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

Advice and Rules Questions

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I am very interested to hear how it goes.

My party finished off level 5 and moved up to level 6 which gives me a question.

The Petrified Horror is listed as a CR 12 in the text but as a CR 15 in the Appendix, which is correct?

Check the XP value. I found out blight wolves are actually cr 8, not 6 because they give the xp of a cr 8 and have way too may abilities for a cr 6

From that, it appears to be closer to a 12. Well they got a lot of extra XP on it.

@Geo Fix

Due to scheduling conflicts, it looks like my group's next game won't be until November. :(

@ DaveMage,

My group needs only find 3 more statues to bring the last one home. Perhaps we'll catch up to you.

Here's my last session and now the party is planning on taking on the Tower of Weeping Sores. Based on their previous performances, I've decided to amp it up with some nasty surprises. I'm thinking the massive battle right outside the keep will remain mostly the same to lull the party but then...

1. Teleportation traps. The tower would hardly have the fearsome reputation it has if any dunce could just teleport around at their leisure. It is a place of hopelessness and eternal suffering. No one escapes.

I'm thinking that anyone attempting to teleport into or out of the tower will instead be automatically redirected to an anti-magic infused cage somewhere within the tower. Most likely the caster will end up on the higher floors and anyone with him will end up in the dungeon.

This effect won't trigger for short range teleportation within the tower itself, only for escape attempts. Of course, those familiar with the tower are attuned against this effect. Teleporting from within the upper tower to anywhere not upper tower will also auto redirect to a cage.

2. In the entrance hall there will be siege undead with alchemist levels. Gonna drop some Stinking Cloud/Cloud Kill bombs on the party.

3. Areas throughout will be reinforced with some bound battle demons, probably CR 10-12ish.

4. The general's right hand man may be demoted to a secretary. The new number two is going to be a Gallu demon.

5. Depending on how things go, there may be two Iron Maiden golems instead of one.

6. Areas with lots of low CR creatures that can't possibly hit AC will probably function as "troops" so they will do a small amount of auto damage to certain areas.

Really I think the potentially meanest thing here would be the teleportation trap as splitting the party will weaken them severely. I'm thinking of having a similar effect over Tsar itself, though less severe. Attempting to teleport directly into the city will automatically result in a mishap, but there will be no issues for teleporting within the city or out of it; if any idiot could teleport directly inside the city then it really wouldn't have been much of a siege when the Army of Light arrived.

16.1: Why the DM won't feel bad when you all die horribly :

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).

Why the DM won't feel bad when you all die horribly, Session 16.1 - 10/10/14

Day 31

The day after liberating the firebase the party decides to rest up before heading off to kill themselves a tar dragon. The Smith tries to instill respect for proper weapon maintenance ("Not only must you tend to the body of the steel, but also the soul") among the Greed Elementals, but he fails. Jake and Beltin examine the canisters they found in the oddly preserved shed (9 total) and notice the symbol of Tsar as well as another sign. The meaning is not immediately clear, but upon reflection Jake remembers it is an old sign, one that has since fallen out of use.

It used to be put above the doorways of the homes of plague victims. Hmmm. The party considers firing a canister off with a catapult but decide against it.

Day 32

Jake commands his men to hold the base while he and the rest of the party go out for a boss fight. The party leaves and begins walking. As they walk, perception checks are rolled. High above, three ravens of unusual size circle and follow. Jake points it out in an obvious fashion and as he does so the three birds break formation and begin to fly away in different directions. That can't be good decides the party as they continue on.

A few hours later they approach the blighted tar pits that mark the artillery boundary of Tsar. Perception? No sign of a dragon... They get ready and wait. Time passes and then Beltin decides to escalate things. He magically enhances his voice and calls out a challenge in Draconic. In answer to his cries the normal ambient sounds of the Desolation cease. They have got something's attention.

From poisonous looking cloud being pumped up from the blighted pools off to the west they see movement in the sky. Something gigantic is coming to them and coming fast. As it flies it leaves a vapor trail of tar. It is most certainly a dragon. Initiative!

The party readies as the tar dragon dive bombs them! The Smith, psionically grown to epic proportion again, stands out as the most obvious target and the dragon takes it. Jake blasts the dragon as it comes in, hoping to divert it, but the dragon gives no f&%$s and pulls its wings up to soak most of the damage before slamming into the Smith.

The Smith staggers back but is ready. He and an astral construct he had summoned as the dragon approached move in to attack. The Smith strikes the dragon but to his dismay realizes that his weapon is now stuck. Fortunately he uses his psionics to get an extra move action to pull his weapon free and hits again.

As his weapon is stuck a second time, he makes a rather high will save; it is not the tar of the beast that traps his weapon, but rather his own mind. This is not the dragon Malerix. It is an illusion.

He calls this out and as he does the illusion in front of them begins to become less substantial, but from behind them the party feels tremors. The real Malerix breaks up from the ground and attacks Smith! In retrospect this is where he made a mistake. He should have breath weapon'd first for crowd control, but instead trusted to his tar coating and the fact that he cast Mage Armor and Lesser Globe of Invulnerability before engaging the true party.

Malerix had heard of the party and its exploits and was warned (but by whom? Dun dun dun) to beware the party and so he was. He sent in an illusion first to soften them, but a lucky roll by the Smith defeated that tactic much sooner than he had hoped. Sighing, the dragon decided he would just handle this himself but put up some token magical defenses before doing so, something that is almost unheard of, but hey, he's not stupid.

He shouldn't have let his vanity get the better of him. He should have cast more buffs.

The Smith slams again into the dragon, but this time the real one. His first blow is deflected by the Mage Armor and gets stuck in the tar, but one psionic move action later, he has it out and slam again, this time for a massive crit. About 150 damage from one hit later, Malerix is beginning to recognize that perhaps he had still underestimated these people.

This thought is affirmed as Jake teleport slashes around the dragon, unaffected by the tar effect due to his constant dimensional striding, and then he calls forth Bol. Bol launches his tiny form at the massive dragon's throat and rips into its neck. Malerix tries to rip the tiny demonspawn from his throat, but Bol bites through the tar and the scales and tastes blood.

The dragon sways and then collapses, leaving Bol, most of the undead, and Smith's weapon entangled in his corpse. But as he falls the party hears cries from above and sees movement!

The three unnaturally large and obviously undead ravens from before are diving toward them, and magical energy is manifesting around all three! Beltin realizes what is happening. These creatures are the conduit for a greater power, one that is channeling his power through them. Beltin recognizes some of that power. Looks like Malerix may be coming back a Juju zombie, and this time he won't be so cocky.

Unfortunately for that plan the players started b@!&&ing about how readied actions work for the birds (ignoring the fact that casting high level spells through undead minions miles away is hardly in the rules), so instead of a properly continued boss fight they got a round before it happened. The Smith readied to take out a bird as it approached and Jake blasted one out of the sky. Beltin then moved up and beat the birds to the punch; Malerix is now a bloody skeleton!

As this happens the aura around the last giant undead raven changes from necromantic magic to evocation. More specifically, the spell Detonate. The last bird slams into the tar dragon and explodes, catching the entire party in the blast, but unfortunately it was poorly rolled. Next one is going to be maximized and empowered, a&+*@#@s.

With the dragon defeated and adopted into the menagerie and safely stored in his staff (apparently he now has a CR 7 regardless of his stupid high strength and 40ish AC), the party teleports back to the men waiting in the firebase and much rejoicing is had for their victory. Hooray!

To be continued...

16.2: This ain't no charity:

Day 33

The day after their rather anti-climactic victory over the dragon Malerix, the party, and by party I mean Jake and Jake alone, decides what to do with their shiny, "new" firebase. The party teleports back to the Camp, leaving the Greed Elementals to hold things down while they are gone.

As soon as they arrive in the town square, near the gallows, it is clear that something has happened while they were gone. Several buildings are heavily damaged and there is smoke coming from the north west part of town, like several huge bonfires had been lit. Make shift barricades and defenses are placed at key points. Groups of crusaders are patrolling around as craftsmen work to repair damaged structures. Old time campers sit around in their usual spots looking mostly nonplussed regardless of the strangeness around them.

Beltin and Jake approach one of the old timers and ask what the hell happened. The Smith, not caring and missing the forge, leaves to get back to his true passion. One of the old timers explains that there was some sort of massive spider raid on the Camp, like dozens if not hundreds of the bastards; the camper is drunk, as it tradition, so numbers do not seem to be his strong suit. Rumor is there queen was killed and they blamed the Camp, so they gathered and came en mass to take revenge and slaughter the Camp to the last man.

Fortunately Skeriber and his boys knew they were coming and gave warning. The crusaders built defenses and got ready. They let the ashborne arachnae push in before surrounding and decimating them; the north west section of the Camp got wrecked. Between the crusaders and the adventurers in town, the beasts stood little chance and were nearly all slaughtered. The smoke the party saw was from pyres for the creatures and for the Camp dead; all things considered, not many people were lost and most of them were no body important, though a high ranking crusader went down.

Percentile dice are rolled; yep, it was one of the people Beltin sold a mansion to, so now it reverts back to him as per his sleazy, dishonest real estate contract. Great success! More dice rolls confirm that no player property was in the war zone. More success!

The old timer continues that it seems that the Usurer didn't do s+#! and left it to the crusade to protect the Camp and now the crusaders are marching about like they own the place... huh, looks like there might be more bloodshed to come, but this time from within, concludes the drunk with an air of complete indifference.

Jake and Beltin response: "Kthxbai."

The Smith

Missing the explanation, the Smith heads straight for the Usurer and the forge and when he arrives he sees the Usurer talking to several men, all high ranking crusaders by their apparel. The Usurer is smiling the kind of smile that's more about showing teeth with the implied threat they may soon find your throat than about expressing warmness, but the crusaders talking to him either seem to not realize the dangerous ground they were treading or don't care. They seem agitated except for one; though the Smith wouldn't recognize him, the calm one is the head crusader, the leader, and a man who also has a reputation as one that is not to be trifled with.

It seems there is a disagreement of sorts happening before him, but being the Smith, he is uninterested and instead walks up and starts pointing out the flaws in the fine armor these important men are wearing. He does so not out of hubris or the will to mock them, but simply because he sees. One of the already affronted looking men looks more affronted and explains how his armor was past down for generations and was forged by the renowned smith X, etc, etc.

The whole exchange causes the Usurer to laugh in the man's face before telling the crusaders that they will have to continue this discussion another time as he has business to conduct. The crusaders leave but it is clear that they still have issues. The Smith gets some dirty looks on the way out, but he of course doesn't care.

The Usurer greets him warmly and with a real smile and brings out the manifest of the work that needs down, but the Smith stops him. He tells the Usurer that for his services he requires additional compensation on top of his dirt floor near the forge accommodations: He requires daily rations of bread and water. The Usurer considers this momentarily and says he thinks he can manage that. The Smith nods to him and goes to the forge. Oh, how he has missed it.

Jake and Beltin

The two non-smiths head over to the crusader area and look to into meeting up with a high ranking crusader; they have business to conduct. Beltin sold a house to a man fitting that criteria, a man by the name of Rinswald, a man who happens to be in charge of the crusades tactical plans for cleansing the Desolation. They decide to pay a visit to Rinswald as he is the highest crusader they have had any dealings with.

They approach the crusade "high command," a semi-permanent, large tent structure. They are stopped by two guards outside and asked their business. They say they have important intel to deliver concerning a staging position for entry into Tsar. They are told to wait as one man goes inside and then 10 minutes later they are escorted inside.

