Ozzyrandion

This was supposed to be the final session for this summer, but it seems that we’ll be able to sneak in a couple more sessions before the school year breaks us down with work.

Ozzyrandion

Locked Girl ~The Girl’s Secret Room Betrayers of Siberys

I didn’t push through with my original plan to beef up Ozzy to Juvenile. At the recommendation of some other DMs, I kept Ozzyrandion’s hit dice, but I made him large. I didn’t even raise his ability scores; I only wanted higher damage dice and a tail slash attack. I’m glad I  didn’t use a Juvenile (CR 8) version; this would have killed the PCs. Thanks to all those who helped me. Anyway, here goes.

The players decided to wait until dawn (approx 6 am of Day 4) before attacking so that they wouldn’t get hosed by illumination disadvantages. At this point they were very close to fatigue, but they didn’t want to risk concealment and getting spotted before they could even see their targets.  Everything else had better senses than they did.

Ashie the artificer then proceeded to buff the hell out of the party while they stayed in the trees at the very edge of the Witchwood:
Holden: –shield of faith, bull’s strength, enlarge person
Loven: –cat’s grace, shield
Jorr: –cat’s grace
Ashie: eagle’s splendor, shield

She also cast haste on everyone and gave Holden the potion of fly.

Dripping with buffs, they rolled initiative, with Ashie, Jorr, Loven and Kikkeni staying in the undergrowth, “hiding” (they didn’t know that Ozzyrandion had spotted them all), while Holden and Seiza charged down the stone pathway toward the Hell Hound Scorch Drake. Unfortunately, Ozzyrandion rolled a natural 20 on his initiative.

Immediately, Holden and Seiza were bathed in a shower of supernatural acid. Seiza was instantly reduced into a spitting, hissing puddle of slag, which severely injured Ashie with its death feedback. Holden also failed his save and was left at half HP.  He went next and charged the closer scorch drake, pulping it instantly. The other scorch drake also died before it was even able to attack—it ran out of move speed right outside Holden’s reach and he burst it like an overripe tomato the next round. (I should have replaced them with Dire Wolves here; Hell Hounds are seriously rather useless.)
The archers in the camp began grabbing their gear (with the one round delay stipulated in the adventure), while the archers let loose. Due to some wise placement, however, the PCs were able to avoid fire from the archers on the far side by placing themselves behind one of the towers. Ashie and Kikkeni ran up the stairs; Kikkeni’s speed was up to an amazing 70 feet thanks to Speed of Thought and haste.

Almost immediately the hobgoblins started dying. Kikkeni was able to throw one of the nearer ones into the other with telekinetic thrust, knocking the target out of the tower and to his death at the base. Jorr kept missing this time, and would prove to be mostly a distraction for the archers. He took potshots at Ozzyrandion, but he just kept missing.

And so did the archers. The total AC ratings of the PCs were about as high as Ozzyrandion’s, so they’d only hit on a roll of 17 or higher. The Stormtrooper Effect seems to apply to these guys, as they kept rolling badly while their numbers were large and then started rolling better when they began thinning out. The archers in the camp and the sergeant immediately closed in after picking up their gear; the sergeant had no ranged capability (due to being a Warblade 3) and double moved as fast as he could across the bridge in order to take out Kikkeni, while Jorr tried to flank and sneak attack (but he missed).

Kikkeni stayed on the staircase of the southeast tower for a good part of the encounter, as she wanted to avoid the breath weapon and Flyby Attacks coming from at least half of the possible attack vectors. Ashie wasn’t so fortunate, as she stayed on the ground. Their combined firepower, however, packed a punch. After Holden had smote Ozzy, who was hovering above him, with a successful Bonecrusher, the two girls were able to blast the dragon down to less than half HP in short order.
Loven just made some rather ineffectual attacks for most of the encounter (having 1d4+2 damage on his CSB is really lame. Any suggestions for making this guy work better? He hasn’t really been making an effort to get into sneak attack position.), managing only to crit against the sergeant, who was threatening Kikkeni as she came down the stairs for a better spot.

Kikkeni renders the sergeant useless by making him chase her like a lovelorn stalker by using déjà vu (Seriously, I hate this power now), wasting his turn.

Enraged by the barrage, (and almost getting smacked into a wall with energy push) the dragon flies back to his roost and to drink his potion of cure serious wounds, then his potion of invisibility. Freaked out by the dragon’s sudden disappearance, the party attempts to stay put, thinking it mostly unwise to devote all their resources to killing the archers. Ashie casts call lightning from a scroll and begins blasting away while the flying dwarf dive bombs the crossing archers. His Charging Minotaur shatters one’s body in several places, sending him flying like a rag doll along the bridge.

Everyone is still frustrated by the dragon’s invisibility; they did their best to spread apart to avoid being bathed in acid. To their chagrin, however, Ozzyrandion reappears right beside Kikkeni and proceeds to wail on her. Kikkeni survives the full attack with 5 HP left.  Holden, coming from the bridge, dive bomb-charges the dragon, but he fumbles his attack roll.

Kikkeni accomplishes something amazing here. She makes a concentration check to manifest defensively, and uses energy push on Ozzyrandion.

The dragon makes his Reflex Save.
And fails his opposed Strength check—by 10.
The impact of the psionic power sends him skidding 15 feet toward the edge of the map. Using her incredible speed, Kikkeni runs out of the danger zone and towards the bridge itself. Ashie blasts away at Ozzy with her dwindling call lightning shots in the meantime, and finds herself backed into a corner at the edge of the map. Ozzyrandion charges her on the ground. His bite bounces off the edge of her shield. Ashie risks the AOO and she runs as far as she could in the tower’s direction—she just really wants to stay away from the dragon’s full attacks.  Holden runs to her rescue, attacking the dragon but missing once more.  This puts Holden and Ashie directly in the path of an acid blast. But we’ll get back to that later.

