Inspectre's Curse of the Crimson Throne Alterations (Spoilers!)

Curse of the Crimson Throne

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All right, were back on the air!

Session One Hundred Seven:
The party is close to or maybe even at the level where they might be able to something better for the zombie dolls than just killing them.

Well, Rholand did have Raise Dead at the time I believe, but that's a 5,000 GP price tag per ressurection = which is basically what the dolls themselves were worth. As we all know though, the lives of NPCs is basically worth 0 GP to players. ;) :-p

Edit: Actually most of them were probably dead for more than a week, so that would be an actual Resurrection spell at 10,000 GP a pop. Which they would have to find a cleric capable of casting as Rholand still doesn't have that yet - I can't remember if that is a level 6 or level 7 cleric spell, but if it's level 7 that's an end of Book Six sort of deal anyway.

Resurrection -- yep, level 7 for Cleric/Oracle (need to be level 13/14), level 8 for Shaman/Witch (need to be level 15). Level 13 is just a couple of levels in the future, isn't it? Should be more like end of Book Five.

Of course, the cost issue would come up -- so check out Neverending Nights -- I haven't checked the site since everything got changed except to make sure that it was still there, but somewhere in the early-mid episodes the (anti)heroes need to resurrect one of their members, and are to cheap to go for the real thing, so they go for Reincarnation, with hilarious results (repeatedly) . . . .

Shadow Lodge

Laori went for the same treatment with less hilarity.

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Sssshhh . . . Spoilers!

*DM Grin*

We'll cover that in due time, but suffice to say, Laori wasn't always an elf . . .

Shadow Lodge

:) We are about to get to the best part!!

Session One Hundred Eight:

And so now we reach the point where the party can finally catch their breath for a moment since arriving in Kaer Maga (of course it wasn’t to last very long). The next day’s big event was a “council of war” meeting with Parashial, the Brotherhood of Bones (Sial & Laori), and a surprise guest – Thousand Bones, the ancient Shaoti representative of the Skull Clan! The three disparate groups met with the party to basically explain to them how screwed they were, and by extension Korvosa.

It was then that they finally learned the name of their true enemy – Kazavon, an ancient monster who was virtually unkillable save for wounds inflicted by an ancient sword – Serathiel. Apparently the Crown of Fangs used to be a part of the ancient warlord, and through them he had essentially infected Ileosa, slowly growing and replacing her mind like a spiritual cancer.

The party also learned quite a bit of interesting backstory to the game here, including that Parashial was the sole survivor of the adventuring party who last confronted Kazavon in Scarwall 600 years ago. His wife, Sera, was the one who wielded Serathiel during the battle against Kazavon (Mandravius was relegated to an ally leader who brought in a bunch of crusaders from Lastwall) who assumed the form of a dragon during the final battle. She died during that battle, and Serathiel was shattered – Parashial carved Kazavon’s body up with a shard of the blade, leaving the palms of his hands permanently scarred (this was after Kazavon’s seneschal, Kleestad, shived Kazavon in the eye with another shard of the blade).

Once defeated, the pieces of Kazavon were carved up into pieces and distributed to Parashial’s allies – his skull to a crusader from Cheliax from the Korvosa family line – yes, that Korvosa family – his arm to Parashial’s own daughter who was a paladin, his fangs (which was what Kazavon’s host at the time, Adachi, had been wearing to get possessed by him in the first place) went to the Shaoti, and the horns went to a cleric of Zon-Kuthon who founded the Brotherhood of Bones. They all fled in separate directions from Scarwall at that point to try and ensure that Kazavon’s body could never be fully repaired, as even in its current state the damn thing wouldn’t stay dead.

Parashial was also the former head of a band of adventurers once known as the Order of the Griffon, most of which was wiped out during the battle in Scarwall. The remainder were slowly picked off over the intervening centuries by old age, struggles against Kazavon’s army (which was not broken – Kazavon was taken out in a decapitation surprise attack on Scarwall by Parashial and company), and Zarmangorf, a black dragon who was sired by Kazavon. Quite a few dragons in fact had been sired by Kazavon before his death, and Parashial spent much of his time hunting them all down – Zarmangorf was the last one left as far as Parashial knew, but he was by far the most dangerous because he survived Parashial’s attempts on his life long enough to get some age categories under his belt.

And now, he was beyond Parashial’s ability to defeat – Zarmangorf had slaughtered what was left of the Order of the Griffon by this point, and had set up shop in their ancestral fortress. Which, coincidentally, was the location marked on the map and letter to Oliver that the party found on the orc wyvern rider who attacked them out of the blue. Apparently Zarmangorf knew of Oliver’s existence (I had planned on having him just smash Oliver’s house at the end of Book 3 instead of the vampire party, but that seemed a bit too much overwhelming force in the end), so now he would be coming for Oliver, as Zarmangorf had developed a penchant for murdering Parashial’s children – much in the same way as Parashial had been murdering his own all these years until Zarmangorf got too big and old.

Apparently he had tracked down Parashial’s daughter at some point, reclaiming Kazavon’s claw (which had been reforged into the Bound Blade by this point, and then bound into its scabbard with adamantine chains to seal its power). He had then sent a similar letter over a year ago to Parashial directly, taunting him and inviting him to come back to the old Order of the Griffon stronghold in order to say good-bye to his “special guest” – i.e. the paladin daughter of Parashial’s who had been holding the blade. Parashial didn’t have the gumption anymore to keep fighting, so instead he just drank his troubles away all day and had no intention of ever going to the citadel where Zarmangorf would undoubtedly kill him, after killing his daughter in front of him.

Oliver had always been antagonistic towards his father, and this meeting wasn’t a change from that as he basically called Parashial weak and pondered doing to the citadel to do what he could not (good luck with that, Zarmangorf is terrifying). Sial likewise was full of snark, cementing his role as “grumpy a%&@$~&” in the minds of the party as he mocked Parashial for his failures, and for his refusal to rejoin the fight against Kazavon.

Thousand Bones didn’t have much to contribute to this meeting, as it was the Sun Clan who oversaw the keeping of the Fangs of Kazavon in the Grand Mastaba, and “they were kinda self-centered dicks” among the Shaoti. Unfortunately, they were also planning on leading every Shaoti who was willing to go in a war against Korvosa, likely in a misguided attempt to fulfill their ancient duty after the fact that the Fangs had already escaped and were active again (nice job breaking it Cheliax!) So more problems for the party to deal with.

They also learned a bit more about the difficulty they would have in even getting to Scarwall, as it was surrounded by the lost city of (Old) Tamrivena, which in turn had been surrounded by a protective field of fog that caused anyone entering it to stumble around blindly until they eventually emerged back outside from where they came from (or in rare cases, made it through the mists to become trapped *in* Tamrivena – it was kinda like Ravenloft in that way, you only got in if *it* wanted you). The only way through was the use of special lanterns made specifically for guiding groups through the mists (or powerful magic like Find the Path, which the party didn’t have access to). These lanterns were possessed by the Brotherhood of Bones, the Shaoti, and the Order of the Griffon – and after they were brought up Sial thunked the Brotherhood’s lantern onto the table to show the party that they didn’t technically *need* another lantern. Still, having a back-up was always prudent, so if the party wanted to go retrieve a spare lantern from either the Shaoti or the occupied Order of the Griffon fortress, they were certainly welcome to do so!

Much as the Arkona Summer Manor near Harse was Vaz’em’s “I’m special” quest, the Order of the Griffon stronghold was meant to be Oliver’s “I’m special” quest. He never really was all that motivated to get around to doing it though, and the party kept getting involved in Kaer Maga politics, so that questline never really got resolved. Likewise, similar to going into Old Korvosa in Book Three, the party was pretty ambivalent about jumping through all the hoops necessary to make friends with the Sun Clan of Shaoti, get their lantern, and convince them not to attack Korvosa (which will probably bite them in Book Six somehow!). To Sial’s ever-lasting chagrin, however, the party wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about just running off to Scarwall and Book Five right away, and so they continued to dither around in Kaer Maga where “interesting” stuff (from the Chinese value of “interesting” >:) ) kept happening to them.

So important information from this meeting – Kazavon was an immortal dragon whose only weakness was the holy sword Serathiel. Said holy sword had shattered during the last battle against him inside of Scarwall, and the pieces had been left behind by Parashial in his flight from Kazavon’s pissed off armies. So the only way to get that sword was to go back into Scarwall, which was a haunted fortress still likely occupied by a portion of Kazavon’s followers, and where it had already been foretold that at least one of the party would die if they went there. The only way to get into Scarwall was through the use of a special magical lantern that could cut through the mist surrounding Old Tamrivena. Both Sial/Laori, the Shaoti, and the Order of the Griffon had such lanterns, so the party *could* go immediately if they so desired, but with Cid being hunted by devils and Rholand being hunted by ancient evils running off to an evil fortress just yet seemed like a bad idea. The Sun Clan of the Shaoti was mobilizing for war against Korvosa, and they would try to drag the other two tribes of Shaoti, the Moon Clan and Thousand Bones’s Skull Clan, into the war with them. Zarmangorf was a black dragon and the last remaining son of Kazavon, and he really wanted Oliver dead.

And so the board was basically set for the remainder of Book Four, which were all side quests prior to going to Scarwall.

- Cid’s personal quest – Get un-damned from Hell
- Rholand’s personal quest – Stop the Blood Hunt that was on him
- Oliver’s personal quest – Go to the Order of the Griffon and reclaim his legacy (there was a secret vault that had the order’s treasures that Zarmangorf probably didn’t know about, which Parashial told to Oliver and how to get in there, which included the Order’s spirit lantern).
- Deal with the Sun Clan of the Shaoti for their lantern, and to stop another war between Korvosa and the Shaoti
- Still more Kaer Maga politics

Session One Hundred Eight:
Only thing missing from the required sidequests is a personal quest for Va'zem . . . .

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Well, remember that Vaz’em already had his “I’m special” quest completed, which was Arkona’s summer manor and learning all about his heritage. That said, it wasn’t like Vaz’em had nothing to do in Kaer Maga, either . . .

Session One Hundred Nine:

So with the council of war complete, the party was ready to retire for the night. After getting attacked their first night in Kaer Maga by the Freemen and on “thin ice” with the Council (they didn’t trust most of them, what with nearly being deported back to Korvosa and all) the party didn’t have many good choices for accommodations. Thus, De Silva’s generous offer to house the party in his own tower manor in the Highstacks district, just as he did for the Starweavers, was an offer they couldn’t refuse. We spent the entire session on individual scenes for each PC as the evening wore on into the night.

Rholand’s scene was a nightmare, as the poor bastard couldn’t catch a break and despite Cid’s efforts back in Harse to burn out the fragment of Kazavon that was stuck in his head after Rholand’s abortive attempt to remove the crown of Fangs from Ileosa’s head, the fragment was still there – Cid had just removed its connection to the crown. There was still a tiny seed of Kazavon’s influence left in Rholand’s sub-consciousness, which had been shielded by Rholand’s sub-conscious from Cid’s purge – the reason for that will be made clear in Rholand’s personal quest. In any event, the Kazavon seed that was still in Rholand’s mind was starting to sprout now, and put down roots – which basically meant that Rholand was about to suffer the same slow downward slide into madness that Ileosa had.

Phase one of which was having nightmares of being tortured. Rholand dreamed that he was back in Sirathu, before the holy-fountain-turned-crater by Xerxes. A terribly scarred Ileosa appeared before Rholand, soliciting him to join her and take his rightful place has one of Kazavon’s hosts. Rholand of course, not so politely refused, and attempted to turn away only to find an equally scarred Togomor standing there. And a scarred Domina on his other side, and Sabrina closing in from the north, along with another man he had never seen before, clad in a strange dragon-skull plate mail (the reborn Order of the Nail founder Leo Astares, brought back by the devils giving him the Skull of Kazavon breastplate relic). The five of them closed in on all sides, barbed wire unfurling from their mouths as they declared in creepy unison that Rholand was theirs, forever.

Rholand did his best to fight back, summoning a circle of stone around himself using Stone Shape in the dream, but the monstrosities simply began tearing chunks out of the stone wall with their barbed wire mandibles – it would not be long before they were inside Rholand’s shelter and then the pain would start. But suddenly the sounds of the Kazavon-hosts clawing their way through the stone fell silent, and a stunningly beautiful woman with midnight-black hair appeared within Rholand’s shelter of stone, and then offered him her hand in a “come with me if you want to live” moment. The two of them together left for another portion of the dream space, just as barren as the Sirathu crater but without any Kazavon-possessed freaks around to interrupt.

The woman offered cryptic advice, stating that her cycle was over but Rholand’s was just beginning, and that he only had two choices – he could take up the Mantle of Bone (the Shedskin Kazavon relic which at the time was still sealed away) or the Mantle of Ash which could be his salvation from his own Kazavon problem, but would be no less harrowing of a path. Just before the dream ended, Rholand pressed the strange woman on her identity, and she relented enough from the cryptic nonsense doubletalk to clearly state “In life, I was Sorshen, Runelord of Lust and Slayer of Kazavon (from when he rose the last time prior to Parashial and friends dealing with him – so two times or “cycles” ago. The basic timeline is the original Kazavon got wacked by an avatar of Zon-Kuthon, came back during the time of the Runelords, got wacked by Sorshen, came back six hundred years ago, got wacked by Parashial and friends, and now he’s back yet again for the PCs to wack.) Rholand then woke up covered in sweat, but with that choice ringing in his ears – the Mantle of Bone (slavery to Kazaon) or the Mantle of Ash (freedom from Kazavon).

We then switched to Oliver’s personal scene, where he was out drinking with dear old Dad. But it was anything but a sweet reunion – Oliver still had a chip on his shoulder, and his basic reply to anything Parashial had to say could be boiled down to “f@~@ you, Dad”. Eventually, Parashial has enough of this and breaks a bar stool over Oliver’s head, starting a bar fight that was equal parts Parashial vs. Oliver and Parashial and Oliver vs. the rest of the bar. We fast forward through the bar fight to jump to the two of them sitting in the back alley behind the bar, each nursing a split lip with another pint of ale and still kind of glaring at each other.

It's at this point that Parashial admits that he can’t find the strength to face Zarmangorf again, and that he knows if he goes home to the citadel of the Order of the Griffon he’s just going to kill Parashial’s “guest”, his daughter and Oliver’s half-sister, in front of him before killing Parashial. He asks Oliver if he’s still stupid enough to go to the citadel in his place, and hopefully rescue his sister, to which Oli replies basically that he’s man enough (or stupid enough) to make the attempt. Parashial then talks to Oliver about the vault beneath the citadel, tells him where the secret entrance is, gives him a key to open it, etc. Oliver also learns a little bit about the Hammer, the adamantine Lucern hammer that he found back in Arkona manor, and that it was apparently wielded by a member of the Order of the Griffon at one point, a man named “Boomer”, although Parashial is close-lipped on most other details. The plan was for Oliver to go to the old Order of the Griffon citadel, rescue his sister, meet Zarmangorf briefly face-to-face, and acquire another item of Boomer’s that would interact with the Hammer, which Oli was obsessed with. Unfortunately, events played out in such a way that we didn’t get to play out Oliver’s personal quest, which will become clear as we reach the end of Book Four in, oh, about forty sessions.

In any event, we then switched over to Cid, who was back in his own room in De Silva’s tower and making ready to get some sleep. There’s a knock on his door, and Abigail comes in, currently not in her plate armor but instead in a simple dress. They talk a bit more about Eurydice the Leper and the Valley of the Ascended Spire, and Cid’s quest to get himself undamned from Hell, but Abigial has a different purpose for coming here. She has decided that she really likes Cid, and he seems to like her, so perhaps they ought to share a room for the night? This was basically the culmination of a lot of OOC chatter, as Cid had been “playing the field” so to speak and was torn between starting a relationship with one of three ladies that the party had been dealing extensively with – Vox, Laori, and Abigail. Given that Abigail was the only LG one of the lot and probably the kindest of the three, Cid decided to settle for her and agreed that she should stay here for the night (technically, she was also the only one that seemed to reciprocate Cid’s interest, aside from Laori’s non-stop flirting).

Amusingly, I had musical themes picked out for the other two ships, Laori x Cid, and Vox x Cid, but not for the Abigail x Cid ship. Cid’s player actually provided the theme for that one, and after hearing it, well, I just knew that I needed a tragic end for this particular relationship. It just wouldn’t fit with the music otherwise, and I always try to give my players what they say they want! *evil DM grin* Anyway, Abigail did point out that she was a paladin, and Cid was essentially a fugitive from Hell, so it was very well possible that their relationship wouldn’t work out – more from one of them getting deaded rather than personality incompatibilities, given that Cid was damned on a technicality (yeah invisible ink on the contract!) That was Cid’s last chance to get out of this relationship, but he said “whatever, let’s do this”, so cue the music and cut to black as they get to the “kissy face” phase of the night!

Cid x Abigail (Player Submitted!) – Love Kills Us All/ Life in One Day by Redemption

Crashed Ships:
Cid x Laori – Love Me Til it Hurts by Papa Roach

Cid x Vox – Lanterns by Rise Against

And now, we come to Vaz’em who is also minding his own business in his room at De Silva tower when he gets a visitor – everybody’s favorite damsel-in-distress, Trinia Sabor! But while there was a bit of flirting and “you know I *really* like you” going on in the conversation between them, Trinia wasn’t here to make an Abigail-style booty call. Rather, she was here to ask Vaz’em if he wouldn’t mind teaching her some of his tricks. Trinia was sick and tired of being the helpless damsel-in-distress that needed someone else to rescue her and so she wanted to learn how to save herself, damnit. Being able to turn invisible, slip out of bonds, and ninja kick someone out a window all seemed like good skills to facilitate that, so Trinia wanted Vaz’em to teach her (I think the original by-the-book build of Trinia had some ranks in Escape Artist but I either removed them when I did my obsessive-compulsive rebuild of her as I do with all characters in the AP, or there were only a couple of ranks which isn’t really enough to beat the ridiculously high DC – 25? 30? - on even simple manacles).

Anyway, Vaz’em agreed to teach her the ways of the ninja, and demonstrated how to escape from manacles - Vaz’em had invested a number of points into Escape Artist, but he was lucky that he rolled high after a few attempts or this could have been an embarrassing twenty-minute lesson as he tried over and over again to hit the high escape DC on the manacles. Trinia was delighted and impressed by the demonstration, although she didn’t think that she could manage the same just yet (which was an accurate impression given the high DC and Trinia’s lack of ranks in Escape Artist).

