Skull and Blood (A Skull and Shackles Dragonlance campaign)


Campaign Journals

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Random stuff:
Yesterday the new album of Alestorm was released and Kiani and me were listening to it.
We couldn't do anything but laugh out loud with one of the songs.
Even if I've been not reflecting it in the written version of the story in an attempt of keeping it PG13, Sandara had a very filthy mouth, often including the F-word at least two times in a sentence.
So when we listened to this song we thought it was totally Sandara's song!
This song convinced me to be a bit more accurate with Sandara's language so I've written the last parts with that in mind xD


Oh, yes, that's a cool song, but what I really want to know is why do you think that my bodily functions are relevant to the story. Big news: Sandara pisses! That's ridiculous!


Calm down, Sandara, don't be pissed, I am the one getting the worse part here! Stop making me look like I was weak willed or something, what happened to me could have happened to anyone else.


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@Sandara: It's always a pleasure to catch you with your pants off!

@Fox:...But it didn't.


Meh... Who cares about Sandara's chicken legs? If she exposed them some more she wouldn't be pale as clay. What kind of pirate is not at least slightly tanned?


A redhead pirate?
Wait... I have chicken what?


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EDERLEIGH

After resting for a while the party decided to go upstairs and check the building where the Animate Dreams had been. There were three different doors, all of them similar. They looked for traps and realized two of thedoors were trapped, but they didn't know how to disable the traps. The last door just led to a balcony.

Not knowing what to do with the traps, Kiani activated her bardic performance to allow a re-roll to anyone failing the saving throws and then Isabella summoned an octopus against the door, using the wand the party had looted from the grindylows (back in the first book!). So they opened the door and sent the octopus inside, avtivating two swinging scythes that anihilated the hapless cephalopod.

«That was pretty cool.» Said Sandara.

So they repeated the same operation with the next door, positioning themselves away from it. But Isabella made the error of being just in front of the door. The octopus and her were hit by a hail of arrows as soon as they opened the door. Incidentally Kiani, who had been the one to open it avoided being hit. The octopus vanished again, and Isabella didn't take any real damage because she had a lot of temporary hit points (I just cannot remember what the hell she was doing in front of the door, anyway).

The group was worried about the traps. They hadn't been set a long time ago. They were rudimentary but well placed. And they had been placed from the inside. They entered the room, where they found a cornered young man. He was dirty and looked tired. He stared at them terrified with madness in his eyes.

«Stay away! You are not real!» he cried.
«Yes, Ederleigh, they are just bad dreams. Defend yourself!» said a high pitched voice from the window.

The boy pulled something on the floor and a lightning arc was shot towards Fox and Isabella, who were in a line with him. They realized the room was full of traps like the one the boy had just activated. Kiani had spotted where the traps were, so she went into melee with him, commanding her companions to follow exactly the same way she had done. They didn't think that he could be reasoned with, so they didn't even try.

«Stay away, monsters!» the young man cried again. «I don't know where the stone is!»

He casted defensively a Scorching Ray on Kiani, who was the first one to reach him, and then nimbly moved away from her, avoiding to cause any attacks of opportunity.

«Oh, come on! Not another wizard!» said Sandara.
«Another spellbook for The Goddess!» smiled Kiani.

Fox came close to him, failing to walk on the secure path and activated another electric trap. He scored a critical hit on the demented young man.

«I told you I don't know where it is! Stop harassing me!»

Isabella casted a reach Vampiric Touch on the young man, while Sandara got into melee with him and dealt a good blow with her human bane trident. He tried to get away again, but this time he failed to move and stayed on the place. He casted defensively a Mirror Image, but it wasn't enough to avoid being hit. With four people attacking and him being really low on HP, it only took a succesful hit to knock him down.

It was when everything was over that they saw the parrot. It was a beautiful multicolored bird that watched them from the window.

«You!» said Kiani. «You commanded the boy to attack us!»
«I...» spoke the bird. «Just told him to defend himself. I didn't want him dead.»
«The bird is speaking?» asked Fox.
«It's a parrot.» answered Kiani like everything was normal.
«But it seems intelligent.»
«We'll see.»
«I'm a familiar.» the parrot spoke again.
«You're the kid's familiar?» asked Sandara.
«Not his. His master. I just keep him alive.»
«You manipulate him!» accused Kiani. «You are both coming to our ship. You have a lot of questions to answer.»
«OK.» reluctantly aggreed the parrot, examining the group with an analytical look.

After checking the room, where they found the belongings of the young wizard, they sailed back to the Mustakrakish with both the parrot and the young wizard.

When they got there they tied the wizard to a bed to avoid him from hurting other people or himself and then started questioning the bird.

He told them he was the familiar of a man named Bikendi Otongu, who was a Free Captain too. He knew powerful magic, different from the one that the Wizards of High Sorcery used. He was fascinated by the spiritual world and considered the world of the flesh a corrupted one so he had tried to perform a ritual to get rid of his flesh and ascend to the Astral Plane as a being of pure energy. The cyclops had ruined the ritual and stolen the magical stone he was using for it, so now Bikendi was trapped in the place of the ritual, bodyless and unable to ascend. He had seeked the help of his young apprentice, Ederleigh Baines, but he had been driven insane by the horrors at the fort and couldn't help.

There were too many things that the PCs thought that didn't make sense on the parrot's story, but the bird kept saying he didn't know much more. They were pretty sure that the animal was trying to manipulate them into helping its master.

They let the animal go, for now, making a deal with it to lead them to its master, and decided to try to interrogate Ederleigh, even though they were unsure of how much information they could get from his traumatised mind.

They healed him enough to get him conscious. He tried to get away but he was tied to the bed. He pleaded the PCs to release him, terrified.

«They are all coming for me! You have to set me free!»

They tried to reason with him but he was too scared: scared of the Animate dreams who had been harassing him, but also scared of Bikendi, his master.

«I bear his mark, I cannot hide from him!» he said. «He's getting inside of me again! That parrot keeps bringing me food so I don't starve. He needs me alive to take control of me.»

They weren't able to get much more information aside from that, but it was enough to confirm that Bikendi wasn't precisely a good guy. They didn't know what kind of person was Ederleigh either. He could be the same or worse than his master, but they'll give him the benefit of doubt until he recovered from this traumatic experience. Sandara was entitled with helping him to recover sanity with some spells, even though she wasn't an expert healer, but it would take some time. Until they knew they could trust him he'll have to remain tied to the bed.

