The Slumbering Tsar - Starting, DM Set up, Questions, and Advice


Advice and Rules Questions

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@ Geofix - Did the party get all of Belishan's coffins? After I read the Crooked Tower, I thought to myself...geez, that's going to be tough without some Divination help. I also think Jarinov would make a great wild card roaming through Tsar with Belishan gone.

@James - Ha! That sucks for them. I thought I remember reading in the book where his hunger drives him to the nearest living settlement which is the camp....but in actuality, I think it would send him to Fort Holy first. Whoops. I hate when you get followers from Leadership and they're ground into paste by the bad guys after 2 sessions.

BTW, we're in over 800 posts now guys. Woot!


There's plenty of still living things in Tsar itself. I could see Thraestos wiping out a lesser faction and becoming their new king, complete with demands for sentient sacrifices.


@James

As I recall the upshot of King Thraestos being free and active is that he naturally draws the ghouls and ghasts of Tsar and The Desolation to him. One of those ghasts could be a cleric who casts harm spells until The King is back to full hit points. (One could also be a tailor who makes him sequined jumpsuits.)

After that my preference would be for The King to collect his followers and head in the direction of the camp. His sense of time is probably warped and with limited food in Tsar (or anger at not being rescued) he could head out looking for the Army of Light (i.e. dinner).

After that you can wait for an opportune time for him and his menagerie to chase a caravan into camp or attack the forward base your characters have set up.

(Just reading back some posts....short form of above: what KaiserDM said)

@KaiserDM

No - they didn't find all of his coffins. They did finish him off down in the crypts but they missed the upper coffin with his spell books.


@Geofix - So Jarinov took Belishan's spell books, but the vamp hasn't been fully destroyed hmmm? I likey. Any falling out between the two that will have implications on your game? The possibilities seem endless.


@ KaiserDM

Belishan has been destroyed - they staked him in his crypt coffin. Jarinov made off with the spell books after that. There isn't currently a wizard in the party so no one thought too deeply about where Belishan was getting his spells from. (oops)


Ahh, I see. Looking back at your posts that should have been more obvious to me. You plan on doing anything special with Jarinov or has he left Tsar for good?


The party met Jarinov twice.

During the first meeting he and had words with one of the paladins and then challenged that paladin to a duel. The paladin avoided the challenge and threatened to kill Jarinov 'later'.

During the second meeting Jarinov was about to be killed by the barbarian but bought his life by showing the party where Belishan's treasure was and promising not to bother them again.

That was about 50 game days ago (lot's of crafting and travel to sell the palace from Belishan's treasure) and Jarinov has use that time to invite the gnolls into the crooked tower (they are now well established)and to move himself to Bard's Gate. At some point he will frame the paladin for a murder and try to instigate a trial by combat in the public street. I'm hoping to keep the paladin completely off balance and then hit him with a "remember me punk?" from Jarinov.


You know, that reminds me of the conversation I was having with my buddy on the phone yesterday. We were talking about how powerful Paladins in PF are and he chimed in with, "See, people have it all wrong. You don't send a monster or a CE Barbarian after a Paladin. That's insta-fail. No, you want to get a Paladin? Have the BBEG send a lawyer after him."

So funny and yet...so true.


My party has just completed their second session in the crooked tower and I have been haunting them with a "Hotel California" theme! They have pretty much completed most of level one now except the hydra and the major domo area. The 12 wraiths gave them a little bit of a fright, but they dealt with it with Katrina stone shaping the narrow passage wall to the west to open up access to attack them. A wall of fire from the sorceress then did a number on them.


The Desolation claimed its first victim yesterday IMC. The fighter-wizard was badly poisonned from the spits of the poisonous ghouls of the last outpost. When the slow poison spell from the bard stopped, it was a nasty DC23 fortitude save to survive (two uses of the restorative balm didn't worked). After a few rounds, he died from the poison.


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It's never the combats that get you in the Desolation; it's the slow, painful attrition.


One of the players in our campaign is a much better writer than I am. Here, with his permission, is the player's eye view of our last session. He's left out most of the role playing that took place in Bagdan which is our version of Bard's Gate. The Medicinnes are a wealthy banking family that bankrolled the initial adventure and have been acting as the party's brokers. My comments bracketed. Let me know if you'd like to see more of these in the future.

(They'd left the large crystal, and other items, in room 46 because of weight issues.)

The party made it back to Bagdan in one piece. Rest, crafting, consulting with the Medicinnes and various temples took place. The maid let drop that some other adventurers had brought back the big crystal sphere. Apparently it used to belong to a wizard. These new adventurers seem to be the talk of the town…or at least, the town's servant class. Hmmm…I wonder if Kendal had anything to do with that. It seems that we’re going to have to “take care of” the people that we rescue in the future. Yay morality!

(N'Tonna=half orc barbarian, the stalkers are new PC's. The player writing this is Namere Quired - elven cleric)

As we go hither and thither…less “we” and more N’Tonna going thither as she headed up to the Medicinne’s to work out some private deal…the grapevine informs us that we are are being stalked. One of them, a scrawny elf, is pretty well invisible as he can vanish behind a stick; the other, also well-nigh invisible because most normal people’s field of vision doesn’t go that low, was a dwarf. Where he might have been invisible, his presence was presaged by a powerful odour and he wasn’t installable. While Namere’s attention was occupied elsewhere, they convinced the others to let them join our party and he suddenly became aware of their presence post-teleport one mile outside Tsar. There was nothing unbidden about the thought that came to his mind— “Who the hell are you guys?” But, being cool and being a cleric meant that he had to maintain a beatific demeanour— hooded eyelids, sacred hand gestures and all.

(purse-dragon = pseudo dragon familiar)

Aeric seemed to have one of those annoying little purse-dragons, the ones that are all the rage with daughters of the extremely wealthy. He expected that it would let out high-pitched “yif’s” and little puffs of flame when faced with something very large and dangerous. Then deciding that its work was done, it would zip back at high speed and hide behind its owner who was now rapidly trying to formulate a strategy to deal with the charging mountain on the verge of crushing them both. But they're so cu-uuuute!

(Verdan is the fourth member of the Hauppes family to venture to Tsar - three others are dead)

Still in his diplomatic reverie, Namere thought that he needn’t worry. Verdan Hauppes, the barbarian dwarf, had it covered. Surely, nothing can approach within striking distance of that eye-watering smell. Nice enough guy but one had to roll a saving throw just to be in the same room as him. Mentally fluttering through his orisons, he sought Make Soap but wondered if Flame Strike wouldn't be better.

Shaking his head and addressing the real world, the name “Hauppes” wandered through his mind wearing a loud outfit and begging for attention. “Are you…?” “Yes…sort of.” “You don’t, errr…look like…” ”I know, it’s a long story. Dad couldn’t keep it in his pants.” “Ah…” Then silently, “Explains the smell” but out loud (with a sharp nasal exhale)—“Welcome!”.

(This takes place after teleporting to about a mile outside of Tsar)

The group took a few steps towards Tsar and up ahead were four lumps in the bone dust. Just the sort of thing that looks like a trap. Namere elbowed N’tonna asking if she still had the spears. Sure enough. “Give ‘em a poke!” Jabbity jab, four times indicated that these were dead lumps and a quick kick at each revealed that these dead lumps were dead trolls who appeared to have suffocated. The party breathed a sigh of relief that the train that goes through the stations Rampaging, Living, Unconscious, Dead and Undead, had let these four off at the penultimate (and vastly more convenient) stop. There was, unfortunately, a siding that the train should have gone down that led to Raging Conflagration, so I suspect that these trolls had a full return ticket.

Carrying on, and crossing through the breached wall as we had done so many times, that gap with its incessant buzzing, Verdan decided to break with tradition and investigate the noise. What it wasn’t was what appeared. Four extremely rare and extremely large dunnowhat trolls. Nobody had a clue. Nobody knew that they were trolls until they had joined the other ones on that train (and also missed the f%!$ing. siding.)

(Bog = human paladin = Jarinov's target)

They immediately attacked Bog and hit him four times. They were of the “sticks and stone will break your bones and bugger the name-calling because we really want to hurt you” variety of creature. Bog hit back at one and connected three times. Darth flame-struck two quite nicely. Namere guiltily began to contemplate that the smell of singed troll was a little better than that of the dwarf. N’Tonna had a fugue moment, staring off into space. Verdan was suddenly gone and in his place was a sparrow who flew up high over the trolls. N’Tonna became giant-sized. Namere, shocked out of his olfactory woolgathering, hit one with two arrows. N’tonna hits, Primor, the other barbarian, seemingly controlled by another, hits as well. The trolls hit back. This was a battle that required enthusiastic reportage by commentators with bad, over-varnished hairstyles and a peculiar skin colour, no matter their race. Finally, Bog bonded with his bow and killed one, Darth got another with a fireball and Primor charged the last one who at this point looked like he wanted to be anywhere but here and killed him. The fourth one had died earlier but it’s a secret as to who did it in. There have to be some mysteries in life.

(Buzzing comes from below rubble of the broken gate)

The subject of mysteries and actively embracing the good of them in a healthy, long life was about to be broached in spectacular fashion. The crew had crossed over the buzzing breach numerous times, alway thinking, “I wonder what that buzzing is? It’s a mystery. I guess we’ll never know” and moving on to the far less mysterious Tsar that was filled with things that wanted to kill us. But this time, the desire to grasp the unknown overwhelmed Verdan. To be fair, it was with the group’s blessing that the work of the trolls was completed and the buzzer revealed. A magical siege engine of the Army of Light.

Looking like an ankylosaur with stone rollers instead of feet, a fringe of adamantium spikes and a morningstar tail of the same material, this construct trundled out of its long-occupied tomb. Lazarus dimension-doored on top of it N’Tonna got out of its way. Verdan did aerial recon, looking for cracks or obvious openings. Bog pulled out a flask and drank the potion of fly contained within and Darth flew on top with his familiar, Wishka. That morningstar tail whipped around and hit Lazarus and the now re-dwarfed Verdan. For a brief instant, they had no need for potions of fly and clearly demonstrated the truth of the expression “meteoric rise” as they both ploughed furrows into the ground some 30 feet away. The tank then turned on Namere and Aeric and bashes them… Seemingly as annoyed at the “yif! yif!” noises coming from Aeric’s direction, the tank then killed Aeric’s familiar. (Trampled it and Aeric) N’Tonna, humphing,”Do I have to do everything myself?” ran as far way from the tank as she could get. Lazarus dimension-hopped back on top and Darth stone-shaped the side only to be stymied by a layer of metal. This construct is mean! Even though it’s a relic of the Army of Light, this benighted machine cannot seem to fathom that we as a group average out to Good. Pretty darned Good, in fact . (The parts that aren’t are fairly easily taken care of in a collateral sort of way…but that’s pretty hush hush.) Even the dulcet tones of the Celestial tongue failed to impress it with our goodness and this mechanical sauroid seemed hell-bent on crushing our party. But, we had to be sure. Flaming camels weren’t an option but Verdan obliged by producing a goat with range of the tank. It’s bleat started encouragingly at a normal pitch which rose rapidly to an almost ultrasonic squeak and ended with a rather wet ‘pop’. The tank was an equal-opportunity crusher and went after the evil and the good with equal zeal and extreme prejudice. (The Battle Hulk had been moving slowly so it took a while to get up to speed and squish the goat - party was well hidden and out of site by then.)

Taking stock, healing was done and Namere used one of his two precious scrolls of resurrection on Aeric’s familiar. With the party out of sensing range, the tank took off like a bat into hell. A machine on a mission, it disappeared into the pall seeking its target chosen so long ago. Seeing an opportunity, the crew decided to follow the talcum-like trail and use the tank as a door-knocker. Let’s see those baboo demons mess with this! Unfortunately, either the tank was too swift or some monsters have more intelligence than they are normally credited with. Six trolls chose to stand in our path, hidden until the stone and metal juggernaught rumbled past.

(Next game starts with them doing in some standard trolls)


Game 40 07/18/14
Roster: Suli Sorcerer, Half-Orc Druid, Gnome Magus

Under Control
Seconds after escaping via Dimension Door the party was near the Broken Gate and arguing about going to retrieve their downed comrades. Unfortunately their conversation caught the attention of a wandering patrol of Meatmen and Bonemen, who sliced up the Magus while the other two flew overhead. They nearly decided to flee the city, but had a change of heart to go retrieve the corpses and saving them from undead animation. They Dimension Door-ed back to the scene to find King Thraestos had departed, but not before consuming the corpse of the half-elf paladin.

Rinse Repeat
The party returned to Magnimar to resurrect their friends and were joined by a Fetchling Ranger, who was conveniently looking for a party of treasure hunters. They burned through a fair amount of Belishan’s treasure by now. The interesting part of it was that when the tiefling and dwarf returned to life they had a shared vision of a blurry faced angelic being telling them they must find the Lost Sons. (The Three Angels.) From that point on the dwarf became convinced they had a purpose besides killing Kroma and he used Commune. (I don’t have the list) He asked questions like is there anyone who can help us? What do you want us to do? And who are the Three Sons? Where should we go? They received some answers, but others were not so clear: the broken one, cleanse the city, The Faceless Angel/Pylorus the Sentinel/Regium King of Hosts, The Dread Swamp.

Roster: Fetchling Ranger, Dwarf Cleric, Tiefling Paladin, Suli Sorcerer, Half-Orc Druid, Gnome Magus

The Dread Swamp
They Featherstep through the swamp heading to the Sunken Gate (B3-1) seeing the boat they declare that the gods must think they are fools. No one noticed the massive ooze in the pond, but they cast Fly on one another and flew over with Hide from Undead up. Some low stealth rolls allowed them to see the dire crocodiles and the Naga swimming around. After admiring the waterfall and nature’s reclamation of part of Tsar they discussed allying with the Reclaimers again. They spotted the Broken one and identified him as the extraplanar dragon they were searching for. They managed some good rolls on diplomacy and he was convinced to join the party (swapped the Fetchling for him). (He is a beast and I’m thinking this might not have been a great idea.) He hands them the Statue and they aren’t sure what to make of it, but they decide to go visit the Cobbler.

Knock Knock
The party lands on the roof of the Cobbler’s shop and the druid starts hitting the ceiling with Stone to Mud, which starts crushing everything on the inside. She casts it again collapsing in total about half of the roof and all of the inhabitants of the shop come running. In a short combat they had slain all of them with little trouble, the Broken One proving himself a capable warrior. They decide to retreat to Fort Holy.

Good Morning!
The party decides that early in the morning they will go back into the city and deal with King Thraestos by firebombing him and his ghoul horde. (They had heard them in the Colluseum gathering.) They next morning they get up and the alarms in the Fort are going off and men are shouting. King Thraestos has an army and they are coming up the walls. Game ends.

Note: Sorry for the late post, its been a busy week and it looks like we might miss a game or two this month. I'll try and get a list of the questions they asked for with their commune.


I'm thinking ahead to T7 (The Maze) and trying to sort out how to deal with it's navigation and encounter probabilities. As written:

If the party wanders the streets at ground level, they have other difficulties to overcome.

First, movement in the Maze is on a steep slope (see the“Hills Terrain” section in Chapter 13 of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game)and costs double the movement to navigate.

Second, the bewildering and haphazard layout of the streets requires whoever is determining the party’s course to make a DC 20 Will save or Survival check to be able to proceed into the next intended square. Otherwise they either end up retracing their steps within the same square or entering an unintended adjacent square (GM’s choice).

Third, instead of rolling on the normal encounter table for
the High Terrace, roll on the one below once for every 50 feet traveled
while in the Maze. As with the normal encounter tables, 3 consecutive
rounds of combat always result in a second roll on the table.

The first two seem good to me and for navigation I'm going to roll a d4 to have them wander randomly without a survival check until one of the PC's indicates that they are paying specific attention to navigation through the maze.

I'm also thinking of changing the distance cost for moving through the maze, in addition to the slope penalty, to account for its maze nature. Probably using the standard 1 step forward, 2 steps back to mean each square requires 750 feet of movement to get across the full 250 feet that it represents.

I'm concerned that the encounter level is too high even without my two steps backwards it's 5 random encounter rolls per square and 7 squares to T8 so 35 random encounter rolls to get to T8. Has anyone else played through this section?


Geo Fix wrote:
One of the players in our campaign is a much better writer than I am. Here, with his permission, is the player's eye view of our last session. He's left out most of the role playing that took place in Bagdan which is our version of Bard's Gate. The Medicinnes are a wealthy banking family that bankrolled the initial adventure and have been acting as the party's brokers. My comments bracketed. Let me know if you'd like to see more of these in the future.

I like seeing any and all session recaps people post here. I think they're quite helpful/entertaining and I plan to use things I've seen from time to time when I finally get to run this beast.


Player's eye view:

[Based on the legend that Larach Umbriol wanted to create a weapon to kill the sun and the statue on the top if the dome they've realized that the building at the bottom of the stairs is the forge of Larach Umbriol. The group decided to look for an anvil and complete the quest given by the last Justicar.

Now that the group can teleport farther afield I've been giving out additional legend info when they travel to larger temples and consult the archives.

The group has also been making excellent use of wind walk]

The crew headed back to Tsar and materialised just outside Larach Umbriol’s forge. The two golems were still doing their level best to appear as mere statues, as was the toad that held the anvil. Monstrous, yes. Great actors? Absolutely not. Nobody was convinced of the projected harmlessness. A few pigeons roosting might have added something but since nothing really lived around here and the ravens were far too smart to come within swallowing range of those statues, the illusion failed.

The group had acquired another member in the shadow of their previous companion’s death. Aeric’s oversoul had reincarnated another body. This new vessel was named Ryder. One suspects that some sense of the character’s prior fatal mistakes survives the transition and Ryder popped into being as a fighter. The party had no idea where he came from—he literally appeared like a pugilistic fairy godmother, without the tailoring or carriage-crafting skills.

He and N’Tonna stepped into the circular area and in response, the toad creature animated and apparently having a severe iron deficiency, it swallowed the anvil. Mona anticipated the two golems coming alive together and, seeking to balance the engagement, she stone-shaped a parking boot around its feet and shins. Known more for her kinks than her depth of thinking Mona then cast a blade wall. This landed squarely across both golems and the heavy-bellied toad-thing. Everyone thought that there would be three piles of shavings in short order but it failed to have quite the effect anticipated. The golems received a spa treatment that they had been longing for for centuries. Ages of accumulated crud were exfoliated, rendering them bright, shiny and new. Had they known who she was, they would have emulated that bard, arms akimbo and singing that the troll-filled mountains were alive. N’Tonna thought she saw a glimmer of a smile.

The toad did not fair quite as well. Unlike the golems, it was wrapped in skin and the blades removed some of the toads favourite warts. They did their work like those of the finest butchers of Florence. Lazarus wondered what evil toad-thing proscuitto would taste like…probably like most fowl, though with half the ‘uu’. With that flavour lingering on his mind’s tongue, Lazarus beat on the closest golem and destroyed it. Sadly, that failed to get rid of the foul taste.

The other golem had the blade barrier chipping away at its stone restraint like some demonic podiatrist and soon was free and heading towards Namere and Mona. The latter created an illusory pit to contain the golem and flew up into the air. Namere cast Pillar of Life to provide respite to those battling the to and and golem.

The toad had had enough of the dermabrasion and jumped out and flame-breathed on N’Tonna and Bog. “Bang Bang” Ryder laid the hammer down hard and killed the toad. The anvil tumbled out onto the ground. While everyone was watching the toad die (and saying, “Ewwww!” at the slime-covered anvil) Lazarus damaged the golem with his something…the crew missed it completely.

The other golem leapt out of the imaginary pit—without the stumble that usually accompanies the negotiation of a step that isn’t actually there. It then headed straight for Bog and clipped him hard. Bog fired an arrow, whack made a pathetic “tink” sound and fell to the ground. Ryder attacked with his hammer, Lazarus dimension-hopped to a flanking position and did something hostile and N’Tonna smacked it twice with her axe. Lazarus pointed out that he was far more effective than future chronicles may reveal but, “Oh woe”, that was his lot in life. The golem thought, “There’s one who’ll grow old at the end of a bar!” and burped an evil miasma into Lazarus’, Bog’s and N’Tonna’s faces.

“Bang Bang” then shattered the golem with three strikes of his hammer. The betting had been fast and furious up in the Godbar, particularly around Ryder’s anticipated lifespan. Some old fans were finally in the money again. The Great God Gorgo just chuckled.

The party took the time to explore the forge area. Not surprisingly, they found a lot of ingots. Also a couple of dragon skins—a red one and a black one. Namere wondered if dragons kin panties would contain Mona. Probably not. He shuddered.

Remembering that the anvil was an artifact that the last Justicar wanted and that they had promised to retrieve, Namere talked N’Tonna out of destroying it. The crew wind walked back to the cave in the Wastes and encountered the angel standing guard. She cured Bog and let the group in on hearing of the success of our mission. Namere put the anvil between the spear and the hammer. The now-diaphanous Justicar was thrilled to be free of the curse and offered the group the gift of his weapons. He also told us his name—Gerund— and that the calling of it three times would cause him to appear and help us for 10 minutes. Back at the Godbar, the god of knowledge laughed out loud and snorted beer out of his nose on hearing the name and the wording (he laughed again at his cleverness) of the offer. Obscure language-humour was one of the things that earned him pitying glances and got him off guestlists.

Namere took some time to ask the Justicar and the angel questions about some of the things that they had encountered. The siege engine, for example and the maraca…rakashaka…err…shakakhan…shapeshifter who hated Bog. Turned out it was a Rakasha—a demigod-like being. Utterly vain and self-obsessed, they adore worshippers and take great exception to those who use the prefix, ‘demi’ in front of their status as ‘-gods’. They have the same social skills a the god of knowledge and frequently find themselves shunned in even impolite company. Hence they live in solitude and revel in taking offence. Bog may have been the high point on that one’s social calendar.

After spending the night, the party wind walked back to the forge where Namere cast Treasure stitch on the remaining ingots and both dragon skins thereby turning them into a nice, though curiously modified, doily. Following this bit of clean-up, the group wind walked back to the tunnel and wafted through the portcullis. Namere paused to look for the mechanism and looking through one set of arrow slits discovered two baboo demons. Single-mindedly, N’Tonna headed deeper into the tunnel. Namere waited outside the portcullis puffing in what he hoped was a portentous and indicative fashion. When Namere didn’t follow, Bog suspected something was up and wafted back through the bars and extruded a smoky pseudopod through the arrow slit. Namere had passed through the arrow slit on the opposite side and had found the mechanism. Bog felt a failed attempt to dispel the wind walk and, never wanting to make anyone feel inadequate, he obligingly solidified. Immediately one of the demons appeared behind him. Ryder came back and vital struck the demon; Lazarus came running back, nimbly jumping over the death-roller track and stabbed the baboo and Bog shot it five times. In keeping with her philosophy of ,“Nothing succeeds like excess”, Mona dropped a Holy Smite right on top of Bog. Through the coruscating aura and choral music a beautiful hand appeared in front of the demons and slowly, with immense gravity and heavenly calm, extended its middle finger. The demons, recognizing their cue, dropped dead.