So they decided together that Trinia should practice on something a little easier, like escaping from ropes (which technically could be easier or much harder depending on how high the CMB of the guy tying you up is, since it’s 20+the tie-er’s CMB!). Trinia laid down on the floor and Vaz’em tied her up, voluntarily lowering his CMB so that she had an actual chance of escaping without any ranks in Escape Artist (since 20+Vaz’em’s CMB was only a little lower than the manacles escape DC at this point). Yes yes, cue the dirty kink jokes now, but this was meant to be the first step in Trinia’s transformation from sort of innocent bystander to hardened badass, of which I had several ideas to demonstrate how far she had come by the end of Book Four. But before we could cue the training montage of Trinia learning how to be an escape artist, there was a loud scratching at the room’s window. Followed a moment later by the window banging open to allow a horde of the burly four-armed grappler imp-things that had ambushed Vaz’em during the end of Book Three, here to show everyone how to *really* tie someone up (since grappling and bindings was something these Host Devils - Magaav & Gaav - were scary good at, due to their racial grapple bonuses). Trinia screamed, Vaz’em cursed as he remembered how quickly they managed to subdue him last time, and we end the session there.

Session One Hundred Nine:
Looks like Vaz'em will be getting his personal mission after all . . . if he survives . . . .

Shadow Lodge

Episode 109 was hilariously titled "fifty shades of vaz"

I still like my suggestion for theme songs. Holds up well.

I still have to figure out a theme for when Cid laori and Abigail all get into a relationship. So far all I got is this

Stormagedon Dark Lord of All wrote:

Episode 109 was hilariously titled "fifty shades of vaz"

I still like my suggestion for theme songs. Holds up well.

I still have to figure out a theme for when Cid laori and Abigail all get into a relationship. So far all I got is this

Linkified for your convenience. Not a bad idea. But what about this?

Shadow Lodge

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Unarcane gets it :)

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Session One Hundred Ten:

So, we picked up this session right where we left off, namely with Trinia’s lesson in Escape Artist being interrupted by a swarm of burly four-armed imp things that Vaz’em recognized as the same things that ambushed him alongside Marlessa at the end of Book Three (Host Devils, Magaav and Gaav). And there were a *lot* of them, with basically one Magaav and four Gaav crashing into *each* of the four outer bedrooms. That split up the attack a bit, but it also meant that since each person was in their own room (with the obvious exception of Abigail and Cid!) they had to deal with the assault on their own at first.

I had let everyone pick out their own rooms, and split the rooms up as a set of eight rooms total, four interior rooms and four along the outside edge of the tower that De Silva (and by extension the Starweavers and now the party also) lived in. Vaz’em was obviously in one of the outer rooms, as was Oliver, while Rholand and Cid each had one of the inner rooms. Vox was in one of the outer rooms as well, and the fourth one was empty, leaving that pack of Magaav and Gaav escort to cross over into the interior room that Ronda and Cyrus were double-bunking in.

Oliver was pretty much the only one that was basically immune to the Host devils’ preferred tactic of grappling and tying up their prey, since his full BAB and high STR left him with a great CMD and an equally good CMB to break out of any grapple that did manage to land. Still, getting swarmed and surrounded by Gaavs left Oliver with having to hack his way through them one at a time in order to get out of his room. Help was pretty forthcoming for him though, as Rholand exited his room, crossed the hall, and provided Oliver with flanking at least.

He sent Bruno down the hallway to help Cyrus and Ronda with their swarm of Gaavs which ganged up on Cyrus and slowly pinned him down (through a bunch of “you’re grappled!” “I break free!” “You’re grappled again!” etc.) Ronda, on the other hand, had a great Escape Artist score, had basically kept slipping free until the Gaavs got sick of it and started trying to claw her to death (which they didn’t have a lot of luck with either, given they’re only CR 3).

Abigail and Cid came out of Cid’s room to help clear the hallway, Cid without armor (meh, Mage Armor/Shield/Mirror Image and he’s good to go) and Abigail equipped only with a nightgown and a dagger – which you would think wouldn’t be a big problem for her given she’s a paladin, but she only has so many smite evils so she was largely ineffective.

Vox, to my surprise, despite being a Large centaur, was getting grappled down and almost tied up by the Gaavs + Magaav, at least until Cid kicked in the door and fried a couple of the Gaavs on her, allowing her to get free and curbstomp the Magaav with Cid’s help and Shocking Grasp spellstrikes.

But this left Vaz’em and Trinia pretty much alone against a full platoon of host devils, and while Vaz’em managed to stay free this time, his invisibility was once again useless (due to the Magaavs having See Invisible cast on them, and I ruled they basically had a hive mind that let *all* of them see him). Trinia, meanwhile, was not nearly so lucky, and was swiftly grappled, pinned to the floor, and once again tied up but far more securely with no hope of escaping on her own. Worse, one of the Gaavs picked up the struggling Trinia, who screamed at Vaz’em to save her, before it dragged her out the window and out into the night. The party all gave a collective sigh of frustration at that, which was fair given they had *just* gotten done rescuing her.

Fortunately, Cid was relatively free at this point so he cast Fly on himself and dove out the window of Vox’s room after Trinia and the pair of Gaavs carrying her off into the night. He emerged out into the night to find my own contingency plan, in the form of Parashial, already flying around out there (drawn by the sounds of combat and on his way there already, probably to harass Oliver again and resume their argument from earlier in the night). A potion of Fly let him go after Trinia as well, and together he and Cid pretty swiftly cut down the Gaavs outside, caught the bound Trinia, and carried her back inside to Vaz’em’s room where Cid dumped the greatly relieved girl onto the floor.

As the Gaavs fell, they were dismissed back to Hell (or Belzeraga anyway) since they were summoned. The Magaavs that summoned them, however, died as they were struck down, leaving a bloody mess on the floor that someone on De Silva’s staff would have to clean up later. And they bled a bright human shade of red, which was unusual for outsiders, especially evil ones that I tended to have bleed a shade of black, benefiting their foul nature. There was definitely something strange going on there, and after the battle was finally over the group made a bunch of spellcraft and Knowledge rolls to determine that rather than being Called here the Magaavs had been given form by converting human flesh and blood into a body for them, as such making these Magaavs sort of a devil/human hybrid. This led the players to believe that people, possibly members of De Silva’s staff, were getting turned into devils which was not quite right . . . but I’ll wait until we get to the moment of that reveal in a later session before explaining everything. For now, it was a weird mystery that didn’t help the group much in actually dealing with the horrible little monsters.

They got some answers forthcoming about who was responsible for this attack though, as around the time Trinia was being rescued there was another complication out in the hallway as four gigantic man-sized blood red preying mantises charged down the hallway at Rholand. This turned out to be a non-issue as Rholand simply stepped back and cast Stone Shape to pull stone from the walls of the tower to create a new one right through the middle of the hallway, blocking the quartet of mantises from reaching the party. As usual, I allowed this rather significant buff to Stone Shape both out of ignorance and also a willingness to give the party some kind of CC that wasn’t an Oliver to the face (or the *best* crowd control status in the game: DEAD, which both Vaz’em and Cid were quite handy at delivering).

Unfortunately, while Rholand succeeded in blocking off the one end of the hallway from the summoned giant mantises, he failed to notice the Red Mantis assassin (who had helped summon these things) approaching the group invisibly from the other side of the hallway. He made his presence known with a barrage of shuriken that sadly didn’t do much of anything besides dispel his invisibility.

It was around this point that we had to break for the evening, although I will wrap up the rest of the fight here, as that was handled shortly into the next session.

Basically, Oliver and Rholand started hammering away at the Red Mantis, and while the Red Mantis managed to use his swift-action Ninja trick to stab Rholand a couple times for Sneak Attack damage with his sawtoothed sabers, he was ultimately unsuccessful in depleting Rholand’s hit points before his own HP reached zero. So down he went, and the party quickly finished off the remaining Magaav and Gaavs, while hearing the sounds of fighting from the other side of Rholand’s created stone wall. Another use of Stone Shape remerged part of the stone back into the walls of the tower, leaving a 10’ hole that the party could use to see what was going on. What they saw was Granthor smashing a mantis into and partway through one of the hallway’s walls with a mighty blow.

The party swiftly join in in helping him to dispatch the last of the summoned giant mantises, and get briefed by the dwarf barbarian member of the Starweavers that this was not a precision strike against the party – rather, the entire tower was under attack by the Red Mantis and their allies (remember that Ileosa had hired the Red Mantis to kill De Silva near the end of Book Three, and Cinnabar’s choice to abandon that plan was what got her into trouble). So, the Red Mantis were here for all of them, basically. The party also had to get this briefing while not looking at Granthor as since he too had gotten ambushed while sleeping, he only had time to throw on an armored coat before picking up his weapon and laying waste. And that coat was the only thing the dwarf was wearing, as evidentially Granthor slept in the nude, so the party decidedly needed to keep their eyes above waist level on the dwarf.

Abigail, of course, needed to get back to her room in order to get properly armored up and armed as well, and then she needed to find her father and De Silva. Meanwhile, Granthor recommended that the party go with him to Edwin’s room at the top of the tower, as the wizard member of the Starweavers had surely prepared for this eventuality and had a plan (assuming the Red Mantis hadn’t gotten him already).

I had planned for, of course, Abigail to get captured by the Red Mantis as soon as she was out of the party’s line of sight, but they wisely pre-empted that plan of mine by assigning the NPC squad (Vox, Cyrus, and Trinia) to escorting Abigail to her room while the rest of them (PCs + Ronda) went up to check on Edwin with Granthor. Together the whole big mass of them headed down the hallway together before splitting up, where we had our next encounter at the room immediately outside one of the tower’s stair wells (leading both down and up), which is where the two groups would have parted ways. I’ll describe that fight in the next write-up, as that one took up the remainder of Session One Hundred Eleven.

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Session One Hundred Eleven:

So the party was now aware that De Silva’s tower was under attack by the Red Mantis, and while underequipped Abigail and Granthor of the Starweavers were both accounted for. Edwin seemed like the best bet for having a contingency plan to deal with this, and so the party was headed there while Abigail (escorted by the party’s NPC squad) went back to her room to equip and find her father Sergio.

But before the two groups could split up to go their separate ways, they arrived at the nearest stairwell running up and down the height of the tower. In between the stairs up to the next level and the level below was a room with several smaller rooms off to each side – storage rooms, staff bedrooms, and the like. The party arrived at this room to find a scene of carnage, the bodies of several guards scattered about the room. A maid stumbled out of one of the side rooms screaming for help, before she toppled over and the lengths of rope already tied to her were pulled back inside the room, dragging her back inside. More of the obnoxious host devils then, and this time they had hostages. There were also several more giant preying mantises continuing to pick at the dead bodies (indicating a Red Mantis assassin was also nearby), but perhaps the most worrying thing were the quartet of terra cotta stone men standing at attention in the middle of the room.

Granthor and Abigail quickly explained that De Silva had purchased a dozen of so of these terra cotta warriors from the Ardoc Golemworks, as added protection for himself after the Red Mantis threat on his life. Apparently they weren’t worth what he paid for them, however, as the Red Mantis had subverted their controls and they were now hostile to the PCs and the Starweavers. Which of course, didn’t work out too well for them in the end, but you can’t blame a construct for trying what its new masters wanted.

Again the massive double-sized party split up, with Vaz’em & Cid and a few others dealing with the Host Devils and their room full of tied-up hostages, and Rholand & Oliver dealing with the constructs with back-up from Granthor and Vox. Vox lit the terra cotta soldiers up with a few AoE spells such as lightning bolt, which put some serious hurting onto them, while Rholand used his construct-killer oracle power to finish them off and Oliver did what he did best – stand in the middle of a bunch of bad guys, shrug off most of their attempts to hit him, and hack them all apart right back with his cutlass. Pretty sure at this point he finally had gotten his +3 cutlass that he had wanted (he had taken Improved Critical at the start of Book Four to replace the Keen enchantment, but it took until the party reached Kaer Maga or so for him to actually get said cutlass. Whoops, bad DM!)

The assembled statue warriors got taken down pretty quickly, the giant preying mantises were barely more than a speed bump, and the party successfully rescued most of the host devil hostages before the vicious little imps could execute more than one or two of them. Another group of terra cotta warriors standing coming up the stairs from below, clearly being ordered by an invisible Red Mantis assassin behind them, but Rholand cut off that concern with another Stone Shaped wall across the stairs leading down. Given that despite being made out of stone, the terra cotta warriors didn’t have the best of Strength, and it would take them a WHILE to smash a hole through the stone wall Rholand had just made.

For the moment, it seemed like this floor of the tower was relatively clear of threats. The freed maids and butlers (house staff technically, but that’s basically what the half dozen commoners were) went with Abigail and the others, while the party ascended up the stairs to Edwin’s abode up at the top of the tower (in what was basically the tower’s attic). They found the wizard of the Starweavers hanging by his wrists from the rafters above a huge pool of his own blood. Edwin had been captured by the Red Mantis at the start of their attack, tortured for information about how to control the golems, and then executed. So much for the hope that he would be able to help the party deal with the Red Mantis.

But Rholand wasn’t the sort to just give up. After cutting Edwin down the oracle dug into his pack and retrieved a pouch of gems he had purchased since arriving in Kaer Maga. A pouch full of 5,000 GP worth of diamonds to be precise. Now 11th level since reaching Kaer Maga, Rholand finally had access to 5th level spells, which of course included Raise Dead. After a tense minute of Rholand casting while everyone guarded against another possible Red Mantis attack, Edwin coughed violently and opened his eyes. He groaned his thanks to the party and Rholand in particular for bringing him back to the land of the living, and explained that the Red Mantis had ambushed him.

His contingency spells had dealt with the swarm of Host Devils and the like that they had sent in first (always wise to send in the cannon fodder first), but they couldn’t deal with a barrage of shurikens being thrown into his chest during a surprise round/flat-footed first round. After that he woke up hanging from the rafters and was tortured to death by the assassins – it was clear that they were here for De Silva but they certainly wouldn’t mind dealing with the party as well, particularly Vaz’em who they viewed as a traitor. In any event, Edwin knew that the Red Mantis now had control of the terra cotta soldiers, but they hadn’t managed to extract the knowledge that as always, Edwin had a contingency handy. He had implanted bombs into each of the terra cotta soldiers, which were activated using a control rod hidden beneath the floor boards of his room here.

Just as the party was pulling up the floorboards to get at the wand, however, Rholand’s chest started aching again. Five seconds later, and the attic window exploded inward as “Togomor” crashed into the room – the Mezlan, the ancient magical ooze assassin and Second of the Claimants of Rhoalnd’s soul, had returned!

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One Hundred Twelve:

Mezlan/The Three Claimants Theme – Rain of Brass Petals from Silent Hill 3 OST

The first time Rholand had been attacked by the Mezlan, he had run for his life, eventually being teleported to safety by Sial. With Edwin still battered and not having prepared transportation spells for the day, that sort of escape was not really an option this time. At least Rholand had the rest of the party to back him up this time! Unfortunately for the party, despite its preferred humanoid appearance the mezlan was an ooze, which meant that Vaz’em couldn’t sneak attack it, Cid & Oliver couldn’t crit it, and nobody could even flank it to take advantage of the Outflank team feat everyone in the party had. Oh, and it was also resistant to spells and could in fact absorb them to cast later (as Cid learned when he tried the old Shocking Grasp spellstrike trick, only for the Mezlan to steal the spell as his sword struck. Technically, it has to ready an action to do that, so I buffed it by ruling it could absorb any spell that failed to beat its SR. Sorry Cid!) Oh, and it also had Regeneration that could only be turned off by Acid, a damage type that no one in the party could really do. In other words, this was the perfect sort of assassin to send after our heroes given their usual combat tactics.

The Mezlan opened up the fight by attempting to cast Hold Person on Rholand (using a spell it had absorbed earlier from Togomor.) Fortunately Rholand made his Will save, and fled down the stairs with the brutalized Edwin limping along right behind him. He paused at the doorway to the attic long enough to seal the doorway shut with yet another Stone Shape spell after the rest of the party had crossed through onto the stairs. The party kept running down the stairs while the Mezlan effortlessly punched a small hole in the wall and poured itself through. This time as it returned to humanoid shape, it adopted Laori’s appearance – and kept that appearance for just about the entire rest of the combat (each round it was supposed to randomly adopt another NPC’s face to taunt them. I simulated this by rolling a d8, which each side being a different face, and yet it kept rolling the same result – Laori’s face. It got to be sort of amusing after a while, given how unflinchingly it weathered all of the blows that the party rained down on it, much like Laori probably would, albeit with more inappropriate commentary about it!)

With Rholand in the back, Oliver, Cid, and Granthor stepped up to block the stairway once they reached a mid-way landing where the stairs turned 90 degrees. That put Rholand out of line of sight to the Mezlan while he could still reach out and tag some of the party with healing spells as needed. And with the line of people across the hallway to fill it, the Mezlan couldn’t really squeeze through to get at Rholand. Rather than waste time trying combat maneuvers that may or may not have worked, the Mezlan simply opted to go *through* the rest of the party standing in its way, and it identified Cid as the weakest link. Thanks to its ooze traits, it was immune to Illusions (although that trait may only apply due to oozes being mostly mindless, but given it was a CR 14 terror I again opted for keeping that immunity), and as such ignored Cid’s Mirror Image spell. While he had been a solid road block in previous books, Cid’s defenses were starting to slip, especially against anything that could nullify any one layer (armor/Shield spell/Mirror Image) of them.

With its horrifyingly high attack bonus, the Mezlan was able to easily hit Cid’s AC even while power attacking, and consistently hammered him with 20-some damage hits – and it had two slam attacks a round. Oliver and Granthor hacked away at it as best they could, and Cid stood his ground and kept attacking despite the fact that it was rapidly beating him to death. Fortunately for Cid, he was on his last legs at single-digit HP when the Mezlan finally dropped below 100 HP, and its self-preservation instincts kicked in. If it had been Rholand in melee with it and at critical health, the Mezlan may have stayed to finish him off, but without assurances that it could cut Cid down, move through his space, and then cut Rholand down before being destroyed it decided discretion was the better part of valor. And so the ooze assassin turned into a puddle, slithered back into a crack in the wall, and was gone. The pain slowly faded from Rholand’s chest, suggesting that the thing had fallen back to regenerate, but there were no guarantees that it wouldn’t just come back to finish the job after it was once again at full strength (it didn’t, for their sake).

The party then returned to the stairway room they had cleared out last session, just in time to greet the terra cotta soldiers as they smashed through Rholand’s stone wall finally. This time, however, they had Edwin’s control rod, and while they could only trigger one explosive at a time, activating at the rod while pointing it at a soldier meant that it had to make a Fort save or “die” as the bomb implanted in it went off – and constructs have LOUSY Fort saves. Even if they did save (which I think they did once or twice), they still took significant damage from the bomb going off, and were swiftly finished off. The half dozen terra cotta soldiers were supported by two more Magaav devils and a Red Mantis assassin, but that was not enough to turn the tide and soon all of the party’s foes once again lie dead.

Abigail and the other NPCs showed up around this time, Abigail back in her plate armor but without Sergio. He wasn’t in his room when the NPC party went in to check on him, which left Abigail worried about his safety but unfortunately there was nothing that could be done about that right now. Instead, the party and the 3/4ths of the Starweavers needed to get to De Silva’s chambers and protect him. There was no question that the Red Mantis were here for him, and while the Margrave had a panic room that he could hide in, undoubtedly the Red Mantis would have some way to breach it.