After that, they decided to rest until next day and spend the rest of the day relaxing.


Some changes I made to this part:

Bikendi is a witch. He learned magic when the Gods of Magic were missing by making questionable deals with hags. He had branded Ederleigh with his scar hex to be able to use his hexes at a distance of him, as he could only use Nightmare as a hex.

Ederleigh is a hexcrafter magus, though he hasn't still revealed his melee powers as he is not able to do it because o his mental derangements (that kept the fight as easy as it was supposed to be). He had some magic talent so Bikendi took him as an apprentice but he was more interested in swords than in magic. He was taught to combine swordfighting and magic by a renegade of the Knights of Neraka on Bikendi's crew but Bikendi got him executed for distracting Ederleigh from learning magic. That made Ederleigh follow Bikendi out of fear rather than real loyalty.

The parrot instead of the monkey was a bit of a joke because of the other parrots the party had. This parrot was an obnoxious and pompous familiar that reminded of Yago from Aladdin xD. The party hated it and wanted to kill it ASAP.


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SEFINA

(This chapter is all about Kiani, as Darren's player missed the session and Fox had his own scene trying to extract some useful information from Ederleigh and trying to get him back to his mind. The scene, though it was fun to play, doesn't add anything to the story so I'm skipping it)

After a day of hard work and madness, our pirates just wanted to relax.

Kiani had tattooed herself soon after becoming captain of the Mustakrakish because she was tired of looking "like a f*cking princess" (her own words). She spent most of the afternoon with Isabella getting new tattoos, as the sorceress thought the ones she had looked incomplete. After that, both went swimming together. It was a big step for Isabella, who had been kinda elusive until then.

When they were bathing, completely naked, they realized someone was observing them from the shore at the bay. They couldn't tell who or what it was from the distance, but it definitely looked humanoid. As soon as it realized it was being watched, it submerged and disappeared.

The two girls decided to go and take a look. They lazily swimmed towards the shore where they had seen the mysterious figure. There was nobody there, but they found an underwater cave.

«Maybe it is there.» Kiani said. «Let's enter with caution.»
«That's my home.» answered a melodic female voice. «I haven't invited you.»

Both girls looked to the place where they heard the voice but there was noone to be seen.

«It was you who was watching us from the distance, right?» asked Kiani. «Why don't you show yourself?»

Without an answer, the invisible speaker revealed herself. She was beautiful and ethereal. And she was completely naked too. Which wasn't so much of a problem as both Isabella and Kiani were naked too.

«You are a nereid, aren't you?» asked Kiani fascinated.
«My name is Sefina. And you're an undine. I haven't met many of your kind.»

Kiani was surprised of someone recognizing her kind. Since she had parted ways with her people she had never seen one of her kind again. She tried not to think a lot about it, but in the last times she had found herself thinking of them way too often. People usually mistaked Kiani for a sea elf, even if she didn't look like one, as nobody had ever seen an undine before. Kiani asked Sefina if she had seen some undines recently, hoping she knew something about her family.

«You are the first one I see in centuries.» she answered. «This is where I live. I don't get a lot of visitors. The last ones weren't very pleasant so I hid from them.»
«Don't you feel alone?»
«Sometimes. I was starting to feel a bit bored.»
«Why don't you leave for a time then?»
«I tend to cause too much disturbance among mortals. Last time didn't go well.»

Both Isabella and Kiani were used to get all the wrong reactions for wearing skimpy clothes, so they could understand well what kind of «disturbance» could a naked woman with a perfect body cause among humans.

«People are idiots.» said Isabella. «Our crew is different. We don't judge.»

Kiani smiled to herself when she heard Isabella talking about herself as a part of the crew. It had taken some time.

«Come with us.» invited Kiani. «We'll introduce you to our crew.»
«I'm excited for meeting them. I like you much better than the former visitors. Are you going to stay?»
«At least, that's the idea. Your island is a very beautiful place.»
«I know.»
«Later you'll have to tell us about those former visitors.»
«Of course.»

Sefina's voice and gestures were calm and ethereal at all times, but her eyes reflected an almost child-like expresiveness. Kiani knew that fey could be capricious and dangerous creatures, but she didn't care. Weren't «capricious» and «dangerous» two of the best words to describe the goddess she worshipped? Damn, she was pretty sure that those words had even been used quite a few times to describe herself. Or Sandara. Or many of the people she called friends.

Sefina followed Kiani and Isabella to the Mustakrakish. She looked curious and excited. At first she caused some commotion among the crew, as one doesn't see a nereid everyday, but when she was introduced they immediately accepted her. Their captain was a blue woman with frilled ears who seemed to find clothes annoying and walked around naked carelessly. And they loved her. Sefina almost qualified as normal for them.


I remember that part a little bit different. I suppose that the bard decided to go with the PG-7 version.

Humans and their stupid tabooes! They can kill whatever they want but they have problems with a naked body or two!


Well... I'm trying to keep everything PG-13 at least... But OK, Isabella and Kiani had been doing more than just swimming and sunbathing ;-D


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Don't say it as if we were doing something so special! Darren aside, all the crew was... very close.

I think Darren took her marriage too far. In all the crew he was the weirdo!


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Bunch of horny pirates...

I cannot say anything bad about that. My nickname belongs to a horny changeling so...


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You softskins and your constant need to practice procreating. Why can't you do it once a year, and do it right the first time? I mean, you don't even lay eggs! Gross!


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What Kiani and I do hardly counts as procreating. I mean, it's nort like we were going to have blue skinned red haired tiny versions of us or anything. I have much better words to describe what we do but I cannot use them without them being replaced by symbols!


First Mate Sandara Quinn wrote:
What Kiani and I do hardly counts as procreating. I mean, it's nort like we were going to have blue skinned red haired tiny versions of us or anything.

Do you mean this? Awww! She's cute!!


Talking about children, girls? I knew you were getting serious!
I hope I am invited to the wedding!

Uhm... wait... You will invite your fictional daughter too, right? She's hot!


You've lost your shot with Sandara and now you want to flirt with her daughter?

Loser!


