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WotR is a great choice for your group. Awesome story, and some of the best RP moments I've seen in any of the Paizo APs. Hope to see this journal as well!

Awww! Thanks, Misroi! And sorry, CaroRose; I tried to push them towards Jade Regent, but we've heard just "too much good stuff" about Wrath of the Righteous.

We even found a fourth "compatible" player, but the man's in something like 6 games right now and we couldn't fit him into our schedule, so there was a lot of debate as to whether to do Jade Regent first so he could join us for WotR.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), my group finally decided on WotR and yes, I already requested character backgrounds so that thread should appear this week. I have half a dozen more posts here, Leilani plays next this Saturday, so I'll be a busy busy writer.

I've *loved* WotR so far, EXCEPT:
- Too many darned NPCs in the first part. I'm already running a GMNPC to give them a party of four. Give me three more and I get a bit addled.
- Not nearly as much room for "interesting" character backgrounds. All four PCs are from the starting town. I really loved writing the first 10-15 posts for this thread, and the players said that the whole interwoven story gave them great ideas as to who there characters were. For this one, who vacations near the Worldwound? They were all locals, so the character intros will be MUCH shorter...

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07-March-2014 Game

Another Friday night session marked by one huge fight with a bunch of giants. You'd think that large numbers of giants with hundreds of hit points who hit for 30-40 per blow were long hard fights or something...

So another "minimalist" session, though starting next week we re-enter "massive writeup" territory...
...and no, Mittean, I have NO idea what I had for dinner 8 weeks ago. Since there's nothing on my credit card statement, it was probably roast lamb, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and gravy.

15-Calistril-4708 (Continued from last game)

Proceeding from the lamia's quarters the party turned right and found themselves in a magnificent throne room, complete with a seemingly solid-gold throne covered with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and all other manner of gems. The entire room was decorated just as gaudily, with a ruby-studded walkway instead of a red carpet, gold strips and silver-inlaid wall carvings, magnificent columns, and yada yada yada...
The party didn't care one whit and moved on. I love my players. Greed? What's that?

They opened a door off to the side of the throne, figuring it would be Karzoug's private chambers or some other repository of official knowledge or lore, only to find the same old, same old. Raesh opened the door, Shiro spotted the thin spot, beat Karzoug's initiative again, and Silenced him before he could act again. Karzoug rolled his eyes impatiently, pointed at Shiro, and gestured that Shiro would be #1 on his list when they finally met. Shiro grinned at the honor. It was Raesh's turn to dispel the thin spot, and she did so without further incident.

The room itself was unremarkable, but a massive pair of doors led beyond. Once again Shiro listened, checked for traps, and allowed Raesh to open it.
GM Note: I'd been moving the giants around the Pinnacle to improve their chances tactically. My only major mistake had been splitting them into two groups, one to attack them outside Ayruzi's room and the other to guard the main entrance. Now with half their forces defeated, I had to keep the rest of them together to have them stand a chance against the heroes. So no one was home here.

The room beyond was of gargantuan proportions; it seemed like a bunk room, but it was easily 100 feet across and quite nearly as wide, with two forty-foot beds, two chairs that were just as huge, a massive stone table between the chairs, and similar accoutrements throughout the room. Raesh led the party slowly into the room, cautiously checking for traps or creatures. Not trusting their vision from below, she Levitated herself onto the nearest bed. Then, she did what any self-respecting paladin of Sarenrae would do:

She jumped up and down on the bed.

Chaos erupted as the other party members scrambled to climb the gargantuan bed and join her. The bed was not of particularly high quality, stuffed with straw rather than feathers and therefore less-than-satisfying to jump on, but the party enjoyed themselves immensely nevertheless. Party members took advantage of Feather Fall, Levitate, or utterly ludicrous Acrobatics or Climb checks to run amok. Ayruzi, not wanting to estrange the party, flew over to the other bed and jumped on it as well. An impromptu game of "hot lava" broke out as Hi and Shiro climbed the furniture, had Halek move it about for them, and otherwise entertained themselves. Raesh, having had her moment of frivolity, levitated herself in a dignified fashion back to the floor. She didn't quite understand why gnomes were so enamored of jumping on beds, but at least she had given it a try.
Fortunately, Karzoug was not scrying this little incident.

Once the party had spent some of their pent-up energies (because killing a dozen denizens of Leng apparently hadn't tired them at all), they searched for secret hiding places or other interesting "stuff". Finding none, they returned to the throne room and prepared to exit through the main doors.
Shiro listened carefully. Hearing nothing, they peered down the long, curving hallway. They moved forward, and Karzoug FINALLY got to act!
Knowing that the party was protected from transformation spells by their Dominant weapons, but knowing that protection was limited, he decided to hit Shiro with a Disintegrate anyway, figuring either Shiro would lose one layer of protection or die, both of which were acceptable outcomes. Unfortunately, Shiro was indeed carrying his dominant weapon. But at least Karzoug had gotten a spell off!
Needless to say, that was the end of Karzoug's luck. Halek beat him on the initiative chart and had plenty of movement to run up and destroy his image. Even worse, he took a second permanent negative level from this blow!
GM Note: At this point it was time to decide whether to burn a Wish to get Karzoug a Greater Restoration. Looking over his sheet, I decided that -2 to everything wasn't enough to justify losing a Wish. In the long run, it turns out I was right, but for all the wrong reasons.

The party's victory was short-lived, as the giants guarding the main entrance heard the commotion and poured forth from the door to the south. Even worse, this time the giants had space in which to work. Using Awesome Blows to great advantage, the two lead giants knocked Halek and Raesh prone while the others poured in behind them, filling the hall. Thinking fast, Shiro put an illusory wall between the remaining giants (including the rune giant) and the group. Unfortunately, with their enormous Will saves (just HOW do they get Dominated again?), only two cloud giants were affected. (Raesh's player insists that I point out that one of those two fumbled his save and was in the room with the rune giant, blocking his path and yelling to all the other giants that the wall was real.)
It was a long, painful, ugly battle. Highlights included Ayruzi using Frightful Aspect to get a cloud giant to run away, and then Blade Barrier to keep him away, and a storm giant double-critting Raesh for 152 points in a single blow (I suppose the PCs would consider that a "lowlight").
Eventually, the rune giant was dropped and the remaining storm giant and four cloud giants came to their senses. The storm giant who'd crit Raesh immediately engaged in combat with the cloud giant in front of him, while the other two cloud giants engaged the fourth. (I'd rolled in secret as to which cloud giants were good and which were evil, and by sheer coincidence the party had killed nothing but evil cloud giants, leading to two good and two evil cloud giants being free.) Raesh started using Detect Evil to determine which cloud giants were good and which were evil.

Outclassed, the cloud giant facing the storm giant fell. Raesh tried to reach in to stabilize him, not wanting any giants to die unnecessarily. As she reached in, the storm giant shook his head, indicating that this cloud giant should not be saved. Raesh stabilized the cloud giant anyway. With a smooth motion, the storm giant swept up his axe and beheaded the fallen cloud giant in spite of the fact that the other two cloud giants were still engaged with the final evil one.

Raesh was not pleased at this development. She looked up at him with utter disdain and said "A true warrior would have first fought those of his enemies that were still capable of fighting back."

*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Saturday, March 15, 2014 (Already played.)

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15-March-2014 Game

This was a significantly longer session, not only because it was a Saturday game, nor because of the infamous is he dead or isn't he? debate, but mainly because the group was finally ready to take on Karzoug, and they wanted to be absolutely, positively, 100% sure they had explored every nook and cranny of the Pinnacle before proceeding.

I'd love to give Halek a Silver Tsuto for fumbling and injuring himself right after Raesh had sacrificed herself to protect him, but it wasn't a serious game-changer, so it didn't have the magnitude of a "true" Tsuto.

So for those of you desperately wondering, "How does it all end?", we have this session, then the final fight with Karzoug March 22, then several epically-fun post-AP roleplaying sessions.
My personal favorite moment: We didn't play two weeks ago because of social commitments. We played Wrath of the Righteous last weekend because the group was just having waaaay too much fun to stop mid-game. This week Shiro's player is out of town and Saturday is Second Darkness, so we were going to go three weeks without playing. Raesh's player put her foot down so now Saturday is 3 hours of Rise of the Runelords followed by 7-8 hours of Second Darkness. Game too much? Us? NEVER!

15-Calistril-4708 (Continued from last game. And the game before that...)

While the party had been victorious, and now had two cloud giants and a storm giant to deal with, they had also taken massive amounts of damage. Shiro started a Soothing Performance, and also summoned three bralani azata (Shiro's angels) to help heal the group. Even after several performances he had to resort to a wand of Cure Light Wounds to finish up.
While Shiro worked, Raesh was not idle. She ripped into the storm giant, pointing out that no matter what his personal beliefs, felling a foe she had just stabilized was beyond rational, and he was lucky she didn't smite him right there. The giant tried to argue that the cloud giant hadn't been worthy of saving, but the look on Raesh's face and her furious demeanor convinced him that this argument would most likely lead to at least exclusion from the healing, if not out-and-out pain. He apologized tersely and promised not to do it again. Raesh was unconvinced of his sincerity and fumed silently at him.

Believing that they had ample time to prepare themselves now, they asked the giants for details of the remainder of the Pinnacle. The giants obligingly provided information about the areas where they had been allowed: The front entrance, the rune giants' quarters, the throne room, and the barracks. They did not know anything about the lamias' wing, nor had they been allowed past a strange chapel at the end of the barracks.
Thanking the giants (tersely in the case of the storm giant) and warning them not to annoy Svevenka, the party let the giants depart the Pinnacle on their own recognizance, figuring after what they had seen of lower Xin-Shalast the last time they had gone down, there was nothing that might hinder the giants' egress from the city.

Once the party was fully healed and the giants were on their way, they resumed their explorations. The first room was a double door into a wonderfully small-ish room with a thin spot, allowing Karzoug to fire off a Baleful Polymorph at Raesh. She made her save with room to spare as Shiro (of all people) dispersed his likeness.

Their next exploration was of the rune giant barracks.

GM Note: This marked the first session where I tried to use to display the map to the players. It worked wonderfully in that I could expose one room at a time, do easy line-of-sight mapping, and otherwise didn't have to draw. On the other hand, now that I'm writing this up I notice that they never entered the portal room (the one with the portal to Shahlaria), so I must have accidentally exposed it during their explorations without their going into it. Live and learn. I'm LOVING for the exploration of Smuggler's Shiv in Serpent's Skull, though. The kids are FINALLY beginning to see how their "We walk in a straight line" approach is not very efficient at exposing the island.

Going through the barracks room-by-room, they counted 34 rooms suitable for a rune giant apiece, one storage room, and Khalib's strange triangular room, decorated with nothing but a bookshelf and a golden bed with silken sheets and luxurious fur blankets. Ayruzi spat on the bed. No one objected. Hi gathered all the books and stored them away so he could bring them to the library at Jorgenfist and have them properly recorded.
During their explorations, they encountered another thin spot, but this time their Perception rolls were far too high and the spot was dispatched without incident.

At the end of the barracks was a massive 20-foot-tall statue of Karzoug standing over a brazier. The statue looked as if it had once held an object, but the hands were now empty. Opposite Karzoug was a stone pagoda nearly 60 feet on a side. Across the room from them, if they dared walk between the pagoda and the statue, was a pair of golden double doors protected by a shimmering screen of golden energy. From within the pagoda, Shiro could hear spellcasting.
Not a group to allow spellcasters to finish their spells, the party raced forward to find themselves faced with not one but TWO Shemhazian demons, as the GM had FINALLY rolled something decent for one of the bad guys and the demon had succeeded in calling itself an ally.
And that was the fundamental difference. With two demons fighting cooperatively and their spell resistance shedding Hi's offensive spells, the pair did quite well against the party. Halek took so much damage that by mid-fight Raesh used Paladin's Sacrifice to take a hit for him to try to keep him upright. He expressed his gratitude by fumbling and taking 1d4 Strength damage. (All the more hilarious because the strength drain was what Raesh was trying to protect him from.)
Unfortunately, their Blasphemies did nothing (I'd let the party get to 17th level, remember? So they all got DC 20 Will saves which pretty much rendered the spell useless). Their Mass Cause Serious Wound spells didn't do enough damage to have a major impact. And with Raesh Smiting Evil (of course) and standing in the middle of the battlefield (of course), they couldn't risk hitting a squishy PC (Hi or Shiro) for fear of taking a full-round attack from a Smiting paladin (in other words, suicide). I know I got one of them to munch on Hi a bit by turning invisible and flying over the rest of the party to get to him, but it was the last act of a desperate demon. It was a nice, long, brutal fight, and the party was seriously afeared for Halek losing all his prodigious strength to the critters. But at the end of it all, the demons fell and Ayruzi's at-will Lesser Restoration rendered all that wonderful strength damage moot.

Once the demons were gone, the party explored the pagoda, finding nothing but two smaller statues of Karzoug and an (empty) sarcophagus. It was time to examine the wall of force before the door.
After their experience with the Leng Device, they were loathe to risk meddling with the door. After the many, many fights of the day, their resources were low. Thus, with nary a backwards glance, the party left the door alone and headed back to Ayruzi's room for some well-earned rest.

Just before going to sleep, Shiro tested Bard's Escape to make sure it would work within the Pinnacle. He grinned when it succeeded.

GM Note: And here's where many GMs might disagree with my decision-making process. With no rune giants left in the Pinnacle (and the last three who tried to reinforce it slaughtered in their tracks) I chose to go with "behavior as written" and not repopulate any giants. With my (probably a mistake) decision to ban all scrying within the Pinnacle Karzoug only knew that they were there, but not precisely where they were (not that he had any resources with which to hit them). And after coming within a single die pip of dying horribly, Ceoptra was perfectly happy to gather lamia hungerers about her in the hopes that the party would take so long to come back that her swarm of hungerers would overwhelm them. (A serious possibility.) In short, there was nothing left in the Pinnacle to harass the party, so I let them rest for the night. I could have forced a random encounter or had Ceoptra send her hungerers to attack the party in their sleep, but I just think it would have done nothing but prolong the inevitable. "As a GM, you can always kill the party. The question is, 'Should you?'"


The party awoke to a new day full of hope as Raesh performed her devotions. At least, Halek, Ayruzi, and Raesh awoke. Shiro and Hi continued their contest for "most slothful PC with a Ring of Sustenance. Ever."
Once Shiro and Hi had arisen the party returned to the glimmering golden doors and started buffing. Fortunately, Ceoptra made her Perception check and she started buffing as well. Rather than deal with the doors, Shiro Bard's Escaped the party into the room.

It was absolutely wonderful. They knew the approximate size of the room from the map, and I knew where the hungerers were and where Ceoptra was, so I drew out the shape on the battle map with no features and let Shiro place the party's figures. They ended up among the hungerers with Ceoptra across the room, exactly as planned. Unfortunately, this time they were already Hasted, Good Hoped, Death Warded, Protected from Evil, and at least several more (Resist Energy and Freedom of Movement were in there as well, I know). The most vulnerable party member (Halek) ended up miraculously out of reach, so one hungerer wasted a round trying to hit Raesh, while the other popped several of Hi's Mirror Images.

The next few rounds of the combat were so spectacular I think I should just reprint the obituary here:
Name of PC: Hi Ichiban Whoop Griggledy Piggledy Wonk Wonk Great Googley Moogley Ow My Finger Don't Hit Me It Wasn't My Idea Fig Fig Banana Fo Fama Whomp Whomp Whoopledy Doo Zzzzzzzz
Race/Class/Level: Gnome Sorcerer (Elemental Fire) 17
Adventure: The Spires of Xin-Shalast (The Pinnacle of Avarice)
Catalyst: A determined Ceoptra

This ranks right up there with "most bizarre and lengthy death I've seen in an RPG", and beautifully shows how familiarity with the rules isn't enough; you need a "rules monkey".

Shiro the bard knew that Ceoptra was a caster, and prepared Greater Dispel Magic as a counterspell. She knew he was ready, and sent a lamia hungerer over to distract him as she cast Destruction on Hi. So Shiro attempted to counterspell anyway. Since the hungerer was within reach, she took her attack of opportunity and hit. Unfortunately, Shiro had Shocking Images up and she hit one, taking damage and spraying acid all over Shiro. Not exactly her plan for disrupting his counterspell, but it did force him to make a Concentration check to cast. Shiro succeeded on his Concentration check and his Caster Level check to get past Ceoptra's SR, but didn't quite roll high enough to dispel the spell. Hi failed his Fortitude save and was dead as a doornail... (So yes, three different creatures rolling d20 five times to resolve a single action.)
...EXCEPT as we were knocking Hi's figure over Shiro's player noted that it was a Greater Dispel Magic, giving him +4 for counterspelling, so it was actually just barely enough to dispel the spell.

All that work, and Hi was legally still standing.

Two rounds later, Ceoptra had only 2 hit points left, end even Ethereal Jaunt wouldn't save her because she was adjacent to an angel with True Seeing and plenty of nastiness left in her back of tricks. Ceoptra fired off another Destruction, and this time Shiro wasn't ready with a counterspell, so it struck true.

