The Battle of Brindol, Part Trois

The Final Showdown
I’m sure you’ve been waiting for this entry. We finally got around to holding the final session for Brindol. Nox’s usual player couldn’t make it, Holden/Rampant’s player could only stay till noon, and the rest had to leave by around 3 pm, so I asked my players to come really early. Unfortunately, Rampant’s player arrived early. It took the rest a while to arrive; we were only able to start at 10:30 am.

The party hurries toward Cathedral square only to find Jaarmath being dragged into the safety of the cathedral. Captain Ulverth hurries toward the PCs, telling then that Jaarmath was taken down by a sniper. Seeing that Brindol is in grave danger, Rampant tells the others that Cannith designed him with a one-time use program that greatly increases his abilities, but only lasts for an hour. He activates this program and begins speaking in Autobot lines.

“Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.”

They enter the Cathedral to check on him and run into Tredora, who is tending her fallen lover. As much as she loves Jaarmath, she isn’t willing to use up her spells when she knows that they might be needed later. Linny volunteers her one prepared lesser restoration and brings Jaarmath back to 4 Strength.

Jarmaath orders Cpt. Ulverth to take command since he doesn’t want Lady Kaal giving orders. He then orders the PCs to look for the sniper.

The Sniper Attack

The PCs begin by sending Rampant into the area where soldiers had fallen to the sniper. Almost immediately Skather takes a shot and scores a critical hit against Rampant. His fortification doesn’t protect him and he instead takes a full 20+ critical sneak attack. Nox is able to spot Skather as he takes his snipe hide check and quickly tries to enter the coffin maker’s shop.

Nox enters the back door and begins sneaking in extremely well, while the rest of the party gathers around the door outside. As Nox explores the interior, he opens a door that creaks noisily, alerting the invisble Kulkor Zhul War Adept hiding in the stairwell. However, Nox’s hide checks are so high that no matter how high the War Adept rolls, he is unable to spot Nox.

Nox spots into the stairwell and is able to discern the vague outline of an invisible creature. Taking his survival pouch, he rips out a campfire (AGAIN) and throws it at the War Adept. He hits, dealing a full 6 fire damage to the War Adept, who promptly swears and runs up to the second floor. The party rushes into the door while Nox follows the still invisible War Adept up the stairs.

When Nox gets up to the second floor, he opens the door to the supply storage room only to find a fiendish dire wolf snarling at him. He quickly backs away and enters the room on the other side of the stairwell to avoid getting pinned down by the wolf. The other party members pound their way up the staircase. Lyka immediately steps in front of the wolf, closely followed by Rampant. Linny tries to run past the wolf, but in the process gets AOO’d—the beast grabs her leg and shakes it, dealing a massive 30 damage, but Linny is actually able to succeed on the opposed trip attempt. Kikkeni remains on the ground floor, keeping watch in case someone comes in the front door.

Nox takes a shot with his crossbow at the Dire Wolf through the space between Lyka’s legs, taking off almost 3/4 of the wolf’s HP. Rampant steps in and then decapitates it, spraying Lyka with black blood.

“You’re going to have to polish my armor,” Lyka tells Rampant.
“Freedom is the right of all sentient beings,” replies the warforged.

Lyka spots someone hiding behind some boxes in the storeroom–a hobgoblin. Rampant stomps all the way up to the hobgoblin, taking a double move, and stopping short of attacking him.

“Would you like to butt heads with me?”
The hobgoblin emerges from his hiding place and attempts to bash Rampant with Death Mark, but misses spectacularly.
Linny follows into the room while Lyka attempts to close in with the hobgoblin swordsage. With the stairs clear, Kikkeni decides to head up to the stairwell and try to help the others on the second floor.

Nox, in the meantime, investigates the back rooms to see if there is anything else. He notices that the doors in the bedroom are curiously He spots the windows in the bedroom and decides to try investigating it. Rampant then roars—“This hobgoblin is not our sniper!”

Right at that moment, the War Adept reveals himself and casts shatterfloor on the rickety floorboards, dropping Rampant and Lyka (Lyka fails her save to grasp onto the vertical wall below her) onto the first floor. Rampant’s player attempts something so awesome that I let slide at the cost of one action point—initiate a grapple with the swordsage and pull him to the ground with him. He makes the touch attack and succeeds in his grapple attempt, pulling the hobgoblin down. They crash into the coffin display on the first floor.

Lyka falls prone onto the ground, only to see none other than Skather suddenly materialize over her with his poisoned blade at the ready! He performs a Strength-Draining Strike on Lyka, his blade pulsing with black energy in the gloom.