In the mean time, Jorr is exchanging fire with the hobgoblins and taking most of their shots. The archers fire mostly at Holden, the giant flying dwarf, but seeing that this doesn’t work too well, go after Jorr instead. Loven simply keeps missing or dealing pitiful damage, though he does manage to KO the sergeant.

Ozzyrandion uses his breath weapon on Holden and Ashie. Both save successfully, but by now are at critical HP levels—however, Ozzy is critically injured as well. Holden retaliates in the most fantastic manner—using Revitalizing Strike, he shoves his maul into the dragon’s maw, splitting the dragon’s head open. I describe the fatal strike as a surge of warmth and strength while the dragon’s polluted life force drains away—the Silver Flame’s power fills Holden, rewarding him for smiting this foul, corrupt dragon.

Just as Holden strikes down Ozzyrandion, Jorr takes a fatal shot, dropping to 0 HP. I rule that the extra 2 HP from Holden’s Martial Spirit saves his life and gets him right back up, but the cinematic image of Holden turning toward Jorr just as he gets shot down is pretty awesome.

Jorr stands right back up and crits the guy who shot him as he runs away, shooting him through the head.

Ashie, in the meantime, attempts to overtake the hobgoblins by doing the most awesome action movie stunt in the adventure so far. She first wanted to slide down the scree-covered slope in order to get close enough to use her dragonmark’s dimension leap power to teleport across, but I rule that she needs to make a Reflex save to avoid falling, then make the Concentration check to cast her spell-like ability in violent motion.  I give her an alternative, but she chickens out at first. Then she remembers her action points.

She has an awesome move speed thanks to haste. This gives her a prodigious boost to her Jump check. She rolls a 2 on her d20. She spends an action point to gain an additional 4. Her total Jump check lands her a 13—enough to jump 10 feet off the edge of the cliff. Then she taps her dragonmark to dimension leap the remaining distance and lands right on the edge of the other cliff. She lands with a wand in each hand, ready to kick some Red Hand rear.

Kikkeni, emboldened by their victory over the dragon, runs over the bridge as well, and slams the northeast tower archer with telekinetic thrust into the northwestern archer.

At this point the hobgoblins begin to retreat, but Holden beats them by landing at the base of the stairs of the northwestern tower. Kikkeni lays down psionic grease, and both the hobgoblins slip up and fall. Holden ends them with a full attack.

Cinder Hill

The party apprehends two hobgoblins—the sergeant and one of the archers–and ties them up, hanging them off the side of the bridge while they’re unconscious.

Jorr and Loven continue to scout out Cinder Hill, while the rest of the party searches the bridge.

The scouts confirm their worst fears: The Red Hand is a horde, and they have not only thousands of hobgoblin and goblin warrios, but worgs and ogres as well—not to mention a red dragon and at least 3 warforged titans, which Loven spots being stripped of their tattered Cyran battle banners and refitted with Red Hand heraldry.

The party decides to hightail it back to the town, dragging their prisoners behind them. Kikkeni easily destroys the bridge by using energy cone to blast the weak spot, ruining it after 3 shots.

I decide against throwing another random encounter against them since we were running out of real time, so I let them get quickly through the Witchwood back to town.

The party gets back to town at about 10 pm of Day 4 to deposit the prisoners at the Old Toll House and rest for the night.

Jack Bauer. Again.
The next morning, the PCs take Norro Wiston and Sorrana to the interrogation. Wiston expresses his distaste for the torture, but the PCs are determined to do this.

The torture is pretty fruitless by now. The grunts don’t know much; all they get from the crazed sergeant are visions of glory that Azarr Kul showed them, of a Dragon-inspired hobgoblin empire greater than Dhakaan, spreading across Khorvaire and Argonnessen.  A dragon-inspired hobgoblin empire ruled by Tiamat.

Kikkeni rolls a high enough knowledge check to realize the implications of this crazy idea, but by now the sergeant is no longer saying anything helpful. Both hobgoblins are executed.

Ahead of Schedule
It’s only day 5 and the PCs are already itching to get Drellin’s Ferry evacuated. This seems to be something that the adventure doesn’t expect. I make the lame excuse that they have to wait for two more days since Iormel is out of town and Wiston sort of fears him, and thus refuses to start the town council without him.

The PCs try talking to Sorrana, and although she expresses utmost concern for the safety of the town, she says she ultimately has to follow orders, and that despite Iormel being an unlikeable, proud bastard who is likely to oppose the town’s departure, they really have to wait for him.

OOC I tell the players that they’re actually way ahead of schedule and that the Red Hand is not going to reach Drellin’s Ferry anytime soon. This causes them to relax a bit, so they decide to craft stuff—Ashie wants new homunculi to replace Seiza.

Postmortem
-The PCs performed admirably on the bridge despite the difficulty of the encounter; their strategic discussion paid off.
-The dragon died faster than I had expected—he was already supposed to run away after he attacked Ashie, but Holden and Ashie presented him with such a great opportunity to kill them that I decided to just have him use his breath weapon again.
-I was a bit frustrated by the PCs being a bit too] convinced that fighting to save the town was a hopeless cause, their panic really caused me to make some lame, railroading excuses which I preferred not to do. Also, they’re way too early—the Chimera attack and the town council would have to be bumped up way earlier.
-We’re about to enter the second part of the adventure, and I’m pretty happy with the progress we’ve made.

Session 3

Days 2-4 of the adventure: Much wickedness is smote with a flying, burning, stuffed owlbear, allies are made and an old paladin is given a chance at redemption, and the PCs behold their first dragon.

12 Lharvion, 998 YK
Hydra Aftermath
After defeating the hydra, the party searches the wagon and retrieves the +1 mithral breastplate. This goes to Ashie.  The party crosses and continues north.

The trip to Vraath Keep is approximately an hour from the Blackwater Causeway, but 30 minutes into their trip, they run into a not-so-friendly forest denizen.

Girallon Attack
Jorr spots a girallon stalking the PCs in the woods. The monster growls at them.
Initiative: Kikkeni, Girallon, Holden, Loven, Ashie, Jorr.

