(5e) Against the Idol of the Sun (high level, hexcrawl)


Session 1: 12/19/20

The party is 13th level, and coming off the Castlevania-based "Castle Dracula" campaign (see previous campaign log here). They are very well-equipped, and we just had a 5-year time-skip. The party is composed of:

-Dwarven life cleric
-Wood elf kensei monk
-Dwarven zealot barbarian
-Half-orc armorer artificer (new, not present last campaign)
-Half-elf vengeance paladin
-Half-elf arcane trickster 10/champion 3

They receive the messages documented in the "hook" adventure, calling them to Iberia. They make their preparations and head out, choosing to route through Venice and then a ship through the Mediterranean. I mentioned a single bandit attack along the way, but in an area where the average level is 3-5, a group of wealthy people pulling out glowing magical weapons that are covered in frost, lighting up with fire, etc., is a signal even the dumbest bandit can understand as "Not worth it."

The party lands and is directed inland, approaching the army camp. They meet with the king and are presented with 'the plan' by one of the nobles there. They generally agree to it, but have some thoughts on how to make the main army more effective. This results in some discussions of shields, pavises, tortoiseshell formations, and the like. Ultimately, the artificer goes outside camp with some spectators, gets a couple of big oak logs from an area where wood was being cut, and, in 10 minutes, transforms them into 160 heavy wooden shields that merely need leather straps added, via the magic of Fabricate. One of the nobles present immediately makes him a job offer for after the crisis is over.

After gathering information, the group decides to travel at night, since the Aaracokra only seem to attack during the day. They don't have terrible rolls at stealthy travel or picking good camping spots, and arrive early. The arcane trickster sneaks around the enemy fortification, doing recon. He rolls very well, has Invisibility, and many hours to watch, so they see everything important. The next morning, everything is normal, until a couple of patrols return around 10am. 30 minutes later, they watch 3/4 of the camp lift off and fly towards the main army camp.

The group then sneaks as close to the camp as they can. Once they reach about 200' away, there's no more cover, and they know they will be spotted. The arcane trickster goes invisible and heads out; the paladin grabs the barbarian and Dimension Doors to just on the inside of the kitchen gate, which they promptly unlock. The Hasted monk (via Artificer) dashes towards the fortified camp at an incredible speed, followed by the last two members of the party.

They blenderize the Aaracokra cooks and nearby guards. The artificer does the Iron Man thing and flies into the sky, drawing the attention of almost the entire Aaracokra Combat Air Patrol (CAP), which head for him. They pelt him with javelins for a couple of rounds. He has AC 23, so he usually get hit once per round for single-digit damage.

The senior priest on the temple uses Fire Storm on three of the party members, but rolls only 21 out of 7d10, and then they all save for peanuts damage. The acolyte's Fireball fares only slightly better. The monk engages the Champion atop the temple and does take substantial damage (including a Harm) - but not quickly, as his AC is quite good. The artificer keeps the CAP distracted, such that they do not return to the temple area fast enough to make a difference there. Once all of the high-level and spellcasting opponents are down, their only foes are the regular guards, who are not likely to do much damage at all, so I handwave the end of the battle by rolling 2d6 for the number of air-skiffs left in camp (8) and how many get away (5), leaving the party with 3 air-skiffs captured instead of rolling out all the chasing and stuff. It was late.

Mistakes I made as DM: Didn't call for Concentration checks when the artificer was hit for 3 damage. His saves are very good, but a broken Haste would have made things harder for the monk. I also forgot to use the +2 to hit and +1d6 damage Plunging Fire the Aaracokra possess, which led to a couple of missed attacks that would have otherwise hit.

Next time - the party frees the captives, inspects the air-skiffs, and chats with the yuan-ti slave.

12/26/20 Session 2

The barbarian and cleric were out due to illness. Not Covid. The party decide to free the captives, talk to the yuan-ti slave (named Amala), inspect the air-skiffs, loot the camp, and then spread accelerants and light it up.

They learn that the Aaracokra serve a deity named Huitzopochitl, who has four deities under him, and that he’s gathering power through sacrifices... and that that is the reason for the Aaracokra to come. Huitzopochitl killed Sseth, the Yuan-Ti deity; ever since then, the Y-T have lived in hiding, and only 1/10th of the babies born to them are male since that happened. They learn a few things about basic geography, including tortles on the east coast, scorpionfolk in the northern bad-lands, and giants in the southwestern mountains. Amala flat-out refuses to travel back with them, and won’t even tell them where the hidden village she grew up in before being enslaved was. She does, however, teach them the language during the prep period before traveling west. Between the Comprehend Languages spell and the monk’s ability to speak all languages, they put together a primer in a few days after returning to the Spanish army camp.

