LOL. Too much to write!
The preview for the December 14 write-up is a totally non-mean, "Raesh visits her mom, sees her sister, and decides on the fate of the Runeforge."
Nothing important, there.
EDIT: And Raesh's player continues to threaten bodily harm until I get January 31 written up. Best... session... yet!!! So I am writing as fast as I can under threat of bodily harm. Expect more than one writeup a week for a while...
THE BEGINNING OF THE END...
While I realize this is a bit preemptive for people following the thread (we're stuck on December 7, after all), as of tonight the group will be battling through the Pinnacle of Avarice proper. Considering their tactics and attention to detail, I figure we have at least 4-6 more sessions of exploring and finishing, then at least 4 sessions of wrap-up, at which point this thread will come to a (near) end. (I plan on running follow-up sessions once per month or two to keep the characters "alive".)
But we HAVE scheduled the formal, "Which AP are we going to run next?" meeting for tonight.
I'll post the results here, and will create a similar campaign thread for that AP.
In other words, never fear, gentle readers! Though Hi, Shiro, Raesh, and Halek will be riding into the sunset within the next month or two, their "next generation" will be appearing on Paizo in March or April, and will continue their adventures!
(Most touching moment: Raesh's player told me she'd much rather find a new GM so I could join them in a 4-person party, and I responded that I love GM'ing for them so much that I plan on doing so for eternity... or at least some fraction thereof.)
And yeah, yeah, Misroi and Mittean, I know: "Get back to writing, you!"
Oh, after Raesh's epic performance as a paladin, it's going to be a fun debate between:
- Jade Regent: Continue the campaign, but with new PCs?
- Wrath of the Righteous: EVERYONE'S a paladin!
- Skull and Shackles: Pirates! Whee!
The kids just claimed Serpent's Skull as their next AP, but I don't think anyone would be strongly vying for that. Kids are far easier to please! :-P
Anyway, you guys can look forward to 2-3 more months of posts here as I catch up, but I got all verklempt as I prepped the pinnacle and realized they were almost done with the AP.
Hard to believe we're going to come close to 2 years on this AP even with a weekly session!
Ooooh! I am so excited! Take me, take me now!
Raesh's player is already here selecting spells for Ayruzi (yeah, did anyone have any doubts whatsoever as to how THAT encounter would go?), Shiro's player is off work and driving up (bad rain, so it may be a while), and Hi's player will eventually appear, as he always does.
And then, the finale begins...
(Yes. I've got my figures prepped, my cards out, and I'm researching all the spells I'll be throwing at them tonight, so I just can't sit still, and I've probably got 2 hours before we formally start. Grrrr!!!)
Sorry! I have been most remiss!
A few months ago we discovered an absolutely fantastic charcuterie at our local farmer's market -- he provides meat to many of the high-end local restaurants (and being near Berkeley, that's quite a few) and sells a bit of surplus to local shoppers lucky enough to get to the market early enough to get some.
So Friday night was a spice rubbed, slow-roasted pork roast (300 degrees for 4 hours) over buttered potato buns with some of the best cole slaw we know (Fatapple's). Then store-bought cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches for dessert.
Far simpler than usual, but I knew I had a huge dungeon to run.
(They managed to get through ONE ROOM in four hours of play, but it did yield not one but TWO silver Tsuto awards, so it was worthwhile.)
Anyway, budget first, then more writing later this morning. Still trying for two writeups a week for a while...
I just wanted to say how I have been silently enjoying every update to this journal. I started GMing and introduced four players to RPGs with ROTRL and have used your party as a goal to reach. We caught up to you and are also closing in on the final book.
This journal is and has been a great inspiration for more focus on roleplay and great combat tactics (my players loved/hated the clones casting simultaneously in Runeforge).
While we will continue on with Kingmaker I will still be joyously reading whatever you play next!
I am just craving more updates :D
Awesome! Thanks so much!
Well, no RotRL game this week thanks to DunDraCon, so that gives me more time to catch up. As I said, I'm hoping for 2 posts a week for a bit, until either I catch up or I collapse from writer's cramp.
We're now in the Pinnacle of Avarice, and it sounds like Wrath of the Righteous is the favorite for next campaign so far. (Gee, my party ALL want to play paladins! Who woulda thunk?)
...and it sounds like Wrath of the Righteous is the favorite for next campaign so far.
Woo-hoo! Can't wait to read that. I've been very pleased with that AP from Book 1 onwards, and that's not something that's easy to do. I actually asked a friend of mine, one who's been a Paizo supporter from Day 1, whether he thought "Worldwound Incursion" was a better first book than "Burnt Offerings," and he wasn't immediately able to say no. It's definitely in the running as their best AP.
Seriously? We're having major issues in Second Darkness right now because a couple of us just CANNOT play non-good characters, and the non-RotRL crowd wants to play a dirty, gritty, "shoot 'em and don't even bother to bury 'em" campaign.
I just don't see Hi's player playing a convincing criminal. Or Raesh's player playing a criminal at all. Shiro's player? I've got my eye on that one...
Lol. Then not criminals...convicted inmates. Framed. Sold. Forced. Coerced. But out of sorts among the literally hundreds of paladins up there, who are supposed to defend the world from the incursion...wouldn't it be great if it was a well meaning witch, who society (and paladins) looked down on? A ninja/ gunslinger who was very Ronin; very seven samurai meets magnificent seven. Mistrusted, or just a political outcast, their family defamed in Cheliax. Or a thief given the opportunity to reconcile, basically in death in the Worldwound. Think 24601.
:) Sorry, I'm getting all excited and wanting to start a party, lol. Paladins are boring to me...they never have weaknesses (Raesh not counting)...just values they enforce to the pointy detriment of everything in their way. It would be cool to watch these guys play characters that didn't want the good of all, and have you slowly change them and bring them to be more righteous than the self-righteous defenders already there. :)
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Very valid point. I suppose they are the ones I see played poorly the most...I like multi alignment paladins in my system, anyway. A CG paladin of Cayden C...epic. Very drunken master.
I like playing and DMing grey characters and stories. Very Dark Knight, A Game of Thrones, Dexter stuff. :) And I think this party could have some incredible role-playing if all the characters weren't on the same page. Ala LOST or a Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey. I dream of it, lol.
And being as I only get to game every two or three months as a guest in a Hollywood group, this is my gaming fix, lol. It's ironic...now that I can afford to (and do) buy pretty much every Paizo book printed...I can't afford time to play. Sigh.
Game on, Shiro, Hi and Raesh. And our stoic Halek.
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07-December-2013 Game, Part II
On to Janderhoff, and some epic fun... Short, but epic. (And the dwarves all yell, "Hey, was that a short joke?")
Once Raesh was done with her devotions, the party's first order of business was to disguise Raesh. Shiro got out his Disguise Kit and hit something truly obscene, or at least something in the 40's likely to fool any dwarves they were likely to run into.
They proceeded on foot to the gates of Janderhoff, one of the last "sky citadels" of the dwarves. The aboveground portion of the city was impressive: Massive gates walled off a fortified city of stone and iron, with smoke from a thousand forges billowing in the morning air. Trade wagons, peddlers, dwarven miners, and other pedestrians passed in and out of the gates under the watchful eye of the plate-clad dwarven guards. Two obvious paladins of Torag were Detecting Evil across the crowd, looking for would-be wrongdoers, and the guards stopped more than one pedestrian for the crime of not looking like they knew what they were doing.
More than one traveler looked askance at Raesh: What business would an elf have in Janderhoff? But that was not their business, Janderhoff was a hub of trade, and she was with a Shoanti and a gnome, so perhaps she was just there on other people's business (or had an odd taste in friends). Not wanting to risk raising the alarm in a city full of dwarves, the party approached one of the paladins.
"I need to meet with your high cleric," Raesh said by way of introduction.
"Name's Longbristle. What business do you have with our high cleric, paladin?"
Raesh looked at him carefully, made a fateful decision, and grinned.
Longbristle's thick eyebrows vanished up into his helm. "Ooooooh.... yes, yes. I see. I see, but I don't believe it."
He tried one more Detect Evil on Raesh, spent a few rounds Detecting Magic, and then blew out a hefty breath. "Ah, in all my years I'd never have believed it even if my grandpa had told me the tale on his knee. Well, yes, yes, of course I was informed that you would be coming. I just... thought it was some kind of joke."
Raesh put on her very best diplomatic face. Which pretty much meant she went stony-faced. "You are very kind, sir."
"Well, that's neither here nor there. Let's get you to the temple!"
Longbristle took his leave from the other paladin, getting nothing but a curt nod in return, and led the party to the High Temple of Torag in Janderhoff. The above-ground portion was magnificent; a marvel of stonework braced with intricate buttresses, seemingly carved out of the heart of the mountain itself. Longbristle boasted that the true heart of the temple was belowground, and, indeed, as they entered the temple he started taking them down, down, down into the earth, passing a multitude of forges where apprentices practiced their holiness sharpening blades and curving armor plates. Raesh was surprisingly comfortable as they went down; though it was too hot and smoky for her liking, the inky darkness and weight of the mountain above them felt welcoming to her.
Eventually, they reached a nondescript room with a nondescript stone table and several nondescript stone chairs. An older dwarf, looking like he might have been hewn from the same stone as the table and the chairs, sat. In an astonishing sign of courtesy, the dwarf slowly rose as the party entered. "Rae'Sheleth, paladin of Sarenrae and yet member of an accursed race. What brings you to Janderhoff?"
Raesh presented her best diplomacy: She let Shiro talk.
Shiro explained their predicament: They were trying to find Xin-Shalast upon the slopes of Mhar Massif, but knowing nothing more than that it was in the Kodar mountains near the Kazaron River did them little good. They had been told of the Vekker expedition, and were interested in finding some of its backers. The ancient dwarf listened patiently. He recalled there being quite a stir about it back when it happened 70 years ago, but a good portion of the people of Janderhoff had forgotten it by now. However, he did know that the one backer who did not go bankrupt ran a tavern called The Wet Stone in town, and he would be happy to have Longbristle escort them there.
Thanking the cleric for his "hospitality", the party walked with Longbristle to The Wet Stone. There was little to distinguish it from the other buildings in Janderhoff, other than the fact that the stone facing was carved to resemble cascading water, and there were more surly dwarves about it than most buildings.
On entering, conversation stopped as everyone eyed the "elf" who had just walked in. The barkeep called, "Whadd'll ya have, folks?"
Shiro and Hi ordered ale. Halek attempted to obtain a goat, but had to satisfy himself with some strong dwarven ale. Raesh looked the barkeep dead in the eye and, utterly straight-faced, said, "I would like something bland, served in a bowl made of woven foliage."
On hearing this (once my players recovered), all the dwarves in the tavern stopped paying attention. An elf was an elf, all the world 'round. The barkeep looked her up and down. "Well, missy, I'm sorry we don't have none o'that here. But here. I'll give you somethin' that'll put meat on them spindly bones o'yours!"
Reaching back, the barkeep pulled out a carved wooden mug with symbols of Cayden Cailean on it, reached back to a dusty key, and started pouring a pure golden-brown liquid into the mug. The other dwarves' eyes widened, and they oohed and aahed as he set the obviously-precious beverage in front of Raesh.
She sipped it. It was pure, fiery, malty gold; the best ale she'd ever tasted, with a hint of heat that send tickles up her spine. She used her best stony face. "Ah, yes. I believe I can drink this."
The dwarves roared and slapped her on the back, careful not to spill her precious cargo.
Longbristle spoke to the barkeep. "Ay, Ordin! Fetch Kecker for me, will ya?"
If Ordin objected to fetching his master, he didn't show it. He stumped off into the back of the tavern, and returned a minute or two later trailed by a middle-aged dwarf with an enormous red beard and a balding pate. "Well, well, if it ain't Longbristle of the high-n-mighty paladins of Torag! To what do I owe the honor?"
Longbristle introduced the party to Kecker Targ, owner of the Wet Stone and sole non-bankrupt survivor of the Vekker venture.
The party explained their plans: They wanted to track the Vekkers into the Kodar mountains in order to find Xin-Shalast. To do that, they needed any information they could get. So they wanted to meet all of the backers.
Kecker shook his head. Of the 10 original backers, only 6 were still alive, but the other backers had descendants who lived in Janderhoff. He could probably gather them, but it wouldn't be until the next day. The party said they could wait, and they could offer the dwarves something by way of payment for their lost money.
