Somewhere in the stable is a man strumming his guitar singing to his own reindeer. Maybe Anna will find love in this barnyard gathering after all... at least if she doesn't catch the guitar-player picking his nose.
"Every man does it," the strummer says to the reindeer. The two share a carrot and are ignored by everyone.
Also in the stable is Caledon and Vetalia, gathering their animals. Perhaps they will join Cashara and Dr. Mavrin on other adventures. Perhaps they will leave Rooftopolis as did the others who once fought along Caledon's side.
And speaking of leaving, there is one shadowy figure in a hat who is hastily on his way to the coatrack. He passes by Caledon's big boss, and pauses at the threshold, watching as boss-man Brother Seamus approaches Dr. Mavrin and Cashara.
A single gong from each surrounding church-bell and clock-tower gives our heroes the needless reminder that it is well into the night. But a snowy hilltop is no place to sleep, so our heroes head to the one place that offers both party and slumber (besides the place with the fat lady and at least a dozen noisy kids)—
Vetalia is smothered by impossibly large pages. She is alive, conscious, but weakened to the point that one false move could break her...!
Dr. Mavrin feels the crushing bite of the book's binding. It's enlarged to the point that it appears to be two chasms sealing together like a reverse earthquake! To destroy something so immense with his claws, Mavrin would need to be powerful enough to sever the entire planet in two! Yet, he strikes...!
Cashara is deep inside the iris of the book's remaining eye! It is an endless well of blackness, and she, a formless white particle. She sees no hand and no gun, but she still feels the weapon in her hand. She squeezes the trigger. A deafening boom blasts her surroundings to smithereens, shreds of blackness burning away in blinding white-hot doom...!
Suddenly, the painful cold is gone. There is pain, but its intensity from a moment ago is dulled by a blessed warmth, the very same our heroes felt since they set foot on Baron von Heatmiser's land.
Cashara's final gunshot still echoes about the hillside. She finds herself sitting in a heap of rainbow snow, seven shooter still smoking in her hands. The Cryonomicon's front cover lies at her feet with a dozen holes where the eyes used to be.
Dr. Mavrin stands with the Cryonomicon's back cover impaled on his claw. Of the trio, he is the only one standing.
Vetalia is on her back, with torn pages strewn about, some on her body, some near. Dimmy pokes at her. "Are you okay, Miss Vetalia." The little doll can't do much for her, but Caledon can. He swoops down from the sky above and reaches a hand to the rogue, helping her up.
Her trembling hand pulls a healing wand from her purse. Caledon takes it and heals Vetalia once, and from there, the rogue sees herself and her fellow heroes restored to full health.
While Cashara is still seated in the snow, Derry hops onto her lap. "I saw myself, Pardner! I saw me, and then I saw the book get bigger and bigger! It had a mouth and tried to eat me up!" The little toy sounds very excited, but her inquisitive expression suggests she's actually quite confused by the experience. She seems to think Cashara has answers.
Dimmy turns to Dr. Mavrin. "I guess you guys ripping and shooting that creepy book saved my sister. Thank you!"
It turns out the Caledon saw our three heroes in the whirling snow. Cashara was unloading bullets into the Cryonomicon, while Mavrin and Vetalia were slashing, tearing and burning with knife and claw. Vetalia nearly passed out, but Caledon was powerless the help her—for neither the wizard's spells nor the wizard himself were able to enter the anti-magic field.
As for what caused our heroes' out-of-body experience, how it's possible that the tiny machines might have souls, or what would have become of souls taken into the Cryonomicon—our heroes may never find answers.
But hey, it's Crystalhue, and Rooftopolis' new generation of crime fighters just foiled an ice devil's invasion of the mortal realm. Time to celebrate! ...or get drunk on gluhwein if that's the best way to process having your soul sucked by an evil book. Either way, Snowberry Hills has plenty of parties to crash...!
CHOOSE YOUR DESTINATION:
Minions from the south rush our heroes with javelins in-hand—but they are far enough away that Caledon can easily stop them without his spells affecting his allies!
