Sunday, June 11, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, part 17: Aftermath

This week our group had a very short session to wrap up some details from the conclusion of the previous session.

Though Asami had at first thought the demons had been called away by one of their demon lord masters, after she spoke with her friends she understood that they had fled when they realized they could not overcome the defenders' defenses and that no matter how much injury they inflicted their targets would not die. With the departure of the babau, the energy that had suffused the six companions dissipated, leaving them weary and full of sorrow. While Runa straightened and cleansed Irabeth's body, some of the others searched the corpse of the woman who had been guarding the Wardstone fragment. On her person they found three spell scrolls, a magical amulet, an enchanted cloak, a quantity of onyx gemstones, and a small amount of gold coins. They also gathered up the six shards of the Wardstone that were embedded in the walls of the chamber. It wasn't until then that Asami realized that the explosion of the stone had torn the roof off the chamber, and the walls were crumbling.

Runa insisted on carrying Irabeth by herself as they descended to the ground floor. There they paused to cleanse the defiled shrine before leaving the Gray Garrison to return to Defender's Heart. Runa bore Irabeth in her arms all the way there, her face streaked with tears. On the walk back to the inn Zosta berated Aegronius for failing to protect Irabeth. Jiro tried to persuade her that Irabeth's death was not due to any fault of Aegronius's, but Zosta would not listen.

By the time the group reached the inn they were all stumbling with fatigue. They were met by Kimroth Otai, who brought a contingent of the Eagle's Watch to take charge of Irabeth's body. The mongrelfolk left to seek food and rest, while the remainder of the group went to the war room of the Defender's Heart to meet with Quednys Orland and tell him what happened a the Gray Garrison.

Jiro took charge of most of the narrative. Asami listened in silence, still feeling the disappointment that she had been unable to contribute to the battle with the demons. Runa was still grief-stricken over the loss of Irabeth, who had become her mentor in the short time since they met the paladin. Zosta perked up when she asked about the well-being of her parents and the other members of her tribe. Kimroth told her that all seemed well with them, and a message was sent to ask Cennami to come to Defender's Heart to help decide what should be done next. Quednys was horrified when Jiro described what the vision had shown of Areelu Vorlesh's original plan for the Crusaders. Despite the destruction of the Wardstones, at least the Crusaders had been spared that fate. The members of the group agreed with Quednys that they should not share the news of the Wardstones' destruction with the general populace of Kenabres, for fear of causing a panic. All of them hoped there would be a period of reprieve until the demons who survived the Wardstones' destruction realized that the stones were no more.

Once the discussion was concluded, Aegronius went to visit Darla, while Runa went to the temple to say a prayer for Irabeth. Then one by one the group members retired to their rooms to rest. Asami settled on her bed to meditate, holding Kirara in her lap. After a time a strange dream or vision came to her. She saw a scarred woman clad in plate armor, who spoke to her, expressing gratitude for the deeds Asami and her friends had accomplished against the demons' minions, and also telling Asami that she regretted she couldn't help them directly. Though Asami did not know the gods of the West well, she recognized that this woman as the goddess Iomedae. Behind Iomedae she saw a dense wall of vegetation, which formed into a wooden face. When the face opened its eyes she knew that it was a living being, not an image. This wooden entity's hair and beard were made of leaves, and the warm green luminescence in its eyes spoke of living, growing things. Then Iomedae kissed Asami on the forehead, and Asami opened her eyes to see that it was dawn.

As she contemplated what she had seen, Asami recalled an ancient legend she had heard, telling of a great cherry tree with roots that extended all the way to the center of the world. The tale told that this tree gave life to the world, and that it also had a caretaker, a wood spirit who, like the tree, had no name but resembled the being she had seen behind Iomedae. At the same time, she realized that Iomedae's kiss had a lingering effect. She had not only recovered from weariness and all the wounds she had suffered on the previous day; she also felt more hale and hearty than she ever had before. She knew that she could both prepare more spells than she had been able to do before and prepare spells of greater potency.

When Asami joined her friends in the common room for breakfast, she learned that all of them had experienced dreams very similar to hers, in which Iomedae spoke to them and kissed them, but like her Jiro had seen something else. All of them also felt that Iomedae had blessed them with new talents and greater abilities to stand against the demons. Just after they shared this discovery with one another, they heard that Cennami and Zosta's parents had arrived at Defender's Heart.

The characters are now 6th level and have achieved their first Mythic tier. 

In addition to their 6th-level class abilities and 1st-tier mythic path abilities, each character received the following: a +2 bonus to one skill of the player's choice, a +2 bonus to one ability score, +5 hit points, a bonus feat for which the character met the prerequisite, and a special ability tied to the campaign-specific character trait chosen at character creation. All familiars and spirit animals qualify as mythic creatures for the purpose of determining damage and effects. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, part 16: Victory and Loss

As the group inside the Gray Garrison felt the effects of the energy released by the Wardstone fragment and comprehended what their visions had revealed to them, they were stunned by what had transpired and could not react to the arrival of the babau demons. When the visions of the past and of what was happening elsewhere faded, an image of Areelu Vorlesh appeared to them, accompanied by demons of various other types. Vorlesh sneered at them and threatened, clearly expecting her babau slaves to exact her revenge on them for depriving her of the power of the Wardstones.

Irabeth drew Radiance and charged the wall where Vorlesh appeared, but she collided with the wall and fell to the floor, then began gasping and clutching at her throat as though something was choking her. Asami heard similar sounds coming from the mongrelfolk in the room behind her. At that moment another wave of energy flowed outward from her and the other members of the Eagle's Watch. When this energy struck the demoness she screamed in rage and agony as her bones visibly snapped and the membranes of her bat-like wings were shredded like dry leaves in a high wind. The portal through which she and her demonic minions were about to enter the mortal world snapped shut.

While Vorlesh had been speaking, the babau had all been gesticulating and muttering incantations. Immediately more babau appeared in the two third-floor rooms of the Garrison, doubling the demons' numbers. One of the demons motioned and for a brief moment the illumination in the chamber dimmed, then returned to the golden glow emanating from the bodies of Asami and her friends. Another babau made gestures indicative of a spell to dispel other magic, but it could not overcome the light.

All of the babau wielded polearms as well as magic. There were now four of them within weapon reach of Asami. Nevertheless, she summoned her splintered spear and hurled it at the demon standing directly in front of her. Two of the demons slashed at her with their blades, slicing open both of her arms. Her spear went wide of its target and splintered on the floor. She drew her wand, realizing as she did so that the wound in her right arm had already vanished. She fired three blue missiles at the babau, but because she had to rely on what power the crafter had imbued in the wand instead of her own skill at overcoming magical defenses, the missiles bounced harmlessly off the babau's slimy hide.

While Asami was ruefully looking at the demon she had failed to injure, she saw Jiro, who was behind the demon, slump to the ground. Irabeth was still unconscious from the suffocation spell Vorlesh had cast, as were the mongrelfolk. The situation was already looking grim for the companions. Then two of the demons attacked Asami with their polearms, their claws, and even their teeth. She felt faint and the light dimmed. She scarcely sensed when her body collapsed on the hard floor.

Despite being insensible to what was happening around her, Asami somehow experienced when Kirara fiercely attacked the ankles of several of the demons with bites and scratches that were unusually severe. But she knew nothing else about what had happened to her friends until she opened her eyes again. She did not see Aegronius swinging his adamantine morningstar against the babau, or Irabeth regaining her feet to stand against them. She did not witness Zosta punching and kicking them, only to fall when overwhelmed by the wounds they inflicted on her. She did not witness Runa fighting furiously in the name of Iomedae. She was unaware of her own injuries healing far more quickly than was ordinarily possible, or of how her friends' attacks were somehow able to penetrate the demons' tough hides and their weapons were unharmed by the acidic slime that coated the babau. She did not know that for some inexplicable reason the power granted her and her friends by the Wardstone fragment was not extended to Irabeth.

When her injuries had healed enough that she no longer hovered on the brink of death and she regained consciousness, she found that the room in front of her seemed to be full of babau. She could see Irabeth lying on the floor, now surrounded by a pool of blood. Aegronius was down as well. Jiro was on his feet again, and there was something large, white and furry lying on the floor behind him. She groped for her wand, which had fallen from her hand when she fainted. There were babau standing close enough to her to strike her, but they were all facing away from her for the moment. She expended another of the wand's charges and saw the missiles successfully bypass the demon's resistance, though they did not appear to do much damage. She heard Runa call out the words of a spell, but saw no effect.

Before Asami could decide what to do next, the babau all vanished, carried off by a spell that she knew to be one of teleportation. It was a powerful spell, strong enough to have transported the demons thousands of miles away. Asami staggered to her feet. Jiro was bending over Irabeth with an expression of grief on his face. Asami looked around at her friends. Though their clothing, like hers, was stained with blood, everyone but Irabeth was still alive. The two rooms were empty of enemies. Several glittering shards of the Wardstone fragment were embedded in the walls. Seeing them, she remembered the vision and her heart sank. The Wardstones were no more, and Irabeth was dead. What would defend the Worldwound now?

Next: part 17, Aftermath

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, part 15: Finding the Fragment

May 21, 2017

Character level: 5th

The group of Crusaders were all weary and depleted of magic by this point, but no one suggested leaving the Gray Garrison for another night. There was too much at stake. While Asami drank a healing potion and Runa took out a wand to heal more of her own injuries, Jiro took several of the mongrelfolk with him to make sure no more enemies waited in the five rooms on the garrison's second floor. Zosta walked into the long room from which the winged creature had emerged, finding a long table and the bodies of several people, both cultists and ordinary citizens of Kenabres, whose hearts had all been torn out. Asami also saw this disconcerting sight when she followed Zosta. There was a map of Mendev on the table.

Jiro returned to report that he had seen no enemies, so the group members decided to investigate all of the rooms for any clues or useful items. Runa and her mongrelman companion trailed along at the rear of the group, as she felt weak and sick in the aftermath of her near-death experience and could hardly move in her heavy armor.

The party found that the demon cultists had destroyed what they could not use. A barracks room held several overturned cots and an empty lockbox. Across the hallway lay a room with a hexagonal table strewn with texts and tomes about geography, history, and military tactics, including information on Mendevian troop movements both past and future.

At the end of the hallway in the room where Zosta had fought one of the demon-creatures they found evidence that it had once been a library, but all of the books it had contained had been burned to ash except for a few that lay on a small table. One of these could not be read by anyone present. Next to the library was a room containing several empty bird cages and writing materials, indicating that message birds had probably been housed there, but the evidence suggested that no birds had occupied the room for some time. In one corner lay a small closet enclosing a window through which the birds could be released. After a brief look around the aerie, the party members searched for another secret room like the armory they had found downstairs on the previous day, but they discovered no evidence of such a space on the second floor.

