Storm Over Starsong

This session is dated July 11, 2009.

My regular players didn’t arrive, but they sent others to take their place and carry on with their characters. The new girl, who was playing a longstride shifter barbarian/warblade, took over for Kikkeni in addition to her character, while Holden and Loven were subbed for as well by another player. Unfortunately the cleric’s player did not arrive, so the party had to slog through the adventure without a divine caster.

I’ll try to go through the adventure by timeline.

Day 7, 5 pm:
The party departs from Drellin’s Ferry along with the remnants of the militia, Norro Wiston, and Soranna. They head eastward towards Terrelton. Halfway there they camp for the night.

Day 8:
The camp begins to pick up and continue eastward. Random weather brings fog, slowing down progress, but they get to Terrelton around noon. There they meet Lyka, the new player’s shifter. She was also an adherent of the Silver Flame, but not really given any special honors apart from a military rank in Thrane’s army. She was dispatched to support Holden’s efforts.

They immediately get thrown into the action when they realize that a nearby tavern is being looted. The newly-reformed party easily mops the spilled wine on the floor with the four looters. One has her head opened up by Holden’s maul, while the second is torn to shreds by Lyka and Holden via AOOs. Kikkeni greases the remaining two inside the tavern; one fails his reflex save, faceplants in the broken glass, and fails to move when he tries to get up later. Loven snipes him fatally with his crossbow.
(Strangely enough, this new player snipes with far greater skill than Loven’s usual player).
The last looter is Charging Minotaured into a wall by Holden, knocking him down to 3 HP. He sheepishly begs for mercy as the party knocks him out and ties him up for what’s left of the local law enforcement (Leille, also a Silver Flame cleric) to deal with. The party then heads eastward towards Bridol.

Days 8-9
The party travels to Witchcross, passing through Nimon Gap and Talar. They part ways with the Ferry folk there and head north, but not before spreading word of the coming Red Hand. They arrive in Witchcross on the evening of the 9th day and continue to advise townsfolk to pack up and move toward Brindol.

Day 11: The Rhest Blockade.
Severe rain impedes the PCs’ progress. They decide to stay in Witchcross for one more day.

Leaving Witchcross at 6 am, they travel 12 hours to the Rhest Blockade. Due to tree cover, they’re able to hide in a ruined cottage close to the palisade. Loven sneaks up to the blockade and uses his new crossbow skills to snipe. He easily takes out the 2 half-asleep sentries on the roof, then retreats as the guards go on alert (one of the roof sentries topples down the ladder).Since the playing field is literally not level, the PCs decide to take advantage of their abilities. Kikkeni airbursts with her newly-learned energy ball and gets the drop on one of the ogres (made it a Skullcrusher), who runs into the tower in agony. The eastern half of the palisade is now on fire.

Kikkeni then turns to the other half and repeats. The ogres, being skullcrushers, are a bit smarter and decide to head for the cover of the tower instead of taking repeated hits. As the structure begins to burn, the hobgoblins and ogres dash out the front gate. The sergeant is a beefed up Crusader 4 brandishing a halberd, while his minions retain their generic Warrior 2 template. The skullcrushers drag with them barrels of throwing rocks.

Hiding out inside the ruined cottage, Loven continues to snipe, dispatching one hobgoblin with a headshot, while Lyka uses her awesome Jump modifier to leap onto the wall. The grunt hobgoblins and the injured ogre get mowed down rapidly by Kikkeni’s suppressing fire, while the sergeant crashes through the woods to get to the PCs’ makeshift bunker. Holden goes out to meet him, uses Battle Leader’s Charge to close the distance, but fumbles. The sergeant duels him while Lyka leaps onto the sergeant from above.

Deciding he’s taken too much damage, the sergeant tries to flee, using Douse the Flames on Holden to prevent AOOs. He takes one from Lyka, though, and is down to dangerous HP levels. The remaining ogre keeps trying to throw rocks (he threw one at Lyka while she was still on the wall, though she dodged that with great skill).

