Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mummy's Mask - part 11 (Pathfinder)

Session 16

(Igby’s player absent – Igby participating as NPC)
Before departing from Kawab Villa the next day, the Ruby Scarabs realized that their next option to get more information would be to visit the Anushet, the trio of lamia sister living in the Cenotaph of the Cynic. They needed to know if the three lamias knew anything about who was causing the dead to rise, or who the gold-masked figures the Darkfolk had seen might be. It was even possible that the lamias themselves were responsible for the increase in undead activity inside the Necropolis.
Sula and Uto both prepared spells that morning to allow them to relieve the effects of filth fever from Sula and Kaa. Once they had taken care of this, they set off for the location of the next Elegiac Compass that they had yet to check. They decided to avoid encounters with any undead if possible. Their map of the compass locations took them to an unknown building, which was marked with the symbols of Pharasma and of House Matya.
Once they had entered the building, Kaa spotted a trap door in the floor. There were signs that someone had tried to pry it open. The trap door led down into a small but well-appointed burial chamber. Next to a wooden sarcophagus stood the remnants of the Elegiac Compass, but all of the useful parts had been removed. Signs in the tomb chamber made the Scarabs think that the removal had been done recently. Disappointed, the group decided to investigate the sarcophagus. It proved to be trapped with a device that would emit a ball of fire on being triggered, but Kaa disabled it. Within the sarcophagus lay the well-preserved mummy of a man. He had clearly been preserved with magic to prevent him from rising from the dead. After examining him briefly, the group restored the sarcophagus lid. Uto took a few white hairs to make a wax fetish of the man who lay there.
When they had left House Matya behind, the Scarabs headed for the Cenotaph of the Cynic. This structure proved to be a large, impressive building with a domed roof. It had been built as a memorial for those who had died during the madness, but had been repurposed as a resting place for people who worshipped no gods. Some of the symbols of the gods decorating the building had been defaced.
The front of the building had two sets of doors. Kaa tried the first set on the right, but was unable to unlock them. The left-hand doors proved easier to open. The chamber beyond the doors had once held four pillars, but one of them had fallen. It also held an extremely large cobra, which raised up and flared its hood at them. Its hood had been decorated with gold rings inserted through piercings along the edges, indicating that the snake was a pet or sentry. The Scarabs had no desire to antagonize the Anushet, so Sula ordered Nyema to stay outside while she stepped into the room and tried to persuade the cobra to let them alone. She was able to convince the emperor cobra that not only should it ignore the Scarabs, but it should also slither over to one side of the room so they could enter without getting too close to it.
The cobra watched them as they proceeded toward the next set of doors, but it made no move toward them. The next doors were neither locked nor trapped, and admitted them to a narrow curving hallway lined with many doors. These doors opened on small alcoves in which many bodies in various states of mummification had been stacked. A little farther down the hallway Kaa found a larger room that was lined with cushions and shelves of books, and emitted a strong odor of perfume that could only partly mask an underlying animal scent. But the room was not currently occupied.
Not far from the doors that had admitted them to the hallway was another set of doors, in the opposite wall from the mummy alcoves. Nyema alerted that she detected something on the other side of those doors, as she and Sula were standing right in front of them. Suddenly one of the doors flew open, revealing a large circular chamber containing two very large lions, and an angry human man. The man appeared to be wearing the armor of the city guard, but it fit him poorly. He began to insist that the Scarabs should leave immediately. Then one of the lions pounced at Nyema.
Uto immediately cast a spell, causing the man to slump to the floor in slumber. The lion’s attack had hurt Nyema badly, so Sula stepped in front of her companion and raised her spear. Kaa darted inside the circular chamber and maneuvered himself so that he could blast one lion from behind with fire. The lion turned to face its attacker. Uto had linked his own life force with those of his comrades and absorbed some of the injury done to them by the lions. Azzaria’s body began to appear blurred as she moved to attack the lion that Kaa had burned, while Igby and Sula faced the second lion. Within a few moments both lions had fallen to the Scarabs’ blows. Still reluctant to rouse the ire of the lamias, Sula used her magic to prevent both lions from breathing their last breath.
The room in which the Ruby Scarabs now found themselves was full of objects: books, cushions, tapestries, clockwork devices, trinkets and jewels. Uto went to check the man he had put to sleep and found that some strong enchantment lay upon him, likely placed there by one of the Anushet, as the Scarabs had been told that the lamias sometimes took paramours from among the male population of Wati. A moment later the man awoke and began shouting for his ‘beloved’ Hepsushep, but no one responded to his cries. Igby slapped him and told him to be quiet and tell the party where the lamias were.
At one side of the room was a semi-circular raised platform, separated by its own door. Kaa stepped up to this platform, and after politely knocking as he’d done at all of the other doors, he opened it. Inside he saw a dais covered with cushions, on which sat a lamia. She seemed unperturbed by the sudden intrusion. Uto stepped forward, addressing the lamia courteously and telling her that the Scarabs had no desire to offend her and pointing out that they had spared the lives of the lions and her paramour when attacked by them. She reacted with a friendly attitude, commenting that she was growing bored with Tarek, her current paramour, and indicating that she thought Uto might be a suitable replacement. Uto responded that he wasn’t opposed to that idea as long as the decision was his own to make and he could finish his mission to stop the rise of the undead first. When Hepsushep agreed to provide what information she could in exchange for a gift, the party members readily agreed to give her the bolt of Qadiran silk they had recently acquired.
As he was conversing with Hepsushep, Uto suddenly realized that the figure he addressed was an illusion. Inside the chamber where the illusion sat was an iron stair leading up to an enclosed balcony. He suspected the real Hepsushep was inside. He did not give away what he had discovered and continued speaking to the illusion as though he thought it real. Hepsushep told the Scarabs that she knew nothing about the masked figures the Darkfolk had seen, nor the Elegiac Compasses, though she showed interest when told the compasses were clockwork. Uto then offered to fully heal the two lions, but Hepsushep declined the offer. Azzaria spoke up, offering any aid the Ruby Scarabs could offer to the Anushet, after which Hepsushep told the group to take a tome on the history of Wati that she thought might be of use to them. She also mentioned that her sisters were out hunting, and the group unanimously decided that they did not need to wait to meet the other two lamias.
After the Scarabs took their leave of Hepsushep, they turned their steps in the direction of the last unexamined Elegiac Compass. According to the map they had been given, it stood near a shop that had once sold glassware, by the name of Shiny Baubles. They found the shop long since looted, broken bits of its wares scattered in the street outside. Kaa was distracted by trying to pick up some of the glass bits. While Kaa was busy, Uto glimpsed a cracked wall at about the spot where the compass was meant to be, and he magically levitated himself to get a better look. Through the crack in the wall he saw something that might be the compass. He also observed that while there were some buildings next to the glassware shop, behind it was an empty space.
The shop was still structurally sound enough that Azzaria could climb the ladder up to the roof and look down into the small walled enclosure. The rest of the group climbed up to join her. Inside the walled area stood the final Elegiac Compass, its mechanism stil intact but its power supply crystal missing. There was evidence that something else had been on the rooftop recently: they spotted tracks that looked like the tracks of a dragon, but they were no bigger than the prints of a large dog. It was possible they were the tracks of a drake, but as it was unlikely that a drake would have taken the crystal, Sula wondered if the track-maker might have been a juvenile dragon.
Looking down beyond the compass enclosure, the Scarabs saw that a sinkhole had opened up in the ground. They could see a bit of bright blue silk scattered with coins at the bottom. Curious what might lie at the bottom of the sinkhole and hopeful that they would find the missing crystal there, the group climbed down into the depression. Uto used his prehensile hair to lift Nyema down while he himself flew into the pit. At the bottom he saw what clearly appeared to be a dragon's hoard: jewelry, armor, weapons, potions, vials of perfume, coins, goblets and serving dishes of silver, and many other treasures. Suddenly a feminine voice exclaimed, "Who dares despoil my lair?" The Scarabs all turned to look and found themselves staring at a young dragon, its body covered in glittering crystalline scales.
Uto attempted to speak diplomatically to the dragon, but she was possessive of her hoard and hostile toward the uninvited visitors. As she and Uto were talking, Kaa noticed a large crystal almost entirely encased in copper wire and realized that it must be the power source for the compass. The dragon spied him looking at it, and hoping to improve her hoard, offered to sell the crystal in exchange for gems or jewels worth at least 800 gold pieces. As it happened, the Scarabs had come into possession of some gold and lapis jewelry and a matching necklace and earrings of gold and onyx which had a combined value close to what the dragon demanded. When they offered these to her, she seemed pleased to accept them in exchange for the power crystal. This trade improved her attitude toward the Scarabs enough that she told them her name, Shardizad, and even offered to sell them other items from her hoard if they would bring her more gems.
When the Ruby Scarabs climbed back up to the compass enclosure, they began the task of trying to reconnect the crystal to the compass mechanism. Because they were not familiar with the workings of the compasses, this took some time. Kaa was standing watch near the ladder on the shop roof as dusk fell, while Sula and Uto were working on attaching the crystal. Kaa heard something moving on the ladder below. Something was climbing up to the roof. As the figure rose high enough for him to see, Kaa was startled to recognize Velriana Hypaxis, leader of the Scorched Hand, for he knew she had died in the underground chamber beneath the temple of Nethys. She was clearly undead now.
Just as Velriana climbed up the ladder, Sula and Uto got the compass working. A light shone out from it, in the direction of the ancient sealed gate that once had led out of the Necropolis. But it was too dark to tell precisely what location the compass was pointing to.  Then the undead Velriana let out a horrific shriek. Kaa cowered helplessly in response to her awful scream. The rest of the Scarabs managed to escape the worst effect of this shriek. Sula sent a sphere of flame to burn the undead woman, while Uto blessed everyone with the power of the gods. Azzaria recognized that Velriana had beecome a revenant, a particularly vicious type of undead that would not rest until it had exacted revenge for its own death.
It was Velriana's misfortune that she didn't know which of the Scarabs had actually dealt her the final blow in the temple. Now all of the Scarabs but Kaa swarmed on her, and after a moment he recovered his composure and joined them. Within a very short time Velriana Hypaxis had died a second, final death.
The Scarabs examined her body and were surprised to find that whle she was waiting for an opportunity to exact vengeance she must also have been looting the Necropolis. She wore a magic belt that could transform into almost any variety of slashing weapon, as well as six gold bracelets, a gold necklace set with smoky quartz, and a ruby diadem. Perhaps the diadem was meant to replace the showy hat she had worn in life, which Kaa had claimed after her death.
As it was fully dark by this time, the Scarabs decided to leave the Necropolis through the smugglers' tunnel and rest beyond its walls for the night. In the morning they would return and determine what building the compass pointed to.
Tome on the history of Wati
Blade belt
6 gold bracelets
gold and smoky topaz necklace

