An Alliance and An Assassination

Day 13: Twilight Telepathy

After raiding the dragon’s hoard and finding the important plot-relevant items in the Rhest town hall, the PCs figure out what to do with Nurkulnaak.


They plan to tie him to the side of the boat partially immersed in the water, among other grave threats and such. They even laughed at the irony of finding his torture implements inside his Haversack.

However, at this point things don’t go as they’ve planned and go surprisingly well according to my plan.

Using his telepathy, Nurkulnaak sends messages to the PCs heads in Daelkyr. None of them know the language, but the term “Daelkyr” is used. Nurkulnaak himself acts shocked and horrified, and begins looking around him in horror. Loven quickly rips off the gag while holding his rapier sharply against the beguiler’s throat (they still don’t know that he is one) and demanding what was going on.

“You fools, it’s the Daelkyr! Don’t you know the history of this place? It’s tainted!”

All this while, the same line keeps repeating in the heads of the PCs:
Fathk nrathkyl quyrafl uytrlk Daelkyr
Fathk nrathkyl quyrafl uytrlk Daelkyr
Fathk nrathkyl quyrafl uytrlk Daelkyr

Using Silent Spell, Nurkulnaak casts blur on himself—the only spell he can cast—and feigns a seizure.

Everyone does their best to try to figure out what’s going on, but without any spell components to identify the spell with, Linnea couldn’t really tell whether he had cast a spell or not.

Thoroughly spooked, they decide to quickly get the hell out of there and drag Nurkulnaak behind them. When they get onto the roof, they realize they’re surrounded.

Where Things DO NOT Go According to Plan
Four blackscale lizardfolk stand on the roof. These guys are enormous. Three of them are carrying tree-sized greatclubs, while the fourth has the telltale horns and wings of a half dragon.

Nurkulnaak secretly sends telepathic messages to the blackscales, telling them to run quickly and inform the Red Hand, and they will be rewarded. Despite their dim wits, they respect Nurkulnaak as a herald of Regiarix and fight a little longer only to escape. The half-dragon is the most intelligent and fastest, and as such is an ideal messenger, but Nurkulnaak broadcasts it to them just in case.

Once on the roof, Kikkeni begins to use her backup dorje of energy ray as she is out of PP.

Holden, however, quickly takes out the winged half-dragon via a lucky Divine Surge. The beast falls to the ground and almost pins him, but he successfully gets out of the way.

One of the remaining blackscales grabs Nurkulnaak from Holden, tucks him under his shoulder, and leaps into the water. The others do likewise, scattering in different directions.

Lyka manages an amazing leap onto the back of the blackscale holding Nurkulnaak and proceeds to hack at him, while the flying Holden pursues. Linnea plants an Ice Knife in the blackscale’s back, but it keeps on paddling. The two other blackscales escape unmolested.

Eventually Linnea uses her Rod of Viscid Globs on the blackscale, and Lyka shanks it dead. With the blackscales gone, their escape from the accursed ruins is going to be easier. More importantly, Nurkulnaak is alive. Still frothing and blurred, but alive.

They decide to paddle back to where they left the boat, using the dead lizard as a raft.

Don’t look at me, I just DM here. o_o;

Return to Starsong
Much to the shock of the elves, the PCs paddle in triumphantly, towing the corpse of an ogre-sized lizard behind them. The community gathers to welcome them, only to gape at their grisly trophy.

Killiar arrives and congratulates the PCs. He asks if they need to see the elders, to which they reply “Yes, we need items identified.” (SIGH.)

Trellara comes in and identifies Nurkulnaak’s gear, while Illian easily deduces that the PCs have been had. He dispels Nurkulnaak’s blur. Much wincing around the table.

Sellyria arrives and asks them what they plan on doing. “We wish to interrogate our ‘guest’.”
The old druid says she understands their needs, but says they may not shed any blood within Starsong. Holden assents, and they bring Nurkulnaak into a tent for interrogation.

Day 13: The Battle of Rhest

Day 13
The day starts out as a continuation of where the party left off: waiting for the thunderstorm after Lanikar’s funeral to dissipate. Enter Linnea Leiranoff, cloistered cleric of Aureon, found lost and wandering aimlessly in the swamp—utterly drenched except for her books.

