WotBS Lylandra's War of the Burning Sky continued - Page 3
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  1. #21
    After Cuin'halar's performance, the group catches up with a visibly smitten Kate who's too shy to speak straight in front of the still more or less undressed elf. It takes some time (and she assures them that her art is not nearly as refined as Cuin's) until she tells them that she found an old elven ballad in the school's library and wanted "real elves" to comment on her adaption. She then starts a beautiful and sad Shahalesti song about their suffering during the Ycengled diaspora and their longing to be "home, in the sun" again. While Tinuviel is impressed by her work, Cuin seems distressed, almost angry. He explains Kate in a pretty rough way that he is not a Shahalesti elf ("Don't you see that with your human eyes?") and that their "suffering" lead to the death of almost all Taranesti in the end. Kate is shocked to hear that and pretty upset on top of it. When Cuin realizes that he was maybe a teeny tiny bit harsh to the young woman, he softens up a bit and "encourages" her to research on the Taranesti people and that he's looking forward to hear a beautiful song about his kind soon.

    Note: Oh Cuin. I wanted to show him that "Not all Shahalesti" were/are monsters and that the initial Morrus incident was not necessarily a time of Shahalesti splendor. Yet he turned it upside down. Poor Kate

    After a bit of discussion, Cuin and Tinu decide that they might get more information on Tharaleth's whereabouts from Crystin's visions. They don't know how her visions work though, but Tinu guesses that maybe two Trillith-infested mortals can hook up and provoke a reaction. So the two of them venture to Crystin's room and ask her whether she's okay to experiment with them. Mentally, of course. As the seer kind of owes something to the elves, she agrees and the three try to form a mental union. Tinuviel tries to be the "bridge" between Cuin (who brings up old memories of his father) and Crystin (who focuses on her foresight). After meditating fr a while, Crystin starts seeing images from Cuin'halar's past, feels the joy of an infant boy who practises magic with his mother and the fear of moving through a very dark underground passage. After s few more minutes, the vision shifts and reveals a blonde elf who is floating in a pitch-black darkness. Then the vision ends violently, as Crystin starts to spasm, kicks both Tinu and Cuin out of the bond and starts muttering strange a strange prophecy:

    Father's heart, bound in stone, oh golden one in a shining battlefield. Snakes of madness embrace a golden head when the tenfold shroud waves in the night. Cockcrow may shed light into the dark as fear evens up the nine-tailed leash's covenant. The eye of the tempest sees everyting. Destroys everything. Oh deceptive east wind, oh wintry song of agony, do you dance as one or does deception lie above everything? Winter wolves grasp at the world as fire bleeds from the earth. Golden slivers! Golden Shards! Soulwanderer, root at the beginning and the end. Heal, destroy, sacrifice the eternal life from eagle's bosom. Three weeping ravens lead to treacherous wings, yet balance lives on.

    (Pointing at Cuin) Pale ghosts, living ghosts. War and peace. Decide for yourself! Protected by golden wings, but can you see beyond the veil? Into the abyss? SHE lives!

    (Pointing at Tinu) Brave brother, I weep for your fate. Brother's brother, mother's child, life saviour, blood donor? Black mother, only by name, knows the secret. Shining hate and shining love. So close to each other.

    (Before passing out) Devil! Devil! Guilty devil!

    Note: I knew what Tinu and Cuin wanted to try beforehand, so I wrote Crystin's prophecy in a stlye similar to Darius' prophecy in #6. I feared that I'd given away a bit too much information - as usual - but my players were pretty baffled and didn't know how to read it at all. After a while, they decided that deception might be related to the Trillith of the same name and that the first sentence is obviously about Tharaleth and that the eternal life from eagle's bosom might be related to the aquilinian cross' myth. They also thought that the eye of the tempest was referring to the "coming storm" in Seaquen...

    For what I was really referring to: Tharaleth is imprisoned in a gem which is currently in Shahalesti (the "shining battlefield"). Madness will take control over a monarch when ten people die (Queen Steppengard and her ten still living children). Duke Gallo might help clear the case when the queen wants to unite all Dassen in fear (Gallo means cock in italian and my husband knows a bit of latin^^ nine tailed leash and covenant is obviously Dassen). The eye of the Tempest is meant quite literally. The next sentence refers to Pilus and Leska who may or may not team up/betray each other and the literal "deception" who may or may not have something to do with them. Winter wolves refers to the unnatural winter which is caused by the fiery rift above Korstull. Golden slivers and Soulwanderer refer to Syana who splintered her soul and is basically one of the causes of the current situation. The next sentence kind of spoilers the way in which the Aquiline heart can be interacted with, but that was too far off. Three weeping ravens refers to adventure 5 and my players were surprised that this was the name of a person.

    Cuin's ghosts refer to the spirits of Ycengled who seem to haunt him and that he should decide whether he might find peace someday. The next part refers to Syana who protected the Taranesti but had some "dark secrets" herself. And yes, she (his mother's sould shard) lives. Kind of. Inside him. (Insert Lion King jokes.)
    Tinu's of course Crystin's brother in (Trillith) spirit. He is the brother of Cuin, the "son" of Trilla and might sacrifice himself in the end to restore the Aquiline heart. Black mother is his aunt, his foster mother Meriel, who knows why Shaaladel hates the Taranesti on a personal level. Yet Shaaladel is a good person to his beloved family.


    Crystin seems to be in a deep coma afterwards and the elves are afraid of what they and their longing to find Tharaleth might have done to her. Cuin is relieved to see that his father seems to be still alive, but Tinu asks whether this knowledge was worth the price. Tinu, who started seeing himself as big brother and guide for Crystin, decides to stay by her side until she recovers eventually. Cuin goes to fetch Torrent who, after a quick examination tells the two that the young seer might have simply overstretched her abilities and has drained out completely.
    The three of them offer Crystin intense divine and mundane long-term care and after some straining hours she finally awakens, still weak but alive. Tinuviel is more than happy to see their young companion relatively unharmed and tells her that he's proud of her accomplishments.

    Note: Consequences. I liked the idea of connecting with Crystin, but unusual and powerful magic takes its toll on the wielder. Turns out that Tinuviel really cares for Crystin and that he has started to see her as family

    As soon as they are safe to leave Crystin alone, Torrent, Cuin and Tinu decide that it is finally time to visit Lee Sidoneth. As it is constantly raining outside, they fetch some hooded mantles and make their way to the home of Torrent's mentor.
    They are surprised to see Paradim Dogwood leaving Lee's house in the company of two half-orcs. They are under the impression that the two brutes drag the biomancer out and that one of them seems pretty surprised to see another group of visitors. They are intrigued, but don't mind in the end and continue to go inside.

    Note: Brutus was both surprised and shocked to see his fellow „Ragesians“ approach Lee's hut in the company of a priest of Yara. He decided to not say anything (as he knew that they didn't know that he was Nelebekus) and ask Lee about them later. It seemed like the complete disaster from the DM's point of view had been averted...