gold and ruby diadem

Mummy's Mask - part 10 (Pathfinder)

Session 15
(Igby's player absent - Igby not participating)
At about noon, the Ruby Scarabs headed toward Kawab Villa to find Gaunt Cadaver and his followers. As they passed along a walled area, Uto heard sounds like rending flesh and cracking bones and became concerned that someone might be under attack. He levitated to see over the wall. Beyond it he observed a huge mass of flesh and bone that seemed to have been fused or stitched together somehow. Even more disturbing, it appeared that something was burrowing its way through this mass from underneath. That was the source of the noise he had heard. A very large vaguely dog-like creature emerged from the mass of body parts, covered in bits of flesh. At that point Uto decided that this creature, whatever it was, was too dangerous for the Ruby Scarabs to face and they quickly moved on toward their destination.
At Kawab Villa they found another partially ruined large house. Before they could approach it they had to pass through an overgrown outer courtyard with a broken fountain. Suddenly Kaa felt vibration from beneath his taloned feet. Before he could warn his companions, two insectoid creatures as large as horses burst through the earth, one beside him and the other next to Uto. The creature that emerged by Uto instantly grasped him in its pincers. Azzaria recognized the creatures as ankhegs and warned her comrades that they might spit acid.
Sula turned to smash the ankheg that had grabbed Uto with her club, while Kaa and Azzaria attacked the one nearest them. Kaa used his cloak of the crocodile to grow teeth and bite the ankheg when it tried to grapple him. It did not take long for the four companions to slay both creatures. Azzaria dealt both beasts the final blow. Once they were definitively dead Sula attempted to remove their acid sacs at Uto's request, but was unable to cut them free without rupturing them, though she avoided getting any acid on her skin. She also removed some plates of chitin from the carcasses, hoping to have it converted into a shield and armor.
The Scarabs worried briefly that there might be more ankhegs in the area, but Azzaria told them that such creatures ordinarily did not come in swarms like tiny insects and it was unlikely there were any more. Since the bodies hadn't vanished on death, they knew that no one had used magic to summon the ankhegs. They left the remains in the courtyard and approached the front entrance of the villa.
The villa had two doors, both of which were unlocked. Kaa went in first. He found a dank, smelly chamber set up as a dining area, which was littered with rubbish and rotting food. Inside he glimpsed 3 darkfolk near the table, one on each side and the third partly hidden beneath it. Kaa spoke to them in the common tongue, saying, "We come from Unwrapped Harmony," but they didn't respond. When he moved closer to them, the pair on either side of the table called to each other in a language he didn't understand and rushed at him, drawing knives. One of them shouted in common, "Don't let them steal our secrets!"
Uto entered the chamber and put one of the darkfolk to sleep with a spell. Abruptly the entire room fell into impenetrable darkness, leaving everyone but Uto blind. Kaa drew out his ioun stone of continual light, but it was not enough to penetrate the darkness. Azzaria smashed a window, letting weak illumination into the room, though it didn't extend far enough for anyone to see the darkfolk or even each other. Sula and Nyema tried to move up to Kaa's side, and Nyema was able to smell one of the darkfolk nearby but couldn't find him to bite him. One of the darkfolk sliced Kaa and he felt the burning of poison in the wound. The darkfolk Uto had put to sleep awoke again, though Uto was still the only one who could actually observe this.
In the darkness Sula heard Nyema grunt in pain when one of the darkfolk stabbed her twice. A scuffling sound on wood indicated that one of them had jumped onto the table. Sula swept that area with her spear point but couldn't make contact with her target. Nyema also unsuccessfully snapped at the darkfolk. Since Unwrapped Harmony had asked that the other folk besides Gaunt Cadaver be returned safely, Uto attempted to stun one of them with a blow of his fist. He also activated his healing on behalf of his friends. Azzaria managed to land a strike on one of the 3 darkfolk and knocked him unconscious, and Nyema brought another one down.
It was a long struggle to subdue the 3 darkfolk in the pitch black, but when they had all been rendered unconscious and healed so that they would survive, Uto shaped the stone of the wall to hold them while the Scarabs explored the rest of the villa. He gave Azzaria and Kaa each a curative potion to use if they needed it. At that point both Azzaria and Sula suddenly remembered that they were carrying potions that would allow them to see in the dark, much to their embarrassment. Since the effects of the potions would last for some time, they decided to drink them right away in case any more darkfolk used their innate darkness ability in other parts of the villa. This left only Kaa still unable to see in the dark, as he had no potion and no one could cast a spell on him to permit him sight in the darkness.
The Scarabs healed some of their wounds, then searched the chamber they were in. They found some lapis lazuli and gold jewelry amid the rubbish, as well as 4 fine quality crossbow bolts. In a side room beneath a loose stone, Uto discovered 3 potions, 2 of them curatives and the other of designed to cause a person to appear blurry to enemies. He gave one curative potion to Sula and kept the other for himself. The third potion went to Kaa.
As they moved on beyond the first chamber, they were surprised to find the corpses of three darkfolk. All had died of the same wound near the heart, apparently as part of a necromantic ritual that had occurred within the past week.
After finding the darkfolk bodies, they came to a heavy locked door. It had no enchantments or traps on it. Kaa listened and heard the sound of chanting voices coming from beyond it, though he couldn't understand what they chanted. Before he opened the door, Uto blessed everyone with the divine power of the gods, Sula girded herself with a spell that transformed her skin into dense bark, and she also cast a spell on Nyema's teeth and claws.