Solidifying, Namere activated the mechanism and cranked the portcullis open. He wind walked back up the tunnel and solidified. After the smite, the tunnel had taken on a decidedly gloomy atmosphere. Of course it wasn’t its fault—it was a dark underground tube in the middle of the most evil place on the planet. Gloomy was in its very nature. Ever the optimist, Namere cast light on an arrow and shot it up the tunnel in the hope of giving the party a brighter future…

Venturing upward, they passed a crack in the tunnel wall from which flowed a cool breeze. Further along, a tunnel ran off to a side chamber and two tunnels extended from that room. A faint glow emanated from the eastern-most tunnel. Glory comes from Death, Destruction and Despair, not light! The group headed up the darker tunnel to the end, a further 500 feet. And stop at a pair of vast stone doors. Doors for very big things. Doors that are barred from the inside and therefore designed to keep those Very Big Things® outside.

[I've added a parchment note here from Sir Martimus the Lost (page 42) to foreshadow the Citadel and add a bit of nervousness about what happens inside it]


Been a while since I updated, mainly due to stuff getting in the way of writing it down and issues with game scheduling causing less needing to be written down, but now I'm almost updated... except for last week's game anyway, but yeah I'm getting there.

Session 10: Culling the Missing:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 10).

Bradley Weatherby (Human Dervish Dancer 10/Knife Master Rogue 7/Duelist 3).

Johann Kressmann (Hobgoblin Barbarian/Paladin 9).

Veldi (Drow Oracle/Sorcerer 9).

"Jake" (Human Wizard/Rogue 10).

Phox's replacement, otherwise known as the PC that will probably be dead before the end of session 10 (Human? Sorcerer (Sage)/Wizard 9).

Unnamed future BW victim (Human Fighter/Rogue/Shadowdancer/Something 9).

Culling the missing, Session 10 - 08/9/14

Day 13

After killing the brood mother, BW dominates Future Victim and makes him take out the glowing stone they saw embedded in the shield of Mordin's statue. BW and Jake then rob FV. Future BW Victim then lives up to his name and dies.

Party interrupted by noises above. Spiders who heard the mother's psychic call have come to do battle and get cut murdered easily due to having to descend down to meet the party. Silence falls but the party knows spiders await above, attempting to starve them out.

A group of Skeriber's Rangers, led by Georgia, come to the party's rescue and tell them that Skeriber requests a meeting at the cemetery. She explains that the spiders in the region heard their mother's call and will be converging on them. Time to go.

To better elude detection against the spider surge heading back to the nest, the party splits: BW, Beltin, Jake, and Georgia go one route, Veldi and Phox replacement go the other way with another ranger, and another ranger sets out to lead a false trail. The first and last party make it to the cemetery unscathed, but of the middle party only the ranger makes it. The others fell to the rampaging spiders and in their inability to attend a D&D game enough. Their loot is lost. FOREVER.

At the cemetery, Skeriber explains some stuff. He is surprised at their success, and he wanted the spiders dead too but was held back because of "politics" and the danger of the situation but wants to know why they really went there. Skeriber explains how they talked to Marcus, forcefully, because he offered them the job of getting eggs first but Skeriber refused and said that he wouldn't stand for it.

As such, Marcus is not going to be seen again, but he revealed that he was using BW as a disposable puppet to get back into the trade consortium's good graces himself. He failed. The party willing gives over the eggs, which Skeriber torches with satisfaction.

Species doomed to extinction by party: 1.

Skeriber lays the cards on the table: The party is strong and he could use them, but he is wary. He explains his people captured and tortured a margoyle after they saw a mass exodus of them leaving their ancestral home in the Chaos Rift. They learned about the distinctive PC party and how they made a deal to sell people to them, but the Margoyles didn't trust them, hence the move. The party explains they had no intention of following through and abandoned the deal. Skeriber is satisfied and says that the rangers will see the Desolation restored to nature and if the party is not anathema to that goal they can help each other. Skeriber's Rangers and the party make an alliance and become friends!

Hands are withdrawn from weapons and things relax. Skeriber mentions that he knows a fight took place in the cemetery, as well as who died, and asks if they did it. The party says yes and start to explain, but Skeriber doesn't really care because the victims were mostly a!@$+**s; he was simply curious. He means it and walks off.

Party asks about the politics Skeriber mentioned to Georgia and she alludes to druids working to restore the Desolation back to wilderness, but they were squeamish at the thought of genocide against the spiders for reasons that were their own, and as such would not support Skeriber's group against them at this time. The spiders were also a useful bulwark against another threat from the forests to the east, but not anymore. The party inquires more about this and is told that they may have reason to discuss is later when the time is right. Future quest = hook foreshadowed.

From idle talk with the rangers, BW learns that Marcus will be "off to see the druids" and that no one will see him again. The rangers laugh. BW realizes with a start that this is what the rangers meant to do with him when they first found him in the wastes. He decides not to ask if his hunch is correct.

Most of the rangers, including Georgia, make to depart soon after their meeting because they have "business in the East," but leave two rangers behind with the party to escort them back, but tell them that they should remain in the cemetery for now and wait for the initial mass surge of spiders to flow past them back to the nest where they will likely remain for some time; even the spiders avoid the cemetery, especially as they have no reason to believe their mom's murderers are there.

Party spends the day at the cemetery. Bored. BW baits the elder earth elemental for fun and becomes fast friends with the remaining rangers, Joe and Jim. The party experiments with the relic they found, with Jake realizing it glows and confers power to him (i.e. the spell Bless) when faced with "evil" such as undead... and BW. It seems it senses the evil and wants to help destroy it. BW tries touching the gem and fills a sense of outrage flow from it and scald him. He drops the gem, but too late!

Permanently affected by Bane until he returns it to its resting place in Mordin's shield. Back in the spider den. The one filled with perhaps hundreds of spiders. He learns this out of game and asks if that is the only way. The DM is a benevolent master and lets the curse be broken by a Break Enchantment too, as cast via Beltin, but BW learned his lesson and will never touch the gem again. Jake keeps it because "f&#% yeah!"

Day 14

Party leaves early and even with the rangers guiding make slow progress due to having to take evasive actions to avoid encounters at times. Make it back to the Camp that night.
A tent city of sorts now exists next to the Camp and there appears to be lots of light and drunken celebrating from it; the party approaches and learns that a sizable detachment of crusaders as well as merchants and miscellaneous adventurers who were traveling with them have arrived earlier that day. It may be the first of many.

Beltin learns this and heads home. Jake and BW see the sign for a new establishment coming soon and look in. Though its only a temporary affair in a large tent they see a very nice bar setup with people drinking, gambling, and soliciting sex for money via newly arrived call girls. The sign out front reads it is the future home of the Dancing Bar, "a Hospitality Guild establishment," as the sign adds below the name in fancy gilded letters. BW knows this is a rival group the consortium and every bit as vicious though they only deal in the hospitality industry. Being out of work now officially, BW considers this new twist.

Jake talks to some people who think they are badass adventurers, but really low level noobs. He challenges one to a duel in the crowded, partying street. The man accepts and tries to punch Jake. Jake kills him with one low level spell. Some silence descends around the scene and the mans friends look ready to try to attack when Tarl, Jake's old character and now the sheriff, approaches and stops them. He asks what happened.

Upon learning they were engaged in an honorable duel, Sheriff Tarl tells Jake that though they were dueling, his use of excessive force was dishonorable. As it is a first offense, he is told it will be a 25 bit fine. Jake pays it and the men watching the scene get their first taste of how life is in the Camp, especially about how easily it can be purchased and/or paid off.

"Dishonorable" duels to the death: 1.

Jake addresses the crowd and tells them he is a mighty mage and those seeking to master the power of the arcane should seek his school out. He refers them to Johann, who has setup at Clantock's old hide out.

The party heads off to bed.

Day 15

A man arrives at Beltin's house, delivering a letter. It's from Father Death: He says he heard of Beltin's exploits and of his real estate scheme. The Usurer had approached one of his acolytes, a young man with artistic talent to help construct an official jail for the Camp, and as such he was interested in Beltin's aid. Father Death also mentioned other things they may wish to discuss in person and respectfully asked him to come to the church of Nerull at his earliest convenience. Beltin senses motives and realizes that this "Father Death" seems quite eager to meet him.

BW goes to the rangers to see Marcus as he was told before by Jim and Joe that the man was still in the Camp and would be transported to meet his fate in few days time. Jim and Joe are the only rangers in town at the moment and let BW in. They lead him to a small cellar, and there is Marcus shackled to the wall, his legs obviously broken as well as a few fingers. Torture victim is a look that does not suit him.

BW wakes him and Marcus pleads for help and BW smiles and says he and the rangers have an accord. Marcus is not pleased, but BW explains all that Skeriber told him about Marcus using him. He asks if there are more trade consortium agents in town. Marcus admits to his treachery, saying it was nothing personal, but that he would have saved BW if he could: Good tools are hard to come by. But no, he knows of no others in town, but who can say? BW should watch his back, says Marcus in a show of bravado, because a knife belongs there.

BW just smiles and shakes his head, as you can only gloat so much, but Marcus desperately stops him and begs for death.

BW asks what he has to trade for it and Marcus spills his last secret: The consortium man BW killed in the bar for going after his girl? That man was supposed to be a professional, trained by Feron Amathy himself. He couldn't have been that stupid. Marcus thinks the man was just a pawn sent by the agent in question and that he is still out there. And then he shows his throat and tells BW to do it quick.

Instead, BW pats him on the head and tells him to enjoy his trip to the druids. And he leaves.

Ice cold.

End of session. All inactive players murdered off screen by BW and spiders, except for Johann who gets to be an awesome NPC now.

Session 11.1: Meeting with Death:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 10).

Bradley Weatherby (Human Dervish Dancer 10/Knife Master Rogue 7/Duelist 3).

"Jake" (Human Wizard/Rogue 10).

Meeting with Death, Session 11.1 - 08/23/14

Day 15

Beltin and BW each separately make their way to the Usurer before carrying on their daily business to commission some magic gear: They wipe out their in-store credit accounts (25k each) and are told come back in a few days. Yay, enforced down time!

Everyone is doing their own thing that afternoon before meeting up:

Bradley Weatherby

BW goes to the market, now filled with plenty of new shops and plenty of disgruntled townies who don't like the competition with their new goods. He is looking to start a new business, "adventurer's insurance," where adventurers can insure their gear and get resurrected if their remains are returned. Low monthly fees.

It's a scam. Really they pay money, list their valuables for BW to perhaps murder them for later, and then they go off and die and are forgotten. BW negotiates stall rental with one of the townies who knows a good scam when he sees one, Otto of "Otto's Only Dropped Once Discount Emporium." They settle on Otto getting 30% of the take and not getting his throat cut for his share.

BW gets some business from naive low level adventurers and makes note of one mark who looks good to hit and finds out he is staying at the newly opened Bender Bro Inn, of which is now a part owner; too bad they sealed the secret doors to the rooms off. Perhaps they should look into reinstating that business strategy...

Jake

Jake goes to the market too and is on the look out for some spells. He finds a man dressed as a stereotypical wizard, selling "hand enchanted scrolls for the adventurer with exquisite taste." Jake finds the many mostly has common scrolls of common spells and when pressed it becomes clear the man is not a wizard, but simply selling wares someone else made.

He does have the scrolls of Emergency Force Sphere and Teleport Jake needs for his spell book and after negotiating for a bit, Jake casts Dominate Person, which the man fails, and then he takes the scrolls he wanted and walks away, commanding the man to get back to work.

Beltin

Beltin goes to the Sip of Blood and finds it mostly empty except for some old timers. He talks to Lucky and finds him distraught and worried as many of his customers are at the Dancing Bear. They have high quality alcohol and high quality whores, so it's understandable, but he's sure people will get tired of it and come back to the Sip for the local flair... he says this with the air of a man desperately wanting to believe his own words, but really not.

Speaking of whores, he asks if Beltin had seen BW's girl around. She ran off the other day and hasn't been back yet, which happens with her from time to time, but Lucky's starting to get a little worried because he's never been gone this long and "a piece of fine ass like that might help to draw some people back."

Beltin has not seen her and says so, but tells Lucky he will keep his eyes open for any "fine pieces of ass" to send the Sip's way for employment.

All together now

Eventually the three meet up and Beltin explains about the letter he received from Father Death; they were all invited, so they all decide to go meet him. They approach the church of Nerull and find it to be a fairly ramshackle building like many in the camp, but very well made and maintained by Camp standards. Outside the doors they see some carvings.

Intricate carvings. Depicting men, women, children, all screaming, blood rushing from open eyes, mouths, and wounds. They are all dwarfed by a massive figure looming above, a laughing skeleton in a black hooded robe wielding a scythe.

BW starts to have a bad feeling about this, but they enter. They find themselves in what would almost appear to be a normal church. There are rows of empty pews with a pulpit (as opposed to a ball pit) at the end and they see a man in black hooded robes with his back to them as he intently cleans and shines a ceremonial silver chalice set in a place of honor near the pulpit.

He doesn't notice them, but another acolyte does. He smiles, at he seems to be a rather excitable sort, and beckons them to join him at a shrine he was tending off to the side of the door. An actual human skeleton in black robes hangs from the ceiling by wires above the shrine and in its arms is a ceremonial looking scythe.

The shrine is elaborate with various carvings depiciting Nerull. There is a dark wooden box for monetary donations. Various other items left as offerings clutter the top of the shrine, and Jake spies a bottle of a fine wine. A bowl holding some sort of black sticky looking substance with a paint brush in it sits off to one side next to scraps of parchment and writing materials.

Sitting on the back of the shrine are three large but thin stone slabs set up in a sort of trifold position, covered almost completely with scraps of paper and crude drawings of people. All of the scraps of paper bear names, and BW and Beltin immediately notice quite a few they recognize, including their own, the Usurers, the crusader leader they murdered at the cemetery, and some prominent people in Bard's Gate. BW sees his name several times, one complete with a rather lifelike charcoal portrait.

The meaning is obvious ("death shrine like the cousins had in Breaking Bad, right?"), but the acolyte, who introduces himself as Augustine, tells the party people come to pray for deaths and leave offerings: Nerull favors those who come bearing gifts.

BW is amused by this and asks who has the most death requests. Austine tells him that at the moment that honor belongs to him, but the crusader leader Caepio had many before Nerull heard the pleas of faithful and claimed him. BW acts proud but silently begins to wonder if this is a good thing. His disquiet deepens.

Austine mentions that a few days back three men came in the night with there faces hidden and left a rather large offering as well as the portrait of BW and a slip for Beltin. People tend to come in at night and hidden to leave offerings and names.

It seems that Clantock's assassins were affiliated with the church. BW asks and gets a confirmation, but is told that quite a few people were involved in the "normal services" as they were the only church in town. But Clantock's assassins had a more vested interest, as did one of those gnome brothers who tended the inn, remembers Augustine.

Austine goes on to explain he is the one with the artistic talent and gestures to the carvings on the shrine and throughout the church and tells Beltin he is excited to finally meet him (and his friends too...) after hearing so much about him and hoped they could work together sometime. He leads them back to a door behind the pulpit and knocks. As he walks away, Jake tries to pocket the bottle of wine, but Beltin slaps his hand.

Father Death opens the door and at first the party thinks they are looking at something undead, until they realize it is just an incredibly old, incredibly thin hobgoblin with skull tattooed on his face. He welcomes them warmly and invites them into his office. The room is surprisingly normal looking. He expresses his warmest greetings (and they are, but mostly toward Beltin) and they make small talk. He mentions the commissioned jail and Beltin agrees to help.

It soon becomes clear this is not the main reason Father Death asked to see them. He lays it out. There has always been rumors and legends of an undead army in the Desolation that rises to defend it from invading forces when necessary and some adventurers have returned with news of seeing legions of organized undead out in the Dead Lands.

Father Death wants to know if the rumors are true. He makes it clear that everyone in the Camp dying by undead hordes swarming the town would be a good thing, but so would they all dying horrible slow deaths in the Desolation. Really, he just wants to know how everyone will die. They will of course be rewarded for their efforts. He has heard that they have many enemies, hell, he's seen it on the board.

He offers this: He knows where Clantock's assassins have made fled to, where they make their plans for revenge. He will reveal it to them if they investigate for him. Quest accepted.

They make to leave and Father Death asks Beltin to stay behind. He does and Father Death explains how he admires him and how the church could use one such as him among its ranks. As a true member, not one who simply partakes in the common services. He asks him to take true communion with him and be baptized into the church of Nerull.

BW's make a religion check and knows that actual rites to dark gods can get messy, but agrees anyway. Father Death is delighted. He tells him that the ceremony will take place in two days time at midnight and that he should come to the church then. Alone.

Outside in the church proper, BW and Jake wait and Jake steals the bottle of wine off the altar as Augustine prattles on about the church. Augustine is not a terribly perceptive fellow, but is so enthusiastic that it would be hard to dislike him if his topic of interest wasn't people dying horribly. BW doesn't like the zeal he sees and Jake ignores the acolyte, but then Beltin comes out and BW and Jake have an excuse to leave and do their own things. They aren't sad to be gone from the church.

BW and Jake head off to the Sip of Blood to recover, but Beltin and Augustine have work to do. Augustine tells Beltin he may need his undead, so they get them and Augustine leads the way to the location for the new jail.

They approach an area marked off by paint on the ground, but find that the area is filled with hovels. The people in their homes see the two men and the undead army approach and are confused. And then angry when Austine explains the Usurer has decreed this is the site for the jail. Really, Augustine goes on, it's been clearly marked for about 8 hours now and now they are here to renovate. If the people had concerns they should have brought them up before, but now that time is over. Eminent domain!

Some look like they want to argue that they just woke up to find their homes slated for demolition, but they decide not to argue withe point with the undead. They have 15 minutes to get their s%++ and get out, and they do. The undead demolish the homes and move away the garbage and Augustine happily suggests to Beltin how great it would be if the displaced people died of exposure.

With the ground clear, Augustine has Beltin hold onto a piece of specially prepared wire, with him holding the other end. He explains that the magic Beltin produces will instead be channeled into him and he will be able to shape it to the Usurer's specifications. Beltin expends the magic, quite a bit of it, and Augustine holds it in his mind, shaping, carving, creating. The ritual lasts about an hour after which suddenly appears a government building worthy of any wealthy city.

The jail is fairly large and decorated with intricate carvings of justice being carried out and is complete with faux-pillars. Inside are several cells, a reception area with a built in stone desk, and on the second floor are some personal rooms for the new sheriff. It a masterpiece of both form and function. The Usurer and sheriff will be pleased. Great success!

Augustine thanks Beltin for his help and mentions that he should stop by any time and departs. The refugees look at the new building with a bit of wonder as well as hate. The hate extends to Beltin.

Showing that he is not so bad after all, Beltin tells the people to follow him, and they do for fear for the undead. He leads them away from thoroughfare of the Camp and then creates for them each a new stone home, free of charge. The people have to admit its better conditions then they had and they begrudgingly thank him and stop wishing him death. Yay, less death wishes against the party!

To be continued...

Session 11.2: Grinding and losing rep:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 10).

Bradley Weatherby (Human Dervish Dancer 10/Knife Master Rogue 7/Duelist 3).

"Jake" (Human Wizard/Rogue 10).

Grinding and losing rep, Session 11.2 - 08/23/14

Day 15

Bradley Weatherby

While Beltin is busy playing Sim City, BW and Jake make their way to the Sip of Blood and sit down at the bar. BW expresses how the whole church of Nerull and how happy that acolyte kid was about death was just creepy. He went on to explain how though he kills people, he does it for a good reason (lies), not for something as trivial as religion. Those zealots were unnerving, he said.

The whole meeting with the death church made BW question his life and what he was doing. He felt as though he had seen something dark and evil, something far down the path he was walking, but something that was not yet him. He had thought he was evil, but who could be compared to that?

(Note: For all mechanical effects BW is treated as evil regardless of his philosophical navel-gazing).

Aloud he wonders if all religions are just garbage to pull people in and make zealots of them. At this point a man who had been sitting at a table behind them, drinking quietly and taking in the local aesthetic, turns around and throws in his thoughts on how religion is neutral, and that people can interpret the teachings for both good and evil. The man introduces himself as Horace.

Horace and BW end up getting into a lively religious debate, which according to BW's player "lasts as long as it takes." Which, according to a d10, is 6 hours. The discussion livens things up a bit at the Sip and at the end of it they decide to end in a draw.

At this point BW realizes he has been talking to one of the crusaders, a man who is actually fairly high ranking in both the crusade and the Church of Thyr. He had not expected that. BW has made a new friend in high places!

Horace tells him that it seems like he, BW, is at a bit of a crossroads in his life and suggests that he come to a service to Thyr sometime; they have them nightly at the crusader camp in the tent city. BW says he will consider it, and Horace shakes his hand and departs.

From there BW leaves the Sip and heads down to the Dancing Bear and joins in the local adventurer gossip. He hears rumors about all sorts of outlandish things supposedly in the Desolation (like some sort of caravan of the dead that roams the roads of the Desolation on quiet nights... spooky s%@@, yo), and he adds some of his own stories. He buys some drinks and starts the slow, arduous process of transforming from a mustache-twirling villain to a mustache-twirling villain with a good public relations persona.

Jake

Jake has better things to do than listen to people drone on about religion and leaves a little while after BW and Horace begin to their verbal sparring.

He heads over to Yohann to check on the new recruits for his "mage's college" and finds them quite unhappy about being put through drills by Yohann, but perhaps too scared of the man to stop. Jake says he will take over and begins instructing the recruits on the use of magic.

Several of the recruits seem keen to impress him and show off the "powerful" magic they possess. Someone Ray of Frosts the person next to them. He get Magic Missiled back for 1d4+1. Another one Color Sprays into the air.

They are mostly a collection of opportunists who never cared about magic besides what it could do for them. No real talent though. No discipline, no use for magical theory, only results. Jake is satisfied he can mold them to his will. People like that know a greater power and how to serve it for their own ends when they see it.

One of the overachievers manages to produce a Scorching Ray and then nearly a Fireball, but it fizzles at the last moment. This one Jake asks his name: Roringard. Perhaps there is someone with talent after all, thinks Jake, and he nods at the man and walks to the next pathetic recruit trying to impress him.

He starts them off crafting basic scrolls and imposes brutal discipline on those that screw up. One of the recruits starts making a scroll of read magic and gets b%!~+ slapped. The lesson carries on for a while and then Yohann insists it is his time to take over and Jake lets him. He may have a strike force of low level Magus when all is said and done.

Day 16

The day proceeds much as the former.

Jake

Jake spends much of the day drilling his forces and training them in magic. Roringard continues to stand out as his top recruit.

At one point Jake has reason to head back to the market for supplies and sees the false wizard he dominated still at his stall, looking as though he had been there all night compulsively working without sleeping. Jake just walks on.

Beltin

Beltin doesn't do too much and just spends some time mingling among the common folk. At some point during the day a courier arrives with a message that he is requested at the Dancing Bear.

He goes and meets the bartender, a man named Floyd. Floyd is the consummate professional and offers him a finely made mixed drink made from the highest quality alcohol the south can offer. Beltin politely sips it.

