Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Kingmaker #4

Session 56: January 10, 2016

Once they had stopped up the tunnel beneath the water and eliminated the aboleth that was directing the digging, the heroes of Galisat planned to go to the northwest of Lake Hooktongue to seek the tomb of Armag the Twice-Born, which the Narthropple group believed they may have located. They wanted to find it before Nyrissa's supporters did, as they believed that their enemies were trying to use the sword Armag was buried with to convince the Tiger Lord barbarians that he had returned to life; and gain legitimacy for the man they were trying to make the barbarians believe was Armag reborn.

They went first to Oleg's Fort to check in with him and see how things were. There they found that Donak the priest was leading a celebration to welcome new arrivals and new members to the community of Erastil's followers. Many of the newcomers had fled the troubles in Pitax. The refugees told tales of how the new rulers of Pitax were recruiting huge rats as soldiers, as well as an aura of evil that seemed to permeate everything, and how the forces from Pitax were attempting to dig tunnels into territories claimed by Galisat. The refugees also reported that the cult of Gyronna had become strong in Pitax and the Black Sisters were powerful.

Other tales told by people attending the celebration spoke of a Lady in Velvet who appeared at times of great need to bring succor. She appeared to be human and was usually seen in forests, thus she was sometimes known as the Lady of the Forest.

Among the new arrivals were several veteran soldiers. Garrick and San'Kari decided to recruit them for the territory's army. After interviewing the men they determined that a unit should be set up at Oleg's Fort, similar to what had already been established in New Hope. They recruited two experienced men, Valen and Vord, to act as drill sergeants. The two men also told them of a dangerous creature known as a 'speartooth', an eight-legged monster that was not any kind of spider.

Garrick took time to check in on the hill giants that their friend Grizz (the polymorphed brass dragon) had sent to help protect the fort. He used the enchanted shovel to dig a cave for the giants to live in, as they found the forested area around the fort less than comfortable. Oleg informed Garrick that two hill giants named Dregg and Zarn had been sent to protect Varnhold.

The heroes also heard from Bokken the alchemist that he was looking for azure lily pollen.

At the Fort, Oleg’s partner Svetlana took Silverleaf aside and warned him to watch over the sleep of his companions. She feared that the Black Sisters had the ability to taint dreams. Meanwhile San'Kari went to the stable to visit Klutz the stableboy, whom he had befriended not long after arriving at the fort for the first time. Klutz reported having bad dreams and being unable to sleep. Concerned, San'Kari took him to see Svetlana. After Garrick heard of this, he and San'Kari went to examine the stable, and Garrick discovered a taint of evil there. Garrick’s wife Amaya was especially troubled by the sensation.

While they were examining the stable, they spotted a black cat which fled when Garrick used his ability to detect evil. Landon sent an invisible Cyst after the cat, which fled to the old tree outside of town, where the heroes had previously battled followers of Gyronna. When it reached the tree the cat transformed into a woman with tentacles for legs - the sign of the Black Sisters. Once Landon reported what Cyst had seen, Garrick teleported himself, Silverleaf, Tahjah and Thim to the tree. San'Kari used a ring of teleportation he had borrowed from Garrick to travel to the tree. Everyone but San'Kari activated their rings of fly on arrival, and immediately attacked the Black Sister.

Thim's arrow struck her with a vital strike, while Garrick blinded her with a holy smite. The woman then shouted, deafening Garrick and somehow causing San'Kari to become fatigued. He nevertheless hurled an axe at her and wounded her. Garrick then cast a flame strike on the tree, unaware that the invisible imp Cyst, Landon's familiar, was nearby. Silverleaf also cast flame strike, while Garrick threw a dagger at the woman. The woman summoned a giant crocodile to attack San'Kari, who was on foot at the base of the tree. Silverleaf released a charge of fireball from his staff to burn her. Following a difficult struggle with the crocodile, San'Kari slew it with a might blow. Silverleaf scorched the woman with burning hands, and Tahjah grabbed her with a telekinesis spell.

Just after San'Kari used his ring to teleport onto the tree limb beside the woman, Garrick struck her with a flurry of blows and she fell. On her person was found a ruby ring worth 300 gold pieces, a dagger of wounding, a wand of charm person, an elixir of love, and a potion of aid. She also carried a missive with some information about Lady Quintessa and Baroness Pavetta of Pitax.`

Loot:
ruby ring 300 gp
+3 dagger of wounding
wand of charm person CL 9, 17 charges
potion of aid
elixir of love

Kingmaker #3

Session 55: August 30, 2015

After completing some additional activities in New Hope, the group reassembled (without Garrick, who remained in New Hope) and headed for the southern end of the Tuskwater to investigate a strange disturbance reported by the lizardfolk there. They were provided with a boat and a lizardfolk guide, who told them that animals and fish seemed to be avoiding the area, and there were unsubstantiated tales of people being used involuntarily in strange ceremonies.

As the team explored the lakeshore, they found evidence of cut trees that someone had attempted to disguise as the work of beavers. They also discovered barbed stakes buried in the lake bottom near the shore, clearly intended to harm anyone who waded into the water. They rowed out to the location where an underwater disturbance had been reported. Silverleaf cast water breathing on everyone but Landon, who chose instead to swallow a potion that transformed him into a boggard. Silverleaf donned his gloves of swimming and climbing, while Tahjah and San’Kari put on rings of freedom of movement. Leaving their guide and Cyst on the boat, they swam down to the lake bottom.

At the bottom they quickly spotted a whirlpool of swirling silt. Closer investigation revealed that a creature was responsible for this, but to their surprise this creature proved to be a bulette. Tahjah was able to converse with it, aided by Landon, who had cast comprehend languages on himself. The bulette revealed that it was being compelled by another creature to dig a tunnel to the Tuskwater all the way from the Hooktongue Slough area. This other creature also gave the bulette the ability to breathe underwater. Since the bulette was being forced to dig, the group decided not to harm it and instead to set it free. Tahjah used dispel magic to release it from the dominate monster effect that was compelling it, and then encouraged it to swim to the surface. Tahjah swam along with it to help direct it toward the shoreline.

