OP pls nerf! (or: How dare these things happen to me on my vacation?)

Rise of the Runelords

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Warning: campaign log ahead.

I need a long adventure for one of my PCs and a mash-up of the three Runelord APs sounds just right. The PCs have been 20th level for years, two are lords of their own domains, they are well-liked by several rulers of other nations, including the two most powerful in the world, WBL is a joke, and they all have in excess of 50 point buy ability scores (62 in one case - that was an impressive set she rolled), they have the enmity of three Immortals, the personal support of a few others, and have already saved the timeline from clone cyborgs from the future intent on all magic, stopped ancient reptilian overlords from escaping their inescapable prison, stopped a world war from happening, and a many other things of lesser note (like stopped a 400 meter tall steam mech), and now they want to become Immortals themselves, so something like these APs sounds like a nice step on the way.

The APs are heavily rewritten to fit in Mystara, but the most important things are there. Part of the reason I chose to run the entire APs rather than just the more level-appropriate bits was to let the players experience just how far they've come since level 1. Knowing intellectually is one things but if you nearly always meet level appropriate stuff and gloss over minor stuff you don't get to feel like the gods they are attempting to become.

TLDR: 20th level characters run through an AP or three.

Dramatis personae:

Queen Arlynith Tirielle Drachenflamme, Lord of Drachenflamme (human sorcerer, red dragon disciple). The product of many unspeakable experiments by her grandundcle who was very fond of vivisections and clones. Needs an artifact to study to help make her own. Haughty and proud.

Lady Protector Othariel Ainamar, Princess of the Thunder Rift (elf paladin, ranger 2). Local girl who decided to make the Rift a unified nation where all local races live in harmony, and reminds herself that she is a paladin and can't go back on her word on a daily basis at having to wrangle 11 races (most of whom hate each other) into a cohesive whole. Nice.

Ranya Eliander, high priestess of Valerias (human cleric). Sexy, flirty, seductive, meddling, and more of a cocktease than a cockplease. Tries to hide her indiscretions from her husband (high priest of Khoronus), who knew what he was getting into when they married. A major point of contention is which Immortal their son will become a cleric of. The son's opinion on the matter is unknown.

Tomokato Katamura (eh? eh? get it?) rakasta paladin of Ixion, samurai from the invisble moon, but left his flying sabertooth tiger back home. Likes to shoot things with his bow.

Dealing with the recent magically created famine in her realm, the public unrest at the new laws allowing undead full citizenship, and the embarrassing issue with the rabbit, Arly is not in a good mood. It's not made any better when she realizes she has been paying a bunch of idiot students at the university to research a subject she is finished with, and this has been going on a few years.

Her mood changes when she sees the notes she received from them mention an artifact from an ancient race that has been portrayed in various art on the southern continent of Davania. In need of an artifact to study to help her finish the Staff of Wishes she's working on, Arly decides a quick trip to the other side of the world makes for a nice little break from queening. She picks up Othariel and Ranya for some company. Othariel also needs a break from princessing and it will give her son a chance to get some hands-on experience with ruling. Ranya has nothing better to do than watch the 100 foot tall statue of her for ten years, so she tags along. Tomokato is out roaming, as tom cats are wont.

The PCs teleport to Magnimar, formerly Raven Scarp, capital of the Thyatian expansion into the Davinian Hinterlands. They try to find Brodert Quink, formerly Baravan Quincinius, who authored the reports Arly received. He apparently had just moved to the little town of Sandpoint, the first major settlement outside of Magnimar in the Hinterlands now that the locals are subjugated or driven off. Another teleport and the PCs are in Sandpoint. Their appearance draws stares, not surprising since they are wearing enough valuables to buy the town many many times over. A quick meal at the Rusty Dragon and on to Quink, who is overjoyed to find someone interested in his research on Thassilon, overjoyed enough that he completely fails to be impressed by the obvious wealth of his visitors. He mentions the festival the next day, and the PCs shrug their shoulders and say they might as well stay the night, since they could use a nice party.

Ranya visits the new temple, charms her way past the acolytes who try to tell her Father Zantus is very busy, and speaks to the man himself. She is overjoyed to see he's a Valerias worshpper as well, and wants to take him out drinking. He protests he has a lot to do before the next day, and, pouting, Ranya leaves. The Rusty Dragon is bustling with business. Most of the town is present, trying very unsuccessfully to pretend they are not there to see the three strangers who all have at least 26 Charisma, and a few even try their luck but fail miserably. Ranya, in an uncharacteristic display of tact, uses her +29 bonus to Perform to not entirely outclass Ameiko Kaijutsu but rather just accompany her.