When all of the other rooms had been examined, only one room that hadn't been opened during the fight with the defenders remained. The door proved to be securely locked. Jiro attempted unsuccessfully to pick the lock, then used his magic chime. But the door remained stubbornly barred against them. Asami suggested that Jiro speak to the spirits as he had done at the weaponsmith's shop a few days earlier, but Jiro responded that the spirits would avoid a place where so much blood had been spilled. He tried putting out a bowl of milk for the spirits anyway, but the milk instantly soured. Asami then put her hands on the door and asked the wood to give way, without success. Finally Aegronius took out his greataxe and began chopping at it, with little success until Jiro reminded him that his adamantine morningstar might be more effective, and he began to bash at the door with the morningstar, sending splinters of wood flying. Zosta then picked up the axe Aegronius had dropped and joined him in attacking the door.

Working together the two of them soon chopped a hole through the door, through which they saw what appeared to be a zombie.They finished destroyed the door and as the last bits of wood were destroyed they could all see five zombies inside the room. The zombies had already gathered around the doorway, attracted by the noise. The one closest to the doorway hit Zosta in the face. Zosta dropped the axe and kicked the zombie's legs out from under it, then stomped on it twice. The zombie disintegrated into a cloud of dust. Jiro touched a second zombie with a curative spell and it also turned to dust.

Irabeth walked unheedingly through the cloud of zombie dust and went inside the room. Two of the zombies attacked her as she passed them. Runa stepped over to Zosta and used her wand to heal the damage the zombie had done, while Asami used her own wand to send three missiles at one of the zombies. Zosta knocked down another zombie and pummeled it into particles, and her mongrelman comrade shot another zombie with an arrow that hit so precisely it knocked the onyx powering the zombie out of its body. Irabeth grabbed the remaining zombie and pushed it away from the others, as she had recognized the zombies as a variety known as plague zombies that could cause disease, and she knew that when the zombies disintegrated their dust could infect anyone who breathed it in. Zosta had already begun to cough after inhaling a mouthful when she destroyed her latest zombie opponent.

Aegronius exchanged the morningstar for his preferred weapon, his ranseur, and ran into the room to chop the last zombie into two pieces. Irabeth, whose divine blessings made her immune to diseases, inhaled the zombie dust and spat dismissively. She then explained that they were plague zombies and told Zosta what to expect: symptoms would not appear for a day or two, she would begin to experience weakness, and if she died of the disease she herself would transform into a plague zombie. Zosta was relieved that she wouldn't become ill immediately.

With the zombies destroyed, the Crusaders could look around the room. It held an ascending staircase in one corner, and against one wall stood a large alabaster basin, which was currently filled with bloody entrails. Along the edge of the basin were images of knights around a sun. Asami realized that the basin was sacred to Iomedae and that it was ordinarily full of enchanted water. Looking at the state of the basin, Aegronius asked, "Should we destroy it?" Asami answered, "No, we must cleanse it."

Jiro summoned his invisible servant to remove the offal, and Runa repeatedly conjured water to rinse the basin. When it was full of clean water, the water glowed and shimmered and something appeared in it, showing everyone close enough to view it a scene of a different room with torches in two alcoves, which was also occupied by a minotaur whose blood-red hide and glowing eyes indicated it had fiendish blood. The view moved to a second room adjoining the minotaur's location, where a woman wielding a scythe stood next to a sturdy cage holding a glowing white stone. Then the view descended a staircase and showed the Crusaders standing next to the alabaster basin. After this vision vanished everyone turned to look at the stairs in the corner of the room.

As they realized they would have to climb up and fight the minotaur to reach the Wardstone fragment, they heard the blast of a horn from above them. They knew the minotaur was waiting for them. Everyone began to climb the stairs. Aegronius went first and entered the room to face the minotaur, who immediately struck him a harsh blow. Zosta darted past Asami, who was ahead of her, and avoided the minotaur to get behind him, though her presence didn't seem to provide the usual advantage. Runa took a potion from her pouch and handed it to Irabeth, for she felt too weakened to be of much use in combat against the minotaur and she knew the potion would grant the paladin additional protection.

The minotaur appeared to be focusing its attacks on Aegronius in much the same way that Irabeth could focus on a foe. The beast had a huge axe. Aegronius dropped his ranseur in favor of his own great axe, and Jiro stepped up behind him to lend his healing energy to both Aegronius and Zosta. The minotaur struck them both, rendering Jiro's healing almost useless, and Aegronius collapsed. The minotaur then gored him despite the fact that he was lying unconscious on the ground.

Asami could see none of this. She could only hear the grunts of the minotaur and the clash of weapons. Kirara whispered in her ear, "Don't go up there. It smells bad," which Asami knew meant that there was something evil in the room upstairs. While Asami tried to decide what to do, Runa moved into the room to pour a potion into Aegronius' unresisting mouth, which revived him. Jiro raised his staff, prepared to strike the minotaur after reassuring himself that Aegronius would not die just yet.

Asami murmured to Kirara, "I cannot just wait here," and climbed up the stairs to the entrance of the room. To her surprise, Kirara exclaimed, "I'll run interference!" and leaped out of her pack, darting past the minotaur, who swung at her but missed the little white cat. Kirara came to a stop beside Zosta. This distraction allowed Asami to avoid being the minotaur's next target when she stood in the doorway. Asami pointed her wand at the minotaur and the three missiles struck the creature, though they didn't appear to do it much hurt.

Irabeth drank the potion Runa had given her and entered the room, taking up a position near Zosta. The minotaur swung at Zosta, dealing her a terrible blow that caused her to spin and fall. Kirara barely avoided having Zosta land on top of her. Runa gave more healing to Aegronius, which restored him enough to move, but he was now as weak and sick as Runa, and could not stand up without risking another attack from the minotaur. Instead he struck at its leg while still lying on the floor. At the same time Jiro hit the minotaur with his staff, which he had enhanced with magic, and the minotaur slumped to the ground. Bohgong, who had been beside Asami on the stair, raced into the room and jumped on Zosta. A moment later she regained her feet and the white monkey retreated to the safety of Jiro's pack.

Jiro mentioned that he thought the nose ring worn by the minotaur might be magical, and Asami cast a spell to determine that it was indeed magical, as was the musical horn the minotaur carried. There was no time to examine them further so she picked them up and joined her friends at the door to the next room where the fragment awaited them.

A second time they found the door securely locked. This time Jiro used his chime immediately. After four or five attempts, the lock finally clicked open, and the chime disintegrated, depleted of magic. As soon as the door opened they saw the woman from the vision in the basin, holding a ball of flames in her hand that she hurled at them. Slowed by their weakened condition, Aegronius and Runa were burned worse than the rest of the group. The woman then chanted another spell, and Asami saw a hellish vision overlay the contents of the room. Her knees trembled with fear and despair, but she did not run. Her eyes remained on the cage's contents, the glowing white stone, which stood on a pedestal beneath a domed ceiling. Aegronius said to her, "Let's take the stone while the rest take her," and she nodded in agreement.

Zosta moved to face the woman, knocking her to he floor and punching her in the face, but the blow did less damage than she expected. Irabeth moved toward the cage. Jiro ran around behind it to join Zosta in attacking the woman. Though she still lay on the floor the woman returned Zosta's attack viciously, doing her serious harm. Asami waited for Aegronius to shamble toward the cage, but then decided instead of following at his restricted pace she would use her wand to strike the cage. Her missiles did mar it, but the damage was minor. Meanwhile Runa used a wand that Jiro had given her to summon a tetsubo of force to attack the prone woman. While the tetsubo attacked, Runa cast a spell on Aegronius to increase the damage done by his morningstar, which he had brought out again. Jiro abandoned preparing to strike the woman if she tried to cast another spell and instead healed Zosta. This left the woman free to speak the words of a spell Asami recognized, as she had found it in the spellbook that had appeared unexpectedly in her room at Defender's Heart. A wave of blood flowed out from the corner of the room next to the woman, shoving the demon worshipper against the cage. It pushed Irabeth, Zosta, and Jiro away, and knocked Jiro, Runa, and Aegronius off their feet. Asami was spared because she was still outside the room.

Jiro was made ill by the foul blood. Aegronius tried to stand again but slipped and fell. Asami fired more missiles at the cage, and Irabeth began slamming the sword Radiance into it with great force. Jiro managed after two attempts to get back on his feet, but Runa gave up on this and crawled toward the cage, barely able to overcome her disgust at the blood on the floor.

The woman tried to touch Zosta when Zosta returned to stand over her, but Jiro had cast a spell of protection on her before ascending the stairs and the attempt failed. Zosta decided to grab the woman and hold her so she could cast no more spells. She and the woman struggled, the woman repeatedly pulling free of Zosta's grip only to be grabbed again a moment later. Aegronius got up and moved to the cage with his morningstar ready as Runa again granted him Iomedae's divine power. The blood had vanished, and Asami walked over to stand between Aegronius and Jiro, drawing the rod Quednys had given her from her pack and holding it at the ready. When the woman glimpsed her holding it, she shouted, "No! No! You don't know what it will do!"

The woman again tried to touch Zosta when she got her hand free, and though Jiro hit her with his staff he couldn't prevent her from cursing Zosta, which left her struggling even more to hold on to the woman. Aegronius began to smash at the cage with his morningstar. This caused the woman to scream in rage and try casting another spell, but she failed to protect herself from being held by Zosta and thus expended the magic without effect. Irabeth became frustrated by how little damage her sword was doing to the cage and picked up Aegronius great axe to swing at the metal bars, which ran both horizontally and vertically and were too close together for Asami to insert the rod between them. Asami waited for her comrades to break open the cage, taking care not to hold her wand too close to the rod lest its magic be drained and the rod rendered useless.

Aegronius struck the cage a mighty blow and it flew open. At that moment, the woman on the floor managed to cast a spell, not at Zosta but at Asami. Asami was seized with fear and ran out of the room, desperate to escape. She heard Jiro shout, "Stop her! Don't let her get past!" The mongrelfolk, who were at the head of the stairs still, caught hold of Asami as she tried to run past them and barred her from fleeing down the stairs. Jiro came up behind her and took the rod from her hand as she struggled with them.

While Asami was still trying to flee, a wave of golden energy rushed out of the room when Jiro touched the rod to the stone, accompanied by the sound of angelic beings singing. Then thousands of razor-sharp shards of crystal shot out from the shattered Wardstone fragment, shredding the demon-worshipper, who had already been rendered unconscious by a blow from Irabeth. The shards did not touch the Crusaders or their faithful mongrelfolk comrades. As the golden energy touched them, everyone but Irabeth and the mongrelfolk began to glow with the same radiance. They felt all of their wounds heal and every weakness or sickness or terror affecting them fade. All of the spells Asami had expended that day were restored to her mind, and she knew that she could use her splintered spear again just as if she had rested overnight.