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Fox «Zorro» Clayton wrote:

Talking about children, girls? I knew you were getting serious!

I hope I am invited to the wedding!

Uhm... wait... You will invite your fictional daughter too, right? She's hot!

That's me boy!

If you can't get the mother, go for the daughter! When mommy gets jealous enough she might even agree to share!
and at a weddin' to boot, that always makes the ladies go all tingly.

*Drains his bottle of Rum, spilling quite a bit out over his lower face and beard*


Hey, we always share! Everything! It's just that Fox's... performance... has plummeted!

He has become... disappointing. Lazy. Too standard.

I miss the not-so-old good Fox times!


Evil Kjeldorn wrote:
Fox «Zorro» Clayton wrote:

Talking about children, girls? I knew you were getting serious!

I hope I am invited to the wedding!

Uhm... wait... You will invite your fictional daughter too, right? She's hot!

That's me boy!

If you can't get the mother, go for the daughter! When mommy gets jealous enough she might even agree to share!
and at a weddin' to boot, that always makes the ladies go all tingly.

*Drains his bottle of Rum, spilling quite a bit out over his lower face and beard*

See? He understands!

And Kiani, I'm not disappointing, but you no longer have eyes for more than one person, and that's not me... It's you who's laying to waste. You're becoming formal!


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Oh... I keep forgetting both of you are female. I can't tell the difference with mammals.


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Another mini-update! Now with my job it's being more difficult to keep this updated as often as before, but I'm trying.

BIRDS AND SPIDERS

Next day, Fox still hadn't recovered from the damage that the curse of the Animate Dreams had inflicted on him. He looked tired and unfocused. Sandara and Kiani were worried about him not being at full use of his capacities, but he insisted that he was OK. They weren't getting rid of him so easily.

(What Fox had on him was ability drain so a lesser restoration wouldn't be of use. They agreed on allowing him to heal naturally instead of spending on a restoration spell. It was WIS damage. With his poor Will saves and bad luck I thought this was going to be veeery fun)

They got into the fort again and they decided to continue exploring the place before getting to the tower where the parrot had told them its master was.

The rest of the buildings didn't have nothing of more interest than some not so valuable loot, but they realized they had left the basement of the building where they had found Ederleigh unexplored.

The stairs led to a small prison with three cells, all of them empty. After searching the whole place for a while and making good use of a spell called Tears to Wine (getting drunk to increase skills is sooo piratey), they finally found a secret door that led to a narrow passage carved on the rock. Even if the door was well hidden there was enough place for a tiny creature to pass below it with some difficulties... as attested by what they found in the next room.

It was small and had a low ceiling, so Fox had to lower his head to avoid hitting it. Inside, among a pile of valuable looking stuff, there was a months old corpse laying with a parrot perched on its lifeless head.

«What are you doing here?» asked the bird. «These are my master's belongings. As long as he is still here you cannot take them. But I'm sure that he'll allow you to keep everything if you help him to enter the Astral.»
«Sure. Go and tell him.» smiled Fox.
«Like we cared.» added Sandara.
«If he doesn't want us here why doesn't he come and kick us out?» laughed Kiani.

And they started looting the room and the corpse. The parrot protested a bit more, but it didn't have the power to confront them and it knew Bikendi needed them to help him, so it couldn't do anything but watching and complaining.

They looted the whole room, including the corpse (which seemed to have moved there from another place), and aside from many valuable items, many of them magic, they found also Bikendi's diary (it was a spellbook on the original version. If Sandara wanted to sacrifice Bikendi's spellbook she'd have to drown the parrot). They saw nothing of interest written on it, but they kept it for a further revision.

«You should talk to my master.» Insisted the parrot.
«OK. OK. Take us to him then.» agreed Kiani.

The animal explained that he was on the lower level of the tower, but refused to go with them. Ad they were sick of it, they didn't insist.

«We'll have to kill that bird.» said Kiani when they got out.
«Who cares if we have to? I want to.» answered Sandara.

And they went on a rant about killing the parrot as they entered the tower. They did it with care. They still didn't trust the parrot not to lead them to a trap. As they were on the stairs, a couple of spiders like the ones who ambushed them on the chapel appeared, one in front of them, one in the back. Thanks to strategic positining they wouldn't be able to flank them or to attack anyone but Sandara or Fox.

So that's what they did. The one who was attacking Fox took full advantage of catching them off guard and tried to rip his throat with her bare fangs. She dealt a deadly blow and injected her poison. Again, Charmed Life was of no help. She also grabbed Fox, making him unable to counter attack.

Meanwhile Sandara had an easier time with the one attacking her. She didn't seem as skilled as the other one and after the priestess casted a buff spell defensively and Kiani hasted the group, she was able to fight the spider all by herself while the other two girls focused on the one who had caught Fox.

Fox released himself from the grapple, but was unable to attack after that. The poison was quickly debilitating him.

«I'm OK!» he insisted. He wasn't.

Isabella and Kiani positioned themselves and hit the creature with combined Lightning Strikes while avoiding to catch Fox in the line of the effect.

«Hey, this temporary tattoos of yours are pretty cool, Isa!» said Kiani, who had got her Lightning Strike spell from a magic tattoo granted by Isabella last day.
«I know.»

(As Kiani had maxed UMD and Isabella had enough spell slots, I usually used Isabella's ability to create magic tattoos to grant Kiani a single use of one of Isabella's spells to give her more options. This probably saved Fox's life here and probably avoided a TPK against the Great Mother in one of the next sessions).

With Fox's next attacks, the spider was almost ensured to fall, but somehow he managed to miss two of his three attacks. The spider, badly hurt, just planeshifted away, disappearing. The other one was eager to follow, but she wasn't able to leave before they slayed her.

Kiani and Sandara started calling the creature a coward, trying to taunt her to come back, but it didn't work. So they took care of Fox's wounds, which had almost knocked him down. Kiani was worried for his poor performance.

«Are you sure you have recovered from yesterday's attack? You don't look focused.»
«I'm fine.» he answered defensively. But he had taken a lot of Con damage from the spider's poison and even after Sandara casted a Lesser Restoration he wasn't at full strength.

«The f*cking bird knew they were here.» guessed Sandara. «That's why it didn't come with us.»
«It is dead.» aggreed Kiani.