Day 12, Noon: Scouting
Since Loven is immune to the exhaustion from the scorching heat, they decide to send him to scout the sunken city once more. One key problem: Loven’s sensory skills suck.
I tell the player that if he took time, he could actually end up seeing everything that someone with better sensory skills would detect in no time. He then stakes out the city for an hour, then three, then five.He gleans the following from his observations:
-He hears the distinctive chittering roar. They haven’t met any of the razorfiends yet, so he has no idea what it is.
-The troopers in the tower are indeed hobgoblins.
-The lizardfolk are not really part of the Red Hand. They simply worship the “dragon god” inside. This comes from his realization that Regiarix dissolved a couple of lizardfolk for bothering him.
-He sees Regiarix and Saarvith take off to go hunting towards the 5th hour of observation. Regiarix is a black dragon, and larger than Ozzyrandion by a noticeable margin.

Loven reports to the other PCs, and again, much OOC griping at the lack of a buffer. They attribute their success in taking down Ozzy primarily to their overbuffing. Kikkeni makes a knowledge check to try to learn what the creature is. I give her some hints, but I don’t tell her what it is exactly—only that it’s a spawn of Tiamat, and that it’s probably either black or green given the surroundings. Without a buffer and without a way to get to the ruins in the first place, they begin to succumb to despondency.

They then wander around the swamp for a while, trying to find a decent place to rest. It is then that they come across the remains of Lanikar’s Greater O RLY Owl Giant Owl and try to examine it—only to hear the distinctive chittering roar that Loven had heard earlier. Two razorfiends pounce.

Loven snipes the last remaining grunt hobgoblin while Kikkeni wails on the sergeant. Eventually, his damage pool isn’t enough to stem the damage, and he dies.

Holden draws Divine Surge and tries to take out the skullcrusher in one hit, but fails his attack roll by one. The ogre then offers the crusader a face full of morningstar, to which Holden gladly obliges. The ogre crits, smashing off half of Holden’s HP. He then follows up with his spiked shield, but fumbles that roll. Lyka uses her agility and nails the ogre with Soaring Raptor Strike. Kikkeni fires a final energy missile that scorches the brute to death.

With night falling quickly, the PCs decide to spend the night in the ruined cottage, with the burning palisade to warm them in their sleep. They decide to continue going to Rhest, since Koth’s map marks the ruins as suspicious.

Day 12: Heat Wave
The PCs trek the remaining 2 1/2 hours down the Rhest Trail. Lyka begins to take nonlethal damage from the miserable heat, though the rest of the party is none the worse for wear. They get close enough to the giant sinkhole where the ruined city of Rhest lies rotting, but Lyka decides to go ahead of the party to scout more effectively. She spots the soldiers in the town hall, the bell tower, their respective modifications, and the lizarfolk and their rafts.Before they continue, the PCs try to make knowledge checks. Holden remembers a little history: Rhest was the capital of one of the goblinoid Dhakaani empire’s provinces, although unlike most of the empire which slowly declined into civil unrest and anarchy, Rhest collapsed suddenly, though he doesn’t know why.

Thinking the lizardfolk neutral and indifferent, Holden and Lyka go up to try to talk to them while Kikkeni and Loven stay some distance behind, with Loven hidden.

To their horror, Holden and Lyka discover that the lizardfolk were at least as big as the ogres they had fought, and were black-scaled. At first the unintelligent brutes didn’t react much to their presence, and simply demanded why they were there. Holden is still clueless and asks if the party could use the lizards’ boats. The lizardfolk demands that they not disturb the “dragon god” and that they leave immediately. Holden tries to maintain a respectful mien, but when the blackscale taunts him that the 2 PCs don’t even know the dragon god’s name and is are thus unworthy to enter his presence. Holden says “…is it Saarvith?”

The blackscale froths at the mouth and charges, rambling incoherently in broken Draconic, while its companion jumps out of its hut as well.

