Wednesday, December 13, 2017

[Pathfinder] Wrath of the Righteous, part 24: To Cleanse the Chapel

In the aftermath of the battle with the ghouls inside the desecrated chapel, few of the Crusader group had even set foot inside the chapel. As they stood trying to catch their breath in the space between the chapel entrance and the side wall of the ruined stable, they spied the winged half-demon that Bohgong had encountered beyond the chapel. The half-demon was now emerging from an entrance on the other side of the chapel courtyard, accompanied by four ghouls and the ghoul priest who had escaped earlier.

As soon as she saw the half-demon, Asami called a bolt of lightning to strike at him and two of the ghouls that stood in a direct line between her and the half-demon. One of the ghouls immediately collapsed and stopped moving, but the other ghoul that was struck by the lightning continued toward the Crusaders, and the electricity seemed to do the half-demon little harm. The ghoul priest gestured and the bright warm glow of Jiro’s lantern was extinguished, leaving behind an ordinary light that was able to illuminate less area and couldn’t entirely defeat the gloom of the Worldwound. Irabeth murmured a prayer to Iomedae and moved toward the half-demon and his escort, ready to smite the half-demon with the goddess’s divine wrath.

In response the half-demon charged toward the half-orc paladin and met her with claws and teeth that dripped blood and gobbets of flesh as though he had very recently consumed a meal of raw meat. As he attacked Irabeth he sneered, “You are not worthy to be one of us!” Some of the Crusaders suspected that he was calling on the wrath of the demon lord Kabriri to smite the paladin.

Jiro stepped behind Irabeth, surrounding himself in an aura of purity to defend her against the fever carried by the ghouls’ claws as three of the ghouls rushed toward the paladin and Runa. Nurah began to perform a bawdy tune to encourage those fighting the ghouls. Aron and Sosiel conferred for a moment, then positioned themselves behind Runa. One of the ghouls clawed Runa, but failed to inflict her with paralysis. Zosta moved up to trip the ghoul, then stamped it into oblivion. She followed by knocking down the next ghoul and sending it off to the same fate.

Runa laid a hand on Irabeth and surrounded her with a protective aura to fend off evil. At the same time she sent out a wave of energy that gave all of her comrades an instant of speed, allowing them to reposition themselves. Asami decided to follow Runa’s example and took out another wand, tapping Jiro with it to give him the same kind of protection from evil creatures that Runa had given to Irabeth.

The ghoul priest picked up something from the ground and a ray of gray light shot toward Zosta, but it seemed to have no effect on her. Irabeth’s sword failed to connect with the half-demon and he retaliated with his teeth and claws and also with a battle aspergillum that dripped something nasty from the holes in the weapon’s head. The half-demon’s onslaught bore Irabeth to the ground and left her unconscious. Jiro was near enough to see that she was deathly pale from blood loss and her eyes had lost the light of life. He bent down and poured a curative potion between her lips, but at first it appeared that she was too far gone for the potion to make any difference.

Nurah cast a spell on herself and her form became difficult to discern. Then she moved a little closer to the rest of the group. As she was doing this, Zosta became enraged when Irabeth fell and lunged at the half-demon, slamming her bladed gauntlets into his hide with extreme force. After pounding the demon she raced across to the ghoul priest and knocked him to the ground. Runa swung her sword at the half-demon, exclaiming, “When one falls another will take her place!” The half-demon responded, “Let me return the favor!” as he struck at her in return. Meanwhile the ghoul priest clawed Zosta from his position on the ground, leaving her immobilized.

Jiro called on the power of his ancestors to free Zosta from paralysis, then extended some of his healing power to Runa. Asami raised one of her wands, prepared to send missiles at the half-demon if he attempted to cast a spell. Sosiel stepped toward the one remaining ordinary ghoul, cast a spell of divine healing on the still insensible Irabeth, and then attacked the ghoul. Zosta, able to move again thanks to Jiro, slammed her fists and feet into the prone priest until it moved no more.

Asami realized that Runa was beginning to look ragged from the half-demon’s assault. She fired three missiles at him from her wand, but they dissipated just before touching his flesh. The half-demon again clawed and bit Runa, and she slumped to the ground beside Irabeth. Jiro dropped his morningstar and took out a wand, sending a ray of healing toward Runa. She opened her eyes. Jiro murmured to Bohgong to get behind Zosta. Sosiel released a wave of divine energy that healed some of the wounds of his companions, but unfortunately it also healed the ghoul and the half-demon. Aron stepped closer to the half-demon, while Nurah approached Irabeth’s still form and cast a curing spell on her. Irabeth looked a little less pale after that and her eyes were no longer glazed.

Zosta called out to her companions that she could hear more ghouls approaching. The half-demon snarled at his remaining ghoul minion to “Kill the priest” and it moved to claw at Runa, who was still lying on the ground near Aron and Sosiel. Zosta charged the half-demon and punched him hard. Runa, who was conscious again, drew her sword and imbued it with divine fire. Without rising from the ground she used it to slash the ghoul. The ghoul responded by leaving deep claw marks in her leg. Asami began to look for an opening to weaken the half-demon, searching for magical effects that might be protecting him from attack. Jiro reestablished the magic that allowed him to monitor his companions’ wounds and absorb some of the harm done to them, then summoned a weapon of force in the form of a katana and directed it to attack the ghoul threatening Runa.

The ghoul continued to follow its master’s orders and focus all its attacks on Runa. Runa managed to regain her feet despite being badly bitten. She bent to pick up Radiance, the powerful sword Irabeth carried, which had fallen from the paladin’s hand when she was rendered unconscious. When Runa plied Radiance against the ghoul it was finally overcome and sent to join the half-demon’s other servants in death. As Asami began to perceive what magical effects enhanced the half-demon, the area around the Crusaders was suddenly plunged into darkness again. Under cover of darkness the half-demon bit Zosta and slashed her with his claws, injuring her badly enough that she could no longer stand. But before she fell she managed to snatch his aspergillum out of his hand and when she collapsed she landed on top of it.

Asami and Nurah were both outside the range of the unnatural darkness. Both of them were startled when they felt something brush past them, but they saw no creature. Within the darkness the demon stepped away from where he had previously stood, and Runa, whose orcish eyes could see despite the lack of light, moved past Aron to pursue the enemy. Asami called on her magic to banish the darkness. Jiro used his power to heal himself and sent his magical katana after the half-demon. The demon responded to this by darkening the area a second time, attacking Runa, and then using his wings to fly away. Runa saw that he was clearly sorely wounded as his flight was unsteady. She ran after him, but he swiftly flew out of the courtyard through a breach in the wall and disappeared from view around the corner of the chapel’s living quarters. Burdened by her heavy armor and her injuries, Runa reached the corner of the building too late to see where he had gone.