Then her mind entered a dream-like state. She saw visions that she understood to be the history of the Wardstone. She knew what year each scene occurred during, and the names of all the people and beings she witnessed even if she had never seen them before. She observed thousands of demons being destroyed and others fleeing as a wave of power flowed out from the other Wardstones still linked to the shattered fragment, in a last burst of energy before all of the Wardstones became inert. Her vision showed her the witch Areelu Vorlesh planning a vindictive strike against Asami and her friends for foiling her plans. She watched the Wardstone being made by celestial beings, saw a young Lord Hulruun having witches executed before it at the start of the Fifth Crusade, saw the demonic Storm King defeated and nearly slain by the dragon Telendrev at the beginning of the Fourth Crusade, watched Irabeth fighting the traitor Staunton Vane beside the Stone before Vane summoned a flying creature and fled. She saw the creature called Minago putting the stone in this very room, where the woman used a powerful spell granted by Minago to create the cage around it. She also saw a vision of something that would now never come to pass, when Vorlesh planned to corrupt the stone and use it transform all of the Crusaders into part of her demonic invasion force. As this vision came to and end, everyone present, including Irabeth, saw Vorlesh using the nahyndrian crystal. Then all of them saw babau demons appear inside the room with them, and they knew this was not a vision. The Wardstones were no more, and they would have to be ready to use their restored magic and strength to fight again.

Next: Part 16, Victory and Loss

Game Review: The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game

Tonight my friends introduced me to the Dresden Files cooperative card game from Evil Hat Productions. This is a quick to learn, fast to play card game using the Fate system, which is also used for the Dresden Files tabletop roleplaying game. Players play characters from the Dresden Files series of urban fantasy novels, including protagonist Harry Dresden himself, and try to defeat various enemies and obstacles that Harry and his friends face in the books. For our games tonight we played using the cards for Stormfront, the first Dresden novel. My review is based on my experience playing three games tonight and shouldn't be construed to give a 100% accurate description of the rules.

 The game allows players to choose which character they want to play, but one player must play Harry Dresden. Each player gets a set of Action cards specific to their chosen character to use on their turns. There are four types of actions: Attack, Investigate, Overcome, and Take Advantage. All characters get some cards of each type, but each character gets a different number of cards of each action category. For example, the characters Billy and Georgia the werewolf couple are geared more toward attacking, so they get more Attack cards than they do cards of the other three action types. But because Karrin Murphy is a police detective, she gets more Investigate cards.

Players start play with four Action cards in their hands. Each Action card has two values: Fate cost, which is described below, and Range. Range is the number of spaces the card can reach on the board. A Range of 1 means the card can only be played against cards in position 1 on the board (see more about the board below). Attack and Investigate cards have a third value, which represents either the amount of Attack damage the card does to a Foe, or the number of Clue points the card is worth in an Investigation. Once an Action card has been played, it must be placed on the player's discard pile. Players cannot draw any more Action cards from their deck unless a Stunt, Talent, or Advantage card allows them to do so.

In addition to Action cards, each character also has a Stunt card and a Talent card. A Stunt card can be played once per game instead of an Action card, to allow the character to do something special like make an extra attack, do more damage, or increase the range of an Action card. Talent cards are similar to Stunt cards, but can only be played after a player discards an Action card to regain Fate points.

The game provides a preset pool of Fate points, which are represented by cardboard tokens and are shared by all players. Action cards all have a Fate point cost to play them. Different cards cost a different number of Fate points. Some cards also require a player to roll a dice in addition to expending Fate points. These dice are specific to the game; instead of numbers or pips, the six-sided dice have two plus symbols, two minus symbols, and two blank sides. Some Action cards require a player to roll one or two dice to determine how many Fate points it costs to play that Action card. If the player rolls a minus, then the Fate cost is reduced by one for each minus rolled. If the player rolls a plus, the Fate cost increases by one. If the players run out of Fate tokens, they can't play any more Action cards and will probably lose the game. Fortunately, they can discard Action cards from their hand to regain a number of Fate points equal to the cost of the card. Discarding an Action card in this way also triggers the player's Talent card to be activated.

In addition to the players' cards, there are cards representing what enemies the characters are fighting and what mystery they're trying to solve - after all, besides being a wizard, Harry Dresden is a private detective, and several of his friends work for the police department. There are four types of these cards: Advantage, Foe, Investigation, and Obstacle. Players must play a Take Advantage card against an Advantage, an Attack card against a Foe, an Investigate card against an Investigation, and an Overcome card against an Obstacle.

At the beginning of the game, twelve of these cards are randomly laid out on the board in two rows of six. The six positions are numbered, and cards must be removed from the board beginning with the two cards in position 1, although some Action cards will allow players to take on cards that are in other positions. When the cards in position 1 are removed, all the other cards are shifted one space to the left so that position 1 is never empty until the board is cleared. While the purpose of the game is to remove all the cards, it's most important to solve the Investigations and remove those first. If players run out of Fate points or Action cards while there are still cards on the board, they move to the Showdown phase. Too many Investigation cards still on the board it will make it very unlikely for them to win the Showdown.

The Foe and Investigation cards have a point cost that the players must overcome to remove them from the board. These aren't Fate points, but instead represent Attack and Clue points, which each have their own set of cardboard tokens. If a player plays an Attack card that does 3 points of damage to a Foe card, three Attack tokens are placed on that Foe card. If the Foe card has a point cost of 11, it remains on the board until it takes 11 Attack points. The Investigation cards work the same way using Clue tokens. There are some Foe and Investigation cards that are linked, so that one can't be removed until the other card is off the board. For example, in the Stormfront set there is a Foe card that can't be attacked until one of the Investigations is solved.

The Advantage and Obstacle cards don't have a point cost. If a player plays a Take Advantage card with a range of 1 and there is an Advantage card in position 1, that player can remove the Advantage card from the board and gain the advantage that is described on the card. Some Advantage cards allow players to draw additional Action cards or take a second turn. Obstacle cards can be removed in a similar way, but instead of giving the players advantages, removing an Obstacle card removes a penalty or limitation from the players.

Advantage and Obstacle cards don't count toward winning the game; players need to remove them from the board in order to gain access to the Foe and Investigation cards, especially if those cards are located in positions 4, 5, and 6. Though the cards are laid out randomly on the board, the game rules specify that Advantage and Obstacle cards can't be placed in position 6. Most Action cards only have a Range of 1 or 2 spaces, so the players will have to get rid of Advantage and Obstacle cards to move the Foe and Investigation cards within range of their Actions..

Players can pass on their turn if they can't decide what Action to play or want to wait for the other players to take their turns first, but passing costs one Fate point. A player who runs out of Action cards also has to pay a penalty of one Fate point each time her turn comes and she's unable to play a card. With only four Action cards per player, it becomes quite a challenge to ensure that there are enough Fate tokens left to afford the Action cards while also making sure players don't run out of cards to play. There are some Advantage cards that allow one or more players to draw another card, but these cards don't allow all players to draw a card. It really is a cooperative resource management game. There's no benefit to ignoring the other players or trying to outdo them.

All three of the games we played tonight ended with Foe and Investigation cards still on the board, forcing us to try to win by winning a Showdown. Unfortunately each time we did poorly on the dice rolls required to resolve the Showdown, and we lost to the game board. Despite this, it was a lot of fun to play the game. The rules sound complicated when described as I described them up above, but it's really not a difficult game to learn. Our games took place over a period of about two and a half hours, including time to explain how the game mechanics work.

While a lot of my favorable impression of this game comes from playing it with close friends, I feel that the ease and speed of play would make this a good game for anyone, especially a Dresden Files fan who doesn't have the time to get involved in a more complex roleplaying game. I give this game four stars out of five.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, episode 14: Return to the Gray Garrison

April 29, 2017

I've noticed a tendency in my previous posts to detail out the combats, but without much personal information about the characters. I'm making a change to the style of these posts that I hope will make them more entertaining to read. I'll be focusing on the viewpoint of my character, Asami the wizard. Sometimes Asami won't be able to see what's happening to the other player-characters. I hope this won't make it seem like no one else is doing anything. That certainly isn't true.

From her vantage on the stairs Asami could only see a small portion of what was happening in the room at the top. Irabeth was standing in front of her near the head of the staircase. She could glimpse a little of Jiro and several of the mongrelfolk who had accompanied them, and she could see Runa’s head above the heads of the cultists who had emerged from side rooms to attack her. Of Aegron and Zosta she could see nothing at all.

Suddenly more people entered the main room from side doors, and Asami saw Runa fall, vanishing behind the swarm of cultists. Asami raised her wand, directing two missiles from it at one cultist near where Runa had fallen, and a third missile at another figure standing near her first target. A wave of energy spread from where Jiro stood, which Asami recognized as his healing hex. Then a figure appeared in the midst of the cultists, standing over what Asami assumed must be Runa’s prone form. It was a white-furred creature that looked like Jiro’s spirit animal Bohgong, but it was much larger than the diminutive monkey. The unusually large monkey also appeared blurred. Asami saw the giant-sized Bohgong lift Runa off the floor and then leap out of sight toward another room that lay above the stairs and behind Asami’s current location.

Relieved that Runa had been taken to a safer place, Asami sent more missiles from her wand at a cultist who stood directly in front of Jiro. Just after she did this another figure appeared between Jiro and the cultist. It was a ghostly form dressed in the style of apparel common in Tian Xia, which led her to assume that Jiro must have summoned it – or perhaps Bohgong had, as Asami suspected there was more to the white monkey than a mere spirit animal. This spirit guardian standing before Jiro did not bear any offensive weapon, but used its staff to block attacks by the cultists that were aimed at Jiro.

Asami did not know what was happening to most of her comrades at this point, as she could only see Jiro and several of the mongrelfolk. Irabeth had run up the stairs and disappeared into the other room. Asami climbed up to the top of the staircase but still could not see anyone else. The rest of her friends were behind her on the other side of a wall as best she could surmise. Because Jiro and his spirit guardian were facing a large number of cultists, Asami pointed her wooden sword at several cultists in the corner of the room she faced and a wave of energy in the colors of autumn leaves spread out from the sword’s point. She had targeted four enemies, but the magic affected only one, the other three managing to resist its power. The fourth cultist’s eyes rolled up and he slumped to the floor.