Though he is obviously a hell of a bartender, something about the man also speaks to a more brutal nature, as though he's the kind of person who could break a child's arm at his employer's request while never losing his polite, ingratiating, faux-servile smile. He's the kind of man Beltin has met many times before, and he's clearly dangerous.

He tells Beltin that he heard of the marvelous new jail that he had helped to create as well as the real estate business he ran on the side. Floyd explains how though they have brought materials to construct their establishment, it would be a time consuming process, and they would like to move out of the temporary tent phase as soon as possible.

Floyd tells Beltin that if he and the architect of the jail would be willing to help out the Hospitality Guild with this matter, they would be well rewarded.

Beltin refuses.

Floyd never loses his smile, and though it was never exactly warm to begin with, it now takes on something approaching icy. He asks if that's how it will be, will Beltin go down with the Sip of Blood or will he listen to reason and do business with the inevitable winners of this hospitality related pissing match between their competing taverns?

It's not too late to make the right decision, says Floyd. Beltin walks out.

Beltin is now hostile with the Hospitality Guild!

Bradley Weatherby

BW spends some time mingling and talking to people, grinding rep where ever he goes. Which isn't into the Sip of Blood. He can spot a loser when he sees it.

He goes and sees Jim and Joe just to shoot the s#&# and play some cards and then he heads over to mingle among the crusaders and join in among the activities at the Dancing Bear. People who hear the unsavory rumors surrounding him begin to doubt them.

"I know BW," they think. "He is a hell of a guy."

BW is now friendly with the Camp! Well, the new Campers. The old timers know a snake when they see one, being snakes themselves.

BW decides that he needs a proper base of operations and decides the office and basement of the Bender Brothers Inn will work perfectly, especially as it has an alchemy lab setup. Being a part owner, he will just go in and take it.

He approaches a civilian carpenter who was busy working on some permanent structures for the crusade and offers him an outrageous sum of money to drop what he is doing and make him some fine home furnishings. The man accepts and begins to work on them.

After that BW decides he needs some new clothes. Though his suit is in perfect condition due to magical cleaning and mending, it makes him feel dirty being in one suit for so long. He doesn't like to slum it. He finds the best tailor in town, brought in with the crusade, and commissions a new suit.

Not just a regular suit, but the kind of things that make upper nobility jealous. The tailor originally suggests something in the 300 to 500 gold range back in Bard's Gate (higher here of course) and BW sneers, telling the man that he said quality, not something for impoverished, rural yokel nobles.

He demands it be something worth 1,000 gold (obviously more here) back in Bard's Gate and demands to know if the tailor is up to it. The tailor says he is. BW says good and leaves with some vaguely defined threats about what will happen the clothes are not up to specification. Come back in a few days, says the tailor.

That night BW tracks down Horace and attends a service to Thyr. It takes place in a large tent filled with crusaders and is filled with militaristic jingoism and talks about how the Desolation must be brought under the rule of law. It is led by an incredibly stern looking man in full armor. He does not look like the mind of man to mess with and Horace explains he is now the acting commander of the crusade.

Afterwards BW tells Horace he didn't care much for it, and Horace confesses that neither does he, but the the way of Thyr isn't really about the sermons. It's about walking the path in your life, putting down evil and helping the common folk against injustice wherever you see it. S#$~ like that.

BW tells him he finds that more appealing; he may seriously be considering a conversion. At least one for show to increase his rep further. BW spends some more time talking to people and making himself liked before making a show of giving a large donation to the church, all the while looking as humble as could be about it.

To be continued...

Session 11.3: Totally still true neutral:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 10).

Bradley Weatherby (Human Dervish Dancer 10/Knife Master Rogue 7/Duelist 3).

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 10).

Totally still true neutral, Session 11.3 - 08/23/14

Day 17

The night of Beltin's communion.

Jake

Training continues and intensifies. After a while Jake leaves his recruits in the hands of Johann again and seeks out the services of an alchemist in the Camp to join up with his crew. Partly because an alchemist is a great tool to have and partly to help with his diabolical training methods: It is time for his men to learn the finer points of detecting poison... and it will be a high stakes test.

After asking around Jake learns there are a few people who dabble with alchemy among the nubs in Camp, but they are mostly under contract with the Crusade. But there is always Mama Grim...

Mama Grim is the Camp's oldest running apothecary and has her shop setup in an old burial mound in town that was cleared out, similar to Griswald the Undertaker's house. She's a bit senile and always happy to have guests, and she knows her alchemy though she sometimes gets bottles a little mixed up.

She's like a sweet little old grandma, Jake learns from an older resident in town, except of course she's a hag. And maybe a witch. Jake is not picky and goes to visit her.

Inside her tiny, cramped shop hang all sorts of strange and incredibly poisonous looking things, but the lady of house is nowhere to be seen. There is a small bell though, which after Jake repeatedly hits as he heard she was a bit deaf as well, comes a gigantic, lumbering, yet hunched over figure. She smiles at Jake and greets him warmly and ask what he needs.

Jake explains he is looking for an in-house alchemist for his new guild and offers her the job. She is mildly reluctant and easily distracted and rambles on about sweet anecdotes as you would hear from a rather sweet senile old lady, except troubling and sinister overtones tend to crop up from time to time.

A sweet story about her granddaughter as a child, who later communed with Orcus himself. A grandson who slew a thousand angels and bathed in their blood. Vague references to the "politics of Tsar," and "the gathering army of the dead," the both of which hold some interest for Jake, but the old woman seems unable to hold her thoughts together for much questioning.

Her concept of time is such that it is impossible to tell if she is speaking of the past, the present, or perhaps even of the future. The "politics of Tsar" might be a reference to a thousand years ago, a hundred, ten, or even yesterday. The same is true for the reference to an army.

She then asks him what he wanted to buy again.

Without too much effort Jake gets her to agree to come with him and when she asks about her shop, he says people will move it for her. Mama Grim is happy and takes his arm and continues to tell him vaguely disturbing and incomplete stories as they walk back to his compound. She tells him that practically everything in the shop is highly dangerous so he should watch out. Jake tells her it will not be an issue.

Some of the newer people in town seem shocked at the site of the hag and look ready to fight but none move openly against such an ancient and clearly feeble creature. Plus Jake would murder them and some may know it.

Back at the compound Jake orders his recruits to clear out Mama Grim's shop and bring it, and to be careful of what they touched. The men seem vaguely alarmed, but Roringard has this, as he pulls on his gloves and casts air bubble on his head; he's a straight shooter with upper management written all over him.

The men eventually get things all back to base and now Mama Grim has a small corner of their bunkhouse all to herself. She sits behind a counter as though still in her shop and talks politely to all the nice young men and say how they remind her of her children and great grandchildren and how so many screamed in the blood orgies to Orcus and so on. The talk makes some of the men nervous, but the old woman does not notice and smiles at them all benignly.

Jake instructs her to prepare some poisoned food and some not and she promptly pulls out several apples and points out which are poisoned and which are not. And then she corrects herself on which is which. And then she corrects herself again, assuring Jake this time she remembers for sure. The men see this and their sense of foreboding deepens.

Jake tells them their test is simple. They will have two apples, one poisoned and one not. They will choose and eat an apple. End of test.

Roringard succeeds with no doubts, but the others are much less sure and shaken by the test but know there is no backing out. Percentiles rolls for each... and they all make it. The last guy almost took a bite of the wrong one though before putting it down and biting into the other immediately, as though so he could no longer second guess himself.

Test completed! No deaths!

Bradley Weatherby

BW continues to grind rep with the crusaders, nub adventurers, and such.

When he goes to say hi to Jim and Joe at Skeriber's though he finds one of them is out on a job. Jim remained behind and explains how the new commander of the crusaders came to them to seek their services and wasn't put off by most of the rangers, including Skeriber, being away. It seems that they were in a hurry to be off and would not stand to wait.

He wanted a guide for some of his men to check out several locations in the Desolation, including the cemetery. He didn't come out and say it, but in the course of their negotiations (he was willing to pay an extravagant sum) the two rangers got the impression he was looking for signs of the previous crusade leader, Caepio, as well as a high ranking priest of Muir and a young Paladin girl who was a daughter of a prominent Bard's Gate family who all went into the Desolation and never came back.

BW may have heard of such a doomed expedition, says Jim, staring BW in the eyes.

Despite the current spider danger in the Ashen Wastes, Joe, the ranking ranger in Camp, agreed eventually mainly because it was a lot of money and he got the feeling it wasn't an offer he could refuse without consequences. He sent a message to Skeriber (not specified how) and he left with a small group of hardened crusaders that morning at dawn.

Vaguely troubling news, but not unexpected. What evidence could they possibly find to link back to the party anyway, right? Don't worry, the DM will probably come up with something.

BW puts it aside and asks around for a good place to buy some poisons. He is referred to a man named Marcus, who had the good s*&& but has disappeared. The man telling him this is not concerned, citing the fact Marcus was an a%!%$!@. BW agrees, but questions the man about who else would be good.

The man asks if BW met Mama Grim the apothecary yet and tells a bit about her... excluding that she is a hag. BW gets directions and goes. The shop is empty and deserted. He questions another old timer and learn about the spectacle Mama Grim walking down the street with that duelin' mage fella caused, though BW doesn't quite know why an old woman out and about should be cause for scandal.

It seems she found new employment with that new merc guild that's starting up and some of their people came back and emptied the shop. A couple nearly died doing it as they weren't careful about what they touched.

BW heads over to Jake's setup and talks to him. And then he sees Mamma Grim is a hag. And then it all becomes clearer. Regardless, he wants his poison, so he goes over to conduct business.

Mama Grim immediately greets him as "Jordan," one of her great grandchildren and tries to give him hug and kiss. He dodges back and says he just came for poison, granny. He figures playing the charade is to his benefit. Mama Grim looks over his clothes and tuts, saying he always was vain, but what kind of gramma would she be if she couldn't get her grandson something to eat. She offers him cookies and then takes them away saying, no never mind, those ones were cyanide cookies.

Oh her eyesight is not what it used to be, she laments.

BW refuses, but gets his poisons eventually... and plenty of troubling, possibly centuries out of date rumors. He decides he does not like Mama Grim, but she is a useful tool. One that provides poison!

That night, BW heads over to the Dancing Bear and eventually has a conversation with Floyd the bartender. With much alluding and euphemisms, they communicate.

BW is a free agent, no longer tied to the trade consortium. He is looking for a new job. This is interesting, says Floyd, do go on. BW mentions how they have a problem. A Lucky problem. One at the Sip of Blood. That could be solved quite easily.

Floyd smiles at BW with his dead-eyed smile and tells him this is also very interesting, but he would need to consult with his boss before such an arrangement could be made.

To everyone around them it sounds like they are discussing fine wines, and as such Floyd ends the conversation by pouring a glass for BW, on the house of course, and one for himself.

It is from the same bottle and Floyd drinks first to show the good intent. BW follows suit, and he may soon have a new business partner/employer in the Hospitality Guild. Or perhaps he is again presuming to tell dangerous people their business, just like the Benders.

Time will tell.

Beltin

Beltin hangs out with Lucky for a while and then meets Jake and learns about Mama Grim and the references she made about Tsar and an undead army. He is very interested and goes to speak with her.

The conversation goes much like the ones Jake and BW had with her, but she notes the aura of death around him and seems pleased. He pushes her for information and she tells him that a great champion of Tsar was left after the fall and tasked to defend the Desolation. And so it now happens.

BW tries to figure out how she knows this and whether or not she even knows what she is talking about, but meets more recollections of her younger days. It frustrates him.

He concludes that the references to the "politics of Tsar" must be from before the city was emptied, but it is impossible to say for sure; the old women has no true sense of time anymore and from what he heard she has been in the Camp for decades.

He mostly considers the visit a waste of time.

That night as midnight approaches he makes his way to the church of Nerull and finds it deserted except for young Augustine in ceremonial looking robs of black and red standing near the pulpit. He attempts to act completely serious, but it is clear he is brimming with excitement as he greets Beltin and leads him into the office of Father Death.

Father Death awaits him in the room and tells him that it will be soon be time for his true communion. The desk has been moved and there is instead steps leading down into darkness. A faint smell of incense and corruption rises from the opening. One last, unsaid, chance to back out. Instead, when Father Death begins to descend the stairs and beckons, Beltin follows.

They walk into a cellar and down another corridor into a room dominated by a stone slab. Four people wearing the same ceremonial robes as Father Death and Augustine await, some talking quietly among themselves. Their hoods are up, but Beltin recognizes one as the other acolyte. He doesn't know the other three.

Lying on the alter, apparently unconscious, is BW's girlfriend.

Augustine helps Beltin into a set of robes and yammers on about how their should be more people here, but they couldn't make it, but it was ok. This kind of turnout was actually rather high.

With his appropriate attire donned, Father Death looks into Beltin's eyes and explains what will come.

He will pay homage to Nerull by performing an act of true death. Final death. The death of the soul. The girl's soul to be precise. The first communion with Nerull requires the soul of one who seeks the blessings of oblivion. The girl had attempted suicide, but was saved. Now she will have the final death she craves.

The fact that she wanted death comforts Beltin in the face of what he will be doing, just as intended. At midnight the ritual begins. Chants are performed. Sigils are drawn on the girl's flesh. Incense burned and blood offered. A feeling like static electricity fills the room as the chanting continues.

It becomes more and more insistent and the feeling of power escalates, as though something unspeakable had decided to make its presence barely felt. Perhaps Nerull had come to answer their prayers. Father Death holds out his arms.

The ceremonial scythe from the shrine above appears in his hands. He presents it to Beltin. The meaning is clear. The chanting reaches a fever pitch, the feeling of power and tension is almost overwhelming, and then suddenly there is silence. And Beltin brings the blade down into the woman's chest.

At once she tries to sit up, but can't. She screams and screams as blood pours out of her chest and then her screams are impeded as something black gaseous begins to flow from her mouth before coalescing into a sort of blackened gem resting on her tongue.

She slumps back, silent. Father Death picks up the black gem and tells Beltin to kneel and open his mouth. He does and Father Death feeds him the woman's soul.

A rush of memories that aren't his own flow through Beltin and then are gone, unremembered and un-mourned. A feeling like ice slides down his throat and into his stomach before it to dissipates.

Beltin knows he has just destroyed the core, fundamental aspect of a human being, the very concept of self... and it had been so easy. Is that all there is to a person, a mouthful of memories to digest and forget? So much for the power of the eternal spirit.

He ponders this as Father Death tells him to rise and embraces him. He is now one of them. He is a child of Nerull. And as such he can meet his new brothers as equals.

The other three men remove their hoods and reveal themselves to be the three remaining assassins of Clantock, the ones Father Death promised to deliver to the party in exchange for their help.

Well, thinks Beltin, this may be awkward.

End of Session. No casualties.

Notes: Beltin can know use the soul lock ability of a Cacodaemon once per day and he may consume trapped souls as though he were an evil outsider, gaining fast healing 2 for a number of rounds equal to the soul's HD.

That whole soul eating thing must have been a rather fundamental act of evil, thinks Beltin's player, but luckily for him he built that homeless shelter. If anything this should balance out all that good karma he gained there, keeping him true neutral. Right?...


Topic is pretty much dead, but adding my stuff regardless.

12.1: Bad things happen to good people:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 10).

Bradley Weatherby (Human Dervish Dancer 10/Knife Master Rogue 7/Duelist 3). - MISSING PLAYER

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 10).

Astar Luno (NG Human Kata Master, Many of Many Styles Monk 10/Sacred Fist War Priest 10). Astar came in with the recent batch of Crusaders and is known by and affiliated with the group, but is not officially a member. This has not stopped the Usurer from gouging him like the rest of the Crusade though. He came to the Desolation to spread freedom and good and such and is now looking for a group to join up with. He heard of all of the members of the party from different people and realized these people were the rising stars of adventuring groups in the Camp and decided joining up with them would be awesome as they must be good people fighting the good fight against evil. What an idiot.

BW's rep grinding pays off as Astar mostly hears good things about him. Beltin and Jake come off as feared and respected, but also generally seen as fair.

Bad things happen to good people, Session 12.1 - 9/6/14

Beltin's talk with the assassins was handled in private. Let's call it a surprise until the appropriate time.

Day 18

Beltin and BW get their pre-paid purchases and everyone else gets ready to depart. Tomorrow into the Desolation!

Astar learned that the party was recruiting and heads to Jake's school to find Yohann viciously drilling the recruits, attempting to make them into a respectable fighting force. He stands idly by waiting to be acknowledged and after half an hour Yoahnn asks him what the f$%# he wants. He says he wants to join. Yohann screams in his face and tells him to join the line with the rest. He does and exercise continues.

After another hour of this Yohann dismisses the rest of the dudes to their magic training and calls Astar to him. He asks if he has any magical talent. Astar replies with a "kinda." Yohann seems satisfied because as he says, real warriors don't need it. He then tells Astar they will spar. And then he smashes him in the mouth with the pommel of his greatsword and tells him to bring it.

Astar does. Yohann calls it after one round, heals himself with Lay on Hands, and tells him that he's impressed. He just bypassed the grunt stage and became an enlisted officer. Astar is proud of himself and is led into the barracks by Yohann and shown his bunk while the rest of the grunts toil outside on their magic training under the command of Roringard.

Inside, Yohann goes to a field desk and pulls out some parchment and clumsily writes a letter, seals it, and tells Astar to find one of the three party members. Dismissed! Before he goes Astar notices Mama Grim and is a bit bewildered, but obeys Yohann. He doesn't have far to go.

While this was happening Jake and Beltin met up at the Sip. Beltin walked in as Lucky has handing their share of the bar/inn's take to Jake, a practice which Beltin told Lucky to never do again. Out of game, both players know that Jake was just about to pocket the money and never bring it up again. Instead they decide to split the 600 bits (mostly earned from the inn, as the Sip isn't doing great) two ways, because BW certainly doesn't need any. With that done they talk briefly about the Sips issues and come up with an inkling of a plan.

The two decide to go check on Jake's school and see Mama Grim for the scheme they have in mind. They approach as Astar leaves and he immediately hands them the letter. Jake opens it and reads. The gist is:

"This guy is now an enlisted officer. He is a true warrior. If you need to leave someone behind to die heroically use Carl (the guy who tried to make the scroll of read magic and barely passed the poison test) as dying is all he will ever be good for. Don't lose this one, I like him. - Yohann"

Jake and Beltin ask what he can do and he says punch people. They seem unimpressed. Jake asks about magic and he says he can do some. Jake says to show him. He casts a self-buff. Jake yawns but tells Astar he will accompany the party into Desolation tomorrow and tells him to wait outside while they go in for a moment.

Inside Yohann snaps to attention and asks if they met the new guy. They say yes and Yohann again expresses how he is a quality recruit. Like the exact opposite of Carl. Jake and Beltin remain impassive, not yet having a real opinion of the new man. Yohann goes into a detailed status report on the training of the forces which both men know they are required to hear though they give no s+@!s.

Beltin spaces out and Jake halfheartedly listens as Yohann explains the recruits are almost good enough to be the people you send in first to get slaughtered before sending in troops that actually matter, but it is a definite improvement from before when they were just worthless rabble. Things are progressing. With his report finished he salutes and leaves out the back to check on the magic training.

With Yohann gone, Jake and Beltin approach Mama Grim, but when she sees Beltin she appears deathly afraid for a second before immediately relaxing. She comments on how Beltin walks a dark road, the darkest road perhaps, and says she thought he was someone else for a second. Beltin inquires further.

Mama Grim mentions how a few years back (yeah...) she suddenly had the urge to step outside her shop, a rare occurrence. It was dusk and in the light of the setting sun she saw him and recognized him for what he was at once, though he wore the guise of a man most convincingly. It was a creature that reveled in the darkest pits of depravity, a creature of immense evil power, power that though she respected, she also deeply feared. She knew that if he saw her fear she would be utterly consumed. So she closed the door of her shop and waited, praying to the dark powers beyond that the shadow would simply pass by and leave her untouched. It did.

Beltin tries to get a more exact date, but Mama Grim only remembers it was years ago now, so so long. It happened a couple days before that awful giant Gurg and his Pounders met their doom on the road through the Desolation and Gurg was cut down in the street like the dog he was not long after. That must have been nearly 10 years ago now, says Mama Grim, lost in reflection. The evil she felt departed with that caravan, and at that point she laughed and laughed as she knew Gurg was damned. All that walked near that indescribable force of evil would inevitably be damned.

This is very interesting, but Mama Grim knows no more or has perhaps repressed any more appropriate memories. She lets the story drop and asks what her dearies needed. Jake asks for some poison that will make people sick. Mama Grim asks how sick because she has much poison. Perhaps one that will make them literally cough up their throat and die in agony? No, just making them throw up would be good, says Jake.

She pulls out some flasks and bottles some of the stew she is making for dinner for the recruits. She explains that its not done yet, so not safe yet to eat. She asks if they will stay for dinner. They refuse.

The two then call Astar in tell him to meet them at the Dancing Bear around midnight. He will be the look out while they apply some poison. Astar looks uncomfortable but says he will be there. They leave him and suggest he talk to Mama Grim if he needs potions.

Jake and Beltin decided to try to undermine the Dancing Bear; by making people who drink there sick they will undoubtedly drive more people back to Lucky's (and their) place. Awesome.

Astar meets Mama Grim and is obviously very uncomfortable, but she doesn't notice. He asks for Cure Serious potions and she gives him 4... while charging him 5 bits. Apparently she is remembering way back in her day when these things cost a nickel, but Astar is told out of game that this will not always be the case and to enjoy it while it lasts; that 7:1 gold/bit conversion rate for Crusaders hurt like a b*$*@, so he gets a one time bonus from the DM.

That night the three hang around the tent city and wait for things to quiet down in the Dancing Bear; it never really closes, but by around 3 or 4 a.m. it's almost guaranteed to be dead. Astar waits outside as Beltin and Jake go in with Greater Invisibility. No one is at the bar and the place is mostly empty besides what appears to be a high stakes poker game in the back. No bartender at the moment.

Jake goes behind the bar and starts spiking the taps and pouring the unfinished stew broth from Mama Grim into several popular brands of liquor on the shelf behind the bar. As he begins to finish, Floyd re-enters from a curtained off section nearby and walks back to his station. Jake is on alert but Floyd doesn't appear to notice him... but his eyes narrow and he begins to audibly sniff as though he smells something, perhaps the broth, that doesn't belong in his area but then seems to dismiss it as his imagination.

Jake ducks into the area Floyd enters from and sees a simple bed, a desk, and a trunk. That must be Floyd's "room." He doesn't disturb it and leaves. He taps Astar on the back to let him know the job is done and they leave and go to bed. They plan on meeting at the Sip of Blood in the morning.

BW was missing as a player, so how he spent his last day before the the planned excursion in the wastes will be retroactively handled next session.

Day 19

The following morning (really about 5:45 a.m., so a few hours later) Yohann wakes up Astar and tells him to report to his commanding officers. He woke him up 15 minutes before the rest of the recruits so he could prep and not keep them waiting. Dismissed!

Bleary eyed Astar hurries to the Sip, goes through the batwing doors, and finds it deserted. He helps himself to a drink and waits. And waits for a couple hours. Jake, Beltin, and BW sleep til about 10 a.m. and show up soon after. Thanks Yohann.

