Ice Titan's CC Campaign [spoilers!]


Carrion Crown

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After keeping another campaign journal in Serpent's Skull with my ninja posts, I've decided to keep another for Carrion Crown, since they were fun.

That in mind, there are spoilers, but I'm going to corral ones that my own players don't know about into the GM Notes section at the end.

Also note that I extensively re-write dialogues whenever given the chance.

Basically, my PCs are super sleuths.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) summoner
  • Zach, Child of Sarenrae, human (Varisian) cleric of Sarenrae
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier
  • Roarark, human (Kellid) alchemist

With the most diverse group of PCs, (and the most grounded in the Golarion world) we've ever had at the table, we had no problems jumping right into the session. The PCs met with Kendra Lorrimor and Zolkar Elkarid and others at the gates to the cemetery, and saw Benjan Caeller and some acolytes of Pharasma bring the casket up to the gates-- Benjan had been the one to watch over the corpse during the night to make sure it didn't rise, as detailed in AP#44's Pharasma article.

With six PCs and six places on the casket for pallbearers, it was a good fit, and they were off up the Dreamwake. They met Gibs Hephenus up the way, whom I had taken a suggestion from the boards and had made him the ex-sheriff. With my group's alignment system, I had made him LN. They had a good "discussion" with him wherein he discredited the PCs because they were outsiders and appealed to them to bury the Professor upriver so his dark-tainted blood wouldn't effect the graveyard. The PCs, remarkably, just talked him down. I was so looking forward to laying someone out with a backhoe, but they managed to talk their way out of it.

Meeting with Father Grimburrow, I managed to play up a mean Scottish accent and get going. I read off a sermon I'd found and edited to fit Pharasma,

Located within this spoiler:
Here and now, dear friends, we are Pharasma’s children.
What we shall be has not been revealed,
But we know when she appears we shall be judged by her, for she shall see us as we are.
Those who are not pure, know that all whom live and have lived must face her judgment.

Pharasma said, "I am the Resurrection and I am the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I am death, and behold I am alive forever more, and I hold the keys of birth and death. Because I live, you shall also live."

Let us pray.
O Pharasma, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray.
You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Give to us now your grace, that as we shrink before the mystery of death, we may see the light of eternity.
Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and death.
Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days are accomplished, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in you, and that nothing in life or in death be able to separate us from the destiny we all must face. Amen.


and got the ball rolling with the NPCs talking about the Professor. Zach, the cleric of Sarenrae, broke the ice by reading Psalms 23 and editing Sarenrae's name into it, and soon every PC had spoken. We even had a player cry at the table!

Afterwards, the PCs came back to the Professor's house and I had a good time describing to them the amount of books there, bringing up old magical items and placing them on walls etcetera. The player characters all got to know eachother before Councilman Hearthmount appeared. A big topic of discussion was that none of them could figure out exactly how the Professor had died, and Benjan Caeller had given a sparse description of the death to Kendra to spare her grief, so the details were very vague. Another interesting point was when everyone was comparing when they knew the Professor, and they turned to Darien von Carstein and most of them didn't know him and wondered how he knew the Professor, since he appeared one of the youngest at the gathering. In truth, Darien was a dhampir, and had known the Professor when they were both boys in Lepidstadt and for many years afterwards, but had only aged extremely slowly over the last fifty years. Amusing watching his player dodge the question!

Councilman Hearthmount arrived and read off the will and the PCs all obtained specific items created for their characters left to them by the Professor, notable items including a hunk of the skymetal Siccatite, the Professor's journal and spellbook, and a badge of honor from the Second Battle of Lake Encarthan. They know that, well, basically, they weren't very welcome in Ravengro, after being snubbed by the Councilman and Gibs.

Some PCs stayed behind to help Kendra clear out the guest rooms and some PCs headed out, to find out how the Professor died, and in Felix and Samuel's cases, to alert their captain in Vigil and their father in Lepidstadt respectively. Aftewards, they met with the little Varisian girls, and, speaking in Varisian, were able to get information from them regarding the rhyme they had been singing "since forever." They got the details of the Professor's death from Benjan Caeller with another fantastic diplomacy check, and ruled that something very strange was going on.

Returning to the Lorrimor estate, Darien von Carstein revealed that he had read the journal, found the entries circled in red, and that the Professor had truly been on to something important. The PCs vowed to find out what had happened, set a course of action and began to research.

They got information on the Whispering Way and Harrowstone prison, doing well but not as high as they could, and decided to turn in.

They were awoken by a knocking at the door-- a group of men in coats with torches. Assuming they were facing down a lynch mob, they got prepared for combat immediately and opened the door to find the sheriff asking them where they were and having Kendra corroborate their alibi. Zach, the only PC to take diplomacy as a skill, again made a great check with the use of aid another and the sheriff brought the PCs with to show them what was the matter.

They found Old River, the town dog, dead and drained of blood near the town square, and leading the PCs to the Harrowstone monument, Benjan Caeller showed them the vandalized statue and the massive V painted along it.

The PCs immediately began to speculate on what it meant, suggesting it could be "V" for look beneath the statue, "V" for "vendetta", "V" for "vengeance", and "V" for the Azlanti numeral of five. They didn't get very far-- they lost the tracks within 10 yards of the monument-- and without a good lead they took advantage of the morning to go to the Temple of Pharasma to get the "list" the Professor wrote about. At this point, the PCs were doing so well with diplomacy I had to give them a hard time, and had Father Grimburrow give them a bit of a verbal beating for both waking him up early and daring to ask to look into the archives-- to which they were entirely polite! They made even more checks very well, and got access to the Pharasmin archives in the town.

They were able to identify three of the prisoners in Harrowstone, choosing the Splatter Man first based on how his name sounded. Cross-referencing with material from the Lorrimor house, they were able to discern the Lopper, the Splatter Man and Father Charlatan's methods of killing, and immediately connected the notorious prisoners with the Varisian girl's rhyming game and the recent V that had popped up on the monument. Afterwards, they asked the Father if they could investigate the false crypt in the Professor's journal on their own, even inviting him along, but he wasn't too trusting of them and they didn't do very well diplomacizing, so he instead sent his acolytes. This was Samuel's idea, whose nature was very much that a person's word is their bond and that lying or being deceitful is the worst thing a person could do. Eventually, he'd have to be deceitful, which was stressful on his character.

Moving right along, they went to the town hall to try to use their library as a reference. Shanda Faravan was there, practicing her timing for a speech-- I decided she would be the Varisian representative, and had her speak in Varisian to the PCs before switching to Taldan and apologizing.

Then every single PC, except for Samuel, responded in Varisian, which immediately, I decided, earned a good amount of trust with her. After even more good diplomacy checks, she let the PCs use the archives while she practiced as long as they promised not to take books from there. They were able to use the town hall's information to determine the names and crimes of the Violinist of Illmarsh and the Mosswater Marauder. Aftewards, Father Grimburrow returned

Since it was later in the evening, the PCs then decided to mosey on over to the Unfurling Scroll and speak to Alendru Ghoroven. After connecting the Splatter Man to the names of the people in town, they were adamantly searching out every single townsperson with a V in their name-- which, well, there were a lot. They spent the last bits of sunlight there in the magic item shop after listening to Alendru Ghoroven badmouth the Professor's magic and talk himself up, and even totally agreed to pay the 10gp.

After this, the characters decided to go check out the Restlands by themselves to see if the acolytes had missed something. Samuel didn't like it at all, but agreed, and soon they were off into the graveyard under cover of fog and under cover of night.

As they approached the crypt, Darien activated his race's supernatural sense to discern undead and was able to see what seemed to be several shimmering shapes laying on the floor in the graveyard-- and soon, they were under attack by four rotting undead as they burst free from their caskets underground. The party was able to dispatch them, even though the zombies were by far more than a match for them. Immediately afterwards, Nathaniel Thorn left-- no one in the party knew what Samuel Crowe's gun was, and Nathaniel didn't want to stick around to see if the Pharasmins had heard the gunshot or not. The rest of the party entered the crypt.

They discovered the cache of goods, and, well, Samuel ended up walking into a centipede ambush, which was humorous-- Felix Grey had faced down demons and unholy marauders on his crusade in Mendev, and now was in a basement killing vermin. They dispatched the creatures, took the loot and got out of the graveyard quickly afterwards.

Nathaniel, on the other hand, witnessed two strange occurrences: a strange, shimmering spectral carriage trotting down the lane on the west side of Harrowstone, which he both successfully hid from (19) and made his Will save against (19). Deciding not to follow it, he returned to the Lorrimor estate to discover that Kendra was awake getting water, and she seemed dazed. She was talking about something she had been thinking about and it was keeping her awake, and Nathaniel pressed what it was out of her: "How do you spell your name?" He gave her his name, but soon she seemed to snap out of her stupor, not remembering their conversation. The other characters returned home soon after, sharing what they had found and discussing if they could go to the Father and admit what they had done, and they decided against it, which continued to grind Samuel's moral gears.

In the morning, they found a bloody "E" written on the wall of the Laughing Demon, a mule nearby with a slit throat. This time, though, their tracking paid off, and Felix and Roarark quickly tracked the footprints across the wooden bridge towards a shack on the other side of town. Knocking, very politely, they met with Gibs Hephenus, who both looked tired and drunk. He berated them off of his land.

After seeing the "V" and the "E" and knowing that the Splatter Man only showed the letters to those he was going to kill, the party decided to speak to Vroden, one of the deputies of the Sheriff, and Alendru Ghoroven, to see if either of them had seen any letters. Meanwhile, two other characters went to go see the Sheriff and tell them about what they'd found in regards to tracks to Gibs home, and two other PCs decided to stay at Gibs and investigate further.

The two PCs who stayed at Gibs home, Roarark and Felix, waited a bit, then decided to follow the tracks around his house, noticing they went past the woodpile. With fantastic stealth rolls (1 and 8) they managed to get past Gib's distracted, fatigued and drunk self (natural 1 with a -10) and search the woodpile-- finding the war razor and the wineskin of blood. They quickly retreated, finding the other two, Samuel and Zach, with the sheriff on the way. They all went to Gibs home and confronted him, and he seemed extremely confused and distraught at the news. They managed to talk him down and brought him in, locking him in a cell at the Ravengro jail to observe him. After Benjan told the Council, the Council invited the player characters to a meeting they were going to have the next night to discuss what was happening in the town and to try to quash rumors.

The other two PCs learned Vroden hadn't seen any letters, and that neither had Alendru Ghoroven, but they decided to check and wait to see if Ghoroven would die-- Samuel and Nathaniel essentially staked out the Unfurling Scroll. While they waited, Samuel broke down many of the magical arrows they had found, transforming them into bullets for his rifle.

Meanwhile, at the jail, the other player characters watched over Gibs until 1:00 in the morning, wherein it seemed he was possessed by some force that kept screaming "HOW DO YOU SPELL YOUR NAME?" When Gibs fell unconscious, they used the spirit planchette they had recovered to try to get a question out of the nearby restless spirits: They asked if the old man was his target, and after a series of rolls in their favor, they were told that he wasn't, and the spirit began to ask them "How do you s" before they tore their hands away.

That night, when retiring to bed, Darien was privy to an apparition-- he heard a rapping on the wall. Investigating, no one was on the other side-- and when he returned, it persisted. When placing his ear close, could hear a begging whisper asking to be released, that the smoke was choking him and they had been left to die. Soon, Darien's room had transformed into a cell-- a cell he could tell stood in Harrowstone prison. Using detect undead, he discovered he was surrounded by terrible shimmering light-- he was surrounded by an undead force. Searching for a way out, he saw a glint of glass spectacles beyond the door, and heard a nasal voice speak.

"Darien. D-A-R-I-E-N. An invented name from Adrian, which was invented from Hadrian, a boy emperor of lost Azlant who ruled over a part of Thassilon before the Age of Darkness. How appropriate."

He demanded answers, but got only derisive laughter. Soon, in a panic, he awoke.

Written on his wall in blood were the words "NOW I KNOW YOUR NAME."

That's where we left off.

GM NOTES!:

Aid another kind of saved the session.
My PCs have a lot of knowledges, but the entire party is comprised of 2+int skill characters, except for one 4+int. That means their skill set is very, very thin. With that comes that they're level 1, and the highest knowledge skills some of them have is +7. Aid another during the library research scenes turned them from "I guess we learn nothing" to learning a lot in a short amount of time. It helped kick the session forwards, and it gave the PCs with no relevant knowledge skills-- of which they were two-- something to do besides play thumb wars.

Trust points weren't really stated out loud, but the PCs have accrued a grand total of 28 from just being kind, courteous and honest. No mechanic necessary, as, well, most of my players are MMO players and would seek to "become exalted" as soon as possible. It doesn't hurt that they have a party member with points in diplomacy. As for that, I let them roleplay out what they say before rolling and give them a bonus, and I let other PCs aid if they can also say something compelling. Depending on the roll, I let what they said become favorable or unfavorable to the person. The PCs are being more kindly regarded, and the players can kind of pick up on it. I suppose when they get some cash, the discounts they might get will help considerably.

Also, most of the players being WFRP veterans helped out a lot. We played a lot of investigation type scenarios, and the players are very sharp. So, while their PCs may not have the skills, they definitely have the ability to make great connections. It took a bit for the ball to get rolling, but they definitely took a handle of the game and ran with it.

Which comes to my next comment: This is a very well-written investigation module, and it was a lot of fun to run and watch the PCs deliberate. I haven't got much more Ravengro action until the PCs begin to go into Harrowstone, and the ante is being raised: Kendra and Benjan Caeller are both becoming tired and feeling strange, and I plan on using them to spur the PCs on to investigate the prison.

Using the Splatter Man as an outside villain is also a big help, in my opinion, as it makes the PCs put a face on the bad guy. Instead of "I guess he's dangerous" it is "I know he is dangerous since he keeps doing weird stuff!" and it's been great.

Next session they should be getting into Harrowstone, and that'll be fun. I'll post up pictures of the maps and another report when it comes around next Friday.

Sovereign Court

This is a fantastic writeup Ice Titan. Your group sounds like fun to GM for. I'll definitely be using a truncated version of your sermon to step up the roleplay in the restlands. I've got a large group of 8 misfit PC's who've never experienced a full blown AP before so I have to set the tone early. They tend to solve mysteries with swords & spell rather than talking (though I've been throwing more rp encounters in the final days of our current campaign).

Setting up the Splatter Man as the bbeg early through haunting visions is a great way too keep my more neutral, mercenary type characters focused on why they should help a sleepy little town where no one seems to like them.

--Vrock, vrock, vrocking on heaven's door


Ice Titan wrote:

After keeping another campaign journal in Serpent's Skull with my ninja posts, I've decided to keep another for Carrion Crown, since they were fun.

That in mind, there are spoilers, but I'm going to corral ones that my own players don't know about into the GM Notes section at the end.

Also note that I extensively re-write dialogues whenever given the chance.

Basically, my PCs are super sleuths.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) summoner
  • Zach, Child of Sarenrae, human (Varisian) cleric of Sarenrae
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier
  • Roarark, human (Kellid) alchemist

With the most diverse group of PCs, (and the most grounded in the Golarion world) we've ever had at the table, we had no problems jumping right into the session. The PCs met with Kendra Lorrimor and Zolkar Elkarid and others at the gates to the cemetery, and saw Benjan Caeller and some acolytes of Pharasma bring the casket up to the gates-- Benjan had been the one to watch over the corpse during the night to make sure it didn't rise, as detailed in AP#44's Pharasma article.

With six PCs and six places on the casket for pallbearers, it was a good fit, and they were off up the Dreamwake. They met Gibs Hephenus up the way, whom I had taken a suggestion from the boards and had made him the ex-sheriff. With my group's alignment system, I had made him LN. They had a good "discussion" with him wherein he discredited the PCs because they were outsiders and appealed to them to bury the Professor upriver so his dark-tainted blood wouldn't effect the graveyard. The PCs, remarkably, just talked him down. I was so looking forward to laying someone out with a backhoe, but they managed to talk their way out of it.

Meeting with Father Grimburrow, I managed to play up a mean Scottish accent and get going. I read off a sermon I'd found and edited to fit Pharasma, ** spoiler omitted **...

Thanks for the posts, I like to see how other GM's are fairing with this amazing adventure (already one of my all time faves). My group just met Vesorianna and we did that interaction at the end of the last session.


Ice Titan -- thanks for posting this. I was the guy who suggested using The Splatter Man this way, and I'm really happy to hear that it's working for your group.

I'm a big fan of the E in BBEG. Someone like TSM shouldn't be just another boss! He should be an enemy that the PCs come to hate, fear, or both, well before they finally encounter him.

cheers,

Doug M.


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:


I'm a big fan of the E in BBEG. Someone like TSM shouldn't be just another boss! He should be an enemy that the PCs come to hate, fear, or both, well before they finally encounter him.

+1 I've been using similiar tactics, interwoven with sideplots, to ramp up the dread as well.


Thanks for the positive comments. I've been kind of soaking in the Carrion Crown forum for now sucking in ideas and a lot of them are very useful. Thank you if you thought of something I used, it's helping to make the game better.

Sitting down and reading over the encounters tonight to see what I have to bookmark for Friday. My poor PCs...

Silver Crusade

Going to steal some things from you here, but it seems you sped up the timeline a little bit in some places. I think I'll keep it slower, but I do like the way you've been using the splatter man and the name usage. That is definitely getting stolen.


ThornDJL7 wrote:
Going to steal some things from you here, but it seems you sped up the timeline a little bit in some places. I think I'll keep it slower, but I do like the way you've been using the splatter man and the name usage. That is definitely getting stolen.

I didn't like that the name's second letter was written six days after the first, and so to heighten tension, I began to write them quicker. At the slow pace I rolled, it was going to become a joke among the party-- without the bloody letters, I'm sure they would've already gone into Harrowstone. My goal for this adventure path is to make sure that no enemies become jokes (unless they end up making themselves one in combat).

Silver Crusade

Ice Titan wrote:
ThornDJL7 wrote:
Going to steal some things from you here, but it seems you sped up the timeline a little bit in some places. I think I'll keep it slower, but I do like the way you've been using the splatter man and the name usage. That is definitely getting stolen.
I didn't like that the name's second letter was written six days after the first, and so to heighten tension, I began to write them quicker. At the slow pace I rolled, it was going to become a joke among the party-- without the bloody letters, I'm sure they would've already gone into Harrowstone. My goal for this adventure path is to make sure that no enemies become jokes (unless they end up making themselves one in combat).

Hmm...mine tended to avg. every 2-3 days, with only a couple times coming up as 6. I've also sprinkled in a bunch of rising dead to harrass the town. Though I may speed up the timeline if things begin to feel slow.

I liked how you used Old River right away. In my time line I have him build up to Old River. Then the town meeting is called right after Old River is murdered.


ThornDJL7 wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
ThornDJL7 wrote:
Going to steal some things from you here, but it seems you sped up the timeline a little bit in some places. I think I'll keep it slower, but I do like the way you've been using the splatter man and the name usage. That is definitely getting stolen.
I didn't like that the name's second letter was written six days after the first, and so to heighten tension, I began to write them quicker. At the slow pace I rolled, it was going to become a joke among the party-- without the bloody letters, I'm sure they would've already gone into Harrowstone. My goal for this adventure path is to make sure that no enemies become jokes (unless they end up making themselves one in combat).

Hmm...mine tended to avg. every 2-3 days, with only a couple times coming up as 6. I've also sprinkled in a bunch of rising dead to harrass the town. Though I may speed up the timeline if things begin to feel slow.

I liked how you used Old River right away. In my time line I have him build up to Old River. Then the town meeting is called right after Old River is murdered.

I used the standard roll for # of days, but it gave them time to work various sideplots I built into the story. If I was playing the module strictly as written, it would have been every night.

Silver Crusade

I'm not sure the pace this group will move at. I assume faster than my normal group, because they all have a fairly good foundation of playing history. Further, I have never played with this group before outside of organized play, so I'm in a small way going in blind.


ThornDJL7 wrote:
I'm not sure the pace this group will move at. I assume faster than my normal group, because they all have a fairly good foundation of playing history. Further, I have never played with this group before outside of organized play, so I'm in a small way going in blind.

