The advantage of gestalt is that you can answer "all of it" to both.
Just a Mort wrote:
Broccoli with cheese?! Why'd you want to spoil a broccoli like that? Nah I'd eat it with or without cheese. Really.
Broccoli covered in either cheese sauce or melted shredded cheese is probably the most common way it's served here in the US, especially to children. It's probably at least partially responsible for it being one of the ways I can stand the stuff, though I admittedly prefer other sauces a bit more now.
This is my opinion on the subject in a nutshell.
Windows may have its huge stack of problems, but at least it lets a software-blind commoner like me use it without complication right out of the box.
Just a Mort wrote:
AKA "eat lots of food I don't like" or "eat lots of food that is expensive".
Broccoli is tolerable but all the toppings and additives required to make it so kind of kill the ability to use it for dieting purposes. Chicken is the same, on its own its bland and unappetizing and adding enough flavor to make it enjoyable ruins the low-calorie aspect of it. Fish is just plain expensive on top of having the same problem. And cauliflower and chickpeas I just hate.
Which is the majority of the problem with dieting, really. All the foods that are good for you are either not tasty to eat, expensive to acquire, or both. While foods that are bad for you are flavorful, cheap, or both.
On a way back home from elections, I started to wonder what would happen if a giant scorpion got a skull at the end of its tail... Scorpiterr...
Minor grammatical flub/forgotten word:
Obviously, such circumstances are rather unlikely to happen on their, not without a meddling from an evil god or corrupted cult.
Presume it's supposed to be "their own, not".
Otherwise cool critter *thumbs up!*
Just a Mort wrote:
This is the hardest part of losing weight for me. I just like eating too much.
If you have the final book of the Kingmaker AP, Sound of a Thousand Screams, you could borrow the idea of Blooms from there, have those popping up with their miniature echoes of the Fey realm and the associated creatures within, as each Fey faction attempts to bloom up enough real estate to establish a foothold in the Material and maybe seize territory, or some such?
Freehold DM wrote:
But wait, there's more!:
In addition to what all has already been mentioned, the world is a shrinking place and what has been happening "for decades" decades ago was easy to not know about, overlook, or ignore as "that's on the other side of the world, it doesn't affect me".
That is no longer the case, on both fronts. It does affect us now, primarily as Freehold said thru our manufacturing and supply resources, and it is far from out of sight out of mind thanks to the global pervasiveness of the internet.
So now it becomes a question of whether you can willingly not choose to take at least some action without a weight on your conscience, as simply not knowing about it is increasingly not an option.
This comes at a particularly annoying time for me, as I was JUST discussing with Ebon a few days ago about how if WOW Classic does well Bliz announced they might make BC Classic and Wrath Classic servers and how tempting that would be for us in a way Vanilla Classic wasn't. Then this nonsense happened.
Freehold DM wrote:
Cormyr / Dalelands Chronicles: Rise of the Runelords - A Neverwinter Nights Persistent World Campaign Journal
Quest Nine: A Premonition
Returning from their various excursions into the other wings, the group noticed that the Runeforge at the center of the demiplane had become active in their absence, and the more magically-inclined members of the party even noted that it appeared to be currently in-use. While they debated amongst themselves as to who could be doing so (as no one was visibly present) and for what purpose, lances of light and energy began bursting out of the forge, destroying six of the seven statues of the Runelords. Such a beam struck the seventh and final, that of the Runelord of Greed, but rather than destroy it the forge's energy brought the statue to life, as it took a few steps toward the group and examined them for a few moments. It then swept its hand over them and the Runeforge, swamping the area in a deep green glow.
The group found themselves transported into a forest composed of treasure - earth of precious metals, trees made of gems, animals made of coin and rare stone. They quickly determined it was a demiplane of some sort, and also discovered that thinking or acting on greedy impulses caused Sinspawn - specifically Greed-based - to appear or emerge and attack the party. They further encountered more greedy creatures: Nalfeshnee tanar'ri forged of greedy souls, undead Darnocs whose greed left them little more than a shadow of themselves as they withered away under their own avarice, Dandasuka Rakshasa whose hunger for wealth and profit spanned across lifetimes and reincarnations, undead wizened into childlike Cannibal Children by their undying desire to lurk in wait to seize the wealth and prosperity of others, and tiny Hoard Scarabs hidden among the many treasures that dotted the landscape of the demiplane and the great tower of jade atop a plateau of emerald they found at the end of the forest of gems and coin.
Inside the tower, the group was greeted by Loross writing in etched gem on the floor that rearranged to spell out a greeting from Karzoug himself, welcoming the group to the demiplane he called his "Eye of Avarice" and informing them they were to be the latest additions to his collection, and urging them to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and fellow-captives. Predictably the group refused, and continued up the tower, fighting and slaying anything hostile they encountered. A few more incidents, particularly regarding Dais, Beryl, and Morghan, discovered that the thoughts or actions didn't necessarily have to be motivated by greed to attract Greedspawn, but could also involve a threat to Karzoug's greed, such as stealing an item more out of spite than greedy want or threatening to wrathfully or envyingly destroy his possessions.