As soon as they entered the room they all smelled a sour scent. The room appeared to be a kitchen that had been converted into a combination laboratory and surgery. There were other doors leading out of the kitchen. On a table at one end of the kitchen they saw a figure that was in the midst of being operated upon by a small person swathed in dark robes who they suspected was Gaunt Cadaver. Three other darkfolk in the room all appeared to be undead. Gaunt Cadaver screeched, "Intruders! Kill them!" and the 3 darkfolk rushed out toward the Scarabs. Part of the room fell into magical darkness.
Uto had been the first to actually enter the room. He was cut by a poisoned knife wielded by one of the undead darkfolk. There was a second table sitting haphazardly in the middle of the room, and Azzaria jumped onto its top. The three undead were zombies, but they moved much more quickly that ordinary zombies. Azzaria realized that they were a special variety that might explode and release negative energy on being slain.
While the Scarabs fought with the 3 zombies, Gaunt Cadaver cast a spell and a spectral hand appeared. Azzaria recognized that he had cast a spell into the hand that would chill the victim with its touch and would be able to use the hand to deliver the spell to his targets. He called out something, which Uto was able to understand via magic as, "Strike and pull back!" Uto warned his companions that the zombies were being given instructions. Knowing that zombies were usually resistant to anything but slashing weapons, Sula activated the magic of her spear so she could overcome their resistance to other types of damage.
Then Uto channeled positive energy to harm the zombies, and all 3 exploded, sending out a wave of negative energy that affected everyone except Kaa. The subject on the makeshift operating table also died, but when it exploded it caused a flare of brilliant light that left Azzaria dazed. Uto channeled again to heal his comrades, but was unable to exclude Gaunt Cadaver from receiving the benefit of his magic.
When Azzaria recovered from being momentarily dazed, she attacked Gaunt Cadaver. Kaa and Uto joined her. It was Uto's blow that caused him to fall. Azzaria then cut off his head to be sure he was dead. At that point he too exploded in a burst of light, leaving Azzaria, Sula, and Uto blind for a few moments.
Once everyone had recovered their sight, they searched the kitchen. The found 3 daggers, a kukri, a scroll that would allow the caster to speak with the dead, a quality buckler, a healer's kit, surgeon's tools, 3 doses of black smear poison, a bolt of valuable Qadiran silk, 3 pounds of giant bee royal jelly, 20 ivory ushabti figurines, a pair of gold and onyx earrings and a matching necklace, a lapis bracelet, and gold, silver and copper coins equal to 660 gold pieces.
Having assured themselves there was nothing else to find in the kitchen, the Scarabs opened the door to what they assumed was the villa's central atrium. It was locked and Kaa unfastened it. In the atrium he saw a broken fountain still spurting silt and water, but he was immediately confronted by a large clearly undead creature that appeared to be made of parts from many corpses stitched together. Kaa responded by directing a ray of scorching fire at it, which seemed to slow its movements.
Sula then stepped forward and charged her spear with elemental energy to attack it, but she chose to use electricity rather than fire. To her dismay this negated the effect of Kaa's flames and allowed the creature to move much faster. It slammed her with both of its mismatched fists. Uto healed her of some of the damage and drank a potion to recover from the injuries that effort did to him. Sula tried to attack the creature again, but its stench nauseated her so she could only stumble backward a few steps. Nyema refused to approach it. The creature, which was some sort of golem, followed Sula when she moved and struck her again. Kaa scorched it a second time and it slowed down. Sula raised her shield to defend herself, finding herself recovered from the effect of its horrible odor. Azzaria then struck it a massive blow and it fell in a heap.
The Ruby Scarabs returned to the Asatiti estate and showed the stone they had recovered from Gaunt Cadaver's remains to Unwrapped Harmony. They took the three surviving darkfolk captives with them. The stone they had found proved to be magical; Unwrapped Harmony told them it could prevent the bearer from suffering harm when dealt injuries by certain types of precision attacks, but in order to do so the bearer had to swallow it. Since the stone was the size of a small apple, was unusually heavy for its size, and was only usable once, it hardly seemed worth the discomfort of doing so. Unwrapped Harmony had only wanted the stone as proof of Gaunt Cadaver's demise, so she gave it to the Scarabs as part of their reward.
She also informed them that one of Gaunt Cadaver's followers had seen a figure wearing a gold mask with a long chin, who was arguing with something in a brass cage. This person had dropped a tattered star chart, which had been recovered and which Unwrapped Harmony now presented to the adventurers. The chart was too damaged to tell what its original purpose had been, but it showed the night sky of summer over Wati.
After they left Kawab Villa, Uto had detected that the golem had inflicted filth fever on Sula. Kaa also wanted to learn more of the darkfolk language, so the party asked if they could stay overnight at the Asatiti estate. This would allow both Uto and Sula to prepare spells the next day to remove the effects of the disease. Unwrapped Harmony agreed and told them they could stay in one of the outbuildings, if they would explain the purpose of the building to the darkfolk.
lapis lazuli & gold jewelry (500 gold)
4 fine quality crossbow bolts
2 potions of cure moderate wounds
potion of blur
3 daggers
scroll of speak with dead
quality buckler
healer's kit
surgeon's tools
3 doses of black smear poison
bolt of Qadiran silk (400 gold)
3 lbs giant bee royal jelly (300 gold)
20 ivory ushabti figurines (15 gold each)
gold & onyx earrings (100 gold) & matching necklace (250)
lapis bracelet (50 gold)
240 gold coins
345 silver coins
75 copper pieces


Mummy's Mask - part 9 (Pathfinder)