The guard leads them into a fairly large room dominated by a table covered with a large map, clearly of the Desolation. It's covered with markers perhaps designating potential areas of interest, battles, and such. Jake and Beltin don't give a s!~* and a couple minutes later a stern looking man, Rinswald, walks in and tells them to give the goods.

Jake tells him to simmer down and that this kind of info doesn't come cheap. Rinswald gives Jake a look that clearly states his thoughts about money grubbing mercenaries such as himself, but to drive the point home he begins to lecture him on civil duty, concluding that some would say it is his moral obligation to deliver any information concerning the Desolation to the churches of Muir/Thyr and that duty is its own reward.

Jake disagrees, stating they didn't kill Malerix for nothing (this gets Rinswald attention), but before things can escalate Beltin intercedes and says that though they are devout believers in the cause of the crusade they are also a business; plus with one good deal the party will think of the crusade first for any other intel they find. Rinswald looks skeptical about one of those claims but then asks for a price.

Jake says 20,000 bits. Rinswald argues for 5,000. They end up meeting at 12,000 with conditions. The party will lead a group of the crusader engineers to scout the area and dependent on their report they will have a deal. The party will receive 5,000 bits up front but will be required to reimburse the crusade should a deal not be made. Lastly, the party will be responsible for making sure the area is secure until the crusade can move men into the area. Should things check out, it should take about a week for the crusaders to muster and prepare supplies for an appropriately sized force.

Jake agrees and says that he can teleport the inspectors to the site at any time. Rinswald says they will be ready within the hour.

An hour later, Jake meets with Horace, the crusader friend of the late BW, and a few crusader engineers. As they never actually met, the BW connection is not brought up, though Horace must know this was one of his friend's old partners. Jake teleports the men out to the firebase and the inspection begins.

The Greed Elementals stay out of the way though Horace questions them and Jake about the resistance faced here and from the surrounding area. Things have been keeping away, perhaps due to the reputation of the former occupants, so that's something. The engineers look over the position and declare it sound, but then they find the strangely marked canisters.

Jake tries to call is a selling point as they come with the place, but Horace and his men find this to be a dubious claim, especially after one of them recognizes the symbol of Tsar on them. The party negotiates with the crusaders and decide that they will take a canister back to be examined, but should they be a hazard to the firebase then the party will be responsible for eliminating them as per the "party must secure location" clause of the previous agreement.

They shake on it and they teleport back, but this time outside the Camp limits due to the unknown canister they have in tow. The engineers stay and guard it while Horace heads back to the high command and Jake leaves to do his thing. On the way back, Horace is friendly and asks for a blow by blow of what happened with the tar dragon. Jake tells him with minor embellishments to make himself look good and Horace is clearly impressed.

Later that day Jake is summoned to the high command, but instead of meeting with Rinswald or Horace, he is led to an agitated looking bureaucrat bearing a holy symbol of Thyr. The man doesn't waste time of pleasantries.

He explains that the canisters are dangerous and as such are the party's problem. Get rid of them. Jake inquires further and after a little resistance the bureaucratic crusader tells him they contain plagues.

They are weapons. Perhaps highly unstable weapons, given how regardless of their seeming preservation, they are several hundred year old thin metal cases holding horrible death inside. They don't know how to safely get rid of them, but that ain't their problem now.

He passes some paperwork on to Jake, saying it is a contract saying the destruction of the canisters will be carried out by the Greed Elementals as per the previous verbal agreement. The ease of which he is being put into the position of being responsible for highly dangerous biological weapons isn't lost on Jake.

The proper paperwork gets done and once it is the paper pusher of Thyr relaxes; it seems now that this is someone else's problem he can relax as the party will most definitely not hold onto weapons of mass destruction for their own potential use. Jake says they will bury them somewhere or something and no one will ever find them. Whatever, says the man behind the desk and Jake is dismissed.

Fun fact: The bureaucrat doesn't really care as his part is done. Yay, shortsightedness!

Fun fact 2: Due to clerical errors, the whole "we found biological weapons from Tsar" report never actually made it up to the actual high command, as if it did, they would not be okay with leaving their destruction to a band of highly suspect mercenaries.

But such is life. If only BW were still alive the party could become arms dealers to terrorists in the south. Missed opportunity.

After the meeting with the strange little crusader man, Jake meets up with Beltin and explains what they have. Yep, we're gonna keep those they decide. Perhaps at some point they can use them to hold Bard's Gate to ransom or something, brainstorms the party barring the Smith. Jake it seems just can't wait for the Greed Elementals to be branded a terrorist organization and get a crusade declared all over their punk asses.

The two collect the canister still stored near the Camp (after signing a release for it of course). It is decided that Beltin will make a worthless undead hold onto it and then he will store that undead in his staff for safe keeping.

Days 34-40

There is some down time while the party waits for the crusaders to muster before heading out to relieve the Greed Elementals of command.

The Smith spends his time working at the forge and has all the bread he can eat. At one point Beltin arrives with his share of the bits for the firebase deal; seeing them as worthless bits of metal, the Smith throws them into the fire and melts the several thousand bits into a few iron ingots. Beltin facepalms on the inside and decides he will never give the Smith money ever again.

The party debates looking into materials to create a private forge for the Smith at the Greed Elementals base (yay, not getting gouged by the Usurer for using his forge!), but no definite plans are made. The party gets the feeling they will still end up having to pay the Usurer off for bypassing his service fees.

Jake and Beltin spend most of the week back at the firebase. They teleport in, but on the night after the crusaders inspected the place the firebase was attacked by a large group of mostly stupid creatures. Due to the defenses of the place the Greed Elementals fought them off, but one man died.

The number of creatures involved was odd; it seems like something was corralling them in the base's direction. A few men thought they say demonic looking figures herding the beasts of the Desolation toward them.

Probing for weakness: Their enemies found some.

This is unacceptable to Jake and Beltin, so they stay. More "natural" attacks come, but this time Beltin is there and calls forth his skeletal tar dragon. Similar herding instances happen a few more times in the next few days, but each time undead Malerix is there which leads to predictable results.

Probing for weakness: Their enemies found none. The attacks cease and the firebase's reputation among the intelligent beings of the waste stays intact: "Not worth the effort."

Days 41 and 42

Beltin and Jake head back to the Camp and meet with the crusader expedition. They have 50 men and supplies for the long haul. They are ready to go. The expedition leader tells them they are ready to be led them to the spot, but Jake disagrees that leading them is their responsibility. They told them the location; it's not their job to get them there.

Things get nasty with the expedition leader but eventually Jake offers the party's services to escort the expedition as extra security. He asks for a rather outrageous sum and is refused. Fine, Jake says, see you guys when you get there. Yay, reputation decrease!

The whole party reunites and teleports out to the firebase to await the crusade expedition. While they wait, they plan their own moves to explore Tsar.

They know that supposedly the two side gates are destroyed and open for anyone who wants to enter, and that the main gates below that rather ominous tower known as the Tower of Weeping Sores is also reported to still be open... But then again they could just fly over the walls, so who needs gates?

Feeling they could use a good dungeon crawl, the party decides investigating the Tower of Weeping Sores will be their first outing into Tsar. What could possibly go wrong there, right?

End of session. No casualties besides a nameless grunt.

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@ Chaoseffect

In order to prevent the party performing all sorts of hit & run raids I've messed with all teleporting into Tsar:

Standard Teleport:
Familiarity ]On Target / Off Target/ Similar Area / Mishap
Very familiar] 01–97 / 98–99 / 100 —
Studied carefully] 01–94 / 95–97 / 98–99 / 100
Seen casually] 01–88 / 89–94 / 95–98 / 99–100
Viewed once] 01–76 / 77–88 / 89–96 / 97–100
False destination] — / — / 81–92 / 93–100

Teleporting into or within Tsar

Familiarity] On Target ' Elsewhere* ' Mishap
Very familiar] 01–75 ' 76-90 ' 91-100
Studied carefully] 01–50 ' 51-80 ' 81–100
Seen casually] 01–25 ' 26-70 ' 71–100
Viewed once] 01–10 ' 11–60 ' 61–100
False destination] — ' 01-50 ' 51-100

* 50% random location in Tsar 50% dangerous, unexplored encounter in The Desolation (GM's choice).
(sorry - can't do anything with the formatting)

I consider it to be part of the Pall (denizens of Tsar are unaffected) and it's worked quite well so far.

And if you want to increase the nastiness outside I'd suggest using a increasing the count of Flailing Dreadnoughts. Since they are CN and an aberration they slide around a lot of the buffing characters usually do. (Although your group may be an exception.)

Thanks for the suggestion for the teleport issue. I think I may go for it.

Also I figured out a bit more indepth what I'm going to do for the Tower of Weeping Sores. I'm going to use bound Aeshma Demons, Baregara, and Vrocks (mostly out doors guarding the area around the inner tower) to reinforce key areas. Each has a collar embedded, almost stitched into, the skin around their throat bearing the sigil of the fortress; they were bound to reinforce the keep and are kept under strict control by the emblems in their flesh.

Concerning the gateway ambush at the bottom of the tower, the tar traps are also going to be filled with Vescavor swarms under the control of a Darakni demon that watches over the upper area of the gateway. Should he be engaged, he will quickly flee to the upper tower and await with more swarms to harass the party when they enter room with the illusion pit and juju zombie defenders. There will also be a handful bonemen with alchemist levels as previously discussed in the areas overlooking the entry hall and perhaps in other areas where they could make sense, like the area around the catapults near the upper tower.

For the east half of the lower fortress, including the forge rooms and the dungeon, it has been converted in a hunting ground of a sort, a "playground." Certain prisoners are taken into the dungeon and invited to escape, usually after they ceased to be amusing in other fashions. One of the teleport traps will almost certainly redirect to here.

There are sensors everywhere that allow the general and his sadistic partners to view what is happening in the area at any given time for their pleasure. The entire area is infested with traps courtesy of 6 bound Gearghosts, including, of course, poisons to instill potent hallucinations. Lurking in one of the store rooms is a Shadow rat swarm, but the true danger of the area is another bound creature, a true apex predator, a Crimson Death.

The game is of course rigged as even if someone makes it out of the designated game zone they are still stuck in the fortress... and the doors out have invisible "Sepia Snake" traps that only trigger on those attempting to exit. The lucky survivors get a free trip to the top of the inner tower to meet the general in person as well as his new second in command, the Gallu demon. The Iron Devil is now his personal assistant.


I've added notes to the elevation view of the Citadel indicating the location of access points at various levels. It's bare bones but the information is summarized in one place.

If anyone would like a personal use copy just email me.

If there are any Frog God's who want to see if it's worth posting on their website that would be groovy too.

Hi guys,

An update from my campaign :

The players just reached level 10. We have a great time playing it !

Locations they explored since the beginning (in order) : Life after Death, the Crossroads, The last outpost, Rift Genesis, The Broken Span, Caravan Carrion, Dig Site, Brood Mother's Pit, Tomb of the Sleeping Knight, Spitter's Canyon, Geyser Cluster, Tark's Mound.

(They killed Clantock before dealing with the gargoyles)

A guest played with them last time and I had to give him Argos. Any idea why he is not simply a paladin ?

Any idea when the Midnight peddler should begin to hint them to go after the city itself ? My guess was around level 12.

In regards to class choices for NPCs, you will definitely notice a lot of oddities. My personal favorite is the Usurer having 5 levels of an NPC class.

In regards to when your players should enter the city, iirc the suggested levels for each part of the adventure is 7-11 in the Desolation, 11-15 in Tsar, and 15+ in the Citadel. 11 or 12 would be a good time. Out of curiosity do you think your party will need hints from the Peddler to want to explore the city? What are their motivations for exploring the Desolation anyway?

Ah right, I completely forgot about the level hints in the book !