This random encounter goes by surprisingly fast. Kikkeni opens up by moving behind some trees to prevent the girallon from charging at her, but it covers the distance pretty quickly by double moving (it spotted her first).  Everyone else moves to close in.

At the top of the second round, Kikkeni uses a simple but highly effective power on the raging monkey: déjà vu. Naturally the creature fails its save—It has to repeat its last action, so it moves toward Kikkeni. Again. A risky tactic, but this prevents the ape from using its decidedly deadly full attack. By this time everyone was within its 10-foot reach, but due to déjà vu, the girallon couldn’t do a damn thing. Everybody wails on the monster with Jorr joining in to flank and plant a dagger in the girallon’s ribs. This continues for one more turn. The girallon fails to make any attacks at all until Holden bashes its skull in with Mountain Hammer. One dead ape.
Stakeout
The party continues north and arrive at the periphery of Vraath Keep at around 11 am of Day 2. Loven and Jorr scout ahead and scout the perimeter. Jorr identifies the scattered large skeletons as those of werebears and wereboars, but apart from seeing the breach in the wall and the crushed gates, they don’t find anything else outside.
Jorr didn’t want to go in, and Loven wouldn’t dare venture in alone, so the two retreat to the camp.

Kikkeni is completey out of power points, and deciding they didn’t want to enter the keep without heavy artillery, the party sets up camp and rests, with Loven staking out the castle from a tree. He spots the fake haunt (of course he just knows there’s a glow and eerie moaning), and the smoke rising from the keep.

Once more before they enter the keep, Loven, Jorr and Seiza the iron defender sneak towards the breach in the southern wall. They hear hobgoblins making lame elf jokes (Jorr translates), and they see the embers of a fire burning low, casting a flickering light. They report back to the rest of the party.

At approximately 8 pm, the team moves in, with Jorr remaining in the camp to watch over the horses.

Breach
The party decides to enter the doors to the right of the entrance (the stables). Listening carefully, Holden detects creatures speaking Goblin inside. With nothing else to do, the party sticks to the wall of the north guard tower, and Holden opens the door.

The goblin riders inside were too busy with their game of stickbeetle to notice that they were being creeped up on, so the PCs get a surprise round. However, due to bad positioning (only Holden had line of sight into the stables interior), all of them end up passing their standard actions.

Round 1: Holden and Ashie roll 23s on their initiative and go first. Holden enters and attacks the first goblin rider, taking off about half his HP using his greatsword. Ashie uses up her second eternal wand of shield use for the day.
The gobbo (already damaged) closer to the door makes a run for the worg stables, but Holden makes his AOO and cuts the goblin in half before he’s able to do anything.
Next, Seiza, Ashie’s homunculus, runs inside and attacks the second goblin, taking out a good chunk of its HP. Hearing the death scream of the goblin, one of the worgs (the closer one) closes the ground between its stall and Ashie quickly, and tries to bite. However, Ashie’s high AC keeps the worg at bay.
Kikkeni enters, and also raises her inertial armor. The second worg rushes to confront Ashie and misses as well.
Loven enters , rapier drawn, and runs up to the haystack in position to attack the last goblin. Loven sneaks (Rider B is still flat-footed), but rolls low. He ends up dealing only about 12 damage, but his bleeding attack renders him a dead man walking. He retaliates, attacking Loven, but he misses badly.

Round 2: Holden turns on Worg B, while Ashie attempts to put some distance between herself and the worgs, five-foot stepping back toward the door and shooting at the goblin with her magic missile wand. Her homunculus attacks the second goblin, tearing its throat out and killing it before it gets to act again. The first worg attacks Holden, but is unable to bypass his AC. Kikkeni fires cold energy missile at the two worgs; A saves, but Kikkeni rolls really badly. A only takes 4 damage, while B takes the full 8 damage. Still not daunted, the second worg fights on and attacks Loven, but misses. Loven tries to move into a flanking position, risking the AOO from the first one. Worg A hits and easily trips Loven.  This round is incredibly noisy, with the worgs yelping loudly. The manticore in the nest at the southern end of the keep climbs onto the roof of its lair, peering at the sources of the sound, but doesn’t bother to do anything.

Round 3: Holden attacks the first worg this time, rolling maximum damage, dropping it down to 8 HP. Ashie moves back even further and tries to use her wand once more, but rolls low on her UMD check. Seiza runs to engage worg B, killing it. Kikkeni conservers her power points and passes her turn, while Loven gets up, provoking an AOO from Worg A. He gets hit again, and his attack misses too.

Round 4: Holden finally takes down Worg A with Mountain Hammer.  The party quickly closes the door and tries to figure out what to do.

After a brief discussion, they wait for any reactions to the sound of fighting. Nothing really happens, so they decide to check out the building on the other end of the keep (the manticore’s lair).

They sneak up, avoiding the break the wall where the flickering firelight had been seen earlier. They open the door in the southern tower, cramming into it. Holden tries to listen through the door to the manticore lair, but hears nothing—Ashie can see why.

Ashie was the only party member left outside the southern tower; she sees the manticore looming on the roof of its lair. It peers at them and says  “No bother, Koth inside tower.”

A few halfhearted attempts at diplomacy end with the manticore telling them to go away since Koth “pay better,” and retreats groggily into its lair. (It’s not the brightest crayon in the box.)

Taxidermist’s Nightmare
Holden and Seiza take up positions near the crack in the barracks’ eastern wall, while the rest of the party goes to the north end.  Holden screams, with a thick dwarven accent, “Help! Help!”

Instead of rushing to his aid, one of the hobgoblins simply laughs, saying “I’m so drunk, I can hear a dwarf speaking in bad Goblin!” Much laughing echoes out of the barracks. Holden hears a deep, angry grunt from the other side of the room.

Holden: “Help! Gods damn it, HELP!”
Second Hobgoblin: “Hey, I think I can hear it too! ‘HELP! HELP!'”