Going downstairs, the party made its way to De Silva’s bed chambers without encountering any more resistance – it was unlikely that the Red Mantis had just given up, so they were clearly up to something. They found the bed chambers empty, which suggested that De Silva and his wife were safe rather than dead. Abigail in the lead, the party went into the sizable walk-in closet off of the bed chambers, and Abigail revealed the secret door that led to the panic room. The panic room’s heavy metal door was locked, but after knocking on it and calling out they were able to confirm Luis De Silva was alive and inside. There was a bit of back-and-forth for a moment, but then the Margrave opened the door to reveal that he was safe but alone – his wife had gone for a “midnight stroll” earlier and had not returned.

While this was apparently a thing that she did fairly regularly and De Silva was not bothered by it save that she was now in danger, the party wondered if perhaps the Margrave’s own wife had sold him out to the Red Mantis. That theory was quickly dashed when a voice called out from the hallway outside De Silva’s bed chambers. It was Davos, the Red Mantis assassin who had taken over the Korvosa cell after Cinnabar was remiss in her duties. They had De Silva’s wife Margarot, as well as Sergio, and if De Silva didn’t step out in the hallway and surrender himself immediately they would kill both of them and then storm the bed chambers and kill *everyone* inside.

It was about at this point, seeing that both Sergio and Margarot had been captured together, that the party figured out a new theory for her absence – adultery – and they were correct. Sergio was cheating with the wife of his patron and oldest friend behind everyone’s back, and now the two of them might well pay the ultimate price for it. Of course, that was before the PCs got involved, and so the best laid plans of bad guys and DMs were destined to go awry. That would have to wait for the following session, however!

The Original Plan:

My original plan when speccing out this portion of the game weeks/months prior to actually getting to this point, was to have De Silva’s wife and Abigail as the prisoners of the Red Mantis (possibly with Sergio as a third prisoner, possibly not). Abigail would have just had her paladin powers (temporarily) taken away due to using them to murder Nicodemus in cold blood after he surrendered. This was to be her moment for redemption, and as we all know from TV Tropes, redemption = death. So during negotiation with the Red Mantis, Abigail would attack her captors, freeing Margarot De Silva and allowing her to run to safety, while her angered Red Mantis captors would full-attack sneak attack her to death. All while Cid watched yet another lady he had feelings for murdered in front of him. Hey, don’t look at me like that, *he* started it with that sad musical theme for their relationship!

But as we all know, none of that happened. Abigial didn’t lose her paladin powers because the party stopped her before she could cross a line she couldn’t come back from, and they sent her along with escorts so she wasn’t easy pickings for a Host Devil bondage party. I would have to be even *more* underhanded in my attempts to give Cid’s romance a sad ending, but after this series of failures I was pretty much content to bide my time, and so went out and came up with some new ideas for their relationship other than “everything Cid loves and cherishes dies a horrible brutal death”. And I think the one big idea I came up with for a Kaer Maga “date” for the two of them was a *really* cool moment – you’ll see that in a few more sessions.

One Hundred Twelve:
{. . .} Thanks to its ooze traits, it was immune to Illusions (although that trait may only apply due to oozes being mostly mindless, but given it was a CR 14 terror I again opted for keeping that immunity), and as such ignored Cid’s Mirror Image spell. {. . .}

Oozes don't actually have immunity to all illusions -- mindless Oozes have immunity to "all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects)". However, Oozes DO also have Blindsight, and thus get immunity to Illusions that depend upon sight (unless they are somehow granted normal vision in addition to their other senses -- then they would be susceptible to Illusions altering the visual appearance of something that was out of range of their Blindsight).

Shadow Lodge

Don't for a minute think that Cid won anything by cleverly stopping the original plan because the end result was much more horrific than the original plan. Bastard!

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UnarcaneElection – That’s right. It was the Blindsight that rendered the Mezlan immune, not the general immunity to Illusions. I knew it had some way to see through Cid’s favorite spell!

One Hundred Thirteen:

So Davos thought that he was in a pretty good situation at the moment, with two important hostages in the form of Lady De Silva and Sergio of the Starweavers. What he didn’t count on was that he lacked experience in dealing with the party’s antics. To wit, Rholand went out to negotiate and played dumb, trying to convince the Red Mantis that they didn’t really want De Silva or something to that effect. It basically baffled the hell out of Davos and the other Red Mantis, who thought their demands were pretty clear – hand over De Silva for the two hostages. But Rholand just kept talking and keeping them occupied while Cid got into position.

Bamf – surprise round dimension out to the hostages. Win initiative, grab them, cast Dimension door again, and bamf out with both hostages. Rholand throws up another wall of stone across the hallway. Game over, Red Mantis. You just lost all of your leverage, and while you still temporarily had the party trapped in De Silva’s bedroom, you’d have to come after them by hacking through a wall of stone, bottlenecking yourselves nicely for Vaz’em, Oliver, & Cid to hack you to pieces. But the Red Mantis had one last card left to play, and rather than attempting to burst through the wall of stone after them, they mysteriously backed off.

The party was understandably confused by this, while Edwin started getting a sinking feeling in his stomach, given the Red Mantis had apparently done their homework on the Marquis’ defenses. Deciding to come clean, Edwin revealed that he had ensorcelled the tower with destructive magic that would cause it to self-destruct once a ritual was conducted near the tower’s base. Cue Abigail and the other Starweavers going “what the hell is wrong with you!?” while Edwin half-hearted tried to explain it was a failsafe he had planned to use if the tower was ever in danger of falling – he’d teleport everyone out to safety first, of course, leaving only the invading bad guys to get annihilated! Apparently he’d had planned for his own contingency to get stolen out from under him, however, and so now the shoe was on the other foot with the party needing to break out of De Silva’s room, get to the ground floor ballroom, and stop this ritual before the Red Mantis could enact it.

Rholand removed the stone wall, and the party charged forth to find several conscripted constructs and more Host Devils waiting for them, but no Red Mantis . . . which seemed a reasonable confirmation that the Red Mantis were getting clear before blowing the tower and everyone inside to pieces. The handful of devils and constructs guarding the previously blocked hallway were little more than a speed bump, and the party hustled downstairs with the reunited Starweavers while Vox & Cyrus attempted to get as many people safely out of the tower as they could, just in case.

Arriving at the doors leading into the ballroom, the party discovered a sizable pool of blood seeping out from underneath the door, and agonized screams coming from within. Whatever was going on inside the ballroom, it was already bloody, and would only get more so as the party kicked in the door. What they found waiting for them beyond was equal parts horrifying and disgusting.

From the doors leading into the ballroom was a stream of blood flowing all the way back to the stage where bands would set up to perform. The entire surface of the platform was covered in blood, and lying atop it was a woman writhing in agony as a Magaav host devil (itself a Medium creature) clawed its way out of her back in an eruption of blood. Only Vaz’em was able to recognize the woman, and even then with all the blood everywhere it was a stretch for him – Marlessa, the insane lover of Kynndor Thok who had ambushed him and attempted to drown him at the end of Book Three. And standing next to her up on the stage encouraging her was another old “friend” – Adonis Kreed. Adonis greeted the party with a cheery wave, told them that this was his cue to exit stage right, but before he left he had one last gift to give Marlessa. Pulling out a vial filled with blood (Domina’s Kazavon-tainted blood), Adonis dressed it up to her lips and rapidly dumped the contents into her mouth. Marlessa screamed in fresh agony as her skin split apart further, and then began to laugh maniacally as her skin was replaced with scales and leathery hide. Adonis blinked out of existence at that point, teleporting away as Marlessa rose to her feet as a half-fiend, and with a shout of fury birthed her final abomination into this world, a seven-headed Fiendish Pyrohydra (which she summoned using her once/day half-fiend ability to summon an evil outsider.) Cue battle music (perhaps a little too on-the-nose, but I get my deranged ideas from many sources)!

Marlessa the Half-Fiend’s Theme – The Beast and the Harlot by Avenged Sevenfold

The pyrohydra pretty much just waded forward to try and block the door with its huge butt, and immediately got swarmed and chopped to pieces before it got to do anything cool (that’s what AC 17 gets you at these levels). That left Marlessa and four Magaav host devils (the last of the devil/human hybrids she had “birthed” as part of the joint Red Mantis/Adonis Kreed & Domina assault), which were considerably more difficult to deal with. For one thing, each of the Magaavs immediately summoned a swarm of Gaavs to help them, which gave Marlessa pretty much her choice of flanking partners. And as a half-fiend Slayer, she could really put out the hurt (as Cid realized to his chagrin when he realized he had just worked his alignment up to Lawful Good just in time to get Smite Good’d by Marlessa).

Marlessa also blasted the party and Starweavers with a Blasphemy (as she had plenty of levels in Slayer, given her a full suite of half-fiend powers to play with), but it didn’t do too much to slow the party down thanks to making the will Save. While things never got too bad for the party has a whole, there were a couple ugly moments – Abigail nearly getting pinned and tied up by a Magaav, who would have immediately executed her & Cid eating a Smite Good full-attack from Marlessa being the highlights. But the party gradually killed their way through Marlessa’s “children” with only slightly less efficiency than they had “The Beast” (aka the pyrohydra), and Vaz’em and Granthor slowly chipped away at Marlessa’s health.

The fight actually stretched into most of the following session, but in the end that outcome was fairly predictable – Marlessa fell beneath the combined might of the Oliver, Vaz’em, Cid blender (with Granthor pitching in as a fourth blade). But she didn’t die alone – Cid ended up getting dropped into unconsciousness by a couple lucky hits that got him through his mirror images. With a few mirror images left but hanging at only a few hp above his negative con (i.e. Death), Cid was perhaps safe from Marlessa finishing him off . . . but not from the swarm of three or so summoned Gaavs. Who on their turn full-attacked the fallen magus on Marlessa’s command, tearing him to pieces. And that’s how I offed a level 11 magus with a CR 3 gribbler!

One Hundred Thirteen:
Let me guess: It's going to be Hell to get back Cid's soul . . . .

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Actually, getting Cid back to the land of the living this time was pretty much a non-event. De Silva was grateful for the protection, and Edwin was especially grateful for the party bringing him back from the dead, so the diamonds to raise Cid from the dead were available pretty much first thing the next morning. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to hurriedly slap together yet another after-death party for Cid . . .

Session One Hundred Fourteen:

So Marlessa was dead, and with her pretty much all of the devils that had been birthed from her flesh. The rest of the Red Mantis had run off expected the tower to explode, and boy were they disappointed when there was no earth-shattering kaboom a few minutes later. But at this point it was too late for them to go back in to finish the job, and Davos was forced to report failure back to Katlyana, who was now in Korvosa to take over command. She was not happy with Davos, to say the least, and once again re-organized the Red Mantis to be commanded by a familiar face. A familiar face which took a while to be dispatched to Kaer Maga, and thus the party had a moment to breathe.

Cid was also dead, and once more found himself in the comfortable abode of Eurydice the Leper, rather than in the hellish Balzeraga. They talked a little bit more about what Cid was expected to do, namely reach the Ascendant Spire, but before Eurydice could get too detailed in her explanations the wall exploded inward. Standing there in the gap in the wall was Leo Astares, fire-scorched skeleton and all, but now the founder of the Order of the Nail was clad in an immense dragon skull breastplate (the Armor of Skulls relic of Kazavon). Leo pretty much back-handed Eurydice across the horizon, and then explained to Cid that things had changed.

The devils holding all of the Order of the Nail prisoner had pretty much done f*~+ed up by deploying their own relic of Kazavon, and with a lack of good candidates to choose from they put it on Leo. Who instead of being a good little soldier pretty much immediately declared that HE was now in charge, not the devils, and started setting up a new Order – the Order of the Bleeding Eye, the first member of which the party had already met (Xerxes).

Leo walked Cid outside into the barren wasteland, where nearly a dozen immense twisted suits of armor like Xerxes stood at attention (Xerxes himself was also present). DeVries was also present, hanging by his wrists from a set of scaffolding as he writhed in agony. Leo Astares explained that the choice before Cid was now quite simple – he could join the Order of the Bleeding Eye by willingly drinking his blood, or be force-fed the blood and become a servant of Kazavon anyway. Obviously Cid chose the “I spit in his face” option, which resulted in him going up next to DeVries, his jaws pried open, and blood from Leo’s armor (since he didn’t really have “flesh” anymore) was poured down his throat. Cid then heard a voice commanding him to surrender, to just give in, to which Cid responded with ever frantic “no!” as pain flooded through his body, the transformation into a full “Hell Knight” like Xerxes kept at bay only by his will. While Leo wandered off to cackle maniacally to himself, Eurydice came quietly crawling back into the scene, attempting to provide Cid with morale support and healing until such time as he was resurrected. But he had already partaken of the blood of Kazavon, an act which would have repercussions later (but worked well with my own plans for Cid’s “I’m special” quest).

Once Cid was back in the land of the living, De Silva expressed his gratitude to the party’s continued friendship, by awarding each party member with a bulging sack of 1,000 PP (10,000 gold). His wife was a bit of a shrew over the whole “you brought ASSASSINS into our home!? Which nearly killed ME!?”, prompting De Silva to make the fateful decision that the only way to keep everyone safe was for him to disappear. He would wander away across the face of the earth with the next merchant caravan departing Kaer Maga, perhaps for Nirmathas or Magnimar, and do his best to disappear from anyone’s notice. Given that the Red Mantis *never* stop hunting, De Silva would have to disappear for forever. With a final hug of farewell to his wife and to Sergio, his oldest friend (and a request to “keep her safe” that made the party convinced that De Silva knew about the adultery going on between Ms. De Silva and Sergio) De Silva departed.

Unfortunately, his departure left a gaping hole in the Kaer Magan City Council ranks, leaving the vital role of facilitator and tie-breaker open. Future council sessions were sure to be a joy – the party was really looking forward to them without De Silva there to push through all the petty sniping and bickering!

And that was pretty much what was left from Session One Hundred Fourteen after concluding the fight with Marlessa took up the first half.

Session One Hundred Fourteen:
Session One Hundred Fourteen wrote:
{. . .} His wife was a bit of a shrew over the whole “you brought ASSASSINS into our home!? Which nearly killed ME!?” {. . .}

Can't say I blame her . . . .

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And from here we broke out into an extended series of roleplaying-only sessions, as each party member attended to their own business within Kaer Maga. We wouldn’t really get back into a proper combat until Session One Hundred NINEteen!

Session One Hundred Fifteen:

So this session was a little on the slow side, with mostly set-up work for the sessions to come.

The biggest piece of news was that Sial had finally negotiated access for the party to the Therassic Spire, the largest library in Kaer Maga and perhaps in all of Varisia, where knowledge of all esoteric sorts could be discovered by plumbing the countless stacks of ancient tomes. After hearing about the various research tasks in Mummy’s Mask, I thought I would try something a little similar with Cid’s Ascendant Spire and Rholand’s Blood Curse. Only instead of depleting a number with skill checks until the research is complete, I left it as an open-ended number that each skill check would add to, and once it grew beyond certain thresholds the party would learn a new piece of (hopefully useful!) information on the subject.

Researching the Blood Curse required either the History or Arcana knowledge skills, while researching the Ascendant Spire required researching the Geography or Religion knowledge skills. Cid set to work on researching the Blood Curse, while Rholand set about researching the Ascendant Spire. Since Ronda also had knowledge arcana, Oliver also loaned Ronda to Cid as a research assistant. Together they both made excellent rolls, resulting in something like a 40 total result after the first day of research.

That got them that the Blood Curse was an ancient ritual utilized by the Runelords of Thassilon to punish and eliminate their enemies. Generally more as a means of execution than anything, but also theoretically assassination if they could get the blood of their enemies in order to enact the ritual. Apparently relatively early on in the days of the Thassilon Empire, there was a great enemy that rose up to challenge the Runelords and waged a terrible war that nearly tore the empire apart – reading between the lines, Cid was able to figure out that this “great enemy” was Kazavon. At some point in this war, the Runelords attempted to use the Blood Curse against him, but to no avail (being literally immortal does have its perks when a bunch of hideous high-CR abominations kick in your front door).

Rholand, meanwhile, got something like a 12 on his own, which only got him mostly information the party already knew from bits and pieces (such as the second death sequence with Eurydice). The Ascendant Spire was the point on Golarion where Ragathiel ascended from a Duke of Hell to an Empyreal Lord. One of his immense wings was torn from his body by his father Dispater, and it is that immense wing, now calcified, that makes up the towering rock peak known as the Ascendant Spire. Where that actual spot on Golarion is, however, was a matter of much scholarly debate and Rholand wasn’t able to find any useful mention of that (as yet).

Meanwhile, while Rholand and Cid were doing all this researching, Oliver and Vaz’em needed some stuff to do. So Oliver got some intrigue plot hooks dumped into his lap, and Vaz’em got to start Trinia’s training on the path of the ninja (plus some more, half-formed plot hooks).

Oliver’s plotlines started with him walking through town when he overhears an announcement from a crier that Pyre and Slag were having a “going out of business” sale of slaves later that day. Apparently the fire giant pair had decided to pack up their slavery business in Kaer Maga and “retire”. Oliver didn’t buy a second of it, and after getting Elice to tell him about some of her former Freemen contacts, got in touch with someone who claimed that Pyre and Slag weren’t packing up business at all. Instead, they were merely shuttering their Kaer Maga side of the business – instead of being sold in the city all of their slaves would now be earmarked for another destination. It didn’t take much to figure out that other destination was Korvosa, and Queen Ileosa was their new best customer, buying up males for unethical experiments and females to swell the ranks of the Grey Maidens after proper conditioning.

This also was implied to tie into Vaz’em’s side story, which was that Pyre and Slag were secretly kidnapping Kaer Magan citizens again to sell to Korvosa, which would ultimately come back to bite them since they would be strengthening their eventual enemy when Ileosa was finally ready to move against Kaer Maga itself. Of course, Pyre and Slag were planning on being long gone by that point, although it was likely that killing both of them off was going to be the party’s first goal in Book Six. Likely after they had gotten tired of the Starweavers and killed them all off save Abigail, who they would sell off to Korvosa (my newest plan – if I couldn’t manage kill her off, then I’d turn her into a Grey Maiden and have Cid do it for me). None of that actually worked out, and more or less the way the rest of Book Four played out Pyre and Slag went out of business much sooner than anticipated.

In addition to Pyre and Slag kidnapping people off the street, however, I was also planning on having a more immediately threat abducting Kaer Maga’s citizens, as Togomor began his campaign to carry out his threat against the city after the City Council voted against extraditing the party back to Korvosa. The start of that plotline was this session, with Vaz’em and Trinia out practicing Trinia’s ability to blend into crowds and shadowy streets when they came across a trio of low-level thugs knocking out and tying up a young woman. Vaz’em tore up a couple of them, and then left the last one alive as basically a training bag for Trinia to practice her sneak attacking on.