They didn't have proof of it, but they were pirates, not lawyers.


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Poison Dusk wrote:
Oh... I keep forgetting both of you are female. I can't tell the difference with mammals.

It's confusing, really. From what I have observed on these ones, females have tattoos while males don't. It must be a cultural thing.


Oh, please! I would never sully my skin like that!!


Hey, Mohrlex! You now I am a guy, right? And I have quite a few tattoos! Such big eyes and such a bad eyesight... You need Lenses of Detection!


Mohrlex the Reborn wrote:
Poison Dusk wrote:
Oh... I keep forgetting both of you are female. I can't tell the difference with mammals.
It's confusing, really. From what I have observed on these ones, females have tattoos while males don't. It must be a pirate cultural thing.

FIFM.


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Hey, Captain! We have elves and lizards on board! We have to fumigate!


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OK, we take them one by one. This is the plan:

On a dark moonless night, when he least suspects
We'll creep up behind him, so hard to detect
We'll bring out our anchor by the light of the stars
And shove it inside of his big f*ckin' arse!!!


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ENTER BIKENDI

The PCs went down the stairs into the tower's cellar, where they would meet Bikendi. The place was a mess, with collapsed rocks everywhere and quartz crystals scattered all around the place.

The ghost of a man wearing an eyepatch materialized. He tried not to look menacing, but he still bore the marks of his death.

«You must be Bikendi.» Sandara said.
«I am Bikendi Otongu.» he said. «I have already been warned of your arrival.»
«That parrot again.» snarled Kiani.

Bikendi was willing to collaborate. He needed them. He disguised his disgust of the PCs for having looted his treasure chamber and his body. He answered all their questions about the Immortal Dreamstone and what it meant.

Bikendi had made a deal with a night hag called Lodotha, who promised him to create a especially powerful heartstone for him that would allow him to become an astral entity. But a special stone was needed. Learning about a relic from the cyclops that had the characteristics that were needed, he had moved to the island with his crew and stolen the stone from the cyclops.
But when Lodotha came back to trade the Dreamstone, Bikendi had Ederleigh to steal it from her so she wasn't able to escape to the astral plane, and then he slayed her. The cyclops were attacking the fort, but Bikendi had to perform his ritual before the stone lost part of its power.

While the cyclops slayed all Bikendi's crew, he rushed to perform the ritual. But he missed an important step and ended being booted off his own body, trapped in the cellar. Ederleigh, as the young but resourceful boy he was, was the only survivor.

The cyclops had taken the Dreamstone back to their city. Bikendi had tried to get Ederleigh to recover the stone but he was too scared. He was also aware that Lodotha had a sister who was trying to claim the stone for herself.

Bikendi tried to convince the pirates that he was the good guy. He only wanted to pass to a superior state of conscience. The stone couldn't be in the hands of the hags, as they would use them for ill purposes. He had only posessed Ederleigh out of desperation, but he meant no harm to the boy.

But there were too many details that the PCs had been able to get together by filling the holes in Bikendi's story with Ederleigh's terrorized words.

What was offered to Lodotha in exchange for the stone? Ederleigh had said that Bikendi was sacrificing people, even from his own crew. Their lifes or their souls had been probably offered to the night hag somehow.
As people who enjoyed the pleasures of life as much as our pirates did, they couldn't understand Bikendi's motivation to leave this world. To them, he was an idiot... and insane too. They listened to his story with hidden disgust and aggreed to help him to recover the stone in exchange for the location of his hidden treasure. In fact, they had already decided that they would get rid of Bikendi as soon as possible, but Sandara didn't have clear that it could be made without destroying the Immortal Dreamstone first. So the best thing they could do was letting him believe they were willing to help until they could destroy him.

Later, they would find indications to recover Bikendi's treasure, written in invisible ink on his diary. They wouldn't even need him for that.

There was another thing they learned while talking to Bikendi: there was a hidden door in the room that led directly to the vault where they had been speaking to the parrot. They could have got there directly and the traitorous bird had sent them the long and dangerous way. Fox could have died.
As they got out of the cellar, they looked for the bird. It wasn't far. They didn't even bother to ask him for reasons.

«Isabella. Nuke it.» commanded Kiani.

It wasn't a glorious fight. They just charred the bird. Like that, they also kept Bikendi from preparing new spells. That's what is called "killing two birds with a stone".


Uh... hi there.
So... there are people here who are reading this?
I just wanted to say that Bikendi was an evil man. He started killing his own crew as a sacrifice to a night hag. But I didn't want to take part on it. I didn't like what he was doing.
I admit I helped him. But not at killing people. I feared him. If I tried to stop him I'd be the next sacrifice. I was a disappointing apprentice. I didn't care a lot about magic. He wouldn't have trouble in getting rid of me.

At this time, the crew from the Mustakrakish didn't trust me not to be like him. I don't blame them. But they gave me a fair treatment. More than I got from my master.

I just wanted to stay as far from him as I could.


If you call a fair treatment to being tied to a bed for a week. They only tied me to the leg of a bed for a while. It wasn't comfortable. But I cannot complain. If I had got a "fair treatment" I would have been tied to the ramming horn instead.


I've just realized we tie a lot of people to beds. Is that some kind of fetish or what?


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I think it's part of the initiation ritual to become a full-fledged member of the crew. One of these days I would have to write down those damned rules.

If they were the same just two days in a row...


I have to explain a few things before I continue the story.
It might seem like we had some kind of intra-party conflict here, as Fox got kicked out of the adventuring group and he was upset. Fox's player wanted to burn the dice but there was no problem aside from that. Darren was missing some sessions and it happened that one week he could come an extra day when Fox couldn't.
So he insisted that we forced his character to rest until he healed his ability damage and took Darren with us to justify his absence and did an extra session with him even if he couldn't go. I don't often do extra sessions if I don't have all the players but Fox insisted that he didn't care and Darren was missing roleplaying. So now we are retiring Fox for a few chapters and bringing Darren back.


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ISABELLA AND SANDARA MAKE FRIENDS

After their meeting with Bikendi the party decided to get back to the Mustakrakish. Even if Fox still insisted that he felt perfectly he still had Con and Wis ability damage, enough to be a problem if they faced some serious danger. So, after an argument with him, as he didn't want to be pushed aside, he aggreed to stay keeping the ship and resting.