By now, the hobgoblins are in stitches. Holden hears the grunt again; it sounds like a much larger creature. The minotaur can smell the dwarf now, so it angrily yells at its minions to wise up—intruders were about. The barracks goes silent for a moment, and then the scream of drawn steel rips out of the room. Holden steps straight into the breach in the wall, and he spots Karkilan the minotaur, and three of the four hobgoblins.
Initiative:
Kikkeni, Koth (not joining the battle yet, but he rolled 24), Loven, Veteran A, B, Seiza,C, Karkilan, Ashie, D, Holden.

Kikkeni opens the door, sees Koth’s stuffed owlbear and the fourth hobgoblin, and improvises. Telekinetic thrust sends the owlbear and one of the hobgoblins (B) flying. I made an honest mistake here, completely forgetting the augmentation cap on psionic powers. I rule that the owlbear, due to poor stuffing, is only about 100 lbs, while the hobgoblin with his armor totals about 225 lbs. She augments the power further than she should have been able to, and flings the owlbear (large enough to hit more than one target because they were all adjacent), while she sends B flying toward A.  Kikkeni crit misses on C, but hits D and Karkilan with the owlbear, dealing 4d6 damage. B fails his save and, being dense and heavy,  would deal an astounding 9d6 damage to A. Thankfully, Kikkeni rolls low and B smacks into the wall as A ducks. B falls on top of A. Loven leaps into the doorway, rapier drawn, but sticks to the wall. A is able to disentangle himself and attacks Kikkeni. He misses. B likewise gets up and stands beside A, right inside the doorway.  Seiza runs in and sticks close to Loven. C sprints for the doorway as well (provoking an AOO from Loven), attempting to engage the deadly caster. Karkilan moves to the crushed wall to attack Holden and misses, while Ashie casts fireball from a scroll.

A tremendous burst of fire sets Karkilan, C, D, Karkilan’s bed, C and D’s bunk, AND the owlbear alight. Karkilan saves, but C and D fail. Everyone survives it, though. D manages to run away from the burning upholstery, and then Holden goes in to attack the minotaur.

Once more, Kikkeni flings the burning stuffed owlbear, but at this point  I remember the augmentation limit—Kikkeni shouldn’t be able to augment at all, since she’s only at Manifester Lv 5. We don’t bother backtracking the previous telekinetic thrust, though, but this time, she can only fling the owlbear. Once more, she hurls it at the now angry minotaur. At this point, Koth opens the door to his tower, asking what the blazes is going on, SEES that the blazes ARE going on, and quickly casts invisibility. The encounter has just become a boss battle.

Koth actually double moves out of the place and is now in the courtyard, however. The manticore climbs onto the roof of its lair again after smelling the scorched minotaur.
Loven attacks C, but finds his blade parried. A and B continue to ineffectually attack Kikkeni. Karkilan tries to chop Holden down, but misses again. Ashie uses her last scroll of fireball, dropping Karkilan and D.

C soon goes down, then B. Memory is fuzzy as to how this happened, but eventually, it was just the party, the invisible Koth, and the manticore, who still isn’t attacking, and A, standing in the doorway of the barracks.

Koth spots Ashie and Kikkeni, and drops a fireball on them. Ashie saves, while Kikkeni fails. Kikkeni is now at critical HP, while Ashie is in the low teens. The fireball also catches A in the blast and vaporizes him.

Loven tries to go take a sniping position outside by the boulder at the barracks’ northeast corner. Holden spits curses, going after Koth, while the manticore rains its spines at Ashie—Kikkeni is thankfully out of the manticore’s line of sight. Two of the spines hit—Ashie is now down to single digits.

Holden yells at Kikkeni, telling her to get the hell into the room, but she bravely says she still has a job to do, and uses the last of her PP to energy push Koth. He saves against most of the damage, but he gets flung into the pile of wereboar bones leaning against the southern guard tower. Flitting behind the boulders in the courtyard like a shadow, Loven shoots from his bow, but is too far to make sneak attacks. Ashie also takes one last shot with a scroll of scorching ray before running back into the room to help Kikkeni get back up on her feet.

Koth goes invisible. With the girls vulnerable inside the building, Holden rushes in to support them, while the manticore jumps to the southern wall and perches there, shooting at Holden. The girls use Ashie’s potions to heal, while Koth reappears and blasts Holden with the dreaded ray of enfeeblement.  Seiza charges Koth, who fights it away with his morning star, while the manticore jumps down beside Koth to defend him. Eventually, Seiza shakes down Koth, dropping him to -1. The manticore flies away.

The party levels up—the encounter gave massive XP, and creativity got them through it despite having two near deaths.

Even better, Koth isn’t dead, so Holden stabilizes him and Loven leaves him gagged and bound. They drag Koth close to the burning bed, douse him in alcohol, and have the homunculus lie down on top of him to prevent him from escaping.

Skeletons in the Basement
They decide to go to the second floor first to check out the “ghost,” finding the dead man and the glowing light. Holden performs a few rites for the dead farmer and puts out the continuous flame. They then check out the room below.

Due to crappy sense skill ranks, Holden can’t find the vault entrance despite his stonecunning racial trait. I rule that he can sense something is off about the foor, but it takes 20 minutes of searching by Kikkeni to find the vault entrance.  They climb in.

The first thing they check out is the skeleton by the eastern alcove. They check it out to see that a silvered greataxe is embedded in its ribcage. “The Arm of Vraath” is engraved in Dwarven runes on the axe haft, while the Silver Torch emblem is embossed on the axe blades.  At first they surmise that Vraath somehow committed suicide, but Holden says it would have been impossible for him to swing a greataxe into his own chest. A sneaking suspicion comes upon them: Vraath may have turned against his men for some reason.  Holden does a little RIP ritual on the skeleton, then Loven comes in and shoves the skeleton unceremoniously out of the way. Holden picks up the greataxe.

