Being in the Midwest, you get used to seasonal extremes. You eventually get used to them all happening in the same week. Perfect example: it was in the low 70s on Tuesday of last week. By Saturday, we were prepping for another major snow storm.
As for the Chiefs, I've never really followed sports, so if you ever asked me how they were doing, I usually couldn't tell you for certain. I was aware of their success last year, though, so maybe things will be turning around for them.
Tonight in Pittsburgh, at 8:00 PM => 55!
In a span of 56 hours, right back to where we were Wednesday at 8 am. I'll hate my choice of coat when I leave work today.
@NobodysHome: I love reading this. It's a great story, and were it a book, I would pay money for the hardcover.
Thanks! You're not the first to suggest turning this into a book, but keeping up both this thread and Leilani's, *and* planning for a Wrath of the Righteous thread, *and* holding down a pesky full-time job means it's a project I just don't have the time to undertake right now. (Doesn't help that the kids have started up their weekly game again, this time in Serpent's Skull.)
Doesn't mean I haven't thought about it... :-P
Anyway, double game this weekend: Tonight they should finish off the Pinnacle of Avarice (assuming I'm awake for it -- two days in a row of getting up at 4:30 am to deliver classes on East Coast time), and tomorrow will be the climactic battle with Karzoug, followed up by a massive Wrath of the Righteous brainstorming session to generate PCs. (Needless to say, Raesh's player has already come up with a really cool character concept with an awesome background. She da woman!)
Oh, don't get me started on their darned refusal to let *ANY* of my villains monologue! You know those cool quotes from Karzoug you're supposed to read when his visions confront them? Not so much, because they're always Silenced!
I may have Karzoug take a full-round action just to monologue. Just because...
And... Karzoug survives another week!
We've been playing since around 2 or 3, and they're standing at the anima focus, fully rested, ready to go in.
But we're tired, and it's a LOOOOONG final fight, so we're saving it 'til next weekend.
I'll try to catch up with a couple more writeups in the meantime.
We are at the table (after a wonderful sushi lunch at Takara Sushi in Oakland with dessert from Katrina Rozelle, thanks, Mittean). They're preparing Ayruzi's spells and all their buffs, which is kind of neat, because I've already prepped Karzoug so it's nice to see what they're planning on.
Saddest part? I didn't swap out Karzoug's Cloudkill because I figured it would at least give them visibility issues and protect him from Raesh shooting him into oblivion, and they obligingly chose not to waste all of Hi's 5th-level spells on Life Bubbles. So Karzoug's as-written tactics of shutting them behind a Wall of Force and Cloudkilling them may work after all.
So his tactics are ready, I've got 19 rounds mapped out on my sheet, the maps and minis are ready, and I'm just waiting for them to finish all their spell choice and buff decisions and then we're diving in.
I'll post the results tonight!
Well, the "Fall of Ghlorofaex" is already out to the players for review, the "poor negotiating tactics by the Spiders of Leng" is about half-written, and post-Karzoug the group demanded another 3 hours of roleplaying (dropping off the storm giants in the Kodar mountains, dropping off the blue dragon at Jorgenfist (long story on that one, and may result in some delicious one-offs going forward), dropping off Ayruzi on her home plane, visiting Svevenka, partying at the Blue Bunyip, etc.)
We're going to be playing at least another 2 post-Karzoug sessions as they wrap things up with their characters, tie off all the loose ends, and set themselves in a "holding pattern" so we can run occasional one-offs with the characters, so expect posts on this thread to continue for another month at least to complete "the rest of the story", and then you'll see their Wrath of the Righteous thread pop up at some point.
Very interesting character lot for WotW already, and they're still building random new toons trying to figure out which ones feel "right" to them. So far the only serious investment is Raesh's player setting up an arcane bloodline sorcerer with a nice back story, but knowing how much my players love generating toons, it may be a while before I even know who I'm dealing with. After Ayruzi's contribution to the party, looks like I'm going to end up being a cleric of Iomedae -- seems like it might be a chewy role to play, but time will tell...
EDIT: OK. That just sounds like an AWESOME fondue. Can you publicly name the place? We're in L.A. a couple of times a year, and as you know, don't particularly mind fine dining...
Unfortunately, not so much, unless you were on the good guy's side. They LOVED it. I was very disappointed.
I spoilered on the "What would you have changed" thread, but long story short, Karzoug took 659 points of damage on round 3. Simultaneous crits by Raesh and Halek (multiple ones on Raesh's part).
Not much you can do about that, honestly.
I won't spoiler any more 'til I write it up. Shouldn't be more than 2-3 more weeks of writing 'til the whole thing is finished.
Just a quick update: They players got the edited January 14 and 24 sessions to me this morning, so first chance I get a break from work January 14 will go up. January 24 will probably be after work.
As I keep saying, February 1 will take a while, but I'm *almost* caught up on Leilani's journal (just one more session and she's all caught up) and then I can dedicate 100% of my writing time to RotRL.
In other words, walls and walls of text are coming. Soon.
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And so begins a pair of *very* short Friday sessions that were basically, "Get together at 7, have dinner, play from 8-10, finish one fight, and call it a wrap." We obviously missed our longer sessions, because the next Saturday session (February 1) was utter awesomeness.
One fight and very little else. And Mittean, I'm very sorry, but I didn't write down what we had for dinner each time. I *think* this was pulled pork, sauerkraut, and potato buns, but that might have been a different session.
Over the evening and into the next morning, the party discussed what they were going to do. They needed more rings to get to upper Xin-Shalast, but they had no idea where to obtain them, nor did the skulks. Should they attempt to infiltrate Shahlaria in an attempt to find and take out the giant generals, thereby obtaining their rings? Should they just wait at the base of the road and waylay anyone coming down? Every solution had just one problem: The dragon. Until the dragon was dead, any assault risked an open-air battle with a very old or ancient blue dragon. While they were confident in their abilities against either the giants or the dragon, fighting both at once would be difficult. Thus, it was decided: Their next task would be to take out the dragon.
Shiro's first step was to use his Lore Master ability to learn all he could about blue dragons. While this didn't give him a high enough score to know everything about them, he did learn quite a bit: They tended to Lawful Evil, they breathed lightning, they could create mirages, and they were consummate schemers and plotters. They did not explode when they died. The party duly prepared with Resist Energy, then used Invisibility Spheres and Phantom Steeds to approach the dragon's lair unmolested. They alit 100 feet away from the sleeping dragon, figuring its Perception couldn't be THAT good.
GM Note: And it wasn't. In spite of his +29 PER, he rolled a 2 for a grand total of 31. With being asleep (-10) and distance (-10), he rolled just barely high enough to "hear a creature walking" (DC 10). Then I had to decide what he was going to do on hearing the adventurers, but not being able to see them...
The party froze as they saw the dragon's eyelid twitch, and his eye open into a slit as he scanned the horizon. Not seeing the party, he slowly backed into his lair, placing a Mirage of himself sleeping while he backed deeper into the cave. A clever ploy, if the party hadn't been watching him the whole time he did it.
The party carefully approached, figuring the illusion would be harmless. As soon as they were within the 60-foot range of Ghlorofaex's blindsense they learned otherwise as the image breathed a streak of lightning that struck both Halek and Hi. Fortunately, both of them made their Reflex saves, their energy resistance did its job, and so the breath weapon was no more than a minor inconvenience.
The party charged forward towards the cave entrance. Much to their surprise, the image vanished (stupid line of effect rules! But heck if I was going to sit in a narrow cave I had to squeeze to move through when Halek and Raesh were about to find me...). Nothing remained but a remarkably narrow (for a dragon) passage leading off to the west.
Raesh took point and started moving down the passage. As she turned a corner, a voice boomed out, "Paladin of Sarenrae! Yes, I recognize you! Why do you come here to assault me in my own home, when I have done nothing for which you might be seeking vengeance?"
An enormous blue dragon stood behind a Wall of Force gazing down at Raesh. For her part, Raesh had no issues with negotiating with a (presumably Lawful Evil) dragon.
It was a LOOONG conversation. Technically, Wall of Force lasts only 6 seconds per caster level, or 66 seconds for Ghlorofaex. The conversation went on much longer than that. But if you're going to be all technical about it, speech is a free action, so maybe they just spoke really, really fast.
First, Raesh inquired as to what Ghlorofaex was doing in Xin-Shalast. He happily explained that it was the magnificent architecture that first drew him to the city, and when Karzoug contacted him with an offer of mutual benefit, and he could imagine the world being reshaped to Thassilonian times, how could he do anything but readily agree to such a future? Raesh asked him whether he would promise not to harm any sentient beings in the area, and there was some negotiation as to whether he could harm them in self-defense, or in other situations of self-preservation. All was going well until Raesh offered him his safety in return for standing aside as the party slew Karzoug. Ghlorofaex could not imagine such a thing! Karzoug was a visionary! A great man from the past with a brilliant vision of the future! How could anyone with any taste consciously oppose him, much less wish him slain?
Negotiations continued a bit longer, but this was a point over which they could not come to agreement: Ghlorofaex would not agree to stand idly by as the party slew Karzoug, and the party was unwilling to depart without such a promise. Equally vexing was Raesh's attempt to get him to make a concrete statement as to his plans for the party's future (was he going to attack them after they attacked Karzoug, for example?), and his unwillingness to commit to a clear course of action.
GM Note: Unfortunately, if it weren't for Ghlorofaex's "5-minute rule", they might have eventually come to some kind of agreement after an entire night's negotiation, which would have been an awful write-up but quite entertaining to roleplay. But I'd read his tactics well in advance for once, and we hit 5 minutes and things went downhill very rapidly for him... though it did result in an unnaturally long-lasting Wall of Force. No one called me on it, and it made for good drama...
With his patience at an end, Ghlorofaex breathed on Raesh and backed into his chamber, hoping to use the additional space to his advantage. Raesh moved forward, Smote Evil, and crit. With her composite longbow. On a first shot. Smiting Evil on a dragon.
Half his hit points later, Ghlorofaex was pondering that maybe this hadn't been the most brilliant tactical maneuver in his long lifetime. Especially when Shiro hit him with Irresistable Dance and he spent a round prancing about while Halek pounded on him. All in all, he might have been a formidable fight had he had space, but when they forced him to back into his lair and then penned him in, it really was all she wrote for him.
The party found his well-organized loot at the back of the building and spent the next couple of hours sorting and identifying it while hoping that Ghlorofaex would have no more visitors.
*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Friday, January 24, 2014 (Already played.)
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We were off in Washington state on a "ski" trip the weekend of the 17th (insert grumblings about flying 2 hours and then driving 5 more to get to 2" of snow here), and had another very short session the night of the 24th. I'd love to pad it out a bit, but as my notes say, it was a "pretty seiless fight". (Have I mentioned how much I appreciate the fact that even I can't read my own writing?)
On the other hand, it's going to take me a LOOOOOONG time to get the February 1 session written, as it was utterly epic in every way, so let's just get this one by the boards and let me dig in to more meaty matters...