Around 8 a.m. Lucky comes out stretching and sees Astar drinking. He yells at him for drinking without paying, which Astar does not understand, but Astar puts his hands up and says he is just waiting for the party as they were supposed to meet there at some unspecified time and he is sorry for intruding. He gives 5 bits to Lucky for the drink and Lucky warms up; he loves when people set their own prices and grossly overpay.

He offers him another drink, a shot from the Decanter of Endless Grain Alcohol, which Astar drinks and barely makes the fortitude save against. Lucky holds out his hand and gets 5 bits. Astar asks for something less strong, puts out 5 more bits, and Lucky gives him some of the house special, grain alcohol and something vaguely fruity. Astar, feeling uncomfortable being alone with the horribly maimed barman, makes a comment about the good weather they are having.

Lucky laughs and tries to explain about the deadly weather in the Desolation, like bone storms and acid rain, by acting it out, but it is mostly lost on Astar. By the time the rest of the party show up Astar is a bit drunk. They look at him disapprovingly and reprimand him. G+%&#@n it Astar.

Through no real fault of his own, Astar is now the official party f~~+-up, the comic relief who draws all the unfairness of the uncaring, but highly malevolent universe. If he doesn't yet regret joining the party... well, there is plenty of time for that.

To be continued...

12.2 Dorf Fortress I - Drunk and Surly:

Dorf Fortress I - Drunk and Surly, Session 12.2 - 9/6/14

Day 19

The party walks down the road. The wind whistles eerily across the godforsaken plains as usual and some screams seem to carry on the wind, also as per protocol. At one point a blood curdling scream comes from somewhere in the Ashen Wastes to the right before being suddenly cut off. No one but Astar seems concerned and asks if they should investigate, but the rest say that whatever happened is already over or will be by the time they get there. Ain't their problem.

After a while they cut off road into the dry and cracked hardpan of the Dead Fields. The air seems particularly clear today and way off in the distance the party can make out the city of Tsar; from such a distance it looks completely deserted and abandoned. They walk on.

They have heard of two ancient but still standing strongholds in this region of the Desolation, and the party reasons if there is an army about they may be using them. The names of the places have of course been lost to time. One of the strongholds is farther north, closer to Tsar, and one resides in the southeast quadrant of the Dead Fields. That is the one they plan to investigate first.

After a few hours the party notices some figures moving in the distance, going north parallel to the road. They seem to be moving with purpose, but are clearly undead. The party watches them, debates following, but decide to ignore them. One random encounter that is a non-issue for the party averted.

A few more times the party notice things that could be threats a ways off and avoid them, but over time another threat slowly began to build above them. Birds. First they came slowly and now they come streaming, forming a massive flock circling above the party. Beltin notes that they are not the usual carrion birds seen in the Desolation, and the party begins to worry that they are somehow intentionally marking them out on the plain.

Finally Jake has had enough. He fireballs them. The fried birds make a whole in the formation above and fall down toward the party, but then suddenly the rest of the swirling mass breaks apart as well and then dives toward the party. They were more densely packed then the party assumed. They are legion. And coming down.

Initiative is rolled! As the birds get close it is clear that their eyes glow red and with some sort of malevolent intelligence. They are also rotting. They are 5 undead raven swarms.

The party mostly wins init and gets ready to engage as the birds as they come down around them. Beltin casts greater invisibility and moves away from the main group. The undead and Astar take some pecking, but Astar shrugs off the more debilitating effects of the ravenous attacks.

Jake uses emergency force sphere and makes the DM regret giving it to him: Immediate action sphere, standard action to Damnation Stride out of it, blinking multiple times exploding among the birds and cutting them down, before returning to the inside of his sphere with his final teleport. Holy s!*~ was it effective.

The birds are almost finished and have done minimal damage, but then scent Beltin. They move toward him and attempt to get one kill at least at the behest of their unknown master. Beltin was the perfect mark: He may only take 3 damage because of his new DR 5 Magic armor, but then he fails all his saves.

Distraction? Check. Eye Rake? Check. Disease? Check. Awesome!

That turns out to be the last action for the final set of birds. They get punched to death by Astar: He hits a couple out of the air, kicks a few more, and then head butts one of the remaining few into the last handful and all fall into piles of rotting meat and feathers.

Above a handful of specks still circle, but now all but one fly off in different directions. They are too high to engage. The bird menace seems defeated though. For now. Beltin heal checks his eyes and the party continues on.

As it nears dusk the party sees a small hill with some sort of fortified structure on top of it. They can see movement around the bottom of the hill and from what they can tell, it appears to be people. Living people. Very interesting.

As the party approaches and are still about half a mile out, the figures appear to move back up a winding path on the hill and head into the structure. Jake tells the party to wait and he will investigate. Greater invisibility and dimension door away!

Jake blinks closer and sees a gigantic pit excavated at the bottom of the hill. Beyond that, almost against the hill side is more freshly tilled ground and about 20-30 roughly made crosses sticking out of the dirt. Near one edge of the pit is a path that runs around the hill, as otherwise it would be too steep to traverse.

Along the path are wooden barricades and spikes pointing outward, defenses against some unknown foe that may attempt to follow the path en mass. About 40 feet up is the crest of the hill and stone walls surround the top. At the end of the path is an opening in the wall, now blocked by heavily damaged looking set of doors.

There is movement on the walls above the gate and two dwarves stand outside the gate wielding crossbows. Jake relaxes as they are dwarves as opposed to something that needs killing on site. He teleports up the hill and calls out invisibly to the dwarves on the ground, saying he is friendly.

Out of surprise, the dwarves both turn toward the sound and fire. One bolt hits Jake, but he stays calm and repeats himself. The dwarves ask if he is with the group on the plain about half a mile away. He says he is and they are looking for shelter against the night.

They ask about the undead they see with them, obviously distrustful, but Jake tells them that they have a man who controls the undead and uses them to fight the evil of the Desolation. One of the dwarves on the wall, mutters about how it would be nice to have some of those things not trying to kill them for a change.

Eventually, perhaps aided by the rapidly setting sun, the dwarves quickly agree to let the party in. Jake goes back and gets them and they all approach. The gates (barely holding together and they look like they have been repaired often lately, even having to be reattached) are opened and the party comes in and the two dwarves on the ground follow.

The party hears one mutter something about the ones outside are probably never coming back.

Inside the walls is a moderately sized courtyard with several dwarves sleeping or resting on the ground, obviously ill at ease though from the newcomers or the coming night is unclear, while more dwarves stand on the walls watching, waiting.

Beltin is instructed to line his undead up against a wall and leave them. Some dwarves eye them suspiciously but the undead of course do as commanded and then stand impassively.

The party is then led into what must have been the keep, though the building is now only a single story. It looks as though in some distant past something sheared the upper levels off somehow.

This, the battered gate, the barricades, and the grim, expectant expressions of the dwarves outside somehow combine to give the party the impression that tonight may be a night to remember.

To be continued...

12.3: Dorf Fortress II - A Night in the Ghost House :

Day 19, night

The party enters the keep and finds it opens into a hall filled with wounded dwarves lying around. At the back is a door into a smaller room and here the party sees two dwarves of obviously higher station.

One is much older and wears a prominent symbol of Mordin around his neck and the other is younger but would have the air of a capable leader if it wasn't for the exhaustion and despair that is also palpably radiating from him. The older man introduces himself as Gorrak, cleric of Mordin and steward of the clan Shalemace, and then gives the proper titles of the younger man with the dead-eyed gaze, Thane Fenris Shalemace, thane of the Shalemace clan.

Through asking questions the party eventually gets the following:

The Shalemace clan has been in decline for the last few generations since the battle of Tsar, seemingly through no fault of their own. It has led some of the wisemen among the clan to come to the conclusion that they have been cursed by their ancestors. Why? Well, because of King Kroma.

Kroma was perhaps their greatest king and led the Shalemaces and a coalition of other lesser clans in the battle of Tsar, but he fell to his death in the Dead Lands and his remains and the clan relics he bore were never recovered. It is believed that if the relics are restored to the clan and the remains of Kroma exhumed from the cursed ground of the Desolation, then the curse on the clan will be broken.

Clan tradition says that Kroma fell in battle near a stronghold on a hill in the Dead Fields. And so here they are. They have been in the Desolation for about two weeks and found this area about a week and a half ago. Ever since they have been excavating around the fortress attempting to find the remains of Kroma, which shouldn't be too hard to spot given the relics he bore. It had all seemed so simple when they begun, says Fenris with a thousand yard stare, but now...

They have been under almost constant nightly attack from undead, not just normal undead rabble, but those that seem guided by some kind of intelligent malevolence. The attacks have escalated and over half their force has been killed, hence the fresh graves Jake saw. Very few of the true warriors brought with them remain, the rest being better suited to mining and excavation.

The last few nights have been relatively quiet, but there is a feeling of impending disaster, as though a storm is gathering. Each day flocks of strange birds circle overhead, clearly watching their movements. They know if they try to flee back into the mountains they will never make it alive. The undead will be on them and that will be the end of them. All they can do is hold their defenses as they lose men one by one and the food begins to dwindle. Another thousand yard stare from Fenris.

The party scorns their believe in a curse and calls them stupid for coming here. Fenris bitterly laughs, but doesn't disagree. He knows he has led his expedition to its doom.

The party says they will help defend the fort and ask about where the undead come from. Gorrak explains that masses of undead seem to appear from nowhere a few hundred yards away, almost at random, around the fort. They followed the back trail in the day and found the obvious tracks of many feet, but then suddenly they disappeared like they somehow all blinked into existence and then out.

Teleportation, wonders Jake, but on that scale?

The dwarves sent out some scouts earlier today to try to gather intel, but they never came back. They are most likely dead. With that, there is not much more to say. Gorrak explains that the party will need to camp in the courtyard as the keep is mostly reserved for the wounded; he has done as much as he could to keep everyone in fighting shape, but he is only one man.

Astar volunteers to help and a few channel energy's later, everyone is feeling much better. Out of gratitude some of the dwarves offer to let the party sleep in the keep in their stead, but the party refuses, citing they need it more. Shalemace Clan rep increased.

Outside in the courtyard the party creates a magical cabin to sleep in; the magical accommodations definitely compare favorably to the stone floor the dwarves offered in the keep. Win/win, the party gets to look humble while simultaneously living in relative luxury.

The party goes to bed and doesn't bother leaving a watch; that's what the dwarves on the walls are for after all. They sleep until about 2 a.m. when screams and the sound of battle from the keep brings them suddenly into consciousness.

The party runs in with Beltin calling his archers to follow. Inside the party sees two dwarves from the walls laughing and swinging wildly, surrounded by several other dwarves wielding weapons trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Nearby two dwarves are dead, obviously from getting axed in the head while sleeping. The two dwarves in the middle would appear to be the culprits.

As the party watches, the dwarves surrounding the crazies cut down one of them, and then it becomes clear what is happening. The body falls, but there is still something standing there, laughing maniacally. A ghost. That body-snatching bastard!

Astar quickly moves and hits the other crazy dwarf so hard with non-lethal damage that he almost one shots him. The body is knocked clean off the ghost who was possessing him. The dwarves swing now at the ghosts, but lack magic weapons to hurt them.

Beltin quickly takes control of the ghost from the first dead dwarf and seeing this, the other one decides that s#$% isn't cool and tries to possess Beltin. Luckily he fails. The archers arrive and put some magic arrows in the ghost and then after succeeding against an attempt by Beltin to command him, the ghost sinks into the floor, apparently fleeing.

Astar heals the man he nearly beat to death one punch and Beltin interrogates the captured ghost, who finds the whole situation still inexplicably hilarious. Gorrak and Fenris watch and listen.

They learn that the ghost serves a lord of Tsar, a necromancer tasked with defending the Desolation. The party asks where his base is and learns that he roams around. They ask where the undead army comes from and he mentions a scepter, a relic of Tsar, that seemingly pulls the army from nowhere.

As the ghost puts it, "He needed an army so Orcus provided him with on."

Next they ask about where the necromancer is now, but all the ghost can say is that he commanded them here from the Crossroads about 2 hours ago. Near midnight. The party gets a sinking feeling that they may have met the necromancer before, but the ghost clarifies that the entity at the Crossroads is not the necromancer, nor do they have dealings he is aware of.

Jake and the party consider teleporting to the Crossroads right now to see if they can catch him there or find some clues, but decide against it.

Finally Beltin asks why the ghosts were sent here. Why, to weaken and harass the defenders of course. To kill, weaken, wound, and distract them. To soften them for the final assault. They were commanded to stay until destroyed and to cause as much trouble as possible.

Beltin notes that the other ghost disobeyed and fled. The captured ghost just grins, and the people watching don't like that, not one bit. The ghost mentions gleefully how it seems awfully quiet outside and weren't those dead men standing guard over the gate?

Gorrak leads some men outside. He returns a few minutes later and reports that the gate is intact, but they found another dead man on a remote corner of the wall. Recently slain, still warm. He seemingly cut his own throat.

That makes 4 dead dwarves. They have 28 left, including Fenris and Gorrak.

Fenris commands everyone inside. Now. Beltin tells him to line up the men, all of whom seem shaken, and then he Detects Undead. And there the ghost is, hiding inside another dwarf, acting just as nervous as the rest. Beltin walks up and down the line, until suddenly turning casting Hold Person on the possessed man; he fails, but the ghost quickly disengages and sinks back into the floor.

Gorrak casts Magic Circle and the group huddles together, except for some men sent outside to watch the gate. They are stay together no matter what and to never let the others out of their sight.

The captured ghost, still floating on the spot where his meat suit was slain, laughs and laughs, and tells them how they will all die until Beltin commands him to shut up.

Time passes but no one can sleep. Suddenly a hand reaches up from the floor and grabs an ankle. A dwarf screams as wounds open up on his leg, and then the wand withdraws. About 15 minutes later it happens again. And it seemingly will forever now unless they can stop it.

The party wonders if they can force their ghost to kill the other, heavily wounded ghost, but realize they have no way of affecting each other besides a 1d4-5 unarmed strike.

New plan. Jake summons an earth elemental, gives it one of his magic daggers, and tells it to go through the floor and kill the ghost. The issue is it has no way to find it. Percentile rolls! 20% chance to randomly run into it and Jake has it for 10 rounds.

Fail upon fail, until suddenly, with two rounds left, the elemental finds the ghost! And stabs it! And it still has 4 HP left! And then the ghost gets away. And the elemental pops. And Jake realizes his dagger is lost under the ground. Son of a b~%#*!

Finally the party decides to wait for as long as it takes with readied actions. Beltin is going to cast Ghostbane Dirge, which should impede the ghost somewhat if it tries to slink through the floors.

They wait. And wait. Finally an hour later, perception checks! A hand rising from the ground to grab an ankle! Spell! Arrows! Attack!

And finally, finally the ghostly hand breaks down and dissipates. Slain. The sun is now rising. Restful night all around, the remaining ghost seems to be saying with his smirk, but then the party casts Nap Stack and everyone gets a full 8 hour sleep in only 2 hours. Yay, that spell was useful for once!

Day 20

The ghost is disappointed. Beltin commands it to fly east as fast as it can and not to stop. It has no choice but to obey. Hopefully it will be well out to sea before he loses control of it, thinks Beltin.

The dwarves are so glad they let the PCs in.

That afternoon things are as normal as can be in the fort. Birds circle high above. The digging continues. The party waits.

Suddenly roars from the excavation pit! Holy f%@!, are those T-Rex skeletons?! The party begins to head down the slope but Jake teleports himself and Astar into the pit. Dwarves begin to line up into ranks to engage the threat, but two excavators weren't so lucky, with one bit in half and the other barely conscious in the the T-Rex's mouth.

Astar is having none of that and Pummeling Styles the T-Rex attempting to devour its dwarven treat into dust. It goes down like a b&@$! and the party begins to think Astar isn't such a f+%! up after all. Haha, just kidding.

Beltin lazily wiggles his fingers and takes command of the other. Crisis averted and Beltin now has a T-Rex skeleton for his menagerie. He laments the fact he can't make it bloody.

Dwarves cheer for the party and their morale is raised and they begin to dream of what once seemed impossible; maybe this Dorf Fortress won't crash and burn after all!

27 dwarves remain.

End of session. No casualties.

13.1, Mini-Episode: BW adds "terrorism" to his resume - because spoiler refused to work for some reason

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 10).

Bradley Weatherby (Human Dervish Dancer 10/Knife Master Rogue 7/Duelist 3).

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 10).

Astar Luno (NG Human Kata Master, Many of Many Styles Monk 10/Sacred Fist War Priest 10).

BW adds "terrorism" to his resume, Session 13.1 - 9/13/14

A brief rewind to explore BW's last day in Camp before heading out with the rest of the party to investigate the rumors of an undead army.

Day 18

In the morning BW receives a message ridden with innuendo and code speak from Floyd the bartender of the Dancing Bear: His boss has approved the plan to hit Lucky and a meeting is requested to work out the details, perhaps in a place where they can speak more openly.

BW, remembering the last time he tried to do such business, namely with the Benders, demands they meet on neutral ground to discuss business. He sends his reply off with the courier and about 10 minutes later gets a message back from Floyd mentioning how the outskirts of the Camp, just a small ways into the Desolation are such lovely places. So calm and flat you can see things coming for miles.

BW sends a brief response to that: East of camp, noon. He gets a polite confirmation back.

Planning on getting there first to scout it out, BW attempts to be there early enough to beat Floyd but instead finds him waiting, serenely smoking a fancy cigaret from the South. They don't make small talk for long before Floyd gets to the point. Lucky is to die, but quietly. They don't want a scene. Given Lucky's lack of security and the general ease in which he can be taken down, but also considering his status, the Hospitality Guild is willing to offer BW the going rate for such a job in the south: 1,000 gold.

BW thinks this a low offer for a man of his caliber, but then again the job is one doesn't necessarily need a master to complete. BW counter offers: Let them think of this as his job application, his initiation. Once it is done he will be an "employee" of the Hospitality Guild. Floyd smokes his cig and considers it for a moment, and then accepts the deal. He shakes hands with BW and again stresses that the elimination should be something that can't be traced back to them.

That won't be an issue, says BW, and as it would be awkward to walk back to town with the man he just did business with, he stays to enjoy the view of nothing while Floyd walks back first.

He has a plan. One that is hilarious to the DM given how it was independently thought up, but practically identical to the scheme the rest of the party would that night pull off against the Dancing Bear. BW makes up a large batch of contact poison. Here the two parallel party plans split; while the poison procured and placed by Jake to indiscriminately affect patrons of the Dancing Bear was meant just to ruin their day, the poison BW makes to indiscriminately affect patrons of the Sip of Blood, including Lucky, is meant to end their lives.

That night BW enters the Sip invisibly and rubs contact poison in various spots of the bar that Lucky is likely to touch as well as customers. There is no concern for "innocent" casualties, nor is there any guarantee Lucky will even be exposed to the poison; a percentile roll will tell, but he is called "Lucky" for a reason.

BW is now a terrorist!

With his biological terrorism plan now in motion, BW goes back to his lair at the Bender Brothers inn and sleeps like a baby. He has a big day in the Desolation tomorrow after all.

And then all the stuff that happened in the Desolation in session 12 occurred with him there of course.

To be continued...

13.2: Dorf Fortress III - The Downward Spiral? :

Day 20, day

The T-Rex skeletons are defeated (and enslaved in one case) and there is much rejoicing by the dwarves. With that out of the way, the digging continues and the party ponders their next move.

Ideally it would be better if they could find and kill this necromancer before he attacks and along those lines their only lead is the crossroads, which according to the ghost, he was at last night. After much debate, including whether or not they should hang around til midnight for a wish that will totally help them out (the DM approves of this strategy, though the players don't), they teleport to the crossroads, leaving the undead behind as they have to due to the limits of the spell.

They see no sign of anything living or undead, but they do notice something about those crucified bodies around the square. They and their crosses are burned and at the ground below each is an intricate set of symbols, now hard to decipher due to a night open to the elements. Knowledge checks are made, and though no one can figure out the specifics of what it means, the general meaning is clear.

Beltin knows that the way people die can influence their undeath and that powerful suffering in death tends to equal power in undeath. Someone (the party wonders who it could have been) used that to their advantage and performed some kind of necromantic ritual with the crucified bodies. Given how the actual bodies are still on the crosses, though badly burned, whatever was called here is most likely not corporeal.

Awesome, thinks the party. They look forward to facing whatever it is, and the DM looks forward to using it.

They look around for any tracks of any kind and find a set leading back into the Dead Lands, but then quickly lose them. It's hard pan after all and it's not like any of them are particularly good trackers. They teleport back to the dwarves.

The party discusses their next move and BW and Beltin have an innuendo filled conversation while Astar listens obliviously and thinks they are speaking literally and joins in as such. The DM loves you Astar; it's a shame about what happens to you later. Dun dun foreshadowing.

BW throws out the idea that they could finish off the dwarves themselves and perhaps use that as leverage to come to terms with the necromancer. Beltin is iffy and is not sure he is the kind of guy they can negotiate with. BW sees his point and suggests that maybe they could abandon them all to die and then come back later to see what they can find. Astar agrees they are having lovely weather today. He is ignored. Beltin says BW has a point, but they might as well stay for now and see what happens. They can always teleport out if things get too bad.

And so it is decided: The party will stay and help the dwarves as long as it doesn't get too bad, in which case they are leaving those f~~@ers to die. Astar and the dwarves are not aware of the second part of that plan.

Beltin Makes Whole the heavily damaged wooden gate and BW spends some time getting to know the dwarves and raising their morale, though he secretly has no confidence at all in them. And then they sit down and wait.

The birds circle overhead and there is a feeling of impending doom in the air regardless of BW's morale boosters. It seems that tonight will be the night...

Day 20, night

As darkness approaches, clouds begin to move in. It promises to be an especially dark night. Astar lights and places torches 50-100 feet out from the walls in all directions around the fort, hoping it will give them time to see the enemy coming.

The dwarves mostly take to the walls and some stay near the doors on the inside, next to many of the undead who were given the same job. Gorrak and Fenris, both with Air Walk, patrol around, giving encouragement and orders. Time passes and darkness settles in.

Around 2 a.m. it happens. With the help of the torches the defenders see some sort of black bubbling substance quietly appear on the ground a hundred or so feet away from the fort... in every direction. Soon is coalesces into solid forms, ranks of silent undead, hundreds. And then they begin to all shamble toward the fortress. The torches are trampled and they are lost to sight, but not for long.

Initiative is rolled.

Beltin commands his hydra to cling to walls of the fortress above the path leading toward the gate. His archers begin to fire into the horde, and though each arrow brings down an individual member of the undead horde, another just steps in to take his place. Jake fireballs, with similar effect.

BW, counting on the fact that his AC is so high and not realizing the horde works like a swarm, parkours his way down the wall (and air as he has Air Walk), and jumps into the horde to start wrecking things. He slices and dices, but there are always more. The horde advances and BW finds himself overwhelmed but holds his ground and brings down more undead, but not enough. He decides this was a poor choice and air walks himself up above the zombies.