Once again, Hi failed his save, and once again, Hi was dead...
...EXCEPT after we went through all the roleplaying and die rolling of Ayruzi using the scroll of True Resurrection they'd found earlier, Hi's player asked, "Is my Death Ward still up?"
We all groaned, and, sure enough, Destruction is a death spell so Death Ward applied.

In our final "bone-headed GM" move of the evening, I made the classic Death Ward mistake and granted him immunity from the effect instead of the mere +4 to his save (he only rolled a 3). So Hi was alive again without having to use up their precious scroll.
But I started prepping Karzoug this morning and thought, "Wait a minute! Death Ward doesn't grant immunity from damaging death effects! Just negative energy!"

So technically, Hi died and had to be brought back with a scroll of True Resurrection.

It took quite a while, but we finally got it right.
To make a long story short, Halek knew the hungerers would eat his wisdom alive so he used his Hasted move to engage Ceoptra, as did Ayruzi, as Raesh pummeled the hungerers. As noted, Shiro had enough time to throw up one counterspell but not two, and Hi stopped flinging spells long enough to die and be brought back by a True Resurrection post-combat. The most delightful moment of the combat came when Shiro moved up to try to pen Ceoptra in, and she pounced him. Shiro could not contain his glee that he had been pounced by "a beautiful girl with a LOOOOOONG tail". It didn't help that she did almost no damage to him.

With Ceoptra dead and many of their spells (plus their scroll of True Resurrection) used up, the party examined the room with the full intent of fleeing to rest yet another night before facing Karzoug.
GM Note: With their amazing restraint in Book 4 I figured they had at least a couple of week's leeway before he could get out. Good roleplaying deserves a reward.

With that in mind, they examined the bizarre device Ceoptra had been standing on. It resembled nothing so much as a giant burning golden globe, complete with stand. The platform Ceoptra had been standing under was obviously some kind of observation platform, but the globe was opaque; you would be looking at nothing in particular. No one dared go on the platform (probably because I kept asking, "OK, who goes on the platform first?", and I was very clear that Ceoptra never stepped on it either), and no one dared touch the sphere.

Putting their heads together, Shiro used every buff he could think of to get Hi a massive 51 Spellcraft to discern the nature of the device. It was a high enough roll that I granted that it was a doorway to another dimension, and the key to the doorway was to set yourself on fire. The party was nonplussed. Instead, they asked Ayruzi to cast Divination for them.

It was a delightfully fun series of 16 questions as the party learned that not only was Shiro's Spellcraft information correct, but that they could also enter the sphere by just hitting it with their Dominant weapons.

In perhaps the single most telling moment of what my party is made of, Shiro summoned one of his angels and asked her to walk onto the platform, but tied a rope around her waist to keep her safe.
First checking her entry in the Bestiary to be sure, I described her dizziness and disorientation, then her stumbling down the platform. She described what she saw: Another plane, swimming with fire, and some kind of platform with a glowing well on it. The party knew they were facing their final battle. Even more importantly, she remained disoriented for a full minute afterwards.

The party knew then and there: If they used the platform and were that disoriented when they faced Karzoug, they would fall. Their only choice was to strike the sphere with their Dominant Weapons and hope nothing exploded.

They returned to Ayruzi's room, retired for the evening, and prepared for their final battle with Karzoug.

*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Saturday, March 22, 2014: The Fall of Karzoug (Already played.)

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LOL. This week's update is, "OK, some of y'all has gots ta yell at my players!"

Our plans for Saturday were a simple Second Darkness run: 2-9 pm, then I write up Leilani's journal on Sunday and get back to RotRL and WotR.

Instead, Raesh's player revolted, we did a massive bacon, sausage, melon, berries, and biscuits-n-gravy breakfast, 3 hours of RotRL, 5 hours of Second Darkness, and just as I was telling them I'd be settling down to write, another 3 hours of WotR.

And TODAY they've all contacted me to tell me that Saturday was the Best Day Ever and they want to plan MORE 3-game days!


My writing work will never cease!

Anyway, off in the wilderness with no electronics most of this week. I'll *TRY* to get the final battle with Karzoug posted, but that'll depend on getting my son all packed up tomorrow night...

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You should tell your players that they make me sad roughly twice a day when I check the thread to find there are no new updates.

It's kind of like the cliffhanger at the end of the episode on a weekly TV series, except there's no telling when the next episode will actually come out.

Ouch! I'll let them know, but at the moment I can at least guarantee that Karzoug's fall is destined for Tuesday the 20th. I'm out of town with no electronics WeThFr (chaperoning 122 10-year-olds. Pity me!). Friday night is RotRL, Saturday is my son's 13th birthday party followed by WotR, and Sunday is Runequest. So I'll get the whole thing written up and sent out on Monday, and Raesh's player's "slow days" are TuTh, so I expect her edits Tuesday during the day, hence the post Tuesday night.

Does knowing it's going to be a full week help at all?

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It does. (Wanders off to stare at the paint on the wall, and eat home-made tacos.)

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Well, if nothing else, it means I can stop checking until then :P

Seriously though, I appreciate you taking the time to actually post this. It has been a wonderful read, and has given me plenty of good ideas to use in my own campaign.

My frustration that I can't just stay up all night to finish reading the story (as I'd normally do with a good book) is really just a testament to the quality of both your sessions and your write ups.

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mittean wrote:
It does. (Wanders off to stare at the paint on the wall, and eat home-made tacos.)

True story: My brother moved out of our house knowing how to cook:

(1) Toast
(2) Tacos
(3) Frozen peas
(4) Anything that involved, "Open the can, heat until boiling." (Soup, chili, etc.)

You made his list!

EDIT: Yes, as I tell my friends, I started cooking for my family of 6 in self-defense when I was 10, and I've been cooking ever since. My wife left home knowing how to make fettucini alfredo and eggs benedict (including a divine hollandaise sauce) and little else. Any wonder we're foodies?

EDIT 2: And yes, the WORST POSSIBLE advertising campaign is one that offers food "just like mom makes". No thank you, please! I believe that a 1/4" pork chop cooked at 425 F for 25 minutes belongs in the Sporting Goods department, not on a dinner plate...

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ZZTRaider wrote:

Well, if nothing else, it means I can stop checking until then :P

Seriously though, I appreciate you taking the time to actually post this. It has been a wonderful read, and has given me plenty of good ideas to use in my own campaign.

My frustration that I can't just stay up all night to finish reading the story (as I'd normally do with a good book) is really just a testament to the quality of both your sessions and your write ups.

Thank you, ZZTRaider. Such kind comments certainly help to alleviate the sense of drudgery associated with putting my experiences to paper (so to speak). I shall endeavor to keep up with the pennings of the dauntless NobodysHome with some alacrity.

May the sun shine brightly on your back and never in your eyes.

- Rae'Sheleth

OMG! You made Raesh post! I think you just won the intranets!

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NobodysHome wrote:
OMG! You made Raesh post! I think you just won the intranets!

*stony face*

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Many thanks to you ZZTRaider. Oft times I wonder if our grand adventures and the associated tales just echo in the darkness unheard by others. Such praise makes my soul dance. If you could see me now you'd note that my tail is in no way dragging along the floor.

As for that slave driver NobodysHome... he forces me to read and edit countless pages! I'm am not a book bard! If it were not for you, and others like you, I am quite certain I'd just give up on the whole writing endeavor and limit myself to telling the story around campfires.

Admit it NobodysHome, it would be much easier to invite everyone over for our fine foods, excellent drink, and to observe if not participate in the actual adventure. *mischievous, toothy, grin*

Once more, thank you ZZTRaider. May your travels take you places you would never imagine and may you find comrades worthy of your respect to accompany you.

*deep bow, fades to dark*

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

You got TWO of them to post! The internet is won!

I'm going away for three days... everyone hold your breath and wait for Hi to make his second... post... EVER!!! (The first is as Taleck in the Second Darkness thread.)

Seriously, though, we were playing League of Legends together this evening and Raesh's player congratulated Shiro's player on posting, so Hi's player asked, "Wait? What?!?! There's posting going on!?!?"

We may yet see Hi.

And next week once I've posted Karzoug's End I'm going to STRONGLY push the three of them to post their favorite moments, least favorite moments, etc. so everyone gets a nice wrap-up.

THEN we start in with the post-AP roleplaying that's STILL going on on a weekly basis! Plus WotR, plus SD! TV? Books? What are those?

EDIT: And watch out for Shiro, ZZTRaider. He bites.

Wow, I feel special, getting both Raesh and Shiro to post.

I love that you're going to ask them all to post their most and least favorite moments. That's something the group I play with does at the end of every session, then again at the end of each major campaign arc.

Another fun thing we do, since we normally play homebrew campaigns, is allow the players to ask five fourth wall breaking questions about the campaign arc. Granted, sometimes the questions can't be answered because of spoilers for the next arc, but it's a really neat way to find out stuff about NPCs' motivations and other happenings that would be difficult to find out about in character. A personal favorite is the time we inadvertently caused a minor deity to fall.

*SIGH*. Critics.

I wrote up the final fight with Karzoug in a round-by-round manner so everyone could see how I managed everything, and both Raesh's and Shiro's players have declared it "too much like a report" and "not very story-like", so I have to rewrite it in story form for them. I'll put the blow-by-blow description and decisions below that so you can see my original write-up.

Be a little patient -- I should have lots of time to do the rewrite tomorrow afternoon, and then I can force Raesh and Shiro's players to do the edits before our game on Sunday, since they're so insistent on it being "right"...

Critics. Give them peanuts. :)

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22-March-2014 Game: Karzoug's Fall, Take 2

As mentioned, my players really didn't care for my round-by-round writeup of the final fight, so I decided I'd rewrite it in story form, include the post-fight roleplaying, and then put the round-by-round stuff in a spoiler at the end so those of you with (far) too much time on your hands can see the round-by-round decision-making. You'll see that it's very similar, just far less story-like.

I regret that no one earned a Silver Tsuto Award in this final fight of the campaign, though I am sorely tempted to introduce a Brass Karzoug Trophy of Ouchy Ouchy Pain for the being that gets hit by the most critical hits in a single round. Karzoug certainly won that trophy hands-down this session!

So, without further ado, and hopefully to my players' greater satisfaction, is the final chapter of the AP:


The party arose knowing that their final battle was upon them. They moved to the anima focus and prepared themselves. And oh, did they prepare! I think they burned nearly half their spell slots with energy resistances, freedom of movements, death wards, and whatnot, making themselves resistant or immune to most everything they could think of that Karzoug might throw at them. (A more complete list is in the spoiler.) In a particularly inspired twist, Raesh suggested to Ayruzi that she prepare Greater Spell Immunity and make herself immune to both Dismissal and Banishment. Raesh clearly didn't want Ayruzi to miss out on the "fun".

Once they were all sure they were prepared, they arranged themselves at the base of the sphere: Shiro, being the least likely to cause mayhem personally, would be the one to strike the anima focus with his Dominant weapon, and the others would pour in as they could, trying to establish a beachhead of sorts in whatever strange demiplane they arrived in.
Once everyone was ready, Shiro Hasted the party, Halek raged, and Shiro struck the focus with his weapon.
GM Note: In a particularly diabolical mood, I asked Shiro's player to choose exactly where on the sphere he struck, and had the party facing that direction when they came out. As luck would have it, they came out facing AWAY from Karzoug!

In a shrieking howl that tore through their bodies and their minds, the reality between dimensions opened, and a rift was created between the Pinnacle of Avarice and the Eye. Ayruzi was the first to brave the gulf. On entering she surveyed the situation, finding herself on a circular platform some hundred feet over a lake of fire. To the left and right on separate platforms stood a pair of storm giants, bows at the ready. Behind her, the platform she was on extended out and up several short staircases, past the obvious runewell with some sort of lens hanging over it, to a massive throne upon which sat Karzoug himself. To his right was a blue dragon, to his left a rune giant. Ayruzi, having little time to think out such things, placed a Blade Barrier in front of the trio in an attempt to prevent them from advancing while the party was still in transit.

Raesh came through next. Since the party was in two different dimensions, she held off on using Aura of Justice and instead chose to Smite Evil on the rune giant, figuring the boost to her armor class would help her defend the party from his devastating attacks.
On the opponents' side, Karzoug was in a similar bind; with only two party members through the portal, he didn't want to waste his "heavy artillery", so instead he attempted a quick Banishment of Ayruzi. Surprised to find that she was immune, he used a Quickened Time Stop to prepare himself for Hi, casting a Prismatic Wall behind himself to provide himself with a safe hidey-hole, then Spell Turning and Globe of Invulnerability to protect himself from any offensive spells.
Hi and Halek tumbled through the portal next, only to provide sufficient targets for the dragon to fly up and breathe on them, the storm giants to cast Chain Lightning on them, and the rune giant to use a Spark Shower on them. As Shiro's player noted, "Wow! I guess that resist electricity really paid off!" No joke!

The next round saw both sides starting to use the "big guns". Raesh's Aura of Justice had everyone Smiting Karzoug, while the moment Shiro came through the door Karzoug targeted him with a Meteor Swarm in retaliation for his impudence. Shiro, not needing to be told twice, Greased the rune giant's sword. Ayruzi got both the rune giant and the dragon with Waves of Exhaustion, while Karzoug's second Quickened Time Stop allowed him to box in the party with a Wall of Force and Cloudkill.
GM Note: Much to my astonishment, the party chose not to use Life Bubbles to save spell slots, so the Cloudkill was actually quite the bit of nastiness for them.

So there we were, happily battling away. The battlefield was rife with targets, walls of various blades or light or force or what-have-you, clouds of stinking death, and all kinds of fun like that.

Then along came Shiro.

Mr. "I'm going to smile wickedly and do something hopelessly mean" Shiro.

He stepped adeptly through the cloud to a point where he could see everyone except Ayruzi. And cast Bardic Escapte to drop them all right next to Karzoug. All the Hasted, Smiting Evil melee characters with delayed actions. THOSE people.

Halek took his delayed action. And crit. And chose to auto-confirm. And hit again. And again. And again. 299 points of damage later, I was wondering, "Why the heck didn't I have Karzoug fly up and hide on the ceiling?" I'm sure you're all wondering the same. BBEG arrogance, I guess. And the fact that if he'd been in the air and not behind a barrier he would have been a pincushion of Smiting arrows. At least he might have been able to run away...
Raesh came next. And hit Karzoug. And it was ugly. Ludicrously ugly. I think it was "triple crit-crit-double crit-crit-hit". So she topped Halek with a whopping 311 points. So yeah, before he got to act, Karzoug took 610 points. It was one or two more than he had. She turned to the dragon and said, "Surrender."

Hi, wide-eyed at the destruction that had once been Karzoug, decided to see what would happen next and delayed. The dragon, not an idiot, surrendered. The storm giants, still dominated, shot at the party to little effect. The exhausted rune giant got to run back towards the party, now on the opposite side of the room. (Did I mention that he fumbled his Reflex save to hold on to his greased sword, so it fell into the lake of fire? I thought not...) Yeah, a Hasted Raesh and Halek versus an exhausted unarmed rune giant. What do YOU think happened? As the rune giant fell, the fight was over. The storm giants threw down their bows and surrendered.


Raesh's first order of business was the dragon. "What is your name, sir dragon?"
"I do not have one."
Raesh was perplexed. The dragon explained. He had been created from the magics of the runewell as a protector for Karzoug...
...the party interrupted by looking over at the runewell, now behind the Blade Barrier from them. It was clearly inert. Apparently Karzoug's death had been enough to cause it to go inactive. Reassured, they had the dragon continue his tale.
As he had been saying, he had been created from the runewell to serve Karzoug. He had never left the Eye of Avarice, nor been given a name. He had been allowed to read Karzoug's books of the world outside the Eye, and desperately wanted to be free to explore that world.
Raesh, recalling her own isolated childhood in the halls of the temple of Sarenrae, could not help but commiserate with the poor creature. He detected as evil, but if any dragon could be redeemed, this one was certainly a good candidate!

First and foremost, he needed a name. He asked each party member his or her name, then combined them to create the name Shirhalek. Raesh approved. Then they started the discussion: Where could a blue dragon live in relative freedom, yet still under enough control that he would not grow evil and decadent? They knew that the stone giants had been working with red dragons. If they could work with red dragons, certainly they could negotiate a fair treaty with a blue dragon?
They decided that they would take Shirhalek to meet Conna the Wise, and help them negotiate a mutually-beneficial agreement. Shirhalek agreed to this arrangement so long as they did not betray him, nor try to enslave him.

Raesh managed not to snort out loud at him.

With the runeforge inactive and Karzoug very clearly dead, they explored the rest of the Eye. It was a depressingly small place to spend 10,000 years. There was the arrival platform, the two platforms the storm giants had been on, the runewell, Karzoug's throne, and whatever room was behind the Prismatic Wall. They had some time, so they waited for the various walls to disperse. Behind the wall was a series of bookcases. Hi's eyes grew big with anticipation. A complete history of Thassilon? Spellbooks? Unfortunately, nothing so exciting. The books were historical treatises, maps, and documents detailing the politics of the world since Earthfall. Obviously, Karzoug had been researching the state of the world in order to determine where to find allies, and which nations to crush first. Hi grew excited again! This would be an ideal addition to the library at Jorgenfist! Hi had Halek fill a bag of holding with all the volumes.
Raesh and Shiro, far more practically-minded, looted Karzoug and the dead rune giant. (While Karzoug's Burning Glaive was utterly ineffective during the fight due to their energy resistance, I felt that having it continue to lob fireballs at them after Karzoug's death would just be over-the-top, so I had it go inert and they packed it away in a Bag of Holding.)