Now that the Crusader group had no immediate enemies in sight, Asami and Nurah told the others about the unseen presence they had felt. Jiro swallowed a potion that would allow him to see if another area of darkness barred their way. Runa returned to the group and handed Radiance back to Irabeth, who was now conscious after being healed by Sosiel’s magic and Nurah’s, but the paladin was very weak. Jiro used his magic to help Zosta recover and heal some wounds that had been done to Sosiel. He also gave a wand to Nurah to use to further heal the rest of the group members.

By this time the members of the group had depleted much of their healing magic and protective spells, except for Asami, who had cast few spells during the fighting with the ghouls. Zosta wondered if they should rejoin the army and rest overnight to restore themselves before attempting to fight whatever else might be lurking in the chapel’s other rooms. But Irabeth felt a strong compulsion to cleanse the chapel as soon as possible despite her weakened state.  Jiro, Runa, and Zosta all suspected this compulsion was being transmitted to her by her sword Radiance. Asami also argued that they should remain at the chapel until it was cleared, for fear that the half-demon might be able to heal himself and call reinforcements if they left. Jiro agreed with her, and after discussion Runa and Zosta were convinced as well.

When their next action was decided, Jiro cast a spell on Runa to give her skin the durability of tree bark, and another spell on Zosta that would enable her to act even more heroically than she ordinarily could. He also determined that the ghoul’s claws had inflicted her with a fever, but she had no symptoms yet and the illness would have to be dealt with later. Zosta swallowed a potion to allow her to see in darkness. She picked up the half-demon’s weapon, which he had abandoned because it had been trapped under Zosta’s body, and Asami determined that it had magical properties.

Once everyone had prepared as best they could, the group re-entered the chapel. As they advanced toward the set of double doors near the altar, Aron pointed out that if the chapel’s cache of supplies still existed it would probably be hidden beneath the altar. The group paused to search for it. They found a lead-lined compartment under the altar that was filled with dozens of curative potions, enough to supply their small army. The lead lining had hidden the potions’ magical aura from their enemies. The party members quickly removed all the potions, storing them in Zosta’s magic bag and Runa’s enchanted knapsack. Asami took two potions for her own use, as did several of the others.

With the supplies found, the party moved on to the double doors and Zosta kicked them open. The doors opened into a large room that held long stone trestle tables and the remains of wooden benches, and had probably served as the dining hall for the clerics who once lived there. A rope hung from a small opening in the ceiling, presumably leading to the bell they had heard ringing earlier which must once have been used to call the clerics to meals. The tables had been equipped with leather straps and were stained with blood and other substances, suggesting that the demonic occupiers had been using the dining hall as a torture chamber. But the room was currently unoccupied.

The group moved on to the next door at one end of the dining hall. Zosta pressed her ear against it, then kicked it open when she heard nothing from beyond it. The party members’ noses were assaulted by the stench of decay as they witnessed two human corpses hanging from hooks attached to the ceiling. The bodies still wore items indicating they might have been soldiers, but both had clearly been dead for some time. The room they hung in had once been the kitchen.

The Crusader party left the kitchen and moved to a second door exiting from the dining hall. Before they tried the door, Runa softly asked Irabeth if she might borrow Radiance to combat any enemies they met. Irabeth was clearly too weak to wield the sword herself. But Irabeth responded that she currently felt a very close bond with the sword and was unwilling to let go of it. Jiro surmised that it was only the power of the sword that gave her the strength to walk, and even then she needed Aron and Sosiel to support her.

It occurred to Runa that she could use the enchantment her shield held to good effect if there were more ghouls inside the structure, which seemed likely as the party members could hearing moaning. When the next door was opened Runa proceeded through ahead of the others. She stepped into a room occupied by several broken cots, where two undamaged bunks had been pushed together to make a larger bed. When Runa entered the bunkroom, two ghouls that had been stationed on either side of the door stepped forward. Runa’s companions had been warned to stay back and they weren’t affected by the brilliant glare that suddenly shone from her shield, but the two ghouls were left blind. Zosta rushed in to strike one ghoul, and Asami hurled her wooden spear at the same one. The ghoul dropped and Zosta pummeled it into nothing. The second ghoul was quickly dispatched as well.

There was little else of interest in the room. The party members guessed that the two beds pushed together had served the half-demon. They found some human remains that looked as though they had been partly eaten, which might explain the blood and flesh they had observed on the half-demon’s claws.

Beyond the bunkroom the group found what Aron described as a meditation chamber. Its stained glass windows had been shattered. The chamber was under a magical effect that eliminated all sound, but Aron told the others that this wasn’t uncommon in such spiritual places and had likely existed before the demonic forces gained control of this chapel. Besides broken glass, the meditation room contained a few scattered remnants of objects probably taken from prisoners, all of them trampled and discarded.

From the meditation room the group proceeded on to a barren chamber with alcoves in the walls that might once have held statues but now contained leather straps for restraining more captives. This had apparently been the private quarters of the high priest. Besides the straps it contained nothing of note.

The group went out into the courtyard again to make sure that no new enemies had arrived. On reassuring themselves that they were still alone, they decided to search the chapel for any hidden compartments, trapdoors, or secret rooms, as they still didn’t know who or what invisible creature had passed Asami and Nurah earlier. They found no evidence of the creature or any places for it to hide, but a more thorough search of the bunkroom did reveal a strongbox. The box contained thousands of gold pieces, hundreds of silver and copper coins, several valuable gems, a fine holy symbol of the goddess Sarenrae, an enchanted chain shirt, a pennon that held some magical effect, and a dagger. Asami examined all of the objects that had magical auras to determine their properties. When she touched the dagger she felt as if the metal had burned her, and when she let go of the dagger it returned to her hand. After realizing that this must be part of its enchantment, Asami dropped it, repelled by the metal. Her comrades gathered up the other items from the strongbox and the whole group returned to the courtyard.


The Crusaders had just re-entered the courtyard that lay between the stable and the living quarters when suddenly a nabasu demon and two babau teleported into the area. The nabasu immediately demanded, “Where are my sacrifices? Where is Nulkineth?”

Saturday, December 9, 2017

[Movie Review] Justice League

Justice League (2017)

Starring: Ben Affleck (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman/Diana Prince), Ezra Miller (Flash/Barry Allen), Jason Momoa (Aquaman/Arthur Curry), Ray Fisher (Cyborg/Victor Stone), Henry Cavill (Superman/Clark Kent), Jeremy Irons (Alfred), Ciaran Hinds (Steppenwolf), Connie Nielsen (Queen Hippolyta), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor), Joe Morton (Dr. Silas Stone), Amber Heard (Mera), Billy Crudup (Henry Allen), JK Simmons (Commissioner Gordon), Joe Mangianello (Slade Wilson/Deathstroke)

Directed by: Zach Snyder, Joss Whedon

SPOILER ALERT!!!
I am going to spoil the heck out of this movie, so if you haven't seen it and you don't like spoilers, STOP READING NOW!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

I finally got to see Justice League last night, two weeks after it debuted. I'll say right now, I liked it. I was smiling a lot throughout the film and had a big grin on my face by the end. 

