Don’t Stop Running

Yesterday’s session was rather slow. We were supposed to hold the session last Saturday, but a storm hit the country and power got knocked out, so playing would be pretty frustrating in the dark. Yesterday was a holiday, so we tried to take advantage of our collective free schedules and play.

Unfortunately, Lyka’s player couldn’t make it, while Kikkeni’s player was visiting the cemetery and would only be around after lunch.

Linny’s player is unfortunately out; her parents were no longer allowing her for some unclear reason. It couldn’t be helped, so I decided to ask a regular attendee (who doesn’t play but watches) to take over her character. At first I told him he could use his own character, but he said the party needed a buffer/healer and graciously offered to play as Linny.

We started yesterday with Holden and Loven’s player handling Lyka as well, while Linny’s new player also handled Kikkeni until her actual player arrived.

The party started standing over the rapidly-dissolving body of the Rakshasa they’d killed last session; I had forgotten to roll treasure for it, so I gave them the following: 3500 GP, a large Khyber dragonshard, some gems, a Vest of Defense, an Oil of Bless Weapon, a Scroll of Invisibility, and a Handy Haversack.

They went to report their success to the authorities and booked themselves at the Stone Wyvern for the night.

The Stone Wyvern

When they got to the Stone Wyvern, the gnome owner squeaked “AAAH! ADVENTURERS!” when he saw his new guests, and slammed the door.

When the party actually went in to see what the problem was, he apologized and explained that he’s always been paranoid of adventurers because he was afraid of them unpetrifying the wyvern.

“Ah, yes, we’ll have to talk to you about that…”

The PCs offered a great deal of money–an initial downpayment of 750 GP—to take out the wyvern and unpetrify it for use as a mount in the coming battle. Holden said that the Church of the Silver Flame would compensate for whatever damage and/or profit loss that taking the wyvern might cause–after all, the wyvern WAS a Thrane air cavalry unit and as such was property of the Church. After a Diplomacy check, the gnome, Mr. Yule, reluctantly agreed.

The next morning (Day 35) , they awoke to find Yule sitting nervously under the wyvern, so much so that when he saw them coming down the stairs, he stood up and almost knocked himself out on the stone monster.

Then came the hilarious problem of getting the wyvern out of the building—if you read the writeup of Brindol, it says the inn was built around the petrified wyvern. Holden asked Yule what kind of an idiot built his inn around a petrified monster, to which Yule replied that it made a lot of entrepreneurial sense when his father did it—mostly founded on how only an idiot would unpetrify the wyvern while it was inside the building.

There were several issues here: wyverns weighed one ton unpetrified, so the obviously denser statue would be far too heavy to drag out without smashing the floorboards. Even if they did manage to drag it, it was too big to fit out the door. Finally, if they unpetrified it while inside the building, it would likely trash the place.

Holden offered more gold and set about unhinging the door, while Loven took everyone’s rope and tied the petrified wyvern up as tightly as he could.

They then called Delora Zann in case they needed someone to handle the animal (though they were reluctant since they knew Delora was trying to keep her dragonmark a secret), in addition to some soldiers.

Just before Linny cast Break Enchantment on the wyvern, the soldiers all backed off and began to express their fear. Most of them knew that the wyvern was part of one of Thrane’s infamous air cavalry units, and some of them knew what it was like to see friends getting snatched up by wyverns and smeared on the ground.

Holden says that’s exactly WHY they wanted to unpetrify the wyvern, and tells Linny to go ahead.

As the wyvern turned back into flesh and blood, it made a series of strength checks against all the ropes, but failed to break any single one. Delora was about to use her dragonmark as the creature struggled, but it instantly calmed down when it smelled Holden.

Delora explained that it might have been accustomed to the scent of the standard-issue armor polish that Thrane soldiers used, and as such was calmed down despite having been stoned for quite a while. Holden and Lyka lead it out of the door without much trouble, and then realize that they don’t have a stable to put it in.

They ask the gnome if they could let the animal roost on the roof of the inn, but Yule refuses outright. They decide to chain the wyvern to a large stake they hammer down into the middle of the Cathedral square—after Lyka takes it for a spin.

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The Turning Point

The Chamber of Rebirth

The PCs open the door to the Chamber of Rebirth and are immediately greeted by the sickly green glow of the pool. I replaced the Lesser Bonedrinkers with true Bonedrinkers bolstered by the Ghostlord’s Corpsecrafter tree feats, and also add an advanced Boneclaw, also boosted with Corpsecrafter feats. The PCs only manage to spot one of the Bonedrinkers in the gloom; the Boneclaw and the second Bonedrinker remain hidden.

Holden immediately charges toward the Bonedrinker he spotted, but his movement prevents him from getting close enough to attack. The Bonedrinker beats him handily in its full attack and grapple check. Seeing the tentacles, Lyka warns her superior to guard his backside.