Burning Sand vs Centaurs: 7d4 + 7 ⇒ (4, 2, 3, 2, 2, 1, 2) + 7 = 23
The minions in the northwest fall easily to the burning sands! Two Centaurs almost escape before their hooves melt underneath them. All perish, and about five or six seconds later, their Ice Minotaur riders are reduced to puffs of steam.
@Caledon, two turns for you! The first spell can hit the minions in the south—all thirteen if radial—while they are ~150 ft from the party. If you want to attack minions both rounds, you can easily stop two rider-mount pairs coming from the northeast while they are ~100 ft away. If radial, this would also slow the rider-mount pairs galloping ~100 ft behind.
If you do not attack the satyrs in the south (as your *first* move), they will be within 30 ft of the party, and will be in position to either hurl javelins or charge into melee (if they can move).
♥️♥️♥️36HP / AC23 / CMD15
♥️♥️♥️♥️41HP / AC20 / CMD22
♥️♥️♥️39HP / AC18 / CMD18 (Grappled!)
♥️♥️♥️30HP / AC19 / CMD18
Snowball From Hell (Huge)
121 Damage / 12AC / 21CMD +trip immune
Ice Satyrs x13
0 Damage / ?AC / ?CMD / <150 ft
Ice Minotaurs x13 (7 dead!)
♠️18 Damage / ?AC / ?CMD / <300 ft
Ice Centaurs x6 (7 dead!)
♠️18 Damage / ?AC / ?CMD / <200 ft
Note the addition to the episode "map."
Without going into detail, I don't expect the "Finale" to take long. I do want to keep things moving though, in part so Turlin can know roughly when he's on. (Ideally, his episode can begin by April 1st.)
I intend to make my next GM post no later than Monday, then ask that everyone try to post within 48 hours. That's how I normally like to pace PbP combat (allowing 72 hours over a weekend), but I let the relaxed pace slide for a bit.
I often convert or combine enemies. What I tend to do is combine a couple monsters, taking a handful of attacks that I will use and ignoring attacks that I won't use. And how I use them is more about making the battle cinematic and progressive.
Example: that ROAR potentially renders players useless for 1d4 rounds. Four rounds of nothing is boring, so consider nerfing the die. (1d2—a 2 still sucks) Nerfed or not, I would only use the roar as my opening move while the party is barely in reach.
Then I would plan out my attack based on the success of the roar. If 1-2 players are stunned, my next attack is a charge. I'll clobber the player (unless others prevent the charge), but my lowered AC will increase the odds of not-stunned players getting some hits in.
I stun most/all players for multiple rounds, my next move is to growl. Any player who is not stunned gets a round, maybe two, to RP a sort of staring contest, battle of wills, or whatever. Don't back down, don't make sudden moves, don't look weak... there are stall attempts that may work. Or the 1-2 players who can just rush the creature knowing that stunned players will snap out of it and save their butts.
If you nerfed the die to 1d2—attack even if all are stunned! Consider a grapple + RAKE, so it's one devastating attack that takes two rounds but doesn't screw over the player. It's just really scary! Others snap out of stuns and save the tackled PC.
I would either never POUNCE, or only pounce to hit multiple targets as if my full attack is a sort of limited whirlwind.
When I'm about to die, MANIFEST + multiple attacks if players can survive it. The newly grown legs could be nerfed, meaning I can hit more targets but for less damage. Maybe the new "legs" are malformed and spraying acidic blood so that wizard hiding behind that shield-fighter gets a taste.
Typically, my tactics as GM are all about hurting every player and dropping one or none, so my converted enemies are meant to make the party a bloody mess, but ultimately alive and victorious.
As Cashara fires another shot, she feels a twitch from within the derringer's holster.
(You can't do anything until next round. I'll reveal a little more of what's going on in a later round, or a lot more, depending on your next action.)
As Vetalia prepares to act, she can't help but notice a twitch within her pouch.
(Specifically, you feel movement from where your items are stored. You can choose to ignore the movement, in which case I'll reveal more of what's going on in a later round.)
You manage to notice, through the snowdrift, distant shimmers. They look similar to the ice sculptures you saw at the dwarves' house, only these icy figures are jagged—and mobile. You are pretty sure you saw one move.
Make that very sure, and more than one.