    Lee is surprised to see his old mentee Torrent and greets „dear Kaya“ with a warm hug. Torrent seems a bit rebuffed when she's adressed with that name, but embraces Lee in a similar fashion. They tell the monk about their previous exploits and their travel to Seaquen and Lee seems a bit off, as if his thougts are drifting off somewhere. Tinu tries to „emphazise“ with him and feels a strange, serene calmness emanating from him. They talk a bit about the current situation and Lee mentions that he's an associate of the Lyceum and that they seem to plan a summit or a conference to discuss the Ragesian problem where he's to be invited as well. When they ask him about his opinion, he states that the situation as it is has left thousands of people with the threat of war and that a violent conflict should be avoided at all cost. The party asks him whether that meant that he'd simply give up and he says that sometimes a small sacrifice is better than utter annihilation. He says that he'd even sacrifice himself if that meant that he could circumvent an open war with Ragesia. He asks them on their future plans and they tell him that they will stay in the Lyceum for a while but might want to look for their father soon.

    Note: Classic West Wind philosophy. They still found his stance suspicious (which it is somehow). I decided that Lee would sacrifice himself, but he would not want to see Torrent killed, if possible. So he'd try to either get Torrent out of Seaquen or have the Ragesians kidnap and hide her. He's still a bit naive about what the inquisitors are capable of...

    After leaving Lee, Torrent is estranged about Lee's inertia. She says that he's always been a compassionate man who has been an inspiration for her since she started training with him. Still she's certain that he knows what he's doing and she wants to trust his wise judgement. The elves tell her that maybe thinking for herself might be a better path. When they stop at the Bilge pump tavern for a beer (Torrent demanded it!), they are appoached by a stranger who tells them that a woman named Jeszka is looking for them. They don't know any Jeszka, but hide that fact and tell the man that Jeszka might prefer seeing them as soon as possible, so he should show them where they can meet her. He leads them to a house in the northern district where the beautiful Jeszka immediately transforms into an erinyes. „It is nothing personal, I just want to take your lives sweethearts“ she says before attacking them. The fight against her is nothing special, although she managed to wound Tinuviel in the process. What's more intriguing is the fact that she has a letter from Guthwulf with her:

    „If you read this letter, then dear Jeszka failed on her mission, is most certainly dead and cost me a good portion of money. As much as I enjoyed our little game of cat-and-mouse, this petty fight must come to an end now. You got two things I'd like to have back once and for all: The Tome and Katrina. I, on the other end, have put my hands on someone your beloved little 'resistance' in Gate Pass is missing quite dearly. Who will control that chicken's den when their blonde-locked general has vanished? If you or the Shahalesti want the elf back, then bring me at least one of the two to Asura in her new home in Naamis. She will find you and lead the negotiations.

    Guthwulf“
    Note: This letter makes it quite obvious that he has no clue that Tharaleth is actually Cuin'halar's father. He might have demanded more otherwise. He still only knows that the group is a bunch of resistance fighters from Gate Pass. The whole deal is a personal plan from Guthwulf who wants to increase his standing within the ranks of the inquisitors (he could rub getting back the book which was stolen from Kreven under his fellow's nose) and get his girlfriend back (whom he thinks might be under duress in the Lyceum).

    With this information they head back to Simeonne and tell her about their dilemma. They know that the contents of the book is crucial to finding out what the inquisitors and Leska are planning, but Simeonne has sympathy with them and the Gate Pass resistance. She says that she will have the Lyceans make multiple hand-written copies anyway (one copy was promised to Clathan and the Shahalesti), since magical copying falied horribly. If they manage to have some time left, then she will provide them with the original. She also advises them to talk to Katrina about Guthwulf, but in her opinion it would be risky to bring her along.

    They talk to Katrina afterwards and see her slightly surprised to realize how far Guthwulf would go in order to get what he wants. They ask her about him again and bit by bit she confesses that he was kind of dating her. She explains that he found her struggling in the streets of Ragos and told her that she could be so much more than a common street rat with that talent of hers. He was a nice, charming man who seemed to care for her and her situation, so she opened up to him, but decided that she would never again fall in love with a guy or she might end up heartbroken again. So she used him and his influence to find a secure job in training inquisitors and profited from his rank as he could provide her security. She says that she didn't think he really had feelings for her and doesn't know why he would be so keen on having her back. Tinuviel explains that maybe Guthwulf is as vengeful as she is when it comes to „betrayals of trust“ and that she should not risk getting dragged back to Ragesia for the revenge of an inquisitor is the last thing he might wish upon someone. Katrina says that she'll be thinking over the whole matter but also that she doesn't think that Guthwulf will really hurt her. Cuin then says that he hopes she's not being naive again.

    Note: Sidequest #1. So actually, it is kind of Tinuviel's fault that Kat and Guthwulf turned out the way they did. So Tinu does feel sympathy for Katrina, but Cuin is still not convinced. They both want to increase their chances to get Tharaleth back, but they also don't want to risk putting Kat into danger (Tinu) or giving the Ragesians precious information (Cuin). We'll see how this turns out

  2. #22
    I'm starting this part of my recaps with some DM's musings about my take on the Lyceum school of magic. I was kind of surprised that the school actually predates the city of Seaquen and slowly but steadily attracted farmers, merchants and the like until the school was surrounded and supplied by an independant trade port city. For the school itself, I felt some intense Howarts-vibes (minus the houses) emanating from it, so I could easily imagine a place which is rather unconnected and isolated (in a positive, protective way) to the rest of the world, sheltering its students from the harsh reality. Until now, where the Ragesians and their scourge start targetting mages directly and the school's administrative force has to decide whether or not to do something about it. Lyceans, both students and a good part of the instructor squad, tend to have a more carefree, even naive stance on the outside world and are more or less focused on their academics. I also (again, influenced by Hogwarts and the like) thought that many of the Lyceum students were still quite young, so I could believeably bake in some lighthearted "Highschool drama" to offer my players a homely refuge and contrast from the harsh reality of war. I wanted to make sure that the Lyceum was a place they'd long to return to after kind of losing their home in Gate Pass. So maybe some of my Lyceum episodes seem a bit whimsical or comical, but my players (who play young adults and in some ways follow a classic coming-of-age character development) had lots of fun interacting with the colourful and diverse Lyceans.




    The next day the party heads for the Shipwreck Inn where Nelebekus told them that he'd rented a room and try to gather information on the half-elf. They are surprised to hear that he already paid for his room and left a day ago and that he didn't leave a note or similar for their supposed contacts. They decide that Nelebekus might be in the Royale, hiding from them for an unknown reason. So they use illusion magic and the new found hat of disguise from Jeszka to turn themselves into half-orcs and head for the notorious "fight club" tavern. They avoid duelling any of the combatants and unsuccessfully search for their missing contact. What they do find in the uppermost storey of the Royale is dwarf commander Xavious Foebane who musters their posture and decides to ask them whether or not they want to join the ranks of his growing "army". After a lot of talk, they decide that they deem the dwarf trustworthy enough to tell him that they are from Gate Pass and currently guests of the Lyceum school. They offer him greets from Lady Iz and see the old dwarf slightly moved and smiling all over his face. After realizing that they know Lady Iz, Xavious opens up a bit and offers to keep an eye open forthat "Nelebekus guy". He also tells them about strange cases of fire all over Seaquen which might or might not be cases of arson. As they are about to leave the Royale, they spot the half-orc who had been at Lee's home the day before, but they shrug it off for this time.

