, Impus Major decided to bring back Blackwing as Blackwing II. Still a necromancer, still addicted to shinies, his high point was gaining control of an undead cat swarm. Then, Impus Minor stopped running...
So now Impus Major takes it as a personal challenge: "I'm going to get Blackwing to double digits, darn it!"
Considering he's never gotten past 3rd level, that's quite a task.
Let's see whether he can make it in Strange Aeons, or whether Blackwing finally graces an obit page...
Name of PC: Neirida
Race/Gender: Human Female
Class: Blood Rager 1 (Aberrant Bloodline)
Background (if any): Leave it to NobodysWife to come up with epic background after epic background. After the magnificence that was Raesh, she's come up with another compelling back story that I can really sink my teeth into.
I'll let her elaborate if she so chooses, but Neirida was a young peasant girl in Ustalav, living a happy, carefree life until "somebody" kidnapped her, tore her apart, and stitched her back together as a weapon. Her mind was utterly blank, and she was a virtual automaton until she awoke in the asylum. She now has flashbacks of her life as a "real" human, but that is always tinged with rage. She is compelled to protect the beautiful and the good, and destroy that which would threaten them. It reminds me a lot of Universal Soldier: "Yeah, you made me a weapon, but *I* am strong enough to remember my humanity."
An utterly cold die at the start of the campaign frustrated her no end, but holy cow did the die catch on fire later in the evening, turning her into the engine of destruction she was meant to be.
Totally awesome character. Again!
And in utter silliness, at a certain point in the game Neirida threatened to cut off Blackwing's "arms, or wings, or whatever it is you call them."
Impus Major declared them "warms" (rhymes with "arms") and renamed his character Blackwarm. We are, of course, ignoring the name change, leading to even more fun as Black
wingwarm constantly corrects us.
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I knew a guy named Hans Zweigar. :-)
I was thinking German to go with the Gothic theme of Ustalav, so "Hans" seemed like a reasonable name. Then as a possessed shaman, I decided to translate "two minds" from German. The result was a bit long, so I shortened it to Zweigar.
Session 1: Bad Dreams and Doppelgangers, played 20-Feb-2017
The whole thing left a bad taste in everyone's brain. It seems like a neat, exciting way to start an AP. In practice, it just makes one player feel bad.
Other than that, my players did their usual schtick of messing up the AP and forcing me to work on the fly. We went into initiatives in the basement, and Blackwarm was able to get the keys and open the door before Dr. Scaen had killed Campre, and Neirida, who happened to be in the cage with Blackwarm (random rolls) managed to trip Dr. Scaen so she couldn't finish the job. So, the party had a living Campre to take with them, making getting past the guards at the chapel MUCH easier.
Even worse was Neirida's 29 Perception roll to hear the rocks moving as the first doppelganger tried to pretend to be a trapped, helpless nurse. Once that ruse failed, the rest of the doppelgangers going prone to try to pretend to be victims... did not go well.
Part I: The Dream
The four strangers found themselves in a dark alleyway, a sickly yellow fog pouring over the rooftops and up the alley and rapidly approaching them. Strange indistinct shapes were visible within the mist, and the sound of footsteps and sharp metal scraping on stone approached. Neirida reached for her weapon, only to find that not only did she not have a weapon, but she had no pants on, either. GM Note: I changed the rules slightly here: Instead of the PCs getting to pick the 1d4 items they had, they got to roll 1d4 to see whether they had a particular item. Because otherwise, a blood rager with a greatsword might kill the "boogey man" with a good crit, and that would have been a bit more than anticlimactic. Helden pointed at her and laughed at her lack of pants, so Neirida chose to punch him instead of fleeing the mist. Helden first checked to see whether he had any weapons (he had a scrub brush and a dish rag in his hands), then decided: In perhaps the defining moment for poor Hans, Impus Minor said, "I wait until after the old man goes."
We have NO IDEA why Impus Minor decided Hans was "old". His pawn has very light blonde hair (he has Ulfen blood in him), so maybe he saw the grizzled face and near-white hair and decided "old", but boy, did THAT come back to haunt me.
Hans ran away (I figured he should at least follow the intent of the AP here). Helden followed. Blackwarm pondered for a moment, then followed. The mist enveloped Neirida, the "Boogey Man" got all of his attacks, and she was one-shot. As I mentioned, this did not go over well. As she died, her body moaned, "Meeeeeeeeeeee..." and the word was written on the wall in blood.
The next round Blackwarm was the one who took the time to cast Mage Armor on himself, allowing the mist to overtake him and getting dropped to negative hit points. At the end of the round, Helden and Hans were at a dead end and the "Boogey Man" appeared, snapping Blackwarm's neck as he approached them. Blackwarm's corpse uttered, "Uuuuuuuuuuuuuup..." and the word was written on the wall. Hans had nothing but an oven mitt, but a natural 20 meant he actually punched the "Boogey Man" for damage. This was getting silly. The "Boogey Man" next killed Hans, putting, "Saaaaaaaaaave..." on the wall. Helden failed his Will save, so blood started streaming from his eyes and nose as he heard the word, "Wake" in his mind.
I gave Impus Minor 30 seconds to solve the puzzle. It took him under 10. He got, "Save me! Wake up!", which was *almost* correct, and I have it to him. NobodysWife had written, "Wake up! Save me!" on her character sheet, just to show she know the situation.
Part II: The Cellar
The group woke up in a set of cramped cells in a dark basement: Neirida and Blackwarm were in a cell together, whereas Helden was in the cell next to them, and Hans was in the cell across from them. A man lay tied with rough ropes to a table in front of them, covered with dozens (if not hundreds) or crude incisions all across his body. A "nurse" with half a gardening shear stood over him, obviously pondering where to make the next cut. Neirida immediately yelled, "Stop that!" and started banging against the bars. The nurse turned, morphed her face to look exactly like Neirida's, and said, "Pipe down! You'll have your turn soon enough!"
As she turned to return her attention to Campre (the victim on the table), he lashed out with a leg he'd loosened, kicking her against the bars of Neirida and Blackwarm's cell. Unfortunately, Neirida missed her grapple attempt, and Blackwarm missed with a Ray of Frost. "Doctor" Scaen returned to the table to stab Campre, but not before he kicked her once again, knocking her keys loose and on the floor in front of Neirida and Blackwarm's cell. Of course, both of them failed their Perception checks to see the keys, but Hendel and Hans saw the keys, and frantically waved at them to retrieve them.