The dwarves fire into the undead along with Fenris, but Gorrak air walks above the horde, not far from BW, and channels energy. Astar does the same. Undead fall, but more come. And then through the horde below those above see movement going against the grain, moving toward them. 3 Mohrgs push themselves on top of the horde, crowd surfing almost, and lash out with their tongues!

Astar and BW avoid being paralyzed, but Gorrak, the level 9 cleric with access to 5th level spells that he didn't use yet, rolls a 3 and the Mohrg, making a rattling sound that must have been laughter, begins to pull him down into the horde!

And then Beltin uses an ability the DM had not forseen. Darkness Domain. He turns on his level 8 ability and treats darkness like it wasn't even there and begins to look for someone commanding the undead. Above he sees a massive flock of swirling darkness; birds. But beyond the ranks of the 60 feet deep horde, he sees two figures moving with purpose and intelligence, making hand movements that the horde then seems to react to.

As the horde reaches the walls and begins to turn and walk up the slope toward the gate (with the help of the intelligent people in the back) or if not on the gate side of the fort, begins to dog pile on top of one another to eventually, inevitably reach the top of the wall (60 feet up total; 40 foot hill that steep enough to be almost vertical, plus 20 feet high walls), Beltin calls out the location of the figures he sees.

Jake teleports to Astar, then BW, ignores Gorrak in distress, and then blinks all three around one of the figures, surrounding it. As they land next to it they see what would appear to be a man in black armor, except the extreme paleness, glowing red eyes, and fangs reveal him for what he is. Vampire.

The three attack him simultaneously and he is now a dead vampire. Astar punches him in the lower back and feels his spine begin to give way under his fist and then the body breaks down into ash. They turn and look over and see another vampire, this one a woman in black robes. She is wearing an expression that is a clear mix of "oh what the f#&$" and obvious concern. She looks up toward the sky and makes a "what the hell is this" expression.

Beltin sees this and looks up into the swirling mass above. Aha, so that's where you are hiding, necromancer!

The vampire looks between the three of the people who just ganked her ally and considers which one to Dominate when it occurs to her she has a better idea: Dimensional Anchor on Jake and Quicken Invisibility. Jake is pissed now. And unfortunately for her he has permanent see invisibility. He watches her fly up and she sees his stare. She doesn't like where this is going.

The Mohrg reeling in Gorrak finishes and he disappears into the horde. The horde has work to do and continues on, but the other two Mohrgs come back and try unsuccessfully to ranged touch tongue paralyze some of the party. F%#~ing stupid high touch ACs.

Jake charges into the air and attacks the vampire, telling her "b+$!%, drop the dimensional anchor," with the implication that he may spare her if she does. She doesn't buy it and for the next several rounds they play a game. In this game she tries to Dominate Jake, touch him, or do just about anything to him only for her to fail. And Jake slashes at her, hitting almost every time, but has issues breaking her DR 10 and her fast healing 5. As she is slowly but surely losing health, the vampire eventually gets tired of this s&!% and just starts running up while Jake chases.

Not far into Jake's dance with the vampire sorceress, the vampire's shrug to the heavens in answered and three ghostly figures descend from the flock of birds. Each appears to be still nailed to a cross, though no cross itself is visible. Beltin sees them and it clicks this time: Crucifixion Spirits. Well then.

Two float down and hang above the horde, but well above the party, and another hovers above the top of the keep. Fenris gets his soul crucified. BW manages to dodge the effect, but Astar is not so lucky and his soul is ripped out above him as Mohrgs close in. BW steps over him and defends him, and soon only the Mohrg in the ground is there. And then he approaches with his new fast zombie, Gorrak.

Gorrak coup de graces Astar! DC 25 to not die. And Astar gets 26! And then on his turn his soul escapes its torment and returns to his body. BW fights on above him and more soul crucify attempts come at the party, but that f~!*ing high touch AC. Gorrak is taken down and Astar gets back to his feet.

Beltin doesn't like this at all and goes Greater Invisible. His archers start picking at one of the Crucifixion Spirits as the dwarves can't due to their lack of magical weapons. The hydra keeps snapping at undead but they continue on up the hill. The gates are being battered and are nearly gone, but dwarves repair them desperately and the larger undead wait to embrace the horde should they get in. The dog piles of undead are nearing the top of the walls. Beltin Flame Strikes and obliterates who knows how many and the tower collapses down again on one side at least.

Then using another ability the DM had forgotten about, he begins his Dance of the Dead performance, and the fallen undead at the foot of the path leading to the gate rise up to battle their once undead compatriots! The flow of undead to the gate has been severed!

The undead horde is still massive, but clearly thinning! But wait, is that more liquid blackness on the ground further out, beginning to summon anew? And then BW sees something else of concern. The clouds have broken and moonlight lights the scene, and from the Desolation he sees some massive metal... thing blowing up dust around it. Moving quickly towards them. Is that a battering ram on the front? It is. (For anyone with the Slumbering Tsar book: It is the Battle Hulk, the remnant of the war that wanders the Dead Fields, now forcefully conscripted.)

So now a tank is rushing toward the fray, and what's that? BW sees figures clinging to the back. 4 ghasts and another vampire, this one wearing a conductor's hat. There is a look of wild happiness on his face as his ride zooms closer and closer and he raises his hand outward. A Wall of Stone ramp appears, crushing many undead beneath it, making a straight shot for the battle hulk up to the gate.

Oh s@#%, thinks the party, but BW has an idea.

He asks Astar if he is ok and Astar says yes. And then he promptly fails against paralysis and falls at the feet of the Mohrg. BW says cool and runs away, leaving him. Astar gets coup de graced for the second time this encounter, but this time fails! BW doesn't have time for that though.

BW acrobatics out in front of the steadily approaching battle hulk and out comes the Immovable Rod. Click!

The battle hulk slams into it and nearly shattered the rod, but it holds after being forced forward 10 feet. The creatures on the back of the tank look down at BW as he tries to unsuccessfully attack the hulk. At this point fast zombie Astar charges and pounces over the tank, landing on BW! BW gets slashed, but forces him back, now in front of the tank. And then he un-clicks it.

The tank immediately rumbles forward again and Astar's zombie body is obliterated under its treads, but now it is Jake's turn. He turns his attention away from the tedious task of vampire hunting and does something that breaks the DM's heart: Spiked Pit. The battle hulk begins its final rush toward the gate only to find it cut short as it fails the reflex save. It tumbles down into the pit, crushing the ghasts and almost pounding the vampire riding it into dust as well.

Inside the fort Fenris's soul finally dissipates into nothing as it dies. With the death of both leaders. The dog-piling undead have begun to enter the fort. Some dwarves break down, morale broken, and flee the walls, but other dwarves take command get them back up... only to get soul crucified for their troubles. Regardless, the defenders fight again and with the help of Beltin's undead beat down the forces that made it over the walls. Soon it is clear that the horde has been thinned to the extent that they no longer have enough to dog pile high enough.

The undead in front of the gate are getting smashed and Beltin's dance of death still holds off the rest from the ramp. The undead archers take down one of the Crucifixion Spirits! It seems victory may be at hand!

Suddenly the swarms of birds descend and crash into Beltin and his dancing minion. He gets eye raked, but manages to fly out of the swarm. The birds turn the tables and now the horde begins again to move up the ramp, but their hive mind seems to be weakening, with some merely hitting against the wall instead of turning up the slope to head for the gate.

Silhouetted against the moon, the party (barring Beltin) and the dwarves can see a short stocky figure wearing ancient armor and a crown, bearing some sort of scepter. He has a long, white beard and in one eye socket rests a glowing red gem. It is a dwarf. A dwarf lich, the necromancer. It is the lost ancestor the dwarves sought, King Kroma of the Shalemace clan.

Out of game there is nothing but groans. Astar's player hears this and just throws up his hands and walks away. "Those f@@*ing dwarves," is the general consensus. Much lulz are had by the DM.

BW considers fleeing the fight at this point and almost invisibly slips away. If it wasn't for the fact that he realized he would be running away alone into the Desolation, he probably would have. Let these f!*+ing dwarves deal with their own mess, is now the general mentality.

But yet the party stays, mostly because Beltin wants that scepter, the one seemingly conjuring this endless mass of undead. He wants it badly. BW begins to move up, Air Walking and invisible. Jake finally just Dispels Magic on himself to get rid of the Dimensional Anchor. The two vampires and the two remaining Crucifixion Spirits rise up, seemingly at Kroma's unsaid command and they begin to revolve around him, making a defensive perimeter. The two vampires seem ready to cast spells and also float nearby.

And the lich himself just stares down and watches as the party readies to engage. The bubbling blackness on the ground, his reinforcements for the siege, begin to take form, but he doesn't seem to notice. He knows who the real threat is here and it isn't his kin huddles behind their defenses.

Here will be the final battle he has sought.

End of session. 1 casualty. Astar, soul crucified then paralyzed, he survived one coup de grace only to fail on a second after BW left his paralyzed body on the ground to fend for itself... though to be fair BW probably couldn't have saved him anyway.

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

Glad that you're adding your stuff.

What happened to the other campaigns?


No idea, but if I'd have to guess based on my experiences and gaps I keep having, s&+@ must keep cropping up.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'm still reading...and still enjoying!


My party is still in the Crooked Tower having just defeated Janirov in his lair. They were in no mood to talk to him pretending to be Belisham. They have at this point figured out that Belisham is some sort of vampire as well as a powerful wizard. We are resuming this Friday presuming we have enough people. September is always a lousy month for gaming with school starting back up. Thing usually get back on track in October.


It seems like my write ups just keep getting longer and longer, or perhaps more interesting things just keep happening with each session. Who knows. Anyway, here's the first part of mt last session. So ends the tale of King Kroma and the party's friendship with his descendents. Hopefully I'll get the rest done before the next session this Friday.

14.1 Dorf Fortress IV - The Inevitable Conclusion:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 10).

Bradley Weatherby (Human Dervish Dancer 10/Knife Master Rogue 7/Duelist 3).

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 10).

Dorf Fortress IV - The Inevitable Conclusion, Session 14 - 9/19/14

The undead battle continues with the promise of s!** getting unbelievably real.

Day 20, night

The lich hovers in the sky above the battlefield with his posse of two vampires and two crucifixion spirits. The vampire sorceress that dueled Jake is clearly agitated as she attempts to have a hurried conversation with the lich, but the other vampire and the spirits do not join in; the vampire is still perhaps dazed by the sudden reversal of his awesome tank driving fortunes and the spirits have no free will of their own.

The lich continues to stare down at the remains of his undead legion and at the swirling darkness further out that promises fresh reinforcements. He is thoughtful and remains silent, much to the chagrin of the sorceress who is waiting with much anticipation to know what the hell they are going to do now. And then he looks her in the face and seems to say something.

Whatever it was, she it was not what she wanted. Desperately she tries to flee the lich's side, but it is already too late. The gem set in one of his eye sockets flares into life, shedding a red glare over the battlefield. As it does, more swirling darkness arises around the head of his scepter and tendrils erupt from it and impale the vampires and crucifixion spirits. The spirits accept what is happening and the dazed vampire is still too dazed to react quick enough to what is happening, and those three seem to break apart as they near the scepter, and the sky is awash in a cloud of negative energy.

The sorceress tries to fight what is happening to her, to claw at the lich as she is pulled close by the tendril, but the lich is supremely unconcerned with both her attempts at violence and her desperate struggles to stay "alive." She too breaks down into nothing and her power joins the cloud of energy surrounding the lich.

As that petty drama unfolds in the sky, the coalescing darkness at the edges of the battlefield takes on a new form and flows across the ground and blazes red. From the sky the new shape is clear; it is in the form of a gigantic seal, formed with geometric runes of unknown arcane power. And then tendrils again erupt, but this time from the seal. The remaining undead, the bodies of all the fallen on the field and the freshly buried dwarves, and even the ancient bones from the battle of Tsar are all pulled together into a colossal swirling mass of carrion. The waves of bodies into the formless pile ceases and the area within the seal is undeniably blighted, the ground terraformed into a sheet of black volcanic glass.

Above, the lich moves until he hangs over the mass, visible to all even through the storm of negative energy around him. His eye and the seal send blinding crimson light into the darkness of the Desolation, but suddenly whatever force was holding him suspended in the air ceases and he falls into the shivering mound of corpses. As he is swallowed by it, the glowing seal suddenly goes out and the battlefield is again covered in darkness.

While that un-skippable cutscene was playing out, the party had about two rounds to prepare. Buffs are cast and Beltin commands his undead down to the wriggling pile of bodies. The corpses flow around the outside of the blob, but nothing else happens. And then Beltin commands his undead to attack.

As it is attacked, the pile suddenly begins to take the shape of a massive humanoid figure, but with great difficulty. Two massive arms made of untold dead try to push the mass up from the ground and two tendrils of corpses, nearly 40 feet long, begin to whip around into air. The mound is forming into a (nerf'd) Charnel Colossus! Initiative!

The assembled undead fight the wave of bodies and deal significant damage. Jake Damnation Strides around the mass, slashing as he goes. And then the mass strikes back! One massive arm slams down on both Jake and BW, but their magical defenses hold, Jake with his Mirror Images and BW with his 50% miss chance from Blink! From the mass a face suddenly seem to become clear and it stares into Jake's face with no effect due to a successful fort save. Undeterred, another face becomes clear in the pile and screams out a word of arcane power in a long dead language! BW and Jake roll saves versus Horrid Wilting, and to the DM's disappointment, both make it and the damage roll is sub-par anyway. Meh. And then BW counter attacks!... and fails. Low rolls plus his only hitting attack being countered by his own Blink makes him sad.

Beltin's undead menagerie hits again and the wave of bodies threatening to smash them suddenly withdraw and the mass pulls back into itself. A wave of negative energy ripples through it from within and suddenly it explodes upward into the fully formed shape of a by-the-book, (mostly) un-nerf'd Charnel Colossus. S$+# just got real.

6 slams from the colossus obliterates Beltin's new pet t-rex skeleton and several of his other most power undead. Another face stares into Jake's eyes with such hatred that he goes blind, after failing a fort save of course. A lash of bodies slams into BW and his Blink does not protect him. One failed fort save later and he is cursed to have no actions 50% of the time.

Jake blasts a bolt of lightning at his now unseen attacker but the mass seems to open up around the bolt, giving it a clear line through, but now without taking some damage. BW considers acting on his turn, but his percentile dice decide that is not needed and so he does nothing. Beltin's undead continue to smash into the colossus with their diminished numbers and their damage is still significant. The colossus again focuses his energy on destroying the hated, diminished, but still much to effective undead menagerie. Pop, pop, pop, go the undead, but still the two weakest undead remain, and on their turn it is clear they are enough to seal the deal.

They again beat back the tide of rolling bodies, but this time instead of coming together to reform for a new attack, the necromantic glue, the negative energy ectoplasm holding the mass together begins to come undone. The massive humanoid figure of corpses begins to collapse and as it goes it lets out a scream with a thousand voices, the being of ever creature in its makeup, and the sound tears into the minds of the party. BW and Beltin are able hold back the overwhelming tide of thoughts and memories that aren't their own, but Jake is momentarily lost in the shock, unsure of which voice in the cacophony of gibbering voices in his head is actually his own.

In the giant pile of now still corpses there is movement. The lich pushes corpses off of himself and stands a top the mound. The red eye still glows, though much more dimly. Though undead do not tire, he looks about as exhausted as any man the party has ever met as he straightens himself. Yet he still holds the scepter and the gem still glows with its own kind of vitality. The party realizes that an end like this must have been what King Kroma has been waiting for in all his forced years of years to Orcus, yet his indoctrination and perhaps his pride wouldn't let him just roll over and die. He won't flee, but he will not hold back. It's not over yet.

Beltin sends his two remaining undead beasts to engage the King Kroma, who then effortlessly assumes control of them and commands them to stand down. Jake and BW, still blinded and cursed respectively, advance on him as best they can, and he is ready, though clearly weakened. The fight takes place almost in slow motion, with each combatant fundamentally wounded in some way besides Beltin, whose spells against the lich are effortlessly resisted. Finally BW is able to seize an opportunity to end it. He slashes deeply in an opening in the lich's armor, breaking both bones and the magic holding them together in place of muscle, and then swings his kukri up and stabs up from under King Kroma's jaw and into his skull.

With something akin to a sigh of relief the creature falls to a knee and then rolls over onto his back. His bones turn to dust before the party's eyes (though Jake doesn't see it), and then he is gone. All that remains are his treasures, a scepter, a gem, a suit of armor, and a crown.

While the battle was happening, the dwarves inside had been rallying and preparing to join the fray. Now they arrive in time to see their long dead king released from his torment, and they begin to muster as much of a cheer as they can after all that has happened, but Beltin tells them to stay back because the danger may not yet be over. Really it's a bluff check, because hey, loot.

Beltin immediately claims the scepter the lich held; it is obviously a tool of a master necromancer, though it will take time to unravel its mysteries (See the notes section). BW picks up the crown, a masterpiece of stone craftsman ship in laid with immensely valuable gems and metals. It is a crown worthy of the mightiest and wisest of dwarven kings. He places it upon his own head without a second thought and turns to look toward the dwarves. Out of game, the crown functions as a Staff of Revelations, except it must be worn for one hour before use and it automatically restores a charge if unused for a week.

He ignores the armor and picks up the gem, but is immediately scalded by the negative energy within it. Also without hesitation, as he correctly assumes this is a phylactery, he pulls out an alchemical explosive and throws both it and the slightly glowing gem away from him. The explosive goes off, but the gem is completely unharmed. Jake stands around being blind while this happens.

Beltin scolds BW and suggests they actually, you know, try to make a knowledge roll or something. He uses an ability to be unharmed by negative energy and picks it up to examine it more closely. It is clearly a Gem of Trueseeing, but with many runic symbols of power carved into it, and around the symbols in both Necril and Abyssal, are prayers to Orcus. It is clearly a phylactery. They decide to wait an hour for the bloody skeletons to revive themselves and then have Gurg break it.

To pass the time and to know what they have before speaking to the dwarves, Beltin and BW investigate the last piece of treasure, the armor. They realize why this is considered a relic for the Shalemace clan; it is fullplate with both the properties of mithril and adamantite and is magically enchanted to resist even the hottest flames (Greater Energy Resist Fire). Such construction was only ever known by the greatest of dwarven grandmaster smiths and that knowledge has since been lost. The party gets the feeling the dwarves are going to want this and the crown back.

Speaking of which, a dwarf again approaches now that it seems the danger truly has past. His name is Corin Shalemace and he was the man who got his soul crucified trying to rally the dwarves after the fall of Fenris and Gorrak. He looks lessened and wounded by his ordeal, but seems to be the defacto leader of the dwarves now both for his bravery and blood right. He hails the party and begins to announce how they are forever grateful for their aid in laying their wayward ancestor to rest and that once the ancient clan relics are returned to their clan all will again be well and the party will forever be revered friends of the Shalemace clan.

BW interrupts. Yeah, that's not going to happen, he says as he wears the dwarven crown. The thing is that they did all the work and the dwarves would be dead without them. He thinks they will hold onto these items and they can just be grateful for the whole lich destruction and curse lifting thing. Corin seems shocked for a second. He feels utterly betrayed, as do the dwarves, all of whom can hear this. They thought the party were heroes. They were wrong, they now realize.

So, continues BW, he sees it like this. They can be happy with what they got and go home relic-less, or they can all die by the party's hands. He says this knowing full well they are badly wounded, but he knows the party could probably still take all the dwarves. The dwarves know it too. Corin gives BW a look of utter contempt and the dwarves march back into the fort without a word. The party went from exalted to hated with the Shalemace clan!

The party is unconcerned. Beltin prepares the spells to lift the afflictions on Jake and BW and then once Gurg is revived, he smashes the phylactery. There is the sound of a distant scream as it shatters, but then nothing. King Kroma is defeated.

With that done, the party heads back into the fort and their magical cabin. They are exhausted after all and it's still only about 3 a.m.

Though utterly exhausted, Jake awakens before dawn and finds himself utterly restless. From outside the cabin he hears the sounds of squeaky wheels. The sound of a hand cart. He gets a feeling unreality. It must be a dream. So why not see what is happening?

Outside he sees a figure in shabby black robes pushing an ancient and battered cart filled with random items of low quality. From under the hood he can make out a jutting jaw with too many teeth. The Midnight Peddler has again arrived.

Jake approaches the Peddler and the creature pulls out a battered looking scrolls case.

"Buy?" it asks. "30 gold."

Jake does and holds the case, examining it. It is not magical as far as he can tell. The Peddler stares at him and then begins to speak. Jake is building an army, building power, but for what purpose, he wonders. Jake says he is unsure. The Peddler replies that he should beware the folly of short-sighted ambition and the search for power for its own sake; the Desolation is a monument to such ideals, and it is a place of utter ruin.

Jake ponders this advice for a moment and then seems to discard it. He tells the Peddler he will keep that in mind. Without another word the Peddler moves on and disappears into the darkness.

Day 21

The next morning (afternoon), the party awakens to find that the dwarves are already gone. Good, they think, one less thing to worry about.

Jake yawning and stretching, considers the whole encounter with the Peddler to be a strange dream. That is until he sees the battered scroll case laying on the floor near his bed. He shares his story with the party (they remember the strange "fish monger" BW met before they entered the Chaos Rift and share it) and then he picks up the case.

He cautiously opens the it and inside he finds sand and some sort of rolled canvas. He unrolls it and realizes it is a fragment of a large painting, perhaps a third or a fourth of a larger whole. He has the bottom right segment and he can see signature of an artist, though he can't quite make it out. He studies the artwork.

He sees a partial circle of geometric shapes, seemingly all variations of three letters. V O L. About a third of the circle is torn off. From within it he sees a bowl filled with incense and several strange things, all of which he recognizes as spell components. Perhaps summoning components. From the smoke of the incense there appears to be a translucent figure rising, in the process of taking solid form from the smoke. The true form of the figure it cut off, but by looking closely he can see the smokey lines are actually countless tiny scenes of suffering.

Outside the circle, he sees more symbols, but they appear to less magic symbols and more artistic symbolism. What they mean is beyond him and he doesn't care. The painting fragment is clearly the work of a master and by staring at it Jake feels as though he can almost see movement, hear what must be screams and chanting in the background of the scene depicted. He can almost smell the smoke and perhaps the blood. And then the moment is gone and it is only a painting again, though one of extraordinary quality. He examines it again for magic and finds nothing. Only canvas and paint.

Yet he is now sure the ritual is real and one that with a little bit of effort he may be able to reproduce. He doesn't know what it will do exactly, but he knows deep down it will lead to power. The Peddler's warning against such recklessness is already forgotten as he begins in his mind to reverse engineer the ritual in the painting. Why? Because power is its own reward.

To be continued...

Notes: Each player is going to get something special beyond their already formidable gestalt abilities at a certain point as decided by the DM; consider it a congratulations for surviving so long. The scepter from the King Kroma as well as the gained mastery over souls from his communion to Nerull is Beltin's reward.

Scepter of the Undead Legion, Beltin's new toy:

Unholy, Conductive Heavy Mace.

Counts as a holy symbol for any cleric able to channel negative energy.

If held by an intelligent undead, the scepter confers +8 channel resistance and immunity versus undead controlling effects. Living wielders are instead harmed by positive energy and healed by negative and receive a +2 bonus on Will saves.

