I've thought long and hard about it and it's not a decision I'm making lightly, but I think I'm going to need to call an end to FFoH (and my other Paizo Forum games).
Over the past months, I've been super intermittent and the motivation to keep playing Forum games kept diminishing. This is truly not anything to do with my players; the four of you have been absolutely amazing and were really what kept me going this long. If I ever run FFoH in person, I'd be hard pressed to find better players than the four of you.
I've been struggling with Paizo's forums for a bit now and I'd rather make this decision than keep posting at an unreasonable slow pace. I know there's a bit of "sunk cost" to this; we've been playing for just over 2 years, but I don't think I have it in me to get to the end in any reasonable length of time.
I'm more than happy to chat and outline where the adventure was headed if you want some closure, or what my plans were for the adventure's ending. My fiance loves this adventure, so the chances it comes back to the table in some form in the future is relatively likely.
With your permissions, I'd definitely love to include your PCs as characters if I ever do play FFoH in person.
Thank you so much for having been a part of this journey. What started as a March Break turned COVID lockdown adventure really became something I'll cherish.
I'll be around and checking discussion here for a bit, but then I'll make the game inactive after a week or so. You can always reach out to me on Discord as well.
Thanks for everything,
I've thought long and hard about it, and I'm unfortunately going to need to drop out of this and my other Paizo Forum games at this point. Over the last couple of months, I've been finding it extremely difficult to stay on top of my online games, both here and on Discord.
Though I'm not overstretched, the motivation hasn't been there for quite some time.
I really appreciate your work over the past year that we've been playing and I wish everyone in this adventure well in getting to the end.
Thanks again for the solid fights!
The Suofang Yi attempts to shrug off Lung's stare.
Will Save: 1d20 ⇒ 9
It is entirely fascinated. Is the damage lethal or nonlethal?
Katala responds by striking out at the now fascinated fiend, dealing a solid blow. The fascination effect wears off as it snaps back to reality.
Taicho's hit strikes only armor unfortunately.
Piella's shot also just barely misses its target.
The Suofang Yi maintain positions and strike.
Enemy B At Katala
Enemy C At Lung
Enemy D At Taicho
Initiative Order Round 3
To save me some time, in future rounds can you make it clear which enemy you're attacking (A, B, etc.) It saves me a little bit of time from tabbing back and forth from the battle map to here.
Katala spears the foe for some slight damage, with Taicho absolutely eviscerating them to finish them off. Piella's hit lands cleanly, but not critically.
Two of the enemies close in and attempt to strike Katala and Taicho, with the third (C) shooting bolts at Taicho at a distance.
Lung, since you were acting after them, I'll let you either keep your current action or change it up based on their new positioning. Don't forget to put yourself on the actual map.
Initiative Order Round 2
Taicho surges into the room above, sending the Suofang Yi that was besides the trapdoor tumbling to the floor.
Katala quickly follows from behind and Piella follows as well, albeit quietly.
You're in the town hall's main room at last. A wooden staircase goes around the edges of the building to the second floor. A long wooden table in the shape of a U would have likely served as the main seating place for when important matters needed to be discussed. Tapestries, wall hangings, and decorations are marred by battle.
Half a dozen Meizha-Lang and Suofang Yi corpses lie semi-scattered around the room, the bulk in front of the main door. Coupled with piles of heavy timber furniture barricading it, it definitely explains why it wouldn't budge.
Beyond the Suofang Yi you sent flying (they are now prone), there's three others, and although each of them appears wounded, they bare their fangs and draw weapons at the sight of you.
Piella Initiative: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (19) + 2 = 21
I'll have the battle map asap. Might need to be tomorrow morning.
Your blade strikes true and kills the Meizha-Lang in one straight strike.
You move to the top of the ladder gracefully and silently. Pressing your head to the heavy timbers, you can hear the faint sounds of raspy breathing, the occasional shifting of weight against the floor, and snippets of a language you recognize as the one the Suofang Yi speak.
Meizha-Lang are beasts. If they speak a language, it's not one anyone or anything but other Meizha-Lang would speak.