Reaching the upper tiers of the tower, they found several libraries packed with texts, mostly discourses on the uses of transmutation and construction written by Karzoug or his citizens of Shalast. Mista nearly lost her temper into a "holy smiter rage" on discovering a book that went into great detail on the merits of replacing the peasant class of civilization with constructs, possibly including the use of those very peasants in the creation of, construction of, and/or materials for said constructs.
Upon passing through a fourth such library and through some manner of magical engine, the group found themselves within an extensive vault; at the center of this, they found Karzoug himself awaiting them, though it was quickly discerned that while he was too on the demiplane, he was not physically present in their exact location. He greeted the party - in Common no less, though heavily accented - and expressed his surprise, admiration, and respect that they'd persevered so far through tenacity and optimism, but promised their deaths at this location before they could bring their weapons to bear on his Shalast. Mista requested access to his magical studies on transmutation, and Karzoug even laughed and said if she survived what was to come by some miraculous fortune and made the journey to Shalast, she might well have a chance to find what she wished. The rest of the group made threats, snarky commentary, or in one case (Dana) an incredibly bad pun that Karzoug didn't seem to understand.
The Runelord then vanished, leaving the group with the statue of himself from the Runeforge's heart, now empowered into a Mythic Stone Golem that attacked the party relentlessly, and even mended its own wounds when nearing too damaged to continue functioning. After a long, grueling battle however, the group was able to put the false Karzoug down and reduce it to rubble. A gemstone at its heart opened upon its destruction and unfolded into a portal back to Runeforge, whose gates had been opened not just to the many wings within - giving the group now-unrestricted access to all the resources contained therein - but also back into the outside world, opening Runeforge to Toril fully for the first time in eons.
The group now takes the opportunity to study the Runeforge in detail without risk of danger or threat, and to make use of the great forge itself to craft items suitable for preparing themselves to challenge Karzoug the Claimer on his own turf - Shalast, the lost Netherese vault of treasure and greed, the fabled City of Gold....
Cormyr / Dalelands Chronicles: Rise of the Runelords - A Neverwinter Nights Persistent World Campaign Journal
Quest Eight: Delightful Spectre
Returning from the ruins of the Halls of Envy and Sloth, the quartet - accompanied by a Copper Dragon summoned by Kimbell - made their way into the potpourri-scented Ravenous Crypts of Gluttony, passing through a sepulchral foyer with the graves of the laborers that built it interred along the walls and battling a batch of wraiths that emerged from the portal leading deeper into the wing.
After slaying the ghosts and confirming the coffins contained nothing but corpses, the group passed through the portal and into a small room lined with iron doors and ringed by six elaborate statues marked with silver plaques etched with Netherese text. These declared the six to be Matriarchs and Patriarchs of several houses as well as their specialties in the kingdom of Gluttony: House Inib the Winemakers, House Chivvik the Bakers, House Gorryan the Cheesemakers, House Hawfrey the Butchers, House Aanstrin the Confectioners, and House Xerriock the Cannibals. Rather than electing to explore any of the adjacent doors, the group pressed on through the chamber and into the adjoining room, a gruesome abattoir filled with organized, orderly-placed, and expertly-dismembered corpses in gold robes. Beryl determined that the pieces removed from each corpse were not uniform, and Kimbell took the time to express her distaste for the slipshod work of the local necromancer. The group was attacked by a group of mummies from within the nearby sarcophagi as they investigated, but dispatched them without difficulty.
Moving through the abattoir led to another iron door, this one the group deciding to enter. The metal-clad hall within appeared to lead to some sort of alchemical laboratory, guarded by more mummies and staffed by a ravenous zombie that declared the party to be "more bodies for Master Kazaven!". Kimbell was unable to get answers out of the zombie before it was destroyed, but dominated one of the mummies and interrogated it for the information she sought - Kazaven was the name of the master of the wing, a lich and powerful mage who could be found working in his own laboratory not much further in.
The group entered Kazaven's chamber with care and caution, but were unable to evade the lich's notice; however, Kazaven did not seem to be spoiling for a fight, and seemed to be more curious than hostile, quizzing the party about the events of the outside world and making offhanded comments about the wakening Runelord of Greed. Kimbell approached and proposed a deal to Kazaven, that they would leave him be and even exchange information with him, his knowledge and expertise and access to his libraries in exchange for the knowledge and modern information he sought from outside. The red wizard talked long enough that the lich started to let his guard down, then promptly dominated him as well. Kazaven attempted to resist but failed several times as Kimbell instructed him to first tell them the location of his phylactery then to lead them to it.