Darren didn't mind to stay on the ship if he had to, not being as much of the adventuring type as his friends were, but he was glad of getting some action. So he picked up his self crafted adventuring gear and went with the others to continue exploring the island.

As they got back into the beach, a distant song began to play. There were at least three different voices, and the sound was captivating. It was easy to forget about everything and just follow the choir of voices. Before any of her friends started to move in the direction of the song, Kiani started singing a song too, distracting them from the other voices. Compared with Kiani's voice, the others' sound was like chalk on a board. All the group started singing on choir:

Keelhaul that filthy landlubber,
Send him down to the depths below,
Make that bastard walk the plank
With a bottle of rum and a yo-ho-ho!

The group of noisy pirates saw something flying in the top of the plateau near the fort. Sandara had already casted Air Walk on everybody, so she and Kiani spent an extra round buffing and then had Darren to cast teleport and take them right to the place the enemies were.

They found themselves in the middle of a flock of some sort of one-eyed red giant bird women. There were six of them, all armed with morningstars and prepared to fight... but not that soon. The teleportation to the top of the plateau caught them by surprise. Realizing their songs were of no use, all of them attacked. Isabella pivoted and caught three of them with a Lightning Bolt. As always, her damage rolls were unbelievable high. Kiani recognized the creatures as cyclopes who had mutated into harpy-like fiendish creatures. She warned her group not to use cold old ice damage on them and Darren copied Isabella on dealing electricity damage. Both sorcerers seemed to be on a competition because both started to make stupidly high damage rolls. Darren even managed to crit on a Scorching Shocking Ray.
Meanwhile, Sandara had a difficult time getting into melee, but dealt a good damage when she was able to approach them. Kiani used a second magic tattoo (that Isabella had granted her when they got back to the Mustskrakish) to add even more electricity damage and positioned herself strategically so she could easily get into melee and also get some AoO.

The fight itself wasn't difficult. The biggest issue was actually keeping them from getting away, as the harpies flew much faster than the pirates could walk on air. But having a couple of sorcerers who were capable of nuking them from a distance proved to be providential.

In the end, they finished the fight without taking any serious damage. The surroundings of the plateau were covered in thick jungle. It was fertile enough to provide food to feed a small settlement, thought Kiani, who was still thinking about creating a small Eden for all her people.

They continued their way, walking on air towards the northern parts of the island. Darren remembered well where the oversized stairs were. But before they got there, a giant sized corral caught their attention. It was partially destroyed on some zones, and giant footprints were all over the place. If the cyclops had some kind of cattle, it wasn't cows.

The party approached the zone from the air, and they saw a couple of bizarre enormous animals covered by the jungle. The PCs thought they looked like hybrids of lizards and rhinoceros. As soon as they spotted the party, they stood up and looked at them menacingly.

Even if they had been somewhat domesticated, they looked dangerous enough to not let them around. Having a Pirate Lord overrun by one of those animals wouldn't get the PCs a good reputation for sure. Kiani thought that killing them was the best option.

«Let me try something.» demanded Isabella.

The others were curious about her intentions. They could just nuke the creatures from above. What was she pretending to do?

The sorceress casted Charm Monster on each creature and cautiously approached them. Instead of attacking her they allowed her to get near.

«They are on a corral. They must have been tamed.» she guessed.

They didn't fear or mistrust her. She picked some leafs and they ate them from her hand. One by one the other pirates came down and approached the animals too. At first they were aggressive and attempted to attack, but Isabella interposed herself, knowing she was safe. It took some time for Kiani and Darren to earn the animals' trust, but finally they allowed their presence. Sandara, who had the lowest charisma score (with a +2 modifier!), didn't get along so well with them. As always, she was too straightforward. Seeing that it had been quite easy for her friends, she confidently approached them, holding some leaves in her hand and offered them to one of the animals. It backed away from her and made a menacing sound. She approached it again, waving the leaves in front of the animal's nose like a fan and hitting it with them.

«It is stupid! It won't open its mouth! Come on, silly beast, eat some leaves!»

The "silly beast" lowered its head and emitted a menacing sound again. If it wasn't for Isabella, who interposed again, the animal would have ruthlessly charged Sandara. Animals weren't her thing. After her glorious attempt on socializing with them, the beasts were too nervous to allow further attempts on taming them. They had already spent too much time playing with them. When they were done with securing the island they would decide if the beasts were worth keeping or they'd better get rid of them.

Laughing at Sandara's lack of animal empathy, they continued their way to the giant stairs.


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SUMITHA

Darren hadn't exaggerated when he had said the stairs were oversized. Climbing them would probably be exhausting for a medium sized creature. As they were walking on the air, that wouldn't be a problem.

Giant statues depicting cyclops with empty eye sockets decorated both sides of the stairs. The architecture was impressive.

The land on the top of the stairs was no longer a jungle, so the visibility was much better. Darren and Isabella casted Invisibility on everybody so the cyclops wouldn't see them coming. First they dealt with the ones on the watchpost. Caught completely off guard, they didn't make a big threat. They tried to interrogate them, but the cyclops only spoke their own language.

Then they headed to the main settlement, Sumitha. It was on a well guarded valley, but it didn't seem like they were prepared against invisible or flying opponents. They realized that the entry door was trapped, but the trap would only activate against people trespassing the door, not against people who flew above it.

They entered the town unnoticed. By the way the whole place looked, it had been a magnificent city in the past, but now it was ruined. Many buildings had collapsed, as well as most of the entrances carved on the mountain. The once magnificent gardens had gone wild. Only the fountain on the center of the city looked intact, still flowing with crystalline water. There were few doors remaining, but the ones that remained were heavy and difficult to open for a medium sized creature.

They decided to start exploring the rooms inside the mountain, as they provided more cover than the buildings on the open. So they approached one of the doors and tried to open it, kust a bit, without making noise. It was an impossible task. They heard footsteps inside and backed away. A female cyclops came to check, but she saw nothing. The party tried to sneak past her and inside the building, but the space was too narrow. The always subtle Sandara accidentally pushed the cyclops. Just in case she hadn't been noticed, she whispered "Oh, sh*t!" after that. The cyclops was warned, and she cried for backup.