Session 14
The Ruby Scarabs began preparations to re-enter the Necropolis through the secret passage created by the Silver Chain gang. There they would seek out the remaining Elegiac Compasses that Sebti the Crocodile had told them about.
Uto decided to sell Akhan-tepe's armor, sword, and shield that he had acquired after the auction. Kaa gave him the mist armor that the armorer had presented to the group after they rescued Ptemenib from the Silver Chain gang. Kaa also purchased a 9-ring sword from the same armorer, and Sula bought a better suit of leather lamellar armor than she previously had, as well as a specially reinforced wicker shield. Every member of the group received a distribution of 1,250 gold pieces from items sold.
Sebti had explained to the Scarabs that the Elegiac Compasses were large mechanical devices with rotating parts. There had been 30 of them when the Necropolis was newly created, and they were capable of detecting the largest source of necromantic energy within a range of approximately 3 miles. But now to the knowledge of the church of Pharasma, only 5 compasses remained within the walls of the city of the dead, though this information was not recent.
Nakht Shepses of the Voices of the Spire also told the Scarabs that there were 3 lamias residing within the Necropolis at the Cenotaph of the Cynic, which was a memorial for burials of those who followed no gods.
It was recommended that the Scarabs visit a group of darkfolk who were living in the Necropolis in the estate of Asatiti. The priests thought that the darkfolk might have more information about what was happening inside the Necropolis since they lived there. The darkfolk were friendly to Ptemenib, and since the Scarabs had aided one of their people they might get a warmer reception.
When the Ruby Scarabs were ready, they returned to the Silver Chain headquarters at the waterfront. There they found a recovered Bal-them in charge of the guards watching the location. She was unhappy to be there, but when Uto explained to her that she was not only watching the warehouse but making sure that no undead emerged from the tunnel, her discontent was relieved.
The group emerged from the end of the tunnel inside the walls of the Necropolis to find that part of the ceiling had collapsed, crushing the Elegiac Compass that had stood there for generations. A mass of snakes had found this spot conducive to sunbathing. Sula advised that there was no reason to bother the snakes since they weren't attacking, and the band continued on their way.
When they arrived in the area that had come to be known as the Ghoul Market, they glimpsed 4 ghouls that seemed to be focused on the door of a former shop. Curious as to what could have attracted the ghouls, they paused a moment for Uto to bless them and then attacked. Kaa hurled a rock to distract the ghouls, and Uto took to the air. Azzaria invoked her rage. Within a short time all 4 ghouls had been slain, and no one had suffered any ill effects from their touch, although Azzaria had received a scratch which Uto healed.
The door of the shop appeard to have been opened recently. Uto called out to anyone inside, and in response a voice shouted back, "Is this a trick?" The door opened, revealing a human woman. The Scarabs recognized her as Date Palm, one of the members of the adventuring group called the Sunrise Fellows, who had gone missing during the first week of exploration. Everyone had assumed they were dead. Her companions Worm and Oshwit were with her in the front room of the shop. The Scarabs observed that all 3 of them appeared uneasy with their visitors. They seemed unconcerned by the ghouls that had been trying to get in to slay them. They told the Scarabs that they had been busy researching, and that they had plenty of food and water. Azzaria asked them if they had see an Elegiac Compass, as there was supposed to be one very near to the shop. Oshwit drew something in the sand on the floor. Date Palm appeared increasingly anxious, and Oshwit and Worm exchanged glances as though they were signalling each other.
Kaa moved to look at what Oshwit had drawn, but realized he had started to move into the zone of a trap and quickly stepped back. Igby then cast bane. Oshwit pulled a lever and flames flared up near a table. Date Palm drew a knife and threw it at Kaa. At Sula's direction, Nyema leaped up on the table to claw at Date Palm. Oshwit also threw a knife at Kaa but missed, and Kaa responded with a scorching ray. Uto also turned on Oshwit. Azzaria followed Nyema's example by jumping on the table and flew into a rage, dropping Oshwit with a blow. Igby meanwhile faced off with Worm, while Date Palm drew a mace and tried to strike Sula. Worm moved toward a curtained doorway at the rear of the shop, striking Nyema as he passed. But Uto was using his magic to take part of the wound himself while healing his companions and most of her injury was cured.
Azzaria's attack caused Date Palm to collapse. Worm slipped through the curtain into the back. Kaa ran after him, checking for further traps. In a room beyond the curtain he found an alchemy lab, remains of mummies, and a cloaked figure. The figure demanded, "Why are you bothering us? Did the temple send you?" Kaa burned the mummy on the table with a scorching ray. Uto moved in to the alchemist's lab after Kaa, detecting a foul chemical odor in the area. Sula and Nyema followed him in, and Sula realized that the cloaked individual was a ghast and warned her friends. Azzaria and Igby joined them to combat the ghast.
Igby has summoned a flaming sword to fight the creature. Worm was still fighting the Scarabs, and managed to injure Nyema. The ghast sent a cone of flame at Igby, Kaa, and Uto, which Uto blocked with a stone shield. Oshwit had regained his feet and came to the aid of his companions, suffering a bite from Nyema. Sule shoved the table aside to gain better access to the ghast. Oshwit missed a blow at Nyema and collapsed again when she attacked him as he tried to get past her to obey the directions of the ghast. Kaa tried to strike the ghast with flurry of sword slashes. Uto's hair suddenly grew tremendously long and stretched out to use a healing wand on Azzaria. Sula jumped up on the table to gain higher ground and stabbed downward at the ghast, while Nyema bit him at the same time. Igby flanked with Sula's position, and it was his attack that finally carried the ghast into death.
Inside the alchemist's shop the Scarabs found the remains of the disassembled Elegiac Compass. Some of the parts were missing. They determined that the Sunrise Fellows had been using the lab to make the illegal drug mummia from mummies. They were actually members of a local drug-distribution gang known as the Fading, and had used the treasure-hunting event to gain access to more materials for their drugs. Among the items found on their bodies were 3 catching capes, 3 potions of cure moderate wounds, 3 other potions, 6 vials of alchemist's fire, 6 bottles of holy water, 3 fine quality heavy maces, 3 sets of studded leather armor, 3 sets of thieves' tools, 3 onyx rings, and a total of 9 gold pieces. The ghast proved to have 6 vials of greenblood oil, a robe of needles, an alchemist's kit, a formula book, and a pair of magical bracers which the Scarabs were unable to learn anything about. They also found 3 potions of hide from undead.
Date Palm and Oshwit were still alive, and the Ruby Scarabs decided to take them back to Wati and turn them over to the temple of Pharasma for judgement. They blindfolded their captives to prevent them from seeing the tunnel, and avoided  a group of 20 or so zombied that were roaming the Necropolis. At the warehouse they handed the prisoners over to Bal-themm. They also sent a message to the priests of Pharasma that two of the Elegiac Compasses that were thought to remain in the Necropolis had been destroyed.
Once everyone's hurts had been healed by wands or potions, they returned to the Necropolis and headed for the Marid's Carress, a bathhouse where the next compass was supposed to sit. The bathhouse's plumbing had leaked, turning it into a swamp. The compass there had been crushed by a collapsed wall. They found a few pieces among the rubble, including a large round lens of glass that radiated magic, although no one could determine what it was for beyond some type of divination.
After finding the third compass destroyed, the Scarabs decided to visit the darkfolk. They made their way to Asatiti's estate unmolested by undead. The darkfolk who met them outside were unfriendly until they mentioned Ptemenib. One of the darkfolk guards went to fetch their leader, Unwrapped Harmony. She asked the Scarabs to complete a task for her in exchange for information: her apprentice, Gaunt Cadaver, had left to form his own clan and had been experimenting with transforming his clan members into undead. The darkfolk were fascinated by mummies and mummification because when they died they simply vanished, leaving no remains. But Unwrapped Harmony felt that Gaunt Cadaver had gone too far in his exploration of undeath. She wanted the Ruby Scarabs to kill him and bring back a magic stone that he had ingested as proof. She requested that they avoid killing any of the other darkfolk if possible, and return them to her. The Scarabs agreed to this request. When they had finished eating a midday meal with the darkfolk, they set off for Kawab Villa to find Gaunt Cadaver.

3 catching capes
3 potions - cure moderate wounds
3 potions - unknown
6 vials - alchemist's fire
6 bottles - holy water
3 masterwork heavy maces
3 sets of studded leather armor
3 sets of thieves' tools
3 onyx rings
9 gold pieces
6 vials of greenblood oil
robe of needles
alchemist's kit
alchemist's formula book
pair of magical bracers - unknown
3 potions - hide from undead

Monday, November 7, 2016

Kingmaker - Part 10

Session 62 - November 6, 2016

Once Garrick had rejoined the group at their campsite beyond the environs of Armag’s tomb, the heroes from Galisat reluctantly agreed to take their four charges with them. They returned to the tomb to try to recover the member of the second group who had fallen through the pivoting floor trap.

In the hallway with the pivoting floor, San’Kari used his magic item to meld the pivoting panels and then shape an opening in the stone floor, and Landon climbed down into the space below the floor to search for the body of the four adventurers’ fallen comrade. Because the four people had been trapped in the Plane of Air for several weeks, their companion was long dead. As Landon moved to touch the body, Silverleaf peered down through the opening and spotted a magical sigil beneath the corpse that would cause excruciating pain to any who came in contact with it or even looked at it. He quickly warned Landon. Landon experienced a terrible vision of war and horror that included an image of a warrior brandishing a huge sword, but this wasn’t enough to deter him from recovering the body.

To the dwarf’s shock, when he removed the man’s body another body appeared beneath it! As Landon impatiently removed that corpse as well, yet another appeared, and another, until a dozen corpses in total had been revealed. Three of the bodies were dwarves still clutching their warhammers; four were humans, one of them a woman wearing a vest full of alchemical potions; two were half-elves; and two were some type of lizardmen. Landon was pleased to be able to recover a few still viable alchemical mixtures from the woman’s garment. One of the dwarves also proved to have a magic ring that could grant certain types of wishes, though at that moment it was empty of any power. The dwarven warhammers were all of fine quality, though it was odd that the dwarves still held them when they had no armor or other equipment.

After Landon climbed back up into the hallway, he and Garrick felt air movement coming from behind them that hadn’t been present previously. Landon sent Cyst to investigate and watched through the imp’s eyes. Cyst discovered that a double door the group had previously passed by was now open. Beyond the door the imp could see a slimy swirling thing in the center of a chamber. The room in which this slimy thing resided was located at the same orientation as the chamber that required the amber key, but it was at a higher level of the tomb, perhaps above the amber key room. Some force from within the chamber began to pull the imp toward it and Cyst had difficulty resisting. Landon ran to his familiar’s aid.