Kecker cheered up immediately. On hearing that their hope was to provide concrete information as to what had happened to the Vekkers and to possibly return some of the long-lost investment money, Kecker invited them to spend the evening at his place, as winter was the low season for him and he had plenty of extra space.
They agreed to spend the night, and fell into slightly unusual habits. Shiro, rather than performing, asked the dwarves to teach him good and proper dwarven drinking songs. To this, the dwarves readily agreed. Being in a stone building, Hi played with fire, much to the dwarves' delight (with the exception of the occasional singed beard, though none knew whether Hi did it intentionally or unintentionally, though only particularly rude dwarves seemed to ever get singed). Halek drank half a dozen dwarves under the table. For a while, Raesh amused herself by continuing to drink and taking advantage of her Paladin-class fortitude... something she rarely did. She smiled a private little smile as several dwarves fell over attempting to keep up with "the elf."
Dinner was a similar "ordeal" for Raesh. Kecker offered the party simple fare for dinner... "I ain't got much but stew, but it's fine fare for such skinny folk as you!"
Raesh looked at him blandly. "Do you have any flowers you could sprinkle on mine?"
Kecker, offended, proceeded to load Raesh's plate with as much meat as he could scavenge from the stew, with only a sliver of carrot representative of any vegetation in the dish. Raesh took her plate silently and, digging in, decided that being a smart-aleck to dwarves was far more rewarding than she had anticipated.
Ultimately, not wanting to risk her disguise, she retired to her room with her carving kit and a good piece of wood. "Darned elves," Kecker exclaimed, "They never want to have ANY fun!"
After dinner, the group spend a quiet evening in private rooms in the tavern.
Raesh was forced to rouse Shiro in the morning to do her makeup, and the dwarven families were all remarkably punctual, arriving two hours after sunrise, as requested. Before they arrived, Raesh dined excellently on eggs, bacon, sausages, and any other meat the Kecker could find, along with another tankard of exquisite ale. As expected, they were unhappy to see each other again, as they reminded each other of an unhappy past. The initial small talk revealed much: Each family had invested 1000 gold pieces in the expedition, and every family had lost it all. For most of them, such a heavy financial blow was enough to bankrupt them. Only the tavern keeper, who had a way of attracting business even in hard times, managed to make it through the hardship unscathed. Each of them had an "artifact" from Xin-Shalast brought to them by the Vekkers, and the artifacts did indeed seem genuine, but were of no value to the party.
After a few minutes of chit-chat and examining various artifacts, Shiro spoke. "Ladies and gentledwarves. I have gathered you here for one simple reason: All of you lost money in the ill-fated Vekker expedition 70 years ago. You invested money in good faith, and got nothing in return for it.
My group (he indicated Hi, Raesh, and Halek) is interested in following in the tracks of the Vekker expedition. Our reasons are our own, but we do not want you to feel we are intruding on territory that you own. Therefore, I have a proposal for you. I have in my possession a map that may or may not be of some value. I offer to share it equally among any who would forsake their claim in the Vekker expedition. If you are done with prospecting, I will purchase your share for exactly the amount you paid."
There was much astonishment and muttering among the dwarves. Could this kitsune be speaking the truth? And if he was, what would be worth more: A remaining stake in the Vekker expedition, whatever the mysterious map was, or cold, hard cash? Eventually six of the families chose shares in the map. Unsurprisingly, four of those six were survivors of the original bankruptcy: Once a speculator, always a speculator. The other four dwarves refused both offers, and ended up excusing themselves from the negotiations. Shiro pondered going after them, but a massive Diplomacy roll told him that this was "proper dwarf business" and he should let them go.
The six families who remained eagerly gathered around the table. On unrolling the map, the dwarves oohed and aahed in wonder. While many of the veins shown had already been found, or had been shifted by Earthfall, there were enough untapped mines in locations far enough from Earthfall that the map was likely to make them very, very rich. Raesh asked that the Dwarves be "environmentally concious" with their mining operations, earning her quite a few dirty looks or quizzical stares. All six families asked for the names of the party members so that they could pass them on to their descendents, so that all would know who had given them such a boon.
With the dwarves appeased, the party started questioning them as to the details of the expedition. Unfortunately, the investors knew little more than they did: Silas Vekker's original tale sounded far-fetched, but believable: While performing an assay far up the mountain from their base camp, they ran short of food. Rather than wasting days and days returning to camp and back again, the dwarves chose to go hungry. One night, under a full moon over an icy fen, the dwarves spotted a ghostly river. Following the "ghost river", they found Xin-Shalast. They had returned with enough artifacts to convince the investors that their claim was real, and people couldn't throw money at them fast enough.
Once they had funding, the Vekker's plan was to return to their base camp, expand it for a much larger number of workers, and then establish a second camp closer to Xin-Shalast. They left with thousands of gold pieces in supplies and over a dozen stout dwarves, and none ever returned.
The party's best chance was to follow the Karazon, looking for the original Vekker encampment, and see whether there was a path or any other indication of where they had gone.
Satisfied that they had all the information they were going to get from the families, they shopped for mountaineering equipment. Fortunately, the dwarves knew far more than they did, and soon Halek had another couple hundred pounds of mountain climbing equipment on his person. Ready to take leave of Janderhoff for the final time, Raesh approached Longbristle.
"Longbristle. You welcomed me when few dwarves would. You were very kind and ensured that all of our business was successful. I would like you to have this as a token of my gratitude."
Raesh handed Longbristle the small wooden pony she had carved the previous night. He blushed and flustered a bit, then said, "Thank you kindly, m'lady, it really was no trouble a'tall."
Shiro couldn't resist one final farewell to the church, and went in and performed some dwarven drinking songs for the forgers.
Finished with Janderhoff, Hi teleported the group to the winter residence of the Lyrune-Quah.
The camp was ecstatic to see Halek, but he explained that he was Harrowed, and the clan grew deadly serious. He introduced Hi, Raesh, and Shiro as "his family", and the clan welcomed them with whoops and applause. They offered the party members drinks from a goat, but all save Halek declined.
Shiro summoned phantom steeds and they headed eastward towards the Kodar mountains and the river Karazon. As fortune (and my dice) would have it, first they passed a mighty herd of aurochs, then encountered a group of stone giants. They hailed the stone giants, parleyed with them, told them of the aurochs to their west, and asked for news of Xin-Shalast or unusual movements. The giants reported that many of the giant encampments in the mountains were mysteriously abandoned, and they were concerned for their brethren. They were headed for Jorgenfist to consult Conna the Wise. The party agreed that this was a wise plan.
At the end of a long day of riding, Hi set up a Secure Shelter for the night.
My dice continued to entertain me. In the morning, as Raesh was performing her devotions, a white dragon attacked the cabin. It breathed down, shattering the windows, damaging the roof, and causing Halek to rush out the front door. Fortunately, this was exactly what it wanted, and it tried to grapple Halek and fly off with him. Unfortunately, after it made a spectacular grapple roll, my players reminded me that I myself had purchased Halek his ring of Freedom of Movement. As the dragon wheeled around, roaring in anger and empty-handed, Raesh stepped out, Smote Evil, and opened a can of whoop-dragon, scoring a couple of hits and a crit.
The dragon, not being stupid. Tried to run. Raesh, being Raesh, shot it out of the sky before it got away.
They had Halek harvest as many useful parts as he could from the dragon, paying special attention to the lovely white hide, and they continued on their journey.
In the late afternoon, traveling along the Kazaron, they saw their destination: An obviously-abandoned dwarven mining camp. They had found the Vekkers, or at least their camp!
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 7-Dec-2013 Part III (Already played).
LOL. I've been gaming with Raesh's player for what? 26? 27 years now? And she has yet to meet a dwarf she doesn't loathe (or at least hold in some level of contempt. She loathed neither Longbristle nor Griviz Dirtball from our Runequest campaign, but that's such a tiny subset of the number of dwarf PCs and NPCs we've had to deal with over the years that it hardly counts.)
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Heh, I should introduce her to my Second Darkness character, a dwarven rogue who I created back in the Living Greyhawk days to be a complete 180 on the dwarven stereotype. Doesn't drink, speaks Elven, wields a rapier, wears light armor, lacks a beard, certainly doesn't speak in a Scottish accent...
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07-December-2013 Game, Part III
*WHEW*! It's good to have this one in the books. The sad part? January 31 is going to be just as long! I have to start teaching my players to stop having epic sessions until I'm caught up.
Ah, well, the rest of December was mostly Friday sessions, so hopefully my "2 posts a week" will start catching up instead of treading water (or in this case, falling even farther behind).
Both Shiro's player and I noticed the "missing day" -- me because I keep a calendar, and Shiro's player because he knows they teleported back to the Blue Bunyip for an evening, then teleported to camp to resume their travels. Ah, the suffering my group endures! Anyway, here we go...
07-Calistril-4708 (Adjusted by a day because I missed an "absolutely nothing happened" travel day where they went up the wrong branch of the Kazaron first)
The Vekker "cabin" was a sight to behold. Located perhaps 100' from the river, the "cabin" consisted of a small lower structure you could reach on foot from the river, then some kind of wooden shaft upwards, and the main structure at the top of a 60-foot cliff. It might have been inconvenient, but it was certainly defensible: The entire cabin was built of mortared logs, as was the shaft between the upper and lower levels. All of the logs were obviously decades old, and lichens covered the walls. Every window was shuttered with thick wooden shutters, and those shutters were also covered with lichen. From the bottom building protruded a chute that had spewed a pile of fine black sand downhill towards the river. A lone, barren tree stood forlornly near the sand pile.
GM Note: Could we PLEASE have at least ONE AP where every single friggin' "lone barren tree" isn't some kind of tree creature? It was all I could do to keep them from preemptively fireballing it before they even approached the cabin. And it didn't help that in our Carrion Crown campaign that week we'd finished two full sessions full of nasty evil trees, so this one was such a no-brainer I could only shake my head and sigh.
The party approached the cabin well away from the tree. *SIGH*. As they walked up, there was a mournful howl in the distance. Both Halek and Shiro estimated the creature to be over a mile away. Shiro believed it to be nothing natural; some kind of evil outsider. Shrugging, and not particularly concerned about evil outsiders with Raesh around, the party walked up to the cabin and called out. Hearing no response, they approached the doors.
Then came Shiro's epic hate/hate relationship with all things doorlike. There were two apparent entries to the cabin: One a double door and the other a single door, and the paths to both were well-worn but had not been used in as long as Halek could tell with his Survival roll. They approached the double door first, and it clearly looked like some kind of storage shed. Shiro examined the lock and tried to pick it, but it ended up crumbling in his hands. The room inside was indeed a storage shed, with wheelbarrows, pick handles that might once have had picks on the end, shovels, axes, sacks, gold pans, and sluices. All of the items were covered with both dust and frost, and had not been used in many years. Shiro Sifted the shed and found nothing of value.
Moving on, they tried the other door. Once again, it was locked. Once again, Shiro tried to pick it. After a few abortive attempts, he gave up and allowed Halek to remove the obstacle. Inside was a simple entry chamber. Perhaps the dwarves came here to dry off or leave their gear, but it was barren of anything except a double door and a curtain. Behind the curtain was a cot and a pair of work boots that detected as magic. Investigating further, the party found a +3 punching dagger in one of the boots. This led to a spectacular discussion: Why would a dwarf leave his boots in the house if he had gone out? Why did he need a punching dagger in his boot? Whom didn't he trust? If there were dwarves left in the house, why didn't they answer? And if they were dead, were they to face undead dwarves?
The next room was also locked. Shiro again failed to pick the lock. Shiro sighed in exasperation, and let Halek do his thing.
The room was obviously some kind of processing room, with a ramp leading up to some kind of raised platform, a grate leading to the chute that led outside, and a large amount of mechanical equipment. The floor was covered the with same black sand as outside, and Shiro successfully identified it as waste from gold processing, likely tainted with arsenic.
As the party stepped in, a shadowy figure moved, hunched over in the corner with its back to them. Shiro called out, "Who are you? We mean you no harm!"
The figure turned about, and was an image of a dwarf, scooping up gold dust with both hands and shoveling it into his mouth. He was chewing happily as gold dust and spittle dribbled through his beard to the floor below. "You have to try this! It's so... delicious!"