Landon remained near the opening to the tunnel, watching it closely. Suddenly a large creature emerged swiftly from the tunnel and struck Landon with a tentacle. He was also engulfed in a cloud of mucus exuded by the creature, which caused his flesh to turn transparent and slimy. The rest of the group turned their attention on this creature, which they identified as an aboleth. Silverleaf summoned a giant octopus, which grappled the aboleth in its tentacles and bit with its beak, though it was unable to affect the aboleth with its poison. He also summoned a giant moray eel to bite it. San’Kari was able to fight as he would have on land thanks to his magic ring, and he struck the aboleth repeatedly with his axe, doing it grievous harm. Landon also attacked it with his dagger and left it bleeding, and Thim swam in to strike with his sword. A swarm of electric eels and four sahuagin swam out of the tunnel to aid the aboleth, but San’Kari slew several of the eels and Tahjah then commanded the aboleth and the sahuagin to stop attacking. While the aboleth was unable to fight back, San’Kari sliced it to pieces.

Three of the sahuagin were slain, but the last was questioned and set free now that it had been released from the aboleth’s control. It revealed that the tunnel had been under construction for months. It also indicated that there might be other aboleths at the other end of the tunnel. The group discussed how they could close the tunnel opening, concluding that San’Kari’s magic item of stone shape could be used to block it, while Landon used his native dwarven engineering skill to ensure that the blockage was sturdy.

Kingmaker #2

Session 54: August 9, 2015

After meeting with Narthropple at New Hope, the heroes of Galisat decided to explore the Hooktongue Slough area to eliminate any potential threats that lay between their claimed territory and that claimed by Pitax.

The group first returned to the area where they had disabled two extraplanar portals they had found earlier, by placing them face to face and encasing them in stone. They wanted to check that the portals hadn’t been cleared or replaced. They found that everything appeared the same as they had left it.

In a nearby location they encountered an area with an unpleasant aura and heard small screams. Upon investigating they discovered several evil fey had bound other fey in thorny vines and were torturing their victims by firing magic missiles at them from a wand. When the evil fey failed to respond to requests to cease these tortures, San’Kari killed one with his returning hand axe, and Garrick set a number of them on fire with a blistering invective spell. Those fey who didn’t immediately die fled the area.

One of the torture victims timidly told his rescuers that the area was under the control of the Black Sisters. After Tahjah channeled energy to heal the fey that had been tortured, Garrick asked them to inform Tiressia the druid about the Black Sisters. The freed fey showed their appreciation to the party by giving them a belt of mighty constitution that they had found long ago.

A short time later the party members stumbled upon several small containers, some holding milk and others filled with pepper juice. Landon determined that all of the liquid had been poisoned, presumably by the evil fey who were trying to harm their good cousins. The group also found a skeleton with the word “Gogunta” carved into the jawbone. They destroyed the skeleton and Tahjah consecrated the vicinity where it was found.

Fey brought them a message from a boggard called Sipoko of the Mbotu, who sought their help. They did not immediately go to find this Sipoko, instead resting overnight and planning on the following day to seek the arena-like structure Narthropple had mapped.

The next day while traveling the group came up on a large mound pierced by a number of openings of various sizes. The mound was surrounded by an assortment of skeletons of all sorts of humanoids and other creatures. Some skeletons were old and others appeared very recent. There were also several cast-off snakeskins of different sizes scattered about. The group members all sensed an unpleasant aura, one that Garrick found familiar.

Landon suggested using the potions of tiny person that Bokken had given them to explore the interior of the mound. Garrick, Thim, and San’Kari agreed to accompany him, while the others waited outside. As soon as the group of reduced-size adventurers started through the largest opening in the side of the mound, the interior of the space became unnaturally dark. No light could penetrate it, nor could Landon’s dwarven sight. They heard chittering sounds and the scurrying of feet from within the darkness. Tahjah approached the entrance and cast daylight, illuminating some of the interior and revealing that some creature was rushing toward the opening.

A scorpion the size of a dog ran out of the mound. A moment later two mole-like beings wielding weapons of bone emerged from holes on the top of the mound. Silverleaf blessed the entire party, and Amaya followed this with a spell of good hope. Silverleaf then climbed up the side of the mound and placed a blast rune by one of the holes. Two large poisonous snakes slithered out of one of the other openings, but the scorpion that exited the hole next to Silverleaf’s rune was blasted. San’Kari slew the first scorpion to have left the mound, and Thim fired arrows into another scorpion.

Silverleaf placed another blast rune on the mound. A larger scorpion came out of the mound, as well as two more of the mole-like creatures and another snake. San’Kari killed one of the snakes, and Thim fired point-blank at a second serpent. Just after Silverleaf put a third blast rune in place, a large canine creature with armor bonded to its body came out from behind the largest scorpion. Tahjah then cast greater forbid action on the area. Her spell failed to affect the large canine, but it did prevent several of the other creatures from attacking. One of the verminous creatures attempted and failed to strike Silverleaf, who cast fire shield upon himself and then set another blast rune on the ground between himself and the creature.

Behind the canine, which Landon identified as a type of dire worg, appeared a creature with elements of both humanoid and serpent. Landon warned that it was some sort of spirit naga, but infused with other elements as well. Tahjah attempted to blast it with a holy smite, but it resisted the magic. Landon burrowed underground to move safely to another position. Thim shot the worg with one of his electrically-charged arrows. Amaya cast murderous command on the worg, which would have forced it to turn on its nearest ally, presumably the naga. But the naga suddenly vanished. Landon and Tahjah suspected it had used a dimension door spell. The vermin creature menacing Silverleaf trod on his blast rune and was slain by the electricity it released. Tahjah attempted another murderous command on the worg but it was unaffected, so Landon killed it. San’Kari finished by slaying the final and largest of the snakes that had emerged from the mound and the battle was done.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Kingmaker Adventure Path


Introduction

Since December of 2012, our regular gaming group has been playing an ongoing campaign using the Pathfinder Adventure Path Kingmaker , a six-part Adventure Path that takes characters from 1st level to 15th or higher. Kingmaker is designed to make the player-characters rulers of their own new realm, along with letting them (hopefully) defeat a great evil that could eventually go on to threaten other kingdoms. Currently, as we’re about to resume this campaign, our characters are 12th level and are now the leaders of the new duchy of Galisat (the name is formed from parts of the names of the PCs). 