In an unfortunate series of, "Initiative trumps what was written" events, Blackwarm got the keys and opened the cells, allowing Neirida to rage, move up to Dr. Scaen, and grab a weapon. Dr. Scaen tried to coup de grace Campre, giving Neirida an attack of opportunity to trip her, preventing her from killing Campre outright. It got worse. Blackwarm freed Hans, who also ran up and grabbed a weapon, so when Dr. Scaen tried to stand up to finish the job she got crit by a raging blood rager (never fun) and hit by Hans. Her damage to Campre wasn't enough to kill him outright, and the next round saw her dropped by a determined group. Hans' last-minute Cure Light Wounds saved Campre, so the party had one extra NPC to proceed.
The moment they killed her, the recognized her as not human.
Campre explained their situation: They were in Briarstone Asylum, a facility that, up until a few days ago, had been the pinnacle of patient care. Unfortunately, one of their own patients had turned against them, and led many of the other patients in an uprising. Aided by patients and orderlies-turned monsters, they quickly slaughtered most of the staff. Those who had tried to flee outside were slain as well. Only Winter Klazcka, cleric of Pharasma, had prevented wholesale annihilation by leading a group of patients and orderlies to the temple of Pharasma on the first floor of the building. There, she organized a stout defense against the attackers, and managed to keep a ragtag group of rebels (yeah, I had to say it) alive and well-defended in the chapel. If the group could get Campro to the barricades, he could probably get them inside.
They searched the cellars, found their gear in a discarded heap on the floor, and chose to burn the body of Dr. Scaen. The only exit was a door to the east, through which they heard sniffing and scrabbling.
In the "most touching moment so far" category, they opened the door to allow Skitters, Hans' familiar, to rejoin him. Neirida was utterly charmed by the creature, and was delighted when it allowed her to scratch it (him) behind the ears, and he even licked her finger. Blackwarm asked whether he was edible, leading to Neirida's aforementioned threat to sever his arms, or wings, or whatever, if he hurt so much as a single whisker on Skitter's tiny little body.
They checked the stairs, but found them blocked, so sent Skitters to scout the laundry chute. He reported it clear, so the entire group climbed up the chute, finding themselves in a small laundry room. The door out led to a courtyard full of muddy, trampled flowers. Neirida became very sad. "They were just flowers. They were beautiful. Why did someone have to trample them?"
Moving on, the party came to the first barricade outside the chapel. Captain York immediately recognized Campro, and a magnificent speech by Neirida about her desire to defend all that was good and beautiful got her through the barricade with no trouble. She would not vouch for any of the others, but Hans' familiar and tenacity in battle against the doppelganger got him through very quickly. The interplay between Helden, Blackwarm, and the guards was utterly hilarious, but eventually Helden made his Diplomacy roll (a natural 20) and got through, and the guards figured they could handle ONE intruder and let Blackwing in.
Captain York asked them to wait for a moment while he introduced them to Winter. As she came out, Neirida had a very obvious, very serious insta-crush. Winter made no bones about it: They were short on food, men, and resources, and her first duty was to the people already in the temple, but if the obvious warriors (Neirida and Hans) could help her, they were more than welcome to take shelter in her temple. As Neirida stepped into the temple, she knelt down and sobbed. GM Note: NobodysWife did not explain the reaction to me, and it's a lot more fun having no idea what that was all about. When she saw that there were children among the refugees, she declared, "I will do whatever it takes to help you."
Winter was pleased.
She showed them around the temple, introduced them to a few of the refugees, explained that a yellow mist around the facility was preventing any escape, and how her best hope was to keep her group alive until more powerful outside help arrived. If the party could find them food and could exterminate the shapeshifters to the north, it would go a long way to keeping everyone alive.
The party readily agreed, and headed north to exterminate the shapeshifters.
They examined the boiler room but didn't search it, then found the storage rooms. Searching the southern storage room, they found some blankets and other common goods. Helden said, "Good job, old man! Wait! How old are you, anyway?"
The despondent Hans responded, "I'm only 19!"
The table exploded with laughter, as Helden had been referring to him as "the old man" all night. And so, "Old Man Hans" was born.
They searched the northern storage room and the two giant centipedes both bit Hans on their surprise round, successfully poisoning him. Hans' counterattack saw a massive fumble ("Fall prone and be blinded for 1d3 rounds", for which he rolled a 3), causing Neirida to quip, "Watch your joints, old man!"
The centipedes were easily-dispatched, earning them more winter blankets. They sent the blankets back to the chapel and got some chalk to mark off the doors they explored.
After the garden, boiler room, and storage rooms, they moved up to the staff office. Unfortunately, Neirida's 29 Perception roll was plenty to hear the sound of rocks shifting, so when they came upon "Doctor" Latchke pinned underneath the rubble, they all hit her with readied attacks. The poor doppelganger never had a chance to even stand up, as Neirida's normal attack plus Helden's crit were just too much for her. They searched the area, gaining the various knick-knacks (wooden holy symbol of Pharasma, small steel mirror, pair of gaudy red boots, masterwork silver dagger) and finding the beheaded and two crawling hands attached to the corpse. They promptly had Neirida target the head, Helden and Hans target one hand, and Blackwarm target the other hand. Head got crit and exploded. Hand got hit twice and exploded. Other hand danced to Blackwarm's will. The viscera popped out and tried to grab Helden, but making a rogue make a Reflex save is almost as bad as making a barbarian make a Fortitude save, so it missed hopelessly and was cut to ribbons by the well-prepared party.
Blackwarm named his new pet "Handy".
They moved on to a massive room that seemed to be a drying room for laundry. Three prisoners were strung up on the pipes: An obviously-undead creature eating a corpse (the second prisoner), and a third strangely-marked prisoner whose entire vocabulary consisted of, "Zandalus sees", "praise", and "words fail". The undead creature seemed perfectly willing to talk, but Neirida would hear none of it and cut the vile beast in half. The noise it made while dying caused someone to the south to start casting (what is it about APs that say, "When the BBEG hear xxx they start casting" without recognizing that the PCs will hear that casting!?!?!?!). So Hans put Protection from Evil on Neirida and they raced south.
They saw the image of the doppelganger on the hanging curtain, but Neirida would have none of it and just cut down the curtain, then went immediately to the "dead" woman and held her at swordpoint, waiting for Skitters to do a "smell test" on her. Not being an idiot, Dr. Oathsday tried to escape, rolling away and casting Vanish on herself. Blackwarm, having a declared action, hurled Handy at her... and rolled a whopping 3! I dropped Handy right next to him on the battle mat and looked up Handy's movement. 40'!?!?! Are you kidding me?!?!?