Asami heard Irabeth shouting fiercely from the other room in the language of the orcs, which Asami was not able to translate. She shifted around the corner behind Jiro to see what was happening in the next room. Her gaze immediately fell on Runa, who was on her feet but did not look well. Runa appeared to have withdrawn from the demonic goat-horned creatures that Irabeth was fighting in order to heal herself. Asami stepped up behind Runa, laying her hand on Runa’s shoulder, and said in a low voice, “Accept the magic,” into Runa’s ear. Runa nodded slightly in acknowledgement. Asami held the flat of her wooden blade toward Runa and moved it from Runa’s head to her feet as she murmured the words of the spell. An insubstantial shape of green energy formed around Runa, surrounding her completely at a foot’s length from her body. The energy took the shape of a sturdy tree. It would protect her from the attacks of evil creatures, and creatures summoned to this place by magic would not be able to approach her. When the spell was complete, Asami took a potion vial from her pouch and handed it to Runa, telling her, “Drink this.” It was the strongest curative potion she had in her possession, and Runa needed it far more than she did.

Now that she had entered the second room, Asami could see that Aegron and Zosta were also there, at the opposite end of the chamber. She watched over Runa’s shoulder as Zosta tripped one of the goat-horned beings and knocked it to the floor. A moment later the creature got back on its feet and stepped backward through another doorway. Zosta followed it and it attempted to gore her with its horns. A second creature of the same kind was engaged with Irabeth and Aegron, who was using his ranseur to fight it. Runa and Irabeth both turned to look toward the wall to Asami’s left. Asami sensed that they had seen something, but before she could get a glimpse of it, the entire room was plunged into impenetrable blackness. Asami heard the sound of bowstrings twanging, and something wet spattered the floor nearby and Runa made a small exclamation of disgust. Then there was the sound of a door closing from the opposite end of the room where Zosta and her opponent had been. Kirara could see no more in the darkness than Asami could, but the cat poked her head out of Asami's pack and whispered in Asami's ear, "Smell no enemies near."

Behind Asami, Jiro said, “I’ll try to dispel the darkness.” She waited as he recited the words of the spell, but when he finished nothing happened. Asami felt slightly foolish that she hadn’t thought to do so first. She spoke the spell herself, gesturing with her sword to encompass the room that she couldn’t see. As she pronounced the last syllable, the darkness vanished and the room was visible once more. But she hardly had time to draw a breath before the room went black a second time! She heard a sound like something spitting and felt the burn of acid on her exposed skin. A large shape approached, causing Kirara to hiss fearfully, and then something bit her painfully in the arm.

Asami heard the sound something being dropped on the floor followed by the metallic grating of a sword being drawn from its sheath and guessed that it must be Runa, as Irabeth was already wielding her longsword and Aegron did not customarily use a sword. Behind her there was a rustling as Jiro moved, and she heard him murmuring. Light suffused the room, driving away the unnatural darkness. Jiro held up his lantern on the end of its pole. The lantern’s magical, never-ending illumination had overcome the darkness. In its glow Asami could see that in the room with her and her companions were two creatures that resembled flies but were as large as men and wore man-like faces. Asami raised her wand. Three missiles from the wand slew one of the fly-like monsters. Aegron killed the second one. But there was a third fly-creature in a narrow hallway that led off from the left side of the room, and this spat on Irabeth, Runa, and Aegron. One of the goat-horned creatures was also still in the room, and it used its halberd to slash past Irabeth, aiming at Aegron. Irabeth thrust her sword into the creature and it dropped.

Jiro called out to Bohgong to seek Zosta, who was nowhere in sight. Asami moved to the end of the small corridor and stroked her sword, drawing green lightning from the wooden blade. The lightning shot down the hallway at the third fly-monster and another of the horned demons that stood behind it. But to her disappointment both creatures appeared unaffected by the lightning. Runa put a hand on Irabeth, who seemed unsteady, and murmured a prayer to Iomedae to heal the paladin’s wounds. Irabeth was still weak and withdrew from the area where she might be threatened by the demonic creatures’ attacks. Runa handed her a potion and Jiro used one of his hexes to provide her further relief from her injuries. Asami pointed her wand at one of the demons that remained in the room, but the tiny missiles of magical force bounced off its hide.

Zosta emerged from a room at the far end of the chamber, tripped another horned demon, then slashed it with her bladed gauntlets. Several of the mongrelfolk archers, who had been busy eliminating the last of the cultists in the other room, now aimed their bows at the fly-thing and brought it down. Aegron charged past where it had hovered to get to the demon in the hallway. It was close enough to where Asami stood that she could stab at it with her spear, but her blow failed to connect. Then Aegron broght his greataxe down on it and nearly cleaved it in two. After it died it vanished in the manner of a creature that had been summoned from another plane. There were no other cultists or creatures sharing the space with the attacking force from the Eagle's Watch.

But there were still side rooms that they had yet to explore, and they had not located the Wardstone fragment. Runa and Irabeth both looked weary and were still wounded. Asami assessed the spells she still had in her mind. Her ability to hurl lightning at her foes or dispel magic they cast were gone, and she could not grant anyone else the same protection against evil creatures that she had placed on Runa. That magic would last a little longer, but how much was left of the Gray Garrison to examine? Would they need to leave it and replenish themselves a second time? She had a magic pearl in her pouch that would let her recover one spent spell, but it could not be used to recover the lightning spell or the spell to dispel other magic. As she thought of this Asami could feel the weight of the enchanted rod Quednys had given her, pressing against her back. The stone must be destroyed before the demon lords could use it to fully open the Worldwound. Thinking of the Worldwound made the peculiar Seeker’s Spiral birthmark on the back of her neck tingle and raised memories of her lost parents. She and her friends must prevent the Worldwound from being opened further, no matter what the cost.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, episode13: Attack on the Gray Garrison

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Character level: 5th

In the aftermath of the fight with the ceiling-hanging alchemist and his cultists comrades, the assault team at the Gray Garrison took a few moments to check the corpses of their fallen enemies for any items of use. Asami and Runa both scanned the room for magical auras, finding five vials of magical potions, a ring, and a suit of enchanted leather armor worn by the alchemist. There were also a number of spell scrolls in the possession of the cultists. Some of the dead cultists had curative potions, which the assault group were glad to acquire. Runa examined some of the scrolls and found that half of them were meant to frighten the subject into fleeing in fear, which seemed to be a spell commonly given to the followers of Baphomet.

After the bodies had been relieved of useful objects, the group turned their attention to the chamber from which the cultists had emerged. It was a long narrow space lined by six white marble columns, which had once been carved in the likenesses of people but were now so badly defaced that they were unrecognizable. At the far end of the room an altar also of white marble had been overturned. On its uppermost surface lay a conglomeration of severed body parts stitched together into a vaguely insect-like form. Seven bedrolls lay on the floor next to the altar.

While some of his companions were looking into the room with the columns, Aegronius had gone to keep an eye on the doorway leading back into the shrine to Iomedae that stood to one side of the main entrance. Suddenly three demons appeared behind him. When he sensed them and turned to face them he saw that they were a type of demon he had seen before, ugly creatures that wore their heads where the chest region would be on a man, and had rat-like hairless tails. Before he could warn his companions one of these demons bit him and he felt strangely demoralized. Another demon bit one of the mongrelfolk who were with Aegron and the mongrelman collapsed.

Runa spied that Aegron and the mongrelfolk were under attack and summoned an area of blinding radiance that harmed the evil creatures. One of the other mongrelfolk pulled his fallen friend to safety and prepared to administer a potion. Two of the other mongrelfolk fired on the demons. Irabeth moved into the shrine room to face them as they attacked Aegron again. Irabeth was bitten as well but didn't suffer the same effect as Aegron had. From the other room, Asami could see two of the demons and she aimed her wand at the one nearest to Aegron, firing three tiny missiles into its body. Zosta ran past into the shrine, knocking the middle demon to the floor and slamming it with both of her gauntlet-clad arms, which sent it flying backward in a limp heap.

The other two demons began to mutter in the language of the Abyss, which Runa was able to identify as spellcasting. An instant later one of the demons vanished. Aegron stabbed the demon that was still standing, dropping it to the ground, after which Zosta smashed her fists into it. The demons had been defeated.

Aegron then went to examine the room that lay at the side of the shrine, which the group had previously bypassed. It appeared to have been a museum previously, but everything in it had been destroyed, with the exception of an adamantine morningstar which Aegron found. Having seen this variety of demon previously, he knew that they hated anything of beauty and after finding they couldn't destroy the morningstar they had likely used it to smash everything else. He also found the corpses of two men in full armor, who had both been decapitated. He realized then that the demons' hands had been covered in blood and they had probably been playing with the severed heads, using them as puppets.

While Jiro and Runa took out wands to heal the wounds suffered previously, Zosta went into another room that lay just off the columned chamber. This was was fitted as an alchemist's laboratory. Within it she found a portable alchemist's kit, a longsword in a case, and a small piece of parchment. The parchment contained a message addressed to 'Staunton', which said that the sword had once belonged to Irabeth but had been sold to Lord Kendro Nyserian, who had been punished for failing to reveal it earlier. Lord Nyserian was one of the victims of the vermlek demons outside, who had been wearing his skin as armor.

Zosta showed the sword to Irabeth, who explained that she had indeed sold the sword because she had wanted to purchase a wedding gift for Anevia. As she was now carrying the sword the group had fond beneath the city, she offered her old sword to anyone who would like to use it. After learning that it was enchanted to deal extra harm to evil creatures from other planes, Runa decided she would take it. She returned the sword that Irabeth had previously lent her in exchange for the new one. When she remarked that she would look on the blade as a gift from Iomedae, Irabeth responded that it was a gift from her, not from the goddess.

Jiro happened to look into the altar room at this time and spied a large creature standing at the far end in front of the overturned altar. It resembled a giant tortoise with a spiky shell, standing on two legs like a man. He was surprised to see such a creature in Kenabres, for he could tell that it had come from Tian Xia. Jiro quietly approached the creature and greeted it respectfully. It appeared to be sizing him up. One of the mongrelmen looked into the room as Jiro was walking toward the tortoise-creature, but the mongrelman only saw Jiro walking purposefully toward the altar. Zosta also looked in and saw the same thing. Her curiosity aroused, she went into the room to see what Jiro was doing.

Jiro bowed to the creature. He could sense that his monkey was tense, though he did not know if it was due to fear, anger, or excitement. As Jiro neared, the tortoise-creature smiled, then pointed toward a section of the wall at the end of the room. Then it bowed and vanished from sight. Zosta heard Jiro speaking, but she did not see the creature. Jiro turned to look at the wall the creature had indicated and saw that a section of it shaped like a doorway was glowing.

Aegron left the museum room and followed the others. When he looked into the altar room he also saw the glow and went in to see what was causing it. Zosta, too, could see it. Asami joined her companions and observed it as well, noting that it radiaed a strong aura of magical energy. When Runa joined the rest she too could see the glow, but when Irabeth came in she saw them all looking at a blank section of wall.