The vicissitudes of life mean that we’re taking longer to complete this Adventure Path than we would have if we had played steadily on a weekly basis. But despite several breaks of six months or more, we’ve played nearly 60 game sessions. During our initial sessions my notes were pretty sparse, just documenting names and loot acquired. For these reasons I’m not going to try to post all the sessions here on my blog. I’m just going to summarize what happened in the earlier stages of the campaign, and start off my posts with the last three or four sessions prior to our most recent hiatus.

The original five player-characters started out as individuals who weren’t acquainted with each other. Each had received a charter from the kingdom of Brevoy to explore part of the territory known as the Stolen Lands, a wilderness largely populated by monsters and a few settlers, though ruins showed evidence of long-ago civilization. After arriving at Oleg’s Trading Post, the PCs got acquainted and set off to slay monsters and make new friends. The original group consisted of the following characters:

Garrick – male, monk/inquisitor (human)
Landon – male, alchemist/ranger (dwarf)
San’Kari – male, fighter (elf)
Silverleaf – male, cleric (elf) – this is my character
Thim – male, ranger (halfling)

Not long after the campaign began, the group was joined by another player and a new party member: 

Tahjah – female, oracle (aasimar)

Here I’d like to add a few personality notes about the characters. 
Garrick is now the duke of Galisat. The character has the leadership feat, which has allowed him a cohort. The player chose to make this cohort his character’s wife. This is Amaya, a human bard. You’ll see her mentioned periodically below. Amaya also has a bodyguard, Kara, a dwarf warrior who frequently accompanies the PCs. Both Amaya and Kara are considered NPCs, but they’re run by Garrick’s player rather than by the GM.
Landon is focused primarily on alchemy. He has a penchant for dissecting monsters, and for tasting things that no one else would ever put in their mouths, which on more than one occasion has nearly killed him. He also has a reputation for horrible personal hygiene.
San’Kari suffers from amnesia about his early life as the result of a head injury. He spent many years living among dwarves and thinks of himself as a dwarf. The Pathfinder game setting describes elves as adapting themselves to their environment, so San’Kari is short and strong for an elf.
Silverleaf is a cleric, but one who seems more like a wizard sometimes than a priest. I chose his cleric domains so that he can scribe spell scrolls like a wizard. He’s also not dedicated to just one deity, but his devotion is focused on the gods Nethys and Sarenrae. Sarenrae is goddess of fire, and Silverleaf favors fire spells and effects.
Tahjah is an oracle, which is a cleric-like class but without domains and with a more limited spell list. Tahjah hates undead, and has developed her ability to channel positive energy to a very high level to combat them.
Thim specializes in archery. He has a bow that fires arrows with both electricity and frost damage. Thim’s player has had to step out of the group, and I’m not sure if this character will become an NPC or just disappear when we start again.

The six adventurers have carried out a huge variety of activities as they began to build up the territory that would eventually become the barony, then duchy, of Galisat. I"m not going to try to chronicle everything they've done since the campaign started. Their most recent adventures have included defeating an ancient cyclops vampire lich (yes, all three) who was in the process of rebuilding his power and probably plotting a massive takeover of all the neighboring territories. They even managed to acquire what is probably one of his phylacteries. Now they're engaged in trying to prevent a neighboring territory that has been taken over by some of the lich's confederates from invading Brevoy. It seems that the lich's bid for power was being backed - or possibly led - by the evil goddess Gyronna and a vampire necromancer named Nyrissa.

Just before we pick up the tale of our intrepid adventurers, they had found two portals leading to other planes. Curiously these two portals were located a very short distance apart, and they suspected their enemies were using the portals to get into their territory. After a long struggle with the defenders that kept emerging from the portals, they managed to block the portals by pushing them together so they were face-to-face and then encasing both in magically melded stone to prevent them being separated. Anyone exiting one portal would immediately be shunted through the other.

Session 53: August 2, 2015

Instead of returning to New Hope after their latest adventure, Landon borrowed the lyre of building and Garrick’s ring of teleportation to travel to Oleg’s Fort, Tatzlford, and Varnhold, where he established apartments and alchemical laboratories for himself. 

Meanwhile Tahjah went to visit the lizardfolk at Lake Candlemere to discuss the portals with them and seek their aid in combating the enemies threatening the new duchy. The lizardfolk reported that large poisonous frogs had been increasing in number south of the lake, and they had also heard of the appearance of a creature they called a froghemoth, a huge tentacled frog-like beast.

Garrick and San’Kari traveled to Restov to recruit soldiers for Galisat. Silverleaf went to the temple of Erastil to talk with Donak the priest, and also paid a visit to Tiressia the dryad druid, working to maintain their goodwill and confirm their willingness to come to the new duchy’s aid if needed.

Garrick, Tahjah, and San’Kari also met with the hill giants that Oleg had reported were living near Oleg’s Fort. The giants turned out to have been sent by Grizz*, to whom they owed a favor. He had asked them to look after the area, and any slaying of livestock by them had been due to a misunderstanding. Oleg later explained that his report of their presence had merely been meant to keep Garrick informed, and hadn’t been intended to indicate the giants were a problem.

The heroes learned that their friend Narthropple and his band of gnome explorers had encountered an area to the west in the Hooktongue Slough that they couldn’t enter because it caused them pain. The adventurers wondered if it might be similar to what had happened to their centaur friends in the area around the cyclops graveyard south of Varnhold. There the repelling effect had been designed to keep trespassers away from a magical portal. Two of the gnomes had also been lost through what was presumed to be another portal. 

The entire party then traveled to one of the portals, which proved to lead to Gyronna’s realm as had one of the previous pair that they had recently encountered. Nearby they found a symbol of evil carved into a tree, which was too powerful to dispel. San’Kari used an enchanted axe to cut it free, which seemed to eliminate an aura of gloom surrounding the area. Afterward the group buried the portal entrance and encased it in stone, similar to how they had blocked the paired portals they had found previously. Tahjah managed to spot something in a nearby tree and found a magical scroll tube containing a spell scroll of lightning bolt, which unlike an ordinary scroll was not consumed in the process of casting the spell. There was no evidence to suggest how the scroll had come to be in a tree.

After dealing with the portal, the heroes decided they should pay a visit to Bokken the alchemist near Oleg’s Fort, as they hadn’t seen him for some time. When they arrived, San’Kari gifted the eccentric alchemist with some brandy he’d acquired. Bokken responded by giving San’Kari a ruby that would summon a large fire elemental when crushed. 