As a full round action, the wielder may touch the scepter to a mindless undead he controls and store it in an extradimensional space to be called forth at a later time. Alternatively, the wielder may spend a minute and target all mindless undead under his control in a 60ft burst centered on the wielder.

This extradimensional space seemingly has no limit, but stored undead still count toward the wielder’s HD limit for the number of undead he can control. Any duration for how long the undead remain under his control is suspended while they are in storage. If the wielder gains control of an amount of HD over his limit, the scepter automatically consumes any excess stored undead, starting with the lowest HD creature. Creatures consumed this way are permanently lost.

As a full round action, the wielder may call forth a single undead creature of any size from the scepter’s extradimensional space. The wielder targets an area within 400 feet and a patch of writhing darkness appears on the ground from which the undead arises. Alternatively, the wielder may spend one minute of concentration to call forth up to 20 stored creatures. For this purpose small and medium undead count as 1, large as 2, huge as 3, gargantuan as 4, colossal as 5, and below small as 1/2. Most swarms count as large.

By sacrificing some of his own essence or that of another to power the procedure, the wielder may instead call forth any number of stored undead rapidly. As a full round action the wielder and any willing or helpless living sentient creature within 30ft may receive any number of permanent negative levels to call forth the undead at a conversion rate of 5 undead per negative level bestowed, as per the size scale listed above. This ability otherwise functions as the standard calling ability.


I'm always behind on these things. I just finished the write up for my 14th session today, which is two days after my 15th. Maybe someday I'll have my s!@* together.

14.2 Hospitality prevails:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 10).

Bradley Weatherby (Human Dervish Dancer 10/Knife Master Rogue 7/Duelist 3).

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 10).

Hospitality prevails, Session 14.2 - 9/19/14

Day 21

As they are much too high level to walk anywhere (screw walking), the party teleports away from the site of their latest glory and back to the Camp. Upon arrival they notice something a bit odd though: Why are so many people walking around in surgical masks?

Beltin stops someone and gets some of the latest rumors. Turns out a couple of days ago some sort of plague started rapidly spreading through the Camp, but it is all over now. Apparently due to the quick response from the clerics of the crusade, the disease was seemingly defeated with minimal casualties. People are still cautious though, and the masks were given out for free from the Hospitality Guild, who though was happy to fulfill it's "civic duty," was quick to remind everyone that the clerics were the real heroes.

This does not sound right to the party, but they listen. Beltin asks about the victims of the plague. So it seems a lot of people were violently sick, but only about 10 or so actually died. Most were nobodies or the poor among the Camp, but sadly Lucky Fjork and one of his waitresses were also claimed by the deadly disease. Sad times, man. Fortunately, the Hospitality Guild is already taking over the Sip of Blood and the Bender Brothers Inn, so it seems life will go on somehow.

Oh, thinks the party. Now we're getting somewhere. Based on what the party can mostly guess what happened, but out of game the full extent of it was shared.

With the simultaneous, but uncoordinated, poisonings at both the Dancing Bear and the Sip, the Hospitality Guild's PR people in the Camp saw an opportunity to both cover up the murders at the Sip and raise their own standing with the locals. They paid clerics to go around announcing a plague and go around healing "sick" people, i.e. some others on the take, and then started handing out cheap, quickly-made surgical masks. They were able to get most of the common folk (though some of the smarter ones were of course a bit suspicious) to buy into their false plague and subsequent quick cure narrative.

It's quite the story. It makes the Crusade look good. It makes the Hospitality Guild look good. It covers up that pretty much everyone who was actually sick got that sickness from drinking at the Dancing Bear. It even covers up the terrorism-related assassination of Lucky Fjork. And it worked while staying well within budget. It was a very successful campaign.

Side note: Percentiles were rolled for BW's assassination scheme and luck was on his side. Lucky didn't dodge death this time and took over 20 con damage, and then more dice were rolled to determine the number of innocent victims and their affiliation (nobody, waitress, adventurer, crusader); that could have been bad, but again, the dice loved him. Minimum side casualties; 2 people, a no body and a waitress, people no one will deep to deeply to investigate for. But wait, you may be asking, didn't more people than 3 die? Well yes. And the plague story required more dead bodies to sell itself; let's just say some otherwise healthy people with no important friends were recruited by the Hospitality Guild to do an unexpected service for them.

The party makes most of the connections and about guesses the truth, but the man they stopped is still talking about rumors and he has one more juicy tidbit. There's going to be a hanging tonight and it promises to be quite the social event. Who is being hanged and why, asks the party, and they learn two lowlifes are going to the gallows for "counterfeiting," which in this case means using gold in the camp instead of bits. Oh, thinks the party, all of whom regularly do just that. It seems they weren't the only ones and that a message needed to be sent by the Usurer reminding people of the only law that really matters in the Camp; the Usurer gets his cut. Always.

The party leaves the man and splits up to go about their business.

Beltin

First order of business, Beltin goes to the Church of Nerull and meets with Father Death, who is clearly anxious to hear a blow by blow. He listens with rapt attention to Beltin's tale, and then sighs deeply. He says he did not expect this to happen and that clearly he has underestimated Beltin; he is mightier than he had imagined. Beltin accepts the compliment, and Father Death continues to say that this escalated faster than he had anticipated.

He then asks about the phylactery they had destroyed and the necromantic symbols Beltin had seen. He asks if Beltin can recall any or if he saw anything strange with the magic. A low intelligence check says no. A pity, says Father Death, but Beltin cannot be blamed for issues that were not explained to him. At this point he continues to not explain as he thinks things over, but Beltin is a smart one. Perhaps someone was looking for a way to lichdom and didn't expect his intel gathering team to actually destroy his enemy and the clue needed to make it happen.

Father Death gets over his disappointment quickly and asks to examine the scepter Beltin recovered. His eyes light up as he examines it and he explains that there are perhaps a dozen scepters like this remaining in the world, and each is a "holy relic," but for which god is always up for debate. Traditionally, the scepters were fought over between the disciples of Orcus and Nerull, and now another is back in Nerull's grasp. Father Death is pleased and tells Beltin he is a worthy bearer.

Now, to your "reward," says Father Death. He pulls out a map that leads to a cave in the mountains to the west, the base camp of a certain group of assassins. Of course, that is not actually their base, nor are they currently in the mountains. They are right here in Camp waiting to seek their revenge on BW, as they had discussed previously, says Father Death.

Brief rewind: Remember when Beltin met the assassins after his "communion?" They had a nice discussion. Clantock's assassins had three people they could take vengeance on, but now the list dwindles. They can't kill Tarl as he is the sheriff now and walks in the Usurer's favor. For now at least, but someday he won't and his time will come. The second target would of course be Beltin, but he is now their brother so they will have peace. That leaves only one person to pay for the sins of three: Bradley Weatherby.

Beltin tries to diplomacy them into letting BW live as Beltin can use him, but they don't go for it wholly but are sympathetic. They counter offer by suggesting they just horrifically disable and disfigure him and then Beltin can have him back. Beltin says that would make him useless and says they can cut out one of his eyes and one hand, but leave him intact after that.

Roll diplomacy... rolled a 3? Awesome. No, say the assassins. How about if they torture him to death, but don't consume his soul, so Beltin can have him back if he so desires. Beltin thinks it over and says if that's the best they can do then they might as well just do it all the way. They can have BW. The assassins are pleased that he has been so reasonable, but also agree that Beltin can keep him until after the mission to hunt the undead army; if Nerull takes him there then so be it. If not, they will be waiting.

Back to present day, Beltin takes the map. It should hold BW over and make him think things are going according to plan. Beltin makes to leave, but Father Death stops him for one last thing. In a couple weeks there will be another communion to Nerull and he is of course invited. Beltin diplomatically asks if it will increase his power. Father Death smiles and says that is for Nerull to decide.

From there, Beltin decides to head over to the Sip to try to claim some items, namely the Decanter of Endless Grain Alcohol he sold to Lucky as well as his lucky stone if possible. He approaches the Sip to see it closed and under hurried renovation by about a dozen workers. He walks inside and sees the bar pulled up and an upstairs being put in, but ignores that and walks to the foreman. He tells him he was a part owner of this business and that he came to collect some belongings. The foreman looks at him disdainfully and tells him that this building was sold to the Hospitality Guild "as is" by the Usurer after Lucky died, so anything inside it belongs to them now.

Beltin thanks the man for his time, walks out, casts Greater Invisibility, and walks right back in. He looks around for the items, but finds nothing. He leaves again for real, but now casts Locate Object and gets a ping on the decanter. He is led to the Dancing Bear. He walks in and sees BW buying drinks and spreading word of their latest exploits (making it sound like he did all the work of course and Beltin and Jake were sidekicks). Behind the bar is the man who approached him to make a building for the Hospitality Guild, the dead-eyed bartender Floyd.

BW enthusiastically greets Beltin and asks him to join them, but Beltin says he is on business and that the people should take BW's version with a grain of salt. And then he innuendo rolls to lets BW know that he does not appreciate being name-dropped and then being made to look inferior; if he keeps it up the people may get to hear some more truthful stories that he, BW, may not like. BW innuendos back a confirmation and calls him a spoil sport. Beltin walks by him and approaches Floyd to speak with him.

Floyd's dead eyes light up when Beltin approaches and he very insincerely offers his condolences on his loss of his dear friend Lucky, and that he was hoping to see him in fact. His boss would like a word. Perfect, says Beltin, he would like a word as well.

Beltin is led behind a sectioned off area of the massive tent, past some divided off rooms with beds and in a couple, hookahs, and to the back. There is what Beltin takes to be a ridiculous sight; there is a free wooden wall to block off this back area of the tent, and set in it is a fine mahogany door. There is a silver name plate on it that reads: "Bartholomew Weyend, Manager."

Floyd approaches the door, but as he does it is clear to Beltin that his enjoyment over Beltin's misfortune has melted away and been replaced by a barely concealed anxiety. Until that moment Beltin didn't notice, but he was beginning to feel some of that too. Floyd knocks on the door and a sharp voice immediately responds, "Why are you bothering me?" Floyd starts to stutter for a second before apologizing profusely and saying the former part owner of the Sip of Blood was there to see him. The voice says to send him in, and the door opens of its own accord and reveals almost complete darkness within.

A definite feeling of unease settles over Beltin, but business needs to be conducted. He goes in. Inside is a rather roomy office that looks as though it was transplanted from a fine manor of some sorts; it has the feeling of both power and old money. There are bookshelves crammed with tomes, a four poster bed in at one end with fine night stands on either side, a massive wardrobe, and more items have no place at a s&+& hole like the Camp. All exceptionally high quality. The floor is covered in thick carpets that must either sit on boards placed just over the dirt, or just on the dirt itself. On every "wall," really canvas still as it is a tent, is covered with expensive tapestries and curtains that hang low enough to the floor to block out all outside light.

The only light comes from a small, dying candle on a large mahogany desk to the left as you walk into the room. Behind the desk is a lean man in an exquisitely crafted, but clearly many years out of style suit. He looks ancient, but he moves deftly and his eyes are very much alive. He ignores Beltin for a second as he finishes signing a document of sorts and then stamping it with a seal, and then he looks up at Beltin and tells him to take a seat. Beltin does. The door closes behind him and Beltin begins to wonder if this was a mistake.

The manager starts talking immediately and with the air of a man who is not to be interrupted and whose word is unquestionable. He tells Beltin that the Sip of Blood and the establishment known as The Bender Brothers' Fine Accommodations are now the property of the Hospitality Guild as per a signed contract with the Usurer and the deal is done. That said, though they are under no obligation to do so, as a sign of good faith the Hospitality Guild will pay a one time sum of 1,500 bits to Beltin, but it again it should be stated they are under no obligation to do this; it is merely a show of good faith. Beltin will no longer have any stake in either business. He is out.

And then the manager pulls out a bag sets it on the desk. He stares into Beltin's eyes with a look that says asking for more would be un-wise and waits for his response. Beltin looks at the bag and back to the man, and says that he actually came for an item he gave to Lucky Fjork that has some sentimental value to him, a certain decanter and stone. The manager replies that all items in the Sip of Blood are now Hospitality Guild property, but the "lucky" stone was was not recovered; it was most likely stolen by thieves as soon as Lucky's death became public knowledge.

But you do have the decanter, Beltin replies, and the manager gives a stare that seems to be affirmation. Perhaps they could consider an alternative "buy out" currency, suggests Beltin; keeps the bits, give the decanter. It's not something a high quality establishment would need anyway.

The manager smiles the kind of smile you would expect to see on a walking corpse and lets out a short cold laugh. He opens a cabinet inset underneath his desk and Beltin hears the sound of a safe being opened. The manger collects the bag of bits and stows it before pulling out the decanter and sliding it toward Beltin, who takes it and puts it away in his bag. The two men stare at each other for another moment, and the manager says that their business is concluded for now, and that until it is time to do business again, Beltin should take his leave.

Beltin does and secretly thinks hell will freeze over before he does business with that man again. As he steps out he realizes that he was almost shivering. The office must have been 20 degrees cooler than the outside, or perhaps it was just the presence within that gave that impression. Beltin departs.

One item found. Beltin casts Locate Object again and this time is led to one of the older shanty sections of the Camp reserved for the most desperately poor. Outside a crude lean too he sees one of the waitresses from the Sip tending a small cooking fire. As he approaches, the woman sees him and jumps to her feet and runs over to him. She's glad to see someone who was such a dear friend to Lucky and she goes on about how the whole plague story was nonsense and that Hospitality Guild must be behind it. Beltin soothes her and agrees with her assessment and turns the conversation toward Lucky's rock. Did she happen to know what happened to it?

She shifts, almost guiltily, before rapidly saying that she took it because she didn't want it being robbed by thieves in the camp or the fiends over at the Dancing Bear, and that she wanted to see Beltin about it but he found her first. With Lucky dead, her and the other waitress decided that perhaps their time in the Camp was done and regardless of the problems that drove them here in the first place, it was time to go South again. But they couldn't do it without money. And she looks Beltin in the face.

The meaning is clear. She says she knows Lucky would want him to have the stone, but he also wouldn't want his girls to die of poverty, and Beltin is a rich adventurer. 1,000 bits for the stone. That would let them safely book passage with a group heading south and let them maybe set up something for themselves in the South if they managed to get there alive.

Beltin counter offers for the spare gold he happens to have, about 250. The woman replies it would probably cost them that to even get to Bard's Gate, if it was enough at all. Beltin says safer, quicker, more magical transportation can be arranged for free as part of the deal. The women accepts, takes the gold, and gives Beltin the stone. Beltin now has a +1 luck bonus to all his saving throws!

He tells her to get the other surviving waitress and then meet him at Jake's training compound. The woman agrees and says they will be there soon. Beltin heads over to tell Jake the arrangement and once the women arrive, Jake teleports them to the outer market of Bard's Gate and wishes them luck. The women thank him profusely as because of him they didn't get murdered on the road back and ended up with more gold than they had expected for their new lives. One kisses Jake on the cheek.

He gets that warm fuzzy feeling for a second before Teleporting himself back to the brutal world of the Desolation.

To be continued...

14.3 The noose tightens:

The noose tightens, Session 14.3 - 9/19/14

Day 21

Jake

After getting caught up on the latest rumors, Jake heads back to his compound and after sitting through a status report from Yohann (the men are almost good enough to be considered low ranking soldiers now, by his esteem), Jake gets down to serious business. He again examines the painting fragment and studies the ritual he sees. Yes, he is able to identify all the components he sees and all are strange or exotic. Gathering them may be expensive, but it is doable.

He turns his attention to the geometric seal he sees in the painting but of course a portion is ripped off. That could be a problem, but after studying it closely he realizes that the seal is just an incredibly complex repeating pattern; it should just be a matter of replicating it to fill in the missing areas. Tricky because that part of the operation will require intense precision. He ponders that as he heads to the market place.

After digging through various stalls (including the one of his old friend the false wizard), Jake manages to find all of what he needs or at least something with the exact same magical properties. Except for one item that is: A human eye. It seems no one has one of those for sell, and though he could just get one from anyone nearby, instead he decides to go to the Church of Nerull.

Inside he sees a few people in pews, heads down, and the acolyte Augustine copying names from the death shrine into a large, weathered looking tome. The cover appears to be leather of some kind, but it looks a bit strange. Jake decides it is unimportant and greets the acolyte, who is pleased to see him and asks how his killings went. Jake says fine, fine, but he needs something. Would he happen to have any human eyes?

Augustine, his eyes always glazed with something akin to madness, says that yes, he does in fact. He has two. Jake tries not to facepalm and asks if he has any not in a head. Augustine considers this for a moment and then smiles. He says no they don't but he could get him one. Jake says he doesn't want one of his own eyes removed. At that, Augustine's shoulders slump and he goes back to thinking.

And then he smiles again, a knowing smile, and says yes, he can get him an eye, but asks what rite Jake is performing. Jake immediately goes defensive, but the acolyte puts up his hands and says that hey, he is no stranger to dark rites and their components, so he isn't judging, nor does he want what Jake is after. It is just an academic interest, a hobby of sorts. Jake stares at the acolyte, and yeah, he can believe that from a weirdo like this guy.

He explains about the painting and what he knows (but doesn't mention what he doesn't know, i.e. what it does exactly) about the ritual he will be performing. Augustine grows more and more excited and seems to be barely containing himself as Jake talks of the painting. Jake finishes and Augustine asks to see it. Jake shows it to him and he gasps.

He gives Jake an art history lesson. This is a work by the famed blind prophet and artist Raziel Alhazred. He lived a long time ago (Augustine doesn't seem to know when exactly) and was renowned and feared for his mystical powers, some of which was supposed to be suffused into his works, all of which were masterpieces the likes of which had never been seen. But each showed a scene of utter ruin and disaster, and each was seemingly a prophecy of doom to warn those who could decode the sometimes obvious and sometimes not symbolism. Eventually the prophet was put to death for heresy and his paintings were supposedly all destroyed.

Yet some of his works have reappeared over the years, seemingly at the time when their prophesied time is approaching. It is said that his work, "The Corruption of the South" was discovered shortly before the first disastrous crusade against Tsar; supposedly it hung in the emperor's own personal art gallery as he and the Army of Light were forever lost in the poorly named Forest of Hope.

And that is not the only story like that, and Augustine gives more historical hearsays. No one knows how many pieces were created by the prophet and most of the names of his works have been lost, but among the believers the most commonly sought after piece is the mythical "The Fall of Man," for obvious reasons says Augustine with a laugh.

And now, Augustine concludes, another of the prophet's works has been found. He doesn't know if the myths concerning them are true or not, but wouldn't it be exciting if they were, and death was coming for them all? Many people would be very interested to possess a work of Raziel, especially one that has seemingly not yet come to pass. It appeals to two types of collectors, says Augustine, the philosopher and the one who just thinks it will look fabulous on his wall.

He looks at the painting fragment longingly as he hands it back to Jake, and says that if he ever finds the other pieces he would love to see it whole. He would love to know which scene of horror and atrocity he had examined.

The acolyte looks sad for a moment and then suddenly perks up. He says he wants to help with the ritual. He wants to be there and see what it does. It's just so exciting! Jake believes him when he says that he just wants to be there for the ritual's own sake, but damn is the kid creepy. But useful too. He agrees and says that he can use his artistic ability to create the seal. Augustine smiles and says he will get the eye and then they can talk more. Jake says fine and to meet him at his compound.

About an hour or so later Augustine arrives with a still bloody human eye. Jake doesn't ask. At this point he had already teleported Lucky's waitresses and Beltin is with him discussing the ritual. Augustine joins in, still so excited to be included especially now that his "death buddy" Beltin is involved, and they come to the conclusion that the best place to try what they are trying would be the Cross Roads; the barrier between worlds is already thin enough there.

They work to finish preparations and decide that tomorrow night will be the night. Jake says he will bring four of his students, the ones he thinks are magically gifted enough to help with the ritual without any chance of f*&@ing it up.

Augustine points out that blood may be needed so perhaps he should bring someone else too, someone that he won't miss should that be necessary. The look on his face makes it clear that he dearly hopes it is necessary. Jake agrees and has just the right person in mind: Carl, his worst student. Finally, he may be useful in some way.

When it's nearly hanging time, Augustine says they could use a break and a hanging is always worth seeing. The other two reluctantly agree, but he is just so enthusiastic. The town square is crowded and people look like they've been having a bit of a party. Near dusk the Usurer climbs onto the gallows and stands still and silent.

The sight of him brings silence to the crowd at once, and then Sheriff Tarl approaches with two bound men in tow. One seems to have a broken jaw... and a bloody, dripping rag over one eye socket. So that's where that eye came from! Tarl reads a long list of charges, most of which deal with using gold instead of bits in a variety of mercantile endeavors. Then he asks if they have last words.

The one with the broken jaw tries to say something but can't and the other starts to go on about how this is a mistake. He starts blubbering and Tarl loses his patience and hits the lever. They hang! The crowd cheers! The party begins again! And with the spectacle complete, Augustine, Beltin, and Jake leave to get back to work.

Bradley Weatherby

Though in character BW doesn't know it, today is the last day of his life. Out of character? He is prepared. He knows he has this coming. And he does his best to in character metagame himself into a better position. Can't argue with that.

BW first heads over to the Dancing Bear and gets a free drink from Floyd. The guild is pleased with him. He is in. He spends some time talking up their exploits, sees Beltin in passing, and then heads over to see his friend Horace at crusader encampment. He meets him outside of a newly set up field hospital as he is overseeing the transfer of some wounded crusaders. He is a bit grim due to his duties, but he smirks a bit as he sees BW approach wearing his new dwarven crown.

They talk and BW explains how they met the undead army and the lich and destroyed both. He makes himself out to be the key player again, of course, and also says that the dwarves were so grateful for their aid that they gave him the crown. Yay, high bluff. Horace believes him, not only because he is a great liar, but also because this undead menace was on the crusade's radar; they had reports of it and BW's story fit. Of course they would send people to the battle site to confirm and see if there was anything missed, but that was standard procedure. He shakes BW's hand and says he's won another great victory in the war against evil, but alas, the fight continues.

At this point BW says he didn't just come to spread word of his feats, but he also wanted to give him something. He takes the crown off his head and says he is tithing it to the church of Thyr and the crusade. May they use it well. Horace wasn't expecting that and asks him to reconsider, but BW says no, they could make better use of it than he. He also doesn't realize that if they were so inclined they could use it to see through all his lies. Hope they don't check.

Horace asks if there is anything they can do for him as repayment for such a gift, but BW is humble. He just asks for some doses of holy water and that maybe they could name something after him. Horace says they could do that and the hospital will be named in his honor. And BW gets his holy water.

Horace excuses himself and says that he has more work to finish and then as a representative of the god of justice, he must attend the lawful executions of the two criminals and that time is approaching. He clearly finds the spectacle of hangings distasteful, a feeling BW shares. BW departs and heads over to the rangers.

As he goes he sees a crowd gathering in the town square and vendors selling food. Looks like it will be a bit of a block party for the plebian masses. BW turns his head at the excited crowd as he goes by; hangings are low class. Now, a good beheading, that's something worth seeing. He passes some of the rangers on their way to the spectacle, but he continues on toward their base. He sees a single ranger standing at the door and he nods to BW as he enters. The only people inside are Skeriber and Georgia, both studying a map in silence.