Suspecting that the door-shaped glow meant there was a hidden door in the wall, Runa said a prayer to Iomedae, but the door remained shut. Then Zosta suggested that she recite the prayer that was engraved over the shrine. Runa did so, but it had no effect. Jiro attempted to open the door without success. He also described the creature he had seen to Asami, hoping she might be able to say what it was, but she did not recognize it by his description. Then Jiro recalled that it must be a type of oni, though he couldn't explain why it would have pointed the magic doorway out to him. At that moment he also realized that Runa had recited the prayer incorrectly, transposing some of the words. When he reminded her of this she spoke the words of the inscription in the correct sequence and the door opened.

The room proved to be full of weapons and armor. Many of the weapons were made of cold iron, best suited for fighting demons. Irabeth, Zosta, and Runa all went into the secret armory. Zosta drew out the magic bag that Rhino had given her, and they began putting all of the items into the bag as quickly as they could. Two of the mongrelfolk had been standing guard at the door that led to the staircase, and they had heard voices and footsteps coming from the second floor. As the group members removed all the objects from the armory, the sentries warned that the sounds upstairs were getting louder. The group members hurriedly finished emptying the hidden room of its contents, then went to the museum room to retrieve the two decapitated corpses, which had been identified by their gear as paladins. Carrying the supply of weapons and armor and the two corpses, they hurried out of the Gray Garrison. As they departed from the structure, Irabeth ordered two of the mongrelfolk to pick up the remains of Lord Nyserian and Lord Hulruun.

A short distance away the group paused to rearrange what they were carrying and check that no one was following them. Then they made their way quickly back toward Defender's Heart. Irabeth parted from them before they reached the inn, telling them she would go to the various groups carrying out attacks elsewhere and tell them to continue for a little while so that the defenders of the Gray Garrison would not realize that the Garrison had been the true target.

When the group returned to Defender's Heart and told everyone that they had managed to clear the entire ground floor of the Gray Garrison, morale was improved. The supplies provided by Horgus Gwerm and the things found in the secret armory also heartened the defenders of the city. As some of the fighters from the other attacking groups returned to rest, a mood of celebration overtook Defender's Heart.

The group members looked over the items they had taken from their fallen foes and the armory of Iomedae and claimed those things that would be useful to them, arranging to sell the remainder. Runa took her old set of armor to the smith to ask him to repair the acid damage when he had time. Later she and Zosta found Aegron's friend Darla practicing some unarmed fighting skills, and Runa offered to spar with her, which Darla accepted. Aegron then spent the rest of the evening with her. Darla seemed oblivious to the pitying looks of those who saw her partially amputated leg and felt sorry for her. Aegron decided to set aside all his funds to pay for healing for her once a priest was available who could cast a powerful enough spell.

Asami went to her room to give Kirara a good brushing, as the little white cat had suffered a very trying day. Later, while Asami was studying her spellbook, she realized that Kirara was sleeping on top of an unfamiliar book. She left the cat alone, but when Kirara removed to a different location Asami examined the book and found that it was a small, old spellbook, which had had several pages torn out. She also observed that the 'bookmark' tucked into the book was actually a wand, one which looked rather like the wand that had suddenly vanished from her pouch while she and her companions were fighting with the cultists outside the Gray Garrison.

The following morning, the attackers regrouped and returned to the Gray Garrison to continue their search for the fragment of Wardstone. Jiro used the magical chime to open the front gate. They found that the museum room was still in just as much disarray as on the previous day. The alchemist's laboratory was even more of a mess, as though someone had thrown everything about in a rage. They met no opposition, but the staircase room had been filled with boxes and crates. The mongrelfolk quickly formed a line and passed the crates, re-stacking them in a way that they would not block access to either the stairs or the exit. While they were doing so Runa and Irabeth went into the altar room to try to clean it of filth and reconsecrate it. When the crates had been cleared the entire party climbed the stairs, leaving two mongrelmen behind to make sure that no other foes would come from outside the garrison.

Aegron climbed the staircase first. As soon as he opened the door at the top he found himself facing two archers who fired on him immediately. He could see more enemies behind him in another room. All of the foes he could see appeared to be tieflings. He stepped toward the archers, which led to him being peppered with arrows, but he nearly sliced off one tiefling's hand and the tiefling collapsed. Zosta then ran up the stairs. When she saw that there were more enemies behind where Aegron faced the archers, she ran into that room and knocked one tiefling down. Jiro then followed her onto the second floor and moved to heal the wounds Aegron had suffered from the arrows. One of the mongrelfolk moved to the second floor, and at that moment more enemies appeared from a side room, these dressed like cultists of Baphomet.

Zosta's opponent rolled away from her, but as he did so she slashed him with her bladed gauntlets and he fell unconscious. Two of the archers fired on her. One of the cultists or tieflings cast a spell from a scroll and Aegron was consumed by terror and forced to flee. As Aegron departed two cultists stabbed their polearms at Jiro and two archers fired on him. Asami, who had been waiting at the bottom of the stairs, climbed up behind Irabeth, who had already reached the second floor, and used her wand to strike one of the archers with missiles. As Aegron ran past Irabeth she tripped him and he fell, but he scrambled to his feet and kept running.

In the other room Zosta tripped another tiefling and slashed him. Jiro's monkey produced a tanglefoot bag from somewhere and threw it, causing one of the attackers to be stuck to the floor. Jiro summoned a tetsubo of force. Runa moved to attack the cultists and was wounded in the hand. One of the tieflings tried to get past Zosta, but she dropped him to the floor and left him dead at her feet. One of the other fallen tieflings had been attempting to coordinate his attack with the one who died, but his efforts proved too much for him and he lost consciousness. One of the cultists cast a spell, telling Runa to flee, and several of the others attacked her. Then another door opened, revealing more tieflings, followed by a third door opening near the head of the stairs to reveal yet more enemies - and with them, a large winged bird-like creature.

4 scrolls of comprehend language (2 to Asami, 1 to Jiro, 1 to Runa)
ring of protection +1 (Zosta)
2 potions of cure light wounds
potion of cure moderate wounds
potion of mage armor (Jiro)
potion of barkskin (Runa)
potion of invisibility (Asami)
+1 adamantine morningstar
+1 longsword of evil outsider bane (Runa)
3 cold iron longswords
2 cold iron shortswords
Compound longbow of +2 strength
2 heavy crossbows
Cold iron heavy mace
2 cold iron longspears
50 cold iron crossbow bolts
Masterwork longsword
5 holy arrows (Asami)
Arrow of evil outsider slaying (Aegron)
2 suits of masterwork chain armor
Masterwork breastplate with Iomedae symbol (Runa)
Masterwork heavy steel shield
Heavy steel shield of blinding (Runa)
Holy symbol of Desna (Aegron)
Holy symbol of Shelyn
Holy symbol of Iomedae
350 gold pieces each from sale of items

Next: Episode 14, Return to the Gray Garrison

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, episode 12: Into the Cultists' Lair

Wrath of the Righteous, Part 12
April 9, 2017

Character level: 5th

After the team attacking the Gray Garrison had disposed of the two vermlek demons and their Baphomet cultist minions outside the fortress-like garrison, they searched the remains but found no key to unlock the heavy iron doors that had been locked behind them. At first they feared this would bring an end to their mission to enter the garrison. But Jiro made an attempt to pick the lock, and with the aid of a set of fine quality lockpicks that his monkey mysteriously produced, he was able to get it open. Asami, who had just discovered that she was now able to communicate verbally with her familiar Kirara, was confused when Kirara laughed at Jiro's efforts. It wasn't until afterward that Jiro remembered he had in his possession a magical chime that might have opened the doors with less effort.

The iron doors opened into an entry way decorated with a mosaic of Crusaders in battle with an army of demons. The mosaic had been defaced with vile graffiti, and the floor beneath was stained with fresh blood. As the attackers stepped inside the dimly lit entrance, shadowy figures emerged from a doorway to their left. Jiro exclaimed, "Cultists!" and began casting a spell. Asami stepped up behind him, as he held his lantern aloft and it illuminated the foyer. Half a dozen tieflings wearing the insignia of Baphomet cultists had emerged from a side chamber, where playing cards could be seen on a table. Asami sent three missiles of force from her newly acquired wand and one of the cultists collapsed.

As three of the mongrelfolk fired their bows at the cultists, one man rushed out and ran past the attackers into another chamber on the right of the entryway. A second man ran after him but was struck by Jiro's club. A man maneuvered behind Runa, who was standing next to the doorway from which the cultists had emerged, and stabbed her in the back. Two of his comrades also stepped into the entrance. Then darkness filled the area.

Zosta moved into the room to the right of the entrance, which proved to contain a small shrine to Iomedae that the cultists had attempted to desecrate. The man who had fled there was about to open a door on the far side of the shrine, but before he could do so Zosta tripped him and then stomped on him, crushing his ribs.

Asami could no longer see the cultists, but Kirara whispered in her ear and she directed Jiro's arm to attack the cultist who was standing directly in front of him. The mongrelfolk, who had no trouble seeing through the magical darkness, fired on the man who had stabbed Runa and slew him. Irabeth and Runa were also not troubled by the dark, and Irabeth killed another of the cultists. The last remaining man fled out the entrance of the garrison. One of the mongrelfolk outside fired on him. Then Jiro raced out after him, and Asami stepped outside to bring him down with more missiles from her wand.

The room the cultists had come out of proved to have no other exit and contained nothing of interest, other than evidence that the men had been gambling with severed body parts. The shrine had been smeared with blood and excrement, but the cultists had been unable to deface an inscription in the language of the Celestials that was on the wall above an empty sword rest. Runa took out a scroll and read it, granting herself the ability to read the inscription, which was a prayer to Iomedae that Runa found so moving it brought tears to her eyes. Jiro conjured up some water and an invisible servant and set his servant to washing the shrine clean. He knelt down to do some of the cleaning himself, and as he did so he noticed that the ornate script of the inscription formed the shape of a sword with different words inscribed on it. He called this discovery to Runa's attention, and she saw that the sword's message read, "Let us inherit thine arms, Iomedae." Encouraged by this, Runa tried placing her weapon on the stand and praying to Iomedae, but she didn't sense any change to the weapon, only a feeling of peace.

Leaving Jiro's servant to keep cleaning, the group opened one of the doors leading out of the shrine. They were immediately faced with a gargantuan demon filling the space beyond. This sight so terrified Kirara and one of the mongrelfolk that they both fled. But the rest of the group realized that the demon was far too large to occupy the space in which it appeared and must be some sort of apparition rather than an actual creature. The room in which the demonic vision appeared was actually quite small, but had three doors leading out of it. Zosta listened at one of the doors on the left and exhorted her companions to go through it.