A lot more.
What both Cashara and Dr. Marvin can't help but notice is three red-hot orbs rising before them.
Initiative: 1d20 ⇒ 12
Once our heroes have safely given the animals refuge, and are fully healed, they say goodbye to the Heatmiser, Anna and the couple, and head to the peak. Distant churchbells and clocktowers chime midnight during the long trudge up the snowy hillside. Our less agile heroes need to grasp tree limbs and other holds to climb the slipperiest slope. The wind wildly whips about Dr. Marvin's scarf and Cashara needs to hang onto her hat! Luckily, our heroes are immune to the deadly chill.
Finally, they reach the top! At first, they are blinded by a snowdrift. Then, while the world is nothing but white shadow, the ground shakes violently—
You have time for a full-round action that affects yourself, such as readying weapons, drinking potion, casting a buff.
The yak's milk tastes odd, but the warmth is soothing. It spreads throughout the body...
Fast Healing / 10HP per minute until full
The cookie is absolutely delicious, and not only that—the minty-green nose is refreshing. Dr. Marvin's beastly maw has breath as minty-fresh as a candy cane. When he steps, he feels light as the wind.
For the next hour, anyone within 20 ft of Dr. Marvin feels a refreshing breeze that smells like a candy cane. If talking from within 5 ft, his breath smells good, as if he just brushed his teeth with an entire bushel of mint leaves.
The yak's milk has a peculiar taste, but it feels soothing as it goes down. You will heal slowly (10HP per minute) until fully healed.
A red streak appears along Cashara's long hair. Her cheeks flush and her lips redden. She looks quite pretty and festive.
You see no threat on the property. The young woman is Joanne and her husband is Larry. She is glad to meet a real cowgirl, she says, though she's probably especially happy to be distracted from labor pains between contractions. While still in condition to speak, she highly recommends you try the yak's milk.
The property is clear, but you hear a distant tinkling sound as you step away from the crackling flames. The sound is coming from the direction of the peak. It sounds like shattered pieces of a teacup being gently sprinkled onto a marble floor. You see nothing but trees, snow and darkness in that direction. There is no movement.
It seems the entire property is under some kind of protective ward from divine magic.
Caledon indeed recognizes the name Heatmiser and the legend around it.
Baron von Heatmiser is rather tall for an old dwarf, so much so that he passes for human. He may add just a few inches from his Boots of the Cat, which he mostly wears to protect himself from great falls. The boots have saved him from more than one deadly fall in his ice climbing adventures.
He was once married to a priestess of Sarenrae. She was human, and petite enough that she and the tall dwarf looked like the perfect couple. But due to the shorter human lifespan, half the marriage was more like a close friendship, and in the final decade, the husband was mostly a caretaker. His love never died for his beloved Clara.
The Baron carries a torch for his wife to this day, and is quite generous with his fortune. To him, death is the path to reunion with his wife. He is not suicidal or broken by the loss, but simply faithful to his bride and her goddess.
It is believed that the blessings on the Baron's home are from Sarenrae's answers to Clara von Heatmiser's prayers. She is surely in her goddess' paradise watching over her husband.
The effect on the snow makes no sense at all. Every Winter Solstice, people celebrate Crystalhue by coloring snow. The beauty is intended to please the goddess Shelyn, though it's common for young apprentices to practice their Color Spray spells on the snow whether they worship Shelyn or not. Casting Glitterdust in addition to Color Spray is popular with teenage girls who study the arcane. Cheap wands with few charges are often created specifically for the holiday season.
The idea that Color Spray or Glitterdust could damage snow is unheard of.
Dr. Marvin notices that the colored snow is melting quickly, which is odd. The temperature has hit a new low, and the colored snow isn't unnaturally warm. (Of course, if it were warm, he probably wouldn't notice due to the Endure Element spell.)
As Dr. Marvin wants to avoid children, Caledon and Vetalia want to protect their animals, and Cashara wants to protect the city with her shooting skills, it seems our heroes have no reason to stay put. Looking ahead, some clear indigo sky peeks through the cloud cover. The eye of the storm? At any rate, a particularly bright star is aligned with the distinct roof of a distant barn. The faint vermilion glow of a fire is seen below the roof. From such distance, the flames are a glorified spark, but comparing its size to the snow-covered roof, it seems someone manages to light a campfire in this unnaturally frigid air.