11-Calistril-4708 (continued from last game)
Once the party had finished sifting through Ghlorofaex's hoard, they faced a new issue: How were they going to hide the fact that Xin-Shalast was now missing a very conspicuous dragon? The body itself was well inside its lair, and they sincerely doubted that any giants or lamias would come this far in to the lair searching for Ghlorofaex, but if he didn't appear at all for several weeks the locals might get suspicious. Fortunately, they recalled that Ghlorofaex was known to leave the city for several days at a time; at least they convinced themselves that Morgiv had said something along those lines, and so if they could just convince observers that the dragon was off on one of his "vacations" they might be able to hide the fact of his demise.
Shiro decided he would use Silent Image to create an image of Ghlorofaex flying up over the cliff and away. When I pointed out that Silent Image didn't have the range necessary to accomplish what he was hoping for it to do, he confidently replied that as it went up, he would shrink the image, making it seem like it was much farther away than it actually was. Going over the skill list, I figured this would require a combination of Bluff and Disguise checks to make the dragon appear realistically to go over the ridge, when in actuality the image was disappearing into it. With a series of 40+ rolls, I concluded that Shiro pulled of the stunt convincingly, so observers would believe they had seen the dragon flying off over the ridge.
With the dragon's absence explained, the party decided it was time to head up the road to Upper Xin-Shalast to confront Karzoug in person. To save Hi's spells for more important things, they decided to skip Invisibility Spheres and just ride Phantom Steeds up the road. Unfortunately for them (well, technically, unfortunately for the spiders), three Leng Spiders were waiting on the road for just such intruders. As the party approached, the spiders moved out to block the road. As the spiders were not obviously hostile at first, Raesh had the party come to a halt some distance from them (perhaps 60', conveniently exactly the distance for a Detect Evil. Who knew?) and waited to see what the spiders would do.
The spiders stopped at that distance and spoke. "Hideous symmetrical creatures, we have a task for you, and therefore we will not eat you should you choose to perform our task."
Raesh was nonplussed and unimpressed, but, having been addressed rather than attacked, chose to humor them. *SIGH*. Paladins of Sarenrae. What are you going to do? "Hideous asymmetrical spiders. What is this task you would have us perform?"
"You are heading for upper Xin-Shalast, there to make war on the leader there. There, in upper Xin-Shalast, in the Pinnacle of Avarice, you will find our enemies, who you know as 'Denizens of Leng'. Kill every one you see. Destroy their device. Kill their leader. You will do this for us."
Raesh sighed. Sometimes being a paladin just wasn't easy. She gritted her teeth and attempted to continue the negotiations in good faith. "And why should we do these things for you?"
"Why?!?!?! We will let you live, puny insignificant disgusting things! Is that not enough of a reward for your great service to us? You should be honored!"
It was at that point that Raesh allowed Shiro and Hi to join in the negotiations. For some reason, things deteriorated rapidly as Shiro and Hi added their opinions of the spiders' appearances and demands, and Shiro wondered aloud why their odd number of legs didn't cause them to run about in circles. It did not go well. Rabin would be ashamed.
When the spiders finally attacked, Raesh smiled a toothy grin of relief. Unfortunately, the start of the fight went very poorly for the group. Hi's first Disintegrate bounced off of their spell resistance, while his second-round Ki Shout penetrated their spell resistance only to reveal that they were immune to sonic damage. The spiders were utterly hopeless at hitting Raesh, so instead they drove Halek insane. Unfortunately, his "insanity" resulted in his rolling "attack nearest creature" over and over and over again, and the poor spiders did NOT have a good time of it. Even worse, the rest of the party couldn't even tell that he was insane, because his behavior was absolutely normal to them! Raesh used Lamatar's bow to great effectiveness, Smiting Evil and laying waste to the spiders. It wasn't until the almost all of the spiders were down and Halek turned and struck Raesh for a whopping 130 points of damage that they realized that something was amiss with him. Raesh was highly displeased. Shiro chose to exclude the insane Halek from his performance bonuses thereafter. Fortunately for everyone, Halek fumbled and fell prone on his next round, allowing Hi to slip in and roll a magnificent Use Magic Device check to hit him with a scroll of Greater Restoration. Once Halek wasn't "helping", it was curtains for the last remaining spider. Ugly, asymmetrical, synthetic curtains.
The spiders proved far more useful in death than they had in life: Each one was carrying an iridescent spindle ioun stone, allowing the wearer to exist without breathing. Raesh, Shiro, and Hi each took one, figuring Halek could probably hold his breath longer than anyone in the group. After the battle with the dragon and the leng spiders in a single day, the party decided that discretion was the better part of valor, used Hi's last Invisibility Spheres to take their phantom steeds safely to the Hidden Beast's lair, and rested for the night.
*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Saturday, February 1, 2014 (Already played.)
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And at last, we get to that epic joy that was the February 1 session. Now that the campaign is complete (at least Karzoug has fallen and we're just doing post-AP wrap-up sessions for a few weeks), I can honestly say that this session was my absolute favorite based on the party's complete humiliation of what should have been a threatening BBEG (Gamigin, anyone?), excellent negotiations with a should-be enemy (Gyukak), and redemption of a doomed angel (Ayruzi). All in one session!
The whole session just *felt* like my party through-and-through, and all of us enjoyed ourselves immensely.
So while I vaguely wave my hands in the direction of an apology based on sheer massive length of this post, I'd rather see it stay in its pure entirety, rather than chopped into snippetlets.
Strict readers will notice a few rules violations here and there (Irresistable Dance is a touch spell, for example, and I'm not positive that a "Constant" spell-like ability can be dispelled), but it made for spectacular roleplaying, and the best day of our two-year campaign (in my humble opinion).
But no, there was no obvious Silver Tsuto award-winner, though I am sorely tempted to grant one to the game designer who chose to give rune giants a whopping +6 Reflex save. Did anyone seriously consider that any bard worth his salt would take one look at that WizKids mini and Grease the living daylights out of that sword?
I'll just say that I ran an entire AP, and not a single rune giant ever connected with a sword, because no Rune Giant kept one in his hands for more than a round...
Anyway, I found that I'd typed up some notes from the January 24th session and missed a couple of things in the posted writeup, so a very minor retcon to pick some things up and away we go...
11-Calistril-4708 (Slight reversal in time from last session)
Before heading for the Hidden Beast's lair, the group decided to ascend to upper Xin-Shalast to find out what they could see there. Ascending thousands of feet, they were thankful their Life Bubbles allowed them to breathe easily, and their Phantom Steeds got them to the upper city in a relatively short amount of time.
They arrived before a massive wooden plank bridge, over 100 feet wide. GM Note: Just look at the map! It's a massive wooden plank bridge leading in to the Spires! As they crossed, Raesh saw a magical field before them. She stopped the party, and Shiro and Hi set about analyzing the field. While they could not fully ascertain what exactly it did, they could at least determine that it had something to do with shifting planes. Perhaps some kind of Dimensional Anchor effect, or a transition into a permanent demiplane?
More than anything else, both Shiro and Hi were convinced that the field and the Sihedron rings they had found on Ghlorofaex and the Hidden Beast were the same, or at least so closely interrelated to be indistinguishable. It was obvious they needed to find two more rings before they ascended.
Defeated by the field, and with not even Shiro willing to risk walking into it unprotected, the party took their steeds back down and spent the night in the Hidden Beast's lair, pondering their next move...
In the morning, the party started discussing how they might get more rings. Shiro suggested simply waiting at the bottom of the road to upper Xin-Shalast, ambushing anyone who came down (or headed up), and taking their rings. Raesh disapproved. The party pondered going to Shahlaria to find more rings among the giant generals, but decided against it based on the GM's horrid wincing at that idea.
GM Note: Seriously, authors? While I've loved loved LOVED the AP for the most part, the whole, "We're going to intentionally short the party a ring to make them come up with creative solutions," combined with, "We're going to put a massive fortress full of giants on the ridge overlooking the city, but we're not going to provide any details beyond, 'There's nothing in there worth taking,'" left me out to dry. While I appreciate all the possible little side adventures listed for lower Xin-Shalast, the whole, "We're going to force them to go looking for a ring," ensures that virtually every GM is going to have to write his or her own mini-adventure to get the group the fourth ring.
Shiro suggested that they take the rings to Absalom and have them duplicated there, but a rough estimate of 35 days to craft even one of the rings made that plan infeasible. Without a solid plan in place, the party decided to at least take the road back towards upper Xin-Shalast, set up blinds, and see who came and went. If Raesh felt that someone passing by was worthy of destruction, then they would fight.
GM Note: Speaking of 'worthy of destruction...'
The party had Halek set up two blinds: The one closer to the road held Hi and Shiro, as they had something resembling Stealth rolls. Halek and Raesh were relegated to the "back of bus" blind, as their combined Stealth rolls were unlikely to elude an inebriated one-eyed goblin. As Raesh and Halek waited, Raesh still seething at the GM's metaphor, Raesh caught a bit of magic out of the corner of her eye. There was magic affecting Halek! Wincing at the memory of the last magic that had affected him, she prepared for the worst, but he didn't seem to notice whatever it was that was affecting him. Moments later, before she could determine the nature of the magical aura, a voice boomed out:
"Greetings, would-be heroes! Allow me to introduce myself! I am Gamigin, and I will be your tormentor for the next few days, until your inevitable doom and failure!"
Looking up, the group saw an ice devil hovering some 60' above them. In fact, he was precisely 60' above them, as they learned when his Cone of Cold struck all of them. Glaring up at him, Raesh saw two magical auras dropping down from him to the ground.
Raesh knew 'worthy of destruction' when she saw it. Pulling her bow, she invoked Smite Evil on the devil and proceeded to crit him on her very first shot. The first hit. On an evil outsider. While Smiting Evil.
234 hit points later (total from Raesh and Halek), Gamigin was reconsidering the wisdom of his actions, especially when Hi hit him with Greater Dispel Magic and he started plummeting rapidly to his doom, his flight temporarily dispelled. (Hey, it's listed as a spell-like ability, and spell-like abilities can be dispelled...) It got ugly when Shiro cast Irresistable Dance to try to make him dance to his doom, but fortune smiled on him for one shining moment and Shiro failed to overcome his SR.
His song of Hallelujah was short-lived as the devil, not being an idiot, teleported away the moment he got an action.
GM Note: In case you're wondering what happened to his "surprise" round, he rolled a 1 on Initiative. That's what happened to his "surprise" round. Stupid monologuing bug!
Shiro shrugged. "Hmm. Doom and failure, eh?"
The party wondered for a moment why they were still in initiatives when the invisible bone devils who had dropped to the ground in the wake of Gamigin's cone of cold finally got to act. They ripped into Hi with great ferocity, tearing through his hit points like tissue paper. Ever vigilant, Shiro stabbed one with his rapier. Yeah. THAT made the difference! Then Raesh used King's Castle and the happy happy bone devils had an angry paladin right next to them. Then Halek got there. Considering their altered circumstances, the bone devils put up a somewhat admirable fight, but never got near Hi again, and, although they tried repeatedly to poison Halek, had no success against the raging barbarian's ridiculous Fortitude save.
GM Note: Honestly, between the Hidden Beast, Ghlorofaex, Gamigin, the spiders of Leng, and these two yahoos-from-nowhere, I'd say this duo put up the best fight of the lot of 'em.
Before they could recover, a further menace approached, perhaps attracted by the noise. A massive red spider with a skull-like head crawled through the sky towards them. Raesh decided to be, "Ms. No Fun At All", Smote Evil, and shot the poor creature out of the sky! I didn't even get to use its cool, "Drains your blood through your eyes" ability or anything!