Handy skittered across the room, had Blindsense so he had no trouble finding Dr. Oathsday, then a natural 20 had Handy critting her on the floor. This told everyone else where she was, so Helden hit her in spite of her invisibility, Hans missed due to her invisibility, but Neirida was able to come around and hit her again. Again, that 50% miss chance didn't do her any good, and my first BBEG's entire fight was, "Roll on the floor, turn invisible, get beaten to death by a stupid hand."
We wrapped up with them finding the amazing loot (Handy Haversack, Pearl of Power, and Phylactery of Faithfulness) and bringing the cultist back to the guardpost. Of course when they found the handy haversack they naturally gave it to the Strength 8 Blackwarm, who promptly put Handy in it.
As they arrived back at the barricade, one of the guards cried out, "It's one of those cultists! They're why we're trapped here!", so Neirida promptly killed the cultist.
Captain York patiently explained that maybe, just maybe, next time she should keep the cultist alive for questioning. Neirida was pragmatic about the whole thing. He was dangerous, now he isn't. Case closed.
We finished the evening with the notification that the party could level up to level 2.
Speaking of Winter, I was utterly delighted to watch the non-Lawful party totally fail to mention to the cleric of Pharasma that they were bringing an undead hand into a temple of Pharasma, hidden in a handy haversack.
Now that's some bad juju right there!
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OK, Impus Minor has filed a formal complaint with me.
He *did* give me a background for Helden; it's just not a fantastically-easy one to work with, given the circumstances. Basically, he came up with one that is very "in theme" for the AP, but that may not work in the long run.
Since he complained, I'll see how well I can integrate it.
As a child, Helden had nightmares. Nightmares of hideous shapes and horrible monsters that were after him. His parents assured him that they were only dreams, and they couldn't hurt him, and as he got older they would go away.
Except as he got older, they didn't go away. They got worse. The terror he faced going to bed each night was overwhelming... until the night he woke up screaming from another nightmare, and his parents didn't come. He raced to their room and they were gone. Where they should have been were two smoldering pits in the mattress.
Alone and with no one to turn to, Helden became a child of the streets, training himself in light arms, waiting for the day he could face the monsters and avenge his parents...
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Oh, how I love reading your family gaming sessions. They always sound like a wonderful night filled with laughter.
My wife and I, along with our daughter and her then-boyfriend started Strange Aeons last fall, but then life happened and it utterly collapsed after 2 or 3 sessions.
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Session 2: Moving on to the Main Hall, played 21-Feb-2017
Part I: Chores
The party returned victorious to the chapel, and the beleagured Winter was both grateful and pragmatic. "I really appreciate what you've done for me so far, but we can also use capable hands to help with the chores around here. Taking care of all these people isn't exactly easy."
The available chores included cooking, chopping wood, caring for the wounded, or soothing agitated patients. Neirida immediately went for chopping wood, and using a greatsword and rolling a 22 Survival check created a ludicrous amount of firewood for the group. Hans chose to tend the wounded, though he was out of Cure spells for the day so it was pretty much just, "Hans is no longer with the group." Helden was an interesting case... he first chose to soothe the agitated, rolled, failed miserably, then when he heard he didn't have to do something different from Neirida insisted that he was going to chop wood instead (also succeeding magnificently). My general rule as a GM is, "If you say you are doing something and you then roll a die, and that die indicates that you fail miserably, you do not then get to say, 'Oh, I don't do that after all.'" Impus Minor insists that since he didn't know he could duplicate Neirida's chores, it's unfair to hold him to that. Since it really doesn't matter in the long run, we're just letting it sit in "fuzzy unresolved land" because it's not worth fighting over.
Blackwarm was a walking disaster area. He tried to help with the wounded and failed even a DC 10 Heal check. He tried to soothe the agitated and rolled even worse. Winter finally told him to go sit in a corner and stop disturbing the other refugees. So he busied himself making a nest.
I did use the chores as an excuse to let the PCs meet the named NPCs, though the PCs were obviously not all that interested in most of them. Neirida asked Captain York to show her how to sharpen her sword, and all of them were interested in finding Branton's brother, but otherwise there wasn't much interaction.
Once the chores were done, Winter handed out the dinner rations: A thin onion soup with strips of dried venison. At the group's horrified expressions, I pointed out that they had chosen not to try to help with dinner. Winter settled down with the group, and said, "I'm sure you have many questions. Now would be a good time to ask them."
As usual in such info-dump scenarios, the group was hard-pressed to come up with any questions. They finally realized that they had heard the name "Zandalus" from multiple sources, and asked about him. Ulver Zandalus had been a patient at the asylum for many years. Up until a few days ago, he was a quiet man who suffered from horrible nightmares. He was mute, but drew many disturbing drawings and wrote similarly-disturbing poems. Obviously, something changed, and he led a revolt against the asylum staff. He and his followers, the "Apostles in Orpiment", were the cause of much of the violence and death in the asylum. Winter herself was a sister of the Maiden's Choir Cathedral in Caliphas, and had been traveling with Accuser Omari, a Royal Accuser investigating Haserton Lowls, the count of Versex, for dereliction of duties and an unusual attachment to the Briarstone asylum. Winter had stopped in the asylum, while Accuser Omari had proceeded on to Thrushmoor, a nearby city. Winter was convinced that the city had been spared the fate of the asylum, and if they could hold out long enough, help would arrive.
The party spent the night in the chapel, and leveled up to 2nd level.
In the morning, Winter asked the party whether they would be willing to help her further by breaching "that thing growing at the end of the hall" and searching for some exit from the asylum that did not involve going into the fog. She described some of the horrors she'd seen in the fog the night of the revolt, and the party quickly decided that going into the fog would be Bad.
They readily agreed to help, but hadn't yet encountered "the growth on the wall". Steeling themselves, they set forth.
Part II: Beyond the Wall
Their first order of business was to explore the two rooms they hadn't looked in yet. The first was the chaplain's office, converted into a day care center for the kids. The second was the chaplain's shrine and records room. To the party's surprise, no one had yet accessed the records. Helden made short work of the lock, gaining them access to some useless records, but also two scrolls of Cure Light Wounds, a scroll of Sanctuary, and a wand of Lesser Restoration with 7 charges left.