(Feel free to move on to the Baron's or talk to Anna. The narrative is intentionally vague about whether the party has moved or not.)
Doc Blitzen takes an old leather book bag, drapes it over the Cryonomicon, and manages to get it inside without touching or opening the book. He leaves it on the floor. "Ain't sure what that accused thing's doing in m'study, but I say good riddance."
(Any of you can safely handle the book. The brimstone eyes might burn the leather a bit, but the long nose will prevent constant contact. The bag won't catch fire, nor will a hole be burned through. Unless otherwise stated, I assume the plan is to toss the book into the "snow-cano.")
Doc Blitzen follows along as Caledon speaks. "Makes sense to me," he says. "I guess y'all'll be on yer way then?"
As he says that, the Cowbot enters the room. CB tells Cashara, "From what I heard, ma'am, seems fireworks will have to wait fer another time. But ya still get yer prize, as promised." The Cowbot hands Cashara his derringer. "There's only one shot in it. First pull o' the trigger is a warning. Second pull fires. Got it?"
@WW, in OoC terms:
Caledon DC10 Knowledge:
Victoria Peak was formed from a volcano eons ago, as was the island North of Arcadia. (I'll let Turlin name the island.) If either peak were still active, it would be the island.
In any case, a volcano spewing snow is not a natural occurrence. Either Jack is speaking of powerful magic with an overly simplistic name or the "poem" is the ranting of a madman.
Love Cashara's reaction!
The body rises from the shelf, oblivious as it bumps the stub of its neck on the bottom of the top shelf. The top shelf rises as the headless elf sits upright. Books dump onto the floor.
The body then slides his butt off the shelf, and drops onto the floor feet first. He lands off-balance, but maintains his footing. He flails about for the head. Jack's head tres to direct the flailing hands, "Closer. No. Further. Better. Moron..." until finally the headless elf lifts his own head by his long, dark hair. "Ow. Moron," the head mutters.
Jack then faces Cashara (along with Doc Blitzen who is hiding behind her as she backs away slowly.
The elf continues his trance-like ah-oohms as Cashara presses on the book. Having neither caused an explosion nor created discomfort for the elf, she immediately overturns the book—
Its cover triggers a memory, so Cashara knows what the blue-gray material is: the Cryonomicon is bound in frostbitten flesh, and the face of the book literally has a face! Its three eyes are glowing-red lumps of ever-burning brimstone! Its long, crooked nose is the preserved finger of a troll, about the size of a carrot. Its menacing smile is the fangs of various woodland beasts, such as wolves and bears.
Rumors state that the book is like the Necromicon, but extremely strong in both cold and negative energy. It's an evil book full of rituals that promise power, but ultimately cause death and destruction, along with slippery roads and subzero temperatures. One who performs a single ritual is typically a fool who believes he has found a loophole to indefinitely postpone his damnation. But it is said that no evil being is more patient than the Ice Devil, whose name is never spoken, which is why nobody knows what the hell to call him.
While there are no traps, both Caledon and Cashara—along with every observer in the study—have a negative (albeit physically-harmless) experience:
Caledon finds the amount of Negative and Cold energy from the book overwhelming. The chill in his spine is not a feeling a wizard would expect from a mere cantrip. Yet he feels it would be unsafe to continue focusing his Detect Magic on the Cryonomicon.
As for Cashara, nothing happens to her. But as she is about to lay the book onto the elf's bare chest, she notices that there is a gaping hole where the troll-finger-nose was when the cover was overturned. It seems the elf purposely impaled himself with the book cover. Curiously, there is no blood leaking from the hole. From what Cashara can see, the organs are all frozen in place. Also odd: there are no burns on the chest from the book's glowing eyes. (Fortunately, when Cashara picked up the book, she did not accidentally touch the hot-as-hell brimstone, as it would burn like hell and hurt like three D-sixes.)