BW approaches and waits and soon after Skeriber folds the map and asks what he needs. BW says that he gets the feeling he has made a lot of enemies and now he is trying to rectify that. He's looking for people he can trust, people who may at some point be offered a sum of money to kill him, but out of loyalty will instead come to him and warn him. Friends, you know.

Friends would also give advice, perhaps legal advice. BW mentions that with his growing connections with the crusade he was thinking of confessing to his involvement with the murder of Caepio, but claiming ignorance, self-defense, whatever. With the rep and what he has done he thinks it may fly, though Beltin and Tarl may have some issues.

Georgia and Skeriber look at each other and both ask if he is stupid or something. The church of Thyr is not known for forgiveness and that in their estimation, the best he could hope for by throwing himself at their mercy would be for a quick death after which they would sanctify his body and pray for his soul.

No, it would be better to stay quiet. Plus, adds Skeriber, from what he heard there wasn't any evidence to be found at a certain cemetery. It seems the crusade has no leads about what happened to the doomed expedition after all. He gives BW a meaningful look.

This is clear to BW and he thanks Skeriber for his wisdom and his aid. Friendship is fun. And friendship works both ways. He has some items the rangers may find useful.

Skeriber nods and BW begins pulling out weapons, loot he has accumulated and not had any use for personally, but that they may find helpful. He places each piece on the desk one by one and Georgia picks them up, examines them, and places them off to the side. When BW gets to a coat pistol he got from somewhere at some point, Skeriber takes it and begins to play with it, spinning it. He doesn't say anything, but it looks like he likes it.

BW finishes giving away some old belongings to curry favor with the rangers, thinks for a second, and takes out one last item, his Ring of the Sophisticate. He explains it can locate people and be used to find taverns; always useful, but he has other rings now. He asks Georgia to wear it and think of one of Clantock's assassins. It seems that one is in town somewhere, she says, but that is not surprising. There are many places in the Camp for people to stay hidden.

BW says they won't stay hidden for long. Soon he will take care of them (as per the agreement with Father Death, right?), but in the mean time, why doesn't she go for a stroll with him? She says, well, there is that hanging going on, but BW says that is low class thrills. She smiles at him and asks what he has in mind then. He mentions he got a new bedroom setup and rolls for it. She is interested.

Skeriber is uninterested and waves them away, and they begin to walk toward to the Bender Brothers Inn and BW's inevitable assassination.

To be continued...

14.4 The consequences of poor life decisions:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 10).

Bradley Weatherby (Human Dervish Dancer 10/Knife Master Rogue 7/Duelist 3).

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 10).

The Smith (LN Half-Giant Aegis/Psychic Warrior 11). BW's replacement character. The Smith is all he goes by as his name is lost to the past. As his name implies, he is a smith of unrivaled skill and he has left his clan in the mountains in the west to come to the Desolation for one reason: Just as how the steel is forged in fire, the soul is forged in the flames of conflict. Yeah, that's almost exclusively how he talks.

The consequences of poor life decisions, Session 14.4 - 9/19/14

Day 21, night

Bradley Weatherby

BW and Georgia approach the former Bender Brothers Inn, now known as "The Moaning Whale, a Hospitality Guild pleasure establishment." The building has over gone some hasty renovations in the last few days including some expansions, but is now open for business. BW is recognized as he walks in; the people running the place know who he is and don't stop him as he walks past the various sections (The Mermaid section for the high rollers, The Manatee section for the common folk, and the Manta Ray section for the deviants, both wealthy and less so) and into the back office, his office, with Georgia following behind.

They walk down into the cellar where BW has his fancy new bedroom setup and alchemy lab and once down there they have a drink and BW tells her the real, unembellished story of the undead army fight. She is impressed and they move toward the bed. At this point they hear noises both from the cellar door above and the dead end hallway at one end of the cellar that led to the secret entrances to the guest rooms.

From the hallway they hear the sound of metal being dragged against stone, coming near them, and then the curtain blocking the hallway is thrown open and one of Clantock's assassins enters, dragging a huge highly polished axe on the floor, seemingly just for dramatic effect. The noise from the cellar trapdoor was the sound of a lock clicking into place, and on the bottom of the stairs stands another of the assassins, this one stowing a wand of Arcane Lock.

The two assassins just stare at BW and he stares back, but as he does so he sleight of hands a vial of poison into one hand, concealed but ready to throw. He tells them that their business is with him and to let Georgia go. Plus the assassins surely don't want trouble with the rangers. Secretly he hopes they let her go so she can get help.

The assassins are not stupid. They say she will not be harmed, but no one leaves til this is finished. She is welcome to sit down in the corner quietly and wait. Georgia stands her ground, clearly not going to let BW stand alone. Suddenly BW throws the vial of poison at the assassin near the stairs! Death Blade! Fort save failed! Unfortunately the poison has a one minute onset period or else things may have worked out much better for him.

As soon as he does this the third assassin appears from invisibility bearing a garrote and tries to do what comes naturally with such a weapon, but he fails. Initiative is rolled!

The grappler does his thing again, fails, and then again turns invisible. The doorman approaches BW and lazily knocks his kukri out of his hand. The axeman looks ready to come forward when Georgia casts Wall of Light, completely cutting off his side of the room from the fight! 2v2 now instead of the planned 3v1; perhaps BW can pull this out after all.

BW Glitterdusts to find the invisible grappler who unfortunately isn't blinded, but there goes the surprise element. Unfortunately for BW the grappler doesn't need it and finally garrotes him. As he is being strangled, BW feels the barbs on the garrote as well as the poison coating them, but makes his save. Georgia temporarily forgets she has Liberating Command as a known spell, so BW gets to stay grappled, and stay grappled he does. And then things get even worse for him as the doorman steps up and reveals himself to be a Maneuver Master Monk/Fighter gestalt. BW is tripped, has his dresser emptied on top of him, entangling and blinding him with his own expensive clothes, and then gets kicked in the stomach, hard, for sickened. Yay, Dirty Tricks!

Knowing things aren't going well at the moment as he is now tripped, grappled, strangled, blinded, sickened, and entangled, he goes for a drastic measure. He pulls out a vial of Nightmare Vapor, an air based poison that does both wisdom damage and confuses the victim. He throws it around him and the two assassins, himself, and Georgia each get to make a save. And this is where BW screwed himself.

He and both assassins make it. Georgia, the level 10 Ranger/Sorcerer, the full caster capable of turning this impossible ambush into a legendary victory for BW? Oh no, she fails it. Horribly. And continues to do so for the remainder of the fight. As BW is held down and beaten and eventually gets his jaw broken and then most of the fingers on his left hand cut off, Georgia spends her time freaking the hell out. She finds herself unable to roll above a 5 on her save and equally unable to get a roll on the confusion table that isn't horrible for BW.

She starts out by lashing out at her nearest ally, BW, seeing him as some nightmarish figure emerging from the earth. And then she realizes she has bugs all other her, eating her alive, and she viciously scratches herself to get them off. Then they are gone, but where? She ponders this, wide eyed, and does nothing. Finally she realizes they are in her skin now, and frantically she resumes scratching her skin off. By this time BW loses consciousness, but before he does he tries praying to Thyr, to say he is sorry and seeking forgiveness. Thyr remains silent and BW passes out.

From there the assassins restrain Georgia, which isn't hard in her condition, and she gets to spend the next few hours tied up and unconscious, but otherwise left alone, on BW's new bed spread. The poisoned doorman falls into paralysis and starts to hemorrhage constitution soon after from BW's initial surprise attack, enough to kill him which was what the DM originally ruled. Unfortunately in retrospect, the assassin lives as the axeman was part Inquisitor and had Lesser Restoration on his pre-made spells known list; he knows his abilities even if the DM doesn't. Sorry BW, you didn't even get one.

From there BW is hung upside in the cellar and the few times he regains consciousness, he wishes he hadn't. Again he tries to make his peace with Thyr, and again, Thyr doesn't seem to be listening. The assassins take their brutal, slow, and painful revenge and leave BW's mutilated corpse hanging in the cellar.

The assassins untie the still unconscious Georgia and leave a note for her explaining the situation. They and BW had business and she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. She has no lasting injuries and was in fact treated while unconscious to ensure her good health. This business had nothing to do with her and the rangers. The letter suggests that it would be advisable for both Georgia and the rangers to leave emotion out of any considered response to this incident and realize it would benefit all parties to just let it go.

Skeriber will almost certainly see the reason in this, but will Georgia? Perhaps time and plot twists will make that question relevant.

Beltin

Late that night Beltin gets a knock on his door. Outside is one of the assassins and Beltin invites him in.

The assassin informs him that their vengeance is complete and BW is no more; he pulls out a bloody handkerchief embossed with the initials BW and shakes it. Several bloody fingers land on the floor, two still bearing rings.

Perhaps someday the sheriff, Tarl, will know their displeasure, says the assassin, but for now the blood debt is paid. Beltin is no longer in their debt. The assassin reaches into a pouch and pulls out a black stone, a soul, the soul of BW to be precise. He sets it on Beltin's bed and says that as a sign of good faith they did not destroy BW's soul, but instead decided to leave it to his discretion. What happens to it now is no longer their concern.

Beltin thanks the assassin and the assassin tells him that with their vendetta completed they will resume their normal business, though less openly perhaps due to now being actively wanted by Bard's Gate for that whole margoyle business. They will be around. If Beltin requires them for their services, ask Father Death; he will know how to find them. And then he leaves.

Beltin removes the rings from the fingers and pockets them before destroying the bloody physical evidence of BW's murder left on his floor. He ponders what to do with the soul and decides to hold onto it, for now at least.

Day 22

Beltin, Jake, and Augustine finish prep work for the summoning ritual and plan to teleport to the Cross Roads later in the day to create the seal. None of them are too upset by BW's death as business is business. There are some rumors about a body being found mutilated in the Moaning Whale, but the Hospitality Guild is able to hush it up mostly.

Beltin and Jake receive a letter from the Usurer that afternoon saying that he heard of their defeat for a particular lich, one that he happened to have an old open bounty on. Beltin and Jake each have 20,000 bits worth of credit added on to their credit line with the Usurer. In the note he says that as their dear friend BW no longer requires a share, his part will be credited to Yohann Kreshman for use for outfitting Jake's growing guild. Awesome.

When the time is right Beltin, Augustine, Roringard, three decently magic capable recruits, and the f~$$-up recruit Carl are teleported to the Cross Roads by Jake. They meet minimal resistance from the dangerous creatures in the Desolation, mainly some mindless undead that go down quickly in fights that aren't even rolled.

Augustine painstakingly creates the seal for the summoning and the materials are prepared in the center. Beltin makes a check and realizes that this seal is strictly for summoning, not containing, and prepares Magic Circle; mistaking the summoning circle for a containment circle is a noobie mistake for the would-be conjurer, like the one who summoned "Bol" originally and got eaten for it... foreshadowing. The party is too good for that.

That night the incense are lit and the components ready, but no one knows how to proceed. Augustine suggests ominous chanting calling involving the name they have: Vol. They do that and the candle flames within the circle seem to respond, rushing upward slightly with each use of the name. They continue for who knows how long and the darkness deepens, but the fire within the circle remains. The incense rises. And then the smoke appears to take shape.

The chanting continues and the form becomes clearer, a small form that appears to have four arms. It is almost solid, but ghostly in appearance when a harsh voice from inside the circle demands blood be paid. Blood must be paid for the doorway to open, it says. Jake gestures to Carl and Carl looks back with a rather dubious expression. Beltin says they only need a few drops, it's not like they are going to sacrifice him. In reality he has no idea how much blood is needed. Bluff check succeeds though.

Carl pulls out a knife and cuts his hand and holds it toward the circle. Suddenly the blood ripped from hid hand and from his veins, pulling him as well. He is pulled inside the circle. His blood hits the smoky form which then becomes solid, some sort of unspeakable horror from the abyss! It's, it's... a quasit? No, a four-armed quasit. And it rips Carl apart and begins to eat him.

The others just watch, some stunned, some not really surprised, and one, namely Augustine, super excited by this turn of events. The creature, Vol, the former party member Bol, finishes the meal and sees Beltin. He asks if they brought BW with them, licking his lips. Beltin informs him that he is dead, and Vol says that is a shame; he has been demoted to this form by his lord due to BW's treachery.

He then turns to Jake, obviously the ritual leader and the one who bound him by his true name. He doesn't ask how he knows it and doesn't seem particularly surprised. He speaks with him and Jake asserts dominance. Vol says he will kill for him and says to seal the pact they must make a blood oath. He cuts one of his four hands so it bleeds freely and looks to Jake to do the same. Vol also has no bluff. It is obvious he is trying to trick Jake into the circle; he still hungers.

Jake doesn't go for it and Vol accepts this. Jake tells him that he will call him when he is needed, but for now, be gone. Vol vanishes and the candles in the summoning circle go out with his departure, leaving the group in darkness.

Jake's power grows; the creature Vol will be a powerful weapon, but also one that must be handled with great care.

Everyone, barring Carl who is dumped unceremoniously onto the side of the road, is teleported back to the Camp and they sleep.

Day 23

The Smith arrives in the Camp and is given a wide berth by most but he doesn't notice or care. He listens for the sound of a hammer striking anvil, of a smith at work. He hears the sound and is led to the Usurer.

He walks into the forge and watches the Usurer work and then once the Usurer acknowledges him, the Smith the tells him to do what he just did slightly differently and it will yield better results. His way of doing so is not judging or arrogant; as far as he is concerned it is a simple statement, a self-evident fundamental truth.

The Usurer ponders his advice for a few seconds and then says that yes, that would make the bond hold better. He is intrigued by this newcomer and his manner. He asks his name and is told that he is simply known as the Smith. He asks permission to work the Usurer's forge and asks him what to create. The Usurer steps back and allows him access. He pulls out a list and tells him to make several daggers.

The Smith does in record time and the results are of unparalleled quality. The Usurer keeps a poker face, but he is supremely impressed. He asks why the Smith is here and the Smith explains he is here to temper his soul with conflict, to gain strength through battle. The Usurer tells him he is in the right place; only the strong survive in the Desolation.

Then, says the Smith, I will survive. He asks the Usurer of those who brave the wastes and is told of the crusaders, who go in and tend to meet bad ends but whose numbers are large. Of the rangers who walk the wastes but observe, not conquer. Of the adventurers who come to seek glory and wealth but mostly find death. But not all adventurers are weak, and the Smith is told of the party and its exploits.

The Smith asks where to find the party and the Usurer explains. Before he leaves he asks the Usurer if he may sleep in his forge and create within it, though what shall be created is the Usurer's decision as is the right of the forge master. The Usurer, seeing a man of great skill and a certain naivety that may be ripe for manipulation, accepts and points to a corner; he may sleep there and work the forge when he wishes.

Nodding, the Smith pulls out one of his weapons, a large axe; he points out certain spots on it and explains the techniques used to make it. The weapon is an unrivaled masterpiece beyond anything the Usurer has ever created. He listens to explanation with rapt attention and when the Smith leaves he studies it closely and contemplates the riddles of the steel.

Walking again. The Smith finds Jake's guild and approaches Yohann. He say he heard they are strong and he too is strong. He will join them. Yohann challenges him to test his strength. While this is happening Jake and Beltin who happened to be there watch on. The Smith is dressed in the simple garb of a blacksmith, but as the battle commences armor appears from nothingness around him and his simple blacksmith hammer grows into massive weapon that seems capable of breaking down city gates.

He wins initiative and Yohann falls easily and would have died if not for Jake's magical intervention with a Force Sphere. With his last blow reflected by the sphere and the occupant inside on one knee barely conscious, it is clear the battle is over. The spell is ended and Yohann heals himself and tells the Smith he is powerful indeed and that he is in. But the Smith is not done yet. He tells Yohann to strike him back.

Yohann looks the man in the eye and realizes that his honor will not be satisfied unless Yohann indulges him. He swings and his blade is deflected by the Smith's armor and now the battle is truly over. The Smith, now content, asks when they will go into the Desolation.

Beltin approaches the Smith and says that before he may join them he must answer a simple question: How does he feel about undead? The Smith considers this and says he doesn't know but he will contemplate it and return tomorrow with an answer. And he departs, intent on returning to the forge, leaving the party both slightly amused and bemused.

End of session. Ding, level 11! 1 causality. All his accumulated bad karma finally caught up with BW, leaving him to face Clantock's three assassins alone, forsaken by Beltin. By using his metagame knowledge of his upcoming ambush but in a credible in-game way, he managed to bring Georgia, the level 10 full caster, with him to the fight, not only evening the odds but perhaps pushing them in his favor. Unfortunately he managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by knocking Georgia out of the fight with an ill advised use of poison, ensuring his slow, torturous death.

Notes: Vol (Bol's true name) functions as the Wizard discovery True Name except Vol scales with level. The old PC Bol is leveled to party level and all his stats and abilities are given to a Quasit in place of its base stats. No size adjustments are made for stats, but damage dice is affected. Vol also has all the Quasit abilities besides at will invisibility, which is now 3/day.


My 15th session: The party is getting ready to attempt entry to Tsar, but looking for a safe place to run back to should the battle with the tar dragon go poorly. I find their precautions amusing as I was of the mind that Mallerix might go down too easy (though that whole weapon sticking thing preventing full attacks might help) so I amped him up the casting abilities of a 9th level sorcerer and raised his charisma to 20. I can't wait to see how it goes.

15.1: Taking care of business:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 11).

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 11).

The Smith (LN Half-Giant Aegis/Psychic Warrior 11).

Taking care of business, Session 15.1 - 9/26/14

Days 24-28

Several days pass with out a lot happening as the party takes care of some mundane business. In that downtime they decide their next course of action will be to investigate entry to Tsar itself and perhaps deal with the tar dragon who roams the wastes around the city. They plan to check out the other fortified location they heard about in the Dead Lands, the one nearer to Tsar than the dorf fortress.

For those with the Slumber Tsar book, it is "The Firebase of the Damned."

The rangers provide them an exact location, but seem ambivalent about helping in this endeavor. Regardless, from there they will have a better strategic position to gather intelligence. Jake decides to bring a large portion of his men with him to help secure the area. Now the party waits for the men to be outfitted before moving out.

Jake

Jake gets a letter from Samar at the Bard's Gate embassy asking for a meeting. It seems he wants to hire the Greed Elementals. Jake goes and they talk. After the disastrous first official caravan by the city through the Desolation failed (and the party's aid in that matter was greatly appreciated), some time was needed to regroup before making a second attempt. That prep work is almost finished and so it is time for another shot at opening official trade lines with the northern city of Parsantium.

And this is where Jake comes in. They need security. The best. And everyone knows that means the Greed Elementals, though no one has seen them in action; the rep their is mostly from the party. Samar and Jake negotiate and come to terms. Jake will provide 5 men and Bard's Gate will each 250 bits per day in the Desolation, which they agree would reasonable be 2 days each way, plus 25 bits for every day outside of it. They agree that the city will pay half of the Desolation pay in advance and the rest upon successful completion.

The deal is done and Jake leaves with 2,500 bits. Will his men get it now? Hell no, only if they come back. If they have issues with that they should have read the Geas Quest treated contract they already signed upon joining the guild more closely. Jake picks 5 of his better recruits and lets them know they leave in a few days time.

In the mean time he decides to get some gear made for his crew, and he approaches the Smith looking to get items made at cost instead of full market price. Smith says that the forge belongs to the Usurer so he is the one to talk to about such things. So he goes to the Usurer... yeah the Usurer isn't going to do that.

Resigned to the fact he is going to get gouged, Jake commissions 20 sets of masterwork weapons and armor, plus something all magical for Rorgingard, an Impact weapon. That empties his 20,000 guild credit line as well as a rather sizable chunk from his own. The Usurer thanks him for his business.

The night before they leave into the Desolation, Jake throws a feast and hires plenty of girls from the Moaning Whale. The men are in good spirits and some seem to think that they will have something like this before each trek into the wastes. Going into the wastes is awesome! Jake is happy to let them think both of those things are true; they will just have to be disappointed.

The Smith

The Smith continues to work for the Usurer and the Usurer is very pleased. He even gives him an incredibly stale loaf of bread he had laying around when the Smith asks for food to go with hid lodgings, the dirt floor next to the forge.

The Smith carries out the Usurer's forge orders and each piece he makes it a masterpiece, though some aren't good enough. Anything created with less than a 40 craft check goes back into the scrap pile, and the Usurer watches and makes mental notes of Smith's techniques and dedication to perfection.

Note: The Smith now has a special bonus on crafting. Any masterwork item he creates with a craft check of 45 or better (i.e. him rolling a 15+ right now) is actually treated as magic for the purposes of further enchanting and bypassing DR.

While working, Smith contemplates the question Beltin asked him and the day after their meeting he approaches him and they talk. He asks why Beltin uses undead and Beltin explains they are simply the tools of his trade, they are his strength. Smith says this is a good answer, but has one more concern: Are they simply flesh and bone are is the soul of the creature bound as well? Beltin assures him that his menagerie is only cold, rotting flesh and bone, and the Smith is fine with that.

The Smith joins the party!

From there he spends the next several days again mostly crafting, this time fulfilling Jake's extensive order. He spends some time away from the forge, including going briefly to Jake's party, but such things bore him and again seeks solace in the act of fiery creation.

In one of his outings he gets food by approaching a vendor whose ancient cart had a broken wheel; it was essentially a permanent non-moving structure by this point. Smith told him he would fix it and the man would give him food. Note, he told him, he didn't ask him. Smith did it quickly and skillfully and then stared at the man. Intimidate check? Made it. The man decides to just go with strange half-giants barter system and starts slowly pushing food towards him.

He starts with only a few days worth of trail rations, but Smith just keeps staring, so eventually the man hands him a bag of several weeks worth just to get him to leave. The Smith says he is thirsty. The vendor tells him about the Dancing Bear, a place across town and far away from him and gives directions. The Smith goes.

Once there, Smith looks for anything that needs fixing and spots one of the taps is slightly bent. He pulls up several stools at the bar, fixes the tap, and then asks for water for his services. Floyd is amused and gives him a glass of water. The Smith drinks it and then gets up to leave. Floyd gives him a pitch about the fine alcoholic beverages the Bear provides and says that perhaps he would be interested for next time. The Smith is not. He leaves.

Back to forging and so goes his down time.

Beltin

Without Lucky to talk to, Beltin finds himself rather lost. He decides to invest in more real estate, this time something pricier for the high roller adventurers/high ranking crusaders. He remembers the work he and Augustine did on the jail, and he goes and recruits Augustine again.

Agustine is his usual happy self, but is more excited than usual to see Beltin again so soon. He asks if this is to do with the summoning? Did something happen? Did Jake get eaten alive and die horribly? He is so excited at the thought. Beltin says no, and explains his high value property creation plans. Augustine loves making things. He is in.

They spend the next few days making large, innately (and tastefully, insists Beltin; no scenes of death, to Augustin's disappointment) decorated stone homes through many ritualized castings of Stone Shape. In each Augustin creates a hidden area with a shrine to Nerull; one in a concealed room under an incredibly heavy stone bed frame, one in a secret room in a closest, etc. Beltin decides he will not showcase those areas to his potential buyers.