The door opened into a room containing a smashed sideboard and an ascending staircase. It also held three creatures that the companions recognized as dretches, having met such demons while they were trapped under the city. Irabeth rushed into the staircase room to attack the dretches. When one of them made a move toward her she laughed and remarked, "You're trying that? I'm protected by Iomedae!" Her sword slashed into the dretch. Then one of the dretches released a cloud of foul-smelling gas that filled the room and spread into the small chamber beyond, blocking sight and causing Zosta to retch and vomit. Kirara was also affected and the little white cat began to retch into Asami's pack.

One of the mongrelfolk archers pulled Zosta out of the gas cloud. Runa started to step into the room with Irabeth, but Irabeth called out to her to wait and that she would lure the dretches into the other room. Jiro cast a spell on Runa. Irabeth moved into the small room and the dretches pursued her. Runa and Aegron attacked them and Aegron killed his target. Jiro cast another spell upon himself, but was distracted by the sight of his monkey, who seemed to be trying to lay hands on himself as Jiro had seen Irabeth and Runa do, though the monkey seemed to be struggling with this action. In the meantime Aegron and Irabeth slew the other two dretches. Once the creatures were dead the malodorous cloud dissipated.

Zosta had recovered from her sickness by this time and warned her companions that she had heard booted footsteps before the dretches appeared. Since the demons didn't wear footgear there must be someone else in the garrison. Then the doorway at the end of the small room opened, revealing four cultists who wore the insignia of the demon lord Deskari rather than Baphomet, and a fifth figure who was suspended from the ceiling. Like the Baphomet cultists at the entrance, all of the new foes appeared to be tieflings. Runa moved to attack and the man on the ceiling hurled a vial into the small room that exploded in flames, dousing everyone nearby and setting Irabeth on fire. Asami, Jiro, and Zosta were spared as they had all remained or retreated into the shrine room. Aegron moved forward to attack the cultists in the doorway. Jiro summoned a tetsubo of force to attack the suspended tiefling, but found him a hard target to hit. Irabeth patted out the flames and stepped to one side to lay hands on herself for healing.

Asami directed missiles from her wand at the suspended tiefling but they were deflected by a magical shield surrounding him. The mongrelfolk fired on the four cultists in the doorway, leaving one of them badly wounded. Runa then created a burst of brilliant radiance that left the cultists dazzled and the severely wounded man slumped to the ground. The man on the ceiling hurled another vial into the small room, this time setting Runa aflame. Zosta, who had finally recovered from nausea, moved into the room and disarmed one of the cultists. In turn she was struck by one of the others who wielded a scythe. Jiro ran into the room and channeled divine energy to heal his companions, and Irabeth laid hands on herself a second time.

Asami moved a step closer and sent a spell into the room where the man was suspended from the ceiling, wrapping him and the three remaining cultists in sticky vines. Unfortunately the vines also wrapped Aegron and Zosta, but they failed to entrap the man on the ceiling. The ceiling hangerthen hurled another vial that shattered and splashed Runa, who moved into the space occupied by the vines and set them on fire, then collapsed.

Two more of the cultists fell dead after they were burned by the flaming vines. Asami shot a magical arrow coated with acidic sap at the man on the ceiling but Zosta observed that the acid appeared to do him little harm. Jiro healed Runa and she got back on her feet, but the suspended foe hit her with another vial. Asami tried hurling one of her spears at him and missed. When he tossed yet another bottle of liquid Zosta slapped it out of the air, which caused it to only splash everyone instead of setting Runa on fire again. Jiro's tetsubo finally managed to hit the man, then vanished, the magic spent. Jiro then ordered his servant to shut the door into the shrine to prevent the man from exiting into the other room. He called upon the spirits of his ancestors to grant boons to Zosta and Runa. Zosta then grabbed hold of the suspended tiefling and lifted herself up by his arms, wrapping her arms and legs around him so that he couldn't move. Asami threw another spear but it also failed to connect with the man on the ceiling, who was surrounded by a magical effect that made him difficult to see clearly. He tried to drink a potion, but spilled it instead. One of the mongrelfolk managed to hit him with an arrow, then Runa then rendered him unconscious and Zosta dropped him to the floor.

Next: Part 13

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, episode 11: We Must Destroy the Stone

March 19, 2017

Having received a reward of 4,000 gold pieces from Irabeth for their investigations into the two Ivory Labyrinth safehouses, the new Eagle's Watch team decided to sell some of the items they had acquired and divvy up the remainder among the group members. Runa found a priest who could make the broken phylactery whole and decided to wear it herself. She also claimed a couple of scrolls, while Jiro took the others. Asami sought a curative potion as she had been so badly wounded in the tower, and her comrades agreed that she should have a protective cloak in addition to the potion. Once she received her share of the coin, she used some of it to purchase a wand that would fire tiny unerringly accurate missiles of force at her chosen target.

While the group were taking care of this business, they heard some tales of a terrifying demon that had been seen about the city. The description of the demon sounded familiar to them, and they soon realized that it was not an enemy but an ally, the demon known as Rhino who had helped to train them in demon-fighting techniques under the supervision of Cennami. Zosta was especially eager to disabuse the city folk of their fear of Rhino after he had given her the gift of the magical punching gauntlets.

Irabeth had told the party that they should talk with Quednys Orland, leader of the Riftwardens, and they decided to do this after their trip to the next safehouse, Nyserian Manor. They made their way through one of the most damaged parts of Kenabres to reach the manor, which had completely collapsed into a heap of rubble. It was difficult to tell if the manor, like the other safehouses, had a subterranean level. They encountered a local resident who told them that she had seen a surprisingly large number of people fleeing from the manor during the demonic attack, and that they had all been wearing unusual robes. The group members recognized the description of the robes as those of Baphomet's cultists. The woman also knew that the manor had a basement, but as far as she knew it had no side entrance or other access. The basement now appeared to be completely filled with the fallen remains of the manor.

While they were talking with the woman she made a reference to someone named Kandro. Jiro and Runa recognized the name as that of the man who had purchased a sword stolen from Irabeth. He was also the master of Nyserian Manor. Our of gratitude for the information the woman had provided, Jiro healed her minor injuries. The group then decided that removing all the rubble from the manor's basement to search for more evidence was more work than they were willing to commit to, and they returned to Defender's Heart.

At Defender's Heart, Irabeth took them to meet Quednys. They discovered that he was unaware that Blackwing hadn't been completely destroyed or that Aravashnial had survived the attack on the city. He was pleased to learn both pieces of information. Afterward he and Irabeth told the group that they feared the attack had merely been a prelude to something far worse. They suspected that the demons were plotting to turn the power of the Wardstones back on the mortal world, releasing the demonic forces to invade through the Worldwound. The cultists had taken refuge in the Gray Garrison after the attack, and Quednys believed they held a fragment of a destroyed Wardstone there. He and Irabeth believed that this fragment must be destroyed to prevent the demons from using it to gain control over the other stones. They wanted the new Crusaders to help them attack the Gray Garrison and seek out the fragment. Quednys presented Asami with a forked rod that held a green stone between its two prongs, which he said would nullify the stone's remaining power.

Irabeth explained that the other Crusaders would attack other cult locations in an attempt to draw the defenders out of the Gray Garrison and deny them reinforcements, while Irabeth would go with the group to seek the stone. She admitted that they might not be successful in entering the garrison on their first try, as it was well fortified. But she had some aid to help them in their attack: six mongrelfolk had come from below ground to lend their aid, and they were all accomplished archers. Despite her still broken leg, Irabeth's wife Anevia would lead her old squad in one of the decoy attacks.  Kendys then sent a messenger to Blackwing.

Before the messenger could go far, he returned in the company of a second courier who had been sent by Aravashnial. The second messenger carried a magical pack full of equipment, including another wand like the one Asami had just purchased but more powerful, several strong healing potions, a group of cold iron arrows, a chime that could open any door or gate, a wand that would cancel magical darkness, a cold iron greataxe, and a cold iron longsword. Asami took the two wands and one of the potions, Aegron took the greataxe, Runa the sword, Jiro the chime, and the remaining potions were given to the mongrelfolk along with the arrows. Irabeth explained that the decoy attacks would begin once the party attacking the garrison were in place. At that point, the group set out for the Gray Garrison.

Most of the buildings around the Gray Garrison had been reduced to rubble, but there were a few partial walls nearby. As soon as the group neared the garrison, the gates opened and a group of cultists emerged, preceded by what appeared to be two bloated, naked men. As the attackers came closer they saw that the two naked men resembled Kandro, lord of Nyserian Manor, and Lord Hulruun, former leader of Kenabres. Zosta suddenly remembered a type of demon called a vermlek that would wear the flesh of the dead. Clearly both Kandro and Hulruun were dead. The two vermleks ordered the cultists to attack, and the cultists responded by casting spells on themselves, which Asami recognized as protection against the energy of good.The attackers all moved toward the garrison's defenders except Asami, who hung back to use long-range magic.

Asami was the first to act after the cultists cast their spells. She used her more powerful wand to send three missiles of force at one of the vermleks. To her disappointment the missiles seemed to have little effect on the disgusting creature. One vermlek cast a spell at Aegron and Zosta, who were both near to it, inflicting wounds without any weapon. Aegron and Zosta attacked in return and observed that the vermleks' stolen skin closed over the injuries they suffered.

Jiro summoned up a wakizashi of force to attack one of the cultists. Asami decided that the human cultists were better targets than the demons, and sent three missiles at three cultists. Runa called on the power of Iomedae to bless her companions, while Zosa tapped her new gauntlets together and exlaimed "Little Sister!" to ignite their flames.

One of the demons struck at Aegron with the scythe it wielded and dealt him a grievous blow, nearly severing his hand. That injury, combined with the wounds the demon had already magically inflicted on him and the attacks of nearby cultists, left Aegron too weak to stand. After he collapsed, Irabeth rushed to his side to defend him and extended Iomedae's healing mercy to keep him from death. Runa then cast a spell that caused a burst of radiant light to engulf the demons and several cultists. The demons withstood the magic, but two cultists were left blind.

While the companions and Irabeth faced the demons, the mongrelfolk archers picked off cultist after cultist. Jiro's floating weapon was suddenly wrested from his control and moved to strike one of the demons, at the same time transforming from a wakizashi to a tetsubo. At the same time, Asami noticed several force missiles coming from the top of a broken wall nearby. She glimpsed a furry white paw holding a stick taking cover behind the wall, and realized that her newly-acquired wand was missing. She didn't take time to think of how curious it was that a monkey could use a wand. Instead she took Telendrev's silver scale from her pouch and applied it to her wooden sword, aligning the sword so that it could inflict damage with the power of good.