Linnea performs an invaluable service for them: she identifies the remains of the loot they got from the razorfiends. This included a greater crystal of aquatic action, eyes of the eaglethird eye freedom, and arod of silence.

The party formulates their plan:
1. Purchase potions of water breathing from Illian. These potions last 12 hours.
2. Paddle up the stream to the rim of the Rhest sinkhole.
3. Drink the potions and walk across the stream bed. The crystal of aquatic action obviates Holden’s need for water breathing, and Loven doesn’t breathe, so the party gets to save on potions.
4. Take the bell tower first, then investigate the town hall.

Capsize

The party borrows a boat from the elves and paddles up the stream. Close to the sinkhole, they’re ambushed by a blackscale and four poison dusk lizardfolk.

The blackscale is spotted lurking underwater, but instead of surfacing as they had expected, it easily capsizes the boat and dunks everyone into the drink.
The party is lucky that the stream is only 4 feet deep and that their shorter party members don’t have problems with breathing water.

The lizardfolk are quickly overwhelmed; Linnea takes a poisoned arrow but her Strength isn’t damaged much, while Holden takes a sound bashing from the blackscale, he easily drops the blackscale after applying Divine Surge to the beast’s crotch.

Lyka, the shifter, is able to use her Jump to leap through the nasty undergrowth to grapple one of the poison dusks while Loven and Linnea apply some liberal fire from their soggy positions to take out two of the other snipers. Kikkeni freezes the last sniper with energy ball. Overkill, but it gets the job done.

They attempt to interrogate the remaining lizardfolk (again), but it only tells them the party stumbled through their territory. They dump him there—Kikkeni and Holden begin to argue about leaving him alive, while Loven just walks over to him and shanks the lizardman. They begin moving towards the tower.

Memorable lines:
<Lyka, to Holden> Look, sir, it is a large heathen!
<Lyka, to Holden> Look sir, it is a miniature heathen!
<Lyka, to Holden> Sir, it appears you have water in your eyes.

The Tower

Traveling to the tower underwater, the party enters the submerged floor of the tower. Loven sneaks up into the second floor to scout and spots three of the hobgoblins inside.

The party decides to have him plant the exploding spike at the stop of the stairs. Loven plants it in and splashes loudly into the water. The hobgoblins investigate the sound, and the spike goes off.

All of them are burnt within an inch of their life, but they draw their swords anyway. Lyka runs up to skewer one of them, but misses both. Kikkeni comes in and wastes them all with energy missile. As they come up, though, they see someone running up the stairs and give chase.

Red Alert

Lyka is the first to arrive on the top floor. Korkulan the bladebearer (now a Warblade 4/Fighter 2) confronts her, while the other hobgoblins drop their bows and draw their swords. Korkulan is initially able to counter Lyka’s strike with Wall of Blades, but when Loven tumbles past him, his advantage quickly turns. Holden runs up the stairs and uses an action point to jump from one of the lower steps onto the top floor (over the railing) and joins the battle. However, one of the hobgoblins begins ringing the bell.

Kikkeni joins the fray with an energy missile, nailing all four hobgoblins. Two of them die, while Korkulan and the last veteran are able to stand a little while longer before Lyka cuts them down.

However, the party spots lizardfolk beginning to get into their rafts to paddle toward the tower.

Crack ensues.

Holden hoists up one of the guard corpses and begins waving its arms so that it appeared to be waving at the lizardfolk. In a loud goblin voice (he can speak the language), he tells the lizardfolk to leave, that it was a false alarm. And he rolls really well on his Bluff, and it was too ridiculous to not let slide, so the lizardfolk begin paddling away.

The PCs then go down and search the bunks, and discover Korkulan’s potions of fly. They reemerge onto the lookout deck to spot the ogres on the Town Hall roof beginning to stir.

Last Flight of the Black Dragon

One of the ogres jumps down into Regiarix’s lair. Within a few seconds, the ogre climbs back out, and so does Regiarix.

The PCs quaff their potions—Holden, Loven, and Lyka are able to fly. Linnea inherited a potion of fly from Ashie as well, so she drinks but decides to stay in the tower.