Loven’s player realizes he HAS NO RANKS IN OPEN LOCK. Since he leveled up, I just let him put ranks in, but he still keeps failing. Eventually he just takes 20 on each lock, taking over 3 hours to open everything. Ashie gets impatient, imbues the big chest with the spell storing item infusion, putting knock into it, and basically has the chest open itself. They claim the staff of life and the other odds and ends inside the chest. While Loven slaves over the locks until past midnight, Holden goes back to camp, wakes Jorr up, and tells him what happened.  (I forget to give the PCs the replacements for Vraath’s bastard sword and gauntlets of ogre power, though they should have picked those up.)

Ashie and Kikkeni meanwhile read Vraath’s journals, learning how he boasted of killing over 300 lycanthropes (“They weren’t all that big.”—this was supposed to imply that he massacred children, though they didn’t catch that until I explained it later), then skip to his last entry (“We were attacked. My men were torn to pieces. Those left shouldn’t find out what happened to me.”—implying he got bitten, and Kikkeni feels her suspicions were confirmed.)

The players first think that it would be a good idea to give Jorr the deed to Vraath Keep, but don’t tell him this. As they move into the barracks, Jorr points out something the players missed almost entirely: The war room. As they read Koth’s notes (Ashie and Holden know Goblin), the PCs finally realize that they’re in much deeper than they thought they were.  Jorr then sees Koth, draws his dagger, and almost kills him. Holden tells him that if he keeps Koth alive, they might have chances to kill more goblins, so Jorr leaves him alone.

They bed down in the safety of the vault and rest until the next morning.

13th Lharvion, 998 YK

Jack Bauer, Pt. 2

The PCs drag Koth back to Drellin’s Ferry, along with the map and Jorr. They immediately set up an interrogation session with the town’s leaders. At first, Norro Wiston, the town speaker, is pleased to know that they’ve cleared out Vraath Keep, but then Holden shows them the map—-translating each note into Common, writing the notes onto the map.

Norro Wiston is flustered and indecisive. He has no idea what to do, and at the moment is in denial. The PCs then turn to Koth and have him talk about this.

Interestingly enough, Holden and Loven don’t actually physically inflict any damage on Koth, and most of their attempts fail. They prefer not to use the elixirs of truth in Koth’s bag. Koth refuses to say anything about their size and what the Red Hand is, though the party has a pretty good idea that it’s a large force, able to easily raze the vale’s hamlets—Koth says that they’re only hamlets, so it won’t take much to destroy them anyway.

Ashie really knows how to push the buttons here:

Holden: How many? Infantry, cavalry, artillery?
Koth: *grins, baring teeth*
Holden: How many tribes are there?!
Koth: We are only one tribe now!
Ashie: How many are there in your tribe?
Norro: We can handle a hundred or so.
Koth: If you could handle it, you wouldn’t be asking for help!
Ashie: “So apparently, you weren’t trusted with holding the Skull Gorge Bridge.”
Koth: “They trusted me with the vanguard.”
Ashie: “So you’re only part of a larger force.”
Koth: “*nervous, seething grin*”

When Ashie finally mentions how important the Skull Gorge Bridge is to Norro, he goes ballistic (while Koth goes pale). Norro says that it’s the only source of trade for them, and that the destruction of the bridge would render the land isolated until the bridge is rebuit.

The PCs are able to learn that Koth really is only in charge of the advance party. Norro is slowly being convinced, but he refuses to mobilize his town to evacuate until he gets a number—it’s just too much trouble for a possible false alarm. Ashie’s able to make a Knowledge (History) check regarding the Ghostlord, and remembers him as a powerful caster from the goblinoid Dhakaani empire and that his contemporaries were the old Dhakaani province of Rhest (had to throw out the idea that they were an ancient human kingdom, since this area had long been under the Galifar kingdom).

Ashie also suspects that while Kharn and Saarvith sound like Goblin names, she thinks Tyrgarun and Ozzyrandion aren’t. Koth gives vague answers to this question.

In the end, they decide that they can’t do much more.  Holden turns Koth over to Jorr. Jorr says that it’s no fun killing him with him bound, but Holden warns him that untying him would allow him to cast spells.

Jorr says “This is fer mah daughter!” and plunges his dagger into Koth’s eye.

The PCs leave the deed to Vraath Keep with Soranna, and say that she could probably use it to hold the Dawn Way for a while longer; in the mean time, they were headed to Skull Gorge.  Norro agrees that if destroying the bridge is the only way to save the townsfolk, then it must be done.

They buy a few more scrolls and leave Drellin’s Ferry at about 1 pm of Day 3.  Jorr mentions the effigy tribal marker up north along the Dawn Way, they could check it out too.

“Warklegnaw”
They travel the whole day, way into the evening. At about 10 pm, they see the marker and decide to walk up the track at Jorr’s suggestion.

After two hours of walking into the night, they get to the ruined fortress and find an old human sitting by his cooking dire boar.

They spy on him, listening to his ranting, and eventually they see the bottom half of the Silver Torch tattoo on the man’s face. Holden decides to approach in a diplomatic manner, thinking that as a Silver Flame member, the man could help them. He moves without stealth into the clearing, carrying his (Vraath’s) axe in a nonthreatening gesture.

The man notices Holden’s Silver Flame symbol and goes into a rage.

Holden: The Silver Flame needs your aid.
Warklegnaw: The Silver Flame ABANDONED ME! They TURNED ON ME!

At this point he changes into his werebear form and says he just wants to be left alone, and that he wanted nothing to do with them, while breaking into coughing fits.

Holden makes a diplomacy check (“You did not kill them—the demon that holds your body did. Your soul is innocent of those crimes.”), tells him about the situation, and eventually, the werebear says that he was willing to help—if they gave him back his axe. Holden then realizes that Warklegnaw was Amery Vraath, and he offers him the weapon.

Vraath says that he may still be able to find some of his tribe—the tribe that had accepted him after he showed that he repented of slaughtering their children—and that he would be able to fight for justice again.  What he really wanted was this—a chance to redeem himself.

“I do not want to go back to Thrane. They will not accept me. They will kill me. But I will fight for justice once more. Only the Flame can judge me. I do not want to go back to the church and suffer their prejudices. Now leave me be. An old paladin has a lot to think about. To pray about.”

