ZEITGEIST [ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co. - Page 113
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  1. #1121
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    Session 231, Part Two - Kinava Monastery

    Kinava Monastery

    A few hours' flight – the discs were manoeuvrable but not swift – took them through the asteroid fields of Urim (where they saw the giant native worms moving gracefully from crater to crater) and to the edge of the plane of Caeloon. Calily’s home was a land of rolling hills covered with pines, where a continual light breeze blew between the silent tree trunks. No animals lived here, and only a few bushes and weeds grew on the forest floor. A handful of great pines survived the fires that burnt the world to death seventy years ago, and they rose high above their neighbouring children.

    The plane appeared abandoned at first glance, but a small monastery, consisting of just a handful of rooms, lay in a clearing upon the highest hill. The clearing was far larger than the tiny weather-beaten building. Wind whistled through cracks in the wall and fluttered paper shutters scribed with calligraphic meditations. The walls were nothing more than stiff paper as well, and what at first appeared to be an irregular texture of vertical stripes were actually, on closer examination, thousands of lines of text, written directly onto the building. Outside, the breeze span a brass wheel cylinder attached to a small windmill, clattering as the prayer embossed in the metal endlessly repeated.

    Calily paused to meditate on the threshold and then led them inside. Inviting them to sit, she retrieved the map and brewed pine needle tea. Then she asked them to tell her how they came here, and whether they were powerful enough to defeat the Golden Legion. The answers to both questions took a long time. First they told her all about their quest to save their own world from the machinations of the Obscurati, and from the Voice of Rot. All the while, Gupta studied the map, and asked Calily occasional questions about it. They also talked about the golden legion – their strength and numbers, and the fact Egalitrix lay across the wide gap between the northern and southern tracts of the Gyre. Until they fixed their ship they would not be able to cross it. (Calily had been able to cross on Bhoior, a plane that was a giant undead turtle, but only after meditating there for many months. The journey on Bhoior had been slow!)

    Gupta pointed at the map, intrigued by the mention of a lighthouse on Ascetia. Now she thought about it, she realised she had seen its pulsing light as they flew to Caeloon. She said she would very much like to investigate it. Rumdoom pointed out that lighthouses were usually a warning, not an invitation.

    The Coaltongue was by now on its way to join them. While they waited, Kai tried to bond with Caeloon. In his little boy way, he told them that it would take a very long time, but that it would be quicker if they could ‘make friends’ with Caeloon. How? “By doing something nice for it,” said Kai. “For the people who live here.”

    At once, Calily said that some of her people had been kidnapped many, many years ago by the pirates of Hunlow. It would be a huge boon to free them and any of their descendants from that world. It was agreed that they would try, but first they would explore nearby and see if they could bond with a fire plane. Though they had been warned of its dangers, they would risk a visit to Padyer.

    But first, they would take much-needed rest.

    Korrigan talked philosophy with Calily for a while and gave her a copy of his Critique of Millerism, the better to explain his own worldview.

    Uru did his best to gain support for his ‘nostalgia’ faction (taking his cue from the adversarial style of the Convocation). Rumdoom listened intently and it seemed for a moment that Uru might have a convert, until the dwarf said, “Putting things back the way there were pretty much runs counter to my whole philosophy. I’m all about taking control of the end.” Korrigan, who had been listening, dismissed the status quo as ‘boring’. Uru gave up and turned his attention to fixing up Quratulain. (Being fey, he didn’t need much rest.)

    The ship arrived and came to rest close to the monastery. It would need to recharge again now. They would set off for Padyer before it had done so. Kieran Sentacore was keen to note down all the details of their travels and together he and Uriel studied and copied Calilly’s map. Gupta studied the walls of the monastery and quickly picked up the basics of the script and its underlying language. (Calily had been speaking another tongue the whole time, but they had been able to understand her and she them.) Leon asked Calily about her fighting technique and they sparred together. He realised there might be something he could learn from her, given time. Korrigan tried to contact Rock Rackus again, but gain there was no word.