They examine the air-skiff, and with Amala’s help, figure out how it works. I hand over the 1-page document covering all the details. It travels at an altitude of 100’, at a speed of 60’/rd (6.8 mph), and only works during the daytime. It’s powered by 4 humanoid hearts sacrificed to the Aaracokra gods, which stay beating until it runs out of power. The party’s air-skiff has 8 weeks (56 days) of power left.

The party releases some of the prisoners to find their way back to the army camp, paying some off with a pittance of gold for a Bag of Holding that they find (the artificer then crafts 2 more Bags of Holding during the prep time). They have 3 air-skiffs, and haul as many prisoners as they can (about 55) back to camp on those, giving them money they looted from the camp to help them buy food. The party also used Prestidigitation to clean up all the prisoners, and gave out basic healing.

A conversation with the king follows, and of course the party is asked to take the air-skiff west to stop a follow-on invasion and deal with the source of this. There are comments about “We killed a lesser god before” thanks to Dracula and the avatar of Death. The group decides to spend a week on prep time, including fabricating Bags of Holding and Gauntlets of Ogre Power for the Paladin. They stock up on tools, ropes, fishing supplies, and some other things, but don’t grab oars.

They then take off on the 30-day westwards journey across the ocean. The air-skiffs only fly during the day, so they spend the nights on the water. They briefly discuss a sail, but don’t pursue it. They have the following encounters:

-A sea of mildly acidic kelp. They have to take turns all night scraping the skiff’s hull to avoid major damage.

-An abandoned air-skiff, floating on the ocean. The middle (power section) was crushed by something about 5’ across. There are old bloodstains and no supplies left on it. Party assumes kraken.

-A young black dragon (CR 7) crawls onboard during the night, and is instantly greeted by the draconic-speaking Arcane Trickster before the dragon even gets a chance to roar or make a threat. The dragon demands tribute. For varying reasons, from “he’s an outclassed teenage dragon being stupid” to “he has acid breath and we don’t want our ship damaged” the party ends up conversing with him for a little while and then handing over 1,000 gold. The dragon graciously responds with permission for them to continue sailing his waters.

-A storm. The party succeeds on the Sleight of Hand skill check (best equivalent for Use Rope) and none of their supplies are knocked overboard.

-A group of sahuagin attack. The Arcane Trickster loses over half his HP; the monk gets Held and tossed overboard (but points out that people don’t sink unless pulled down); the paladin walks around the deck one-shotting 22hp sahuagin with 3d8+2d6+5 damage.

-A group of mermen led by an aged sage, who had a vision concerning the party and the looming threat to the west. He gives them the Kraken Flail, a +2 flail that deals 1d4 cold & 1d4 psychic damage; if 4s are rolled on both dice (~12.5% probability), DC 16 Con save or the target is paralyzed for one round. Not sure who’s going to take this.

The party comes in sight of land, and that’s where we leave off.

Session 3: 1/9/2021

Cleric and arcane trickster are absent. I hand the party the blank 18x16 hexmap and go through how exploration works (Survival+Investigation+Perception+time to reach a DC to find things). A random roll puts them in hex 18.10, pretty much in the center of the eastern side of the map over the ocean.

They spend 4 hours checking the ocean hex, don’t find anything, and decide to move on (they miss an underwater structure). They arrive at a beach-to-jungle area occupied by tortles, and spot regular rows of trees. Investigating, they meet a trio (master/apprentice/understudy) of tortle sorcerers who brew potions. The monk makes peaceful contact and acts as the translator, and they get some information about the immediate surrounding area and tortle society (very loose). The party buys some potions, spends the night, then head west without continuing to investigate they area (so they don’t find the tortle village nearby).

They pass over the hex to the west and search the next one (15.10), finding a yuan-ti village (an odd tree formation). It’s dusk, so the air-skiff lands. They approach on foot, see some movement indicating they’re being flanked, and then encounter the village’s leader, a yuan-ti abomination named Ila. They exchange some information, make big promises, and get info about the exact location of the 5 Aaracokra cities, plus an idea of the enemy force sizes...and the location of the Cursed Forest to the north. On their way out, they meet a scarred yuan-ti who asks if they are worthy...they confidently says yes, and she tells them to seek the greater one to the southwest. The party takes that as their best lead/clue and starts heading southwest...earlier than I had anticipated.

They move southwest into 14.10 and search it, and finally have a random encounter (after 20 or so d6s, they finally get a 1). Three air elementals attack the ship, splitting attacks between passengers and the air-skiff. It gets down to about 15hp before they kill the elementals, which definitely makes them nervous. They do some repairs (Mending, and Fabricate the next morning).