Holden says: “We’re like flies guarding a piece of ****.”

Saarvith, astride Regiarix, wing angrily toward the tower. Kikkeni begins a devastating barrage of energy balls.

I roll horribly on their saves. By the time Saarvith and Regiarix close to breath weapon range, Regiarix is down to 105/152 HP. Saarvith is down to less than half (he started with a beefed 62 HP). This is despite me giving them action points and despite Kikkeni’s player rolling badly.

Regiarix lets loose a breath weapon but only hits Holden. Despite Holden’s failure to save, I roll badly and Holden only takes around 20 damage.

Holden and Lyka charge. Holden scores massive hits, while Lyka fumbles one of her two Two-Weapon Pounce attacks. The dragon retaliates with a full attack (bad idea; I should’ve remembered the dragon was supposed to keep his distance) , and rolls a mass of 1s and 2s. Not a single attack hits.

Holden and Lyka flank the dragon and combo him with Soaring Raptor Strike and Bone Crusher. At this point, the dragon is down to 32 HP. Kikkeni softens it up even more by detonating an energy ball BEHIND Regiarix, bringing the dragon down to 19 HP.

I should’ve wised up and had them run away, but no. The dragon flies upward and dives toward the tower. Saarvith uses his Arrow Storm but only hits Kikkeni for damage that is pretty much irrelevant at this point. (I should’ve used Hunter’s Mercy on her instead)

Kikkeni simply blasts the dragon and rider with energy cone. Saarvith is already at -2 at this point, and he slumps back in the saddle. The dragon is down to 7 HP.

Enter Linnea. Blast of Force. 8 damage.

Regiarix rolls a 1 on his Fort save, and falls out of the sky. The fall (even into the water) kills both Saarvith and Regiarix.

It’s All Ogre

The regular ogres on the hall’s roof hightail it when they see Regiarix fall out of the sky. The two remaining skullcrushers stay put and hurl some boulders ineffectually at the flying PCs as they close in.

Kikkeni blasts them once more, and Lyka and Holden quickly cut down the two ogres once they clear the space.

The Hatchery

The PCs investigate the ruined building off the side and find the Razorfiend waiting. It breathes acid on Lyka and Holden, but they cut it down quickly before its next turn, and Linnea finishes it off with a scorching ray. The PCs hear the loud hooting of Nurkulnaak’s ettin as it comes onto the roof. Nurkulnaak, wielding a rapier, emerges with them.

Showdown

This battle gets silly quickly. Nurkulnaak rolls high on initiative and raises a solid fog; Lyka and Kikkeni get trapped in it. The other PCs are unable to get in good shots due to the fog, and Nurkulnaak quickly raises agreater invisibility to attempt to escape.

Linnea is able to dispel the fog after Kikkeni and Lyka extricate themselves, while Holden flies up out of the Hatchery to drop down on the Ettin. The two beatsticks attack the Ettin and damage it quickly.

Still invisible, Nurkulnaak blasts Lyka and Holden (and the Ettin) with confusion. Lyka makes her save, but Holden remains floating in the air, babbling like a moron.

Loven snipes the Ettin, which rolls ‘attack nearest enemies’ in its confusion and hits the two beatsticks before collapsing from Loven’s bleed damage.

Kikkeni climbs onto the roof and tries to find Nurkulnaak with Lyka. Kikkeni tries to hasten the process by randomly choosing a spot to grease.

And dumb luck strikes: she catches Nurkulnaak in the area, and he fails his save, falling flat onto the ground, cursing loudly.

Lyka tries to close in on the grease spot and chooses one of the squares to attack, but she doesn’t pick the right square. Nurkulnaak begins crawling toward the stairs leading down to the boardwalk. Linnea summons a Hound Archon and orders him to hunt down the hobgoblin by using detect evil. Kikkeni fires anenergy bolt through the spot where she thought the beguiler was, but Nurkulnaak was no longer there by the time she does so.

The beguiler creates a major image trying to climb over the rampart and jumping down onto the boardwalk below. Immediately the PCs give chase (Holden rolls “babble incoherently” for 3 rounds); the Hound Archon is first. It slashes at the image with its greatsword, destroying it. Using its scent, the Hound Archon picks up the beguiler’s trail, and Kikkeni greases the boardwalk to prevent Nurkulnaak from escaping toward the hatchery.

