They made it off the map! Well, off the map of the Inner Sea and deep into parts unknown. The folks from the Order of the Amber Die recently completed their fifth marathon session of running the delightfully creepy Strange Aeons Adventure Path. I'm going to keep this introduction short and let all of you dive right into the action as the Order of the Amber Die recaps their experiences with Pathfinder Adventure Path #113: What Grows Within.
As usual, proceed with caution if you are playing in this campaign, as spoilers abound!
Author John Compton handed us an experience in this marathon that had a horrifically epic feel from the opening hours, and didn't let up. We dealt with threats that dwarfed anything we've seen in this Adventure Path, perhaps in a dozen campaigns we've played. As this year marked the 30th anniversary of Order of the Amber Die, we decided to try for a new record regarding the total time spent together during a marathon. Ninty-six hours was our previous tally, but we're proud to say that part five of Strange Aeons allowed for a new achievement:
- Adventure: Pathfinder Adventure Path #113: What Grows Within
- Marathon Length: 108 hours
- Session Hours: 64
For immersion, the audio engineers at Axion Studios provided custom sounds of the eerie wind that blew through Neruzavin. We also used modeling clay and clumps of foliage to make unique versions of the fungal monsters we encountered. Lastly, we employed the author's suggestion for enhancing horror in roleplaying games (see John's foreword in "What Grows Within"), by silencing our phones and severely curtailing their usage.
Highlights From What Grows Within
- Finding the forgotten city of Neruzavin was our first challenge, made more difficult after our gnoll guides ditched us and the camels were killed by drakes. Upon surviving our first day in that terrible metropolis, the camels might have been better off.
- To earn the respect of an ash giant tribe in control of the Parchlands, we had to draw on our skill set from Giantslayer and best a colossal scorpion. Their skeptical leader shouted three words that were guaranteed to fire up our room: "Prove your might!"
- We tried everything to get answers to the mysteries hidden within Neruzavin, including a legend lore spell, a real-time harrowing by Erasmus, and a conference with an otyugh tome eater who chomped down our scrolls faster than a bag of Doritos.
- During our daily seance, an unknown spirit forced its way into Erasmus and began battling Nissa for control of his body. We don't know much about it, or even how to rid Erasmus of it; unfortunately, the spirit is beginning to manifest its unpleasant personality, and it suffers no rivals.
- Even our new companion Amrivast, a lammasu paladin, wasn't safe from the evil present in Neruzavin. We could do nothing as he struggled against its dark influences and eventually abandoned us. The lammasu returned later as a fungal abomination, calling himself "Amrivast the Seeded, herald of Xhamen-Dor!" We didn't want to put him down, but we had to.
- We found the Necronomicon, and even being Elder Mythos rookies we'd heard the name before. It didn't help that Quinn was the one who read it—or that Dan laughed sadistically while our GM told him its secrets.
- After having our flesh and egos scoured by what our GM told us was a "flying polyp," our poor reflex saves began dreading what was around every street corner, if corner is even the word. Please, no more polyps.
Quinn broke. Out-of-game too. Our lawful good companion murdered a man right in front of our eyes. The diseased member of a prior expedition to Neruzavin was clearly suffering from seedborne consumption, but we hadn't tried everything to save him before Quinn acted. It didn't go down easy either—the man screamed while Quinn drove his dagger home again and again.
This marathon was as deadly as you'd expect from a semi-final matchup. On our side were stats such as Feiya's nine instant kills via flesh to stone, and Erasmus's 142 points of damage in a single round. On the opposing side were John Compton's twelve character deaths scored, with five of them coming from the graveknight inquisitor of Rovagug he designed. It's important to note that we had easy access to breath of life through Feiya's hex channeling, and Winter carried two in her daily complement.
Best Quote From Marathon 5
Alahazra (during a tense parley with an irritated moon giant): "I need money. I am negotiating with a massive giant, OR WE ARE GOING TO DIE. What do we have?"
We had to make one of the toughest decisions of our Pathfinder careers, and it will surely trouble us throughout the last chapter of our story. Desperately low on resources, the debate came down to saving the multiverse from Hastur, or merely saving Golarion in the present. The vote was 3-2 in favor of leaving Golarion behind, forcing our world to face the reviving threat of a Great Old One and the polyps we unleashed. Moreover, we had taken the Necronomicon away from Quinn and given it to exscinder archons, which meant we would have to attempt the Path to the Black Stars occult ritual without a key focus—the ritual's costly toll now meant we had only one chance at completing it.
The result: We're headed to Carcosa and the finals of this AP!
Read through the entirety of The Strange Aeons Experiment.
For character builds, questions about Strange Aeons, content and more, see our thread here on the messageboards.
Until next time, stay safe and keep alert, because the next time you hear from the Order of the Amber Die they'll be sharing tales of the finale of the Strange Aeons Adventure Path! This probably won't happen until after PaizoCon where I'll run into a few of the Order of the Amber Die folks as they come to Seattle to play some games and talk about their marathon experiences. If you're at the show, make sure to say "Hi!" You can't miss their custom shirts.