I created some campaign traits to give players motivations for their characters. It worked very well so far.

- The bard (informal party leader) got a paper making him the land owner of the Last Outpost (that's why they got there first). He still has to deal with the dwarf ghost (they have to find the dwarves obviously).

- The halfling barbarian has a tribal sacred duty to destroy undeads, a prophecy gave him the name of 3 Orcus champions he swore to destroy : the King with an iron eye, the White Walker and the Knight with a sword weeping bloody tears (Lord Bishu!).

- the wizard needs to find the final fate of the Fifty and One.

- the Theurge needs to find what happened in the Desolation and is also interested in the fate of the Fifty and One.

- The alchemist wants to secure the roads to re-establish the trading between the south and the north.

So half the party still has some important business in the Desolation but as they level up, the encounters are less of a challenge (Tark's Mound was quite easy, only casualty was Argos that got petrified, but the basilisk blood cured that soon enough). I guess that as soon as they deal with the dwarf ghost and the lich, they could try to enter the city !

So I'm still behind on my write ups, to the chagrin of one of my players, but I'll get caught up someday. Had my 20th session yesterday and just now got through up to 2/3s of session 19...

17: Got you now, you son of a b~*$$ :

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). MISSING PLAYER

Zai (Human Tetori Monk/Lore Warden Fighter 11). New in town and looking to be prove his worth as a bad ass, mostly by wrestling everything he meets into submission and then breaking bones. As the Greed Elementals are growing in fame (and infamy) in the Camp, he hears of them and seeks them out. A new handy recruiting poster commissioned by Yohan, created by the acolyte of death Augustine, and hung around camp helps with that endeavor. Perhaps more back story will appear if he survives. If.

Got you now, you son of a b@@#%, Session 17 - 10/31/14

Day 43-47

The party hands over possession of the firebase to the crusader force and begins the walk back to town with the Greed Elementals in tow. It takes two days to get back to camp with such a large number traveling together and in those two days two Greed Elementals are slain by the dangers of the Desolation (i.e. "Ambient Warfare). 22 recruits remain.

Back in Camp the party rests and gets ready for the excursion into Tsar and the outer fortress of Dirash Kiarut. In this time Jake learns of the new recruitment posters (an elemental made of coins with a cigar in his mouth, which is being lit by a coin that is on fire) and groans, but 4 new grunts have joined. Around this time Zai shows up to audition for the crew and after wrestling Yohan into submission and breaking many of his ribs, he is in as a commissioned officer and Yohan refuses medical attention out of pride and decides to walk it off.

Day 48

Getaway (Jake) and Word of Recall (Beltin) are cast in the Camp just in case things go bad (and do they!)

The party teleports back to the outside of the firebase; Smith stays at Camp to do some smithing. Work is being down on the firebase to make it more defensible and the crusader grunts doing the work seem happy to see them as well as a bit star-struck; it's not everyday you meet people who single handedly defeat undead armies and fearsome tar dragons. Jake tells them to get back to work and the party departs into wastes and toward Tsar.

They approach Dirash Kiarut, the massive outer fortress that protects the main gates of Tsar. It is a place of ill repute; besides guarding the gates, the tower was known for its torturers and its sadistic commander, the General Mirak. It is said no one ever escaped from the fortress and the inner sanctum of the commander, the Tower of Weeping Sores, was a place of such suffering and depravity that it made the Abyss itself seem tame. Probably just rumors and ghost stories though.

The party finds one of the two massive outer gates leading to the courtyard of the fortress ajar as expected; it is barely open but the crack is wide enough for several men on horses to ride through side by side. The fortress itself sits above these gates. As the party enters the gates, siege undead (see notes) on catwalks high above stand and drop stones. And nearly kill the party due to lucky rolls causing every stone to hit, plus the massive damage bonus from the height of the drop.

The party makes quick work of the undead once they get up to them (yay teleporting or in Zai's case, extensive parkouring). The party proceeds toward the bailey, but this time more cautiously. The path ahead is fairly contained between the outer walls and the walls of the fortress, but ahead it opens. The party sees undead with bows and arrows waiting on the walls, unmoving.

They send undead forward until the the undead on the walls take notice and begin firing and as this happens, other undead in the bailey burst up from the shallow graves they had been buried in. It's not much of a fight, but they have numbers on their side. The party advances and begin making short work of the undead, but in the middle of the bailey is a strange pointed tower made of iron and from it arrows rain down on the party from slits near the top.

Unfortunately, a botch from the that tower later lets Zai make a will save; all those seemingly invincible archers in that tower? Illusions. Well, one less thing to worry about. The massive number of low level undead go down easily as expected (especially as the particularly stupid ones keep on trying to attack the biggest threat, skeletal Mallerix with his 40 AC) but the party isn't feeling good due to those lucky rock drops at the beginning and resources have been burned.


With that done, the party turns toward the fortress itself and approach its massive doors. They see that the large reinforced doors are actually ajar. Perhaps the denizens of the Tower of Weeping Sores like visitors.

Inside the entryway is a long straight hallway leading to another set of large double doors. There are open portcullises in the hall, seemingly ready to drop to keep out or trap invaders, and along the walls at intervals are closed off arrow slits. The party cautiously opens one and inside sees siege undead with spears waiting passively for some condition to be triggered. Perception checks above reveal murder holes in the ceiling. The hallway is totally not an ambush.

So, as the hallway is an ambush, Jake casts Open/Close on the hidden hatch of one of the murder holes and out falls a large jar, which crashes on the floor. Behold, the Vescavor Swarm contained inside. The party fights the swarm and realizes how ill equipped they are to deal with swarms, especially swarms with decent reflex saves and fire resistance. Eventually it dies though, as alas, it is but CR 5.

That sucked and we aren't doing great overall, thinks the party, but we have escape methods. So onward they go. Jake Opens/Closes the next hatch; pot of some sort of napalm-esque substance. Next hatch: Nothing. Next hatch: Nothing. So either it is now save to proceed, or something is manning those murder holes and, realizing what was happening, just moved the defenses off of the trap doors to save them for manual delivery. The party goes with option 1 and walks down the hall way, undead Mallerix first.

And halfway down the hall, the inevitable and highly ambush springs for real. The gates crash down, trapping and separating the party! The holes on the wall open as masses of spears stab out into the mass of bodies! Small flasks drop down from the murder holes and explode to reveal... wait, is that Cloudkill? Yep.

Jake teleports everyone forward toward the inner set of double doors and out of the Cloudkill and the incessant stabbing of the undead in their defensive positions. The undead ignore the stabs and the cloud that doesn't affect them and begin to break down the dropped (and actually animated) portcullises, but it takes a couple rounds for each.

Zai decides to see what is in the next room and opens the doors. Ahead he sees a large alcove and a set of much larger and more heavily reinforced doors on the walls to the left and right he sees more double doors. The ceiling is high and it looks like there is a balcony of sorts above those double doors and he sees what might just be more siege undead with bows standing as if awaiting orders.

And then those two sets of double doors get kicked open and out emerge three large, reddish apes with black curled back horns and a large extra mouth filled with gnashing sharp teeth in their chests. Baregara. Behind them comes another ape like figure, but this one has no mouth chest. Instead it has the head of a horned bear and its fur is matted with dried blood. Chaaor demon.

They all wear a collar bearing the symbol of the Tower of Weeping Sores, a tower with the sigil of Orcus above, and they all also happen to look pissed. The baregara move up to Zai, ready for the slaughter, while the Chaaor stands back and watches. It seems like they are expecting an easy fight and they grab Zai and begin to cry out their fury as they slam him into their creepy chest mouths.

Remember the part where they tried to grapple Zai? That was where they dun goofed. Zai, with his ability to do three grapple checks per turn, grapple multiple enemies with no negatives, and crush the very constitution from their bodies, makes them regret their decision. One of the beasts cries out as it gets its arm broken and then pinned while Zai, still pinning it, gets the next into a headlock. They try to reverse some grapples, but this turns out to be a losing proposition for them.

The last baregara sees this struggle and thinks "f%&! that." And then beyond Zai and the grapple fest he sees Beltin and Jake. And they see he sees and he sees that they see he sees. And he grins and moves forward. Jake of course Emergency Force Spheres himself to safety, which only enrages the beast and makes it relish slamming Beltin into his chest mouth all the more satisfying.

Zai finishes off his opponents, leaving only the Chaaor ahead and the baregara behind him, and heads back to teach the one grappling Beltin a lesson on the finer points of the fine art of wrestling. As this happens the undead finish breaking down the gates and are nearly able to rejoin the party.

It seems momentum has swung in the party's direction and sure they could just finish off these two demons, but then what? This is only the entryway to the fortress after all and everyone is feeling the strain, reasons Jake, and he makes a fateful decision. He triggers Getaway and everyone accepts.

As he is pulled into the void of time and space between appearing and disappearing, Jake immediately knows something is not right and suddenly there is a flash of red in his mind, some malevolent intelligence trying to force its way in. Jake rolls Will, fails, and so it does. A rush of fragmented memories crash through his mind, unbidden, and the vague red presence scouring his mind seems intrigued.

And then everyone in the party is violently yanked back into being, though wherever they are, it is certainly not where Getaway intended and each is alone.

Zai finds himself in a dingy torture chamber in a cage so small that he can only sit hunched over. Along the walls are more cages like his and some contain skeletons, perhaps left here to starve to death. He sees other cages as well, some in a vaguely humanoid shape so the occupant would only be able to stand immobile. In the center of the room is a slab with straps and next to it is a small table covered with rusty instruments of torture.

There is one exit and it is flanked by four iron maidens, three rusty and in disrepair and one that still looks in prime condition. Zai ponders what to do and then he hears a small cough from another cage off to his side and realizes he is not the only prisoner here.

Beltin lands on the stone floor of a small prison cell with nothing but some broken bones on the floor for company. Immediately upon arrival he realizes that something is wrong. He feels no connection with his powers or his magic. It is suppressed and that certainly bodes ill. He stands up and brushes himself off and outside his cell across the hall way he sees a large skeleton standing with a set of keys strung on one of its broken ribs, seemingly mocking him and his current inability to just dominate it and have it deliver his freedom.

While Beltin and Zai were put on hold, Jake finds himself in a moderately sized cage and shackled. He too finds his magic suppressed. Jake looks around and sees that he is not alone. There is a man in black polished armor standing and a ragged looking bandanna covering one eyes, as if for a make shift bandage. Below the bandana Jake can see a slight opening that shows not blood and tissue, but blackness inside, like there is nothing beneath the skin.

The man introduces himself as the master of the tower, General Mirak. He says that he is quite looking forward to making Jake's acquaintance and he wants to know all about him. And Jake will tell him everything, he continues, spreading his arms as if inviting Jake to look around the room.

It too is a torture chamber, but while Zai's is dingy and seemingly abandoned, a place for amateurs, this room is covered with polished, gleaming instruments of all kinds, ready for any torment that the master torturer could dream to inflict.

The room is spotless, almost sterile looking, but then again everything in the room from the instruments, to the chairs, to the tables, to the walls, to the floor, to the ceiling all look as though they were made to be exceptionally easy to clean. Probably for good reason.

Jake says the general just has to ask and Jake will tell him whatever he wants to know. The general smiles.

End of Session. Two Greed Elemental grunts killed.

18.1: The Material Plane is awful!:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 12).

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 12). MISSING PLAYER

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

Zai (Human Tetori Monk/Lore Warden Fighter 12).

Glory, aka the Righteous Wrath of Heaven or something similar (Aasimar Synthesist Summoner/Bloodrager 12). The Smith replacement character. The polar opposite of Vol, Glory is a heavenly diplomat as well as an instrument of Heaven's fury against evil.