When he looked into the room, Landon observed that everything within it was covered in slime. He wondered if the chamber might be connected to a Plane of Slime. The thing in the center of the room he recognized as a green slime. He also observed that there were bones and various remains of bodies floating in the slime. Landon immediately threw an alchemical elixir into the slime that froze part of it, and it stopped moving.

Tahjah and Garrick had followed Landon when he ran toward the room to help Cyst. The pull on Cyst was still happening even though Landon had frozen the slime. Landon realized that the slime was also susceptible to fire, and shouted for Silverleaf to join them at the slime room. This left San’Kari standing watch with Amaya, Kara, and the four hapless victims of Lord Numeste's machinations.

As Silverleaf approached the room, Landon stepped inside it and was instantly engulfed by slime. He swallowed an elixir that made him resistant to the slime’s acidic nature. Within the slime the dwarf glimpsed a glowing peridot. Encouraged by Landon, Silverleaf had his staff send a ball of fire into the slime. Landon continued to push forward through the slime, realizing that there was a pocket of slime-less air around the collection of bones where the glowing gemstone was located. The bones, too, were magical, and resembled the cyclops femur the party had found which their friend Bokken had told them was part of a powerful artifact called Quiema’s Branch. As Landon entered this air pocket, he could feel a compulsion coming from the peridot. He grasped the stone and quickly put it in his alchemical component case, which held an extradimensional space. Once the stone was cut off from the slime chamber, the air pocket vanished, the bones fell to the floor, and slime engulfed Landon again. The compulsion also stopped pulling at Cyst. Landon gathered up the bones and went toward the staircase on the opposite side of the chamber, where he observed a pile of rags and many symbols of the evil goddess Gyrona.

Meanwhile in the hallway where San’Kari waited with the rest of the group, a swarm of giant army ants suddenly appeared. San’Kari pushed everyone down the corridor to the chamber where Garrick and Landon had been trapped by ice on the previous day, shutting the door to block the ant swarm. The ants began to attack the wooden door. Garrick, Tahjah, and Silverleaf rejoined their companions, and Silverleaf placed two runes in front of the door so the ants would be blasted by electricity once they broke through. Once the door burst and the ants were struck by lightning, Garrick followed by throwing an alchemical elixir that set them on fire.

During this time Landon had continued investigating the door at the bottom of the stairs. The slime creature had retreated to the bottom of the steps and was pressed up against the door, but could go no further. The slime seemed to be trying to push Landon away now. When Landon heard the commotion upstairs, he abandoned his investigation and went up to aid his friends.

On arriving in the room with the rest of the group, Landon surrounded himself with an aura of flames and walked toward the ants, allowing them to crawl on him so they would be burned. Silverleaf sent a cone of flames from his hands, then called on Sarenrae’s divine flames to shield him and he too walked into the ant swarm. San’Kari pushed the other members of the group toward the slimy room. The ants crawling over Landon and Silverleaf bit them but did little harm, and soon the flames had consumed them all.

Once the ants were dealt with, Landon showed his comrades the giant bones he had found. He also revealed that among the items in the slime he had found a key that was surrounded by amber. Could this be the amber key the iron golem had told them of, that was supposed to be in the possession of the current Baron Drelev? The party members went to the slime chamber. From the top of the stairs, Garrick hurled a dagger of ice at the slime, and Tahjah seared it with holy light. Then both Tahjah and Silverleaf summoned holy weapons to strike it, and after that the slime slumped to the floor and spread out like a pool of liquid, its acidic form burning their feet as it flowed beneath them. Its demise deposited gems, gold and silver coins, and a magical onyx gem on the floor.

With the slime out of the way, Landon set to work studying the heavy door of fused iron that stood at the bottom of the staircase. There was no visible keyhole, and Landon determined that the door was heavily warded with protections to ward off good creatures, runes that would explode, and darts that would shoot out to wound intruders. Garrick joined him and used his ability to see through stone to peer into the room beyond the door. On the other side he saw a circular room with a brazier of fire in the center. He could make out several shadowy figures that seemed to be dancing around the fire, but he couldn’t determine how many or what they were.

Landon took out the amber key while Garrick was still viewing through the stone. As he did so, Garrick observed that the figures stopped moving and seemed to look toward the iron door. Landon told his companions to move back. When they had done so he touched the key to the door. Five keyholes immediately appeared on the door’s surface. Tahjah reached out to examine the magic of the door and sensed that the fourth keyhole had a very strong aura of magic. All of the keyholes exuded an aura of necromancy. The first keyhole at the top of the door seemed to be connected to some type of sending spell, perhaps an alarm. The fifth keyhole’s aura made Tahjah feel ill. Silverleaf stepped up beside her and conducted his own examination, feeling something very unpleasant from the second keyhole that threatened to drive one mad, a destructive aura from the third keyhole, and an unholy aura from the fifth.

Armed with this information, Landon put the key in the top keyhole. Immediately four darts shot out and struck him. He sensed that they were poisoned, but through his alchemical experiments he had become immune to all poisons. He then inserted the key in the third hole. This time he felt a force pushing him back and blast of sound energy. Tahjah activated her ring to fly down to him and cast a spell on him. Next Landon put the key in the fifth hole, and was rewarded with a mass of decayed flesh suddenly burying him. But this did not trouble the dwarf in the slightest, even when Tahjah realized that all of the lumps of stinking flesh were undead.

Undaunted, Landon inserted the amber key into the fourth hole, and withstood the vision of madness that attempted to twist his mind. With the final lock released, the doors swung open to reveal the circular chamber that Garrick had seen, populated by four or five fire elementals and four Black Sisters. As soon as the Black Sisters saw Landon, they released a wave of negative energy.

Landon surged forward, drawing his dagger, and stabbed the Black Sister who stood nearest the entrance. Silverleaf and San’Kari descended the stairs to the doorway, and Silverleaf called on Sarenrae and Nethys to protect his companions. Then one of the Black Sisters sent a blast of magic toward the door, but it had no effect on the two elves. Another of the Sisters activated an aura of madness, which Landon, Silverleaf, and Garrick all resisted, but San’Kari was affected by it and became confused. A fire elemental standing before him tried to attack him and he attacked it in return. Another fire elemental moved up to attack Silverleaf but missed its aim. From the top of the stairs, Amaya gave a battle cry that heartened her comrades.

Tahjah, still flying, poked her head through the doorway above Silverleaf and smote the far side of the chamber with divine power, harming several of the elementals. Silverleaf followed her example and used the same divine energy to smite the same area. His spell overcame the resistance of the Black Sisters, temporarily blinding two of them. One of the elementals was absorbed into the fire brazier in the center of the room, which then transformed into a larger fire elemental. A Sister tried to harm Landon with negative energy but it failed to affect him. Amaya extended a blessing to everyone, and San’Kari recovered from the confusion that had fogged his mind at the same moment that Landon slew one of the Black Sisters.

Free of mental disturbance, San’Kari moved to attack one of the remaining Black Sisters, while Garrick hurled two throwing axes and a frosty mug at another Sister. Silverleaf summoned an ally of force to attack a Sister, but was unable to overcome her resistance to magic and his ally vanished. One of the Sisters who had remained at the far side of the room moved forward, her aura of madness enveloping everyone, but this time all of the heroes resisted its effect. Then the Sister emitted a terrifying banshee wail that shook everyone to their bones. Silverleaf and Tahjah both collapsed on the floor, lifeless. Amaya raced down the stairs and tried to heal Silverleaf with a wand, but it had no effect on him.

Enraged by the Sister’s action, San’Kari killed one Sister with his axe, and then slaughtered the remaining fire elementals as well. Garrick slew the last of the Black Sisters. While the surviving members of the group stood looking down in grief on their fallen comrades, they realized that Silverleaf had possession of a magic pearl that would restore him to life in time. Once the elven priest had recovered, he would be able to use a spell scroll Garrick had acquired to restore Tahjah to life as well. The others quickly searched the bodies of the fallen Black Sisters before carrying their companions out of the tomb, for they feared that if the Black Sisters had been able to access this chamber there might be more of them elsewhere within the tomb complex. They did not want to face more Black Sisters without the aid of Silverleaf and Tahjah.