The next day the festival is a success, though Ranya wonders what this Peacock Spirit thing Father Zantus was talking about is. Certainly not anything Valerias-relatesd she's ever heard of, possibly even heretical. She'll have to talk to him about that later. When the goblins attack the PCs almost laugh in disbelief. Ranya debates using a Stormbolts but thinks it wasteful if she only gets two in it, so settles for a Searing Light. Arly takes out two more with a Scorching Ray, and Othariel whammies all of 4 with a Holy Smite. They then fly out to clean up the rest of the town. The only death was Aldern's loyal dog, who Othariel tries to use Ultimate Mercy on. The good boi didn't want to come back, sadly. She never even notices the whiny noble who tried to profess his gratitude. Arly takes one commando alive and, once the rest have been killed, decides to question him. After restarting the goblin's heart, which gave out when faced with 56 on an Intimidate roll, she gets nothing useful. She hands the goblin over to the town and they are surprised to see the thing cry like a baby and ask to be protected from the scary scaly lady.

The next day the PCs are a bit annoyed at the whole thing want to get out of town before anything else happens. "Why can't we just go somewhere without having something stupid like this happen to us?" they ask the uncaring heavens (aka the DM).
Eager to get back to more important things, they decide to talk to Quink and see if he has any direct leads to this ancient artifact he rambled about. If not, they're going home. Just then, in the middle of Quink's lecture on the big ruin on the edge of town actually being far older than the Milenian empire other scholars attribute it to, Corwina bursts in asking the PCs for help.
"Don't they have local guards for this?" they wonder. Upon hearing Ameiko was kidnapped and reading the letter from her brother they sigh, mutter something about "back home I have people for this sort of thing" and cast Locate Person. Othariel was not going to bother running all over town following clues if Ameiko turned out to be somewhere else than the glassworks. Arly and Othariel head on over, leaving Ranya to talk to a few people. Othariel and Arly wonder how the hell no one notices a bunch of goblins in the glassworks and Arly Fireballs them. Tsuto survives, thanks to the spell being Merciful. The PCs go into the basement and rescue Ameiko, then sigh in annoyance at the sight of the tunnel in the wall. After interrogating Tsuto, their suspicion that this is more than a simple tunnel to bring goblins in is confirmed and they head down.

Final thoughts for the session. The players had fun, even if they were a bit exasperated at the whole thing. There is a significant chance that they'll just pony up some cash to hire adventurers and tell Quink to contact them if he turns up anything interesting. However, they'll probably go straight down to the Scribbler when they find the collapsed staircase, so I'll have to make sure to note how Sihedrony the Catacombs are, and how much more useful it will be to hang around for the rest of the AP than to let other people handle it.

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Session 2

While Arly and Othariel are off rescuing kidnapped barkeeps, Ranya is going to help this cute local girl who has some trouble with rats in the cellar. Things are just about to get good when she hears heavy footsteps upstairs. Ven Vinder's angry accusations die mid sentence when he sees the girls just innocently sitting and talking. He is about to go when he notices the sleeping arrangements and gets loud again. Ranya has a Diplomacy and Bluff of 42, so this should be easy. Then Ranya, as usual, opens her mouth. "I can understand getting upset if there was a guy down here, but two girls is just a bit of fun. Do you think you could give us some privacy?"
The GM again reminds himself that skill modifiers in the 40s can do amazing things, and Ranya somehow manages to weasel out of this without daddy doing anything but grumping a bit.

In the mean time, the Catacombs of Wrath are cleared out handily and Erylium is taken alive and is bullied into sharing what she knows about the Catacombs and who built them. Arly pops down to the lower level to see what is down there and spies the trapped glabrezu. The two get to talking and Arly is very interested in getting that wish, and has no trouble sending the glabrezu home in exchange. Foolishly, she goes back up, meets Othariel, and Tomokato (who, like any good cat, just showed up out of the blue), and Ranya. Arly tells of the trapped demon and her promise to let him go home.
Cue the better part of an hour's argument in real time between the paladin players and Arly's player about why this was a bad idea. Arguments about how demons are evil, how the phylactery of faithfulness gives off bad vibes, how demons are tricky, untrustworthy f&*%ers fall on deaf ears as Arly keeps insisting that she's already promised this and she can't see how paladins would encourage someone to break their word.

Othariel makes big speech about how it's good to see Arly taking her word seriously, but dammit, she really needs to think things through before giving it. This is almost as granting undead citizenship in her kingdom. Arly (and her player) still doesn't see the moral problems, only the practical ones. when asked why killing this demon is such a bad thing but killing the sinspawn and goblins was ok, Arly answered that the demon was polite while the others just attacked.
Arly's journey towards Lawful Good seems to have stagnated at LN.