Vaz’em would just stand there providing flanking for Trinia, and explain where to aim to badly injure, and where to aim to kill, the man. Seeing as how the punk was caught red-handed trying to kidnap someone, and was trying (without much success) to hit her, Trinia winced a bit with each brutal stab she did, but eventually she tore the guy’s guts out and littered the alleyway with them. They woke the woman up afterwards, but she wasn’t able to provide much information about what had just happened. One of the thugs which Vaz’em had merely knocked out was also woken up, interrogated, and after he revealed that the only thing he knew was that someone was paying good coin for female slaves, Vaz’em disposed of him.

Session One Hundred Fifteen:
Sounds like the RP is setting up for some important fights in the future.

Your library implementation is intriguing. Although Therassic Spire makes me think that it's a library that specializes in prehistoric creatures . . . .

By the way, whatever happened to Hell's Thieves?

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Well, I haven’t thought about Hells Thieves in a while, but I still tool around with ideas in the back of my head now and then. It’s definitely not shelved entirely, merely on indefinite hiatus, let us say, until I need to actually run it. Which may be after this Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign is finally complete! We’re getting into the final stretch here, although the game itself is currently on hiatus until I finish prepping Scarwall. Which still leaves me plenty of material to write about, as we stopped at Session One Hundred Seventy-Five (yeah, Book Four got stretched out pretty good, and Book Five might be the same thing. I just can’t seem to help myself with making up additional content to bolt onto the story!)

Also, yeah, I could see Therassic spire involving dinosaurs. That’s actually what it is listed as in the Kaer Maga handbook, and it fits into the gonzo theme of the city. Probably should have greeted the party with a giant dino/dragon skeleton in the front lobby of the library . . . that’s animated and can give directions because heck yeah!

Session One Hundred Sixteen:

So Rholand’s player was out for this session, so Rholand just hung out in the Therassic Spire and made his research checks, which was a disappointing eleven, advancing his research on the Ascendent Spire up to a total of 23. This did at least give him enough to learn that there was a traveling saint who wrote about his travels, and in one of his journals he discussed the Ascendant Spire. So Rholand knew what book to look for in the gigantic library now, at least?

Cid meanwhile, continued to crush his research on Rholand’s Blood Curse, although rather than learning more about the Blood Curse itself he found some more references to the “great enemy” that the Runelords fought against. Namely, that their enemy was in fact one of their own, the man who sat in the chair that Karzoug would eventually claim before he became known as the Runelord of Greed. Essentially, this was before the Runelords were actually the Runelords, and instead just councilors for Xin the Emperor. And the man seated in the chair that would become associated with the Runelord of Greed rebelled against the Empire. Cid also learned that there were rumors this man and the Runelord Sorshen were lovers, and that it was she who ultimately struck him down in a final battle on the outskirts of her imperial district . . . which would be right around where the Bloodsworn Vale is today. Apparently, this traitor’s seat of power was in fact the city of Kaer Maga, which sort of implied that Kaer Maga and Korvosa had been at war since the dawn of time, and recent wars were just a re-enactment of this terrible one between Runelords.

Cid wasn’t able to get much further in his studies than that, however, because Abigail came by to visit. She was here to let Cid know that one of the city council members had been murdered last night. Harold the troll augur had been just seated in the middle of a random street doing his self-mutilation augury thing for a client when a cloaked figure just walked up to him and shot him dead. Normally even a firearm wouldn’t be enough to do that to a troll, so everyone is mystified as to how Harold was dead, but dead he was. Given he was pretty friendly for a troll and had been one of the few councilors on the party’s side, this was very bad news. The rest of the council, understandably, was howling for blood but at the moment there was nothing for Abigial to do while Edward did his batman wizard investigation thing.

So without anything to do about this problem for now, and troubled by Harold’s sudden death, Abigail needed to blow off some steam. She had an idea for a fun distraction, but would like Cid to come along for company as she wanted him to visit a part of the city she adored. Ostensibly this would also show him that the city isn’t all filth, criminals, and violence. She seemed really excited about this particular trip, so Cid reluctantly set the books aside and joined her (who am I kidding, he leapt at the chance to get out of the stodgy old library to hang out with his new girlfriend).

On their way through the city streets, however, they caught sight of a cloaked figure following them. And with Abigail being a paladin and Cid being Cid, and a murdered on the loose, they decided that the best solution for this was to turn around and confront the figure. And when the figure turned and started to run away without saying anything, to chase after the figure and run it down. Fortunately, their quarry was not particularly athletic, and after failing to jump over a wall in a back alley’s dead end, the figure was cornered.

Lifting back the hood, Laori revealed herself to the two, and very awkwardly tried to explain herself. Which was basically that she *totally* wasn’t stalking Cid, but instead of just worried about his safety (with a paladin). Abigail and Laori stared at each other a bit, but since Abigail was evidentially the winner of Cid’s heart there wasn’t much she could do but back down, and just as awkwardly run off with a promise she would leave them alone. Poor Laori.

With that little hiccup settled, the two continued on their way to their destination, a tiny kite shop run by a gnome named Uri. Apparently, Uri recognized Abigail immediately, and merely confirmed that her order was ready with a nod. Going out back, the two found a gigantic kite waiting for them, which Abigail explained was for flying off the windy cliffs of Kaer Maga. Only instead of controlling the kite from the ground, you actually strapped yourself into the kite itself and were dragged up into the air with it – flight for those without access to the Fly spell, basically.

Cid wasn’t too sure about this whole idea, especially when Abigial mentioned that they would need to remove their armor in order not to weigh the kite down too much – taking two people up at once would already by taxing its lift, but Abigail wanted Cid to experience a flight with her. So Cid reluctantly agreed to this idea, they got out of their armor, carried the kite to the edge of the cliffs, strapped themselves into it, and leapt off the side. The winds around Kaer Maga’s cliffs were fierce, and threw the kite around like a leaf in a tornado. Yet Abigial somehow managed to keep the kite from smashing them into the rocks, and while Cid was terrified during the entire experience the normally serious paladin was like a little kid on a roller coaster. Abigail whooped and laughed, her love for the experience of flying clearly written across her daredevil grin. When they were finally back down on the ground, Cid pointed out that if she loved to fly so much, there were Fly spells and the like, but Abigail merely shook her head. Too short of a trip, and it just wasn’t the same when the magic took care of almost all the details of flying – with the kites she had full control over the flight. It was just her and the wind, and that made all the difference.

It was basically meant to be an adorable character building moment for Abigail, since she was going to sticking around for a while, and I think it largely worked for adding a new facet onto her character.

We also did a few short scenes with Vaz’em and Oliver during this session. Vaz’em continued to hunt for these kidnappers of random women off the street, and who was bankrolling them. He didn’t really make a ton of progress on his investigation, which was partly my fault as this subplot was rather half-baked and I wasn’t sure if it was Pyre and Slag ultimately behind this round of kidnappings or if there was another purpose behind this (one of Togomor’s plots to destroy the city, which would be coming up on Rholand’s next sideplot scene).

Meanwhile, Oliver finally got some good payout from his teeth-griting association with slavers Pyre N’ Slag and their Scarzni contacts. To wit, he got a pair of letters from people in Korvosa – one from his gang, informing him that they were alright and were under the protection of the Scarzni, who seemed to have worked out some kind of deal with the Grey Maidens (namely, trade slaves from Kaer Maga in return for the Grey Maidens not rounding up all the Scarzni). The Scarzni’s deal extended to Oliver’s gang as well, so despite their association with the wanted man they were also left alone for now. Kroft’s letter was even more grim, mentioning how dire things had become in Korvosa under martial law now, and that the Grey Maidens were tightening their grip on the city. Kroft was organizing a resistance force, but she wasn’t sure how long they would be able to hold out against the amount of force they could bring to bear.

The point of these messages was clear – these people in Korvosa who were important to Oliver were only safe because of Pyre N’ Slag’s deal with the Grey Maidens. And if Oliver caused any problems for the fire giant slavers, they could just as easily remove that extension of protection to the people he cared about. Cue Oliver nearly breaking his teeth, he was grinding them so hard. And at which point he decided that enough was enough, it was time for Pyre N’ Slag to get one thing straight (which was basically that they weren’t doing him a favor, protecting his people in Korvosa was the only thing keeping them alive). He sent a message back to Pyre to let him know that he wanted to speak with the fire giant, and that was about where we ended the session.

Just now realized that another episode has been posted.

Session One Hundred Sixteen:
Next, I want to see a Paladin and a Hellknight Magus try out a hang glider . . . .

Shadow Lodge

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Inspectre, you're 60 sessions behind!!! GET TO WORK! ;P

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It took a bit longer than I expected, but we just closed out our Curse of the Crimson Throne game last night. Turns out that having a concussion, developing corneal erosions, and coordinating high-level Pathfinder over Roll20 slows the pace down a bit! But it ended magnificently, so I figured I'd drop back in to let you know how it went.

End of Scarwall, then Chapter Six:
Scarwall continued to go well for us. After the first spirit anchor was destroyed, Mithrodar reached out and made Laori an anchor - luckily the party had the spells prepared to cancel that curse on her, though she was a bit panicked by it. The other spirit anchors weren't too difficult, but the corpse lotus proved a significant challenge for the party. They freed Belshallam from the curse using dispel evil rather than just murdering him. There was a fun encounter with the haunts and geists, as the party had a forced split into three separate groups once the haunt hit and encountered three fights simultaneously. Imperia's player loved Scarwall, archer paladins are seriously strong in the encounters there.

Zev was a very fun encounter - Indigo had greater invisibility cast on her and ran around behind him to get a sneak attack, but he soul trapped her. Nika had True Seeing on and saw what happened, but her oracle curse meant she couldn't share that information, so she started freaking out in Abyssal while the rest of the party was oblivious. Imperia wrecked Zev the round after, though, and the party leveled, so Nika learned resurrection and raised Indigo from the dead right after the fight.

With the curse broken, they ran into Ildervok, and the party (unsurprisingly) sided with Laori. Sial was a pushover. Laori's crisis of faith came to a head afterwards, and, talking it over with Ulafiel afterwards, decided that Zon-Kuthon simply wasn't right for her anymore. The love that the party (and especially Ulafiel) had shown her made the pain of her past feel unimportant - her alignment made a jump to Neutral, and she basically said "up yours" to ZK and dedicated herself to his sister. She picked up a glaive, Ulafiel took the Leadership feat, and Shelynite Laori became a full-time member of the party. Her waves of ecstasy became a strategic staple in the rest of the campaign.

That just left some gugs and Kleestad in Scarwall. Jannara was the first to lay hands on Serithtial, and it transformed to a greatsword in her hands. She also had a vision - of Korvosa burning, and Ileosa laughing and the shadowy form of a dragon looming over her. In the vision, Jannara chose to lunge and the draconic form, which pleased Serithtial. Jannara was psyched - maybe she still had it in her to become a paladin after all! Mechanically, I let her retrain her archetype and feats, so she was focused on two-handing instead of polearms - she trained a bit as the party returned to Korvosa.

The last chapter was played pretty close to the text for the first half. Indigo and Majenko faced off against Trifaccia alone, a fight she lost for a while until she finally landed a sneak attack, then the "chain of pain" started and she murdered him in another round of combat.

When Zarmangarof and Sabina showed up, Ulafiel instantly mazed the dragon, giving Sabina some time to parley with the party. It took Zarm eight rounds to get out of the maze, by which time the party had established blocking walls of force and were buffed to hell and back and waiting with readied attacks - I've never seen a dragon die so hard.

Castle Korvosa was a lot of fun. They fought "Ileosa" (Arkona) and quickly realized it wasn't the Queen. Indigo had a small panic attack when they realized the Queen was a rakshasa. Sermignatto used demand to quietly separate Nika from the party and summon her to his chamber, where they... Chatted?

Sermignatto was calling Nika by another name - Kusafsa - and acting like she knew who he was. Her presence had convinced him, he said, that Ileosa was in fact Runelord Sorshen reborn. He realized pretty quick that Nika didn't know what he was talking about. He wasn't too put off. He verified that she was loyal to Ileosa, bemoaned that she had sold her soul to Lorthact ("If she's really Sorshen, she's much better with her soul intact!"), and encouraged her to visit the headmaster at the Acadamae and speak with him about cancelling out the contract.

The party didn't have any trouble at all with the rest of the castle, though finding a tomb in the dungeons guarded by Shining Children (that dutifully disappeared as soon as they saw Nika) and that had Nika's likeness carved into it was a little disconcerting. They also laid Venster to rest, and, uh, hooboy the cards they drew from the Harrow deck of Many Things were nuts.

Imperia drew the Rabbit Prince, so every critical threat arrow she fired was automatically confirmed, and she became a crit magnet herself, and the Queen Mother, which meant the party gained a formian myrmarch pet, and the party count increased to 8.

Indigo drew the Mountain Man, and became a disconcertingly big gnome.

Nika drew the Desert, giving her a one-time super-teleport, and the Twin, creating a second Nika that is entirely loyal to Ileosa and appears at Ileosa's side. (B&%~&*%.)

Majenko drew the Winged Serpent, and he wished to be a very tall gnome... That can also sometimes be a house drake. It was cute. Indigo and Majenko, bffs for life.

Jannara got the Dance. Roll twice for intiative, forever!

Ulafiel drew the Waxworks. 6 exact duplicates of her appeared within a 20 mile radius with a lawful neutral alignment and a rough intent to oppose her goals. At this point I threw up my hands and shouted in glee and anguish - I now had six level 17 wizards on the board that I didn't really want.

The party visited the Acadamae (cue Ulafiel 2.1, fireballing the Acadamae's libraries), traveled to Hell, and met with Lorthact. Lorthact was intrigued by Sermignatto's pet theory, and invited them to enter Ileosa's soul to verify whether or not it had any merit. He'd relinquish his claim on her soul as long as they returned to him directly and gave him an honest report.

Cue a fun, trippy visit to the Queen's soul. They wandered through her memories, hopes and dreams, seeing an odd vision of her standing before a dinner party of vampires and declaring herself returned (Sorshen?), another memory of her arriving at a massive subterranean lake, and finally found her being tortured by Kazavon.

This gave me an opportunity to use Kazavon's human stat-block. I had him fight them at full-power, and though he gave them a good fight, they managed to take him down, freeing up Ileosa to resist a little easier moving forward. They also freed her soul from Lorthact, so a successful endeavor on all fronts. (Cue Ulafiel 2.2, using dominate person on Laori and attempting to kidnap her).

They knew that Ileosa had descended past the gigantic plug in the dungeons, so they prepared to go down after her. They discovered massive Thassilonian structures down below and stumbled upon Delvahine the succubus and a community of alu-demons (stolen from RotR) who were busy mulching up a bunch of exotic beasts to fuel some horrid machinations further down in the structure. (Cue Ulafiel 2.3, causing discord w/ the succubi.)

The party winds up taking on Delvahine, but convince a rune giant smith to help them out (who also recognizes Nika). Ulafiel 2.3 imprisons Laori, and is murdered for it. Ulafiel gets a scroll of freedom from the Acadamae headmaster and brings her back, and the party continues on to a subterranean lake lit by a huge glistening orb embedded in the ceiling. And a vampire house party, where Runelord Sorshen is having a return-to-Golarion party that she's clearly not enjoying.

Sorshen's aims are co-opted from Return of the Runelords. She hopes to start something new in Xin-Shalast, and these vampires can't really be part of that vision. And what's with her former consort showing up now?! She pulls Nika aside to explain some things.

The party mingles with vampires, and a famous Korvosan Abadaran mystic comes down from upstairs - Imperia realizes that he's the dude that started the church in Korvosa over a century ago, then mysteriously disappeared. All of these vampires are loyal Abadarans, they discover, and this mystic is determined to reestablish the Thassilonian empire under Abadar's laws. The vampires have been becoming experts in artisanal fields and statecraft to make his dream a reality; he's given their long, boring unlives purpose once more.

Meanwhile, Sorshen tells Nika that she used to be her consort-general Kusafsa. Or at least, her body was. Kusafsa hated herself, and for her long and loyal service, requested that Sorshen entomb her and give her a second life free from her toxic influence. Sorshen did so when Earthfall occurred, and set a resurrection chamber to awaken a child Kusafsa/Nika when a large enough metropolis was nearby and it would be safe for her to emerge. Took a while, but as luck would have it, Korvosa just hit that point twenty years ago, and now Sorshen is returning too, and they meet again. Bewildering for Nika, but Sorshen promises to give her space... After they get rid of all these vampires.

With the help of Enter Image and a creepy painting (the mystic had the Aristocracy domain), the mystic overhears their conversation, and orders the vampires to turn on the party before using word of recall to retreat to the solar pillar, where he knows Sorshen will head to. The party violently clears out the house party and reconnects with Nika and Sorshen, and Sorshen uses dimension door to teleport the party to the solar pillar in two groups, creating a fun situation where the party is fighting two groups of vampires separately. The myrmarch gets overrun, and I finally reduce the party size a little.

The party faces down some pretty intense vampires, and the mystic gets some nasty buffs up and uses a repeating crossbow to deal some huge damage to Imperia and Sorshen. Imperia can't smite him, even though he's evil, because Abadar actually seems to favor the mystic in this situation. He has both repulsion and anti-life shell up, so nobody in the party can get close, and from correspondence with another Ulafiel has prepared greater spell immunity against Ulafiel's favorite spells. Layer on a miracle to heal him to full and banish summons when he gets low, and it makes for a challenging fight. They eventually manage to bring him low with ranged attacks, though, and Sorshen and Ulafiel use the pillar to channel the sun's energy into the orb in the cavern's ceiling and turn the region into a vampire death zone.

Sorshen thanks the party, and shows them the way to the Everdawn Pool. They fight their way through a bunch of Furies and an Immolation Devil who are backed up by Ulafiels 2.4 and 2.5, and interrupt an Ileosa blood simulacrum and other-Nika, who are currently summoning... Something. Other-Nika convinces them to wait, and they finish summoning a norn - one of the fey that play off the thread-of-life cutting, scissors-wielding moirai of Greek mythology.

Other-Nika and simulacrum-Ileosa are loyal to the Queen - so loyal that they began to try to figure out how they could save Ileosa, who was planning on binding Kazavon to herself and killing herself to prevent her own total corruption. They requested that the Norn help them, and upon hearing that it was Kazavon, a legendary figure that had evaded fate's proper end, that they were challenging, she offered her shears to Nika. She assured them that a death-blow from them would cut Kazavon's thread.

With the shears in hand, the party continued to the Everdawn Pool. Ileosa was in the middle of a ritual that was drawing the essence of Kazavon out of the Crown and into the Everdawn Pool, where she could bind him to herself. The Pool was churning, and bloody, draconic limbs and roaring were occasionally emerging from its surface. The Crown was sitting inside an orb of force (600 hp wall of force, basically), and I gave the party five rounds to convince her to stop or to disrupt the ritual before she completed it, otherwise her plan of sacrificing herself would be accomplished. She used disruption magic while keeping a hand on the orb while the Crown dominated people and tried to accomplish Kazavon's aims - it was fun, since the Crown and Ileosa were working at cross-purposes through the encounter. Ulafiel was taking move actions to study parts of the ritual, and finally took a close hard look at the force orb and used her last disintegrate on it, and Jannara was able to sunder it with Serithtial while the Queen was holding it and trying to keep the ritual together. It exploded, and a round later Kazavon emerged from the Everdawn Pool in the flesh.