    Rumdoom sat with his retinue and ruminated on the end of the world. He wanted to see if there was anything he could work out or learn just by concentrating on it. He was, after all, Logos, Avatar of the End and Wielder of the Kum-Ruk Nazar. To his own surprise, he had a sudden revelation…

    While Rumdoom meditated, Leon tried various methods to see if it would be possible for them to travel back from the Gyre by teleportation. The answer was, no. He could open the Dream Palace, but none of the doors that gave on to homeworld locations would work.

    When he came back to the group and reported his findings, Rumdoom nodded, stood and announced, portentously, “No one can leave the Gyre. We are stuck here. There is no way out.”
    Last edited by gideonpepys; Saturday, 6th July, 2019 at 06:23 AM.
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  2. #1122
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    Session 231, Part Three - Deadly Seas

    Deadly Seas

    There was nothing for it but to press on. They all took some solace from their shared vision of the future, which showed them returning to Lanjyr somehow (albeit with an abject sense of failure).

    Leaving the ship to continue recharging, they flew on their stone discs to Padyer, leaving Leon and Uriel behind once again. Calily also stayed on as host.

    After a few hours flight they left the rolling, forested hills of Caeloon behind and now they flew across a bright, white expanse: Padyer was a beautiful but eerily smooth tableau that resembled porcelain. Sending his roving eye to the highest vantage, Korrigan found he could perceive a slow tilt, or wobble like a top about to stop spinning. A lapping sea drifted in the far distance and would eventually be upon them, wherever they chose to stop. Calily had warned them that this water was impossibly hot; hot enough to slag metal.

    The only other feature was a lonely, cracked ceramic tower. Above the door was inscribed the legend, ‘Padyer’. It had been warded against intrusion and, with the seas fast approaching, they did not have the time (nor the right personnel) to investigate further. Kai said that he felt the tower was ‘sad’ and wondered if it might help to bond to a world if you knew what had happened to it. Again, they didn’t have the right person for the job – Uriel might have the means to unlock the secrets of the tower, but it was not worth summoning him here, given the increasing proximity of the searing sea.

    So they left Padyer and rejoined the Coaltongue, setting off northwards from Caeloon to deal with the pirates of Hunlow. Their journey took them through one of the clusters of empty motes. Here the isolation and emptiness caused them to be more aware of the ‘background hum’ of the Gyre: the occasional blink of the lighthouse on Ascetia – which Gupta found herself increasingly compelled to visit – and another light, much more steady, which seemed to mark out the days here, like a nostalgic reminder of their lost sun. Calily said it was a sun – one of the planes, called Obliatas. Uru also spotted clusters of drifting spirits – souls that had been gathered in the Bleak Gate, now drawn helplessly towards the teeth of the Gyre. It was from this fate they had rescued El Perro, Helandra, Lavanya and Korrigan’s wife.

    As they drew closer to Hunlow, Uriel announced that he had sensed a divine presence in the Gyre ever since they first arrived. Now he was certain that a god was to be found on Hunlow. Uru nudged Korrigan, “Can’t you have a chat with him and get him to disbelieve in himself?”

    The vortex array was trained on Hunlow. The result was death and water.

    Up close, the plane was a vast ocean of waves that turned blood-red as they crested. At its centre was a chain of islands in the form of a skull and crossbones.

    “This ocean is the god,” said Uriel. “A bloodthirsty and wicked one. Gleefully so!” Though he did not feel that the god could rise up and harm them directly, its servants would be very powerful here.

    Korrigan scoured the plan with his roving eye, focusing his search on the island chain. Sure enough, on the largest, central landmass, he spied rising plumes of smoke. The skull shape was formed from inlets – craters that let the sea in to form the eyes and nasal sockets. Inside the left eye, a whole flotilla of ships lay, protected from the seas. The pirates had gathered together and were engaged in some sort of ritual: dozens of victims were lashed to an enormous pyre on the vertiginous shore. They needed to move fast.