GM Note: I *loved* watching NobodysWife's reaction on learning that the AP had given them a wand of Lesser Restoration. "Aw, crap! Now we know that we're going to need this. There's going to be something really nasty out there."
Yep. Wands of Lesser Restoration. The things you hate finding in an AP. Right up there with alchemist's fire in the, "Oh, crap, now we're dealing with something bad," loot category.
A sheet hung across the eastern hallway, and they could hear faint sobbing coming from beyond it. Looking past the sheet, they saw a horrific eye growing in the wall beyond the sheet. Cue much discussion as to what to do about the eye. Blackwarm tossed an Acid Splash at it. Hans shot it and missed. Helden shot it and it screamed, "Who am I become!" and started lashing out with a fanged mouth from the pupil of the eye. So Neirida charged, crit, and eliminated the eye in a single blow. I did love watching the hardness 10 wall, though. I wonder what parties without a massive damage-dealer do. As it was, no one could significantly hurt the wall except Blackwarm and his 1d3 acid splash and Neirida and her, "I hit for 17 points per hit, and I critical half the time" greatsword.
Neirida made short work of the wall (a second crit, and this was a wall that I deemed "able to be crit" because of the nature of its construction), and they moved on into the unknown.
They moved through the huge admission hall using Hans' spear as a light source, and chose not to even bother with the front door. Instead, they headed for the eastern wing, where Branton's brother had last been seen. The first door they wanted to go through was blocked with rubble, but a bit of digging got them into a spacious chamber with a single desk, a glowing lantern on a stool, and hanging curtains and bloody gauze to the east. Two boilbloods charged the party, but their massive movement rate of 10' made them very vulnerable to missile weapons, and Neirida and Helden moved forward and knocked both unconscious. GM Note: I had no idea that oozes could be unconscious, but unlike undead, they don't have the 'destroyed when they go to negative hit points' entry, so I guess they can be knocked out. Who knew?
Then came the inevitable: Impus Minor said, "I coup de grace one!"
I waited 3-4 seconds for any contradictions. No one said anything, so I responded, "It explodes."
The whopping 4 points of damage (on 2d6) didn't bother Neirida much, and Helden made his Reflex save to avoid the damage entirely, but the subsequent 9 on her Fortitude save convinced NobodysWife that Neirida is up for some kind of unpleasantness in the not-so-distant future.
Having learned their lesson, they dispatched the other one with a crossbow bolt.
The door to the south was most inviting to them, so they opened it to reveal a garden path leading to another door. The mist was almost nonexistant here, but they all knew that going outside was Bad. So Blackwarm used Open/Close to open the door across the way, and Neirida used her massive movement to move over, look in, and move back, all in a single round. Which was a good thing, as hideous, headless worms poured forth from the ground to pursue her. She made her Will save to avoid being Shaken by the very sight of the things, but Blackwarm failed. Neirida, a sensible woman, closed the door.
They went around to the other entry to the room and found an opulently-decorated den of some sort, complete with two corpses of Apostles in Orpiment, one on the floor, and one hanging from the antlers of a stuffed elk above the hearth. The party closed the door to the garden path (mindless swarms are so stupid!), took up defensive positions, and Neirida climbed onto a table to investigate the body on the antlers.
The moment she climbed onto the table, the stuffed birds in the mansion-like cage started chirping pleasantly, much like Disneyland's tiki room. Everyone froze except Blackwarm, who used Detect Undead to confirm that the birds were indeed some kind of undead phenomenon. On Round 2, the pleasant chirping became a shrill, klaxon-like screaming and Neirida was Levitated to the ceiling. Blackwarm hit the birds with an Acid Splash, and Hans struck a solid blow with his spear. They attempted to Levitate Hans, but his 24 Will save was more than enough to prevent it, so they contented themselves with slamming Neirida to the floor. Helden stabbed them and finished them off. Blackwarm expressed regret that he hadn't tried to control them before they died.
Searching the corpses (their cause of death now obvious), the party found two more masterwork silver daggers, two Amulets of Natural Armor +1, and four more potions of Cure Light Wounds. If the cultists were this well-equipped, it was going to be a loooooooong fight...
|A Mite Excessive|
Well, I have no idea how other people have ruled on it (I think this small thread says it all), but I tend to agree with the whole, "Wolverine could smell Mystique, so Scent can penetrate shapeshifter-type Alter Self abilities."
So I was allowing Skitters to be able to sniff out doppelgangers.
Of course, it never actually came up in-game, as Neirida's willingness to hit anyone prone in the doppelganger area pretty much wiped them out, but it seemed like a nice in-game mood-setter. "Sit still while my mongoose sniffs you!"
Session 3: The Tale of Brenton and Debis, played 28-Feb-2017
Unfortunately, the story of Brenton and Debis is just too motivating. Of COURSE my group took interest in the kids first and foremost, so they learned Brenton's story in the very first session. So of COURSE they headed to the east wing first, determined to search it thoroughly. They found Debis far too early, solved the puzzle way too readily, so I had to up them to 3rd level quite a bit early to keep them from being in way over their heads. But wow... just... wow. When I did the big reveal of Debis, the palpable disappointment, sadness, and, "We will make this right"-edness in the room was really one of those awesome gaming moments where you think, "This is why we game."
This session isn't divided into parts, primarily because I wasn't feeling well and I had to let them level up, so it was only around a 90-minute session overall.
The party finished searching the dead cultists in the visitors' room, and decided to continue their progress up the east wing. Their first stop was a quartet of patient rooms: The first had partially collapsed from the earthquake, but fortunately no one had been there at the time, as there was no sign of blood or bodies. The second had three corpses: That of a roughly 80-year-old man with a bloody boot in one hand and a satisfied smirk on his face, and those of two cultists obviously bludgeoned to death with a boot. Neirida murmured, "Good for you, old man. Sleep well."
After Hans confirmed that all three bodies were indeed just corpses, Neirida insisted on laying the old man in a more peaceful position, so the group dragged the two cultists into the partially-collapsed room, dumped them there, and lay the old man at peace in his bed, boots by his side. The third room was obviously a kids' room, with two beds and a massive tangle of sheets and pillows. The chalk on the wall that read, "Brenton and Debis' Room" told the group they had found what they were looking for... or so they thought.
A very thorough search of the room turned up very little: There were no signs of a struggle, no signs that Debis had returned to the room after the revolt, and all Helden could find was a pair of carved wooden knights buried in the sheets. Helden pcketed them carefully, saying, "I can give these to the kids to play with! I swear, I'm just the kids' entertainer!"
