Iron Gods among Scientists


Iron Gods


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Once upon a time four elderly scientists decided to play the Iron Gods adventure path. This is their chronicle.

Okay, the decision was last week, the first session was yesterday, and not everyone was a scientist. Amy, my wife, is a former choir director. She also has been roleplaying since her older brothers brought back Dungeons & Dragons from college in 1979. Cync is a retired computer programmer. John is a retired biophysicist, the real scientist among us. And I, Erin, am an unemployed mathematician searching for a new job but might settle for retiring, too.

I volunteered to GM, so the party is undersized at three players. To make up for that, I gave everyone an extra 1000 gold pieces starting money. The characters have a 20-point build.

Amy plays Boffin, a dwarf gunslinger with the Experimentalist archetype. Boffin is 45 years old, the dwarven equivalent of a teenager. With the Technologist feat and the Local Ties and Skymetal Smith traits, her background is that she was born in the town of Torch and has worked in odd smithing jobs since she was old enough to swing a hammer. Town councilor Dolga Freddert is a relative. Once Khonnir Baine arrived in town 11 years ago, she found steady employment with him and moved out on her own into Ms. White's boarding house for dwarves.

John plays Elric Jones, a half-elf magus with the Blackblade archetype. We other players added the "Jones" to the character's name, due to his resemblance to Indiana Jones. With the Technologist feat and the Local Ties and Numerian Archeologist traits, Elric became Khonnir Baine's field agent, the person Khonnir sends out on errands to other towns. He was out of town when the torch went out and Khonnir Baine when underground to investigate, but hurried back once he heard of the events.

Cync plays Kirii, a strix skald. In official Golarion source materials, the Strix race lives only at Devil's Perch in Cheliax, but she is from an unoffical branch of the race in the Shudderwood Forest on the north border of Ustalav. This tribe lacks the Chelish branch's fear of humans, but apparently shares enough culture with the Chelish tribe that they have the same traditions for names. Her only campaign trait is Stargazer, and for humor I said that many Numerians assume that she is an alien. She was sent out on a journey of enlightenment by the elder skalds of her tribe. She met Elric Jones and accompanied him back to the town of Torch.

Given the party's strong ties to Khonnir Baine, I began the adventure near his house rather than exploring town or visiting the town council.

SPOILERS below!

As Boffin walked near Khonnir Baine's house, Val, Khonnir's teenage daughter, rushed out of the kitchen door, screaming explanations to Boffin. She had returned home to discover that the repair drone in the workroom had activated and was tearing apart her house for parts to repair itself. She had a bruise on the side of her face from the robot's attack when she tried to restrain it.

Boffin had helped Khonnir put the drone in the workroom and knew the Khonnir had pulled the main battery out of it. Val yelled that the robot had reinstalled its battery. Boffin took cover behind the wagon in Khonnir's yard and persuaded Val to join her there. They could see the robot through the workroom window. It was dismantling the window frame. Val begged Boffin to not break the robot too much, so Boffin installed the grapple attachment to her blunderbuss.

Meanwile, Elric and Kirii had arrived in town and had discovered that the Foundry Tavern was closed. They were walking between the the tavern and the foundry buildings to Khonnir's house when they heard Val's scream. Elric ran forward and Kirii flew to the roof of the house.

Boffin shot through the window and grappled the robot despite my -5 penalty for shooting through the window pane. The robot made a successful Disable Device attempt to ungrapple itself, but it held onto the grappling hook and tried to untie its rope. Elric successfully hit the robot with Shocking Grasp through the hole in the window. Val rushed forward and cast Jolt, a rare cantrip that does ranged electricity damage (I decided to treat her as a 0-level wizard). She hit the wall instead of the robot.

Kirii flew down and cast Grease under the robot. It barely made its reflex save to keep upright, so I ruled that it had tightened its grasp on the grappling rope for support. Boffin pulled on the rope and tripped the robot. The robot failed its attempt to stand up on the grease (it was staggered due to poor condition, so it had only one attempt per turn). Elric hurried into the house, but slipped on the grease himself. Val followed him did not dare step on the grease. Kirii grabbed the grapple rope, treating it like the line on her snag net to keep the robot immobilized. Boffin helped.

Elric, still prone, reached over to the prone robot and made a successful Disable Device attempt to pull its main battery. The robot still had power the next round, but failed its Steal attempt to reclaim the battery. Elric tossed the battery to Val and missed, but Val picked the battery off the floor and ran to the kitchen with it. Next turn Elric rolled off the grease and the robot lacked the power to attempt an attack of opportunity.

Careful observation during the duration of the Grease spell determined that the repair drone still had some mysterious source of power but lacked the power to attack. Elric and Boffin traced the power supply to its power antenna and disconnected the antenna. Val jumped up and down in joy, for they had not had to break the robot. Kirii said she liked Val.

The next day, Elric and Boffin rebuilt the antenna into a directional power locator. They rolled 31 on the attempt! They tracked the broadcast power to a warehouse guarded by a Ropefist Thug.

I started to make mistakes in the module because I had not prepared this part. I explained that they had derailed the adventure and jumped ahead to page 42. Amy hooted that she had derailed the adventure in only an hour! This was not a new record for her or John.

The party decided to be sensible and contacted the town council rather than investigating the guarded warehouse on their own. Only Dolga Freddert was at the town hall, and praised Boffin with, "At least you learned better after the last time." Amy ad libbed about Boffin's previous misadventures with the law.

I needed time to figure out how the town would aid them in investigating the warehouse, so I ended the session there.


I love how different DM's run this module and different ways in which players de-rail it.

Easiest solution would have been to not allow them to track the power or for it to be pointing towards the ground or the eruption point of the torch itself. Too late there.

2nd easiest is for them to search the warehouse and not find the transmitter. 3rd is find it but not be able to turn it off without a white key-card. This does risk them destroying it with main force however.

If they do find it and turn it off it could be conveniently stolen while they are looking for Kohnir. There could be a number of false leads like "Why is Garrit Burwaddle so interested in scrap technology?" and "Why were so many rope-fist thugs lurking around the town council hall right before it was stolen?" or "Someone saw a purple haired women lurking around the town council hall". Now they need to find who kidnapped Kohnir AND who stole (and turned the transmitter back on).

Then move it to a different warehouse or under silver-disk hall. It gets them back on track easiest. If they destroy the McGuffin transmitter then they still need to rescue Kohnir, stop Meyenda, re-start the torch, and avoid complications with Sanvil Trent and Garmin Ulreth. Instead of using the transmitter to lead the party to Scrapwall the details will all have to come from Meyenda and/or the scrapwall fanatics.


Sean_Powell wrote:

I love how different DM's run this module and different ways in which players de-rail it.

Easiest solution would have been to not allow them to track the power or for it to be pointing towards the ground or the eruption point of the torch itself. Too late there.

2nd easiest is for them to search the warehouse and not find the transmitter. 3rd is find it but not be able to turn it off without a white key-card. This does risk them destroying it with main force however.
...

Was there a problem for which I would have needed these solutions? The module describes what the bad guys will do if the PCs find and deactivate the power transmitter early, so I was prepared for that option. The difficult part was figuring out how much extra help they would receive from the town.

The players know that their characters will need to descend into Weeping Pond. They simply insist on doing it their characters' way.


Second session

While the party talked to Dolga Freddert, town councilor Serantha Olandir stopped by. She was afflicted with one of the headaches plaguing town, but dragged herself to the office to finish some work. This lead to Elric and Boffin talking about whether the power transmission they had detected could cause headaches.

Serantha wondered why Garmen Ulreth was renting his warehouse to himself. The two town councilors decided that this warranted officially inspecting the warehouse. They sent a messenger out to fetch the captain of the guard, Aaronlu Langer.

Elric and Boffin continued talking. The source of the transmissions on the east side of town, so were headaches more common on the east? If it were an electromagnetic wave, as the antenna from the repair drone suggested, then metal helmets could block it. Once Captain Langer showed up, they asked her about the headaches among the soldiers, and whether any of her soldiers did not wear metal helmets. Typical scientists.

With Langer and two other soldiers accompanying them, the party returned to the warehouse. The Ropefist guard was conflicted, because he knew that he could not win against the captain but had orders to keep others out of the warehouse. Captain Langer let him run off to fetch Garmen, but sent her soldiers to guard the other entrances to the warehouse to ensure that nothing was removed.

Elric, Boffin, and Kirii circled the warehouse to peek in a window, but all were shuttered. Kirii flew atop the warehouse and found an unshuttered glass skylight. Hot air arose from the vents around the skylight, creating a noticeable thermal. From one angle, she could spot a shiny technological device hidden by surrounding crates. She flew down, and airlifted Elric to the roof, making the Fly check for heavy load. He spotted the device, too.

Garmen and four Ropefist thugs arrived. He tried to talk Langer out of entering the warehouse, explaining he had rented it to a very discreet customer. Captain Langer insisted and Elric mentioned the device, so he let them in through the door to his second-floor office with a request to not touch anything. A faint electrical hum was audible.

Elric Jones led them to the crates around the device, and Garmen ordered the two Ropefist guards inside the warehouse to move the crates and memorize their position to be able to restore them exactly to the same place. Elric identified the device as a power transmitter, sending a beam to the east that was visibly ionizing and heating the air nearby. He checked the display on the transmitter. The amount of power transmitted matched the entire energy output of the torch and the device said that it was in contact with a fusion reactor underground. He feared that deactivating the device might cause a dangerous overload in the reactor, so he did not touch it.

Garmen was visibly surprised. He offered to meet with the town council to explain his customer and ordered the device hidden behind the crates again.

The meeting was at Councilor Otterbie's manor house over dinner. Councilor Dolga Freddert brought an old record book. Garmen explained that a purple-haired android named Meyanda had rented the warehouse, but wanted complete discretion. Garmen understood that her organization had a chance of bringing order to Scrapwall, so that Torch could safely trade with that bandit-ridden area. He had no idea that she was bringing in high technology or involved with the torch. She had set up in the warehouse weeks before the torch went out, but lately had hired guards from him instead of using her own.

Elric Jones declared that they would have to visit Scrapwall after the current crisis. Plot hook set!

Dolga explained that she had written down a conversation she had almost a century ago with the representative of the Technic League, after fine wine loosened his lips: "By the spectrum of the torch, you have a fusion reactor buried down there. And it is deteriorating or it wouldn't have turned itself on. Enjoy it while it lasts. I myself don't want to be around for the end." Dolga pointed out that the torch had lasted longer than the representative's human lifespan. She reminded everyone that the Technic League left the town alone so long as they did not go digging for lost technology. Though this fusion reactor was very, very important, they could not send down anyone who might attract the attention of the Technic League's informants in town. Elric's group was sufficiently unremarkable, had an obvious non-tech-hunting motivation to head underground to find Elric and Boffin's lost employer Thonnir Baine, and yet would be able to recognize the technology they encountered.

But the town could offer more help, one more unremarkable person.

The party made their choice: Thonnir's 17-year-old daughter Val.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Excellent write-up, sounds like a lot of fun!