With Lyka groping around blind, swinging her sword as if at a pinata, Holden drifting lazily through the air babbling, Kikkeni down to the last of her power points and Nurkulnaak nowhere to be found, I ask them if they want to give up looking for him. The players yell “NO!” in unison.

The beguiler tries to escape into the water, but his own invisibility gives him away—the PCs see the bubble in the water. Holden rolls “flee from caster at top speed” and ends up hovering over the water, way out toward the southwest. Kikkeni uses the last of her power points to fire an energy missile at the beguiler, but misses (I rule that the miss chance still applies since the spell is aimed at creatures, not spaces).

The beguiler dismisses his invisibility and surrenders as the Hound Archon brings him down on his knees.

The party ties him up for interrogation later and drags him into the hall while they explore.

They find everything they need to find: Ulwai’s letter, Regiarix’s hoard, and most importantly, the Ghostlord’s phylactery.

Linnea is able to provide the necessary information regarding the phylactery:
-It was most definitely a lich’s phylactery, and the letter gave his identity away.
-Linnea’s History check recalls that the Ghostlord was once Uriikel Zaarl, a hobgoblin druid who fought alongside the Gatekeeper sect against the Daelkyr invasion of Eberron more than 5000 years ago.
-After successfully slaying the Daelkyr who took over Rhest, Zaarl left, but after about 200 years a pride of ghostly lions ransacked Rhest, and an unnnatural quake collapsed Rhest into the sinkhole that it is now.
-The creator of the phylactery is not an arcane caster but a druid, and a blighter at that.

Kikkeni also points out the Ghostlord’s lair on Koth’s map.

Plans

This might be the source of party conflict. Holden and Lyka want to destroy the phylactery and slay the Ghostlord, while the others are sure there might be a reason why the goblins have it.

Holden balks at the thought of trading the lich his phylactery for aid, but Kikkeni says “We don’t necessarily have to allyourselves with him.”

Thoughts

-The PCs really wasted Rhest. The Ozzyrandion battle was harder.
-This might have been due to the adventure assuming the PCs don’t raise the alarm until they are able to get into the building; I built my battle plans around this assumption.
-Despite being advanced, overbuffed AND having action points, Regiarix and Saarvith crashed and burned really badly.
-All dragons are definitely going to have max HP now. Also considering bumping up Abithriax to Huge and Tyrgarun to Gargantuan without advancing their HD.
-I really want Nurkulnaak to escape. He’s a coward and an evil jerk, sure, but he should be smart enough to use his massive repertoire to escape and inform the Red Hand higher ups of the slaughter. This should allow the Red Hand to start sending out death squads and beef up the Ghostlord’s lair security as well.

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.

Death of the Lion: An Eberron Adaptation

Here’s a short story told in the form of a legend, meant to adapt the Ghostlord’s story into the Eberron setting.

Raat shi anaa. The story continues.

The empire of Dhakaan. The epitome of bloodstained glory.

The Dar, known to Khorvaire’s humans as the goblinoids, ruled the continent for several millennia. Its people were strong-willed, skilled in steel, spell, and the blending of both. Its succession of emperors thought their lineage would last forever, but as we all know, empires always fall in the end.

The madness came. It came pouring into Eberron from the mad plane of Xoriat. Twisted flesh and minds, known to sages as the aberrations, filled the Material Plane with their unnatural might and magic. At the van of this tide of insanity came the Daelkyr.

The Daelkyr were beings so unnatural and warped that their mere presence corrupted reality. The land was polluted, and so were its people. Those Dar who had been captured by the Daelkyr were made into playthings by the mighty lords of madness. Those that survived saw their flesh and minds twisted at the whims of the Daelkyr.

One of the provinces that was badly hit was Rhestilaar. A gate to Xoriat opened in the dark chasms below the land, and legions of unnatural creatures invaded the surface. The Daelkyr who led them was known to the Dar as Marvesklurhan, the Lord of Writhing Coils. It established Rhest as its throne as it began sending forth its minions to meet with the Daelkyr who were invading the western reaches of Khorvaire.