Even in the high Heavens there is bureaucracy and councils that debate policy issues, and one issue of contention has been the whispers of some lurking peril in the ruins of the once great bastion of darkness, Tsar. Eventually it was decided that a decision about what to do could not be made without more information, and thus Glory was chosen to investigate and evaluate the situation on the material plane.

He descended from the Heavens and found himself on the northern side of the Desolation. He was told to go south and there he would meet men of righteousness on a crusade against evil and that they would help him on his mission. But, as it was his first time on the material plane and the fact that he was bad with directions, Glory ended up mistaking the city of Tsar for the Camp and walked toward it. In the night, demons from the the Tower of Weeping Sores ambushed him and dragged him back to their master.

For a week straight Glory was tortured by General Mirak and his right hand men for both information and sport. They found the idea of an army of angels descending upon them especially humorous.

Then as a new round of "fun" was about to begin, the general was pulled aside and informed of something that interested him greatly. He told Glory he would speak with him later and left him in his cage. He pulled out an amulet from beneath his armor. It glowed briefly and then Glory found himself teleported to a dingy room filled with cages and rusty torture implements.

About 30 minutes later Zai appeared in a cage not far from his, and Glory rejoiced for clearly this meant that the armies of Heaven were assaulting the fortress and coming to save him. Yeah, about that...

"The Material Plane is awful!", Session 18.1 - 11/14/14

As the person making Glory got confused and made him at 12th level instead of 11th, to cut back on confusion and to be fair the party DINGS to level 12. Don't ask for another level at the end of this dungeon because it ain't happening now.

Day 48

Prison break!

Glory is most joyous upon seeing Zai arrive and asks if the forces of St. Alexander (I have no idea...) have come to deliver him from evil and smite the wicked, and at this question Zai is just as confused as the DM.

"Well, I don't know if I would call him a saint," starts Zai, thinking of his amoral mercenary boss Jake/Alex. And then what is really happening comes to light. Bunch of stupid adventurers walked in and quickly got in over their heads. Teleport trap. Captured. So on. Glory is mildly disappointed to say the least, but the two decide they should make their escape.

As his new temp cage isn't magic suppressing, Glory calls forth some of his righteous heavenly wrath, aka summons eidolon suit and rages. That cage didn't know what hit it. At this point the eidolon would get described, but who can remember that s@@&? It will have to wait for next time.

He then breaks Zai's cage open and the two of them take a closer look around the room. Yep, still looks as bad as it did before from inside the cages, but they notice that in one of the full body cages next to where Glory was detained is the skeletal remains of a man covered in black robes. Knowledge check? Yep, those totally belonged to the priesthood of Orcus. That's weird, thinks the two of them, but yeah better things to do then ponder this mystery.

They make perception checks, fail, and then move toward the exit to the room flanked by the four iron maidens. If they had made it the perception check they would have realized that one of them closest to the door had changed position slightly since they broke free. Instead this comes as a surprise to them when as the near the door, one of the iron maidens flies open and a zombified corpse is ejected, hungry for brains.

Initiative and Glory goes first and throws everything he has at the zombie. It is just a zombie. Like a 1/2 CR zombie. It dies, but "just as planned" thinks the DM: Waste that full attack. As this happens there is another perception check to be made and Zai gets it. The way that zombie came out? It didn't push open the door and lunge, it was forcefully thrown out. With this in mind he looks suspiciously at the iron maiden in time to not be flatfooted when it quickly dashes forward toward him.

Surprise, it's an Iron Maiden Golem! The DM loves this creature so much.

It is open wide, ready to give him a deadly hug. The lid slams down on him and tries to scoop him in, but unfortunately for the golem, it is trying to grapple the grapple master. Zai is nearly closed in but manages to jam his arm into hinges to keep it open, and oh wow does that door slamming hurt.

With the element of surprise gone, the golem goes down quickly not too long after and mostly uneventfully as it never does get to feel Zai inside of it. As a side note, I wonder if the party would take Craft Construct if they knew it only costs 30,000 to make one of these things.

With the battle done, the two go to the door, find it open, and step out of the torture room. They are now in a prison. Cells everywhere with a hallway snaking between them. The cells they see are either empty or have old corpses inside. On the floor is a dried blood trail that is interrupted at times with arrows, also in blood, pointing to in one direction. In common, and also in blood, they see the word EXIT painted on the floor next to the pointing arrow.

How nice of someone to make a blood trail to show people the way out, they think. Seems legit. As they ponder whether to follow the arrow way of the blood trail or follow it backward (as there is no way not involving a blood trail), they hear a loud clanking sound from the non-arrow way, like someone is running a tin cup across the bars of his cell.

They decide to investigate that.

Back in his magically suppressed cell, Beltin contemplates his options and after a while hears what may be the distant sounds of combat (perhaps against an Iron Maiden Golem). He doesn't know what that means, so decides to do what St. Alexander would almost certainly approve of, help himself.

He rattles something metallic against the bars of the cell and tries to call forth his supernatural bardic powers over undeath and make that f#~&ing skeleton walk him over the key. He finds his bardic magic also suppressed, but makes a lovely racket. And then he hears people approaching.

Around the corner walks Zai and some sort of angelic abomination, which based on the glowing caste mark, he recognizes as an eidolon. The skeleton turns toward the newcomers, hostile, and quickly goes down. On its ribs they find a key as well as a pocket watch. They open the cell door for Beltin, introduce themselves, and then examine the watch.

In regards to introductions, there is usual awkwardness surrounding Beltin but it mostly goes unsaid as it's not like he has an undead menagerie with him right now. Upon learning Glory's story and seeing the eidolon, Beltin is reminded of a "heretical" dissertation he had read concerning the strange forms taken by both some evil outsiders as well as angels.

The theory proposed that such beings were simply channeling the power known on the material plane as "eidolon," though perhaps to a greater mastery than commonly seen. It proposed that the "divine" beings were hardly divine so much as shaping their own forms with arcane magic and were actually not much different in reality than the other races.

The author of that work was burned, so Beltin decides not to ask Glory about the truth of those sentiments. He examines the pocket watch found on the skeleton and determines that it is magical; looks like it is an alarm clock that can be magically set from somewhere else and there is seemingly no way to tell when it will go off.

Correctly assuming that if they take the magical trinket it will go off at the most inconvenient time for them, the party decides to leave it on the broken skeleton.

Back down the blood trail goes the party. It winds them through the cell block. As the party goes they notice small silver mirrors on the walls at random intervals and a knowledge check recognizes them as sensors for scrying. Security cameras. The party breaks the ones they see and continue on. The blood trail leads to a large reinforced door. Written on the wall next to it in blood is a single word: "PLAYGROUND."

That claim seems dubious, but it is the only way out. It may even be fun, says Glory, thinking of what playgrounds are like in Heaven. Clearly he has never been to the material plane, and certainly not to a bastion of evil and despair like the Tower of Weeping Sores.

The "Playground"

Glory opens the door and has to make a fort save. Contact poison on the door? Excellent! He makes his save, but as he starts to look around things begin to seem... off. Glory is now high on fear inducing hallucinogenic!

Ahead the party sees rough stone walls at odd irregular angles, seemingly constructed without rhyme or reason, perhaps through many, many castings of Wall of Stone. It is a labyrinth, and the blood trail ends at the beginning. Only darkness and silence awaits.

The next section of the dungeon is the party moving through the claustrophobic passages, first quickly, and then rather slowly once they realized it is full of traps. Darts spit from a wall, there is a pit with spikes and razors that rip your leg as you pull it out, spears from the ceiling, and, of course, obvious pressure plates that spring no trap and are simply there to sow paranoia. More scrying sensor mirrors also appear at seemingly random intervals along the walls.

As the party advances, they begin to catch sight of small flying figures dodging around the maze around them. Glory gets the best look at one of the creatures, a skull suspended in a mass of coils and wires, but by this time he is beginning to realize that his nerves are shot and he is beginning to doubt his perceptions, especially when he started seeing blood running down the walls that no one else could. He doesn't recognize the creature for what it is at any rate.

As they go, Glory rants about the "playground," about how anyone could call this one. This is not how things are done in Heaven, he continues. This isn't right.

"The material plane is awful!" he concludes.

They continue on until finally they find a door, which Zai opens. A needle shoots out from the handle, but he pulls his hand back in time. This act becomes a theme for the rest of the maze, with Zai immediately opening doors without looking for traps that are always there and always the same. At least he has good reflex and always made it.

The party enters into a large hallway. Here too there are random walls of stone blocking straight progress, but they are more haphazard and function less as a maze and more as dividers in the hall to block line of sight to the ends.

At this point perception checks are called for and very faintly the party can hear the sound of a an alarm clock ringing back the way they came, waaaay back.

The party picks one of the two possible ways and begins to walk and as they round a corner Glory sees an emancipated man in rags against the wall. Glory is concerned and begins to move forward and ask the man if he is okay.

As he does so the figure turns to him and begins to scream as it claws out its own eyes with ragged fingernails. And then the figure is gone. It was never then to begin with, but Glory's obvious reaction gives Beltin enough motive to try a heal check.

Check made. Yep, Glory is hallucinating. Tripping balls in fact. A Remove Poison stops that and only then does Glory realize how trippy everything had been since the playground sign, but it does not change the fact that this is not how playgrounds are supposed to be.

At the end of the hall they see two ways to proceed. Straight on is a door and to the left the hallway turns but the way forward there is blocked by a strange fog, seemingly a permanent Obscuring Mist effect. Out of game and not shared with the players, that way is also about 100 feet or so away from one of the two exits out of the area.

The party decides to do the door, Zai opening and triggering the trap of course. Inside they see more stone walls forming a maze, but directly off to one side they see a pile of rotting corpses. Beltin immediately perks up, hoping they belong to him, but a brief glance shows these are just normal dead people. Probably commoners. Not even worth the effort of bringing back.

Still they can't leave the dead like this says Zai and Glory, so they move up to the bodies to cleanse them by fire. As they move up they notice slightly movement from the mound and get ready. They blast the corpses with fire and screeches and a mass of blackness erupts from the burning flesh and rushes toward them.

Shadow Rat Swarm! Fortunately this swarm can be hurt by weapon damage and it goes down easily after the initial blast, with the few remaining rats slipping through the walls incorporeal. They continue around a few corners and see light ahead.

They advance into a open room seemingly free of dangers and as they enter they feel themselves move through a magical barrier of sorts. They easily identify this magic as warding this room against corruption, both from age and from vermin. On the wall is another large written word: "BREAK ROOM."

To be continued...

18.2 Are you sure this is a playground?:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 12).

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 12). MISSING PLAYER

Zai (Human Tetori Monk/Lore Warden Fighter 12).

Glory, aka the Righteous Wrath of Heaven or something similar (Aasimar Synthesist Summoner/Bloodrager 12).

"Are you sure this is a playground?", Session 18.2 - 11/14/14

Day 48

The "Break Room"

The "break room" is dominated by a fairly large table with long benches on either side, and the table is filled platters of various meats, cheeses, and breads suitable for making sandwiches. Also on the table is a covered silver platter. A glance with detect magic/poison and knowledge rolls identify the food as safe to eat and, surprisingly, not from a sentient race.

Continual Light comes from a sconce on each wall and on the other end of the room the party sees an open doorway leading a darker room, but one filled with the fire light, and from that room the party can hear a fire crackling in a fireplace.

As Glory was tortured and starved for about a week, he prepares to eat from the table once it is clearly safe, but decides to lift the lid on the covered platter first. He does so and looks into the blank, staring eyes of a child's severed head. Appetite lost.