4 masterwork breastplates
4 +2 keen daggers
4 unholy symbols of Gyrona
540 gold pieces
200 silver pieces
Assorted gems worth 750 gold
8 pearls worth 100 gold each
2 potions of 'haste'
Potion of 'cure serious wounds'
Onyx with a red hourglass symbol – 'gem of poison immunity'
Ring of 'limited wish' – empty
3 masterwork warhammers

Monday, October 31, 2016

Yes, I Admit It - I Cheat

After blogging about the new Skyrim Special Edition and the availability of mods, I have to make a confession: I'm using a mod that allows me to cheat.

One of the mods we downloaded is called, appropriately, 'Cheat Mod'. It allows a character to get any mundane or enchanted armor or weapons, any spell tome, any skill increase book, any potion ingredient, any magic accessory, any potion. It also provides a treasure chest containing 50,000 gold pieces and a ring that basically gives you unlimited carrying capacity. This means that a starting character could have some powerful enchanted armor and weapons, and know many more spells that a character ordinarily starts out with.

Just because the mod is available doesn't mean I have to take advantage of it. But I am. I know there are players out there who feel it's part of the fun of the game to work your way up through the quests, acquiring these items as loot or creating them through the crafting system. I like those parts of the game, too. But I've been playing this game for 5 years. I've gone through a lot of the basic quests several times. I know how to craft items, and where to find the minerals I need to make something special. I decided that this time I don't want to go through all of that again as a typical starting character.

Skyrim doesn't use character classes; you don't choose to be a mage, rogue, or warrior as you do in some other games. Every character has the capacity to both use magic and wield weapons. How good a character becomes at either skill is up to the player. When I play in tabletop roleplaying games I like to play mages, and the same is true in console games. But when starting out in Skyrim, your character knows very few spells and has a limited amount of magicka available to fuel them. You are forced by circumstance to pick up a weapon if you want your character to survive long enough to learn more magic. I didn't want to go through that process again, acquiring spell tomes to learn more spells and gradually building up magicka level by level. I decided to use the advantages provided by the Cheat Mod to skip over some of that so my mage could be somewhat more skilled at first level. I read a number of the spell tomes the mod provided. I took a magic staff from the supply cupboard. I also took some nice enchanted armor, and an amulet that increases my magicka. And I took the ring that increases carrying capacity so that I don't have to worry about going back to town to unload loot  in the midst of exploring every cave or mine or dungeon. I can focus on the exploration and stop concerning myself with how much stuff I pick up.

Taking these items doesn't mean that I'm really that much better at magic than a first level character who doesn't have such equipment. I still cast spells at a low level. I can't simply wipe out my enemies with a wave of my hand. But with this equipment, I don't have to worry as much about creeping up on enemies, or rapidly depleting my supply of healing potions (the mod doesn't provide an unlimited quantity of those). The mod means I can enjoy the things I like to do, without spending as much of my time on the parts of the game I find less entertaining.

I also took the 50,000 gold. One of the first perks you get in the game if you follow the main Dragonborn quest is to be given the right to purchase a house in one of Skyrim's holds. It takes a lot of gold to buy a house, and the houses come unfurnished, so you then have to buy furnishings. You can spend a lot of time trying to build up enough gold to put a bedroom suite or an alchemical lab in your house. I decided to use some of that special gold to buy a house and furnish it right away. Technically I don't need a house, since the underground secret lair the mod provides contains two alchemical labs. But I like the idea of having a house to go back to instead of creeping around in a rather spooky basement that doesn't include any incidental music or ambient sounds. Since I've already got a house, I can spend the rest of my money on other things, like potions, or equipment for my traveling companions.

Playing a game is supposed to be fun. The first four or five times I ran through the introductory quests, it was fun feeling that anxiety that my character might die at any moment. But now I want something different out of the experience, and using a mod that lets me cheat the game a bit allows me to achieve that goal. So, yes, I cheat. And if cheating means I can get past level 10 faster and dive into some of the more difficult quests that I've never played through before, then I'm not going to feel guilty about cheating.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

It's Here! It's Here! Skyrim Special Edition

In 2011, Bethesda Games released the next installation in their popular Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim. My husband and I picked it up right away for our Xbox 360 console. We spent hours and hours playing it, because it's an open-world game where you can wander all over the map, visiting nearly every square foot of land in the titular location. You can buy and furnish houses in each of the major towns and cities. You can craft special armor and weapons for your characters, brew potions, create new spells, even cook food. You can become a thane of each hold, and have a housecarl to look after each of your homes. You can take one of your housecarls with you to help you carry loot and fight enemies, or you can hire someone to keep you company. You can acquire a horse, a dog, a magical construct, a mechanical construct, and even a spirit to keep you company as well. The game offers a massive amount of things to do. If you want to ignore the main quests and just spend your time exploring caves and ruins, or roaming the countryside collecting potion ingredients, you can do that.

But there were some things missing from the Xbox version of the game. The PC version offered the opportunity for users to create their own modifications to the game world and characters, something that wasn't available for the console versions. PC players could change the rules of the game so that, for example, all the hiking around in the snow your character will do actually causes hypothermia. Mods allowed players to make the game more challenging for themselves by removing automatic magicka regeneration (the statistic that allows a characters magic 'fuel' to replenish itself), removing automatic hit point regeneration, or removing the fast-travel option. They could also make the game easier by allowing themselves to gain high-level equipment and abilities more easily or increasing the amount of gold merchants would pay them for the loot they acquired. And they could add humorous mods that would make the game more fun, such as a mod that would allow a character to burp and fart after eating, or one that would rain steam locomotives on the player-character's enemies. Other mods added new locations, new mounts, new spells and equipment, and revisions to the challenge rating and level increase systems,

Not long ago my husband and I finally swapped our decade-old Xbox 360 for an Xbox One. The console isn't backward-compatible, so we couldn't play our old copy of Skyrim on the new console. But we didn't buy a new copy right away, because we new the Skyrim Special Edition was coming. Now that we're trying it out, here are a few thoughts on the remastered game and it's biggest selling feature: the availability of mods.

It took a while for my husband to be able to sign up to download the mods from Bethesda's site - there were some technical difficulties on Day One - but after he did so he discovered that the Xbox One version currently has 100 mods available to players. These include mods that I described above, like 'Immersive Indigestion' that adds belching and flatulence, and 'Call of Trainwiz' which creates a Dragonborn Shout effect that rains trains. But one of the most impressive mods (or appalling, depending on your point of view) is the aptly-named 'Cheat Mod'. This mod gives you a secret underground chamber in which you can find every key, skill increase tome, spell tome, specialty quest item, and crafting station type available in the game, as well as massive quantities of loot items, Dragonborn Shouts, and summonable creatures.

The Special Edition doesn't add much else to the game in terms of content if you choose not to use mods. It comes with all of the downloadable add-ons that were originally released, which add the secondary Solstheim location and the ability to build your own house and adopt children. There have been some lesser changes to existing content or appearance. Reports indicate that many of the game's infamous glitches have been fixed; clipping still occurs, but apparently the likelihood that your character will plummet infinitely after falling off a cliff has been removed, along with some of the other more egregious bugs that are amply documented on YouTube. The texture mapping seems a bit smoother, the contrast between foreground and background crisper, and my husband and I both noticed that the colors are much brighter - so bright, in fact, that we chose to turn down the contrast slightly to avoid eye strain.

If you're not like us and didn't recently purchase a new console that requires you to buy a different version of the game, you may still be perfectly happy with your existing version of Skyrim. But if you've never played the game before, or if you'd really like to see what the mods add to your game experience, I would recommend picking up the Special Edition. Skyrim is an endlessly playable game. While it is missing out on some of the features that make competitor Dragon Age: Inquisition a more immersive experience, the opportunity to just do whatever you want in Skyrim continues to make it an appealing game five years after it was initially released.

If you'd like to know more about the mods, you can read Kotaku's recommendations here, or view the complete list on Bethesda's site.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Where Do They Get These Ideas?