    Note: Of course they wouldn't find Nelebekus as Brutus decided to not use his alter ego for a while. He doesn't know whether or not his fellow Ragesians are actually Ragesians (thanks, Torrent) so he wants to play it safe and have other Ragesian spys spy on them for a few days.


    As the heroes decide that they could take a look at the suspected cases of arson, the city guard leads them to the damaged houses. Their superior perception makes it clear that something small and burning must have been the culprit, so they track down the swarm of rats and root them out with magic. All of them are relieved that no jealous refugee was the culprit (as Lorb Votberd and some Seaquenians suggested). They suggest that all houses and cellars should be searched for rat holes and sealed off. They alsoo learn about the steam tunnels and the Saquen heat supply system by the way and are deeply impressed.

    In the evening, they want to spy on the odd half-orc who seemed a bit suspicious. They also hope to find clues about the connections between Lee Sidoneth and Paradim Dogwood. So the disguise themselves as half-orcs (again) and sneak up on Brutus as he leaves the Royale, seemingly drunk. They follow him to his home and manage to overhear parts of a conversation where another half-orc (the one that accompanied him and Dogwood) tells his "brother" to keep a low profile for a while and to not cause any ruckus. As they find this behavious slightly suspicious, they inform the Lyceans that maybe one should keep an eye on this half-orc brothers. They also inform Torrent on their suspicion that her mentor Lee might be part of something shady, but they ask her to not mention anything to him.

    The next morning, the elves practise their fencing and spellcasting skills in one of the Lyceum's training rooms. As they specifically train stances and posture (and because they are pretty shirtless - again!), they start attracting quite a crowd of spectators, including many young women. They also educat a bypassing Katrina on the importance of discipline and stance, being Gabal's students after all, and give her tips on how to throw fireballs more elegantly. Kat doesn't care that much as long as she gets stuff burned, but she still congratulates them on their newfound fame. After they finished training, they are accompanied by a cloud of "fangirls" who seem all too eager to win over one of the guys for herself. Cuin quickly excuses himself, leaving his "brother" with the bunch of hormonal teens and twens. Who go off with him to have some fun in Lyceum's "legendary steam spa".

    A bit later they meet up again with Katrina, who is having tea with an elderly elf called Ivellios. The elf greets the two and is instantly fascinated by the fact that Cuin is a Taranesti elf and still friends with a Shahalesti. He introduces himself as an elf who was originally from the Innotendar forest and is now part of the evoker's branch of Lyceum. He tells Cuin that he's sorry for what happened to their people and that the Shahalesti should face consequences for their crimes, now that Diashan can shed some light on the burning forest incident. Katrina tells them that she has not seen Torrent since they parted ways last evening, should they've been looking for her. Tinu is pretty worried about her disappearance and immediately starts looking for her. (I guess Tinu is worried about *everything*)
    He asks people who should know her well and learns a bit about her usual habits of swimming at the beach, including the dangerous ruin area, for sport. Lee and Urdal seem a bit worried about the thought of swimming right now due to the unruly weather, but Tinu goes off nonetheless to search for his missing companion.

    After a good day of searching, Tinu still hasn't found Torrent so Cuin suggests that maybe Simeonne, being a diviner, could help them find her. She performs some "standard procedure divinations" and reveals that she has seen Torrent chained up somewhere underground next to a flaming woman. She also offers to give them a special "find the path" spell that she has invented on her own in case some of her students would go missing.

    Note: How convenient. I thought that, as a school's headmastress, Simeonne would have to deal with all sorts of problems you'd typically encounter in any school, including infights, jealousy, teacher-student problems and runaways/disappearing students. So yep, she is prepared and used to petty troubles. Also, enter bonus adventure #1: More spies in the steam tunnels. Which I modified a bit and which I hoped would work as a red herring for my players who were 100% convinced that some disaster was about to strike Seaquen. As the villain in this module was on the brink of destroying all of Seaquen, it seemed like a plan...

    The elves are shocked to hear that their friend might be in serious distress and quickly assemble a rescue team, consisting of themselves, Tiljann and Katrina. Together they follow Torrent's trails to the old entrance of the dwarven steam tunnel system and enter silently (now that they are without Ms. "Clonk clonk", stealth is not too much of a deal. Seriously, Torrent is/was rightfully one of the worst stealthers I've ever seen). The hobgoblin guards and partols don't offer much of a threat to a well-performing stealth team and so they find the dungeon where Torrent is chained up with little more than a scratch. Kattrina is pretty upset that she wasn't able to fireball anyone without roasting her friends, though. They are happy to see Torrent relatively unharmed and surprised to see that the elemental woman, Jibrand, is actually on their side.

    Torrent explains that, while she was heading home yesterday, she heared a voice suggesting her to go to the steam tunnels (which she didn't really know before) and manipulate some strange steam device. Afterwards, she wasn't able to defend herself against Hobgoblins, who chained her next to Jibrand. The latter tells the surprised party that she stems from a place called Vule and that she disobeyed the new master of her home plane and was thus imprisoned here by his minion.

    Note: Tinu's player was visibly shocked when I mentioned Vule, as he thought it might have some connection to the Seela Vuhl/Deception. I guess he has found his nemesis.

    As they still don't understand what's going on, the rescue party frees Torrent and she leads them towards the room with the steam device. They are very surprised to see Ivellios standing there, overseeing a staple of paperwork. He tells them that he's really sorry that things turned out as they did, but that in order to stop the Ragesians sacrifices have to be made. As they really didn't buy that sort of logic back then when Lee told them of a similar approach, they decide to overwhelm Ivellios. Which is not much of a big deal, as he is an elderly wizard and they are two agile melee combatants. At swordpoint, the elf explains that he and his master have to do a demonstration of their power, so the Ragesians will fear them and abandon their plans of conquering the world. He also mentions a big elemental army and starts philosophing about the nature of sacrifices.

    Note: This is the part that I changed. Originally, Ivellios was allied with the Ragesians, but I wanted to show them what happens when good intentions go too far. Also, having only Ragesians as the "Bad guys" would have been quite boring. I was playing with the idea of having Lee order Ivellios to kidnap Torrent so she might be safe from the oncoming storm. But that would have meant too many complicated connections and too less morale drama.

    Cuin goes on to debate with Ivellios, but Tinuviel realizes that the old elf is simply buying time and KOs him with his pommel. Cuin is furious about Tinu's rash action, but he then understands that time might be pressing and that a manipulated steam device can be quite fatal for all of them.

    Note: A manipulated engine that's about to blow up. We didn't play Zeitgeist back then, but right now I kind of feel a connection between the two scenarios

    Just as Tinu finished his exposition, he is stabbed in the back by a poisoned blade as the previously invisible assassin Rexis tries to rescue his master. Lucky Tinu succeeds on his death saving throw but succumbs to the paralyzing poison. This turns Cuin'halar quite berserk as he is not sure whether or not his brother is alive or dead. Without concern for his own safety, he, Torrent and Katrina kill Rexis in a single round. The team is more then happy to see that Tinu is simply poisoned and they decide to let Tiljann care for him while the rest of the team seeks to disable the steam machine. Cuin is quite intimidated by the ten death traps in the engine room, but Torrent assures him that it was safe for her to enter. Together they manage to re-open the vents to prevent a fatal explosion which would have endangered all of Seaquen.