But the proud Dar refused to be broken. They fought back, and with them came the orcs of the Gatekeepers. With swords of the twilight metal byeshk and mighty spells meant to restore the balance of Eberron, the unlikely allies fought back the waves of madness. As the war raged on, many of the hobgoblins were impressed by the power of the Gatekeepers’ natural magic, and sought to augment their martial might with it.

Very few of the Dar who tried to join the Gatekeepers’ ranks impressed the orc hierophants, but those who did proved to be mighty and wise indeed. One of these was a hobgoblin named Uriikel Zaarl.

Zaarl led a mighty pride of lions into the corrupted capital city of Rhest, and tore into the ranks of the Illithids who served as Marvesklurhan’s elite guard. He wielded a mighty byeshk blade he called the Devourer of Twilight, and fought fiercely all the way to the threshold of Marvesklurhan’s alien throne.

Zaarl struck swiftly, smiting the Daelkyr with his blade, but the blow was not enough. The Daelkyr’s mighty tentacles flung the druid away, and the Lord of Writhing Coils escaped deep into the caverns beneath Rhest along with its entourage.

Shocked by the maddening touch of the Daelkyr, Zaarl summoned all his brethren to pursue the alien lord to the portal at the bottom of the subterranean chasm. The Illithids, wielding swords forged of pure mindstuff, fought a retreating battle to cover the flight of their wounded lord, but Zaarl caught up with  Marvesklurhan as it was about to flee. The hero’s pride of lions fought with all their might, crushing the twisted Illithids and filling the room with carnage as the druid confronted the Daelkyr.

“Here you die, corruptor of flesh,” proclaimed the druid champion.

“Ah, flesh—what is flesh but something to be twisted?” answered the Daelkyr, its warped voice echoing in Zaarl’s mind.

Zaarl said nothing and smote the alien lord with his blade. Marvekslurhan’s death throes consumed its own minions as its psychic force clawed violently at life. The backblast shattered the portal, and the fabric of reality fell back into place as the rift’s energies drained away. The day was won, but the damage had been done.

Zaarl’s lions, their forms ravaged by the shockwave of chaos, limped out of the chasm, no longer natural beings. The druid himself emerged a hero. The people of Rhest lauded him as a hero and rebuit the city in his honor. Lion motifs practically covered the city in the months that followed, and the lion was adopted as the province’s emblem.

Zaarl, however, felt betrayed. Nature’s magic could not heal his beloved lions, and none of Rhest’s mages had the ability to restore them. His body began to manifest signs of the Daelkyr’s corrupting influence, and all natural magic was completely ineffective in arresting or reversing the corruption wracking his body. The druid consulted his orc masters, but they too could offer no answers. He felt the damage was irreversible, and that nothing he could do could save Eberron in the end. Flesh, in the end, was simply something to be twisted. Only death could save him and his lions.

Zaarl sought the tomes of necromancers and the power over life and death that they held. He slipped away from the teachings of the Gatekeepers gradually. After a hundred years of study, he decided to take the final step toward conquering the flesh-twisting effects: lichdom.

“I shall save you, my pride,” whispered the undead druid as he struck his beloved lions dead with his newfound magic. At once he began to work on raising the beasts back to unlife.

Rhest itself began to die. Dhakaan never fully recovered from the Daelkyr war, and one by one its provinces began to fall into disrepair. When the last emperor, Dabrak Riis, finally abandoned his throne, Rhest’s neighbors began to invade.

The goblins once more called upon the might of its druid patron, but Zaarl sent a simple reply: “Zaarl is no more. The Ghostlord shall go to Rhest.”

Zaarl marched into Rhest once more, not to save it, but to destroy it. Bitterness and the desire for revenge had been festering in his heart for a century. It was time to exact payment from the weaklings for whom he had suffered.

The ghostly lions rampaged throughout the city, tearing the goblins limb from limb. He descended the ancient steps to the caverns beneath and called upon his magic to dissolve the great earth pillars that braced the city above. Escaping to the surface, Zaarl threw his byeshk blade, the Devourer of Twilight, into the depths of the pit.