I've heard many online comments about how it met with mixed reviews and hasn't had the box office figures that Warner wanted. Well, I don't care. Movie studios have irrational expectations about box office figures for movies. It's amazing that they're ever satisfied. I think most movie reviewers write like cranky old farts who want every movie to be Citizen Kane. I thought Citizen Kane was boring and I couldn't finish watching it. I like movies to entertain me, and sometimes move me, and I want to leave the theater feeling good. Justice League did that for me.

Here are the things about Justice Leaque did that made me happy: it formed the Justice League (even if they were never called that during the movie). It had characters working together to save the world. Everyone got to show off their powers, including Aquaman, who was not just a guy who can talk to fish. They got over their initial reservations and disagreements and didn't spend the whole movie trying to figure out what to do. They also smiled and laughed, all of them, even Batman. 

I know some people are bothered by Batman not being the grumpy man of few words from many of his animated appearances, or the angsty Batman from the Christopher Nolan films, but I like Batman having a sense of himself as the odd one out in a world of these superhuman beings. He's like the audience surrogate. I also liked that he realized he can't do it forever, and I hope the future DC films follow up on that thought. To bring the DCU movies out of the dark place they'd gone, Batman had to lighten up, and I'm okay with that.

I know some other people are also bothered by the idea that Diana spent a century moping about Steve Trevor, too. But the DC movie universe has established that no one had ever seen a superpowered being prior to the appearance of Superman, so they had to explain how no one had seen Wonder Woman since WWI some way. 

Initially I was a bit bothered that none of the characters but Batman and Superman were ever referred to by their superhero names. But after I thought about it, it made sense. Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg were just making their first public appearances, so they wouldn't have superhero names. No one called Diana Wonder Woman during her solo movie, either.I do hope the trend of always addressing each other by their real names doesn't continue if there are other Justice League movies, though. 

One trend carried over from the Nolan Batman films that I particularly delight in is Snarky Alfred. I enjoyed Michael Caine as Alfred in those films, but Jeremy Irons as the ultra-competent and sharp-tongued Alfred is a joy, and I like how there is clearly more of an equal relationship between adult Bruce and Alfred. It feels like a grown-up version of the Alfred from the Gotham tv series. JK Simmons was nice as Commissioner Gordon, too. I regret that he didn't get more screen time, but this is not a Batman movie so the focus shouldn't just be on Batman's supporting cast. Having time to show Barry Allen visiting his father in prison and Victor Stone working out some resentment with his dad was good, too. I felt like the whole theme of the film was teamwork, and how one person can't do it all, as Bruce implies to Aquaman when they first meet, and that theme was exemplified well by showing the relationships between these characters and other people in their lives.

Of course, you can't have a Justice League without Superman, but the film surprised me by bringing him back earlier and in a different manner than I had expected. I thought he was just going to burst out of his grave in Kansas during the last five minutes, revealing that he wasn't quite dead after all and his Kryptonian physiology had just been regenerating slowly because he didn't have access to sunlight. Instead the team had to make a hard decision, with Batman pushing the hardest to use Kryptonian tech and a Mother Box to reanimate him. I thought that was an interesting twist on Batman's attitude in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but obviously if we'd gone on with that version of Batman he would never have wanted to work with any of those people. It seemed right that Bruce would be the one to suggest it. It would have been out of character for anyone else, even if he did get the idea from Cyborg. Bruce is the tactician, and finding a way to bring in the biggest weapon is a tactic. 

I also really enjoyed that the "Big Guns" he called in to calm an angry freshly-revivified Clark was not a kryptonite shard this time, but Lois Lane. That reinforced the theme of family and relationships again. 

The film had a lot of fun with Barry Allen as kind of a second audience surrogate, the part of the audience that was geeking out over the superheroic antics. I'm a big fan of The Flash television series, where Barry is a well-adjusted and competent young man, but the movie version isn't that same person. He's been suffering without his dad, he doesn't have a surrogate family, and gaining his powers has made it hard for him to deal with ordinary life. One of my favorite scenes was the team finding Steppenwolf holding hostages in a tunnel, and Barry being too scared to act until Batman told him to save just one person. It was a good Batman line, and it was the right direction for Barry. He's not the guy who punches people, he's the guy who saves people from punches. Having Superman notice Flash zipping up from behind him while being simultaneously pummeled by everyone else was a great scene, too; Barry's comical surprise at realizing Superman could see him was perfect. So was having the movie end with the two of them having a race. That's happened before in the comics and in the Justice League Adventures animated tv series, and it is always charming to me.

Now I can't say the film was entirely without flaws, but the quibbles I have with it are few. Probably the biggest is the foolishness of casting a fine actor like Ciaran Hinds as your villain and then covering him in CGI and vocal distortion so that it could be anyone acting that part. I know Steppenwolf is much larger than a normal human, but there are practical ways they could have done that, the same way Marvel has Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk in their movies. I would also have liked Steppenwolf to be fleshed out a bit more. The movie needed a villain like Loki, with a personality, instead of a generic bad guy wanting to destroy the world.

I also felt that it would have been better to have the final big fight happening in or near a bigger population center, rather than a largely abandoned city somewhere in Eastern Europe that was obviously meant to be Chernobyl. I'm guessing they wanted to get away from the huge fight between Superman and Zod in Metropolis during Man of Steel, and maybe not have to deal with all the property damage. And perhaps they also wanted to point out further the detail that Aquaman comments on, that the people who live there only do so because they have nowhere else to go. The Justice League aren't just heroes for the rich and famous or for big cities in First World countries. They are heroes for the entire planet, even parts of it the rest of the world pretends don't exist.

There are a couple of really minor complaints in addition to these, the first of which is the Henry Cavill mustache mess. Apparently Cavill had grown a 'stache for another role, and wasn't permitted to shave it off for his scenes in this movie. So they digitally removed it, which ended up making him look a bit weird. Maybe I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't heard about it in advance. I had also heard in advance about the Amazon bikini costumes that were designed for this movie. The movie really didn't need that, and it seemed like a poor choice, thought not enough to ruin the movie for me. 

Those complaints aside, I really did like this movie. I didn't feel any of the characters were too far from their comic-book origins, it made the setting feel like a bigger world, one that contains Themyscira and Atlantis within it even if the rest of the planet doesn't know about them, it made Darkseid an ominous looming threat, Batman stopped being such a jerk, Aquaman learned to play well with others, Barry has some friends, and Diana will stop hiding from life. That's all good in my book. I hope DC doesn't give up on this just because it didn't make as much money for them as they wanted. I will certainly go to see another Justice League film as long as they keep it in this vein. 