The party continues into the next room and sees a couple large comfortable looking chairs sitting on a rug in front of fireplace containing the previously seen and heard fire. There is a small table between the chairs containing an almost full bottle of brandy and a few crystalline glasses. A closer look reveals the rug to be made of human hair and skin.

At the other end of the room is a well, a closed door, and a bookcase.

Beltin examines the bookcase and finds several disturbing looking tomes, mostly in abyssal. Most seem to be the equivalent of trashy romance novels, but two stand out: "The 37 Lessons of Orcus," a banned heretical tome supposedly detailing the life of Orcus; and "The Book of Suffering," another banned tome, this one THE comprehensive guide to inflicting pain and supposedly authored by the demon lord Shax, a torture connoisseur.

Beltin decides to take them both because you never know and he notices a bookmark in The Book of Suffering. He opens to the page and sees it is to a passage describing the use of psychological torture. It suggests keeping the victim off guard, never sure of when danger will strike, to disguise danger as safety and safety as danger.

It continues to use the example of offering genuine aid to the victim, say food and water to one dying of starvation and thirst, but place the aid in such a position where they will refuse it due to their own paranoia and even starve to death with salvation an arm's reach away. Always hilarious to watch, says the book.

This sounds quite familiar, thinks Beltin, and as he thinks this the party hears a high, terrifying wail from the darkness of the well. The party jumps and prepares for battle, but nothing follows. Cautiously they look down inside and see a small mechanical siren clearly designed just to fray the nerves of those already on edge.

"F#$*ing playground," thinks the party, and Glory again asks if the whole material plane is like this with disgust in his voice.

Beltin goes back to the bookcase for one last look and what is this? Secret compartment on the bottom of the shelf? Oh yes, here's where all the loot will be! He opens it and... reflex! The needle trap misses him and inside is the equivalent of "HA HA HA" written in Abyssal. F%~&ing playground.

The party heads through the next door and finds themselves facing another crudely made maze, and as they step out of the break room they feel themselves leaving the aura of preservation.

Back to the grind. On the ground is another blood trail and the words "SAFE PATH" are written in blood at the beginning. Seems dubious thinks the party, but they begin to follow it.

The home stretch

The safe path proves to be safe as the party continues on, but at one point they notice that they can see the other side of the blood trail across a gap in the walls. Shortcut? Shortcut! They take it and find a trap. Yay, traps! Eventually ahead they see a small flickering light, like a small flame. The blood trail takes them to it and they realize they seem to have hit the actual wall of the room.

The light is coming from a pile of glowing coals (perpetually glowing, as in magically enchanted to not go out) in a forge set in along the wall. Next to it is an anvil and a rack of tools. Looking further along the actual wall of the room they found, the party sees other forges setup at intervals; no Wall of Stone blocks the path between them, but the blood trail leads away in a different direction.

The party decides that they are done with the maze and are just going to walk the perimeter of the room now until they find the next door. As they decide this they walk closer to the anvil and suddenly a previously invisible rune flares up on its service. Fireball trap!

The fireball does minimal damage, but after it goes off, Glory notices movement in what he mistook for a scrap pile set into the alcove. It's another one of those weird metal skull things with wire all around it! And it's reaching a wire out to touch the anvil... this time Beltin sees it and recognizes it for what it is, a Gearghost.

That would explain all the traps they found, he thinks, but there must be quite a few of them around to make all this happen. Beltin explains it is resetting the trap as the gearghost touches the anvil... and resets the trap! With one round before it re-triggers, Zai and Glory easily destroy it with a full attack and then Glory, with his already cast Resist Energy Fire, just lays down on the anvil and absorbs pretty much the whole fireball with no ill effects. Crisis averted.

Before moving on the party examines the gearghost one last time and then notice what looks like a hilt in the scrap pile it had been hiding in. Cautiously they investigate and find an adamantine dagger just laying there for centuries apparently. Glory is all for taking it before realizing that the sigil of the Tower of Weeping Sores is engraved on the blade... and then he just drops it. Beltin decides the symbol doesn't offend his delicate sensibilities and stashes it.

The party continues along the wall and around a corner, finding a few more mechanical traps at times, but is mostly unaffected. Then ahead is mist. More mist. An obscuring cloud actually and it is blocking their way. The party does not like the idea of going through, but they certainly aren't going back now. Beltin tries to dispel the cloud but his dice hate him and so it stays.

Eventually they decide to just man the f@@* up and walk in. Zai goes first and one thing he immediately notices is that it suddenly became quiet. Too quiet. Supernaturally quiet. He tries to communicate this to the others and realizes he can't and the others outside ask him what is happening and he doesn't hear them. Silence does that.

He steps out and explains and the party deliberates a tiny bit more before manning up for real this time and just walking in. About 30 feet into the mist they find a door, this one surprisingly not trapped when Zai opens it. The mist ends at the doorway and he steps inside to a fairly small antechamber with another door about 15 feet in.

On the wall is a message in blood: "EXIT: Congratulations you have escaped from the Tower of Weeping Sores! You may count yourself among the other (here is a nail with small sign hanging on it with "0" on it) lucky guests to do so! We hope you enjoyed your stay and feel free to sign the guest book!"

Next to the door marked exit is a small lectern with a tattered looking book on it, opening to a page covered in blood splatter. A small inkwell and quill sit next to it untouched. Apparently General Mirak and his circle are actually really good sports about people escaping.

Yeah, that's not happening, thinks Glory and he walks forward from the mist and to the entry door, Zai directly behind him, and Beltin in the rear. About halfway across the antechamber Glory feels the silence end, but when he pushes open the door, suddenly another large rune flashes on the ceiling.

A black serpent made of smoke lashes down and strikes him the chest and Glory finds himself Sepia Snake Sigil'd on the threshold of the doorway out of the playground. So much for the owners being good sports and the game not being rigged. That kind of cheating wouldn't stand in Heaven, Glory would surely think if he wasn't trapped in stasis.

Zai moves forward to check on Glory as it is clear the trap is expended and behind him Beltin moves into the antechamber. Or he would like to, but...

While Glory was getting trapped and Zai was distracted, the reason for the Obscuring Mist and Silence became clear, at least to Beltin, as the hidden Crimson Death made its presence known by attempting to envelop him, which is not good for the squishy caster.

As the crimson death gets ready to gorge itself, Zai makes his perception check and notices something is amiss and turns to see Beltin facing his inevitable-if-fought-alone-in-magically-silenced-area death, and runs back to change that.

He pulls the mist like creature off of Beltin and begins to do what he does best and wrestle it. The crimson death wrestles back, but finds itself outmatched. It tries to flee back into the mist and safety, but Zai catches it and puts it down. Another crisis averted, but about that issue in the next room...

Beltin offers homage and promises of blood sacrifice to his d20 and this time it favors him: He manages to dispel the sepia snake binding Glory and now they have escaped the playground! They step through the doorway into the next room and find themselves in a vast, but mostly decrepit looking armory.

They savor their victory as with the playground defeated, the Tower of Weeping Sores is surely ready to fall, right?


End of Session. No casualties.

Out of Game Notes: The "Playground" area is used by the general and his associates as entertainment as well as a test of worthiness for which guests deserve more personal attention. Prisoners are normally thrown into the cell Beltin was placed in and then freed at a set time by the skeletal guard (hence the watch) and left to run the gauntlet while suffering from both the normal horror of their situation, but also drug induced hallucinations, as experienced by Glory. The general and his people find it hilarious to watch.

Normally people of the party's caliber would not be down there, especially not so armed and especially not in a group, but such was the circumstance here. Most former victims were common folk and certainly weren't armed to the teeth and high level adventurers. The modified sepia snake sigil trap was placed to catch the (very) few that made it out of the playground under those rather fixed circumstances. Strangely no one who made it that far ever stopped to sign the book.

If you could beat those odds, being stripped, tortured, drugged, alone, and forced to run through a nightmarish gauntlet of traps, then obviously you would be worth keeping as a "guest" in the upper tower. The general enjoys meeting people with spirit... and then breaking it.

Which will be where Jake starts his session off.

19.1 The surprisingly easy escape:

Dramatis Personae

Beltin (Aasimar Dirge Bard/Cleric 12).

"Jake" aka Alex, the actual character name but I refuse to go back and edit the old entries (Human Wizard/Rogue 12).

Zai (Human Tetori Monk/Lore Warden Fighter 12).

Glory, aka the Righteous Fury of Heaven (Aasimar Synthesist Summoner/Bloodrager 12).

The surprisingly easy "escape", Session 19.1 - 11/28/14

Day 48


Not a clever man

Jake finds himself in a mage deadened cage and bound with dimensional shackles just to be safe, though his gear is still on him for the moment. He is in an elaborate and well maintained torture chamber, obviously a place for professionals to work as opposed to the crude room Zai and Glory found themselves in.

In front of him is a man in ceremonial, yet functional, black armor emblazoned with the insignia of the tower. He has a sword on his back and a ragged bandage over one eye.

He introduces himself as General Mirak and says that he looks forward to speaking with Jake for the coming hours, days, weeks, months, or maybe even years. They will have all the time in the world to get to know each other after all, but first off he wants to know who Jake is and why the hell he is in his tower.

"Who are you and who sent you?"

Jake, cocky and unphased, says his name and how he and his friends were interested in Tsar and thought this giant evil looking fortress would be kinda cool to go into. The general detects the obvious sarcasm but then realizes that bravado aside, his new guest is telling the truth.

Incredulous, Mirak asks if Jake and company seriously just decided, out of the blue, with no real purpose, with no special preparations at all, to just break down the front door of the infamous Tower of Weeping Sores and walk in like they owned the place. Jake confirms that is pretty much how it went.

The general looks dumbstruck for a second and then laughs his ass off. Mirak suggests his guest may not be a clever man and asks if Jake is beginning to regret his compulsive trespassing attempt, especially now that he will be staying for much longer than he had intended, unless of course he had intended to stay for the rest of his life. Jake politely smiles in response and says he thinks he will be out of here much sooner than that.

And then he offers a wager to the general: "How about if I escape I get your sword?"

Mirak smiles and says he accepts the bet, but what if Jake fails to escape? The general looks into Jake's eyes and says that though the defiance there has been amusing, he now grows tired of it. If he wins the bet, he will take Jake's eyes.

In fact, since no one has ever escaped from the tower, why don't they just call the bet concluded now? Jake begins to object to this, but the general is already walking over to his wall of instruments and comes back with several spoons of various sizes, each with razor sharp edges. He takes his time and holds them up to Jake's face to find which one is the most appropriately sized for Jake's facial structure.

As he makes his decision and begins to move forward, Jake still objecting that this is not how bets work, the door to the chamber opens.

Minor problems

In step a large metal creature, an iron devil (some kind of construct or something, thinks Jake). It lumbers forward with the mindless gait of a golem, but Jake can see the malevolent intelligence its glowing eyes. Though Jake doesn't know it, this creature is the Seneschal, the general's secretary and top adviser. Even at first glance Jake can sense a barely contained murderous rage in the creature and gets the feeling that it wouldn't be amused, unlike the general, by his flippant attitude.

Behind the Seneschal walks a horned wolf headed bipedal fiend with armor embedded into its flesh and wings folded on its back, a gallu demon (some kind of demon or something, thinks Jake). The general's head of security you could say.

The iron devil steps forward and briskly tells the general that there is a situation and walks him off into the corner of the room away from Jake. The gallu ignores them and instead walks toward Jake's cage and stares into his face with unblinking eyes and a small, feral, smile. It is a look of hunger and soon to be fulfilled anticipation. It makes Jake a little uncomfortable.