As the group shared drinks together, Bokken reported on some evil fey he’d encountered west of the Narlmarches, where he had also found an unusual breastplate. Landon then showed him the magical cyclops femur the group had found a year or two earlier, which they believed to be part of some greater weapon. Bokken revealed that it was not actually a bone, but it was part of a staff called Quiema’s Branch, a powerful artifact. The staff was missing some holly wood and a purple gem. The discussion then turned to the Tiger Lord barbarians, who were seeking the tomb of Armag the Twice-Born somewhere in the marshes of the Hooktongue Slough.

Oleg’s partner Svetlana made a surprise appearance to congratulate the group on all the work they had done to eliminate the enemies of good. She presented them a gem that when applied to a wound could stop the uncontrollable bleeding inflicted by certain magical weapons such as the dagger of wounding that Landon frequently used. Silverleaf took charge of the gem.

The group also received a drawing made by Narthropple’s cartographers, showing an arena-like structure with a sand floor that appeared very old but was still mostly intact. Although they found it interesting, they decided that it was not worth investigating immediately. Instead they returned to New Hope to meet with Narthropple in person.

Loot:
Quiema’s Branch (one part)
Fire elemental ruby
Gem that stops bleed damage

*Grizz, when they met him first, was a talking dire worg. But they have recently discovered that he's actually an ancient brass dragon who was polymorphed nto a dire worg. 

Wrath of the Righteous, episode 9: Seeking the Ivory Labyrinth

September 11, 2016

The five newly-sworn Crusaders were settled in rooms at Defender's Heart. Runa took the opportunity to see an armorsmith about repairing the damage done to her armor by the giant ameoba. Aegron went to see another smith to make sure his weapons were in the best condition. Asami used the bonus they had been granted to acquire a low-level pearl of power for herself. She also replenished her supply of paper and ink for scribing spells. While out and about they learned that morale was low among the locals as the promised forces from Mendev had yet to arrive.

After taking care of their personal needs, the group reviewed the letter the defenders' had found, addressed to someone named Faxon who was apparently in command of the Crusaders in Kenabres. The letter made reference to Vorlesh, to a nahyndrian crystal, and to 'our lord's daughter.' It was signed by Minago.

When they had refreshed their memories about the contents of the letter, they set off to search the three safehouses of the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth of which they had learned. They had been given Crusader badges and told that they had authority to deal with any problems they ran into at their own discretion, so they set out first for a shop called Topaz Solutions, which lay not far from Defender's Heart.

Topaz Solutions proved to sit in a small market neighborhood where some of the shopkeepers were trying to restore their business. The merchants were initially a bit frightened when they saw a group of armed strangers approaching, but were soon persuaded that the new arrivals meant them no harm. Aegron and Jiro both purchased some fruit from a produce vendor, which helped to establish goodwill among the local residents. The merchants told the group that half a dozen of the shops surrounding the central square had shown no sign of activity for several days, although they had heard some noises coming from Topaz Solutions and another shop called the Rusty Keg. They also shared the news that the owner of the Green Wyvern tavern had apparently left town after his wife found out that he had a mistress. Aegron wanted to see if any ale was available in the Wyvern, but the door was locked and unlocking it was beyond his skill.

The quintet of new Crusaders decided to investigate the Rusty Keg first. The door of the shop was stuck but not locked. As soon as Zosta forced it open, Aegron smelled the odor of death. A body lay on the floor of the small weapon-seller's shop, near a rack of the shopkeeper's wares. The body appeared unusually pale and was surrounded by a pool of blood. Aegron, Jiro, and Zosta entered the shop to examine the body, and suddenly all three felt the hair on their napes rising up. Jiro recognized that the shop was the site of a haunt, but before he could tell his friends, he was seized by uncontrollable terror and raced out of the shop in a desperate attempt to escape the thing he feared. The instant he exited the shop, the door slammed shut again.

Asami and Runa had both still been outside when Jiro ran out and the door shut, and they both moved to the door. It proved to be stuck again, so Runa put her shoulder against it and pushed. The door then flew open, the unexpected movement causing Runa to lose her balance and topple forward into the shop. Once she was inside the door slammed shut once more, leaving Asami outside.

Inside the shop, a ghostly figure began to attack the companions. While it was able to harm them, their weapons appeared to have little effect on it. When it moved close to Zosta she observed that it looked like a man wielding a tombstone as a weapon, and that he appeared to be saying something though no sound could be heard. Outside, Asami tried to open the door, but found that the knob wouldn't turn and the door wouldn't open no matter how hard she pushed. She ran to the window to look inside and see what was happening to her friends. Runa got back on her feet again, but as she took a step forward she slipped in the puddle of blood surrounding the corpse and fell down. Aegron noticed that there were worms or maggots squirming in the blood.

Out in the streets, Jiro's fear subsided and he turned to run back to the Rusty Keg. Inside the shop, the spirit appeared to be growing increasingly angry. In its fury it hurled the tombstone it held. The insubstantial object shot out through the wall of the shop past Asami's head on a direct course for one of the merchants who was looking on in curiosity, but as it neared the man it simply vanished.

Meanwhile, Zosta had been watching the ghostly figure closely and thought she had recognized the name "Timothy" among the words it spoke, as well as "you can't take my treasures." The weapons on the racks rose into the air and began to spin as thought caught up in a whirlwind. Zosta attempted to calm the spirit by talking to it and assuring it that the group hadn't entered the shop with the intention of looting it, but her words lost some of their impact because Aegron was continuing to attack the figure. The whirling weapons spun faster and Runa's sword was almost pulled out of her hand by the force that moved them. Encouraged by the fact that the spirit was not attacking Zosta, Runa tried casting a curative spell toward it in the hope that would reduce its anger.

Jiro arrived at the Rusty Keg, and Asami called for him to help her in opening the door. But even their combined strength proved inadequate. Something inside the shop was draining Aegron's strength, and the worms in the blood had begun to crawl over his and Runa's boots. The thought suddenly occurred to Asami that she should ask the wood of the door to let them in, since she had a deep natural affinity for all things of wood. She put her free hand on the door and in elven said, "Please, friend, let us in." Jiro didn't understand what she was doing, but when she explained he realized that he could also appeal to the spirits of the building for their aid. The wood of the door seemed to relax and the doorknob fell out, allowing them to open the door.