Lyka rolls natural 1s versus both the Strength-Draining Strike and the poison. Her strength instantly drops from 18 to 8. Rampant then attempts to bash the grappled hobgoblin’s face in with his slam (headbutt), even using Emerald Razor and a full power attack, but misses. Lyka, still ever sarcastic, quips: “My hope! It is draining away faster than my strength!”

Linny takes a shot at the War Adept who now has a spectacular bird’s eye view of the desperate fight below, blasting him with scorching ray. Nox attempts to jump across the gap using a rope, but hearing the mess going on, he decides to crash through one of the ground floor windows into the display room. Kikkeni rushes to Lyka’s assistance, while Lyka weakly tumbles away from Skather to take her position beside the psion.

The War Adept drops a glitterdust on Kikkeni and Lyka, but both make their saves.

Skather uses Cloak of Deception and materializes behind Kikkeni, his blade firmly planted in her back. Half of her HP is gone instantly. All this time, Rampant and the hobgoblin are wrestling in a stalemate. Although Rampant’s grip is overpowering, he keeps failing to injure the hobgoblin except for one landed punch.

Linny decides to try to help Kikkeni by using her Rod of Viscid Globs at Skather. She hits and Skather fails his save. Nox attempts a crazy stunt with the grappling hook and tries to throw it at the war adept to pull it down, but it is quickly found lacking as an improvised weapon and simply fails to hit.

Kikkeni pulls back from the now stuck Skather. OOC the player agonizes over which of her powers to use—she’s down to her last use no matter what she does, and decides she wants to end the battle quickly and increase her chances of taking Skather out by using her highest-save viable power–Death Urge.

Skather rolls a 3; even with his impressive +14 modifier, he fails to make the save. Lyka tries to help Skather along, but her awful attack rolls and modifiers fail to do anything—and to add even more injury to injury, the War Adept drops a power word: weaken on Lyka. 2 points of Strength drain.

Skather stabs himself, leaving him with very little HP. Rampant, in the meantime, caves in the hobgoblin swordsage’s head with Emerald Razor + full power attack while Linny and Nox finish off the war adept.

Skather is unable to break free of the goo, and is finally finished off by Linny’s scorching ray.

The party collects their loot and moves back to Cathedral Square, with Rampant toting the corpses of Skather and the War Adept. The party reports to Captain Ulverth, who commends them on a job well done.

Not long afterward, Killiar and the hunters land their owls close by. Killiar reports that the Red Hand is making a final push on Cathedral Square, and that he expects them to arrive in about 10 minutes.

Hearing this, Jaarmath gets up and staggers to the Cathedral square to show that he’s still up and about, and delivers an inspiring, albeit recycled speech. Rampant continues this by saying, “Our chance of success is very slim, but we can make it happen because we are heroes—and everyone that has fought here is a hero!”

Tredora takes Kikkeni aside, saying that she senses Kikkeni is extremely fatigued. Kikkeni says she just wants some tea, but Tredora forces her on her knees and lays her hands on the psion’s head. She casts dweomer of transference and sacrifices enough of her spells to bring Kikkeni up to 26 PP (+1 from the cognizance crystal she has). Tredora uses up the two lesser restorations to bring Lyka back up to 16 Strength (she can’t get the 2 Strength drain from the power word weaken back yet).

While we have lunch, the party then goes about the very tedious and hassled process of procuring potions and scrolls from the 5000-GP item pool given to them by the merchants.

Lyka: bear’s endurance, bull’s strength, girallon’s blessing and dragonskin, shield of faith. She had a bunch of spare +1 short swords so she put those to good use with her extra arms.
Rampant: shield of faith
Nox: cat’s grace

Finally, they had Immerstal cast haste on the PCs.
Killiar, Trellara and the elves took up their positions on a grandstand in the corner of the Cathedral Square. Tredora stood by the Cathedral’s stairs with Narcy, Wrogann, Teyani and Captain Ulverth. Rampant, Lyka, and Linny stood in front of them, while Nox, Kikkeni and Jonz took up sniper positions on the Cathedral spires.

Nox’s and Kikkeni’s player help each other run Killiar, Trellara and the elves, while Linny’s player runs Rampant and the Lions. Kikkeni’s player also runs Tredora and Cpt. Ulverth. Lyka’s player has a handfull enough with her oodles of attacks.

Everyone nervously awaits the coming of the horde. As they wait, the rhythmic beating of swords on shields accompanied by goblin chants fills the air. The blaring of dragonbone horns rises above the din.

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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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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.

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

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