Raesh walked over to the now-thoroughly-dead scarlet walker and tied its tentacle-like legs in neat little bow, just to add some flavor to the destruction they had wrought.
My dice continued to be "hot", and I rolled up a group of 10 stone giants rushing forward to see what the commotion was all about. However, I had them make Perception rolls and they'd seen the plight of the bone devils and scarlet walker, and quickly declared themselves late in getting back to camp, turned on their heels, and fled.
The party healed up, re-established themselves in the blinds, and settled in for a long wait. Fortunately or unfortunately, the wait was not long.
GM Note: I would have loved to have hit them by surprise, but rune giants on an open road just don't have the Stealth you'd think they should...
The largest giant they'd ever seen, easily 25 feet tall and with blue-black skin and a gargantuan sword, strode down the road towards them. Whether or not their blinds would have been effective they'd never know, for on the giant's shoulder was none other than Gamigin, fully healed and back for round 2.
GM Note: I know he's supposed to flee forever when dropped below 20 hit points, but his initial encounter had been so lopsided I wanted to give him a second chance...
Gamigin was far more tactically-minded this time, hiding behind the rune giant and popping out only to hit the party with Cone of Cold, while the giant advanced to engage the party hand-to-hand. The one-two combo worked spectacularly well for a moment; Gamigen's Cone of Cold followed by the giant's Spark Shower did significant damage to Halek and Raesh. Unfortunately, Shiro was there, and saw mischief in the making. For reasons only Shiro knows, he reached back to his 1st-level childhood... and Greased the rune giant's sword. With a mighty *squip*, the sword flew from the rune giant's hands.
GM Note: As I've complained about elsewhere, a +6 Reflex save? Seriously? Yeah, the Sihedron Ring ups that to a whopping +9, but with my die that's close to impossible with Shiro's DC 18 Grease spell. And the difference between an improved vital striking power attacking sword at +23/12d6+30/17-20 and a couple of slams at +22/2d6+23/20 is pretty heinous.
As the sword slowly arced out of the rune giant's hand and plummeted towards the ground below, Gamigin's hopes and dreams dashed with it. Hi hit the rune giant with a Ki Shout and the giant dutifully fumbled his save, becoming stunned for the round. This left Halek and Raesh. Hasted. With actions. With a cowardly Gamigin trying to hide behind a now-stunned giant who could not make attacks of opportunity. Raesh's player delighted in reminding me that she still had Smite Evil going on Gamigin. I knew.
Yeah. Bug juice.
Once he came out of stun, the giant tried to make a decent fight out of it, pulling out his spear and doing a few dozen hit points to Raesh, but one-on-two versus Raesh and Halek it was a hopeless battle, and Halek put a capstone on the fight by critting the giant the very next round and sending him into the -100 hit point range.
The party surveyed the destruction. Dead ice devil. Check. Dead scarlet walker with tentacles tied in a bow. Check. Very dead rune giant. Check. Terrified stone giants having fled for the hills. Check.
Searching the remains, to everyone's surprise Halek expressed an appreciation for Gamigin's spear, so the party let him keep it. Both Gamigin and the rune giant were wearing Sihedron Rings, so we had a wonderful discussion as to how rings don't technically have sizes, so Hi should really wear the rune giant's ring. We finally concluded that it was like the Lord of the Rings movie, where the ring grows or shrinks to fit the wearer, so Hi ended up taking the rune giant's ring after all.
With all four rings in hand (so to speak), the group decided to return to the Hidden Beast's lair to rest for the evening, and set off for upper Xin-Shalast first thing in the morning.
Not only were there no more encounters that day, but since I knew they'd be heading up...
Party Leveled Up to Level 17
(Yeah, I know, I haven't exactly been diligent in noting these, but I figured since this is the last level-up before the showdown with Karzoug I ought to note it.)
AND SHIRO FINALLY TOOK THASSILONIAN! HUZZAH!
13-Calistril-4708 (NobodysHome's favorite day)
The party awoke on what seemed like yet another ordinary day in Xin-Shalast. Raesh performed her devotions, Hi put Life Bubbles on everyone, Halek provided rations for everyone, and Shiro talked, sang, and asked infinite questions of everyone. In fact, Shiro did not limit his curiosity to his travel-mates, but asked the skulks for news as well. I dutifully rolled a natural 20, so Morgiv told Shiro that he had heard of a tattooed stone giant named Gyukak in the refugee camp who was brave enough to whisper quietly against their rune giant overlords. Raesh and Shiro felt it would be well worth their while to meet with Gyukak to determine what they could do to help him in whatever cause he might be pursuing.
The party planned carefully, not wanting to endanger Gyukak by approaching him openly, and not wanting to alarm him by showing up in force. They chose to have Raesh, Halek, and Hi wait in an Invisibility Sphere outside the camp, while Shiro used Stealth to make his way in.
Shiro had no trouble at all evading the giants; all the talk was of the rune giant who had been felled the day before, and the mighty heroes who would storm forth and assail the camp. The giants were not expecting subterfuge. (Yeah, I rolled THAT low.) He crept about the camp, staying in cover, going to groups of stone giants in turn until he saw a very likely candidate: A tattooed giant very closely matching the description Morgiv had given him, speaking in hushed tones to a group of other stone giants. Shiro listened in.
"No, we must continue to wait, but now we must be ready. The small heroes will return at some point and cause a distraction. We must be vigilant, and flee the moment the guards are distracted. Everyone must be on his or her own guard. We cannot afford delay. I do not know how much longer we can all survive in this city, and we must begone sooner rather than later."
Shiro approached, wrote a note in giant, slipped it into Gyukak's belt pouch, and whispered, "We are here," before slipping out of the compound.
Gyukak bade the other giants good day, pretended to be adjusting his belt, pulled out the note, read it, and announced that he was going on a walk to stretch his legs.
As Gyukak approached the party's hiding place, Raesh Detected Evil on him. He was indeed strongly evil. Raesh sighed. Perhaps he would at least be honorable. Raesh was the first to step from the Invisibility Sphere and wave to Gyukak. He hurried over, and the group found a private place to talk.
Negotiations were long (perhaps 45-60 minutes at the table) and detailed. First, Raesh wanted to know Gyukak's desires. He thought long and hard before answering each question, and this encouraged Raesh, rather than discouraging her. An intelligent, honorable evil leader could still be a good leader. A stupid oaf could be good-hearted, but would still get the stone giants killed. Gyukak decided to make his intentions clear: He wanted to lead all the stone giants who would follow him out of Xin-Shalast and onto the Storval Plateau, there to re-take the richest lands that had been abandoned when Karzoug sent his rune giants to gather the tribes. He would create his own empire, and live there in decadence as their king.
Raesh could work with this.
She set forth her mandates: First, the stone giants would not attack the little people such as the Shoanti. They would not make war on other stone giant tribes. They could defend themselves. They could make war on hill giants and ogres. But they would not attack little people or other giants who did not attack them first. In short, they were not to harm sentient non-evil creatures without cause.
Gyukak thought long and hard and silently to himself. He would not give up killing. He would not give up devouring the hearts of those he defeated. But this paladin was offering him freedom to do that. In fact, to do that with an army of stone giants at his back, so long as he targeted none but the lesser, viler races of the plateau. But there were many of them, and they would sate his lusts satisfactorily. He agreed to this first mandate.
Second, he would be a good ruler and not build his empire on the backs of his subjects. Otherwise he would be no better than Karzoug. This took a great deal of debate, but Gyukak soon saw the wisdom in treating his subjects well: They would adore him, and cater to his appetites if need be. Thinking of this, he agreed to this second mandate.
Third, if the party provided the distraction he needed, he would take as many of the free giants as he could. Not just the evil giants. Not just the good giants. He would lead all the giants that wished to be free out of Xin-Shalast. He did not need to be their ruler, but he needed to ensure their freedom.
This was harder to swallow, but Gyukak, confident in his own abilities, agreed.
Finally, Raesh warned him of the ice fens: The giants were not to disturb the fens. Raesh was convinced this was more for the giants' safety than Svevenka's, but better safe than sorry.
With an agreement reached, Gyukak and Raesh shook hands. Raesh would provide the needed distraction in three hours' time, and Gyukak would lead the giants to freedom.
Raesh was satisfied. Without a leader, the giants would be listless, and likely to be recaptured. Gyukak would be a strong leader, and, hopefully, with her oaths from him, a good one as well.
GM Note: And might I say how delighted I was to watch a LG paladin and LE oni come to a mutually-beneficial agreement that satisfied both of them? As I told the players out-of-context, the stone giants would have a powerful leader for centuries, yet the oni would keep to his bonded word, as he would live like a king for it.
The party headed north to the upper city. At the appointed time, they asked Hi to create a distraction.
3 Snapdragon Fireworks and a fireball later, the city was echoing with Hi's mischief. In fact, the party got a bit more of an echo than they were hoping for when Hi launched the fireball into the Tangle. Dozens of quadrupedal creatures the size of small dogs and made of lichen and fungus poured forth, with razor-sharp thorns for teeth. They scurried about the impact site blindly, tumbling together, biting everything, looking in fury for the being that had caused them harm. After a minute or two, the chaos subsided. Hi looked at the others. "Don't go into the Tangle."
The rest of the party nodded.
Assuming they'd made more than enough chaos to allow the giants to escape (especially with the unexpected assistance of the Tangle), the party headed up, put on their Sihedron Rings, and headed into the Spires of Xin-Shalast...
(Sorry... just seems like there should be a dramatic pause there...)
GM Quandary/Error #1: I forgot about Shiro's Phantom Steeds, and whether the Occluding Field should affect them. As I mentioned, since they're described as "quasi-real", I'm not excessively upset I gave them a pass. The party could have used Fly just as easily, so it didn't change the game in any way.
The first set of buildings the party came upon were a group of five enormous hollow obelisks, each 400 feet high. A massive Survival roll by Halek was enough to identify them as dragon nesting grounds. Fortunately, there were no dragons home. To the east was a cliffside fortress, while a wide path proceeded west. Guessing that the trail would proceed westwards, the party followed the path, coming upon three spires with intricate facades with hundreds of arches and balconies. The buildings were beautiful, but again seemed to be abandoned. A winding path led up from this compound to the main compound in upper Xin-Shalast: The Pinnacle of Avarice.
The base of the Pinnacle was surrounded by 50-foot arches, showing it to be hollow inside. The Pinnacle itself was over 2000 feet tall, an impossibility of engineering, most likely held together by powerful preservative magic. My party, being my party, completely ignored the entrance, flew to the top, and circled the uppermost portions of the building, looking for an alternate entrance.
With a 40+ Perception roll, Shiro spotted one: A circular hole perhaps 7 feet in diameter bored into the side of the building. Not wanting Shiro to put himself at risk, Raesh flew her steed to look into the hole...
GM Note: Squee!
...and a weeping planetar angel burst forth, greatsword in hand. Raesh's 36 Sense Motive was plenty to know that something was amiss with the angel. As the angel whipped her sword around to strike Raesh, it seemed that Sarenrae herself objected, and the sword caught on the edge of the opening and bent. (Yes. Seriously. Ayruzi fumbled on her first attack and got "bent sword" as a fumble card. It was that kind of fight.)