With some gentle encouragement from the GM, Arly finally allows the paladins to kill it. Tomokato smites the glabreszu, who having just lost 2/3 of his hit points, decides to fail the Banishment save and goes home.
"So what's the difference between your banishing it and me casting Plane Shift to send it home?" Arly asks Tomokato.
"........shut up."

Now I have to figure out if fiends actually die in Mystara-verse when their body on other planes is destroyed or if they just get sent back to their home plane, if dismissal/banishment is anything worse than a force eviction, and if it actually matters to anything in the future.

At this point the yeth hounds make their presence known and while Othariel is debating whether to use Holy Smite or Holy Word on them, Tomokato kills four of them with his arrows. Othariel cleaves the last two. Then the Scribbler, wondering what this noise is, comes to investigate. They exchange questions. The Scribbler does not like hearing that there are no serpentfolk left (there are, the PCs just don't know about them), and seems non-plussed when Arly and Ranya mention themselves as some of the most powerful spellcasters they know of, but seems happy that Blackmoor is no more. There's a brief discussion about whether Glantri counts as 'one of the most powerful nations today', on the basis of 'is a country with probably hundreds of wizards with 9th level spells actually powerful if they only bicker and argue amongst themselves and never get any real work done?'

When it becomes clear that the PCs don't know anything about Thassilon, the Runelords or anything else, and their answers about the surface world requires a lot more information to understand, so he decides to kill them. He survives the first arrow from Tomokato, who asks him to surrender. The Scribbler tries to D.Door away but is countered by Arly. Othariel finishes the job and the PCs look around, removing magical traps and casting casting enough Consecrates to make Lamashtu Demogorgon very angry. What's one more Entropy Immortal angry with you, after all?
The scribbles on the walls grab their attention. "All this writing stuff looks like a job for a scholar," they decide, and tell Quinck that the place is safe to explore, give him some money to finance his research and make him promise to let them know the moment anything interesting appears. They then teleport away, not even noticing Aldern who tries to invite them boar hunting. They take a spot of tea in an area where low-level noobs won't come around and try to get them to do first-level quests.

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I like this. 'Let's just hire our own adventurers to handle this!" Delegation at it's finest.

1st level adventurers need to get their start somewhere.

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After putting Quinck to work on the newly cleared Catacombs of Wrath, the PCs remember something about a goblin nest a bit further up the coast and almost reluctantly decide to look into it. Really, such low-level maintenance missions are better suited for those who don't have to worry about ruling kingdoms, but finding people and hiring them will probably take longer than just doing it themselves, so they head out. A pleasant ride along the coast - the first time they've ridden much of any place on adventure in quite some time - and they reach Thistletop. They leave their mounts outside and fly over the maze of goblin-infested thorns straight to the island. When the goblins on guard see them, they pull their slings and start pelting the PCs, doing bugger all damage. "Lay down your weapons!", Ranya commands. The goblins roll very well on their morale checks and keep going. Ranya and Othariel land and knock all the guards unconscious. The ones on the shore, on their way over the bridge, see this and turn and flee into the woods.

All the goblins inside have heard the commotion and are piled in the entry hall ready to kill the intruders. "I come bearing gifts!" Ranya exclaims as she opens the door, and a roll of 62 on Diplomacy means the goblins are now her best friends. First she gives them 100 gp to bring her to their leader, then she buys the leader's friendship with 1000 gp. Ripnugget promptly forgets that the PCs were the ones who killed his warriors in their ill-fated attack on Sandpoint just two days ago, and is more than happy to sell out his 'friends' in the lower levels.

The PCs go down and let Ranya, the physically least impressive of them, take point. She clears out the tentamort handily and proceeds to the shrine. The yeth hounds frighten the bejeesus out of her and she runs away all of 10 feet, at which point she enters Othariel's aura of courage, calms down and feels very foolish. The hounds are removed with a few well-placed arrows. Bruthazmus hears the howling and comes to see what's going on. He charges Othariel, who b~#+*-slaps him into unconsciousness. Orik comes to see what the noise is, looks at Othariel, casts a glance at the unconscious bugbear, and asks if it's time for him to find new employers. A brief interrogation later and Othariel lets him go with a stern warning to not get involved in stuff like this again.

A similar conversations between Arlyntih and Lyrie is taking place just a few meters north of the rest of the party, and Lyrie shows Arly the secret entrance to the lower levels. Upon learning that Lyrie is also a scholar of Thassilon, Arly hires her to assist Quinck. The gang heads downstairs and are interested to find statues of serpentfolk here too. Arly triggers the trap but disables it, making the player (who has had few opportunities to use his early choice of DD as a skill) very happy.