With the haunt triggered, everyone had to make a Will save. To my utter astonishment, Hi failed. The party was appalled as Hi scooped up the arsenic-laden black sand from the floor and started happily eating it along with the dwarf. As Hi watched, the dwarf slowly shrank into an emaciated version of himself, then got even thinner, and finally exploded in tiny chunks. Continuing our "month of Hi abuse", he failed his Fort save as well and became poisoned. Unfortunately, Raesh had taken the Remove Poison mercy and quickly cured him.
Recognizing a haunt when they saw one (thanks, Misgivings!), they moved forward quickly, hoping to avoid having the haunt trigger a second time. As they walked, they discussed what they had seen: Haunts conveyed messages. What did it mean that the dwarf was eating gold? It fit in with the Runelord of Greed, but how? Why did he grow thin? Why did he explode into very-explicitly-described "bite-sized chunks"? They needed to explore the house more fully, but they needed to be careful, as they knew how deadly haunts could be.
The door to the next room was thankfully unlocked, so there was no reason for Halek to destroy it. He pondered for a moment, then thought better of it. The room was the stairway from the lower level to the upper level. There was an upended wheelbarrow at the bottom of the shaft, and a long chain dangling down the center of the shaft, clanking in the wind that was blowing through the chinks in the mortar. This was a bit odd; the weather hadn't been bad a moment ago. Raesh walked past the gold-eating dwarf haunt and checked outside. Sure enough, the weather was getting worse. She returned to the party. A quick investigation of the wheelbarrow revealed nothing, so the party headed up the stairs.
GM Note: If you're running this module, be VERY careful on the map. There's a curtain in the hallway leading into B10 that looks a LOT like a wall. In either case, you get "entryway -> coatroom -> dead end" or "entryway -> walk through the coat room to get indoors". Neither of them make a lot of sense, especially since the other doors leads directly from the outside to the living quarters, and we spent some time trying to figure out where the doors in the place should have been.
Shiro rolled extremely well and spotted the trapped steps well ahead of time, allowing the party to easily bypass them. Hi was a little short to step over the trapped stairs, but Halek easily lifted him over. As they reached the top of the stairs, they saw a large metal bucket hanging from the end of the chain. As they leaned forward to peer into it, it animated and attacked them!
GM Note: This was a sad, sad fight I just shouldn't talk about. A CR 7 chain against four 15th-level PCs, two of whom had adamantine weapons. Yet it focused its attacks on Hi (grappling him and dropping him down the shaft, which was kind of pointless since everyone had some form of Feather Fall) and Shiro, Raesh spent a round hitting it ineffectually with a non-adamantine weapon, and Halek couldn't hit it to save his life. So yes. The animated chain was the hardest fight in the entire cabin. Of course, as soon as Raesh switched to her adamantine weapon she one-rounded it, so it wasn't all THAT dangerous.
After the fight a grumbling Hi made his way back up the stairs, making very loud comments about the probable unflattering family lineage of the bucket creature and his dislike of climbing the stairs again.
At this point, Raesh was fed up with the cabin. She didn't particularly want to learn about the dwarves' story if if meant her friends were going to be put in danger, so she took point. Passing down a hallway, the first room they explored was a simple bunkroom with a few weapons rendered useless by the passage of time, an ancient latrine with old newspapers indicating it hadn't been used in 70 years, and a hidden lever that reset the trap on the stairs that they hadn't triggered.
They next explored the coatroom, finding a magical eathbreaker of all things ("Halek, carry this"), and the entryway, managing to deftly circumnavigate the haunts. Even more amusingly, before going out on the porch they turned around, missing yet another haunt. (Yes, I had a GM screen.)
Raesh finally wandered into the living area, triggering a haunt that first tried to make Raesh ravenously hungry (she saved) and then make her have "cannibalistic urgings" that made her want to eat the other party members (not only did she save, but her player correctly pointed out that "cannibalistic urgings" would make her want to eat other drow, and so she shouldn't have to save until they met another drow).
With that haunt dispersed, the rest of the party entered the room and searched. The room was a combination living area/kitchen, and was in total disarray. Furniture was overturned, cooking utensils were scattered everywhere, and scorch marks and bloodstains marked the walls. There had obviously been a massive struggle here many years ago, but nothing of value remained, and they could not ascertain why the dwarves had turned cannibalistic. Knowing that there was an evil outsider in the area, however, they began to have their suspicions.
The door to the next room was stuck shut, but Halek once again removed the problem. Cold air and snow blew in the party's faces. This was some kind of larder, with iron hooks hanging from the ceiling, shelves for storage (now bare), and a few empty casks. A large pile of humanoid bones lay in the corner. The window on the far side of the room had a grating rather than a pane, and they could see that outside it was already snowing heavily and the wind was blowing hard. This seemed unnatural; when they had entered the cabin it had been sunny and calm.
Raesh walked over to it and identified them as dwarf bones. As she stood there, she thought she spotted her Yippy bath toy among the bones. Immediately, a dozen ghostly dwarves with sharp fangs instead of teeth faded into view and started clawing and biting at her.
Raesh had had enough. We rolled initiatives. Raesh went first. And channeled positive energy. Boom! The emaciated dwarves burned away in a sea of light. Other haunts in the house were similarly annihilated. GM Note: a 30' radius in a small cabin is pretty impressive. She took out B15 and B14, and would have taken out B8 if I hadn't put the bones right under the window. What was awesome was that it says to trigger the Cannibal Fury haunt at a 'climactic moment'. This sure as heck seemed like a 'climactic moment' to me...
Shiro and Raesh first heard knocking at the front door downstairs. Considering Halek's utter removal of said door, they were somewhat suspicious. They called down but received no response. They waited. After a few moments, the knocking stopped. Suddenly, the entire cabin lurched and started shaking, as if a giant hand were trying to wrest it from its foundations. Shiro had had enough. He Jester's Jaunted the entire party to a position up the hill 40 feet from the cabin.
GM Note: Yes, I swear to you my PCs don't own the AP and can't possibly be reading it. But asking Shiro, "How far away do you go?", and having him respond, "40 feet," when the radius of the effect is 30 feet is just a bit unnerving.
Standing in the snowstorm, the party waited a few rounds for the shaking, hammering, groaning, and general hauntiness to go away. Once the haunt died down, they re-entered the cabin. Hi noticed that the wind was growing strong enough that he had difficulty traveling. He walked on the leeward side of Halek and made it in without difficulty.
They hurried through the room with the gold-eating dwarf haunt, not giving it enough time to re-form, went back upstairs, and searched the remainder of the house.
As they walked onto the front porch, Shiro thought he saw a hunched over figure in the distance, possibly a dwarf, staggering toward them. As he came into view, it was clear he was the same dwarf that had been eating gold downstairs, and he called out, "Run! Run for your lives! They're going to eat you!"
Every party member made a massive Will save, so there was no entertaining running off into the blizzard for them.
GM Note: At this point I was at a bit of a loss. They'd teleported away from the Cannibal Fury haunt, so they hadn't triggered Silas' appearance that way. It was getting late in the session, and my usually-thorough group had been so focused on haunts that they hadn't thoroughly searched every room. In particular, they didn't search B7 and hence didn't have Silas' journal. So they were at a loss as to what to do, and I had no obvious way to introduce Silas. I sat there, staring at the map with the (to me) obvious walled-off room in one corner, and they discussed how their next step was probably to wander off up the trails to the mines for more clues. So be careful in the Vekker cabin; a couple of unfortunate misses can bring your group to a standstill. Fortunately, my group is my group, so they went back in to do a thorough search of every room before moving on.
At the top of the stairs, Shiro found a secret panel that led to the dwarves' stash. Miraculously, after failing on every single 'normal' door in the house, Shiro picked the lock on the one leading to the vault! Go figure!
In the vault were bags and bags of gold and gold dust, a small coffer full of gems, and a desk with a ledger. The bags of gold and gems just happened to add up to exactly 10,000 gold pieces; the amount the original investors had lost. They set it aside carefully for later distribution to the investors. They figured the least they could do would be to return the gold and the dwarven bones to Janderhoff.
With the loot sorted, the party eagerly picked up the ledger and read through it (Comprehend Languages really is a wonderful spell). It listed the locations of the mines and assay points, the payouts of each mine, and the fact that all of the mines seemed to be tapped out. Several pages from the end of the journal were torn out.
As they finished the journal, the ghostly figure of the gold-eating, blizzard-running dwarf once again appeared before them. This time, he seemed far more at peace. However, his features were indistinct, and as he spoke ghostly teeth devoured him bit by bit. It was clear they had only a few moments with him.
"You... you are alive? You do not hunger? Ah... that is what I sense in your blood. Greed. You seek the City of Greed. You should abandon your quest, lest you end up like me. Cold. Dead. Eaten. But I suspect you cannot be swayed. Know then that I know the way to Xin-Shalast. I can show you the way, but only if you bring me my brother. He died on a ledge in the mountains a mile's walk north from this cabin. I can feel his soul out there, still hungry, still insane. Bring his bones to me so that I might reconcile with him. Once he is at rest, I will show you the way so that I might rest as well..."
Raesh looked at the rapidly fading dwarf. "We will bring you your brother. And we are not here to loot Xin-Shalast. We are here to end the evil that runs it."
Silas Vekker did not respond, fading into nothingness...
*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Saturday, December 14, 2013 (Already played.)
May I just add a personal note that giving the rune giants +6 Reflex saves was really really mean on someone's part?
The party's fought 5 rune giants as of last night. Shiro's successfully Greased 3 of their weapons, and it's turning into a running joke. "It's a good thing that WizKids figure came with a removable sword!"
Campaign Update: Over half the creatures in the Pinnacle of Avarice are dead. The party's camping with Ayruzi and Svevenka, so random encounters are just out-and-out obliteration. Rune giants are totally ineffectual. At this rate, I expect Karzoug to die in 2-3 sessions.
I have the first half of the December 14 write-up out for review already, so I'm still cranking along, trying to get everything out for you guys before the campaign ends, but now it looks like I'm going to be doing a lot of writing post-campaign...
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Yours has been the most engrossing campaign journal I've ever had the good(mis?)-fortune to be ensnared by (even if the dishes have piled up and my boss is calling to find out what I'm up to)! ;-) It's a great romp with unconventional characters, which is indubitably part of the mystique...
I'm in the process of preparing to run RotRLs for a group of novice role-players (among the group only my own kid has any prior experience) so, I'm hoping to inspire the kind of characterization and NPC interaction you've been treated to. :-D I've been GMing FRPGs since the mid-80's, but this will be my first Pathfinder AP... Your group has given me a lot of inspiration.
Keep up the good work and crush that summary back-log, so that I can get on with my life!
Aw! Thanks! Always good to hear from a happy reader!
We're doing well; December 14 part I is already out for review, and December 14 part II is about 1/3 written.
Half an hour a day is an amazing thing!
Good luck on your own campaign! You'll find the regular posters to the AP/Campaign Journals sections to be a right-up great bunch of folk!
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14-December-2014 Game, Part I
OK. I'm feeling prolific. The final two December 7 writeups are up, the January 14 session is outlined, and so I've had to create a fourth text file just to keep up with my typing. Woo hoo!
The December 14 game so epitomizes my group that it stands out in my mind more for where they went than what they did: Korvosa, Magnimar, Janderhoff, the Runeforge, the Vekker Cabin, and the Ice Fens were all hit this session; I'm a little disappointed they didn't spend a couple more days to hit Absalom, Sandpoint, Thistletop, and Jorgenfist to complete an "everywhere we've been in the entire campaign" loop, but they were taking care of business throughout, so I'm not TOO bitter about it.
I'd love to give the wendigo a Silver Tsuto for trying to take on Raesh in a blizzard, but that's just, "What happens when Raesh meets an evil outsider," not an epic fail on the wendigo's part.
Anyway, without further ado, here we go with Part I (again, I already know this is a multi-parter, even before I start in):
07-Calistril-4708 (Continued from last game)
Without a good idea of where they were going beyond Silas Vekker's ledger, the party headed out to the front porch. By this point, the snow had become a full-blown snowstorm with howling winds that threatened to knock Hi over. They tied Hi to Halek and headed north.