Yelling for help, Holden calls out. “Damnit, this things going to drink my bones!”

“I’d be more worried about the tentacles,” Lyka quips.

Kikkeni entrenches herself in the narrow corridor leading to the Lion’s Heart, while Linnea and Lyka take up positions near the pool.

At this point the Boneclaw emerges, using its speed to squeeze easily past the lion statue and shanking Kikkeni from 20 feet away. The second Bonedrinker also emerges and begins to grapple Linny before she gets a chance to do anything offensive.

Things don’t go too well at first. With Holden grappled and unable to beat the Bonedrinker definitively, he quickly accrues a lot of CON damage. He takes a total of 9 CON damage across the encounter while Linny takes 3.

Linny’s Religion checks reveal the Bonedrinkers’ resistances and the Boneclaw’s immunity, so Kikkeni resorts to using electricity to attack them. Given their huge amounts of HP, however, they’re able to shrug off the fire for a while.

Linny (played by a substitute) attempts to blow the Bonedrinker grappling her away, but she fails to make the Concentration check. Kikkeni, however, lays down a curtain of withering fire. Eventually, the Bonedrinkers stop moving. Eager to get back in the fight, Holden leaps up.

Lyka gets attacked repeatedly by the Boneclaw, taking lots of damage in the process despite her high AC. Braving the Boneclaw’s massive reach and AOOs, she tumbles toward it and executes a Soaring Raptor Strike. It’s not fatal, but it opens up an opportunity for Holden to finish it off with a Bonecrusher.

Now if you were wondering where Loven was, he was off to the side, missing with his Bag of Boulders and his Wand of Scorching Ray. It was rather sad.

The party stops a moment to rest and begins to look around the chamber. They discuss the value of the Lion’s Heart and then look into the pool and try to figure out what to do with the dire lion within. Loven uses a rat from his Gray Bag of Tricks to test the effect of the liquid, and sees that the rat gets pretty much paralyzed.

Thinking it would be a great morale boost to the people of Brindol (knowing how the lion was their symbol), they rescue the dire lion by pulling it out of the pool via a rope.

They search around the room for a while and find the path to the Ghostlord’s Chamber.

The Ghostlord

The Ghostlord stands up from his meditation to regard the PCs, his hand on the byeshk great scimitar at his waist. A twisted bugbear, tainted so thoroughly by the touch of the Daelkyr that his body had to be bolted together with splints and metal bars, moves out of the shadows and walks up beside his master.

The Ghostlord demands the PCs explain themselves.

<Holden> “We bring a gift, my lord.”
<Ghostlord> “What do you have to give me? I have lost everything! I demand to see your tribute!”
<Holden> *flashes phylactery*
<Ghostlord> “…where did you get this?”
<Kikkeni> “We found it in a dragon’s hoard when we raided a Red Hand outpost.”
<Holden> “My lord, the Red Hand has nothing more to coerce you with.”
<Ghostlord> “…and what do you want in exchange for it?”
<Holden> “We wish that you would work with us to fight the Red Hand.”
*party facepalms*
<Holden> “…or at the very least stop aiding the Red Hand.”
<Ghostlord> “Do you think that after all these years I would serve anyone?”
<Holden> “We wish for you to withdraw your support from the Red Hand.”
<Ghostlord> “Rift.”

A tentacle slips out from the bugbear’s side and grabs the phylactery from Holden’s hand.
<Ghostlord> “Are there any remaining hobgoblins in my lair?”
<Kikkeni> “They’re all dead.”
<Lyka> “One got away, though—a gaseous form.”
<Ghostlord> “That would be Wyrmlord Ulwai—I have longed to push that bitch into the pool myself, but you have rid me of her.”
<Holden> “We would be glad to fight alongside with you—”
<Ghostlord> “You speak presumptuously, dwarf.”
<Holden> “Forgive me, my lord.”
<Ghostlord> “Now get out. I will withdraw my support from the Red Hand. Go, before I change my mind. GET OUT!”

The party hastily retreats, dragging out the paralyzed dire lion after them.

They get a massive XP doleout from the Ghostlord—4800 XP—boosting them to Lv 9. (I redid the encounter so that it would be an EL 15 instead of an EL 13)

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To The Thornwaste

Day 19: Noon

The PCs arrive in Brindol at noon. They pay the gate tax and enter, and meet a group of clerics of Dol Arrah tending to a whole bunch of sick people by the roadside who are being evacuated into wagons headed for Vathirond in the East. The clerics ask the PCs for help, and they oblige.

They notice Miha, who immediately tells them that she’s something of a fan and would like to join up once her arm gets better. Kikkeni is suspicious as she’s the first to notice the unusual amount of attention she was giving them, but the rest of the PCs don’t really catch on. They think she might either be a spy or a legitimately noble person, but have no reason to absolutely believe either case.