Ayruzi Plane Shifted the entire group out of the Eye (remarkable how it was exactly 8 willing creatures at this point, wasn't it?). They found themselves somewhere in the wilderness of the Kodar mountains. Shirhalek blinked in the bright sunlight, spread his wings, and felt freedom for the first time in his existence. The storm giants, finally free of the rune giant's domination and the influence of Xin-Shalast, bid their farewells and left the party. With the party's reduced size, Hi teleported them to Jorgenfist. While most of the stone giants had left, a small tribe remained. Raesh introduced Shirhalek to the giants. The giants were overjoyed to have a potential dragon ally, and offered him all the food he could eat, protection while he slept, and all the wealth he earned, as well as Longtooth's cave. As a "starter hoard", the party would bring him all of the copper from Gholorofaex's hoard.
Hi offered to clear the cave with a few blasts of lightning to clear Longtooth's scent from the cave. He cast Form of Dragon and turned into a large blue dragon. As he prepared to start blasting the cave with lightning, Shiralek commented that Hi made a very handsome dragon, and asked if the spell could make Hi a female as well. Hi, thankful that blue dragons do not blush visibly and trying not to laugh, informed Shiralek that the spell couldn't change genders but Hi was sure that Shiralek would find a suitable companion someday. In return for these kindnesses, Shirhalek would protect the tribe from enemies, act as their scout, and defend them from other dragons. Shirhalek pondered long and hard on this. He wanted his freedom, and did not want to be tied down to one location. But the lure of protection, food, and his own hoard proved his undoing. He promised to work with the giants for 100 years, and at that point he would determine his destiny.
Raesh felt that this was more than reasonable, and was happy to see that the giants agreed with this "bargain". She noted to herself that she would be quite busy 100 years hence, but she expected to be around, and warned the dragon that if he went back on his word or turned to evil, she WOULD find him. The dragon looked at her very seriously, and acknowledged the threat/promise.

Watching Shirhalek soar into the blue sky, sun reflecting off his deep azure wings, Raesh could not help but feel she had done well.

Hi's next teleport took them to the temple of Sarenrae in Absalom, where they created a minor stir (it was just a planetar angel and a chosen avatar of Sarenrae, after all...). Xerashir rushed out, and Raesh explained that they were hoping to get Ayruzi home. Xerashir assured Raesh she could do it immediately, so the party bid their fond farewells to Ayruzi and she was returned to the Celestial Plane.

Straying from the story-as-played for a moment to better tell the tale-as-finally-worked out, each party member then went to his or her own "holy spot".

Raesh went to her old cell, still familiar after all this time, prayed to Sarenrae for guidance as to how to destroy Chellan, and went to bed.

Shiro, never a particularly devout worshipper, nonetheless went to the temple of Shelyn and offered them Karzoug's Burning Glaive, hoping that they would have some way of taming it. He also asked for a place to rest for the night. They gave him a comfortable room, clearly furnished for two, and placed the glaive on a rack in the room with him. He went to bed in soft covers with the sweet scent of freshly-washed linens...

Hi found a small shrine to Desna. While some might have objected to him sleeping right there on the street, the fact that Halek accompanied him and was clearly planning on staying there no matter what happened made Hi's resting place moot.

As the sun first started lighting the horizon, Raesh stirred slightly in her sleep. A voice, not quite Irrylia's yet not quite not Irrylia's, spoke in her mind.

"You have done well, my daughter."

And Raesh ascended.

*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Saturday, March 29, 2014: And then... (Already played.)

And thus at last we wrap up the AP. However, for those people who still enjoy reading about Shiro, Hi, Raesh, and Halek's adventures, we've still been playing "SSPF" on an almost-weekly basis, so we have at least half a dozen more sessions to write up.

As promised, once this one is posted I'll ask each player to post his or her "favorite and/or least favorite moments of the AP", and we'll move on to to post-AP roleplaying.

As a side note, ZZTRaider, I had a tendency to either push as much information as I could about the bad guys with cool backgrounds (Nualia, for example), or provide them in dream sequences (Viorian), but sometimes I just told the PCs interesting or entertaining "bad guy moments". My personal favorite remains the trolls on the dam, who "have taken the time to hide among the fungus hanging down along the walls", yet are large creatures with no Stealth skills, so even taking 20 puts them at a whopping 18 Stealth (-4 size, +2 DEX), well within most 9th-level characters' "take 10" range. Because of my house rule of a "+5 if you roll a natural 20", I decided to give them a chance and try to roll for them and rolled four times with a maximum on my die of an 8. Yes. An 8 in four rolls of a d20. My players still giggle over the mental image of a group of trolls, their heads covered in slimy green vines, saying to each other, "Shh! We's bein' stealthy!!!"

So here's the original post in (most) of its glory:

The Original:

Ckorik, Latrecis and I had quite the discussion about Karzoug's possible tactics. Unfortunately, it boils down to, "His as-written spell list is inadequate to keep him alive," and I have a strong preference to play villains as-written. My players had fun, I had fun, and we will all walk away with lifetime fond memories of this AP, in spite of Karzoug's non-challenge at the very end of things...
...also, there's that whole, "50% miss change for a full minute if you use the platform" entrance. That single change might have made the encounter a TPK. So there's also a hint of, "Congratulations! You chose the correct doorway! You get to live!" angle.

The party arose knowing that their final battle was upon them. They moved to the anima focus and prepared themselves. And oh, did they prepare! I am sure I will miss a few, but they all had Energy Resist: Fire, Energy Resist: Electricity, Energy Resist: Cold, Good Hope, Death Ward, and Freedom of Movement. Several of them were flying. However, almost as significant was that they did not use Life Bubble in an effort to save Hi's spells. Most surprising to me (and therefore to Karzoug as well) was their preparation of Greater Spell Immunity for Ayruzi, and having her make herself immune to both Dismissal and Banishment. THAT I didn't expect, and I'd already swapped out one of Karzoug's spells for Banishment. (Yeah, I lied. I changed ONE spell on his list...)

Shiro Hasted them as they all lined up and we went into initiatives.

GM Note: And I think here's my only major beef with the entire AP: Karzoug knows they're coming. He knows they'll be buffed to the nines, and he knows they teleport around. Finally, he knows that they have [i]Dominant weapons. All of these will be true for EVERY party that faces him, since if they don't use these tactics they won't make it this far. And he doesn't have Mage's Disjunction or Dimension Lock prepared? That's what I posted in the aforementioned, "Things you should have changed," thread -- because of my inexperience with high-level wizards, I kept his spell list as-is, and he got obliterated because he didn't destroy their mobility.[/i]


ROUND 1: I ruled that the denizens of the Eye were expecting an attack so there was no surprise round. Also, the rune giant wouldn't waste time casting True Seeing unless there were any obvious discrepancies in the party, and the dragon would have cast Mage Armor well before the party arrived, saving him a round as well. For those unfamiliar with the AP, the Eye of Avarice is a small "pocket dimension" seemingly carved from the Plane of Fire, in which resided Karzoug, an adult blue dragon, a rune giant, and two Dominated storm giants. While the rune giant and dragon start next to Karzoug at the far end of the chamber (across the runewell), the storm giants are positioned on the side with excellent tactical position for ranged attacks.
- Shiro used his Dominant rapier to rip a hole into the Eye of Avarice.
- Ayruzi moved in first and placed a Blade Barrier to hem in Karzoug, the rune giant, and the blue dragon.
- Raesh followed and chose to Smite Evil on the rune giant.
- Karzoug (yes, he was THAT low on the Initiative table) cast Banishment on Ayruzi and learned of her Spell Immunity. He then used his Quickened Time Stop to put a Prismatic Wall behind himself, creating a "safe area" he could 5' step into if any melee characters got near him, and then Spell Turning and Globe of Invulnerability on himself.
- Halek entered and shot the rune giant up a bit. (24 whole points of damage.)
- Hi entered, couldn't decide what to do, so he just flew 5' up.
- The dragon, happy that the group had so conveniently lined themselves up, hopped over the Blade Barrier with ease and breathed on most of the party. Unfortunately, with their Resist Energies and high Reflex saves, the damage was minimal.
- The storm giants, following orders, unleashed largely-ineffective Chain Lightnings on the party.
- The rune giant, surprising everyone with his ability to air walk, stepped easily over the barrier and poured a Spark Shower on the party. Once again, Energy Resistance saved the day.

Post-round 1 analysis: The Energy Resistance spells prevented the party from taking on the order of 120 damage each. Had Karzoug used Mage's Disjunction to open the fight, this would have been a very, very ugly moment for the party. So if you don't mind risking a TPK, swap out one of his 9th-level slots for a Mage's Disjunction, and another for a Prismatic Sphere in which to encase the party's melee characters, and you've got a bit of nastiness. As is, the entire "bad guy side" wastes Round 1 doing stuff that's not going to hurt any but the most ill-prepared parties.


ROUND 2: I probably should have had Karzoug use his Horrid Wilting here, seeing as how he saw the Energy Resistance doing its thing, but as I said, as a first-time GM in an epic-level fight, I wasn't willing to swap things around too much...
- Shiro started performing and cast Grease on the rune giant's sword. Of course. Why, oh why did that WizKids mini come with a removable sword? I think he Smote Evil on Karzoug as well.
- Ayruzi flew up and hit the rune giant and the dragon with Waves of Exhaustion. Stupid no-save spells! And yes, she blew through the dragon's SR.
- Raesh moved back to the party, invoked Aura of Justice, Smote Evil on Karzoug, and shot the rune giant for some entertainment.
- Karzoug targeted Shiro with a Meteor Swarm. I have to admit, he took a great deal of satisfaction doing around 100 points of damage to Shiro even through the Energy Resistance. In fact, both Hi and Shiro were beginning to get low on hit points. Of course, Karzoug caught both storm giants in the splash, but he wasn't particularly worried about them. He used his second Quickened Time Stop to put Cloudkill on the party (remember they decided NOT to use Life Bubble, wall the cloud in with a Wall of Force, and put Stoneskin on himself.
- Halek, unable to get past the Wall of Force, Smote Evil on Karzoug and otherwise held his action next to Shiro.
- Hi, Smote Evil on Karzoug and otherwise waited to be able to do something better.
- The exhausted dragon returned to Karzoug's side to protect him.
- The storm giants fired their bows into the cloud, not very effectively.
- The rune giant, surprising no one with his horrific Reflex save, rolled a 1 and tossed his sword into the sea of fire below. Enraged, he charged towards the party. Exhausted, it wasn't a particularly scary charge.

Post-round 2 analysis: I felt this round went quite well for the bad guys. The group was in a cloud and behind a force wall and couldn't see diddly. Karzoug could hit them with Horrid Wilting the next round and they were already in bad shape. Unfortunately, I really really REALLY should have been tracking initiatives and delays. Read the list above. Halek was Hasted and delaying. Shiro and Raesh went before Karzoug. The party (except Ayruzi) were all within his sight range even in the cloud. Bard's Escape is 5th level (so Globe of Invulnerability doesn't help) and doesn't require line of effect (so neither does Wall of Force, though teleports get through it anyway) nor line of sight. In short, I should have seen Round 3 coming...


ROUND 3: I honestly thought things were going well. Then...
- Shiro Bard's Escaped himself, Hi, Raesh, and Halek next to Karzoug. Crap.
- Halek took his delayed action. And crit. And chose to auto-confirm. And hit again. And again. And again. 299 points of damage later, I was wondering, "Why the heck didn't I have Karzoug fly up and hide on the ceiling?" I'm sure you're all wondering the same. BBEG arrogance, I guess. And the fact that if he'd been in the air and not behind a barrier he would have been a pincushion of Smiting arrows. At least he might have been able to run away...
- Raesh hit Karzoug. And it was ugly. Ludicrously ugly. I think it was "triple crit-crit-double crit-crit-hit". So she topped Halek with a whopping 311 points. So yeah, before he got to act, Karzoug took 610 points. It was a couple more than he had. She turned to the dragon and said (in draconic), "Surrender."
- Hi decided to see what would happen, and delayed.
- The dragon, not an idiot, surrendered.
- The storm giants, still dominated, shot at the party to little effect.
- The exhausted rune giant got to run back towards the party, now on the opposite side of the room.


ROUND 4: Yeah, a Hasted Raesh and Halek versus an exhausted unarmed rune giant. What do YOU think happened?


As the rune giant fell, the fight was over. The storm giants threw down their bows and surrendered.

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I've sent out an e-mail asking all of my players to post here with their most (or least) favorite moments from the AP. Since I'm making them do it, I figure fair's fair and I should do it as well.

Book 1
Favorite moments:
- Spending weeks writing up backgrounds for the PCs. It was a lot of fun for me, and I think it really brought all the characters alive for the players. It also introduced various persons (Olytrius, Nictiana) and personality quirks (everybody hates dwarves) that followed the PCs throughout the entire AP.
- Providing the party with enough of Nualia's back story that when she finally fell, Raesh cradled her unconscious form in her arms, made a tear-inducing beautiful speech about, "There but for the grace of Sarenrae go I," and beheaded her. Still one of the most visceral moments of the campaign for me.
- Allowing my kids to play the goblins. Epic madness.

Least-favorite moment:
- Shiro, attempting to determine exactly who had provided the ladder that allowed the escape from the graveyard, going to the hardware store to find out who had purchased that particular ladder. I didn't see how Ven Vinder would know who had purchased a particular ladder, but I mishandled the entire situation by informing Shiro's player that he sold too many ladders to be able to tell one from another. Sandpoint's "excessive ladder population" became a running joke throughout the campaign, and even last night they were giving me grief about all the identical ladders strewn about Sandpoint.

Book 2:
Favorite Moments:
- Deciding on the fly to prevent Shiro's newly-obtained Blood Biography spell from working on the sacrifice victims. Ruling that their souls had been destroyed added a chilling urgency to the entire campaign, not just book 2. In terms of roleplay, I think that was the single-most effective decision I made in the entire campaign that added to the game.
- Having Aldern roll around on Raesh's bed. Man, that creeped the player out! It was awesome!

Least-favorite moment:
- The suicide haunt, plain and simple. "Make a Will save or die" is not the kind of game I like to GM. Yes, Halek made the save, but still...

Book 3:
Favorite Moments:
- Myriana, Myriana, Myriana. I played it up as much as humanly possible, and wow! Even now I get shudders when thinking about the travels through the swamp, the star-spanning sailing ship, and the tragedy of Myriana's death. If I had to name my single, #1, absolute-most-favorite aspect of the entire campaign, it would have to be Myriana.
- Playing up the Grauls. Nothing like making a party want every single member of a family dead.

I don't recall having a least-favorite moment for Book 3. It was loads of fun.

Book 4:
Favorite Moments:
- Raesh Levitating and meeting Longtooth the dragon mid-air. An epic clash!
- The party negotiating their way through all of Jorgenfist. After reading several threads on groups that didn't understand how they were supposed to kill over 100 giants, having my party effortlessly use diplomacy to cut off the head of the invasion was a thing of beauty.

I have to admit, Book 4 didn't "grab" me the way the earlier books did, but I didn't have a particular "least favorite" moment, either. I did love my party's obsession with the library, but all in all, this book felt the most like "filler" material to get the party up a few levels.

Ah, work calls. Books 5 and 6 later today!

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And we finish off:

Absalom Interlude:
Honestly, I regret doing this. The group loved getting to know Absalom and interacting with the city, but the subplot of a third lamia trying to corrupt the city government was just weak, and my enemies didn't stand a chance against the party. Seemed like a massive amount of work for very little reward.

Book 5:
Favorite Moments:
- Having all the clones in the wing of Pride cast synchronously. Raesh's player is still peeved at me for that one, but it really gave them an inhuman feel.
- The Wing of Lust. What a wing!

Least Favorite Moment:
- The Scribbler's Lair. It just seems kind of tacked on for no reason other than to point the PCs in the proper direction.

Book 6:
Favorite Moments:
- The Vekker cabin. This was a haunted house done right. Maybe it was my experience, maybe it was the snow, but this one just felt much creepier than the Misgivings.
- Svevenka. What can I say? I love playing nymphs. And I accidentally made her quite a bit more powerful than written (I gave her an at-will spell-like ability to open the ice under anyone in the fen), so she was very fun to play.
- Freeing Ayruzi. This was my party at its finest.
- The whole "Where's the head?" debate once the Hidden Beast was slain.
- Playing up the Tangle as something truly forbidding and alien.

Least Favorite Moment:
- The immense, drawn-out fights with crowds of giants in narrow halls. If you're going to give me a dozen giants, give me the space to use a dozen giants! Instead it was hours of rolling dice while everyone knew what the inevitable outcome would be.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing what my players thought!

Yay! Down with Karzoug the Destroyer Destroyed!

I have greatly enjoyed all your recaps; I will certainly be reading the follow-ups. Thanks for all the work.