    They tie up Ivellios and, after Tinuviel recovers minutes later, they are led into Vule by Jibrand. As this is their first time on another (demi)plane, the group is thoroughly impressed by the strange surroundings. Jibrand explains them that once two elemental lords resided in Vule and that this plane was a meeting place for all fire and water elementals. When they abandoned the place, a new master, a druid called Toma, claimed the place as his own. He started building an army of elementals only recently and she was banished because she didn't want to be part of a war.

    They manage to avoid the whirlpool with the elder water elemental by chance and stumble over into the reverse gravity room. As Tinuviel has a "personal gravity" skill, being an elocator, he scouts ahead and spans a rope from one end to the other end of the room. Cuin follows and, being the slightly stronger of the two, keeps his hand on the rope. Tiljann glides down towards them. Katrina nearly falls off when suddenly a large fire elemental emerges from below. In a sudden burst of gallantry, Tinu jumps into the coals and tells Katrina to let go, as he would catch her (what he does). He carries the magic missile hurling sorceress to the safe zone and Torrent simply jumps at the elemental from above and gives him everything she's got.

    Note: The elementals are one of the biggest pains for my precision damage dealing PCs. They hate them. But this way, Torrent was able to really shine. Also, there were no rules for catching someone who is falling from above. I called for an easy reflex save, as I didn't want to ruin Tinu's moment of "swashbuckling romance".

    They open the door to the elemental forge and are relieved that the elder fire elemental doesn't seem to be hostile. They ask him what he's doing in there and he explains that he's an elemental smith, doing elemental forgework. And that he wants to continue doing his work and not be bothered by fleshlings. The party decides that is is for the best of all to leave him be and continue their exploration of Vule. They enter the brass room of the azers next and are told to leave immediately as they shall let no one pass. Quick diplomancer Cuin'halar assures them that he is a guest of their master and that he has brought them gifts as signs of friendship. He then hands them some copper and silver coins to melt which they accept.

    After that, they - again by chance - avoid the whole water-ocean-trophy room section and head straight towards the planar portals. They are amazed by the stunning sight, but remember to continue as the druid might be increasing his elemental army at this very moment. They encounter Toma, a really old Taranesti elf in his chamber room where he gives off his speech about not being a villain and simply doing what is right and is about to attack when... Cuin calls him out on his self-righteousness and his seeming "sacrifice" which is nothing more than a simple way to solve things. He asks him why he actually is doing all this and Toma halts his attack for a moment to explain that without his help, the world will spiral more and more into chaos - a process that started long ago by an imbalance and a disturbance in the elements. He insists that he, as a servant of the elements, has to root out the source of this imbalance and that he and his elemental armies will destroy the Ragesian threat and anyone who dares to threaten the balance of the forces. Cuin then explains that they might be actually on the same side as they are no fans of the Ragesians either and that they too seek a (albeit less destructive) way to stop them. He also doesn't want to fight one of the few remaining Taranesti and reminds him of the gentle nature of Syana who protected without the need of destruction. Toma laughs at the name of the golden wyrm and tells a surprised Cuin that he has watched her from afar in the planes as she dragged his people into the light, whether it was the right thing to do or not and that he shouldn't dare think that all of the Taranesti were angels. He also states that Syana wielded unnatural magic and dared to create life without going the natural way. He then talks about the nature of conflict and that conflict was the beginning of the imbalance when the dragon tore out the eagle's heart and that four reckless mortals drank from its blood to gain unnatural, sinful immortality and then again reckless mortals caused a wound in the elemental plane of fire which causes it to bleed into the mortal realm and that this fiery wound might consume all of the world in time anyway.

    Note: I really didn't think about the possibility that Cuin would start a dialogue with obviously insane Toma. I simply wanted to show them a Taranesti villain (see "Not all Shalalesti are evil" - "Not all Taranesti are victims"). I altered both his age (old elves are so much older and original human Toma was already 153) and his reasons to do what he did (I don't like villains without an agenda), so I modeled him after Pilus. He hates powerful mortals who screw up the elemental balance and as the Ragesians screwed up most, he wants to lead his army to them first. But after Cuin started talking to him, I had to improvise very quickly and gave out more information than I wanted, including the fact that the eagle's heart is very real and that it can cause immortality. I just deemed it fitting that a master of an elemental plane who had all the power to observe the mortal realms would definitely know a lot about the relationships of elements and mortals.

    The party seems quite overwhelmed by Toma's agenda, but then boldly (foolishly?) state that they will try to fix the imbalances for him and that he doesn't have to utilize such drastic measures. Toma agrees on the condition that he will only halt his plans and will continue them should they not succeed in their tiny mortal life spans. They ask him whether they may contact him should they find anything element-related and he agrees as they have now basically agreed to be his agents. Oh and they may totally use the elemental forge as long as they use it to further his cause. He also hands them a gem which can be used to cast protection from energy (fire) every few days as a measure of protecting them from the "fiery imbalance".

    They thank Toma for his patience and wisdom and, after leaving Vule, are pretty intimidated by the fact that they might just have been given the task to find and restore the eagle spirit's heart. For a moment Tinuviel and Cuin'halar think that they have finally averted Torrent's vision of doom when... they realize that Toma's plan wouldn't have caused a tidal wave or a storm and that the threat might still exist somewhere out there.

    Note: And so ends the bonus adventure. So much for my red herring plan. They *do* have to take prophecies all too literally, don't they? As a sidenote, I've returned the boomerang to them right now via a nightmare Trillith's nightmares. Which Tinu definitely thinks to be prophecies and which might just ruin their diplomatic endeavour with Shalosha
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  3. #23
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    I'm envious -- your campaign seems to have so much more depth than anything I come up with.

    By the way, what does "...see Ivellios standing there, overseeing a staple of paperwork" mean? I didn't follow that last phrase at all.

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill T. View Post
    I'm envious -- your campaign seems to have so much more depth than anything I come up with.

    By the way, what does "...see Ivellios standing there, overseeing a staple of paperwork" mean? I didn't follow that last phrase at all.
    Oh, that could be because I used a (maybe too directly translated) common german phrase. He's at his planning table, writing his plan's advancement on sheets of paper

    Regarding the level of depth: It all depends on your players and your and their personal preference. I'm lucky that I know my two guys pretty well (we've been playing together for over 14 years now), that one of them is my husband and that both have gotten really into investing emotion into their characters. It also helps that both coincidentally chose a similar-minded background (Taranesti and Shahalesti exile) and then chose to be childhood friends. I only knew that I wanted to expand on Syana, Trilla and the Taranesti-Shahalesti relationship since that were the themes that I knew could add some personal spice for them.
    They both asked me whether some of their background would be okay and could be integrated into the campaign: For Tinu, he wanted to be the nephew of some noble Shahalesti and asked me whether I could include his aunt Mariel who would be a cousin of someone from the royal family (I chose Shaaladel's then-unknown/unnamed dead wife who I then chose to be one of the reasons for Shaaladel's deep Taranesti-hate). For Cuin, he wanted to have his deceased mother be a "high wizard" who sacrificed her life to create a mythal-like ward on an important site for the Taranesti. Fortunately, both the Hange and Phorros Irrendra qualified and so I invented a high magic clique, the Syllith, who learned a special kind of magic from their guardian dragon, Syana, and who sacrificed themselves to protect their secrets.