If you've seen my side plots thread, I added a myriad of side adventures in, because my pc's like a sandbox feel even with an AP. We run the slow exp chart so it balances out. It creates a bit more work, but I enjoy coming up with my own stuff that fits the flavor and theme of the AP so it all works out in the end.

Silver Crusade

Jon Kines wrote:
ThornDJL7 wrote:
I'm not sure the pace this group will move at. I assume faster than my normal group, because they all have a fairly good foundation of playing history. Further, I have never played with this group before outside of organized play, so I'm in a small way going in blind.
If you've seen my side plots thread, I added a myriad of side adventures in, because my pc's like a sandbox feel even with an AP. We run the slow exp chart so it balances out. It creates a bit more work, but I enjoy coming up with my own stuff that fits the flavor and theme of the AP so it all works out in the end.

No, I haven't. I'd be curious to see what you've got. Link?


ThornDJL7 wrote:
Jon Kines wrote:
ThornDJL7 wrote:
I'm not sure the pace this group will move at. I assume faster than my normal group, because they all have a fairly good foundation of playing history. Further, I have never played with this group before outside of organized play, so I'm in a small way going in blind.
If you've seen my side plots thread, I added a myriad of side adventures in, because my pc's like a sandbox feel even with an AP. We run the slow exp chart so it balances out. It creates a bit more work, but I enjoy coming up with my own stuff that fits the flavor and theme of the AP so it all works out in the end.
No, I haven't. I'd be curious to see what you've got. Link?

I've added a few more since this thread but these should give you a general idea

link

Dark Archive

Ice Titan wrote:
ThornDJL7 wrote:
Going to steal some things from you here, but it seems you sped up the timeline a little bit in some places. I think I'll keep it slower, but I do like the way you've been using the splatter man and the name usage. That is definitely getting stolen.
I didn't like that the name's second letter was written six days after the first, and so to heighten tension, I began to write them quicker. At the slow pace I rolled, it was going to become a joke among the party-- without the bloody letters, I'm sure they would've already gone into Harrowstone. My goal for this adventure path is to make sure that no enemies become jokes (unless they end up making themselves one in combat).

Same here. My PCs weren't going to sit around waiting for something to happen. I sped up the second letter to 2 days later since they where planning on going back to Harrowstone the next morning.


Update for my second session.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) synthesist
  • Zach, Child of Sarenrae, human (Varisian) cleric of Sarenrae
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier

Roarark's player had to miss the game to go to his brother's graduation. Nathaniel has become a synthesist archetype, and so now he wears his eidolon like armor, which resembles an aboleth. He doesn't do this in town because he knows the people in town would lynch him, which is fine, because, well, the rest of the time he's still a summoner. It's like being able to freely swap between eldritch knight and semicaster, and I think it'll be a good fit for him.

So, the players went to the town hall meeting that night. Everyone there was rabbling back and forth, trying to figure out what was going on, and soon enough the PCs were offering themselves up to help the town. I played up the bureaucracy a bit, claiming they needed a "permit" to enter a historical site like Harrowstone. Then, uh, bad things happened.

The town hall set on fire, and Petros Lorrimor's corpse entered the town hall, claiming that soon Ravengro would face an apocalypse like that which claimed Harrowstone. The PCs-- Kendra Lorrimor included-- didn't like that the Professor's corpse was being animated by the bad guys, and quickly things entered combat.

The players thusly refused to cast spells.

In what I feel like was the longest combat versus a single zombie I've ever had, the PCs slowly, and I mean slowly, refusing to use any abilities, whittled down the Professor from 19 hp (2d8+3 maxed) over the course of an hour. One channel energy for 1 damage and a summoned celestial riding dog were the only expendable resources used the entire battle, and Darien and Zach either melee attacked or used cantrips. The skulls burst in and were quickly killed. The rest of the party began putting out fires, something I should have cut short, as it took a while longer.

So, the council approached the players and offered them money to go down to Harrowstone and sort things out. The PCs took them up on their offer, and off they went.

They arrived in Harrowstone, Kendra in tow, and Kendra cast mage armor on Nathaniel before they entered-- she deigned to leave, but in hindsight, I think it'd make sense if she waited with one of the deputies outside of Harrowstone to make sure they were safe.

The party looked over the grounds, found the markings on the foundation, copied them and almost explored the Warden's home but decided not to. They entered Harrowstone at first opportunity.

The party entered Harrowstone, and essentially swept through the entire first floor of the prison. They found the warden's safe but couldn't open it, and left.

The slamming portal haunt was defeated handily by quick reflexes and the drag combat maneuver, putting everyone on one side so they could all just kick the door down. They encountered the crab spiders in the Pharasmin chapel and the animated manacles at the same time, defeating both after a very long series of misses. Again, no first level spells were cast throughout the entire combat. They met with the animated straitjacket in the laundry room and handily dispatched it-- though it did manage to grapple Zach of Sarenrae and then slam him around the room, doing some damage. They met the branding irons haunt, which, well... kind of disappointing. Nathaniel saw, won initiative, and shut the door. They still broke through the door and fired themselves at the PCs, missing Nathaniel and Samuel Crowe, but managing to scour a brand of J5 onto Nathaniel's eidolon's breastplate. They met with the cold spot haunt, which, well, Nathaniel Thorn shrugged off. A use of detect undead revealed hundreds of specters in the defendant's chair, all in periods of states of grief.

They met the poltergeist in the infirmary. They managed to defeat it after a long time spent dealing with it's telekinesis, wherein I threw the wizard's familiar at Zach of Sarenrae, tried to disarm Felix, tried to grapple Zach of Sarenrae, and managed to, when Zach offered a bottle of holy water to Felix so he could try to fight the poltergeist, disarm him of the bottle of holy water and throw it at Felix. During this time, feeling like he was worthless to try to fight a permanently invisible opponent, Nathaniel wandered into the other room, meeting Old Ember Maw. A great number of failed touch rolls lead to him not being hit by his fiery tongue, and Nathaniel fled-- well, not really. More or less he hid behind the corner, seeing if the haunt would wear off, constantly calling it names and insulting it while the rest of the party fought the poltergeist. Samuel used a ghost touch bullet, one he had smelted down from the ghost touch arrows in the Pharasmin reliquary, and missed. It finally went down when Zach used three channel energies to defeat it.

They met Vesorianna Hawkran, which, well, I think I managed to get her across very well. They learned a lot about the prison in her periods of lucidity, when she didn't think it was before the fire, and learned about the things in the Property room, which I gave them the key to on Vesorianna's body, something that, in my game, she managed to pull from one of the guards who put her in the room, thinking it was the key to the door that had locked her in. The PCs set across the prison to find it. They found it, and the secret door, and after a short period of time had divvied out all of the Five Prisoner's items to eachother.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) synthesist-- Father Charlatan's holy symbols
  • Zach, Child of Sarenrae, human (Varisian) cleric of Sarenrae-- The Violinist of Illmarsh's violin
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger-- The Mosswater Marauder's hammer
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner-- The Splatter Man's spellbook
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier-- The Lopper's battleaxe

That's where we ended the session, 300xp from level 3, with the party planning to retreat to rest and recuperate.

GM Notes:

Notes to people running this: I would, once the enemies are down, have the fire become "nonmagical" in origin and just let itself be put out. Precious game time was wasted to just patting out fires-- so much game time, in fact, that everyone forgot Petros Lorrimor's corpse was still in the town hall. It was just a drag on the game.

I felt the way I presented Harrowstone-- with full, large maps-- was fairly good, and the PCs reacted well. I did notice the battlemaps bringing the game onto the map and not in their minds, but it was well and good.

The animated manacles have a hardness of 10, which, in my game, uh, sucked. I made the hardness 8 after a round had passed, but if I had to use them again, I'd make them rusted and give them hardness 5. Hardness 10 was just too much.

The party is refusing to use 1st level spells in the game, which, I feel, is making the game and encounters take a very long time. I'm not kidding when I say that, after the property room, the PCs are planning to leave Harrowstone, rest and recuperate and return, and the wizard, summoner and the cleric have collectively not used a single spell above 0th level. Did they use cantrips? Yes, and to good effect. But seriously, _spells._ Zach is swinging a scimitar at +1, 1d6 damage, and refuses to channel because "it could do 1 damage". Darien von Carstein, knowing that Harrowstone is full of haunts, ghosts and apparitions, brought the grease spell, and then did not cast it when they fought the spiders.

Likely, before they can retreat, I'll see about attacking them with enough encounters to see if they'll cast spells. I feel like I want to express to them the danger of the prison, and the necessity of them using their abilities.


Hey, we hate spells.


My PCs are ghost busters.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) summoner
  • Zach, Child of Sarenrae, human (Varisian) cleric of Sarenrae
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier
  • Roarark, human (Kellid) alchemist

They began again in the property room of the prison, where they had just finished handing out the prisoner's items between them. They decided to leave-- and as soon as they entered the courtroom again, it became freezing cold. The haunt was moving-- the cold spot was chasing them! Many players took damage as they ran through the room to get out of the prison, and as they entered the foyer, the slamming portal haunt attempted to trap them for the cold spot. Nathaniel Thorn threw out an Open/Close, rolling a good CMB check to jar the doors open, and the PCs fled the prison--directly into an ambush of burning skeletons. It was a difficult fight, but they overcame it and managed to return to Ravengro.

On returning to Ravengro, they learned from Benjen Caeller that the businessman from Tamriviena who had come to buy the Lorrimor house was found with a slit wrist near the home-- and he had painted a massive SO onto the wall, a symbol of the Splatter Man's growing power. The PCs washed the blood off of the wall and rested, going into the Laughing Demon and eating despite the fact that Ravengro was empty as all of the townsfolk were hiding and hoping that the ghosts wouldn't come down from the prison.

On awakening, the prisoner's items interfered with the player's daily rituals. Samuel Crowe awoke with his nose full of dried blood, his pillow stained crimson and a ringing headache between his eyes. Zach of Sarenrae couldn't help but continuously feel like he was offended by the mere presence of the tangle of holy symbols. Before breakfast was over, a thunderstorm rolled in, drenching the prison in water and covering the grounds with the mists notable to Canterwall.

The PCs trekked up the prison in the mud, and decided to enter the second story-- running into the headsman's axe. They swiftly dispatched it, despite its high AC and hardness, and Samuel Crowe took the defeated weapon as his own. Lured by the sound of combat, the giant stirge flew down to engage the PCs and was promptly utterly defeated.

Entering the second story, they began to slowly explore through the extremely humid prison. With the wind beating the prison, the rain running into it and the humid mist rising from the water, it felt like the players had entered the stomach of a breathing beast. Within seconds, they had stumbled into the Mosswater Marauder, who attacked, wailing, through the air. Samuel Crowe resisted his murderous impulses coming to him in waves from the Marauder's hammer, but not for long: he began to beat his own head in. In the end, it was a timely haunt siphon that ended his unlife, dragging him into the glass jar and trapping him there forever. Just before he went, his hammer ripped from his hand, struck him in the head, sending a knife-bladed skeletal shard into the skull he was holding.

They explored the second floor, checking the cells and the guard post, and drawing attention to the gargoyle that fell on the Professor. An inspection of the base told them it had been subtly chiseled at. Nathaniel Thorn leapt onto the other balcony, noticed the Xtabay and the gnome's corpse, and almost approached if it wasn't for the others calling it out. A gunshot from Samuel Crowe sent the plants into hiding, and Nathaniel dragged the corpse back for the others to see. They took his money and left him on the second floor of the prison.

In exploring, Felix Gray entered Father Charlatan's cell, picked up and flipped through his water-ruined journal, and left. He didn't know the spirit of the Father had now begun its subtle possession of him.

Coming back around the prison, the slamming portal mockingly invited the players in. They entered the room with the hole in the ground, and stirges came up out of the hole to engage them-- they were quickly destroyed. The players descended down into the dungeons, noting that this was the highly eroded entrance to the deep parts, and then were attacked by the ectoplasmic undead. A quick fight later had them back in the water, disposed of.

Entering the next room, the players found that it was both pitch black and large enough that they couldn't see everything in the darkness. Walking into the room, it was completely covered with charred and ashed human remains that exploded to life, bringing up twelve skeletons and creating a carpet of moving and grasping bones that impeded the heroes. The skeletons closed on the players, swiping and hissing. One skeleton hit Felix Gray, just barely, and he died-- or, to him, he seemed to. A massive holy symbol on a spectral chain disgorged itself from his ear, another from his mouth, and they wrapped around his body, squeezing him and attempting to end his life. Everyone else wasn't impressed-- he was helpless in the middle of a swarm of skeletons.

The players fought the skeletons while Felix Gray awoke in a dream reality, in a temple of Kurgess, newly reincarnated. He noticed that the dream was strange, that the food was weird and then finally that his badge had no inscription on the back. Splashed with holy water by Roarark to help cast out the demon, the priestess stumbled and toppled a vase onto him. Again, another vase, and things became weird. Felix fought the dream-- and succeeded on every will save but the first, quickly fighting off the spirit of Father Charlatan and sending him to his demise as he awoke. It's not every day a ghost takes out a personal vendetta on you. It would be, however, the first of three times that day.

They recuperated and then proceeded into the Oubliette, down a dark stone corridor. Suddenly, a headless burning skeleton burst from a door and began to blindly feel its way towards the characters. They waited, realized it was blind, and let him charge into a grease-- he resisted the grease and struck a mighty blow, almost bringing Felix low. Nathaniel immediately greased his weapon, and it slipped from his hands into the darkness. The players rallied against him, but without his weapon, the skeleton of Gurtis Vortoch had no way to survive, and exploded in a shower of bone dust.

Proceeding into the Oubliette, they suddenly witnessed a spectral image of Gurtis Vortoch torturing the Lopper by denying him food, eating it himself, throwing it into the pit, until one day while he was eating the Lopper's meal, the Lopper came for him, beheading him with his own knife. The Lopper's spirit rose from the Oubliette-- a wraith. The players were worried.

A long fight ensued in which they desperately tried to defeat him as he healed from the bleed damage he was inflicting. Channels to heal stopped bleeding, and the gunslinger ability to press his hot gun barrel to a wound came in handy. Ultimately, it was another haunt siphon that laid him low, his ghostly form beheading itself by accident as his handaxe went wild from his hand just before he dissipated.

In the pit, the character salvaged what treasure they could find, also noting the remains of a vial that contained wire looped in a cup shape-- the reagents for a levitate spell. All in all, it was a nice find.

They left, returning later to visit the Reaper's Hold. The prison seemed docile and calm, and they entered the largest dungeon wing cautiously. They found a secret stash of armor and goods and quickly equipped themselves. Proceeding slowly, they split up to cover ground. It was a bad choice-- the Violinist of Illmarsh appeared suddenly, animating the skeletons there and bringing them to bear against the heroes. He seemed indomitable, the skeletons everywhere-- Nathaniel Thorn's riding dogs came in handy as crowd control. The Violinist almost killed Samuel Crowe by fascinating him directly adjacent to a skeleton, but Felix Gray saved his life. Darien von Carstein took the violin from Zach of Sarenrae and began to compete with the violinist, quickly culminating in a frenzied duel and then duet-- when the song reached its end, the Violinist had regained his joy of life, and suddenly, realizing he had become reminded deeply of his former life, disappeared, humanized and defeated.

The characters entered the torture room, finding the Warden's old skeleton, his keys, and his badge of office. The iron maiden opened, beckoning Felix inside with Kendra Lorrimor, bound and gagged, and he turned to run. Everyone noticed, and multiple attempts went to try to stop him until Roarark, just in the nick of time, caught him by the elbow and drew him into a hold.

They returned the badge of office to Vesorianna, who had gained a small amount of lucidity when the ghosts were destroyed. Despite it falling through her hand, a spectral version appeared in her palm, and she placed it on her breast. The characters turned to return to the dungeon to finish off the Splatter Man through the secret door they had found, and the session ended here.

GM NOTES!:

I made the Headsman's Scythe into an axe, put CAST IN THE NAME OF GOD/YE NOT GUILTY on it, rusted it up and dropped its hardness by 5, and it was fun instead of infuriating. Samuel Crowe is using it as a melee weapon now.

I changed the position of the Mosswater Marauder and the Violinist of Illmarsh just because I felt like it. Oh, and there were a lot more prison cells in the Reaper's Hold, which was... entirely empty for some reason. Now, the Violinist could get a lot more coverage with his skeletons ressurected in their locked cells.

Felix Gray had some bad luck but overcame it. Father Charlatan, Mosswater Marauder, the Lopper, and the Iron Maiden all focused in on him. Telling a 3rd level fighter that he "had died" seemed lame so I feigned a massive critical to segue into the haunt, which... just kind of pissed off the player! I don't like Father Charlatan at all, and we ran the encounters with the woman at the table so that I didn't have to split the party. Ultimately, he defeated a haunt, so I think he felt good, but it sucked-- he was looking forward to ruining some skeletons.

The Lopper was cool, and his tactics of using acrobatics to move around worked well because he could string out the PCs and then just fly through walls to get to people he wanted to attack. He was pretty dangerous, and for 6 players I maxed his hit points. It worked well.

Mosswater Marauder was meh just because his minions have such low HP. Ultimately he was just a speedbump. I liked how the new positioning for the Violinist (or Piper if you like flutes-- a PC of mine took Perform: Violin so it was a flavor change, and uh, any excuse to play the Danse Macabre at my table is a good one) and I would recommend that area for bigger parties. It would've been both cramped, and many skeletons would have been unused or avoided easily.

Overall, a good session, and I'm looking forward to the finale. Zach of Sarenrae is going to Ireland for 5 weeks, so he might miss the entirety of Trial of the Beast, which is a damn shame.


Thanks for posting all this! I missed this thread before, so I have a couple questions about the earlier postings. I'm sure I'll have more as I digest later postings.

(1) What would have happened if Nathaniel failed his Will roll against the shimmering spectral carriage? I'm considering a spectral prison wagon, but I hadn't figured out an effect calling for a Will roll.

(2) In reference to the PCs speaking to Shanda Faravan in Varisian, what is the primary language spoken in Ravengro? My players asked me what language the pole postings were in, and I said Varisian, since the skipping song was in Varisian. But I don't think this is spelled out in the module, unless I missed it.

Also, how long are your sessions? It seems like you've covered a lot of ground in 3 sessions...


1) I was going to send him off in a panicked state for 1d3 hours just so that when the party got back to the Lorrimor house, he would as well-- just so his character didn't just go home and sit down and wait and be bored, and maybe to try to stress the strangeness of the ghost world influencing out from Harrowstone. I set the DC high and he succeeded, so I improvised the scene with Kendra.

2) Everyone speaks Taldan. I found it difficult to imagine a gothic universe without the pale Victorian Londoners, and was considering changing it up a bit... until I realized that the book also agreed. Everyone in Ustalav is Varisian. Remember that. That's why almost all of the art in every book so far have been of white people.

So, so I could still show the art to the players, I made up that Taldor and Cheliax had at one point come around and in and with all of the travel between places, a lot of the people in the country are Taldan or Chelaxian in descent, or mixed blood Chelaxian-Varisian-Taldan. Those are the white people. But, there are still a lot of ethnic Varisians in the country. Shandra Faraven is a full-blooded Varisian. Because of the amount of Taldans, Chelaxians and Varisians, a lot of the people all speak Taldan. But, some of them don't. Those people speak Varisian.

I imagine it like... French Canada. A lot of people there know English and French. Some people only know English, and some people only know French, but a majority of the people speak both fluently.

This is why every single one of my PCs save one knows Varisian-- just so they can communicate with the locals in their own language. It's earned trust points and makes them immediately appear as less of outsiders to those they speak it to, and I plan to use Varisian a lot more as the campaign heads forwards. One of my players is in love with Varisians. Every single one of his characters after the first has been one. So, might as well include as much Varisia as possible.

3) We play from about 8pm to 2am, so 6 hours. The party is very well organized. We don't roleplay out a lot, only like... dialogue and minimal descriptions if we're dungeon delving. We're not internal roleplayers. Nobody goes on a monologue (except for me, when I'm playing and I get a hook on some good imagery in my head). Instead, I guess we're external roleplayers. We all prefer to speak to NPCs instead of describing our own personal inner thoughts, and we all prefer to explore the surroundings more than talk about how we explore them, if that makes sense?