Thanks! I really do enjoy the recaps, as it lets me "relive the moment", and both my players and the Paizo messagers make me feel like my efforts are appreciated....
...though Hi's player did make his first massive edits EVER (i.e. Like 4-5 full sentences, even) on my very first WotR writeup (coming soon.... Hi's player willing) so sometimes they're happier than others... :-P

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Favorite moments, hmm? Well, first, I’d like to say that my favorite moments have all been due to my amazing fellow players and our outstanding GM! I am lucky to be a part of such a great group! Playing Rae’Sheleth was such a rich experience; she was conflicted about so many things and yet managed to become an exemplary paladin blessed with the best allies anyone could wish. I feel truly privileged to have gotten to play such a paladin with the kind of players who would not only allow, but encourage me to play her to the hilt!

Also, thanks so much to everyone who’s commented here! Knowing that others were reading our adventures was just an incredible surprise and honor! Thanks for making me feel like a stony-faced, drow rockstar!

Ok… on to favorite moments.

1) Our opening stories. Having the characters already played and in the world prior to the campaign starting was just so immersive. The impact of this can’t be overstated. It was epic.
2) Raesh’s first-ever smite evil. She still carries the black silk hankie made from Erylium’s tiny dress.
3) Shiro eating the lich fungus. At the time it was horrifying, yet also hilarious. It was a defining moment of Shiro’s character and entirely to his player’s credit the way he rolled with it!
4) Yippie the bunyip.
5) Building alliances with the giants at Jorgenfist and leading them into battle against the evil factions. It was so rewarding to create a lasting peace in the region.
6) Every single time Raesh managed to redeem someone instead of killing them. It never got old and always felt like a triumph.
7) Our party’s overall diplomatic approach and the way NobodysHome played the world with it. We were able to fabricate many alliances and treaties and almost always left a region feeling that we had made it better in ways that would last for generations.
8) Rescuing Ayruzi. Raesh was willing to lay down her life to not kill the angel and betting that Hi and Shiro would be able to figure out a way to save them both. She won that bet.
9) All the NPCs everywhere. Our GM plays such an amazing world and all the people in it!

Least favorites? There weren’t many of these. Overall, Rae’Sheleth learned and grew from pretty much everything that happened to her, the bad as well as the good. There were a few moments, though, that are worth pointing out:

1) My absolute least favorite thing our GM did… and one of his favorites. Making all the clones in the wing of pride take identical actions. The notion of “take the damage from seven damage spells and try to survive” or “save seven times vs. feeblemind and hope you don’t roll a 1 on any of those” just felt cheap, not compelling.
2) The execution of Orik Vencaskerkin. Poor Raesh tried so hard to do the right thing, and she took such pains to turn Orik over to the proper authorities so they wouldn’t have to execute him. Finding out he was unjustly executed by what should have been the proper authorities was greatly disillusioning for her. She’s still quite peeved at the government of Magnimar for allowing it to happen.

OK, Mittean. You're up. Shiro's player is sitting on my WotR writeup, my next RotRL writeup, AND his favorite moments.

I think it's time for that glare...

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Oooh, not the glare!

Ok, just to get this out of the way... the greatest pleasure in this game for me came from the other players and the GM. That aside, there are a few things about the actual game that stand out. :)

First and foremost my very favorite thing about the entire AP is the characters. They meshed so very well and it really felt like Shiro started out rock bottom, earned his friends and learned to be an excellent bard.

The NPCs I loved because I liked them:
Olytrius - He was written in from the start and really was a fine NPC.
Tolmar-Kai - he felt so real and was such a good part of the AP. I never once questioned his existence and I was sad when he died.
Ameiko - She was a wonderful NPC, the Rusty Dragon was a perfect place to stay. "How do Kitsune kiss?" and "I think I'm harrowed too." Need I say more?
Shelalu - And the moment we almost beat the crap out of a whole bunch of guards because they bad mouthed her...
Nictiana - In fact the entire Varisian caravan. It was devastating when they were attacked. They were NPCs who we cared about deeply.
Yippy! - Yes, I count the bunyip as an NPC that I liked. He had more personality than the mayor of Magnamar...
Add to this all of the various "iads"... Dryiads, Neriads, whatever we ran into.
And the captain of that long lost ship where Shiro found a masterpiece. He showed that bards should wander, learn, and he also taught Shiro the value of friends.

And the ones I loved because I despised them:
Aldern Foxglove! - The whole foxglove fiasco (tm) that ended up having Shiro despise the man from day one.
Delvahine - A seriously epic fight and as close to a TPK as it gets.
And all of the other major bosses were fun, and despicable.
The mayor of Magnamar... such a greedy so and so!

And the very best thing was the PCs.
Halek and his harrowing, all of his antics and his final relationship with Shelalu.

Hi and all of his antics with fireworks and his eventual relationship with Rilka... and finally...

Shiro and Raesh's relationship that started when they sat on a boat under the stars and grew until it solidified when he raced her into the demon powered machine at the damn. She is the very best leader and a truly wonderful friend. Shiro even had his life extended so he could continue to follow her for years to come.

As for particular scenes I liked:
Luring goblins out of the wagons for Shelalu to shoot.

A certain priest of Erastil standing tall willing to give his life to save some children from a flood.

The intense giant area with the library. It seemed so overwhelming when we started in... 100s of giants. This proved a true test of tactics and diplomacy.

A certain sandwich that ended in a pile of fur, fangs, and tails...

Raesh and Shiro, every time they argued and worked it out... and every time Shiro got Raesh to smile a little or blush a bit.

Hi, fireball, necklace... boom!
Halek, huge damage, crit... dead!
Raesh, killing an evil dragon... every time was epic.

And for Shiro, every time the difference between a hit and a miss was his playing, and all of those times he said "Add X to that" to make someone succeed when it really mattered.
Oh, and every time he greased a weapon... Bwahaha!

Scenes I didn't like... hmm, few and far between. I remember being frustrated now and then when the dice were just not working. I suppose the biggest disappointments were all times when we thought we'd won and ended up failing. Mr. Mud? (was that his name?) in Delvahine's area... we saved him, only to have him walk out and turn to dust. Working to save Turtleback Ferry only to hear that Magnamar had not sent troops until children were dying; and then only when the bodies were sent to the mayor himself. Oh, and ladders in Sand Point... they are quite frustrating. *grin*

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I have a lot of favorite parts of the RotRL adventures but the one that stands out for me, both as a player and a character has to be battle at Jorgenfist against the Ogres on 20-Kuthona-4707. The look on the GM's face when I told him what i was going to do was priceless, one of those "Wait, you do what? Oh dear God ..." moments.

As a player I had never before, nor am I likely to ever again, rolled that many dice at one time. I still remember everyone at the table laughing as we tried to load up the 36d6s in my cupped hands, some kept spilling out, and then totaling them all up after the roll.

As a character it was the high point of Hi's life so far. It was the biggest, most damaging, flaming, smoking and outright spectacular blast Hi had every done in one shot. And then getting to ride the thermals of the blast as the mushroom cloud billowed up enveloping him in the hot, still burning air. Ah Desna! Even dancing in the bonfire at the Taverns in Absolom isn't as much fun.

The other parts that stand out for me as both character and player was finding the Library under Jorgenfist. When I think about the history, lore and knowledge that is preserved and protected for all time in that room it is worth more to me than all the gold in Glorantha. And I say this as both character and player.

Other high points along the way;

Almost burning down the Scarnety sawmill during the giant's attack on Sandpoint. Hi still hears comments about it, mainly in the nature of "be careful, we don't want a repeat of the sawmill" to which Hi always responds "but it was an ACCIDENT!, I mean just look at the place! It survived! If I had MEANT to hit it it would have been a smoking pile of ash!"

Teleporting into my room at the Blue Bunyip with Rilka that time and finding the cute Gnome maid in the room waiting when we arrived. Talk about "awkward".

Constantly worrying about the scarf Rilka gave Hi until the GM threw in a scroll of energy resist and another of Permanency, knowing the party would use them on the scarf and not sell them.

Saving the bunnies at Thistletop. The bunnies and Shadowmist caused Hi to start reconsidering his "Burn it to the ground sift the ashes for stuff" mindset. If we had done that Shadowmist and the bunnies would have died horribly. Good thing Rae'Sheleth vetoed my original plan.

And finally, as a player I count myself extremely lucky to have such good friends that I've been able to push my comfort zone a bit and play more interesting characters than I did in the past. And have a real fun doing it.

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29-March-2014 Game, Part I

I must admit a bit of self-aggrandizing pride on this session, as well as a bit of chagrin. At my statement last session of, "You have done well, my daughter," I caught Raesh's player tearing up a little bit (though she'll never admit it). We decided to go ahead and do mythic tiers for the group, and I had to figure out how to roleplay out their ascensions. On the one hand, I kicked butt on Hi's ascension so hard that his player needed a Kleenex. Woo hoo! On the other hand, I blew Shiro's ascension so badly that his player was left asking, "Is that it? What does it mean?"

On the other hand, gods work in mysterious ways. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

I decided to post the mythic ascensions separately, as this was a massively-long session with lots of juicy RP, and getting the ascensions up will keep the thread alive while giving me some breathing room to work on the rest of it...

The night of 17-Calistril-4708 (continued from last session)

Hi stirred a bit and opened his eyes. He was on a vast grassy plain under a moonless night. The wildness of the area resonated with him, and he knew that he was in the First World. Gazing at the stunning pantheon of the stars above, he began to make out shapes among the millions, perhaps billions of stars. He stood, bringing himself a few feet closer to the sky, and focused. A pair of eyes, vast and boundless, formed out of the stars in the sky. Slowly, timelessly, yet in a time he understood, the eyes no longer took up the entire sky, but only a portion of it. As he watched, rapt, a form began to take shape around the starry eyes, and stepping forth from the blackness was a fey woman, nude, with star-filled eyes and butterfly wings made up of nebulae and constellations. She smiled slightly and inclined her head to him. He bowed in return.
Her voice was the ancient song of the universe, resonating through the stars, through every blade of grass, and through every bone in his being. "And who will speak for this one?"

The life and livelihood of the plains darkened. A large patch of grass died, rotted, and sunk into a stinking fen. Death and undeath reeked through the region. The goddess stood unperturbed, so Hi, wondering at this development, stayed his hand. The fen bubbled with rottenness and disease and hatred and anguish. And slowly, something began to form. A woman's head, hair stringy in the oily mass, rose from the depths of the fetid swamp. As she rose, the death and anguish were sucked into her being, but there was also joy and release and freedom and forgiveness. Myriana, rotten and diseased and dead, with sunken eyes, gazed at Hi. She smiled, and the anguish and rage abated into some form of peace. As she coalesced, her form restored much of itself into the form she had had when the party had finally released her: Dead, but still beautiful, proud, and powerful. "I will speak for him," she croaked.

Hi swallowed and resisted the urge to step back. As he watched, some of the black water at Myriana's feet turned clear and clean and pristine as a mountain stream. The water bulged up, forming a human shape. Nyriana the nereid took form next to Myriana, wrapped her arms around her sister, and held her up. "And I. I will speak for him."

The goddess smiled openly and nodded. With her sister's help, Myriana stood straight and tall, and showed some of the power she had had before her death.

Then the world froze.

Blasts of arctic air blew across the open plains. The water, black or clear, froze solid. The grasslands were covered with white frost, every blade a crystal sword glowing in the starlight. The region resonated with power. No. "Power". The word definitely deserved a capital "P".
Svevenka strode across the frozen plane, naked and beautiful and fearing neither goddess nor man nor gnome. This was Her realm, and others were only visiting. She tossed her head back and Hi ached to watch her cascading tresses fall across her shoulders for an eternity. "And I. He is my friend and my ally, and I will speak for him."

The goddess smiled at Svevenka's impudence.
"Then it is done."

And Hi awoke.

And he had ascended.

Shiro knew that someone was in his room. Curious, he opened his eyes and sat up. And there, at the doorway, was Shelyn, or at least the image of Shelyn he'd always pictured on the (rare) occasions he prayed to her. She smiled as she stepped into the room. "Oh, Shiro, what am I going to do with you?"

Shiro was more than a bit confused. "What do you mean, do with me?"
Shelyn smiled. She strolled into the room casually, as an old friend coming into a house long-remembered but rarely-visited. Idly, not even glancing over, she reached carelessly towards the Burning Glaive of Karzoug. The glaive screamed in terror, but in his dreams Shiro barely acknowledged it. Shelyn caressed the length of the glaive before hefting it up to test its weight and balance. The screams went silent long before her fingers rolled from one end to the other. She held the glaive up and gazed expertly along its length. "Shiro, you know many kinds of love. You know the love of great friendship. You know the love of companionship. You know the love of fine dining, comfortable establishments, beautiful music..."

She swung the glaive in an arc, cutting the air in a sweep. "...yet still you wander, and you search, and I wonder," she stabbed an invisible opponent. "When will you settle down and know true love?"

Shiro was flabbergasted. For once in his existence, he had no idea what to say. "You want me to settle down?"

Shelyn turned to him and smiled, planting the glaive firmly on the ground. "I do not want you to settle down this instant. I do not mean for you to immediately settle down with the first woman you meet. But I am a goddess of love, and you have done great service to the world, and I would reward you, but you have dedicated yourself to an existence of endless wandering and adventuring, and it makes me somewhat sad. I would see you take some time to settle down with someone. Have kits. Enjoy a life of leisure for at least a little while. See how that suits you."

Shiro again did not know how to respond. He did not want to settle down! He loved his life as it was, but he did not want to contradict a goddess in his room.

"Oh, Shiro. I do not think you will understand me. But I am glad you at least listen to me."
Shelyn put the glaive back on the rack, took Shiro by the shoulders, and kissed him gently on the forehead.

And he ascended.

When Shiro awoke, the Burning Glaive of Karzoug was in its rack in his room, but when he approached, it was clear that it was no longer magical.

Halek rode across the dusty plains in the dead of night, starry skies above him, earthbreaker in hand, bow slung across his back. He was back in the Cinderlands, defender of his people. And it was Good.
Ahead he saw the silhouette of a nude woman with butterfly wings. He leapt from the horse into a perfect roll, knelt before her, gave her a curt, "Goddess," and stood up, gazing into her eyes, ready to do her bidding.
She looked up at him and laughed outright. "And that is why I love the Lyrune-Quah. You do not question my existence, nor my appearance before you. You expect it and are ready at all times for me. You truly are My People."

Halek did not acknowledge the compliment, but rather stood at attention, awaiting her word. Instead, she asked a question. "What do you think of your travels, Halek?"

"I failed. I failed to protect Tolmar-Kai and shamed myself and my family. And as is right, I sought to atone for this failure. And I met Rae'Sheleth. She is a great warrior, and mighty of spirit, and a great leader. When she marries, she will bear kings and conquerors, and woe to the husband who hopes to tame her. She is the greatest leader I have ever known. And so I followed, as is right. And she introduced me to Hi, a mighty sorcerer. His magic is wild and drops us in oceans and wildernesses. We travel strange places and many things burn. And he laughs through it all. He confuses me, but he is powerful and takes us across the world, so he must be favored by you. So I trust him and protect him, as is right. And Rae'Sheleth introduced me to Shiro, whom I thought was a shaman, but who is indeed a lazy, hedonistic, mischievous bard. Yet his words and songs inspire us to greatness, and his tactical acumen has saved us more than once. So I trust him and protect him, as is right."
"And so I followed the path that Rae'Sheleth laid for me, knowing you would approve of my journeys, and she led me to greatness. I died twice, but she, Shiro, and Hi brought me back both times. This honors me. And we achieved great things. Rae'Sheleth negotiated treaties with the stone giants that they might trade with my people and not make war. We slew the warlike leaders of the giants. An ancient runelord sought to conquer the lands, and we slew him as well. I have redeemed myself."

Desna looked at him seriously. "Have you?"
"Yes, I have."
"Then you have my blessing."

And Halek ascended.

As the plains started fading, Halek spoke. "Desna, I would ask something of you."
She turned and smiled. Only the Shoanti and the fey were so bold. "What is it, Halek-Kai of the Lyrune-Quah?"
"I would take Shalelu as my mate. She is not of my people. Does this displease you?"
Desna did not even think on the matter. "It does not displease me, Halek. I do not meddle in the relationships of mortals, even those as long-lived as elves."

"But, Halek, be warned... the two of you enter this relationship believing that she will outlive you. Now that you have ascended, this may not be the case."

And the dream faded.

*** End of Part I ***
Next Planned Session: Friday, March 29, 2014, Part II (Already played.)

So cool.

Shadowkire wrote:
So cool.

Glad to know some people are reading post-Karzoug. We have another 6 sessions I'm writing up!

They *finally* finished dealing with the political situation in Varisia and have agreed to a (brief) hiatus to run just WotR (yes, I was GM'ing three days a week for a while there, explaining the slow writeups), so hopefully I can start writing regularly again. Though to say they're addicted to the story so far in WotR is an understatement...

(*AND* the kids are done with homework as of next week, freeing up significant portions of my evenings for writing.)

I've been out of town, and just saw this. GLARE.

Shiro-san. Write.

(I know you already did) ;)

Hi's ascension made me mist. :) Halek's made me laugh. Just so.