  5. #25
    After they return from their rather strange "adventure" in Vule, the party immediately reports to Simeonne. She is shocked to hear that Ivellios, a long-time acquaintance and friend of the Lyceum school turned out to be desperate enough to blow everyone in Seaquen up. She insists that he is being transferred to the dungeons and that she will question him herself, but the elves seem to have a soft spot for the elf and ask her to let him be a "messenger" between them (the Lyceum) and Toma once he realizes his errors. Simeonne is not fully convinced and not sure what to make of Toma, but she's clever enough to not open up another battlefront by sending an "army" of mages to Vule. She thanks the group for saving her school and the whole city, but insists that the existence of Vule has to remain secret unless they want to risk a panic.

    She also tells them that there will be a war council the next day and asks the party whether they could talk about their journey and the situation in Gate Pass. They agree to attend but are not sure whether it would be alright to let two "resistance fighters" with no rank speak for all of Gate Pass. Simeonne assures them that they will suffice since they are the only "representatives" of Gate Pass that she can 1) get her hands on and 2) seem trustworthy enough. Plus the Tome might be of major importance. Katrina encourages them to not think too lowly of themselves since they all just managed to save a city and that she won't hesitate to partake in such an illustrous event. Simeonne then hands them their official invitation and dismisses them.

    They all go off to sleep and Tinu, Torrent, Katrina and Cuin discuss how to get information on the other conference attendees. Right before they nap off, the elves agree that they could smply ask Simeonne on her opinion about the others and decide to visit her early on the next morning.
    Hungry for a grand tour of information-gathering, the two elves get up early (they prefer to let Torrent sleep since she's more of a nightowl than an earlybird) and head towards the headmastress' quarters. They are kind of surprised to see Xavious Foebane leaving her rooms quietly, gesturing them to hush and then whispers to them to "let the lady have at least five minutes on her own". They chuckle and offer the dwarf a big, seemingly-knowing grin. Afther the requested time, they politely ask Simeonne whether or not she's in need of a barber and a more-or-less professional masseur. Totheir surprise, the calm headmastress gladly accepts the offer, stating that her hair is generally a mess and that she simply doesn't know what to do with her curls. She also says that she hates formal dresses but that she doesn't have any choice in an official international meeting.

    Note: I left the details of the Simeonne-Xavious relationship open on purpose. They are supposed to be "very close" friends and Simeonne is an unconventional, down to earth, but still kind of motherly/caring wizard. But of course the elves had to ship their "teacher" with commander Foebane


    While they give her one of the most epic private morning spas she has propably ever had, the elves talk about the upcoming war council and the names of the attendees. They also mention Lee and tell Simeonne that they found his demeanour suspicious, but have no proof that he is up to no good. She tells them to be careful with accussations since Lee is a good friend of the Lyceum and also an important official in Seaquen. However, should they find any clue that Lee could be disloyal to Seaquen, she will definitely help them. They then talk about the other guests and Simeonne offers them a quick description of the three foreign officials, Giorgio the wayfarer (whom she included because the wayfarers could help them unlock the secret of the Burning Sky), the gentle paladin Laurabec (as a spokesperson for the refugees), Lorb "ex pirate" Votberg and their future army commander Xavious Foebane (whom they already know).

    After their talk, they meet up with the rest of the crew in the dining/breakfast hall and witness how a badly hidden Haddin stares into Crystin's direction. They ask the young seer about her father's behaviour and she tells them that he's doing that avery morning, before heading off to gods-know-where. She says that she's okay with it, as long as he doesn't try to come close, but that she's worried about what he might do in the mean time. She also tells them that she's made friends with the paladin Laurabec who wants to build a temple and is looking for some advice. Tinuviel states that he's happy that she has found something to do and encourages her to help the unknown woman.
    They are then greeted by Banhaman Vett who asks them whether they want to take some extra job since he's heared that they are pretty good fighters. He wants them to look for his missing animal shipment, but they say that they don't know whether or not they will find the time to look for his missing... attercops. Tinu is worried (again) that the 'cops might impose a danger to the area should they have managed to escape, but Cuin says that they simply don't have the time to look for everyone's personal Kiki. Still the missing ship would make a perfect excuse to go and check up on Lee again.

    So they head off to Lee and ask him whether Banhaman's ship has returned yet and question him on some details of the ship's travel route. Lee doesn't know too much about this specific ship, but suggests that they may start seaching in the swamp area since there can be treacherous currents in winter. They then ask him about his half-orcish and biomantic visitors and talk about his stance in the upcoming war council. The druid explains that he will advocate against war, but he won't insist or try to change anyone's mind. For the orcs, he says that they are fishermen who wanted to know whether the unnatural winter in Dassen has any influence on the fish schools they might find in the Seaquenian sea. And Dogwood simply wanted to get ink from Lula, a request he denies all too often. They find this explanation rather fishy (they beat his bluff with a huge sense motive) and Tinuviel starts feeling uneasyness in Lee's otherwise calm demeanour.

    Note: I tend to offer Tinuviel emotional insight based on his Trillith spirit's awareness whenever he beats his opponent's bluff while Cuin goes the more classical Sherlock Holmes way. They both beat Lee who is really not the best bluffer in the world despite having a rather believeable story.

    The two head back to Simeonne and tell her about their meeting with Lee. They say that they still don't have reliable proof, but they ask her to maybe question Lee herself and that, should Lee be really a close friend of the Lyceum, he would clearly understand why they had to be cautious. Having a potential "ragesian spy" among the war council would be a disaster and disinviting Lee would be seen as an affront, so other plans are not really an option. Since the council is scheduled to be in a few hours, they also have no time for additional preparation. Tinuviel proposes the idea that they could lead Lee into the Lyceum's dungeon area and have Haddin make him tell the truth. He says that he will take all blame on him, should he have wronged Lee and that Simeonne may then remove him from the war council for disloyalty. The headmastress agrees to this plan and tells them that she will make sure the dungeons and Haddin will be ready.

    They head back to Lee and tell him that Simeonne wants to talk to him in private before the council since she's afraid that someone might plan an ambush. They convince him to follow them to the Lyceum where he gets taken and held by surprise. Haddin then dominates him into revealing his true plans and his connection to the Ragesians. He doesn't reveal too much though, because he's suddenly disintegrating in front of their very eyes. They do get to know however, that Lee had worked for the Ragesians because he was convinced that no one can beat the fully unleashed ragesian power. He wanted to set an example by demolishing Seaquen so that no one would be foolish enough to risk their life in battling against the Ragesians, leading to less bloodshed. Poor Torrent (who was called in as well) is mortified at Lee's revelation and destruction.