    Soon the Coaltongue would lose power. They took it down a few miles away and used the stone discs to take them closer. When they had reached a safe distance they came to rest, and only Uru ranged ahead on Little Jack. He followed the sea channel into the eye-socket inlet, and soon could hear the sound of dream beats and ululations over the waves. There were more than a dozen ships gathered here, and many hundreds of pirates.

    Uru picked his way to the centre of the throng, hopping, unseen from ship to ship. Just in case, he adopted a suitably piratical costume and prepared to brazen out any encounter. When he came to what appeared to be the flagship, he looked around for any impressive leader-like types. Sure enough, he found two of them side by side – one loudly enjoying the proceedings and joining in with the shouts and chants; the other, larger figure all the more impressive for its silence: The loud one was dressed as an archetypal pirate captain, complete with voluminous tricorn hat and eye-patch. He was short, corpulent and scaly. The thing beside him was draped in long cloaks, drenched in what must have been seawater. It looked vaguely humanoid, but Uru thought he saw tentacles twitching and the end of its sleeves.

    There were pirate-priests dotted throughout the fleet, leading the chants and calling upon Hunlow, their god, to arise. Torches had already been lit, and were brandished all around the pyre. Who knew how long they would wait before they lit it?

    “We can’t allow this to happen,” said Korrigan. “Be ready,” he told Uru. Then he contacted the Coaltongue. Leon and Uriel said they could provide enough power to keep her airborne for now, and set off to provide air support. The unit flew as close as it dared, which was very close indeed, as the pirates were totally distracted. Calily said that the pirates would be very strong, here on Hunlow, and did not appear confident that things would go well. Her reservations notwithstanding, Korrigan took to the air, flew across the flotilla, and came to hover above the pirates leaders.

    Thanks to the Humble Hook, he knew them to be Admiral Taracle, the misshapen offspring of Hunlow and a demigod; and Captain Thrusty, a fat half-fiend, formerly of the golden legion, captured by the pirates and now a proud worshipper of their evil god.

    “This ritual must end!” Korrigan declared, barely audible over the din.

    Captain Thrusty gave a hearty laugh and demanded to know who was addressing them.

    “I am the king of Risur. You must stop what you are doing and release these prisoners!”

    Thrusty found this most amusing. “Or what?” he asked.

    “You will suffer the consequences,” said Korrigan.

    A wet, muffled grunt came from Admiral Taracle, but Thrusty was still enjoying himself. “You are very funny,” he said. His voice rose melodramatically as he went on: “We will indeed release the prisoners, but only because we do not intend to burn them, merely relish their fear and prepare them for what is to come: When the distant sun of Obliatas next dips beneath the horizon, the thirteen ships of Admiral Taracle’s fleet will sail a circle round the island chain, slitting arteries of hundreds of slaves and leaving a trail of fresh blood. When the day-long ritual is complete, Hunlow himself will arise, and his ocean-sized he will crawl from world to world in a crashing flood, carrying our fleet before him. In four days he’ll sweep across Thrag, Bhoior, Nem, and then reach the shiny new realm which just struck the Gyre. There we will find slaves and gold in abundance, and defeat the Golden Legion!”

    There was a deafening roar of approval from the pirates.

    “That is all very well,” said Korrigan. “Nonetheless…”

    this!” said Rumdoom, tired of skulking in his hiding place. He invoked the Icon of Avilona, grew to giant size, and, wielding the Stone of Not in just one hand, launched himself at the pirates’ flagship.

    End of Session
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  3. #1123
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    DM's Notes

    DM's Notes

    Hex-crawls are always a challenge to run because there are no limits to the direction a party can go, and it is therefore difficult to fully prepare for every eventuality. The Gyre is even more challenging because some of the hexes can be fairly complex in nature, and the level of detail means that a quick glance at the text is insufficient to jog the memory.

    The players took me by surprise by making a beeline for Hunlow. In retrospect that was a perfectly reasonable decision to make - after all they had been given a 'quest', hadn't they? So I quickly scanned the text about the pirates. Warning: the phrase when the party arrives is buried three quarters of a page into the entry on Hunlow, so it took me a few minutes to orient myself. By then there had been a long hiatus had the table and I ended up fudging things a bit so that Taracle's fleet were all gathered in one place for the big ritual which I'm not sure is the intention.