(I have to say that, even if they were invisible, the stealth check wasn't so easy. The cyclops had a good perception check, and they had to dodge her to enter. Anyway, if Fox was the one to fail all the saving throws, Sandara was the one who was unable to pass any roll involving subtlety. Even if she had the skill trained (which wasn't the case) she would totally fail. It became a recurring joke that each time Sandara failed a skill check it was because of her inability to be subtle.)

The female cyclops mobilized her people and sent some of them outside to search for intruders. Then she went to the next room to warn someone. Again, the PCs followed her, this time without being noticed. The female cyclops had a short conversation with a male voice on the next room and then she left. The party guessed that should be the leader. Maybe he could be spoken with (after having beaten the crap out of him) to avoid having to fight and kill the whole town.

They waited until they had the certainty that the female cyclops wouldn't be able to hear them and then casted some buffs before entering the room, relying on the heavy walls and doors not to be heard. It didn't work. That wasn't such a bad thing, anyway, as Sandara could block the door with her increased size from Righteous Might and protect the spellcasters.

The cyclops inside the room was way bigger and looked way more stupid than the others. When they heard him roaring and saw him charging against invisible enemies they realized that there was no diplomatic resolution. He wasn't the kind to attend to reasons.

Sandara and him engaged on melee. Each time she tried to dodge or parry one of his hits, the cyclops seemed to know exactly what she was going to do. He scored two consecutive critical hits on her. On the first round, Sandara was already low on HP and the cyclops was on negative hit points and still fighting. Kiani healed Sandara so she could keep fighting, just before the cyclops unleashed another wave of impossibly accurate hits. Sandara was KOed but alive, thanks to Kiani's healing and the temporary hit points.

(This fight was insane! The great cyclops have an ability that allows them to double their crit chance for a single turn once per day and a second time if they are brought into negative HP. That made this enemy crit on a 19-20... but he critted 3 times in 8 attacks! If I hadn't forgotten to Power Attack Sandara would have been very, very dead)

They rushed to heal Sandara (as they wanted to be able to keep the buffs with a short duration for the next fight) and went back for the cyclops that they had left behind. These ones were easy, as they didn't even allow them to approach. Sandara used her cleric ability to push back opponents, Kiani casted Grease, and the Sorcerers just blasted them to dead. The cyclops weren't an agile bunch and most of them weren't able to get past the Grease spell.

«How are you?» asked Kiani to Sandara, after the fight was over.
«I am fine, thank.. No! I don't want to become the new Fox! I am actually pretty f*cked up. Hand me a wand.»

Sandara was healed, enemies were looted (even though they were poor as rats) and they decided to continue exploring. Darren casted another Invisibility on himself and continued to the next room.

He found a couple of circles carved on the ground with an intricate pattern. They were guarded by a couple of statues each. The circles had a powerful conjuration aura and Darren thought they should be teleportation circles, but they were both inactive. Anyway, he was afraid that the statues could be more than decorative so he didn't want to approach too much. The corridor led to a wider room with a bizarre construction in the middle, and Darren decided to return with the others before entering a possibly dangerous place.

The party left the statues unmolested for now and explore the next rooms. The construction in the middle of the room was a mystery to all of them. It was an ovoid opaque dome made from an unknown material and with eyes drawn all over its surface. The ceiling was adorned with paintings resembling constellations. The dome radiated powerful magic, but they had no clue about what they should do with it.

After spending some time examining the place and trying to figure it out, they decided to check the other near rooms. There were two closed treasure vaults and an empty room with permanent Silence and Darkness spells. One of the treasure vaults was closed with an arcane lock and seemed like it hadn't been opened in centuries. Some of the treasure they found inside was pretty valuable too.

In the other vault they found some incense. They were unsure about what could be its utility, but Darren was the brave one who dared to give it a try. He used one of Sandara's tindertwigs to light it and inhaled it.

«I am blind!» he cried. «I cannot see!»

Sandara examined him and declared that the blindness wasn't permanent (even though she wasn't really sure she didn't want to worry Darren, as he was not Fox).

«Wait. I am seeing something. What's that?»

He was looking to the walls of the dome and seeing a portal on it. He told the others and they decided it would be better not to cross it at that moment.

«We should blind a cyclops and force him to cross the portal.» said Kiani. Everybody thought it was a good idea. But they will be doing it the next day, as they were already tired and short on resources. They decided to get outside and eliminate a few more cyclops on the city before going to rest.

They didn't found a lot of them. They had expected Sumitha to be a bigger settlement. When they were ready to leave, they heard a voice inside their heads. It was a soft female voice.

«Could you help me, please? I am trapped inside the well.»

They were shocked. No way they were getting close to the well. It had to be a trap.

«Who are you?» asked Kiani suspiciously.
«My name is Vailea. The cyclops trapped me here years ago.»
«Why don't you show yourself?» asked Darren defensively.

The water's surface waved and a shape formed on it. It was a beautiful blue woman of the same size of the cyclops. She didn't look like she belonged to this world. Kiani went pale from the first time on her whole life. The blue woman looked at her with curiosity.

«You are a marid.» she said, amazed. «Why are you trapped?»

Vailea looked sad.

«The cyclops wished so, some time ago, so they could... access my powers. Now they have forgotten about me. And I like it better like that. I saw you fighting the cyclops. You are... one of my descendants.»

Kiani had heard her people claiming to descend from Marids, but she never knew if it was the truth or just a child's tale. All her life she had claimed to be the daughter of a mermaid, or any other story she could think of to explain her origins.

«I've heard we descend from Marids. I didn't know if it was true.»
«I mean directly. I sense it.» Vailea said.

It could be the truth, or just a lie so they helped her. Kiani didn't want to trust her. But she already did.

«So, how could we liberate you, then?» asked Darren.
«I need someone to wish me free.»
«You mean we can wish anything, right?» Kiani had recovered and had a playful smile on her face.

Vailea looked a bit desperate. She didn't like where things were going.

«Yes.»
«Anything we want?»
«Yes, but...»
«So what is keeping us from not releasing you and getting everything that we want?»
«Actually nothing. I have to grant your wishes.» she looked so sad.
«Cool. My wish is that you are released.»

Even greedy pirates had their heart. And this ones were not so greedy in the end.