Kazaven led them into a small chamber at the rear of the room and dismissed a trap that would have caused a large crowd of inert skeletons to fire rays of negative energy at anyone who entered the room. He informed them that of the three sarcophagi in this chamber, the central one was actually his phylactery in whole, and in his words was "nearly indestructible". More prompting from Kimbell - and more failed saves from Kazaven - got him to admit the two occasions he hadn't been able to fully defend against would be the introduction of a sphere of annihilation into the chamber or a foolhardy mage being willing to risk their own arcane capabilities to use a disjuction to destroy it.
With this information in mind, Kimbell asked the others to leave and Kazaven to remain by the phylactery, where he busied himself with seeing to some minor maintenance on his skeleton-ray trap. Kimbell hasted herself, stopped time, disjunctioned the phylactery, and fled as quickly as she could; this cascade of events destroyed the phylactery, causing Kazaven to break out of his domination just long enough to shout after her before he and the entire chamber were destroyed in an explosion of violent energy, followed by an implosion equally as devastating as Runeforge simply deleted the catastrophically-damaged chamber.
The group took a bit of time to recuperate from the chaotic climax, and Kimbell confirmed she hadn't lost her magical abilities in the exchange before thanking the others for letting her run her scheme against the lich rather than face him head-on in a typical battle of spell and sword. She then asked them to aid her in gathering up the remaining books and supplies in the wing while also noting that many of the undead had gone inert or been destroyed at Kazaven's death and that the desecrate effect that filled the wing had evaporated with the destruction of the phylactery, the lich, the chamber, or all of the above.
Cormyr / Dalelands Chronicles: Rise of the Runelords - A Neverwinter Nights Persistent World Campaign Journal
Quest Seven: Morning Sunlight
After exploring the Halls of Greed, the group returned to the center of Runeforge and discovered the next open passageway - a hall of mirrors and opulent decor with tiled floors and elaborate peacock-themed chandeliers lit with continual flames, clearly the entrance to the wing they would come to know as the Shimmering Veils of Pride. Shortly into the hall most of the group noticed some of their infinitely-looping reflections in the mirrors were moving of their own volition, and moments later the group found themselves under a series of attacks from reflective-skinned outsiders from the Plane of Mirrors known as Nerra. They were able to defeat these opponents and make their way toward the official entrance of the wing without too many losses along the way, and though the glass-shard weapons and spells of the Nerra did take some toll, it was nothing Dana couldn't heal.
The portal at the wing's entrance brought them into an opulent-looking area that resembled a mansion more than a study wing, lit with more continual flames and decorated with all manner of art - painting, statuary, carvings, and many, many more free-standing mirrors. It didn't take more than a couple more attacks from the Nerra for Cassandra and Dana to suggest covering the mirrors up so the Nerra couldn't see them and emerge; while this wasn't the cause of their arrival - the Nerra can freely cross from their world to the Prime from any reflective-enough surface - covering the mirrors did do the job of keeping them from emerging, much to the reflective assassins' frustration on a couple occasions. The group also found themselves under attack from the statuary, archers and wyvern-sized peacocks that became hostile when the group got too near.
Emerging into the central, lavishly-decorated room of the wing, the party was attacked by four perfectly-identical men speaking in perfect unison, declaring that the master of the wing was busy in his studies and not to be disturbed, and asking the party to "keep your screaming to a minimum while you are punished for daring to venture this close to his magnificence". Upon slaying the four - by no means an easy task, and most of the party fell at least once before the joint assault - all four dissolved into piles of snow, revealing their identity as simulacra.
The source of the copies was found further in - a long-decayed, stinking, skeletal corpse clutching a journal that identified its writer as "Vraxeris the Illusionist, Master of the Shimmering Veil, High Apprentice to Xanderghul, Satrap of Cyrusian, True Heir of First Lord Xin, Runelord of Pride." Vraxeris had been at Runeforge at Xanderghul's behest for millennia, and had moved from project to project in that time, including his work with simulacrum and later a penchant for seeking immortality via the use of an improved clone spell. This latter was his obsession, as his life was frequently cut short by a medical malady that sunk him into the depths of dementia eventually, forcing him to let himself die and be reborn via his clone to survive and continue his work. However, after the Runeforge came to life and he became aware of Karzoug's impending return, he turned his attentions to seeking a way out of Runeforge to oppose the Runelord of Greed's revival and even possibly wake his own master; this delay, however, seemed to have been his downfall, as he was unable to complete the next version of his clone properly before dementia seized him again, for the last time.
The group determined via true sight that the mirror in Vraxeris's room was only an illusion itself, and the frame truly held an inactive portal; after ensuring it was safe, Jezra led the group through into a large chamber lit with a wine-colored light and ringed by mirrors on the upper halves of the walls. In the center of the room, aside a huge Rune of Pride, was a large machine surrounded by violet light. When the group got too close, Vraxeris's voice announced they "tread upon the hallowed ground of the Shimmering Veil" and "I will not have my greatest work trampled upon by mere commonfolk! Perish in the light, fools!"; this caused the mirrors to focus light and summon or create a Sunwyrm to attack the group.