Quick question: is the grapple-hook attachment for the blunderbuss from a book? Sounds like exactly the kind of thing one of my PCs would love, if I could find the rules for it.


Mathmuse wrote:
The party made their choice: Thonnir's 17-year-old daughter Val.

She's going along as an NPC? A wizard I guess?

Might have been a better idea to make her a cleric or something. The party has two arcane casters even if partial casters.

Melee and healing seem like their weakness as a party.

I guess they could use strategy to get around things. But nah, no one ever does that. It's full speed into the hurt.


shadram wrote:
Quick question: is the grapple-hook attachment for the blunderbuss from a book? Sounds like exactly the kind of thing one of my PCs would love, if I could find the rules for it.

The grapple-hook attachment is from the Advanced Race Guide. Unfortunately, being able to modify a gun like that is allowed by the gnome-only Experimental Gunsmith archetype for gunslinger. I let the dwarf Boffin take a gnome archetype because Torch is a mixed-species town where gnomes and dwarves mingle and she is very nerdish for a dwarf.


sunbeam wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
The party made their choice: Thonnir's 17-year-old daughter Val.

She's going along as an NPC? A wizard I guess?

Might have been a better idea to make her a cleric or something. The party has two arcane casters even if partial casters.

Melee and healing seem like their weakness as a party.

I guess they could use strategy to get around things. But nah, no one ever does that. It's full speed into the hurt.

My players use strategy. That is why they are scary. Their characters can be scary, too.

I would have made Val Baine a wizard like her father. I already had her cast a cantrip as an apprentice wizard.

My players, on the other hand, want her based on her Kellid ethnicity as a Savage Technologist barbarian from the Technology Guide. That would fix the melee weakness in the party.

The write-up for the second session was late. I had Christmas vacation to think over (and overthink) the issue and I decided to combine the two. Val will be a homebrew Savage Spellslinger archetype for the bloodrager. At first I simply crossed the Savage Technologist and the Spellslinger archetypes, but that replaced a lot of weak bloodrager abilities with strong archetype abilities. My second attempt was more balanced, but the archetype is crazy MAD.

The new backstory for Val is that Khonnir had decided that she should know Kellid culture better than he could teach, so he had hired a local Kellid caravan guard, the barbarian Klaruh, to tutor her. Val, the little urchin, had persuaded Klaruh to teach her how to fight, too. Meanwhile, lacking extraordinary intelligence, she had learned the Jolt cantrip by sorcery rather than wizardry, tapping into her unknown Elemental bloodline, even through bloodragers did not ordinarily learn cantrips.

By the way, I noticed that I had allowed two Campaign traits per PC, so Val received that, too.

Val Baine
Human bloodrager (primalist and homebrew savage spellslinger archetypes) 1
NG Medium humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +5

DEFENSE
AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12 (+2 armor, +2 Dex)
hp 12 (1d10+1+favored class bonus)
Fort +3, Ref +2, Will +0

OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft.
Melee: Battleaxe +3 (1d8+2/×3)
Ranged: Shortbow +2 (1d6/×3), range 60 ft.
Special Attacks:
Bloodrage (Ex): 5 rounds/day. +4 morale bonus to Str and Con, +2 to Will saves.
Steady Hand (Ex): No penalty to AC from raging or to Dexterity from fatigue. No 1.5 Str bonus for two-handed while raging. Can sheathe a light or one-handed weapon, including firearms, as part of a regular move.
Bloodline: Elemental Air.
Elemental Strikes (Su): At 1st level, three times a day as a swift action Val can imbue her melee attacks with electrical energy. For 1 round, her melee attacks deal an additional 1d6 points of electrical damage.
Spells (CL negative 2)
Cantrip: Jolt

STATISTICS
Str 14, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 16
BAB +1; CMB +3; CMD 15
Feats: Additional Traits, Point-Blank Shot
Traits: Local Ties, Numerian Archaeologist, Divine the Mystery, Unpredictable
Skills: Acrobatics +6, Bluff +8, Craft(alchemy) +5, Craft(mechanical) +5, Intimidate +7, Knowledge(engineering) +6
Languages: Common, Hallit, Androffan.
SQ: Fast movement
Gear: Battleaxe, Shortbow, Arrows (20), Leather armor, Flint and steel, Belt pouch, Torch, Waterskin, 4 hunks of Cheese, Healer's kit


Definitely looks solid as a build (you can't really do a lot of customizing till you get some levels and gear).

I get confused a lot of times with all the classes and archetypes, but if there is any way this NPC can use a shield and still cast, I think it might be wise of her to do so.

Two AC isn't a lot, but things are awful swingy at first level and her AC is only 14.


Oh wait, your archetype loses shield proficiency. Never mind.


sunbeam wrote:

Definitely looks solid as a build (you can't really do a lot of customizing till you get some levels and gear).

I get confused a lot of times with all the classes and archetypes, but if there is any way this NPC can use a shield and still cast, I think it might be wise of her to do so.

Two AC isn't a lot, but things are awful swingy at first level and her AC is only 14.

---
Oh wait, your archetype loses shield proficiency. Never mind.

I have more control than usual over Val's first level because I could rewrite the archetype again. Savage Technologist lost medium armor proficiency, so Savage Spellsinger lost it, too. I suspect that is because gunslingers have only light armor proficiency. And since a savage spellslinger would fight with a firearm in one hand, a sword in the other, and frequently sheathe one for spellcasting, I did not think she would want to juggle a shield, too. Thus, shield proficiency was easy to give up in exchange for the first-level cantrip.

That loss of protection is one more reason I decided that the armor penalty from bloodraging would be too dangerous for a savage spellslinger. (My ulterior motive is that I have played barbarians before, and made mistakes with their every-changing AC. NPCs should be easy to play.) Nevertheless, Val ought to make many ranged attacks at first level because keeping her distance is her best defense.

I will give her more expensive light armor later. Mechanically, a first-level character cannot afford a chain shirt. Storywise, Val can borrow her father's money, but she will be wearing her leather blacksmith apron and gloves as armor until an armorer friend resizes a chain shirt for her.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Mathmuse wrote:
shadram wrote:
Quick question: is the grapple-hook attachment for the blunderbuss from a book? Sounds like exactly the kind of thing one of my PCs would love, if I could find the rules for it.
The grapple-hook attachment is from the Advanced Race Guide. Unfortunately, being able to modify a gun like that is allowed by the gnome-only Experimental Gunsmith archetype for gunslinger. I let the dwarf Boffin take a gnome archetype because Torch is a mixed-species town where gnomes and dwarves mingle and she is very nerdish for a dwarf.

Excellent, thanks for the reply. The Gunslinger in my game isn't a gnome either, but there's a gnome shop owner in town who would probably invent something like this. The attachments sound like too much fun to ignore just because our Gunslinger is human...


Mathmuse wrote:

Once upon a time four elderly scientists decided to play the Iron Gods adventure path. This is their chronicle.

...[Amy] has been roleplaying since her older brothers brought back Dungeons & Dragons from college in 1979...

Hello. Cync here, playing the strix skald Kirii, wife of John, who's playing our half-elf Magus Elric Jones.

Erin mentioned this thread, and promised he wouldn't be posting anything here that would be too much of a spoiler for us, so I decided to join in. Excellent write-up!

Personally, I refuse to accept the label "elderly". Same with John and Amy, so... speak for yourself, old man. ;-) We don't even get senior discounts yet, except at Dunkin Donuts. (They start at 50, I think.)

And Amy isn't the only one of us who started playing RPGs decades ago. We all did. (Ok, maybe we'll accept "middle-aged". Maybe.)

Mathmuse wrote:
sunbeam wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
The party made their choice: Thonnir's 17-year-old daughter Val.

She's going along as an NPC? A wizard I guess?

Might have been a better idea to make her a cleric or something. The party has two arcane casters even if partial casters.

Melee and healing seem like their weakness as a party.

I guess they could use strategy to get around things. But nah, no one ever does that. It's full speed into the hurt.

My players use strategy. That is why they are scary. Their characters can be scary, too.

I would have made Val Baine a wizard like her father. I already had her cast a cantrip as an apprentice wizard.

My players, on the other hand, want her based on her Kellid ethnicity as a Savage Technologist barbarian from the Technology Guide. That would fix the melee weakness in the party.

Yes, sunbeam, we realize we could really use a cleric/healer in the party. That's one of the reasons Kirii took "Cure Light Wounds" as one of her two Level 1 spells. (It also suits her character, or I wouldn't have done it.) We also each used some of the 1000 gold that Erin gave us for being a small group, to buy healing potions. At Level 5, Kirii will be able to start doing Spell Kenning, and will be able to cast one spell per day from any of a number of different lists, including cleric, with no advance selection. So that was one of my thoughts when choosing her class.

We do use strategy, but most important above all, we use role-playing. I'm finding it quite a struggle to suppress my nature as a player with a high-tech puzzle-solving background, and remember that Kirii wouldn't think of things that I do. That's why Erin has been mentioning Boffin and Elric so much more in the write-ups. Kirii just wouldn't come up with these ideas. She doesn't have the tech background, just a lot of curiousity.

She is a lot of fun to play, though. When she found the thermals above the warehouse, she was thrilled, giggling and flying around playing in them for a few minutes, before she came down to tell the others what she'd seen ("something shiny") and offer to take them up to see for themselves.

So - We didn't ask for Val to be Savage Technologist because as players, we thought it would better balance the party for dungeon crawling success. We did it because we felt it best suited the character's background, as a Barbarian who had been raised by Khonir Baine.

Best utilizing our characters' strengths within what's right for the characters, that's role playing strategy. :-)

And a note on Erin's GMing, as I haven't really played with him as GM before - one of the things he mentioned, is that he will happily give a ruling allowance for "this will amuse the GM". I love that. Because the real point of any game is to have fun. Too many people forget that. Never, ever forget that.

Have fun. :-)

By the way - my character's name. When I decided to play a Strix, I couldn't find any clues for good Strix names online, so I got Nightglass and read it. It was pretty good. There were only two female Strix names in it, and not enough of the language for me to create one. I liked one of the names, so I decided that the one in the story has become a legend among my people, and I was named after her.

My Kirii has a pretty extensive background. Erin knows some of it, and bits have come up in conversations with the party. It always helps to know who you are and where you came from. ;-)


Third session, Thursday, December 31

The party returned to the Baine house with the news that Val would accompany them on the search for her father. Val excitedly ran around the house, grabbing stuff for adventuring and dumping it on the kitchen table. She ran out of the house and returned half an hour later with news that a friend would fit her with a chain shirt in a day or two, but for now she would use her smithing leathers. And she had an old ax, causing Kirii to comment that that did not look like an effective weapon, but she said it just needed cleaning and sharpening. She rushed into the foundry and did a professional job of sharpening it.