Nualia, following what is turning out to be a theme in this adventure, recognizes superior beings when she sees them and gives up without a fight. She confesses to masterminding the attack on Sandpoint, but tries to blame her boss, Mokmurian. A few helpful notes from M. ordering Nualia to do so helps, but Ranya, Tomokato and Othariel can tell there's more to the story than that. Nualia tells of her edgy angsty teen backstory and garners only a minuscule amount of sympathy. Trying to burn the town to the ground is not an acceptable response to a shitty childhood. Arly takes Nualia along so they can use her to talk to Mokmurian.
Othariel decides to explore the rest of the level, meets Malfeshnekor, and Holy Words him into oblivion. The shadows and giant crab offer no more challenge, and the gang go back up to the goblins to tell them Thistletop is theirs again. They find the goblins torturing Shadowmist in celebration, and Othariel very sternly tells them that They Will Do No Such Thing Ever Again, and They Will Stop Attacking Human++ Settlements Or Else.
"Yes, miss," they reply.

Back in Sandpoint Shadowmist is reunited with his very grateful owners, and Arlynith attempts to Scry on Mokmurian. Aldern Foxglove finally gets Othariel's attention and tries to invite her (and her friends) along for a boar hunt. Othariel's Sense Motive is high enough to see he's infatuated with her and, being used to that, smiles but says she's busy right now and leaves, and besides she's married. She does let the town leadership know that the goblins of Thistletop are not a problem any more, and She Hopes the Town Will Not Go Looking For Trouble and Maybe Everyone Can Just Along, Do I Make Myself Clear? The town assures her she's clear, and are just glad to have the goblins stop being a problem, one way or another.

Mokmurian fails his Will save against Scrying and pretty soon he is surprised to see four strangers and Nualia standing in front of him in his private chamber. No fool, he answers questions and tells his story, dragging things out and delaying the PCs until the Headless One can gather the rest of the monsters in the Therrasic Library, they can attack the intruders. The PCs hear the forces gathering outside the chamber and ready themselves. "I do hope this isn't some foolish attempt to kill us," Arly says. The Hounds of Tindalos enter and start ripping people apart with their gaze. Othariel has already cast Shield Other on Nualia, who takes minimal damage. Arly fails one save but otherwise no one is harmed. Arly Mazes Mokmurian and kills the Hounds with Chains of Fire. The Shining Child fails to blind anyone and is easily dispatched by Tomokato, who also takes out a couple of hill giant zombies. Othariel dispatches the Headless One, Ranya gets ready to heal anyone who may need it (hah!). Mokmurian succeeds his Intelligence check and returns to find half his forces dead. Arly Mazes him again and this time he's gone for a few rounds. By the end of the second round the rest of the enemies are killed off and the PCs wait for Mokmurian to reappear. He comes back fully prepared for battle but realizes he doesn't have a chance and is more than happy to not have the PCs kill him. Just as he's about to spill the beans, Karzoug takes over and tries to kill the PCs. Ranya casts AMF and moves into range, shutting down the possession. Seeing that his only chance at survival is the PCs, Mokmurian confesses to everything, including the current assault on Fort Rannick, various minions looking for Thassilonian ruins and signs of other Runelord activity, gathering information on current threats, etc. Arly uses Mordenkainen's Disjunction to sever Karzoug's link to Mokmurian and the PCs then start exploring the library.

The PCs bring in Quinck and plan on getting a bunch of scholars, scribes and guards to make a full exploration of the information and copy interesting texts. Several days of research later and the PCs, with Mokmurian's aid, learn the basics of Thassilonian Sin magic, Thassilon's history (Xin and the Sihedron, the betrayal by the Runelords and later wars with other contemporary empires) and have found a few maps of the empire, including major cities. Most importantly, Mokmurian's description of Xin-Shalast, the Occluding field and the inhabitants of the city mean the PCs can head straight to the final showdown with Karzoug.

The PCs are now debating whether to hire heroes to help Fort Rannick and move on to Xin-Shalast or just handle it themselves. In any case, it seems that the Skinsaw Murders will happen without the PCs' involvement, and it is quite possible the Runeforge will be entirely skipped. Karzoug will move quickly but cautiously now that he knows there are people out there that are on to him and can sever the soul bindings Karzoug uses on his most important minions. He will try to gather information on the PCs but Mind Blank will mostly put a stop to that. Contact Other Plane will work (there are beings out there with a grudge against the PCs, after all), but this will take time, at least a week or two.

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Somehow I can see hilarity happen as they take Karzoug out real quick
and then skip out.

Then Mhar shows up.