    Note: They totally bluffed Lee. And they finally found a use for Haddin, even if they found their plan to be morally dubious. Also, I realized Lee's disintegration contingency at the last second. So, with Lee removed from the scene even before the war council, I had to rethink the whole plan. I decided that Lee would not have had the control rod or my party wouldn't have any reason to go for the tomb of the Pyromancer. So I gave it to the inquisitor as the Ragesians and Lee thought it would be safer in a no-divination zone. I was also sure that maybe they wouldn't wait for the wayfarer play to search for the Ragesians, and as I wanted to use the threat of the storm as a motivator, I had the inquisitor put the orb of storms to full throttle once he realized that Lee was missing. Which kind of changed the order of events in this adventure.


    After this shock, they quickly change their clothes and attend the war council (Katrina had to help unnaturally reserved and pale Torrent, but she insisted that the woman who started it all should be present). First, Simeonne has to explain the absence of Lee, but manages to turn his betrayal into a call for decisive action as more and more people might despair like him should the nations of the world do nothing. Then the other representatives and officials make their points. Lorb complains about the prosperity and safety of Seaquen and says that the Seaquenians feel threatened by the masses of refugees. He's in favour of a military option, but doesn't want to send his guards since they have to protect Seaquen. Laurabec goes on a long monologue on how bad the situation for those poor souls is and that she wants to unite them all by building a temple. She then uses tear-jerking examples of individual refugees, but completely overdoes her speech and is then cut off by Lorb since she seems unable to make a clear point besides "the refugees". They are then infuriated by Kazhar's (and Ostalin's) demands of land for help and rebuff their request harshly. Sindaire wants to join effort but explains their sensitive situation of an open rebellion whose leader was killed. The old gnome says that they will gladly team up if they get a "glimpse of hope" that their army could be successful (aka "You got torch, we join"). Dassen seems slightly positive, but their representative cannot sign anything without the approval of their queen (which he tries to get). Giorgio of the wayfarers offers his organization's services and claims that they work on "beating the burning sky". He also invites them to the premiere of the trials of Toteth Topec (which some find weird, but he's a wayfarer and they *are* weird).
    Katrina then introduces the trio as the "heroes and representatives from Gate Pass" and lets them then speak for themselves. Cuin'halar and Tinuviel then tell the story of Gate Pass which always resisted Ragesia and which actually managed to have the emperor leave them be. They say the people of their home are already fighting Ragesia and that they only left because they think the Ragesians and especially the Inquisitors are up to something nefarious. They then present their transferred tome and say that they and the Shahalesti are already deciphering its contents and that it might be related to the scourge and that because of that, no mage is safe no matter where he or she lives. They also touch the refugee problem and say that Seaquen should offer them a new home for anyone will fight to defend the place they call home. They point at Foebane's effort to train volunteers in the art of war and claim that many refugees will gladly join his army should they feel that they and their families have a future in Seaquen.

    Just when they finish their inspiring speech, the doors fling open and princess Shalosha introduces herself, looking a bit embarrassed to be greeted with such shocked faces. She then reads out her pre-written speech and both Cuin and Tinuviel get visibly angry on the Shahalesti stance and demands. They realize Shalosha's own unhappiness though and once she makes it clear that they have a fleet "for protection" and that they will lead the yet to be formed anti-Ragesia-alliance (plus demanding to govern Seaquen on top of that), Simeonne dissolves the council before any violence could break out. Cuin'halar storms out and doesn't even want to look the "arrogant enemy princess" in the eyes.

    In a calmer moment, Shalosha puts her cousin aside and tries to talk to him. She asks him why he's befriending one of those "demon worshippers" who killed her mother and why he left Calanis and his people behind, but also apologizes for her father's demands. She says that it wouldn't have been her way to deal with Seaquen, but that she still hopes that they could form an alliance. Tinuviel says that the proud people of Seaquen will never give in to threats and that her armada is making matters only worse. He also explains that he has befriended Cuin because his parents were good friends of his father Tharaleth who rescued some of the last Taranesti from certain death and that his parents left Calanis because they couldn't stand Shaaladel's politics anymore. He asks her whether she feels no remorse for the mass killing of innocent elven children, even if some of the Taranesti might haven been evil, and she agrees that he has a point. She says that she will send word about what happened here to her father, but she cannot promise anything. She then asks where she may find his Taranesti friend since she is curious about his point of view.

    Shalosha then heads (accompanied by her guard) towards the elves' dorm. Cuin is surprised to see Shalosha, but agrees to talk after a moment of inner growling. To his surprise, she apologizes for being prejudiced against him just because he is a Taranesti and explains her previous discussion with Tinuviel. Cuin is surprised as well to see the shining lady this humble and accepts her apology, but not without telling her the horrors that happened to his people becaue of her father. She then tries to explain why she's not on good terms with his people: That back in "the old times" the Taranesti worshipped demons and that they cruelly sacrificed her mother and her cousin for their foul rituals. Remembering their vision, Cuin tells Shalosha that this incident was an accident where a young, untrained "mental mage" (their term for a psion) tried to defend himself from a Shahalesti ambush and his powers went wild. Shalosha understands,but says that while Silvenn was maybe cut to pieces, her mother was till clearly defiled and used for an evil ritual as even her soul was nowhere to be found. Cuin tells her that he's sorry for her loss and he will try to find out what truely happened back then.

    Note: He surely didn't want to tell her that the "mental mage" in question was Trilla. He also wasn't sure about what to make of Shalosha's story, but he thinks that she's being sincere. Also, yay for having at least one Shahalesti who doesn't just (verbally) fight with them. I wanted to empathize that Shalosha is a person that can and should be negotiated with and that she's a genuinely "good" character. I had to insist a little bit more than I wanted, but I didn't want them to lose this opportunity to get to know her better just because of their stubbornness and prejudice. I asked Tinu's player beforehand on how often he had been to Calanis as a kid and realized that despite being cousins twice removed, they didn't really know each other well. For Shalosha, family is a big matter, so I gave her a bit of a sour undertone that he didn't seem to care for their family at all
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  6. #26
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    I don't know that I've ever seen a group of PCs function as a mobile spa before.
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  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by RangerWickett View Post
    I don't know that I've ever seen a group of PCs function as a mobile spa before.
    At least Cuin takes his learned profession (barber and hairdresser) very seriously and he's always looking for a chance to buy materials, accesoires, dyes etc. He's taking really a LOT of time for his hair and skin care (and a tiny bit of make-up) each morning and he loves offering his treatments to people he likes. Guess what, his most beloved piece of treasure in castle Korstull was actually the platinum hairpin.

    As for Tinuviel, he's a hobby-masseur, stemming from his desire to impress the ladies. He's got all sorts of tonics and oils in his bag. He was also dabbling into tattoo arts, but sadly never got that far.