Joram Kyte, 6th-level cleric of Brigh, and Mylan Radli, 3rd-level cleric of Pharasma, visited the Baine house. Mylan was disappointed that Thonnir Baine had not brought back the bodies of the Bolger brothers, the three halfings lost in the first expedition. He would like the party to bring back those bodies and any other dead expedition members they find. He was not wealthy, but he would pay 25 gold for each body, either in cash or as an at-cost Potion of Cure Light Wounds. He brought the first three potions in advance to help the party. Also, Thonnir had said that the bodies had already begun to rot, so Mylan provided water-resistant body bags, both in halfing size and human size.

In the morning, while Elric prepared his spells, Val prepared her one spell, and Kirii practiced her music, Boffin ran off to her friend Joe who owned a winch. They would rig up a rope and winch to haul the bodies out of the cave and pond. Joe carefully inspected his winch for gremlin sabotage. Always had to watch for the nasty creatures, he said. When Boffin asked about the anti-gremlin measures, Joe replied, "The first rule of gremlin hunting is to never talk about gremlin hunting, so the gremlins don't know who to get revenge against." Boffin still asked more questions, and Joe explained that anyone who killed a gremlin had to dispose of the body immediately or the gremlins would know who did it, which is why no-one ever saw a dead gremlin. He also blamed various deadly equipment failures around the torch smelter on the gremlins.

Val hauled all the spare hemp rope from the Baine foundry, Joe set up the winch, and Joram showed up at Weeping Pond to cast the Water Breathing spell. A stranger arrived and said that Garmen Ulreth has sent him to help. Joram recognized him as Iscar, a guard at Silver Disk Hall.

Boffin went down first, swimming all the way to the first beach in the caves. She saw lights flying about the water, remembered that Thonnir's expedition had mentioned fire beetles at the first beach, and did not surface. She securely anchored the rope around a jagged underwater rock near the second beach and gave a tug as a signal. The rope did not budge. It went around too many bends in the tunnel and friction held it immobile. Boffin swam out, testing when a tug would work, which was at the cave mouth.

The party all swam down to the second beach in the caves, where the bodies of the halfling Bolger brothers lay. Boffin climbed on shore first, on a space between two bodies. Her movement brought the fire beetles flying in, but they did not attack since the second beach was not their nest. (The beetles who nested at the second beach lay dead among the halflings.) She stepped aside to give Elric room to climb up the beach, into the same square as body #3 (Vince Bolger), and slime mold #3 attacked her and missed.

Because of the crowded conditions where every land square was adjacent to a slime mold and the inexperience of the young molds, I decided that they could not make attacks of opportunity. Moreover, the slime molds had trouble identifying new targets. However, I gave them back their ability to imflict fungal rot with a successful attack though with a lower DC.

Elric successfully rolled Knowledge(Dungeoneering) to identify the slime molds: resistant to fire but not to acid and could be damaged by normal weapons. The players had trouble visualizing this: how does stabbing a slime hurt it? Because of this disbelief, Elric first attacked with Acid Orb. He hit successfully, but was disappointed at only 2 damage. During this battle, Elric's player remarked on the low damage and frequent misses with a lament, "Oh yeah, we're first level."

Kirii's player looked over the playmat map and remarked that she needed a safe place to get on land to get into the air. I responded that the rules did not forbid going directly from swimming to flying and I would give such a move a DC 15 fly check. Since Kirii has +6 to Fly, she took 10 on the check (she was not in melee), flew out of the water, and began her skald ragesong.

Boffin's blunderbuss was inside a waterproof bag, denying her her best weapon. She dived back into the water for safety.

Val stepped onto the beach on the far side of body #1 (Kurt Bolger), used Kirii's song to enter a rage for free, and attacked slime mold #1 as her ax cracked with electricity. She missed, but her aggressive action while adjacent to fire beetle #3 incited it to attack her. It hit for 4 damage. I was rolling reaction rolls for each fire beetle whenever the players did something that could seem hostile. On the other hand, slime mold #1 had no reaction to Val's failed attack and did not realize a potential target was adjacent to it.

Slime mold #2 hit Elric and he made his save against disease. He draw his rapier, attacked, and missed. Kirii threw a chakram at slime mold #3 and missed, the chakram instead becoming lodged in the dead body beneath the mold.

Val attacked the fire beetle instead of the mold. She did not charge up her ax with her 3-times-a-day bloodline power, because I roleplayed that she did not yet realize she had the power and was using it unconsciously on her first attack of each encounter. She missed. The beetle bit back for another 4 damage. Val was down to 4 hit points.

Elric's rapier finished off acid-damaged slime mold #2 and moved on to fight slime mold #1. Kirii hit #3 with a second chakram. Together, they finished off the slime molds without becoming infected with fungal rot.

Val missed her fire beetle again; fortunately, its counterattack did only 2 damage. Next turn, she finally hit it, killing it in one blow. But that incited fire beetle #2 to attack her. It missed and she killed it on her first try. Fire beetle #1 consistent;y rolled non-aggressive responses and at that point, I decided it was too mellow to attack. It flew back to the first beach.

The party ended their first serious combat with Val and Elric damaged. Elric restored himself with a Potion of Cure Light Wounds, but Boffin had to persuade Val to drink three potions to heal up to 10 hp (out of 12). Kirii recovered her chakrams.

They put the three bodies into the body bags and alerted Joe to haul them to the surface with the winch rope.

They returned to the caves at the first beach, because the passage out of that beach had been the route Thonnir's expedition had taken. Boffin unpacked her blunderbuss and loaded it. Instead of discovering Parda's body in the passage, they found bloody marks indicating a body dragged away. They turned left to investigate the third beach with Boffin in the lead. The blindheim sprang out of the water and bit her.

All four party members failed their Knowledge(Nature) rolls to identify the blindheim. Poor zero-BAB Elric could not draw his rapier as he moved, so he drew and advanced but could not attack. Val drew her bow and shot, but with the shooting-into-melee and soft cover penalties, she missed. Boffin stepped back five feet and shot the blindheim for two damage. Then she reloaded. Kirii was in the same predicament as Elric as she took to the air.

The blindheim used its blinding gaze attack. Elric and Boffin failed their fortitude saves and were blinded.

Val raged, drew her ax as she moved into the spot vacated by Boffin, unconsciously charged it with electricity, and hit. She rolled low for weapon damage, but with 4 extra electricity damage she inflicted 10 damage on the blindheim. The blindheim fought back with a full attack and got Val down to 2 hp again. Kirii threw a chakram but discovered for herself the throwing-into-melee penalty. Val hit again and did 10 more damage without the electricity. Kirii drew her kukri and stabbed the blindheim unconscious.

Val investigated the blindheim's lair and found the dead body of a member of Parda's expedition. She and Kirii searched it for identifying clues. They took the two Potions of Cure Light Wounds from his pouch but left everything else on the body as they bagged it. They also bagged the stabilized blindheim. Then they took their blind compatriots and the two bags out of the caves back to the surface of Weeping Pond.

Elric and Boffin were distressed to remain blind after so many rounds, so Kirii and Val left them with Joe and Iscar and hurried across town to fetch Joram. By the time they returned, the blindness had begun to fade. Joram instead healed the damaged party members for free. Iscar thought that Garmen might be interested in purchasing the live blindheim (as soon as I figure out how much he will offer).


Fourth Session, January 15, 2016
After recovering from blindness from the blindheim gaze attack, the party swam down Weeping Pond again and returned to the caves. They continued down the unexplored passage from the blindheim's beach, and found rubbish piles at a four-way intersection. They did not spot Luepel, the skulk lookout, as she sneaked away to warn her tribe of more outsiders.

The intersection had chalk drawings on the wall. Elric and Boffin recognized the drawing of a repair drone, but Kirii's artistic insights as a bard and esoteric interest as an Stargazer let her recognize the four-armed figures as skeletons of aliens. However, the party spent more time examining the floor, for they found footprints of both the skulks and of previous expeditions. Boffin realized that Luepel's footprint was less than a minute old.

They followed the shoe-shod expedition footprints to the cavern with the brown mold. Elric's Knowledge(Dungeoneering) was familiar with the cold-creating mold. They spotted three bodies of the second expedition, stripped of gear and laid out in the preserving cold (I added this myself: the skulk tribe decided to preserve evidence for Meyanda that they had defended against outsiders as their part of the bargain). Boffin improvised protective gear against the cold to fetch the bodies, and spotted the fourth body hidden in a corner, the body of her friend Gerrol Sonder. Gerrol was dead but slumped over rather than laid out and still had his gear, such as his pistol.

Once the four bodies were out with Boffin taking only 3 damage from cold, Kirii performed a test on the brown mold. Elric had remembered that it reacted to fire, but did it react to cold? Prestidigitation to cool it a little caused it to shrink. Elric's Ray of Frost cantrip could clear it away. Val's Jolt cantrip did nothing.

The players and I had to stop for a discussion of cantrips before the above scene. Cync knew that Kirii's cantrips could be used repeatedly without limit, but John had spotted the line, "A magus can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. His base daily spell allotment is given on the table above....," in the magus rules and assumed that Elric's 0-level spells were limited the same as higher-level spells. Sigh, some Pathfinder rules hide the special cases.

Elric also examined Gerrol's body for cause of death and recognized the russet mold on his skin. Kirii remembered that russet mold was a stage of vegepygmy growth. In a day, a hostile vegepygmy could erupt from the body. She used Prestidigitation to clear as much of the russet mold away as possible, to reduce the risk of contamination from spores, but could not remove the deep-rooted fungus. As GM, I was amused how the rolls worked out: Elric's booklearning had included pictures of russet mold so that he could recognize it, while Kirii's verbal lore lacked the images but instead told a broader tale of the lifecycle of an exotic creature.

They returned to the surface again, hauling four newly filled body bags. Kirii flew off to fetch Joram Kyte to deal with the russet mold. Boffin ran off to the water treatment plant, aka Crowfeather Palace, to fetch three filter masks to protect the party from inhaled mold spores. Elric ran off the the alchemist's shop to purchase a fouth mask. The alchemist Jhestine Imierin had two filter masks, and also knew an alcohol treatment to remove russet mold from dead bodies. She would deal with Gerrol's body.

Boffin encountered Emelia Otterbie, Gerrol's fiance, on the road. She made a high Diplomacy roll to avoid blurting out about Gerrol's death tactlessly, but the two young women cried on each other's shoulders over the death of a good friend. Yet Boffin remembered the town had a resurretion scroll reserved for Khonnir Baine. If Khonnir was still alive, then Gerrol could be resurrected instead.

The last to return to Weeping Pond was Kirii, accompanying Joram. Joram healed Boffin but left the russet mold to Jhestine. The party returned to the caves.

They spotted a fresh tracks at the rubbish-filled intersection, two sets of barefoot footprints leading to and from the brown mold room. At the brown mold room, Elric cleared a safe path through the freezing mold with Ray of Frost. The party exitted the room at the other side, and came out on the ledge ten feet above the skulk village. Due to the torches set up at the skulk huts, the party could see the glimmer of the metal wall on the far side of the cavern.

The skulk were hiding, with Stealth rolls in the mid 20's. The party rolled Perception in the low teen's at best, especially with the -2 penalty from wearing filter masks, so the skulks remained out of sight.