The Seneschal and Mirak converse in hushed tones but aren't really trying too hard to not be overheard by Jake; it's not like he's going anywhere anyway. Jake overhears most of the conversation. The other two captured prisoners have escaped from cells along with the aasimar; they are now in the "playground" and most likely will be for some time. The more pressing issue is that it while the party was assaulting another intruder used the chaos to slip in unnoticed until now.

An "infernal intruder" says the Seneschal with emphasis and a meaningful look though he doesn't elaborate further. The general goes from "playful" to all business. Play can wait; there is urgent business to attend to. He walks toward Jake's cage, Seneschal in tow. The gallu silently turns and looks at the general, as if awaiting permission for something. The general nods.

With surprising speed the gallu reaches through the bars of the cage and pulls Jake toward him and rips into the space between Jake's left shoulder and neck with his teeth. Jake screams as the demon pulls back with a large mouthful of his flesh, leaving a vicious open wound. It reestablishes eye contact with Jake and then bites open its own wrist and begins to move it toward Jake's nearly bit open throat.

Jake struggles, but there is no real contest. The gallu grabs him by the hair with one clawed hand and jams its own open wound into Jake's. Jake feels the creature's blood mixing with his, flowing into his own veins, not knowing what this means, but still he struggles to stop what is happening. But it is done.

The gallu withdraws its wound from Jake's throat and brings its face close to Jake's. For the first time it speaks, low and guttural, barely more than a growl.

"You are mine. You will never escape me."

And then it viciously slams Jake's head against the bars and walks out of the room.

Dazed from the sudden blood loss (and gain) and potential concussion, Jake hangs limply from his bindings. As he struggles to regain his composure, he hears the general give his orders to the Seneschal: Find out Jake's and his party's capabilities and if he knows anything about the the new intruder, though Mirak doubts it.

But don't kill him try not to damage his skin anymore than it has already been damaged, the general says flashing a grin at Jake. It may prove useful. Once you are done extracting information come join us, concludes the general. And he leaves, closing the door behind him.

The Seneschal turns toward Jake and gets down to business.

Tense, easily angered

Jake starts to answer the Seneschal's questions in a satisfactory manner and without lip. He tells him all about how Zai grapples the s@%& out of things and how Beltin is a necromancer. Jake himself is good at teleportation. Doesn't know about the other intruder.

The Seneschal listens and nods, not seeing the need for violence. At least not yet.

While they are talking Jake begins to formulate a plan. He can sense how close his jailer is the tense, easily angered type, yet he also seems dutiful and he has orders... how much would it take to get him to want to open the cage to teach Jake a lesson?

And so Jake begins to taunt the Seneschal as he answers the questions. Stupid insults and comments. The kind of things that are so juvenile that a well adjusted person would just blow it off, but that description is not even close to describing the Seneschal. Jake tries to bait him and finds it isn't hard.

For a second Jake sees a look of mindless fury, the kind of fury that doesn't care about orders. Jake begins to wonder if he went too far but then the Seneschal reels it in and sighs. Murderous rage successfully quailed, but still a lesson must be taught to the prisoner.

Just as planned, thinks Jake, as the Seneschal unlocks the cage and gets ready to beat him for his insolence. The cage door swings open and the devil gets ready to break some bones and SURPRISE ESCAPE ARTIST CHECK. Jake slips his bindings, the dimensional shackles attached to the cage!

He tries to tumble past the Seneschal and... fail! The devil slams him back into the cage and throws the door shut again, locking it.

Jake stares at the devil and the devil stares at Jake. Well it seems they are at an impasse and the Seneschal certainly can't leave him alone in his cage now. He decides to just stare the prisoner down and wait.

Jake is undeterred. The childish insults and taunts continue. He begins to throw copper pieces at the Seneschal and though they bounce harmlessly off of his iron body, they are obviously leaving a mark on his mind.

Ting! Insult. Ting! Insult. Ting!

The cycle continues and the Seneschal tries to find his happy place. It isn't working.

Ting! Insult. Ting! Insult. Ting!

The Seneschal barely holds control. He struggles and manages to keep the rage from overwhelming him. Barely. Just barely.

Jake stops talking and smiles at the devil... and then throws one more copper.

Enough is enough. The Seneschal approaches the cage and Jake gets ready to dodge around him when the cage opens. Instead the devil pulls a large piece of metal off of its back and then there is a blade. A scythe. It holds it for a second, seemingly calm, and then it screams with mindless fury and slashes through the cage and into Jake.

It hurts Jake. A lot. But hey, the cage is open now! Jake moves out of the cage and feels the magical suppression lift from him but the Seneschal slashes him again and he knows one more hit like that and he will never leave this room alive. Time to go. Teleport to the door, open, step out, close. Cast Greater Invisibility and down the stairs!


Behind him Jake hears the Seneschal break open the door and begin to come down the stairs after him. In front of him Jake sees several doors and picks one furthest away from the others; he quickly looks out the keyhole. He sees sky! He tries the handle and its locked. He teleports to the other side.

The Seneschal crashes down the stairs and Jake hears the other doors he passed get violently opened and the door he just teleported past shakes as the Seneschal tries it, finds it locked, and continues down the stairs of the tower.

Jake takes a couple seconds to catch his breath and enjoy the time he has with his 9 remaining hit points. It is dusk, which seems strange as wasn't it just morning when they came in? He looks around and below him he sees the roof of the fortress and various smaller buildings. A giant crane at one end. Siege weaponry. Undead patrolling in the distance and Vrocks in the sky.

He shrinks away as they fly over but then remembers they can't see invisible. He looks over the edge of the balcony he is on and sees the steps leading into the inner tower and a small inconspicuous side door. He teleports down to it and tries to open the side door. Locked. He begins to pick it.

The main door of the tower slams open and Jake, still invisible, tries to make himself inconspicuous just in case as the Seneschal runs down the stairs. He yells for a group of vrocks to land. He tells them a prisoner has escaped. Find him! The vrocks take off again and the iron devil rushes off away from the tower, perhaps to continue the search or to find the general and inform him of what had happened.

The sun has practically set by now.

Jake sighs in relief and finishes picking the lock, but as he finishes the door is opened from the other side! Jake quickly pushes himself flat next to the door and gets ready to act... and then he sees Zai quickly stick his head out the door, look around, and pull it back in.

Yay, Jake has found the party!

To be continued...

19.2: Y'all come on back now, ya hear?:

"Y'all come on back now, ya hear?", Session 19.2 - 11/28/14

Day 48

The party minus Jake

With "the playground" behind them, the party finds themselves in a massive armory. Does any of it look magic? Nope. Masterwork? A few things. Oh. One of them belonged to Glory before his whole getting captured and tortured thing, so he takes it back. Now to find that lost undead menagerie... and Jake.

And so the party begins to explore. They find the barracks next door and look through some chests to find all there to find of monetary value (yay, maybe like 100 gold worth of trinkets!). On one wall they see two cranks and a release lever and wonder what it is and eventually decide to just pull the lever... and a resounding crash follows and then silence.

What was that? Why, it was a giant stone block over the large set of doors across from where the party fought the Bargeras and Jake triggered his doomed Getaway spell! Fun fact: Those massive doors that seemed to lead further into the fortress? Stone wall behind them. Trap. Trying to force the door would result in that giant ass block landing on you. Unfortunately the party never got to figure that out first hand. The party briefly wonders if they just crushed Beltin's undead.

Exploration continues. The party finds the balconies they saw overlooking them in the previously mentioned failed Getaway fight and realize where they are; if they jumped down they'd be right where they were before. Awesome. As ranks of undead with bows and arrows stand up here waiting for orders, they decide to just Fireball them and not have to worry about them being annoying later.

Onward! The party heads the other day and, after breaking down two doors barricaded from the other side, find themselves in a room with a circular hallway. All around are rooms for officers. Huh, based on those double barred doors the officers didn't have much trust in their enlisted men.

Something seems off about the area but it takes a moment to realize what. The temperature is fluctuating wildly, but mostly its getting colder. It's cold. Suddenly so very cold. At times the party can see their breathe and at other times they think they can hear the faint sounds of battle, but then the sounds are gone. There is a definite air of wrongness about the area.

So haunted you don't even know

Religion check from Beltin? Place is haunted. Super haunted. Holy s~+& is it haunted. As this conclusion is reached the party sees a translucent man in armor appear in the middle of the hall, his throat cut so thoroughly that he looks nearly beheaded.

He screams incoherently and charges the party... and past them. Materializing behind the party, a ghostly orc in similar armor appears and briefly clashes with the throat cut man and then both dissipate. Both phantoms wore the heraldry of the Tower of Weeping Sores.

Yep, haunted, but the uneasy spirits here seem to be stuck in a loop. One that doesn't involve the party. At least not yet.

The party continues along the circular hall, checking all the inner doors and as such all the officer rooms. They collect what minor magical loot they see. As they do so they sometimes see (or feel) the gazes of the dead upon them, beginning to take notice.

After nearly making the whole circle, a ghost of a man steps out of a wall near Zai. He sees him, yet also seems to be looking through him. "Reinforcements at last!" is exclaims and steps into Zai, who manages to resist the possession attempt. The spirit then continues onward and through a wall, disappearing.

The party takes this as the cue to get away from this area. The haunting is escalating and they are definitely beginning to be noticed. Beltin figures that if they vacate the area for some time then the spirits will forget them.

They finish the circle and get to the door they started at, but left for last: A set of larger double doors, clearly important. Across the hallway they see a sign for the command room, but decide to leave that and the other outer rooms for the moment.

As the party opens the double doors a blast of fire hits them, obviously alchemical in nature. A trap. They crash through the doorway, now ready for battle, but the room beyond is empty besides a stairway leading up. They decide to take it as up is obviously better than down and it will get them away from the ghosts behind them.

At the top of the staircase they find a small room with a set of small, but intricately decorated doors detailing the tower's sigil. Zai approaches the door and as he is beginning to push it open he thinks he hears a faint click coming from the door, like it was just unlocked...

Outside he sees night sky. He sticks his head out and sees a maimed looking tower raising above him, clearly the Tower of Weeping Sores, the fortress's namesake. Also above he sees several creatures flying in a search pattern. Vrocks, though he doesn't know it. Further away he sees strange creatures reminiscent of centaurs on patrol, but something is definitely off about them.

Jake sees the party at this point, as well as the massive four armed angelic being that is Glory's eidolon suit, but as he is with his friends it's obviously cool. And so Jake teleports from in from the other side of the door, still invisible, drops his invisibility, and falls on the ground moaning. Fix it, fix it, fix it, says the 9 HP Jake to Beltin. Beltin sighs and does.

The party has reunited!

"Does it look evil? I charge it."

As this heartwarming scene is playing out, Glory steps out of the door and onto the roof of the main fortress. He sees the Vrocks in the air and they look evil. He cries out, challenges them to face Haven's Fury and they decide they want some. So much for subtlety. Initiative!

Seven Vrocks, split into two groups and each wearing a collar depicting the tower, descend upon the party and from further away the strange centaur-esque creatures, now identified by Beltin as Marrow Knights (undead, torso of a man stitched onto a horses body, has a lance it charges with, has barbed wire sewn through the skin on the back of its horse half to keep people from trying to ride it) begin to rally.

Glory goes airborne and charges one of the Vrocks belonging to the group of three, pouncing and utterly destroying it. The other two move in close and drop spores onto him and try to take him down with limited success. And then Glory destroys the second vrock in one round and the last of that group turns tail and flees, perhaps seeking more reinforcements.

The other group of Vrocks lands around the rest of the party, one flying through the doorway and landing on the top of the staircase the party had climbed. Spores, spores everywhere, and Jake again finds his life dwindling.