    Uru goes scouting and establishes that the Kinava monks are not here. But good old Korrigan isn't about to let a bunch of slaves get burned alive, and decides to go talk to the pirate leaders. Meanwhile, Rumdoom's player asks me how many pirates there are, I glance down at the text, miscount completely and say "Oh, scores of them!" This number being insufficiently daunting, he decides he is fed up of Korrigan's stilted conversation with a bemused Captain Thrusty and launches himself into the fray, bringing the session to a slightly early close while I go off the prep the encounter for the following week.

    On the way home (first leg being on a train) I notice that there are four 'unholy boarding crews' per ship, each consisting of 12 pirates. So the true figure is close to six-hundred-and-fifty bad guys.

    Oops!

    I told the players about my mistake straight away and offered them the rare opportunity to undo their chosen actions in the light of the new information, since it was my fault entirely.

    They declined. ...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ysVoV3x5Zo
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    Session 232, Part One - “Kill This Idiot!”

    “Kill This Idiot!” Captain Thrusty sneered, gesturing at Korrigan, as Admiral Taracle turned with a snarl to face Rumdoom, drawing a pair of golden axes from under his sodden robes.

    Before any of the pirates could react, Korrigan gave Uru the order to shoot, but Uru’s shuriken was already airborne, and bit deep into Captain Thrusty, laden with necrotic poison. Uru hoped to drop the captain and disappear back into the shadows, but before he could do so, with swashbuckling grace that belied his portly frame, Thrusty disappeared and reappeared in the rigging alongside him. It was all Uru could do to throw himself clear of Thrusty’s fiery golden rapier. Then he hid in the shadows of the grim candle as Korrigan flew in to support him (noting as he did so that there was something disarming and distracting about the fat fiend’s proximity).

    As he flew over the flotilla of pirate ships, aiming for the admiral, Rumdoom realised for the first time just how many pirates there were. From his hiding place, it didn’t seem like there were so many. But every ship swarmed with degenerate brigands, and there were many, many ships. So Rumdoom dug deep, flew lower over the decks, and unleashed the frigid power of the end times. Dozens of pirates were killed in an instant.

    Calily muttered something under her breath – either a mantra to steady her nerve, or an imprecation at the unit’s audacity – then she launched herself at the deck of the nearest ship, with Quratulain heading for another. Bhalu judged the gap and was like, “No way, man.” So he chucked a couple of inaccurate daggers and began to rethink his decision to tag along. Gupta, meanwhile, gathered dangerous insights into the nature of their foes, telepathically issuing advice as to their weaknesses and fighting styles.

    Now the element of surprise was all used up and the pirates responded en masse, launching themselves into the air in a spray of seawater, like a bizarre firework display. Korrigan, Rumdoom, Calily and Quratulain were beset from all sides and did their best to absorb, deflect or parry blows, each after their own fashion. Quratulain took advantage of being swarmed by dropping a grenade at her own feet, excluding herself with the firesight eye, handily clearing some space in an explosion of guts and limbs.

    Priests on the shore gave orders for the tiered pyre to be lit. The captives began wailing; although the fires would take some time to reach them, it did not look to them as though the battle would go the newcomers’ way. (Indeed, the newcomers themselves were beginning to wonder if they had bitten off more than they could chew.)

    Other priests throughout the fleet invoked Hunlow’s power to banish the unit from their realm. Holding up depraved holy symbols – a severed hand, a shrunken head, mummified testicles; each with a hook driven through where it would hurt the most – they rebuked these heretical interlopers. Divine energy sought to hurl them across the multiverse, but the Gyre would not allow it. It manifested as a dark mist in the form of gear-teeth that sought to chew up each target.