Raesh called out to the group. "Something is wrong. Do not hurt her."
She turned to the angel and stated matter-of-factly, "We will help you."
It was not a question. There was no doubt in Raesh's voice or mind.
Raesh's words drove the angel into an even greater frenzy of anguish. She took her full round attack on Raesh, critting her in spite of her bent sword, and doing massive damage. Raesh did not fight back. Raesh did not even go full defense. Raesh simply said, "Shiro, Hi. Find a way to help her."
Halek had enough. He charged forward on his steed, dove in, took the attack of opportunity...
...but Raesh cast Paladin's Sacrifice and took the damage. "We WILL not harm you..."
...and used his Strength Surge to grapple her.
As Raesh took the momentary opening to heal herself, and the angel spent a round freeing herself from Halek (yeah, planetar angels scary strong!), Hi and Shiro put their heads together and thought. Or, that is, rolled 40-somethings on Spellcraft and Knowledge: Arcana to figure out that the angel was bound. The only way to free her would be to get her back to her home plane. Hi called out, "I can save her, but I need to touch her! I'm going to Plane Shift her home!
The angel continued her assault, but this time hit Halek. When you have 300 hit points, what's a hundred here or there? He took the blows with dignity.
Raesh spoke to the angel in Celestial: "We are casting Plane Shift to get you home. Do not resist."
Hi's action came up, and it was epic. He flew in and the angel took her attack of opportunity. A crit! Raesh cast her second Paladin's Sacrifice and took all the damage again, allowing Hi to get off his spell.
Could he get through her SR of 27? He rolled an 18! Success! Could he hit her with a touch attack? A 17! Success!
GM Note: At that point, I was NOT about to let this moment be ruined by my die. I ruled that Ayruzi's specific instructions were as written: Silently guard the room from intruders, and attack any who attempt to enter, fighting to the death. 1-on-4 she would eventually lose the fight. 1-on-1 she would easily kill the sorcerer, and could then Plane Shift back to kill the rest of them. A weak loophole, but if devils can get away with looking for loopholes, so can angels.
She voluntarily tanked the Will save and was willingly transported to the Celestial plane to "kill" Hi.
Hi and Ayruzi landed on the Celestial Plane. Ayruzi embraced him! "You did it! I am free! I am in your debt!"
Hi, being Hi, had only one thing on his mind at the moment: "Who did this to you?"
The angel's face turned to an angry scowl. "Khalib."
"OK, then. He's on my list."
"No. He is MINE."
Hi was a bit taken aback. He'd never met an angry angel before! She gazed into Hi's eyes. "Please take me back, and help me find and kill Khalib the wizard."
Hi, being Hi, simply responded, "OK," and Plane Shifted them back to the Material Plane.
Unfortunately, Hi had forgotten the effects of Plane Shift, and they appeared somewhere over the Kodar mountains. Fortunately, Ayruzi could fly, and caught Hi in her arms. He looked about, said, "Oh, sorry!", and Greater Teleported the two of them to Svevenka's fen.
As Hi and Ayruzi alit in the fen, Svevenka arose from the ice, far more cautious than before. "Where is Rae'Sheleth? I can no longer sense her. Is all well?"
Hi assured her that Raesh was fine; they had gone inside of some magical field, and Hi was sure this was what caused the lapse in communication. Svevenka did not appear satisfied with this answer, but did not press the issue. Hi introduced Svevenka to Ayruzi, but the chill in the air was not solely from Svevenka; they were two powerful beings not sure that they could trust one another, and the air crackled with their energy. Hi decided it was time that they were going.
Fortunately, with Ayruzi's flight and True Seeing, the trip to Xin-Shalast was uneventful, and his last Invisibility Sphere of the day took them safely to the Pinnacle.
GM Quandary/Error #2: Since Ayruzi had left the plane and come back, she should have been affected by the occluding field. Missed that one. But it would have been an annoying waste of time to have them kill one person in the Pinnacle and then go back and get her, so I'm happier with the way the story played out here. I just admit my error so other people will keep track of such things when they're GM'ing and at least make their mistakes intentionally.
Hi introduced Ayruzi to the group, who had been waiting for the two of them to return in Ayruzi's room the entire time. Ayruzi was extremely apologetic and a bit obsequious to Raesh; Raesh responded that she had only been doing her duty, and she was glad she had been able to free the angel. They sat down, Shiro cast Zone of Silence to ensure they wouldn't be overheard, and Ayruzi told her tale:
She had been called and bound against her will by Khalib the wizard, and ordered to guard this room. Khalib had been watching the party, and had suspected they would try to take the high road, so he had intentionally put in an angel, knowing that Raesh would not attack it.
Every morning, Khalib came in while making his rounds and taunted the angel. He spoke of Raesh's glowing armor and good deeds, and how she must be in great favor with Sarenrae. And how Ayruzi was a general of Sarenrae. And how the two of them would be forced to battle to the death.
He took great delight in pointing that out to Ayruzi. Either she would die, and Raesh would fall, or she would be responsible for the death of one of Sarenrae's greatest paladins. He found the entire thing really rather delightful. So he told this to Ayruzi.
Raesh declared, "I would like to meet this Khalib."
*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Friday, February 7, 2014 (Already played.)
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Holy cow! Color me impressed!
Well, February 7 is already out and Hi and Shiro have reviewed it, but today's Raesh's "long" day at work, so hopefully you'll see it up tomorrow.
At least one a week for the foreseeable future... at least through May.
(They're still playing, even after finishing the AP they won't let the characters or the world go, so we're doing tons of post-AP RP.)
Just a quick update so people don't think we fell off the face of the Earth (again): Raesh player's company (a startup) decided to set a "pie in the sky" target of releasing their first product in 3 months.
This has made Raesh's player... "busy"!
(1) We're piling up the edits behind her, but we're unwilling to pressure her too much, both because she's getting too much pressure from work, and because her Second Darkness campaign is the only one I'm playing in where I'm really playing a character I feel I have a deep 'connection' to, so I'm trying to get her to keep running that.
(2) We're still playing every week. I am simply amazed that I sit down behind the screen and say, "OK. I have nothing. What do you do?" and they're managing to fill 6-8 hour sessions every week with "post-AP wrap-up". I flatter myself that I managed to create such a rich world for them that they feel the need to wander about and tie off every loose end before they'll let the AP go. Svevenka and Conna the Wise were on this week's list of cameos.
(3) They still have at least 2-3 full sessions of wrap-up they want to do (Mayor Groboras may well fall, they already bought Hi a wedding ring (that terrifies him), and Halek is finally pushing to return to his tribe so they can introduce Shalelu to his people.) So when I said "end of May" I think I was a bit optimistic.
Anyway, I'll pile up the writeups behind Raesh's player, and I'll encourage her to try for one a week.
P.S. For Mittean: Last week's dinner was our local chacuterie's roast lamb Saratoga, along with my homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, and Shiro's player's insanely-good Zinfandel. I believe I caused a 1-pound weight gain in every player. This week it was "Bowl'd", a wonderful Korean ramen/rice bowl/BBQ place on Solano in Albany. Charming people, the best Korean food outside of San Francisco, and fairly reasonable prices (I fed all four of us for under $90 this week). I never understand people who say, "Well, I could get better Korean food for less in Chinatown."
Yeah, you could. But you'd have to cross the bridge, find parking in San Francisco on a Friday night, stand in line for an hour, and otherwise suffer. Instead of just shutting up and enjoying what you have locally. Sheesh! Get a grip on reality already!
Hi NobodysHome and the players,
It's not that I want to rush you with the final write-ups... But I've just spent the last few weeks reading through 9 pages of awesome and when I get to the end... Well there IS no end! Just take your time. We understand. Really. No rush, I'll just wait here by the browser... ;)
Seriously, a big thanks for the campaign logs. Absolutely brilliant stuff and I love the amount and level of roleplaying. Raesh, Hi and Shiro are totally awesome and I'm sure everyone on the forums envies your players! Now if only we knew what happened in the end... (hint, hint, nudge, nudge)
Our team (also +25 years of gaming) is starting Rise of the Runelords in couple of weeks and this is the first time I've read the AP and full campaign logs from other teams before starting to GM it to the guys. Very inspirational. Thank you!
I know you *must* (right?) be busy with the final write-ups but in the meanwhile it would be super cool if you or your players could do a quick post mortem on the AP or share what were your highlights during the last two years?
Thanks! The feedback we've been getting from doing this has been awesome! I've been trying to do the same for Second Darkness, but my "lonely angel" is the only one writing.
The good news: Raesh's player is reading over my shoulder right now, so consider her "gently reminded".
I'll also ask them to start thinking of "favorite moments" and "best ideas" and see what they can post. I think that's a great idea as we wrap this up.
So I'll badger her tomorrow (game day) to finish her edits before we start (yeah, that worked SO well last time), and we'll get at least one post up. Then I'll put a couple more in her lap next week and see what we can do about catching up...
Super cool! Looking forward to any thoughts or ideas from your team!
I have to say that it's been somewhat surreal to read the logs. Feels like "semi-gaming" (you know what I mean :) and a great way to prep for the AP. I've found normal campaign logs a little hard to read and this is the first time I've finished (well, ahem, not _really_ finished given how we're still missing the ending...) reading a full AP. Compliments on your writing and consistency. It's been real joy to read of your game (for convenience I pasted everything into a word doc and it was very much like reading a good book).
I'm also a little shell shocked on how you guys find so much time to play? We've had the team together since end of eighties, but we're struggling to sustain one evening every two weeks. Maybe when my kids are older things it will get easier. Envious I am...
A few random thoughts:
(1) Thanks again! There are a few campaign journals I'm addicted to (Gluttony's, Useplanb's, and now Tomi's, and the two very-rarely-posted ones called something like "Vignettes from Xin-Shalast" and then the one with the drunken fighter), but I know there are so many it's impossible to find time to read them all. I'm very pleased I have such a loyal group of readers, and yes, yes, we'll get the finale out ASAP.
(2) Young kids make gaming harder, even if both parents game. Our Second Darkness campaign averages less than one session a month because three of the players have kids under 3. When our kids were younger we played in a one-per-two-weeks Runequest game and managed that with some consistency, but I know it required planning and was difficult, even though both my wife and I were in the campaign. We started Pathfinder a couple of years ago because my kids (then 7 and 10) saw "Gamers: Dorkness Rising" and insisted on playing "D&D". One failed experiment with D&D 4.0 later (yeccch!) and we picked up Pathfinder and I ran them and my wife through Curse of the Crimson Throne. This got everyone in the family accustomed to the idea of a weekly game.
I keep claiming that I chose the Rise of the Runelords group, but the truth is, they chose me. Shiro's son is about to graduate college, our kids were very independent even when we started in 2012, and Hi is child-free. So they told me I was going to be their GM in a weekly game. Similarly, Shiro and I have the luxury of jobs that very rarely make us work odd hours, and Hi and Raesh were unemployed/employed part-time for the majority of the campaign. The major reason our Friday-night gaming nights have gotten so much shorter is Hi getting part-time gigs with relative consistency, and Raesh's new job being a huge time-eater.
I think the long and the sort of it is:
- All the kids involved are old enough that you can safely near-ignore them for 4-6 hours at a time.