My PCs are the heroes of Ravengro.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) summoner
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier
  • Roarark, human (Kellid) alchemist

The heroes began just after they had returned the badge to Vesorianna. They decided to return home and rest to prepare to fight the Splatter Man, as they had heard about the Whispering Way and thought they might be down there in the sub-basement. When the group returned to Ravengro, they found the entire town in a lull-- it seemed like everyone in the entire town had fallen asleep for no reason. After awakening several people, they learned that Benjan Caeller had arrested another person who had come into town and written "RIA" in blood on the inside of the Laughing Demon-- but, he seemed apathetic, as did everyone in the town except for Zolkar. The entire town had been covered by a bleakness of the soul. The heroes rested, prepared, and steeled themselves for the final confrontation. Zach, Child of Sarenrae, stayed behind in Harrowstone to protect the village from any spirits if they had appeared.

Delving back into Harrowstone, the entire prison felt still-- and they entered the opened secret door from the torture room into the Nevermore.

They came upon the gray ooze, made their perception checks and then it rolled low and they walloped the s$#& out of it. It's natural acidic biology did damage to Nathaniel's arm, but he didn't quite care. Darien von Carstein used a magic missile he meant for the Splatter Man, since it seemed like no one wanted to use their weapons to attack the creature. Darien also began to truly feel the effects of the Splatter Man's spellbook as it began to convince him to ration his spells out in case he lost his spellbook, stealing no actual spells from him, but making extremely sensible arguments when it came to cantrips.

They entered the Nevermore quietly, checked out the walls and the guard room (which I had put on the other side of the portcullis due to map space) and then proceeded inwards. Suddenly, everyone was attacked by a rush of spectral energy, and Samuel and Nathaniel were overwhelmed by it-- they witnessed Hean Faramin's life in Harrowstone in the blink of an eye, how he produced the potion over many long months, his plan, torturing Warden Hawkran, being doused with oil and lit aflame by a guard before running into the cells and attempting to use his own bucket of filth to put himself out, ultimately tripping and tumbling into the open oubliette.

Right after that, the names began to appear. The Splatter Man's essence reacted, and they began to feel the negative side effects. As names appeared, their life force began to drain, and the heroes quickly began to use... holy water, prestidigitation, acid splash and soft gunpowder burns to erase the names. Trying to intimidate the professor of anthroponomastics, Nathaniel used an arcane mark to write "HEAN" on the wall beside him. The haunt refused to cease but was quickly dealt with by the heroes, and as a result, some of the heroes delved into the Oubliette. Samuel Crowe fired a flare into the water, and Roarark and Nathaniel jumped inside to pull some of the items they saw in the wreckage there. After Roarark climbed free, Felix Gray finally had enough, and struck the wall with his battleaxe, triggering a cave in.

Everyone expertly maneuvered to avoid the collapse as the Nevermore sunk deeper into the earth. The Splatter Man manifested directly in front of Nathaniel Gray, a thin, wiry, ancient looking old man with a crooked nose, tiny spectacles and a massive head, wreathed in spectral flames that covered his body. He summoned three dire rats in the water around the synthesist before rising up and past the group.

"HEAN FARAMIN! WE COME FOR YOU!" Darien von Carstein shouted, brandishing the Splatter Man's spellbook.
"NO! I COME FOR YOU!" he responded in a nasal shriek, and hit Darien with a maximized magic missile, a giant gauntlet of arcane energy striking him in the heart.

The fight was on, in earnest, and they quickly surrounded him and began attacking. But he was smart-- with the entire room full of difficult terrain, he quickly melded inside one of the cells in the room-- a cell he'd never opened-- and used the terrain to his advantage. He struck Darien von Carstein with another maximized magic missile-- "GIVE IT TO ME! I NEED IT!"-- and the only thing that saved his life was his false life he'd prepared that morning. The dire rats were swiftly dispatched, and Nathaniel ran to Darien's unconscious form and took the spellbook, diving into the water with it. Samuel Crowe opened fire through the bars, missing a ghost touch bullet, but succeeding with an undead bane bullet, but Hean Faramin's concentration was perfect-- even Nathaniel ripping ten pages from his spellbook didn't make him flinch! He summoned a riding dog to attack Samuel as Roarark brought Darien von Carstein back into the fight. Darien drew out an ethereal siphon, turned the mechanism and engaged it-- but the Splatter Man refused to die. "NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!"-- and he was still there.

"IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT?" he shouted in retort.
"We've got another," Samuel Crowe called out, and engaged the final ethereal siphon.
"NO! NO, I SAID NO!" but it wasn't enough-- he was pulled foot-first into the capsule, screaming and clawing, refusing to die. The siphon began to disintegrate, the glass breaking in spidering cracks, the mechanism creaking, the metal buckling. At the last moment, it seemed as if he would escape, and he turned. A peace came upon him, a shocking realization across his face, and he saw his name, "HEAN", glowing on the wall.

"Well, that makes sense..." and he funneled into the siphon, the mechanism locking him inside. He was defeated.

After resting and recuperating, they retrieved the items from the bottom of the oubliette. Warden Hawkran's wedding ring engraved with images of charging skeletal horses; his bronzed +1 keen halberd, an inscription across the beard in Varisian reading "Leadership is a heavy charge" and his 'skeleton key,' a dull adamantine dagger that they were unable to identify. Nathaniel apologized for pulling all of the first and second level spells from the Splatter Man's spellbook, and handed back the gutted book to Darien.

They hurried upstairs to Vesorianna. When she appeared, she was glowing a golden light, wielding her husband's halberd and dagger, chainmail across her body, his badge on her chest. She quickly ordered the characters-- for the first time, using Taldan instead of Varisian-- to help the others begin to prepare the prisoners for transport, that they were leaving Harrowstone and heading to another prison. She seemed completely lost in her new reality, as she had always been, unable to recognize the heroes.

"We found this, ma'am," Darien von Carstein said, and handed her her husband's wedding ring.
"Ah," she said, the ring phasing through her hand and remaining in Darien's, yet a spectral ring appearing in her palm. She placed it on her finger beside her own. "I haven't seen my husband recently-- can you tell him to come find me? If the fool's lost his wedding ring again, who knows what else he's done."
"Yes, ma'am."
"Good. ... You know, you all look very familiar. Well, I guess that's to be expected. New faces in Ravengro, always coming in and out, after all. Well, get out there. We need to get moving."
"Of course," they replied, and turned to leave.
At the last moment, Vesorianna Hawkran turned around, and in Varisian, spoke to them. "It feels like I should say goodbye," and she disappeared, the Haunting of Harrowstone disappearing with her.

When the heroes went outside, they heard something they'd never heard before on Harrowstone's grounds. They heard birds singing.

Roarark took a litheria blossom seed that the Professor had given him, and he planted it where the Professor had been found, as a memorial.

With her badge of office to remember her-- infused with her lingering essence and her ghostly form to become a rod of ectoplasmic and extend metamagic, lesser, the heroes left Harrowstone for the final time.

At Ravengro, everyone was outside their houses, talking, laughing, yawning. Kendra hurriedly ran to them outside on the street. "Did you see that?!" she cried.
"See what?"
"There was this brilliant burst of blue light that came up out of Harrowstone! I woke up just in time to see it-- it was beautiful! And, well, everyone came outside. We knew you'd done it!"

Everyone in Ravengro surrounded the players, talking excitedly, thanking them. Benjan Caeller tipped his hat, and Gibs Hephenus, in a sling, quietly watched.

That night in the Laughing Demon, Zolkar made them dinner in their honor, and a celebration began. They toasted the players, Ravengro, and Professor Lorrimor. Even Gibs Hephenus raised his glass-- and later, in private, he solemnly thanked Nathaniel Thorn for helping him. Later, the council gave the heroes their reward, including money scraped up by the citizens of Ravengro. They spent a month there, Darien von Carstein and Felix Gray helping the Church of Pharasma and the people of the town identify the remains of whomever they could before interring the corpses in graves across the lawn of Harrowstone. They specially buried Vesorianna Hawkran and Lyvar Hawkran together. Roarark watched the litheria blossoms bloom and cover that corner of Harrowstone, taking some for his own personal use, but knowing in maybe a hundred years, this yard could be completely covered by a forest of beautiful flowers.

Samuel Crowe got a letter back from his father early on, and he told him it was fine and to return when he had the chance. Felix Gray got his letter back from Vigil, ordering him to return with the reliquary and to show no one else-- but he knew he had to go to Lepidstadt, as per the Professor's wishes, so he crumpled up the letter and tossed it. After the first snow of the year, the heroes set off across the countryside to Lepidstadt, Kendra finally having sold her father's home, packed up everything and sent it to Lepidstadt with Nathaniel's help. She promised to meet them in Lepidstadt shortly, catching the next caravan out with the rest of her father's things.

The journey was short, only eight days, but during those eight days they met up with Border Guards who shared that the Beast of Lepidstadt had been caught, they saw wyverns off the Tusk Mountains hunting free-roaming goats, and they came across a farmhouse brutalized by orcs and saved the last survivor of the family before defeating an entire warband of orc savages. Crossing through Tamrivena, they bribed the guards, left the girl with the Church of Pharasma, and headed north, through the spread-out city of Cortaud before finally entering the Dipplemere swamp.

They came across a caravan at night-- "The Crooked Kin, Ustalav's Greatest Traveling Cabinet of Curiosities"-- and met with their leader, Kaleb Hesse, to ask to join them. Darien von Carstein was wary he was another dhampir or a vampire, but soon was relieved to discover he was just albino as they met with the rest of the freaks. Kaleb Hesse enjoyed introducing each freak, watching the heroes reactions, but ultimately was a rather friendly fellow. Samuel Crowe stayed up on watch with Trollblood the Giant Man, playing chess, and was excited to speak Osiriani with Prince Zar, only to realize he was from the Mwangi Expanse. The Swarm of Clowns attempted to bring Darien out of his shell, but were unsuccessful.

In the morning, one of the freaks had gone missing-- Aleece, one of the sisters. The caravan began to amount their equipment, but obviously wouldn't be up to par if they tried, so the heroes stepped in to say they would handle it. They followed her tracks into the swamp, and quickly came across the lair of the Feaster in Watery Shadows. A fierce and terrible beast, they quickly amounted efforts to dispatch it, realizing that it was using their own readied actions to cast spells or make ranged attacks against it as a way to take advantage of their openings. It died, but a hero was only not taken with it due to superb tactics.

They found Aleece's body, as well as the Feaster's treasures, and returned to the Crooked Kin with not only their friend's remains, but the monster's, as well, which Kaleb Hesse had quickly boiled and preserved in parts for his cabinet. He asked the heroes to protect them on the way to Lepidstadt, and they agreed, taking them north into the city.

At the end of the session, they entered Lepidstadt to see the massive Punishing Man raised in the town square, and went to find lodging at the Brazen Skull.

GM NOTES!:

The Splatter Man was really tough and I could have killed a PC, but they were all level 4 and I didn't want to pull punches. It was a tough fight. The players expressed interest in monsters "who use tactics-- it's really rare!" so I'm making sure to try to play up difficult terrain, especially on monsters whose mobility can go from a plus to a winning advantage. I played him 'no punches' style, and the PCs rocked him with no cleric, and no shield until Nathaniel cast it to protect himself once he had the spellbook and the Splatter Man was magic missiling him. I think the PCs were pretty injured-- some of them were down 25 hit points, or in Darien's cast, down to 4-- but they prevailed. I even gave him maxed hit points.

I really liked how I managed to portray Vesorianna. I think it's the most tasteful 'death' I've ever done in a game, and it really got to Darien's player, who cried a bit.

Despite a majority of this session being in Ravengro, I used the transitory period to really bring out the Ustalav in the game, getting the players into what life is like in Canterwall and kind of showing them the world instead of just handwaving them through it. I love random encounters, because there's nothing at stake-- the monsters can bail as soon as they think it might go bad for them, and that's what happened with the wyverns. Samuel Crowe scared one off with a gunshot, and it left. That's no goat!

Some of the lines this session were cool. Good roleplaying around.

I'm giving the party Hero Points, and it seems good. It lets me make the game harder. After playing with Hero Points, I feel like I'm in love with them. Being able to take two standard actions is glorious-- opens up a lot of tactical options. As the game moves forward, I'll make sure to try to squeeze points from the PCs so that they don't burn them all on the final encounter, and to give Villain Points to villains like the Aberrant Promethean, Mathus Mordrinacht and Auren Vrood. One thing I'm doing is presenting the special "Harrow Card" points as something I'm calling a "Gravestone," linking it to specific ingredient in the creation of the Carrion Crown instead of a harrow card. Sometimes I like being mechanically cryptic, and the PCs got to know the first ingredient was "the soul of a righteous jailer kept imprisoned for fifty years". So, now they have that Gravestone, mechanically the same as the uprising.

Rrrrrrreally looking forward to the next session. Investigation is so fun.

Sovereign Court

I absolutely love your recaps. I'm planning on running this AP and it'll be my first time running pathfinder. I've heard that Carrion Crown is very difficult but reading your posts has given me some relief and I'm really glad you're taking the time to do this.

I've read and re-read the first book several times but I'm still working through some issues.

Anyway, keep it up. Great work!


Awww titan left out the lesson learned. Never charge a phalanx fighter in a doorway.

Sovereign Court

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Did a little rewrite of Father Grimburrow's funerary sermon to edit out the overtly Judeo-Christian feel and make it more in line with the Pharasma article in ToB. The bolded lines are spoken by the congregation and can be known to the PC's with a DC 10 Knowledge (religion) check.

Sermon:
Here and now, dear friends, we are Pharasma’s children.
What we shall be has not been revealed,
But we know when she appears we shall be judged by her, for she shall see us as we are.
Those who are not pure, know that...
All whom live must face her judgment.

Pray with me now...
Not this year, not yet.

O Pharasma, give to us now your grace, as we shrink before the mystery of death.
Speak to us your solemn message.
Help us live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days are accomplished, enable us the strength
to face in your Judgement our destiny...
The Lady shall keep it.

--Vrock of Ages


King of Vrock wrote:

Did a little rewrite of Father Grimburrow's funerary sermon to edit out the overtly Judeo-Christian feel and make it more in line with the Pharasma article in ToB. The bolded lines are spoken by the congregation and can be known to the PC's with a DC 10 Knowledge (religion) check.

** spoiler omitted **

--Vrock of Ages

That sounds like a great way to earn a trust point,

Sovereign Court

Ice Titan wrote:
2) Everyone speaks Taldan. I found it difficult to imagine a gothic universe without the pale Victorian Londoners, and was considering changing it up a bit... until I realized that the book also agreed. Everyone in Ustalav is Varisian. Remember that. That's why almost all of the art in every book so far have been of white people.

Ironically the topic of pale Varisians popped up in a discussion of the recent Seoni illustrations.

James Jacobs wrote:
Even when Seoni's pictured as being relatively pale, she's still a Varisian. And, in fact, a fair amount of Varisians are relatively pale—that trait's generally an indication that the Varisian is from Ustalav and not Varisia.

--Vrocky Balboa


My PCs are junior investigators.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) summoner
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier
  • Roarark, human (Kellid) chirurgeon/brutal pugilist

The PCs picked it right back up where the left off, in the Brazen Skull in Lepidstadt. They determined they needed to give the books back to the people they were asked to, and went about doing that.

First, they went to Montagnie Crowl, who was in the midst of telling some assembled students the story of what he had seen-- which didn't include the Beast at all, to their disappointment. Crowl engaged the PCs in some talk, thinking they, too, were students, until they revealed they weren't and handed over the crate of books. Crowl was happy to see many of the tomes back and made some macabre jokes at their expense ("Serving Your Hunger! Ah, finally. Anyone want to know what people taste like?"). They asked to look around and did, but not closely, seeing the back room of the Antiquities Department and the throne of the Cthonic Effigy.

The PCs said goodbyes, and went to Judge Embreth Daramid's home, where they were invited in for tea. Embreth remained aloof, leaving whether or not she recognized some of the older companions of the Professor up in the air, and gave the PCs their gold. She asked them to stay, and pitched them a hypothetical situation about the Trial of the Beast, wherein she may pay some sort of hypothetical heroes a sum of money to hypothetically aid in his defense. The heroes took her up on her offer, and approached the court house.

They saw a mob outside and some guards, and everyone "cleverly bluffed" their way by save Samuel, who told the truth and was invited inside by Acting Sergeant Dun. They looked in the main room, and were directed to the barracks. They looked in the barracks, and were directed to the broom closet. There they met with Gustav Kaple, who was stuttering, yet devoted to justice, and decided to become his assistants to the defense. Then, they went to meet with the Beast.

The Beast was downstairs, locked in his chair full of manacles, being "suppressed" by the guards' adamantine-tipped rods. The PCs were mad, and they tried to break the situation to the screaming Beast, who only yelled at them. Samuel Crowe attempted intimidate, which failed, and the Beast intimidated him back extremely handily, forcing a manacle to burst from the chair and causing the guards to swarm him to hammer it back into place. Eventually, Felix began to speak to him like a child, and fed him beef jerky, which, of course, he chewed on for nothing more than the pleasure of chewing. The Beast reacted well, so Felix "did the wagon" with jerky-- something like "Here comes the wagon! Open up the gate!" He eventually had the Beast open up and had a conversation with him, showing the Beast had no more than a childlike intelligence, and they tried to get information out of him, prompting outbursts of "I didn't do it!" Unsatisfied with his answers after trying hard, but not putting pressure on him, they left the courthouse-- but not before giving a guard who had been torturing the Beast beef jerky and directing him to feed the Beast and to "do the wagon."

The PCs got their horses and rode to Morast, where they came upon the swampers in the local tavern. I decided they would be Kellid-descended, and had Larazne react favorably to having Roarark come interact with him. He managed to get his story from him-- and tell it to the rest of the PCs. They tried to pick apart his story, and Larazne got a bit miffed, telling them that "it was dark" when pressed for concrete details. Eventually, he offered to take them out to where the Beast had "died" in the swamp, and the PCs took him up on the offer, heading into the swamp to the Boneyard.

The PCs took Coracles out to the island through the swamp, and as they neared it, a massive shadow surprise attacked them in the night. One of the swampers was critically injured, and fell from the coracle, but soon everyone had made landfall to fight with the flying bat-like creature. The monster, a pregnant manticore, was quickly driven off by celestial eagles and combined gunfire, leaving the PCs to explore the dark, damp and effigy-covered island.

The PCs found a great deal of items there: an old camp, a bag with a human skin in it, a set of pricey amethyst surgeon's tools, and a bloodstained hidden coracle. It also turned out that six graves in the graveyard were empty with no body buried there. Quickly deducing that six bodies were what was needed to make a flesh golem, they decided a necromancer maybe operated out of here, and that the villagers had maybe attacked another flesh golem as it ravaged the area. They showed Larazne the skin, and he told them it was Nan Klebem, a poacher who had disappeared quite some time ago. As for the tools, the PCs quickly deduced that the crafter's mark was on the blade, and decided to look into it the next day.

They returned from the Boneyard and Morast exhausted and quickly fell asleep, waking early to investigate the next morning. While Felix conversed with the Beast, trying to get details from him and (sharing with him a woodcarving of a duck), the rest of the heroes investigated around town. They managed to follow the breadcrumbs across Lepidstadt in less than three hours until they ran into Ollo Klud, who simply didn't care. No matter what they did, he seemed just ready to mock them-- and so they took measures into their own hands, having Samuel and Roarark beat him senseless before having Darien von Carstein memory lapse him so that he didn't remember the last round. They quickly began to look through his papers, but a guard knocked at the door-- "Everything alright, sir?" Nathaniel quickly responded with a "Yes! My chair broke, it's all fine!" and the guard meandered away with a shrug. They found their info and took it, and Ollo soon woke up surrounded by worried PCs and being fed a cure light wounds extract. They claimed that he had fallen on the floor and blacked out, and he quickly sent them away, highly worried and irritated.

The PCs now stood within arms reach of Vorkstag and Grine's Chymic Works, but had to back away to continue with the trial-- but not before asking around a bit to see what the townsfolk had to say.