    Some of the pirates closest to the ledge where Bhalu and Gupta were now revealed launched skulls which took on a life of their own and flew an impossible distance to explode in the brush. Then priests on these boats proved that, though lacking cannon, the ships were far from defenceless, invoking the power of combined spellcasting. Several dozen pirates roared ‘Yar!’ in unison. Their priestly captains grasped their voices, tied them together into a giant hook and threw them at Gupta and Bhalu, both of whom were already ensnared by the Gyre teeth. “I’m out of my element,” wailed a battered and bruised Bhalu. (Single - preferably oblivious - targets were his speciality. The last time he went up against an army, he ended up crucified. He had a feeling this was about to go the same way.)

    Determined to finish off the badly wounded Thrusty, Uru reappeared and fired again. The shot should have killed him; instead, Thrusty vanished and reappeared on the deck of the nearest ship. Inconceivable! Thrusty then responded by invoking the Blessing of the Rum Ration: “Let’s get our enemies drunk!” he proclaimed. Korrigan shrugged off this spell, but Uru suddenly felt nauseous and horribly stumbly.

    With too many pirates in the air between him and Rumdoom, Admiral Taracle chose a closer foe: Korrigan. To their surprise, he too was able to fly, thrown into the air by seaspray. He came at the king with sudden ferocity, in a flurry of axes, pincer claws and tentacles, driving Korrigan back before him; Korrigan had the presence of mind to take advantage of this, moving clear of the gear-teeth and Thrusty’s baffling aura, and giving Uru the order to shoot again. Uru did as he was told, and his third shuriken killed the fat fiend. Uru duly vanished.

    A great wail went up from the hundreds of pirates and Taracle was enraged, attacking the king again. This onslaught was hard even for Korrigan to withstand, and he was caught by a poisonous pincer. The venom coursed through his veins and fought for dominance with the regenerative power of his royal rites.

    So effective had his first blast been, and so beset was the path between himself and Taracle, that Rumdoom changed tactics and landed on a nearby deck instead of closing with the admiral, there to emit another bone-chilling blast of cold. Fewer pirates fell this time: Many were protected by the divine presence of the demi-god they followed.

    Elsewhere, Calily and Quratulain tore themselves free of the gear-teeth – Calily to render herself invisible and fly towards the shore; Quratulian to throw another grenade.

    For all the damage they had done, they were still faced with hundreds of foes. None of the unit, save perhaps Rumdoom, remained confident of their victory after the first few moments of this engagement. Korrigan glanced aloft and wondered, “When will we see the Coaltongue?”
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  5. #1125
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    Obviously high level combat in D&D and PF takes forever, especially with a ton of foes. How's it go with your group, which is using . . . Savage Worlds? Fate? I lose track of which GM is doing what.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RangerWickett View Post
    Obviously high level combat in D&D and PF takes forever, especially with a ton of foes. How's it go with your group, which is using . . . Savage Worlds? Fate? I lose track of which GM is doing what.
    We're using Cypher System. Combats can be pretty quick, but this one certainly wasn't. It took up the whole session (so about three hours). But in 4e I think it would have taken more than one. It was exhausting but a lot of fun. I'll write up my DM Notes after I've posted the session reports.

    I really enjoyed the balanced, tactical combat of 4e and so did a lot of my players, but I have to say that I'm glad we switched at this high level. We got our Ptolus campaign to level 25 and the combats were insane. The nice thing about Cypher is you don't need a grid, so the combats can be more epic. Using a grid can make things seem a bit too rigid and mundane, somehow. (Although for this we did use a grid, only at 10 feet per square to fit in all the ships in the flotilla.)

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    Session 232, Part Two - Retreats and Reversals

    Retreats and Reversals

    “We’re close!” responded Uriel: when Korrigan wondered, they all could hear him. Uriel was already working up a storm, to blast the pirates with lightning and douse the pyres before the flames took hold. This turned out to be a bad idea – though Hunlow remained dormant (Gods were slow to react to mortals) storms were nonetheless his to command here on… Hunlow. Uriel was punished with a lightning bolt for his temerity, and swiftly dismissed the brooding stormclouds before Hunlow could wreak any more harm.