"I guess we should have explored a bit."

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I'm not sure I'll even keep Mhar in this story. One thing that has annoyed me somewhat with both RotR and Shattered Star is the inclusion of mega-monsters in the process of being released as a throw-away side-track. These are things that are at least as devastating as the BBEG of the AP and probably far more disruptive to the status quo and probably deserving of their own AP, yet they are shoved in almost as an afterthought.

OTOH, the continent of Davania has a place called the Gulf of Mar and that's too good of an opportunity to ignore altogether.

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Since the only people who can read the library were Arly and Ranya, Othariel and Tomokato decide to clean out the fortress above their heads. The giants are already milling about since Mokmurian just upped and left, muttering something about "I'll be back." The paladins tell them that M. has been relieved of duty to Karzoug (a name and fact the giants were unaware of) and that they can go home now. they are happy to do so, and just hope Mokmurian won't return at some point. They then go into the black tower, elegantly avoid the pit trap, and face the mummy. The poor mummy is smitten by the paladins and dies his true death without being able to do much more than hiss a bit. The PCs have a bit of fun figuring out how to open the container with the Anathema Archives . Arly tries Knock and is happy to see it works. Othariel promptly botches her Will save to avoid Wisdom drain once they get the scroll out and start looking through it.

The next day Ranya gives the paladins a Wind Walk spell so they can head on over to the Hook Hills and see about stopping the ogre/giant raid sent there while the primary casters read the library. On the way they hear a kitty yowling in pain and the excited barking of dogs. They investigate. Their first introduction to a Graul fills them with revulsion and the dogs are scared off by a screaming arrow from Othariel, and Rukus is taken down by Tomokato. Kibb is healed and leads Othariel to the Graul homestead while Tomokato heads on to Fort Rannick. She quickly regret maxing Perception when the smells of the farm come wafting on the wind. Crowhead spots her and attacks. Othariel knocks him out, and does the same to the dogs, who ran home after being scared off. With Kibb hiding the forest she heads on to the barn. She is horrified by the place and its inhabitants, and dispatches the three watching the prisoners. She kills the giant ogre spider and rescues the prisoners and brings them to full health. Side not, Ranya's player is arachnophobic and was unaware that ogre spiders were a thing, so got an unpleasant surprise when he Googled the creature, expecting only a drawing of some fantasy monster.

While Othariel is doing this, Kibb sneaks out and kills the unconscious Crowhead and the dogs. Othariel tells the survivors to just stay hidden in the barn while she takes out the main house. She elegantly avoids the traps and wonders how the hell any sentient creature can live in such filth. The 'children' make her blood run cold in pity and horror and she leaves them to their game, uncertain what to do with them. She goes up to find Mammy and her boys, and ends them quickly. The abattoir in the basement is the last straw and Hucker practically explodes as Othariel unleashes her full righteous fury on him. She recovers the valuables and goes up to figure out what to do with the 'kids'. She begins to wonder if this abomination of a family just needs to be removed in its entirety. Her Phylactery of Faithfulness indicates that this is a mercy killing. It leaves a bad taste in her mouth, but she does the deed, then sets fire to the place, wishing she had a scroll of Fireball or Meteor Swarm or something similar.

By the time she and the survivors make it to Fort Rannick, Tomokato has cleaned out the place. Othariel hands over the valuables she found at the Grauls and she and Tomokato Teleport back to Jorgenfist.

[I just cut-scened Tomokato clearing out Fort Ranick, and skipped the village, the dam and Black Magga altogether. Tomokato's player wasn't with us this session, and I didn't want the other two players to spend too much time just listening to Othariel do all the fun stuff. Plus, we were all itching to get to the final showdown]

Back at the library Othariel takes a long, hot bath and bitterly regrets her oath against drinking and the fact that she's immune to all memory modifying spells. The team debate checking out this Runeforge thingy they've read about. Powerful weapons are fun, but they figure that they have already delayed long enough. Karzoug knows they are coming and they don't want to give him more time to prepare than necessary. While they cannot teleport directly to Xin-Shalast, they were fortunate enough to have visited the Adakkian mounts once before, and can Wind Walk from a known place, saving many hours of travel. They head up, ignoring the cold and thin air with appropriate protections, and bypass the city of Xin-Shalast entirely and head straight to the top. The Occluding Field hits them like a hammer but only Arly rolls a 1 on the save and is drained of 3 points of Wisdom. She was never the wisest person so figures it can wait a bit. Despite having been told that the Sihedron rings and medallions protect against this effect, the PCs don't put them on. They go in and dispatch the Cloud Giant guards, then face Karzoug's first image. The Disintegrate cast from it towards Arly is Spell Turned back. I rule that since the origin is an illusion, it can't be affected and the spell impacts on the wall behind the illusion, opening a hole straight to the demon there.