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An interlude: VAILEA'S STORY

How much time had Vailea been trapped in her fountain? Centuries? Millennia? She had stopped keeping track a long time ago. One thing was for sure: it had happened a long time before the Cataclysm.

It was on the last years of Istar when an Istarian White Robed wizard had came to seek the guidance and powerful divinations of the cyclops. He had foreseen the consequences of the purge that the Prince of Priests was making. He wasn't so fool to think he could change anything, but at least he planned to survive.

He lived among the cyclops but he didn't feel like one of them. Vailea and him, being the two outsiders of the Cyclopean city, became close confidents if not friends. The wizard told Vailea that he feared that all Krynn was doomed beyond salvation and there was nothing he could do.

Vailea and him were also occasional lovers as a way to kill loneliness, so pregnancy was not an unexpected consequence. Vailea hid her state from the cyclops, not knowing what would their reaction be but fearing the worst. When she gave birth, helped by wher wizard to do it in secret, she asked her lover to get away with the newborn child: she'd send them both home, to the elemental plane of water. The child, half human, half water geenie, could perfectly breathe underwater. The wizard had magic powerful enough to survive on a plane without breathable air. Feeling that he was leaving nothing behind, the wizard accepted. He'd survive the catastrophe he had foreseen and raise their child in a proper environment.

That was the last time Vailea saw the wizard and her child. She stayed as a witness to see the times to come: the Cataclysm that turned the location into an island and then the decadence of the cyclops. After some years they forgot about her, and even though she thought it was a good thing, she lost the hope of being freed from her prison.

Until Kiani and her crew arrived. Vailea was convinced that is had been the destiny who had set that her own granddaughter was the one who released her.


It is amazing how much flying can negate so many of the challenges in this series. From the sounds of it your party is having as rough a time as mine with the cyclops' city. The big bad boss dropped the inquisitor in two rounds, despite his nearly 40 ac, thanks to some crazy good die rolls. I also added in a cyclops ranger to the fight. She spent the whole fight stunned by an agressive thunder cloud, which is the fist time I failed a single save againt it and suddenly I couldn't make one to save her life. With Fox sidelined and Darren in it will be interesting to see how things go. My party is caster heavy, so it really makes a difference. Some encounters are harder, but some are almost pointlessly easy. Such as the stairs.


Fox is returning soon, but later in the game his player changes Fox for Ederleigh for a time, so they are an all caster team, like they were on Sumitha. Rather than being a hindrance they made a really powerful team. Sandara made a good melee and Ederleigh could spend most of his resources on damage as all the utilities were provided by Kiani and Darren/Isabella. I never cared a lot about some encounters being trivialized as long as there were others that weren't and players had fun. If enemies don't have a way to hurt the PCs I don't usually roll the combat. I just take account of how many resources they spend.on it.

The ones who made a great team were Kiani and Isabella. Kiani had great debuffs so I gave Isabella some save or suck spells so she could take advantage of them. They were really efficient. As Darren had a hard time coming to sessions, Isabella ended being a lot in the group.

The all-caster team with Darren instead of Fox will be back while searching for Bikendi's hidden treasure... With hilarious results xD


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Yeah, I have no problem with the party handedly defeating some encounters. It give the feel of a movie, book, or TV show. Like you can take out some enemies that are beneath you, but when the tough guys show up it is a bigger deal.


And then there are Krelloort and the Shrouded Queen... *sigh* they died without doing a thing xD


I was VERY disappointed in how easy the Shrouded Queen fight was. It looked so dangerous, but was not much of a challenge. I am rebuilding Harrigan and the fight with him so that it is worthy of a book ending fight.


Even if it wasn't a book end fight because they ended with the fleet battle, mine was cool. I just made it difficult not to be spotted by the erinyes and the other devil. They dealt with the first fine but he warned the erinyes. So the fight was Harrigan + 4 erinyes who granted him sneak attack and other benefits. They can also cause fear to help Harrigan. It worked well.


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I TOLD YOU: THEY ARE A BUNCH OF HORNY PIRATES

Vailea was very grateful for having been released and wanted to do something for the PCs even if she couldn't grant more wishes for a year. Demonstrating again that they were pirates for the thrill rather than for the reward, they refused to receive any kind of compensation for what they had done.

At that moment, Vailea had an idea. As an undine, Kiani would probably enjoy visiting the Elemental Plane of water from where some of her ancestors belonged to. She offered the group to take them on a quick trip and then bringing them back. Not only Kiani was excited about it. Darren and Isabella had also a strong connection with the seas, and Sandara... just liked to travel. She was the only one that couldn't naturally breathe underwater but Zeboim wouldn't let her priestess drown (that would be pathetic!).

They spent most of the day there. Kiani made a lot of questions to Vailea about her story, and she was quick to answer. After a few hours, and before Sandara's spells ran out, the marid planeshifted everybody back. She accompanied them, as Kiani was excited about introducing her grandmother to the rest of the crew. There was only a problem: they were on the middle of nowhere! They took some time to figure out in which direction they would need to go to get back to their ship. Then they had to swim for a couple of hours. Sandara was a terrible swimmer compared to her friends (again, only one without a swim speed) so she had to cast Water Walk on herself.

«Why do you have to be such a special snowflake? Can't you swim like everybody else does?» joked Isabella.

And the conversation revolved around Sandara's inability to swim all the way back to the Mustakrakish.

When they arrived, Sefina was on the ship too. She had spent most of the day with the crew. She was already bored of being alone for so much time. The fun fact was that, despite being neighbors, Vailea and Sefina hadn't met before: Sefina never came close to Sumitha and Vailea couldn't leave her fountain. Now Vailea only wanted to travel the world and the Planes again after so many years of forced imprisonment, so she told the pirates that she was leaving for a time, but she would be back after a year. She still wanted to give them a proper reward and also to get to know her granddaughter better.

After Vailea left, Darren engaged on a conversation with Sefina, while Sandara and Kiani went with Fox to check how well he was recovering from the curse and the poison. Of course, a close examination led to a closer examination. But when Sandara and Fox started kissing, Kiani decided to leave them alone this time. She thought things were starting to get serious between them and she didn't want to interfere.
«She's not staying?» asked Fox, confused.
«Did we incomodate her or something?»
«Kiani? Nahhh! She's probably going with Isabella. They've been spending a lot of time together lately.» answered Fox carelessly.
Sandara felt a wave of jealousy but she said nothing.