Upon slaying the beast, Jezra then opened the chamber, which they had determined to be Vraxeris's cloning mechanism; a half-formed, mad clone remained incomplete inside, and attacked the party wildly when they disturbed it, but was quickly put down without too much trouble. After letting Mista study the machine for quite a while, they finally decided to let Dana destroy it. Jezra, poking around a bit while they worked, found a side corridor stuffed with identical skeletal corpses, and surmised these must be where Vraxeris had dumped all his previous bodies, leaving them to simply decay and pile up uncared for. Mista announced her intent to claim Vraxeris's journal and possibly seek to complete his work, out of sheer curiosity and love of all things Netherese if nothing else, and the group began making their way back toward the central hub of Runeforge.
Quest Six: Confusing Melody
Finished with their exploration of the Catacombs of Wrath, the party returned to the central hub of the Runeforge to discover a new wing available to them. Which was soon determined after they were attacked by stone giants marked with Lust - enchantment. It was immediately determined that they should cast mind blank before proceeding through the silk-lined passageway.
Within, they discovered an opulent cathedral to the Runelord of Lust... and four half-succubus women eager to see their new playmates with particular emphasis on "the male", much to Cyanduril's consternation. After the party failed to accept their pointed invitation, Cylanduril unleashed an ice storm, and the women attacked. Three dimension doored to safety before they could be felled, but the fourth found herself surrounded and overcome, and crumbled to dust upon death.
They proceeded onward, coming to a dungeon of forcecages, one of which contained a living man, quite mad from centuries of torture. After some significant examination and attempting to question him by Rose, Rossel, and Cylanduril, Aidraug healed his mind, which sadly had the opposite effect once his mind cleared and his sanity returned to truly comprehend the past thousand years of succubic torture, prompting the screaming man to run headfirst into the oncoming guards' assault rather than face the memories of what had been done to him any longer without the comforting concealment of madness.
Continuing onward, they discovered the mistress' chamber where the succubus Delvahine waited with the three of her daughters that had survived. Ordering them to attack "but leave the male alive," there was little use for words. The fiends fell, Delvahine leaving a corpse while the three alu-fiends joined their sister as so much dust, and the party soon returned to the central room.
Quest Five: Remains of Factory
Group Three: Beryl, Siris, Kimbell, Nina, Dais, Morghan
Passing through the archway, the party was soon increased by one as Theavos sent Morghan to bolster their numbers. They inspected the statues of the Runelords and the Runeforge, determining that they would not be able to do anything to the artifact at this junction - whether to use or destroy it. They ventured on through the halls, braving traps until coming across an immense glyph in blue lights, which Kimbell identified as the Rune of Sloth, the school of Sin Magic tied to Conjuration. Determining that the passage forward required such, the group allowed Beryl to cast a healing spell, and the wall gave way.
The labyrinth they discovered - later identified as the Festering Pools of Sloth - was a sodden, putrid system of tunnels overrun with oozes and so saturated with conjurative magic that it was prone to spewing offensive magical clouds from its many geysers and spontaneously summoning groups of hostile, powerful mephits. These they determined to be warped invisible servants or the like, damaged from centuries of disuse and decay. They made their way through the muck and damp to emerge back into their chamber of origin, essentially going in one huge disgusting circle, then set off to explore the other fork.
Immediately, a magic mouth declared them unworthy of entering the Abjurant Halls of Eager Striving, which Kimbell identified as the wing associated with the sin of Envy. A malfunctioning and recurring disjunction effect, caused by a broken rod of cancellation, made travel difficult, as did the rubble from what appeared to be a relatively recent conflict. However, peering through the wreckage allowed a glimpse of a room. Dais and Siris sifted through the rocks, allowing entry. Once inside, they discovered a pool of ethillion, which the mages determined would drain the enchantment from an item to create a potion for increased magical ability. Beryl and Morghan gathered a bottle each, and as they renewed their wards, they heard a thundering crash echo through the halls.
Rushing to investigate, they came face to face with Arkrhyst, the white wyrm the group had discovered earlier; the dragon declared Runeforge its "new lair" and ordered the "tiny morsels" to reveal what they'd discovered thus far. Unintimidated, the party went on the offensive rather than surrender their findings to the dragon. After a difficult battle, the dragon was felled, and a rumbling signaled that another wing had opened....
Quest Four: The Chase
Group Two: Rosalor, Aidraug, Nola, Rossel, Rose, Cylanduril
Entering the newly-activated archway, the party examined the entry chamber, specifically the seven statues and the bubbling prism of the runeforge. They examined the statues after Rossel's investigation warned them away from the pool, then set forth into the halls... promptly discovering a number of traps the old-fashioned way before being attacked by guardian golems in a room with a statue of the Lady of Wrath riding a red wyrm.