- All the adults involved have made the game their #1 priority, and schedule other events around it.
Those two things make for a very consistent game. I've never had it work so well for so long before, but I think that's because it's such a small group, and because we're all loving the campaign so much.
Anyway, yesterday morning as promised Raesh's player sat down to do the edits only to find that the e-mail was mysteriously not in her inbox. (Funny, that, since I had Shiro's edits and she was on the recipient list for them.) So once she's awake (yes, it's 7:00 am here on Easter Sunday and I'm up and Paizo-ing. Did I mention I have kids? *SIGH*) she said it's high on her priority list.
P.S. For Mittean again: As a joke, Shiro's player made us go to Sizzler last night. (He passes it every single time he comes to our house, and all of us grew up with fond memories of Sizzler as a place to eat as a kid, but all of us experienced the "inedible Sizzler" years.)
Amazingly (to all of us), the food was perfectly good. They had REAL greens in their salad bar (rather than the eternal bins of iceberg lettuce), the salad dressings we tried were perfectly OK, and Shiro's rib-eye was actually quite good and properly-cooked. My Malibu Chicken was... edible, and exactly what I expected. (Tasted like a cheese hot dog made of chicken. But that's kind of what you think of when you think of Malibu Chicken.)
We were all astonished that we went there hoping for a terrible dining experience, but all the food was acceptable-to-good (except for Hi's clam chowder, but getting clam chowder at Sizzler is Hi's own darned fault), and the service was exemplary. Fast, friendly, attentive service. Astonishment!
Anyway, I won't derail the thread any further. Once it reaches a reasonable hour I'll pester Raesh and try to get the journal kick-started again.
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So... I think this session can be categorized as, "What happens when an obsessive-compulsive GM meets a 'wing it from the hip' group of players." I knew that both Karzoug and Khalib would be scrying the party throughout their travels in Xin-Shalast. What I needed to decide on was, "WHEN do they scry?"
Given the party's behavior to date, I decided that Khalib would scry one hour after sunrise so he could listen in on their plans for the day, and Karzoug would scry at noon to see where the party was and what they were up to. Neither wizard had any trouble whatsoever scrying Halek with his Sihedron Ring, but on this particular day (the 13th), the party was sitting around negotiating with Gyukak in the morning, and doing their distraction on Gyukak's behalf at midday. Khalib and Karzoug (i.e., the GM) fully expected them to follow the giant exodus and ensure their safety, as that would have been in keeping with prior behavior. Instead, the party went up to the Pinnacle and freed Ayruzi. Oops.
In short, I had to rule that Khalib and Karzoug had already scried for the day, and had no idea what was in store for poor Khalib in Ayruzi's room. I know that other GMs might choose that, "Khalib and Karzoug scry whenever it is most opportune for them," but I don't care for that approach. I'd rather figure out what my BBEGs are doing BEFORE the PCs do anything; that way, the world feels more "real".
Unfortunately, yes, this decision ensured that Khalib had a REALLY bad day on the 14th, as they weren't ready to ambush him until perhaps 3:00 PM in the afternoon on the 13th, LONG after Khalib and Karzoug had finished their scrying, and the ambush occurred before Khalib's first scry of the day.
Sorry, Khalib! Your GM's insistence on realism dictated your Very Bad Day!
In fact, I would grant Khalib a coveted Silver Tsuto award for walking in on the party that fateful morning and then rolling a 1 for his initiative, but one of my faithful lamia clerics proved even more incompetent, drawing the very card that originated the award in the first place ("Move 10' in a random direction, provoking attacks of opportunity from all you move past"), so Khalib didn't even manage that much. Poor man! Read on, gentle readers, read on!
13-Calistril-4708 (Continued from last game)
The party settled into Ayruzi's room under Shiro's Zone of Silence to discuss tactics, talk to Ayruzi, have dinner, and otherwise pass the time for the rest of the evening. Ayruzi had to lie down so that her upper half fit within the zone, but she did not seem to mind.
Shiro was delighted to learn that Ayruzi knew Irrylia. Ayruzi insisted that she knew the name, and had perhaps visited her house once and met her half-blooded daughter, but was not in any way close with her. Nevertheless, the fact that she knew Irrylia at all delighted Shiro no end, and he asked a multitude of questions she could not answer about her.
Finally, Ayruzi became deadly serious. "You have freed me from my bonds, and are right now assisting me in avenging myself against my tormentor. For this, I owe you a debt, and I would repay that debt. I know that you seek to slay Karzoug, architect of these atrocities. Should we be successful in bringing Khalib low, I will assist you in bringing down Karzoug."
Raesh managed to resist snorting. Even angels thought that she did things seeking some form of reward! She wound up with her usual speech, then just sighed. Ayruzi was no more likely than the others to understand her point. Instead, she silently accepted Ayruzi's promise of assistance.
As they settled down for the evening, Ayruzi assured them that none dared enter her room, but the party took precautions anyway: They slept as a group, with one person standing watch outside of the Zone of Silence while the rest huddled together within it. It was a cozy night.
Raesh knew that Khalib would arrive before she could complete her devotions, so she chose to put them off until they had dealt with him.
GM Note: Yes. How is Khalib supposed to predict that Rae'Sheleth, paladin of Sarenrae, is going to forsake her devotions on his behalf? Poor guy!
Ayruzi arranged herself in plain sight of the door. Hi wanted to wait at her side, ready to blast Khalib, but the rest of the party was insistent that Khalib would almost certainly see invisible foes, and so he should hide. Hi wouldn't hear of it, and trusted himself to hide behind the door frame. Raesh, Shiro, and Halek hid around the corner, out of sight of the door.
Yes, Khalib could See Invisibility, so the moment he opened the door he knew he was doomed. Unfortunately, with Ayruzi charging him and attacking him on the surprise round, Hi blasting away, and the rest of the party coming around the corner to announce, "Khalib, your wicked days are ended," right before he rolled a 1 on his Initiative, it wasn't so much of a fight as a, "Who gets to kill the silly silly mage?" party.
Appropriately enough, Ayruzi struck the killing blow. Even more surprisingly, all the "neighbors" failed their fairly easy perception checks, so the party had some time to relax and loot Khalib's body.
With Khalib safely removed from this world, Raesh performed her devotions in peace.
Once they were ready, the party opened Ayruzi's door to explore the hallways beyond. The halls were enormous; at least twenty feet wide and fifty feet tall. Even a rune giant could stride comfortably down this hall, though two might have to squeeze past each other.
They moved silently and invisibly down the left-hand passage. After a couple of turns the passage narrowed to fifteen feet. Ahead it widened into a room. As Halek stepped into the expanse, he inexplicably howled in rage and thrust his earthbreaker deliberately at the air. The air screamed in anguish, and party members who could see what Halek has struck saw a faint image of Karzoug writhing in pain and fading away. Karzoug's first "thin spot" was annihilated.
GM Note: I was very careful to map out the passage (well, to have Raesh's player map out the passage) and have them move their figures along so I'd know when Karzoug had line of sight from his spot to be able to blast them. Unfortunately, Halek came into line of sight within 30 feet of the thin spot, Halek rolled the requisite DC 37 Perception check (+2 for distance), and to finish things off he rolled higher than Karzoug in initiative. So Karzoug's first image was a non-issue.
As Shiro asked, "Is that it? Was that Karzoug? Are we done now?" I kept them in initiatives. THIS combat had been heard far and wide.
The first sign of trouble was when the double door at the end of the wide area flew open and a hideous abomination poured out (a lamia hungerer). A second hungerer was visible behind her. Halek raced forward, took the attack of opportunity, and learned to his great regret of their Wisdom drains. Raesh stepped up to assist Halek, and their positions prevented the second hungerer from being able to enter the room. Instead, the hungerer belched forth a cloud of stinking, greasy nastiness that greatly impaired everyone's visibility and caused Hi and Shiro to commence emptying their stomach contents onto the floor.
GM Note: I know, I know. Life bubble. Sometimes your PCs just forget their own buffs.
On seeing this, Raesh chose to stop breathing. (Handy ioun stones!) The lead hungerer struck Halek three times, reducing him to 0 Wisdom and leaving him a drooling idiot. In return, Raesh reduced the lead hungerer to a pile of hamburger and Ayruzi dropped a Blade Barrier between the party and the remaining hungerer.
Things seemed to get worse when four lamia clerics, finally done with their buffing, poured out of a side room, leaving Raesh and Ayruzi to face off the five of them as Halek muttered and Hi and Shiro vomited.
Unfortunately, with a Magic Circle of Protection from Evil up, the lamias' ranged spells were not that effective, and Raesh was wreaking havoc on them with her bow (even at +4 AC) while Ayruzi carried Halek safely away from the combat. The lamias decided that they had to "take the plunge" and rush the Blade Barrier; otherwise their buffs would wear off and they would be facing five healthy enemies instead of two.
As I moved all of the lamias through the barrier, rolling their Reflex saves against the damage, a truly marvelous Silver Tsuto Award evolved. One of the lamia clerics failed her Reflex save but still managed to arrive next to Raesh, then proceeded to fumble. The card? Everyone's favorite, "Move 10' and take attacks of opportunity from all you move past." The group started chanting, "Though the barrier. Through the barrier. Through the barrier."
I insisted that it was a *random* direction, so I would roll 1d8. Just to keep them quiet, I pointed to the barrier and said, "That's a 1."
So of course I rolled a 1. Back through the barrier a second time she went, taking another 15d6!
Unfortunately for the lamias, their efforts were too late. Ayruzi restored Halek's wisdom, bringing him back to the fight, and Shiro and Hi recovered from their illnesses. The tides turned quickly. My wonderful Silver Tsuto winner added to her legacy by fumbling her Reflex save on her way back in, for a grand total of 45d6 before being touched by an enemy, and leaving her with 9 whole hit points by the time she reached Raesh. It just wasn't enough.
As the party gasped for breath (figuratively) and licked their wounds (also figuratively), the sounds of giant footsteps racing down the corridor told them their ordeals were not at an end...
*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Friday, February 14, 2014 (Already played.)
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Another Friday night, and this one was nothing but an immensely long battle with a horde of giants rushing up a narrow passage. So, especially since I don't record battles round-by-round or anything, this was a *very* long game (I think we wrapped at least an hour and a half later than usual) with a *very* short writeup. In fact, our next few sessions (February 20, March 1, and March 7) are all uber-short, so let's see what I can crank out.
Much to my amazement, considering the sheer number of combatants and number of rounds this battle went, I'm amazed not to be awarding a Silver Tsuto. I think Khalib and the poor lamia cleric used them up last session!
14-Calistril-4708 (Continued from last game)
The party didn't wait to find out what was in store for them. Raesh cast Deeper Darkness to obscure the hall, then the party blindly moved away from the footsteps, back into the hall in front of Ayruzi's room. As they turned the corner and came out of the darkness, Raesh spotted another "thin spot" in the dimensions, and once again Shiro rolled higher than Karzoug on initiative. Shiro's Silence prevented Karzoug from doing anything other than glaring menacingly at them until Raesh used her Dominant scimitar to dispatch him. Even worse, he managed to fail his save and lose a temporary level. Little did the party know, I rolled for him again that night and he lost a permanent level from that one little hit, and had no one in the Eye of Avarice able to restore it. (And it seemed like a waste of a Wish to bring it back that way.)