Now comes the weird bit. My players will always, ALWAYS, go left on a map unless there are pressing reasons to do otherwise. Had they continued to do so they would have gone through much of the complex before ending up at the Anima Focus. For some reason they decided to look into the hole they made in the wall. They spotted the demon and Tomokato smote it, killing it with three arrows before it could react. Now they decide to enter that room and go left again, and since the big double doors immediately to their left lead to the Anima Focus...

Ceoptra casts Destruction on Arly as soon as the PCs open the door, and Arly sends 1/7 of it back with the last of her Spell Turning and saves against the rest. The Most High penetrates her own SR and fails her save, and so takes 20 points of damage. Tomokato is knocked to the ground as another pulse of the Occluding Field goes off, and only fires one arrow. Arly Fireballs the room and Othariel charges in. Ceoptra casts Blade Barrier to keep out the other PCs now that they have so conveniently split the party, and the cloud giants manage to hit Othariel once. First Tomokato dances through the barrier, showing off his Ring of Evasion. Then Arly does the same with her Ring of Evasion. Ranya does the same but rolls a 1 on her save. This was the first time she had to make a Reflex save since adding Evasion to her Ancestral Relic, and she was a bit bummed to have it not work. Her pride takes another beating as she eats an AoO moving next to a giant. Fortunately for Ranya, Othariel cast Shield Other before they entered the Pinnacle of Avarice.

Just as they finish off the Most High, a rune giant from the room on the other side bursts in and immediately dies to a rain of arrows. The PCs get ready to enter the Eye. Little do they know that the rest of the enemies in the Pinnacle are being gathered by Khalib for an assault...

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This reminds me of speedruns in Breath of the Wild where people rush to fight Gandorf at the beginning

Speedrun parody

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Soon after defeating Ceoptra and her guards, the PCs hear some more heavy movement down the hall. They ready themselves and see the room outside fill with giants and lamias, all hasted. The planetar Fire Storms the room (inflicting no damage thanks to Evasion all around) and the giants storm in to take the brunt of the defense, followed by the lamias, who make a beeline towards Ranya the cleric. Once the spaces around Ranya are filled, the rest target Othariel who tried to stem the tide. The rune giant goes down easily enough, and the storm giants are left to their own devices as the lamias do their Wisdom draining. The first round see Ranya lose 6 points of Wisdom and Othariel 4. Tomokato ignores the giants and targets the lamia. The planetar swoops in to target Arlynith. Every PC knows enough about angels to know the chances of one of them willingly helping the serpentfolk is remote, yet for some reason the one in the best position to do anything about it, Arlynith, just wants to tank damage from it, choosing instead to Maze Viorian, who also targets Othariel.

The following round sees Ranya reduced to 5 Wisdom and Othariel to 1. Othariel casts Time Stop and gets enough rounds to use a scroll of Restoration. Arly Mazes the two Hungerers and Tomokato takes out a couple of lamia. Meanwhile, Khalib has been throwing out all the spells he can from a safe distance, but these have little effect thanks to the PCs only failing save on a roll of 1. Ranya, never a particularly impressive physical combatant, is effectively out of the fight, so hides and uses her channels to regain HP. Othariel, fully restored, returns to finish off the rest of the lamia and start on the storm giants. After having taken several attacks from the plantar, who now spends a round casting Righteous Might, Arly realizes that ignoring it might not have been the best tactic, so cats Greater Dispel Magic to nerf it. He is successful in removing all buffs and, most importantly, the Greater Planar Binding. The planetar charges Khalib and starts venting his frustration at having been a slave for several thousand years. The rest of the fight is an easy mopping up. They have to wait several minutes for the Mazed opponents to return, at which point the hungerers are instantly killed. The planetar warns the PCs that Viorian is cursed by the sword and they should attempt to rescue her. The planetar's Remove Curse fails to sever the link between Chellan and Viorian, but Othariel's succeeds, and the mercenary captain collapses like a marionette with the strings cut. The planetar restores lost Wisdom to the PCs and thanks them for setting him free. He would also like to take part in the assault on Karzoug, and the PCs are happy to oblige. After making sure Viorian is stable, they leave her, cast a ton of buffs, and immediately spend a minute or so casting various spells on the Anima Focus trying to activate it before Arly actually touches the thing. The others follow suit the following round.