The resulting fight was very intense, but Ileosa helped with inspire courage and greater dispel magic to mitigate Kazavon's buffs. The party went all in on buffing Jannara with a wish-casted Aspect of the Mammoth, Enlarge Person and Overland Flight. I thought things were going pretty well for Kazavon - he had grappled Jannara and had reduced her to 25 hp or so with a full attack after identifying her as the biggest threat, and still had over 300 hp and a bunch of time stops left, but a few smite arrows brought him to 270, then a hasted Jannara did a full attack while grappled and critted on ALL FIVE of her attacks. She took him to -24 with the first four attacks, and Nika finished Kazavon off with the shears, actually killing the old bastard and totally freeing Ileosa from his grip.

We did a lengthy epilogue, with weddings and crusades included, and capped off five years later at the distant tavern than Nika and Ileosa had started running together. The entire party had a little reunion, and my players were extremely satisfied - they felt they had really earned their happy ending.

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Yeah, so I am behind by sixty-three sessions. I'm pretty sure that I've fluctuated between 40-60 sessions or so behind since starting this journal though. :-p

OatsMalone – Thank you so much for coming back and posting how your campaign finally ended! That sounds like a really satisfying conclusion – I love the obsession of the Ulafiel-clones with Laori, like “no, she’s MINE!” The Sorshen-stuff is a really cool use of that aspect of Korvosa, and I love that Abadar was the bad guy there without being super-evil, just sort of inconvenient (plus being vampires, it can only end in Bloody Tears for the populace). And everyone lived happily ever after, it seems. We’ll see just how happy the ending of my version of the story is, but right now I’m expecting it to end poorly for our would-be heroes (of course, since they’re just descending into Scarwall now, I’m pretty much contractually obliged as the DM to trash-talk their chances, mwhahaha!)

Session One Hundred Seventeen:

So I don’t recall exactly what the party learned this session from Cid and Rholand’s respective library research on the Blood Curse and the Valley of the Ascendant Spire, although this time at least Rholand made some respectable progress with a 20+ roll finally, adding to the accumulated knowledge tally. I think all that Cid learned was that in addition to being the seat of the old Runelord-turned-Kazavon’s empire, Kaer Maga was also where he was buried, although scholars do not know where as no such tomb has been found yet - which isn’t saying much given Kaer Maga is situated above an entire underground necropolis stretching far down into the mountainous plateau it’s sitting atop.

Rholand, on the other hand, did finally locate the saint’s journal detailing his journey to the Ascendant Spire, although details of the journey seemed to be deliberately obscured, presumably because the saint didn’t want to leave a road map to a legendary holy site for any random jerk to find. Nonetheless, there were enough details to determine that the Valley was conveniently somewhere in Varisia, probably somewhere in the Cinderlands given it’s not a well-known site by people in Korvosa/Kaer Maga/Magnimar. He also got a reference that the saint also consulted with the Shaoti while seeking the Valley’s location, specifically the Moon Clan of the Shaoti – so the party knew who they could ask for directions now, at least.

From there, the party went their own separate ways again, although there were some very interesting developments this session that sort of led into our own Marvel Civil War situation (as I jokingly called it). But first, the more normal sidequest seeding stuff. Rholand got invited to meet with the high priestess of Pharasma in Kaer Maga, Delana Karaheis, who hoped he would be able to lend his expertise as a healer with something. Rholand being Rholand, he was always happy to help and agreed, whereupon he was led down into the basement of the church where Delana presented Rholand to the zombified remains of one of the city’s prostitutes.

While zombie prostitutes were something the party had already dealt with in Kaer Maga, in this case it was not a zombie prostitute, it was a prostitute who had been kidnapped (one of the unfortunate victims of the recent kidnappings that Vaz’em had not managed to just happen across while the crime was in progress) and then later turned into a zombie. And the method used to turn her into zombie was not the usual necromancy, but instead some sort of disease that appeared to Rholand to have very eerie similarities to Blood Veil. As if someone was deliberately trying to recreate the Blood Veil plague.

This was, in fact, the luekodaemon Lord Bile back in action again, as while he had promised never to bother Korvosa for 100 years, he never promised not to plague another city that the party just happened to be in (thanks to Togomor – through Gwen - summoning him back to the material plane for the task of destroying Kaer Maga with a plague). Rholand thought this was a pretty serious problem, but without any actual leads to act on at present there was little he could do about it for now, besides which the party kinda hated Kaer Maga and wouldn’t necessary mind the place being buried under bloated-with-disease unliving corpses (so long as they could leave ahead of time).

Besides which, in addition to all the other stuff that he had to focus on at the moment, he also got a dinner invitation hand-delivered to him by a courier shortly after visiting the cathedral of Pharasma. It was an invitation for tomorrow night at an upscale restaurant known as the Convocation, a place that prided itself on discretion and being a neutral ground were it was safe for violently conflicting gangs to come together to negotiate safely (an important thing when you’re in as divided a city as Kaer Maga tended to be). And the invitation was from Gwen, who apparently wanted to talk to him about things alone.

Of course, being alone was not how things were going to work out, as several other meetings for the rest of the party ended up being scheduled for the following night also conveniently at the Convocation – the supposedly very safe neutral ground spot in Kaer Maga (I’m sure you can already guess just how safe it ended up being for the party as a meeting spot that night!)

So, while Rholand was doing all that, Oliver had decided that enough was enough, and he was going to go make it very clear to Pyre & Slag that while they were protecting his people in Korvosa, including Kroft, that was not a negotiable part of their arrangement. Rather, it was the only thing keeping the two of them alive, so they had better come up with some ways to sweeten the pot or Oliver was going to stop cooperating with their slaving operations. He got told basically that Pyre was unavailable to see him right then, but that a reservation for a private room at the Convocation would be scheduled for tomorrow night, and he and Pyre could hash out their differing interpretations of their alliance then.

And Vaz’em meanwhile had a nightmare the previous night, involving him running through the streets after a man and tearing out his throat with his claws and teeth. Naturally, he woke up to discover blood in his fur, suggesting that it had not just been a dream. Vaz’em immediately jumped to the conclusion that Hazmarduk, his grandfather whose spirit had been trapped in his body by Bahor/Glorio/Dad, had somehow taken control of his body while he was asleep. This was the correct assumption, actually, as the schmuck deal he had taken upon reaching Kaer Maga of letting Hazmarduk out to play for one night in return for information on Vimanda and what monsters she had possession of from Hazmarduk’s lair, now allowed Hazmarduk to push the temporary gap wider and take control of Vaz’em’s body while he was unconscious.

I had intended to slow play this plot, with the eventual payoff that Hazmarduk, using Vaz’em’s body, would kidnap Trinia to try and force further concessions from Vaz’em – namely, to kill Bahor/Glorio/Dad, who Vaz’em knew was in Kaer Maga now. Vaz’em’s player who tended to be a paranoid sort to begin with, immediately short-circuited this plan by freaking out after the dream and went looking for help with this problem.

Unfortunately for Vaz’em (or perhaps fortunately) the only real arcane caster that he knew about was Cid, who was a goody-goody two-shoes stool pidgeon for the Man. Or Woman in this case, as immediately after Vaz’em got done telling Cid about his fears, he went and activated the “Civil War” portion of the plot by going and telling Abigail about it. Abigail, the no-nonsense paladin who was extremely protective of Kaer Maga, and who knew just how dangerous an out of control Vaz’em could be. So she promptly “s!&@ a brick” over this, and gathered up the rest of the Star Weavers with the intent of arresting Vaz’em and keeping him on lock down until they could figure out first if his grandfather was taking control, and second what could be done to fix it.

As it turned out, Vaz’em got invited by Trinia to go with her to a dinner at the Convocation, as she had done a few paintings recently and had already found a buyer who was interested. So she was meeting him at the Convocation, and having developed a bit of paranoia at this point from her previous experiences, wanted Vaz’em along as back-up in case this turned out to be some sort of convoluted kidnapping attempt. Which, in fact, it was – Hazmarduk had arranged during one of his little stints in control of Vaz’em’s body to hire someone to kidnap Trinia in an effort to force Vaz’em to cooperate with his demands.

This also put Vaz’em at the Convocation the next evening along with Rholand and Oliver, and of course Cid and the Starweavers who were chasing after Vaz’em due to the fear of Hazmarduk using him as a weapon to wreak havoc on the city. And so the stage was set for an explosive battle royale of an evening, as of course there was yet another force lurking in the shadows that would attack the Convocation that night – the party’s old friends the Freemen, who had been armed by Gwen with weapons that they thought would give them enough power to reignite their war against the slavers, Pyre & Slag in particular.

(I must remind myself to check here more often, in case something appears after the notification window times out.)

Session One Hundred Seventeen:
Sounds like a great opportunity for Hazmarduk to set up Vaz'em for a HUGE loss of reputation, to force him to choose Evil thereafter.

Wow, these are some seriously amazing twists and additions to the AP. I'm just a bit sad I only discovered this now, at the end of book 4, where a lot of the intrigue possibilities are already gone, and besides Rolth, all the Antagonists are dead...

Thanks for the compliments, Gidonamor! Pity that I have been really slacking off on this journal, otherwise you might have a few crazy ideas to borrow for Book 4/5.

Well, I guess I should get back to work on this journal then!

Kaer Maga Woes:

So, what was going on behind the scenes was basically Togomor waging war against the city of Kaer Maga through Gwen after the council’s refusal to return the party to Korvosa in chains as criminals. He had already been planning on leveling his old home anyway, but the council’s refusal gave him the excuse he needed to get permission from Ileosa to destroy Kaer Maga before it could start an open war.

Togomor’s plan was all initiated by Gwen as his agent within the city, and was a multi-pronged approach using a variety of resources that Togomor had in the area and that Gwen brought along with her to Kaer Maga just in case this happened. In a way, it was sort of Togomor’s own little Legion of Doom evil adventuring party, with Gwen as the leader.

First, there was Nicodemus, supported by Madame Zayana. This was basically meant to keep the Star Weavers off-balance by having Abigail’s nemesis show back up in the city, as well as throwing off Pyre N’ Slag by having their old business partner return from exile. Madame Zayana also kidnapped Trinia in the hope that they could sell her off fast enough that the party would be forced to chase after whoever bought her, taking them out of the picture for a while as well. Of course, none of this section of the plan actually worked, as the party burst in during the inaugural slave auction and killed everybody. But it did at least keep everyone busy for a little while, leaving Gwen free to start up the other aspects of the plan.

Coming to Kaer Maga with Gwen was a Fellwrought, which was one of those golem-things the party found being built down in Domina’s study, which had a wraith locked inside of it to provide it with a negative energy power source. This particular wraith was the revived soul of Darius, the gunslinger brother of Xerxes that the party had fought all the way back in Book One, which Togomor brought back as a dread wraith. His goal was basically to assassinate all of the council by sneaking up on them and shooting them in the face – he had already succeeded at killing Herald the troll augur leader, as well as the kobold mouthpiece for the Commerce League – he now had his eyes set on Pyre.

As a general resource, Victae Corbaru the vampire wizard noble playboy and old mentor of Togomor’s, was available to provide magical support as needed. He had no particular role to play in the actual plot, save that he was available to provide spell support and advice to Gwen on how best to drive Kaer Maga apart.

Lord Bile, the luekodaemon from Book Three that the party had made an accord with, was summoned into Kaer Maga by Victae/Gwen in order to attempt to rebuild and unleash a new Blood Veil plague upon the city. He had only picked up pieces of how it worked from his time as a glorified spell component for Andaisin, however, and so he was making slow progress in getting it to actually work. But he was there and doing stuff in Kaer Maga, and providing additional daemons which the conspiracy would put to good use later.

Gwen had also co-opted the rebellious arm of the Freemen led by Trent, who had been chaffing under the enforced peace with Pyre N’ Slag, and was just looking for an opportunity to restart the civil war. Gwen provided his men with arms that would hopefully level the disparity in power between humans and the trolls that Pyre N’ Slag liked to employ, in the form of guns and an Iron Golem from Domina’s stockpile. In return the Freemen would be the main physical army of the conspiracy, and when the time was right would rise up and attempt to overthrow what was left of the city council. They jumped the gun a little on that whole open revolt thing though, as you will see in this session’s write-up.

Finally, Gwen herself had conscripted a small tribe of kobolds, which she had charged with undermining Kaer Maga’s industrial district of Bis, preparing to literally blast it off the side of the plateau with some well-placed demolition charges at key support pillars which would cause a landslide to occur, dragging most of Bis’s big stack-upon-stack of buildings down off the side of the plateau. They were just kobolds though, with nothing particularly dangerous about them or special leaders.

Session One Hundred Eighteen:

We opened this session pretty much with the next evening’s fine dining at the Convocation. Each member of the party was greeted at the door, and while the receptionist made some noises about them bringing weapons into the place, seeing how it was Kaer Maga, no one protested too much heavily armed individuals sitting down to dinner.

Oliver was shown into a back room, where he was given a quick once-over by a pair of Pyre’s fire trolls before they let him past to join the slaver himself in the room. They exchanged pleasantries, by which I mean veiled threats, with each other but Pyre largely played dumb to the idea that he was anything but a friend to the party. Which was more or less true – Pyre was an evil git, but he was also savvy enough to know that pissing off high-level adventurers never ended well for his kind, so he was putting real effort into being considered an ally. For all his efforts, of course, he got up to “barely tolerated” by the party at large and Oliver in particular (given his well-established hatred for slavers, as he was a former slave). The ultimate result of the conversation was that Oliver convinced Pyre that he needed to step it up again with his support of the party, and this time provide monetary support instead of high-end escort zombies, which nobody in the party had appreciated.

Rholand meanwhile, got a nice windowed booth in the main dining area, where Gwen in human form was sitting waiting for him. A waiter came by to take their orders, and they both ended up ordering the big steak dinner (Gwen’s was naturally as rare as possible). Rholand attempted his usual good-guy argument routine, asking why Gwen was working for such a piece of s++$ like Togomor when she was nice in general and helpful to the party. Why not turn against him and join them?

The real reason was that the piece of s~+$ Togomor had put a Geas on Gwen which meant she suffered from debilitating pain anytime she even thought about going against his orders. But of course, Geases are like Fight Club – you do NOT talk about them if you have one, so Gwen had to give the less specific but still illuminating answer of backstory. Gwen described her childhood to Rholand, explaining that when she was just a whelp it was only her and her mother, dwelling alone together in a peaceful land underneath a gigantic tree (which would turn out to be the ruined county of Old Tamrivena in Ustalav, where Scarwall was located, but at this point not even Gwen knew that). One day her mother told her to hide, and after the sounds of fierce battle were over, Gwen crawled out of hiding to find her mother dead (killed by Parashial, as would also be discovered later). Gwen wandered aimlessly after that, until she wandered into Belkzen, ran afoul of a tribe of orcs known as the Wyrmbreaker clan (for having a small captive band of wyverns as pets), and became their latest reptilian slave. They used her as a beast of burden, and just generally made her life hell in an attempt to break her into a compliant weapon for them to use as she grew up. Her slavery to the orcs lasted for many years, until one day a young man slipped into the wyrmbreaker camp and freed her. That young man was Togomor, and Gwen has been following him out of gratitude ever since. While perhaps always a bit of a glutton and a letch, Togomor was different back then, and treated Gwen quite kindly. He began to teach her magic, and made her his assistant as he traveled around Varisia looking for Runelord artifacts. Everything changed, however, when he found his staff (the Staff of the Slain, a relic of Kazavon) in a heavily guarded Thassilon vault. He became cruel, and yet because of her loyalty to him for rescuing her from the orcs (and the geas he put on her shortly thereafter while she was sleeping), she remained at his side. And unfortunately, she saw no way to break free from Togomor’s grasp, and the few times she tried things got *much* worse for her.

Jointly with Oli & Rholand, Vaz’em arrived to find Trinia waiting for him along with her potential painting-buyer, a “Mr. Charles”. This was actually the Cinderlander, who had been hired by Hazmarduk-posing-as-Vaz’em the other evening to kidnap Trinia. I had hoped this would be a chance to introduce the Cinderlander a bit early and play off the mercenary part of his nature so it didn’t seem so odd later that the Red Mantis had hired him to help them track the party through the Cinderlands. As it turned out, this was his one and only appearance because after tonight, he learned the hard way that if he wanted to live his best bet was to be as far away from our heroes as possible, and NEVER get involved in their business again. But for now, he was just a slightly creepy older man wanting to buy some paintings, and the conversation was fairly benign and bland.

But things got rather spicier for Vaz’em a few minutes later, as Cid arrived with all of the Starweavers in tow. Pushing their way past the obnoxious doorman who insisted that they needed a reservation to go into the dining room, Cid and Abigial marched right up to Vaz’em’s table, at which point Abigail basically dropped a pair of manacles onto the table and told Vaz’em to put them on, NOW. At this point Vaz’em put two and two together and realized that Cid had immediately gone and stool-pidgeoned him out to the Woman, after he confided his concerns that Hazmarduk might be messed around with his body while he slept. While concerned about it, Vaz’em hadn’t exactly been planning on getting put on lockdown until the Starweavers were satisfied he was no longer a danger, so he was rather unhappy about Abigail’s ultimatum (particularly when he was in the middle of protecting Trinia from some random stranger creeping into her life). So Vaz’em b#&@*ed at Cid, Cid shrugged and suggested he cooperate, and Abigail insisted that Vaz’em submit to arrest before the Starweavers MADE him comply.

And of course, at *this* point, everything went further to hell as a group of people with cloth masks over their faces stood up from their table nearby, brandished the firearms that they had smuggled into the supposedly secure-not-fighting-allowed safe restaurant, and declared that everybody stay down if they didn’t want their heads blown off, the Freemen were here to put an end to Pyre! Meanwhile in the back, a cloaked mechanical figure broke into the back room where Pyre and Oli were negotiating in private, brandishing a deadly pistol of its own – the assassin that had struck down Herald was gunning for his next victim!

Shadow Lodge

Inspectre wrote:

Thanks for the compliments, Gidonamor! Pity that I have been really slacking off on this journal, otherwise you might have a few crazy ideas to borrow for Book 4/5.

Well, I guess I should get back to work on this journal then!

** spoiler omitted **...

This is by far the most elaborate side plot ever to add up to "how many badies can i throw at them at once!"

Yay Civil War: Kaer Maga addition!!

Just discovered this and binge-read it over a few days. That’s quite an impressive list of changes, almost an entirely new campaign based on the old one. I see that you also follow the “the players should have a reasonable chance at victory, but they’ll probably suffer every step of the way” school of DMing.