As soon as they were fairly sure no one was coming from this direction, Ayruzi placed a new Blade Barrier cutting through the darkness. There were many satisfying yelps of pained giants, and the attacking force apparently retreated. They were in a stalemate.
As the minutes passed, a woman called out in Thassilonian, "Bring Ceoptra. We need this passage cleared. This nonsense must end. Now!"
There was some murmuring, and finally the sound of a reluctant giant moving off to bring Ceoptra, whoever that might be.
GM Note: At this point I was kind of stuck. No one left in the entire Pinnacle save Ceoptra had Dispel Magic, and Ceoptra is written to "never abandon her post". On the other hand, the alarm had been raised and Viorian is listed as Karzoug's champion, and she wanted the PCs found and killed immediately rather than allowing them to escape. I figured their relationship wouldn't be the most cordial in the first place, but Ceoptra couldn't exactly leave Viorian out in the cold and say, "Wait 3 hours. I'm sure they'll still be there."
Karzoug would also probably be pretty sore about the lost level.
So I played Ceoptra as hesitantly willing to help: She got there, did her job, did not get involved in the fight, took one pot shot at Hi, and then fled back to her post.
Not 100% as-written, but better than a 3-hour standoff behind a darkened wall of blades.
After perhaps 10 minutes, the party heard a booming woman's voice casting Dispel Magic. The darkness fell. They readied themselves for the attack. A second and a third Dispel Magic brought down the Blade Barrier. They heard giant footsteps running up the passage.
GM Note: All of the descriptions of the Pinnacle speak of its enormity, its huge ceilings, and its giant-sized proportions. Now take a look at the hallway leading from Viorian's room to Ayruzi's room. At its widest it's 20 feet. At many places it looks to be only 15. Now take a bunch of 15-20-foot-tall giants and run them down that passage towards a waiting adventuring party. What are you going to get? You're going to get a meat grinder. Unfortunately, I figured that was exactly what the rune giant in the back was looking for: Grind down the heroes with waves of cloud giants, then hit them with storm giants, and at the end hit them with rune giants, spending giants' lives as currency to wear down the heroes' resources until the rune giant could reach them and slay them.
And you know what? It was a looooooooong slog, but it almost worked! If he hadn't left a few cloud giants and the other rune giant to guard the other entrance to the Pinnacle in case the adventurers tried to pull a fast one, he might have downed a couple of them.
That being said, the battle was long and brutal. Raesh, convinced that many of the giants were Dominated by the rune giants, was using her Blade of Mercy trait to deal nonlethal damage to all of them. Halek and Hi's ministrations were not so kind. Viorian was a virtual non-factor. She arrived at the fore of the assault, was immediately Smitten by Raesh, and received the Hasted Raesh and Halek's undivided attentions for a couple of rounds. Just one of those, "She looks good on paper," moments. Of course, Halek is over 300 hit points now while raging, so losing 100 a round just doesn't faze him all that much...
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the combat came when the rune giant finally neared the party. All six of the cloud giants were unconscious, but, thanks to Raesh, alive. He "remedied" that by using his Spark Shower to fill the entire hallway with fire and lightning. It did some damage to the PCs, but it also killed five of the six downed cloud giants. Raesh's Blade of Mercy? Not so much. The kid gloves were off! With the storm giants having spent their Chain Lightning spells, it was a bitter encounter between the rune giant, the three storm giants, Raesh, Halek, Ayruzi, and Hi. (Yes, yes, I know. Shiro was there. Boosting everyone's attacks and damage by +5 (Good Hope and performance), making sure everyone was Hasted, and ready with a Bard's Escape if things went south. But he wasn't exactly fighting, now was he? More just prancing about making everyone else fight better.)
Unfortunately for the bad guys, with Ayruzi's healing and Raesh Smiting Evil on the rune giant, it wasn't going well for them. Ceoptra, having stayed to listen to the fight and knowing full well that she would be facing these adventurers soon enough if she did nothing, used Ethereal Jaunt to get behind them (permissible thanks to her Sihedron Ring), phased into the Material Plane, and hit Hi with Destruction. Unfortunately, Hi managed to make his save. Even worse, Shiro tried to hit her with Irresistable Dance. Fortunately, he was exactly one point shy of penetrating her SR (I know because we added it all up three times just to be sure), so she had enough time to phase back to the Ethereal Plane and escape. She would have to better plan how to deal with these menaces!
With Ceoptra gone, the rune giant fell. The moment he fell, the two remaining storm giants surrendered (the third was unconscious), announcing (in giant) that they had been under the rune giant's control. Raesh used Detect Evil to confirm their story, and they were now faced with a dilemma: They had felled half a dozen cloud giants, a rune giant, and Viorian, and had three storm giants who wanted nothing more than to be away from Xin-Shalast. Raesh went to Viorian, declared her life forfeit for aiding and abetting Karzoug, and beheaded her. Raesh's armor dimmed noticeably. This was too much to bear! "Oh, come on! She was Karzoug's general! How on Golarion was I supposed to redeem her?!?!?!?"
Frustrated, Raesh could sense the presence of mind of the sword reaching out. Unfortunately, it was reaching out to the wrong party. Shiro could be described as a neat little package of Sloth, Gluttony, and a bit of Lust, and Halek, Hi, and Raesh had Wrath issues, but not a one of them had a single point of Greed among them. Raesh wrapped the sword in a cloth, and they used Mage Hand to move it into one of Halek's Bags of Holding. They would deal with the sword later.
And speaking of Greed, the party decided that they would need to look into Viorian a bit more, find out why Raesh's armor had dimmed when she'd executed her, and perhaps get a True Resurrection cast if the situation called for it.
At that point, it was already late at night in the real world, so we called it a wrap.
*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Thursday, February 20, 2014 (Already played.) Games? On Thursdays?
I was going over the trailer for a film some friends of mine are finishing up yesterday afternoon (a campy fantasy in the vein of the princess bride meets...goonies...or something), while enjoying a nice bowl of made-from-scratch Cream artichoke heart soup with portabello mushrooms in an asiago cheese bread bowl, and it made me totally miss these characters. To Cheliax with you all for doing this to me. :)
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This session marks the all-time record for "shortest set of notes" since I started taking them way back in October. It was a "5-line" session. There's a nice dream sequence that opens the March 1 game that I could roll in here, but looking at flow, I'm leaving the sessions as-played. So sorry, but this one's probably the fault of Rendez-Vous, a nice little "authentic" French place on Solano in Albany. The food is excellent and reasonably-priced, and the mussels will knock your socks off if you're into that sort of thing. (I don't care for invertebrates, myself.) But it's also "authentic" in that you have to plan at least 2 hours for dinner. No rushing through your meal with them! It's a pleasant enough atmosphere that we don't mind, but it does impact the amount of time we have for gaming.
14-Calistril-4708 (Continued from last game)
Once the party checked on all the fallen and verified that the cloud giants had all perished (almost all at the rune giant's hand (or spark shower, as the case may be)), the rune giant and Viorian were dead, and the storm giants were (barely) conscious, they decided it was time to beat a tactical retreat. The first concern was how to get three giants out of the Pinnacle: The hole in Ayruzi's room might well be too small for them, while making them walk through the other giants might render them Dominated again. The giants knew of a portal that led directly to Shahlaria, but again the party could not accompany them, and thus they worried the giants would lose their minds.
While they pondered, Shiro performed several Soothing Performances to restore everyone's hit points to a respectable level.
Much to Shiro's delight, they chose the most ridiculous plan possible: Shiro Greased the hole in Ayruzi's room, the giants squipped through, and Raesh cast Feather Fall on them as they popped out the other side. Undignified? Absolutely! Silly? Yes!
For reasons completely beyond my comprehension, Shiro decided to take Khalib's body with them. As far as I know, he's still in one of Halek's Bags of Holding.
With time no longer on their side (the storm giants did not have Life Bubbles), the veritable horde raced down the hill towards lower Xin-Shalast. (The four party members, Ayruzi, and three storm giants made for quite the parade.) Unfortunately for them, I rolled a random encounter of three rune giants rushing up the path to reinforce the Pinnacle. Unfortunately for the rune giants, their Stealth is nonexistent and Shiro spotted them well in advance.
While the party discussed how to pass the rune giants, and whether they could turn invisible and let the storm giants go past them, the storm giants had other ideas. Drawing their massive bows, they started raining destruction on the rune giants. Feeling cooperative, Shiro started performing for them as Raesh and Halek took a defensive line to prevent the rune giants from charging. In my favorite moment of the evening, Hi used Form of the Dragon to help Raesh and Halek, and one of the storm giants immediately fumbled and shot him in the back of the head. Warn people next time you're going to turn huge, Hi!
In spite of the barrage and the array of deadliness before them, the rune giants might have had a chance if Shiro hadn't had some free rounds. Grease flew freely, along with the rune giants' swords. Without their swords, they were no match for the frontline fighters, and all three giants fell quickly. The storm giants stepped forward, then paused and looked to Raesh. "You may pass judgement," Raesh assured them.
With her reassurance, the storm giants cleanly beheaded the rune giants. Raesh approved of their fighting prowess, honor, and self-control. She thought that rune giants might have much to learn from storm giants, if they would stop Dominating them.
Once in Xin-Shalast proper, the party felt that the storm giants would attract less attention and be at less risk, so they used Invisibility Spheres and Phantom Steeds to accompany the giants through the city. With the recent cloud giant rebellion and the activity of the rune giants, the streets were relatively deserted, and the group reached the path to Svevenka's swamp unmolested. They warned the giants of the difficulty in getting out of Xin-Shalast, and the party prepared for the arduous task of going up and down the mountain multiple times. Much to their amazement, everyone made their Will saves the very first time, and the party arrived in Svevenka's fen intact.
The snow simply became Svevenka. She did not come out of it, nor was she invisibly hiding above it. She was it, and then she was not. She beamed, which might have blinded have the party if she had been in her true form. "Rae'Sheleth! It is wonderful to see you once more! I am glad that you are safe!"
As all powerful female beings seemed to do, she rushed forward and embraced Raesh in an icy, crushing bear hug. Raesh muttered, "I am glad to see you too, Svevenka."
Raesh was primarily concerned with introducing the storm giants to Svevenka. Surprisingly, Svevenka was quite warm and welcoming to them. "The storm giants in these lands are guardians and protectors. I would trust these three to protect my fen for a few moments. They are welcome here, and will not come to harm."
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, the party panicked: How had Gyukak and his veritable army passed the swamp? Had Hi warned Svevenka about them? They quickly scanned the fen for giant-sized thin spots in the ice. Seeing none, they relaxed a bit.
Raesh asked Svevenka about Gyukak and his army, and she informed them that the stone giants had indeed passed through, but their leader was extremely militant and organized, and they had passed single-file and very respectfully through her swamp, so she hadn't had to kill any of them. She sounded half pleased and half disappointed about this. Raesh's respect for Gyukak as a leader grew.
The party decided that they would make their push back up to Xin-Shalast now in the early evening rather than in the morning, so that if they needed to use any resources at all they would do it before they had to rest. Much to their surprise, Svevenka indicated that she would come with them.