While Asami was engaged in this, the vermlek that had attacked Aegron had dropped its human guise, revealing its true form as a worm-like creature that lacked limbs to grasp the scythe. Irabeth then stepped up to it and with one blow of her sword nearly sliced it in two. The second vermlek began to recite the words of a spell, which Runa recognized as one to summon another creature. She called out a warning to her companions. Asami moved closer to where the remaining vermlek stood and hurled her splintered spear at it. Despite the fact that Irabeth and several cultists were between her and the demon, Asami's spear hit it, and she was rewarded with the satisfaction of seeing that it had wasted the spell it was casting. Two dretches had started to materialize nearby but after her spear hit they faded away. Zosta then turned her powerful blows on the vermlek and it joined its comrade in death. The remaining cultists were slain by the mongrelfolk archers, with the exception of the two blind men, who were encouraged to attack each other by one of the mongrelfolk mimicking the vermlek's voice.

Next: Episode 12, Into the Cultists' Lair

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, episode 10: The Tower of Estrod

The group of new Eagle's Watch members had suffered a good deal in their efforts to investigate the first of the the three Ivory Labyrinth safehouses they had discovered. Their first concern was to heal as much of their injuries as they could. Jiro used his magic to cure the wounds that Asami and Kirara had incurred. Afterward they ascended to the alchemist's shop and exited into the square.

There they found that the neighbors who had gone to bury the weaponmaker Logan beside the grave of his son had returned. When they told the local shopkeepers what they had found beneath Topaz Solutions, the neighbors were so grateful that they prepared a feast to serve to the five comrades. Jiro was disappointed that the people doing they cooking would not allow him to help.

After they had eaten there was music and dancing. While this small celebration was going on, a messenger came from Defender's Heart and delivered a message to Runa. She called her companions over to hear what it said, which attracted the attention of the local residents. Everyone fell silent while they waited to hear the contents of the message. When Runa opened it, she realized it was actually addressed to Aegronius and immediately handed it to him. Aegronius decided that he had nothing to hide and read the message aloud.

The message came from Irabeth, telling him that his friend Darla, who the companions had left at Horgus Gwerm's residence, had been seriously injured and was now being cared for at Defender's Heart. This news dampened the mood a bit, and the companions decided to return to Defender's Heart to find out more about Darla's condition.

When they arrived at the new headquarters of the Eagle Watch, they were met by Irabeth, who told them that while Darla was too badly injured to give much information she had described an attack at Gwerm's house. Darla had suffered an injury to her eye, one arm, and had lost part of one leg. She had also been afflicted by some poison that seemed to be demonic in origin. She had managed to tell them that some sort of demon had attacked her, which by its description resembled a babau, but it was impossible that a lone unarmed person could have escaped a babau, and Darla had clearly put up a fierce fight as evidenced by the injuries to her knuckles. She had also managed to scrape off some skin from her assailant, which had been examined and did seem to come from something like a babau yet different.

The group chose to remain at the inn for the night rather than continue on to the next safehouse location. That night Zosta received a parcel containing a leather sack which emitted a metallic clink when she lifted it. When she put her hand into the sack she couldn't reach the items inside and the sack seemed much larger inside that its exterior appeared. She upended the sack and a pair of gauntlets fell out. They could be worn as brass knuckles, but along the sides parallel with the edges of the wearer's palms were blades, so that the wearer could choose to slash her opponent rather than punch. Inscribed on the knuckles were the words "Little Sister". When Zosta read these words aloud the gauntlets were sheathed in flames, to her delight. She also realized that the gauntlets were made of cold iron. With the gauntlets was a note. Zosta opened it and recognized the scrawled handwriting as that of Rhino, the demon who had converted to the side of good and helped train her and her companions in methods to fight other demons. The note was brief, stating only that it was good Zosta was well, that her parents were also well, and that Rhino would see her soon. She realized that Rhino must have made the gauntlets himself.

The next morning Zosta showed the gauntlets to Asami, who told her that she would be able to invoke the flames for a short time thrice each day. In the meantime, Aegronius learned that Darla was awake and no longer feverish. He went at once to see her. Darla told him that Garvin, the mercenary who had agreed to protect Horgus Gwerm's mansion, had suddenly transformed into a demonic creature and seemed to go mad with frenzy. She thought that Gwerm had escaped, but she had only managed to do so by climbing out a window that the Garvin-demon couldn't fit through. Her description of Garvin's transformation contained elements of both a dretch and a babau, leading to the conclusion that he had become some sort of hybrid.

Aegronius joined his companions at breakfast and told them what he had learned from Darla. The tale of the demon hybrid and Garvin's transformation left them all confused. How could a hybrid of dretch and babau exist? Had Garvin been a demon all along or had he somehow been possessed?

Once they had completed their morning repast the five comrades decided to continue investigating the Ivory Labyrinth's safehouses. Their next target was the Tower of Estrod, which had served the city of Kenabres as a library and research laboratory. As they left Defender's Heart behind, they saw the body of a looter hanging from a gibbet. Irabeth had told them that the Eagle's Watch was bringing in an executioner, as looting and helping the demon cultists were crimes deemed punishable by death.

The Tower of Estrod had once been a five-story structure, but the demons' attack on the city had destroyed the upper three floors and left them as a pile of rubble next to the circular tower. The companions had found a pass phrase in the documents they had acquired. They decided to bluff their way into the tower by pretending to be cult members. Jiro spoke the phrase, "I have new materials for the archive" in a surprisingly gruff voice, and they were admitted by an armored guard who was not trying at all to hide his affiliation with the cult of Baphomet.

Once inside the tower they could see that it had been even more badly damaged than was visible from outside. Sky could be seen through the broken second floor overhead. The guard who admitted them was at first somewhat dismissive, telling them not to disturb his commander, Faxon. Then Aegronius noticed something hiding up above, and Runa intimidated the guard into telling them that it was Faxon's familiar. He was so cowed that he seemed to think Runa was higher ranking in the cult than himself and he told her the group should go downstairs and report to Faxon. Jiro's monkey clambered up a pillar, while the rest crossed a walkway flanked by two rubble-filled pits and passed a stack of crates before reaching the staircase.

At the bottom of the stair they saw a room bisected by a wall, which held a set of double doors that were presently closed. In the part of the underground chamber that they could see were only more crates and a table that was evidently being used as a desk. Just as they arrived, the double doors opened, giving them a brief glimpse into a mostly empty chamber, though Aegronius saw a white bed with a dark stain at its center. A tiefling man stepped out from the other room and shut the doors behind him with the click of a lock.

The tiefling then told the group to turn over any loot they had acquired and give him a report. Zosta tried to size him up. He appeared to be doing the same to her, and by his expression he judged that Runa and Asami were the greatest danger to him. To stall for time the party members began reaching into their packs. Aegronius tried to lure the tiefling closer by showing him the magical ranseur he had recently obtained, but the tiefling only told him to put it on the crates. Then Runa took out her sword, pretending to show it to him as loot, and sliced at the tiefling.

The tiefling immediately cast a spell, which Asami recognized as a curse, and reached out to touch Zosta. Asami was relieved when Zosta appeared unaffected by the curse. Then a small winged creature landed on a crate and breathed out a blast of flame that engulfed all of the comrades. Asami flung a splintered spear at the tiefling. Zosta directed several fierce blows at the small creature, which she recognized as a fire mephit, and though she couldn't harm it with the flames from her new gauntlets it took only a few strikes to slay the creature. An instant later two cultists came running down the stairs. Jiro used a wand to summon a katana of force to combat them.

The tieflng had been startled by Asami's unusual spell, and cast another spell of his own which she knew could draw the life force from the victim and transfer it to the caster, He stepped forward and before she could react he touched her, sucking away almost all of her life energy and leaving her so weak that she toppled to the floor. Runa at once channeled divine energy that healed Asami just enough to bring her back from the brink of death. Zosta raced up the stairs, dodging past the two cultists and vaulted to the floor beside the fallen Asami, grabbing her limp body and dragging her toward the desk in the corner of the room.

While Jiro engaged the first of the two guards, Runa, Aegronius, and Zosta fought the tiefling. Jiro summoned fire to his hands. The tiefling cast another spell, which Asami was able to recognize by its verbal components even though she couldn't see him from her vantage on the ground. She identified the spell as one that would render the victim permanently blind. He tried to touch Zosta but she again resisted his magic. A moment later the mephit revealed that it was not dead when it shot a ray of fire at the group surrounding its master. It missed its aim, though, and the flames hit the tiefling, though his demonic heritage had made him immune to some of the burns caused by the mephit's flames. Asami then raised herself up enough to lift her wooden sword and sent an unerring missile of magical force at the tiefling.. Aegronius had abandoned his ranseur and drawn his sword, and he now stabbed the tiefling deeply, causing his foe to fall unconscious to the floor.

Jiro was still fighting the two cultists with his katana of force and his flames. The mephit tried to heat Runa's armor but failed and then flew away. Asami took the opportunity to drink a curative potion. Zosta charged up the stairs again to attack the second cultist and kicked him down the staircase. He was dead when he came to rest at the bottom. His comrade tried to flee but Jiro and Runa both attacked him and he joined his fallen mate.

When the cultists were all overcome, Jiro used a wand and his own healing energy to restore Asami. He then searched the two guards and the tiefling, gathering up all their possessions. The tiefling carried two keys. He also had booby trapped himself by carrying a scorpion, which stung Jiro but not seriously. One of the keys proved to open the double doors. These opened into a room that had little in it beyond a chest and a bed. A brazen head of a minotaur hung on the wall. Asami determined that the brazen head was magical, as were some of the contents of the chest. The stain that Aegronius had seen on the bed proved to be blood. As there was no one in the bedroom, the five companions realized that the tiefling must have been Faxon. He was not quite dead, so the companions decided to bind and gag him and take him back to Irabeth for questioning.

Asami detected divination magic emanating from the brazen head, which made her anxious that Faxon's masters might be scrying on the tower. But the magic did not seem strong enough to be a scrying spell. Runa threw the coverlet from the bed over the minotaur head. The second key taken from Faxon opened the chest, which held a wand, a pair of magical bracers, an enchanted cloak, a large amount of coins, five silver holy symbols of Iomedae, several swords, and a broken phylactery. Asami was unable to identify what spell the wand held, but Runa discovered that it could grant the blessings of the gods to a weapon. Asami determined that the phylactery had been magical before it was broken and would also have granted divine blessings to the wearer.

There were also some papers and a note within the chest, which provided some information the Eagle Watch would find very useful in combating the cultists. The note was addressed to Faxon and appeared to have been written before the attack on Kenabres, as it congratulated him on his new position and told him that Kenabres would fall soon, as well as mentioning some other names that the comrades had heard before, such as Vorlesh and Minago, who had signed the note.

Runa tried to learn more about the brazen head but was unsuccessful. Jiro felt that it would provide blessings to cult members. The group members then decided to destroy it rather than take it back to Defender's Heart. After they smashed it to bits they left the underground rooms, for the other crates contained nothing but poor-quality foodstuffs. Bohgong locked the outer doors from inside and then climbed over the wall to meet them.