As they stepped into the hall again, they could hear scrabbling up and around the corner. Peering carefully, they spotted a female ghoul in a patient's smock, desperately trying to dig her way through the rubble. In an overkill moment of near rage-lance-pounce proportions, the very brief argument as to whether they should try to capture or control her was silenced, and Neirida raged, charged, and struck the ghoul for 21 points before it knew they were there. Down she went.
They returned to the fourth room, only to find the ghoul's most recent meal inside. Once Hans assured them that the man would not rise again as a ghoul, they moved on.
Listening to the door at the next room, they heard a man in obvious distress. "No! Not again! Keep away! I don't want anything from you! Get away from me, you monster!" Neirida raced in, only to see a man strapped to a bed having obvious nightmares. As she raced towards him, his back arched, he let out a final scream, and went still. Neirida called Hans over, and Hans confirmed that although the man was still breathing, he was actually now dead. His skin began to slowly take on a purplish hue, and Neirida quickly beheaded him. "Now we know where the ghouls come from," she muttered. A more thorough search of the room revealed nothing but a straightjacked and a hoodwink cowl. Thinking that these items might come in handy, the party confiscated them.
The rest of the ward was empty, so they returned to the hallway, which opened up into what must once have been a very pleasant dayroom. It was now marred by a massive trail of blood leading from a dead corpulent woman sitting in a wheelchair by one of the massive bay windows, all the way across the large room to a "pool" of blood sitting vertically blocking a hallway. Neirida looked quizically at Hans, and he confirmed that it was some kind of haunt, though he could not determine the trigger nor the way to make it stop. They carefully moved around the trail of blood, between the woman and the bay window, and further into the ward. As in every other window they'd seen, outside had obviously once been a beautiful garden, but was now a horrorscape of dead plants and mysterious half-seen shapes shuffling through a thick miasma of yellow mist.
Approaching an opening to the north, they could hear voices. "I need more! I'm getting the shakes! There must be more here! No! Give me the green one! I'll drink it!" and the sounds of glass bottles shattering. Neirida went into a fury: These idiots were using up much-needed medicine that could be being used by real patients. She charged in, followed closely by Helden and Hans, to find three cultists using up the precious medicines in their quest for a quick high.
The fight was short and bloody. Helden backstabbed the first cultist and Neirida proceeded to cut him in half. The other two cultists pounded Neirida brutally with their crowbars, adding a blow to Hans as he tried to move around them to provide flanks for Neirida and Helden. Neirida and Helden dropped another one, and the third, obviously distracted at the rate at which his comrades were falling, swung wild. Neirida dropped him, Helden said, "Quick! Stabilize him!", and Hans complied. "Why did you save him?" Neirida growled.
Helden explained that Captain York had wanted a captive, but the party knew that neither he nor Winter would be happy if the cultists knew how to get to them. The solution was easy: Into the straightjacket and hookwink cowl went the less-wounded cultist. Neirida had no compunctions about ending the life of the other.
They thoroughly searched the room, coming up with two potions of Cure Light Wounds and enough materials to make four Healer's kits. Hans channeled twice, but it did little good (5 points on 2d6? Really?), so he used the scroll of Cure Light Wounds on Neirida to get her closer to fully-healed.
The next room was a staff office of some kind, with a couch and a few desks. It had been ransacked by the cultists, but a thorough search revealed a book wrapped in butcher paper labeled, "Confiscated." Being the veterans of many Call of Cthulu games, the group was wise enough not to unwrap the tome. Opening the door at the other end of the room yielded... blackness. A deep darkness no light could penetrate. Hans stuck his spear tip slightly into the room, and it plunged into darkness. Blackwarm cast Light on a rock and tossed it in. Still nothing. Helden heard skittering, as if of small hard feet clattering on the stone floor, but still saw nothing.
Noting that there was another way in if they went back through the day room, they tried that door. More blackness, and more skittering.
Blackwarm had an idea. Which, as a GM, if you know Impus Major, is always a delight.
Out came Handy. "Handy, go in and see what you can find in there," Blackwarm purred, much to Neirida's disgust. As Handy crossed the threshold, a cacaphonous howl of dozens of voices screamed in horror and anguish, their tearful sobs demoralizing the entire party. "Come back, Handy! Come back!"
Most notable among the sobs was the child's voice. "Brenton?! Wake up, Brenton! Brenton, the lamp went out!"
Neirida muttered, "Oh, no. This is bad."
She had the rest of the party back up a few feet as she knelt on the floor, laying her greatsword down. "Debis? My name is Neirida. I spoke to Brenton. He's looking for you. He really wants you to come back with us. Can you come out of the dark for us?"
As the tiny skeletal figure stepped tentatively out of the blackness, all the party's hopes for a happy resolution were dashed.
GM Note: There are moments of GMing that are truly epic, and that remind you why you love to GM, and why you love your players. Holding up Debis' picture and seeing the utterly stricken looks on the players' faces was one of those moments. They were saddened. They were moved. They were AFFECTED. It was AWESOME.
The creature, seeing their reactions, skittered back into the darkness. "Brenton! The light went out!"
Neirida turned to the rest of the party. "Get Brenton's shadow lamp. NOW! *I* will stay here with Debis until you return."
She continued speaking softly to Debis. "My friends have gone to Brenton. He has your lantern. We will have it for you soon. You don't have to be scared any more. I will protect you."
"Even from the bad men through the other door?"
"From everyone. If anyone comes to harm you, ever again, I will protect you."
GM Note: After that bit of wonderful roleplay, letting Impus Major say ANYTHING to ANYONE grieving is a delight. The kid is extremely popular at school, with the whole, "Everybody LOVES Impus Major" and so forth. But man, when he roleplays, he roleplays social awkwardness with the best of them.
Hans, Helden, and Blackwarm arrived at the chapel and went immediately to Brenton. Helden started in. "Brenton, we found your brother!"
"Oh my goodness! Where is he? Why didn't you bring him back with you? Is he with the big scary lady?"
Blackwarm: "He is in a better place now."
Helden pummeled Blackwarm about the head and neck as the horrified Winter and Hans looked on, and Brenton howled in anguish. Helden did his best to explain. "We found him, but he's trapped. He needs the lantern. You need to give me the lantern so we can free him."
"But... the bird said he's dead, and it's all I have left of him. No, you can't have it! What else can I remember him by?"
