Nightmare Bat

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A few weeks back, the party finally made their way to Scuttlecove. The name had been dropped several times throughout the campaign, but learning that Lavinia might be there was the final bump to get them to go. One of the PCs is a pirate who was betrayed, then killed, by Cold Captain Wyther, and was a co-founder of the Crimson Fleet (before it went to the worship of Demogorgon).

Another PC is a killoren who was from the island of Ruja, a place with (mostly) insanely high cliffs (iirc), which had at one time been assaulted by the Crimson Fleet and Seventh Coil. The killoren were made into slaves by the Seventh Coil, though only one has since survived, namely the PC. The killoren PC was introduced as the raid on Farshore commenced, originally dominated by the yuan-ti, but "miraculously freed" just in time to retaliate against his captors. Thus, this PC had an interest in destroying The Seventh.

Another PC was in love with Liamae, and although he attempted to remain in constant contact with her as they progressed into the jungles of the Isle of Dread and City of Broken Idols, was shocked to learn that he soon did not receive replies back. (He was an acquaintance with Noltus, as well, and knew that when the same happened to him, trouble was up.)

I preceded the adventure with a naval battle, as the PC who was once of the Crimson Fleet wanted to use the caravels still in Farshore to launch an assault. They encountered a band of the Crimson Fleet mutineers already in battle with the Crimson Fleet loyalists. (The loyalists also had a massive warship named the Belcheresk, which the crusader dimension doored under, smashed his way into, and fought of the taskmaster barbarian beating the drums, and the lemorian captain, as the tactical naval battle raged on.) The PCs met the mutineer's leader, a half-fey bard named Avlash Redlegs, whose fey qualities resembled that of a dragonfly. (I made the Black Sprite the ship belonging to the pirate PC back in the day.) He advised the heroes that he would distract any other Crimson Fleet ships defending Sekorvia, and would send coordinates to the PCs regarding the whereabouts of the Wreck when he felt it was safe.

The players recently completed Serpents of Scuttlecove, and it was loads of fun. The backdrop for Scuttlecove and the map were exceedingly useful for the adventure, as it gave the party the incentive to check out areas of the city, rather than just being railroaded into "go here, then go here". In fact, I really enjoyed how flexible this adventure was. The first combat at Red Foam Whaling was challenging to run, but introduced enemies that would permeate the whole adventure.

My only criticisms of the adventure were the placements of maps and stat blocks in correlation to the pertinent information for various rooms, or tactics. Maps were often on different pages, and stat blocks on others. I recommend using those post-it page markers if you've got them, otherwise, you might end up tearing your pages furiously scrambling to check the stats of various creatures involved in the combat (like I did, twice).

The PCs didn't even head to the Minting House, and that's fine as they were already ahead of the curve. It makes for a great optional encounter, by the way. What's funny is that they didn't even talk to Tyralandi until, wrecked the Wreck. Since they used a scroll of discern location to find Liamae, they went to save her, and stumbled into Harliss.

I did use her to introduce the PCs to the Protectorate, now much diminished by the ambush at Red Foam Whaling. A cleric on a mission of atonement from the Dawnhouse in Sasserine, also a surrogate father to the PC who knew Noltus, was there, and introduced him--and the others--to another religious individual, like him, who was on a quest for "atonement"...(Age of Worms spoiler follows)


None other than the former prince Zeech from the city of Alhaster in Redhand was present. This caused much shock in another PC, who was originally an orphan from Alhaster, once nobility in the city, forced to flee and forage for himself after the events at the end of Age of Worms. He had much hatred for Zeech, blaming him for leading Alhaster into destruction, even though he never even met him. This created a wonderful dynamic between the two. Zeech was still the arrogant bastard he was in AoW, but--long story short--has become as scion of law, emphasizing a dual-worship of Heironeous and Hextor. Apologetic to the Alhaster PC, he still belittles the other members of the Protectorate as cowards for not opposing the evils of Scuttlecove openly.

Another guest was an NPC from back in Sasserine, who had been brainwashed back then by Alma Talventa. Now a skilled battle dancer, she came to Alhaster on a vendetta against Kedward Bone (whom she has traced the drug trade in Sasserine to, and is thus responsible for being robbed of her dream of being a dancer, as Alma used these drugs to aid in the brainwashing). Again--long story short--she has assumed a disguise, posing as one of the heroes who ousted the Holy Triad, a devil-hunting assassin named Silverthorne, with the aid of none other than Tyralandi.