I give Justice League four thumbs up out of a possible five.






Monday, December 4, 2017

Don't Take This Game Too Seriously, part 2

[D&D 3.5 Eberron]
GM: "You guys kill me."
Player: "Well, we try, but you keep ambushing us."

[D&D 3.5 Eberron]
GM: "So you'll trust the bloodthirsty goblins but not the harpies. You guys kill me."
Player: "We kill you? How much XP do we get?" 
GM: "Well I'm not a very good GM so my CR (challenge rating) must be pretty low."

[D&D 3.5 Eberron]
Player: "Everyone's got a role in the party. Mine is to roll ones."

[D&D 3.5 Eberron]
GM: "As you look around, you see other shelves on the mountainsides."
Player 1: "Great, we're on a display shelf!"
GM: "It's a diorama."
Player 2: "A dire-rama?"

[D&D 3.5 Eberron]
Player 1: "I don't want to see harpies dancing."
Player 2: "It's better than listening to them sing."

[D&D 3.5 Eberron]
Player 1: "I'm going to spell and run."
Player 2: "What are you going to spell?"
Player 1: "F-i-r-e-b-a-l-l."

[D&D 3.5 Eberron]
GM: "Something emerges out of the shadows."
Player 1: "I hate those guys."
Player 2: "What the hell is that!?"
Player 1: "One of those guys I hate."

[D&D 3.5 Eberron]
On one occasion we were trying to figure out what to send to someone via a 'message' spell, which has a limit of 25 words. These were some of the suggestions:
"The trip's been easy so far."
"There's a great price on shoes here."
"That sandwich I had for lunch was delicious."
"Stay away from power lines."
"Oh my gawd, what the hell is that?!!"
"Aaaaarrrgggghhh....!"
"Our party leader is insane, my job is impossible."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The inquisitor of Cayden Cailean used an enchanted dwarven mug as his preferred weapon. 
Inquisitor: "I've got my mug that is cold, flaming, and exuding divine fury."
Ranger: "What kind of coffee drink is THAT?!"

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
GM to cleric: "You're pretty good with aminals - animals... like I am with talking."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
GM (speaking as an NPC): "There are no rose-colored glasses here." (Looks at a player) "Take those off."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
GM (describing the devil attacking the party's fighter):
"The big creature pulls out his nastiness and thrusts it at you."
Player 1: "Ew, he's thrusting his nastiness at you!" 

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
Player 1: "The devil's running on adrenalin now."
Player 2: "No, he's running on infernalin."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
One of the players painted a mini of the campaign's major villain, a cyclops, and had it sitting on the table even though the villain NPC wasn't present during that part of the game. During combat the player moved the mini closer to the party minis. 
Player 1: "Stop moving that mini closer! I don't want to see him that close."
Player 2: "But he has bad depth perception. He can't tell how far away he is."
Player 3 (speaking as the cyclops): "I'm not that close."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
A devil arrived in a wagon drawn by undead horses. 
GM: "The horses have already been risen twice."
Player: "They're leavened horses."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
Player 1 (to the inquisitor): "Did you bane today, dear?"
Inquisitor: "I baned twice."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
A player-character was being affected by a 'heat metal' spell that caused his metal armor to become extremely uncomfortable, but was in no way life-threatening.
Player: "Do you want me to get out a burning skeleton mini to replace him?"

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
Player 1: "Let's take the eyes out of that statue."
Player 2: "I get out my greataxe."
Player 1: "Let's take the eyes out of that statue carefully."
Player 2: "Okay, I'll use my smallest axe."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The alchemist has a familiar named Cyst. 
Player: "It's his a-Cyst-ant."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
Player 1: "We're here to get the bow. Everything else is a bonus."
Player 2: "A bow-ness?"

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The party alchemist loves to dissect things. The party were just attacked by some spirit wolves. 
Alchemist: "I want to know what was inside of those spirit wolves."
GM: "Bourbon."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
Player 1 to Player 2 (who's running an elf):
"You can't sleep unless you've got your arms around a tree."
Player 2: "I like waking up with morning wood."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
One player is running a character named Dom. He was expressing some doubts about our plans. 
Player: "Okay, Doubting Domus."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The party had come upon a wizard's lair that was guarded by a giant. By this point the party  fighter was unconscious, the giant was in bad shape, and the inquisitor was technically dead after being pummeled unconscious and then set on fire.
GM: "The giant is hurting. He can barely keep his eyes open."
Fighter: "I don't notice because I can't keep my eyes open."
Inquisitor: "At least you have eyes."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The party oracle had done a 'holy smite', but unfortunately one of the PCs who wasn't good-aligned happened to be within the smiting area. 
Oracle: "You take three points of damage."
Other player: "Ow! I'm dead."
Oracle: "Seriously?!"
Third player: "He had a pre-existing condition. It wasn't covered by his insurance."
(This was probably much funnier to me and the oracle's player than to anyone else. I work for an insurance company, and the oracle's player works for a healthcare organization.)

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The party's alchemist had been caught in a 'magic jar' effect, and the party members had yet to figure out how to free him. Just after this unfortunate even occurred to the alchemist, the party acquired a 'corspe carrying bag', which magically preserves corpses. 
After the party finished fighting several shadow demons:
GM: "The shadow demons could do 'magic jar' once a day."
Player: "Now I'm imagining the entire party in the corpse carrying bag and the halfling slowly dragging all our bodies back home!"

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The party had entered a room that they had to access by swimming through a submerged passageway and climbing up a flight of steps. The room was occupied by a couple of large zombies. The GM described a horrible stench in the room, then asked for Fortitude saves.
The party cleric failed his save, and the player described the character as vomiting.
Player: "Are the wet stairs difficult terrain?"
GM: "No."
Player: "What about the space next to the cleric?"

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The adventuring party found an NPC commoner being held prisoner in a dungeon. The GM gave the NPC to one of the players to run, because the party would be in the dungeon for days and it was located in a wilderness far from the commoner's home, so the party members couldn't very well send him off on his own.
The commoner had an unusual surname. The player who was given him to run was intrigued by this name, and decided to give the NPC a backstory in which his grandfather was a former adventurer who told tall tales. But when the player tried to introduce this backstory to the rest of the group, he received this response:
Player 1: "You have a grandfather. That implies you have a backstory. That's all you need."
Player 2: "You must be this level to have a backstory." (holds his hand out as if indicating height) 

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
While discussing what 'stone salve' does: 
"If your stoneskin lasts more than four hours, contact your cleric."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The party found a room containing a statue of a cyclops with one hand over its eye. Player 1 went to investigate the room. 
Player 1: "I gesture for you all to come into the room. It's safe."
Player 2: "You'll have to gesture pretty hard. We're not looking at you."
Player 3: "We're all like this." (puts his hand over his eyes)

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The inquisitor used his 'door sight' ability to look through the door of another room. 
Inquisitor: "Inside the room there's something in chains."
Three players (in unison): "Alice!"