Boffin rushed on ahead alone, thinking to draw out any ambush herself. She spotted signs that Khonnir's party had used an access card in entering the open hatch in the metal wall, which Elric called a hull, and yelled, "Yes!"

Kirii, in the meanwhile, had dug up her Footprint Book--apparently she believes in booklearning too--and compared the images to the footprints of the villagers. "They're skulks!" she yelled out. And she remembered how good skulks were supposed to be at hiding.

The session ended on that cliffhanger.


I remember reading a forum posting complaining about a miserly GM a few months ago. That party had been promised masterwork weapons as a reward at first level, but had not received them until third level, where masterwork weapons are overshadowed by enchanted weapons. This module sets up the same situation:

Story Award:
Story Award: If the PCs return Gerrol’s body to Emelia, award them 200 XP. Grateful, Emelia sees that her father crafts a new masterwork weapon for each PC. These gifts take time to create, however, but since they’re handcrafted, the PCs each get to pick their weapons according to their tastes.

Suppose I went along with a story award that promised the PCs freshly-made masterwork weapons. Improving a weapon to masterwork costs 300 gp and requires a DC 20 Craft(Weapons) check. In order to finish one weapon in one day, the weaponsmith would have to roll 105 on the craft check. No-one can roll that. A more reasonable roll of 25 would finish upgrading one weapon in four days. Four weapons would require 16 days.

I estimate that only four hours have passed since Boffin first swam into the caves. At this rate, the party will reach 2nd level before nightfall and 3rd level within three days. They are not going to slow down before they find Khonnir Baine or his dead body. Leveling up happens at an incredible rate on an urgent mission.

A lot of smiths are temporarily out of work while the torch is extinguished, so I could use cooperative crafting to finish the masterwork weapons in a hurry. But it would still take a day. The delay that would deliver the first-level story award at third level is because the the game mechanic of realistic crafting conflicts with the game mechanic of leveling at the speed of the mission. Oops.

Besides, Elric and Boffin already have masterwork weapons because of the extra wealth I gave them at the beginning of the game. I will substitute another story award, one that is more timely.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Mathmuse wrote:
Besides, Elric and Boffin already have masterwork weapons because of the extra wealth I gave them at the beginning of the game. I will substitute another story award, one that is more timely.

An Adamantine weapon (of a type favored by a party melee character) that he happens to have on hand?

This would be usable almost immediately.
Spoiler:
... and would be most helpful in rescuing Khonnir Baine


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Lord Fyre wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
Besides, Elric and Boffin already have masterwork weapons because of the extra wealth I gave them at the beginning of the game. I will substitute another story award, one that is more timely.

An Adamantine weapon (of a type favored by a party melee character) that he happens to have on hand?

This would be usable almost immediately.
** spoiler omitted **

That would add a fine element of local flavor. One metal scavenged from the fragments of the starship is glaucite, an iron and adamantine alloy. The usual opinion about glaucite is that "the metal isn’t much better than steel for forging weapons or armor, and the process of extracting the adamantine from it is so expensive and time consuming that the resulting adamantine isn’t worth the effort," but Torch had the torch for aiding extraction, so adamantine would be more common in Torch.

Not for my players to read yet:

Elric is a black blade magus and Boffin is an experimental gunsmith, so they will be devoted to other weapons; thus, Kirii is the best recipient of an adamantine weapon. She uses kukri and chakram. Kukri would make the most sense as adamantine, but an adamantine throwing weapon would be funny.

Imagine that some metal shops in Torch use circular adamantine cutting blades. Imagine that gremlin sabotage split such a blade into two halves, and the owner repaired it by welding the adamantine to a glaucite inner ring. He would have balanced it perfectly, i.e. masterwork balance, but his workers would look for an excuse to give the rebuilt blade away before it splits again while cutting at high speed. And it could function as a masterwork adamantine chakram.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Mathmuse wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
Besides, Elric and Boffin already have masterwork weapons because of the extra wealth I gave them at the beginning of the game. I will substitute another story award, one that is more timely.

An Adamantine weapon (of a type favored by a party melee character) that he happens to have on hand?

This would be usable almost immediately.
** spoiler omitted **

That would add a fine element of local flavor. One metal scavenged from the fragments of the starship is glaucite, an iron and adamantine alloy. The usual opinion about glaucite is that "the metal isn’t much better than steel for forging weapons or armor, and the process of extracting the adamantine from it is so expensive and time consuming that the resulting adamantine isn’t worth the effort," but Torch had the torch for aiding extraction, so adamantine would be more common in Torch.

** spoiler omitted **

Problem solved.

Spoiler:
And it would also give her a moment to shine against the Collector Robot in area C12.


Fifth session, January 21, 2016
Kirii, upon deducing that hidden skulks were nearby, gave a short speech to an unseen audience that the party came in peace. One of the skulks, Luepel, stepped out of hiding, but she advanced on lone Boffin near the metal wall rather than the group of three up on the ledge.

She rolled poor on Diplomacy and skulk charisma is 7, so her greeting sounded much like a threat. Val jumped down to stand near Boffin for support. Boffin rolled just as badly on her diplomatic response. Her description of Khonnir Baine elicited the news that Khonnir had killed three skulks and Luepel would be glad to see the dwarf follow Khonnir down the passage through the metal wall to never return like Khonnir, but she needed the dwarf and one other to meet with her chief, Sef.

Queries from Kirii and Elric, spoken with much more diplomacy, established that tongue-tied Boffin did not have to speak for the party. Instead, the skulk Barsh led Kirii and Elric to Sef to negotiate. Meanwhile, Boffin realized that the sword that Luepel had waved around angrily was of Scrapwall design.

Sef explained that the skulk's former chief had made a poor bargain with the purple-haired woman, Meyanda. In exchange for supplies and weapons, the skulk tribe had promised to keep other outsiders from following Meyanda's party of half-orcs and ratfolk. She was willing to break the bargain, but feared the retribution of Meyanda. Elric assumed that she was asking for protection, but Sef was sure that the hazards past the metal wall would kill the party, so she could not rely on their protection. Instead, she wanted more places where the skulks could hide, by claiming the caverns inhabited by the gremlins. She wanted the party to kill the gremlins.

Sef promised them a reward: the gear off the second expedition, the three bodies of the second expedition stored in the frozen brown-mold cavern (ELRIC: "We already got those." KIRII: "There were four ...." ELRIC nudged Kirii into silence.), and some technological items they found.

Elric and Kirii agreed. The four adventurers went into the low-ceiling gremlin caverns and almost immediately saw a gremlin run past. Kirii's player rolled an 11 on Knowledge(nature) and I told her player that Kirii could remember the offensive, defensive, or magic abilities of jinkin gremlins. She chose offensive, which included their trap-making skills. Kirii deduced that the gremlin was luring them into a trap.

Boffin led the way, since she had the highest perception. She spotted the tripwire and had the Disable Device skill to permanently disable the spiked trap. Yet the passage was a dead end with no gremlin in it.

They continued down the tunnels and Boffin spotted and disarmed another trap. As the party took the left branch of a fork, the same gremlin they had spotted before sneak attacked Val from the right branch, but missed. Val raged and attacked back. Both Kirii ahead of Val and Elric behind Val suffered soft cover penalties to hit gremlin #1 due to the rocky walls of the passage, so instead they used Aid Another to help Val.

Out of character, Amy, Boffin's player, was advising Cync and John in system mastery and had suggested Aid Another. The two had played D&D years ago, but such details were difficult to recall and might not have been carried over to Pathfinder. Cync has expressed frustration over the the incredible number of details involved. Those details are usually automatic for me, but when I have to doublecheck the details of the details, such as proper positioning for Aid Another, I agree Pathfinder has too many.

As Val fought the gremlin and discovered it had DR 5 (and they correctly guessed it was DR 5/cold iron, since gremlins are fey), Boffin hurried down the left branch to see if it bent around and joined the right branch. It did, but Boffin had a glimpse of the main gremlin cavern as she passed it. And she did not reach gremlin #1, because gremlin #2 was right behind it.

On her third and final round of rage (she had used two rounds earlier that day), Val killed gremlin #1 and then followed Boffin's shouted instructions to get out of the way. That left Boffin with a clear line to use the scattershot loaded in her blunderbuss. The scattershot missed, and gremlin #2 moved into the square vacated by Val to attack Elric, for 1 point of damage. Elric attacked back with Shocking Grasp and dealt 5 damage to gremlin #2, leaving it at 1 hit point. It used its Dimension Door ability to escape, with Kirii and Elric missing their attacks of opportunity.

Boffin lead the party to the gremlin nest. They spotted the other hatch into the spaceship on the far wall. They found tools and valuable materials stolen from the town of Torch above, With a successful Knowledge(local) roll, Boffin identified the owners of the masterwork tools and I told Boffin's player the finder's fees they would pay for their return.

Boffin checked a side cave for traps, failed to spot it, failed her reflex save, and took 10 damage. She drank a potion of Cure Light Wounds and healed for 9 damage. She needed that maximum healing, because gremlins #3 and #4 attacked. Gremlin #3 dimension doored to her far side to flank, and gremlin #4, AKA Jazvit the gremlin chief, sneak attacked her for 5 damage.

Boffin managed to hurt Jazvit with blunderbuss and heavy pick, but only a little due to the DR. Nevertheless, Jazvit dimension doored away. Gremlin #3 was exposed to the other three party members. It gradually 5-foot-stepped around them while attacking at every turn. Elric was casting Ray of Frost at it, but between the -4 penalty for shooting into melee and the soft cover, the gremlin was untouched. It withdrew into the maze of tunnels to escape.

After the gremlins escaped, Elric drank a healing potion for his 2 damage, on the theory that the gremlins would target the fellow would could bypass their DR with Ray of Frost. They party searched the side cavern, found a hoard of silverdisks, including one that still held battery charges (nicknamed "shimmerdisk"). They talked over the gremlins' behavior and realized that each gremlin had used Dimension Door only once, even though a second Dimension Door would have helped. Thus, the party hurried to hunt down the three gremlins before their Dimension Door ability could recharge.

Val and Kirii teamed up to search the known tunnels, each entering from opposite ends to trap any hidden gremlin between them. Elric and Boffin took the unexplored region, since Boffin still was needed to spot and disarm traps. As Boffin disarmed a trap from behind its tripwire, she spotted gremlin #2 again. That gremlin's only avenue of escape was toward the skulk caverns, where the skulk Barsh spotted it and gave chase as it ran back up another tunnel into gremlin territory. The close chase kept the gremlin from hiding and Boffin joined the chase. Val heard them and left her position backing up Kirii to intercept the gremlin. All three surrounded it but were having trouble hitting it. Boffin hit it once, but the DR 5 negated all her damage.

Kirii continued down her tunnel, and spotted gremlin #3 and gremlin Jazvit together in a roomy cavern. To contain them without Val, Kirii cast Grease under them and gremlin #3 fell. Between 5-foot-steps to avoid attacks of opportunity and failing Acrobatics checks, they were stuck in that cavern for two full rounds, giving Elric time to arrive, make a critical hit with Ray of Frost, roll 6 damage on 2d3, and kill gremlin #3 in a single attack. Elric and Kirii chased Jazvit out to the gremlin nest cavern again, where Kirii had room to spread her wings and fly for full mobility. She managed a crit on Jazvit to finish him off.