Thanks for the "better late than never" glare! :-P

It's the kids' final week of school, so posting will be slow as I help them finish various end-of-year projects. On the other hand, starting next week I have nothing to do from 4-6 pm every day other than write, so hopefully I can get everything all caught up in a couple of weeks... where have I heard that foolish idea before...? :-P

And yes, as I said, Hi's ascension was one of those "GM has an inspiration mid-game that works out beautifully" moments. Would that I could capture all such moments so well...

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29-March-2014 Game, Part II

As I start this, I'm ecstatic that my sons are down to one homework assignment apiece, and I can *finally* start the massive catch-up work ahead of me. (6 RotRL sessions, 4 WotR sessions, and 1 Leilani session as of this moment.) Fortunately, with no kids' homework and no multi-session weeks planned for a while, even at the "snail's pace" of 2 posts a week I should finally start getting through some of this backlog.

In addition to Hi's tear-inducing ascension, this session marked the big, "What do you do once the AP is over?" moment. Our Carrion Crown game had a post-AP session where each hero went off on his/her own to help the armies of Ustalav battle the undead hordes of the Whispering Tyrant, and it was pretty fun, but (sorry, Shiro!) that session didn't compare to the simple wonderfulness of my group's, "We're going to keep playing until WE think we're at a good stopping point."

So there are no Silver Tsuto awards, nor any Brass Karzoug Trophy of Ouchy Ouchy Pain, but it was a really wonderful session. Yes, I know I'm using the word "wonderful" far too often, but I do love the way my group gelled into a real "family" of adventurers during this AP.


Raesh and Shiro had a Plan. And it was a Good Plan. But it had one shortcoming: They needed to be in Absalom, and they needed Hi to not be with them. This was a Problem, as Hi had been their primary means of transportation for some months now. And so that morning they approached Halek with all of the diplomacy available to them.
Raesh: "Halek. We need you to distract Hi for a while."
Halek: "OK."

With the plan settled, Shiro, Raesh, and Halek went to Rilka's house. Much to their amazement, Hi was already up and helping Rilka with the laundry. Shiro took the lead. "Are you ready, Hi? We have lots to do today!"
Hi wanted to take Rilka along with him, but Shiro assured him they'd be traveling all over the world today, and she could come with them that evening when they celebrated their achievements. Hi acquiesced, hugged and kissed Rilka goodbye, and teleported the group to the temple of Sarenrae in Absalom.
Shiro talked fast. "OK, you two. Raesh and I have to do some shopping here, and Halek needs to do some shopping in Magnimar, so we thought to save time and make sure we would have plenty of time for tonight's festivities we'd split up and the two of you would take Magnimar while we take Absalom. OK?"

Hi was woefully unconvinced, even without Halek's wonderfully unspectacular Bluff roll. "Why aren't we going to shop together? What are you going to do without Halek to carry all your stuff?"
Fortunately, this set Raesh off. "What makes you believe I cannot carry my own gear?"

Hi knew a hint when he was hammered with one. Backing up quickly, he touched Halek and teleported the two of them to the Shoanti deli in Magnimar.

GM Note: The "evil GM" in me wants to stay in Magnimar and tell readers nothing about what transpired in Absalom. The players decided to have me leave it.

As soon as Hi and Halek were gone, Shiro hailed a coach (miraculously, one was available instantly, as if waiting for his call) and he and Raesh rode to a small wizard's shop in the coins. Shiro knew the shop, as he had purchased his first Wish there, and he was hopeful that he could buy another.
The proprietor, an elderly human wizard, never forgot a face. Or at least a face that had spent over 26,000 gold pieces in his shop just over a month ago. "And how may I help you, my fine friend? I hope that my previous assistance was satisfactory," he crowed, glancing at Raesh and making sure he gave nothing of Shiro's previous purchase away.
Shiro assured him that his previous performance had been most satisfactory, and they were now in search of a very special magical item: A wedding ring, halfing-sized, and needless to say in very good taste, that, when put on in the course of a wedding, would grant the wearer a lifespan as long as her husband's, very similar to what Shiro had wished for before.

The aged wizard hemmed and hawwed. "Yes, yes. The magic itself is quite simple, as is the wording of the Wish. But I will need a ring on which to place the spell, and I will need several hours to bind the spell to the ring. But it will be quite expensive..."

Shiro barely noticed the warning as he set off to find a suitable ring for Rilka. With Raesh's assistance, he chose a ring of appropriate understated splendor: A platinum band with an etched motif that could have been wind or waves ("Or smoke!", Shiro suggested helpfully), with a center-set diamond surrounded by four smaller diamonds and circled by many lesser diamonds. Between the ring and the wizard, Shiro and Raesh's purses were 50,000 g.p. lighter, but they had exactly the ring they wanted for her! Now, all they had to do was wait for Hi and Halek's return. As Shiro attempted to hide his disappointment at being forced to spend several more hours shopping in The Coins, he pondered how Halek had distracted Hi for so long...

...Halek and Hi appeared outside the Shoanti deli. Halek raised an eyebrow. "No swim?"
"No swim," Hi responded.
Halek shrugged noncommittally, though Hi thought he detected a faint hint of disappointment. They entered the deli and the owner beamed, spread his arms, and in Shoanti welcomed Halek back to his humble establishment. Knowing that he was supposed to take as long as possible, Halek went to town, getting rock lizard jerky for Shalelu, cindersnake jerky for himself, a wide assortment of dried colored mushes, and a goat. Finally, a spark of an idea crossed Halek's mind.

A bad idea.

"Hi. You are a mighty sorcerer now! You should have a guinea pig!"

A few minutes and one horrifically-failed Fortitude save later, Halek was semi-carrying, semi-leading a floating, burning wreck of a singing sorcerer down the street. Halek wandered the streets for a while, little drunken engine of destruction in tow, trying to find a way to sober Hi up in time for the return trip to Absalom. Eventually, he gave up and Hi had a peaceful nap in Seerspring Garden. Fortunately for the surrounding foliage, no one disturbed him.
After what Halek deemed a reasonable period for sleeping off a guinea pig (nearly an hour!), Halek roused Hi, and the red-eyed sorcerer teleported them back to the temple of Sarenrae in Absalom. Hi staggered off to the Saucy Wench to ease his head with some honeyed ale. Left alone in Absalom, Halek looked around for something to do...

Raesh and Shiro returned to the temple, only to hear hooting, hollering, cajoling, insults, and general ruckus. Approaching more quickly, they arrived in time to see a bare-chested Halek pick a poor paladin off his feet, drop him on his back like a turtle, and pin him. A half dozen other trainees were on the ground around him. The drill sergeant had his helmet off and was beaming widely. "Come, come now! Have none of you ever been trained in unarmed combat!?! He's only one man! Take him down!"

Raesh did not know whether to pity the cadets or chastise them for their lack of effort; Halek was barely sweating and was having the time of his life, while the cadets were bruised, limping, and looked like they had just gone through a forced march in armor in the desert sun.
Raesh turned to the sergeant, "If I may?"

"Of course, Lady Rae'Sheleth!"

Raesh neared the tangle of combatants and spoke in a quiet voice, "Excuse me, Halek, would you mind coming over here for a moment?"

Halek turned at the voice, stood up, dislodging half a dozen challengers, and walked toward Raesh. One cadet decided to take advantage of his distraction and leapt on his back. Or at least tried. His hands slid down and off as Halek walked towards Raesh and Shiro, casually clocking the cadet on the crown hard enough that he did not get back up. The sergeant and senior staff roared with laughter. Raesh frowned. "Not the head, Halek. They need to keep what brains they possess."
"Yes, Rae'Sheleth."

Raesh turned back to the groaning cadets, "You see? Much can be accomplished with diplomacy and respect that cannot be accomplished with force. Remember that!"

Halek turned to the sergeant. "Thank you for the exercise. It was quite fun. I must leave now."
"Come by any time! The trainees could use the exercise!"
There were many groans from the training area.

The party found Hi in a dark, relatively quiet area of the Saucy Wench, gently nursing a honeyed ale. "OK, Hi," Shiro beamed, "We're ready to go! Oh, and here! We got you something! It's for Rilka!"

For a moment, Hi gazed confusedly at the ring. As comprehension dawned, the last vestiges of alcohol fled his system. "No, I, er... I'm not ready yet!"

Shiro just smiled. "That's OK. Whenever you're ready! Now you'll have it!"

Hi mustered enough dignity to simply stand, gather the party, and teleport them to the Blue Bunyip.

As always, the concierge was delighted to see them and quickly sent staff to prepare their rooms and runners to gather "necessities". With the early start and the time shift from Absalom they found that they had a couple of hours before dinner. Raesh expressed a desire to visit the temple of Sarenrae in Underbridge and the rest of the party readily agreed.
While their trips were usually uneventful, on this particular trip Shiro noticed a young man bump into Hi and make off with his purse. While Shiro might normally allow such misbehavior, the purse contained Rilka's ring, and he couldn't allow that. He asked Halek to (gently) restrain the man, and his Escape Artist check was no match for Halek's CMD so he hung there helplessly as Halek held him a foot off the ground.
Shiro decided on the diplomatic approach. "While I appreciate that you're quite skillful, we really do need that purse back, please."
Trying to decide whether to Bluff or to 'fess up, the would-be thief looked at Shiro, then at Raesh, then at Halek, and finally at Hi, who had sobered up enough to be downright indignant and was beginning to smoulder. He decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and handed Hi's purse back to him. "Sorry, sir, but a man's got to make a living!"
Raesh frowned. "Many men make honest livings without having to resort to petty theft."
Shiro stepped in again. "Well, even if your chosen profession isn't the best, you are quite good at it to fool Master Hi, here. So here's a little something if you promise not to do it again."

The man opened the pouch suspiciously, then his eyes widened in shock at the site of a bag full of platinum. "Yes, sir! Yes, sir! You won't see me around here any more!"

Shiro grinned. "See, Raesh? All it takes is the proper motivation and you can reform anybody!"
Raesh scowled.

The rest of the trip to the temple was uneventful. As they drew nearer, all of them slowed down to gaze in wonder at the transformation. The temple grounds had been fenced in with a white picket fence. The grounds themselves had been planted with shade-loving plants: Ferns and low-lying bushes and other foliage, all well-tended and making the entire temple a welcome sight in an area dominated by rotting wood, moss-covered stone, or just plain mud. The temple itself had been painted a light yellow that might have seemed a bit timid in another area, but in Underbridge it seemed warm and welcoming. A woman in a breastplate and cloak in Sarenrae's colors was working the garden. As they approached, she looked up and beamed. "Hi, Shiro," Brandi bubbled.

If Raesh was taken aback by not being greeted first, she certainly didn't show it. "You have made the temple look... good."
"Yes, oh, yes! Sister Ralaphia and I have been working very hard to make the temple a welcome place for the downtrodden! Come in! Come in!"

The inside of the temple showed the same hard work and delicate care as the outside. The pews were cleaned and polished, the cots were neatly aligned, washed, and made, and there wasn't a trace of a flea, a stain, or a stray bit of straw on any of them. A couple of indigents snored soundly on cots in the corner, but even they seemed washed, neat, and tidy. Raesh was impressed. "You have done good work here."
If possible, Brandi's grin grew broader and brighter. Raesh feared she might need to shade her eyes. "Thank you, M'Lady Rae'Sheleth! Thank you! It's been very hard work, and we have very few visitors, but I feel that we're making a difference just by being here, and showing the people that they can improve their lot in life if they are just willing to put in a bit of work..."
Shiro hid a smirk. "A bit of work" seemed to be many hours of backbreaking toil for days or weeks on end just to redeem one small corner of Underbridge. But Brandi was a paladin. And paladins did that kind of thing. This Shiro knew. At least proper paladins.

Raesh was moved. "I would do something for this temple. Would a permanent Symbol of Healing be appreciated?"
Brandi nearly exploded with delight. Raesh was sure she could see Brandi's wisdom teeth at the back of that grin. "Oh, yes, M'Lady Rae'Sheleth! Oh, yes! That would draw many of the less-reputable here and we could heal them and try to redeem them!"
Her enthusiasm was so infectious it almost affected Raesh. Fortunately, Raesh was immune to disease. "Very well. I will arrange it."
She knew that the next morning she and Hi could provide both the symbol and the permanency spell required.
"Thank you, M'Lady! Thank you!"
"Do not thank me. You have done well here. I would see this temple survive and prosper."

Raesh gave proper devotions at the altar and was unsurprised when it started glowing warmly in response. Was there anything she couldn't make glow?

Their duties at the temple done, they returned to the Blue Bunyip in plenty of time for dinner. Umie, Kaede, and Yuto were all there already, performing a trio for the diners. Dinner was reefclaw with mushrooms and greens in a wonderfully light white wine sauce accompanied by roast tubers and a delicately sparkling wine. Unfortunately, the wonderful dinner and enchanting music was marred by what Shiro overheard at the other tables: Sandpoint was on everyone's lips, as the town's treaty with the giants was bringing them great profit and every merchant or noble worth more than a few hundred gold was trying to get his or her mitts on the "action". Sheriff Hemlock and Mayor Deverin were so far managing to hold off the bolder attempts (such as Mayor Groboras' attempt to annex Sandpoint outright. Raesh scowled when she heard the name), but most felt it was only a matter of time before those "obstacles" were overcome and Magnimar was enjoying the fruits of Sandpoint's labor.

The party had a new mission.

But first, it was time for celebration! Shiro used his first Mythic performance ever to re-tell the tale of the fall of Karzoug the Claimer. Kaede and Umie's eyes were as big as dinner plates at the retelling. Once the tale was done, Shiro invited Kaede, Umie, and Yuto to accompany them on a tour of Lowcleft. Yuto first offered Raesh his services, but she wanted nothing more than a long, quiet bath, and to have her hair attended to by the wonderful woman who always did her shampoos. Thus Shiro, Hi, Halek, Yuto, Umie, and Kaede set off to Lowcleft, and Raesh promised she would seek them out once her bath and hair washing was done.

GM Note: And here was my absolute favorite post-AP moment so far: I had consistently described Lowcleft as "The Las Vegas of Varisia", coming alive at night with all kinds of seedy (and not-so-seedy) activities. So I asked the group what kind of activity they were looking for. Shiro, being Shiro, just wanted to go door to door to each place and find out what it was. So I decided it would be very simple: Someone would roll percentile dice and based on the roll I would describe the kind of place they found. The players loved the idea, and let Hi's player roll. Yes, he of the "I roll a 1. Then a 1. Then a 1. Then an 01," fame. And so forgive me, Lowcleft. It wasn't my fault...

Shiro strode confidently into the first building escorting Kaede, with Halek escorting Umie behind him, and Yuto and Hi left unsure which of them was escorting the other at the back. Their ears were assailed with the roar of a drunken crowd, their eyes stung by rancid smoke, and their nostrils by the smell of new sweat and stale beer. The building went down, down, down into the ground, and at the bottom was a dirt-floored square surrounded by ropes. Two men faced off with cudgels, beating each other senseless while the crowd roared and bet on who would win. Pit fighting? In Magnimar? Kaede and Umie made disgusted faces and Shiro quickly abandoned the idea of sending Halek in to "break up the fighting". They made a quick retreat.

Shiro skipped a few buildings to make sure he found something nicer, and chose a building with a nice lawn, a few fountains, and an attractive facade. As he stepped in the smell of perfume and incense overrode an underlying scent of something much baser and more carnal. The entry room was luxuriously-appointed with comfortable sofas and chairs, and assortment of appetizers and drinks, and a similar assortment of scantily-clad male and female companions. The madame strode forward. "May I help you, sirs and ladies? I am not sure we have a room large enough to accommodate all of you, but we can certainly make arrangements for two..."
Shiro scurried out again.

The girls were beginning to wonder a little about Shiro's taste in establishments, so imagine their surprise when Shiro led them into a solid-looking stone building with square barred windows that looked very stout and sensible and came face-to-face with what could only be decribed as a Zon Kuthon fetish-fest. Leather whips, masks, handcuffs, crops, and other, less-identifiable paraphenalia cluttered the walls. Wooden bondage devices of various sorts stood about the stone floor, which was conveniently sloped and had a handy drainage grate for easy washing.
GM Note: Yes. Hi's player rolled THAT high.
A man in leather chaps, a codpiece, a leather vest, and little else strode forward and attempted to leash Umie, saying, "You will call me Master."
The *only* thing that saved the poor man's life was rolling so low on his Grapple check that he missed Umie entirely.
Halek was not amused. In fact, Halek had to make a Will save to not force the man through the floor grating. The man was fortunate a second time when Halek's Will save came in in the 20's.

The girls scurried out, followed quickly by Yuto and Shiro. Leaving Halek and Hi alone in the establishment was perhaps not the wisest move Shiro had ever made, but the two of them managed not to create a smoking crater in Lowcleft and instead walked out side-by-side, almost daring the man to try to leash one of them.
The man was not that stupid.

Shiro did not get to pick another establishment. Hi picked the next one, and of course Hi's player rolled quite low, so they found a high-end dancing establishment, full of people and light and music and joy. Umie and Kaede brightened immediately and rushed in, followed closely by Hi, Halek, Shiro, and Yuto. Halek, still disturbed by the previous establishment, would not leave Umie alone for even a moment. Shiro, thinking fast, cast Bestow Insight on Halek. Suddenly, he was a dancing machine. (As he always does, Halek rolled REALLY high as soon as he was tested in an untrained skill.)
The party settled in for a night of dancing and music, and the trials of the other visits were quickly forgotten...
...except by an evil GM, who made Raesh go searching for them several hours later...