As soon as he could see what was going on within the shop, Jiro cast calm emotions on everyone inside. The flying weapons fell to the floor and the worms squirming in the pool of blood ceased moving. Jiro then experienced an impression of what had happened in the Rusty Keg, which he narrated to his companions in a dull monotone. He told them that several demons had invaded the shop, one of them disguised as the owner's deceased son Timothy. They had then slain the owner, Logan, and stolen some of his weapons. Logan's spirit was so eager for revenge that it returned as a haunt to defend the shop. Jiro realized that the only way to be rid of the haunting was to bury Logan's remains beside those of his son Timothy.

The companions then went out into the square to talk to the other merchants, explaining what had happened to Logan. Logan's neighbors offered to take care of the burial, as they knew that Timothy was interred in a cemetery not far away. While the neighbors attended to this, the five comrades examined the rest of Logan's shop and the weapons he had sold, finding that all of his weapons had identifying marks that would be easy to recognize if they found any of his wares in the possession of any demons or looters.

Once the Rusty Keg was taken care of and the neighbors had departed to attend to Logan’s burial, the Crusader group moved on to Topaz Solutions. It was clearly a shop that sold potions by the sign over the door, which depicted herbs and a beaker. The shop was connected to two other buildings on either side, so Zosta climbed up to the roof while Asami and Jiro went to the alley behind the shop. But none of them found anything of note. When the group reformed in front of the shop, they found that the door and shutters were securely barred. Concerned about what they might find within, Asami cast mage armor upon herself. Zosta took out her crowbar and they began trying to get the door open. From inside they heard someone cry out, "Help! We're under attack!" They tried asking the people within to admit them, explaining that they represented the Crusade, but the people inside the shop didn't believe them and continued to shout for help.

While Runa and Zosta worked on the door, Aegron took out his warhammer and began to bash the shutters. It didn't take long before both the door and the window had broken open. Aegron was suddenly showered with liquid from a vial that had been hurled at him from inside the shop. Alchemist's fire splashed on Jiro, Runa, and Zosta, and Jiro cast create water to put out the flames. Inside the shop they could see three people standing behind the counter: a dwarf man, a human man, and a human woman, all engaged in pulling out the flasks they found under the counter and throwing them at the Crusader party at the door.

Once the door was open Runa stepped into the shop, announcing again that the group were Crusaders. From behind her, Jiro explained that they had also come seeking evidence that this shop had been used as a safehouse by the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth. The human man appeared to recognize the name but was surprised, the dwarf also recognized it but showed no other reaction, and the woman seemed confused by the reference. Aegron asked how long the three had been there. While he spoke, Runa began to cast a spell, which caused the three people to react by throwing more flasks. Aegron hurled a javelin at the human man.

Seeing that the communication wasn't going well, Jiro used his new-found ability to channel positive energy to heal everyone inside the shop. He then told the three people that if they were not cultists of Baphomet, they should talk. The human man introduced himself as Gerald. He explained that he and his companions, Rogar the dwarf and the woman Ashley, had come to take shelter in the shop a few days earlier during the demonic attack. His tale didn't sound quite convincing to Aegron. Jiro offered to provide them an escort to Defender's Heart, but they didn't appear too pleased by that prospect, though Gerald seemed willing to go along with that plan. When he began pushing flasks into a large sack, the Crusaders became suspicious and Aegron demanded that Gerald hand over the sack for inspection. Gerald objected strenuously to this, insisting the things in the sack were his own personal belongings. He and his two friends took a step back and moved to draw weapons. It was then suggested that Rogar and Ashley could leave if they would allow themselves to be searched. Both of them agreed to this, which irritated Gerald. Asami and Zosta checked them before they exited the shop and found nothing that seemed unusual. As soon as the two of them got outside, they began to run.

As Rogar and Ashley left, Gerald cursed them, but still insisted that the sack only contained his possessions. He threw a vial at Runa but missed and it hit Aegron instead, splashing him with a potion of barkskin. Aegron then struck him hard with his ranseur. Asami had held back from casting any spells, not knowing what they might encounter next, and she called out to Gerald to surrender. Jiro emphasized her request by closing the door. Gerald threw his sack at Runa, so Zosta punched him and he collapsed.

The bag proved to contain an assortment of gold and silver pieces, valuable silver cutlery, a brass goblet, and a fine portrait that had obviously been cut from its frame. Now convinced that Gerald was a looter, the comrades tied him up securely. While they looked around the rest of the shop, they discovered a secret door behind the counter.

The door led to a descending stair. With Runa in the lead, the five Crusaders went down. At the bottom of the staircase they found a dirt-floored room, its floor covered by some kind of rotting plant material. Along the wall opposite the stairs stood a table and a chest. On the table rested a small statue of a six-armed woman with the body of a snake, holding a sword in each hand. Above the table on the wall was painted a symbol the several members of the group recognized as a common symbol of Baphomet used among human cultists. Then they heard a voice say, "I hope you are among Iomedae's slaves. I would hate to waste such a personal greeting from Lord Baphomet." The statue swung its swords, shattering a vial that sat on the table in front of it and releasing a cloud of vapor.

At the same time, some of the rotting plant material on the floor rose up and a small plant creature appeared. The little creature let out a piercing shriek. Suddenly everyone but Runa began to retch. Despite the nausea, Zosta managed to kick the creature. Asami abruptly felt herself burning, and Jiro's nose began to bleed. Jiro ran up the stairs. The little creature grabbed Runa by the leg and bit her viciously. Painful sparks danced over Asami, and her familiar Kirara yowled as she felt herself burned by acid. Then Kirara became extremely twitchy as though she couldn't keep still. Asami ran up the stairs after Jiro, taking Kirara with her.

Runa's eyes started to glow red and she realized that her natural ability to see in darkness had improved. The same thing happened to Jiro a moment later, though he had no natural darkvision to improve. Runa drew her sword and slashed at the creature and it bit her severely. Between the creature's bites and the effects of the cloud she was in serious condition. She called upon Iomedae’s divine fervor to heal herself, but then she became confused as an effect of the vapor that still filled the air around her, and struck herself with her own blade. That was more than her orcish constitution could withstand and she collapsed, on the verge of death. Aegron shouted frantically for help from the other companions who had fled upstairs.