The trial went well-- the heroes presented evidence and backed every presentation up with plausible theory, presenting to the court that it may have been a second flesh golem, or that there may have been someone who had disguised himself as the Beast to carry out violent crimes. The court took it into consideration, but told the defense to decide which situation was more plausible before presenting them both haphazardly.

The heroes then went to investigate Hergstag, learning that Garrow, Starle and Flicht, three sisters from Hergstag, stayed in Lepidstadt now. They asked them to tell their story, which they did-- and Samuel Crowe let on that they were leaving something out, which he persuaded them to let them in on. The PCs, armed with this information, a warning about the ghostly children and the bear traps... and an anecdote about Flicht falling off a horse and hitting her head when she was a child, ending up with her thinking that skunk musk smelled good and the belief in a "magical unicorn" that had saved her life (quoth Nathaniel: "Ah. So, that's what smells.")... then set off to Hergstag.

Ah, but before they did, a phrase from a sister, that the beast was a legendary figure, a made up fairy tail, prompted the heroes to ask about other fairy tales-- and they were told of Brother Swarm, a foul child-lover who had been doused in honey and stung to death by bees, years and years and years ago.

Oh, and another note-- before Felix left, he learned from the Beast that he had lost his book of poetry when he had helped Ellsa, but didn't want to talk about it because it made him sad. Felix tried to work the information out of him by telling him a story about how a friend of his had died in Mendev, but the Beast refused, apologizing profusely to the person he was now calling "Felixfriend."

They reached Hergstag by nightfall and soon set about investigating-- directly into a bear trap, which prompted many wary precautions as they navigated the corn-choked city paths. They went to Karin's house first, where they saw a flickering of a child's hand-- Nathaniel chased it, quickly finding nothing there but a flimsy scarecrow-- which, on closer inspection, was revealed to be a long-dead corpse of a man trapped in a bear trap. They noted that nothing marked the wall of Karin's home at all, which, with the weight of the Beast, it would be impossible to climb the wall or hang from the windowsill without bowing the entire wall. They went inside to find the window unbroken yet locked from the inside. Using the spirit planchette, the heroes asked the spirits of Hergstag one question-- "What killed you?"

"G H O S T T H A T S M E L L E D L I K E H O N E Y"

It was then that the heroes noticed that, while three of them were manning the planchette, there were eight sets of hands-- and combat with Karin's wraith began. Everyone managed to dodge her outstretched hand, Samuel feeling the cold hand of death on his heart but pushing it back thanks to his natural constitution-- and then the Swarm arrived through the wall, surprising Darien and draining his life force from him. The others moved to assault, and Brother Swarm touched Felix, taking with him a sizeable chunk of his soul before stepping through the wall to avoid being killed. The heroes ran outside to finish him, but not before Gaard's wraith came in through another wall, surprise-attacking Darien once again. They finished off Karin and then Brother Swarm, regenerating Gaard's spawn as a full-fledged wraith. Roarark took significant loss of lifeforce from Gaard's hand as Felix hid in the corner, afraid to die-- but then, suddenly, his courage came back to him and he charged the foul wraith, crying "FOR VICTORY! FOR THE HEART!" and impaling it through the body mass as his reliquary of Iomedae shined extremely brightly for just one second.

The heroes, exhausted, waited, but no other creatures arrived to harry them, so they went to investigate the church. Nathaniel wandered the corn, looking for anything, and quickly came across Brother Swarm's initial hiding place, a natural cavern in the hill, and the child corpses therein. He brought them back to the heroes at the church, and they dug up Ellsa's body for travel back to Lepidstadt, hoping she held the clues to solve the mystery of Hergstag.

Felix also found the Beast's book of poetry, and plans to return it to him at first chance.

We ended the session with the PCs becoming level 5.

GM NOTES!:

So, good session. I always find Richard Pett's modules really playable, but you need to prep very well. I flubbed prep in some places, moving up the timeline considerably by accident, and I also completely screwed up how many children had died, if their bodies were or were not missing, and how many of them were. Nonetheless, pleasing adventure.

Not a lot of treasure, which I can feel the PCs are just licking their lips waiting for. I tempted them with a Varisian traveler selling magical items, and Nathaniel Thorn bought a partially used wand of cure light wounds. Everyone else just stared hungrily at the items therein.

One thing I really didn't like was the Knowledge (local) checks to determine things during the hunt for who made the surgeon's tools. The people who made the checks had been in town for three days, and the people who had lived there for ten years couldn't get above 10 because they didn't have Knowledge (local). I thought it was absurd that someone who hadn't been there for 50 years suddenly knew all about the city, but meh. I just attributed their success to other characters and moved on.

I overestimated my PCs and drew far too much in advance, so I'll have to go back and do it all again this weekend. This weekend should be the climax of the trial, and the introduction to the dungeon crawl. It should be fun-- I know after like a hundred haunts, a flying ghost with difficult terrain, a teleporting witch spider, a flying ranged monster over difficult terrain and a mob of wraiths that the fighter is just DYING to fight something normal. He rolled a 20, 20 and 17 to crit Gaard's wraith, but it wasn't crittable and he was shamed. Glad that soon he gets to fight something face-to-face, even if it does have DR.

I kept the Trial in the midground of the session. I described it and the people important, but really, it wasn't the focus. I did really enjoy getting to play a good, evil and lawful judge, and it was kind of a GM treat to be able to choose which "face" I was going to present to each statement.

Also, when the Beast spoke for the first time, I had someone shout "IT SPEAKS!" and that became the session catchphrase.

Good times!


My PCs are junior investigators, dos.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) summoner
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier
  • Roarark, human (Kellid) chirurgeon/brutal pugilist

The players talked to eachother about what they knew, regrouped, and collected the body of Ellsa before heading back to Lepidstadt.

Felix returned the Beast's book of poetry to the Beast, who gave it instead to Felix, since he had memorized it. Meanwhile, the party decided to knock on Vorkstag and Grine's front door near the river in a crowded, winding section of the city. The alchemist's shop looked like it had been built into a church, with a massive tower rising up above the building, a rotted metal chimney breathing acrid smoke into the air of Lepidstadt that Roarark and Samuel were able to identify as acid and bleach byproduct. They knocked-- A man in a top hat greeted them from the upper balcony-- they asked for Vorkstag, and the man went to go get him. They heard a dog from inside the fence, but couldn't see him thanks to the boards, trying to calm it down with handle animal to stop it from barking, noting the glass shards imbedded at the top of the iron fence's wooden side. An older man in an apron came out and put the dog away before coming out to say hello-- the party asked him if those were his tools, and he told them he'd never seen them before.

"So, what about Grine?" they asked, and the old man, Vorkstag, went to get him. He came out of the balcony window, a pale, scarred gnome with carrot-orange hair, and came to the gate to talk to them, climbing down the wall to get there. They asked them if they were his, and he denied it, but Darien von Carstein caught his bluff. He turned to his friends, and stealthily gestured for them to leave. The party excused themselves and left.

"Why did we have to leave?" asked the party.
"I was trying to tell you that he was lying," Darien responded. Court soon beginning, the heroes ran to the courthouse to present the evidence against the Beast's accusations. They summed up their points well, talked and talked, presented their Con drain as being from a wraith and even cornered the three windmill sisters in their testimony before ending on a bang and speaking with Ellsa's corpse to determine that the Beast was a good person and that Ellsa had been killed by a ghostly creature. The trial ended that day with murmurs in the stands-- murmurs that Acting Sergeant Dun dismissed offhand as nonsense when the heroes told him that it was likely the courthouse may be in danger. Told by Embreth Darmid to guard the Beast themselves, they decided to investigate Sanctuary during the day.

When Gustav Kaple told the party about Karl, Brada's personal assistant who had taken care of the business ends of the hospital, and how he had been blinded, Samuel immediately went to the Church of Pharasma, regrouping with Felix and Roarark as they were being blessed with restorations, and paid a Pharasmin priest named Soldier to come and cast remove blindness on Karl. They sauntered down to Karl's shack, meeting his wife Sandra who was baking, and coming inside. Samuel asked him for information, but first, removed his blindness. Karl couldn't repay him, and Samuel was fine with that-- it was a spontaneous act of kindness that earned him cosmic good faith in the form of one-half of a hero point. Karl celebrated with Sandra at the restoration of his vision before promising to tell them everything he knew. With a nod, Soldier departed.

They learned about Sanctuary from Karl, what it was for and what it had done, and Doctor Brada and his charitable ways. They asked him straight away if he knew Vorkstag and Grine, and he confirmed that he did. They asked him how long ago he saw them, and he told them that he hadn't seen them for a while before the fire. Before they left, he warned them about the ghouls that he knew sometimes tried to sleep with the corpses in the graveyard of Sanctuary, and the party was off.

At Sanctuary, they spread out across the grounds to pick through the rubble, quickly coming across the fused lockbox. Nathaniel broke it open with his brute strength, revealing the charred papers, which Darien von Carstein and Roarark was able to decipher-- he found the words "Vorkstag and Grine" at the tops of some pages, and two words: "Corpses Sold." Roarark and Felix looked for tracks as they did, finding many humanoid footprints with claws at the ends of their toes. Samuel, who was exploring, found a hole in the ground near the medical ward of the building and gathered the others to investigate.

The heroes Felix and Nathaniel descended down into the hole with their knotted rope and his strange hovering flight, respectively. They quickly detected an ambush and were attacked by four ghouls, which, in an instant, they dispatched. Along the wall, lined up, were the heads of many of the previous patients of the Sanctuary, along with Doctor Brada's. A quick investigation found a bottle of bleach with the words "Vorkstag and Grine's" on the side. Obviously, more investigation was necessary.

The party took the heads back to Lepidstadt to have a rather disheveled and flour-covered Karl take a look at and identify-- and while he did that, they moved on the Chymic Works. Seeing only one entrance, they decided to have Nathaniel fly up to the top of the tower to quickly deposit them so they could sneak inside.

This did not work as planned.

They spotted a creature in the rafters of the tower, and it charged Nathaniel-- a strange, sewn-together animal doll with a huge, hooked iron jaw. A quick crossbow bolt and a bullet solved its problem, and the heroes were quickly on top of the tower. Climbing down, Roarark met a pair of the beasts-- Felix attempted to help, but slipped on the ladder (DC0 with a -5) and fell down to the top of the inner tower. They were quickly dispatched as well.

They came down into a room made for a smaller person full of alchemical items and strange displays-- likely Grine, they decided. Emerging, they entered into the vats area, full of massive tubs of acid and bleach, a narrow walkway of planks crisscrossing them. A massive orb of darkness stood on the wall, and the top-hatted man waited for them along with many, many strange, scarred creatures wearing pure-white full body suits and goggles, with strange, animal-like deformities protruding from their otherwise slightly human bodies. This man greeted them, introducing himself as Vorkstag-- they had been alerted telepathically by the homunculi in the tower-- and attacked.

The fight was long, and hard. The highlights are:
1) Felix failed a save versus the bleach and acid haze twice in a row before finally succeeding and tearing down a pair of mongrelfolk in his way for the trouble.
2) Roarark caught a fly from Darien and flew down to assault Vorkstag. A few bad rolls and one good one had Vorkstag grappled until he made a rare escape-- right out of his skin. Everyone was shocked and confused.
3) Nathaniel, with his eidolon's darkvision, engaged Grine along the wall inside the orb of darkness-- and despite what help he tried to give to his friend and colleague, was ultimately stabbed to death by Nathaniel, forcing him to explode in a blinding flash of light, dazzling Nathaniel and blurring his vision for a small amount of time.
4) Many of the mongrelfolk, wielding stirring clubs, slipped and fell into the vats of bleach or acid and were dissolved quickly.
5) A mongrelfolk ran for the yard to release the hound-- what quickly turned out to be a horrific flesh golem hound-- and he did. When he returned with it, its first move was to leap down on the side of a vat to run to engage Roarark. It slipped immediately and fell inside. It wasn't for quite some time that the mongrelfolk trying to help it fell inside himself, and the flesh golem hound used his body to climb out.
6) Vorkstag fled into his supply room at the final moment, but his new allies were no good, and he was slain in the pool of corpses. Felix slashed him across the abdomen, and he took a step back, taunting them-- "Is that all?"-- before his muscles snapped and his entrails poured out into his hands. "Oh. I guess it is..." and he fell dead among the cadavers.

The heroes quickly took everything of value from the Chymic Works, releasing the other mongrelfolk they found in the stables cowering. They discovered Vorkstag's terrible secret-- that he was a fey creature known as a skin stealer, that he had a closet full of human skins, and that he was using a mongrelfolk skin to impersonate the Beast of Lepidstadt. With all of this, they returned to the courthouse, keeping this valuable evidence with Omar Crowe, Samuel Crowe's aging gunsmith father who lives and works in Lepidstadt.

Later that night, at almost four in the morning, the Courthouse was surrounded by rowdy commoners with torches, battering rams and weapons, intent on drawing the Beast out and killing him. The party had little options-- having just rested, some of their resources were still heavily expended. Samuel Crowe and Felix Gray went out to talk to them.

Samuel fired his gun in the air as the crowd shouted at him and threw rocks when he came outside, quickly evoking silence. He addressed them, pleading with them to see reason, and then asked to see the leaders of the mob to speak with them. In what was a fairly quick and awesome moment, Samuel Crowe talked down the crowd of sloshed anarchists with a series of well thought out arguments and reasonable statements. As the ringleaders spoke, they used similar language as Grine, accusing the heroes of being things from aliens in human flesh, to Kellid ultranationalists who wanted to retake the homeland, to AWOL deserter crusaders to albino pedophiles. The crowd quickly turned against the ringleaders, however, talking about how the Crooked Kin had talked up the heroes at the circus as being great people, and the crowd, essentially, dispersed. The final drunken ringleader cussed. "I got my battering ram out for this?"

In the morning, the heroes quickly presented all of the evidence, repeatedly stunning the judges with their conclusions. They had Dr. Brada's disembodied head spoken with thanks to a tube and a fireplace bellows, and they even spoke to Vorkstag, whose will wasn't strong enough to resist returning to answer some final, lingering questions about if he was at Morast, and why he did it. With all of the evidence, the heroes had succeeded-- and the Beast was free to go.

The Beast celebrated in the court as the people of Lepidstadt looked in in confusion. He thanked everyone, even "Meanfriend", Nathaniel, and carried Felix out of the courthouse, calling him his "best friend in all the world!" He invited them to stay at Schloss Caromarc with his daddy, and told them to wait, since he'd need a day or two to get permission for a sleep over. The guards took him to the edge of the city, and he ran away into the swamp. The heroes knew that Schloss Caromarc was the infamous house of the last lord of Vieland, Alpon Caromarc, an eccentric inventor and scientist who had built his home on the walls of a gorge, and were very interested to see him-- especially Samuel, who, with his mound of siccatite, knows that the only place in Ustalav he could forge it at was with Caromarc's gas forge.

At the end of the day, Judge Embreth Daramid paid the heroes, but had another request-- to go to Schloss Caromarc and to tell the Count to keep the Beast on a shorter and tighter leash so that misunderstandings like this never happen again.

GM notes!:

I heavily do not recommend running the entire Chymic Works at once. That was horrible. 4 stat blocks to run for 4 monsters was way too much, especially since a lot of them were very complicated (Vorkstag). It kind of sucked, but was fun once I got a handle on it.

The trial portions were good again this session, and I liked the outcome. It felt like the heroes were guaranteed to succeed if they didn't kill anyone outside the Courthouse. It was pretty humorous to watch my PCs sweat and negotiate who was "rolling what" when they has a +20 bonus. On a sidenote, since the Diplomacy character is studying abroad in Ireland for another while, I let the PCs roll skills that were applicable to the evidence, defaulting on diplomacy. Sense Motive for the Beast's tears, Knowledge (arcana) for his properties, Heal to present skins, Survival for the caiman scars. It worked much better than having a party of 5 people with a total Cha mod of +4 fumble around with Diplomacy, and it got people in the limelight more often.

I drew the front of Caromarc's house this week. I need to stop doing that! I'm just overworking myself and making myself annoyed. Blehglbhetglbeh.

Sovereign Court

Learning to run the Chymic works backwards is something every GM should do. I know at least a few of my PC's will want to try to infiltrate the place from above (namely the ninja, the vivisectionist, and perhaps the ranger).

--Pop Vrocks & soda


King of Vrock wrote:

Learning to run the Chymic works backwards is something every GM should do. I know at least a few of my PC's will want to try to infiltrate the place from above (namely the ninja, the vivisectionist, and perhaps the ranger).

--Pop Vrocks & soda

I'd agree to that. I expected them to climb the gate and walk in the front door, but they instead alerted the entire complex to their presence within seconds.

It was just really complicated.

1. Everyone makes a Fort save or nausea
2. DC 10 Acrobatics to run along planks, damage from falling in, how to get out, etc
3. 5 different Z levels in the encounter (top catwalk, middle catwalk, ground floor, vats, where Grine is)
4. Grine's dark creeper traits aren't called out in his stat block, so you need to have a bestiary 1 open to dark creeper, TotB open to V+G and the flesh golem hound, and bestiary 2 open to mongrelman. We had a fan in the room and only so many huge-sized minis.

Dark Archive

A great thread, IC! A lot of good tips for running the AP, and if I'm going to do that (although my next campaign will likely be set in Kaer Maga) in the future, I'm definitely going to steal most of your ideas! :)


My PCs are castle crashers.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) synthesist summoner
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier
  • Roarark, human (Kellid) chirurgeon alchemist/brutal pugilist barbarian

The heroes took off after the Beast, towards Schloss Caromarc, where they knew that the reclusive count and creator of the Beast lived.

They came upon the Hanging House, perched precariously in the tight confines of a gorge, seeing from a distance the unicorn-adorned stained glass windows of the Living Museum far in the distance. The House stood in the gorge at least two-hundred feet over the rushing water, and the network of bridges looked very precarious from the path up. The heroes hitched their horses at the bottom-- they had come upon the House at night thanks to magic item shopping, and approached the gatehouse in the dark.

The trolls saw them first.

Massive and tan hided humanoid creatures, they quickly mustered resistance and assaulted the PCs as they approached their hold-out. The heroes quickly dispatched them and their trollhounds with several well placed spells and effects, breaching the gatehouse with little problem. The troll's leader was unceremoniously defeated, the giant's crossbow missed its mark, and their final stand was quick and brutal. This left the heroes with a cornered single goblin.

The heroes quickly considered their own personal philosophies before accosting the goblin and, thanks to comprehend languages, pantomiming questions to him before shaking him down for information. Many pantomimes ended in complete misunderstandings-- "Did you kill the guards here?" ended with the goblin, Jubjab, pleading to not be killed. "Did you see who killed the guards here?" ended with the same. He traded Felix Grey the shiny silver symbol of the Whispering Way as a barter for his life-- after learning that the trolls came here after the men in robes, they slapped the goblin in the rear and told him to leave.

Searching the gatehouse, they found two strange instruments-- black boxes with small switches on them, reels inside of them displayed in glass cases. With a flick of a switch, they were listening to what they assumed to be Alpon Caromarc's voice.

"It's on these walks I realize the most startling questions... Why must we have two eyes? Is there some sort of law that says we must? Two eyes, two ears, two arms, two lungs... but only one heart, and one brain. But what if I could change that?"

It was clear that Alpon Caromarc was completely insane.

The other item-- a voicebound box-- told the story of Balton, the head guard at the compound, who overlooked the strange experiments Caromarc would perform on new guards or servants that displeased them because he knew Caromarc couldn't replace him and would be burned at the stake if Balton ratted him out.

Darien also noticed something curious-- a brass staff that the trolls had was registering as magical, and strong evocation. He unhooked goat meat from it and was unable to discern what it was. Blindly activating it, he shot forth a wave of fire from the staff's tip. They quickly guessed it was a staff of fire, but Darien didn't know how to activate it reliably. It didn't keep him from using it as a stylish walking cane, though.