Gremlin #2 hit Barsh, and the skulk backed out of the fight. Boffin was telling Val to run through the passages with her barbarina speed to get behind it and cut off its exit, but as she said that, she swung her pick for a critical hit and killed gremlin #2. Never mind, she told Val.

The party returned to Sef. Sef presented them with the second expedition's gear and five brown access cards. Kirii asked, "Are these valuable?" Elric replied, "Yes, they are." Actually, the list price in the Technology Guide is only 3pg each, but since they are contraband in the eyes of the Technic League, they are hard to find. Sef warned them of the open passage that Khonnir's party had gone down: the passage had a repair drone robot that would not attack if they hurried past, and a giant cavern with the metal dome ceiling contained four-armed alien skeletal undead. Sef doubted that the adventurers could survive the skeletons, for only clubs could harm them (DR 5/bludgeoning).

The party tried the access cards on the hatch in the gremlin area, but its display reported it locked. They took the loot and the gremlin bodies back to the surface. As much as they wanted to press on to find Khonnir, they needed their spells and rage abilities restored before they would risk the skeletons.

And they earned second level.


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Sixth Session, Friday, January 29, 2016
A new player has joined the game. Rich is playing Kheld, a 2nd-level Core Rulebook fighter. Rich is an engineer who never played D&D nor Pathfinder before. We told him about the setting and he invented a backstory

Kheld grew up in a Kellid tribe that has become accustomed to taking civilized jobs. He became a guard in Starfall, but was disillusioned by the Technic League corruption there, so he switched to caravan guard. His current caravan is owned by Garmen Ulrech, and he is valued there because he has seen engineering and technological stuff up close in Starfall.

Kheld was designed by committee of the other players to fit that background. The 20-point build gave Str 17, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 13, Cha 10. Rich chose Ancestral Weapon, a Numerian regional trait, but was more familiar with real medieval weapons than Pathfinder weapons, and wanted a lucerne hammer without the long handle. I said that the ancestral weapon could be a custom weapon. After more discussion, he decided against a hammer, but his ancestral weapon is still a custom weapon, a cold iron collapsible glaive. His other trait is Conspiracy Hunter, a campaign trait from Council of Thieves, to make Perception a class skill. Starfall is a town with a corrupt government, same as Westcrown, so it fits. (I have been using the Archives of Nethys website as my source of traits.)

Garmen sent Kheld and Roy the teamster, AKA Roy the Horse Boy, to Weeping Pond to collect the captured blindheim. Both Kheld and Roy failed their Knowledge(nature) rolls to know what a blindheim is. Amy, out of character, said, "He is going to arrive when we emerge from the pond, isn't he?" Of course, he did. That is how cinematic adventure works. He got to meet the characters as they swam up one by one: Boffin, Val, Kirii, and Elric.

Kheld and Roy took the caged blindheim to Garmen and reported on the party's conversations to him. Boffin went off the return recovered items to their owners (owners' families for deceased expediton members) and receieved 200 gp finder's reward for quality tools stolen by the gremlins. And she showed off the gremlin corpses to the gremlin-hating workmen. "We took out the entire nest!" Elric, Kirii, and Val went shopping. Dolga managed to intercept Boffin and arrange a town meeting with the party, to come up with a story that does not mention technological goodies that could bring in the Technic League. And she told them that Garmen arranged a celebration in their honor at Silverdisk Hall.

Garmen assigned Kheld as a guard on Kirii (character selected by 1d4 roll) with three instructions: keep her safe, report any interesting conversations, and interrupt her if she starts to talk about the purple-haired android Meyanda. Garmen also gave the party 100 silverdisks each for a pre-celebration gambling spree, figuring that the crowd joining in the gambling would make up that loss. He figured wrong, because both Boffin and Val rolled high and walked away with 400 gp each while Elric and Kirii rolled above average and walked away with 150 gp each. Well, my players can be trusted to not abuse character wealth.

(What they are going to abuse is testing each silverdisk to see whether it can hold a charge, and gathering a collection of batteries for recharging.)

Master smith Fred Brownbeard and respected townsfolk Emelia Otterbie lead the ceremony. Fred showed off a dead gremlin and pointed out that the party's gambling winnings proved that the gremlins no longer had the power to curse with bad luck. Emelia presented the party with rewards for their service: her deceased fiance Gerrol Sonder's adventuring gear-- +1 short sword, +1 studded leather armor, and a pistol--and an adamantine chakram made from an adamantine rotary saw blade. (Thanks for the inspiration, Lord Fyre. John said, "It makes sense they would use adamantine saw blades.")

After the celebration, Garmen told Kheld he would be descending with the party the next day. Garmen had learned that the town might blow up if the party failed, and he wanted them to have as much help as possible, short of drawing the attention of the Technic League. Kheld used that fear to wrangle extra resources out of Garmen.


Session 7, Sunday, January 31, 2016
My group of scientifically-trained players proved their mettle again by applying good tactics and avoiding unnecessary violence.

In contrast to their common sense, NPC Val Baine adopted a new battle cry, "Nerdrage!" It doesn't mean what she thinks it means, a nerd going into barbarian rage, but she has more enthusiasm than accuracy. She still thinks that her class is barbarian/wizard while really it's a homebrew archetype for bloodrager.

The morning after the celebration at Silverdisk Hall, before heading back down Weeping Pond again, the party used their gambling winnings to buy a Wand of Cure Light Wounds. Thus, Kheld and Joram were waiting for them at Weeping Pond, and Kheld already had Joram's agreement to accompanying the party.

This time, the party took the pictogram passage to the skulk village and saw the illustrated story of the skulks coming to this area, in reverse order. Boffin paused for a word with Sef, saying that she should make some agreement with the town above, or murderhobo adventurers might wipe them out.

In the corridors of the habitat module, I added some signage, written in dull, bureaucratic Androffan language (I used to work for the federal government and have Linguistic ranks in bureaucratese), and they proceeded down Corridor B. The sliding doors pushed open--a safety feature for power outages, but would be overridden by another safety feature that locks them in place during vacuum decompression. Boffin spotted the repair drone and, forewarned by the skulks that it attacks if anyone lingers, tried to hurry past. But it spoke aloud in Androffan, "Unauthorized personnel not permitted in breached area. Evacuate immediately," and Val could not resist asking in Androffan, "Then who's authorized?"

When the robot replied, "Repair and command crew," Elric, the other party member fluent in Androffan, bluffed, "I am repair crew." He rolled well, and the robot rolled a 1. It asked Elric for orders.

He asked it about its work and told it to continue. Boffin and Kheld has many questions and Val translated for them, until her voice (my voice) tired out. Due to running on weak broadcast power, it had to stop to recharge often, and estimated that the repair of Corridor B would take 10 years. It powered up again one week ago and did not know how much time had passed. It originally came from Factory 15. The corridor lead to the habitat chamber. It did not know the contents of the habitat chamber. The people it had seen in the corridor were three groups heading inward, totaling 12 Androffans, and two groups heading outward, totaling 4 Androffans. (Val and Elric had to explain to the others that Androffans looked human and their robots did not notice the differences in elves and dwarves.) One person heading inward did match the description of Khonnir Baine. No person matched the description of Meyanda.

The room contained smashed glass cages (the module said wire cages, but people as worried about biological contamination as the Androffans would not store specimens in open mesh) with carcasses of pilos. Val giggled because the Androffan name of the spiny creatures sounded like "pillow" in Common. Opening a side door yielded some loot: the grippers and the shimmerdisk were obvious, but the e-pick required a technological Knowledge(engineering) check. The repair drone objected to Boffin taking the items, until Val piped up that Boffin was repair crew, too.

The biolock chamber was non-functional, but its signs had warnings about mandatory bio-decontamination.

Boffin spotted the ghelarn and its trap in the exit cave in habitat chamber and Elric identified it. They wanted to follow the obvious solution of following the footprints that safely went around it. However, newbie player Rich and his character Kheld began suggesting ways to attack it, such as with arrows or alchemist's fire (both which it had defenses against) without understanding its biology. Kirii objected to attacking a creature that was not a danger to them. The party managed to stifle Kheld and simply walk past the ghelarn.

The footprints went in several directions as the previous expeditions had returned to the cave repeatedly in their explorations. Following a glint of green light, they found a kasatha skeleton standing immobile, its eye sockets occasionally flaring green. After talking a round or two, they decided that the lack of action did not mean it was harmless. Kirii flew over it and dropped a flack of holy water on it. It hissed and bubbled and fell apart into individual bones.

They were correct about skeletons not being harmless. The still one was bait. The other skeletons were converging on its location. I rolled nine d12s, which came up as 1,1,1,3,3,5,7,7,7. That was the number of rounds before the other skeletons reached it. Thus, the next round, three more skeletons surrounded them, but they had double-moved so they did not attack yet. One was adjacent to Elric, one adjacent to Val, and one had run short of movement before reaching the party.

Kheld threw a holy water flask at the skeleton that stood alone and missed, but the flask landed in the sand and did not break. Boffin shot that one and blew away half its ribcage with 3 damage. Elric stepped back 5 feet from his skeleton and cast Magic Missile to finish off the one Boffin had damaged.

Val yelled "Nerdrage!", went into bloodrage, and swung at her skeleton with her flail. She missed, and realized that she was standing adjacent to an unhurt monster that had four attacks per round. She panicked and ran away (regular move, not a run nor 5-foot step). The skeleton missed its attack of opportunity, because Val had upgraded to medium armor (I changed the homebrew archetype to allow medium armor again, but she has arcane spell failure checks in it).

From the air Kirii threw holy water at the skeleton that had attacked Val and demolished it. The remaining skeleton full-attacked Kheld, but could not penetrate his heavy armor. Yet Kheld missed him, too, and stepped back. Boffin reloaded and Elric tried Acid Splash, which was partially effective. Val lapsed into post-rage fatigue, but demonstrated her Steady Hand ability that lets her shoot without fatigue penalty. She took out that damaged skeleton with Gerrol Sonder's pistol.

The party waited, but no second wave of skeletons came. The round-3 skeletons were meeting up out of sight with the round-5 skeleton. Boffin could hear the clatter of their bones. The party advanced to put a rock outcropping to their backs. Val reloaded and fetched the unbroken flask of holy water before joining the others, leaving Kheld by the rock outcropping out of range of her light spell. Elric had low-light vision and decided to memorize other cantrips besides Light that morning. Kheld secured his sunrod to his belt rather than rely on Val for light anymore. Boffin used her Mountaineering trait to climb the rock outcropping.

Kirii flew in aerial reconnaissance and spotted three skeletons together. The skeletons spotted her, too, and began moving toward the party. She spotted a round-7 skeleton approaching too, and cast Grease under the group of three. One fell immediately, one fell on its turn when trying to move, and one continued toward the party. That one and three round-7 skeletons reached the party. One hit Elric for 5 damage, one missed Kheld, and the rest had double-moved.