Insert a hilarious exchange between Holden and Lyka. Lyka threatens to write to Holden’s wife back in Thrane about his supposed temptation to have extramarital dalliances with Miha, to which he violently reacts. (“TALL WOMEN DO NOT TURN ME ON!”) He orders her to do pushups and sits on her back. She simply retorts that his wife would not approve of this close contact, to which he orders her to do 50 more pushups.

In any case, the clerics order the wagon to move on ahead and also mention that Cpt. Sorrana was looking for them.

The PCs run into her soon, and she embraces the PCs she’s met before. Lyka and Linny introduce themselves. The cleric does not fail to mention her novels, which she offers to Sorrana. The soldier actually expresses interest, while Lyka warns her that the books deal with forbidden romances between hobgoblins and dwarves. “And the hobgoblins sparkle too,” she adds.
“They sparkle? I thought they just stank.”

She brings the PCs to Brindol Keep, where they meet with Lord Jarmaath and Cpt. Ulverth.

The PCs introduce themselves and tell the two everything they know—the information about Abithriax is news to Jarmaath and Ulverth, but the reports of Koth’s and Saarvith’s deaths help their spirits a lot.

The PCs attempt some discussion regarding siege tactics, but none of this is much help at the moment considering Lady Kaal isn’t around. One interesting idea that Holden floats is un-petrifying the stone wyvern (which I’d described as a Thrane air cavalry unit that had been downed during the Last War and petrified, so they can actually use it as a mount) for them to use as a quick means of transporting them around the battlefield when the attacks reach their climax.

The PCs then mention the phylactery and ask for help regarding information about the Ghostlord and the Thornwaste. Jarmaath directs them to Immerstal THE RED.

They proceed to Immerstal and meet Alandri. She tells the PCs that Immerstal can’t be bothered right now, and then changes into her sphinx form, offering to allow them to bother Immerstal if they can cough up a riddle. Kikkeni makes an Int check and rolls a 26, but the player didn’t have anything on hand so I let her think of one to give it another time.

Immerstal comes down and haggles with them over the price of information that they can get regarding the Thornwaste and the Ghostlord. They refuse to pay the 400 GP it will take for an immediate rush job, so they instead let him hit the books overnight. They also make the very clever move of talking about the phylactery and then ask HIM to pay them 20 GP for the information. He grumpily grants them a 20 GP discount on his research fee.

The PCs then return to the Keep, asking more about Miha along the way. They learn that she was a traveling sorcerer, and Loven believes her story checks out enough to trust her. They also learn that she had blown away a guard who was making inappropriate advances at her (and broke her arm). The PCs can’t agree on whether to recruit her or not, and in the end say it would be a good idea to keep her close in any case.

They talk to Ulverth again about the state of the army. He tells them that while the Lion Guard is capable, the militia is pretty much a collection of maggots. Their equipment is pretty decent, but that’s pretty much it.

Finally, the party convinces Ulverth to loan them mounts.

The PCs go rest (we have lunch).

Day 20-26: To the Thornwaste
Early the next morning, the PCs get their info from Immerstal—apparently Linny’s knowledge was pretty much complete, but it’s Immerstal’s info that points them to the actual location of the Ghostlord’s Lion—12 miles into the Thornwaste.

They also learn that the Thornwaste is home to a the Daelkyr-tainted wildlife that escaped the corruption and subsequent destruction of Rhest. The badlands are home to all sorts of predators—natural, undead, and aberrant.

They then buy provisions for the journey and get a wagon as well. They take their horses and ride off as fast as they can.

The PCs move as quickly as they can, stopping in Prosser, then Dauth. The weather gets pretty nasty, but they continue anyway; their rationale is that the visibility is just as bad for whoever is watching them anyway.

Day 22: The PCs encounter a small band of hobgoblins with a dire wolf marching down the road. (Easy skirmish). The PCs wipe them out easily–Kikkeni opens up with an Energy Ball that incinerates the grunts. They’re surprised the dire wolf and the bladebearer survive, but Holden charges in on his horse anyway. This was a bad move. The wolf overpowers the horse and trips it, sending the dwarf sprawling onto the ground.

Lyka charges the bladebearer with Two-Weapon Pounce, but rolls two natural ones. Pathetic.
Loven and Linny take potshots from the wagon, but it’s Kikkeni’s energy missile that kills the dire wolf. Finally, Lyka finishes off the bladebearer with Death From Above. Easy XP.

Day 26: I swear this is random. I roll a tornado on the random weather table. Instead of blowing them away (almost did, but it didn’t make any sense for a twister to appear out of the blue and blow them away), I have the storm rage on the horizon, with the twister rampaging across the prairie. A sign of things to come. Continue reading

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.