When they asked her why, she explained. "These giants need rest, and have agreed to stay here tonight and tomorrow to protect my fen. I am greatly displeased that I continually lose my connection to Rae'Sheleth, and I would see this Pinnacle myself. I need not go in; I merely want to walk the streets of Xin-Shalast to see what it has become now that the Hidden Beast is dead and it is beginning to know freedom, and to know where I will find Rae'Sheleth if she does not return."
The party didn't argue with this logic, and the six of them (the party plus Ayruzi and Svevenka) made it back up to lower Xin-Shalast without incident. As the party settled in to the "fort" at the base of Xin-Shalast for the night, Ayruzi and Svevenka perched atop the cave, speaking of times long gone by, the horrors of Earthfall, and many things millenia past. As Shiro performed to entertain the party for the evening, two soulful voices from above joined them in song.
The party slept soundly that night, though Raesh was still pondering/seething about Viorian. Sure, the woman had looked Varisian instead of Thassilonian, but why had her armor dimmed when she had slain her? As she drifted off to sleep, the dream began...
GM Note: Yes, I dutifully rolled for encounters, but I don't think there's anything on that table that could deal with Svevenka and Ayruzi, much less them plus the party, so it was just as well that I rolled high.
*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Saturday, March 1, 2014 (Already played.)
Oh noes! I reached the end of the internet! Wait, it's just the end of the campaign log so far ....no wait that's bad! Where's the rest? What happens now? Oh gods I must know now!
Man I've been on long posting hiatus! I'm getting excited to run this campaign next (we ended up doing Skull & Shackles instead, we're in the middle of book 5).
Also I'm extremely jealous of your party.
Wow, CaroRose! Welcome back! Good to see you again! CaroRose is one of my first co-conspirators back in our Crimson Throne days, and one of my inspirations for this journal! (Just check the first post. She really is!) Now if only I can get Mikaze to post here...
Don't worry -- you'll see that was a double-post on Thursday, and last night I spent 2 1/2 hours writing the next session while waiting for the gang to arrive, so that one's almost done.
Unfortunately (for this thread), today's a "Leilani day" so I'll be catching up on her journal tomorrow, then probably this next one will show up on Tuesday. But I think I can manage two a week until the massive March 29 session... that was their mythic ascension, and I got two of three players to get all teary-eyed for their ascensions, so I'm rather proud...
EDIT: Sorry, Mittean! Last night was Skates by the Bay. And it was a mixed bag. Insanely crowded and loud as usual, but they've finally kicked their food up a notch to the point that it's almost worth the price. (Skates is one of those places where you pay for the view, not the food. But now the food is getting pretty darned competitive, or at least it was last night.) Unfortunately, we got a trainee waitress on a Friday night, and she clearly demonstrated that she wasn't going to make it at Skates by ignoring ALL of her tables for 20-30 minutes at a time with the excuse that "my manager keeps taking me aside". (Probably to tell her to pay more attention to her tables.)
So 2 1/2 hours at dinner meant we didn't get home 'til 10, and didn't actually get in a game. *SIGH*. Next time I'll cook. I've got a slab-o-salmon in the freezer that's just waiting for some masoman curry paste and coconut milk...
I know, I got a new job and went on posting hiatus for awhile! Now I'm all caught up on Your campaign journal I'll have to dig up the other ones I was following as well.
Then of course I strolled on over to peruse the campaign journal for the Second Darkness and my you're right, Leilani is verbose! And adorable. My fiancé is playing a very naive aquatic elf hybrid in our Skull and Shackles campaign. Similar feel, and he takes notes all from "her" point of view! If only I could get him to post to the campaign journal it would be hilarious as well.
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Yes, just ask Raesh and Shiro -- new jobs lead to less verbosity for a while! :-P
And Leilani's getting harder (both to write and emotionally) as the entire group seems hellbent on making her miserable. Half the party is determined to torture prisoners in front of her just to make her object, and the other half is ready to keep EVERY prisoner alive and force Leilani to deal with the inevitable army-o-prisoners that entails.
But I'm letting her grow into that role, and it's an interesting journey. I *almost* had her take a level of paladin this last level-up just to reflect her growing conviction that she's going to have to do everything herself, but we needed Neutralize Poison something awful, so another level of oracle it was...
Anyway, the next writeup is in the hands of the players, and today's a "slow day" for Raesh and Shiro, so I'm still hoping to post the writeup tonight.
EDIT: I just realized I should totally take the "Leadership" feat for Leilani and turn the prisoners into her followers! Hilarious!
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While it may seem like I'm writing significantly less for these sessions, I think it was more that both the players and I were hoping to stretch out the campaign as long as possible at this point. We knew that we were only a session or two away from Karzoug's fall, and the seemingly-inevitable end of what has been the best campaign any of us have had the pleasure of participating in (I may be overstating Shiro's player's position, as he's gamed a *lot* more than the rest of us combined, but he definitely rates this as "one of" his favorite campaigns), so we were loathe to hurry towards the end. We'd have a fight, then call an end for the day so we could move on and savor the campaign for one more week.
So yes, this was a Saturday session, and in theory it should be a decent-sized writeup, but we ran off to lunch (Sobo Ramen in Oakland), toodled about Games of Berkeley, and otherwise wasted as much time as possible while still putting in a few hours of gaming.
Fortunately, that means the writeups can come fast and furious for a bit, as, other than Raesh's dream sequence and the blow-by-blow of Karzoug's fall, there's not much more to write until their Mythic Ascension during the March 29 session (yeah, I'm looking at my notes. March 1: 7 lines. March 7: 5 lines. March 15: 11 lines. March 22: Separate paper. March 29: 33 lines. That might be a *slightly* larger writeup...)
Anyway, no Silver Tsutos this week, though Hi continues to push hard for a "my GM hates me" T-shirt.
A place out of time
Raesh recognized the dream telling the moment it started; she had experienced enough direct communication with Irrylia (and thus indirect communication with Sarenrae), that she knew what was happening as the story began.
She was a young Varisian girl named Viorian Dekanti. Her father was finally home! Excitedly, she ran to the front room to meet him. There he was, his battle-scarred face beaming! She recognized only perhaps two-thirds of the scars in his armor. He had seen battle again! Excitedly, without thinking, she asked, "Did you bring anything for me?!?!"
Her father chuckled deeply. "Yes, my little cub. I brought you a sword, that you may train and one day join me."
Viorian could not contain her exuberance. "Oh, daddy! It's perfect! I'll train every day! And one day I'll be a Pertak's Wolf, just like you!"
Her father smiled proudly, but there was a gasp from behind. Her mother, clad in traditional Varisian silks, looked ready to explode. "How DARE you! You are gone for weeks or even months at a time! Every night I go to sleep, praying to Desna to keep you safe and wondering whether my daughter still has a father, and the worry has made me old before my time. And you would wish THIS life on our daughter?"
As the argument began in earnest, Viorian paid little attention, focusing instead on the small shiny scimitar and scabbard her father had brought for her. If she squinted a bit, she could pretend it was gold. Gold and gems. Enough to pay to get away from her smothering mother, and travel with her father and his band of mercenaries, working Riddleport and its surroundings for the highest bidder. The dream faded...
...Raesh was a pre-teen Viorian, training with scimitar and shield in the hot Riddleport sun. Sweat poured from her hair down her back, and across her forehead and into her eyes. As she moved her sword arm to wipe the sweat from her brow, her arms master moved, quick as lightning, and struck her exposed elbow a stinging blow. "Never let your guard down like that! Learn to keep your eyes open in spite of the sweat! Focus on nothing but your opponent, and the world around you. Not the world within you!"
Raesh's consciousness felt quite a bit of sympathy at that moment.
Viorian gazed at her trainer's bald head, beads of sweat glistening on his pate like diamonds. If only they were real diamonds, she would be able to buy her way out of here. The dream faded again...
...at 16, she was being accepted to Pertak's Wolves as her smiling-but-greying father looked on...
...her first battle and her first kill only three months later. The blood, fear, and gore nearly made her sick, but the pay in good clean gold made her feel immediately better... the part that was Raesh recoiled a bit at the knowledge that this kill had been an innocent guardsman whose only crime was protecting a caravan carrying something Vioran's current employer wanted...
...her promotion to lieutenant at the tender age of 18, helped in large part by her combination of ambition and greed, and a keen mind and fundamental understanding of military tactics...
...the combination of grief and joy when the votes came in after their former commander fell in battle, and she was now captain of the Wolves!
It took only a few more months of bribes, carefully-planned "accidental" deaths, and one or two seductions to become a guildmaster, leaving the dangers to others and managing the planning, the hiring, and the gold. The precious, precious gold. She had her own manor now, and she hired staff to keep everything polished and shining and set about acquiring exotic weapons from all over the world. Perhaps the oldest relic she had was what seemed to be a solid gold scimitar rumored to be from Thassilonian times. It was also her proudest artifact, as it was truly priceless, and she had won it in single combat against the captain of another mercenary troop during her fighting days.
She had other items that were nearly as difficult to obtain: Exotic weapons from Tian Xia, bits and pieces of weapons and armor rumored to date back to cyclopean times, weapons from Osirion, the Mwangi Expanse, the Shoanti, and more.
She loved her manor and the people she held there: Her staff, her lovers, and her most loyal troop members.
...Then came the night it all ended...
...Viorian woke up in the middle of the night to a strange keening sound coming from her weapons display room. It wasn't one of her alarms, and none of her staff members seemed to hear it, so she took her own scimitar, grabbed a battered leather shield, and crept silently to the room.
Inside, the ancient Thassilonian sword was glowing and keening. What could it mean? She moved in to the room and gently touched the hilt of the sword. Nothing happened. Grasping the scabbard in her left hand and the hilt in her right, she drew the golden sword.
A voice in her mind said, "I am Chellan, and you are mine."
And Viorian fell into darkness.
As she rode along helplessly in her own body, the sword made her kill every member of her household. Her staff, her lovers, her troopmates, all fell by her sword. And her greatest anguish was that the sword that owned her body would not even let her weep for her fallen friends.
The vision blurred as Viorian's mind, and perhaps even her very soul, were sublimed into Chellan's. There were visions of a journey across the plains of Varisia, through the Kodar mountains, and finally to Xin-Shalast, slaying any who blocked her path or slowed her journey. In Xin-Shalast, the giants and lamias treated her with deference, and allowed her free passage to the Pinnacle of Avarice.
...The vision blurred for a moment, and Raesh saw Karzoug's cruel and smiling face as he baptized Viorian in his runewell...
...and Chellan laughed as Viorian knew no more.
Even in the dream, Raesh's eyes narrowed. The sword was now on her list.
Once the party was awake, Raesh told them of the dream. None of them knew what it meant, or what they could do about it. If Viorian had truly been lost to the runewell, could they bring her back at all? Would even a True Resurrection work? Did Viorian deserve one? And how did one go about destroying such an ancient and powerful artifact?
The first step, as always, was obviously to kill Karzoug.
GM Note: I can just imagine Shiro saying, "But Raesh, that's your answer to EVERYTHING!"
Shiro summoned Phantom Steeds, Hi cast Invisibility Spheres and Life Bubbles, Svevenka turned to mist, and Ayruzi flew invisibly along with them. (Isn't True Seeing handy?)
Much to the party's dismay, I yet again rolled no encounters as they reached upper Xin-Shalast.