Sure enough, after an hour of semi-miserable hiking (they all bought Boots of the Winterlands long ago, so the cold and iciness weren't a problem, but they still got soaking wet and the snow made hiking difficult, though they had Halek break trail for them), they reached the cliff indicated in the ledger. (Halek made 3 Survival checks in a row quite easily to get them there.)
Speaking of Halek, not wanting to fly in the miserable conditions, the party decided to rope themselves together, Levitate Shiro, Raesh, and Hi, and have Halek tow them up like so many humanoid balloons. Just to make it silly, Shiro cast Bestow Insight on Halek, so even at my house-ruled -5 to skill checks when you roll a 1 he couldn't fail the climb roll.
Many, many rounds later they reached a fog-covered ledge (my notes say 66, but at 1/4 speed it should have been 264. I suspect they Levitated Halek and just had them pulling them up, but the point is, the cliff wasn't a significant issue with a barbarian with max ranks in Climb and Gloves of Swimming and Climbing, even with the snowstorm.)
The ledge itself was a massive sea of fog. The fog covered the ground to a depth of 3-4 feet, coming almost up to Hi's nose. It cascaded off the cliffside in a magnificent misty "waterfall" of vapor. As they pondered the view before them and wondered how on Golarion they were going to search for a grave in such deep thick mist, Shiro heard a distinct cracking, as of a massive sheet of ice. Shiro warned the other party members to be ready for an avalanche, so they got ready to brace or jump off the cliff, depending on its size.
GM Note: Isn't Feather Fall a wonderful thing? Jumping off the cliff frequently becomes a BETTER option than anything else!
Unfortunately, it wasn't an avalanche. The frost worm reared up out of the fog, getting its surprise round after all, and breathed on the party. Unfortunately, frost worms are apparently very slow, so it rolled a very low initiative.
GM Note: And now, a classic "Shiro Moment". The way I manage Knowledge checks to identify creatures and their abilities is: At CR+10 you get the monster's name, approximate hit dice, melee attacks and rough damage, and "obvious" immunities, vulnerabilities, and resistances. For that roll, and for each 5 over that, you get one additional question about the creature, or the GM will give you the "next most important" feature. If you hit CR+30 you are allowed to read the Bestiary entry. I feel that it gives a much better reason for taking higher Knowledge skills, and adds to the roleplaying a bit as each PC gets to choose what he/she would be most interested in in a creature.
So Shiro, being a "non-book" bard, only hit CR+15 and got two questions. The first one was a complete list of its immunities, resistances, and vulnerabilities. So he couldn't think of a question, and I felt that, "It explodes when you kill it," was definitely the #1 thing Shiro would want to know. So I asked, "OK, do you want the default fact, or do you want a second question?"
Shiro's player responded, "No, no! I want to ask a question!"
It took nearly a minute. I know I was itching to tell him. But finally he popped out with, "How often does it breathe?"
Ah, well. Apparently exploding monsters weren't something Shiro studied in bard school... wait a minute! When did Shiro ever go to school at all?!?!?
Knowing that the worm wouldn't breathe again for quite some time, and fearful that it would try to bull rush them off the cliff, Shiro Bard's Escaped the party to surround the worm. Halek and Raesh dutifully killed it before it got an action. It dutifully exploded, doing another handful of dice to everyone in the party and messing up Shiro's fur.
At that point, the ghost of Karivek Vekker attacked. (Well, technically I was playing by the as-written tactics and he attacked the round after the worm did, but he rolled a hopelessly low initiative as well so the worm was dead and exploded by the time he got his action.)
From the insane look on his face and his greed-filled eyes, it was clear that Halek was his primary target, but he couldn't reach Halek on his move, so he chose to move towards Halek and attack the only thing between him and the meaty barbarian: Hi.
I have to admit, I'm a "softie" GM. When Karivek touched Hi with his Corrupting Touch and Hi's player notified the group that Hi had breathed his last, I felt bad about it. But Hi had been the only thing between Karivek and Halek, and was now removed. Permanently.
Raesh was Not Amused.
One Aura of Justice and smiting Raesh, Halek, and even Shiro later, Karivek did not get a second attack.
The outsider howled again on Vekker's "death". All three party members made their save, and this time Shiro made a massive roll to not only identify the wendigo, but to describe its nature and how it was almost certainly the cause of the dwarves' (and hence Hi's) demise. Raesh's eyes narrowed into angry slits. "I will meet this wendigo."
No one argued.
Halek oh-so-gently gathered up Hi's corpse and packed it away into one of his Bags of Holding while Raesh and Shiro searched for Karivek's earthly remains. They found them easily enough, but the remains were certainly not "normal". The frozen body was shattered and broken, as if it had fallen from a great height, and the feet were gone, looking nothing so much as having been burned off. Once Halek was done with Hi, he loaded Karivek's remains into a different bag of holding.
Silently, without the need for discussion, Shiro cast Shadow Walk and transported the party to Korvosa.
Once they reached Path's End, the Varisians were more than happy to point them to the temple of Abadar in the city proper. They proceeded to the temple. If its gaudy decorations of polished marble and gilded sconces reminded them of Hi's last visit to a temple of Abadar, they remained silent on the subject. When an acolyte approached, Raesh nearly snarled, "We need a resurrection."
The acolyte, not being an idiot, scurried away to fetch a cleric. The cleric clearly stated the price for a Resurrection and Restoration, and Shiro paid it without a second thought. Within a few minutes, Hi was returned to the land of the living. When he learned that a wendigo had been the source of his demise, he, too, expressed a desire to meet it. I began to honestly fear for the wendigo's safety.
The party, being *MY* party, had other plans.
First, Shiro re-applied the makeup to Raesh and Hi teleported them to Janderhoff. They contacted the paladin on duty, had him put them in touch with Longbristle, and had Longbristle escort them to each of the families that had refused the deal. To each family, they presented 1000 gold pieces, returning the investment the families had made so long ago. The families were speechless, which just made things better all around. They also returned all of the dwarven remains to the temple of Torag, earning thanks from the clerics there.
By the time they finished tracking down the final family, it was beginning to get dark. Rather than spending the evening in Janderhoff, they chose to camp an hour's travel outside the city. (Well, "camp" is a rather extreme term for sleeping in one of Hi's Secure Shelters, but it was less opulent than their usual digs. How's that?)
Shiro dreamt that the wendigo visited him in his dreams and encouraged him to devour the other party members, but with a massive Will save, he asked, "Why would I do that?", rolled over, and went back to more peaceful dreams.
Once Raesh finished her morning devotions, the party teleported back to the Vekker cabin...
...and found themselves amid a howling blizzard just outside the cabin! Hi was blown tumbling along the ground, and Shiro had a great deal of trouble maintaining his footing. Visibility was near-zero, and the wendigo howled within a few hundred feet of them!
Unfortunately for the wendigo, the party was in no mood to flee. With no visibility and nothing else to do, Halek tied himself to Hi as the wendigo raced in to try to carry Hi off. Raesh took her first sight of the wendigo to Smite Evil on it, rather than attack. The wendigo, amazingly, failed to grab Hi, and Shiro cast Good Hope on the party and started performing. With Hi tied off to Halek, Shiro behind the cabin, and Raesh and Halek obvious non-choices for trying to carry off, the wendigo instead chose to do a flyby attack on Hi. He drew blood, but Raesh had a declared action and crit the wendigo on her first strike. Ouch! The wendigo Did Not Like. Now that the wendigo was on the side of the cabin with Shiro, Shiro decided to be clever and created a Silent Image of himself struggling in the snow and finally falling over, while he himself moved near Raesh for protection. Hi decided to take Elemental Form to avoid being blown away. The wendigo wasn't fooled by Shiro's illusion, and came after him. Fate just hated this wendigo as Raesh triple-crit it to a wee handful of hit points, and Hi Elemental Blasted it into unconsciousness. As its unconscious body dropped to the ground and skidded to a stop, Raesh approached. "Abomination that tormented and slew these dwarves, and killed my friend, your evil is at an end!"
The wendigo's head popped off almost silently. As its life blood ebbed, the blizzard started to fade. They discussed ways to stuff the wendigo head and mount it on the wall, but decided that it was too foul a prize to keep around, even in an abandoned house. Hi, still in elemental form, burned the corpse to ashes that blew away in the fading blizzard.
As the blizzard faded, the tree came into view. I don't know why they cared, other than being thorough. But Raesh got close enough to Detect Evil, and then Hi rained fireballs on it. It tried to run. But seriously? A tree monster? The tree burned very satisfactorily.
With all external threats obliterated, the party went inside. Once again, they rushed through the gold-eating dwarf haunt and reached the vault, then pulled out Karivek's bones. Silas and Karivek's ghosts manifested and seemed to do battle for quite a while, but eventually Silas seemed to win. Karivek's ghost's teeth returned to normal (they had been long and fang-like), and his burned-off feet returned. Karivek's ghost sighed and faded away into nothingness. Silas' ghost turned to the party.
"You have saved my brother. You have saved me. I should reward you by simply taking the path to Xin-Shalast with me into the beyond, yet I sense that you still harbor a desire to see those golden ruins. Very well. Look to the pages of my ledger for the way, and may Torag watch over you in the darkness to come..."
As he finished speaking, Silas faded away, leaving the final few pages of his journal floating in the air as he vanished.
They read through the journal eagerly, learning that they were to follow the second tributary of the river Kazaron until they came upon an ice fen, then fast and wait for a full moon. It was at least two weeks before a full moon, but they decided to go up and see what they could see. Summoning Phantom Steeds, they had no trouble at all riding up the river to the ice fens. As they climbed and the air grew thin, Hi cast Life Bubble on everyone in the party. So much for having to worry about terrain or high altitude rules!
They approached the ice fens, and the fens were beautiful. Reeds decorated with frost crystals stuck up from a flat sheet of ice and snow seemingly miles across. The phantom steeds had no trouble trotting across the obviously-treacherous grounds; it was clear than in many places the ice was wafer-thin and subject to careless travelers plunging right through.
Riding along, Shiro turned to Raesh and asked, "Aren't these fens beautiful, Raesh?"
She snorted, "Being frozen, They are far less smelly than most swamps, yes."
Raesh felt herself targeted by a spell. She resisted. She drew her scimitar, looking for the source. "Who are you? Why do you target me? Show yourself!"
A lone otter skittered out from the reeds, stood up on its hind legs, and clearly and deliberately stuck its tongue out at Raesh. Knowing of few, if any, demons or devils that habitually took otter form, Raesh lowered her blade to a non-threatening stance, but did not lower her guard.
Shiro decided he needed to intervene. "I am sorry. We did not mean to insult your swamp. We are merely travelers seeking the way to Xin-Shalast."
As he spoke, the otter tipped its head quizzically, then moved towards him. As it moved towards him, it grew into an incredibly beautiful nude woman, purple-skinned, with pointed ears. Shiro, Hi, and Halek all failed their Will saves to resist the nymph's charms and stood there, slack-jawed, gaping at her as she approached. Raesh rolled her eyes.
The nymph spoke as she approached. "You! You bear the mark!" She reached for Shiro. He was very eager for her to touch him. Raesh allowed it. As her fingers touched his chest over his heart, Myriana's hair glowed to life. "You are her saviors!"
Raesh had dealt with nymphs several times now. She realized that this person could be a strong ally. On the other hand, should the nymph prefer to attack or enslave, she was the only thing standing between her ensorceled friends and deadly peril. "Yes. We saved Myriana and her lover. We met her cousin. Horrible things were done to Myriana. We were pleased to be able to help her."
The nymph bowed. "My name is Svevenka. Myriana was my cousin as well. I felt it when you released her from her pain. I am in your debt, and I thank you for your actions." Shiro, Hi, and Halek could not help but be fascinated by her bowing. She rolled her eyes in turn and became a bit less attractive, and clothed herself in new-fallen snow. Shiro did not hide his disappointment. Now that he was no longer distracted, Hi finally recognized the fen as one of the First Gardens, similar to the Shimmerglens near Turtleback Ferry, but far more remote and inaccessible.
At this, Raesh allowed herself to relax. She sheathed her scimitar and accepted the thanks with her usual grace, "We merely did what was right. There is no debt to repay."
Svevenka turned to Shiro. "Is she always this irritating?"
Shiro shrugged. "I'm afraid so. But she's really a good person."
Raesh scowled but remained silent.