Upstairs in the shop's main room, Asami had been trying to soothe Kirara, who was now wildly running back and forth on the countertop chasing her tail. Fortunately by this time the nausea caused by the plant creature’s screech had worn off and when Jiro, Asami, and Zosta heard Aegron's cry for help they all raced downstairs to Runa’s aid. The three companions saw that the creature was still biting into Runa’s leg even as she breathed her final breaths. Asami aimed a magic missile spell at it from the steps. Zosta vaulted off the staircase and landed on the tiny monster with the full force of both feet, causing it to burst like a pumpkin struck by a hammer and splattering everything nearby with its substance. Jiro then scrambled down to the floor and used one of his healing hexes to save Runa before should could breathe her last.

Zosta realized that the cloud of vapor was still inflicting damage on Runa when Jiro suffered first cold and then electrical injury from being within it. Zosta quickly moved Runa’s body out of reach of the magical vapor, and Jiro channeled positive energy to provide more healing. Asami braved the vapor to approach the makeshift altar and examine the remains of the bottle that had released the vapor, hoping that if she could discover what it was she could determine how long it would continue to affect the area. She realized by the vapor’s effects that it must be a bilious bottle, but she was unable to recall any other details about such an item. There was too little left of the shattered bottle to tell her more.

A short time later the cloud dissipated. After using their curative wand to recover from their injuries, the companions searched the chamber. But they found no other evidence of the Ivory Labyrinth presence there and nothing of worth other than the marilith statuette, which would swing its miniature swords when the name of Baphomet was spoken.

Next: Episode 10, The Tower of Estrod

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Star Wars - Episode 50 "The Battle of Kashyyyk" (part 2)

I'm a bit behind - this session took place on August 27.

Lowarra had been about to climb into the captured tank, but when the AT-AT arrived she fired a rocket at it instead. ADX commanded his squad of battle droids to focus their attacks on the AT-AT instead of the two walkers that were approaching from the opposite direction. Overhead, Dash was engaged in a dogfight with four TIE fighters that had arrived at the same time.

Neri shouted to Taanar to get the released Wookiee prisoners to their transport. She then ran toward one of the two walkers, while Luke Skywalker and ARD-101 moved to head off the second walker. Princess Leia also ran toward the walkers. Dash managed to get off a shot at the AT-AT while avoiding the TIE fighters, but the AT-AT proved harder to hit than expected.

A squadron of stormtroopers arrived, coming in behind the walkers and from the side where Taanar was trying to get the Wookiees to take cover among the trees. Unfortunately for Taanar, the former prisoners began to move in the opposite direction from where their transport waited beyond the walkers. None of the Wookiees were armed, so Taanar moved toward the stormtroopers and sent one of them flying with a Force shove, slamming him against a tree.

Meanwhile, Neri took out a grappling line and tossed it onto the first walker, then climbed up on top of the vehicle and began slicing her way inside with her lightsaber. The second walker began firing on Lowarra, who had just sent another rocket at the AT-AT. The tank Lowarra had taken exploded when hit by one of the walkers, causing all of the weakened Wookiees to fall, though Taanar kept her feet. Lowarra meanwhile took out her own grappling line and shot it at the AT-AT, using it to ascend to the head-like command module. Han Solo and Chewbacca were helping to cover the escaping Wookiees while Chewie carried his injured son, and the AT-AT began to fire on them. When the tank exploded Han was hit by shrapnel and now Chewie was carrying both his son and his friend.

Dash swooped over the AT-AT a second time and fired a missile toward it, but once again her attack failed to find its target. At the same time ADX hurled a thermal detonator at the troopers who were coming in behind the walkers, which demonstrated that these troopers were better trained and armored than many of the troops the Rangers had encountered previously.

Princess Leia had climbed onto a slightly elevated structure and was shouting orders to the Rebel troops assisting in the Wookiee rescue. She shouted at Lowarra to get down from the AT-AT, but Lowarra paid her no mind. Instead the mighty Wookiee warrior opened the hatch, burst into her battle rage, and leaped inside the vehicle. In the meantime a group of troopers dropped out of the belly of the vehicle on speeder bikes.

The Imperial forces fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Venture, but Dash dodged the projectiles. Neri had gained access to the walker and now used her Force power to grab the pilot and send him hurtling out of the vehicle. Luke and ARD-101 had jointly sliced off both legs of the second walker and it collapsed. Inside the AT-AT, Lowarra incapacitated the commanding officer and the pilot. Near Luke’s position several more speeders arrived, but these carried not troopers but Inquisitors!

At the same time that the Inquisitors arrived, Neri’s heart sank when she heard the familiar voice of her long-time nemesis, the Emperor’s Hand. ADX began firing on the Hand. The Hand used the Force to knock Neri off the walker, and Neri landed badly, falling prone. In response, she used her ability to cut the Hand off from some of her Force abilities, which had worked successfully in the past and succeeded again this time much to the Hand’s frustration.

Han had recovered slightly, and he and Chewbacca now managed to acquire speeders of their own after placing Chewbacca’s son and the other freed Wookiees in a vehicle. Taanar used the Force to stun another trooper, then headed the vehicle off in the right direction to reach the transport ship. Han’s speeder crashed when the AT-AT moved into its path. The dead or unconscious pilot had fallen forward onto the controls after Lowarra attacked him, and the AT-AT was still ponderously moving forward toward the two walkers.

The Emperor’s Hand used the Force to lift the walker Luke had dropped and throw it at Neri and ADX. Neri grabbed the walker with her own Force power and pulled it out of the Hand’s grip. The remaining walker was still on its feet and manned, and Dash fired on it as the Venture made another pass overhead. Luke and ARD-101 were engaged with the Inquisitors and had begun to push them back, but suddenly the Inquisitors turned the tide and began to advance toward Luke. The Hand attempted to snatch away Neri’s lightsaber, which had been her favorite tactic in the past but this time she failed. Dash fired on the second walker again and it exploded. The AT-AT continued to advance without a conscious pilot at the controls.

Neri attempted to stun the Emperor’s Hand, then moved to help Luke against the Inquisitors. One of the Inquisitors used a Dark Side power against Luke, and he suddenly lost his nerve and fled. Neri used her ability to inspire confidence in others to stop his headlong flight and bring him back. Then one of the Inquisitors grabbed Neri and began to Force choke her. From her vantage above, Dash saw this and fired on the Inquisitor. Then she destroyed the last remaining TIE fighter.