It took only a couple more such hints for Helden to realize what was needed (he really wanted to keep the knights), so he offered the two knights in exchange for the lantern.
"My knights! You found them! And there are two of them, like me and Debis! OK, you can borrow the lantern."
They raced back to the waiting Neirida. The lantern, unlit, dispelled the Deeper Darkness as if it were a lit lamp cutting through an ordinary darkness. As Neirida pressed forward, she found the skeletal creature standing motionless in the center of the room. "Debis. I have the lantern. Your brother is safe. I will protect him. You can be free now."
Debis touched the lantern and dissolved into ash. The darkness lifted. A disembodied voice echoed in everyone's heads: "Thank you!" Neirida sobbed. Or at least cried a bit.
They closed up the room, grabbed the bound cultist, and dragged him back to the chapel. Of everyone I've ever gamed with, I am proud to say that NobodysWife, when moved, gives the greatest soliloquies I've ever heard.
"Brenton. I am afraid that your brother is lost. But you should know, he died a hero. When the uprising happened, there were many cultists who wanted to kill you. Kill everyone here in the chapel. Kill Debis. And even though he lost his life, he came back as something stronger. Something strong enough to stop them. He gave his life to protect you and everyone here. He loved you very much. And we found him. And we told him that we would protect you now. And he went on in peace, knowing that you would be safe. Your brother was a hero, Brenton. Never forget that!"
Even Winter cried a bit.
And the party went up to Level 3. Because... good speeches! Oh, and the blockade is now gone...
Just so everyone knows, the campaign hasn't died; it's just March illnesses. Impus Minor was sick both the 7th and the 14th (two different illnesses), and we chose to let him relax doing other things.
So hopefully we'll resume on the 21st; Urgathoa willing.
Session 4: Ratlings and Rotten Rolls, played 21-Mar-2017
Also... ratlings? Against a purportedly Level 2 group? The Summon Swarm ability alone is bad enough, but add Spider Climb, Invisibility, Dimension Door, and Cause Fear and you have a recipe for immense player frustration. I honestly believe that the *only* reason this fight didn't end our night nearly as soon as it began was the heroics of Handy, whose 30' Blindsense negated the ratlings' Invisibility. Just a painful, painful fight to run overall, no fun for the GM nor the players.
As NobodysWife put it, she loves the flavor of the AP, and the setting, and the writing, and the NPCs, but the constant bombardment of saves and the minimal melee are making playing a bloodrager less-than-fun. Hopefully, as they move on towards the cultists, it will turn into more of a straight-up fight, and less, "OK, here's one more save you have to make."
To my utter delight, the group started the session doing chores for the survivors. BOTH Blackwarm and Helden had taken Profession:Cook, but Helden's higher base bonus, plus rolling first, plus getting a 23 to provide a very fine meal to the group, meant Blackwarm was once again relegated to trying to do something at which he was hopeless. This time, he chose to try to help the injured and sick. A grand total of 6 on his Heal check meant business as usual: The nurse chased Blackwarm out of the sick ward with a broom. Neirida broke up more firewood, and Hans assisted in caring for the sick; in particular, Neirida, since they now knew she had leprosy.
In the morning, once Hans had finished his meditation, the group headed out again. (Neirida successfully made her first save against leprosy! Hooray!) After a short bit of discussion as to whether it was more important to go through Debis' room to find out what lay beyond, or to explore the central wing, they decided that it would probably be better to clear out the central wing, in case there was something there that might threaten the survivors.
The first room they explored was a room of carnage: Half a dozen victims had done their best to barricade the door, but whatever had been after them had been even more persistent; they had all been beaten to death, and each had a sack tied over his or her head. The rear wall of the room had collapsed, leading into some kind of storage closet full of the remains of mops, brooms, buckets, and so forth. Nothing seemed particularly valuable in the rubble. While Blackwarm and Helden were insatiable curious about what might lie beneath the sacks, Neirida insisted that she didn't want to be anywhere near when the hoods came off. Eventually, Helden and Blackwarm backed down. Exploring the rest of the room, they found a pair of thunderstones and a non-magical gold ring.
Moving on, they stopped and listened at the double doors leading into the central wing. Neirida heard scrabbling and rustling, as of several large rats in a huge room (hey, a 26 Perception roll is nothing to sneeze at!). As we went into initiatives and Hans moved into the room, the ratlings started casting. After NobodysWife said, "Just watch! They're going to summon rat swarms!", it was rather anticlimactic when Hans made his Spellcraft roll and confirmed her suspicions.
Cue an out-and-out terrible combat of the sort the less said, the better. Handy was the all-out star, running up, disrupting the ratlings' casting, engaging them in melee, and otherwise being a gropy pest, kind of like a 98-pound frat boy on Free Beer night. Otherwise, Blackwarm succumbed to one of the first Cause Fear spells that came along and fled all the way back to the chapel before recovering. Neirida took a couple of mighty swings, missed, got diseased by a rat swarm, and fell to a Cause Fear. (Did I mention her die was cold?) Helden threw daggers all over the room to little avail. Hans was utterly useless (even having to use his Defiant Luck feat to avoid being scared) until he started positioning himself to use Burning Hands, and even then only weakened the swarms.
After several rounds, one ratling was down, the other two were going strong, but Hans used his Pearl of Power to throw in another Burning Hands. And that was pretty much the turning point. 2 of the 3 rat swarms succumbed, Helden killed the third, and Handy engaged the final invisible ratling. By that time, the entire party had regrouped. Outmatched, the third ratling Dimension Doored away.
After a very effective channel energy (11 points on 2d6), the party moved northwards. The next hallway had a trail of mucus running across it between 3 of the doors. Not being idiots, they chose the fourth door. What luck! Inside they heard the injured ratling reporting to her superior(s).
In Pathfinder, preparation and surprise can be everything. As Blackwarm hurled open the door, Hans put Protection from Evil on Neirida. Helden moved in and killed the wounded ratling. Blackwarm hit Ratchmamby dead center in the chest with a 23-point Scorching Ray (yep, 3 6's and a 5), Handy added his 2 points AND grappled him, and Neirida charged in, determined not to miss, spent a Hero point, and dropped Ratchmamby to negative hit points before he could speak a word. The next round, Helden used the brutality that is a high-initiative rogue's post-surprise round to carve one of the remaining ratlings to pieces. The final ratling had just long enough to fail his Concentration check to escape before he was cut down as well.