    Quratulain switched to her lantern blaster and began to pick off priests; Uru hid and tried to catch his breath; though snared in gears, Gupta managed to get off a shot with Reason, killing one of the priests before he could launch another attack on the outcrop. But there were many more priests, any many more ‘banishments’ followed. This was clearly their preferred tactic, knowing all too well that the Gyre would grind their victims up if they were too weak to pull away. Bhalu, for example, could not free himself from the grinding gears, and no one else was close enough or able to help: all were facing deadly threats of their own.

    The welfare of a comrade would ordinarily be at the forefront of Korrigan’s mind. But now, the forefront of his mind was in serious danger of being torn out by Admiral Taracle. The Admiral had abandoned all pretense at humanity, flung himself on Korrigan and attempted to chew his face off; his hood fell back to reveal a disgusting mouth - three assymentrical mandible around an all-too-human tongue. Caught in his clutches, Korrigan was unable to remain aloft and fell towards the deck below. At the last minute, he transformed into a bolt of Avilona and shot the only way he could – straight up, as far above the battlefield as possible, there to hover, prone, for a moment while he contemplated this situation and realised that it was the worst he had found himself in since the Great Eclipse (and very possibly since Yerasol IV).

    Uru was in serious danger too. Too fearful of reprisal to reveal himself again, he took to the skies on Little Jack and won clear of the thick of the battle.

    Quratulain threw a grenade to clear some space on the decks between her and Admiral Taracle, then shot at him as he stood up. Rumdoom, who in giant form could wield the Stone of Not far more easily, struck one of the priests, who was instantly obliterated, then ran the length of the ship he was on to strike another.

    Gupta used her Icon of Apet to escape the gear-teeth and shot at another priest; Uru shadow-walked to escape the gears, then summoned the genius loci – spirits associated with all things man-made - to cause the vengeful ghosts of those murdered by the pirates to rise up and surround Admiral Taracle, causing the very deck itself to encase him. Taracle smashed his way out with his axes, but at least he didn't attack anyone else.

    The pirates renewed their attacks on the unit, and the priests uttered further banishements. Korrigan was still within range and was caught by more misty teeth! Quratulain dodged and parried, her amour and forcefield soaking up cutlass blows and turning dealing aelectrical damage to her attackers; meanwhile she continued to harry the priests with shot after shot, dropping two more, before the Gyre teeth caught her. She wrested herself out of the gear-teeth, jumped ships again, and attacked Admiral Taracle at close range. These were accurate shots, but the vile demi-god was yet to show signs of fatigue.

    Having meditated for a moment to restore herself, Calily Buen proved her worth by attacking the priests on the beach, emerging from invisibilty with a flurry of blows, and entering the Stance of the Paper Wind to fend off further blows. This was the esoteric technique she and her fellows sought for a lifetime to master.

    Korrigan escaped the gears again, using bolt of Avilona to hurtle even further into the air, hoping to find himself out of range at last. He was close to passing out, at which point the Rites would kick in and stun all of his subjects – not ideal under any circumstances, but deadly under these.

    In desperation, poor Bhalu tried to Fourmyle Jaunt, though the attempt might easily have failed, so far from Fourmyle. To his surprise, it worked and he fell down on his back to stare up at the sky and the distant gear-like nebula above him. Alive, for now, but very badly injured. How long before the others fell, and the pirates came looking for him?

    Then, just in the nick of time, the Coaltongue appeared over the clifftops!
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    Session 232, Part Three - “Yar!”

    “Yar!”

    Four dragon fliers ranged ahead. Directed by Uriel, they strafed the decks of outlying ships, killing many, scattering the rest. Still, there were enough full crews for the priests to combine into magical artillery. “Yar!” they all shouted, and four hooks fired into the air: one missed; one clipped a dragon flier causing it to veer away, badly damaged; another snagged a second flier and began to drag it back down; the fourth struck, damaged and hooked the Coaltongue, but the Coaltongue was heading in anyway.

    Admiral Taracle focused on his most dangerous opponent, hacking at Quratulain, afflicting her with deadly poison and driving her back into the water. There, she found the waters closed over her with preternatural speed, as Hunlow, dimly aware of her inimical presence, sought to drown her.