He offers them some food before they leave, and also says they can stay for the night. The party eats, while Loven attempts to amuse Vraath by telling him about the flying burning owlbear. His miserable façade cracks, just a bit. The party soon leaves Vraath, and continues hiking toward Skull Gorge Bridge.

They arrive at approximately 4 AM.

14th Lharvion 998 YK

Here Be Dragons

They see the bridge. And the hobgoblins. And Ozzyrandion. The party decides that it might be too late if they wait until midday (if they rested), so they decide to pull back about an hour’s walk and begin to strategize. An hour before dawn, they get back up and begin the walk back to Skull Gorge.

End of session.
DM Notes:

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Chapter 2

Due to my brain going on Hibernate mode, I’m not able to write in a coherent manner at the moment. I’m also unable to put myself into the shoes of an alcoholic, vain dwarf. As such, I am simply going to dump the session summary of the previous session here instead of an actual story.
The Terminal
Ashie, the artificer, successfully brought the train’s berserk air elemental under control. Slowing down the train would mean the rest of the trip takes 2 hours, while keeping it at maximum speed means they arrive at the terminal in less than 30 minutes—at the risk of losing control of the train again, derailing, or smashing into the Vathirond Terminal, likely killing themselves and a lot of people in the process. Deciding to play it safe and avoid an imminent crash, Ashie slows down the train.

Kikkeni, the Kalashtar psion, having been dropped to 1 HP in the previous encounter, is healed with a wand of lesser vigor.

Knowing that the party is now riding one third of the train they’d departed Flamekeep in, and that the said remaining third of the train contains several dead crew members, the party figures out what to tell the authorities at Vathirond.  After weighing the pros and cons of lying and Holden, the dwarf Silver Flame crusader, says he’s beholden to tell the truth, and so they reluctantly agree.

The train arrives at Vathirond, and Father Larrister, the local contact, is shocked to see that only a third of the train is left. Holden quickly tells him they were attacked, and Larrister quickly calls in his guards to seal off the train before anybody tries to investigate, much to the chagrin of the House Orien personnel in the station.

Larrister brings the PCs to go to the Silver Flame diocese so he can brief them further.

At the Diocese
The PCs explain exactly what happened. Larrister is shocked, but since the PCs successfully identified the assassin as a rakshasa, Larrister explains that it wasn’t a random attack; a rakshasa who stayed in close proximity to them for hours wouldn’t have made a mistake. The attack was a deliberate assassination attempt, and the PCs have also come to this conclusion. Intrigued by the turn of events, Larrister says that they may be up against more than just a warband of hobgoblin bandits.

Larrister explains where they’re headed next: Drellin’s Ferry, a town at the forefront of a lot goblin attacks. Since the town is in the middle of nowhere (we joked that Drellin’s Ferry’s town motto is “More Nowhere than Nowhere”—there really is a town in central Breland named Nowhere, but at least the Lightning Rail system gets there. Drellin’s Ferry is over 160 miles from the nearest station.), Breland can’t really mobilize an army to meet the threat of a few random bandit attacks; said army would have to cross most of the country, and frankly, King Boranel is more concerned with the hostile Droaamite attacks on Breland’s western border than random bandit attacks in the east. The PCs have yet to make the Rakshasa-Khyber-Tiamat connection, but I expect they’ll get there by the time they get to Wyrmlord Koth. Either way, Larrister is convinced the PCs are up against more than just “random bandit attacks.”

The PCs bed down for the night in the diocese, waking up to find a House Orien coach specially chartered for Drellin’s Ferry. The coach driver/courier, Kien d’Orien, is a man of few words. Loven, the warforged scout rogue and the dwarf’s adopted brother, says the carriage reminds him too much of the boxes humans put equipment in, and declares that he wants to ride on the coach’s roof. Kien sarcastically tells him to enjoy the 160-mile ride.  Loven shuts up and sits in the carriage.

Holden also opens up a letter that Larrister slipped him as they left; the Letter talks about Amery Vraath and his failed lycanthrope-purging crusade into Elsir Vale. Vraath was nasty, bloodthirsty and altogether unlikeable, and ultimately he was killed by the lycanthropes he was hunting. There are lots of rumors about him being infected with lycanthropy himself or that his ghost haunts his old base in the Witchwood. Larrister simply asks Holden to check out Vraath Keep while he’s at it, but the old vicar himself says he never really liked the guy.

Marauders
Ah, the first encounter in the module. Kien spots the ambush for the PCs, and stops the carriage a few miles out of Drellin’s Ferry, and in a dreadfully quiet manner, tells the PCs that there’s an ambush just up ahead. The PCs get down. Kien hangs back to protect his cargo from looters, while the PCs engage.

Roll initiative.

The battle goes very, very badly for the hobgoblins. All of the archers miss their first attacks, and for the most part, miss over and over again for the entire encounter. Loven decides to sneak into the woods and carries his bag of boulders—one of the most fun low-level items for rogues, ever.

Ashie lays down a wanded entangle spell in the middle of the area, covering almost the entire map. However, since the trail down the center had no foliage, only the hobgoblins in the trees are entangled. Almost all of them fail; the only one who made the save was “hobgoblin A,” the furthest down the right side of the map.  Hobgoblin A constantly makes high saves and high attack rolls, even a couple of natural 20s. I dub him “Lucky” henceforth.

Kikkeni takes a round to get psionically focused.

Soon after, Uth-Lar the bladebearer and Zarr the cleric rush out of the farmhouse, telling the PCs to attack the spellcaster (at this point, Ashie is the only person who’s cast anything.) The two of them rush down the path with the two scorch drakes (just the hell hounds I reskinned to become bipedal lizards). The scorch drakes run at tremendous speed.