Fighting continues and Zai grapples the hell out of some vrocks, making them wish they had never landed, but now reinforcements come in the form of several marrow knights, herding three cloud giant skeletons bearing massive clubs behind them! Yay, thinks Beltin, at the sight of the mindless undead ripe for the taking.

The marrow knights charge Zai and make Zai bleed his own blood quite thoroughly due to those "times three damage on charge" lance hits, but then they immediately regret their decision as Zai manages to grapple and pin, not one, not two, but three of them simultaneously. Yes, he essentially pins three horses at once. Don't ask how.

Glory lands to do battle with the cloud giant skeletons, much to Beltin's dismay. He manages to take control of one though and keep it away from Heaven's Fury, but really he would have preferred to have the whole set. Glory does not seem to like Beltin's necromantic antics.

The remaining vrocks, marrow knights, and giant skeletons go down and there appears to be no more reinforcements on the way. At least not yet. The vrock spores continue to ravage the party, nearly putting Jake unconscious, but Beltin does his thing. Upon being caressed by Beltin and receiving Death's Kiss, Glory is thoroughly disturbed by his temporary feeling of what undeath must be like.

He gets his negative energy healing like the rest but tells Beltin to never do that to him again. A threat is heavily implied.

If I were undead where would I be?

With that threat taken care of the party considers their options. They are running low on resources. They are tired. And yet they still have at least three powerful enemies to kill here... They might not be able to do it.

They quickly debate the merits of getting the hell out while they can and regrouping, but Beltin doesn't want to leave without finding his undead and Glory wants to find the 20k gold worth of starting gear he had from character gen but never got to use due to being captured in his back story.

They settle on trying to cast Locate Object on undead Mallerix's skull to find the undead and then seeing from there. It points them back the way they came. They head back through and find themselves in the armory directly outside of the playground entrance, but things are different now.

Racks of weapons and armor are destroyed, the contents scattered around the room. There is fresh blood on the ground. The party sees one of the doors leading into the barracks next door is ripped of its hinges (wasn't like that before) and they go in, ready for combat but the room is empty, though similarly damaged.

Perhaps that "infernal intruder" met resistance here after they had gone... but where are the combatants now? The party stays on edge and follow the locate object spell. It leads them past the balcony with the undead they fireball'd and into a side door. Looks like this area is directly over the hallway where they got Cloud Kill, demonic bug swarms, napalm, and portcullises dropped on them.

The door gets kicked in and inside the room the party sees a hallway the same size as the one below, but at intervals there are trapdoors in the floor, some clearly broken open from the party's earlier battle down below. Noxious fumes come from various boiling cauldrons and stacks of metallic barrels line the walls at intervals. Inside the room are three siege undead, but these ones have bandoliers with flasks strapped to their chests and each has a flask in hand. They seem to be ready... and intelligent.

The party rushes in and are met with alchemist bombs from the three undead. They explode in fire and a poisonous miasma: Cloud Kill, Cloud Kill, Stinking Cloud!

The party makes it through the poison mists mostly unscathed and the alchemist undead become regular dead quickly, but as the fighting is happening, perception checks: At the end of the hallway directly above the main entrance to the fortress is a number of large vats with black fumes rising from within. Sticking up from behind them is a large scorpion stinger.

A Derakni demon steps out from behind those vats and an Insect Plague joins the dangers of the already poison gas filled hall way. Enervations follow and as Zai moves toward the fiend to do what he does best, it stabs him in the chest with its stinger and Zai gets to know how 1d4 con damage a round for six rounds feels.

Note: It doesn't feel good.

Regardless, the demon goes down quickly after that and Beltin makes it like the poison never even happened.

Back to business. Beltin investigates the large vats and finds them to be full of a highly concentrated acid, perfect for stopping things that regenerate from regenerating. And inside are his precious bloody skeletons, though Mallerix is spread into several containers. The party gets them out and throws them into extradimensional storage.

Advancing in the opposite direction

With Beltin's stuff recovered he takes the philosophical approach of "f%*@ you, got mine" in the face of Glory's concern for his own gear and the party decides to get out while the getting out is good and still possible. They jump down the trapdoors that were used to dump death on them from above and are in the hallway leading out of the infamous and "inescapable" Tower of Weeping Sores.

The doors, which were open before, are now thoroughly locked but the strength of Heaven's Fury is legendary. As he works to break down the door, the party sees three collared Baregara step into the doorway at the other end of the hall... but they don't approach.

One has a broken arm and it glares at Zai. Seems they don't want none of this, at least not while they are alone and no one is ordering them forward. They remember what happened last time.

The party breaks down the doors and makes its escape into the night. Totally not running away with their tails between their legs. Once back outside the walls of Tsar they teleport away and back to the Camp and "safety."

To be continued...

Great Thread, thanks for all the ideas :-)

Glad to see it's still going, should be running this again soon. My tabletop group parted ways.

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Reacting to various ideas here:

Distance: I'm with Majuba about making the squares a mile rather than 2,000 feet in Slumbering Tsar. Frankly, the Desolation just seemed too small to me. I wanted the party to have a sense of crossing a pretty big expanse.

The Usurer: My party is increasingly comfortable with the idea that the Usurer is a tenuous ally, especially now that they killed King Kroma for him. In my campaign, the adventurers' campaign is set against a slow military build-up in the Camp, as Bard's Gate prepares for a more traditional (and almost certainly ill-fated) incursion into the Desolation. Set against that naive political ambition, the Usurer seems to them like a realist and a survivor.

One note about the Chaos Rift: This is probably standard for a lot of DMs, but I moved the rock troll brothers and their elevator to a much more logical and accessible location near the main road. It's such a great encounter, a logical gateway to that section of the adventure -- and as positioned it's just too easy for PCs to miss, or to come to far too late to make much sense.

I'm enjoying everybody's stories and getting good ideas for our campaign...


One other thing I'd suggest is to concentrate on finding the full story of Tsar that Gregg has interspersed throughout the book when you are reading ahead. (i.e. skip over the encounters but learn the history.) This is especially worth while for the Midnight Peddler and his hints. You'll find plenty of information that is worth bringing forward a little bit to pique the character's curiosity and increase the foreshadowing.

I like your military build-up idea. That gives you plenty of 'red shirts' to have disappear in the night or be found dead in the desolation, having suffocated in a bone storm.

If you have the PDF consider setting up a shared document where you list all of the hint's & stories your party has collected. The campaign takes quite a while to get through and it's helps the players make sense of things as well as giving them the hint that they should be paying attention.

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My biggest problem with Tsar is getting the PC's to want to go there. How have people been working that? Interspersing missions? "slay all evil"? Meta storylines?

I'm giving serious thought to my S&W conversion of this and want to be able to plant the seeds long before the PC's go there.

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We used a combination of incentives, but the main goal is to make the north road safe again for merchant travel. That cannot be done without purging Tsar of its evil inhabitants.

And Captain Marsh - I like the moving of the rock trolls to suit your campaign. Great idea!

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Here's how I handled the motivation thing - I recount this just for fun, not because it's particularly great.

My ST campaign began in Bard's Gate with the party being exiled for one full year to the Camp for various petty crimes, social offenses, etc.

According to tradition, those exiled to the Camp are part of the New Army of Light. Anyone who behaves in particularly good ways, helping advance the interests of Bard's Gate, gets time off for good behavior.

That was the initial motivation. Kill some bad guys, get home sooner.

But in truth, this ritual of exile has been going on for decades and no one takes it very seriously. Few of the exiles ever return. And the folks of Bard's Gate mostly don't take the Desolation as a grave menace.

It's a threat, but a minor concern, and also a useful foil for the elites of the city when they want to raise taxes or blame an outside enemy for Bard's Gates' troubles.

The wrinkle, of course, is that this particular New Army of Light discovers that something has begun to stir in the Desolation. It's not just a sullen badland. Something new and menacing is brewing.

So my PCs have slowly transitioned from being exiles to being partially assimilated into Bard's Gate's growing military and espionage build-up against the Desolation. They, of course, grasp more viscerally than the city's nobles just how big and ugly the threat is.

With that much meta-plot, my players have totally embraced the motivation. They still have tons of sand-boxy flexibility.

Now when they're, say, rescuing members of the lost Bard's Gate caravan, it's not just for gold -- it's because the members of that caravan almost certainly know something more about the Orcus cult's growing conspiracy.

One thing that I plan to add is a section of urban adventure/intrigue back in Bard's Gate as the PCs struggle against the machinations of the nobility who are bungling their response to Orcus's menace so badly.

I think this will be a good counterpoint to the Desolation story, and it will help my PCs catch up a bit in level. (Their progression has been pretty slow so far...after ten sessions, they're mostly 8th level, with some verging on 9th level...)


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@ MichaelSandar,

One of the PC's was given a back-story where her formerly noble family had been brought low a couple of hundred years previously by a vampire (the Blood Mage although that wasn't revealed to the character, they had to figure it out as things progressed) and she'd tracked his servants (in this case the hobgoblins from G5) to the Camp. The party later encountered some in the desolation and learned that they lived in Tsar.

Mama Grimm was also quite friendly toward the party, explaining about her sisters and her desire for their heads. She also suggested that it was a place with a fair bit of magic around and I kept the amount of magic very low to increase its lure.

One other character - an Inquisitor - was given a backstory that involved the search for a lost goddess and Saint Harul's Hold. He's spent some time searching through documents in old monasteries finding that Tsar was built over Saint Harul's Hold.

The group's paladin was naturally keen on entering, defeating and disinfecting.

Encounters with Dread Ravens (as long as your group isn't trigger-happy) offers a chance to interact. I played the Dread Ravens like the Great Raven Crone from the Malazan series so they were tricksters that the party could get some info and hints from but still wily enough that the party never felt they could trust them.

Demons encountered in The Desolation are from Tsar and they've been gated onto the Prime Material Plane. The first time they killed a demon I made a point of mentioning that it's corpse doesn't vanish like a summoned creature's corpse would.

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To give a reason for the PCs to be there and investigate the Desolation, I created some campaign traits from the "Adventure hooks" from Book 1.

The two bests are :

- land owner : the PC has a "official paper" (either a reward or a heirloom) proving that he is the owner of some location in the Desolation. I chose the last outpost in the boiling lands for the PC that took it, but it could work for a few other locations.

- undead hunter : the player decided that a prophecy from his people required him to hunt undead, so I gave him a list of three very important undeads in the Desolation : the King with an iron eye, the white walker, and last but not least, the knight with a inverted sword weeping blood tears ;-)

As for the players' motivations, it is part of the implicit DM/PC contract :-)

It worked really well so far !

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

My group that has been adventuring in RA, and they got teleported to a place near Bard's Gate and are in TofA. One of the PCs was lost to the group and he created a new character and his back story is that his tribe (cat person) lived in the Desolation and he lost someone due to the situation there and he wants to explore it.

I thought they would go back to RA when they are done but it seems they might just check out the desolation next. That will likely throw them full into Tsar which I did not plan to run for a couple of years.

When and if they get done with that we will likely do the Lost City and then Sword of Air, and of course after all of that, FGG will have put out many more products.

We will be in the Lost Lands for the foreseeable future.

But I really want to get back to RA.

My group is exploring the Citadel at this point and has made a number of forays into the entertainment district. They've done some damage but keep getting chased away. Since there is a portal to the abyss(which they don't know about) the area keeps getting repopulated.

I'm assuming that they are eventually going to find the portal and they are going to want to close it. Does anyone know which rules govern this or does anyone have a suggestion for how a portal would be closed?

Thanks in advance.

I don't think there are any rules governing it, but I think I'm going to treat it as an epic cubic gate-like device. So, in order to dispel it, they will need to cast a successful disjunction on it.