Their path soon led them to a pair of teleportation circles, each one-way. They determined which would carry them further and set off, soon encountering more traps as well as spellcasting warriors in spiked red and black armor and twisted creatures called Sinspawn, including a lab detailing incomplete studies into how to reverse the transformation thereof, as their numbers had recently been depleted to the point inbreeding would become an issue.
The passage, blocked by an illusory wall of smoke hiding a few more traps, ended in a largely deserted room with a single denizen - Highlady Athroxis, servant of Alaznist - who greeted them politely, speaking of the return of her "lords" - the Runelords of lost Netheril. She offered them a place in the service of the Runelord of Wrath. The party declined, and Athroxis promised them they "would burn" when Alaznist razed all that would oppose her and scoured the earth clean of her enemies, then called forth a balor to aid in her assault. The party put down their assailants. Nola, landing the killing blow, soon found her forehead itching, where she now bore the mark of Wrath.
Quest Three: The Keeper's Dome
Group One: Dana, Jelena, Mista, Cassandra, Jezra
The group manifested within the heart of the Runeforge, with Dana taking the time to explain the situation to the unfamiliar newcomers while waiting for Jezra to arrive. Mista seemed somewhat familiar with the Runelords - all seven depicted in elaborate statues near the entrance - from her time in Netheril in the ancient past, but knew little past general titles and rumors, and seemed to consider them all with disdain. They then examined the large multicolored pool in the center of the hub room, determining it to be the actual forge of Runeforge, a swirling and bubbling cauldron of raw arcane energy made to be shaped and imbued into magic items by even an untrained novice, if only the proper materials were available. Seeing most of the passageways forward sealed save that into the Vault of Greed, the party elected to take the available path for now.
Almost immediately after entering the wing, an iron door slammed shut behind them, then began to move forward, extruding a head and arms to attack the group with while moving inexorably forward to try to crush them. The group was able, with a great amount of effort and expended magic, to beat the wall back and destroy it before it could do the same to them. Moving forward presented them with a new obstacle, however - several halls and a large room filled with a silver-grey mist that would attack anyone without a Greedy soul with repeated baleful polymorph effects. Dana was the only one of the group so unaffected, so the others - through sheer fortitude and spell mantle wards - hurried through and managed to get past without anyone being transformed.
Moving forward, the group found a large room filled with a pool fed from a small portal to the Elemental Plane of Water. Upon crossing the room toward the opposite exit, a trio of Water Mephits emerged and harassed the party, but were quickly dealt with and Jezra closed the portal with a dimensional anchor spell temporarily, cutting the flow for the time being. Past this, they found a hall filled with stone statues of warriors, which immediately animated upon Jelena entering the hall to scout and moved to attack the party, but were likewise swiftly put down.
The room beyond was yet another extravagant fountain, this one filled with colorful eels. Dana noted a set of cubicles along one side that would allow apprentices to freely practice fabricate spells, but noted anything that left the area would revert to its original materials and form; this was purely for practice purposes. After a little examination - and noting that the unnamed statue didn't resemble anyone among the statues of the Runelords at the entrance, but was similar in clothing style and appearance to Karzoug and thus may have been a student or apprentice or even a prospective successor - they continued on.
The next path brought them to a fork - one leading to a closed door that showed the only inward traffic among the latent tracks, the other to an open room with ten golden statues and several signs of a large number of departing figures. After a fair amount of whispered debate, the group decided to investigate the closed room first, and found a ramshackle arcane and alchemical laboratory, with several more stone statues flanking the entrance, many extremely messy desks alight with various magical studies and experiments in progress, and a dead dog partially transmuted into iron, with several other animals in cages nearby. All this was loomed over by a tall, bald man in draping green robes, with skin apparently made of or covered in a bluish mithral alloy.
The man conversed in Netherese with Mista and Dana for some time, revealing himself a student of Karzoug's preparing for the Runelord's awakening. They learned a little from him - that the "Iron Cages" (the realm of the servants of the Runelord of Lust) had been overthrown by their succubi slaves, and that the "Abjurant Halls" (presumably manned by the followers of the Runelord of Envy) had been destroyed. However, when the group made a few flippant comments about Mokmurian, the man grew suspicious, and quickly discerned from the treasures Dana and Jezra wore that they'd slain the giant and were not the allies of Karzoug he'd thought them to be. He called the petrified corpses to life and commanded them to attack, then went on the offensive with spells of his own.