All of this realization kicks in the exact moment Cashara sees the book cover. Dr. Marvin (along with keen-eyed Vetalia, if she either remained in the room or peered around the door out of morbid curiosity) is the first to notice the effect of removing the book—which Cashara learns as well when she hears the thud:
The moment the troll-finger is removed from Jack Frystyoghurt's belly, his head rolls off. Both ends of the severed neck are frozen solid. Nothing leaks out. As for the head, it ah-ooms one last time until it lands upside down on the floor. Then it remains upside down, eyes continuing to glow blue.
Cashara priest at the fingers. They are cold to the touch, and it seems they would sooner snap off than move, but the arms are mobile enough for the gunslinger to move the hands an inch or two further apart. The hands close into tight fists, clutching only robe. The robe opens, revealing rhat the elf is wearing a very ugly red and green sweater—
—and on the ugly sweater is an even uglier object: the back cover of a crudely bound bluish-grayish book.
The book balances on the elf's torso as if affixed. It could very well be the Cryonomicon... (Cashara can't quite remember the cover's description, other than once you saw it you'd never forget it. Apparently, the chain-smoking donut-dipper's description was pretty forgettable. Maybe a look at the front cover would jog Cashara's memory.)
(No retries on Knowledge Checks as noted in the discussion thread, but let's not waste a good roll. I'll apply the 24 to the rectangular object...)
While Cashara doesn't know who the elf is, she does recall a legend about a book—the Cryonomicon—and given the elf's cold skin, the weather change, the shape of the object... she can't help but suspect the elf is clutching a book.
Of course, there's only one way to be sure.
(She's never seen the book, but one donut-munching colleague, who often had his feet on his desk instead of the streets, referred to it as "the Necronomicon on Ice." Cashara avoided talking to this colleague because his unwanted advances stunk of cigarettes.)
Cashara leans closer. But the object is clutched by the elf's pale fingers with a white-knuckle grip.
To see the object, she'll need to pry it from Jack's cold (but not dead) fingers. (Removing the robe would expose the object, but because the fingers are clutching the fabric of the robe over the object, there's no way to remove the robe without prying the fingers.)
Doc Blitzen replies, "If he's who I think he is, th'name's Jack Fryst-something. Why he's on m'bookshelf's a stumper. I didn't even know he came in 'till the toys took me in. They referred to both of us as intruders! Y'believe that? This's m'friggin' house!"
Jack Fryst-something continues to moan, awoom-awoom. While Cashara's having trouble putting a name to the face, she does notice a rectangular lump underneath his robe. Even in his trace-like state, his hands are putting weight on the object to prevent it from slipping out of the robe and onto the floor.
(The rectangular object under the robe is about 12" x 8", give or take an inch, and anywhere from 2"-4" thick.)
Doc Blitzen says, "Well, least he ain't dead. He's so cold to th'touch, I took him fer dead." Turning to Dr. Marvin, the dwarf says, "Sche... matics? That's th'last thing I expected ya t'say. But sure, saving our butts, y'can see our schematics. Come by on th'morrow. We've repairs t'make; blueprints'll be strewn about while we work."
(@Turlin, during your GM turn, Marvin can look at, but not keep, the schematics. Up to yiubif you base your Lv.6 or Lv.7 feat off something you learned from the dwarves.)
For now, the dwarf would very much like the strange elf out of his house. "I don't recall any of m'brothers invitin' 'im. I didn't."
Doc Blitzen replies, "I certainly don't want the house blown t'bits, but Monica Missiletoe's got th'means t'do jus' that. In fact, it'd erase evidence of the elf on th'shelf—which I swear ain't m'doinh, nor'd m'brothers put him in that state."
The dwarf leads our heroes to a room on the upper floor. It looks like a study or library. But for some reason, several books have been dumped onto the floor. A tall, thin elf lays on the otherwise empty shelf, eyes aglow.
(Time-skipping the walk to the manor. There won't be combat, so it's up to you if you took a minute to free the other six dwarves before heading over.)