Dice are rolled and in the down time they managed to make 6 of these homes. Another roll says Beltin is able to "sell" them all to high ranking crusaders. Secretly, hidden in legalese in the sales contract, each home reverts to Beltin in the case of the "owner's" death. As each crusader only used the same lawyer, only one roll was allowed versus the deceitful wording in the contract and he failed. Yay, shady business practices!

Beltin makes a few thousand bits and life is good. Unfortunately the market for such homes is very limited, so it's not a source of in-come he can tap often, at least not yet. He needs to make sure he doesn't flood the market after all. He now considers making a gated community or maybe time shares... Beltin may yet become a real estate tycoon.

To be continued...

15.2: In your base killing your dudes :

In your base killing your dudes, Session 15.2 - 9/26/14

Day 29, day

The party departs nice and early with Roringard and 19 other Greed Elementals (each a level 4 Magus) in tow. As such teleportation is a logistical nightmare, meaning things will be done the old fashioned way. The group walks and up the road north they go.

The Desolation is a deadly place most of the time, but if you are lucky you can just escape notice. Yeah, 23 people plus some giant undead are not subtle. The stupider creatures of the wastes are drawn toward the column and the the smarter ones watch and wait. The ashborne arachnids are conspicuous in their absence.

No fights are actually rolled out, but the group faces fairly consistent harassment from mindless creatures, but suffer no losses. Some of the men begin to think that the stories about the Desolation were overblown. And then perception checks are called for and they all notice what happens, but notice too late: A screamer possesses one of the men and murders another before forcing its puppet to fall on his own blade, wild insane screams issuing from him the whole time.

And then the creature dies, it's insane, nihilistic, and suicidal attack complete. Beltin is able to Breath of Life one of the men, but the other can't be saved. Jake orders his men to strip the body and dump it on the side of the road. They obey and any sense of grand adventure the outing had inspired in them to this point is gone.

The group makes decent time and decides to camp a mile or two south of the Cross Roads. They move a few hundred feet off the road into the Dead Fields and Jake casts three Secure Shelters in a triangle formation, all doors pointing in toward the center. It is decided that four men will roam around the outside of the shelters at any given time in the night along with a party member. The undead are instructed to attack anything pointed out to them by those on patrol.

They settle in to rest and/or keep watch.

Day 29, night

About 1 a.m. that night Smith is on watch. He stands near one end of the camp with most of the undead nearby. The four Greed Elementals roam around the other side. Perception checks are made successfully by each group, Smith and grunts. Each sees a large patch of inky blackness moving along the ground toward them. The grunts make to sound the alarm and Smith makes to charge, and then the shadows on the ground, realizing they are discovered, explode upwards to their full height.

The figures are vaguely humanoid blobs of shadow, dark enough to stand out against the night. Faint blue sparks rest where eyes should, their only actual features. And it is clear there is hunger in those "eyes." They are Dread Wraiths, ancient and powerful undead spirits that haunt the night, seeking new victims to consume and convert. Initiative!

The wraiths surge forward with uncanny speed and agility. The Smith feels his life force weaken as the creature begins to siphon away his soul to the effect of 2 con drain. The other wraith locks eyes on one Greed Elemental in particular and decides he will fall; he takes a lot of con drain as it is only barely possible for him to make the save.

The battle commences in earnest, with the 4 Greed Elementals trying to hold off the Dread Wraith with limited success, but their Shocking Grasps seem to at least phase it. Beltin and Jake emerge from their beds and Beltin realizes what these things are and is intrigued. Unfortunately their +15 Will save protects them from his domination attempts.

Fighting continues and the marked Greed Elemental finally falls, his life force consumed completely, but by this point both bloated spirits are heavily damaged. Each attempts to pull back and regroup, but then is overwhelmed and breaks apart into nothing. The men stay wary but think it is over when Beltin tells them to surround their fallen ally and get ready. He will rise again, but not in a way they will like.

The wraith of the dead man rises and tries to feed on his comrades, but is quickly put down. The battle is over, but the men are shaken. They have now lost two men and each knows it just as easily could have been them.

Beltin heals the wounded and restores the Smith's precious constitution. Rest and watch resumes, but nothing beside a brief spat of acid rain disturbs the night again.

Day 30

The next morning the group packs up and heads west toward their destination. The Secure Shelters still have some duration and as such are left for any "lucky" travelers who would have need of them... until of course the duration ends, most likely at the least opportune moment for any potential squatters.

After several hours the party sees a hill with a log wall surrounding the are on top. It appears to be deserted, but from what the rangers told them before they left the Camp they have reason to believe this is not the case. The rangers never investigated closely, but had seen gigantic rocks catapulted from the fort at times, seemingly at nothing. Intriguing, thinks the party.

About half a mile out of the fort, Jake calls a stop and sets up another Secure Shelter. He tells his men to wait here and keep watches. The party begins to move forward toward the hill with Jake invisible and teleporting ahead to scout. He investigates around the perimeter of the fort and at times sees flickers of movement at the top of the walls; maybe the tip of a spear being lifted and poking over or at other times the top part of a helmeted head doing a turkey peak before moving on.

At the southern end he sees a path heading up a wooden barricade where a gate should be and along the path he sees a destroyed cart with a couple human skeletons laying under it. Surprisingly these are true corpses, not undead. The same is true for the horse skeletons near the cart, still in their harnesses for pulling.

Jake goes back to the party and reports on this and it is decided they will try to hail whoever it inside. The party, undead in tow, advances to within a few hundred feet of the fort and yells out that they wish to have an audience. No response. They try again. No response. And then they hear a whoosh and a boulder is shot out of the encampment and lands a few hundred feet shy of and to the right of the encamped Greed Elementals. If the party had made their perception checks they may have heard the sound of a catapult being reloaded and aim being adjusted.

The party isn't stupid though and the meaning is clear. Initiative.

The party rushes toward the barricade, trusting that the Greed Elementals will know to move away from the obvious target as they too are not stupid. As they near, several humanoid figures rise up on the walls and a volley of arrows flies toward the party with minimal effect. Jake then dimension doors Smith, some giant skeletons, and himself inside behind the barricade and they find themselves in the middle of at least 50 armed soldiers, clustered together in formation. They look at these soldiers and recognize them as undead, but intelligence obviously gleams in their wide eyed, unblinking stares.

A ruined building stands next to them and beyond the men they three catapults and three obviously undead ogres, zombies. On a pile of giant stones, ammunition, stands a figure in a ragged military dress uniform, and even through all the age and dust the medals on his chest gleam. He begins to shout out in a language the party inside does not recognize, for it is the language of the dead, Necril. Still, the basic meaning is clear. He is shouting orders and his men are moving to obey, obviously more dangerous with him at their back.

The Smith uses his psionics to grow to titanic proportions and between himself and the undead giants, the soldiers are clearly outmatched. With each swing of his hammer, perhaps 10 fall, and no amount of military strategy can change this. Almost as an after thought he smashes the barricade blocking entrance to the fort. By this point Beltin and his remaining undead have arrived and Beltin recognizes the soldiers for what they are at once: Juju zombies, undead that retain both their skills and intelligence even in death.

He also notes that their gear and armor is typical of that used during the first war against Tsar. Not surprising, but he also notices that though he sees the insignias of many different companies of the Army of Light, he also sees soldiers bearing the insignias of Tsar. Perhaps in undeath the once sworn and bitter enemies have found a common ground.

Though his forces are being decimated before his eyes, the undead commander stands his ground and from his perch on the ammunition Jake sees a spell he recognizes, though with a metamagic twist. The commander casts a fireball into the the midst of the fighting, but instead of fire it explodes into electricity. The juju zombie soldiers are unaffected, but Beltin's undead and the Smith take a staggering blow to their hit points. Jake of course evasions out like a badass.

This changes priorities of who needs to die and Jake begins to Damnation Stride combo around the commander, bringing the Smith with him. The ogre zombies blasted apart as a mere after thought, but what's this?! Jake isn't the only one with Emergency Force Sphere. The commander is protected from from Jake's assault and the Smith finds himself hammering a barrier of sheer force, but under his blows it is beginning to crack.

Inside the sphere a contingency goes off, and the commander appears on the top of the ruined shack near the gate and chain lightning erupts form his finger tips toward Jake and the Smith, who is now not feeling very well. The Smith advances toward the shack and is tall enough to both see and swing over the roof and the commander stoically takes a blow that would kill most lesser men.

Jake has had enough at this point and parkours his way up the Smith and, as he stands on his shoulders, he shouts out Vol's name, and Vol is suddenly there, gnawing on the commander who is now barely standing. The Smith finishes him by knocking him first into the air and then baseball batting him so hard that he flies 30 feet, hits against the wall of the fort, and then slides down, obviously broken beyond repair.

For a split second Vol turns and eyes the barely alive Smith, but before he can even think to act, Jake dismisses him and he is gone in a small burst of light and sulfur. Beltin's undead finish the remainder of the undead troops who fight fanatically to the last man. And then there is again silence in the Desolation.

Jake goes to his men and commands them to the fort; they are proud of themselves as they managed to take down a party of mindless undead and ghoul wolves all by themselves while the party was fighting. No casualties! Very impressive says Jake with the air of a man who is not impressed at all. Now get up, we have work to do.

No one bothers to check the formerly undead, now dead, soldiers and instead everyone investigates the firebase for more threats. Inside the ruined shack they find the remains of a storeroom; nothing of use remains inside. Next to it is a shattered watch tower and beyond that is another shack. This one has part of a wall missing, but still seems strangely preserved somehow. Some of Jake's men go to investigate when suddenly they cry out in alarm and retreat.

Inside the last shack the party sees a Clay Golem, seemingly ordered to protect the storeroom but not advance beyond it. The creature stands impassively, but from behind it the party can see racks of perfectly preserved metal cylinders, perhaps ammunition of some sort. There was obviously some sort of magic protecting this room from the years and the elements.

Beltin tries to walk into the room to see what the golem does and once he steps inside it moves toward him, obviously intent on harming him. He steps outside and it stops at the entrance of the shack, now unmoving. The Smith moves forward to destroy it, but Beltin stops him. Instead he tries to guess the creature's pass code, using the common words for such things but after 10 minutes is unsuccessful (Note: He had a 5% chance per 10 minutes spent trying, non-cumulative).

At this point the Smith loses interest and just breaks the damn thing. Beltin is disappointed. They decide not to investigate the canisters inside the guarded room but Beltin hazards at a guess that perhaps they are explosives. Who knows, well, besides the DM.

Next up the party checks out the catapults and it seems those are the only thing in the firebase in good repair. The Smith looks for fixes to make but finds none. Jake begins to ponder training his men to use them. Beltin spies more of those canisters he saw in the shack, but these ones are rusted through and empty.

The fort now secure, Jake orders his men to take the corpses out of the fort as he doesn't like them stinking up the place. At this point the party realizes the undead commander's corpse is missing and they are immediately at guard. Betlin casts Locate Person and it fails; it seems the commander has fled and is not waiting in ambush. F+~&ing casters, thinks the party, unaware of the true reason for the commander's survival: Being a Fext is pretty awesome.

The party decides the mystery of the missing commander is a mystery for another day, and Jake again orders watches and has his men build up a barricade to replace the smashed one using the remains of the watch tower. By this time it is starting to get late so it is time for rest. Sleep time.

End of session. No casualties.

Notes: Had the party paid attention to the bodies right afterward (i.e. attempting to loot) they would have been able to witness the Fext commander rise again and perhaps capture him. Instead, they learned of what he truly was and the story here strictly out of game.

The undead in the fort had banded together with the Fext as their leader, still waging a long finished war as war is all that they could remember. But none actually remembered what the conflict was or who was the enemy. Those facts were lost to time and as such it was decided that their orders were to hold the firebase from all enemies, which in their mind was anyone not them. And so this lasted for hundreds of years, the time passing in a blink of an eye to the "undead," if they even realized they were undead, within.

Now they are destroyed and at peace, except for the commander who fled in sorrow, rage, and shame with his men all gone. Now he will walk the wastes and perhaps in time the haze in his mind will be lifted and he will realize that the war he had been fighting has long been over, that the world has moved on without him realizing, but that a new battle is brewing. War is his purpose for being, so perhaps this will again give him the purpose he needs.

He has no love for either side of the conflict, only for battle and glory, so perhaps he won't heed the call of those that still dwell in Tsar. Perhaps he will find his way to the Camp. Perhaps he will seek out and learn the identity of those mighty warriors who crushed his forces. Perhaps, intrigued, he will cloak himself in illusion and try to join them. He bears no ill will after all; he respects strength. He simply seeks more men to lead to glory and conquest. The Greed Elementals could use a man like him...

That's a lot of "perhaps." We'll see in time how it works out.


Hello guys !

Still playing ST, after the summer hiatus. I am currently confronted with the following "problem" and could use some advices :

one of my players rerolled a tiefling wizard, and he told me he used his deathwatch spell like ability in the Camp (it didn't really happend yet because he just met the group in the Desolation but it ought to happen when they go back there)

Looks like despite all the care of the Usurer, his disguise will be useless against a single level 1 spell...

By the way, I already modified the Usurer because in his original setup it wasn't working properly, but it doesn't change the fact that, as far as I know, the spell deathwatch is capable of undoing all the illusions and disguise work an undead can do to look like a living being...

Solution 1 : find a legal way to get around deathwatch (magic item, spell, other trick)

Solution 2 : rule that since the spell "Seeming" is a glamer, the tiefling failed his save and really believe the Usurer to be a living being.

Solution 3 : let the thing roll as it is. Let the Tiefling use deathwatch on the Usurer and discover him for what he truly is. I guess in this case I would decide that he has to do it in game, and roll for bluff vs psychology to determine if the Usurer guess that he is discovered, and then, if he is aware of that, let him use his powers to manage the situation (one other player is playing a extremist anti-undead player and it could very well end in a full fight).

Thank you for your comments and suggestions !

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

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Solution 3.

Spoiler:

The Usurer is a CR 17 Lich who only uses a seeming to disguise himself. I've always thought that the fact that he's not what he presents himself to be was pretty much an "open secret" at the camp, but since he's so powerful everybody just let's it ride. I would expect most camp inhabitants wouldn't be too happy about someone going around saying "He's a Lich!".


Personally I would go with a modified option 2 and discreetly roll his will save... or just have him roll it if they already know out of character that the Usurer is a lich. That makes the most sense to me overall, else you're heading in the "Detect Magic defeats the entire Illusion school" direction.

Should he make it, let things go to their natural conclusion, Solution 3. Should he decide to make an issue of it (i.e. blackmail) perhaps have the Usurer arrange a discreet end for him, though most people in the Camp would already have some inkling of what he truly is as per Chuck Wright's sentiments. Should the PC decide to let the party in on it, play it out and see what happens.

Unfortunately for them unless they have a way to know where to look for the Usurer's Phylactery, he's just going to come back pissed if they actually manage to take him down. In that situation I would personally have him use scry and fry tactics to take revenge, ad nauseam, at least until the anti-undead PC is dead and the rest are willing to consider a truce.


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Solution 3.

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

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Remember, the Usurer is also the richest and most politically powerful member of The Camp. And most residents will respond well to money and favors. Being marked for death or capture in the only real place to rest in the area isn't very good.

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

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Also, consider that he isn't really doing anything wrong. His presence stabilizes and protects The Camp. It's like killing a town's mayor just because he's evil or a hobgoblin or something.


Greg A. Vaughan wrote:
Also, consider that he isn't really doing anything wrong. His presence stabilizes and protects The Camp. It's like killing a town's mayor just because he's evil or a hobgoblin or something.

While I see your point and agree with it, I'm not sure many people in the game world besides those in the Camp would necessarily agree with that assessment. Call it prejudice, cultural norms, or whatever you like, but undead are generally seen as unnatural evil abominations, much more so than a hobgoblin or an aristocrat who pings evil. It's like there are bad people and then there are the perceived literal incarnations of evil, things like undead, evil outsiders, and evil dragons.

The Usurer has no opposition mainly due to being contained to a mostly unwanted area, a wretched hive of scum and villainy, one where he happens to be the most powerful; I wouldn't see his position being tenable in a large human settlement with actual "morals" without a much heavier layer of secrecy concerning his lichdom than "open town secret we never discuss."


Let's go with solution 3 then !

I also think that even if he is doing nothing wrong, it won't stop players trying to go after the Usurer, or at least very seriously considering it.


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If my players were to go after the usurer just because he exists (and not because of any evil actions on his part), I'll switch them to a chaotic evil alignment. That won't be much fun for the monk and oracle, as they lose their abilities....

Nor will it be very much fun as he picks them off one by one going forward.


DaveMage wrote:

If my players were to go after the usurer just because he exists (and not because of any evil actions on his part), I'll switch them to a chaotic evil alignment. That won't be much fun for the monk and oracle, as they lose their abilities....

Nor will it be very much fun as he picks them off one by one going forward.

That seems rather extreme. You're essentially saying that a lifetime of good deeds count for nothing because they destroyed a LICH (of course that wasn't actively doing anything wrong that they were aware of), a creature that many would see as being innately evil (again, general fantasy cultural thing, may not be true but it is the perception) due to the willfully done processes required to become one. It's not like they are crucifying orphans here after lighting the orphanage on fire.

Also Oracles are not affected by alignment nor do they have a code. They don't even have to have a god. Making one chaotic evil leaves an Oracle entirely intact, but now much more dangerous.

Picking them off one by one though for messing with him? I totally agree with that sentiment.


It's a life oracle.

And since oracles get their powers from divine sources, well, let's just say this one's sources will suddenly not be there. :)

And, I'm not sure it can be said that my players have done a lifetime of good deeds... They've been profiteers and caravan guards.

But, IMO, if your intent is murder (as opposed to defeating evil for the good of the realm) you've lost any alignment high ground. Killing the usurer (at least in my game) would fall into this category as he has not done any evil acts to the PCs or the townsfolk - nor does he have any plans to do so.


I am more on the same line as Chaoseffect. In my opinion, in pathfinder cosmology, I see Lichs as always evil (iirc it is written in the bestiary). The usurer is evil and undead, and a lich. It is not only a moral thing, it is bound to its very nature, and it can be seen as an insult to nature and life itself. For most do-gooders, it would be an heroic action to take this potential threat to all living being out of the world. In any other campaign, I wouldn't have any problems if the PCs just entered the shop with torchs and drawned swords (or fireballs and searing lights).

Now, it is Tsar, I also warned my players that it would not be a good idea to kill every single evil entity on sight, especially if said entity is trying to tell them something. I think they won't fight the Usurer right now, because first, they have a credit account of 20000 po with him, so they could loose all this money. They also know that the Usurer is a spellcaster, even if they think that he is a bard of some kind. So they should at least be cautious around him.


DaveMage wrote:

It's a life oracle.

And since oracles get their powers from divine sources, well, let's just say this one's sources will suddenly not be there. :)

Oracles are not Clerics. If you want to houserule Oracles can fall that's up to you. I was more pointing out that by the rules they can't, nor do they suffer any negative repercussions from alignment regardless of mystery. Even the cure/inflict spells they get for free is chosen at 1st level by the Oracle, not dictated by alignment, so a Chaotic Evil level 1 Oracle could choose to have the cure line as well as the Life mystery and it would function fine.


The rules don't say they can't fall, and in fact, they say they get their powers from multiple gods who share the oracle's outlook (or somesuch).

In this case, because the Oracle is getting its powers from Thyr and Muir (unbeknownst to the Oracle), the powers would become dormant.


While I would agree on the Oracle as for falling, the Usurer is NE and to me is the crime boss of the town. While I would not encourage parties to go after him until they are high level, I would not punish them alignment wise for doing so. Just MHO.


I fall in the not punishing them alignment wise school. I think it would be much more educational for them to have to deal with the vengeful Usurer.

If they have their alignment changed they're suffering from something that was done to them. If they have to deal with the Usurer returned and angry Campies it is something that they have done to themselves which gives the experience much more impact.

@ Abrusio

You can also consider having the Midnight Peddler give some warning about harming the Usurer: Patient watcher's heart beats not. Stay righteous hands for the vile cork stops barrels of blood.

It could be a reference to him keeping the relative peace in camp or the way he stops the Blood Mage from advancing into camp.


In my game, the usurer isn't really a crime boss since the only thing he does is keep the town running. (In essence, he's Neutral alignment.) However, if he were a crime boss, then, yeah, I think it would be justified going after him.

At the moment, though, he's crafting special dragon armor for a member of the party so he's unlikely to be attacked. :)


Thus far none of my LG players have gone after him even the two paladins although they don't like him. The party thinks he is a vampire rather than a lich at the moment. They are currently going after the Bloodmage so they have enough on their hands.


In my game I'm not sure if my players will ever actually come to blows with the Usurer. I've had them commit crimes (mass murder) against the Churches of Muir/Thyr on the Usurer's behalf (for money), and that will certainly come up again in the form of an investigation that may lead back to them, as might further future instances of violence they may commit on his behalf.

I'm thinking if the PCs handle things poorly once the heat starts raising then the Usurer may try to scapegoat them and/or have them silenced as to not have them being able to implicate him in the former plot(s). I'm really looking forward to seeing how things will play out between him and the PCs in the long run.


My group has found 4 of the Disciple statues so I was reviewing the location of the others and to my horror found:

Lost ‘neath memories of Surter’s child, before the Master’s eyes
unseeing, rests the sleeper in robes of stone unseen.” (Chapter 7, Area 57;

Which is in the Blood Mage's Tower. Which they already searched and I missed.

I'm thinking that this clue (which they have) could also point to the cannon foundry since there is plenty of fire and Master builders where involved with the barrel. Kirash Dirgaut is another possibility but it has been thoroughly searched too.

Can anyone think of another solution to this clue?


How about in the square with King Thraestos, perhaps somehow entombed in the metal casing around him or in an area beneath him that he's covering? I don't get the reference to "Surter's child" off the top of my head, but he would qualify for the "before the master's eyes" part. Perhaps even have it embedded where one of his eyes should be if you want to make it more literal. Maybe have the party find some old records or even history books referring prominently to Thraestos as "the master of x" to make it clearer. The "Surter" reference could be used in a similar fashion. Of course he would break free should the party attempt to take it and I don't know if they've already dispatched him yet or not...


My party has found and left two statues. They have yet to figure out their importance. I should probably have the peddler give them another clue.


@chaoseffect

Unfortunately they've already done him in. Thraestos was the first significant baddie they faced in Tsar. He gave them a good scare with his initial lightning fun but the paladins finished him off quickly with smiting and an undead bane spear.

@brvheart,

We had a player who is intrigued by puzzles join the group a few months back. That kicked the searching and questioning into high gear. It's helped make Tsar even more interesting.


Oracles can't fall because they do not have to worship for their powers. This is why good oracles can cast spells with the evil descriptor, or any of the protection spells, while clerics are limited.

I enjoy the character of the Userer because he is a favourite trope of mine. The lich who starts out as evil, but then after many years of life, stops caring about anything petty. All he wants to do is work on his blacksmithing.


My players just called back the citadel. Fun times ahead!

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