A cluster of stormtroopers on cables descended from the AT-AT. Still aboard the AT-AT, Lowarra took out all the troopers still on board, then dropped down to tackle those who had left the vehicle. Taanar, who had remained to help after sending the Wookiees toward their transport, put on a burst of speed and rushed to Neri, who had fallen unconscious. The Inquisitor attempted an attack or Force power directed at her but it failed to affect her.

Suddenly the AT-AT exploded! It had been set to self-destruct after Lowarra boarded. It toppled over on its side, falling toward where Princess Leia and Lowarra currently stood. Lowarra dodged out of the way of the plummeting vehicle. When the Emperor’s Hand directed an attack at ADX, Lowarra charged her and ADX fired on her, knocking her unconscious. Dash brought the Venture down in boarding range over where Neri lay and fired on the Inquisitor to keep him at bay. Taanar scrambled aboard the Venture, followed by ARD carrying Neri, Lowarra, Luke and ARD-101, and finally Han and Chewbacca.

As the Venture zoomed away to get medical aid for Neri, Han Solo asked, “Where’s Princess Leia?” The rest of the group realized to their horror that the last time they had seen her, the princess has been standing where the fallen AT-AT had landed. They had been too preoccupied by their concern for Neri to check on her.

As the Inquisitor surveyed the scene of the battle, one of the remaining stormtroopers called out, “One of the rebels is still alive!” and pointed to a figure lying beneath a portion of the collapsed AT-AT. The Inquisitor smiled. “Bring her to me.”

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Wrath of the Righteous, episode 8: Defender's Heart

After the group rescued the young woman named Kayla from the group of misguided Crusaders who had meant to sacrifice her, Jiro caught a glimpse of a ghostly figure dressed in the traditional armor style of Minkai. Bohgong recognized this figure as Jiro's many-times great-grandfather, wearer of the Phoenix Armor. Jiro wondered if his ancestor had come to help him or his brother. He realized that the spirit's presence meant the party would face more battle.

The group had taken one of the misguided Crusaders prisoner when the rest fled. Runa tried to convince this man, Geoff by name, of the wrong of his beliefs by reciting the doctrine of his goddess Sarenrae to him, but though her words did seem to sway him somewhat, he was not entirely convinced. He had not been one of the leaders of the Crusader band, and he still held convictions that agreed with those leaders. Finally Runa and Jiro asked him if he would be willing to accompany them to Defender's Heart to talk with the leadership of the city's defenders there. This he agreed to do.

By this point Anevia was getting anxious to get to Defender's Heart and Zosta suggested they get underway, as the well-known inn lay a good distance from the part of Old Kenabres where they currently found themselves. They set off once more, soon coming upon a large area of complete ruin in which not even the walls of destroyed buildings still stood. The earth had been gouged deep and streams of what appeared to be lava flowed in several places. As they looked on this sight in dismay, they observed several creatures circling in the air above the devastation. Aegron climbed up onto the roof of an intact structure at the edge of the destroyed area to get a better look at the flying things, and reported that they appeared to be vultures. Just as he passed this information to his companions on the ground, the vultures flew toward them and swooped in to attack, revealing as they did so that they were much larger than ordinary vultures.

Runa immediately called upon Iomedae to bless the entire group to fortify them against the large vultures. Geoff rushed forward toward one of the vultures that had landed by Zosta, and the creature lashed out with its powerful beak and severed his leg, leaving him bleeding profusely on the ground. One of the four vultures had not yet alit on the ground, and Anevia fired her bow at it. After striking at the bird before her, Zosta shouted out to her companions that it appeared to be a fiendish creature that was immune to the special properties of her cold iron knuckles. The vulture above Anevia snapped at her and she collapsed, critically wounded.

Jiro had moved forward to face the third vulture and it now bit him badly. Uncle fled into the building and hid. Aegron took out his greataxe and struck the bird that Anevia's arrows had hit, and his blow was so powerful that it fell dead. But there were still three vultures remaining and their bites were vicious. Runa, Zosta and Jiro were all bitten again, and Jiro was very unsteady on his feet. Asami hurled her splintered spear at the vulture attacking Jiro, but the vulture did not appear to be much injured.

Zosta swung her fists with all the power she could muster and knocked out the vulture nearest her. Asami stepped forward to lay the flat of her wooden sword on Jiro's shoulder and green energy flowed down the blade to surround him with an armor of illusory vines and bark, giving him extra protection against the fiendish vultures. Jiro then used a hex to heal Zosta and summoned up a disc of stone to shield himself. Despite this, when the vulture attacked him again he fell. Runa used her fervor to heal him enough that he could get back on his feet.

Aegron leaped down from the roof and landed badly, falling on his back, but a moment later he leaped to his feet and attacked a vulture. Zosta continued to attack the vulture she had knocked out. Asami threw another spear, but missed the vulture she was aiming for. Jiro used his hex to heal himself. At that moment Uncle came racing back out of the building and leaped onto the vulture that had last bitten Jiro, slapping and pummeling its head. The small monkey wasn't strong enough to do any harm to it, but his actions clearly distracted the creature.

Zosta struck her vulture once more and it went limp. It had become apparent that the vultures would concentrate their attacks on the person who was most seriously injured. That person was now Runa. One of the remaining vultures struck her in the leg and she backed away from it to read a scroll of bear's endurance.

Aegron's axe took the life of another vulture. Uncle leaped off the vulture he had been straddling and at first appeared to be dead, but a moment later he realized that playing dead in the presence of the vultures was not the best idea and sprang back to his feet. A moment later Zosta punched the last vulture and it too died. Free of combat, the group members realized that Anevia was moments from death and Jiro quickly healed her.

Once Anevia was no longer in danger of dying, Jiro healed the injuries of the rest of the group. He realized as he tended to them that it was likely their wounds might be infected. While he did this Runa said a prayer for Geoff the fallen Crusader, who had bled out before anyone could reach him. His body was moved inside the building and covered with loose stones to form a cairn. When everyone had recovered enough to continue their journey they decided to go and investigate whatever the vultures had been circling before they attacked. Aegron identified the best path down into the depression that had been dug out of the ground by some unknown force. They found only some unidentifiable humanoid remains lying next to one of the 'lava streams.' Getting closer to the lava revealed that it was not natural lava; Kenabres did not stand near any volcano, and the lava seemed unusually slimy, though it was still just as hot as ordinary lava. Asami checked the area for magical auras but found none.