The battle was hard-fought and several were felled or knocked unconscious in the fray, but the party did eventually down the Mithral Mage and his constructs. Examining the room they found several notes on the Runeforge (including that the Lords of Greed were working on making their own, so they wouldn't need to share with the rest of the wings of Runeforge) and a large amount of materials and supplies, plus extensive arcane texts and volumes on Transmutation, some of which were collected by Mista and Jezra. Dana was also able to discern that the constructs were indeed made by petrifying then reanimating corpses, noting signs of rigor mortis and similar postmortem effects on the "carved" musculature.
Moving into the "trophy room", however, she discerned these ten statues were not made the same way; rather, the still-living victims were paralyzed then lowered into molten gold, after which they were posed as the gold cooled and hardened. Chipping one open she found it hollow save flakes of desiccated skin and bone dust. The party shared a moment of gruesome disgust before moving on through the final door, marked with a declaration of Karzoug's power and authority and an adage to "remember your place, mortals" before the Runelord. Beyond this final barricade was the private Runeforge the Lords of Greed had attempted to make, but all the casters in the group noted it was a poor imitation at best, a flawed and failed copy constructed by subpar makers compared to the true Runeforge back in the hub. They also noticed that it had an affinity for greedy souls, already being occupied by several ripped from their dead or dying bodies, and its allure even almost pulled Dana in before the dragon-priestess was able to resist its siren call.
The group puzzled over the false forge for a while, but eventually determined that dispels and disjunctions would only suppress its magic for a few hours; destroying it would require using up all its available energy. This answer didn't particularly please Jelena or Cassandra, but the casters explained there was really no other way other than collapsing the chamber, an idea that wouldn't work well as Runeforge was located within a demiplane rather than open space on the Prime.
Interrupted by a loud grinding noise, the party noted that likely another wing of the complex had opened up, and began to backtrack to investigate (and to get Dana away from the allure of the false forge). And thus the infiltration and investigation continues....
Quest Two: The Sealed Door
After Jezra and Dana spent some time analyzing the clues provided by the Scribbler's etchings and writings, the parties convened in Thundarlun to discuss their next move. The clues, combined with some cross-referencing of Mokmurian's maps and texts with their modern counterparts, pointed toward a mountain known as Rimeskull, high in the Thunder Peaks. The group gathered supplies and disembarked, fighting their way through the resident kobolds and other hostile mountainous frost creatures as well as the hostile climate of the high mountains in their attempt to reach the plateau under Rimeskull, where a circle of carved stones known to climbers as The Seven Sages were said to reside.
The group immediately recognized the carving of one of the stones as the visage of the man they'd come to know as Karzoug, Runelord of Greed; the others - three other men and three women - were unfamiliar by name, but the party was able to quickly identify their roles among the Runelords and the associated school of magic that needed to be cast on or near the stones to release the "keys" the Scribbler's riddle said they needed. This turned out to be a simple enough task at first, with Rossel, Jezra, and Dana quickly identifying the necessary effects and Beryl collecting up the keys - actual literal keys, forged of some unknown metal and color-coded to match the slight glow of each of the stones as they were activated - until about halfway through the group was interrupted by a deafening bellow from above as a large form was disgorged from Rimeskull's namesake carved dome.
This, perhaps predictably, was the mountain's most famed resident, Arkrhyst, a white dragon also known as Freezemaw, who was in an exceptionally surly mood and paid no heed to Dana's attempts to talk him down, accusing the party of disturbing his rest and coming to raid his hoard before attacking. He felled and scattered several of the party and locked into battle with the rest before Mirabell got lucky with a baleful polymorph and turned the dragon into a chicken; confused and perplexed by the unfamiliar magical assault, Arkrhyst immediately fled. The party mended their wounds, raised their fallen, and re-established their wards, then finished casting the necessary spells on the Seven Sages and, seven keys in hand, began to ascend the Giant's Stair - a series of terrace-carved stone plateaus, enormous in size, winding up the cliff toward Rimeskull.
Climbing the Stair led to several encounters with local protective elementals, but were nothing the party couldn't handle, and they reached the face of Rimeskull without any further complications. Inside the cavern beneath the old carving, however, they found an enormous ice-slathered chamber, clearly Arkrhyst's lair, inhabited by more elementals, winter wolves, and yetis that had been surviving off the dragon's scraps for some time while he slumbered. The party carved their way through these (save one yeti that Aidraug temporarily befriended) and proceeded toward the deepest part of the cave, where they found Arkrhyst again, standing sentinel before his hoard.
With some quick talking, Dana and Jezra managed to convince the dragon of their honesty when they said they didn't have any interest in fighting him or looting his hoard, and merely were passing through looking for something and would only bother him for information if he wished to share. Unwilling to engage in a battle again with the group at this time, Arkrhyst relented, and informed the party after some questioning that what they sought was an old portal gate further into the cavern, surrounded by seven pillars that "won't freeze". The dragon was paid in magical shards and rings for his information, and added the trinkets to his hoard with visible pleasure, deigning to let the party pass unmolested, for now.