They dispatched the ratlings, looted their corpses (a Brooch of Shielding and Cloak of Resistance +1), and we called it a night, as Impus Minor was getting very tired.
Session 5: Neirida Puts her Sword Down, played 04-Apr-2017
In terms of GM'ing, there really wasn't anything special here, except for what the heck to do about the oneirogen of Eliege Losandro. The text lists her as "comatose". So I have no idea why she has combat stats written up. But I played her as I interpreted her description; that is, she just sat there barfing rainbows, and it seemed to work out well for the group. So in my judgement, "It worked, so it was the right thing to do."
The other question was: How long does it take the cultists to realize that Debis is gone? I figured it would be a progressive encounter roll. Since I rolled a 19 (and low is an encounter), I didn't have to worry about it... this session.
After a 2-week break from the game, I reviewed what the party had been doing (killing ratlings), what they'd found (ratling treasure), and they went over their remaining resources, deciding to continue their explorations for a bit longer. I reminded them of the trail of mucus between the two doors down the westward hallway and one of the doors in the northward hallway. Neirida shuddered at the thought of having to cross the mucus. In one of those, "Only when you're playing with kids" moments, Helden decided to take a sample of the mucus to see whether it was fit to use as an ingredient in his cooking. A roll of 16 on Profession: Cook was more than enough to determine that the mucus was inedible, and would more than likely sicken anyone who ate it. Neirida was nauseated just watching him consider using the stuff in his cooking. Helden suggested that they'd found plenty of wood, so they should just go back, hauling back as much wood as they could (what were they, woodchucks?), and spend the rest of the day letting him craft arrows. Neirida overruled him, and decided to explore the westernmost "mucus door".
The room itself was not interesting; a large conference room with a HUGE conference table and chairs. Helden positively drooled at the amount of scrap wood that was available to him. However, the mucus trail led to a closet door in the north wall. Neirida cautiously approached the door, listened, and heard the unmistakable clinking of jars being moved about. As Blackwarm cast Open to open the door, Neirida stepped back. It was a good thing she did so, as a jar full of noxious fluid and some kind of tumor or unnatural organ dropped and shattered right where she would have been standing had she opened the door herself. Two voices spoke in broken Common: "You missed!" "I know! I use another jar!"
The poor pickled punks had no idea who they were dealing with. Not only had Impus Major read up on pickled punks, not only had he decided he really wanted one for Blackwarm, but Blackwarm rolled a 20 on initiative and a 23 on his Knowledge: Religion roll, so he knew what they were, and he knew he could control (at least one of) them. He hit them with Control Undead, both failed their Will saves, but because he was too low-level to control both of them he only got the first. The resulting fiasco can only be described by the ensuing events:
The next round saw Helden pin the uncontrolled punk and Neirida kill it, but the fun was just beginning: Blackwarm named the controlled punk "Piglet" and wanted to keep it. Cue the amazing fireworks:
Neirida insisted that the pickled punks were abominations that needed to be destroyed, and, if Blackwarm were to try to smuggle one into the chapel, Neirida would personally ensure that Winter found out about it.
Blackwarm insisted that Piglet was cute, and harmless, and maybe Handy could use Piglet as a mount. Or maybe Piglet could use Handy as a mount. But they made a great team!
Impus Minor stepped out of the room to use the restroom
Impus Major, in a brilliant pantomime of Piglet in an unbelievably whiny voice: "Where's the wooood, Blackwarm?"
"Shut up, Helden! Nobody likes you!"
At that point, the entire table utterly lost it. Impus Minor had told us to catch him up when he got back. All he had to get caught up on were fits of giggles from the other players (and the GM).
To make matters worse, Impus Major promptly started singing an impromptu theme song for Piglet. I cannot even recall the tune, much less the lyrics, because I was laughing too hard.
To try to satisfy Neirida and Blackwarm, Hans suggested that Blackwarm put Piglet into one of the intact jars and leave him in the closet to keep him safe. Blackwarm agreed, opened a jar, dumped the preserved brain on the floor, and stuck in Piglet, screwing the lid on tight.
Neirida had finally had enough. She attacked the jar with Piglet in it. Only the hardness of the jar (hardness 1, hit points 2) were enough to save Piglet from her wrath (he ended up with 2 hit points left. Thank you, jar!). Blackwarm, alarmed, scooped the helpless Piglet into his warms... and promptly blew his Fortitude save and developed the pickled puck rash, becoming, if possible, even more irritating. More negotiations ensued, including NobodysWife bringing up a video from the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode where Bart creates an abomination that wants nothing more than to die. Blackwarm finally relented, and let Neirida put the pickled puck out of her misery.
They explored the next room only to find two interns who had been brutally murdered by Blackwarm's "cute, innocent" pickled pucks. Neirida glared at him as they searched the room, discovering a wand of Bless for their troubles. They finally decided they'd had enough, Helden loaded up with all the wood he could carry (much to the amusement of everyone around the table), and they returned to the chapel. For the rest of the afternoon, Neirida and Captain York retrieved all the bodies they'd found during their explorations, Helden crafted new crossbow bolts to replace the ones they'd used, Blackwarm worked the furnaces, and Hans prepared the bodies for cremation and said rites over them. Winter and Hans treated the others for their various diseases and rashes, and, in a bit of miraculous rolling, by the next morning everyone was cured of everything!
I suggested ending for the night, but the group wanted to go for a bit longer, so they returned to the central wing and checked the one room in the mucus-filled hallway they hadn't checked before. It was an anatomist's room, full of notes and drawings and other evidence of a man (or woman) obsessed with deformities of the head. Finding nothing they considered valuable, they grabbed the research notes and moved on.
The final room of the night was also the most mysterious. They opened the door at the end of the hall to reveal a HUGE, ornately-decorated office, two stories tall and full of opulent furniture. The only thing marring the beautiful decor was the veritable lake of blood in the center of the room, in the middle of which knelt a middle-aged woman, head thrown back, eyes blank, spewing a rainbow mist from her mouth. "That's not normal," Neirida noted.
After determining that the woman would not respond to their prompts, they decided to search the rest of the room. Helden had no trouble picking the lock on the desk, and therein they learned that the woman was none other than Eliege Losandro, administrator of the facility, and she had agreed to work with one "Count Lowls" to try to cure Zandalus using arcane means. Lowls' only request was that she take care of a group of amnesiacs. The party immediately recognized themselves in this description: This Lowls must know something about them!