*** End of Part I ***
Next Planned Session: 14-Dec-2013 Part II. (Already played).
Well, I'm afraid it's about time to slow down to 1 post a week again...
On the bright side, the second part of the December 14 post is about 3/4 written so you should see it appear over the weekend.
On the other hand, our Second Darkness campaign has picked up once again, so Leilani needs some love (she and Vorne had quite the falling out in the next writeup, for example), and I honestly think Karzoug is going to fall in 2 sessions: This Saturday they should finish the session getting to him. Next Friday or Saturday should be the fight, and we know how those fights go: Either he's dead in 2-3 rounds, or the party's fleeing with their tail between their legs.
So on my plate I have:
- Catch up on the RotRL writeups
- Catch up on Leilani's SD journal
- Keep up with the kids, who just started Serpent's Skull and had an absolute blast last night getting their characters established
- Write up backgrounds for the plethora of paladins in Wrath of the Righteous, as it seems that's what this group wants next.
So I'm not failing to write; I'm just writing and studying for so many things that this thread will slow down to once a week 'til we wrap it up in a few more weeks...
...and there are still some epic, epic moments to write up. The party's rescue of Ayruzi was so classically "my party" that words fail me; I just have to get to it and write it up.
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14-December-2013 Game, Part II
I'm going to go ahead and award a Silver Tsuto Award for this session, although technically:
(1) It wasn't a fumble, and
(2) The fail was of questionable legality, since it wasn't until later that I learned that Disruptive can only be applied to bludgeoning weapons. Begging the question: Does that restriction apply to paladin's bonded weapons as well? Because that seems like an awful restriction when only 1 of the 7 gods and goddesses in Gods and Magic who qualify for paladins (LN, NG, or LG) have bludgeoning weapons as their favored weapons (not counting Irori's Unarmed Strike, since I don't think you can bond your fist), rendering Disruptive a pretty useless boon if you're using your god's favored weapon. Anyway, I unknowingly allowed it, so it's water under the bridge.
So we go ahead and award a coveted Silver Tsuto to Xyoddin Xerriock, ravenous dread zombie, sycophant to a lich, and hopelessly poor negotiator. His impressive roll of a 2 for his Will save (for a total of 13) when first touched by Raesh's Disruptive scimitar rendered the fight over, and Azaven very, very scared.
08-Calistril-4708 (Continued from last game)
Svevenka returned to the business at hand. "As my cousin's saviors, you are welcome in my fen. You may rest here if you are weary, and for as long as you are here you are under my protection. But tell me, why have you come to such a remote location?"
Shiro explained that they suspected that a great evil man named Karzoug was rising to power in Xin-Shalast, and they were going there to stop him. Svevenka frowned. Shiro, Hi, and Halek all gazed in wonder, and found it quite charming. Raesh continued to get her eye exercise for the day, though Svevenka's offer of welcome did make Raesh warm slightly to her.
"Know this. A great wrongness flows from that place. It threatens my fen, and I do not care for it. If you were to remove that wrongness, I would be doubly in your debt. I can tell you what I know. The path to Xin-Shalast is confounded by magic designed to obscure the way, and those who lose themselves return here to my fen, unaware of how they got here. Be wary of teleporting in that region. It does not feel right. If you wait for the morrow, I may be able to help you on your way. And finally..."
...and at this she blushed prettily, causing Raesh to snort a bit...
"...if you should find a creature known as 'The Hidden Beast', I ask you that you bring me his head. He is a creature of great evil who preys upon the most helpless denizens of the city. He and I have done battle in Xin-Shalast, and he has always escaped me."
Raesh pondered a moment. "If we find this Hidden Beast, and if he is evil, and an abomination as you say, and I find him irredeemable, then we shall slay him, and I will personally bring you his head."
Svevenka smiled. The sun shone for Shiro, Hi, and Halek.
"Thank you, strange warrior. I do find that I agree with your furry friend; you are indeed a good person, and I am glad to have met you."
It was Raesh's turn to blush slightly, though even Shiro's obscene Perception roll would not have noticed it.
Svevenka turned to Shiro.
"And now, my dear friend who carries the mark of my cousin, I would grant you a boon, but you already carry one, and no mortal can carry two. So I ask: Who is your champion?"
Shiro immediately pointed at Raesh.
Svevenka returned to her natural state, rendering Shiro, Hi, and Halek blubbering idiots again. "Then I ask your name, noble warrior."
"I am Rae'Sheleth, paladin of Sarenrae."
"Rae'Sheleth, paladin of Sarenrae, carry my favor proudly. Slay the Hidden Beast. Defeat this 'Karzoug' whom you hunt. Be well. And know that I will always be here, ready to heal you or assist you in any way I can."
Svevenka plucked a lock of hair from her head (the menfolk cried out in sympathy pains) and carefully moved towards Raesh.
Raesh understood and held out her bow. "This bow belonged to Lamatar Bayden, the human who loved Myriana and whom she loved in return. He gifted it to me when we freed them, and it means a great deal to me. I would carry your favor on it."
Svevenka smiled warmly and carefully tied the lock of hair to Raesh's bow.
"Wield it proudly, warrior. May it find its mark in the Hidden Beast's flesh."
Once the ritual was done, she returned to her less-overwhelming state. Shiro sighed.
"Well then, warriors, we are done here. Will you stay with me this evening? I might provide one or more of you with comfort, or I could let you rest."
Raesh knew a cue when she heard one. "No. We must be going."
The menfolk winced. Svevenka reassured her. "My lady paladin, I am afraid you misunderstand. You were included in the invitation."
How Hi and Shiro (and their players) managed not to explode then and there I will never know.
Raesh politely acknowledged and declined the offer.
Hi bowed deeply to Svevenka. "Mistress of the ice fens, while we would love to stay with you, we have unfinished business elsewhere. May I have your permission to teleport my party away from your fens, and to return here tomorrow morning?"
Svevenka smiled. "Yes, my cousin," she caressed his cheek, sending icy shudders down his spine, though not entirely uncomfortable icy shudders, "Thank you for asking so nobly. You may freely teleport into and out of my fen with the party you have here."
With the arrangements made, the party had a quick discussion as to their next destination. All of them realized that they had been away from the Runeforge for over two weeks! What if some of the remaining denizens had found their way out? What had happened in their absence? Although they had used some of their resources defeating the wendigo and the terrifyingly evil tree (yeah, yeah), all of them felt that the Runeforge could not wait, so they teleported back to the stone circle.
Fortunately, it was already late afternoon, so they did not have to wait long before the sun started setting and they could set about casting the magic and retrieving the keys. Keys in hand, Shiro summoned Phantom Steeds for them and they flew on up the stairs. Unfortunately, what they saw on the staircase disturbed them: Perhaps a dozen rotted corpses, all in Thassilonian clothing and gear, lay crushed upon the stairs. Some great force had pummeled them into obliteration. Flying in closer, they were fairly sure that the dead Thassilonians had been zombies before they became pancakes. The party came to three conclusions:
(1) Someone had figured out a way to get out of the Runeforge.
(2) Someone in the Runeforge was making zombies.
(3) There was something on the steps that crushed people.
Sighing, they decided to proceed up and in and eliminate whatever it was that was allowing the zombies to escape the Runeforge. They flew past the stairs, alit on the landing, walked through the cave, buffed themselves in case of unfriendlies waiting for just such an opportunity, and opened the gate to the Runeforge.
No one came out, so they proceeded to the Runeforge pool. Halek easily spotted signs of recent activity: Steps and scrapes indicated that undead had passed from Zuthen's wing (Gluttony/Necromancy) to Alaznist's wing (Wrath/Evocation). They decided to return to the halls of Wrath to determine exactly who was there and what they were doing. As they went, Shiro made sure everyone had Good Hope, Raesh gave Halek Death Ward, and Raesh bonded her scimitar to be Flaming Burst and Disruptive, figuring undead would like neither.
As they arrived at Highlady Athroxis' chamber and the presumed gate to the outside world, they spotted a vile, sinewy humanoid, clearly undead, dressed in robes and crouching on the gate itself. As they arrived, it spoke to them. "Welcome, heroes of the modern age! My master, Azaven, lord of the Ravenous Crypts of Gluttony, would negotiate with you in good faith!"
The creature was well away from the party, so Raesh was not concerned that he would be able to attack in any reasonable manner, so she opened negotiations.
They learned that Azaven had learned of the clearing of the Halls of Wrath, and had sent scouts through the halls, finally finding the chamber with the gate. Azaven had had little trouble figuring out the gate, but had been unwilling to risk himself or his "lieutenant" (at this point the creature pointed at itself) on a dangerous mission to the outside world, so had send zombies in their stead. No zombies had returned, so Azaven and "Xyoddin", as the creature called itself, were very curious as to what had happened to them, and what the party knew of the world outside.
Raesh asked what Xyoddin and Azaven wanted. Xyoddin explained that they were running out of corpses on which to experiment; the dead warriors of wrath had provided a refreshing influx of bodies, but they were still likely to run out very soon, and so they were hoping to venture forth into the "real world" to gather more corpses. Raesh pressed the creature for more details as to whether they would be gathering or creating corpses, and the creature clearly became agitated under this scrutiny.
Raesh was done. "No. Tell your master we are sealing this gate forever, and if he tries to stop us he will be destroyed."
This was too much for Xyoddin, who used his Sprint attack to attack Halek (what else are you doing to do with a human bane dagger with no other humans in the party?). It did a handful of hit points, but Raesh was next on the initiative list. On her first hit, he rolled his Will save for the Disruptive weapon and got a 2. Even with his +11 Will, it wasn't enough. He instantly vaporized and collapsed in a teensy pile of ash.
GM Note: Now imagine Azaven. Sitting there, mind linked to Xyoddin, with a tactics section that says he, "Values his own immortal existence too much to stick around in a fight he's losing," what's he going to think when the paladin one-shot destroys his lieutenant? I'll tell you what he's going to think! "I'm not going anywhere near THEM!!!!" That's what he's going to think! So Azaven was a complete non-factor in the rest of the Runeforge, because I saw no way he was going to go out there and risk getting annihilated. And THAT'S why I'm giving Xyoddin a Silver Tsuto -- he failed his Will save so badly that not only did he lose a fight without doing anything at all useful, but his death scared Azaven so much that the necromancer never showed his face again.
The party quickly discussed the situation: They could not allow Azaven access to either the gate or the flesh pit (who knows what monstrosities he might create with that?), so they dispelled the major gate, dispelled the gate to the flesh pit, and, after some consideration, for good measure dispelled the rest of the circles in the wing of Wrath. (I figure they had to dispel a Permanency and a Teleport Circle for each circle, both at CL 20, but both Hi and Shiro had Greater Dispel Magics and they rolled well, so they burned through all their Greater Dispels and many of their Dispels, but they got the job done.)
With the exit from the Runeforge apparently sealed, and access to the wing of Wrath hampered, if not sealed outright, the party Shadow Walked out of the Runeforge, then Greater Teleported to the Blue Bunyip.
As always, the concierge acted as if he'd been expecting them all along. If the little bits of Xyoddin that still clung to Raesh bothered him in the least, he didn't show it. He set the party up in their rooms, and they settled in for a well-deserved luxurious dinner and bed rest.
As Raesh settled in for the evening, she prayed to Sarenrae for guidance: Was closing the gates of the Runeforge enough? Should she have gone after Azaven in the Ravenous Crypts? And what was happening in the halls of Sloth? Did she need to return and finish the job they had started? Was she obliged to attack and kill people who were currently in no state to harm anyone just because they were evil?
Raesh found herself on a grassy, sunlit plain, with beautiful wide-branched trees dotting the landscape and providing pleasant shade. The light breeze carried scents of growth and life. In the distance, a small white cottage stood. Raesh recognized the plains of Nirvana, and the shape of her "mother's" house. Without knowingly moving, she found herself approaching the door. As she neared, the door flew open, and Irrylia strode forth to meet her. "Daughter! It is wonderful to see you! How kind of you to visit!"
Raesh braced herself and received the expected hug with some aplomb. She even smiled slightly and tentatively returned the embrace, though the feathers of Irrylia's wings tickled her ears as they wrapped around her. Irrylia took her by the hand and led her inside. The inside of the cottage was as she remembered it from her last visit, but at the sink was the faint image of a much smaller angel, perhaps Raesh's height, washing ghostly dishes. Irrylia noticed the direction of Raesh's gaze. "Ah, that is your sister. But you are not destined to meet her yet. And so she is not a part of this dream."