Skirting around the other lava streams, the party made their way across the rest of the damaged area to reach intact streets and buildings on the other side. There were people in the streets, and as Jiro insisted on telling everyone where they were headed and offering healing to any who were injured, the group soon accumulated a collection of followers. They observed symbols on the doors of the houses they passed, which they soon recognized indicated the number of people who had died inside each structure.

When the enlarged group encountered first a howler demon and next a group of tieflings engaged in looting, the crowd of ordinary citizens set upon them and punished them. After the looters were overpowered, the citizens offered the adventurers some of the things they had taken from the tieflings, including two vials of alchemist's fire, three flasks of holy water, three magical crossbow bolts, an elixir of vision, a potion of barkskin, and 55 gold pieces.

Some of the local people following the party left them along the way as they found family members or returned to their homes, while others joined. By the time they reached the Defender's Heart Inn, the group had increased in size to more than a dozen people. At the Heart they found the local guards, the Eagle's Watch, in residence. The guards called for them to halt, but as soon as they recognized Anevia and were given the password that Irabeth had left for her, the group were welcomed inside the fortress-like stone structure. There they were greeted by Irabeth, along with a one-armed man who was introduced as Kimroth Otai, owner of Defender's Heart. Anevia and Irabeth were of course overjoyed to see one another safe and happily embraced.

When Anevia and Irabeth separated after their private moment, Kimroth revealed that Irabeth was now leader of the Eagle's Watch. Irabeth explained that what Kayla had told the party was correct: Kenabres' Wardstone had been destroyed, and as a result the remaining Wardstones had been severely weakened. The Watch had found a note that mentioned Minago, a name the party members recognized, which was addressed to someone named Fakson and also mentioned the name Vorlesh, a Nahendrian crystal, and someone referred to as 'our Lord's daughter'. Recalling that it was someone called Minago who had slain Yaniel, the former owner of Radiance, Runa showed Radiance to Irabeth.

After the group told her about the cultist safehouses they had learned of during their time underground, Irabeth announced that she would authorize a reward of a thousand gold pieces if they would search these locations. She also reassured Zosta that her parents and Cennami were alive and were engaged in clearing the warehouse district of dangers. Kimroth called for a runner to take a message to them to let them know that Zosta and her companions were safe. As the companions began to tell the story of what had happened to them when the demons attacked, Jiro and Asami revealed why they had been sent all the way from Minkai and Jinin to the Worldwound. Irabeth then called for the room to be cleared of everyone but herself, Kimroth, Anevia, and the five comrades.

Once the civilians had gone, Jiro told the tale of his half-brother Katsuro Yoshida and how he had been angered when the illegitimate son Jiro was chosen to go to the West to combat the oni. He also explained how he had seen that his brother had willingly accepted possession by one of the Nine Oni Lords. Kimroth knew little of the oni and didn't see how they were any different than the demons that had attacked the city, but Irabeth appeared to know a bit more about them and was greatly concerned when she learned that the oni might be allying themselves with the demons to enter the Material Plane from the Worldwound.

As the conversation continued, Irabeth mentioned that Quednys, leader of the Riftwardens, had survived the attack and should be told of this. Asami revealed that her parents had been members of the Riftwardens, as well as telling Irabeth that they had visited Blackwing Ruin and that Aravashniel had survived the fall underground and was now at Blackwing. Another messenger was sent to make contact, and was given the password that Aravashniel had given to the party. The party members asked if any healing was available to remove the filth fever several of them, including Anevia, had contracted from the fiendish vultures, and that was arranged.

Runa then decided that as Irabeth was the most senior representative of the church of Iomedae, she should present Radiance to Irabeth. As she handed over the sword, it glowed slightly in response to the paladin's touch.

Irabeth swore Aegron, Asami, Jiro, Runa, and Zosta in as Crusaders. As a reward for returning Radiance, she gave them each permission to choose any magic item they desired of a value less than or equal to 1,000 gold pieces. Jiro also used some funds they had acquired previously through selling items to the Mongrelfolk to purchase another wand of cure light wounds, as the wand they had was almost empty of charges.

Loot:
Alchemist's fire - 2
Holy water - 3
+1 flaming bolts - 3
elixir of vision
potion of barkskin
55 gold pieces

Next: Episode 9, Seeking the Ivory Labyrinth

The Ten Commandments of Riding a Bicycle

To follow up on the Ten Commandments of Riding the Bus, here are the Ten Commandments of Riding a Bicycle.

1.  Thou shalt wear a helmet, for thy hairstyle be not more precious than thy brain.

2.  Thou shalt wear brightly-colored practical garments and place upon thy bicycle bright lights and reflective devices, that others may easily see thee.

3.  Thou shalt not ride in darkness unless thou first obey the First Commandment and the Second Commandment.

4.  Thou shalt comply with the signs and signals that control the flow of vehicle traffic.

5.  Thou shalt ride in the designated bicycle lane if there be such a lane.

6.  Thou shalt be courteous to pedestrians.

7.  Thou shalt not use thy cellphone while thou ridest thy bicycle.

8.  Thou shalt not wear thy headphones while thou ridest thy bicycle.

9.  Thou shalt not pass other bicyclists unless thou first ascertain whether automobiles approach thee.

10. Thou shalt ride a bicycle that is suited to thy size and is properly adjusted so that thou mayest ride safely and comfortably.

The Ten Commandments of Riding the Bus

After reading the Ten Commandments of Costco, I decided it was time to do something I've been thinking about for a long time.

Therefore, I present The Ten Commandments of Riding the Bus.

1.  Thou shalt have thy fare ready before thou boardest the bus.

2.  Thou shalt sit if there be an unoccupied seat.

3.  Thou shalt keep the volume of thy music playing device low if thou choose to listen to music during thy journey.

4.  Thou shalt not listen to music or watch videos if thou hast not headphones.

5.  Thou shalt keep the volume of thy voice low if thou engage in private conversation.

6.  Thou shalt not place thy personal possessions upon an unoccupied seat, nor shalt thou prevent other passengers from accessing unoccupied seats.

7.  Thou shalt not block the aisle or exits.

8.  Thou shalt not take thy rest aboard the bus, neither shalt thou eat thy meals or complete thy homework, nor shalt thou apply thy cosmetics or open thy laptop whilst thou ridest the bus.

9. Thou shalt not open a window.

10. Thou shalt seek out the schedule and route for thy journey before thou leavest thy house.