The heroes bludgeoned open the door to the bridge to find another hideous amalgamation of flesh, bone and metal there on the other side-- a flesh golem hound. The party began to taunt it, but it didn't cross-- until Felix stepped too far further. Quick positioning and intelligent decisions saved Felix from the chance of being slammed off of the bridge to his death. They quickly killed the creature-- and Felix wondered if Vorkstag and Grine had possibly purchased this creature from Caromarc.

The party approached the door and knocked-- then noticed the bell rope, and rang it. Darien von Carstein saw the unseen servant in the window, and noticed it didn't care. The party waited close to five minutes before opening the unlocked door and summoning the guardian in a burst of magical energy. It seemed a magic aura spell had concealed it (a gift from the Whispering Way, unbeknownst to the party). The guardian apparated, a gigantic whirlwind of air bound with a silver bracelet-- an air elemental-- and attacked. It slammed its form over Samuel Crowe and pressurized its body, almost crushing his lungs with its massive force. The party, startled, were unsure of what they would do. Nathaniel and Felix both knew that it was capable of forming a hurricane that could pick ten armored men off their feet-- and they were standing on a thin bridge with no railing over a 100 foot drop and a 100 foot waterfall beyond it.

Darien von Carstein cut and ran, taking a razor-thin slice from the wind elemental along his thigh, and with a flick of his finger and a word, dispelled the summon and ended the trap.

After some congratulations, the party entered the house. Empty, but welcoming and well furnished-- well, except for the guardian of the house, a strange barrel full of hundreds of metallic, spindly razor-sharp spider legs. The group bore down on it with fury and ripped its legs off within seconds.

A thorough investigation of the house led to more tapes, some disposed of, some found. Caromarc's experiments on a Varisian man with an extract he had named "berserk" and its results, a recording made by an engineer dissatisfied with Caromarc's demands ("What a smug bastard, I tell ya!"), and Balton's musings on turning Caromarc in for a reward now that his job was becoming less cushy. He had seen Caromarc recently receive strange beasts in crates from Katapesh, and was goign to use his ownership of these "rust-colored, dog-sized bugs with propellers on their tails", that must be illegal, as evidence. The group, with horror, quickly identified these creatures as rust monsters.

The group entered Caromarc's own room where they quickly found several strange things-- a tapestry that covered a nook that looked directly into the engineer's room through the eyes of a painting and a pair of goggles of night, a complex cryptex-locked safe, and a large network of brass tubes that allowed the listener to hear every room in the house.

Roarark, being suspicious of magic, fought and broke several items that the house's permanent unseen servants tried to use to clean up the mud that the heroes had tracked in.

They found another tape in Caromarc's library, recorded by him.

"I'm consistently intrigued by the human psychological reaction to a corpse. Subjects often approach the body and shake it, as if to awake it from a deep slumber, and then, reverently, as if they were in church, back away with wide and prayerful eyes, the beating of their heart in the ears delaying their panic just barely. I don't find it amusing. I find it pathetic. Don't they know that the most natural state of the human body is decay? But then again, what if you were a marrionette in a world of puppets that moved on their own? Death doesn't change the puppet-- there's just no one at its strings..."

The heroes at this point knew that Caromarc was completely and totally irredeemably insane.

Before they could dwell on much, a secret panel in the dining room wall opened and a group of men in guards uniforms entered. The heroes heard them from around the corner, and approached them to speak. They noticed quickly that they were all pale, gaunt, highly scarred and missing their lower jaws. They raised items unseen to the air and attacked, swiftly summoning a trio of undead minions and then wading into battle with invisible scythes. The heroes beat them back with flaming spheres, bullets and beatings, killing them swiftly-- but definitely one of the most dangerous encounters they had had. Searching the bodies turned up several items, including silver symbols of the Whispering Way. Discussion became tense as they discussed whether or not they were holy symbols, and what that meant. The party quickly moved on.

Across a thin bridge lay the ruins of what seemed to be a scaffold-webbed workshop. Nathaniel Thorn could see the wall on the other end was collapsed, and flew over. His eidolon had manifested magical wingless flight (just in time for the flying, I suppose). He was able to quickly pick out the rust monsters hiding in the room, their propellers twitching as Felix tried to work open the door. Nathaniel called out, "No!"-- Felix opened the door, then slammed it shut. The rust monsters quickly dashed to the door, pawing at it.

The party quickly tempted the creatures close and disposed of them with swift attacks and, in Roarark's case, a grapple and toss down into the raging river below. They searched the room, finding another tape describing an engineer's doubts on whether or not Caromarc's workshop was destroyed by lightning-- since they could see a lightning rod from where they were working.

The party saw the whipping and turning rope bridge, shook their heads and said "Nope." Samuel Crowe steadied it with a rope and a grappling hook and Nathaniel further steadied it with an immovable rod he found beneath the house, once a support but now free-flying that the iron struts had been rusted away. The group began to cross the bridge, walking right into the summoning symbol.

With a crash, a black-feathered fire-covered angel of fury, an Erinyes, appeared just over the gorge, her massive blackwood bow in her hands. Beautiful and terrible, the air wretched when she spoke. "Give yourself over to peace, and spare yourselves the horrors and pains of life. I will bring you salvation."

As a response, Samuel Crowe opened fire.

So did the Erinyes. Two in the body and one in the heart.

Samuel toppled from the rope bridge, almost dead, right into Nathaniel Thorn's waiting arms.

Darien von Carstein rose his hand, focused his energy, spent a hero point, and dispelled the trap again.

The group took Samuel across the bridge and brought him back to consciousness with wands and healing potions before kicking in the door to the Living Museum.

Inside, they saw a scrabbling ningyo in a glass case, saw the weird and scientific curiosities of the museum and found another tape from Balton in a bloodstain. The tapes contents were scrambled, but it was apparent that he was assaulted by the Whispering Way during his recording. The group went upstairs, looked through the chests, and found one with three snake-haired stone heads inside that quickly animated to attack the party. Just as that threat ended, a massive, skinless, eyeless flesh golem led by a flight of homunculi entered the room. A fireball wiped out the homunculus, blinding the massive creature, and it was swiftly dispatched.

Another Caromarc tape told more about the psychotic recluse.

"I've finally decided on a name for my curio-- the Living Museum. I find it very fitting of the contents therin. For, what is life, if not art? Unlike the atheists and sycophants of Lepidstadt University, I believe that all living creatures are created by a purposeful and divinely inspired hand-- much like a painting. And that only a brilliant artist, such as myself, is now fit to pick up the brush and continue where the old masters left off..."

Thoroughly weirded out, the party went to check in on the final rooms of the Museum. A pair of identical sarcophagi stood at either end of the room, a coil of chains in the center. The party warily began to inspect the room when Samuel Crowe heard a thumping from the far sarcophagus. "Are you hurt? Do you need help?" he called from outside. Met with more thumping, he put his hands on the chest to open it to free the person trapped inside.

The mimic's adhesive held strong as the face on the sarcophagus split to reveal a slobbering tongue and toothy mouth. It immediately cried, "DAHAHAR I GOTS YOU!" and began to ruthlessly pummel Samuel's body with its strange, tendril-covered mimicked form.

As Felix turned around to help, the other sarcophagus opened to reveal an ancient Osirian mummy inside, still wearing a golden hawk helmet. It moaned. The battle was on.

Quickly as it started, it was over, with a disintegrated mummy and a battered mimic lying on the floor. The party found another secret door leading out to the gorge and decided to camp for the night in the exhibit with a massive stuffed bullete in it.

GM NOTES!:

Overall, I liked the first part of Caromarc's mansion much more than the rest. The monsters were dangerous, scary and tough. I loved it. Adding in some of my guys made it a bit tougher, and was fun. Their stats are after the GM notes.

Darien's players' rolls to dispel were both 16+ and it was a fantastic choice that played out very well. I thought it was awesome and it saved the party two very, very hard fights versus some of the more superior opponents in the Schloss.

The tapes were an idea I had suddenly. This is the most elegant way I've ever found on how to present GM-only backstory to the PCs. I recorded them all up in audacity, gave them a radio feel with sounds from freesound.org and I was off and running. It took a lot of my prep time but it put some of the PCs really in the session and was great.

As a final note, I made maps at least twice as big. The manse's front room got about two more horizontal rows in it. The gatehouse was made 1sq 10ft or so with large changes. The living museum got 2 vertical rows. I'm just saying, whoever did the cartography here did not know trolls are large. I changed it up and it worked fine.

Stats for Bad Guys:

Speechless
Male human oracle of bones 5
NE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +3 Senses Perception +
-Defense---------------------------------
AC 17, touch 11, flat-footed 16 (+6 armor, +1 Dex, +2 deflection vs. good)
hp (5d8+15+1d10+5) 56
Fort +3, Ref +2, Will +2 (+2 resistance vs. good)
-Offense---------------------------------
Spd 20ft.
Melee mw scythe +7 (2d4+6 /20 x4)
Special Attacks death’s touch 1d6+2, 3/day
Spells – CL 5th, +8 concentration, +1 ranged touch
0 – bleed, detect magic, light, stabilize, resistance, create water
1 – cause fear, bane, deathwatch, divine favor, protection from good (7/day)
2 – false life, desecrate, undetectable alignment (5/day)
-Morale----------------------------------
Before Combat These heretic cultists cast undetectable alignment, deathwatch, false life and resistance when they hear the doorbell ring. If the players enter the house, they will cast invisibility from their scrolls of invisibility on their scythes, hiding them in plain sight—in their hands and in the crooks of their arms.
During Combat Each of the speechless’ first action is to raise their undead minion, except for the last, who casts desecrate to empower them. The speechless cast divine favor or protection from good and launch themselves into combat, hissing. They focus fire their efforts on anyone with divine markings or signals, using the severity of their enemies' wounds, monitored by their deathwatch, as a way to mark who is the kill target.
Morale The speechless fight until death. If a speechless feels he is about to be taken prisoner, he will use his scythe to coup-de-grace himself in the neck, or order his undead servant to coup de grace himself, allowing himself to be helpless to the attack.*
-Statistics------------------------------
Str 16, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 7, Cha 16
Base Atk +3; CMB +6; CMD 17
Feats Improved Initiative, Toughness, Martial Weapon Proficiency: Scythe, Combat Casting
Skills Bluff +11, Spellcraft +11, Disguise +11, Intimidate +11, Stealth +9
Languages Common, Necril (can’t speak)
Gear mw scythe, mw breastplate, silver skull symbol worth 5gp, 45gp
Special Abilities revelations (raise the dead [5hd zombie, below], undead servitude), oracle's curse (mute [modified deaf]; all spells are silent, +2 to save on language-dependant, sonic and bardic music)

*I didn't get a chance to do this. If you use these and this happens in your game, tell me what the PCs think. I thought it would be really, really cool and would kind of illustrate their insane zealotry.

Human Zombie CR 2
XP 800
NE Medium undead
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +0
-Defense---------------------------------
AC 12, touch 10, flat-footed 12 (+2 natural)
hp 27 (5d8+5)
Fort +1, [b]Ref +1, Will +4
DR 5/slashing; Immune undead traits
-Offense---------------------------------
Spd 30 ft.
Melee slam +7 (1d6+6)
-Statistics------------------------------
Str 18, Dex 10, Con —, Int —, Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Atk +3; CMB +7; CMD 17
Feats Toughness
Special Qualities staggered*

*I never enforce staggered. Does anyone else?

Next session coming shortly...


My PCs are menagerie crashers.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) synthesist summoner
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier
  • Roarark, human (Kellid) chirurgeon alchemist/brutal pugilist barbarian

Awakening on the next morning, the heroes found that a storm had moved in and was battering the stained glass windows of the museum with sheets of freezing rain. Thunder shook the foundations of the building and quickly stirred the heroes.

Before they could even step foot outside, Darien noticed sloppy, half-hidden chalk markings on the secret door. He recognized them as a magical trap-- one that wasn't there last night. The heroes tested it with an earth elemental-- opening it did nothing, but upon exiting, a gust of wind from above the door held it in place while the door's spell went off, a hydraulic push toppling the tiny elemental off of the gorge before dissolving the trap.

Looks like someone had it out for them.

The heroes looked out of the secret door at the gorge. The rain had sloughed away much of the path, leaving it hardly traversable-- and on top of that, someone had removed the rope that was threaded through the iron rungs along the stone face of the gorge, and some railings that had been there the last night.

Darien von Carstein used his familiar-- Bartholomew-- who was now a Silvanshee and had a fly speed to run a rope through the iron rungs, and the heroes quickly climbed across the hastily dissolving path.

A rusted shut iron door met them at the end of the winding gorge road. Roarark and Felix tried to open it but to no avail-- so Felix punched a hole in it with his adamantine dagger, spilling water out into the path. They let the rooms beyond drain for a short period of time before they tried opening it again, finding it much easier, now. The rooms beyond were entirely flooded with water, debris floating in them, and it was pitch black. For victory, for the heart Felix muttered, and the light shone from the sacred reliquary around his neck.

Exploring into the drowned halls, the heroes saw that someone had collapsed a deadfall in a stairwell-- and Darien noted that it was designed, much like Harrowstone's, to prevent something from coming up. They tried to get a bearing, but they saw many of the places on the walls were plaques might have been with directions had been removed by knife-edge. Definitely, someone had noticed them coming. Felix turned to go down one part of the hallway and plunged directly into a pit trap.

Full of leeches.

Darien von Carstein levitated him out of the pit in a second flat, sparing him some disgrace, but not all of it-- the tiny bloodsuckers covered him and inched under his armor, bleeding him heavily. The staff of fire came out again, and Darien bathed the leeches in flames, killing off many of them. It took another few seconds of frantic battle, but they were wiped out. Luckily, Felix never succumbed to their poison, and his blood was quickly replenished thanks to herb pouches and medicine from Roarark.

Around a corner was a pair of doors. Opening them, the heroes were assaulted by a rancid stench. Three headless multi-armed girallon corpses laid in cages in this very tall cylindrical room, rotting away, half-submerged in the water. Doors in the walls about thirty feet up stood alone near supports that might have suggested a walkway at one point. A leathery bat wing flapped near the ceiling, and the heroes quickly sprung into action against the newest enemy-- massive, gorilla-faced vargouille. A pitched midair battle, a shriek and a kiss later and Nathaniel Thorn knew that he was infected with a disease that would kill him very shortly.

The heroes tried their own potions of remove disease, but they knew that it hadn't taken. Nathaniel gave Bartholomew the cat his money and Darien sent him to the Gravecharge in Lepidstadt-- they hoped a neutral good outsider would be taken care of by the kind clergy, and had no other options except for abandoning the place, which they refused to. Alpon Caromarc could be in this place, and he could be dying. They needed him to account for his crimes.

The heroes opened the next set of double doors and saw it full of plant life. Some of it moved, and they shut the door.

Nathaniel flew up to the doors up on the top of the cylinder and opened it, quickly ferrying the heroes into the tunnel. They found an alcove with several items within it, some identifiable, some not, and two flasks of this brownish reddish liquid. Along with it was a flask of yellowish varnish that Darien and Roarark were able to identify as an organic compound that made inorganic objects like metal "smell" like wet flesh, probably to warn off creatures like rust monsters. Felix opened the door to the next room and looked in-- another room much like the last, but far deeper, with the remains of a walkway half-sunken in the center. Samuel fired a flare into the water and the heroes saw the transparent creature. Felix took out a fishing line and went to try to bait it to the surface.

It popped out, looked at him, his face turned to stone and then it receeded. They closed that door. Felix was not amused, though his now-frozen face had a smug grin on it. Darien identified the creature as an aboleth-slime infused basilisk-- his face would soon return to normal, hopefully.

The heroes glanced into another cylindrical room to see a massive watery black shape clinging to the ceiling. They closed the door again, and left the menagerie.

Just before leaving, they noticed part of a wall had recently been bricked up, and could hear a soft thumping. Felix cut a brick out using his adamantine knife and glanced inside-- a pale hand tried to grasp his face, and he cut it off at the elbow. Darien took a look and saw three men in overalls, caps and work gloves with tool belts... and one, half-naked, long-beared creature in a loincloth. They placed the brick back, wondered if Caromarc had done this, and moved across the bridge to the massive lightning tower.

As they closed on the door into the tower, a box beside the door buzzed to life with a strange voice. It introduced itself as a Graveknight-Lieutenant of the Whispering Way named Martin Veversex, taunted the heroes, told them it could hear them through the voice boxes they carried, taunted them some more, and then, recognizing he was cornered, went to go drink all of Caromarc's experimental mutagens in a last bid to kill the heroes. He mentioned his master, Auren Vrood, who had abandoned him here to, from what Veversex realized, die to the PCs to give them a scapegoat so their investigations would stop, and he refused to go quietly or in the way Auren Vrood thought he would. He bid them good luck with the murderous killing machine he'd released in the lower section of the tower, and Felix broke the box with his halberd to shut him up.

The heroes entered the first room of the tower. Well, Darien did. By himself. Smeared in organic varnish, hoping that the creature might not recognize him as an enemy. He saw it quickly, a massive, fleshy stitched abomination of a girallon slamming at the trap door to the second floor. It noticed Darien. He whimpered, ran, and it chased him. The others quickly intercepted it, distracting it and keeping it locked down.

Nathaniel Thorn then tore it apart with his forearm blades in the most ridiculous full attack I have ever seen.

I'm breaking narrative here to let you know it was chair kickeningly sick. He put up haste and closed in as his first action. When his turn came around again, the creature had doled out significant damage to Roarark in the form of a tearing critical hit. Nathaniel turned on overdrive. He rolled his full attack.

20 to hit. 17 to confirm.
20 to hit. 13 to confirm.
20 to hit. 12 to confirm.

All in all, after DR, it was 68 damage. 80 damage in one full attack. He killed it from halfsies to completely dead.

So, Nathaniel stabbed into its sternum with one blade, the other side of its ribs with the other, and then climbed through the creature, eviscerating it with his forehead spike and the rest of his suit's alien body blades.

After the round of applause, they quickly hurried upstairs to find a shattered and broken room full of alchemical supplies, books and labs. Massive, slimy and wet webs covered the room, and a huge shelf full of half-full glowing liquids marked with names like "Aboleth," "Choker," "Chuul," and "Cloaker" laid broken beneath them. The heroes found notes on the item at the top of the tower-- and it was only because of Darien's lucky comprehend languages spell that he had used way back when the magical trap was discovered that he understood the half-wiped chalk markings as directions on how to use a pair of objects called the Storm Caller and the Bondslave Thrall.

They found another tape from Caromarc pointing out the lightning rod and the Bondslave Thrall's abilities. Then, suddenly, a little green poof ball with one massive eye and a ring of invisibility appeared. They were wary, but it showed signs of peace, and began to show the heroes what was going on in the most beautiful and perfect pantomime. They learned he was Caromarc's familiar, Waxwood, and that Veversex had mutated dramatically before climbing up to the next floor. Plans in mind, they quickly climbed after him.

They found the mutated abomination hiding in the webs at the far end of the room, peacefully eating some sort of creature. Beside him was a massive bell jar with a woman's body floating in alchemical liquid within, and a strange iron idol that Samuel Crowe knew as a misery idol-- and he could see eyes within, and blood seeping along the floor beside it.

The heroes sprung into action. Darien crossed the room and climbed the ladder to the top of the tower while Samuel tried to release who he assumed to be Caromarc. The others waited for the cue. Darien quickly turned on both objects, worked through the steps, and called the Beast of Lepidstadt. Their minds linked for just a second, and Darien could feel his loneliness, rage, shame and doubt. He realized that the creature he scorned was more alike to him than he had ever thought-- but more pressing matters stole his attention. Slats along the top of the tower turned open, spilling rainwater into the tower, and angering the mutated Veversex below. The heroes leapt into action to try to buy time for the Beast. Nathaniel summoned a hound archon and a swarm of poisonous rain frogs, and dove into the fray.

The creature was extremely resillient, and quickly used its abilities to frustrate the heroes. The Beast appeared after nearly a minute to give aid to his friends, climbing along the top of the tower to meet Darien. "Hallo there," he greeted, before being struck by lightning. Darien took control and sent him into combat.

The heroes had the mutated Veversex on the ropes, but with the Beast's appearance, victory was certain. With a massive cry of "IT'S STOMPING TIME!!" the Beast slammed its ogre hook into Veversex's face, tearing his skull and spine from his body and flinging it across the room. (He crit for 108!!)