Raesh studied her dream-sister a bit more closely, but the faded image of her was too washed out for her to make out any features other than that of a tall (for a human), thin, winged woman dressed in light silks.
Irrylia gestured her over to the kitchen table as she put on some tea. "So, my dearest, what is it that brings about your visit this time?"
Raesh took a moment to get her thoughts in order. Seeing her "mother" was disconcerting enough. Having her "sister" in the room as well, even as an ephemeral spirit, was downright distracting. She finally cleared her throat and spoke.
"My companions and I have, to the best of my knowledge, sealed the Runeforge, preventing those who remain within from escaping. But... I am troubled. They are evil creatures who seek to escape and enslave innocents. I know of an undead leader named 'Azaven' who is in there. I believe that they are confined and cannot harm any save each other, yet someday they may find a way to escape and become a threat. Would Sarenrae wish me to preemptively seek out and slay those who are evil with no provocation? No matter how great the evil, I question the rightness of slaying those who have not yet committed to evil action."
Irrylia smiled and poured Raesh a cup of tea, accompanied by a small plate of powdered biscuits. They were fantastic! It was a testament to Raesh's epic Will save that she did not snarf them all in a puff of powdery goodness. Irrylia spoke. "And what should happen if you, in your quest to purge the Runeforge, should fall? Would not Karzoug rise to power? And would not this be a far greater evil on the world than a few escaping denizens of the Runeforge?"
Raesh was nonplussed... the possibility that she might fail had never occurred to her. And she was growing tired of getting questions instead of answers. "But, they have been there ten thousand years! They may escape! And I may not be there to stop them when they do!"
"Your sense of duty does you great honor, so I will say this. Sarenrae would be far sadder to see one of her paladins fall on a quest to prevent what-might-be than on a quest to prevent what-is-certain."
Raesh felt that that was as good an answer as she was going to get. She politely finished her biscuits (because it would be impolite to leave any, she was sure. Shiro had taught her that), sipped the rest of her tea, and stood up and thanked Irrylia. She knew what was coming.
Of course, Irrylia embraced her again. Raesh glanced over at her ghostly sister. Thankfully, she did not seem to be rushing over for some sort of group hug.
"I thank you... mother..." (the word was very hard to say) "...for your time, your hospitality, and your advice. I will think on it."
"Be well, dearest daughter, and do not be a stranger! Bring that kitsune around again! He's fun!"
This finally elicited an eye roll as well as a tiny lip quirk from Raesh. Were there ANY otherworldly beings that did not want to cavort around as tiny foxes with Shiro?
As she walked from the house, the dream faded, and morning drew nigh...
Raesh was more introspective than usual that morning, but only Halek was awake to notice, and said nothing. Once Shiro and Hi were awake, Raesh insisted on traveling to dockway to find a small, pleasant-smelling flower in a pot. It was delicate but beautiful. She did not explain herself, but declared herself ready to proceed to Xin-Shalast.
Hi Greater Teleported the group back to Svevenka's fen. As they gazed in wonder at the crystalline beauty glistening in the morning sun, Svevenka rose from the ice smoothly, as if she were a fundamental aspect of it rather than a separate being. Much to the men's disappointment, she was in her less-glamorous form, and clad in snow.
"Welcome, travelers! I am glad of your return."
Raesh approached. "Svevenka. I feel we got off on the wrong foot yesterday. I apologize for my rudeness. I have never been, well, comfortable with wilderness. I wanted to give you this as a token of thanks for your support of us."
Raesh presented Svevenka with the plant. Svevenka's eyes grew wide. "It... it is ALIVE! And it is beauteous! And it smells divine! But," and tears nearly formed in her eyes, "It cannot survive here with me."
She looked at the party, then cast Life Bubble on the plant. "I hope you will forgive me, for that was my only cast of that spell for the day. But I wish your gift to survive."
Hi reassured her that he could cast Life Bubble for the party, so she had not disappointed them. Svevenka hugged him, barely managing to control her cold enough to avoid harming him. Even with her self-control, Hi felt the deep arctic power that dwelt within her. He shuddered in spite of himself.
Svevenka sat down crosslegged on the ice, the delicate flower held preciously and protectively in her lap. "Now, my friends, let me help prepare you for your journey..."
*** End of session ***
Next Planned Session: 28-Dec-2013 (Already played).
Oog. Just sent out the December 28 one for player edits, and it's another big one -- about the same size as the above post (December 14, Part II). Fortunately, for those who want to read about Karzoug's fall when it actually happens instead of two months later, our three January sessions (the 4th, 10th, and 24th) were all relatively short, so I can get them written up in the next week or two. Unfortunately, February 1 is "the big one". Gamigin? Scarlet walkers? Gyukak? The Pinnacle of Avarice? Ayruzi? It ALL happened on February 1.
Great, great session, but it's going to take me a bit to write THAT one up, and I guarantee it's coming in parts. I even marked off sections of my notes for, "Break here." It was a BIG day.
So quick real-time update: They've spent a couple more sessions in the Pinnacle, and this week's game is a Friday, so we're likely to finish off the Pinnacle and call it a night.
That sets their showdown with Karzoug for... Saturday, March 15, though I'm teaching that Thursday and Friday, and Raesh's player has to be at a conference the week after that, so it may be that Karzoug survives for a week or two just because of annoying things like holding down jobs.
Time will tell...
This week's update: Raesh's player has been working 12-14 hour days all week preparing for GDC, so we were hard-pressed just to get her off to dinner at Rivoli's (nom nom) and an unusually late game night for us (didn't break up 'til after midnight).
So important developments:
- If you ever go to Rivoli's on Solano Avenue in Albany and there's a "Goth in the Sun" on the drink menu, be aware that Raesh's player named it. (They know us there, so she asked the bartender to make her 'something citrusy' and he made this marvelous drink that we all loved... and the people around us all saw it and ordered it so he ended up making around 30 of the things that evening. We were chatting with him after dinner and he said he'd never seen anything like it. We seem to have that effect when we eat out -- dining should be a celebration, not a chore.)
- Every single giant in the Pinnacle of Avarice is either dead or free. I got Raesh down to 8 hit points (double crit by a storm giant), and Halek down to 87, but those "narrow" passages are killing me. The party knows tactics, and is willing to skip damage-dealing rounds for rounds where they just take a superior tactical position.
- The writeups are queueing up in Raesh's inbox, but I dare not invoke the Mittean Glare(TM) because she's really working HARD. I'm glad I haven't had a week like she's had in at least a couple of years...
LOL. Well, Rivoli last night was a bit embarrassing. OK, it's a relatively high-end restaurant and all ($60/person or so before drinks), but we're there less than once a month and yet we get treated "like family". The bartender knows the flavors everyone likes and does (GOOD) custom drinks for us. The hostess snuck us in with no reservations to a table that was reserved in barely over an hour, then rearranged things on the fly so we could have a leisurely dinner. And every server in the place came over at least once to stop by, say, "Hi," and chat with us a bit. (Yeah, we're those annoying social people at restaurants that like to talk with everyone.)
And the food was friggin' AMAZING last night.
So it was *exactly* what the doctor ordered for Raesh's highly-stressed player.
And then by sheer dumb luck they managed to kill all the evil giants and free all the good ones from Domination.
Good night all around!
Oh, like I have any concept.
Raesh's player asked for something "citrusy" and the bartender did something with seltzer, orange peel, and an orange liqueur and garnished it with black cherries.
So it was very much like a very light alcoholic orange soda (it was even the color of orange soda) ("the sun") with dark black cherries ("goth") floating in it. But it tasted way better than that sounds. I don't care for orange soda, and I despise mimosas, but the thing this guy made was very tasty.
Personally, I'm a gin & tonic man, and I was delighted when I saw a comic on, "What your favorite drink says about you," and Gin & Tonic translated to "You're boring." I figured it knew me far too well...
EDIT: I'll IM Raesh's player once I see her online and see whether she can provide a better description. Heck, everyone in the group except me had one, along with at least 20 other people in the restaurant. Somebody must know what's in it!
If I had to hazard a guess then, Grand Marnier, orange juice and seltzer. The other option would be Cointreau for your orange liqueur, but if you went to a nice place, they probably gave you the good stuff.
No; it was bizarre. All of us have well-stocked liquor cabinets, so we're familiar with Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and other "common" orange liqueurs. It was some foreign-sounding multi-syllabic liqueur starting with a "G" that no one at the table had heard of. Not Tuaca or Grand Marnier or Cointreau, just some random liqueur you never see outside of fancy restaurant bars.
Anyway, Hi and Shiro's players have finished edits for the next two posts, so once Raesh's player is off her 12 hours a day, 7 days a week schedule we'll resume here.
We have a game planned for Friday night; I'm going to see whether I can get Raesh's player to do edits while I prepare dinner for everyone.
OK. Fine. We'll go visit Rivoli and find out what it was. And as long as we're there, I *SUPPOSE* we're going to have to eat there again.
*SIGH*. Oh, the suffering I must endure for my fans! :-P
P.S. If Gluttony, Misroi, Mittean, or Useplanb (or his players, especially Moxie) are ever in the San Francisco Bay Area, feel free to PM me and we'll set up a dinner date. Yes, we love to eat. And we know some darned good places.
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28-December-2013 Game (As noted, we skipped December 21 for Christmas prep stuff. Kids and all that.)
OK, seriously, authors. The Hidden Beast. Move 10' and no Fly spell prepped? "Oooh... but Gaseous Form lets me get up to 20'! And I can climb walls at 30'!"
Yeah, it took the party all of 30 seconds to stop laughing long enough to obliterate "Mr. Slow Butt." Except he doesn't have a butt, as we will see...
09-Calistril-4708 (continued from last game)
Svevenka smiled warmly as the party questioned her, occasionally running an icy finger an inch or two away from her flower, as if fearful that her very touch might kill its delicate beauty. If Raesh was proud of herself, she didn't show it... much.
Svevenka did not know much of Xin-Shalast proper: The giants and lamias who dwelt there lived in an uneasy, oft-broken peace. In the nooks and crannies of the city lived the "skulks", former slaves and most likely the party's only possible allies in the city, though they were all very cowardly, and the party would have difficulty locating them. The Hidden Beast was an "undead tentacle-headed vampiric abomination" who had enslaved the skulks decades ago, and who Svevenka had defeated multiple times, only to have him escape to his lair, which she had never found in order to end his existence permanently. She knew little more of the city; she did not go near the Tangle, a huge area of twisted fungus and foliage in the northeast of the city, so she only knew the southern end, and little of it.
Satisfied that they had learned what they could from her, they told her they were ready. She apologized that she had used her casting of Life Bubble for the flower, but Hi assured her that he could take care of it. She smiled, placed Death Ward on every party member, cast Wind Walk on the group, and attempted to cast Find the Path on Raesh so she could find her way to Xin-Shalast. The spell failed. Losing focus for a moment, Svevenka reverted to her natural state as she furrowed her brow in concentration. The menfolk swore they had never seen anything so adorable. She cast a second Find the Path that obliterated all resistance (a natural 20, of course) and showed Raesh a clear path to Xin-Shalast.
The party converted to cloud form and were quickly on their way. Svevenka waved goodbye. The men agonized over leaving. (OK, I'll stop. For now...)
GM Note: The 25 Will save to reach Xin-Shalast seems downright mean and petty; you're going to have constantly-lost party members wandering the mountains for days. But I decided to roll with it where if they just failed, they ended up back with Svevenka, and if they fumbled they ended up who-knows-where. I have to admit, it worked out fairly well. It was frustrating enough that the party would not leave Xin-Shalast without darned good reason, but not so impossible that they spent more than 10-15 minutes of real time getting everyone up to Xin-Shalast, though Raesh ended up making quite a few trips up and down that mountain. Thank Sarenrae for Wind Walking!
To make quite a bit of frustration, hilarity, and general nonsense as short as possible, after three fails Halek raged the entire way up, burning his rages for the day but FINALLY making it. On his second try Hi fumbled, had to turn into a dragon to get his bearings, then teleported to Svevenka's swamp to try again.