  8. #28
    Because Shalosha also mentioned that Tinuviel's aunt, Mariel, is part of her diplomatic corps and currently aboard her personal yacht, the silver torch, the young elf heads off to greet his old relative. Mariel is more than happy to see her protegee alive and well. Tinu however is more interested in the reason why a so-said soft hearted person like Shalosha would be prejudiced against the Taranesti as well. Mariel basically tells him the same story that Shalosha told Cuin before: that a good part of the Taranesti were indeed dark mages and that her son was killed by them during the time the Shahalesti were forced to live in Ycengled. She doesn't harbor any ill will against their people as a whole, but she's also not part of the Shahalesti high nobility. She also mentions that she and Magister Clathan wanted to make sure that Lord Shaaladel wouldn't know about the fact that Tinuviel, her "second son", had a wild talent for the same magic which killed her first son, Silvenn, so they sent him off to Gate Pass and Gabal's school.

    After meeting up again, both elves suspect that maybe someone engineered the whole Valiana-Silvenn-Trilla-Taranesti incident in order to ignite the already happening war of the two people into a bloody feud fueled by personal hatred.

    Note: I first thought about an unnamed Taranesti diabolist cabal being opportunistic when they found the bodies of the recently slain Shahalesti. On a second thought, having either Stacia('s demon) or 41 being the root of all the tragedy was even more charming. I decided to go with the demon/Stacia being the one to take Valiana's soul and left 41 as the general, insidious power behind all the usual bad stuff that happened in Ycengled.

    Tinu also warns his aunt of the vision of a coming storm and urges her to leave soon and maybe take Shalosha with her.

    A surprised princess, on the other hand, is asked by Cuin'halar whether she might take their team of three to Naamis in a few days since they want to free their father from the clutches of "Asura". Shalosha agrees that she can wait for a couple of days since she can use this time to keep an eye on Telshanth, the proposed "governor of Seaquen". He also warns her of the storm and she responds that she'll keep the fleet close to the harbor.

    Meanwhile, the weather turns pretty bad as Inquisitor Damius put the Orb of Storms to full power and our heroes know that they have to do something or Torrent's vision might come true indeed. They talk to Simeonne and Lorb Votberg and suggest that they seek out the source of the storm while "the officials" make sure that the people of Seaquen seek secure shelters. The mayor tells them that this won't be an easy task since many of the refugees live in tents (or worse) and that the houses in Seaquen are already full, but he'll see what he can do.

    Note: And this is how Laurabec kept her life. There simply wasn't enough time for Rabble Rouser to gather a crew of captains to fight the Shahalesti blockade in the middle of a storm. This all happened over the course of 2 days (Lee killed - Shahalesti arrive - Storm put to full volume - Search for the tomb). So the whole "Storming of Seaquen" turned out to be "following a quickly made, peacefully resolved disaster plan".

    The elves gather Torrent, Tiljann and Katrina and together they start searching for the eye of the storm. They are lead to the area of a sunken prison near the ruins of an old, long forgotten city and begin their descent into the flooded areas.

    Tinuviel manages to search for traps in almost all corners of the upper prison area except the part where the spear trap was hidden. Ouch. Poor Tinuviel seems like the general punching bag of the monsters who inhabit the prison area: He is severely pinced by the Tojanida (and healed up by Torrent) and fails to recognize that the "treasure chest" is a mimic. The price of trying to play the party's scout. They do realize that both types of creatures show the signature of Dogwood, but merely think that they ran off somewhere. (Which I found odd since usually they are more suspecting)

    Cuin'halar takes pity with his brother and suggests that he will take the scout role for a while and manages to sneak up on the skeletons in the prison cell area. He starts finishing them off one by one (they are not triggered since Cuin is alone and Skeletons are stupid enough to abey their orders until they are attacked) until... Tinuviel decides to speed things up and sneaks next to him. Which of course triggers the remaining skeletons. Now they are swarmed by the skeletal mob, but luckily Torrent got her channeling ready and the manage to fend them off without much of a scratch. Katrina is not amused since she didn't get the chance to throw her signature fireball.

    Cuin continues his scouting mission and manages to destroy the skum with a single well-timed whirlwind dance. (Cuin's player loved this kind of "Melee area attack" since the he played a Kensei Paladin in our 4e campaign.)

    They ignore the room with the rat swarm, as time is pressing, and finally find the shaft in the provision room. This time Tinuviel finds the trap and disables it, allowing the party to descend quite stealthily. The black haired elf goes down first in levitation mode. He's quite confused by the giant lava portal and the runes surrounding it. Katrina comes next. She immediately likes the "heat down here" and realizes that she can wield her fire magic in an even more devastating way due to the "special magic conditions and a closeness to the fire plane" (her check wasn't quite enough to explain the portal, but she knew she was in fiery paradise). Cuin comes in last and instantly deciphers the runes and identifies the nature of the portal. He also suggests that the presence of this portal should be the reason why the cavern can not be penetrated by divination magic.

    They explore the area and then open the door to one of the guard rooms. The poor guys don't stand a chance against two simultaneously cast, empowered fireballs (thanks, Cuin and Katrina!).

    Note: Having Katrina with them in addition to Cuin's recent access to 3rd level spells made parts of the dungeon a cakewalk for the party. But they kind of deserved it.

    They move into the next room, ignoring the dragon's head for the time being and then decide that the biomancy tubs are also of little interest since they don't contain bathing Ragesians. Or so. They then head to the prison area and are quite shocked to see two prisoners in a pretty bad bodily condition what seems like catatonia. They are also intrigued by the white monolith and, after short examination (they ignored the prisoners since they were sure that nothing bad would happen to them in the next few minutes), Tinuviel is shocked by the revelation of the teleport beacon. He immediately starts counting on how many times he had been toying with the thought of using his short-distance teleport ability (he's an elocator, so he can dimension door/wayfarer's step quite freely) and realizes that he would have ended in this prison cell had he actually done it. Thanks, Burning Sky!

    Note: I had been on teleport alert since they first set foot into Seaquen. Having Tinu teleport and ending up in the Ragesian prison would have turned the adventure even more upside down, but in an accidentally funny, yet dangerous kind of way. But he managed to resist his urges because he feared getting burnt.

    They quickly head over to the torture chamber where Damius is joyfully torturing Faqaniel while a biomantic monster and a devil are watching in silence. The sight totally disturbs them and they start their attacks without warning. The Inquisitor falls first after being hit by a precisely placed fireball and then being struck and beheaded by a furious, dancing Cuin. The devil falls soon after his presumed master by some vicious sneaks from Tinu. The biomantic monster can land some hits on Tinu but is destroyed soon after the other two.

    Note: I added a devil (courtsey of Guthwulf) and a down scaled biomantic digester (courtsey of Dogwood) to offer a slightly greater challenge for the party. The Inquisitor was so utterly surprised that he didn't have a chance of counterspelling the fireball, so he went down pretty quick in the first round. Oh the benefits of a high-initiative stealthy group...

    After defeating the inquisitor and his creatures they unchain Faqaniel and immediately start asking her what happened and how she ended up in this dungeon. Before the confused elf can say anything, Torrent insists on healing her up first and Tinuviel realizes that while the inquisitor did carry the control rod in his bags, they still haven't found the storm orb yet.