One of the scorch drakes runs past Loven, who throws a pebble from his bag of boulders. It would’ve likely been a fatal sneak attack, but unfortunately, he rolls horribly and misses. Holden, maul drawn, sets about bashing in heads on the left side of the map. He hits one hobgoblin, which he kills with a massive crit on his second turn. (x3 crit = win) With two hobgoblins dead, all but one of the archers entangled, and every single one of the hobgobins rolling badly, it looks like it’s over for them.

Zarr turns invisible; Uth-Lar runs at full tilt toward Kikkeni. Uth-Lar successfully lands an AOO on Kikkeni as she tries to slip away, while the archers keep firing at Ashie.

Kikkeni, with her 40-foot speed thanks to Speed of Thought, is able to get out of the way and shoots an electric energy bolt across the path, frying one of the scorch drakes and one of the archers. Ashie buffs herself with shield. Uth-Lar pursues Kikkeni into the forest, but as he enters he passes by Loven, who attempts to sneak him with his shortbow. The attack hits, but Uth-Lar’s uncanny dodge prevents him from getting creamed by the sneak damage.

One of the scorch drakes engages with Ashie’s  iron defender homunculus, damaging it for half its HP with a single bite. Holden charges the scorch drake with Battle Leader’s Charge, reducing it to a fine red mist. Holden: 3, Red Hand: 0.

The second wave of hobgoblins doesn’t do much better. Most of them miss consistently, although a number of solid hits land on Kikkeni and Ashie over the course of the battle, dropping them to single digits. Kikkeni responds in kind by killing almost all the second wave with one application of energy missile and then runs off into the forest.  Ashie, on the other hand, is unable to help much. A CL 1 magic missile wand really doesn’t do much. Uth-Lar pursues Kikkeni, and Holden follows.  Ashie orders her homunculus to chase down Uth-Lar as well.

Holden saves Kikkeni with Defensive Rebuke, forcing Uth-Lar to attack him. The bladebearer obliges, cursing Holden in his language (Holden knows Goblin; I translate Uth-Lar’s swearing as “Your mother has less honor than a flee-bitten centaur whore”) but his rolls are also bad. Only one of his Wolf Fang Strikes hits, and his Wall of Blades counter to parry Holden’s Mountain Hammer rolls a pathetic 3. Zarr reappears behind Holden and nails him with an inflict moderate wounds—Holden fails his first save but uses his Zealous Surge to reroll his failed will save. He takes token damage.

Loven throws another charge of his bag of boulders from concealment, this time successfully sneak attacking Zarr. The cleric takes significant damage and is left bleeding  (c/o Pathfinder Rogue talent); Ashie helps by pumping him with another shot of magic missile.

The homunculus shakes down Uth-Lar, finally dropping him to exactly 0 HP. Only Zarr and two hobgoblins—one still entangled and the other ready to piss in his pants—are left. Zarr attempts to rally the two and uses his smite on Holden, but Holden has cover thanks to the foliage. Zarr misses, and finally collapses due to blood loss. Holden makes sure he’s dead with a coup de grace.  The unentangled archer runs for the hills. The other one is stuck, and in no morale to fight any more. Loven walks up to him and executes him with an arrow to the back of the head.

I changed the treasure here. I said one of Uth-Lar’s short swords broke and replaced it with a bunch of low-level magic items that had been with the merchant whom the hobbos had ambushed earlier. Same thing with Zarr’s armor; nobody needed it, and since the town doesn’t offer much in the way of gear, I decided to scrap it.

Loot:
-one darklight (Secrets of Sarlona). A very interesting magic item that can change ambient light when imbued with psionic power. Due to simpy changing the ambient light and not emitting actual light, nobody can really pinpoint the bearer. The party finds it a very interesting item and thinks of all the various applications of the said lantern—then they see another darklight already in Kikkeni’s gear list (the character’s loot was prepared by me in an emergency due to players being unable to come). They shrug and move on.
healing belt. Without a cleric, they needed it.
restful crystal. Now the dwarf doesn’t take his armor off anymore. Ick.
-eternal wand of shield
-everlasting rations
-355 GP
-one unconscious hobgoblin marauder.

The party also hoovers the miscellaneous mundane gear and stacks it onto the carriage and ties up Uth-Lar BENEATH the carriage. They haul everything into town.

Kien delivers his goods and leaves while the PCs talk to the militia.

Tarnished Silver
Due to my re-fluffing of Amery Vraath as an unlikeable Silver Torch zealot who made life more than a little difficult for the Ferry folk during the Last War, the militia are wary of the PCs. However, desperate to have the hobgoblins dealt with, they’re let into the town.

Loven nonchalantly drags Uth-Lar toward the Old Toll House while the two girls look for an inn. They decide on the Old Bridge, which is a House Ghallanda operation—the only one for miles around.

The dwarf and the warforged start talking to Norro Wiston, and Soranna is impressed by how the PCs dealt with the ambush so easily. The women arrive just as Speaker Wiston offers a pay of 500 GP. Holden hates goblins so accepts off the bat; the others are fine with it. They tie up Uth-Lar in a cell.

Holden=Jack Bauer
Holden makes an Intimidate check as Uth-Lar comes to. Uth-Lar’s steely façade and pointed-back ears melt away—despite his+4 bonus to resist Intimidate checks, he rolls low and Holden easily makes his point by smashing a chair into powder with his maul.

Uth-Lar sings like a canary, telling the party about Wyrmlord Koth’s base in Vraath Keep, and also mentions Azarr Kul. He’s not sure of the entire horde’s command structure, and gives no certain description of Tiamat’s involvement—all the PCs know is that Tiamat is involved, since the hobgoblins keep raving about her, and that the holy symbol Zarr carried was Tiamat’s. The PCs puzzle over the title of “Wyrmlord,” but Uth-Lar doesn’t know why that title was chosen.

Holden explains to the party that the worship of Tiamat—a demon Overlord—is unheard of among goblins. The ancient goblinoid Dhakaani empire was agnostic, trusting in its own glory more than any gods; Darguun, the nation of Lhesh Haruuc, at least publicly worships the Sovereign Host in order to appear more civilized; other goblinoids in Darguun may turn to the worship of the Dark Six, the Sovereign Host’s dark brethren. An actual cult of a demon Overlord is very, very rare, as most of them are in suspended animation.