Searching further, they found much treasure, which we decided they would sort through next session.
|A Mite Excessive|
Awesome! Still working on the writeup for this week, but I've been busy writing up "the life of a chaperone" on FaWtL. Just finished that, so hopefully later today you'll see this week's installment. Nothing particularly eventful, but still...
Session 6: The Unexpected Enemy, played 18-Apr-2017
After another 2-week break, we reconvened and the party went over the loot they'd recovered from Administrator Losandro's desk: Hans was given the Lesser Talisman of Healing Power and the scrolls of Remove Paralysis, Neirida took the Lesser Talisman of Warrior's Courage, Blackwarm took the Greater Talisman of Beneficial Winds and the scroll of Fox's Cunning, and Neirida carried the rest. Yep, Helden got nothing. Tough on Helden.
Neirida desperately wanted to do something for Administrator Losandro, but Hans hadn't been able to figure out what was wrong with her, so Neirida had to content herself that maybe, just maybe, Winter might know what to do. Not wanting to expose themselves to the mysterious rainbow mist, the party didn't approach Administrator Losandro, but checked the rest of the room for anything useful, then moved on to the next door they hadn't yet explored.
This door led into a long hallway with many doors on either side (6 in total). The hallway had once been lit by lanterns, but someone had meticulously vandlized them all so the only source of light was the tip of Hans' spear. The party had enough Knowledge: Dungeoneering to know that the door at the end of the hall led to the vast lake of blood the aptly-named "Bleeding Lady" had spewed. There was general agreement "Do not open that door!"
In an uncharacteristically-careless move, the party walked up to the first door on the right and had Blackwarm cast Open on it with no preliminary checks. The good news was that this sudden action surprised the apostle in orpiment who was busy ransacking the room. The bad news was that the party was similarly-surprised to see him. However, Neirida rolled high enough on her initiative that she was able to rush in and one-shot him.
The party stayed in initiatives as two more apostles came out of doors across the hall, but Handy engaged one and Neirida the other. Little harm was done save a single blow to Handy, and Blackwarm lovingly cast Repair Undead to provide succor to his minion.
Exploring the rooms the now-dead apostles had vacated, the group found a series of records rooms that the apostles had been ransacking for unknown reasons. The largest of the rooms, from whence two of the three apostles had come, stored personal effects for the hundreds of patients who had stayed in the facilities over the years. As the party looked for valuables, or even anything of use, I told them, "Imagine wandering out into open farmland, gathering the first 200 people you find, having them put down their tools and equipment in the field, then taking them inside and storing all their other gear. That's what you find here."
A collective, "Oh," indicated their realization they would not be finding any valuables here. They gave it the old college try anyway, but the highest Perception roll in the group was a 21, and they found nothing.
The second room included records on many of the patients, the party included. They quickly became eager to learn more about other patients. They learned that the "bleeding lady", Mrs. Freeling, had a heart condition for which she was taking medicine, and one of the nurses had terrified her by telling her that if she didn't get her medicine, her heart would explode. It took very little effort for the party to decide that they needed to get Mrs. Freeling her medicine. They took her file so that Winter could reproduce the dosage. Examining their own files, they learned little new: They were supposedly employees of Count Lowls who were in a "fugue state", whatever that was, but Administrator Losandro hadn't seen anything supernatural or unusual about their states, other than the fact that they had all come into that state simultaneously. They took their own files as well, and checked for files on Zandalus. Unsurprisingly, they didn't find any, though it was obvious the apostle had been looking for the same thing.
The next room was locked, but Helden managed to open it eventually (did you know you can take 20 on opening a lock? I didn't until I read the rules on Disable Device), leading to a second records room wherein they found records of unusual, supernatural cases of madness, plus an odd picture on the wall. Neirida, not being silly, moved the picture, found the secret compartment, pulled out the lockbox and the records of Ulver Zandalus. They took it all and returned to Winter.
Neirida met with Winter privately, describing Administrator Losandro's condition and asking Winter whether she could go take a look, and possibly help. Winter explained her position: There was now a clear path from the cultists to her refugees. The last time such a path had existed, if it hadn't been for her and the Captain's valiant defense, the refugees would have been lost. She would not put them at risk again by leaving the chapel until she knew that Zandalus and the cultists were dead. If Neirida really wanted to help Administrator Losandro, the best thing she could do would be to find a way to remove Zandalus and the cultists, freeing Winter to help those who needed her. Neirida was nonplussed, but at least understood Winter's position.
Winter and Hans spent an hour crafting Mrs. Freeling's medicine, while Helden opened the lockbox and was utterly overjoyed to be the proud new owner of Red Destiny, a +2 shortsword.
Checking the party's preparedness, Neirida was pleased to learn that their last foray had taken very few resources, so they set forth to Debis' room to deal with the cultists once and for all.
Their first stop was Mrs. Freeling. They gave her her medicine, said, "This should make you all better, Mrs. Freeling," and sure enough, she burbled, "Thaaaaaank youuuuuu," and the haunt expired. They explored the newly-exposed room and found the remains of poor orderly Hobe, whose many wounds spoke of a valiant last stand. Her Cloak of Resistance and potions of Bull's Strength and Protection from Evil would serve the party well. Neirida spoke a few words over her and the party moved on.
Once past Mrs. Freeling, they buffed themselves, prepared to fight, threw open the doors leading to the cultists' area...
...and found not a few maniacal cultists, but an entire village of survivors. Some were obviously maniacal cultists. But many, many more were obviously victims, too terrified to speak up or act out of place to do anything other than follow orders. A group of cruficied corpses on the wall provided testament to what happened to those who resisted. At a loss for words for a moment, the party stood still as some of the villagers approached. "They have come from beyond the darkness!"
A man in a doctor's uniform approached. "Good! More come to gaze beyond, to serve the orpiment! Welcome, friends!"
He approached with open arms, so Neirida did not immediately kill him. As he got clear, he said sotto voce, "Agree and come with me if you want to live."
In a bit of magnificent die rolling adding to the roleplaying, Neirida made a decent Bluff roll (a 16, I believe) to say, "Thank goodness we made it past that creature and got here safely!"
Hans turned and yelled, "It's coming! Slam the door!", closed the door, and rolled a natural 20 on his Bluff.
Even the doctor was fooled. "You didn't kill it?!?!?! What were you thinking!??!?!"
The doctor let them back to the infirmary, where they had a short debriefing:
We ended the evening with the group deciding whether or not they had any more questions for Dr. Elbourne before they moved on to take on Oneirogen.