Back at Defender's Heart, they were given a shared reward of 2,000 gold pieces for having captured Faxon. The other items they had taken from the cultists they were allowed to keep or sell as they chose.

2 potions of cure light wounds
2 scrolls of cause fear
2 scrolls of comprehend languages
2 masterwork chain shirts
2 bottles of unholy water
wand of cure moderate wounds, 9 charges (Jiro)
12 +1 crossbow bolts
bracers of armor +1
cloak of resistance +1
masterwork longsword
2 masterwork scimitars
5 silver holy symbols of Iomedae
2,310 copper pieces
759 silver pieces
122 gold pieces
11 platinum pieces

Next: Episode 11, We Must Destroy the Stone

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mummy's Mask - part 14 (Pathfinder)

Session 19
Character level: 6th
After departing from the sceaduinar the Ruby Scarabs returned to the priests’ living area where they had fought with the crypt thing. There was a set of doors they had yet to open, which they had already learned were magically enhanced. Kaa checked the doors for traps and found none. The doors were securely locked, and after several attempts the tengu was unable to unlock them. Even a prayer to Pharasma didn’t provide any assistance. Igby realized that the magical effect on the doors was an abjuration effect, which likely was contributing to the difficulty in picking the lock. At this point Azzaria decided it was time for a different approach. She took out her adamantine flail and bashed the doors open. This dissipated the magic effect, confirming Igby’s opinion.

On the other side of the doors lay a short staircase leading down. At the bottom of the stairs could be seen a small fountain, and beyond it a pair of stone feet. When the Scarabs descended the stairs they found themselves in a small antechamber that was unusually quiet, its vaulted ceiling muffling the sound of the burbling water from the fountain at its center. On either side of the chamber a pit appeared. On the opposite side of the fountain from the stairs stood a tall statue of Anubis and another door. As the Scarabs had already had an unpleasant encounter with a ‘statue’ that turned out to be a magical construct beneath the Sanctum of the Erudite Eye, they were wary when they realized that the statue of Anubis blocked the doors exiting from the opposite side of the antechamber. They also noticed that the statue didn’t stand on a base or plinth, which made them even more suspicious of it.

As soon as the Scarabs entered the antechamber, the statue moved, clearly casting a spell. Several members of the group realized that the spell was one that would increase the construct’s speed, which was also familiar from the construct in the temple of Nethys. Azzaria, remembering how that construct had actually taken her life, stepped forward to swing her flail at the figure of Anubis. Igby chanted a blessing. Sula realized that her weapons and Nyema’s fangs and claws would be of no use against the construct, so she called on the spirit of lightning to blast the construct from above. Kaa swung his fists at the figure but his blows didn’t connect, and he was rewarded by a return blow from the construct. Sula brought another lightning bolt down on its head. Igby moved forward to strike it, but like Kaa he couldn’t make a mark on it. Then Azzaria’s flail struck it full in the chest. The construct’s torso cracked in two and the upper half fell into one of the pits. The statue ceased moving.

The Scarabs were surprised by how quickly they had been able to defeat the construct. But they returned their attention to exploring the underground structure. The door that the statue had guarded bore an inscription in the language of the celestial beings, which none of them could read. Uto took out a tablet he carried that could allow a person to read such languages and read the inscription. It stated that if a supplicant put a piece of silver worth 50 gold pieces in the fountain, it would transform the water into holy water. Uto was carrying the 30 silver rods taken from the pool in the first underground room they had entered, and he knew that these rods were worth about 50 gold. He put one of them in the fountain basin and filled two water skins with the resulting holy water.

The door the construct had guarded was not locked. The Scarabs looked through it into a large circular room with a platform in the center in the form of a truncated pyramid. An elevated walkway ran around the perimeter of the room, beside columns carved in the shape of Pharasma. The circular chamber’s floor was scattered with corpses, some that looked very old and others more recent. On the platform, seated on a throne-like chair, was a living man wearing a golden funerary mask that bore an unusually animated expression.

When he saw the intruders the man rose to his feet, demanding, “Why are there always interruptions?” He gestured and two mummies moved to stand at his sides. Then a pulse of energy issued from the platform, and many of the bodies on the floor rose to their feet and began to shuffle toward the Ruby Scarabs. The masked man, who the Scarabs assumed to be Nebtah-Khufre, rose into the air, his hands moving in spellcasting gestures that they recognized as the same spell of haste that the construct in the antechamber had used. Sula still had access to the lightning she had called on the construct, so she sent a bolt at Nebtah-Khufre.

The two mummies rushed forward with unnatural speed to confront the group at the doorway. The aura of despair they carried with them paralyzed Sula, leaving her helpless, though she was still able to control the lightning. Nyema and her comrades were able to resist the mummies’ aura. Wings suddenly sprouted from Kaa’s back, but before the tengu could take flight one of the mummies struck him and he collapsed. Uto drew a spell scroll from his pack and began to read it.

Nebtah-Khufre swooped toward the party at the doorway and spoke the words of another spell, but none of the Scarabs could recognize it. The floor beneath them transformed into molten glass, scorching everyone and then cooling to form knife-like shards of obsidian. As the glass cooled it trapped their legs. Most of the group were able to break free by exerting their strength, but Sula was still paralyzed and remained trapped in the solidified glass. Once Nyema pulled herself free the lioness began to claw at the glass encasing her master’s feet.

Uto completed reading the spell from his scroll. In the air near Nebtah-Khufre a winged figure wielding a scythe appeared, a vanth psychopomp that Uto had summoned. It immediately attacked the mummy standing nearest to Azzaria, for its mandate was to slay undead. Uto then sent a wave of positive energy to heal his companions of the burns inflicted by the molten glass. In the meantime more zombies approached the Scarabs and Igby killed one, while the vanth slew another.

Nebtah-Khufre shot a ray of energy at the vanth but it had no effect. Uto issued another wave of healing energy, restoring the paralyzed Sula to full health. Kaa, who had been rendered near death by the mummy’s attack and the molten glass, was able to regain his feet. Nebtah-Khufre summoned two balls of lightning and sent them at Azzaria and Igby, but Igby resisted the magic and one sphere vanished.

Though it left his own health much depleted, Uto healed his friends again. Kaa flew into the circular chamber, blasting Nebtah-Khufre with scorching flames, but his attack seemed to have no effect on the necromancer. Nebtah-Khufre flew up beside Kaa and send out a burst of gray energy that made everyone’s heart race with fear, though all but Igby were able to withstand the desire to flee. Only Igby panicked and raced out of the room. Nyema had clawed Sula free of the obsidian, but even though the druid had been trapped and paralyzed, she had been able to shower three more lightning bolts on Nebtah-Khufre. Now the paralyzing effect faded and Sula was able to move again.

The vanth destroyed the last remaining zombie and flew up to attack Nebtah-Khufre. Kaa struck the necromancer a blow that stunned him, causing him to drop the gilded femur he held. The vanth then attacked him again, followed by another attack from Kaa. The necromancer’s skin had a stony appearance, so the group concentrated on causing damage to deplete his magical protection. Nebtah-Khufre responded by drawing a wand and issuing a charge from it at the vanth, but it again had no effect on the psychopomp. Sula could not reach the flying necromancer with her usual weapons, so she took out her sling and hurled a stone at him.

Uto’s hair shot out and grabbed hold of Nebtah-Khufre. As his was held in the grip of the hair, Kaa pummeled him until he fell unconscious and began to float gently toward the floor. Uto wanted to question him about the Forgotten Pharaoh, so he used his magic to prevent the necromancer from bleeding to death, then bound him. Igby recovered from his fear and returned, covered in blue tile shards. He fastened manacles on the captive. Afterward, they searched Nebtah-Khufre and removed everything he carried. He had on his person two curative potions; a spell scroll; a wand; a magic ring; a wizard’s spellbook; a pouch of diamond dust; a quantity of onyx stones used for raising zombies; holy symbols of Anubis, Pharasma, and Urgathoa; and the gold mask he wore over his face.

While the group searched him, Nebtah-Khufre expired. Uto realized that he must have been fortifying himself with magic, and that had ceased, leading to his death by the wounds he had suffered. Further examination of the room revealed that an ornate sarcophagus on the platform had been desecrated. It seemed that Nebtah-Khufre had been trying to raise the occupant of the sarcophagus as an especially powerful mummy. The Scarabs used some of the holy water from the fountain to clean the sarcophagus as best they could. In the process they realized it was the sarcophagus of the original Nakht Shepses, ancestor of the priest they knew.

The Scarabs gathered up Nebtah-Khufre’s body and the items they had taken from him and left the Observatory. They were able to return to Wati without difficulty, and took the body to the Grand Mausoleum. Shortly afterward the most senior priests of the temple were summoned to hear the story the Ruby Scarabs told. Two high priests from the temple of Nethys also came to hear. The priests had never heard of the Forgotten Pharaoh and could not explain why Nebtah-Khufre was so interested in acquiring his mask. When they examined the mask they found that it contained the ka spirit of a powerful person, probably a pharaoh, but they did not understand how such an artifact could be made. The mask revealed that it had different properties depending upon whether the wearer was a person of a good or evil nature. It could also be used to raise the dead, which was clearly how Nebtah-Khufre had raised the zombies in the circular chamber. The priests also identified all of the other magical items the Scarabs had taken from the necromancer.

The priests could not agree on what should be done with the mask. They argued over it for two days. At last they called the Scarabs back to the Grand Mausoleum, and asked if they would take charge of it and research the Forgotten Pharaoh. They recommended that the Scarabs go to the nearby city of Tephu, which had an extensive library that might hold information about the mask’s mysterious owner. Kaa then asked if the priests would pay them for that service. This led to a long discussion of how many valuable items the Scarabs had taken from the Necropolis and whether the temples ought to at least give them enough gold to pay for the river ferry to Tephu. Nakht Shepses also expressed displeasure that they had taken the magical shield from his family altar under the Observatory, though he hadn’t known it existed prior to their showing it to him. The Scarabs pointed out that they were willing to return it to him, but Sebti the Crocodile suggested that they ought to keep it as part of their reward for removing the necromancer from the Shepses family mortuary temple.   

In the end, the Scarabs kept the shield and all of the things they had taken from the Observatory and from Nebtah-Khufre. In addition the temples gave them 100 gold pieces to pay for the ferry to Tephu. Though the adventurers found it strange that they should have the responsibility of finding out just who the Forgotten Pharaoh was, they accepted it and agreed that they would pursue the answer to that question.

2 potions of cure light wounds
Scroll of stinking cloud
Ring of sustenance
Diamond dust worth 500 gold
Onyxes worth 500 gold
Silver holy symbol of Anubis
Silver holy symbol of Pharasma
Silver unholy symbol of Urgathoa
Rod of lesser disruptive metamagic
Mask of the Forgotten Pharaoh