Don't Take This Game Too Seriously, part 1

One part of my gaming experience that I leave out of my game summary posts is the amount of joking and kibbitzing my friends and I do during our roleplaying game sessions. We are not an immersive group; we don't demand that players remain 'in character' for an entire session. The game is frequently interrupted by out-of-game chatter, jokes, and puns. Some of these are a bit difficult to explain without context of the players' personalities and/or the game background. But some of the jokes should translate well without so much detailed context, and I've decided to share some of those here. I've been accumulating this information over several years, so I will probably break this up into multiple posts. I've added the game system and campaign name to each quote for clarity.

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
Player 1: "If it's a were-creature, how would we know?"
Player 2: "We'd be a-were of it."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
GM: "It has all the hallmarks of a summoned creature."
Player: "Aw, it's a Hallmark creature - for when you care enough to summon the very best."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Player: "My paladin utters a short prayer to Elishar to heal this vessel and the dwarf gets 30 HP back."
GM: "And Elishar says this vessel is only a quarter full!" (The dwarf had over 120 HP - he'd lost about 80% in a bar fight.)

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
GM (to player of paladin): "You see no evil in this man."
Other player: "And no trans-fatty acids!"

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Player: "I cast Bigby's Interposing Paladin."  (There is a spell in D&D called Bigby's Interposing Hand.)

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
GM: "The chanting you hear is in Abyssal."
Player: "Aw, I don't speak that. What about Goblin?"
GM: "No, that would be Abysmal."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
GM (to player who failed a save): "You do nothing but babble incoherently."
Player: "Which makes you a GM!"

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Player: "He's got a scroll of 'atonement'. It's a 'get-out-of-guilt-free' card."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Player: "Sorry, the barbarian is in a rage right now, if you'd like to leave a message."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Player: "Can we get a certificate of authenticity for this sword? Oh, darn, we took it out of the box!"

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Dragonsreach]
Player 1: (after failing a Will save): "I need a cloak of Will."
Player 2: "Nah, everybody just fires at Will."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
GM: "You guys come in on round 3."
Player: "Do we have to?"



[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
GM: "This creature, once human, is only lightly covered in burial wrappings."
Player: "It's casual Friday."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
The party cleric's player was trying to determine whether her character was actually holding a weapon. 
Cleric's player: "I probably had the wand out to heal the dwarf."  
(The dwarf was a barbarian/fighter with a notoriously short fuse.)
Other player: "But you might have had your mace in your other hand to pacify him first." 

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Party cleric: "It's been en-eviled. I'm an en-eviler."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Dwarf barbarian/fighter: "I have an uncanny trap sense. Ow! There's one."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Paladin: "The skeleton can claw me."
Dwarf: "It's in their contract. It's a claws."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
The fighter couldn't do any damage to some skeletons. 
Dwarf: "You could pick up a femur and hit it with that. That'd be humerus."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
We had found a room in a pyramid that was full of chariots. 
Wizard: "It's the Ben-Hur room."
Dwarf: "We've Ben-Hur. Let's go to the next room."
Cleric: "Everybody's Ben-Hur."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
After leaving the pyramid, we boarded the solar barge of Re-Harakhty and traveled through the Twelve Hours of Night. 

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
The GM set a mini on top of a salt shaker to show an NPC was flying. 

GM: "She a-salts the ship."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Our paladin had acquired a follower, a lantern archon she called Sunshine.
Paladin: "If we're on the Plane of Positive Energy, Sunshine might know."
Cleric: "But are there any snakes on this plane?" 
(Snakes On A Plane had recently been released when this happened.) 

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Later during the same session
:
GM: "You're in an extraplanar space."
Dwarf's player: "Good thing I brought extra snakes."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Among the crew of the solar barge were three celestial beings called Afu (Afoo), Hu (Hoo), and Saa (Sah). 
Dwarf's player: "I remember who is Hu, but do I see Saa?" 

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
Later, dwarf's player again, in a Mr. T voice: "I pity Afu."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
The captain of the solar barge was called Kherp. 
Wizard: "Does Captain Kherp have a phaser?"
Dwarf: "Is it set on sun?"

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
In another game, our party had come into possession of a magical shovel that could dig a 5' pit each round (a round is 6 seconds long). We found some dead lizardfolk and decided to bury them. 
Player 1: "Digging (graves) is so much work."
Player 2: "It took all of 18 seconds."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
Later we found more lizardfolk, still barely alive, with strange puncture marks on their bodies. 
Player to GM: "How big are the punctures? Hummingbird size?"
GM: "Well, there are two of them, maybe like a stirge."
2nd player: "A double-beaked stirge? We should name a tavern 'The Double-Beaked Stirge'."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
We took the injured lizardfolk back home to their island. The lizardfolk who transported us had boats with oars, but they didn't use the oars to propel the boats across the lake. They were moved by some unseen force. 
Player 1: "I pick up the oars to help."
Player 2: "Every time you row you hear someone (under the water) say 'Ow!'."
Player 1: "It's an 'Ow!'-board motor."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
Approaching the island, we smelled something appetizing cooking. 
Player: "Is it cake?"
Later a player served some brownies he'd brought to share with the group. 
Player 1: "It wasn't cake (we smelled), it was brownies!"
Player 2: "It took a long time to squeeze them (the brownies) all in."
GM: "Better than squeezing a sprite to get a drink."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The GM, roleplaying the lizardfolk king, asked the party's dwarf alchemist, "Can dwarves hold their breath well?"
Alchemist: "We can. Have you ever been in a dwarven barracks? You need to be able to hold your breath."

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
In the same game as above, our group of intrepid adventurers were wandering through the forest and encountered a band of gnomes who were exploring and mapping the area.
Player: "Is one of them named Tom-Tom?"
Later GM (speaking as the leader of the gnomes): "I'll go in any hole I find. Well, they will," (pointing to the other gnomes.)
Player 1: "That's how we lost Tom-Tom."
Player 2: "He went down the hole... Recalculating....!"