The heroes, their battle over, calmed themselves and the Beast down. They opened the misery idol to find an alive Caromarc who quickly talked down to the PCs before asking-- well, no, ordering them to hunt down the Whispering Way for him for this slight. He also asked for their cooperation in hiding what they found in his manse... and they agreed.

I didn't like this. We kind of ran with it, but, well, I don't like it at all.

So, if you're a PC in my game... Caromarc died up there in the lightning tower. You were able to learn what he wanted and the password to his safe from a tape in his possession-- the last, bitter words of Alpon Caromarc that told you to "Kill them... KILL THEM ALL." He asked that you leave the Beast his home to spend the rest of his days in, and to claim that he had never died so that no one would approach the home ever again. This leaves Nathaniel and Roarark turning in all of the tapes to Judge Daramid still, and her agreeing to Caromarc's plan to keep his life and death a secret to protect the Beast. You still learned most of the info you did, though. A CL 8th wand of speak with dead is on the shelf beside Caromarc's wife's preserved corpse.

This, I think, is a little better. I think everyone was a little tired and didn't stick to their characterization. I don't think it makes sense for Felix Grey, Samuel Crowe and Darien von Carstein to abide by life-threatening scientific experimentation for money, and Nathaniel Thorn and Roarark were planning to go back to kill Caromarc later in the campaign-- which, honestly, while cool, I think would split the party very strongly from a moral standpoint.

Just remember that the CN "I'm out entirely for myself", "I don't care about anybody but me, my friends and the Professor" and "I think it's insane to defend an inanimate object because it pretends to have feelings" character wasn't willing to let Caromarc's crimes against humanity slide when 2 out of 3 good members of the party were.

Oh, and Nathaniel's disease? His first scroll fixed it thanks to Darien's prescience special ability. He has three others. Just in case.

Nonetheless, the session ended with the heroes traveling home to Lepidstadt. As they went, they suddenly realized that a mob was going to head to Schloss Caromarc-- weren't they? The party had seen them gearing up to raid the castle. They had expected some villagers with torches, since the Beast exclaimed where he lived in the middle of the court room, but none had shown up. Why? As they wondered, they saw the Crooked Kin wagons cross by them-- and at the head was Trollblood, flour half-covering his massive frame, a fur across his back and a costume dragon's hand across his lap. They waved politely from a distance, smiled, and left, ignoring the PC's startled "What?" and "Huh"s.

At town, the PCs heard all about how they had spotted the Beast in the swamps, and that they had given him a great chase through the mires until some circus folk told them they had cornered him in a windmill... which they burnt to the ground. "Good riddance to the Beast! He got what he deserved."

Samuel Crowe used Alpon Caromarc's gas forge to create the rifle from Siccatite-- a +1 flaming rifle that, as a full round action, could transform from hot siccatite to cold siccatite and become a +1 frost rifle. He used most of his money to make it +1 flaming burst.

Meanwhile, Nathaniel finally finished Volume 2 of The Vivid and Endless Dream. What he learned gave him a much greater understanding of his eidolon and its symbiosis with him, and instead of letting himself become more like it, or it like him, he instead let the eidolon begin to seep in more planar power. Now, he can use limited summons while his eidolon has been fused to him, but they will come plane-touched and strange.

Kendra Lorrimor came back to Lepidstadt finally, and the heroes spent more time with her, in and out of her Lepidstadt dormitory and off of the school grounds.

Finally, the PCs realized they had never investigated the University Antiquities room to see what had happened to the Cthonic Effigy. They weren't sure why the Beast had been there-- but they guessed that the Whispering Way had used the Bondslave Thrall to control the Beast into going into the University and stealing the object for them.

And, lastly, Judge Daramid asked the heroes to come to her house for one final meeting. She has something to tell them...

GM NOTES!:

I HATED THE ENDING HOLY CRAP. Having the Beast rock in there to save the day sucked. I hated it. It felt lame. I mean, this is with a group who, I think, really liked the Beast. When he crit for 108 everyone was like 'Why didn't he just kill the trolls at the gate house and do the entire dungeon himself?' I mean, it was cool, but nobody liked it. This is the module's real only weakness I think.

I changed up the book a lot and there were more tapes. I didn't get to show the PCs Balton's last message because, well.. they never fought the draugr, but, oh well. I'm also disappointed they didn't even touch the other enemies-- lots of "NOPE" and door closing.

I didn't like my characterization of Veversex and I wish I could re-practice. I just completely flubbed it. I wanted him to be a calm, cool and clever manipulator and he was just kind of dumb. Bleh blarg. The PCs know the Whispering Way is a real threat, now, and that Auren Vrood was the person who set up this situation originally.

For Veversex's form, I used the Aberrant Promethean and gave him DR5/-. Easy change. By the way, my 7th level party almost wiped him out in round 3. So, he actually was not that strong. I had to cheat to get him the advantage. Blehh. And it's not bad playing-- my players are just too smart! If your PCs are also optimizers with a strong group comp, consider making him even more powerful.


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My PCs know how to keep the peace.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) synthesist summoner
  • Zach, Child of Sarenrae, human (Varisian) cleric of Sarenrae
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier
  • Roarark, human (Kellid) chirurgeon alchemist/brutal pugilist barbarian

The session began with Lepidstadt drifting into its first snow. The winter solstice was soon approaching, and the Kellids, Varisians and other locals were having nightly parties at the Spiral Cromlech to celebrate. Lanterns made by children filled the windows at night, and soon, Lepidstadt had fallen into the oppressive chill of winter. The Beast, left alone in his mansion, was taken care of by Felix and Darien von Carstein-- Darien, of course, dismantling and destroying the Bondslave Thrall.

Judge Embreth Daramid sent word to the heroes that their presence was needed at the Ventriloquist's Pulpit, the former seat of power for the now-disassembled aristocracy of Vieland. She met them outside, in the snow, and ushered them around the building. The architecture was stunning-- along the side of the stone building were beautiful stone carvings depicting symbols of Ustalavic national pride... but as they neared a pair of iron double doors, hidden away from sight on the far corner of the building, they turned strange. Carvings of sphinxes, pyramids, burning eyes and suns adorned the walls. The double door had a massive chain motif stretching across it-- and after the Judge knocked twice, a very ancient old man came to admit them entrance, wheezing "Who seeks knowledge within this sepulcher?"

Within, they found a great meeting room adorned with the same Osiriani symbols that had marked the entrance. Judge Daramid revealed to the heroes that she was part of an elite order known as the Order of the Palatine Eye, an order dedicated to the eternal safety of the country of Ustalav, from threats within and without. She told the heroes of how Professor Lorrimor had also belonged to this organization, and that they were asking them for help, now, because the aging scholars and intelligentsia of the organization were in no way fit to seek the Whispering Way and defeat them-- but they were. The heroes, after swearing to secrecy, agreed to help.

Judge Daramid also told them that, in light of them confronting the Whispering Way, she had asked the Church of Sarenrae to send her an exorcist to aid them-- and in walked Zach, Child of Sarenrae, rejoining the party after almost a month's time. The heroes spoke eagerly of their adventures, telling the story of the Beast of Lepidstadt and how they had saved the innocent creature from a terrible demise. Zach carried with him information-- the Order had told the Church of Sarenrae* that there had been sightings in the forests of the Shudderwood of men in black cloaks on pale horses riding south to the Ascanor Lodge. Embreth Daramid reminded them that the Way was likely seeking something, having stolen two things thus far, and she wanted to stop them before they could find whatever they were looking for. However, the Ascanor Lodge was famous as a vacation spot for the nobility, and entry was not going to come cheap or simply. The heroes asked her to pull strings to see if she could find a way in, and she agreed.

The next day, however, she returned with distressing news: the Lodge at this time of year was full and was accepting no more lodgers. The heroes would have to find their own way.

Setting out on this, they decided to speak to the people most likely able to get them a forged entrance pass to the Lodge: the local Sczarni. They approached their circle of carriages outside the Spiral Cromlech, immediately honed in on by several Varisian working women looking to see if they were interested. After rebuffing them, the women became quickly businesslike and asked what they were here for-- and Zach brought back the words into the game. Calm and collected, he asked them who he could speak to to acquire a forgery, and the lady went to get her boss, a massive, tattooed Varisian with a waxed mustache and a bald head named Feldro. He learned what the PCs wanted and asked for cash to give them the information-- 200 gold. Nathaniel took a few sharp words at him for being a crook, and so the price went up, and was paid for "your friend's big balls." The heroes left with the knowledge that a person who could help them named Rhakis Szadro and his friend Zakowski had left here no less than a day ago with two women to head up to the Ascanor Lodge.

The heroes leapt on their horses and set off through the frozen snow-swept forests of the Shudderwood. Following the most popular trail, the Hunter's Path, was simple-- reading the Kellid hunter markings, long since left by old generations of the Kellid, was harder, but thanks to Roarark it became simple. The heroes travelled south through the woods.

Eventually, they came to an old bridge crossing the Troll's Tail river, choked with ice and covered in snow. As they passed, they saw the markings, in Hallit, for "danger" on an animal skull fetish nearby-- and so, they crossed the bridge one by one to keep safe. As Zach went to cross the bridge, however, the massive frozen tree beside the path leapt into life, pummeling Zach's horse into near-death with one massive swing of a branch.

Darien von Carstein, in true Darien von Carstein fashion, whipped around and rose a wall of fire inbetween Zach and the massive treant creature-- which they quickly identified as a tendriculos, a voracious creature that blurred the line between animal and plant.

Zach channeled his divine energy to heal his horse so he could flee, and the heroes quickly assaulted the monster, Nathaniel Thorn calling in a hell hound to burn the massive tree beast. It closed in on them, thundering across the bridge, which began to sway and collapse. Samuel Crowe tried to retreat, but the enemy caught him and pulled him in with its massive tentacled maw. Darien greased Samuel, popping him from the monster's grip and into safety, and the heroes quickly dismantled the beast-- until Samuel, taking perfect aim, fired his new weapon into its chest and transformed the whole creature into a gigantic charcoal stick. The bridge collapsed soon after, dropping it, bobbing, in the frozen river.

Samuel Crowe flicked his hands, covered in bacon-smelling grease, and sighed. The hellhound licked him, smiled and in infernal, said "Mmm. Bacon."

The adventure went on. The heroes crossed more frozen rivers and saw more snow covered landscapes, and Roarark noticed that a blizzard was likely incoming in the next 3 or 4 days. Soon after making his prediction, it began to snow, and the heroes could hear a twanging of a stringed guitar echoing through the forests up ahead. They saw a pair of brown horses, dead and frozen, hanging from massive webs that stretched between the tree tops, and quickly went to investigate.

In the clearing, they found a carriage with several Varisians-- a man tied to the yoke, a woman locked inside, and a good looking man with an eyepatch playing the guitar. They approached, curiously, and he greeted them very happily. "What are you doing?" they asked, and he stopped playing for just a second-- and they could suddenly hear, from a nearby collapsed tower, the most beautiful harp music in the world. Nathaniel Thorn and Felix Grey dismounted and began to approach the tower before the man began to play again, silencing the music in their minds. He explained that his name was Rhakis Szadro, and that he was travelling when ettercaps had assaulted his carriage and stolen his horses-- and soon after, music had stolen away the minds of the women and his travelling companion. He was only able to lock one woman in the carriage, and the other, Nadia, had entered the tower with a blank look on her face. He had been unable to leave since, knowing that if he stopped playing to fight, his fate would likely mirror hers. The PCs saw that he had been playing for a very long time-- his weathered fingers were bleeding-- and decided to enter the tower to fight whatever had kidnapped the girl.

The entered in, and saw a massive, disgusting half-woman half-worm beast in the corner, surrounded by glistening blue-violet webs and large clusters of webbing that resembled flies in a spider's nest. It spat out something at them in a putrid language-- Abyssal-- and went to attack. Felix Grey knew it was a weaverworm, a beast vomited from Urgathoa's foul mouth, and they entered combat, Nathaniel calling in a hound archon to help him fight the beast. It was quick and deadly, the ettercaps hiding among the webs entering combat and dying just as quickly. Roarark closed on one and was struck by the weaverworm, and it broke its fingers off in his back, sending him into paralytic convulsions. As the worm closed in to smash him to death with it's massive grub-like body, Nathaniel had a surge of clarity and directly controlled his hound archon to drag Roarark away-- and the beast missed, just barely, the hound archon, saving Roarark's life. The beast quickly died after, another massive beast felled by Samuel Crowe's expert aim.

The heroes cut a woman from the webs, healing and recovering her, but the rest of the monster's victims were dead, including a person who had been heading to the Ascanor Lodge named Etchmoor Dravin. They kept his invitation "just in case" and looted the supplies of a captured traveling merchant who had two salvageable potions of heroism and a ring of feather falling. The heroes dragged the beastly bodies from the cave, burnt the webs, and spent the night in the cave, warmed by a fire and protected from the webs. The heroes spent time playing the Harrow card game "Towers" with Rhakis and his friend, Zakowski, sharing stories and word back and forth. He told them of the werewolf packs of the Shudderwood and what he knew, and he told them of the leader of the packs, a massive wolf that stood over the treetops. He asked about Samuel Crowe's rifle and investigated it, and they saw him remove his eyepatch to show a gouged wound that Samuel was able to identify as likely a "shoveling" wound from the blade of a dagger-- his eye might have been taken as a trophy by someone at one point.

In the morning, the wind was still and the heroes set off through the forest again, lending Rhakis' wagon horses of their own to pull it. After some time, they came across a naked man's corpse tied to a tree up ahead. The heroes went to investigate-- they found that his mouth was stuffed with purple flowers and that he had been stabbed in the chest with a silver dagger. Nathaniel went in close to see how he had been killed and triggered a volley of crossbow bolts from an elaborate trap set nearby. He would have been peppered with arrows had he not instinctively heard the whistle of the bolts and fallen prone, and as such, they recovered several arrows smeared with a strange substance. The heroes identified the bolts as covered with silversheen-- and soon, the owner burst from the woods.

A man in magnificent silvered armor with a wolf pelt over his shoulder wearing a magnificent black cloak and carrying a masterwork sword accosted them with a "What ho, peasants!" and began to berate them. He introduced himself-- twice-- as Duristan Silvio Ariesir, and soon, as they talked to him, he realized they were adventurers, and began to gush over them and ask them constant questions. He was followed by a rather embarrassed Kellid man in hunting leathers who they learned was a local hunter working for the lodge named Delgros Krotizcer. Duristan acted like a fool-- noticing who Rhakis was, but not why, and Rhakis having to let him know that he was the gardener in the lodge, which made Duristan promptly forget his name and call him 'the gardener' for the rest of the trip-- and everyone quickly picked up on it as he tried to ingratiate himself to the "real adventurers" he had found. He constantly deferred to them and asked if they had fought werewolves before, before quickly switching the topic to vampires and other beasts. He ignored Zach and Roarark and Samuel-- which caused some confused glances-- and soon, invited the heroes on a hunt like no other. He had learned of a stag killed in the woods before it had been shot, and knew it was werewolves. The heroes asked Delgros for his story, and he told it. He had been hunting a stag with some guests, trying to tire it out, and they had rounded a hill to find it dead in the snow, its throat torn out and its body left to bleed. "If it were a hunter, they would have still been there. If they had been hunting for food, they would have taken it. It was a warning sign," Delgros told them.

Duristan scoffed. "They made one mistake in their pitiful warning sign-- they told me where they were."

Duristan was an absolute fool, and the heroes knew it. They knew that if they let him go alone, he might die, and they couldn't let him do that. So, they went with him. Duristan was gleeful, and excitedly offered to pay them gold, as well, happily going through the motions of hiring his own adventurers.

(We also got the line "I've seen that before... in books" from Duristan, referring to vampire hunting.)

The PCs went with him out to find the stag's corpse-- and Felix Grey took one for the team, listening to Duristan's constant questions and bringing up many of his own stories to amuse the noble and spare everyone else the annoyance of talking to him. They quickly came across where it had been, the snow pooled with half-frozen blood, and Delgros became pale. "It's... it's gone!" he exclaimed.

The PCs agreed it was likely for it to have gone missing, but Duristan needed to find it. The heroes easily saw that there had been two things here-- something large, and something hoofed, and followed the blood smears and hoof tracks over a ridge to find a group of dire boars feasting on the creature's remains.

The dire boars saw them with Duristan, overcome with excitement, lifted his sword into the air and shouted "HAVE AT YOU, FOUL BEASTS!" to try to impress the heroes. Darien opened with a fireball, to which Duristan spent his turn in combat whipping about and shouting "How did you do that?!" and was promptly gored in the back. The boars all laid dead in less than 6 seconds-- and the heroes were practically untouched, all thanks to a swarm of crocodiles summoned by Nathaniel Thorn.

Duristan had Samuel Crowe investigate the wounds. He saw that the beast had, of course, been feasted on by boars, but also that the stag had had its throat torn out by some massive toothed monster. Duristan, upon hearing this, decided to dig in, camp, and wait for the werewolves to return so he could kill them.

Everyone knew this was a bad idea. They quickly told him. He grew belligerent, irritated, and then petulant as they explained to him exactly why this was committing suicide. Delgros Kroitzcer told Duristan that "While the money is good, this is too much. I'm going back to the lodge, and taking the others with me," he said, referring to Rhakis, Zakowski and the two women in the carriage, Nadia and Sara. Duristan told him to go and that he didn't need him, but the heroes soon came in with arguments and explanations. Roarark, trying to tell him in the kindest way that he was a very accomplished expert on the outdoors and on creatures of the forest and that waiting here to antagonize them could cause his death, was completely ignored-- Duristan was too amused that Roarark, being a Kellid and obviously being of lesser intelligence than the fairer skinned humans, was attempting to mimic the intelligent speech he'd heard. Duristan was a racist, as well as a moron-- no wonder he didn't speak directly to the Varisian, Garundi or Kellid heroes in the party if he could help it.

Felix Grey finally tried for a final appeal. "Listen, even a knight of Lastwall or a crusader of Mendev knows when a tactical retreat is the correct thing to do."

Duristan then spat, "That, I'm certain of."

He had just called the crusader of Mendev, and all of the crusaders of Mendev that Felix Grey had ever known, living or dead, cowards.

Felix grabbed him by the throat and slammed him into a tree. "I'm here to make sure that everyone here gets out alive-- I'm not here to take care of idiots!" He dropped him and walked away. Duristan, trying to keep his composure and to seem like the bigger man, straightened his coat and reached for his sword he had dropped.

Samuel Crowe, fed up, fired at Duristan's sword, bouncing it and impaling it into the tree beside his head, picking it up for him. Duristan told his hirelings to pack his tent, and then quickly jumped upon his horse and crossed his arms like a spoiled child.

The group then left the clearing and headed towards the lodge, but on the way, had to set camp once more. Rhakis privately told Felix, who he had seldom spoken to, that he had done a good thing. Zach was invited to drink and play cards in the carriage with Rhakis, Zakowski and the girls, and the others spent time socializing with the hirelings, Delgros Kroitzcer or eachother-- Duristan refused to leave his tent, scowling the entire time and speaking to no one.

Late in the night, after most of the group had lulled away into half-sleep, they could hear a screaming coming from the woods. The heroes quickly gathered and ran to meet the screaming, but Darien and Nathaniel stayed behind in case it was a lure to get them away from camp.

Up ahead, a partially doused torch illuminated a massive, hulking form in the darkness, two yellow eyes glowing out of the dark. They could see a man, his shoulder painfully twisted behind his back, being wrenched by this beast to call the heroes forward, and the creature shoved the person forward to the group. Samuel raised his gun, but didn't fire-- they, instead, began to talk, despite the fact that Samuel could see, thanks to his goggles of night, that they were quickly becoming surrounded by werewolves.

The monster asked why they had entered their territory. "We're traveling through-- we mean you no harm." The monster scoffed, derided what they said as lies, and spat out a warning to them and their master that they should stay out of pack affairs, and that their master's dealings with the Silverhide pack and Mathus Mordrinacht were not sitting well with them-- that they "would never see a Silverhide as packlord upon the highthrone."