    Calily fought on, fending off pirates and priests, felling a few. Their blows were now too weak to harm her such was the nature of her mystical stance.

    Inspired by Bhalu, Rumdoom tried to Fourmyle Jaunt too. Again, it worked and he loomed over Admiral Taracle, Kum Ruk-Nazar poised to strike.

    Aloft, Korrigan used the last of his reserves to invoke the power of Reida and summon himself from the future. His future self radiated pure positive energy to heal both himself and his past self, then ceased to fly and began a deliberate free-fall dive back into the fight. As anticipated, both version of Korrigan then vanished.

    Now the Coaltongue flew over the flotilla, taking out one ship with a cannon barrage. The vessel began to slowly sink. Rumdoom’s retinue, manning the Sunfish, took out a priest with the Tyrant’s Eye.

    With that barrage out of the way, and the Coaltongue sweeping on, to test the strength of the pirates’ divine hook, Leon and Uriel teleported down onto the Adversary’s Favour. Leon cursed the Admiral; Uriel invoked a deathly gaze which stunned every foe that he could see, which was a lot.

    Uru had manoeuvred himself closer to the pyres and, now far enough from the fight not to have to worry, and in the eerie lull caused by Uriel, invoked his noisy ghostly entourage to free the pirates’ prisoners from the three-tiered pyre.

    Gupta now took on tiger form, and for the last time, won free of the gears that had ensnared her, leaping onto another ship, where the deck had been clear by Quratulain. The crew and priests she was fighting gave pursuit.

    Down on the beach, the surviving priests engaged Calily in melee. One struck her with his cutlass, and lightning arced out to hit Leon and Rumdoom. This did not turn out well for the priest, as the lightning triggered Leon’s tiefling curse, and he was immolated.

    Leon teleported to a point where he could see into the water and struggled to free Quratulain from Hunlow’s grasp. Even teleportation would not work against the grip of a god. Quratulain invoked the Icon of Nem, and passed through the hull of the closest ship, freeing herself.

    Inside, she daw dozens of prisoners huddled. Victims for the full ritual the pirates had been about to undertake. Perhaps there were more on other ships? If so, they ought be more careful! She told the others what she had seen and said to the prisoners, “We are winning! I’ll come back for you,” before running upstairs.

    They really were winning! Rumdoom lamped the admiral while he was stunned by Uriel and cursed by Leon, knocking the demi-god prone. Even though the Stone of Not was powerful enough to disintegrate him, it still must have hurt! (As Rumdoom stood over Taracle, readying another blow, he noted the intricate dwarven craftsmanship of the admiral’s dwarven axes.)

    Calily was busy dealing with the last priest on the beach. Looking around, she could now see that things were turning out very differently that she had thought they would, and the old monk began to laugh with excitement with the thought that these strangers might be able to deal with the Legion after all. This incongruous sound lifted everyone’s spirits.

    Uru released more and more slaves; Gupta kept on jumping ships, kiting one crew and their priests across the flotilla; Taracle, beset by curses, struggled to his feet only to be stunned again by Uriel, whose deathly gaze caught scores of pirates (but left him almost dizzy with the amount of power he had expended to cast this twice).

    Leon teleported onto the sinking ship and leapt down into the largest hole caused by the Coaltongue (dodging the blows of surviving pirates as he went). Below, he found more prisoners who had not be harmed by the cannonade and teleported them out onto the now empty beach.

    Gupta made a final leap onto the beach, as the two remaining dragon-fliers swept back in and gunned down the pirates that were pursuing her.

    Taracle attacked Rumdoom; Rumdoom withstood his blows. Then Korrigan reappeared and led the attack on Taracle. Inspired, Rumdoom struck once, twice and – urged on by Uriel – three times. There was a loud crack as Taracle’s carapace split, but he still hadn’t fallen.

    Gupta turned back to human form, took aim with Reason and – pouring every ounce of concentration and training into that single shot – missed! Then the bullet ricocheted off Rumdoom’s ice armour and Admiral Taracle, son of Hunlow, dropped dead!