I’m actually running some pathfinder stuff with my brother as a solo campaign, starting with Rise of the Runelords. I might make a journal of that sometime, and I’m thinking of ways to introduce elements that will come up in curse of the crimson throne since I’ll be running that next. (Assuming that this campaign succeeds and Runelord Karzoug doesn’t successfully take over Varisia.

Your journal was quite fun to read, and I now plan to wait for however many long months it will be before the next update. Can anyone recommend any other campaign journals like this, as I’m somewhat new to this forum.

lukitux wrote:
Can anyone recommend any other campaign journals like this, as I’m somewhat new to this forum.

There is another Crimson Throne Journal by MrVergee.

Other amazing campaign journals everyone should read are
- Silverclawshift archives (3.5)
- Old Man Henderson (CoC)
- The tale of an Industrious Rogue (pf)

Those should be found easily via google, linking stuff on mobile is tedious.

Lukitux – Oh yes, the path to victory in my games is definitely coated in broken glass. But for whatever reason, the poor bastards gamely walk down it, taking their lumps and giving some back now and again in return. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll look forward to seeing your own campaign journal should you ever write one up – feel free to drop a link here sometime if you get it going!

As for Rise of the Runelords, I would play up the sale of Voren’s Phage by Aldern in Book Two to the Red Mantis, and make that connection a little more explicit so if you follow up with Curse of the Crimson Throne, he might go “oh, so *that’s* where that stuff went!” Assuming of course he remembers some throw-away drug deal from Book Two of an AP after it’s all done, hah! Also, since the Order of the Nail are mercenaries in the general area, you could have a unit of them show up at the start of Book Three as the Mayor of Magnimar wanted to hire them to check out Turtleback Ferry . . . until he was quoted an outrageous price by the Order because they had no real desire to take the task. So the Mayor turns to your hero(es) instead as the budget option, hahaha!

Gidonamor – Oh, you have a fine taste in campaign journals, my friend! I have read the first two . . . looks like I’ll have to go hunt down this third one.

In any event, let’s see if I can get this cart back to rolling down the hill. I am very behind the campaign as written now, hip-deep as it is in bodies amidst Book Five!

Session One Hundred Nineteen:

So, we started this session with half the party at each other’s throats (Vaz’em vs. Cid), and the other half making backroom deals with the bad guys (well, Rholand and Gwen were seated out in the main front room so I guess that doesn’t technically count, but whatever), and a bunch of guys with guns had stormed the place with the intention of killing Pyre. The Freemen storming the Convocation thought that their superior firepower would give them the edge that they would need here, but unluckily for them there was not just one but two high-level adventuring parties in the restaurant tonight.

(Warning: A few f-bombs present in the following song)
Freeman Gunslingers Theme - Killing Strangers by Marilyn Manson

Chaos reigned in the initial moments of the Freemen attack. Out in the main room, there was a low level party of adventurers that had two of their members stand up and get immediately obliterated by several blunderbuss blasts, convincing the last member of that party to just remain seated and keep eating their meal. A rich merchant family who were also seated in the area had their single bodyguard immediately forced to stand down after getting several guns shoved in his face, and despite their reputation for being a safe place to eat the Convocation’s security was pathetically absent here.

Still, the Starweavers and Cid were not impressed, and as they got ready to fight Rholand excused himself from the table with Gwen to go help them. For her part Gwen simply sat there during the fight to eat her recently delivered steak meal, and help herself to Rholand’s steak as well (hey, she’s a dragon, and destroying cities is hard work, alright!?)

Vaz’em, still in his right mind for the moment since he was still awake, was going to help, but around this time the Cinderlander decided to make his move. Pulling out a concealed hand crossbow, he shoot Trinia several times in the chest with knock-out poison tipped bolts – which did him absolutely no good as the low-fort save bard managed to roll quite well on her Fort saves to remain quite conscious. So naturally Trinia starts screaming bloody murder, and Vaz’em – who the Cinderlander thought was his employer and thus kosher with this “shoot Trinia” plan – leaps over the table at him. The next round sees Vaz’em chunking through the Cinderlander’s HP with about 100+ HP damage over his multiple greater ninja vanish-powered sneak attacks. Which is pretty much the point at which the Cinderlander decides his “employer” wasn’t paying him enough to get murdered by the guy, and books it, fleeing through the chaos into the Convocation’s basement and out of Kaer Maga and the entire campaign via the sewer. After nearly dying in one round, he was smart enough to stick to sniping lone Shaoti in the Cinderlands, thank you very much!

While this was all going on in the front room, in the back room Oliver and Pyre were dealing with Darius the reborn Fellwrought gunslinger, who had burst in to do his assassination thing to Pyre with con-draining bullets. Taking down the fire giant slaver wasn’t going to be so easy as Herald the troll augur and a whiney kobold, however, as Pyre’s secret weapon against getting shot in the face was revealed. As it turns out, Deflect Arrows *also* works on bullets, so as Darius fired off his opening gunslinger focused one-shot, one-kill bullet (using a gunslinger deed to pool all of his collective attacks into one more powerful shot), Pyre just deflected it up into the ceiling with his bracer before snidely asking if that was all the assassin had. Oliver got up from his seat and charged the gunslinger while he attempted to reload his pistol, hacking through even Darius’s new armored hide with ease (yay full-BAB!) At this point, Darius decided the close quarters of the back room were not going to work out well for him, so he tumbled back out into the hallway and called in his Plan B – a bunch of wraiths he had created as a result of his con-draining bullets, including the hulking wispy form of Herald, now a custom-built Troll Wraith!

Getting incorporeal touched to death by half a dozen wraiths was something that even Pyre had to admit was deeply concerning, and so he suggested to Oliver that it was time to exit stage left. Stage left, in this case, being through the wall, as he picked up the table that they had been sitting at and using it like a battering ram to smash open a hole into the front room for them to withdraw into. This allowed the party to join back up, and then it was them plus the Starweavers versus a little less than a dozen gunslinging Freemen, and half as many wraiths plus Herald the troll wraith.

The Freemen gunslingers came in three varieties to mix things up a little – 4 rogue/1 gunslinger with the ninja trick rogue talent (used to take ninja vanish) and muskets (so they’d vanish and then blast someone for musket + 2d6 sneak attack), 5 gunslinger with blunderbusses (low damage AoE), and 5 alchemist with various ranged bomb talents so they fired explosive bullets. Despite the flavorful builds, these guys were still level 5s (CR 4s) going up against a bunch of level 9 (the Starweavers) & 11 (our heroes) adventurers. So they basically derped around, shoot our heroes a couple times, and basically just made them angry before getting cut down in turn.

There was one darkly humorous moment where one of the blunderbuss gunslingers had several party members in his AoE blast, along with the innocent merchant and his family. So for several rounds they’d blast the party and catch the family as well, dropping them all below 0 HP. Sergio would then do his AoE cleric healing that brought all of the family back into the positives, only for the gunslinger to rapid reload and blunderbuss the whole family back down again on the next round. Not so humorous for the family who kept getting shot to death over and over again, but maybe the kid will go on to become an adventurer now that they’ve seen dying (and getting ressed) isn’t so bad.

While the Freemen weren’t particularly threatening, the 4 wraiths and Herald the Troll Wraith were much more concerning after they followed Pyre and Oliver out into the main room. Anything that can drain away 1d6 Con in a round with a single touch pretty much has to be concerning, particularly when there’s more than 1 of them. Herald as a custom monster was also particularly terrifying, given that he drained less Con on a hit (1d4 instead of 1d6), but had a claw/claw/bite attack routine, which meant he could suck out 3d4 Con a round with a full attack! Abigail learned this the hard way after getting into melee with the big undead troll, and for a while it was really looking like I was going to add Cid’s new girlfriend’s head to my trophy rack of DM kills.

Fortunately for Abigail, as the tank of the Starweavers I had given her a considerably high Con – 17 to be precise – and after losing precisely SIXTEEN of that Con, the last of the wraiths fell. After that, it was just a couple rounds before Sergio restored Abigail back to full health with a Restoration. Rholand went around patching anyone else that got shot up by the Freemen, and Pyre who was *very* pissed after the attempt on his life stormed out with plans to discuss the Freemen’s status within the city with the rest of the Council. Gwen had already slipped out in the chaos of the battle, and with their meal plans all ruined the party went back “home” with the Starweavers.

Now convinced that his grandfather was up to no good using his body (never threaten Trinia around Vaz’em if you want to keep breathing!), Vaz’em agreed to be confined by the Starweavers until a solution could be found. Edwin examined the runes burned into his body, but while he could confirm that the runes keeping Hazmarduk confined had been damaged, he did not as yet know how to restore them to full power. So until then, a stop-gap solution of imprisoning Vaz’em was put into place – accomplished by putting him in a suit of plate mail armor (to penalize his Escape Artist checks), tying him up, and then pumping him full of STR draining poison until he was paralyzed. When Hazmarduk took over Vaz’em’s body later that night after he went to sleep (which was rather difficult for him given his situation), he was rather unhappy. Too bad for him that he couldn’t do anything about it but lie there helpless until Vaz’em woke back up, at which point Sergio cured him of the poison and fixed his stat damage, and the Starweavers untied him until night rolled around again.

This arrangement let Vaz’em continue to adventure with the party during the day while a solution to Hazmarduk’s escape attempt was found. Edwin was searching for a solution and probably would have found one in the Therassic library eventually, but there was an even more direct solution available – Bahor. Vaz’em knew that his father was in Kaer Maga due to an earlier visit by a courier to the party who delivered their cut of the money from Bahor selling the items in the Arkona summer mansion. Assuming that he was still in town and that Vaz’em could find him, it seemed likely that he would be willing to help given the alternative was potentially a freed Hazmarduk hunting him down.

Unfortunately while not especially difficult, the fight at the Convocation had taken up most of this session, and so we ended at around this point.

Session One Hundred Twenty:

So this next session was another roleplaying session, in keeping with how Kaer Maga generally worked out with alternating roleplay heavy sessions followed by a combat session. This one was pretty heavily Rholand-centric, which fits since his “I’m special” quest (curing the Blood Curse Togomor had put on him) was coming up next.

First up, we had more research rolls in the Therassic Library, with Cid continuing to do quite well, bringing his total research up to 100. At this point he had gotten side tracked from the main task, fixing the Blood Curse, to researching this original Runelord of Greed (who would technically have been the Runelord of Wealth, Councilor to Xin at that time) who had been possessed by Kazavon and ultimately slain by Runelord Sorshen. Apparently, Kaer Maga itself had been his seat of power, and where he had been buried after his defeat at Sorshen’s hands. Cid found several theories as to where his tomb might be located, including beneath the Great Seal in the District of Oriat, although no one could confirm that as the Brotherhood of the Seal viciously protected the Great Seal from anyone wishing to open it. Of course, that very thing had been the cause of a major schism within the Brotherhood, prompting a savage civil war that left Oriat devastated and prompting the founding of the city’s council to prevent any other such disagreements between factions from trashing the rest of the city. This piece of information would become relevant later in the session.

Rather than dig through the library for more information about the Ascendant Spire and what perhaps the Moon Clan Shaoti would be able to tell them, Rholand actually went to meet with Victae Corbaru. Although he was on the party’s s#$@ list for being at the slave auction, he had made peace with the party and left so I guess Rholand was hoping he would be receptive to another deal for information. Victae was a Blood Mage, much like Togomor was, and was in fact one of Togomor’s former mentors. As such, I’m sure Rholand was hoping to be able to learn something about Togomor and/or perhaps the Blood Curse from Victae in exchange for some sort of favor. Sadly, he was to be disappointed as Victae left him waiting for an inordinate amount of time out in his foyer before finally coming down to speak to Rholand. Which basically amounted to Victae laughing in his face, expressing hope that Togomor killed him mercilessly, and that he should get out before Victae did his old mentor a favor by killing him right here and now. So yeah . . . no love lost there! As it turned out, the party would even further regret letting Victae live, but he wouldn’t *really* get on the party’s s!@% list for several more sessions yet.

On his way back to the party, Rholand gets stopped in the street by a heavily-tattoed courier who introduced himself as a member of the Scions of the Open Gate, the splinter-group of the Brotherhood of the Seal who wished to open the Great Seal of Oriat. His master wished to meet with the party and discuss an alliance that would resolve their civil war with the Brotherhood once and for all. To drive home the point that Kaer Maga was a chaotic city yet again, this courier immediately got attacked by two other monks (members of the Brotherhood) who openly attacked him on the street to kill him and silence him before he could convince Rholand to join their cause. Rholand immediately trapped both of them in a stone shape, but since these guys were monks they just ran up the walls and jumped out of their stone prisons, forcing Rholand to kill both of them in their fanatical refusal to negotiate or flee in the face of their enemy (the courier). Having gotten a taste of the Brotherhood’s fanaticism, Rholand was much more receptive to at least getting the party together to hear the Scions’ leader out.

Before they could do that, though, it was time for another City Council session! Which amounted to even less than its usual amount of nothing, as De Silva, having fled the city, was no longer around to mediate the council and keep the bickering to a civil minimum. The party also were well and truly fed up with the non-stop in-fighting amongst the councilors by this point, and even Rholand gave up trying to manage the chaos after one or two attempts at getting everybody to shut up.

The key points for this council meeting were that Herald had been replaced by a new troll, “Fangtooth”, who was somewhat less friendly and a new kobold had been slotted into the Commerce League’s slot pretty much without any disruption there whatsoever given it’s a kobold mouthpiece, and thus basically interchangeable with any other kobold mouthpiece. Also, with Pyre leading the charge, the Freemen were declared in violation of the peace between all of the factions, despite Halman Wright’s hand-wringing objections and protestations of innocence and that this was all Trent’s doing.

Having no love for the Freemen after getting firebombed and their complaints being effectively met with a shrug from Halman, the party were in no mood to save his ass either. And so the Freemen were evicted from the council and told to leave Kaer Maga immediately or they would be ejected by force. Pyre and Slag later had their army of trolls ambush the Freemen convoy as it was leaving and slaughter them all to a man, Halman Wright included, which again was pretty much met with just a collective shrug from the party. Don’t get on the PCs bad side, kids. It never ends well for you.

Of course, Trent’s portion of the Freemen remained in Kaer Maga in their hidden base, safe and sound, and continued to plot more strikes against the city at Gwen’s urging. They would show up again later, but for now, Pyre’s wrath was satisfied and the party were just glad the council didn’t want anything from them.

After the meeting, Pyre met up with the party and offered his thanks for helping him survive the Freemen’s attempt on his life. He offered them a reward, which Cid & Rholand both pointedly said “no thanks” to. Vaz’em and Oliver, having a more . . . flexible sense of morality, were willing to accept Pyre’s tribute to their magnificence. Vaz’em got a fat sack of gold (5,000 GP), and Oliver specifically requested some iuon stones, which Pyre went off to procure on his behalf.

We ended the session with the party going to see the mysterious leader of the Scions of the Open Gate.

Dark Archive

lukitux wrote:
Can anyone recommend any other campaign journals like this, as I’m somewhat new to this forum.

Not here on paizo, but I would be remiss not to recommend Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour over on ENWorld.

Very long (broken into two threads and still ongoing - not counting a sequel Storyhour that's been on hiatus for years, that will hopefully come back eventually), but it went a long way to getting me into the Planescape setting, which is tied with Eberron as my favorite that D&D ever put out.

One Hundred Twenty-One:

So, this session marked essentially the official start of Rholand’s “I’m special” questline, which had been sort of unofficially sprinkled throughout Book Four so far with the various Claimants to his soul popping up to harass the party with their CR 14 selves. Hopefully, an answer to Rholand’s various problems – the Claimants, his slowly growing madness from the bit of Kazavon still stuck inside him after touching the crown (retconned from earlier in Book Four when Cid had magically severed the connection to the crown and therefore “solved” that problem) would be waiting within the tomb of Kazavon’s Runelord host.

To start off the session, the party met with the Scions of the Open Gate’s leader, Aldair Eamon, another heavily tattooed man who was a rather shifty fellow but earnest in his desire to finally open the Great Seal of Oriat and see what was beneath it. The party didn’t particularly care about the whole schism with the Brotherhood of the Seal, but they were happily willing to murder anyone who got in their way which was good because the entire Brotherhood would be trying to stop them. Fortunately, Aldair had a small army of his own, and so the assault on the Brotherhood’s compound, built around the Great Seal, began without much fanfare. Of course with so many monks trying to punch each other to death all around the party, there was only one appropriate theme to use for this next battle.

Brotherhood of the Seal Theme – Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas

The party found the front gates to the compound open to them, and the leader of the Brotherhood, Master Zho, waiting for them in the courtyard with his three best students – Azuka, Liam, and . . . Tim. No one else within the Brotherhood had a chance of stopping the party, but together the master and his three students stood to bar their way. Zho and Aldair had a brief but familiar (to them) argument over whether to open the Great Seal or leave it closed, with the party getting to voice their lack of caring over who was right, they were here to open that seal, damnit.

At least on paper, the Brotherhood leadership had the potential of giving the party a good fight. Master Zho was a 13th level Sensei, trading off most of the monk special abilities for bardic abilities, including a solid +3 inspire courage that would help his students out during the fight. He did still get to keep the high-level monk’s dimension door ability, allowing him to blink around the battlefield and keep the party chasing after him. Azuka was an 11th Zen Archer with various archery stuff, including the Perfect Strike ability that is a replacement for Stunning Fist, allowing her to roll three d20s on her first attack each round and use the highest result. Liam was an 11th Weapon Adept focused on using a spear, also using Perfect Strike rather than Stunning Fist. Tim was just a bog standard 11th monk, focused on the various Gorgon/Medusa fighting style feats that let him stagger people on a hit and then follow-up with an extra couple of attacks in the following round, and with Stunning Fist. All of them also had the Intercept Charge teamwork feat, with the idea of Tim and Liam blocking charges against Zho or Azuka. As it turned out the party didn’t do any charging in this fight, rendering that particular feat pointless.

Sadly, as proved to be usual for Book Four, without siccing some obscene CR 14 monstrosity at the party, anything and everything fed into the melee shredder of Cid, Vaz’em, and Oliver got turned into confetti. The bad guys had a few good moments, like Zho blinking behind the melee line to pummel Rholand for a round or two before Oliver and Vaz’em went back to help, only for Zho to blink away again. Or my personal favorite, when Cid, apparently having forgotten me describing Azuka as holding a bow, thought he would be clever and cast Fly as his action in the first round, thus putting him out of the monks’ reach. One full attack barrage from Azuka later at the non-buffed (save for Fly) Cid, and he was down to 4 HP from full! He abruptly cried like a spanked baby and cast invisibility on himself, skulking about and doing nothing much else for the rest of the fight while he slowly regenerated with a Greater Infernal Healing for 4 HP/round.

He was lucky I didn’t go with my additional plan of having Gwen show up to help the monks, who would have loved to Flyby Attack a lone, low-HP magus. But having Gwen show up to harass the party turned out to be unnecessary given the short duration of the fight overall, and while they still got chunked Zho and his students at least did some damage first, unlike some other fights in this Book.