I just stumbled across this article from January, and I've got to agree that most of these theories are truly bonkers. Let me count the ways.
Looking at theories 4 and 12, it seems that some people don't know how to calculate the passage of time, since these proposed parental events would have happened too far in the past for Rey to be only 19. I also wonder why so much speculation revolves around her parents having Force abilities. Nothing in the Star Wars canon that I'm aware of dictates that Force users must be descended from Force users. And the idea that the Force can somehow engender virgin births is one part of the prequels that I can happily ignore. Perhaps some Force-user impregnated Anakin's mother and then used a Jedi (or Sith) mind-trick to make her forget about the experience.
Popular Theory #1 seems the most likely explanation. Personally I don't want Rey to be related to the Skywalker dynasty at all, because I'm sick of the whole Star Wars universe revolving around them. But if she is related to Luke, they'd better come up with a really good explanation of why she was left on Jakku with no one to look after her. It could be a David Copperfield sort of story, or Oliver Twist, in which she did have a guardian but something happened to that person and no one was aware of it or able to do anything about it. Maybe Luke couldn't go fetch her because he was busy fleeing from someone, or trying to save Ben Solo, or fighting with the Dark Side somehow. Perhaps he could have been marooned on Ahch-To. Just because he's got Force powers doesn't mean he can whip up a spaceship or fly unprotected through the vacuum of space (although if you watch Star Wars Rebels, it certainly does imply that Jedi don't need spacesuits, at least for short trips).
Rey could also be descended from some other SW canon character that no one thought of, such as an Imperial character. Maybe Palpatine had children of his own and could be her grandfather. Maybe she's Padme's very-much-younger sister, since we know nothing about Padme's family on Naboo. There's a lot of territory to choose from without making her a relative of the Skywalkers. Okay, so Padme would make her a relative. Let's just not make her a sibling or descendant of the surviving Skywalker clan, okay? Are you listening, J.J.?
If there isn't a good explanation for her abandonment on Jakku, I hope that there is at least a thorough one. As I've grown older and watched more Star Wars material, especially The Clone Wars and Rebels, I've come to realize what a lot of other people also think: that the Jedi had become self-righteous jerks by the time of The Phantom Menace. They weren't meant to be a military organization; they were supposed to be more like a monastic organization that gave altruistic aid. Part of what Palpatine did, besides drawing Anakin to the Dark Side, was make the Jedi Order into a military unit and give them command of armies when they had no background for that sort of thing. Their biggest failing was that the Jedi Council didn't say no to any of this. So it isn't hard to accept that someone coming from that history could put a young child in hiding on a rough planet thinking she'd be safer there and then completely fail to check in on her. People are fallible creatures, even Force-using people. Who left Rey on Jakku doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with who her parents were.
In any case, I'm really hoping that none of the theories listed in the article are true. I hope Rey isn't related to any existing characters, let alone the Skywalkers. I want the filmmakers to surprise me, and surprise me with something that makes such good sense that I'll be amazed I didn't think of it before. Is that too much to hope for?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Kingmaker #9

Session 61 - October 23, 2016

San’Kari gave the wheel in the center of the icy chamber four turns, until it stopped and he thought he heard something click into place. An opening was revealed across the room, leading to a descending staircase, which took them to a long hallway that curved off to their left. In the center of the passage at the point where it turned stood a chunk of amber as large as a man. Landon checked the passageway for traps. As Silverleaf scanned the walls, he noticed faint sigils that he interpreted as the signs of those warriors who had fought alongside Armag at his most famed battle. Landon noticed that the amber stone had begun to vibrate slightly. He went closer to examine it. Within the amber he could make out various inclusions. He realized that there was some type of interplanar trap in the hallway. Then webs began to form beyond the amber. From the darkness appeared an enormous spider, which Landon realized was a demonic creature from another plane of existence.

San’kari immediately went forward to attack the spider; though its webbing filled the corridor and the strands were as thick as ropes, San’kari’s magic ring allowed him to move freely. Silverleaf moved up behind Landon and gave him the strength of a bull but could move no further when the webbing surrounded him, though it didn’t complete fill the space in which he stood. San’kari and Landon both struck at the spider, which extruded further web and entangled Landon. Silverleaf then summoned an ally and a warrior made of force appeared behind the spider, flanking with San'kari. The spider bit Landon, but he was fortunately immune to its poison. Silverleaf expended a charge from his staff and filled the passage with flames, burning away the webs but also burning Landon and San’kari. Then San’kari chopped the spider with his axe, and it died. With the webbing cleared, Landon eagerly examined the creature before its corpse vanished back to the plane from which it had come.

Silverleaf channeled the healing power of the gods to make amends for setting his comrades on fire before they moved on to the end of the passage. It led them into a circular room occupied by four large pillars supporting a domed ceiling reaching some fifty feet above them. In the center of the pillars stood a very large figure covered in spiky armor. Landon identified this figure as a golem. On three sides of the chamber were massive double doors, including the entrance through which the party had arrived. The fourth side had no doors, but oddly it appeared that someone had attempted to chip away at the stone there. The wall was scarred where it had been attacked with axes or swords.

Avoiding the center area where the golem stood, Landon skirted around the room checking for traps, while, Silverleaf examined the area for magic. He detected that some of the sigils on the pillars were magical, and there was an aura of magic on the damaged wall but he couldn’t make out what it was. Landon found that the other two doors were locked. He approached the door-less wall and consumed an elixir to allow him to see secret doors, hoping to find one hidden behind the stone.

Behind the rock Landon saw a mirror, and caught a brief glimpse of a Black Sister. He also felt a chill. After Landon described this to the others, San’kari used one of his magic rings to shape the stone away from the hidden door. The doorway that was revealed proved possible to open only from the opposite side. Silverleaf attempted to identify what manner of magical door it was, but was unable to acquire any more information. Landon then spent a short time creating another elixir to enable him to learn more. The door seemed to lead to a portal, which might have been placed there by the Black Sisters or was being utilized by them. San’kari wondered if freeing the doorway from its stone surroundings entirely would allow the group to remove the door or open it, but Landon’s examination indicated this wouldn’t be successful.

After spending some time trying to understand the portal, the group members decided to continue looking for Armag’s sword. When Landon approached the double doors to the right of the portal, the golem suddenly awoke and warned them that it did not want to have to attack them. The party then began to question the golem, as it seemed willing enough to respond to their inquiries and made no move to threaten them.

In response to their questions, the golem told them that it had been placed there by Armag himself to protect the tomb, and that it couldn’t move beyond the area encircled by the four pillars. It believed that the doors Landon had been trying to unlock might lead to the tomb, but it didn’t know that with certainty. The portal had been placed there by the Black Sisters and had been there for a year or more, though it admitted that it lacked a good sense of the passage of time. It claimed that the others doors led to a cavern occupied by an imprisoned dragon. The golem also told the group that to get through the door that led toward the tomb could only be opened with the ‘amber key’, which was held by one of Armag’s descendents who was the baron of Fort Drelev.

This particular piece of information really aroused the interest of the party from New Hope, as they understood Fort Drelev to have fallen under the influence of the Black Sisters. If the Sisters had control of the current baron, why had they not already acquired the key and entered the tomb to claim the sword? The party members speculated that perhaps the current baron was keeping the location of the key hidden, or possibly wasn’t aware that the key existed and didn’t know where it was stored.

The golem also warned the group that if they tried to open the doors without the key, the mirror portal would attack them. They concluded that any further examination of the golem’s chamber was not useful at this time, and they decided to go on through the door to the south. This actually led to a passageway that split. The direction they chose didn’t lead them to the dragon, but instead to a thirty-foot precipice with another passage on the opposite side of the cavern it led to. At the bottom of the cliff was a lot of rubbish, and Silverleaf and Tahjah sensed magic items in the trash. Landon descended to the floor of the cave to examine the rubbish. He found the bones of many humanoid creatures, and determined that the leg bones had been cut by something jagged like the teeth of a bear trap. Among the remains Landon found a set of hide armor, a spear, and three oblong obsidian stones that were all magical. He gathered these things up and took them back up to the top of the cliff.