With the malfunctioning toys no longer hostile, our heroes are able to free the dwarves unopposed. The cowbot introduces himself as "CB." At the manor are three other cowbots, a male named "Ruffles," two females—"Monica" and "Daisy"—and Daisy is holding a two-foot-tall bear named "Hugsy." "I - LOVE - YOU," says the title bear in a mechanical monotone. If spoken to, this is the bear's only response. It's the only phrase the bear seems to know.
In the manor, Doc Blitzen is unharmed. He thanks our heroes and seems to have something urgent to say. However, he is well aware that the toys need to finish the award ceremony, so he tells them, "Why donchy'all set up a fireworks display for a proper ceremony?"
The toys seem to think Blitzen's idea is the best idea ever! They all head out to set up a grand display, and CB promises Cashara a reward after the fireworks show is over. The toys believe they can set up their show in ten minutes.
When they leave, Doc tells our heroes, "I jus' needed them toys outta here. Last thing we need is for them to finish a game and think up a new one—like a game that involves blowing up the house.
"If you guys are the night patrol, I'm afraid I've got something disturbing to show you—the elf on the shelf."
(I'll give the party a chance to respond before moving forward.)
The dwarves are not under a mind-affecting spell.
One dwarf replies, "Yup. They're holiday wands prepared for a neighbor. The glitterdust wands' words're Shimmer and Shine, and for color spray it's Taste the Rainbow."
As he speaks, he holds up a sparkly sliver and gold wand with a star at the end when he mentions the glitterdust command phrase. The other wand design—a rainbow-striped wand with a circular rainbow-swirled head—is a color spray wand.
Another dwarf mentions, The glitterdust wands have one charge. Color sprays have three." As for the amount of wands, there are five of each.
The dwarf nearest the door calls out to Cashara, "They really are toys, lass! If ye know the game they're playing, ye know they stop being violent when someone wins."
Another says to the doctor, "That's why the Velvet Ape left you alon when he walked in."
The fifth dwarf, who is crammed under the stairs, says, "I dunno what game the toys'll play at the manor. I told y'all thematic guards was a bad idea!"
More than one dwarf replies, "Shut the fudge up, Donner." (Only one of them didn't say 'fudge.')
Cashara sidesteps the falling object with ease and maintains her footing as if she doesn't even feel the tremor.
She notices the sphere is almost 4 feet in diameter—large enough to contain a person, though the space would be rather cramped. Steam escapes a round panel. It may be wise on the gunslinger's part to keep her weapon drawn.
With no apparent threat in sight, our heroes are free to check on the dwarves in the house!
COMBAT OVER for now.
Yes. Hunter can see a few dents in the RUD hulls. The Velvet Ape's metal hat also has a dent from a falling rock bonking it.
The clockwork doesn't react to pain as a person (or animal) would, so while there is visible damage, the Ape moves as it would have if it was unharmed... although it does seem to have difficulty navigating the sharp rocks embedded in the snowy ground.
The dwarves are certainly disturbed by the transformation, but the doctor's words keep the prisoners calm. That, or they don't want to agitate the beast by rattling their chains.
In any case, Dancer or Prancer or whatever his name was holds up the wand in his hand, poking it through the web of chains. He says, "I take it you can't make use of these either then?"
All five dwarves have a wand in hand. You need the be a caster or have Use Magic Device to operate the wands. If you'd rather not waste a round inquiring what spells they cast, you can just burst out the door and attack the ape (move to open door, 5ft step to ape, standard atk) while shouting to Cal & Co. about the wands in the captives' hands.
Two of the machines stopped running! One is more damaged than not!
As for the dwarves in the IDIoT house, when told to close the door, the dwarf nearest replies "But, but, I can help!"
Another says, "You heard him, Prancer! Close the damn door!" The panicky dwarf reaches a stout arm through his web of chains, and with the glowing stick in his hand, he taps the door shut.
Inside the fort, bearded dwarfs cheer on Dr. Marvin.
"Show that ape what for!" says one.
Another says, "I'll help ya!"
Which may be all our heroes need to post butt-kicking actions in ROUND 3!
It seems the boy, girl and bear dolls are not yet attacking. Just the mighty ape and five very large, spidery machines scanning the field with their red cycloptic glares. They seem to be aware of all intruders, except for the swift rogue who seems to have vanished into a mist!
Post actions for Round 2!