The group found the pillars-surrounded pit with little trouble, and were quickly able to identify which sin - and thus which Runelord - was associated with which pillar. Beryl set to putting each key in its place, turning twice as the Scribbler's rhyme instructed, which caused the pillars to glow as the Sages had. When all seven were activated, a blinding white light heralded the transformation of the depression in the ice into a descending staircase, leading to an archway inscribed in High Netherese with the words "Runeforge Welcomes You, Servants of the Seven".
The group quickly sent word to their allies and cooperants from the three prior investigations - the investigators looking into the Skinsaw Murders, the liberators of Fort Rannick, and the infiltrators of Jorgenfist - before descending into Runeforge en masse, intending to divide and conquer whatever forces of lost Netheril remain within, and learn what they can about the Runelords and their plans....
Book Five: Sins of the Saviors
Characters of Importance:
Quest One: Zealot's Palace
The group gathered at the Forest Edge Inn to discuss their various recent discoveries and compare their interactions and experiences with the cult of the Sihedron and the Runelords. Will the barkeep and inn owner spoke up, asking if the group was intending to look into the situation regarding the earthquake from the prior night; the group affirmed it was indeed part of their plan, and asked a few questions trying to locate the source of the disturbance. After conferring a bit with Will and having Raptiir fly up to get a bird's-eye view, they were able to take note of a plume of dust and smoke rising to the southeast, and headed in that direction. What they found there was a massive sinkhole, recently collapsed, with several ropes descending down into the darkness - proof of the passage of Arabellan guards and rangers sent to investigate the quake the morning before.
The group descended down into the sinkhole and found a series of catacombs filled with mist, and with the walls, floors, and ceilings adorned with writing in a bizarre combination of Abyssal and High and Low Netherese. Most were bizarre random statements, such as "Duality in all things" or "The tide is rising ... this is the shape of things to come". Exploring lead to a sealed door impassable and bound with irons, while another entrance led to a large pool of water radiating evocation and transmutation auras strongly influenced by Chaos and Evil. The group wisely decided to leave this be, but took note of the large etching in this room: "If magic bright is your desire, to old rune forge must you retire - for only there does wizard's art receive its due and proper start." The "Rune Forge" was a term that had brought the groups together in their searches for information on the Runelords and their plots, and thus this place seemed to have become a way for them to acquire the knowledge they needed.
Upon descending further into the cavern, they encountered a man in ragged clothing with wild eyes and a bladed gauntlet; he emerged out of the mist as if once part of it, and made aggressive questions and demands for information from the party in Loross. Dana, Jezra, and Rossel were able to use tongues and comprehend languages to understand the man, who ranted about the Runelords and demanded to know who was in charge of the outside world. When the party informed him Netheril had fallen, the man's demeanor seemed to change sharply, becoming more aggressive and feral, and he laughed madly while proclaiming himself "Free at last!" and able to serve his "true allegiance" before vanishing into the mist.
Continuing deeper into the cavern led to an actual constructed chamber, a large but partially-collapsed sanctuary dominated by a shrine to Demogorgon, the two-headed Prince of Demons. The etchings and writings on the walls, floor, and ceiling here proclaimed more comments like those previous, their connection to the nature, desires, and dogma of the Maws of Madness all too clear now. The group paused at the entrance of the temple to decide what course of action to take next; their delay was long enough for the shrine's guardian, a powerful Glabrezu, to manifest and charge the party, inflicting heavy damage before it was dispatched.
The group proceeded first to the left, finding themselves in a partially-collapsed chamber that was some kind of meditative room, with a partial carving of another Demogorgon idol on one wall. Another mysterious riddle awaited them there - "On eastern slope of shining glacier, at end of day when dusk is nearer, where seven faces silent wait encircled guards at rune forge gate" - though the party seemed not to take much notice of this one when they were attacked by two-headed semi-reptilian dogs, which Dana and Rossel identified as one of the many, many results of Demogorgon's penchant for breeding new and terrible monstrosities to serve him.
Returning to the temple, the group proceeded next through the right passage, leading to a large chamber where a great and bloody battle had taken place, leaving the chamber littered with corpses of Arabellan patrollers. More dogs attacking and another encounter with The Scribbler occurred here, though the party learned little more than that the Scribbler intended to sacrifice the group to Demogorgon unless they "made themselves useful" to him in some way; when Tharag and Dana became aggressive, he chose to retreat, leaving them to his hounds. Another riddle - "Each stone the grace of seven lords, one part of key each ruler hoards; if offered spells and proper prayer, take seven keys and climb the stair" - awaited them in the next chamber, along with a kennel of the two-headed hounds and hidden traps amidst the mist.