Kikkeni opens fire with energy bolt, which was of course a mistake. She badly chars the second blackscale and slightly injures the first. Loven snipes the second blackscale as well. He gapes as the bolt lodges itself firmly in the brute’s skull but fails to kill it outright, though it begins to bleed profusely from the wound. The lizardman bounds toward Loven (he failed his snipe hide check) and swats him firmly with his greatclub. The blow leaves a massive dent, shearing off 25 HP. Just before Lyka’s turn, a bell starts ringing in the tower. Everyone groans, but Lyka perks up:

“Permission to speak, sir?” she says to Holden.
“Speak!”
Turning to the blackscales, she screams “WE ARE WORTHY, YOU HEATHENS!”

…and executes a Soaring Raptor Strike on the first blackscale, critting and opening up its belly. Holding in its guts, the blackscale flails madly at her, hitting with both its club and its bite. Lyka takes over 30 damage. Holden decides to finish off the heavily-injured blackscale and uses Bonecrusher on its sternum. Its chest implodes, and it falls over backwards, quite dead.

Kikkeni realizes that while the alarm has been triggered, there’s no point in delaying, so she blasts the remaining blackscale with energy missile. Burned and bleeding, the second brute drops dead.

With the entire camp in a flurry of action, the PCs decide to hightail it for now and flee toward the cover of the marsh. OOC, they lament on their lack of a full caster and gripe a bit about how the player didn’t show up.

Anyway, back IC, Lyka once more asks for permission to speak. When granted permission, she simply whimpers “We are doomed, sir.” With the lizardfolk being a lot larger than they’d expected and the superior visual range of the tower, they simply couldn’t think of a way to get into Rhest. They pull back and decide to find a way to beat the heat before the badly-injured Lyka collapses from heat exhaustion.

They pull back about a mile away and then meet the Tiri Kitor elves for the first time.

Since both Lyka and Holden can speak Elven, they call out to the rangers. One of them lands while the others continue circling. Holden explains their situation, but the elf simply tells them that Rhest is nasty business and wishes them whatever luck they need. After the elves leave, Lyka is able to find a shaded mangrove spot for the party to cool off in.

Day 12, Noon: Scouting
Since Loven is immune to the exhaustion from the scorching heat, they decide to send him to scout the sunken city once more. One key problem: Loven’s sensory skills suck.
I tell the player that if he took time, he could actually end up seeing everything that someone with better sensory skills would detect in no time. He then stakes out the city for an hour, then three, then five.

He gleans the following from his observations:
-He hears the distinctive chittering roar. They haven’t met any of the razorfiends yet, so he has no idea what it is.
-The troopers in the tower are indeed hobgoblins.
-The lizardfolk are not really part of the Red Hand. They simply worship the “dragon god” inside. This comes from his realization that Regiarix dissolved a couple of lizardfolk for bothering him.
-He sees Regiarix and Saarvith take off to go hunting towards the 5th hour of observation. Regiarix is a black dragon, and larger than Ozzyrandion by a noticeable margin.

Loven reports to the other PCs, and again, much OOC griping at the lack of a buffer. They attribute their success in taking down Ozzy primarily to their overbuffing. Kikkeni makes a knowledge check to try to learn what the creature is. I give her some hints, but I don’t tell her what it is exactly—only that it’s a spawn of Tiamat, and that it’s probably either black or green given the surroundings. Without a buffer and without a way to get to the ruins in the first place, they begin to succumb to despondency.

They then wander around the swamp for a while, trying to find a decent place to rest. It is then that they come across the remains of Lanikar’s Greater O RLY Owl Giant Owl and try to examine it—only to hear the distinctive chittering roar that Loven had heard earlier. Two razorfiends pounce.

Day 12, Dusk: Dance of the Harrowblades
Kikkeni goes first. She uses her new death urge power on one of the razorfiends, and it fails its save.