[Pathfinder - Kingmaker]
The party's inquisitor tended to jump into combat and stay on the front lines, which meant he got hurt a lot. After this happened again during one session, the following exchange occurred.
GM: "[Inquisitor] is the party's meat shield."
Another player to the inquisitor's player: "You need to be more shieldy!"
Inquisitor: "I'm more of a meat buckler."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
The party had discovered a cave occupied by several beholders.
GM: "You notice a bad smell down here."
Player 1: "What do you suppose the beholders eat down here?"
Player 2: "Beans."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Dragonsreach]
The party met a group of people called the Shadow Knives. 
Player to her husband, who was GM of a different game: 
"Didn't you have some Shadow Knives in your campaign?"
Husband: "Whisper Knives, Shadow Knives..."
Another player (singing): "Silent knives, holy knives..."
Player 3 (also singing): "All is calm, as per the spell..."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Dragonsreach]
The bard had acquired a creepy fanboy.
Bard: "Oh, great, I've got a stalker."
Other player: "At least it's not an invisible stalker (a type of monster)."
Bard: "With my Spot rolls, it might as well be."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Dragonsreach]
GM: "The kidnapper's name is Wedswin T. Fordsworth. Go ahead and say it - his initials are WTF."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Dragonsreach]
GM: "You think you planned for everything. Then the players show up."

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Dragonsreach]
Player: "Aw, it was a denial of service spell!"

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
GM: "The dragon appears and the room explodes!"
Player: "I'll have what he had for breakfast!"

[D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms - Shadows of Greatness]
GM: "The character can do that all day."
Player 1: "Unless he's taken underwears."
Player 2: "Boxers or briefs?"
Player 1: "Depends."



Sunday, November 26, 2017

[Pathfinder] Wrath of the Righteous, part 23: Chapel of Kabriri

Once the team of Crusaders had recovered from their efforts to destroy the gargoyles and the penanggalen, they decided to follow their original plan to search the stable. Zosta pressed her ear against the door and reported that she heard nothing from inside. When she attempted to push the door open it didn't budge at first, but when Zosta gave it hard shove it popped open, revealing the ruined interior of the stable building. The east wall of the structure had collapsed, leaving a pile of rubble on the floor. The interior smelled of decayed straw and mildew. Rotting barrels full of fungi stood against one wall. As the group entered the building they noticed that there were weapons and equipment mingled with the fallen stones. Jiro noticed drag marks on the floor, and footprints that looked like they might have been made by gargoyles. Asami cast a spell to determine if there was anything magic inside the stable and identified several items among the litter, including a longsword and a longspear.

Meanwhile Runa began hopefully looking for something made of adamantine. Instead she found three daggers which she recognized as being made of a metal other than ordinary steel, though they were not adamantine and she couldn't determine what they were. She showed them to Zosta, who realized that they were cold iron. Asami was able to determine what enchantment the longsword held, but the longspear refused to reveal that information to her or to Jiro. The other members of the group uncovered a fine quality battleaxe which had suffered some slight damage. The quantity of weapons and other items made them realize that the items had been dumped there, but they found no sign of the people who must have carried the weapons.

There were many more weapons in the rubbish heap, but the rest were of ordinary materials and the party members couldn't carry them all. They decided to go on to the chapel itself. Before they did so Jiro reestablished the magic that allowed him to absorb a small part of any wound inflicted on his comrades. Zosta again opened the door. The group members saw that the chapel held four statues, one in each corner, which had originally been angels but were now badly damaged. Broken pews stood haphazardly in the center of the sanctuary. The stained glass windows above the doors had been smashed. At the far end was a dais, on which two creatures clad in priestly vestments stood. The walls of the chapel were covered with scrawled and carved inscriptions, which Asami and Runa realized were dedicated to the demon lord Kabriri, "He Who Gnaws", lord of ghouls. As if to emphasize this, half a dozen ghouls began to shuffle toward the entrance.

The ghouls nearer to the doorway appeared to be ordinary ghouls, but the two on the dais seemed not to be as mindless. Jiro realized that one of them was casting a spell and called out a warning that the ghoul was summoning something. He set down his lantern in preparation. While most of the ghouls were approaching the doorway, one ghoul ran out through another door to the Crusaders' left. Sosiel and Aron ran around the corner of the building to find out where the ghoul had gone.

Zosta knocked down the first ghoul within her reach. Outside the chapel, Nurah cast a spell to make herself harder to see, and Runa extended Iomedae's blessing to her companions. Irabeth stepped forward and struck one of the ghouls. The ghoul priest who was not in the midst of summoning cast a spell on himself, which Jiro identified as designed to protect him from Irabeth's aura of goodness. Then a demon appeared a short distance from the entrance, one of a type the Crusaders had seen before: a babau. A moment later the level of illumination in the desecrated chapel grew dim. A second babau appeared behind the first and immediately vanished.

Jiro encircled himself in an area of protection from evil creatures to keep the babaus from approaching. Zosta attempted to trip one of the ghouls but missed her aim due to the reduced light. Nurah screamed, and when Runa asked her what was wrong she replied that she had bumped into something, though nothing was visible. Runa moved toward that spot and swung her sword, connecting with something fleshy though she could still see nothing. Asami drew her wand and sent three missiles at the ghoul before Irabeth. A moment later Irabeth's blade sent it to true death. A weapon made of force energy appeared in the air behind Irabeth and swung at another ghoul.

Jiro's protective circle vanished after the babau made a gesture. Another ghoul approached Irabeth and clawed at her and she ceased moving, immobilized by its paralytic effect. Because she hadn't been standing squarely on both feet at the moment the paralysis took effect, she fell over. A bell began to ring an alarm from elsewhere within the chapel. A second magical weapon appeared in the same area next to Asami and attacked her. A second babau became visible beside Runa and attacked her with its spear. Asami felt herself healed by her link with Jiro. Jiro picked up his lantern and concentrated, and the lantern's perpetual light grew brighter, pushing back the dimness inside the chapel.

Sosiel and Aron had encountered a wall after rounding the corner of the chapel and had abandoned their effort to find out where the ghoul had gone, returning to the rest of the group just after the bell began to toll. Zosta pummeled a ghoul, then stepped forward and knocked a second ghoul to the ground. As Runa continued fighting the babau demon, Asami directed a trio of missiles at it, but they vanished without making contact. The weapon in the air beside her struck her again. Then a wave of negative energy surged out from one of the ghoul priests, doing her more injury. Runa felt her sword grow heavier and its magic seemed to fade. The ghoul Zosta had knocked down got to its feet again and attacked her. More negative energy filled the area and the babau attacked Runa again. The second babau appeared suddenly behind her.

Only a single ghoul was left, facing Zosta. But one of the babau struck Runa three times with great force and she collapsed. Jiro reformed his magic circle and moved toward her to heal her. Nurah cast a spell on the other babau's spear, causing it to become slippery so the demon could no longer grip it. Then she ran behind a section of courtyard wall and hid. Aron and Sosiel pulled Irabeth's immobile form out of reach of the ghouls. Moments later she recovered from paralysis and got to her feet. Asami directed more missiles at one of the babau and was struck again by the floating weapon, while the babau dispelled Jiro's magic circle again. The last ghoul bit Zosta and she fell victim to paralysis. The two babau flanked Jiro and began clawing and biting him. As he felt himself fading he dropped the link with the others. He somehow managed to avoid being immobilized but he collapsed, barely retaining enough consciousness to use his magic to heal himself.