Ashie asks if there were other races involved. Uth-Lar snaps back at the artificer, saying that unlike humans, “the People” or “the Dar” have always considered themselves a single race with three different bloods (this is consistent with Eberron’s goblinoid fluff), and that humans were fools to separate them into three different races.

Uth-Lar mentions Karkilan the minotaur, but the PCs seem to gloss over this—Uth-Lar begins to get his courage back, Holden smashes Uth-Lar in the knee. Uth-Lar mentions one last important bit of information—the Red Hand is coming to slaughter the “human river village.” Ashie presses Uth-Lar some more for information, asking if the horde will continue pushing eastward past Drellin’s Ferry. Uth-Lar, his courage and adrenaline back, simply keeps raving about the Red Hand coming.

Annoyed, Holden orders Loven to shoot him “where it hurts,” but I tell him that Uth-Lar is too far gone and any further attacks would kill him. Holden then grabs Uth-Lar’s broken knee and twists it. Roaring in pain, the hobgoblin simply keeps swearing and says that he’s confident his brethren would feast on their innards, even if he were to die.

The party leaves Uth-Lar, and Soranna leans over to Ashie, saying that it was nice of them to leave the hobgoblin for them to take care of for the night. Loven hears this, turns around, and shoots Uth-Lar in the head. Soranna sighs, drags out the body herself, and orders one of her men to bury it out back. The captain tells the party that Vraath Keep wasn’t far, and that meeting up with the woodsman Jorr could help them get through the Witchwood without much trouble.

Shopping
The party visits Delora Zann, but she’s closing down for the day, so the party goes to sleep. Early the next morning, they go to Morlin Coalhewer, who accepts Holden as a fellow dwarf, and purchases the masterwork longswords and suits of mail. The party donates the rest of the gear to the town guard, much to Soranna’s delight.

The party spends the gold buying scrolls from Brother Derny, the local cleric of Dol Arrah (female Pelor to non-Eberron players, she’s one of the Sovereign Host, the predominant pantheon-based religion), and  Sertieren the Wise. Finally, they buy mounts and gear from Delora Zann, and ride off for Jorr’s place.

Jorr the Badass and Hydra Soup
Jorr greets the PCs in typical hillbilly fashion. They make their intent to explore Vraath Keep known; Jorr blows them off and tells them that it’s just “down the road, can’t miss it.” He responds a bit favorably to their flattery, but since the PCs feel they can’t trust him yet, they only speak in uncertain terms.  He responds by saying the wood isn’t that unsafe, and that while the Keep is haunted, they don’t need his help. It’s only when they mention the goblins that he perks up and offers his help.

Not long after, they arrive at the Blackwater Causeway. Jorr takes point, tells the PCs to keep watch, and leads the crossing. The PCs dismount and take the horses with them. Jorr fails his spot check and misses the Hydra completely.

“Aw hell. I dinnow there wuz a hydra here.”

Roll initiative.

Intiative goes as follows: Kikkeni, Loven, Hydra, Jorr, Ashie, Holden. Kikkeni’s Knowledge check result spooks the player; she advocates either mounting the horses and attempting to run full speed across the causeway (which would’ve made an awesome chase scene reminiscent of that one area in Metal Slug), or running back toward the town.  Holden stows his maul and draws his greatsword.

I simply tell her that the hydra will give chase, that horses can’t run at full speed with a rider, the causeway is too slippery and rickety to cross with charging horses, and that the beast will follow them all the way back to town if they ran.

Kikkeni uses inertial armor, while Loven tries to get cover and hides to snipe. The hydra takes the path of least resistance—the river. Ashie fires a ray of enfeeblement from a scroll, greatly crippling the hydra’s abilities. Its attack bonus is down to +5, and its bites no longer had their damage bonus. Jorr Rapid Shots, hitting both times. Holden scrambles straight into the path of the monster as it swims up the river to where the causeway crosses the deep water.

Kikkeni opens fire with her energy bolt, but rolls low. To make matters worse, hydras have good reflex saves despite their size, and takes very little damage. All its heads are intact. Loven sneaks the hydra with his bow, dealing a good amount of damage. The hydra moves in to attack Holden, using its superior reach to savage him with bites. Only one hits, and deals a pathetic 4 damage. Jorr keeps the arrows pumping, dealing 7 more damage. Ashie fires a magic missile from her wand, dealing 2 damage.  Holden pulls out a blast disk, sets it to “Proximity,” and plants it in the bridge.

Turn 3. Kikkeni blasts again, searing off a head. Loven sees what his brother is doing, and makes a run for it, climbing back over the causeway to the side opposite the hydra. The hydra stays put, attacks Holden with everything, and misses all but one bite. Again.  Jorr goes “What th’ hell are ye doin’? KEEP SHOOTIN’!” and stays on the bridge. One more Rapid Shot: 17 damage. Ashie makes a run  for it, jumping into the bog on the east side of the causeway, and Holden makes a run for it, ducking under the hydra’s would-have-been devastating sextuple AOO (none of it hit), and jumps into the bayou as well.

Turn 4. Kikkeni blasts yet again. A second head comes off, dealing damage to the beast’s body. Loven is already off and running away. The hydra takes the bait and steps right into the [I]blast disk[/I]’s range. [B]BOOM.[/B]

The bridge is sheared off its posts and falls into the water on the far end.  Unfortunately the hydra makes its save again. It does take enough area damage to shear off another head, though. Jorr almost falls, but manages to stay up—and keeps shooting. “I hope that wasn’t the  only one ya got, because it’s still COMING!” Another Rapid Shot and the hydra’s HP is down to 26. Holden swears at his failed plan, stomps back toward the hydra and plunges his greatsword into the body.

And rolls a 20.

And confirms with a 17.

The hydra’s heart bursts under the impact of 28 damage, and the whole thing collapses into the water.

End of session.

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