That fateful day, nearly five thousand years ago, Rhest died. Water from Lake Rhestin came flooding into the city as the tunnels below caved in. Those that survived fled across Khorvaire, some joining the human civilization that came on the heels of Dhakaan, others remaining proud and independent. The Ghostlord himself raised an enormous temple for himself in the blighted land south of Rhest, and there he brooded for millennia, delving deeper into the arts of necromancy.

It was only recently that the cult of Tiamat led by Azarr Kul came to these lands. By the hand of fate, the traitorous Ghostlord was once drawn back together into dealing with the Dar. A great conflict brews in the lands of Elsir Vale, and the Ghostlord will once more be put to the test. Only the gods know if Zaarl will be finally left to his dark fate as a lich, or if he will be finally freed from the haunting whispers of the Lord of Writhing Coils.

Raat shan gath kal’dor. The story stops, but never ends.

Night Raid

Day 5

The party decides to take it easy for now. Unable to do much, Ashie commissions Morlin Coalhewer (I gave him a human apprentice who does sculpture and pottery) to start making the three homunculi she wants to use: a new Iron Defender, a Furtive Filcher, and an Expeditious Messenger. Even with expert craft skills, none of the homunculi are completed in one week, and they won’t be done until the Red Hand arrives. Wanting to be nice to the players, I tell them that their choice of one homunculus will be completed by the day before the horde arrives. They decide on the Expeditious Messenger.

The party goes to sleep, only to be awakened at midnight by distressed screams coming from the far bank.

Outriders

Jorr accompanies the PCs, but he’s so badly wounded that they tell him to stay back and leave the fighting to them.

The goblin outriders and the dire wolf (for which I swapped out the hell hound) roll high on their initiative, while all the party ends up at the bottom of the stack.

Immediately the dire wolf charges Holden for a lot of damage and knocks him down, while the outriders break out of hiding (they were wearing wolf pelts and use their surprise advantage to score painful skirmish damage on the PCs.

The party is able to quickly subdue the dire wolf, but the outriders just prove too sneaky. Only Kikkeni’s [i]energy cone[/i] is able to deal much damage to them, but the tried and true “use your mount as cover” trick works like a charm, and the outriders roll really high on their reflex saves.

Eventually, the PCs are able to bring one worg down, but its rider makes a beeline for Sterrel’s Provisioning and sets it on fire. However, by this time, Ashie and Kikkeni have HP in the single digits and are only using the dire wolf’s corpse as cover.

(In case you didn’t notice—-they did not heal themselves between their fight with the dragon and now.)

Ashie is able to use her wand of entangle on the grass around the burning warehouse, trapping the goblin who set fire to the building.

Loven manages to use his bag of boulders+sneak attack to seriously injure one worg rider, so they begin to run away.

Second Wave

The two remaining mounted goblins begin running off the grid as quickly as they could; both escape, with the second wave arriving just in time to cover them—two Kulkor Zhul duskblades, two greenspawn snipers, a bladebearer, and a Kulkor Zhul War Adept.

One greenspawn sniper reveals itself, taking shots at Kikkeni from the roof of the other nearby warehouse (Jendar’s Warehouse), and it fails its attack roll and snipe check badly. When Kikkeni’s turn comes around, the greenspawn gets flung to the ground with telekinetic thrust for all his trouble. He survives the huge fall, however, but now that he’s out in the open, he has a hard time with hiding.

The first duskblade nails Holden with [i]ray of enfeeblement[/i], dropping his strength back down to 12.

Ashie thinks she could nail the newcomers with entangle, but the War Adept goes right before her turn and blasts her and Kikkeni with a scintillating sphere.

Both women fail their reflex saves badly. Kikkeni is dropped to the negatives by the explosion, while Ashie dies instantly. The spell deals just enough damage to send her to exactly -10.

The party gets screwed really badly from here on. The Kulkor Zhul War Adept uses its Pillar of Magic ability (see Hobgoblin Warcaster, MMV) to grant SR 14 to its lackeys.

Loven runs to try to heal Kikkeni and finds a potion of cure moderate wounds in her pack, bringing her back up to the single digits.

The party is lucky they’re able to move around so quickly–the hobgoblins have a hard time keeping up with them and the snipers have lousy shots. Readied actions would’ve taken them down easily.