As for the drippings, Knowledge (nature) would work but it eludes your knowledge for now.
As you approach, the beast bares its fangs and attempts to lift itself upon its front legs before collapsing back down, snarling and spitting out blood as it does so.
To clarify, you couldn't see said ladder before the door opened. The trapdoor is rather large, easily big enough for the creature to have come down from it. The ladder's marred with blood and more of that strange ichor in uneven patches. Claw marks mar the wood of the ladder.
You surmise the creature must have made its way down from above, but would have been unable to climb back up.
@Taicho: No trail on your side of the door, no traps as far as you can tell, and you have no clue what's dripping from the ceiling but it isn't blood or water. Katala also is unable identify it.
Taicho slowly opens the door. The creature shifts ever so slightly but does not leap forward or make any attacks of any kind. It is visibly in dire condition.
You silently move up to the door and peer into the other room. Through the splintered wood you can make out that you're looking into a second cellar space. At the far end of the room, the unmistakable shape of a Meizha-Lang lies slumped against the far wall. A trail of blood leads from the edge of the door you're peering in all the way to its body.
Squinting, you notice the creature's body occasionally twitches. It might not be dead.
Piella Pollyhum-Prettyfoot wrote:
Sometimes, the lack of information can be informative.
You enter what appears to be the town hall's cellar. It's a sizable room and contains more contents similar to the corridor you just walked down. The floorboards above let some amount of dim light through, but more concerningly, a dark viscous fluid drips down through the cracks from above. The smell in the room is repugnant.
You don't see any stairs leading up, but there's another sturdy wooden door leading east. The center of the door lucks splintered from the outside, as if something powerful had attempted to break through it. If you get close, you could try and peer through the cracks in the wood.
You quickly leaf through the records; most of it is just accounts and records from before the decades of ruin. You search for signs or records of what might have befallen Wanderer's Hill. In fact, the records abruptly end with no mention of anything going wrong. Whatever happened must have happened suddenly.
As for Taicho, you lean in close to the door, but you can't hear anything.
Apologies for the delays, it's been a hell of a week. I think I'm also having Forum Fatigue, but that usually goes away.
By the light of your ioun torch, Taicho strides down into the tunnel beneath the town house. There's no odor of rot down here, compared to the baththouse, but the dust clearly indicates that no one's been down in this particular passage in quite some time.
Shelves containing jugs, pots, scroll cases spread out on both sides; likely supplies and records.
Ahead, the tunnel ends abruptly after some 30 ft. by a simple wooden door. It does not appear locked or stuck. You determine you are directly beneath the town hall.
Taicho scans the path with ease and sees more signs of Suofang and Meziha-Lang tracks leading across what's left of the town.
The town hall itself, a two-storied stone structure stands out as being one of the few buildings not entirely ravaged by whatever fate beset the rest of the town.
There's no sign of any actual bodies outside the building and the front stone door is tremendously stuck, not even budging when multiple of you attempt it together.
Piella Pollyhum-Prettyfoot wrote:
With their foes defeated, nothing else inside and no additional rooms or secret pathways, she sighs and limps back out. Did they miss something? She limps around the side of the building to the river to see what is nearby. Her eyes scour the village for other signs of dead creatures.
Don't forget, you haven't investigated the town hall (the only other building that's still standing.)
Taicho, you scour the dirt and mud, but only find traces of Suofang and Meizha-Lang footprints, and even those are barely recognizable. If you didn't know the creatures were here, you wouldn't have spotted them.
There's no other exit to the baths. Katala can deduce the bodies have been dead for a few days judging by the remains. A solid scouring of the room uncovers nothing more, sadly.
The smell of rot seems to come from the mold and slime forming on the walls and tiles of the floors. Clearly the bathhouse hasn't been of actual use for far longer than the corpses have been here.
There are no flies or maggots anymore.
You move into the baths once Katala fails to discover any fragment of claw or blade and no spirit entrances.
The Suofang Yi carry nothing but standard issue weapons, none of which would likely be of any important to you.