As they reached the occluding field, Svevenka stopped. She asked Raesh to step into the field. Her eyes widened slightly in surprise as she lost her connection to Raesh. She asked Raesh to return, and the connection re-established itself. Svevenka snorted a bit and growled, "I do not understand it. I do not like it. But I know where you are. And I know that if you have not contacted me within 3 days, I will find a creature wearing one of those rings, remove it, and come in search of you."
The party pondered giving her one of their multitude of spare rings, then pondered the amusement of what would happen to the ring-bearers in her search, then decided better of it and "loaned" her a ring.
She would not pollute her fen with such a device, and carefully hid it in the snow just outside of the occluding field. Perhaps twenty feet into the snow. It was unlikely anyone incapable of movement such as hers would recover that ring.
The party bade Svevenka farewell as they flew up to Ayruzi's hole.
As they approached, Shiro used Stealth and Perception to scout ahead. To his amazement, no one was waiting to ambush them at the hole! They decided they were ready to face Karzoug, and went straight up the hall to the mysterious black doors with the writhing symbols. Shiro's maxed-out Perception told him that there were multiple creatures beyond the door, so he started examining the runes to try to decipher them and figure out how to get the door open.
GM Note: I've read the entry on the Aklo doors over and over and over again, and I still have no idea how they're supposed to work. Or perhaps it's better said that if they work the way I *think* they're supposed to work, I don't particularly like them. If you look at them or try to open them, you're popped into a Maze spell with a Phantasmal Killer effect. That part I like. But after you get out of the Maze, there's no way past the doors. I could allow the doors to be Dispelled, but that makes them a pretty crappy security mechanism in a realm known for its wizards. (Of course, one could argue that so is a Maze requiring INT checks to get out.) I could require that the PCs blindly teleport past the doors, but that reeks of GM fiat so badly I dismissed it. "Look at me! I came up with a place that you have to blindly teleport and hope I don't kill you!" Don't like it. I could have the doors open once you get out of the maze. Again, a pain.
So I finally decided that I'd have them come out of the Maze on the south side of the door, inside the room but flat-footed and slightly disoriented, allowing the denizens of Leng a fighting chance.
Unfortunately, the party was expecting to be fighting Karzoug in this room. So yeah, the denizens of Leng and the Thing from Beyond Time? Not on the same order of magnitude...
The party found themselves in some kind of underground tunnel system, but the geometry was utterly wrong. Angles couldn't bend that way! Even worse, there were dark shapes moving in these sewers; things with odd numbers of legs at insane angles, not capable of supporting the creatures' weights, or even of moving them. Yet they were moving.
The party started trying to move forward to find their way out.
Obligingly, Hi failed his Will save on the second round but succeeded on his Fortitude save, and the party knew immediately that they were under the effects of both a Maze and a Phantasmal Killer spell every round.
The the GM's utter amazement, Shiro's player started grinning. Shiro wasn't a book bard. Shiro took spells that sounded "cool" to him. So grinning a foxish grin, Shiro cast Revelation on himself to gain +10 to his INT roll. Amusingly, both Shiro and Ayruzi rolled amply well enough, and the two of them led the rest of the party out of the maze.
They found themselves on the other side of the black doors, staring at a room filled with cables, screens, work tables, boxes, crates, glowing cylinders, and a massive ring perhaps twenty feet in diameter showing an image of Xin-Shalast at its peak, many thousands of years ago. They would have been very interested in studying the vision for longer. Unfortunately, there were also a dozen creatures charging them with steely knives to end their existence.
Unfortunately, the creatures were no match for a fully-buffed adventuring party. During the slaughter, Shiro successfully identified them as denizens of Leng. Raesh asked, "Aren't these the guys those spiders wanted us to kill?"
When Shiro responded the affirmative, she grunted noncommittally and said, "Oh, well."
As each denizen of Leng fell, the strange ring pulsed with energy. As the last denizen fell, the image of Xin-Shalast was replaced by one of a whirling vortex. Hi, being Hi, decided to try to test the portal's resiliency with a well-placed Acid Splash. Unfortunately, not only did the spell fail to damage the portal, but it caused a backlash of energy that damaged Hi.
As the party pondered what to do next, with a howl of rage and pain a massive hound of Tindalos tore into reality. It mindlessly targeted the closest being (Raesh) for its ripping gaze to start the fight. Once again, fully buffed and ready, the party made short work of it. With the hound's appearance, the portal went quiet.
Shiro and Hi examined the workings of the portal carefully. Unfortunately, with a series of terrible rolls, all they could ascertain was that it was a portal through space and time. Perhaps Karzoug was planning on going back or sending someone back to the Xin-Shalast of the past with information or equipment, or perhaps he was planning on bringing someone or something from the past to the present.
GM Note: Perhaps the most amusing part of this is that Raesh's player is GM'ing us through Second Darkness right now, so Hi and Shiro's players were mulling over how familiar the ring looked, and didn't they know of a much larger one somewhere?
With the knowledge that this portal might be activated to allow travel from ancient Xin-Shalast to the present, the party was not content with leaving the portal intact. Knowing they couldn't damage the ring itself, the party set about destroying the cables, cylinders, and anything else they thought might prevent the device from being reactivated. Hi, once bitten twice shy, rejoiced when he found that Scorching Rays were quite effective against the equipment.
Finally satisfied with the destruction they had wrought, they faced the riddle of the doors again. Figuring that Ceoptra had used some kind of dimensional travel, they chose to Dimension Door out of the room rather than trying to work out the doors.
With the mystery of the double doors solved and no obvious exits from this side of the Pinnacle, the group returned to the area the lamias had come out of. The first room of the "lamia wing" was obviously a kind of den or meeting room. The floors were covered with comfortable, luxurious furs, there were several lamia-sized nests, and an eternal fire burnt in a fireplace on one wall. Among the furs the party found a Periapt of Proof Against Poison.
The next room was the lair of the four clerics they had slain. It was another well-appointed luxurious room with multiple nests, and quite a few holy symbols of Lamashtu. The party desecrated the holy symbols and markings, but otherwise left the room intact. Across the hall was a vile, slime-covered, stinking room filled with rotting body parts of various creatures, huge beds that seemed to consist entirely of corpses, and other evidence that this had been the room of the lamia hungerers. The party chose not to go into the room, but instead Shiro Sifted the room searching for anything of interest or value, and found nothing.
A short hallway led to the next set of doors. Shiro listened at the first, heard nothing, and let Raesh open it. The astradaemon inside, eternally vigilant and eternally patient, attacked.
GM Note: On paper, this looked like it was going to be one of the nastiest fights the party was going to have on the Pinnacle. They weren't prepared for such a creature, and its Devour Soul ability, Displacement, and extreme assortment of offensive abilities seemed like it was going to be a truly magnificent fight. I'm still amazed at just how fast the poor thing dropped.
The creature, obviously rusty from thousands of years of inactivity, raked its teeth across Raesh's armor ineffectually. (Yeah, paladins and their flat-footed AC that's just as high as their regular AC. What are you going to do?) Raesh Smote Evil and moved in to attack. Ayruzi followed. There was no room for Halek, so he waited, frustrated at being unable to join the combat.
GM Note: Sheer luck on the party's part. If there had been room for Halek, I could probably have drained him half a dozen levels or more, giving the astradaemon a fighting chance. It just so happened that the ONE melee character with an AC below 40 couldn't get in there.
Hi tried to Disintegrate the creature and learned to his sorrow of its enormous reach with its tail, not only taking damage but having some of his life force drained as well. To add insult to injury, he managed to make his Concentration check to get off the spell, but it bounced off the daemon's spell resistance. Hi took a 5' step back, hoping to get out of the daemon's reach. For its turn, the astradaemon first tried to attack the greatest threat (the paladin). After its bite and both its claws were ineffectual against her combined armor and Smite, it switched tactics and used its tail against Ayruzi, but was unable to overcome her AC either.
In spite of its Displacement, the next round Raesh and Ayruzi finished the creature off. (Curse True Seeing, anyway, but Raesh did major damage as well even with her misses.)
Ayruzi restored Hi's lost level, and the party moved into the room.
They recognized a cell block when they saw one, and the two cells were impressive: Both had permanent antimagic fields to prevent anyone inside from casting, both had incredibly-complicated locks, and neither seemed to be occupied. After a pair of unsuccessful attempts to pick the locks, Shiro finally cast Bestow Insight and Gallant Inspiration on himself which, combined with the already-on Good Hope, allowed him to pick the lock on the larger cell. Searching the cell, they found that it was indeed empty, and left the other cell for a later time.
The final set of rooms was clearly Ceoptra's suite, though they didn't yet know her name. The room was meticulously clean and fastidious, with a very carefully-tended shrine to Lissala in one of the side rooms. The other side rooms were luxurious guest rooms, clearly the former rooms of Xanesha and Lucretia as evidenced by the portraits and personal items therein. The party was somewhat pleased by their emptiness, and the indication that they had been empty for quite some time.
Shiro had little trouble finding the hidden panel in the altar to Lissala, nor the three scrolls of Resurrection, scroll of Commune, nor the single platinum key they found. Shiro immediately recognized that the key went to the cells they had examined before, so they went back and explored the smaller cell, verifying that it was also empty.
It was also getting late, so we called it a night...
*** End of Session ***
Next Planned Session: Friday, March 7, 2014 (Already played.)
OK, it's "official": Tonight the players want to create their Wrath of the Righteous PCs, and tomorrow we'll continue the post-AP political intrigue for Rise of the Runelords.
The planned menu is Scott's (The Fifth Quarter, a local charcuterie) bacon-wrapped pork roast, red potatoes roasted in the bacon fat, either asparagus or salad (we have some greens we bought 3 days ago I'd like to use before they wilt, but asparagus goes better with bacon), and whatever fresh bread the corner store has when I wander over there in a couple of hours.
Tomorrow will most likely be either Umami burger or Sobo ramen, both in downtown Oakland.
Pointless random update:
- The March 7 writeup is in the players' hands for review, so expect it within the next day or two
- We are officially "hooked". Friday night I did the opening scene of WotR for them. Saturday when we got together I asked which game they wanted to play and of course they said, "Both!" So I started them in WotR. At 5 in the evening I said, "This is a good breaking point so we can switch over to RotRL or keep going." "Keep going!" At 7:00, "Keep going!" At 9:00, "Keep going!" So they've managed to get all the way to 2nd level in WotR, but there hasn't been any RotRL in two weeks. :(
- The WotR backgrounds aren't nearly as interesting or elaborate as the RotRL ones (OK, except Hi's player, who insisted on playing a tengu raised by catfolk. Thanks, Hi, that's going to be REALLY easy to write up), but I'd still like to start the campaign journal there with introductions, so expect that campaign journal to appear within the next few days and I'll linky to it here.
- The pork roast was, quite simply, insanely tasty. When your biggest complaint is that the hand-picked wine can't keep up with the rest of the meal, you're eating well.
We have several GMs concurrently running campaigns. The GM we want to run WotR won't be ready for some time though (he's currently running Legacy of Fire for a group of 5). I'm almost to the end of Ch5 in Skull & Shackles, and am prepping for RotRL after. Third GM is running us through Way of the Wicked. Boo! I probably shouldn't read through WotR, but maybe I'll just keep reading Second Darkness since I don't see us running that one for quite some time. ;-)