    Note: I was a bit surprised that both my players started asking Faqaniel questions and were suspicious of her being a Shahalesti before caring for her health as I thought I had made it pretty clear that she was pretty injured before they started combat. Turned out they didn't really get it and were pretty disturbed when I repeated my description of her physical and mental state. oops.

    While Tinu hurries up to search the dungeon for the missing orb of storms (it wasn't really hidden though...), Torrent, Katrina and Cuin escort Faqaniel towards the prison area and release the two other prisoners, Teymour and Meera. Especially Teymour is in a pretty bad mental condition, so Torrent decides to stay with the prisoners and care for them. Together they "disarm" the orb and end the still intensifying storm over Seaquen.

    The elves decide to stay in the dungeon and keep watch on the two magical "artifacts" until the Lyceans can send someone to dafely retrieve both of them. So the girls go ahead and evacuate the prisoners. While they wait for the Lyceans, Tinu and Cuin suggest that they could take a closer look on the Pyromancer's "real" tomb as soon as the magic items are retrieved. Cuin even wants to try to talk to the Pyromancer's spirit, because maybe the wizard who had such close ties to the fire plane can help them with their burning sky problem.

    After Torrent's return with the Lyceans, he asks her whether she can perform a speak with dead spell. She says yes, but explains that it will propably fail because the Pyromancer has been dead for a very long time. The elves do want to give it a try though and proceed to carefully examine the inner tomb. Both spot the lava trap with the arcane lock (which I described to be beautifully crafted with glowing runes etc.) and Cuin tries to remember whether he has seen one of the runes before. As he had been discussing the Pyromancer with Brighton "Coop" Cooper before and took a look at an old, recovered icon of the wizard, he does indeed realize that one of the runes is the Pyromancer's personal sigil. By performing a small ritual and drawing the sigil on top of the lock, the elves manage to open the door to the sarcopagus area. They do realize that the Sarcophagus bears very stong protective magic and decide to better not touch it yet. As they want to communicate with the Pyrmancer, they decide to try talking with the corpse through the sarcophagus walls. Cuin suggests a small preparation ritual first in which they honor the accomplishments of the Pyromancer and declare that they came here to seek his guidance. Just when they want to start Torrent's speak with dead, a magical being in the guise of a spectral man manifests in front of them. The being explains that he is the magical guardian of the Pyromancer and asks them to leave his master alone. The elves tell him that they seek his master's unique wisdom in relation to the plane of fire and after a bit of back and forth, the being agrees to contact the spirit of the deceased and ask him their questions. As they want to know more about the Burning Sky, they ask him about the nature of this phenomenon, and tell him their conclusions. To their surprise, they were partially correct: The spirit tells them that yes, there is a rift in the fire plane and that from there the fire "bleeds" into the astral plane. And because of this, the weather is unnaturally cold because the warmth of the fire plane is missing in the material plane. And of course this is what causes teleportation to be really incinerating. So yep, things look pretty bleak right now.

    Note: I changed the whole Pyromancer stuff a bit on the fly. I know that the tomb was meant to be basically a no-go area for inquisitive low level partys and supposed to be pretty deadly for those who insisted on their grave-robbery anyway. As my group was obviously not interested in treasure, but instead wanted to honor the wizard and seek out his knowledge, I wanted to give them a chance to succeed. Now, if they would hve tried to rob the grave, I would have hit them hard with both the trap and the curse in "spiritual retribution", but I knew they wouldn't do stupid, greedy things like that. I found Cuin's idea of a personal sigil quite charming and let the curse manifest itself as a powerful, living spell guardian.

    Also, I realized that Damius and his henchmen did some pretty horrible acts to their prisoners. And while neither me nor my group object to dark themes, I didn't want the prisoner's fate to fade into the background before my players could properly deal with them. So... I decided to keep them in the Lyceum for their eventual recovery so I could empathize on the possible consequences of a Ragesian occupation.
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  9. #29

    Some mechanical musings

    As I stated in my original post, we're playing WotBS with the Pathfinder system. We chose PF mainly because it uses the 3.x d20 system as a basis (one of my players sadly loathes 4e) and because PF is far more balanced and offers more options than classic D&D 3.5. I knew that I had to change some things a bit mechanic-wise, but didn't expect to have too much of work with my encounter preparation. We also use Gestalt characters because I wanted to make sure the party has all the necessary tools despite having only 2 players.

    And yes, up to adventure #3, I didn't have to re-write the existing encounters too drastically. The major differences were that NPC had slightly more HP and that I had to add at least one class level to NPC in order to keep the target CR appropriate.

    However, due to my lack of players, they started levelling at a much higher speed than anticipated. I also tend to hand out exp for roleplay encounters and personal development (and cut down the number of encounters a bit), so this increased their level up frequency. So by adventure #4-5 their experience level was already +2 in relation to the adventure's level target. This lead to a kind of arms race because I wanted to keep the challenges, well, mechanically challenging, so I added even more class levels to combat-able NPC and started to advance the monsters. When this would not suffice, I added additional equipment to NPC (which could then be "looted" by the party and increased their power level even more).

    All of this, plus the increased complexity which comes naturally once you reach higher levels, lead to a major increase in prep time, as I now had to completely re-write almost any NPC in order to keep them challenging. As my players are both not only good roleplayers, but also good character builders, they would have obliterated the weaker-built NPC (especially some of the inquisitors) in a matter of 1-2 rounds. I then realized that playing PF PLUS Gestalt did require a lot of work to be "balanced".

    Right now (in adventure #7), I re-build every NPC and monster to reach the appropriate CR for their group. So, if they are 2 levels above the expected level, I add +1 level for PF and +2 levels for their own level. I then increase the abilities (PF races all have a +2 modifier instead of +0) and add some points here and there as my players both rolled above average stats. Then I almost maximise their HP (which is a common way to balance the increased power level of Gestalt chars without Gestalting every single NPC) and give them level-appropriate equipment whenever the original NPC was a bit lacking. My aim is that "martial" NPC have a viable chance to hit my PCs and that they have at least a chance to fail their saves against "magical" NPC. The max HP make sure that a serious adversary survives a bit longer than one round of spelldance/sneak attack.

    For monsters, I am more than happy that a lot of online DBs offer tools which let you add templates and bonus HDs on the fly. I toy around with the "advanced" template and bonus HD, so that I have a challenging opponent without inflating the CR to the sky. As this process is much quicker resolved than building an NPC from scratch, I am always relieved when a certain adventure section features more monstrous adversaries (and yes, "the other fellowship" did cost me a lot of time )

    So in the end, I've learned from my "arms race" mistake and am feeling like being in a good spot right now. Most encounters are still swift businesses, but I at least have the ability to use up my party's resources by hitting them back (Tinu tends to be a PsP cannon, Cuin plays more conservatively and both end up needing Torrent's healing) and push them a bit.
    XP RangerWickett gave XP for this post

  10. #30
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    One trick I sometimes use to advance monsters or NPCs is to take the E6 approach that one level is equal to 5 feats (3rd edition, mind you). One of the E6 guides even suggests some "templates" that amount to nothing more than 5 feats that fit together logically.

    Then again, sometimes I take the opposite tack -- give an NPC an extra level and then strip away feats. That often seems easier than trying to come up with a bunch of feats.

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