Harliss, in some ways adopting the role of leader of the Protectorate, informed the PCs that if they were to strike at the Crimson Fleet, they had better make plans to deal with the other factions in town, as they would surely rouse the others. In other words, the Seventh Coil, the Dealer's Consortium, and the Monks of Dire Hunger. (Interestingly enough, Harliss and "Silverthorne" have shown deference to the Porphyry House, as Tyralandi has greatly helped them both, and the half-fiend nymph stands to profit as a result.)

The battle in the Wreck went splendidly. I decided to shrink the Wreck slightly for the purposes of combat on a large scale. I had the crazies in the gibbets alert the pirates shortly after the combat with the death slaad. From the various huts, pirates emerged, then yuan-ti. Most of the pirates were armed with pistols, including weapon crystals I invented, which allowed for the pistols to magically hold more shots, and thus fire more rounds with a full attack. The mass combat played out over several rounds, topping off when the killoren PC launched fire at the hut with Vzorthys, who emerged quite agitated. (His flash DC was imposing, but the fight went wonderfully, using PC abilities well.)

From there, the party explored the individual ships, and discovered a few more pirates with a level of swordsage thrown on, then the orlath, et al. One of my favorite parts had the party fighting the Seventh at the onset, only to notice Wyther observing in darkness from afar. The ambitious PCs decided to attack him in the middle of the combat, only to find themselves fighting both at once. I gave him a maneuver I invented to make him even more dynamic. (Crimson Slide: as an immediate action, Wyther can dodge a ranged attack, and teleport up to thirty feet, leaving a red streak behind him, and deliver an attack with +2d6 dmg. Also, the foe is denied his Dex bonus to AC.)

Killing Wyther fulfilled the pirate PCs last requisite for unlocking his legacy weapon's greater abilities. (The "weapon" is an Olman ring once used to deliver Tlaloc's Tear into the depths of Golismorga.) Interestingly, the chapel to Demorgorgon afforded a spot for the crusader PC to unlock his last tier of Faithful Avenger's legacy abilites. (I substituted a goristro for the horned devil, as a horned devil makes no sense w/regeneration overcome by silver, and faithful avenger is cold iron. Buh?)

Gotta say, the treasury was amazing. The party was dumbfounded when they tried to get into it. (No breaking through lead-lined walls of force.) The yagnoloth Ghourgos was a great fight, and they were down two PCs, as a couple couldn't make it.

They just completed the sidequest at Kedward's Tower tonight. They first accompanied Silverthorne to Parts is Parts, intimidated Rhemus into providing info as to how to get into the tower via a secret underwater passage into the basement. Doing so, they let two other characters d-door in later. However, as Kedward had a greater anticipate teleport up, they were delayed, and thus alerted the wizard to their presence. The tower had Kedward's simulacrum first snipe them, along with triggering a "drugburst/burning hands" trap, effectively confusing Silverthorne, ironically. A fight with a few hamatulas (who I feel deserve higher CRs than 11) then led to Kedward.

Kedward, in typical villain fashion, revealed his whole drug empire was devoted to aiding in his devil patron, Mammon, and his rise to corrupting the souls of innocents. Kedward didn't last long, even with stone body active (Spell comp), but as he died, he completed the last sacrifical component to summon up a (CR 19) aspect of Mammon.

Mammon--and his bulk in the small tower--caused the whole structure to collapse under his weight, pinning individuals on lower floors beneath him. The crusader had to use a greater divine surge/swift restoration from Faithful Avenger to dish out severe damage to the aspect, who proved resilient, but ultimately capable of being overcome.

Next, they'll get to fight the monks of dire hunger, and their corrupted greater dusk giant barbarian 1/fighter 1 leader...with the aid of...(Age of Worms spoiler)

Prince Zeech!

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My players did the following side quest--among others--preceding the Champion's Games, though it could just as easily be adapted to occur after. The "Midnight's Muddle" backdrop (Dungeon #128, pgs. 64-71) was a treasure trove of potential side quest material, not to mention that unnamed larger building at the north-eastern corner of it, which I used to make my own locale. I originally divided up the side quests to be run as a "single-PC"-styled adventure, though, again, they can be adapted easily.

The first side quest featured an NPC that I had planted early on, a half-orc barbarian (dire flail and whirling frenzy variant) named Awlmont Hog, who was the illegitimate half-brother of none other than Forwell Hog of Midnight's Muddle's Shrine of the Weeping Woman (Area 20). Awlmont, who had been found wandering through Mistmarsh, was taken in as a traveling companion, explaining that upon his--and Forwell's--mother's death (located in a shack in the Mistmarsh), she had asked him to find out his estranged brother to make amends.