When examined further, the three stones proved especially interesting. They were capable of opening a door between dimensions that would allow a person to travel a short distance without covering the intervening space, and if left in place the person could use this doorway to return to the starting point as long as the magic wasn’t deactivated and the stone wasn’t moved. But both Landon and Silverleaf sensed that there was more to the stones than just this capability. Landon, Silverleaf, and Tahjah each took possession of a stone.

After they had examined the items Landon found, the whole group descended to the floor of the cavern and went through the opening there, which took them back to the area they had already explored. They returned to the golem chamber and talked to it further, asking why the dragon had been imprisoned there if it didn’t appear to guard anything. During this conversation, Landon recalled that Armag had reputedly had a dragon mount. The golem confirmed this, and added that the dragon had been transformed into a worg and sent out into the world. This remark excited the heroes, as their friend Grizz the worg had proved to be a very old brass dragon who had somehow been transformed into a worg against his will.

Once the discussion had got past the dragon, the golem also revealed that it knew the Black Sisters had made an attack on New Hope three days earlier, though the four Sisters leading the attack had failed to penetrate the fort’s defenses. It also revealed that the leader of the Black Sisterhood was known as Lady Fornus, a priestess of Gyrona whose preferred domain was darkness.

After learning all of this information, the heroes decided it was time to leave the tomb and consider whether to go to Fort Drelev for the key next or return to New Hope to check on the citizens there. They departed from the caverns by the same route through which they had entered. Once they were outside, the barbarians encamped there gave them no trouble. In fact, when asked if they would like to be freed of the Black Sisterhood, they confessed that they were all cowards. The group members encouraged the barbarians to leave this area and go to Oleg’s Fort, even going so far as to give them a letter of introduction to present to Oleg. The barbarians were very disappointed that the heroes would not send their two militiamen along with them as protection.

To protect themselves from any Black Sisters still in the caves, the party moved to a point about an hour’s ride away from the tomb to set up camp. After they had made camp, Landon sent his consciousness to one of his simulacra in New Hope to find out what had happened there. He learned that Munguk the giant had taken the lead in combating the attacking Black Sisters, and had also slain one of the chimeras the Sisters had brought with them. Because he knew that Landon liked such things, he had kept the chimera’s carcass, and a priestess who had been at the fort had preserved it so Landon could dissect it. Munguk described that the archers had used fire arrows against the Sisters and had found them to be vulnerable to fire, as most of their robes burnt up instantly when set ablaze. Three of the four Sisters had also been slain, but their bodies had dissolved into a slimy substance upon their deaths.

After learning about what had occurred during the attack, Landon acquired a number of magic items that had been found among the Black Sisters remains, including a belt, a rod, a cloak, and several potions.

While Landon was away the others rested and stood watch over his unconscious body. Silverleaf expended a spell to replace a charge in his staff, then spent time examining his obsidian stone, trying to learn more about its properties. He experienced a vision of a scene of battle in which the sky was dark with arrows and Black Sister pursued giants using an animated trap like the one that had severed the legs of the remains in the cavern. He also saw a mask-wearing skull with glowing green eyes, which he somehow knew was some type of guardian. Though there was nothing in the vision to tell him when it had taken place, he felt that it was a vision of the past.

Landon returned the next morning and told them what had happened at New Hope. He had also learned that there had been centaurs there, though he didn’t know why they had traveled all the way from the other side of the mountains. Fey in the forest had seen the Black Sisters and their forces coming from the northwest, which the heroes knew to be the direction in which an old cemetery lay. They knew they would eventually have to visit the cemetery and perhaps consecrate it to prevent the forces of evil from utilizing it.

After Landon told his story, Silverleaf advised him that he should examine his stone. When Landon did this, he witnessed a vision of giants being consumed by fire. When they died and were burned, a black figure knelt by the remains and put something into their mouths, after which they arose as zombies and followed the figure obediently. The figure was some type of astral projection of evil, though Landon knew it was female and was probably a Black Sister. Like Silverleaf, Landon knew that this was a vision of a past event.

Tahjah then decided that she, too, should look into her stone. Her vision was quite different: she saw a magical quill inscribing spells in a spellbook without aid of a living creature, while a small cloud of fog seemed to rain acid on the pages. Beyond the spell-scribing quill she saw many scrolls, which were slowly being rolled on dowels by a lint-coated imp. Her impression was that this had taken place recently.

Landon began to wonder if the three stones could somehow be combined to do something more. He experimented with assembling them like a menhir and discovered that two of the stones would stand on end by themselves. Once he placed the third stone on top, the stones suddenly enlarged to eight feet in height and through the space between the uprights could be seen an expanse of blue sky. The witnesses felt a strong wind blowing from this place. As they tried to determine if this might be a portal to another plane, four riders in red and silver bearing the flag of Brevoy went past, followed by several nightmares and two nuckelavee. A short time later they saw the same riders and pursuers race past again, and again.

Silverleaf recalled tales of traps made to teleport the victims back to their starting point over and over. It seemed that this strange portal was allowing them to witness such a trap. Tahjah wondered if she could use telekinetic magic to pull the riders through the portal. On her first attempt she was able to thrust one rider off her horse from the opposite direction, so that the elven woman flew out of the portal into the camp. Heartened by her success, Tahjah was able to push the other three riders out as well, though her spell was not strong enough to free their horses. San’kari caught the three additional riders so that they had a less painful landing than the first.

The party members gave the four rescued people food and water and Tahjah channeled divine energy to heal their hurts. When questioned about what had happened to them, the four people told a strange and disturbing tale, though they told it in fits and starts and seemed bewildered by many of the questions they were asked. It seemed that they had been offered 50 gold pieces by Lord Terrion Numeste of Brevoy to go to Armag’s tomb and explore it. They had not been equipped with any weapons or armor, and all of them were tradespeople or merchants, not experienced adventurers. One was a merchant, one a scribe, one a cartographer, and one a trapper. Eventually Silverleaf began to suspect that they were too foolish and na├»ve for it to be natural and he examined them to see if perhaps they had been subjected to an effect similar to what the daemon had done to Landon and Kara. But he discovered instead that all of them had scars on their temples. The four people explained that after they had volunteered for this mission they had been sent to Lord Terrion’s mage to be ‘mentally prepared’ for the task. The party members realized that this ‘preparation’ must have involved removing a portion of their brains. They began to suspect that the Black Sisters were spreading their influence in Brevoy, though they didn’t know if Lord Terrion was a willing participant or had been duped.

Further discussion with the four poor victims led them to learn that Lord Terrion apparently knew quite a lot about the traps in Armag's tomb, and had sent numerous groups of similar people there to explore over the past year or two. These people had first gone to the wrong place, accidentally entering a bear’s lair, and had then been paralyzed by a Black Sister and pushed into the teleportation trap. They hadn’t had horses with them at the time and hadn’t even been aware that they were riding, or being chased. Somehow Lord Terrion, or the Black Sisters advising him, had realized that some of the traps within the tomb would not endanger someone of little intellectual capacity, so they had sent in explorers who didn’t have enough intellect to trigger these traps or draw the attention of the creatures within. The four people had met the black dragon trapped there, but it had declined to bother them. They described the dragon, the ice-covered chain holding it, and even knew its name: Ilthuliak. The heroes realized that his name sounded very much like the name of the black dragon they had met near Lake Silverstep, and in fact Ilthuliak had told the four explorers from Brevoy that he had a twin.

San’kari suggested they use one of their teleportation devices to visit Ilthuliak’s twin at Lake Silverstep and tell him where to find his brother, but nothing they had in their possession could transport a person so far. Only Garrick’s magic boots could do it, and Garrick had left the party temporarily. Then Silverleaf suggested that he send a magical message to the dragon. With the agreement of the others, he carefully composed the short missive and transmitted it to Ilthuliak’s twin: ‘From Garrick of Galisat: Ilthuliak imprisoned in Armag’s tomb near Hooktongue Slough by waterfall, we’re nearby will help if you wish.’

+3 hide armor
+3 anarchic spear
3 dimension stones
Cloak of resistance +2
Belt of physical might +4 str, +4 con
+2 defending longsword
Ring of keys
Rod of splendor
+3 breastplate
Potion of cure light wounds
Potion of haste
Potion of levitation