Raesh peeked in at the fighting arena, scowled, knew it was not the kind of place Shiro or the other kitsune would frequent (nor would Hi), and left. She next visited the bordello, where quite a few male and female companions volunteered complimentary service for her. She politely but firmly declined.
Then came my poor fetishist. As I told my players, thousands of years of drow evolution can't be wrong. Not only did Raesh beat his Initiative by over 20, but she proceeded to roll a natural 20 on her CMB check.
In short, the fetishist reached for her with the leash only to find it wrapped around his neck and wrist and himself on his knees. Raesh said firmly, "NO."
The fetishist whimpered, "Yes, mistress."
Raesh found the entire event strangely satisfying, yet distasteful, and walked out without a backward glance, leaving the fetishist still on his knees and tangled in his own leash.

Raesh arrived at the dance hall without further incident and rejoined the party. With all of them reunited, they searched Lowcleft, found a karaoke bar, and spent the next few hours wowing the locals with their vocal talents. Even Raesh sang a bit. Halek did something, but with a CHA of 8 and a natural 1 on his singing roll (for a total of 0, -5 for my house rule, was a -5 Perform:Sing. What the heck kind of noise is that?!?!), no one could quite tell what it was. But no one was willing to argue with him.

In the wee hours of the morning, the party returned to the Bunyip for some well-earned rest.

GM Note: As I read through this, I notice that they promised to pick up Rilka but never did. Since that was a player oversight (Hi would NEVER do that!), I'll just retcon the writeup and say Rilka was with them when they went to all the fine establishments chosen by Shiro. That makes for a better mental image for me anyway. :-P

*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Friday, April 4, 2014 (Already played.)

Posting to give you moral support!!

Go NobodysHome!

Shadowkire wrote:

Posting to give you moral support!!

Go NobodysHome!

Thanks! I appreciate it! The next WotR post is already out for player review, and RotRL should go out tonight. Then I have to do Leilani's journal since we're likely to play on Saturday. So I'm still at it! :P

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29-March-2014 Game, Part II. Who knew?

It's officially summer vacation for the kids, which means that I'm no longer spending 2 hours a night helping them with homework, so in theory I can catch up on all my journals. We'll see how that comes out in practice.

The "good" news is that my group *finally* found a stopping point they were happy with, so I officially have "only" 6 more writeups to go (including this one). But if you honestly believe this group isn't going to re-start their post-AP antics on me before I finish writing this up, you haven't been reading this.

Even "worse", each of those 6 entries takes up 2 pages of notes. They did a LOT over those sessions. My last writeup? Incomplete. I'd drawn a line to indicate a night and when I was doing the last writeup I thought that was the end of it. Nope. 16 more lines of notes from March 29, then 13 lines from a "short" session on April 4, then on to the meaty politics of Varisia.

Anyway, too much yammering, not enough story-telling. Here we go with the rest of March 29!


Raesh arose in the morning to perform her devotions. Halek, in quite good spirits, joined her. Her bare tweak of an eyebrow was enough to make him grin broadly and answer the unspoken question. "Hi is not good with guinea pigs."
For once in her existence, Raesh could not suppress a smile. The two walked cheerfully to the temple of Iomedae so Raesh could perform her devotions and Halek his exercises. As she prayed, Raesh stole a glance around the gathered clerics, paladins, and acolytes, searching for a telltale head of purple hair. Seeing none, she became concerned.
Once their devotions were complete, Raesh approached Tira. "Excuse me, Tira? I notice that the Warriors of Wrath were not at devotions this morning. Is anything wrong?"
Tira positively beamed. "Oh, Rae'Sheleth, no! They are fine, at least as far as I know! They performed so admirably and were so utterly dedicated to the idea of proving themselves battling demons that I've already allowed them to head for Nerosyan in Mendev with another group of crusaders. You should know that Tesserel went with them as well."

Raesh remained expressionless on her opinion of Tesserel (and Shiro wasn't awake yet to comment), but was happy to hear that her charges were taking their duties seriously and moving forward with making the world a better place. Satisfied that all was well at the temple of Iomedae, she decided to see to her own temple. She and Halek breakfasted (she on eggs, sausages, bacon, ham, and a wonderful mixture of orange and green melons, he on some kind of orange and green mush with purple swirls. Raesh had long since decided that the entire purpose of the strange jerkies consumed by the Shoanti was to allow them to keep their teeth at all given the nature of the rest of their diet), and by the time they were done Shiro and Hi had appeared. As soon as their bard and sorcerer were ready, they headed off to get the equipment they would need to install the permanent Symbol of Healing at the temple of Sarenrae.
Raesh had prepared Symbol of Healing that morning, and Hi had prepared Permanency using his spectacles, so they only needed the material components for the spells. These were easy to come by in the Sails, and the party headed for the temple in Underbridge.

They had no troubles this morning (perhaps all the thugs were sleeping in until a reasonable hour), and found Brandi hard at work in the gardens, still in her armor. Brandi beamed. "Oh, you're back! Let's get that symbol up, shall we?"
It took very little time to find an appropriate location for the symbol so that those within would receive its blessing. Raesh hung the symbol and cast Symbol of Healing, Hi cast Permanency, and Shiro performed, merely for the joy of performing.

Sadly, it was time for the party to leave Magnimar indefinitely, as Black Magga hung over their heads like a constant reminder of deeds left undone, and the news of the deteriorating politics in Sandpoint disturbed them all. Returning to the Blue Bunyip, Shiro asked that the concierge see to it that wine and flowers be delivered to Umie and Kaede, along with his apologies for being unable to make his farewells in person. The concierge bowed and said, "It shall be done, M'Lord."
Shiro smiled. "I know. You're always so good to us," and deposited a 100 p.p. tip in the man's astonished hands. (Yes. That's NOT a typo. Shiro gave the concierge a one-hundred-platinum-piece tip.)
As the man stammered in a hopeless attempt to express his appreciation, Hi piped up. "Oh, this is for the gnome girl who makes my bed so well every time I'm here," and handed him another 5 platinum. Whether the concierge was aware that her method of "making the bed" was to jump about on it uproariously remained unknown. Raesh, seeing that it was the time for gifts, left an equal amount for her wonderful hair washer, as well as a bottle of fine cognac and a note for Yuto. (No. You don't get to know what the note said.)

Hi teleported them to the usual spot on the outskirts of Sandpoint, and this time they managed to spot the rumor mill as it happened. A young boy, on seeing their arrival, sprinted up the street, banging on certain doors. Daviren Hosk (one of the bangees) promptly strode to the back of his stables, banging in a distinctive knock on the back wall. More scurrying little feet could be heard running off from the other side. As the running children and knocks continued, the party was fairly certain that the entire population of Sandpoint was aware of their arrival barely two minutes after they appeared. Mystery solved!

Ameiko was already coming out of the Rusty Dragon to meet them, smiling warmly, and she invited them in for breakfast. Hi excused himself and Dimension Doored to Rilka's. Shiro, having not eaten in Magnimar, eagerly accepted the offer. As Shiro ate, he and Raesh asked Ameiko and Bethana about the current state of affairs in Sandpoint, while they sent Halek off to fly a banner for Shalelu. They learned much more of local politics: Magnimar was putting immense pressure on Mayor Deverin to allow Sandpoint to become a formal protectorate of Magnimar what with the giant attacks and the sinkhole and all. Titus Scarnetti was pushing almost as hard that Mayor Deverin didn't have the necessary business acumen in dealing with such outside influences and was encouraging her to step down and let him become acting mayor. Pushing matters to a head, a delegation of stone giants was supposed to arrive in approximately two weeks' time to finalize the treaties with Sandpoint, and delegates from Magnimar and nobles from Sandpoint would be swarming the place.

In short, Mayor Deverin was between a rock and a hard place, and was beginning to crack under the strain.

This Would Not Do.

Thankful that Hi was still with Rilka, and therefore that Scarnetti Manor was not in imminent danger of "accidental catastrophic conflagration", Shiro and Raesh gathered up Halek (who seemed woefully disappointed that Shalelu had not come striding out of the woods the moment he put up the banner) and headed for Scarnetti Manor for an impromptu meeting.
As they arrived at the entrance the two guards straightened up to their full height, nearly as tall as Raesh. Looking nonplussed, they demanded, "State your business!"
Raesh let Shiro do the talking. "Hi! We're here to see Mr. Scarnetti!"
"Do you have an appointment?"
"We'll see whether he's available."

One of the guards slunk inside for an interminable period while Shiro bounced and rolled on the balls of his feet, grinning, and Raesh and Halek stood rock still. The guard kept eyeing Halek, as if wanting to say something, but didn't. Finally, after perhaps 20 minutes, the guard returned. "Mr. Scarnetti will see you now."
A butler arrived with the guard and showed Raesh and Shiro to a luxurious den (they asked that Halek remain outside), complete with vast fireplace (with nothing but banked coals as it was not that cold outside), leather sofas, and even a little decanter with crystal glasses. Shiro was delighted, and looked about at all the pretty little trinkets in the room. The butler uttered a completely-useless, "Wait here, please."

A few minutes later, Titus Scarnetti himself greeted Raesh and Shiro. "Rae'Sheleth! Shiro! Two of the heroes of Sandpoint! What brings you to my humble home? Would you care for a drink?"
Shiro couldn't contain himself, "Yes! Yes! Very much so! Yes!"
Scarnetti poured Raesh, Shiro, and himself glasses of cognac from the decanter, then sat himself across from them in a large comfortable-looking leather chair. Raesh took a polite sip while Shiro eagerly drank down his. Both noticed that Scarnetti hardly touched his. Raesh started in on her concerns with the politics of Sandpoint, and how she felt that Mr. Scarnetti was placing undue pressure on Mayor Deverin at a time when she most needed her noble citizens' support. Scarnetti countered that perhaps if Mayor Deverin wasn't up to the task, she should indeed step down. He did however, offer that he was a reasonable businessman, and if Raesh could find a way to "scratch his back", he might find a way to "scratch Mayor Deverin's". Raesh scowled.
Raesh's mood soured even more when Shiro started slouching in his chair, muttering to himself, and grinning hugely. It was clear the cognac had been poisoned in some way! Raesh was prepared to slay Scarnetti then and there but watched to see whether or not Shiro would survive. Instead of being harmed by the poison, he became quite happy and talkative, and Scarnetti sending more and more pointed questions his way. Raesh was appalled! He had poisoned her bard to pump him for information! Her eyes narrowed. However, not knowing whether it was polite to slaughter a man in his own den, and lacking concrete proof of any evil acts (since Shiro was clearly not suffering or dying). she refrained, instead packing away a mental note and a grudge for future reference.

Once Shiro was in Happy Land, Raesh could make no progress in her negotiations with Scarnetti. He was not foolish or overt enough to press the drink on her, so instead after about 45 minutes of fruitless discussion she escorted the still-hopelessly-cheerful Shiro out. On the porch were the two guards, unconscious and somewhat the worse for wear from their beatings. Halek stood nonchalantly nearby. Raesh chose not to chastise him, nor to even ask what the guards might have said. Instead, she he laid hands on Shiro, giving him the benefit of her cure poison mercy, though not undoing the temporary damage to his will. "Let us go."

It was still early in the day and there were many places to visit, so it was time to pick up Hi. "Hi, Hi!" Shiro giggled.
Rilka was concerned. "Mr. Shiro. Are you all right?"
"Oh, I'm fine! We went to see Mr. Scarnetti and he poisoned me!"
Rilka was aghast. Even Raesh could not hide a wince. The biggest gossip in Sandpoint and the greatest destructive force in western Varisia now knew of Scarnetti's indiscretions. This would not go well.

The party's next stop was Larz Rovanky's tannery. Larz was ecstatic to see Raesh, and the others might as well not have been there. "Lady Rae'Sheleth! I hope your armor is pleasing to you! It was some of my finest work, I must say! Welcome, welcome! NO, you idiots! Never add water directly into the vats! What do you think the pre-mixing tanks are for! Fools! Stop! Stop! I'll do it! Just wait!"
Raesh waited for Larz to finish his tirade, at which point he turned back to her, once again all smiles. "And how may I help M'Lady this fine day?"
Halek drew forth the perfectly-preserved white dragon skin from his bag of holding (don't know how many people recall that Halek rolled a natural 20 on Survival to skin the dragon). Lars gasped. His workers gasped. None had ever seen such a large, perfect dragon skin in their lives.
Larz went to one knee. "You do me great honor entrusting me with such a prize, M'Lady! What may I craft for you?"
"I would like a dress uniform of Sarenrae, that I may wear to formal functions for the temple. Especially the temple of Absalom. It should be subtle, it should be beautiful, and it should be clear that it is of Sarenrae."
"Yes, M'Lady. This I can do! This I would be honored to do!"
Larz turned to his crew. "Idiots! Drain the tanks! Scrub them all! You? What's your name?!? Willem? Send to Magnimar immediately for new reagents! The rest of you, prepare! We are creating a masterpiece!"
Raesh allowed herself a smile. The dragon skin was in good hands. Knowing that Larz would no longer notice their presence, they took their leave.

It was still early in the day so they had Ameiko pack them a picnic lunch of poached salmon, fresh bread, butter, eggs, salad, green beans, and a wonderfully-fragrant green sauce to put on the salmon. Ameiko gave them two bottles of chilled white wine, but Shiro declined the wine for some reason.
They first checked Brodert Quink's usual hiding places around Sandpoint: The catacombs, his house, and the Old Light, but he was nowhere to be found. So Hi teleported them to Thistletop. Halek snared a few of the now-abundant bunnies and tossed them down to Yippy, who howled happily to see them all. "Awwww. Who's a good bunyip?" Raesh purred.
They found Brodert safe and (relatively) sound in the second level of the Thistletop dungeon, carefully transcribing Thassilonian carvings as the group of adventurers they had hired to guard him sat about, bored out of their skulls. They said their hellos, then went outside for a pleasant picnic just outside the thistle tunnels.

After a delicious lunch they spent the afternoon wandering Thistletop, playing with Yippy and his "wife", and otherwise passing the time. In the evening, they teleported back to Sandpoint and spent a pleasant evening in their resepective rooms.

As Raesh performed her devotions in the morning, and Halek his exercises, Shalelu strode into view. Halek could not contain himself and charged forward, first hugging her, then lifting her high into the air, then hugging her again. The normally-reserved elf could not help herself and allowed a small giggle to escape. Raesh would tell no one.

As soon as Shiro and Hi were up the group teleported to Turtleback Ferry with Shalelu. They were not happy with what greeted them.
The town was perhaps two miles from the shore of Claybottom Lake, and was partially surrounded with pallisades. Even now the construction was ongoing. To no one's surprise, there on the wall leading the construction effort was Mayor Shreed, hammer in hand, constantly scanning the horizon towards the lake. Similar to Brandi, he was performing the work in full armor with a longbow strapped across his back. As soon as he saw the party his face lit up and he called out, "Welcome back, friends! Welcome to Turtleback Ferry!"
He clambered quickly down from the scaffolding and heartily shook everyone's hand. Raesh dared ask the question that they all wanted answered: What had happened to Turtleback Ferry?
"Oh, it's been bad, friends. Very bad. We had a bit of a respite for a few weeks after you chased off the giants, but eventually Black Magga got hungry. She started crawling on shore and attacking villagers. We had to move the village farther and farther away, but none of our weapons could penetrate her thick hide, and she was smart enough not to come out when any of the rangers were here. I sent to the mayor of Magnimar for help, but he just ignored me, in spite of the fact we were losing people every week. Finally, she hit the schoolhouse. I sent the mayor my children. My own dead children from my town. That got his attention."
Tears were streaming down Mayor Shreed's face. The party knew he had no children of his own, but he considered each and every child of Turtleback Ferry to be "his". Raesh was paralyzed by swirling emotion. Guilt at not having come sooner. Rage at Mayor Groboras' indecency. And deep, fundamental hatred of Black Magga. The creature would die. Today.

Mayor Shreed continued, though everyone in the party was thinking murderous thoughts about Black Magga. "So he shipped us some cold iron arrows and I can put magic on them. That hurts her. We're at a standstill now. She comes out, someone warns me, I get the arrows ready, and we shoot the living daylights out of her. But she always gets away. It's a stalemate."
Raesh was finally moved to speak. "Not any more."

The tactics discussion took well over an hour. Magga was not stupid, and would not challenge a party of mythic characters directly. They needed a way to get her to come out of the lake. Hi decided he would make himself bait.

A black dragon skimmed low over Claybottom Lake, finally settling in and plunging underwater. He did not go unnoticed. Black Magga swam towards him quickly. "This is my territory! Begone!"
As he replied, Magga noticed the Life Bubble he had around himself! Trickery!
She attacked, and Hi started losing hit points something awful. He fled for the northern shore, Magga close on his heels.