Kheld swung and missed. Boffin shot from her elevated position and missed. Elric took a five-foot step, caught three skeletons with Burning Hands, and rolled maximum damage so that even the one that made its reflex save went to pieces. Kheld tried to drench the remaining skeleton in holy water and Val tried to shoot it. Both missed. Then that skeleton made a full attack against Elric, hit three times, two of those were maximum damage, and brought Elric down to 1 hit point. Kheld stepped up and demolished that skeleton, so that Elric could safely drink a healing potion.

Meanwhile, Kirii was trying to deal with the two skeletons trapped by grease. Her first holy water flask missed, landing unbroken in the greasy sand. Her second hit, destroying one skeleton and splashing the other. But that skeleton escaped the grease next turn and moved toward the ground-based party. Kheld, Boffin, Elric, and Val all made ranged attacks, by holy water flask, blunderbuss, Acid Splash spell, and pistol respectively, and all missed. Kirii flew over, swung her new lucerne hammer like a golf club from above the skeleton, and smashed it.

Behind the scenes, out of character, Amy and I had been explaining move actions, standard actions, and attacks of opportunity to Rich. John and Cync needed a refresher, too. Amy opened the Core Rulebook to the page of pictures of spread shapes and handed that to John before his character cast Burning Hands. Rich complained about the throwing-into-melee penalty I applied to one of his misses, saying he would have tried something else if he had been warned. He had been warned, but amongst a dozen other rules.

Kirii explored the entire habitat dome from the air. Strix have darkvision. She confirmed that no skeletons remained and spotted two features of interest: a cave to the northeast and a cluster of footprints to the southeast. The party went to the footprints.

Val and Kheld spotted the sliver of light from a rock wall. Boffin felt the doors behind the hologram and felt around until she found an access-card slot. She used her access card and the doors opened to reveal a biolock chamber.


I forgot during my writeup that Boffin had her first misfire with her blunderbuss in the battle on the habitat dome. It happened during her first shot from atop the rock outcropping. I had called it a mere miss by mistake. Boffin was safely out of reach of the skeletons and so had no problem using Quick Clear to fix the broken firearm.

This was also a test of the gunslinger side of Val's homebrew Savage Spellslinger archetype. I had given the gifts on the previous session mostly due to roleplaying, because in Boffin's background Gerrol Sonder was her friend who taught her how to shoot guns. Yet I knew that Val might end up with Gerrol's pistol. The Steady Hand ability felt right for this archetype as I used it: Val shot while in post-rage fatigue but since she is immune to the Dexterity penalty from fatigue, that was a sensible act for her. She had a shortbow, but using it would have required dropping her flail or taking an extra move action to sheathe the flail. Short-term efficiency forces her into sword-and-gun style. Besides, bullets bypass the skeletons' DR.

And in the caves, we did not see effective use of Kirii's flight. This time the habitat dome gave her room to stretch her wings during combat.


Session 8, Friday, February 5, 2016
The party opened the hidden door to the broken biolock. Boffin and Val went in, while Kheld griped anxiously about the disturbing coils and nozzles. This one had power, Boffin activated the monitor screen, and Val read that it on a countdown to decontaminate in 30 seconds, despite the wide open door. Boffin could not stop the countdown, but she could open the inner door. The party rushed through and closed the door behind them, except wedging it open a crack. Through the crack they saw the biolock flare up in what Elric estimated was 9 electricity damage.

They proceeded down the hallway, bypassed a locked door, and encountered Hetuath, the zombie kasathan. Hetuath monologued in a language unintelligble to them, except for his name Hetuath and the name of the evil god of accidental death Zyphus. Kheld drew his glaive, Hetuath threw a spear at him and missed, and the fight was on!

That fight began in amateurish fashion. Kheld stood in front of the party for a ranged throw of holy water (Kirii with her Stargazer trait had identified Hetuath as an alien zombie), but the hallway was at an angle to the playmat grid, so he was in the center of the 10-foot-wide corridor 15 feet from Hetuath. Both Kirii and Val started with ranged attacks, too, so they stepped to the two squares in front of Kheld to avoid the soft cover penalty. Then when Kheld wanted to attack with his glaive, both squares 10 feet from Hetuath were occupied. Val ran past Hetuath (barbarians as so impulsive) to free a space for Kheld, but by the time of Kheld's next turn, Hetuath had stepped forward to attack Kirii, so Kheld did not need to move.

Hetuath was hard to hit. Kheld's thrown holy water missed. Val's electrical cantrip missed. Kirii aimed her holy water flask at the wall above Hetuath for a splash, which did 2 damage. Hetuath little luck with hitting, too, but with four attacks per round, he was hitting once a round on average. Kirii took a hit from a secondary slam attack and retreated to pull out her Wand of Cure Light Wounds to heal herself. Next round, Kheld took a critical hit from a primary sword attack and went down to negative 1 hit point.

By this time, Boffin and Val had hit Hetuath with blunderbuss and electrified flail, and discovered his DR 5 and immunity to electricity. Boffin realized that Hetuath probably had DR except against magic, so he borrowed Gerrol's +1 shortsword from Elric--who had been trying to hit Hetuath with Acid Splash--and heroicly stood over Kheld's unconscious body brandishing that magic sword.

Kirii, over the next four rounds, healed Kheld up to 3 hit points with her wand, splashed Hetuath with another holy water flask, dragged Kheld out from under Boffin, and healed him for another 8 points. Boffin and Val flanked Hetuath and Boffin proved that the magic sword did bypass Hetuath's DR, but Val retreated herself after taking 18 damage over those turns. Elric finally hit with an Acid Splash, which worked, Kheld returned to his feet and hit Hetuath with 13 damage (reduced to 8), and Kirii finished the alien zombie off with a splash of holy water.

After wand-applied healing, the party advanced to the Observation Room and found the mosaic Hetuath had constructed from stones, bones, and torn-up plastic showing an Androffan food-ration wrapper--which the players dubbed Fruity Oaty Bar in a Serenity movie reference--adorned with the holy symbol of Zyphus made out of real bones. Boffin was disappointed to see that some of the torn-up plastic used to be a black access card (the module had it in the room, but the cruel GM decided to destroy it, heh heh). The party used the wide-screen monitor to survey the habitat module and saw the stone-age tools in the Kasathan den and were very confused why aliens in a spaceship would have such primitive tools.

They skipped the red-access door on the Habitat Control Room and Boffin used the e-pick to open the black-access door to the Science Deck.

They examined the Security Room entrance to the Science Deck, found the non-lethal weapons in the locker but could not identify the individual types of grenades, spotted the blood and Gerrol's bloody footprints by the door to the Bypass Corridor but went down the Central Corridor instead. I ended for the night when they spotted the doors marked Xenobiology and Elevator.


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Let's talk doors.

The Habitat Control Room, B12, has a red access slot. I don't see the need for such a high access level. Amy explained that part of Boffin's reason for skipping that door is that she had learned that Androffans used red as a warning color. In retrospect, if I had changed the markings to black-access or white-access, Boffin might have tried the door.

The Science Deck did not label their doors with access colors, so I improvised and said that the doors opened to push buttons, but I added access control to a few areas I deemed more exclusive. I used to work on a top-secret government facility and know how the doors worked there. They were not so stupid as to put multiple doors across hallways like the Androffans did. The only doors in the hallways were the doors at the ends to keep the weather outside, and the open fire doors that closed automatically during a fire alarm.

I use a fire-door theory to explain the meaningless doors on the Science Deck. Ordinarily fire doors would be open. Obviously, the crash triggered those doors closed. The spaceship would have different emergency procedures for fire, crash, loss of power, vacuum decompression, xenobiological contamination, or criminal on the run, and the doors would follow those procedures. Fire and crash would be closed and easily opened by a push button. Loss of power would be closed and easily opened manually. Vacuum decompression, xenobiological contamination, and criminal escape would be closed and locked, to open with proper security access only. The biolock and lab doors would have access control since only trained people should enter those rooms. Doors between decks would have access control due to different administrative territories, because the Androffans are terribly bureaucratic.

I am amused that the spaceship designer remembered one unisex rest room for the Science Deck, but half the people on that deck would have to go through the four-door elevator to reach it.


Session 9, Monday, February 8, 2016 (game delayed by Super Bowl on Sunday)
The Xenobiology section began with a short hallway leading to the lab. Boffin could smell the rot in the Xenobiology Lab before she opened the door. She proceeded in alone, examining the footprints of armored boots and barefoot vegepygmies left on the moss-covered floor and started to claim glassware and a microscope from the tables. Then the weedwhip tried to sneak up on her, but Kirii spotted it from the doorway. Boffin ran away and closed the door behind her.

The party argued long how to battle a plant, but they finally decided that Kheld and his glaive should lead. They opened the door again, and the weedwhip was waiting for them right there. The contest between glaive with 10-foot reach versus whips with 15-foot reach went to a critical hit from the glaive on the second round.

But after that, the party was shy about other camouflaged monsters and hesitant to re-enter the room. Tired of waiting, Val ran in, opened a closet door, and gagged at the sight of a ruptured body. It was one of the fourth expedition members, dead of russet mold and burst from vegepygmies emerging. Val and Boffin carefully scrapped the body into a body bag.

Then they heard a call from the next closet. That closet contained another fourth-expedition body and his intelligence black-blade rapier, Scion's Blade, or Sci for short.

Elric is a bladebound magus, which left me with the puzzle of how Elric would obtain his black blade at 3rd level in the middle of a science-fictional environment without any magic items. The mysterious fourth expedition was the best source.

Sci loquaciously explained the explorations and encounters of the fourth expedition, giving their names and classes (which I had to invent). Sci described defeating Hetuath, but the party was dismayed, since that meant that the zombie had come back after destruction.

Everyone in the party except Kheld was willing to take Sci's word about the rooms ahead and the lair of the vegepygmies. Kheld, in contrast, was suspicious of the blade, arguing that maybe it was in cahoots with their enemies. "With the vegepygmies?" Elric asked incredulously.

The party moved on to the stalled elevator. The elevator controls had a full monitor with maps of all levels, so the party learned that the fusion reactor was on the Engineering Deck, not the Science Deck. The monitor had an repair diagnostic in addition to the maps, and Boffin went through the diagnostic to determine that a coupling was broken. She made her Disable Device roll to remove the coupling without being electrocuted. Her Knowledge(Engineering) roll told her that she could repair it in an ordinary foundry back on the surface, but Boffin decided to head over to the Chemistry Lab and try to fix it there.

The party encountered four tiny ethylborn oozes in the Chemistry Lab. The module said two boilborn from Bestiary 4, but creating disease-ridden oozes from random chemical spills made no sense, so I redesigned the boilborn oozes into ethylborn alcohol-based oozes. Because they move only 10 feet and have reach 0 feet, the ethylborn managed only one attack, which missed. But their death explosion dealt lots of damage to Kheld as he killed one and lacked time to back away before a ranged attack killed another. Kheld grumbled that they should have just left the oozes alone.