Eventually, the party reassembled at the start of a huge (100-foot-wide) road overlooked by what could be described either as an improved cave or a poor excuse for a guardhouse. It was basically a flat area about sixty feet up the hill with a cave to provide shelter from the elements and a slightly raised embankment to provide cover against missile weapons. They could tell that the "guard house" was populated, but didn't think they had been seen yet. After a bit of discussion, they decided to take their chances and sneak past the guard house.
GM Note: As each "cloud" arrived, I had the two giants on duty make their rolls, but they just weren't looking for clouds. It wasn't until the "clouds" started moving up the road in a group that the giants finally made their rolls. And I liked it from a "realism" standpoint, too -- they just weren't that noticeable until they started moving in a clump.
Unfortunately, the party then learned the down side of Wind Walk. Their gaseous form protected them somewhat from the giants' hurled rocks, but not entirely, and they had to fly to an altitude of nearly 200 feet to be out of the giants' throwing range. They had to wait 5 rounds to return to corporeal form and dropped into combat with the giants just as the giants used Fog Clouds to obscure the battlefield. Hi enjoyed filling the fog with fireballs for a couple of rounds, as Raesh landed at one end and Halek the other, with Shiro near the middle. Raesh met Bjormundal and took the brunt of the damage, losing nearly half her hit points before Smiting Evil, triple-critting and critting in the same round and rendering Bjormundal stew. (I think I had that at a Swedish restaurant once.) Between Halek and Hi the other giants fell as well. (It was a bit of a contest -- Raesh did 252 to Bjormundal that round, while Halek crit a cloud giant and combined that with several more hits for 242. Raesh won. Halek came in second. The giants lost. My notes say, "Lots of fumbles," but apparently none were memorable enough for a coveted Silver Tsuto.)
They discussed having Halek drag the giants up the ragged ground and hiding them in the cave, but even Halek expressed an opinion that this might be impractical. Instead, they looted the giants of any valuable gear and spent a bit of time pushing them to the side of the road. Not exactly subtle, but they didn't see much else they could do about the problem at the moment.
Now that they were more familiar with the dangers of being in cloud form, they proceeded more cautiously, with Shiro out in front by around 100 feet using Stealth as well as his cloud form. (Yes. A sneaky cloud. It's just funny no matter how you look at it.) Thus, the group of frost giants coming down the road had no chance of spotting Shiro, and the rest of the party moved skyward to the point that the giants had no chance at all of seeing them. They had a brief discussion as to what to do about the giants, and figured that in the time it took them to get back down and revert to corporeal form to even have the discussion, the giants had gotten so far past them it just wasn't worth chasing them down. The alarm would be raised, but there was little they could do about it.
As they cleared a rise, the enormity that was Xin-Shalast came into view. The city was truly staggering. Situated in a glacial valley, the city extended for miles, with every building constructed to gargantuan proportions so as to house giants as well as humans (or other similarly-sized creatures). The road they were on passed through a massive fortress over half a mile wide, then went through the entire city and straight up the mountain on the other side, rising to untold heights and seemingly defying the laws of physics as it led skyward. Having no idea where to start or what to look for, they decided to circumnavigate the city in vapor form, searching for the mysterious "skulks", though they had little idea what they were looking for.
They found that they could pass to the west of the fortress, and so did not have to risk flying over it or setting off any alarms. Perhaps half a mile north of the fortress was an enormous encampment of giants; mostly stone giants but also including frost giants and a smattering of hill giants. They seemed to be laborers rather than warriors, as they were either sleeping, resting, or carrying heavy loads of tools in and out of camp. Sticking to the west wall, they proceeded northward for several miles. The eastern part of the city had been enveloped in a lava flow, and much of that portion of the city was now under cold, hardened lava. They passed a massive open-air dome from which howling could be heard, but they chose not to investigate. By this point, the lava flow to the east had given way to a massive over/under/something? growth of fungus and low-lying fungus-like bushes that could only be the Tangle. Considering its unappealing look, the party was unsurprised that Svevenka had avoided it. Northward still, and they found themselves passing under an incredibly huge fortress placed atop the western cliffside overlooking the city. They did not see any visible watchers, but they stuck close to the valley wall to avoid being visible to the fort. As they approached a massive ziggurat near the northern end of the city, Shiro had one of the single luckiest moments of his life: He spotted the enormous blue dragon before it spotted them.
GM Note: Yes, I was being honest about it, and it was distance + Shiro's stealth vs. Ghlorofaex's hideously-huge perception. Shiro made a Perception roll that told me how far away he'd be when he spotted Ghlorofaex, then I put in all the modifiers and rolled. It wasn't THAT close (I think I missed by 10 or so), but imagining a dragon in flight against 4 helpless PCs in gaseous form sounded really ugly.
The party beat a hasty retreat, giving the dragon a HUGE berth and passing by an incredibly huge (2500 feet across) structure capped by a crystal dome that was still mostly intact, and had multiple Daylight spells turning it into a truly magnificent piece of architecture. Again, they flew right past it, past a huge half-buried race track that must have been used for chariot races or other large-scale events, down along the Tangle, and all the way back to the northern side of the fortress that blocked most of the entrance to Xin-Shalast. They were at a loss. What should they do next?
GM Note: And here I was at a loss as well. The entire write-up of Xin-Shalast kind of relies on the party coming in and raising a ruckus, or at least contacting the stone giants in the refugee camp, but if the party wants to investigate on their own and not be seen, it's pretty hard to have them encounter anything. So I was getting pretty worried about how I was going to push the plot along. But my party, being my party, figured something out for me.
Knowing that the skulks supposedly lived "in the nooks and crannies" of Xin-Shalast, and noting that an entire portion of the city was underneath the lava flow, they posited that there must be caves under the flow. So they landed in a sheltered area, took corporeal form, and had Halek do that thing that he does so well. One Survival roll of 40+ later (hey, I have to spend his skill points SOMEWHERE the PCs don't), Halek spotted human-sized tracks leading into caves leading under the lava. The party followed them underground, but they made no sense. There were no roads more or less traveled. There were no obvious directions. No standard in-and-out behavior one would expect in such an oft-traveled cave. Halek couldn't figure it out.
Hi cast Darkvision on himself, Shiro, and Halek, and they spent an hour exploring the tunnels, periodically calling out. Shiro cast Comprehend Languages on himself. (Still no Thassilonian. *SIGH*.)
It was a wonderful game of cat-and-mouse for a while until Shiro finally nailed a Perception roll in the 40's and heard creatures nearby, whispering to each other in Thassilonian. "Send Morgiv to talk to them. He keeps talking about Mesmina's prophecies and the strangers who will rescue us! Let HIM get eaten!"
Shiro decided this was good enough. He had the party sit down and wait. Two hours later, a strange creature stepped into view. "Morgiv?" Shiro asked.
The creature nodded and started babbling excitedly. At this point Hi cast Tongues to allow communication.
Morgiv was excited because they were clearly the "prophecied ones" that his goddess(?) Mesmina had foretold would come to free his people from slavery. The group was less-than-convinced, and had him lead them through miles of underground tunnels to a buried temple. As they walked, he explained. His people had been slaves in Thassilonian times, but when Earthfall struck and the city was falling into chaos, a priestess of Lissala named Mesmina had led them to safety in the caves below Xin-Shalast. There they remained for the last 10,000 years. Mesmina taught them to survive, no matter the cost, and prophesized that they would once again be enslaved, but would be freed by a group just like the party.
As the party arrived at the underground temple and examined the murals, they realized that the 'saviors' looked absolutely, positively, NOTHING like them, save that they had arms and legs. There was no drow, no kitsune, and no gnome. There was no one of Halek's sheer mass. And there were 7 of them. But Morgiv seemed to feel they were close enough, and the party wasn't going to argue with him.
Morgiv explained that his people had been enslaved decades ago by a creature known as The Hidden Beast. Raesh's ears perked up. The Beast was a vampire who had turned many skulks into vampires and used them to enforce his will on the remaining skulks. The party readily agreed to help. However, when Shiro realized he might have to battle vampire skulks, he finally asked the fateful, "So, how much do I know about skulks, after all? Do they explode when you kill them?"
GM Note: So, I hadn't read the actual text entry for skulks; I'd just looked over their stats and combat abilities and left it at that. Thus, when Shiro rolled a natural 20 on his Knowledge: Local roll I didn't think anything of handing him the Bestiary to read the entry himself. Then he started reading aloud such little gems as, "They... think nothing of sneaking into a home, killing all the residents, and burglarizing what they can carry off without getting caught."
Shiro even asked, "So now I feel bad. Why are we helping these guys again?"
Note to GMs: Read the text entries before allowing your players to do so!
Once they had agreed to help Morgiv, he led them through more tunnels. At this point, they could not tell whether it was day or night; they had been exploring the city for many hours, but they had left Svevenka fairly early in the morning, and had been moving at a very high velocity thanks to the Wind Walk spell.
After an indeterminate amount of time, they reached a point where Morgiv refused to go forward, indicating only that the Beast was only a few hundred feet ahead of them. They proceeded down the passage, and Raesh spotted the Alarm spell blocking the passage. After some discussion as to whether it would be wiser to leave it be or Dispel it, the party dispelled it and peered into the room. There was a magical aura on one side of the room, and Raesh pointed it out to Shiro. Shiro also spotted two skulks trying to be stealthy and heading towards the doorway. It was clear the party had been seen, so they stepped boldly into the room...
...have you ever had a day that was going just the way you wanted it to, and then everything collapsed into a sea of badness? Well, that was NOTHING compared to the Hidden Beast's day.
Yeah, there was the skeleton on the throne that the Beast was planning on animating using Telekinesis and speaking through using Ventriloquism. That is, except for the fact that Raesh just walked into the room and declared, "I Smite Evil on the skeleton." After FIVE MODULES of, "I'm willing to talk to anyone," Raesh chose THAT MOMENT to Smite Evil on the skeleton.
So I had to inform her that she sensed nothing, leading Shiro to immediately drop a Greater Dispel Magic on that magical area Raesh had noticed. All those buffs the Beast has on his list? Not so much.
The first skulk that ran up to interfere with Hi's spellcasting? Halek double-crit it. Yes. His first ever double crit. So, how did the vampire skulk feel about 12d6+160 points of damage? It didn't. It was vaporized all over the wall, trying to turn to gaseous form and get the heck out of there. The Hidden Beast got off its Lightning Bolt, but that just gave Raesh a chance to properly Smite it. And they finally saw it: A giant octopus-like thing with a yellow beak and red eyes. (A decapus.) Hi just made my life oh-too-peachy by dropping Glitterdust on the Beast. (Yes, he'd used his spectacles to prepare it because it sounded good to use against something called, "The Hidden Beast.")
So my glowing, sparkly Beast tried to flee... at all of 10' per round. My only chance was that my players would giggle so hard they fell out of their chairs and I could rearrange the figures. Instead, Raesh dropped Fire of Entanglement on him as well. Just... because.
Oh, yeah, and there were some vampire skulks trying to 3-on-1 Halek. I think Shiro was busy giggling. Or maybe he Greased the floor in front of them as they charged Halek, because that was just the kind of fight they were having.
Needless the say, it was short, it was one-sided, and the party very carefully watched the mist as it went. In fact, in perhaps the final insult of the evening, Shiro cast the new spell he'd taken at 16th level: Summon Monster VI. And he only wanted it for one thing: To summon 1d3 Bralani Azata. Yes. We call them "Shiro's Angels". I'm sorry.
So Shiro's angels arrived too late to join in the fight in any meaningful way, but just in time to follow the Beast in its gaseous form to its hidden lair and its coffin. The Beast's coffin was deep underground under a massive rock plug. However, a slab of basalt with hardness 8 and 540 hit points? Halek shatters bigger stones during his pre-breakfast workout. Similarly, the vampire skulks were hidden in a cavern under the staircase protected by mere stone walls. Halek obligingly smashed the walls leading to the vampire skulks' coffins and the plug to the Beast's coffin.
Leading to absolute hilarity as Raesh grabbed a tentacle, pulled the mass of the Beast up, and asked, "Uh, which part is the head?"
*** End of Session (OK. Cheating a little. We had about 15 more minutes of play, but it will fit better into next session's writeup ***
Next Planned Session: Saturday, January 4, 2014 (Already played.)
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And we move on to what should be the final year of our Rise of the Runelords campaign! Woo hoo! Waaaah!