Then Magga met a group of 18th-level characters with a mythic tier each all Smiting Evil thanks to Raesh's Aura of Justice. Even Mayor Shreed was with them, bow in hand, ready to take her on single-handed if need be. All of them had Life Bubbles. All of them were Hasted. All of them had Freedom of Movement. My favorite quote was Shiro: "I keep Mayor Shreed alive. That's what I'm doing this combat."
The most damage any character took was when Halek fumbled and hit Raesh. Otherwise, Black Magga quickly became sushi. Bad sushi. And I gave them all their second mythic tier for killing her.

As Halek dragged her head to shore for proper destruction, Shiro turned to Mayor Shreed. "You know, Mayor Shreed. There's a priest in Sandpoint who I think could really use your guidance..."

*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: Friday, April 4, 2014 (Already played.)

As a complete side note, I *really* didn't care for the way the AP portrayed Scarnetti: A *lawful* neutral businessman who hired thugs to burn down competing mills? I can see someone as mild as true neutral doing this, but "lawful" and "I ignore the law for my own business advantage" just do not go hand-in-hand.

So I played him much closer to true neutral throughout: He's still a conservative traditionalist, and he's still dedicated to law and order and contracts and the like, but if he has to do something a bit underhanded to get a business advantage (like burning a mill or poisoning a bard), so be it.

NobodysHome, any idea when we might see those last few write ups? :)

LOL. Funny you should mention that. The next chapter went out 2 days ago, Hi's player has already edited, and I'm waiting on Raesh and Shiro's players.

I'm trying to get out two writeups a week (one WotR, one RotRL) and so far I'm keeping up. Just waiting for my players to catch up...

EDIT: And yes, you might ask, "Wait a minute! What about the last week of June?"

Annual Disneyland trip. Hard to write when the kids are demanding you actually go on rides and such...

EDIT 2: And before you say, "Send them off alone," my older son is the boy who:

- At Peter Pan story time, when the cast member asked, "And how do we know that the pirates didn't hit Peter Pan with their cannons?", politely raised his hand and then answered, "Because there's no blood raining from the sky." In front of small children. Even the cast member had trouble not laughing.

- At Turtle Talk, asked how turtles ate jellyfish without getting stung. Then when Crush asked, "And what do you like to eat, little dude?" answered, "Turtles."

Yes. I shudder to think of him loose and alone in the park...

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04-April-2014 Game

This was a pretty quick Friday night session; the players wanted to wrap up all the outstanding AP stuff so they could deal with all the wheels I/they had set in motion during the course of the campaign; there were treaties with giants to be negotiated, reformed lawful evil BBEGs to check up on, the Runeforge, and so forth.

20-Calistril-4708 (continued from last session)

The group teleported back to Sandpoint, right in front of the cathedral, and Mayor Shreed asked, "So, where's this Father Zantus I'm supposed to talk to? Making his rounds?"
The party regretfully informed Mayor Shreed (well, OK, maybe "regretfully" isn't the correct term. In Shiro's case it might have been more along the lines of "gleefully") that Father Zantus didn't tend to make "rounds" as such. Instead, he tended to wait in the cathedral until people came to him for help.
"Well, what does he do if someone is too sick or infirm to get to him?"
Raesh was honest. "I believe he expects that a family member or friend will come and fetch him."

Mayor Shreed purpled and rolled up his sleeves. He stormed into the cathedral with a purpose. While Raesh might have been a bit discomfitted to listen in on Zantus' redressing, Shiro and Hi didn't want to miss it for the world.
The first noise out of the cathedral was a loud smack, the sound of a hand slapping a face, and then Mayor Shreed roaring, "How DARE you hide in here while your citizens might be in need?!?!"
The conversation did not improve for Father Zantus. Mayor Shreed redressed him for being a do-nothing cleric-in-name-only who enjoyed the fruits of his position with none of the labors. He threatened to personally rip out and remove the shrine to Erastil if Zantus didn't shape up. Finally, he demanded to walk the town with Zantus to find out just how many citizens in need were just too ill or timid to seek Zantus' aid. Only Halek managed to suppress a smile. It sounded like Father Zantus was in good hands.

As they walked to the Rusty Dragon for lunch, they discussed what outstanding business they might have in Sandpoint. They knew Mayor Deverin was under immense pressure, and they needed to meet with Conna the Wise to ensure the negotiations with Sandpoint went well for the mayor. The Runeforge still loomed large in their minds, as did the Anima Focus. But what was there in Sandpoint?
They asked around for rumors and goings-on in town that were not giant-related, and learned that kids were now playing on the beach near Chopper's Isle again, for the first time in many years. Realizing that they had never been to the supposedly-accursed isle, they decided to make that their next stop.
The tide wasn't low enough to walk to the isle, so Hi Dimension Doored them across the narrow strait and onto the top of the isle.

In the few years since the Late Unpleasantness the island had much returned to its natural state: A bird sanctuary. Protected by water on all sides and with no major predators, sea birds of all sorts nested openly on the island's isolated top. Hi had at first thought that the island would make an excellent home for himself and Rilka, close enough for Rilka to get to her shop and yet far enough away for the town to avoid any major collateral damage from Hi's "mishaps". The presence of so many shore birds' nests dissuaded Hi from this plan, fortunately well before he suggested it to Rilka.
The burned-out remains of the Chopper's home stood toward the southern end of the isle. While the building was obviously in ruins, enough of it still stood to provide a darkness-filled interior large enough for two or three men to gather. Raesh narrowed her eyes and Detected Evil, and of course the cabin radiated the evil of the undead. The Chopper no longer rested in peace!
Confidently, Raesh drew her scimitar and stepped into the darkness. A spectral hand reached from the floor, sapping her life energy. She cursed. After all the events of the last few months, after all the decades of training, how could she have been so recklessly stupid as to step into the darkness without any protections? She slashed the hand and Olytruis cut deep and true. The spectre, not suspecting just how outclassed it was, clawed at her again, moaning unintelligibly through its ruined mouth and staring at her with empty eye sockets. After losing 4 levels to the creature, Raesh had enough. Her scimitar cut true again, and the Chopper's spirit was no more.
Shiro tried to check on Raesh, but she was too livid with herself to respond, and stormed away from the group. They followed her, not sure what to do. Shiro tried to reassure her. "It's OK, Raesh, we can get that fixed right up in Absalom!"
Raesh hissed back, "It is not that we cannot get it fixed! It is that I put myself at foolish risk in the first place! I cannot believe I did something that stupid!"

Tentatively, Hi reached to touch Raesh. When she did not yell at him or remove his hand, he teleported the group just outside of the temple of Sarenrae in Absalom. The paladins and acolytes on duty bowed deeply to Raesh, but she paid no heed, storming up the stairs and into the temple. Xerashir rushed out as soon as she heard of per prominent guests. "Rae'Sheleth! You are always welcome! Do you have a need? News? Or are you just visiting?"
"I need nothing," Raesh growled.
Shiro tried his best to defuse the situation. "Rae'Sheleth was touched by a spectre, and she blames herself for it. If you could restore her, that would be very nice."
Xerashir turned to Raesh. "Is this true, Rae'Sheleth? Do you require restoration? Will you accept it if I offer it freely?"
Raesh almost snarled. "I do not require restoration. But yes, I was drained by an undead, and Shiro would see me restored."
Fortunately, Xerashir was a political creature, and knew that further converstation would only further enrage Raesh, so she simply pulled the requisite amount of diamond dust from her belt pouch and cast Greater Restoration on Raesh, healing her completely. Not one to be rude, even when in a state, Raesh thanked Xerashir and stormed off to the temple's wood shop. She lost herself in the familiar sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of the tools, the raw wood, the laquers, paints, springs, gears, and other devices she'd worked with for so many years. Quietly, virtually unnoticed by Raesh, Shiro settled down in a corner and quietly played for her as she worked. Raesh had learned from what she had seen in the Runeforge. She knew her self-loathing was a form of pride that did not befit a paladin. As she worked, she prayed silently to Sarenrae to help her let go of her rage and instead learn from her own mistakes.

Hi and Halek were left alone in Absalom. Halek looked down at Hi. As Hi arched his neck to meet Halek's gaze, Halek hopefully asked, "Guinea pig?"
Hi gave Halek a somewhat rueful but amused chuckle and instead headed off to the Saucy Wench for something actually potable. Halek shrugged and followed him. After a bit, the two men started looking at each other over mugs of cool honeyed meat and slabs of wonderfully-smoked meat. They spoke almost as one. "Mayor Shreed!"
A quick teleport back to Sandpoint was in order. Fortunately, Shreed was still busy berating Zantus as he led him about town, so Halek and Hi had little trouble intercepting him, ask him if he was ready to return home, and having both Zantus and Shreed agree that it was time for him to get back to Turtleback Ferry.
A couple of teleports later, Halek and Hi returned to the temple in time to join Shiro, a calmer but still-perturbed Raesh, and the temple staff and residents for a rather bland, uninspired meal (for some reason they weren't particularly hungry) and performed their evening songs and devotions (for some reason Halek was not invited to sing along).
At Shiro's suggestion, they perused the divine magic shops in the area and picked up a scroll of Greater Restoration and a wand of Detect Undead. Now that they were thinking about the undead, they decided it was time to check on their friends at the Runeforge once again.

A quick teleport to the Runeforge and a few spells later, they were at the Runeforge pool itself. There were signs of abundant activity: Halek noted that many, many bodies had been dragged from the wing of Pride to the wing of Gluttony. There was active, noisy activity in the wing of Wrath. The Runeforge was alive and active! Their first stop was the wing of Wrath, where in the entry hall they found dozens of zombies (many of whom resembled Vraxeris) digging furiously at the wall in the direction of the rest of the wing of Wrath. The zombies did not attack, so they left them to their task, figuring they had already deactivated the teleportation circles. They were a bit concerned that the zombies would eventually dig their way to the flesh pit, but that would only allow more undead to utterly overpopulate the Runeforge. Was this a serious issue? At the moment, they didn't think so.
However, seeing the Vraxeris zombies made them a bit concerned: There had been dozens, if not hundreds of dead Vraxerises in the wing of Pride! Moving on to the wing of Pride (yet again avoiding the mirrors) and arriving in Vraxeris' library, Hi found that the clockwork scribe he had placed there to copy Vraxeris' books was missing, as were the copies of the books. The air around him positively sizzled. "They stole my scribe! And my notes! Someone's going to pay for this!!!"
Checking the dead clone rooms, the party was dismayed but unsurprised to find that all of the bodies had been removed; the wing of Gluttony had been very, very busy in their absence.
Raesh and Hi were of a strong mind to render every undead in the Runeforge dead.

The party buffed itself fully, including Death Wards, and headed for the wing of Gluttony.
GM Note: Why no, Aziven isn't a suicidal idiot. Why do you ask?

Arriving at the black stone doors of the wing, Halek shoved them open. The circular domed chamber with grinning skulls embedded in the walls screamed, "Trap," so the party was rather surprised when one of the skulls pushed forward out of the wall, revealing a small secret door, barely large enough for a man to crawl through. An ancient, obvious mummy clambered out of the now-obvious tomb and stood before the party. It spoke a raspy Thassilonian, its voice the dry crackling of a thousand years in the desert. "I would have no quarrel with you, adventurers. Tell me what it is you seek and I will provide it. Please come no further. I have no wish to come into conflict with you."
Raesh snorted. Hi was disappointed. So this was what negotiations had boiled down to? "Hi there! We surrender! Please don't hurt us!"?

However, in spite of everything that had happened in the last few days, Raesh was still a paladin through and through.
"First, you must answer some questions for us. What are you trying to accomplish in the wing of Wrath? Was it you that took the bodies from the wing of Pride?"
Hi interrupted, "And give me my clockwork scribe back or I'm coming in after it!"
The nervousness in the mummy's voice was obvious as it responded to each question in turn. Leading the party members to wonder: Can undead be nervous? The hidden necromancer (for it was quickly obvious that the mummy was speaking with someone else's thoughts and voice) was interested in exploring the wing of Wrath for more bodies and more research. Yes, they had taken the bodies from the wing of Pride, and they were very grateful to the party for providing them. Yes, they were responsible for taking the scribe, and they had made several "modifications" so that it could assist in their "experiments", but they were at that very moment restoring the scribe good-as-new, they promised. And the books would come forthwith. The party could just picture a group of undead desperately reassembling the scribe as they spoke.
Since they finally had access to one of the original researchers, the party decided that they could learn much from him and chose to continue the conversation. Azaven, knowing that enraging the party would spell certain doom for him, was more than willing to cooperate.
As they had suspected, the Runeforge was its own demiplane. The only significant residents left were Azaven and "whatever fool is in charge of the wing of Sloth at the moment". Azaven had no interest in invading the wing of Sloth as, "The oozes in there provide no useful materials and destroy too many of my undead bringing them down," while the wing of Sloth was unlikely to ever find the wherewithal to attack anyone. Gluttony reigned supreme in the Runeforge, and Azaven was delighted with his new role.
The party discussed options: If it really was a separate demiplane, then even if Azaven got access to the flesh pit he could do nothing more than fill the demiplane with undead. The fact that no undead had escaped since they sealed the gate at the wing of Wrath reinforced this conclusion. Raesh was uncomfortable exterminating a group of people solely for what they *might* do, but at the same time was concerned at what would happen should they find a way to leave the Runeforge. As they debated, Hi's clockwork scribe came clattering into view. It was definitely somewhat the worse for wear; whoever had disassembled and then reassembled it did not have Hi's skills nor dextrous hands. A pair of zombies carrying the copied books followed the scribe. Raesh and Halek gripped their weapons as Hi examined the scribe. Azaven's existence depended on Hi's conclusions.
"Well, he's messed up a bit, and I need to replace a couple of parts, but I suppose he's OK."
Azaven's sigh of relief echoed throughout the wing.

Raesh would not leave him without a warning. "You will be left in peace so long as you restrict your domain to the Runeforge. Should you send anyone or anything at all out, or should I hear that you are luring victims in..."
Raesh was not one to let threats hang open-ended...
"...I *will* come for you."

Noting what parts he would need, Hi let Shiro Shadow Walk them out of the Runeforge and teleported them to Absalom. It was already fairly dark there, so they settled in at the temple for the night, planning on doing some shopping in the morning.

*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Saturday, April 12, 2014 (Already played.)

Awesome stuff. I like how your players don't do much fighting anymore, it is all just conversations and intimidation.

LOL. Well, I just got Leilani's latest journal up, and I'll be sending my WotR journal out for player review on Saturday, but next week'll be more RotRL stuff, and you'll see that fights are essentially meaningless now. Everything's all about, "How do we defuse this situation without beating the c**p out of people?"

Yes, it's really enjoyable to play out with them. Hi "accidentally" Disintegrated most of the Fatman's Feedbag during a "routine" arrest, leading to wonderful roleplay between Raesh and Hi about "restraint".

It's far more interesting to roleplay when all of your PCs are at the level where they could annihilate an army, but they're trying to work with the locals to make everyone happy. I have to say, my final few sessions of RotRL were VERY satisfying to run.

Trouble is, as I've posted elsewhere, my pesky players are demanding TWO WotR games a week (epic, epic AP) and that impacts my writing time.

Poor me! All my spare time is taken up by writing, fine dining, and gaming. I'm sure you all feel VERY sorry for me! :-P

(And in case Mittean is around, Hi's player did me a HUGE favor this week, so I'm making a massive batch of Butter Chicken for his mom. She loves it, and I have yet to find the restaurant that makes Butter Chicken as good as mine. So tonight and tomorrow are Wrath of the Righteous, but dinner is Butter Chicken, Jasmine rice, homemade salad, homemade garlic bread, and Four Vines Skeptic Petit Syrah -- not a bad red at all...)

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I have only just come across this a few days ago, and have been enthralled by the whole tale. I have played through most of RotR a few years back, and a newly-minted GM will be starting up his own game for my local group in a few weeks. I am going to be linking him this thread and telling him it is "necessary reading"!

This has been nothing short of utterly fantastic, and has provided me with a slew of great ideas for characters and scenarios. I look forward to reading more!

Silverline wrote:

I have only just come across this a few days ago, and have been enthralled by the whole tale. I have played through most of RotR a few years back, and a newly-minted GM will be starting up his own game for my local group in a few weeks. I am going to be linking him this thread and telling him it is "necessary reading"!

This has been nothing short of utterly fantastic, and has provided me with a slew of great ideas for characters and scenarios. I look forward to reading more!

Aw! Thanks! I always *LOVE* such posts.

There's not much more to tell, I'm afraid. They cleaned up the Sczarni in Sandpoint and negotiated the giant treaty, then decided to go on hiatus while we played Wrath of the Righteous. (Though in that game I'm making frequent references to "Saint Rae'Sheleth" holding the southern front. Cue drow eye roll.)

So it's 4-5 more writeups, and I'm hoping for 1 per week. By the end of summer this thread should be "in bed".

Thanks for reading!

Well, it's a bit sad that I came by it right as it was ending, but I am glad I stumbled across it! I think I shall bookmark it, and use it as a benchmark for both roleplaying and DMing. I shall have to now start on the WotR thread...

My free time, where has it gone?

Silverline wrote:
My free time, where has it gone?

You're asking ME?!?!?! If you think reading it is bad, just try running and writing it! :-P

(He says as he starts furiously prepping Citadel Drezen and trying to write up the WotR game from a month ago...)