Holden is quickly surrounded by the duskblades and the warblade; one channeled shocking grasp and a critical hit from the warblade later and he’s in the negatives; even his damage pool couldn’t absorb enough.

Seeing Holden go down, the duskblades and the warblade go after Kikkeni and Loven.

Kikkeni is able to breach the SR and flings the warblade away with TKT, while Loven drinks a potion of invisibility to help out his dwarven brother.

In the mean time, Kikkeni flings back one of the duskblades with TKT again (now her favorite power), squishing him. Ouch. The other guy survives and also runs after her.

Loven is able to run as fast as he could towards Holden, and he activates Holden’s healing belt bringing him back up to the positives. Not wanting to attract the nearby War Adept’s attention, Holden continues to play dead.

Kikkeni tries to outmaneuver the warblade, but she decides she’s not willing to risk a TWF full attack on her next turn, so she risks an AOO instead so she can get a safe distance away to cast a spell. Not this player’s lucky day.

The warblade rolls a 20 on his AOO, but fails the confirmation roll. This is still enough to bring Kikkeni down again, so the warblade rejoins the fray as the War Adept casts mirror image. Holden uses up the belt’s charges and gets up, attacking one of the mirror images (giving Kikkeni 2 HP due to Martial Spirit), while Loven pokes at the mirror images as well.

The War Adept is able to nail the now-revived Holden with scorching ray putting him at a dangerously low HP level—once his damage pool hits next turn, he’s going to go down to 0 again. He smashes the warblade with Mountain Hammer.

With Kikkeni back up, she’s able to nuke the mirror images with energy missile, exposing the caster. He barely takes damage from it, but he retaliates with summon swarm. The spiders take Kikkeni down to 0 HP again, though she thankfully saves against the poison.

The remaining duskblade runs off into the woods.

At this point the War Adept tries to escape as well; its buffed AC keeps it safe for the most part. However, as it moves away, it’s unable to maintain the concentration on the swarm spell due to a painful AOO from Holden, and tries to cast haste to bolster his escape.

Holden and Loven stay on his case, but eventually the War Adept is able to cast invisibility from a scroll and escapes with his life.

The party calls Jorr to ask for help with the fires, which thankfully haven’t spread so much. Ben Sterrel’s store is mostly intact.

Postmortem (Literally)

While the party has the staff of life, Loven’s crappy UMD ranks prevent him from emulating the 15 Wis required to cast the spell. They decide to lay Ashie to rest, cutting off a lock of her hair to send back to House Orien, should they decide to have her resurrected.

Now that the party has got a taste of the Red Hand’s competently dangerous side, they’re convinced more than ever that Drellin’s Ferry has to be evacuated. I also tell them that the implications of the outriders, the snipers, the War Adept and the duskblade getting away are very dire: The raid was not a coincidence. The outriders had found Vraath Keep empty and tracked the perpetrators to Drellin’s Ferry, and now that they’ve seen the PCs and gotten away to report to the Horde, there’s a good chance that later attacks will be much, much harder.

Ashie’s player decides to roll a character, and given the dangerous nature of the adventure, Holden and Loven’s player decides to roll an additional character as well.

Ashie’s player wants to tank this time, since she realized that having only one tank makes things kind of difficult. I ask her if she’s willing to give up her party’s utility casting, and she says she prefers survivability. As such, I recommend she roll a cleric instead, to which she agrees.

We recommend that the other player’s additional character (he’s going to be controlling THREE characters now O_O) be a fast, DPS striker, so we recommend a Shifter Barbarian/Swordsage or Warblade. He also decides to make this character female.

Due to Ashie’s death, I’m going to give the PCs a modifier on their Diplomacy checks during the Town Council on day 7—surely the death of a seemingly powerful adventurer would strike fear into the hearts of the people. (I’m using Rich Burlew’s  tweaked Diplomacy rules). However, this could also mean they are just as likely to surrender.

We don’t know when next session will be yet. It will likely include the council meeting, as well as the Chimera attack. I tweaked the beast a bit, giving it a blue dragon head (partially due to Azarr Kul’s and Tyrgarun’s vanity) to give it some range on its breath weapon.

RIP Ashiedae Jiourrn d’Orien

d: 16th Lharvion 998 YK

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.