Oliver and Vaz’em alone were enough to carry the day though, with some Blessing of Fervor and other aid from Rholand and Cyrus who was now officially Cid’s cohort (Cid having taken Leadership as his 11th level feat). Cyrus actually contributed some crowd-control to this fight by spamming Sundered Serpent Coil, which is basically summoning a headless constrictor snake to serve as a single-target Black Tentacles spell. Being monks, these were only a nuisance to Zho and his students, but it kept Azuka busy enough that Oliver and Vaz’em eventually caught up with her and pounded her into the ground – fast movement speed isn’t worth much when your opponent also has a +30’ movement speed buff up!

At last the party stood victorious over the defeated Brotherhood leadership, but their troubles were far from over as Rholand’s chest flared with intense pain.

Three Claimants Theme – Rain of Brass Petals Three Voices Edit from Silent Hill 3 OST

Looking up at the sky, the party noticed a dark blot rapidly approaching the compound from the air, the shape of a massive bat’s beating wings just barely visible within the dark cloud (the Nightwing). A moment later, and a man-sized glob of metallic ooze launched itself over one of the walls of the compound to land in the courtyard (the Mezlan). And an interplanar rift to a realm of darkness tore itself open to disgorge a massive armored figure (the Sepid Div). All three of the Claimants were here to stake their claim on Rholand’s soul. Having found fighting any one of them to be an untenable process, the party was under no illusions that they could take on all three of them at once. The party withdrew into the depths of the temple compound, to the Great Seal, along with their new “ally” Aldair Eamon (who had been planning on a predictable betrayal at some point, but he soon realized trying that would just lead to his death with these terrors among men, so he just sort of tagged along over the next couple sessions for the view so he could finally satisfy his own curiosity over what lay beneath the Great Seal). And that was where we ended the session.

Shadow Lodge

"Or my personal favorite, when Cid, apparently having forgotten me describing Azuka as holding a bow, thought he would be clever and cast Fly as his action in the first round, thus putting him out of the monks’ reach. One full attack barrage from Azuka later at the non-buffed (save for Fly) Cid, and he was down to 4 HP from full! He abruptly cried like a spanked baby and cast invisibility on himself, skulking about and doing nothing much else for the rest of the fight while he slowly regenerated with a Greater Infernal Healing for 4 HP/round"

I hate you, and your npcs with bows.

Cid's kyrptonite does seem to be an a$#+$*@ with a bow. All the way back to Book 3, when the Palin's Cove Punisher killed him with a blind bow shot, and now here, and I think a couple other times throughout the campaign.

Session One Hundred Twenty Two:

So we started this session with the party in a bit of a sticky situation, with all three of Rholand’s Soul Claimants closing in to collect behind them and a dive into an unknown and unopened tomb from the time of the Runelords ahead of them. The only real good news was that the entrance to this tomb, rumored to be beneath the Great Seal of Oriat, was almost immediately in front of them. Indeed, after a short trek inside the central building of the Brotherhood’s compound, they arrived in a central room with a disturbing stone obelisk rising up from the stone floor. Two man-sized, horn-like spires of black stone jutted up from the floor, twisted together like a pair of corkscrews.

Here, Aldair Eamon took the lead has he had spent plenty of time researching how to open the Great Seal if he ever got another chance at it. Producing a scroll from the sleeve of his robes, Aldair stepped forward and intoned a series of ancient words in Thassilon. In response the two horns of stone began to unfurl and spin away from each other, unfolding like the petals of a flower to expose a gaping hole leading down to . . . somewhere else, far into the catacombs that lay inside the plateau Kaer Maga had been built atop. Oh, and the unfolding stone pillars also revealed a giant construct made of iron covered in Thassilon runes that was blocking access to said hole, and which came to life as the pillars slid and twirled into their fully open position.

The ancient, intelligent iron golem took a stomping step forward and growled a challenge to the party in ancient Thassilon, which after a moment was magically translated into modern Common. It looked like the party were about to have to fight their way past this guardian to get into the tomb before the Claimants kicked in the door behind them, but then Retribution (AKA Azizel AKA Cid’s Black Blade sword) spoke up. With his memories (somewhat) restored, Retribution recognized both that this iron golem had been imbued with a soul, and more importantly with the soul of an ancient comrade-in-arms of Azizel’s. The iron golem was just as shocked to discover Azizel with the party, and from then on was buddy-buddies with the party.

Given the time crunch, they didn’t have very long to discuss with the golem how things were “back in the day” with Azizel, but they got enough backstory to learn that there was an elite unit of magus-like soldiers in the employ of Sorshen who were instrumental to that version of Kazavon’s defeat. After the war, a portion of this unit was tasked with defending the tomb, keeping the remains of Sorshen’s lover safe and out of Karzoug’s greedy hands, despite Karzoug taking control of the city. This was essentially the origin of the Brotherhood of the Great Seal, although this golem was the last guardian standing of the original unit. He had been bound into this iron golem so that there was an eternal guardian for the Tomb of Ashes, as he called it, after the Age of Darkness came upon Golarion, Karzoug went into stasis, and pretty much the entirety of what was left of Thassilon went to hell.

As with Azazel, the rest of the still-mortal unit of magus guardians despaired and in their desperation made a pact with the forces of Hell for “salvation” from the oncoming destruction. They became devils, ultimately formed the Order of the Bleeding Eye, essentially pledged to the enemy they had once opposed (Kazavon), and went on to becomes the devils who taught their magical arts to the Hellknights who made a pact with them in turn, in order to become the magus hellknights of the Order of the Nail.

This conversation was interrupted with the front doors to the temple coming crashing inward, and the Sepid Div stepping into view. Now fast friends with the party, the golem urged the party to proceed onward to the Tomb of Ashes while it stayed behind to fight a final rear-guard defense. While a CR 13 Iron Golem (with spellcasting!) would probably give even a CR 14 Sepid Div pause, with the other Claimants closing in as well I basically handwaved the poor Last Guardian’s certain death as the party plunged headlong into darkness, their swift fall stopped by a Featherfall-like effect that left them drifting down into the cavern below.

The Tomb of Ashes Theme – Mr Ms Bones

Although I don’t know if they ever figured this out, the Tomb of Ashes was not just the resting place of Kazavon’s Runelords-era host, but had been the ORIGINAL resting place of the Fangs – thus explaining why it had been this guy and not say, Belimarius who had become Kazavon’s host, as this unnamed Runelord had been living directly over top of the fang’s resting place. As such, the cavern that the party drifted down into was a memorial to the fangs, and not the Runelord host.

As the party touched down into the cavern, magical lights came on, illuminating it and allowing them to see the murals painted onto the walls and floor. On the floor was an image of Rovagug Himself, the Rough Beast falling backwards into a prison that was beginning to close shut around him. Painted on the wall was an image of Zon-Kuthon standing triumphant, in all of his mutilated glory (which freaked the party right out, given I had a colossal-sized image of the ugly bastard standing there grinning at them, heeheehee).

Proceeding into a worked tunnel, the party moved on to the next chamber, this one dominated by the appearance of an immense tower rising out of the ground, with an equally colossal blue dragon (with some strange non-blue dragon features to it, as if It had been crossbred with some other reptilian creature) curled up around it. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find any artwork depicting a blue dragon curled up around a tower, so they just got a text description of this mural and an image of a generic tower.

What the party never really figured out was that these murals were essentially telling the campaign’s back story, although admittedly it would be a little hard to figure out what the images of Zon-Kuthon, Rovagug, and a big-ass blue dragon around a tower actually had to do with each other. Nor did they have much time to ponder such things, as behind them there was a crash as a massive leonid figure leaped down into the first cavern from above – a Shira Div, sent by the Sepid Div to go retrieve his prize while he dueled with the iron golem above. Two large gangly shadowy figures also blurred into existence through the stone walls of the cavern, two Greater Shadows sent by the Nightwing to accomplish the same thing ahead of the Shira Div!

Rholand filled the tunnel connecting the first cavern to the second with several walls of stone using stone shape, sealing the Shira div off from the party and effectively taking it out of the fight as it did not have the raw strength to smash through several walls of stone in the couple rounds of combat it took Cid, Oliver, and Vaz’em to cleave through the two greater shadows. Although at a d8 STR damage, even one Greater Shadow becomes a terrifying opponent in rather short order, so I think the party was given sufficient cause to poop their pants, especially given they still had 3 CR 14 monstrosities after them.

Hurrying down the tunnel to the next chamber, the party was somewhat flummoxed as they discovered that the mural in the third chamber had been destroyed, crumbled into nothing after someone had dug an uneven tunnel through it to parts unknown. Their confusion turned back to alarm as two very bizarre-looking bipedal creatures emerged from the tunnel – two Caulborn, bizarre denizens of the catacombs beneath Kaer Maga who collected and traded in memories.

I’m not entirely sure what my goal for introducing these guys to the party was, save to present yet another “look at how WEIRD Kaer Maga is!” moment to them. Well, that and I wanted to see if anyone in the party would take the Caulborn up on their offer to take away one of their traumatic memories (of which each member of the party had many) in exchange for using their own innate powers to answer a question of the party’s. To my surprise, both Vaz’em and Cid took the caulborn up on their offer, having their memory of being drowned in the river and watching Vox die (and being framed for her murder) removed respectively. To my surprise, Rholand did not partake in this exchange, despite having perhaps the most traumatic memory of all (getting framed by Togomor, tied up, stabbed with a poisoned dagger, and thrown off the ramparts of Castle Korvosa to his “death”). It’s like he didn’t trust these freakish monsters the party randomly encountered down here in this ancient tomb or something!

In any event, in exchange for Vaz’em and Cid’s memories, the caulborn used their innate divination powers to answer one question from each of them, although I do not recall now what those questions were. Either because I had my own encounter with a Caulborn, or because they ended up getting answered in a similar non-committal manner as the Faerie Seer and thus might or might not actually come to pass. They did give the party a freebie though in the form of repeating the Faerie Seer’s words – if they went to castle scarwall, at least one of them would die. For whatever that really meant in a D&D game, anyway.

Moving on from the caulborn (perhaps due to hearing the Shira div finally bash its way through those stone walls), the party went down the tunnel on the other side of the room that looked like it was actually supposed to be there, descending into the very heart of the tomb. In this final chamber that awaited them, there was only a simple set of stairs cut into the stone, descending into a shallow pit that was filled nearly to the brim with ashes. At the far end of this pit was what appeared to be a tattered and burned cloak, sitting in a heap atop a small stone pedestal.

As the party pondered what sort of death trap awaited them here, an image of Sorshen appeared to them to explain that these ashes were all that remained of her lover. She had tried again and again to revive him after her victory over Kazavon, but each time was forced to destroy him down to ashes as Kazavon’s presence resurfaced. In the end, she was forced to give up and accept that there was nothing left of her lover – Kazavon had become so entwined with his soul that he had consumed it all, and there was nothing left of the man she had once loved. But the fruits of her efforts were here in the Mantle of Ashes, a magical artifact that might yet save Rholand by purging the seed of Kazavon that had taken root in his mind and now threatened to eventually drive him insane and ultimately consume him as the Fangs had done to Ileosa.

As the image melted away with a farewell wish of good luck, Rholand took that as his cue to wade forward into the ashes over to the pedestal. As he took up the Mantle and swirled it around onto his own shoulders, a whole lot of things happened. A pool of darkness formed to disgorge the Nightwing into the chamber. The Sepid Div came striding down the hallway that the party had just used, blocking that route of escape. And a seemingly-innocuous mouse that had come squeaking up to the party suddenly turned into a man-sized metallic ooze assassin, spearing Aldair Eamon through the chest and killing him instantly (as he had far out-lived his usefulness to the plot, and I hate to miss the chance to brutally murder a one-time NPC!) Oh, and Rholand caught fire and almost instantly dissolved into a clump of ashes that floated down to merge with the rest of the ashes in the pit.

The party didn’t have much chance to deal with Rholand’s apparent demise, however, as they had three very pissed-off Claimants to deal with who each wanted to soak up Rholand’s soul now that he was “dead”. Rholand, meanwhile, found himself standing somewhere else, on top of a stone platform surrounded by flames rising high up into the air. And with a “tsk, tsk, tsk” sound, a horribly scarred Ileosa emerged from the curtain of flames to face off against Rholand.

And on *that* cliffhanger, we ended the session!

Session One Hundred Twenty Three:

So if last session’s opening was bad for the party with them being chased by the Claimants into the Tomb of Ashes, then this session’s opening was downright catastrophic, with Rholand donning the Mantle of Ashes only to be apparently disintegrated by it, and all three of the Claimants showing up to corner the rest of the party.

Fortunately, things were not entirely as they seemed – Rholand was technically not dead just yet, merely engaged in a mortal battle to the death with the seed of Kazavon in his head, and all three Claimants were *not* a united front. Each one of them wanted Rholand’s soul, damnit, and since there was only the one soul there could only be one winner and none of these abominations were the sharing type.

So the Nightwing and the Sepid Div pretty much immediately turned and started trying to kill each other after they realized they had the party cornered. The Mezlan for its part simply shrugged and went on with trying to kill the rest of the party while trolling them by taking on the appearance of people that they knew (it did not get fixated on Laori this time, sadly). That left only the one unstoppable CR 14 monstrosity for Cid, Oliver, and Vaz’em to fight without a healer while Rholand had to fight his own duel against (an appropriate level version of) Ileosa.

In the dream world Rholand fought himself in, Ileosa again implored for Rholand to just give in and join her, together they could rule the world, blah blah blah typical villain temptation stuff. Rholand told her to shove it, “Ileosa” simply smiled and drew her rapier, and the battle for Rholand’s very soul was on.

Rholand’s Duel with Ileosa Theme– Not Enough by Lacuna Coil

The Mezlan was kicking the s#%@ out of the rest of the party (mostly Cid) as it had tended to do in their previous encounters with it, putting Rholand on somewhat of a time crunch to get his duel with Ileosa over with. But instead of just charging in to mix it up with not-Ileosa, Rholand played a pretty smart long game instead, summoning an Obscuring Mist to hide him from her sight. Then when Ileosa rushed into the mist to search for him, Rholand slipped out of the mist and cast a summon monster to bring in a Hound Archon for a double-action beatdown when Ileosa emerged out of the fog a round of her own self-buffing later.

As it turned out, while Ileosa had put up a few nice defensive buffs (Displacement ho!), they were not enough to overcome a 2-on-1 disadvantage and Rholand with hound archon back-up made fairly short work of her (definitely should have given her somewhere over 100 HP instead of just under 100!). As Ileosa fell, however, she split apart as something dark and horrible sprouted out from inside her to unfurl and loom over Rholand. The seed of Kazavon now took on its “true” form, a terrifying to behold seven-headed draconic hydra (one head for each Relic).

Kazavon’s Theme – Star Tower from Chrono Cross OST

The hound archon Rholand had summoned was immediately crushed under the horror’s bulk as it continued to grow and rise up into a Gargantuan-sized monster which taunted Rholand with his failure to save even himself before it commanded him to die. With a ridiculous +20 bonus to initiative, the Mandrake (as I called it) easily went first, proceeded to full-attack Rholand with each of its heads biting into his spiritual body for 2d8+20 damage apiece. Rholand took just over 200 damage (referred to by Rholand’s player as a “F@&# you, DIE!” amount of damage which indeed was the intent here as Kazavon lost his patience with this obnoxious mortal) as his soul was rended apart by the nascent god in his head, and he died. But . . . even now, there was something in the deepest part of Rholand’s soul that simply refused to die. And so Rholand dragged himself back up to his feet at 1 HP and screamed his defiance to the would-be god.

Rholand’s Determination Theme – Hopes and Dreams from Undertale OST

A moment later, and the “real” Ileosa appeared beside him, chiding Kazavon for his arrogance in thinking that he could crush Rholand’s hopes and dreams when he still had his friends to stand beside him. Sorshen showed up on his other side a moment later, and then Oliver, Vaz’em, and Cid also appeared, surrounding the demonic draconic beast while Kazavon looked around with a dumbfounded expression at what was happening. Even Bruno showed up with an encouraging “BRRRRUUU!” as the bear charged into battle.

As it turned out, none of his friends were needed, as with his newfound realization that this was HIS mind and HIS soul, Rholand started getting creative, summoning a massive golem from the floor that wielding a shining sword in its hand – the holy blade Serathiel, or at least how Rholand imagined it. The golem started cleaving into the hydra-like mass of heads, severing them from the body one by one while Kazavon raged impotently and continued biting into Rholand’s body to absolutely no effect as he simply refused to die. And finally the golem struck a final blow, and the Mandrake, root of Kazavon’s madness within Rholand’s mind, was crushed and was scraped off the platform to fall into the flames below as Rholand vowed to hunt down the real Kazavon and give the same sort of treatment to him.

The scene around Rholand then shifted again, and he was somewhere else, a chamber filled with bright white light. He was alone, although a moment later the “real” Ileosa appeared before him again, throwing herself in her arms and thanking him profusely for saving her. As it turned out, the reason that speck of Kazavon had remained engrained in Rholand’s mind in the first place despite Cid’s efforts to dislodge it was because he sub-consciously held onto it. And he had held onto that speck of Kazavon because it had been attached to a tiny fragment of Ileosa’s own soul. As it turned out, Togomor’s ritual had sort-of worked, and Rholand had in fact pulled a small fragment of Ileosa’s own soul free. Unfortunately, that fragment had still been infected by Kazavon’s presence, dragging a piece of him into Rholand’s mind as well. Inseparable at the time from Kazavon, Rholand had held on to that piece in order to preserve Ileosa’s soul fragment, but now they were both free (yeah, you keep dancing that retcon dance, you sexy DM-man you). Rholand (with the aid of the Mantle of Ashes) had done it – Kazavon was gone.

It wasn’t the entirety of Ileosa’s soul of course, but it was a small down payment meant to encourage Rholand that maybe despite all the evidence to the contrary (i.e. Sorshen’s own failures), he could still manage the impossible and save Ileosa. Unfortunately, Rholand’s player seems to have taken the opposite message from his experiences and has largely given up on Ileosa, instead focusing on developing his relationship with Gwen. Oh well, we’ll see how *that* ultimately ends up for him, particularly given my penchant for kicking my players in the nuts no matter which way they jump. In any event, as they embraced one final time with a promise from Ileosa that she would always be by his side, Rholand returned to the real world.

Rholand’s Rebirth Theme – Rise from the Ashes by Stria

From the pit of ashes, a cloud of ashes swirled up and congealed, reforming Rholand’s body and returning him to the land of the living, perfectly whole, and now free of Kazavon’s corruption. Which was good timing, as Oliver was already down to about half health and Cid was nervously considering whether or not he wanted to get in melee with this thing again, after it had already proven able to completely ignore his mirror images. Rholand had only been gone for 2 or 3 rounds at this point (as his duel with Ileosa hadn’t taken very long at all), so the situation wasn’t *too* dire as yet for the party.