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NobodysHome wrote:
Silverline wrote:
My free time, where has it gone?

You're asking ME?!?!?! If you think reading it is bad, just try running and writing it! :-P

(He says as he starts furiously prepping Citadel Drezen and trying to write up the WotR game from a month ago...)

I am suspecting that you are not entirely sane, actually...

But I am okay with that, because it provides me with such entertainment! I'm thinking I might do a campaign journal myself, from the point of view of my character. Bah, these messageboards are such a bad influence on me!

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12-April-2014 Game

I'm afraid this really is the beginning of the end; we have a total of 4 sessions left (including this one) and then Raesh, Shiro, Hi, and Halek fade into the sunset... for now.
Of course, in the Wrath of the Righteous campaign I've already mentioned "Sainte Rae'Sheleth" almost single-handedly holding the southern front, so the *real* question is whether we're going to do a RotRL/WotR crossover before or after I run Jade Regent.

Yeah, good times!

Anyway, although this particular session was rather short, I really enjoyed making stuff up on the fly for the Fugue Towers as the party finished exploring upper Xin-Shalast, completed some long-overdue visits, and otherwise prepared for the *massive* session on the 19th.

Anyway, let's get started.


To everyone's horror (well, OK, everyone except Shiro, who was still in bed like any self-respecting bard would be), Hi arose with the sun, meeting Raesh and Halek as they headed out for their morning exercises. Raesh was alarmed enough to surreptitiously Detect Evil on Hi, but he did indeed seem to be the gnome they knew and loved (or at least knew).
"Hi. You are up unusually early. Is something wrong?" Raesh inquired with her usual diplomacy (or lack thereof).
"What? Oh, no. I'm fine. When are we going to the Clockwork Cathedral?"
With that, everyone relaxed. Of course a gnome looking to get into mischief couldn't possibly sleep in! It was all clear now!

Raesh assured Hi that they would depart as soon as she had finished her devotions, Halek his exercises, and Shiro his beauty sleep. Hi was restless, but wasn't about to ask Raesh to shorten her devotions so he was stuck for an hour.

As soon as Raesh was done, Hi "helped" wake up Shiro, and a bleary-eyed Shiro staggered out of the temple into the morning light. If some of his fur was slightly shorter or a bit singed in some areas, no one noticed or commented. A veritable horde of coaches descended, some offering scones, some coffee, and some fried dough coated in sugar.
However, one coach offered Minkaian tea and a bit of freshly-prepared sushi. As Shiro and the others piled in, the driver grinned wickedly at the others. "Next time you might open a book!"
Shiro decided he liked this driver.

The ride to the cathedral was uneventful, though Shiro did decide to empty his pocket of loose change and paid the driver roughly 10 platinum pieces. The driver thanked him profusely and bowed in the Minkaian style. Shiro smiled. Yes, indeed, this coachman would go far.
Hi led the group to the "public" entrance of the cathedral, though even that entrance was through such a maze of passageways and portals that the rest of the party wondered at Hi's ability to remember it all. They finally emerged in a small shop, the shelves stocked with all manner of gears, springs, tools, and clockwork doodads. The young human woman behind the counter smiled broadly the moment she saw Hi. Gnomes meant good business. "Is there anything I might help you find, good sir?"
Hi pulled out his list of parts for the clockwork scribe. All false facade fell from the woman as she expertly darted about the store filling his order as fast as he could list it off, looking determined as if Hi's order was obviously some kind of test for her. As he finished the list, she already had the total in her mind. "That will be 500 gold pieces, sir."
Hi, never wanting to be outdone by Shiro, left 100 platinum pieces on the counter, took his bag, handed it to Halek ("Halek, carry this"), thanked her, and led the group back out.

While the sushi had provided a mild appetizer, the party wanted a far more hearty breakfast, so they took a quick coach ride to the Merchant's Quarter and had a massive breakfast of eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, potatoes, and some unidentifiable vegetable matter that Halek ordered. With Hi's assistance they put together a vegetarian packet of some delightful pastries, fresh fruits and berries, and a few edible flowers.
Once their package was ready, Hi teleported them to the ice fens.
The fens glistened like diamonds in the morning sun and resonated with renewed vigor and raw Power. Hi felt himself welcomed as one come home. This was a Safe place.

Moments later, Svevenka arose from the ice, beaming. "Welcome, my friends! It is always good to see you!"
Comments of, "It's REALLY good to see YOU, too," died on the males' lips, as they knew Raesh would harm them for such things. They presented Svevenka with her breakfast, and she tore eagerly into the pastries, grinning broadly and dropping crumbs in places the men were all too willing to stare at. As she marveled at the flowers, nibbling at them delicately as if in fear of ruining them, the party told her their plans: They were going to return to Xin-Shalast to purge any remaining taint of Karzoug, and then they would be moving on. Svevenka almost pouted, which was adorable with a handful of flower petals dangling from her lips. "You WILL visit me, won't you?"
The men immediately nodded. Raesh sighed. "Yes. We will all visit you when we get the opportunity."
This made the men and Svevenka happy.
Raesh returned to business. "A large number of giants must have traveled through here on their exodus from Xin-Shalast. Can you tell us of that?"
Svevenka grew serious for a moment. "I can tell you that most of them made it through the fens. Some were... most disrespectful."
Raesh glanced across the fens and noticed several giant-sized thin spots in the ice. So be it. They had been warned, and they had not heeded the warning. It was Svevenka's realm. And thus her justice. Raesh did not mourn the giants who had been unable to follow Svevenka's fairly simple rules.

Knowing that they might not see her for some time, each party member bade Svevenka farewell in his or her own way. Raesh accepted a bone-chilling hug and an icy kiss on the cheek, and those who knew her might have identified the ghost of a smile. Hi insisted that she "put some clothes on" for Rilka's sake, so she clad herself in snow and hugged the poor chilly sorcerer, kissing him on the top of his head. He blushed furiously in spite of himself. Halek accepted a hug and a kiss on the cheek. If he felt the cold through the massive scars across his body, he didn't show it. Finally, Shiro turned into fox form and Svevenka her otter form and they pranced about in the snow for a good 10-15 minutes, until finally they both knew it was time for them to go.
Svevenka returned to her true form and waved them all goodbye, idly nibbling on a cinnamon croissant.

Whether the party was stronger or the field was weaker, none of them had any trouble hiking up the path to Xin-Shalast this time. (Yeah, Halek just rolled really, really well.) They were pleased to find lower Xin-Shalast nearly abandoned. There was no organized resistance, or really much of any organization at all. Even Morgiv didn't appear from wherever he was hiding at the moment.
GM Note: It was probably because I didn't put a map in front of them, but they went quite a bit out of order here, first going to the Anima Focus, then down to Ghlorofaex's lair, then up again, then off to the side... Needless to say, I'm putting it in the order in which they WOULD have done it if they'd had a map.

The first thing they wanted to do was recover as much of Ghlorofaex as possible; you could never tell when you might need a swath of blue dragon skin, after all. Unfortunately, they found that scavengers had done to Gholorfaex's corpse what the arid mountainous climate could not. His flesh was entirely gone. While bits of skin were scattered here and there, there was barely enough to make a decent-sized handkerchief, and Raesh already had one of those. Even his bones showed signed of having been gnawed on a bit. Sighing at the lost opportunity, the party moved on.
Satisfied that Xin-Shalast was no longer a threat to the lower countryside, Hi put Life Bubbles on everyone and they proceeded to upper Xin-Shalast.

Arriving at The Teeth, their first order of business was to ensure no dragons or other creatures nested in the massive obelisks. Throwing caution to the wind (OUR Hi? Incautious? NEVER!), Hi flew up and around and into each obelisk in turn. While there were nesting sites for perhaps 30 dragons in all, all of the nests were empty, and as far as Hi could tell, nothing else had taken up residence in the thousands of years the obelisks had been abandoned. Moving to the east they approached the Fugue Towers.
This massive fortress had obviously once been a prison. It stood defiantly at the top of a steep cliff, and Hi confirmed that the cells facing the tremendous drop had large open (but barred) windows, providing horrific lodgings for Karzoug's "most favored" guests. The windows facing the mountain or the path were much smaller; only enough to let in a bit of light and air, but not large enough to let out a man, even if there had been no bars.
Raesh was not foolish enough to be caught unawares twice. "There will be undead here," she said matter-of-factly as they approached the main gate.

The gate was closed but not locked and opened into a wide corridor going left and right. Across the corridor barred gates led into an open courtyard. An optimist might call it an exercise yard for prisoners. A pessimist might call it a combat arena. Shiro chose exercise yard.
As they looked around, they noticed two glaive-wielding iron statues in nooks behind the gate. The glaives were magical, and it took very little to convince the party that these were iron golem guardians of the prison. They had no idea what would trigger the golems to action. And of course that made Shiro utterly desperate to know.
Raesh spoke sternly but compassionately. "Shiro. We are here to determine whether there is anyone we must free or anything we must exterminate from this building. The guards are doing no harm, and will do no harm unless we trigger them. Let us not attempt to activate them until it is time for us to leave."
Shiro whimpered a bit in anticipation and curiosity, but agreed that Raesh was probably right.
Item #1 on everyone's list of, "What might trigger the golems," was, "Going into the exercise yard," so they decided to leave that for last.

Moving down the corridor to the left, they found that the wing was a bit over 200 feet long, with gates blocking the corridor every 50 feet or so. At every gate was another pair of iron golems. None of the gates were locked, and none of the iron golems impeded their progress. The still silence of the prison was downright creepy. Shiro started humming quietly. No one objected.
The end of the hallway revealed a massive kitchen, obviously hastily abandoned many thousands of years ago. Dropped dishes or pans lay scattered on the floor, covered in dust even in this near-airless climate. The walls were half-cleared of materials, but the looting had clearly been abandoned in favor of just getting out of the building. The huge pantry might once have held supplies to feed the prisoners, but they (both the supplies and the prisoners) had long since turned to dust. Shiro Sifted about a bit and Raesh Detected Magic, but both were unsurprised that the kitchen held nothing of interest.

Proceeding into the second wing of the triangular building revealed more empty cells and more iron golems. The sheer cost to animate and arm so many golems must have been staggering! Again, the golems did not animate to block their way, and the wing was nearly identical to the previous one: A long corridor lined with cells, and a door into the central courtyard at the center of the wing. At the end of this hallway was what might be politely termed "The Disciplinary Area". It was, in plain fact, a torture chamber. A massive torture chamber. Racks, gurneys, and tables adorned with straps, manacles, and other restraints filled the massive hall. It had room for dozens, if not hundreds. Raesh Death Warded herself and went in alone. To everyone's surprise, nothing happened. Then they noticed the golems at either end. Perhaps there had once been spirits or haunts here, but perhaps the golems had long since relieved them of their miserable existences.
Not wanting to lose Raesh's Death Ward, the party decided to search the chamber later and instead hurried on through the third wing (identical) to the third vertex. This was the prison hospital, and this did indeed have a haunt. Unfortunately, a huge Perception roll by Raesh, followed by a high initiative, followed by channeling energy meant that all the party ever saw was a few quivering surgical instruments before the haunt was obliterated.
Now that they had circumnavigated the first floor, they went back, searched the torture chamber and hospital for anything worth taking (a few dozen masterwork surgical tools were all they were willing to take. The surviving instruments of torture met Hi and Halek. It was... destructive).

Shiro nearly exploded when Raesh informed the party that they would next be going upstairs to look for survivors on the higher floors. "But... but... but... what about the courtyard?!??!"
Raesh hated to disappoint Shiro, but they really needed to preserve their resources until they had thoroughly explored the building. "I am sorry, Shiro. We must first go upstairs. But I promise you we will go into the courtyard before we leave."
Shiro brightened immediately, and they headed up the stairs.
The second floor was a near-duplicate of the first, except the corner buildings were now guard residences, sparsely furnished. The party wondered how many guards the building actually needed, considering the sizable number of golems on the premises. Raesh decided that exploring the entire building would take far too much time, so she risked calling out loudly. "Is there anyone in this building? Does anyone need help?"
A raspy voice called from down the hall in Thassilonian. "Who goes there? Am I finally to be saved? Come closer, mistress, that I might gaze upon my savior."
Raesh did not need the translation to recognize an undead creature beckoning for her when she heard one. She rolled her eyes. She took careful note of the location of the cell. It was an interior cell, away from the sunlight. "Shiro, I believe it is time to satisfy your curiosity."

The party went back downstairs and Raesh entered the courtyard. Nothing happened. The rest of the party followed her. She walked around to the approximate location of the cell, then Levitated upwards. The voice cried out, "Yes, Mistress! Clever mistress! Come closer! Come in and rescue me!"
Raesh channeled. The spectre Did Not Like and howled in rage and pain. THIS activated the golems on the floor. As the spectre screamed in terror, two golems with Ghost Touch glaives tore it to pieces. It tried to hide in the stone, but they did not hesitate to carve through solid rock to get at their quarry. Once the spectre was dead, they returned to their posts. Raesh looked down at the others. "Do not cause a commotion in a cell."
The others nodded sagely.

She continued her upwards journey, idly channeling a couple of times. Each time she caught a ghost, spectre, or other undead, and each time this activated the golems. It was satisfying, but pointless. As she neared the top, she saw the massive Antimagic Field covering the entire top of the open area. Escape via flight would be impossible for any creature without wings. She lowered herself gently to the ground. "And now, Shiro, I believe we will be activating the golems as we attempt to leave the building. Is this to your satisfaction?"
Shiro grinned impishly. "Nope," and Bard's Escaped them out of the building.
Deciding that the eternal prisoners and their guards were no threat to anyone, they moved on to the next unexplored area: A massive compound with hundreds of arches and balconies, complimented by three sky-scraping towers.

As they explored this compound, it became clear this was the former quarters of the lamias of Xin-Shalast. Luxurious carpets, feather beds with silken sheets and covered with fine furs, incense holders and braziers, and a kitchen stocked with the finest of cookware indicated a life of ease and luxury. The compound was abandoned, but it would be an absolute shame to let such luxury go to waste. Into Halek's Bag of Holding went several silk sheets, some wonderful furs, and all of the cookware. The incense holders and braziers were pretty, but not particularly valuable, and Halek's bag was beginning to bulge, so they left it at that.
They moved up the path back to the Pinnacle of Avarice, found it empty, moved on to the Anima Focus, and smashed it to pieces.

Considering their business in Xin-Shalast finally done, they decided that their next order of business was to meet with Conna the Wise and arrange her trip to Sandpoint to negotiate the trade treaties. Hi teleported them to Jorgenfist.

Unfortunately, the party hadn't realized that Conna hadn't been planning on making Jorgenfist her permanent home and had moved on to her tribe's home in the mountains. So they visited Shirhalek in his lair, made sure the giants that were still living at Jorgenfist were happy with his behavior (they were), and he was still content with the arrangement (he was). The giants were able to provide simple directions and a crude map for Hi to get them to Conna, and that gave him enough information to get the party to her.

Conna was elated to see the party again! After very brief introductions, they sat down around the fire pit and started talking. It was only mid-afternoon when they started, but late in the evening by the time they had finished. Conna told them of the resurgence of the stone giants. With Mokmurian gone, many of the hill giants and ogres slaughtered (Hi stifled a laugh), and an uneasy truce with the Shoanti, the stone giants were thriving. Raesh beamed. Or might at least have managed the teensiest faintest hint of a smile. Something like that. Raesh asked about Gyukak, and Conna had to admit that she had never heard of him, but was glad to have another strong leader for her people. She was uneasy with Shirhalek; young blue dragons were an immense asset to giants, as they were loyal, trustworthy, and happy as long as they got to partake in the constant killing and looting that was part of a giant's life on the plateau. However, as blue dragons aged, they were known to get more ambitious and less satisfied with a simple life, dreaming of conquest, rule, and leadership. The dragon would be an asset for a century or two, but would eventually be dangerous. Raesh promised Conna that she would be there to stop Shirhalek should it become necessary. This appeased Conna a bit.

As the sun set, the fire was lit, meat was served, and more giants began to gather around the newcomers, Shiro started speaking of their adventures since they had last seen Conna. This caused a veritable stampede among the tribe, and soon Shiro had the rapt attention of at least two dozen giants, and probably more. To be polite he switched to Giant and told the tales of their adventures. The giants all "oohed" and "aahed" at the appropriate times, and Hi added an occasional flash of fireworks. Soon enough the fungus ale started to be passed out in giant-sized clay mugs. Who was Shiro to say, "No," to something with both the word, "Fungus," and the word, "Ale," in it?
There was singing, and dancing, and story-telling, and the party and the giants socialized well into the night.



In the morning, the party made arrangements with Conna: She and 5 of her giants would come to Sandpoint to meet with officials from Sandpoint and Magnimar about trade. Hi would provide transportation. 2 giants would go ahead to prepare a place for the six of them to stay. To the party's delight, the two giants they had captured during the raid on Sandpoint volunteered to be the two envoys. They admitted that the hospitality and warmth of the people of Sandpoint after their attack and capture had moved them, and they wanted to visit the "little people" again.

The party was happy. Things were going so well...

*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Saturday, April 19, 2014 (Already played.)

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