Arly shows up in the Eye of Avarice, and thanks to the best initiative roll in the room, Mazes the rune giant in front of her. Her True Seeing shows that the Karzoug on the throne is merely an illusion, but she cannot see him anywhere else in the room. A Greater Dispel Magic from Karzoug fails to remove any of Arly's buffs. The rest of the PCs show up and Arly casts a Prismatic Wall to trap the giants and the dragon near the throne. Karzoug, through his Projected Image, casts Solidify Air on the PCs. He fails to penetrate Arly's spell resistance but traps he rest. Tomokato botches his save and starts to asphyxiate. Othariel Dimension Doors out of the area and Arly gets the other two out. The planetar stands ready to heal anyone taking a lot of damage. Karzoug casts Disintegrate Flesh on everyone, but they all make their saves. The giants use their Chain Lightning ability, firing through the gap between the Prismatic Wall and the real walls, but they don't penetrate Arly's SR, and the rest easily make their saves. The poor planetar needs to heal himself. Tomokato flies to the northern wall to avoid being a group target and starts shooting the giant there, and Othariel flies to the south. After finishing off one giant, Tomokato takes out the dragon. and the last one disappears to the planetar and Othariel. Tomokato is suddenly in a Cloudkill inside a Forcecage, but he Dimension Doors out.

Despite being subject to many spells, first from the Projected Image, then from its replacement when the first is dispelled, then from seemingly nowhere, the PCs have no idea where Karzoug is. With the mooks gone, they set about trying to find him. They quickly realize he has made a tunnel system, sized for Tiny creatures, all around the Eye, with small holes at irregular intervals so he can peek out and cast spells. He has turned into sand and is sliding around the tunnel system. The PCs quickly try to trap him, setting up check points of summoned creatures, Ranya with AMF hopefully extending through a hole, and trying to either blast their way in a tunnel or trying to catch him with a Dispel (Medium-sized creature in Tiny tunnel = ouch, being their reasoning). This game goes on for some time, with the PCs regularly being knocked into the lava (Feather Fall from Arly + innate flight on all PCs means this is hardly a problem, and the one time she couldn't stop Ranya from falling, a Reverse Gravity quickly brings her back up from the lava) or making saves against a variety of spells like Disintegrate, Flesh to Stones, etc. Finally, after way too long IRL, they manage to catch Karzoug and remove his Sand Form. Karzoug exits the Runewell, where he had been hidden for quite some time now and uses one of his Wishes to wish Arly dead. She counterspells it, so Karzoug uses his Rod of Quicken to make the same wish again. Arly fails the save by one and is disintegrated utterly. Ranya moves into range to shut down any more spellcasting, but is a bit leery of the burning glaive. Tomokato fires off a salvo but much of his damage potential is removed thanks to the AMF. the planetar and Othariel fly in and trap Karzoug in the AMF and hit him, reducing him to 0 hp. He steps off the platform and when he gets out of range of the AMF, teleports behind the big screen showing Xin-Shalast, and regains the hit points from magically increased Constitution that were suppressed by the AMF. Tomokato flies around to smite and gets in one arrow on him, and Othariel flies in, smites and crits him to oblivion. With his final moment he tries to unleash a Spell-lash, but the paladins easily evade.

This session had two long complicated fights so the above might well contain errors as well as the general lack of detail that since I have forgotten a lot of it. We ended the session immediately after Karzoug went down since it was already 00.30 and people wanted to sleep. Next session: clean-up, loot, possible interactions with the denizens of Leng and hints at a Carnifex connection. Most importantly, the first Sihedron shard and indications about where to go next.

Notes on Karzoug's spells. I felt it unfortunate that he had to rely mostly on non-Transmutation spells to be effective in his original write-up so I gave him some fun high level Transmutation spells from earlier editions. I will do the same for the other Runelords - they are masters of their school, after all, and pride and power indicate they would focus on using what they were good at and only use other schools as supplements.

Disintegrate Flesh
Level: Sor/Wiz 9, witch 9
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Components: V, S, M
Range: long
Duration: Instantaneous
Area: 40' cube
Saving throw: Fortitude negates
Spell resistance: yes

You disintegrate all organic matter in the area. Inanimate or non-living organic matter is destroyed without a save, though magic items receive a save, as do things attended by a person, like worn clothes. Creatures that fail the saving throw take 2d6/level points of disintegration damage.
Material Components: a tuning fork of cold iron

Sand Form
(Transmutation) [polymorph]
Level: Sor/Wiz 9
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Components: V, S, M
Range: personal
Duration: 1 day/level (D)
Area: a body of sand

You create a body from sand that houses your mind similar to an astral body. The sand body has the same volume as you, but can spread out or clump together as you wish so long as the mass is contiguous. You move at your normal movement speed, and are still in full possession of your normal senses while using the sand form but your real body is paralyzed while the spell is in effect. You need not eat or drink for the duration. Your sand body suffers a -4 penalty on any roll requiring fine dexterity (e.g. disable device or playing instruments) but otherwise has your ability scores, saves, natural AC, etc. and can do anything you can. While in sand form you are immune to poison, physical ability damage or drain, precision damage and, like Dust Form, count as incorporeal and can shape your body . If exposed to heavy rain or submerged for ten rounds or more, the sand body crumbles. Otherwise the sand body has the same number of hit points. The sand body can only function within 100 miles of your original body. You can cast spells through the Sand Form, but must have the necessary components with it.
Material Components: a fistful of sand and some hair or skin from the caster.