The heroes quickly told them they were mistaken, and that they were truly just travellers. Zach calmed the beast down, asking it questions, trying to figure out what had happened. It admitted its mistake, told them they had seen them in their territory despoiling one of their kills by touching it, and that they had offended them-- and then Zach calmed it again, though he irritated the beast with his pleadings for calmness, and it barked at him to "retreat with bravery instead of your pitiful whimperings." The heroes apologized, told them they would leave, and the monster assured them that if they left even the slightest trace of their passing it would spool their entrails out upon the snow. To intimidate the heroes further, the werewolf howled into the night, and was met by a massive cacophony of returned howls echoing through the stillness of the Shudderwood. Then, with an unsettling shift, the beast transformed into a naked Kellid woman covered in disturbing, maze-like tattoos, and she and her pack-- now numbering close to 10, drawn in by the long conversation when they had been expecting to ambush the humans soon-- fled into the forest.

The heroes breathed a sigh of relief. Rhakis exited the carriage with a rapier and just in his undergarments, and was told to go back to sleep-- but he wanted to know what kind of werewolf it was. They described it as a naked Kellid woman who turned into a man-beast 12 feet tall that had described itself as a "Vollensag." He knew it-- it was one of the Kellid primals, pushed back into the wilds when their kind were exterminated from Ustalav. Duristan exited his tent as well, in full armor, ready for battle, and was told to go back as well, that the heroes had dealt with it. Samuel Crowe set the hirelings shoulder before they slept, and in the morning, they meticulously cleared the camp and then left to the Ascanor Lodge.

Upon arriving, they saw the close to 15-foot-tall walls of the Lodge and were asked by a guard who they were. The female guard recognized Rhakis, and invited them in, but Duristan told the guard they were not with him and were servants, peasants, "someone of low birth" and such. He left into the lodge, trailed by his servants, in a huff. Delgros Kroitzcer thanked the PCs and left as well, and Rhakis took the heroes to meet Madame Ivanja in the tower.

On the way up, they noticed that the tower was essentially a den of prostitution. The heroes saw a much older man exit one of the rooms-- leaving a half-naked woman behind. When he saw them, he asked who they were, and they told him that they were new staff for the lodge. He asked each of their names, saying that he liked to know the names of everyone in the staff. He introduced himself as the Margrave of Sturdinae, Cilas Graydon, and showed off his vertical Lepidstadt scar across his forehead above his brow. Both Samuel Crowe and Darien von Carstein recognized his name-- he was a brilliant tactitian that had fought to wipe out the people of Ardeal during the civil war, and had essentially helped to perform a cleansing of life from the county alongside Count Aricnein Neska, making him a monster. But, at the same time, he was the first to denounce Neska and fight against him, forcing a retreat out of Ardeal and ending the civil war, making him a hero. A true military genius and accomplished combatant-- a monster, and a man. The heroes shook his hand and let him go-- he was the first truly famous person they had ever met, and he was actually quite friendly.

They met with Madame Ivanja in the tower, asking if they could stay-- she said, sure, anything for friends of Rhakis, and especially so after they had paid a due to Feldro in Lepidstadt. The heroes then inquired about a symbol they had found in the Schloss Caromarc-- a silver medallion of the Whispering Way depicting a gagged skull. They had only told Rhakis they were "looking for some bad men," and not the Whispering Way-- when the symbol came out, both Ivanja and Rhakis became very serious. Samuel Crowe picked up on it and tried to get them to reveal why, but they were very stubborn. Madame Ivanja knew about men in black cloaks on pale horses, and directed the heroes to meet with one of her girls, Niama, who was out of the tower at the moment. They agreed, and went down into the storeroom to clear space for them to sleep.

Before they could get much further, though, a spindly man in spectacles and fine dress trailed by a halfling porter arrived to look over the heroes. He introduced himself as Lodge Warden Estovion Lazarov, and asked the heroes why they were there, told them the rules, and made sure they knew he wouldn't pay them if they were working through Madame Ivanja-- they had "an arrangement." As soon as he got what he needed to know, he clicked his mouth, clapped his hand and him and his halfling left the room.

The heroes ended this session becoming 8th level.

GM NOTES!:

My rewrites worked very well. I liked this much better and the heroes responded very well to what was going on. Having Belik the halfling berate them and lock them out of the lodge would have sucked and they would have just moved on-- this was much more natural, and now the heroes are people who work for the Lodge, which makes their position to investigate much more interesting, in my opinion.

Rhakis Szadro being a constant friend of the PCs also sets them up well for his inevitable reveal, which I think will be awesome. My portrayal of him as a jovial quick thinker who is willing to smile and take any jokes while making any he can was very well received, and the PCs often deliberated about "going with the guy they like, or the guy who will pay them". On that note, Duristan also came across perfectly as a complete moron, racist, and child. It was great to roleplay someone moronic who could get away with it, and Felix telling him off was a fantastic part of the session. It was a complete accident for the comment, but it worked extremely well. I think I made the other NPCs not too memorable but nice, which worked.

The heroes also met Kvalca Sain's daughter, who I don't have a name for yet, but that's who she is. I was entirely expecting them to fight them-- that they diplomacized and said everything they wanted to hear was amazing, and I'm very glad to have Zach's player back in my campaign. He calmed down an enraged chaotic evil werewolf-- there are some major skills there. Especially since I was looking for any reason at all to attack them. Good job, PCs!

Finally, I've been keeping track of the months passed in the game, and this game coming during winter is fantastic for theme and description. I love it. It works very, very well. Blood on the snow is a fantastic theme word for this book, and I plan to use it every chance I get. Plus, snow rules! And fatigue! Hypothermia! AWESOME!

Double finally, the tendriculos I added was a cool fight but kind of underwhelming-- should've used 2 instead of 1 double advanced. So were the boars. I was highly meh on them, but adding the ettercaps in with the weaverworm-- and adjusting its attack bonus up and such-- made a very interesting encounter, if a bit slow. I liked it. Nathaniel's player saving Roarark with a hero point was a big deal-- he hates hero points and never wants to use them. On that note, the Coup de Grace I went in for was a rarity as well. A NE monster... I gave it the high 20% on the dice, so if someone rolled between 80 and 00. I had a PC roll, and it was 88%. Went for the coup de grace, and it reminded the PCs they could die. Cool.

Triple finally, having the PCs go to the Ventriloquist's Pulpit and see the interior of the meeting spot was entirely off the cuff and worked very, very well. The PCs, I think, liked it a lot, and it gave them a lot of immersion. I used the theme "Inscription on the Rock" from the Last Crusade soundtrack for this scene-- it's the "grail" motif that pops up throughout the movie every time they see a religious image or the grail's path is further revealed. It worked very, very well.

Finally finally, I would like to thank freesound.org for awesomeness. I downloaded several 10 minute long tracks of wind howling for this session, and it helped immerse the PCs more than some theme songs from jRPGs. I am seriously relying more and more on freesound.org for my ambience, and I think everyone who uses a computer for music in a game should check it out.


Ice Titan wrote:
In the morning, the wind was still and the heroes set off through the forest again, lending Rhakis' wagon horses of their own to pull it. After some time, they came across a naked man's corpse tied to a tree up ahead. The heroes went to investigate-- they found that his mouth was stuffed with purple flowers and that he had been stabbed in the chest with a silver dagger. Nathaniel went in close to see how he had been killed and triggered a volley of crossbow bolts from an elaborate trap set nearby. He would have been peppered with arrows had he not instinctively heard the whistle of the bolts and fallen prone, and as such, they recovered several arrows smeared with a strange substance. The heroes identified the bolts as covered with silversheen-- and soon, the owner burst from the woods.

That was totally Samuel Crowe, who ever heard of a summoner instinctively diving prone!?

Go gunslinger!


Ghostalker wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
In the morning, the wind was still and the heroes set off through the forest again, lending Rhakis' wagon horses of their own to pull it. After some time, they came across a naked man's corpse tied to a tree up ahead. The heroes went to investigate-- they found that his mouth was stuffed with purple flowers and that he had been stabbed in the chest with a silver dagger. Nathaniel went in close to see how he had been killed and triggered a volley of crossbow bolts from an elaborate trap set nearby. He would have been peppered with arrows had he not instinctively heard the whistle of the bolts and fallen prone, and as such, they recovered several arrows smeared with a strange substance. The heroes identified the bolts as covered with silversheen-- and soon, the owner burst from the woods.

That was totally Samuel Crowe, who ever heard of a summoner instinctively diving prone!?

Go gunslinger!

Every so often when you write 4,000+ words you make a mistake.

Then your players point it out and you want to punch them in the face.

Just kidding.

Go gunslinger!


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My PCs are cross-country runners.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) synthesist summoner
  • Zach, Child of Sarenrae, human (Varisian) cleric of Sarenrae
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner

This will be a shorter update than usual since I'm trying to crunch in two sessions worth of information on two week old memory.

The heroes arrived at Ascanor at the end of the last session, met with some people, and then began to question everyone. They talked to Niama, the Vudrani prostitute, and bought her information from her before quickly making rounds around the grounds talking to everyone. They spoke with everyone they could, asking them about the men on pale horses and how long they had stayed etcetera etcetera. They met Cilas Graydon again, listened to Corvin belittle him and then talked to him-- he was waiting for an old friend, Etchmoor Dravin, to arrive, and the heroes had the sad news that Etchmoor had died. Willing to repay them for burying his body in the woods and telling him, he convinced Estovion Lozarov to let the heroes talk to everyone in the Lodge.

This is what they learned:

  • The men on pale horses arrived late in the night and went into Madame Ivanja's tower for privacy.
  • They asked for their horses to remain prepared and equipped, for they were moving on in their journey.
  • They spoke amongst themselves in Niama's bedroom, but did not engage her services.
  • The 'leader' has a small, foul looking creature that appeared to be a single-eyed bat-like skinned batlike beast the size of a hand.
  • They asked Niama to leave when a very old, weathered man with a shock of silver hair entered the room. This man smelled like sweat, dirt and blood.
  • They left shortly after, but Niama eavesdropped, and heard the words 'The Stairs of the Moon' and 'The Pickled Heart'.

None of the other nobles had any ideas on what had happened. During this time, Samuel Crowe used his intense power to read people to make sure the nobility stayed truthful-- which was good, because everyone was lying.

They went to Estovion to ask him if they could use his library, and he agreed. They went through the information there, not finding much, but suddenly finding a traveller's journal that had the story of a priest of Desna finding an ancient temple-- but no directions. A bookmark led them to a further book, The Stairs of the Moon, which they investigated-- the placeholder said it was upstairs.

Estovion denied them access, locked the door to his room, and left-- he claimed the book had disappeared long ago.

The party didn't buy it. So, they sent Bartholomew, the silvanshee familar of Darien von Carstein, in gaseous form, into the upper library. He returned with Estovion's latest journal and the book, which told the story of a relic known as the Dusk Moth that was kept at The Stairs of the Moon-- a very powerful relic. The heroes, now knowing this, went to go meet with Rhakis and Madame Ivanja again-- but before they could get far out into the budding snowstorm, Quienne Steymour ran away from the tower, pursued by a giant tarantula. The heroes dispatched it and helped administer triage to her, asking where it had come from-- it was one of Delgros Kroitzcer's pets. They came to his holding pen to find it smeared with blood, and quickly, the groundskeeper came out of hiding to admit he had done the crime.

The heroes quickly closed on him and convinced him to tell the truth-- so he did, in front of the crowd that was growing, led by Estovion. The heroes were an inch from attacking him, but held back, letting him retreat first so they could speak to Madame Ivanja and finish unwrapping this mystery.

On that note-- the heroes got to the Lodge very early in the morning, and were almost completed in investigating everyone there by sundown.

Rhakis, along the way, proved to be still untrustworthy-- or maybe he thought the heroes were? In any case, the heroes quickly spoke to Madame Ivanja, who was convinced the party was made up of trustworthy people when she spoke the secret passphrase of the Order of the Palatine Eye and was given the correct phrase in return. Rhakis showed himself, revealing that he was an ancient werewolf, an everlasting monster created to oppose the Whispering Way by the Ustalavian Government-- and the tribal leader of the Prince's Wolves, one of the largest groups of werewolves in the Shudderwood. The heroes were surprised, but, the two groups quickly shared information. Mathus Mordrinacht had been here-- he was the leader of the Mordrinacht tribe. He had killed Kvalca Sain, leader of the Vollensag and Packlord of the Shudderwood, and eaten part of her heart, becoming the Packlord of the Shudderwood in the process. He had given the rest to the Whispering Way, who had left far to the south. Rhakis's wife was pursuing them and would send word-- but he needed a favor from the heroes, first.

A group of werewolves known as the Demon Wolves were pursuing the heart as well, and Rhakis needed the heroes help to fight the Mordrinacht tribe so that Rhakis could prevent a war between the werewolves and the humans. Mathus Mordrinacht was very interested in taking back land belonging to the tribes from human settlements, and the Dorzhanevs he had allied himself with even more so. Thusly, to keep the peace between the mortals and immortals of the Shudderwood, Rhakis was willing to eat the heart of Mathus Mordrinacht and become the new Packlord. The heroes agreed to keep the peace, and decided to soon leave with Rhakis to the Stairs of the Moon, their ancestral meeting place that the wolves called 'Highthrone.'

One thing that was of note, however... Rhakis knew Samuel Crowe as the 'New Moon Man,' a man with skin as black as the sky on a dark, moonless night. A man who held fire in his hands and vengeance in his soul, who had fired a silver bullet into Mathus Mordrinacht's heart-- a wound that had left Mordrinacht crippled for nearly six years. He was famous around the Shudderwood. Truly, it was he and his father, as they had been to the Shudderwood when they had first come to Ustalav and had been waylayed by werewolves-- and this is where the Professor had saved them, likely on site to meet the Prince's Wolves now that they had discovered the Professor was a member of the Order of the Palatine Eye, and the Prince's Wolves worked closely with them to defend Ustalav.

But first, Estovion...

The heroes burst into his room to find him summoning an evil undead werewolf spirit. Zach, Child of Sarenrae, dismissed it. Estovion barely survived, teleporting away before teleporting away again, running scared the entire time while the party was entangled in his black tentacles.

The heroes, angry and pursuing, left Cilas Graydon in charge of the Lodge and quickly left with Rhakis, gathering his forces along the way, bands and caravans of Prince's Wolves striding alongside the heroes through the snowswept forests, transforming, carrying silvered weapons and aching battle scars, shuddering with the beat of the march of feet in the Shudderwood.

As they came in sight of the Stairs of the Moon, they walked out of the blizzard and into a serene, snow covered forest-- it was like the temple kept the weather there peaceful and the skies clear so that anyone could see the full moon no matter where they were. And it was there, hanging above the soon-to-be battlefield.

They were stopped by Vistala Sain, daughter of Kvalca Sain, and the new leader of the Vollensag. They refused to bow to Mathus, who had ambushed their leader, and were taking the fight to them. With wise and calm words, Rhakis and the heroes made a truce between them. No bloodshed at the Stairs between comrades-- the only blood that would spill between them that night was Dorzhanev and Mordrinact blood.

The heroes mounted an assault, meeting two berserking, out of control Vollensag and calming one-- but slaying the other. The heroes delved into the ruined temple, meeting Estovion again in a cramped room (this fight was the definition of pain, as Estovion slammed a stinking cloud down to save his hide but didn't make the fort save and refused to leave the room to face death) and killing him-- and banishing his foul werewolf spirit with the keen-edged slices of a spiritual weapon scimitar sent by Sarenrae. They scaled the temple, Nathaniel Thorn's amulet guiding his blade-edged arms into the hearts of his enemies and Samuel Crowe's silver bullets punching fist-sized holes through his foes. Finally, they reached the top of the Stairs, stood between the standing stones, and faced Mathus Mordrinacht down. They could hear Rhakis belting out orders and courageous shouts, but as they ascended into the circle of standing stones, it became deathly quiet. Nothing but them, and the wind.

Mathus recognized Samuel, transforming into a massive, gnarled, battlescarred worg-- but soon realized he was speaking to the son he had mauled so long ago, not the father, and dared him to attempt his life again. Cybrisa Dorzhanev stood with him-- when the heroes claimed they had the arcane and the sun on their side, she claimed command of all of the world's glory. The wolves charged-- Mathus Mordrinacht was more than capable, but luck brought him low, and luck sealed his fate. As he toppled to the ground, he dropped his bastard sword and short sword, Spinerender and Backbiter, coughed out blood, and died.

Cybrisa Dorzhanev met the wrong end of a silver bullet-- like a gunpowder charge, in a flash, nothing remained but scrap.

The heroes brought Mathus and Cybrisa to Rhakis, who ate of Mathus's heart and declared himself Packlord. And, to calm Vistala Sain, he gave her the Dorzhanev's heart, giving her control over their pack as a gift for her cooperation. She spat blood onto the snow, threatened him, and left.

The remaining combatants-- of which there were many-- celebrated with drink, story, food and, for some, companionship. They cleaned the ruins of the Stairs of the Moon, having found instructions for the communion ritual to activate the Dusk Moth. They performed the ritual as the party died down, and everyone fell asleep suddenly as the Dusk Moth began to shine in the tower of the Stairs of the Moon.

They awoke an hour later, dazed and confused. Many of the Varisians had dreamed of having children, prestigious hunts, gaining wealth, fame or respect, and everyone could remember the strange vision of glowing, floating stars, and this soft singing... but it faded, soon, forgotten, like a dream. For the heroes, only these memories remained.

  • For Darien von Carstein, he remembered climbing the steps of a ruined tower in the middle of a ruined city, rain rising mist off of the ground around him. He stood before a gaunt, pale-skinned man in ill fitting robes and wearing a ribcage breastplate. He rose his gagged-skull staff into the air, and a black beam of utter destruction wove itself through the air before striking him in the chest, turning his body to ash.
  • For Samuel Crowe, he remembered entering a strange room made of purple stone and filled with alien mechanisms and equipment. Above him, a skylight showed that this room was beneath the murky waters of a sea, and that some strange, tentacled monstrosity seemed to be pressing through the world far above. A man in a black cloak strapped to a table bulged, and suddenly an enormous, slime-coated creature comprised of gigantic, hoofed feet and tentacles and yawning mouths burst free-- and in Samuel's awe-struck fear, it stomped on him, killing him instantly.
  • For Zach, the Child of Sarenrae, he remembered standing in a dust and debris filled catacomb filled with massive barrels of wine all along the walls. A massive juggernaut clad in plate armor stood in front of him, two curved swords in his hands, blood spilling all around him like water through a sieve. A woman, sleek, beautiful and with glowing red eyes and long fangs came out from behind him, smiled, and with a snap of her fingers, Zach's body began to dissolve, then explode, his blood siphoning into the armored man, until nothing was left but skin, bone and cloth.
  • For Nathaniel Thorn, he found himself standing before an enormous black citadel, storm clouds gathered all around it. Skulls seemed to pave the floor-- not a design, but embedded into the foundation itself. A very young, pale man, floated in front of him, black hair flowing weightlessly, his noble's garb impeccable. With a smug smile that quickly became apathy, he spoke one word: "Die." Nathaniel could feel nothingness overtake him, and his spark of life going out moments before everything went black.

This knowledge of the future-- of future failures, and death-- was given to the heroes by Desna, or so they thought. In addition, the four heroes' irises were all transformed into a silver gray color-- a mark of favor of the Song of the Spheres.

GM NOTES:

Good session stuff. As I thought, the mystery here just wasn't... I'm sorry, but there wasn't much meat there. The heroes were very reasonable about what they were doing, but it's just kind of easy to question everyone, make some sense motive rolls, and just... get going. The red herrings are a bit obvious, and I can't imagine a party not speaking to Madame Ivanja before long, which pretty much ends the investigation. Good thing that the investigation might as well be one-note. I wish I gave that section more love-- having the PCs talk to every single person at the Lodge just to hear the same thing 20 different ways was a good exercise for my improvisational skills, but really, it just wasted time. I thought it was really funny that Bartholomew also skipped breaking into Estovion's private library. I guess the stars just aligned-- but really, it was over before it started.

Rhakis, Vistala, Mathus, Cybrisa, all fun to play. I liked my additions to the game in terms of story here. It meshed very well. The Varisians being a part of this section in bulk really made it more interesting, in my opinion, and it gave the combat portions more local color.