The door that the ghoul had run through suddenly burst open again and a large white ape came tumbling through as if thrown by something else. Those who could see what was happening realized the ape was Bohgong, for they had seen the monkey assume that form before. Just after Bohgong flew threw the doorway, another creature emerged, looked around at what was happening in the chapel and exited. Only Zosta, who could still see despite her frozen state, got a good look at the creature.

Sosiel and Aron stepped in front of Asami to shield her from the demons. Sosiel attempted to dispel them as they were magically summoned but his effort failed. Runa cast a healing spell on herself. The two magical weapons both disappeared. Runa got to her feet and was immediately bitten by one of the babau. She grabbed at it and tried to grapple it but was unable to do so. Asami sent more missiles from her wand, this time at one of the ghoul priests who had moved much closer to the paralyzed Zosta. Irabeth stepped behind Zosta, picked her up and shifted her out of the way. While she did this the two demons flanked Runa and Runa collapsed a second time. One of the demons then snapped at Jiro, who was still on the ground near where Runa had fallen. Jiro created a shield of stone to protect himself, then scrambled to his feet and pulled Runa away, calling out to Aron to block the demons. Aron pushed Zosta behind him and stepped into the chapel doorway, while Sosiel channeled Shelyn's divine energy to provide healing to his companions. He could not prevent the demons from gaining the advantage of his healing as well, nor could he prevent Irabeth from being paralyzed again by the last ghoul's bite.

One of the demons struck Jiro again with its claws and he fell to the ground once more. Bohgong returned to his normal form, and though he appeared exhausted, he moved to stand behind the ghoul so he could flank it. Sosiel sent out another surge of healing energy. Asami had begun summoning a creature of her own, and when it materialized it was a glowing orb of light surrounded by greenery. One of the priests had been slain by this time, and Asami exhorted the archon to attack the second priest with its light rays, but it was unable to strike the ghoul. The mindless ghoul continued to attack Irabeth. Only Zosta could see the light of life fading from the half-orc paladin's eyes. Though he didn't know how close she was to death, Bohgong channeled some of Jiro's healing power into her. Aron then pulled her out of the ghoul's reach and Sosiel provided more healing. A succubus had appeared from behind the courtyard wall and cast a spell at the babau, but her voice was Nurah's voice. Nurah somewhat reluctantly approached Runa to cast a curative spell on her, which allowed her to move to attack the ghoul and destroy it. Asami aimed her wand at the priest again, and it fled from the chamber through the side door. The two demons had returned to their own realm, the spell that had summoned them now expired.

With all of their enemies gone, the Crusaders could heal themselves further and take stock of their situation. They searched the corpse of the dead ghoul priest, finding a suit of magical leather armor, some gold, and a flail. Jiro questioned Bohgong about what had happened beyond the side door. The monkey revealed to his master that he had been busy distracting another creature, preventing it from going to the chapel earlier. That creature had been the one that had entered the chapel and then left. The monkey had recognized that it was an abomination, a hybrid of human and a type of demon called a nabasu. When Zosta recounted what she had seen this further confirmed the creature's kind. Asami recalled everything she knew about nabasu, though this didn't tell them what a half-nabasu could do. There was no way to know if it had all the powers of a full nabasu. If it did, it could bite and claw as well as use weapons, and would be able to create darkness as the babau had. It could also transform living men into ghouls.

Following this revelation the party moved out into the courtyard to use their healing wands. Though they had no idea what other creatures might be waiting for them in the other parts of the chapel, they felt it was their duty to pursue the half-nabasu. They had realized that the rubbish heap of weapons they had found in the stable were Crusader weapons, which meant the half-nabasu was either transforming prisoners into ghouls or consuming them as food. They couldn't in good conscience leave such a creature free to cause more death.

Next: Part 24, To Cleanse the Chapel


Thursday, November 23, 2017

[Pathfinder] Wrath of the Righteous, part 22: The Desecrated Chapel

Recap: The Crusader army from Kenabres had set out for the demon-controlled city of Drezen in an effort to recover the banner known as the Sword of Valor at the behest of Queen Galfrey of Mendev. On route they rescued a group of Crusader survivors and overcome a morale problem caused by a veteran who had lost his faith. After battling through various demonic enemies, they suffered a late-night infiltration by an incubus who caused many of the paladins to desert their posts and seriously wounded Asami.

Player-Characters (character level 6th, mythic tier - 1st):
Aegronius - male half-elf slayer
Asami - female elf wizard from Tian-Xia
  - Kirara - Asami's familiar, a white cat
Jiro - male human shaman from Tian-Xia
  - Bohgong/Uncle - Jiro's spirit animal, a white monkey inhabited by the spirit of Jiro's ancestor
Runa - female half-orc warpriest of Iomedae
Zosta - female human barbarian brawler

Major NPCs:
Anevia Tirabade - female human archer, spouse of Irabeth
Irabeth Tirabade - female half-orc paladin of Iomedae, spouse of Anevia
Aravashnial - male elf wizard Runewarden
Aron Kir - male human human low templar
Sosiel Vaenic - male human cleric of Shelyn 
Horgus Gwerm - male human noble from Kenabres
Nurah Dendiwhar - female halfling bard


Following the nighttime attack on the Crusaders' encampment, several members of the leadership group noticed Nurah shooting daggers with her eyes at Runa. The presence of small size footprints outside the camp had led Runa to initially assume that Nurah had somehow betrayed her companions, and Nurah was clearly unhappy about the accusation Runa had made against her.

To prevent their enemies from attacking again, Irabeth tripled the number of men on sentry duty. A group of paladins used their divine healing ability to heal the injuries suffered by their leaders, especially Asami, who had been most sorely wounded. Afterward those men were not placed on duty in order to allow them to replenish their magic with rest and prayer. The rest of the group decided it would be wisest to rest as much as they could and restore their own magic rather than leaving after dawn to continue their journey toward Drezen.

Sosiel had told them that it was possible the ruined chapel at the top of the cliff might have a hidden store of goods they could use, and once everyone was rested and replenished they decided that it would be worthwhile to visit the chapel. Irabeth and Sosiel planned not only to search for the stash Sosiel mentioned but to clear and try to re-consecrate the chapel. Aron explained that in the aftermath of the First Crusade the area around Drezen had been dotted with chapels and shrines to various gods, all of them now fallen into disrepair and demonic infestation.