The bath's stonework is marred by more blood and additional Suofang Yi bodies are floating face down in the stagnant bathwater. An odor of blood and rot permeates the air.
Among the slain Suofang Yi, you recognize the corpse of a creature; a Meizha-Lang, also known as a fiery wolf of the mountain. Lung and Katala, you've obviously seen one before and Taicho would recognize it from experience and training.
This particular one is much larger than the one you've faced before.
from the center of the vestibule away from where we are or the center of the 'bathhouse's baths' room towards where we are?
From the center of the vestibule.
You can't tell what caused the wounds but it wasn't horns. The gashes are more like lacerations or claw marks. The door behind them as well as the walls around have similar markings.
In the faint light from Piella's magic, Taicho and Katala recognize the slumped figures by their eyes and skin; Suofang Yi. The two figures are clearly dead, their eyes wide open. You can see great gashes in their cloak and armor, and blood mars the floor where they lie. The blood marks show they must have dragged themselves here from the center of the room before succumbing to their wounds.
You move in to the vestibule of the bathhouse.
Thanks to Piella's dancing lights and your combined perceptions, you can clearly see the room is in disarray. The furniture within is smashed and broken, and the non-valuable trinkets that were held within are strewn across the floor. Two cloaked silhouettes lie slumped against the far wall, blocking the way into the bathhouse's baths.
You scour the abandoned village for tracks, but none can be found, even out in the fields. However, Lung's detect evil detects the presence of a faint, but pervading aura of evil lingering around the entire village proper. Piella likewise discovers it's a moderate magical aura.
As you narrow in on the bathhouse, the faintest sounds of the river can finally be heard, but it's almost as if you're hearing its echo. The bathhouse's sliding doors stand slightly open.
As the priest promised, the ride to Wanderer's Hill takes a few hours and you get there by mid afternoon.
The former farmstead stands out compared to the other places you've visited on your travels. Where most settlements in Yuanzi are either well-maintained or rustic, Wanderer's Hill has been clearly left to ruin. Wooden buildings lie rotten, hollow, and overgrown with wild vegetation. Discarded everyday items can be glimpsed amid the green; a farm implement there, a wheelbarrow barely recognizable there.
Of the few remaining buildings, you can recognize what once must have been a bathhouse besides a slow-moving river and a tall stone building which looks like it must have been the town hall.
Most disturbingly, the birdsong and clatter of the other farmsteads seems to have faded as you arrived even though you were able to hear them just minutes away. Even the river fails to make any noise.
You return to the Soeji farmstead to leave Bao, who rather surprisingly agrees with the decision. In fact, he doesn't seem keen about going to anyplace that's "haunted".
You catch a quick meal for lunch and are free to make your way to Wanderer's Hill, if you so choose. Or you could also wait for nightfall. Everyone know spirit activity's much greater once the sun has set.
Bao seems embarrassed that he forgot to mention Soejis name but quickly recovers.
"We are here on behalf of the Soeji clan."
The head priest nods and motions for you to follow her into a side room. Once settled, she takes some scrolls down from a shelf.
"Many spirit beasts wander the Heartlands. Some more often than not cross into here at locations such as spirit gates, but not all. The white ox you speak of hasn't been seen in quite some time. Our records show it was most often seen near Wanderer's Hill, a former farmstead a few hours from here. We don't tend to go near it these days, however."
Taicho, you know that Wanderer's Hill has been a hotbed of evil spirit activity for the past few decades. No one lives there now and its reputation as being cursed is far from unwarranted.
"I do not recommend going there, especially not with a child. The creatures that live there have no love for mortals."
You reach the temple without any trouble. Bao looks to you for confirmation that he can go and ask and if given, will politely approach the nearest priest and bow low, almost comically too low.
"My name is Bao and these are my friends. We're looking for an ox. A magical ox. A magical white ox. And a gate. A spirit world gate. We asked around but nobody knew. So they told us to come visit you. And then-"
You get the sense Bao could keep going for an hour if not stopped.