That sounds like it would work. It's doable but just beyond the reach of their current abilities.


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So I'm finally getting another Pathfinder group together and I'm doing something a little odd. I'm using Slumbering Tsar, Rappan Athuk, and the Book of the River Nations (the kingdom building rules) and tying in parts from an adventure path just for some of the more plot chasing players. I've over laid the Desolation and the Wilderness of RA with a Hex map and I'm hoping to start this craziness pretty soon. The group is pretty green Pathfinder wise so I'm going to mostly use ST as background material until they get froggy, pun intended.

If anyone is interested I've got some workup scans of with hex, I'll probably do another workout once I add Resources and a GM Terrain cheat sheet. Drop me a message with your email and I'll send it.

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Google Docs link,
Desolation Player Map Hexes

Rappan Athuk Player Map Hexes

Not to get to linky, but here's a great 3rd party system for exploring and movement, if needed. sandbox

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I have not been checking here in awhile with it being so slow of late. Sorry to hear about your gaming group James, but glad you got a new one together:) Thanks for the links!

My group finally defeated Belishan and Malice. They started in the tower in July! After a nice month rest in Bard's Gate they are now proceeding back to the city and about to enter H-9, The Khanjar's Gauntlet. This out to be fun!

We're still chugging along with group well into exploring the Citadel. They lost one of their Paladins last game.

He'd been taken out by a disintegrate in a roving battle that ran through the entertainment district. When the group made it back to where his remains were they found them being defiled by a dretch mega-swarm. The Inquisitor had had enough of mega-swarms so he hit them with a banishment and poof! The Mega-swarm was gone with all the Paladin's gear.

There was more than enough dust to resurrect him but with the loss of everything the player has decided to move to his backup character.

The night ended with them moving in on the Bell. They still think it is a bell in the proper sense of the word. They are, appropriately, in for a rude awakening.

As far as character deaths go we are now just a couple of entries away from filling the first page.


My players just finished with the Desolation. They just got to level 11 and are ready (in my opinion) for the city (and its guardian !)

Some things in the Desolation that they haven't done yet (and can still do) :

- the Old Death lair
- the werewolves
- the battlehulk

and a few other minor things

In the Camp :

- the Inn encounter (they always slept outside in their own camp)
- the Usurer. Some talks here and then to go and kill him, but no action yet

I found that I had to give them some hints for them to find some places in the Desolation. Just wandering around in the hope of finding things to do wasn't really working. That's why they never went near the Old Death lair or the werewolves lair.

Just 2 deaths overall (always when a player did a stupid thing), the campaign is not as deadly as I guessed it would be, perhaps because we are using a lot more material than when it was originally out (advanced player guide, ultimate magic & combat, ultimage equipment), and also because my players are experienced !

In a few months, I will DM this again for 3 other friends, this time with gestalt characters (to compensate for the small size party) and capitalize on what I learned !

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

Abrusio wrote:

- the Usurer. Some talks here and then to go and kill him, but no action yet

My players never did kill The Usurer. They hated him and talked about it from the beginning, but by the end they allied with him to battle some heavy-duty threats from Tsar that had turned their attention towards the Camp after the PCs started mucking about inside its walls. It actually like it made it even funner that they never went toe to toe with him.

And, yes, the adventure was written with more-or-less only the Core rules, so it's difficulty level has been reduced with the introduction of a lot of the stuff since then. I'd be much more likely to enforce a 4-person party limit with the option s out now. Alternately, feel free to beef it up. At one point in my playtest/campaign I had 14 players at the table for a span of a couple years. I can guarantee that everything they fought mysteriously had an inordinate number of hp to its name. And I did manage to kill a dozen or so PCs when all was said and done. As the skill and/or power levels of the players/PCs goes up so generally does my nastiness in playing the bad guys. I'd recommend play it to the level/skill of your party rather than feel constrained as written if it's making it less fun.

Thank you, I will do that, indeed I already redid some of the encounters.

I can't really enforce a set party number, but I can beef the opposition. The most difficult fights they had were with Kroma, and also the druids, both I entirely rewrote with the extra material my players also used (so it's only fair!). So I guess the extra material really introduced some power creep as I thought.

They can go after the Usurer when they feel they are ready, as I already reworked him and I think he should prove to be a real challenge.

Now I have to work on the temple city part, and also on the "gestalt" run.

Thank you for the excellent work, it has been a lot of fun !

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Once we have finished Mummy's Mask we'll start playing Slumbering Tsar. My players have heard so much about the dangers of this adventure already they are working for months now to build the perfect 5-character-party just to survive.
Little do they know :-)

I've enjoyed every bit of it as a GM.

The PCs are currently in the citadel (just finished the "crotch" of Orcus - heh).

I expect that by the time we finish sometime in the next year Greg Vaughan will be ready to publish his next 950-page adventure....

Right, Greg?

I am having a hard time challenging the party as they are now all 14th level and still within the city. They are hunting around for the statues and only have four so far. They have not even reached T level yet so they roll over about everything they find.

brvheart wrote:
I am having a hard time challenging the party as they are now all 14th level and still within the city. They are hunting around for the statues and only have four so far. They have not even reached T level yet so they roll over about everything they find.

Whenever I was running ST I had similar issues but mostly relating to the random encounters. I could rework the named areas into cool and/or challenging fights as it would make sense that the stronghold for Evil Thing X is hardcore, but doing so to the random encounters just seemed a little too meta-gamey. We aren't playing Oblivion after all, so I didn't want it to be like low level enemies simply cease to exist because the players leveled. As a result I found myself in the position that running random encounters just felt like a waste of game time, but on the flip side just handwaiving the fights ("You evade or stop the hell out of some siege undead") meant that the PCs didn't really suffer attrition and always went into major areas with full resources. It was a quandary.

brvheart wrote:
I am having a hard time challenging the party as they are now all 14th level and still within the city. They are hunting around for the statues and only have four so far. They have not even reached T level yet so they roll over about everything they find.

Maybe that is ok? The world shouldn't "scale up" imo

It is me or is the T level rather wimpy compared to H? Most of the monsters are not much of a threat to 14th level characters even in numbers. They are currently in the basement of the church.

James B. Cline wrote:

Google Docs link,

Desolation Player Map Hexes

Rappan Athuk Player Map Hexes

Not to get to linky, but here's a great 3rd party system for exploring and movement, if needed. sandbox

James, thanks for the hex maps! Do you have a scale for the hexes on each?


ps (about to start my own Stoneheart Valley-Slumbering Tsar campaign!)

Necroing this thread because it's such a great resource for stories and GM advice...

I'm starting to run Slumbering Tsar, and we just had our first session with a bunch of teenagers (average age 14). The party mesmerist got sick from bad hare and was assassinated in the Bender Brothers' privy. Needless to say, they all had a blast.

They now plan to head out into the wilderness, and the first encounter I prerolled is a bone storm.

Looking at the rules for bone storms in the Ashen Wastes, it seems like they are a guaranteed TPK to any party without tiny hut or magnificent mansion. Has anyone else adjusted these rules? I have six party members, average Constitution score 15, average Fortitude save +7.

Even assuming that a not-so-lame Lucky Bjorc were to join the party (the player of the dead mesmerist thought it would be fun to play him) and warn the party about bone storms, AND they detect a bone storm and make preparations before it and shelter themselves in tents, I don't see how they avoid a TPK:

Since death from suffocation occurs with 3 failed Fortitude saves, and the DC of those saves increases by +1 per round, a character would probably need to avoid beginning to have to hold his breath at most 4 minutes before the bone storm ends (average Con is 15, so they can hold their breath 30 rounds [3 minutes]... and it is hard to imagine anyone, once they run out of oxygen, reliably making DC 10 Fortitude saves that increase by +1 every round, for one minute or more).

Since the average length of a bone storm is 15-16 minutes, the characters must, on average, make 11 to 12 consecutive DC 20 Fortitude saves (more like DC 15 Fortitude saves, since they get a +5 bonus if they make preparations). But with their average Fortitude save being +7, they would each need to roll an 8 on their die, 11 to 12 times in a row (about a 1% chance for each character).

Which would mean a 94% chance of a TPK, even with the characters making all the preparations they need.

I was willing to accept one or maybe two deaths for an unprepared party, but this is too much. Is there something about this rules that I am misunderstanding? And have other people made adjustments to the bone storm rules?

EDIT: I just noticed that the Survival skill allows a character to get a +4 on checks against severe weather and help other members of the party get that same bonus, if they stay stationary. But even assuming they all get that bonus, each character would have a 91% chance of dying in the bone storm, and the chance of a TPK is still 58%...

The Rot Grub wrote:
Necroing this thread because it's such a great resource for stories and GM advice...

Have to say, I periodically check this thread every few weeks and would love to start seeing campaign journal/session recaps come back. This is such an amazing piece of work and to see what other people have done with it is always fun.

I sadly will probably not be able to start my group though it until early next year after we finish Age of Worms (after 4 years) and RotRL.
So, I've been living vicariously through other people's campaigns, lol.

I would say to your dilemma, however, that if you are concerned about a TPK and you don't want it to happen, give them a role playing warning about the deadly bone storms from an NPC or something. It would be totally reasonable for someone in the Camp to warn them about it. At least if they don't take it reasonably, it's on them...

Started a Slumbering Tsar campaign recently - we've played 2 sessions and the party has:

- dealt with Gurg
- taken over the Bender Bros' inn
- gone on their first foray into the Desolation, tracking down the lost caravan and returning to Camp.
- had their first encounter with the Midnight Peddler and met the Dweller at the Crossroads (not even remotely tempted by his offer)
- learned that it's not a great idea to take horses into the Desolation

I'm prepping for their exploration of the Ashen Waste, and noticed that the Needle Spray ability of the stick giant at A5-4 has no range listed. Does it only affect adjacent creatures?

Frog God Games

D'oh! That shouldn't have been omitted. Range of the needle spray is a 40-foot cone.

Greg A. Vaughan wrote:
D'oh! That shouldn't have been omitted. Range of the needle spray is a 40-foot cone.

Fantastic - thanks!

They also encountered the dead dragon and the gore beetle swarm, which led to a running joke for the rest of the night. "The strange peddler hands you the dried fish." "And then a swarm of gore beetles erupts out of it!"

Sovereign Court

By the will of Orcus, I cast this thread back into unlife!


Hello. I'm about to run a group of four with a fifth man coming in and out when he doesn't work. Tomorrow is our first session. I'm planning on the characters meeting with the new head of a merchant family who wants them to clear the roads of the Desolation. However, her real goal is to get back some of the gear of Gerrant and Lord Bishu, possibly Argos as well, that she managed to find out about through old texts from the church of Thyr, of which she belongs.

It's been a blast to read through this thread (though I haven't quite finished yet) and it's made me all the more eager to GM the game. I'm planning on taking quite a lot of the suggestions around here, and give reports after the games if the people will it.

Knight of Rust wrote:

By the will of Orcus, I cast this thread back into unlife!


Hello. I'm about to run a group of four with a fifth man coming in and out when he doesn't work. Tomorrow is our first session. I'm planning on the characters meeting with the new head of a merchant family who wants them to clear the roads of the Desolation. However, her real goal is to get back some of the gear of Gerrant and Lord Bishu, possibly Argos as well, that she managed to find out about through old texts from the church of Thyr, of which she belongs.

It's been a blast to read through this thread (though I haven't quite finished yet) and it's made me all the more eager to GM the game. I'm planning on taking quite a lot of the suggestions around here, and give reports after the games if the people will it.

Why, yes, we would be interested to hear how things go...

My players are getting near the end.

It's been a very fun ride.

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