Anyway, Fox's predictions were accurate: as she thought they would be better without her, Kiani went to spend some time with Isabella. The sorceress was making many progresses in coming out of her shell, but she only seemed to be completely herself with Kiani and Darren. And Darren was busy with Sefina, so Kiani thought that a session of diving and sunbathing with Isabella was a good plan... getting intimate was just the logical conclussion, as you already know that Kiani was a lot of the passionate type. Isabella was often colder and didn't trust too many people enough to let them get close. Kiani thought it was important to demonstrate her that she could let people approach her without hurting them or being hurt.

And meanwhile, Darren was having a nice talk with Sefina, sharing stories of their adventures with her. Because Darren was the formal one on the group.


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ATTACKED BY STATUES AND... THE FLOOR?
The next day, already fully recharged, the party decided to do a second incursion at Sumitha.

After thinking about it, our pirates had a master plan to avoid having to blind themselves to find the gate to enter the dome: they'd capture a cyclops, blind him and force him to cross the gate, leading the way. So first they had to go on some cyclops hunting.

«I hope you left someone alive yesterday.» said Fox. He was feeling much better and ready to beat the crap out of some cyclops.

They used Dimension Door to get to the now empty fountain. At their right side, there was a set of stairs that led to a terrace and then to what seemed to be a deep cavern. With Sandara's Air Walk spell on, they headed there. When they noticed the ugly winged statues they already had many of them around. Our pirates knew that one can never trust winged statues not to move, but it was already late.

The gargoyles, because that's what they were, pulled out their bows and striked a surprise attack. They focused on Isabella, as she wasn't wearing armor at all. Fox wasn't either, but it looked like Isabella would be easier to defeat. Fortunately, with Mage's Armor to avoid some hits and False Life for extra hit points, they weren't as effective as they thought they would.

Fox charged towards a couple of them before they could release a second wave of arrows, even if walking without touching the ground still felt awkward to him. The gargoyles tried to flank him but he quickly stepped back to avoid being caught defenseless and parried the only attack that didn't miss. After his poor performance the last times and being left out of the party, Fox was enjoying way too much this fight, provoking and taunting the gargoyles all the time.

The other monsters kept focusing on Isabella. If it wasn't for her temporary hit points she would be pretty low on HP but with her False Life on she could still take a couple of attacks before being knocked out.

«Do you fear me?» she yelled. «Fine! You should!»

She moved to get a clear line of effect and delightfully shocked three of them with a Lightning Bolt. Kiani started a bardic performance and also hasted the party. Sandara casted an Obscuring Mist spell to grant Isabella cover and then moved to melee against another gargoyle. They had to make the gargoyles stop focusing on Isabella.

Not being able to use their bows against Isabella or Kiani, the gargoyles tried to outflank both melees to be able to use their sneak attack on them. But Fox had killed his opponents on his turn (a hasted Fox making a full attack is something to fear unless you're a giant aquatic vermin) and killed another one with an AoO when he was approached. So the last one didn't have a way to make a sneak attack on him.
Sandara was a bit slower in defeating her opponents, but she dealt with one of them by her own and the rest of the party aided in defeating the other.

After Sandara healed Isabella with a wand, and Kiani and Fox discovered that the access to the cavern was barred by rocks, they continued exploring. They found an open air rotunda and a vaulted chamber with beautifully decorated walls and long writings in ancient cyclops language. This time Sandara had Comprehend Language prepared, but she found the writings useless and uninteresting.

They entered a cavern from the rotunda, which led to a long corridor. A foul smell came from one of its ends, where there was a shallow pool of stagnant water. A lot of bones were scattered all over the place and, among them, a shining bejeweled sword could be seen.

«That smells like a trap and rotting flesh.» said Kiani.

They advanced carefully, with Sandara and Fox on the lead and Isabella and Kiani behind.

«The floor is slimey here.» noticed the priestess.
«It looks... fleshy?» agreed Kiani.

Having been discovered, the massive creature that had been disguising itself as the floor emerged. It filled most of the room and it could extend its own body to reach all of them.

Before they could react, it grabbed Sandara. Its grapple was so strong that opressed her chest rendering her unable to speak.

Fox activated his magic scarf so he didn't have to approach the monster and made a full attack. Even if his attacks pierced the DR they weren't very effective, as he relied on precision damage and the creature didn't have a stable shape.

Isabella tried to cast defensively, but she lost her spell. Kiani wasn't willing to get into melee with such a big creature, so she remained as a backup, buffing and casting.

Sandara was unable to break the grapple and the rest of the party didn't cause enough damage to the monster. She was helpless. Finally, the creature released her with a sound of broken ribs and attacked Fox, grabbing him too. Sandara was unconscious and dying. Isabella and Kiani were already out of reach, so Kiani had and idea to save her friends. She couldn't approach without causing an attack of opportunity, so she commanded Isabella to cast a Dimension Door to Sandara's position. When both were there, Kiani touched both Sandara and Fox and used the spell that Isabella had inscribed on her skin: another Dimension Door. She took the whole party to the limit of the corridor, out of the creature's reach. Then she healed Sandara enough to get her conscious again. From the distance, they blasted the creature before it could approach and defeated it.

(I might have run this encounter wrong, making it more difficult than it was, as now I think the creature shouldn't have been able to AoO or threaten while grabbing Sandara. This was how it went, though, so I am not changing it)

After that, there were just a handful of cyclops remaining in Sumitha. Even if they put Fox into some serious trouble with their auto-crit threats, they weren't difficult to beat. The biggest problem was trying to keep one of them alive, as they had a very obnoxious tendency to die after being slashed, stabbed or blasted to death.

Finally they managed to capture a single one alive and they took him, tied and beaten, to the dome. The hilarious story about what happened next will be told on the next chapter. Start fearing for the hapless cyclops!


Kileanna wrote:
I TOLD YOU: THEY ARE A BUNCH OF HORNY PIRATES

...Said the horny changeling.


Let's just say we are a bunch of healthy people xD


I feel very healthy, thanks!


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I did the same thing with it. Maybe not the correct way, but it is huge and amorphous. Grappling should not hinder it at all.

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