One thing I wish I did was buff Mathus Mordrinacht or Cybrisa Dorzhanev. CR7 and CR 5 versus a party of 4 level 8 PCs. Uhhhh... I wish I made Cybrisa CR 7 too, and Mathus CR 8. Would've been a lot better. I think it's funny that Mathus is a packlord and a big key-note enemy, but, mechanically, is less capable in a fight than the Demon Wolve's footsoldiers in the next part. Siiigh.

Oh well. Off to the next session!


My PCs are cross-country runners, deux.

  • Nathaniel Thorn, half-elf (Chelaxian) synthesist summoner
  • Zach, Child of Sarenrae, human (Varisian) cleric of Sarenrae
  • Samuel Crowe, human (Garundi) gunslinger
  • Darien von Carstein, dhampir diviner
  • Felix Grey, human (Ulfen) phalanx soldier

After calming down the situation at the Stairs of the Moon, the heroes turned their attention to a map they had found on a cultist of the Whispering Way slain therein. It had several places marked-- Ravengro, Schloss Caromarc, the Stairs of the Moon-- and finally, a new place kept deep in the Furrows of Ardeal, Feldgrau, a ghost town wiped out by the retreating forces of Count Neska twenty years ago.

Before long, the heroes found themselves at a site that Duristan had been to-- five slaughtered horses and five slaughtered hirelings frozen solid by the passing blizzard. They caught tracks from there, and followed them.

The party quickly set off-- and came across a small bit of trouble-- before quickly entering Ardeal, and then, the Furrows, heading farther south until they came to Feldgrau-- an ancient, battered city containing hundreds if not thousands of graves. The perfect place for the Whispering Way to cultivate an army.

As they approached, Samuel Crowe and Nathaniel Thorn saw a massive, glowing, winged and leathery shape dip down from the overcast clouds into the city-- possibly a dragon, but they were unsure. They continued on into the town-- finding a mutilated and sacrificed corpse dedicated to Jezelda, demon lady (lord?) of the hungry moon.

The heroes followed wolf tracks from this sacrifice site to the city, stumbling upon Duristan Silvio Ariesir. Injured, he quickly began to lie, hoping to force the heroes to leave-- but they refused, like he expected, so he compromised into showing them where the werewolves went. The heroes became angry, making Duristan angry, and he began to writhe and spit the words "You know when you said that I was too reckless? That I was trying to commit suicide? That I was being a fool? Well... you were right!" and began to transform into a werewolf. Combat was on-- with Whispering Way cultists and giant undead joining the fray rather swiftly.

The heroes began to move quickly through the ruins, but not before gaining the interest of a massive zombie lord storm giant named Anug'Thul. Laying him low was difficult, but they managed to fell the massive beast-- despite his enormous proficiency with his massive greataxe, and the skeletal champions that came to offer aid but gave none, as they were disintegrated by the light of Sarenrae.

Soon after, the party met with a Prince's Wolf member named Fleshwound (apt, for he was covered with scars and zig-zagged stitchings). The heroes followed him back to where the Prince's Wolves were holed up-- a dyer's shop-- and met with Rhakis's wife, Lyzeri, a potent fey-blooded sorceress. She was surprised they had shown up with Rhakis's ring, cursing him for "swearing never to take off my grandfather's silver ring" and then quickly giving aid to the PCs. They formulated a plan-- the party needed to confront the leader of the Whispering Way here, and the Prince's Wolves needed Adamarius Ionacu, leader of the Demon Wolves, dead, and the remains of Kvalca Sain's heart in their possession. To do this, they were going to head out and draw attention away, hoping that the Demon Wolves would send people out to attack them. The heroes, in turn, would attack the Demon Wolves, killing Adamarius for them. Then, they could find the heart and kill the necromancer without worrying about the validity of Rhakis's packlordship coming into question.

The plan went into action, and the heroes crossed more of the trench-strewn no-man's land of Feldgrau to the mill.

Outside, a sweaty, bug-eyed man stood with a curved sword. In a dull haze, he thought they were being led by Duristan-- but soon called a friend to his aid, a massive werewolf in a pink sun dress and combat boots. This man, Billyboy, transformed swiftly, giving way to the bloodlust and the rush of transformation as any addict would give way to a drug. The heroes quickly dispatched them and headed into the attic of the mill to face Adamarius.

Adamarius was a tall, handsome man in jet-black armor. Well trimmed with a waxed moustache, with tall antlers climbing from his skull. Strange, to be sure, with his two companions-- a jittery, small corpse-colored man biting into a severed hand with an odd habit of snapping his teeth (aptly named "Snappy") and a leather-muzzled half-naked scarred woman ("Filippa"). Adamarius had a kind conversation with the heroes, warning them, hoping to read his opponents motives but failing before transforming and entering combat with a bellowing roar.

Felix stepped forward, bracing for a charge-- Adamarius took a false step, and called for Snappy to go in, taking a massive blow meant for him before he leapt into combat. Combat went long, Adamarius' fiendish blood keeping him alive until the end, and his smite good protecting him where it mattered. As his death neared, he bore into Felix Grey with two massive sword swings, both bolstered by smite good and one by fiendish smite, and a final, deadly critical bite-- as Adamarius tore into him, he kicked party members away who came to help, batting down Felix's shield with his blood-smeared claws, ripping into him with sadistic glee with his sword, then his shield, then a killing blade he had hidden in his belt. Triumphant, he exclaimed "See? I HAVE WON!" to the group. Nathaniel tried to kill Ionacu so that the heroes could save Felix-- who was just barely alive (-13 out of 14 Con).

Darien von Carstein rose his ring of the ram, and, expending 3 charges, hit Adamarius Ionacu so hard that he went into the wall of the mill and out of it, dying from the force of the blow, and falling twenty feet to the city streets below.

Bartholomew the silvanshee cat flew to him, and with a knead, healed him with his Lay on Hands, saving his life.

Bartholomeeeeeew

The heroes finished off Snappy and Filippa, looted Adamarius, and then ntoiced a glowing building not far from where they were-- a barracks. The wolves had been watching it. Darien von Carstein used an arcane eye to scout the building, finding four wights dressed in monks robes praying and waiting. None of them noticed the arcane eye.

The heroes turned an ambush into a surprise attack, summoning lantern archons to "ring" the bell and draw the wights out of the room. They did so while apologizing ("I'm sorry! I hope that didn't hurt" and "Oh! They're undead! Get them! Purge the unclean!" in calm and sweet voices-- if anything, the Summoner is amazing potential for the GM to decide on their preference for personalities for all of the aligned outsiders).

The heroes baited them into a trap and stomped them-- inside, they found many magic items-- that were cursed-- and some potions-- of slay living and poison-- and the remains of Kvalca Sain's heart in an urn.

They decided to return to the Prince's Wolves to rest before tackling the final parts of Feldgrau-- the ruined tower, and the mass grave in the town square.

GM NOTES!:

One thing I liked was being able to harness the WWI trench warfare ambience into a fantasy game. It was pretty cool. I plan on doing more of it with the next session-- but I really wish that, well, the module itself embraced this a lot more. I think it'd be cool to see soldiers in gas masks with flamethrowers... but maybe some people would hate it.

I know that Adamarius and Anug'thul saved this session. I should have made more unique encounters-- instead, I ran at least 3 random encounters with random enemies, and they weren't very fun (except for turning wands of command undead back on their masters).

Looking forward to Auren Vrood. Looking forward to how my PCs feel when he breaks out with the Villain Points.


Just wanted to post & let you know I'm really enjoying these summaries - thanks for taking the time to do them. Great to see examples of how the campaign can play out, as I'm about to start running it for my group.


Beckx wrote:
Just wanted to post & let you know I'm really enjoying these summaries - thanks for taking the time to do them. Great to see examples of how the campaign can play out, as I'm about to start running it for my group.

Ah, thanks. I've been letting them stagnate for a while-- my PCs are about three sessions away from where I stopped updating. Need to update soon-- I probably will share ideas in a bullet point format until I catch up.


Great take on the story. I wonder how you're going to portray the vamps.

Regards,
Ruemere


Ice Titan wrote:
...but soon called a friend to his aid, a massive werewolf in a pink sun dress and combat boots.

Lolwut?

Forgive me if I'm missing something but... what? Was this something they were expecting or was that just one of those days where you end up fighting a huge werewolf in a pink sun dress and combat boots?

Don't get me wrong, I love it. Definitely a random encounter...


19 people marked this as a favorite.

I've long since stopped updating this, but this seemed like a better place for this than the Adivion Adrissant post, since this is really more of a blog post than informative post.

Before I talk about Adivion, I want to mention that Lorrimor, in my game, did not have any children. Kendra Lorrimor was saved during a massacre in Galt by Lorrimor, who adopted her and brought her back to live in Ustalav with him. A player character, Felix Grey, also lived with the Professor in a manner similar to this.

I had Adivion Adrissant as part of the retinue of people the PCs met at the Haraday Theatre chapter of the Esoteric Order. He was very arrogant and yet extremely intelligent, guessing the PCs entire path around Ustalav based on the amount of time it took them since they had left Lepidstadt. Adivion showed interest in helping the PCs find what the Whispering Way was looking for in regards to the Raven's Head and the 'chronicles of raven's tongue,' even suggesting it might be something that the weapon knows. I also had Kendra Lorrimor and Rhakis Szadro show up as part of a group of people who were helping the Esoteric Order out in the final parts of the game. This went over well.

During the talk about where to go next, one of my PCs even brought up that they kept finding letters signed by a symbol that they had decoded as being two A's intersected -- and that this strange, mysterious person, AA, was the leader of the cult.

I sweated-- but either the PCs didn't guess, didn't act because they lacked proof, or spared me, and they didn't lock down Adivion then and beat him to death. They moved on.

The PCs completed Ashes at Dawn. Lots of fun-- I had our dhampir wizard related directly to Luvick (Darien von Carstein and Luvick Siervage von Carstein) and it made the module a lot of fun... I should post what I changed in this module. Anyways, afterwards, the PCs knew that the Whispering Way had both gone to a reclusive place called the Tomb of the Iron Medusa, and the rest of their forces had been recalled to Renchurch, their hidden stronghold. They also learned that the Carrion Crown was being made for a specific person-- and because they had cooperated with Ramoska Arkminos, he told them he guessed it was for the last living relative of Tar Baphon.

After they returned from the Abbey of Saint Lymirin, they got a letter from... Professor Lorrimor. Inside was a key, and a tag. They quickly determined it was from the Bank of Abadar, went there, found the lockbox and opened it to discover he had left them the funerary baton from the Tomb of the Iron Medusa. The PCs knew about this place-- the Professor had been one of the last people to go inside it before it was destroyed, and had told his pupils about it. But what significance did it hold, and why did the Whispering Way go there?

Veering off course, the PCs suddenly wondered... who sent this letter? They asked around, and discovered it had been sent from the Haraday Theatre to their hotel (and, based on the lavish description, the Majesty, I think, qualifies as a hotel). Weird, they thought, and they decided to go to the Esoteric Order to ask about both the Tomb and the letter. They met with Abraun Chalest again, who let the PCs know that he had never seen it-- it was probably handled by Adivion Adrissant, who was here earlier that day watching over the sepulcher.

"Where is he?" they asked, after getting some info from Abraun.
"Oh, he's at his home, entertaining Kendra Lorrimor and Count Galdana."
"We'll go visit them."

The PCs ran over to Adivion Adrissant's home, visited him, had drinks with him, and talked about where the letter had come from-- he had assumed it was for the PCs, and sent it along. They asked about the Tomb and got some misdirection from him, and he warned them of its dangers. They talked, quizzed him, and he gleefully admitted to watching them as they went through Caliphas, since he was assigned to look after them. They even saw his staff of shrieking on his living room wall. They finished dinner and left Adivion Adrissant's house to go to the Tomb.

( My PCs had dinner with the BBEG. As a DM, this is thrilling. I can now finally not have an encounter start with the BBEG monologuing into something like "You have foiled me at every turn, defeated my most powerful allies, struck down my plans, burned my contingencies and now face me at my strongest to stop me from doing what must be done... and your efforts will lead you into nothing but death. But, I have one question to ask before we finish this endless dance of nemesis versus nemesis... Um, who are you? Why are you doing this?" )

They asked Raven's Head what might be in the Tomb, and Raven's Head told them that it was the secret of the Adella family, what had destroyed them. He couldn't remember it, though-- only by touching the family's magical heirloom sword, Infensus Mucro, to Raven's Head, could they recall the secret.

Tomb of the Iron Medusa Stuff:

At the Tomb, I pretty much kept a majority of the module intact except for some date and time changes. I had Bartolomae Adella be the High Inquisitor of Caliphas, the previous owner of Raven's Head, and I changed it so the entire family dissolved after they learned a 'single, terrible secret' that had never gotten out.

The PCs adventured on in, fought things, stole stuff, all kinds of cool junk. About halfway through, one of the ghosts in the crypt identified the Ulfen fighter, Felix Grey, as 'of the blood' and invited him to take whatever he wanted from the tomb. They were confused. What did this mean?

Around that same time, they also began to see ghostly apparitions of Professor Lorrimor as a young man running around the tomb, like residual memories absorbed by the site. Curious, they pressed forward.

After a fight with Yrasa Nine-Eyes, a very powerful ghoul diviner who had, in part, founded the Whispering Way (I have no idea about this NPC but they seemed like a good person to place in as an adversary, so I did), the PCs used Infensus Mucro and Raven's Head and were shown the terrible secret. At the same time, they saw the residual memory of the Professor appearing, over and over, aging in the memory as he returned to the tomb time and time again.

The secret: Tar Baphon's only living relatives were Kendra Lorrimor and Felix Grey. Professor Lorrimor didn't just take them in out of the kindness of his heart-- but because he needed to protect them from being kidnapped by the Way and used for evil.

The image showed them where Felix Grey was, right then--- of course, with the PCs-- and where Kendra was, right then--- unconscious, in a carriage with Adivion Adrissant, as he told a wounded Rhakis Szadro to bring a message back to the PCs that they had 10 days to confront him before he would use Kendra to resurrect Tar Baphon.

It is now on.

As far as Adivion's backstory goes, here is my version:

Advion Adrissant came into the world an absolute, natural genius, and has been formed by that world into a megalomaniacal sociopath. His mother died in childbirth, and his father, an enterprising businessman, cruelly blamed him. When Adivion showed potential, his father forced him to do schoolwork for hours and hours at a time. Adivion was just a child and wanted simply to be one and rebelled at every opportunity, using his incredible intellect to outsmart his slow and overbearing father and escape out into the city to run, play and see. His father soon found ways to prevent that-- Adivion still bears deep scars on his wrist from being shackled to his chair, first, for hours, as a punishment, and then for days, as a cruelty.
The last straw came for Adivion when he found a stray dog in the city and brought it home. His father told him he could keep it if he studied enough. Adivion didn't, and his father kept to his word. He bundled the dog in a blanket, placed it in their furnace, and let Adivion watch it immolate. "This is your fault."
Adivion slit his father's throat with a jagged piece of glass before morning.
The Esoteric Order had taken a notice of Adivion, however. He was 14 and had already enrolled in the Quatrefax Archives. His intelligence was going to be wasted, hanging from a noose in a gallow. So, they pulled strings, used connections. They saved him, and placed him in the Prince's Orphanage. And as his guardian, they appointed Professor Lorrimor.
Lorrimor took care of him throughout his formative years. He was impressed and sometimes challenged by Adivion's intense and powerful intelligence, and yet, cautious about his apparent cruelty. He helped Adivion "regain his humanity"-- lessons that taught Adivion how to fake emotion, how to integrate, how to not stand out. But every time he left him at the orphanage, he went back to Kendra Lorrimor at his home, wrote letters to his adopted son in Lastwall, and left him there, all alone, by himself. And Adivion grew jealous. And Adivion's vast genius made him feel entitled. And soon, the Professor saw that Adivion was a well-to-do adult, with a prestigious place in a secret society, a career as a magical consultant for nobility... and left him alone.
My Adivion is completely insane, petty, and childish with a hurricane force of intelligence behind his every move. And his goal is to make the world remember him. He doesn't even care about the Whispering Way-- it's just a means to an end to exact revenge on Petros Lorrimor for ignoring him.

I like to play him as "so intelligent it is if he possesses a level of extrasensory perception", but also childish.

As far as motives go,

Spoiler:
I find that, well, for insane people, motives that make no sense and make you want to shout 'That's stupid' are a great place to start. In my game, for instance, Adivion claims that he would have called it all off if only Lorrimor had sent him another letter-- if only he had visited him again-- if only had seen him at his graduation-- if only he had come to his initiation ceremony for the Order-- if only he had invited him to his funeral-- if only Kendra Lorrimor, when she answered the door, knew who he was-- if only he hadn't given his books away to to the Lepidstadt University-- if only he had called HIM son, instead of someone else.

And adding in to the Adivion goodness, it's important to know that, much earlier in my campaign log, the PCs saw a dragon touch down in Feldgrau.

Spoiler:
Adivion was on that dragon, who you'll know as Marrowgarth-- and Adivion was the one who ordered Auren Vrood to die to put the PCs off of the tracks. It didn't, and Adivion knew it wouldn't-- he did it just because Auren had killed Professor Lorrimor, and he hated him for it.


Sorry for being late on the response--

Luther wrote:
just one of those days where you end up fighting a huge werewolf in a pink sun dress and combat boots?

Where I'm from, we call those Mondays.

No, really, I just kind of... harnessed the idea of all of the Demon Wolves being less of a cool and evil collection of bad guys, and more or less being a bunch of lycanthropic methamphetamine addicts. They get a high from turning into werewolves-- Ionacu is their dealer.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

Ice Titan wrote:

The secret: Tar Baphon's only living relatives were Kendra Lorrimor and Felix Grey (a PC). Professor Lorrimor didn't just take them in out of the kindness of his heart-- but because he needed to protect them from being kidnapped by the Way and used for evil.

The image showed them where Felix Grey was, right then--- of course, with the PCs-- and where Kendra was, right then--- unconscious, in a carriage with Adivion Adrissant, as he told a wounded Rhakis Szadro to bring a message back to the PCs that they had 10 days to confront him before he would use Kendra to resurrect Tar Baphon.

It is now on.

Quoted for awesomeness. (And to extract from what might be tl;dr for some people.)


You're living the dream, man.

It's easy -- well, no, it's not easy, but it's /relatively/ easy, it's /doable/ -- to make a cool BBEG with an awesome backstory. What's hard, really hard, is getting the PCs to play into it and become part of it.

The PCs having dinner with the BBEG? That's just great. And I love the way you've made Professor Lorimar (who in the books is almost a throwaway character) utterly central to the plot.

Well played.

Doug M.


You always put out lucid and well thought out logical posts in other parts of the board and now I get to see how it all works in your game - Good job I'll likely use this in hand with the AP as a guide on how to run it before I go - never run a published adventure before.

Cheers


I also wanted to let you know that I really enjoy some of the ideas you post, and it is great seeing how some of these event play out, as I am months behind you.
I love Adivion's backstory and intend to incorporate many of you ideas.

Thanks!

Grand Lodge

Copied from it liberally


Titan, I MADE an account simply to tell you how amazingly epic your plot alterations here are.

One change I am going to make when I run this, since my PCs already have developed backstories-

Spoiler:
is to have Kendra be the daughter of Count Galdana from when he was young- she was born out of wedlock, and secreted away, forgotten by everyone (including Galdana) until Petros uncovered the truth of her ancestry and took her in to protect her. This way, I can keep the rescuing Galdana part of Renchurch (which I love) intact, while having the danger of the Whispering Tyrant's return remain real (Adivion takes Kendra to Gallowspire) until just before the final battle- to make it truly evident how much of a last ditch effort Adivion drinking the elixir is.

Even then, I may have him, on the verge of madness, rant about how the proximity of his and Galdana's counties may mean there was some blood intermingling, and that perhaps he, Adivion, was also descended from the Tyrant.

Clearly, he wasn't, but it is entirely possible, especially as last-ditch effort reasoning.


So thanks for the inspiration!

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