Around this time, the Sepid Div and Nightwing also “conveniently” finished their Clash of the Titans re-enactment, with the Sepid Div tanking the Nightwing’s finger of death before obliterating its face with its own ray of Disintigration. As the surprised Nightwing collapsed into more ashes and dust to fill the room with, the Sepid Div strode forth towards Rholand, confident in its ability to claim its prize now. For its part, sensing that there was something different about the reborn Rholand and wanting no part of it now, the Mezlan backed off from the rest of the party, turned back into a mouse, and skittered off into the darkness. And indeed, Rholand had changed, and reborn through the Mantle of Ashes, he had also cast off the Blood Curse. This meant no effective difference to the Div, however, as he still saw a good-aligned adventurer in front of him and he was prepared to drag him back for an eternity of torture, Blood Curse-marked still or not.

At this point, Sorshen revealed that she was also still with Rholand after a fashion, as her voice whispered an incantation into his ear. An ancient reversal of the Blood Curse designed to banish those creatures summoned forth to fulfill it. And so as the Sepid Div raged and advanced towards the party, Rholand strode forth to meet it, uttered the incantation, and banished the outsider back to wherever it came from with a judicious backhand.

And with Rholand triumphant and once again in control of his own soul and destiny again, we brought this session and Rholand’s “I’m special” questline to a close!

The Mantle of Ashes:

So, since Rholand was more of a caster/switch-hitter than an all-melee all the time beatstick like the rest of the party, I decided he needed something different than a weapon for his “I’m special” item. That led to the decision to grant him yet another cloak in his endless succession of cloaks that he’d been collecting as rewards through the entire campaign – it only seemed appropriate! The target price for this cloak was around 70,000 GP, similar to Vaz’em’s fancy +6 price weapon, and unfortunately there weren’t any cloaks that really matched that price point and had cool abilities (the only 70,000-some GP cloaks in existence in fact are one that makes you a gargoyle and one that gives you a wyvern tail – LAME!) So I got creative, decided that these items were basically minor artifacts, and I could break the rules by just mashing a bunch of less expensive cloaks together to give the mixture of powers that I wanted.

So, the Mantle of Ashes is a combination of a Headband of Alluring Charisma +6, a Minor Cloak of Displacement, and a Cloak of Fiery Vanishing. These effects are generated by Rholand being constantly surrounded by a cloud of ashes trailing off of the cloak unless he intentionally suppresses the effect. This makes him intimidating, hard to see well enough to target with attacks, and allows him to appear to vanish in a cloud of ashes when struck by magical fire. When I saw this scene from the latest King Arthur movie, I immediately pointed at it and said “yes, it looks just like *that*, only with more ashes than flaming cinders going everywhere”. In a word, it looks BADASS.

The Mantle of Ashes also technically makes Rholand an unofficial Runelord, the Runelord of Ash. Through the mantle’s power, he is able to speak and understand Thassilon in written or spoken form, and Thassilon-related creatures/magics recognize Rholand as a Runelord (giving him some interesting roleplaying moments here and there throughout the rest of the campaign as the party comes across more Thassilon-related stuff).

Much like Vaz’em’s sword Hazaali, the Mantle of Ashes also grants Rholand a limited number of spells per day from a specific list (wizard/sorcerer spells if I remember correctly).

He has one 2nd level, either Ancestral Communion (allowing him to contact the fragment of either Sorshen or Ileosa’s soul that lives within the mantle) or Shield Other. One 3rd level, either Accept Affliction or Lover’s Vengeance (I’m holding out hope that he remembers to use this one when the time comes to push Togomor’s teeth down his throat). And finally one 4th level, either Beast Shape 2 (giving him some actual Druid shapeshifting given he’s a Nature Oracle which is basically Druid-lite) or Fire Shield.

Finally, the Mantle of Ashes has two capstone abilities which Rholand can use once per day (only one or the other though!) First is “Rise from the Ashes” – a reactive ability that casts Cure Critical Wounds on Rholand the first time he falls below 0 HP on any given day. If he goes to negative con from that attack, it instead casts Breath of Life on himself instead, thereby saving him from certain death due to straight HP damage. This ability hasn’t been that useful due to the fact that Rholand pretty much never gets hit hard enough to drop to 0 HP, but it does come in REAL handy a few dozen sessions on from this. The second ability is “Always By Your Side” – an activated ability that Rholand can use as a standard action to instantly disappear in a cloud of ashes and re-appear adjacent to anyone that he cares deeply about. This effect functions as a Greater Teleport/Plane Shift/whatever spell is necessary to get Rholand from where he is to immediately by the side of someone he cares about – generally the rest of the party and select NPCs such as Trinia, Gwen, and Ileosa. Of course, it’s a one-way trip and he can’t take anyone with him, so it’s of limited utility but I expect he will use it at some point. It’s also basically “TPK insurance” as Rholand can blink out of any catastrophic situation for the day and return to collect the party’s corpses the next day. It hasn’t seen any use yet, but I think it’s a really cool ability to have in your back pocket damnit!

Session One Hundred Twenty-Four:

So with Rholand’s “I’m special” quest complete and having already spent some twenty sessions in Kaer Maga, I decided that rather than drip feed out the remaining plot lines in the city involving Gwen’s various attempts to destroy it (Darius’s assassination attempts on the Council members, Trent’s Freemen rebelling, Lord Bile attempting to jump start Blood Veil 3.0, etc.) I was going to Doomsday it as I had at the end of Book Three. This meant dumping all of the messes in the party’s lap at once, letting them sort out which problems they wanted to try and solve in the limited time they had, and then force them to live with the consequences.

And so how this session started was with the party getting called into yet another City Council session, this time ostensibly for the purposes of the Council hiring our heroes to go and suss out these various issues that Gwen was kicking up in an attempt to pull Kaer Maga apart. There was the usual bickering amongst the council members over whether this was a good idea or not, and whether they ought to appoint a new moderator to replace De Silva’s empty seat – cue yet more bickering over who deserved that particular bit of headache/power.

And then there was a commotion and gunfire from outside the council chambers as a bunch of Freemen gunslingers stormed the building, intent on killing everyone inside (yeah, that wasn’t going to happen). The leading wave of Freemen gunmen kicked open the door to the Council chamber only to immediately get obliterated courtesy of a fireball from Suthevan Gyves, head of the Arcanist’s Circle and resident high-level mage on the Council. Those Freemen who didn’t get caught in the explosion immediately fell back, chanting about some sort of “The Free Knight”.

Cue the appearance of one of Domina’s iron golems that Gwen had brought on, now decked out in Freemen colors and Heraldry. Suthevan or one of the other councilors could have maybe dealt with this threat as well – likely by pushing it into a summoned pit given how awful pits are for golems – but the Council left it up to the PCs. And boy did they handle it, Cid, Oliver, and Vaz’em spreading out around the kicked-in doors to the Council chamber and waiting for the golem to come stomping into the room. Being a dumb golem, it promptly obliged them, and immediately got eviscerated in two rounds. A CR 13, max-HP (210 HP!) full fledged iron golem, taken apart by 11th level PCs in 2 rounds. It was yet more proof that anything attempting to get into melee with this group was just going to be utterly shredded to bits.

But Gwen wasn’t done just yet – she and her little Legion of Doom had come here to kill a whole lot of high-level NPCs, and they had come with more toys than just a single Iron Golem. The ceiling to the Council chamber suddenly imploded, showering the center of the chamber with chunks of stone as a gaping hole was opened in the roof. Appearing around the hole up on the roof was Gwen, Victae Corbaru, Lord Bile, Trent, and Darius. Up there with the leaders of this rebellion was a large metal cage which rattled as something railed against its prison from the inside, but no one was able to see inside just yet.

Gwen did the typical villainous monologue, stating that Kaer Maga’s time as an independent city was over, these bickering fools didn’t deserve the protection of the Star Weavers and our heroes, blah blah blah. In the process she also boasted of her exact plans to destroy Kaer Maga in one fell swoop tonight – prompting some odd looks from Victae and Trent as she spilled the beans on their whole plan – Trent would be leaving to go attack Pyre and Slag’s base of operations and kill Slag, Lord Bile was going to sack the Cathedral of Pharasma, and Gwen herself was going to blow the district of Bis off the plateau with some kobold sappers. This was not just idle boasting, however, but rather Gwen’s attempt to let the PCs know her plans so they could stop her – the best she could do to resist Togomor’s Geas-driven orders.

The council of course was not impressed with these threats, and Suthevan Gyves opened their rebuttal with a Disintegration that caught Gwen across the face, turning the right side of her face into bloody ashes as the beam raked over her eye. She screamed and while wounded, was certainly not killed by the attack, but chose to fall back away from the opening and out of sight with a scream. The other bad guys took that as their cue, and the large metal cage was pushed down through the hole into the chamber below.

As the cage struck the pile of rubble that used to be the ceiling, it smashed open, allowing the freakish insectoid monstrosity within to clamber out and menace the council with a warbling hiss. This was a derghodaemon, an extremely dangerous daemon that had the power to temporarily drive people mad with its non-stop whispers – i.e. it had an aura that forced anyone inside to make a Will Save or be inflicted with a Feeblemind. Which made it an excellent weapon to use against a bunch of spellcasters like Suthevan Gyves and the clerical leaders of the Council.

As combat restarted, the derghodaemon went scurrying after Delana Karaheis, high priestess of Pharasma within the city, and while clerics have a great Will save, Delana bombed her Will save. So the wise cleric of Pharasma started drooling all over herself while the slavering daemon rose up in front of her and prepared to devour her with a massive full-attack on its next round. Meanwhile, a squad of 10 Fellwroughts came charging over the lip of the roof’s new skylight, crashing down into the rubble to add to the chaos.

It was around this point that everyone, most of the Council included, decided that getting out of here to fight another day was a good idea as Lord Bile summoned two Greater Ceustodaemons down into the chamber to continue stacking the odds against our heroes. Rothgar Hammerfall, commander of the Duskwardens, was aware of an underground complex beneath the council building that eventually emptied out into the central lake, which sounded like as good of an escape route as any to the party. Rholand opened up the floor with a Stone Shape, shaping a sort of slide down into the basement for the party, Star Weavers, and councilors to use to get the hell out of here before the forces arrayed against them could react.

None of the councilors cared that they were abandoned their fellow councilor Delana to her death, as she was certainly too dim at the moment to realize she needed to run over to the slide (and there was the matter of the Derghodaemon in her face to consider as well). And here is where Cid made his fateful mistake, because he had A Plan to save everyone. And that plan was to dimension door right next to Delana, get the derghodaemon’s attention and tank a round of its attacks, and then dimension door right back out with Delana in tow. He managed the first part of the Plan perfectly, bamfing right next to Delana and the Derghodaemon. But that meant he also had to roll a Will save or get Feebleminded . . . and he rolled a Natural 2 on his Will Save. So Cid started drooling all over himself, and the derghodaemon screamed and cackled madly as it tore into Delana and literally ripped her in half.

Unwilling to abandon Cid to certain death or worse, Abigail turned back from the escape slide and called out to Victae, who seemed to have some vague measure of control over the insane daemon (a special DM hand-wavium feat that allowed Victae’s vampire domination gaze to work on outsiders). She offered herself as a willing prisoner of the vampire if he was willing to let Cid go. Victae considered the offer with great interest – a well-known horndog within Kaer Maga it was a trade right up his alley, but he knew how much Togomor really wanted Cid and the other PCs dead. So he tried to lie and accept the trade if Abigail was willing to surrender her weapons, which Abigail saw through and likewise pretended to honor her part of the deal. The derghodaemon was having none of this, however, not with two more tasty mortal morsels in front of it, and Victae struggled to bring the monstrosity to heel while Abigail and Cid spent a couple rounds continuing to fight it while the Fellwroughts picked themselves up from the rubble and moved to surround the group.

Ultimately, the derghodaemon proved to be uncontrollable (as Victae failed several command checks against it), and in exasperation commanded the assembled Fellwroughts to kill it to keep it from ripping his newfound prize prisoner limb-from-limb like poor Delana. In the chaos of the three-way fight between Cid/Abigail vs. Derghodaemon vs. Fellwroughts, Abigail shoved Cid out of the fracas and shouted at him to run. Tears streaming down his now simple-minded face (despite being 1 Int now, I was letting Cid at least follow simple commands and defend himself against the derghodaemon as it attacked him), Cid stammered out a refusal to leave despite the hopeless situation (the party and the rest of the council were already down the slide into the basement), at which point Rholand took matters into his own hands and opening up another slide almost directly under Cid’s feet. As the Fellwroughts closed in on all of them, Abigail shouted at Cid to run again, and he finally obeyed, diving down the new slide an instant before the fellwroughts could unleash a barrage of attacks. Abigail did not end up following Cid down the slide, and the last he saw of her was of the brave paladin of Sarenrae surrounded by the derghodaemon and the Fellwroughts, doing her best to defend herself and slay one last daemon before she was overwhelmed. Then with another casting of Stone Shape, rholand sealed the slides back up, preventing any Fellwroughts from following them.

We ended the session there, with Abigail captured or worse, the party stuck down beneath the council chambers with a bunch of angry councilors in full-on “every NPC for themselves!” mode, and Gwen’s various plans to destroy Kaer Maga beyond just decapitating its leadership in the city council still unfolding in the city streets above them.

Session One Hundred Twenty-Five:

So at the start of this session, the party had saved most of Kaer Maga’s city council from Gwen’s Legion of Doom’s initial attack, but they were still trapped beneath the council building and Abigail was in the clutches of a notorious horndog vampire. There was a brief debate between going back to rescue Abigail, leaving the idiotic *still* bickering councilors to their fate in favor of solving another issue within the city, and escorting the councilors all the way out through the sewer system.

Given they had just gotten done running away from Gwen’s Legion of Doom upstairs, and they had to find a way out of the sewers for themselves anyway, ultimately they decided to begrudgingly continue to aid the councilors – and the remaining members of the Star Weavers (which was probably the real reason the party helped because they were done with these other idiots by this point).

As they wound their way through the sewers, Suthevyn Graves threw down some walls of ice behind them to block off the sewers and discourage pursuit by the Fellwrought soldiers, which undoubtedly were making their way down the sewers after them. That worked on the construct soldiers, but didn’t do much to slow down the fresh wraiths that Darius had made with his con-draining pistol. Still, a couple wraiths would be no match for the combined fire power of two adventuring parties and half a dozen reasonably powerful D&D politicians, so they merely shadowed the party through the walls for now. They also knew there would be a better time to engage the group, as waiting up ahead of them was another little surprise.

As the party moved into a large partially flooded chamber within the city’s sewer system – a sign that they were getting close to an exit out along the shore of Kaer Maga’s centrally located lake/dumping ground/sewer drainage pond – several more daemons surfaced from beneath the corrupted water and attacked! It seems Gwen had anticipated this possible route of escape, and had Victae/Lord Bile set up an ambush here next to the lake-side sewer exit, which was the most likely underground route of escape from the building. Backing the daemons up was the massive blob of blackened filth known as a black pudding. Having always wanted to have a fight with a giant ooze monster splitting up into multiple chunks as a party of heroes hacked at it, I figured this was my best chance to make use of this particular song to serve as the musical theme (warning: one or two f-bombs are present within the song).

Music Theme – Divide by Disturbed

Unfortunately, the black pudding was probably the most disappointing portion of this fight, as Oliver just run up and hacked at it several times, causing it to split into several copies as intended – but each copy divided up the pudding’s HP amongst all the copies. Which meant that as soon as Oliver had gotten done with his splitting attack, two fireballs from Suthevyn Graves and either Edward or Cid came streaking in, hitting all of the black pudding copies and burning them all to death before it got to do anything cool. So much for the terrifying ooze boss.

The daemons had a bit better luck, mostly due to sheer numbers. The leader of the band, a piscodaemon, summoned several hydrodaemons to help him out. The several hydrodaemons that were with him as back-up, having been Called here, *also* summoned another hydrodaemon each, and then spent the rest of the fight spamming their “Summon Large Water Elemental” power, which they could each do 3x a day! So the party was pretty much drowning in summoned Large Water Elementals and extra Hydrodaemons for most of the fight, which evened things out a bit given just how many NPCs were with them.

Nobody had put up Protection from Evil at this point, so the summoned monsters had pretty much free reign to attack whoever they liked (preferring the city councilors as their mission was to kill them all), and even if one or two people would have become protected there were plenty of targets for them to switch to. A few Dispel Magics were hurled about throughout the fight, causing some of the summoned monsters to wink back out of existence, but since Pathfinder nerfed the spell only one summon could be targeted at a time (nobody had access to Greater Dispel Magic, which can be used as an AoE). Cid, Oli, and Vaz of course had the old-fashioned way of returning summoned monsters, which was to beat them to death. Several councilors, such as Pyre, joined in on that as well as Granthor of the Star Weavers.

The piscodaemon proved to be the most difficult foe, as it was one of the few foes thus far in Book Four that proved able to reliably hit Oliver’s impressive AC, and for a few moments it almost looked like it was going to succeed in grabbing hold of him with its pincers, stepping back into the water, and dragging Oliver to a drowning death (haha, yeah sure, maybe if Oliver decided to make the bottom of the sewer pool his new home, given how long in combat round people can hold their breath).

Continuing to add to the chaos, Rholand heard the echoing clank of Fellwroughts approaching from the tunnel they had used to entered the flooded chamber, causing him to drift back and seal off the hallway with a stoneshaped wall behind another Wall of Ice conjured by Suthevyn Graves. It was at this point a couple wraiths finally decided to come out of the walls at him, which kept him busy for a few rounds until they were finally magic missile’d/magic weapon attacked to death.

Although it took quite some time, the party eventually managed to cleave through all of the daemons and their summons, leaving the way clear. The only casualty of the fight was another councilor, the leader of the Duskwardens Rothgar Hammerfall, who had the misfortune of rolling a nat 1 on his Fortitude save versus a hydrodaemon spit attack, rendering him unconscious, and moments later dead as another daemon coup-de-graced him (to which he once again bombed the Fort save to survive it). Not too bad though given the sheer amount of force being brought against the party, all things considered!

Emerging out onto the lake shore, the party decided now to let the councilors save their own hides with the Star Weavers help, while they went to go foil another of Gwen’s plots, namely blowing the district of Bis off the side of the plateau with the help of some kobold sappers. They pretty much ignored all of the councilors’ pleas for continued aid, including Pyre who was immediately going to go back to his compound where his brother Slag was likely fending off an all-out attack by Trent’s remaining Freemen. The party wished him luck, they really did (with their fingers crossed behind their backs in hope that Pyre wouldn’t be making it back from this rescue attempt), but the decision was made. Again, poor Cid also put forth the idea of doubling back to rescue Abigail, but it was decided that she simply had to wait until the city at large was safe. Which was the right thing to do, but unfortunately this continued delay pretty much sealed her fate. What exactly happened to her was revealed in the following session, after the party dealt with Gwen beneath Bis!

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