The second razorfiend charges, clearing the trees on top of the hill and landing beside Kikkeni. It hits her, but rolls low. Loven, having trouble attacking an enormous angry draconic beast with razor-sharp wings at this range, draws his rapier and flanks with Lyka, shanking the beast for a heft sum. Holden draws Divine Surge and swats down hard on the injured razorfiend’s wingblade and crits, shattering it at the shoulder and clavicle for 52 damage. Lyka then follows up with Soaring Raptor Strike and bisects the wretch for fatal 44 damage. The other razorfiend’s turn comes around, and under the influence of Kikkeni’s death urgeeviscerates itself.

Dear Lord. 93 damage to itself. That’s highest damage dealt in a single turn to anything I’ve ever seen in this game in my 3 years of play. (Death Urge forces a creature to kill itself in the fastest way possible; performing a full attack that automatically crits. So much for x3 multipliers on its wingblades. )

The PCs then search the dead owl (silly jokes about “Is it dead?” and the owl coming alive and saying “YA RLY” break out) and find the band. Realizing that the owl once had a rider, they decide to search the conveniently eviscerated corpses of the razorfiends and find Lanikar’s ring.

Enter Killiar Arrowswift. With his cold demands, the PCs immediately try to be respectful and friendly. The PCs quickly catch on to why he’s around and explain that they found signs of the owl’s rider. Killiar demands the jewelry and then asks them to come with him to Starsong Hill.

Day 12, Evening: Starsong Hill
The PCs catch a glimpse of Starsong Hill from above, and are mostly happy that they can get some healing now, as they don’t want to just try sleeping off the damage. Loven is unfortunately very bad at repairing himself, so they can’t figure out what to do for now.

Sellyria explains the events to them and also tells a little of the history of the place, confirming what Holden had learned: Rhest was the victim of a sudden collapse, not a gradual decline, and the Daelkyr (aberrant Lords of Madness from Xoriat, the plane of insanity) may have corrupted a hobgoblin Gatekeeper druid until he went mad and ruined the city he once saved; the city is now in the middle of an enormous, still-sinking sinkhole.

While the elves have dealt with some aberrant leftovers from the Daelkyr invasion of the city in the past, and the dragon and its blackscale cult have been there for a hundred or so years, the harrowblades (razorfiends) are a new threat, and moved in only a few months prior along with the goblins.

Holden explains the Red Hand horde, but Sellyria is unable to offer any aid apart from Illian Snowmantle’s healing, consumables, and boats to take upstream back to the Rhest sinkhole.

The PCs dine, rest, and get up at dawn the next morning for Lanikar’s funeral.

Day 13, Dawn: Storm Over Starsong
A thunderstorm breaks out over Lanikar’s funeral. Lyka is able to predict the weather will turn for the better in 5 hours, and the following day will be tolerable. The day after, however, will be a heat wave day once more.

After the solemnities end, the merrymaking and celebration of Lanikar’s life begins. Holden is able to convince his sister Trellara to help them identify the loot from the razorfiends’ coffer, which I had replaced with significantly more useful treasure. Unfortunately, Trellara can only cast Identify 3 times a day, and so is only able to identify three pieces of treasure: Dragonhide Bracers, Devastation Gauntlets, and a White Cloak of the Spider. Lyka takes the bracers and cloak, while the gauntlets go to Holden. Loven takes a crossbow, which Kikkeni is able to identify with her DC 30 Knowledge (Arcana) check (Magic Item Compendium rules) as a simple +1 light crossbow. The better to snipe with, anyway.

For now, the PCs plan: The best way to get to Rhest is not to use a boat, but to take Water Breathingpotions from Illian and walk on the bottom of the lake (none of them have good swim checks, and slogging through the bottom is better than getting spotted on the surface). However, none of them have cleric spells, so they decide to consult Illian. Since the potions have good duration, they can easily take their time. I round down a mile to 5000 feet, and due to the pitch black water and its hazards, the PCs will have to take full round actions to move 5 feet.