    The divine aura that had shielded the demi-god’s minions was inverted and swept out in a punishing wave slaying many of those who had failed to defend him, and badly wounding the rest. What remained was a tiring, gruesome, violent slog, as the remaining pirates – particularly the priests – were fanatical in their devotion to Hunlow, and fought to the last man.

    End of Session
    Last edited by gideonpepys; Monday, 15th July, 2019 at 05:37 AM.
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    DM's Notes - Another 'best ever'?!?

    Soundtrack for Hunlow

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVIev94s7Mo

    Another 'best ever'?!?


    Zeitgeist does have a tendency to throw them up - a session which ends with one or more players saying, breathlessly, 'that was the best session ever'. I think that has a lot to do with it just being the most recent - these declarations are more subjective than empirical, but what the hell - I'll take it. And I wouldn't have run the AP for as long as I have if I didn't think that it outdid itself consistently from one adventure to the next.

    In this case, to my pleasant surprise, the combat with the pirates of Hunlow was declared to be the 'best combat we've run in Cypher System'.

    A say 'surprise' because - as my last DM's Note indicated - I had fluffed the tail end of the previous session and thrown the players into a very difficult situation which I thought might turn into an overwhelming and un-fun grind. To raise the stakes I meta-gamed a bit and quoted the text from the adventure which said that going up against the pirates en masse could be even harder than dealing with the Golden Legion. So they knew they were up against it.

    The interesting thing about Cypher is that players can spend resources to avoid being hit. They can also spend resources to hit and deal extra damage. As a DM it leaves you slightly in the dark as to how they're doing because you often don't land a serious blow from one round to the next (sadly squandering some of the bad guys' key powers). What you can't see is just how exhausted they are just from dodging.

    Part of the thrill of this combat was just how close to death some of the players came, including Korrigan, who has gone pretty much unscathed since somewhere back in heroic tier. (His defences are OTT. Unlike Rumdoom, who is basically a bag of holding of hit points. Also unlike Rumdoom, he doesn't throw himself into combat ass-backwards because he isn't trying to prove that he's immortal.)

    This session was exhausting though. So much to keep track of. So many actions each round. Crazy numbers of priests. Even crazier numbers of pirates.

    Throughout it all I was wondering if I couldn't have handled this episode in a better way. Reading the adventure, I imagined tense negotiations and careful diplomacy which may in the end have led to combat. This full-on massacre was not how I thought it would be.

    In fact, the adventure in the Gyre is a lot more bloody than I realised. Like a nightmarish version of Star Trek directed by Sam Peckinpah.

    Still, it's fun. And it might go on for a while, as it's become apparent that my players intend to fully explore, not make a beeline for the exit. I have to say that I'm glad about that. I'm still enjoying running this AP more than any other I've DMed and now that the end is in sight, the opportunity to stop and desecrate the roses is very welcome.

    What a cleverly designed penultimate episode!

    PS. I asked my players to elucidate their opinions on the session and received the following responses:

    "I liked that there were different levels of puzzle to solve, both in terms of movement and prioritisation — plus it felt that we weren't defaulting to a standard "daily, enc., enc." chain. Also I think it further shone because we were all there? " (That's the thing with having 7 players. There's usually someone missing!)

    "There was something for everyone to contribute; strategy, burst damage, single target damage, mobility. In such a tight battle buffs and debuffs made all the difference as well. Also no one was dominating the battle." (Ironically, this came from Q's player, who is usually doing just that. I think he feels self-conscious about it, but the other players are more-often-than-not grateful for her contribution.)

    "Maybe it just comes down to having 600 pirates to kill? When have we had so many enemies swarming us? Also this was the closest Korrigan has come to dying since switching to Cypher system. Having a tactical map is also nice." (Korrigan's player. Another 4E fan.)


    So there you go.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gideonpepys View Post
    Like a nightmarish version of Star Trek directed by Sam Peckinpah.
    This f***ing delights me.
    Laugh gideonpepys laughed with this post

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