Solidify Air
(Transmutation) [air]
Level: Sor/Wiz 9
Casting Time: 1 round
Components: V, S, M
Range: medium
Duration: 1 round/3 levels
Area: 10' cube
Saving throw: Reflex partial
Spell resistance: yes

You cause the air around the target to become as hard and unyielding as stone, trapping them inside. On a failed saving throw, the target is also incapable of speech and breath, and begins to suffocate. On a successful save the target is still immobilized but can breathe, speak and make minor movements of extremities, though not enough to permit somatic components for spellcasting. The solidified air prevents any physical or energy damage from going into or through the area, though light effects are not hindered. Creatures larger than the area of effect can be partially trapped by it, and the spell will prevent the movement and effect of many effects, such as harmful gases and clouds. Creatures can walk on the surface of the area without trouble, and it can function as a short-lived wall, floor, roof support or similar. Creatures of elemental air are not held by the spell but merely slowed for the duration on a failed save and slowed for only one round on a successful save
Material Components: a cube-shaped diamond worth 1000 gp

Level: Sor/Wiz 9
Casting Time: 1 immediate action
Components: V, S
Range: personal
Duration: Instantaneous
Area: 25' radius
Saving throw: Reflex half
Spell resistance: yes

This spell completely destroys your body and deals 25d10 points of damage to all creatures and items in the area.

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That was a truly impressive and epic spell battle. Thank you for sharing your write-up :)

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After defeating Karzoug the PCs scoop up his gear and Arly's gear and search the place for hidden doors. The Runewell looks dead and brittle, and soon the lava down below dies and starts hardening. The PCs don't take a hint until the room shakes and starts collapsing. They Plane Shift to Ranya's private demiplane and rest so she can use a True Resurrection to bring back Arly the next day. They head back to the Pinnacle and start looting the place. Then they head home. This took about 20 minutes game time because my players can never do anything quickly.

The rest of the session was spent dividing the loot.
Things like Karzoug's Greater Metamagic rod Quicken or his robes and spellbook were easily and quickly divided. Things worth 30k and up were not worth arguing about.
The vast list of art and jewelry, on the other hand, saw much contention. Things with a gp value of nearly 200 000 or a minor artifact are less coveted than a board game worth 100 gp, or a few dice worth 70 gp. The one book, which was a collection of sermons to the Peacok Couatl Spirit was the most prized item on the list and there was a bit of discussion, though the players managed to resolve the issue without resorting to rolling for it.

Nearly all wands, scrolls, potions and spellbooks, as well as Sihedron rings and more will go to Arly's apprentices, i.e. the PCs of the next AP I'm going to run (probably Serpent's Skull, in keeping with the theme of serpentfolk). One Runelord down and 6 to go, then Xin. When writing the preceding sentence I realized I had forgotten the most important piece of loot, the first Sihedron Shard. It was after all the reason Arly set out on this expedition in the first place. I had neglected to write it down on the loot list I handed out because I was sure I'd remember such an important thing. I will just have to hand it out next session.

Before we can continue collecting Shards and skulls, Arly's player will be very busy, probably gone, for a couple of months, so this adventure will have to be put on hold. In the mean time Othariel will have to go on some time travel adventures to ensure her dynasty and country survive against future threats.

I decided to drop the whole Mhar and Leng subplot. I had prepared for it on the off chance we got done quickly today and they wanted to do something but didn't feel like going to the Runeforge or explore the city they flew past on the way up (options they did mention as something to do in the future). I had even rewritten it to fit with Mystara and whatnot. I was tempted to keep it, but ultimately decided against it. I rewrote the Occluding Field to be produced by the Runewell, not the Leng Device, which really makes things a bit neater.

So this is the end of anything recognizable as a Paizo AP. Though they will still gather Sihedron Shards and kill Runelords, the APs as they are are not in any way usable other than giving me names and stats (a couple of which I'll have to upgrade in any case, unless James Jacobs finally releases Xanderghul's full stats).

Thank you for reading.

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