I crunch the numbers quickly:
-5000 feet to traverse.
-5 feet per round.
-5000/5=1000 rounds of walking.
-6 seconds per round.
-6000 seconds of walking along the lakebed. This translates to 100 minutes or 1 hour 40 minutes.

Of course, this is only their initial plan. As substitute players, neither of them wanted to go ahead and execute the plan. They were also counting heavily on the cleric being around for the next session so they could proceed with less problems; they just know the dragon will be too much for them.

Continue reading

Short Session

I haven’t been updating this journal in  a while, but I’m simply reposting here what I’ve been posting on my Giant in the Playground thread. Since this is going to be a more permanent location for the journal, I’ll be transferring everything here eventually.

This session is dated June 20, 2009.

Short session today; this served mostly as closure for the first chapter so we could cleanly introduce the new PCs next session: Linnea Leiranoff, cloistered cleric of Aureon, and Lyka aka “Pickles,” a brilliant, savage, shifter warblade.

The party decides to bury Ashie quickly and send House Orien a lock of her hair should they wish to resurrect her. After resting (the previous session was a pretty solid thrashing), they woke up to find Teyani Sura entering the Old Bridge Inn.

Teyani, as haggard as she is, quickly fills them in on what happened to the Rhest Trail. It’s beginning to become clear that the Red Hand is sweeping far wider than they had expected, and that simply taking out a bridge isn’t going to stop them for long. She asks for a map to mark the blockade, and is surprised to see and hear from the PCs what else is coming their way. She quickly scribbles down notes on whatever scraps of paper she has, and leaves for Brindol without even getting her ale.

The Town Council
The party’s immediate impression of Iormel is that he is a Grade A jerk; he harshly tells Holden to shut the hell up when he begins trying to plead against Iormel’s stance (fight).

After hearing all of the council members’ cases (one each for fight, flight and parley, one undecided [Norro] and one that’s practically an abstention [Soranna]), they try to convince Kellin first. Holden rolls really badly at first (he’s the only guy with ranks in Diplomacy), but the others are able to aid him in saying that the goblins wouldn’t have tried to torch the town the previous night if they wanted to plunder. They get Kellin’s vote.

Second, they try Norro. I assigned the lowest DCs to Norro (using The Giant’s Diplomacy rules) since he isn’t committed to any particular course of action. Kikkeni easily makes the case; Norro told them to destroy Skull Gorge Bridge if they had to, and they did. Norro changes his stance to flight as well.

Finally, just to be sure, they try the cantankerous Iormel. He has the highest DC for the flight option (DC 29), but Holden rolls a 20. His +6 modifier is bolstered by Jorr’s testimony, the map, and their performance in fighting against the goblin raid.

<Holden> A town is more than its holdings. A town is its people too.
<Iormel> …I…No way I’m fighting under the banner of the Lord of Brindol.
<Holden> Better to live to fight another day.
<Iormel> What do you know about fighting?
<Holden> We cleared out Vraath Keep. We defeated Wyrmlord Koth. We slew a dragon. I assure you, sir, we know about fighting. But we also know when to run, and now is one such time.
<Iormel> Fine.

The council reaches a unanimous decision to flee, and the town begins packing.

Chimera Attack
At about 2:30 pm, the chimera attacks. The thing died practically as it hit the ground. It rolled dead last on initiative, and even with its beefed HP and the party down one man, the combined firepower of Kikkeni, Loven and Holden takes it down to 13, then 3, then -21 HP before its third turn. The chimera does try to thrash Holden, but only hits with its first bite and gore. Its breath weapon (I gave it lightning instead) barely grazes Kikkeni.

Evacuation
As the party leaves, they decide to escort Norro, Soranna and the rear guard to Terrelton first, and then proceed to the blockades to the North.

Anyway, it’s reeeeally early into the timeline and they’ve already sent the people along the Dawn Way packing. Rhest is a pretty small place and will be pretty easy to clean out if they observe it. The encounters are going to be beefed up a lot more. The speed at which the party slew the chimera is pretty insane.