More winding tunnels, more dogs, more traps, and another piece of the puzzle - reading "On frozen mountain lost king awaits, his regal voice the yawning gates keys turn twice in star sevenfold, occulted rune forge waits below" - awaited the group as they made their way towards the end of the cavern. In the chamber bearing the last, the group passed between a pair of small boulders with eyes carved into their surfaces; when the last of the group, Raptiir, passed through, the stones activated their trap, infiltrating his mind magically to plant a suggestion that his allies had been replaced by doppelgangers or agents of Demogorgon, and that he needed to immediately dispatch them and find his true allies. He began attacking Dana, and nearly slew the dragon priestess before being stopped by the rest of the group and his mind healed of the infiltration.
In the final chamber they found the last piece of the riddle - "And now you've come and joined the forge, upon rare lore your mind can gorge; and when you slough the mortal way, in rune forge long your work shall stay" - as well as another dead Arabellan ranger and a table covered in alchemy supplies and exotic inks, as well as a quite fancy and magical quill pen made from a peacock feather. In the center of the room, not far from these, was a pool of brackish water used for drowning sacrifices to the Prince of Demons. Furious at the intruders for reaching his sanctuary, The Scribbler appeared again and attacked along with a quartet of his hounds, but the party was able to rout the ambush and destroy the cultist and his monstrous servants.
Dana revived the ranger and made a few inquiries of him, while Rossel examined the Scribbler - interestingly, among his many tattoos and body-writings, she found not a single sihedron - and then the table, soon identifying the purpose and function of his revelation quill. Aidraug, Raptiir, and Siris left to secure the last tunnel, but found it empty and devoid of threats. After a bit of discussion, they agreed to assist in the recovery and possibly restoration of the other dead Arabellan watchmen, then Mirabell teleported them out of the catacombs and back to the safety of civilization.
Full list of notable writings:
Bury foes in brack, blood, or bile. The drowning depths shall feast.
If magic bright is your desire, to old rune forge must you retire - for only there does wizard's art receive its due and proper start.
Mortal man is but a shell, a template upon which greater things may grow.
The tide is rising ... this is the shape of things to come.
With one hand he unmakes, with one hand he reshapes! With one gaze he mystifies, with one gaze he shatters minds!
On eastern slope of shining glacier, at end of day when dusk is nearer, where seven faces silent wait encircled guards at rune forge gate.
Death cannot stand before him. Pride cowers under his might. Even lust kneels at his side, subservient!
All the beasts below chant his names in ecstacy and insanity!
Where water foams, he is there. Where swamp stirs, he listens. Where rot festers, he feasts. Where decay arises, he draws strength.
Each stone the grace of seven lords, one part of key each ruler hoards; if offered spells and proper prayer, take seven keys and climb the stair.
The time of the soft sun-kissed man is short. The beasts of scale and claw shall again rise, and name him prince of all worlds!
From the water we did rise, to the water we shall return.
His gaze watches both land and sea, seeing all!
Kneel before your prince!
On frozen mountain lost king awaits, his regal voice the yawning gates keys turn twice in star sevenfold, occulted rune forge waits below.
Offer up souls and blood to the Prince of Demons! His thirsts know no bounds!
Rise, oh ancient serpent of the depths. Wake, oh sleeping horror of creation. Look and see, oh fragile man, what the gods have left behind, echoes of the blasphemies they have wrought!
Oh entwined lords of madness, turn your gazes on the realms of your servant, he who rules the darkened depths! Wake the great sleeper entombed within his domain!
Those who dare may reach their hands, but the secrets of the deep are beyond your reach.
And now you've come and joined the forge, upon rare lore your mind can gorge; and when you slough the mortal way, in rune forge long your work shall stay.
John Napier 698 wrote:
That's actually the insidious part about it. They don't HAVE to redefine it for you, because you're not the one they're signaling to, you re the one they're signaling PAST.
To those "in the know", co-opting an extant gesture, symbol, or word is a two for one, because it means they don't have to make up something completely new, and because the general population either won't know the new meaning (and the bigots can stay underground with it and use it seemingly innocently to signal each other while having plausible deniability), or the geberal population will react as you did and try to declare the new meaning irrelevant, which the bigots don't care about and makes their cause look bigger than it really is.
As the article mentions, this is common MO for such groups, they've done things like this for years. It's why other common gestures and phrases are now associated with extremist groups or mindsets.
The question then becomes, are you willing to risk being mistaken for being part of such groups and mindsets now that this use of the gesture is openly known to be associated with them, just to hang onto its original meaning or intent? I'm not sure it's worth it.
Spoiled for politics, etc.:
Things like this are why many anti-science groups and such keep getting traction, aren't they...?
Anyone here ever read "Rappacini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne? It's about an Italian Renaissance professor who fed his daughter tiny bits of poison from birth and now even her breath is deadly toxic. This inspired me to roll up a Vishkanya Stalker (Path of War class) with the Steel Serpent discipline as the adversary in this upcoming weekend's game. She's gonna kick major boo-tay.
I haven't read that particular story but I've read/seen a few other stories that use the same principle, yeah.