Kirii shaved some glaucite off the wall with her adamantine chakram for materials and Boffin improvised a Bunsen burner into a hotter torch with some magnesium ribbon from the chemical supplies. John, Elric's player, said professionally that it would not work in real life, but a roleplaying game has more leeway. Boffin made a Craft(metalworking) roll to fix the coupling, and she rolled only a 23, which would have failed until her player remembered that Boffin had her masterwork metalworking tools (+2 to metalworking) with her. She returned to the elevator and made a successful Disable Device roll again to snap the coupling back into place without getting electrocuted.

The players chose to not test the elevator before finishing the search of Khonnir Baine on the Science Deck. I secretly checked the details of the Engineering Deck to see whether anyone there would notice a change in the elevator's status.

The next place was the Bypass Corridor, where they found four destroyed medical drone robots and a trail of blood. They scavenged the batteries out of the robots and examined them to determine their battle capacities. They carefully positioned themselves for combat at the door to the Geology Lab, where the blood trail led, and opened the door to reveal the unoccupied room.

They had a nerve-wracking telepathic conversation with the cerebic fungus living there. They also read up about the Kasathan homeworld on an active monitor. (I worried that that active monitor will be a source of too much information, but later decided to let them have fun with information.) They hurried out of the room before the fungus would realize that they were all good sources of the tasty blood that the fungus had enjoyed licking off the floor.

The blood trail next led to the Medical Lab. The medical drone there babbling in Androffan about needing to remove diseased spleens, but it answered Elric's question about the location of the previous patients. Then it grabbed Val for involuntary treatment. Kheld objected verbally--both his player and I momentarily forgot that Kheld did not speak Androffan--so the drone switched to attacking his new uncooperative patient. However, Elric attacked with Shocking Grasp channeled through his black blade Sci via spellstrike--and missed. I noticed that Elric had not taken a move action before the failed attack suggested that Elric retroactively try the Spell Combat and Spellstrike combination, which would give Elric a second attack at -2 to hit. On that second attack, he confirmed a critical hit, and the double electrical damage shut down the drone.

I ended the session with the party ready at the door to the Sick Bay, where the medical drone had said the "previous patients," AKA Khonnir's expedition had been taken. And the party had earned enough experience to reach third level.


Leveling Up
I remember the D&D Second Edition days when leveling up meant taking a break from the quest to find a trainer and undergo training. Nevertheless, as a GM I prefer a seamless leveling where the player characters barely notice that practice has given them more abilities. Thus, the characters leveled up as they stepped from the Medical Lab to the Sick Bay.

For the players, leveling up was much lengthier. Cync likes to ponder every spell available to skalds before Kirii learns one. And this is the first time Rich, Kheld's player, ever leveled a character. He arrived at this session still unable to decide on a new feat for Kheld. After much conversation, and seriously considering Technologist, he decided on Quick Draw. Then he had to assign skill points, ....

And the party all suddenly knew how to speak and understand Androffan. The module recommended restricting access to the alien language until third level when the characters had had a chance to see or hear it. Two party members spoke it already due to campaign traits and had had conversations with robots; thus, everyone else had had exposure. They were willing to spend a skill point in Linguistics once the restriction was lifted.


Session 10, Friday, February 12, 2016
Val had an idea. She would dress in the neraplast armor from the Security room to look totally Androffan and bluff the medical drones in the Sick Bay to let her move the sick patients, such as her father, before the fight began. The party know that Val was a successful liar (+10 to bluff), so they let her try. The rest of the party moved out of sight, but Boffin watched via mirror from a side hallway and Kirii watched via mirror from the Medical Lab. Shockingly, when Val opened the door, they saw that the Sick Bay contained not just another medical drone: it also contained an armed and armored collector robot.

Val began with a great roll, convincing the medical drone that she was Doctor Val. After that, the drone kept referring her to Dr. Brown for permission. Too bad Dr. Brown was a dead body propped upright in a chair. Val recited a loud running monologue to describe the room to the others who could not see it, "I diagnose the patient Khonnir suffers from broken bones in arms and legs and mental confusion, possible concussion."

My wife Amy warns that I should not let my GMPC hog all the fun, but it was an amusing break for me to describe the room via the character rather than as a narrator. I changed the room to make it more shocking: it had a dozen mummified bodies in it. I had wondered why the Science Deck had no dead bodies of its Androffan crew lying around, and I decided that the medical robots had gathered them for treatment. And without Dr. Brown discharging them, the bodies accumulated in Sick Bay.

Val managed to talk the medical robot letting her transfer Khonnir Baine. She put him on a gurney, dumping the gurney's dead occupant out. But the collector robot objected to her trying to remove a "specimen with a meta anomaly."

Boffin had a response. The dwarf jumped out into clear sight of the collector robot and yelled, "Look at me! I'm an alien specimen." Then Boffin backed up down the hallway, so that the others would be able to flank it. The collector robot decided to collect the dwarf specimen. But as it passed the side hallway, it spotted Kheld with glaive ready, decided (via random roll) to collect the armored specimen instead, turned down the side hallway, and missed with its stunner.

Kirii flew into the Sick Bay and used her wand to cast Cure Light Wounds on Khonnir. I asked her to make a Heal roll first, but she failed it. So I let Kirii observe the lack of significant improvement from the spell and explained to her player Cync that Cure Light Wounds did not cure ability damage. The broken bones were represented by Dexerity damage and the mental confusion was Intelligence damage. Amy explained to Cync that Khonnir needed a cleric who could cast Lesser Restoration, such as Joram Kyte. The medical drone announced the presence of a meta anomaly (what I decided the Androffan robots called magic), but Kirii successfully bluffed that her wand was a medical device.

Kheld, Boffin, and Elric attacked the collector robot and discovered its armor plating. Elric had attacked with Shocking Grasp and Spellstrike, so electricity damage had gotten through. This turned the robot's attention to the "meta anomaly" and it grabbed Elric. Meanwhile, Val had hidden her father in the Medical Lab and Kirii had started her ragesong.

Then Kheld swung a potential crit. His confirm roll was only a 6, but with the ragesong bonus, Elric providing a flank, and the robot losing some AC due to grappling, it confirmed. His glaive sliced through the armor plating and through the rest of the robot, too. It would have been a one-hit kill even without the previous electricity damage.

The medical drone remained behind the closed door of the Sick Bay, and the other fifth expedition members were dead. It was time to leave with Khonnir. The party also grabbed the bagged bodies of the fourth expedition. Boffin used a Xenobiology Lab sample case to take a sample of the puddle that used to be Hetuath. They improvised a stretcher from the gurney's bedding to gently haul Khonnir across the sand of the habitat chamber. And Kirii and Boffin swam ahead to fetch the Water Breathing potion so that Khonnir could breath in the underwater caves.

They took Khonnir to the temple of Brigh. Val spent the night there. Boffin took Kheld's glaive, his ancestral weapon, and used telescoping parts from the collector robot to make its conversion from 10-foot reach to 5-foot reach a move action (free action with Kheld's Quick Draw) instead of a full-round action. Kheld reported to Garmen Ulrech, who was very interested in the fully function medical drone they had left there. He even let Kheld talk up his expedition pay to 60 gp per day.


Batteries
Kirii and Elric also conducted an experiment that afternoon. Kirii had learned the Technomancy spell, which is Identify for technology. As far as I can tell, it can distinguish between silverdisks that can be recharged and silverdisks that can't be recharged. They laid out their collection of silverdisks in a grid and Kirii used Technomancy to identify the rechargeable ones. That gave them about 40 rechargeable silverdisks.

Boffin rigged a rechargeable silverdisk to a charged battery of a destroyed robot, but was unable to recharge it. Because the adventure path limits access to batteries and other power packs to limit the use of high tech, I decided that silverdisks have a proprietary format and can be recharged only in a compatible device, like inkjet printers can use only compatible ink cartridges. Those authorized rechargers are surprisingly difficult to find given the vast number of silverdisks available and that silverdisks hold only 10 charges. Androffans made a lot of bad technology choices. :-)

However, Boffin did swap the fully charged shimmerdisk they found into the sonic stun gun and read that its charges went up from 5 to 10.


Time to wake this thread from its two-year nap. When my campaign reached Lords of Rust, I had to generate a lot of homebrew content, because the PCs adopted false identities as archeologists hiding from the Technic League in order to move into Scrapwall as new residents. Thus, I was too busy to write the chronicles at a reasonable rate. But I did continue writing them slowly.

Session 11, Sunday, February 14, 2016
The morning began with Val rushing back to the Tavern Foundry, where Boffin, Elric, and Kirii were staying, to tell them that her father had woken up after a series of Lesser Restoration spells. Joram had applied all the spells to Intelligence damage, yet had not restored Khonnir's intelligence fully.

Kheld started from the caravan-guard housing, much closer to the temple, and arrived there without Val's news, but soon learned it from Joram's acolytes (i.e., first-level clerics in training). He and the rest of the party encountered Emelia Otterbie, who was collecting donations for Gerrol Sonder. Her family was going to cart Gerrol's body to Starfall for a Raise Dead spell, her father having mortgaged one workshop to pay for it, but she needed extra cash for the Restoration spells afterwards. (Rich, Kheld's player, asked about who was raising the other dead expedition members, so we explained that only rich people could afford a 5450 gp spell.) Khonnir had donated 1000 gp to Emelia.

Khonnir Baine was studying his spellbook and had proudly successfully memorized a Fly spell, proving his Intelligence was at least back to 13. His arms and legs were in casts, and he would need another two days of spells to be up for going back into the caves. He did give the account of his expedition in the habitat dome and the Science Deck. When the party said they would be returning to the caves that day to find the reactor, Khonnir tried to pull his daughter out of the party. A few contested Diplomacy rolls persuaded him to let Val continue.

Boffin showed the sample of the goo that had been Hetuath to Joram Kyte, except that the goo was turning into mist and diffusing out of the sealed container. Joram recommended showing it to Mylan, the cleric of Pharasma. Mylan proposed an experiment, exposing the goo to direct sunlight, which turned it into inert powder. Kheld stated that his sunrod could therefore protect against Hetuath, but the others pointed out that a sunrod was not sunlight, despite its name.

At town hall, Councilor Dolga Feddert instructed them in the latest cover story: undead skeletons had broken Khonnir's arms and legs in the caves, which had prevented him from returning. He needed to recover from a few days without food and water. The party would return underground only to recover more bodies. Officially, they had not spotted any technology beyond the robot that Khonnir had brought back: the metal wall was an isolated fragment that did not go far. Freddert hoped that that would sound innocent enough to any Technic League spies.

Councilor Bazlundi Otterbie paid Boffin for the recovery of Khonnir. Boffin was startled, for she had misheard the reward as 400 gp, not the full 4000 gp. Boffin and Val donated their shares, 800 gp each, to Councilor Otterbie's niece, Emelia, to help Gerrol's resurrection.