The atmosphere surrounding the party when they set off in the early afternoon was still unpleasant as they made their way to the staircase carved into the cliff face. The sky overhead was dark and tinted red. Asami and Jiro both found it particularly oppressive due to their affinity for the natural world. Kirara had not even peeked her head out of Asami's pack since being returned to the camp after her unwilling nighttime excursion. The rest of the army would not accompany the group to the chapel, instead going ahead to wait for them. Only Aron, Sosiel, Irabeth, and Nurah would accompany the five companions up to the chapel. Aron led the way to the stairs, which like the chapel had fallen into disrepair due to disuse. These narrow stairs ascended 90 feet up the cliff. Before the group started to climb, Asami surrounded herself with magical armor and Jiro cast a spell that would allow him to heal some of any injury to his companions. The steps proved challenging for some of the companions, especially to Asami, who slipped once and had to be hauled up on a rope by Zosta and then carried the rest of the way up by Runa. Even having Jiro grant her the counsel of his ancestors didn't help to make the climb less arduous for her.

At the top of the cliff they found the chapel surrounded by a courtyard full of rubble from broken statues, though surprisingly the stained glass windows were still intact. A stable stood off to their left, which Runa suggested they investigate first in case any demonic creatures had taken up residence in it. Bohgong picked up a piece of bone from the ground that appeared to be of non-humanoid origin. Jiro examined it and determined that it had been gnawed by some creature within the past few days, confirming Runa's worry that something still lived in or near the chapel. Jiro readied his morningstar. As he scanned the statues that lined the eaves of the chapel, he noticed something peculiar about some of them. Five or six of them didn't appear to belong there, their iconography incorrect for the deities they portrayed. When he pointed this out to his comrades, Runa loaded her heavy crossbow and fired at one statue that Jiro pointed out as wrong. The bolt bounced off the statue, but Runa observed that the 'statue' next to it flinched.

Zosta took a few steps back, preparing to make a running leap at the chapel roof, just as three of the statues transformed into gargoyles and swooped down from the rooftop, diving toward Jiro, Runa, and Asami. The gargoyle that aimed at Asami pounced on her with its muzzle and claws, biting and slashing. Zosta redirected her leap to land on the gargoyle, grappling it with her arms and legs and bashing it with her bladed gauntlets. Asami stepped away from the gargoyle and hurled her wooden spear at it but the spear went wide. She felt Jiro's energy heal some of the wounds the gargoyle had dealt her. Irabeth stepped up to attack the gargoyle nearest to Runa, while Runa cast a strengthening spell on herself and exchanged her crossbow for her sword. Nurah began to sing an encouraging song to bolster her companions. Aron and Sosiel joined Zosta in focusing on the gargoyle that had attacked Asami. Seeing that all three of them were fighting that gargoyle, Asami turned and threw her spear at the gargoyle that threatened Jiro, though once again it couldn't penetrate the gargoyle's stony hide. Jiro re-positioned himself so that he, Irabeth, and Runa could flank the creature.

At that moment another creature flew into the area and approached Jiro. This creature was nothing like the gargoyles. Instead it presented itself as a severed head, trailing entrails behind it as it floated along. These dangling organs wrapped themselves around Jiro's neck and began attempting to force their way into his mouth! Runa immediately tried to strike this monstrosity with her sword, but it was difficult to see and when she slashed at where she thought the head was her blade met only air. While Jiro struggled with the strangling entrails, the gargoyle also attacked him. Asami drew out a wand and fired three tiny missiles of force at the head, but to her shock the monster's tongue reached out and lapped them up like tasty morsels.

The combined might of Aron, Sosiel, and Zosta had eliminated the gargoyle they fought, and they now all moved to attack the other two gargoyles. Zosta told the two men to help Asami and ran to pummel the gargoyle behind Runa. Asami directed her missiles at one of the gargoyles, while the foul monster continued forcing its disgusting appendages down Jiro's throat. He had by this time realized that this creature was not native to Mendev or the Worldwound - it was a monster more likely to be found near his homeland in Tian-Xia, a creature called a penanggalen that would attempt to take control of his body if it could. But with its entrails in his mouth he was unable to communicate any of this to his friends.

Aron and Sosiel pounded the gargoyle beside Runa into a heap of stony dust. Irabeth attempted to smite the penanngalan with divine power, but its blurred appearance prevented her blade from connecting with it. At the same time, the monster appeared to become more robust, as if it had absorbed her divine magic to strengthen itself. Nurah tried to help Jiro free himself by casting a spell on him to cause his body to become covered in grease. Asami shouted to Aron that he should keep the remaining gargoyle away so she could help Jiro. She then ran toward him. Irabeth swung her blade at the penanggalen again and this time struck its flesh, but those closest to her saw it again absorb her magic and grow stronger. Jiro's face had grown pale at the same time, his eyes rolling back and his flesh appearing emaciated. Nurah moved closer to him, casting a spell that removed some of the harm the thing had done him. Asami attempted to dispel the effect that made the monster so difficult to hit, but failed. Bohgong began pulling on the penanggalen's entrails, trying to remove them from Jiro. Irabeth struck it again and it grew stronger. Runa moved closer and cast a spell on Jiro to give him greater endurance so he could better resist it. Then Jiro used the end of his lamp pole, which he still held, to write in the dirt beside him that the creature was susceptible to cold. He wrote in the characters used in Tian-Xia, so only Asami could read it, but she quickly shared the information with her companions. She had only one spell prepared that could do cold damage, so she sent a ray of frost-coated leaves at the thing, but its magical protection caused her spell to fail to find a target. Then Jiro mimed at her and wrote in the dirt that someone should use a spell to cause his body to transform into a gas. Asami had no such spell prepared nor written in her spellbook, though she knew of it. Only by calling on the divine inspiration of Iomedae was she able to recall the spell and cast it on Jiro. But to her horror, both Jiro and the penanggalen became gaseous!

The penanggalen began to float away. Jiro, now free of its grasp, thanked Asami. The rest of the group all began to attack the monster before it could escape. Asami dismissed her spell, causing Jiro and the creature to assume their solid forms, and Jiro summoned a tetsubo of energy. As it attacked, the penanggalen tried to grab at Jiro with her tongue but missed him while his weapon struck her. The monster then released the three missiles she had been holding in her mouth at Asami, all of them striking her unerringly. Then the monster floated away, ascending too high for any of the group to hit her and disappearing from sight before Runa could reload her crossbow.

When the creature had gone, Jiro was able to recall more about it. He realized that this was not a typical penanggalen, but one of a special variety, a penanggalen matriarch that was not an undead creature and was also capable of creating more of its kind. When he explained this to his companions they all shuddered in revulsion at the thought of such a hideous creature on the loose. They could only hope that it would not return to trouble them again.

Next: Part 23, Chapel of Kabriri