As mentioned the January games were all relatively short games that were essentially, "We find one creature that needs to be exterminated. We exterminate it. Time for bed." January 4 was the only Saturday session, and that was a lot of roleplay and two big "fights", though I hesitate to call the second incident a "fight".
09-Calistril-4708 (Continued from last game)
The next 15 minutes were a sea of hilarity as the party faced a simple fact: To kill a vampire, you were supposed to stake it through its heart and cut off its head. But where was the Hidden Beast's heart? Did it even HAVE a head? No wonder Svevenka had had such issues with it! It was impossible to kill! Raesh made a quip about needing a silver ice-cream scooper in lieu of the traditional beheading.
Finally, Halek made another massive Survival roll (my dice really were on fire for Halek that day), determined where the heart was, and put a stake into it. For lack of any real idea what else to do with the rest of it, they had Halek remove all the tentacles and put then in a large Bag of Holding, then the remaining object (presumably some portion of it was the head) in a separate bag. That way, at least if they'd missed the heart and it woke up, it would be less-than-threatening.
Thoroughly confused by their "victory?", they carried the sacks up the hall and met Morgiv.
"And the Beast?"
"Oh, all his parts are in these sacks. He won't bother you any more. We're taking him down to see an old friend."
Morgiv was ecstatic. He cried out, seemingly to empty air, "The Beast is dead! There is still daylight left! Find his followers and push them under the sun!!"
The party faintly heard flapping feet heading off, and felt the skulks were in good hands.
With the Beast dealt with, they asked Morgiv about the city. They moved back into the Hidden Beast's chamber, and Morgiv used the dust and rubble to build a simple model of the city. He described the major landmarks they had already noted: The entry fortress where flying bird archers raised aurochs to feed the giants. They did not go there. The "refugee camp" where newly-"enlisted" giants ate and slept between work shifts. They did not go there. The party had him cut off with the, "We do not go there," just to speed things up. Morgiv complied, and described an open-air dome from which horrible howls occasionally erupted (they'd seen that themselves), the Tangle, the Heptaric Locus (the name of the immense crystal-domed structure they had seen), the outdoor track, the city crematorium, the former lamia harridan's temple, the collapsed temple of Lissala, the old city vault, in which dwelt an immense dragon, and the giants' fortress on the hill. All in all, not a ton of useful information, beyond the fact that the skulks avoided all of those structures.
Of far greater interest was Morgiv's description of some kind of protective field that prevented creatures from proceeding to the upper city. The party immediately concluded that it was likely that some sort of token was required to get past the field. The fact that the Hidden Beast wore a ring that they could not identify, but which bore the Sihedron rune, reinforced this idea.
It was getting late in the day, and the party had used most of their resources, so they decided they would return to Svevenka's fen for the evening. They headed down the path. Hi, Raesh, and Shiro arrived at the fen. As Svevenka arrived to welcome them, they all looked about. Where was Halek?
They waited a while, but as the sun set it was clear he was not coming. The party grew concerned. The hardy barbarian might last the night in the wilderness, but eventually his air bubble would wear out and he might be in danger, depending on where he was.
Svevenka said that she would wait for Halek at the fen as the party headed back up. Unfortunately, both Shiro and Hi got lost. In a series of bad rolls, they encountered a roc on their way back down to the fen, while Raesh encountered half a dozen yetis on her way up. Shiro and Hi had an Invisibility Sphere up, and chose not to engage the roc, while Raesh and the yetis... yeah, they were just smart enough (and rolled a high enough Perception) to see Raesh's glowing plate and shining sword and run like heck.
When Hi and Shiro arrived back at the swamp, Svevenka became truly concerned. She asked them to guard the swamp with their lives as she headed up the hill to search for Halek.
What happened next can only be properly told in a GM note, as it was epically fun until Svevenka went and spoiled it all.
GM Note: So, remember the frost giants who were heading down the road? They had found the slaughtered cloud giants and set up a watch at the fortress/cave/whatever. Halek blew his Will save, but then had an utterly incredible series of lucky rolls: He spotted the giants before they spotted him, he rolled a natural 19 on his fairly pathetic Stealth, and the giant watcher looking in that direction rolled a 3, allowing Halek to avoid detection. (I'm not 100% positive he could have taken on four frost giants, though it probably would have been close.) So Halek had climbed up into the rocks away from them to avoid detection. Unfortunately, this meant he had very poor visibility to the road.
Raesh arrived, failed to see the well-hidden Halek, successfully saw the frost giants before being seen, noticed that she didn't have Hi or Shiro with her, and decided that discretion was the better part of valor and headed back down to fetch Hi and Shiro to deal with them.
Unfortunately, at that point, Svevenka arrived. Guess what? When your surprise round is, "Hi there! Make a DC 27 Fort save or be permanently blinded! And oh, by the way, I prepared Fire Storm today because the GM didn't like Quickened Poison," the fight really doesn't go well.
So the blind, burning, fire-vulnerable frost giants got to meet Svevenka in all her glory.
Yeah, Halek noticed the mayhem.
Raesh arrived at the fen to find Shiro and Hi waiting for her, but no Svevenka. She snorted. This was getting ridiculous! Fortunately, a few minutes later, Svevenka returned, hand-in-hand with a giddily-happy Halek.
Once the party was reunited, Raesh informed Svevenka that they would indeed be spending the evening, and Hi set up a Secure Shelter for the occasion. Shiro just couldn't help himself (no, he REALLY couldn't) and transformed into a tiny fox, yipping and running about the frozen fen. Of course this HAD to trigger Svevenka, so she transformed into an otter and scampered about with Shiro, delighting both of them no end. Otter and fox tumbled about in the snow, chittering and yipping and nipping each other, and otherwise making an insanely cute racket. Raesh dutifully rolled her eyes at the scene, but even Hi could notice the quirk of her lips that indicated she was indeed smiling.
As the sun set, Shiro and Svevenka returned to humanoid form, though Svevenka was regrettably in her less-resplendent mode. Just before sunset, as the last rays played across the fens and created wisps of mist that seemed to dance in the dying light, Raesh cleared her throat. "Svevenka, Guardian of the Icemists, you asked me to deliver to you the head of the Hidden Beast. Well..."
at this point Halek took his cue and dumped various body parts on the ice,
"...I am sure that his head is in there somewhere."
Svevenka positively squeed and hugged Raesh in a crushing embrace. Even through her armor and Life Bubble, Raesh could feel the fundamental cold that was Svevenka's being. Svevenka gathered up the parts and her eyes narrowed. "Hidden Beast, I have been waiting for this for a long time..."
As if on command, the ice parted to reveal the still-flowing water beneath the fens. As Svevenka waded in, the water transformed from a lazy trickle to a rushing torrent. She took the main part of the Hidden Beast's body (his "head?") and plunged it into the running water. The head dissolved most satisfyingly as Svevenka grinned an evil, malicious grin. She stepped out of the water, naked and completely dry and in her full resplendence, and took each tentacle from the Beast and joyously plunged it into the now-formidable flow. As the last pieces of the Beast washed into oblivion, she strode back to the surface and the icy fen re-sealed behind her.
The party settled in for a simple dinner, all but Svevenka politely declining Halek's "home-cooked" Shoanti food in favor of simpler trail rations. Shiro performed on his lute and cast Dancing Lights that pranced and danced across the snowy fields, and the entire party was somewhat taken by surprise when Svevenka clapped and sang along with a rather lovely voice.
As dinner concluded and true night set in, Svevenka repeated her offer of company for the party. Once again, they all declined, and Svevenka sat, naked in the cold moonlight, keeping watch over the sleeping party.
In the morning, the party prepared yet again for the arduous trek to Xin-Shalast. Hi put Life Bubble on all of them, Shiro summoned Phantom Steeds, and Svevenka wished them good hunting. Fortunately, all of them made their Will saves so the four of them arrived simultaneously at the "fort". Unfortunately, seven kuchrima had been tasked with guarding the "fort" and they did NOT fail their Perception rolls.
The initial barrage was brutal; Hi fell into unconsciousness and plummeted to near-death and Raesh and Halek had their steeds shot out from under them. Unfortunately, this meant that the suddenly-Hasted Halek and Raesh (thanks, Shiro!) reached a group of on-foot archers who had chosen to take full-round attacks instead of flying upward. Feathers flew. Kuchrima (dubbed "dire flamingos" by Raesh's player) died. Shiro healed Hi. The last remaining kuchrima, understanding "hoplessly outclassed" when it saw it, tried to flee. Halek and Raesh pulled out their bows and dissuaded it of the notion that survival was an option.
As Shiro healed Hi to full hit points, they examined the situation. The original group of three cloud giants and their frost giant commander lay dead at the side of the road. A scorched-and-battered group of four more frost giants lay dead on the slopes. And now half a dozen kuchrima. They sighed. At some point someone was going to have to clean up this mess. But it wasn't them. At the moment, taking down the fort that blocked the entrance to Xin-Shalast had to be their highest priority.
GM Note: The following scene of utter hopelessness brought to you by the GM playing up the fort too much...
After sketching the fort in the ground and discussing their options, they had their plan. The Silenced party, surrounded by two Invisibility Spheres and flying around the fortress to enter its undefended northern gate, proceeded to gamble their Perception checks vs. the resident kuchrimas. They dismounted, snuck in among the grazing aurochs, spotted kuchrimas, and terminated them with extreme prejudice with bows and spells as Shiro Silenced the victims to ensure their deaths would go unnoticed. Hi took particular delight in Disintegrating every kuchrima he saw. Finally, Raesh mildly chastised Hi for his destructive tendencies, but didn't stop him. Even the kuchrima in the main building perished quickly and silently without a chance to raise an alarm.
No fights made it to Initiative until the final one on the wall, where the guarding kuchrima tried to rouse the (now-entirely-dead) fort against the intruders. It was really kind of sad, in an, "Awww, the PCs really hosed you, you poor deluded mooks," kind of way.
With the kuchrima deceased with prejudice and the party now the proud owners of dozens of aurochs, they tried to decide what to do. Eventually, they led an aurochs to one of the entrances to the skulks' caves and called for Morgiv. Morgiv came out after just a few minutes, but he quickly informed the party that they had no use for aurochs; they were scavengers, not farmers. A few minutes of fruitless discussion ensued as Morgiv insisted that his people would simply be utterly unwilling to even try raising livestock, and the party insisted that all his people had to do was make sure the livestock were fed and cared for to ensure an eternal food supply. Eventually, Morgiv gave first, and said he would see what he could do about convincing his people to care for the aurochs, and they would try to keep this one alive as a start.
The mood somewhat dampened by the exchange, Morgiv was still determined to reward the saviors of his people. He told them that from then on, the skulks would watch over them and warn them when danger was near. Furthermore, they had found a Bag of Holding in one of their temples that they wanted the party to have.
Investigating the bag, the party found a staff of healing, scroll of Greater Restoration, two scrolls of Heal, a scroll of True Resurrection, and a pouch containing five Elixirs of the Peaks.
The party felt they were now ready for their meeting with Karzoug, and settled in in the lair of the Hidden Beast to regain their spells...
*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: 10-Jan-2014 (Already played).
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I'm over in Kansas City, so barring some strange warping of space, I don't think I'll be taking you up on the offer any time soon. Though if you are in the KC area, PM me - I know a BBQ joint based out of a gas station that serves the best damn ribs in the city.
And so passes Count Calamari.
Stealing post 400, because I can! :-P
I think the only likelihood of our showing up in KC is if Leilani and Moxie end up on a "Girls gone wild in Absalom" crossover. (I'm pretty sure Useplanb's group is in Kansas, though I'm not sure whether or not they're in KC.)
My two fondest memories of KC:
- My first ever "real" lightning storm. San Francisco doesn't get "lightning". It gets, "Occasional flashes in the sky." We don't get snow, we don't get lightning, we don't get tornadoes, we don't get hurricanes. We have to be satisfied with nothing but earthquakes and perfect weather year-round. *SIGH*
- The Kansas City Chiefs taking in Joe Montana after George Siefert hosed him. I loved their whole, "Yeah! You're never going to get us to the Super Bowl, but thanks for trying for us," attitude. Been very fond of the Chiefs ever since... even when they've stunk REALLY badly.
Anyway, the players have caught up with all my writings, so I need to work at getting ahead of them again.