(Backstory: Forwell and his parents lived in the Mistmarsh, barely eking out a living as scavengers. One day, a couple of orc raiders attacked the Hog family. Though Forwell's father fought back, he was slain by the spiteful surviving orc, who proceeded to ravage Forwell's mother. Forwell summoned up all his desperation and hatred, and slew the orc viciously. Over the next several months, Forwell's mother grew with child, and conceived Awlmont with much effort. Since then, Forwell bore him a grudge, and allowed his hatred to consume him. He and his brother were distant, and his hatred for his illegitimate half-brother--though subdued--was an invitation for an insidious anomaly of a monster, whom referred to himself as The Festering One, a phase spider warlock with uncanny sentience and a demonic malevolence and strength. This twisted force finalized Forwell's corruption, and used him as an scion of its power, torturing and warping his psyche, and driving him onward to the Free City to perform atrocities in the Festering One's name. Forwell's sudden disappearance was disturbing to Awlmont and his mother, but their methods to track him down were quite limited. But now, with his mother's death, Awlmont seeks to rectify their pasts, and pursue a future that could be better than what the past afforded them.)

In my own campaign, Awlmont was a lot swifter in his efforts to track down his brother--though he could just as easily make the scene now, explaining his plight to a party prior to their departure from Midnight's Muddle.

This side quest was a little unusual in it's structure, in that it plays out a bit like a detective story. Awlmont and his dear friend (one of the PCs, an elf by the name of Slade) went directly to the Shrine of the Weeping Woman. It was notable that there was a good deal of traffic of old women coming in and out of the shrine. Awlmont and Slade entered the shrine, and Awlmont approached his half-brother, who remained aloof and cold to the half-orc. (As a DM, read the paragraph preceding the stat block--yep, he's statted out, too--to get an idea of what skills will be useful to determine that Forwell's up to something fishy.) I also gave him a verminous graft (Dragon #336, p. 108) for added flavor, though covered up by a long, black glove. Trigger happy PCs might try to attack him at this point alone for being suspicious, but it stands to reason that even in Midnight's Muddle, the citizens of the Free City are still protected by the law, and that the law would surely frown upon anyone bearing arms against a clergyman of a shrine to Heironeous, if only an obscure aspect of one.

Awlmont was determined to find out what caused such a sudden transformation in his brother. He encouraged Slade to ask around at local shops adjacent to--or in--the alley the Shrine of the Weeping Woman was located in. (From a side quest perspective, a party looking to explore the hidden motivations of Forwell could just as easily reach the same conclusion.) With a Gather Info check (DC 15) at Horatio Rib's, the unusual gnome reveals that he has seen unfamiliar ladies come in to the shrine, with increasing frequency, but that after a week, he stops seeing the same ladies. More come, with increasing frequency, still. Likewise, a Gather Info check (DC 15) at Meply's or Din Danly's--depending on the time of day (read descriptions on p. 69 for a laugh), maybe both at separate times--reveals that Forwell only rarely goes out, but that he was out late last night a few weeks back, and also two nights back (Gather Info DC 25) Forwell was walking through the streets, talking to himself, and crawling around on all fours. These encounters serve to reinforce that Forwell is worth attention as someone suspicious. They might be skipped if the PCs find Forwell genuinely untrustworthy in any regard, or a potential threat.

Later in the evening--perhaps by chance, or a whisper on the wind--the PCs pass by Location 14: Burnt Shop, a place in close proximity to the Shrine of the Weeping Woman. (My own player came back after seeking out Din Danly in the late evening, having already talked with Meply.) A flicker of movement, noticeable with a Spot check (DC 5 or 10), gives the PCs a quick glance at a mysterious presence. Whispers can be heard, of increasing audibility. No one in the street is present, and the faint illumination of a distant streetlight casts the deepest of shadows. The wispy ectoplasmic force of something beyond the grave seeps across the room. The sound of sloshing water is faintly heard, as are tears being cried. Soon after it notices the party, a wretched ghost, looking as though it had been pickled, floats toward the PCs. While combat might be the expected follow up to such a scene, a diplomatic effort to engage the spirit reveals its motivations. (Sense Motive DC 5 reveals that it is making no aggressive action in the direction of the PCs.) The ghost is none other than that of Laslo, the former shopkeep of the establishment which once stood in this locale. Laslo precedes to moan about his fate:

“Woe is me,” he cries. “I stumbled into something beyond my capacity. I pray my family forgives me for my self-destruction! Woe!” He raised his fists, then subsides, to tell his story. “It was seventeen nights ago, when I saw Forwell Hog, that liar, crawl along the alleys under the veil of a misty night. The moon was put away, and the dim, semi dampened fires only cast the bitterest of shadows. He crawled like a spider, and even with his false arm, seemed more natural that way. Vermin, like spiders and ants trailed him, and he clamored over and up the walls of Varda’s shrine to Heironeous. I followed behind—I was so foolish not to alert the police—and saw him sneak into Varda’s. His spider spun a wicked web over the windows, and Forwell shot fire from his fingers. The whole place went up in minutes, and the fire spread violently to both the Queggens' home, killing their twin daughters, and then to my shop! I was so close to making something for myself! I couldn’t bear the strain, and I couldn’t return to my desperate family with nothing but debt. I ended my life that night in the Millstream near the shrine to Obad-Hai. Heaven forgive me!” With that, he vanishes in a fiery mist. (For reference, Varda was the only priest of the now Ruined Shrine--area 12--of Heironeous, and the Queggens'--and their twin daughters--are inventions of my own, used to fill in the gaps for Area 13: Burnt Hovel, also taken in the same fire that claimed Laslo's shop.)

This ghostly encounter was enough to shake up my player, and infuriate my NPC, Awlmont, so as to force him to race down the alley--a span of ninety feet--to confront his corrupted brother. Slade barely kept up behind him, though his efforts to subdue the enraged barbarian fell on deaf ears. Awlmont went ahead, and Forwell, who had been spying on the two courtesy of his vermin servant, had smashed Awlmont over the head with the very statue of the Weeping Woman that attracted his followers in the first place. Forwell, who had prepared himself for confrontation following Laslo's spirit's appearance, was assisted by two medium monstrous spiders (courtesy of giant vermin), as well as his own small monstrous spider vermin servant. While the spiders drained Slade's strength, Awlmont desperately tried to subdue his brother. However, when he posed such a threat with his verminous allies on his new friend's life, he was forced to slay his kin. (Depending on preference, some DMs may find Forwell redeemable.) However, with his dying breath, Forwell cursed Awlmont, claiming he had already brought his master, The Festering One, to the Free City, and he was below if they dared face him.

Below the shrine, a secret passage opened into a descending dirt cavern, the heavy scent of perfumes and flowers arise from below, a faint undercurrent to it. White flower petals litter the dark cavern floor. As the PCs descend deeper into the subterranean lair, the scent of flowers and perfume grows even more intense, but too does an undercurrent that is the scent of decomposing flesh; for below the Shrine of the Weeping Woman is where the Festering One has made his lair, satiating his depraved hunger for the flesh of the naive elderly for many months. In a chamber approximately forty feet wide, looms a phase spider, all black and green, waiting. Torn apart bodies of old women litter the room like garbage. It speaks, tauntingly telepathically, saying, “Forwell failed me, indeed, to let scum like you through. You will be a feast for the Festering One.” It then proceeds to blink in and out of the Material and Ethereal Planes, relying on positioning itself in as safe of a position as possible, observing readying PCs from the Ethereal Plane safely. It will even wait for rounds at a time, in the hopes to get the PCs to drop their guard, and fire off chained eldritch blasts, or hideous blows with it's bite, hoping to mix the poison into its unholy arcane power, upon materializing. This can be a challenging fight if the Festering One plays the waiting game, but is appropriate as such, considering the horror-like intensity of the final confrontation.

(Thanks to Richard Pett for the awesome backdrop!)

Well, give it a whirl, and if anyone else does, by all means let us know how it went down.

(Below is a statted-up Festering One):

The Festering One (Large Magical Beast) w/warlock 6 CR 9
HD: 5d10+15+6d6+18 HP: 75 Initiative: +7 Speed 40ft, climb 20ft.
Armor Class: 15, touch 12, flat-footed 12 Base Attack: +9/+4
Attack: Bite +11 (1d6+4 and poison) Ranged: Eldritch Blast: +11 (3d6 +effect)
Full Atk: Bite +11/+6
Space/reach: 10ft/5ft SQ: Darkvision 60ft, lowlight vision, Ethereal jaunt
Str 17 Dex 17 Con 16 Int 10 Wis 13 Cha 16 Fort +9 Ref +9 Will +7
Skills: Climb +11 Move Silently +11 Spot +4 Knowledge (arcana) +11 Intimidate +11 Knowledge religion +10 Concentration +8
Feats: ability focus (poison), improved initiative, empower spell-like ability (least), ability focus (eldritch blast)
Poison fort DC 17; 1d8 con init + secondary
Invocations: Least: Sickening Blast (2nd) DC+2 for focus, Hideous Blow (1st)
Lesser: Eldritch Chain (4th), Charm (4th)