At this point, Kheld's player Rich became confused about the money. Kheld was given a full 800-gp share of the 4000 gp, but not of the silverdisks. The other players pointed out that Kheld had not been in the party when they found silverdisks underground nor won silverdisks at Silverdisk Hall. He did not know about the experiement with identifying rechargeable silverdisks. Afterwards, Kheld made sure to explain to the party that he did not work for Garmen Ulreth, he was merely paid by Garmen Ulreth. The rest of us are confused what that meant.

Boffin went up to see Weaponsmith Otterbie, Emelia's father, before he left town, to see if he had any adamantine weapons for her. He had adamantine picks for mining, and he was willing to lend one to her but she had to deposit the +1 short sword as collateral. She agreed.

The party went back under Weeping Pond. They stopped to talk to the repair drone in Corridor B, the one that thought Elric was a repair crew boss. Elric asked if it would follow them to help repair the Science Deck. It responded that it was not allowed in the habitat chamber. Boffin and Kirii discussed how else they could get the robot to the Science Deck, and remembered the other door that Meyanda's group has used. Boffin asked the robot if it could go outside. It replied, "Hull repairs are within my zone of responsibility."

They took the repair drone to the hull door in the gremlin area. It tried to open it, including using the repair override password, and was upset that someone had changed the password despite regulations. It began hacking the illegal password. Seven letters, trying first letters, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H. First letter H. I invented a cryptology game for the party: each letter would take longer to hack, and the robot would follow the party's suggestions which sequence of letters to try next. They guessed up to HEL, found that HELA and HELP did not work, and then the players started checking dictionaries, so I gave their characters Linguistic rolls. Kheld, who had a circumstance bonus due to traveling with caravans, recalled hearing of a new cult worshipping a god named Hellion. HELLION was the password.

I used to be a professional cryptologist, so I know that the cryptology game was not like real codebreaking. But it gave me an opportunity to mention Hellion.

They proceeded up the hallway to Engineering Deck and were attacked by guard-dog thylacines. Thaylacines are from the River Kingdoms, close enough to migrate to Numeria's ecosystem. Attention to details like that makes Golarion feel more real.

Kheld had a glaive and combat reflexes, so he attacked them as they charged. One hit was not enough to finish them off, but a second hit from various party members was enough. However, the fight alerted Meyanda's orcs in the loading dock room, who alerted the ratfolk in the storeroom, and a grand melee ensued. Kheld had fought skeletons, Hetuath, a weedwhip, ethylborn oozes, medical robots, and a collector robot, yet the thylacines, the orcs, and the ratfolk were his first battle against ordinary living creatures without damage reduction, hardness, multiple attacks, or explosion upon death. He cut through them like a trained fighter to the player's surprise. Val flanked for him, Kirii attacked from above, Boffin shot from a distance, and Elric cast cantrips. One ratfolk escaped to the Engineering Lounge.


Session 12, Friday, February 19, 2016

The party proceeded to the Engineering Lounge and battled more orcs and ratfolk. The only difference is that the lounge had two tables bolted to the floor so pairs of ratfolk could sneak attack from under partial cover. The ratfolk that had fled the loading dock and one other ratfolk escaped to the Navigation Control Room. Boffin followed and ended up face to face with the gargoyle Gruethur. She was alone because opening the second door of the paired airlock-style doors closed the first door behind her. She immediately closed the door in front of her and retreated.

The party waited in ambush for Gruether to follow Boffin, but the door opened to reveal the two ratfolk, forced out by Gruether. They surrendered. The party locked the pair, and one stabilized, unconscious ratfolk, in a crate in the loading dock. Boffin, meanwhile, glued the first door open with sovereign glue to prevent the gargoyle from surprising them. Kheld started a thorough search of the living quarters off the engineering lounge, but the others interrupted him and claimed they did not have time for looting. (Weird, isn't it. Rich, the newbie player of Kheld, had deduced that looting was an important part of Pathfinder, but the experienced players had played effectively in low-wealth campaigns and would rather roleplay their characters as not compulsively greedy.)

I started moving a marker round starting from the door on the opposite side of the control room, telling the players to ignore it. The party went down a hallway back to the entry room just as the marker moved from the entry room to the loading dock. The party encountered the electrified hallway to the control room and were experimenting with shorting out the electric power nodes with tanglefoot bags when the marker caught up to them. It was a collector robot.

The robot flew to the high ceiling of the entry room and reported to Meyanda through a comset. Meyanda was surprised at the robot's description, "No magical gear? No technology? They are merely townsfolk?" She told the robot to hold the comset so that she could speak to the party: "Go away. I have no quarrel with townsfolk but you are not allowed to interfere."

Boffin argued back, claiming that the town owned the torch. Meyanda argued that she was the first to enter the reactor room, so she had scavenger's rights. Furthermore, her mission to stop Unity was more important. She threatened to blow up the reactor and the town above if they broke into the reactor room. She ended with the remark that if they wanted to argue more about Unity, go argue with the gearsman in the Fabrication Room, if they can survive it. The collector robot sped back through the Robotics Lab to the control room faster than Boffin could follow.

The party gathered outside that door to the control room, after noting that the two repair drones in the robotics lab were not hostile, and planned their raid. They would have to enter two-by-two because of the airlock-style doors, Boffin and Kheld first. They encountered Gruether and the collector robot. Kheld attacked Gruether with his glaive, but Val and Kirii in the second wave had less luck against his DR. Elric could hit him with magic and Boffin discovered that Gruether was vulnerable to the sonic stun gun from the Science Deck security room. Gruether went down under the assault while the collector robot flew above using its stun gun against the party. Boffin snared the collector robot with the grapple attachment on her experimental gun. She and Val pulled the collector robot down into reach for Kheld.

The party healed up, checked the loot on the altar to Hellion, and prepared for a raid on the reactor room.

And they leveled up to 4th level.


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Session 13, Sunday, February 21, 2016

The raid on the reactor room began with a snag: Meyanda had braced the inner door open so that the outer door refused to open. Boffin discovered that the door controls had a protocol for such a situation, where the room would be tested for vacuum, radiation, fire, and bio-contamination and then allow an override on the one-door-closed rule.

The module had intended Meyanda and her collector robot make the last stand in the reactor room, but I had left the robot in the control room instead. Therefore, I borrowed two generic minions from the next module, Lords of Rust, and gave them names: a Smiler named Badeye and an Acolyte of Hellion named Myboy. Meyanda and Myboy were standing on the high platform surrounding the reactor, which caused some problems because it is tough to clearly draw heights and ladders on the playmat. Badeye was in the background beside the reactor.

Meyanda gave the party one last chance to leave. They didn't. Val and Boffin rushed up the south ladder, Elric headed to the north ladder, Kheld didn't recognize that the platform had ladders, and Kirii took to the air.

Boffin sat down at a control panel and was trying to figure out how Meyanda would order the reactor to blow up. She didn't realize that Badeye was going to shoot a crack in the containment shell, but her actions prevented that anyway when Badeye could not resist the easy shot and shot Boffin instead. Meyanda cursed him for being an idiot.

Val, a primalist bloodrager who had just learned Knockback as a rage power, took an attack of opportunity from Myboy as she stepped past him to push Meyanda off the platform. Now Kheld had an opponent in reach. Elric headed down his ladder again to join the fight against Meyanda. Kirii began her ragesong. Boffin left her chair to shoot Meyanda from above with her grappling hook. Val ended up in combat with Myboy.

This left Badeye free to reload while Meyanda hollered to him to blow up the reactor. Kirii attacked him before he could shoot, but he was still on his feet. He shoot and rolled a 1. Misfire! The dice have their own sense of drama. Kirii killed him before he could clear the gun and try again. Val knocked Myboy unconscious.

Meyanda used her nanite surge to tumble past Kheld and start up the ladder to the reactor platform. But Boffin placed herself at the top of the ladder and dropped her experimental grappling gun to pull out her heavy adamantine pick. Meyanda changed direction and ran, trailing the grappling gun's line behind her. She ran through the electrified hallway out of the control room, taking heavy damage but still active with 7 hit points. Kirii, on the other hand, took the safe route through the robotics lab. Flying at full speed, Kirii caught up to Meyanda in the long hallway around the habitat chamber and knocked her out in one hit.

In the meanwhile, Boffin returned to the controls for the reactor, found the online manual, and restored the reactor to its previous torch mode with a Knowledge(Engineering) roll.

The party smuggled Meyanda, Myboy, Gruether, and the three ratfolk out of the underwater caves hidden in crates and bodybags while the town was distracted by the reignited torch. (We carefully checked the drowning rules first.) The town council did not dare put them in the public jail since this would prove that something was going on beneath the torch. They ended up secret prisoners in the basement of Olandir manor instead.

Cleric Joram Kyte had bad news. Khonnir Baine's mental condition had deteriorated, probably due to a technological disease. He would try Remove Disease the next morning, but they might need advanced pharmaceuticals to cure him.

The party returned underground to the Engineering Deck, and checked out the robotics lab. They discovered that they could deactivate the medical robot guarding the remaining bodies of Khonnir's expedition from there by rebooting the system. They did so and used the elevator to reclaim those bodies and grab all pharmaceutical gadgets they could find. The gearsman in the fabrication room resisted the reboot, and the party saw the blood of the orcs it had killed, so instead they used the power hub in the navigation control room to cut off all power to that room and hope the gearsman ran out of power in a few weeks. Boffin also started transcribing the entire manual for the reactor into her journal.

Kheld reported to Garmen Ulreth, giving an account that left out the fights and captures. Garmen fired him on the spot for lying and disloyalty, blacklisting him from ever working on Garmen's caravans again, because Garmen's spy at Olandir manor had already reported the prisoners. Kheld's attempts to weasel his way out of being caught lying were disbelieved, for he had not invested in Bluff nor Diplomacy.

The next morning, Joram rolled a nat 19 on his Remove Disease to cure Khonnir Baine and removed the nanite infestation in his brain. This let him focus on restoring his arms and legs enough that Khonnir could walk again.

The same morning, Meyanda woke up, under guard with her hands tied and her mouth gagged. The party and Khonnir Baine ungagged her and talked to her with a guard ready to sap her if she started a spell. Meyanda was dismayed to discover that they already knew about the power transmitter. She spoke of the glory of the machine-god Hellion and how he would bring perfection to all people--perhaps with some difficulty for messy, defective, organic people like the party--after he defeated the mad machine-god Unity. They also spoke to the ratfolk separately, and had a more productive discussion about the Lords of Rust in Scrapwall to the northeast, the same direction the power transmitter was beaming power.

Boffin and some others reentered the underground spaceship under the dark of night on a mission to retrieve the bodies of Meyanda's orcs and ratfolk and the bodies of the mummified crewmen for proper burial by cleric Mylan in a secret graveyard outside town. The town council could not give them a large reward for stopping Meyanda, because they were keeping Meyanda a secret and declaring the temporary outage of the torch to be an unsolved mystery, but they slipped a few discreet gifts to them. The skeletons, Hetuath, and the vegepygimes were left in place, as protection against unauthorized adventurers entering the spaceship.

THE END of Fires of Creation

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