The next day, they search and find a find an abandoned mine that had signs of troll occupation. They lift into the air in late afternoon, but before they can search and find the secondary Rodan Village (an ‘off-site backup’ of sorts for the Cult of Rodan that watches over the sleeping kaiju on a volcano about 30 miles away), they see another air-skiff. Since theirs only has about two weeks of power left, they immediately decide to be air-pirates, even though there are 11 Aaracokra with the other air-skiff. I’d rolled another airborne random encounter, and it happened to be the 2nd toughest patrol group, composed of a 13th level sun priest, a 9th-level wizard, 3 champions (roughly equal to fighter 8s), 4 SubCommanders, and 2 regular Guards.

The engagement begins at a distance of 360’ with arrow fire as the air-skiffs close on each other. The artificer hastes the barbarian, the paladin hastes himself, and then on the next round they Dimension Door approximately 240’ onto the enemy air-skiff and blenderize the two guards who were standing on it. This kicks off a battle that takes 2-3 hours, but which everyone says I ran well and could not have been sped up. Dozens of javelins were thrown, and many things happened. Here are the highlights that I recall:

I forget at least 8 times to call for Concentration checks on Haste. Big oops.

The wizard uses Bigby’s Hand to shove the paladin off the air-skiff. Paladin falls 100’ to ground, takes falling damage.

Someone kills the wizard by casting Hold Person, causing him to crash to the ground for 10d6 falling damage. The priest dies much the same way, with falling damage popping his Death Ward. The barbarian then jumps out of a tree (which he’d climbed back up) to split 7d6 falling damage with the 1hp priest below him.

The barbarian takes the controls of the enemy air-skiff, making it go down to pick up the paladin. The priest hits them with Firestorm, hurting the barbarian and I think also the paladin, and more importantly, destroying the 30-hp power cabinet in the middle of the air-skiff, which then crashes to the ground with more falling damage.

The party’s air-skiff, still damaged from fighting the air elementals, gets fireballed. The monk takes no damage. The vessel catches on fire and takes 1d6 damage per round. It gets fireballed again 3-4 rounds later and destroyed. The monk takes no falling damage thanks to his boots, and the artificer just floats there like iron man.

The barbarian soaked something like 250 points of damage.

Aaracokra tactics (plunging fire, using lances for flyby attacks, etc.) were generally effective – they were just outgunned by the party. It was by no means a cakewalk.

At the end of the session, the party is all still alive, although the monk is nearly undamaged. They have no air-skiff at all now. They did pick up a +2 Unicorn spear (attunement, resist poison, advantage on saves vs poison, charm, fear). We’ll see if they get a good long rest in tonight or if they roll a devastation centipede or something while on the ground.

Three of the Aaracokra escaped, and may bring word back to their bosses. Or maybe not... I’ll look at the map later and figure out if their chances of getting home while split up and wounded are very good.

log in or register to remove this ad


Session 4: 1/23/21

Arcane trickster & barbarian are out.

The party decides to finish searching the hex they are in (14.10), and finds a small, sheltered village occupied by the cult of Rodan. This peaceful village in a valley does not seem to worry about attack, and is host to goliaths, yuan-ti, tortles, an old Aaracokra who abandoned Huitzopochitl long ago, and a reclusive drow.

Rodan is a kaiju who sleeps atop a volcano a few hexes away (12.09), with the main body of the Rodanites living at the base of the volcano and burning incense and keeping him asleep and happy. There is an obelisk in town with some information, but nobody present in the party could read it, and they didn’t ask for a translation.

They spend some time there and get a few more details filled in about what’s nearby, and a warning to not bring their war to the village. The drow worships Vhaeraun, and ends up trading the party the Eyepatch of Teeth (no attunement, wearer can cast Eyebite once per day) for the snake scepter (+1 light hammer, +2d4 poison on hit, adds Poison Spray to cantrip list). This gives the party two items from the Panoply of the Shark; when someone wears both items, they gain blindsight 15’/60’ underwater due to a keen sense of smell. The drow mentions a few Eilistraee worshippers at the volcano town that he doesn’t get along with.

The party’s artificer, Malamir, works with the tortle carpenter/artificer in town to make a spider-like cart with legs that can walk, follow the party around, and climb trees. Boston Dynamics, eat your heart out.

Teador, the Paladin, has decided he’d rather have his +2 Anyweapon re-attuned, and starts bugging the artificer for a +1 shield repeatedly in character.

The kaiju warlock patron is available for any replacement characters as an option, as is the Goliath race and the option to be a lone drow.

The group heads southeast on foot, intending to set up some sort of a home base or area where they could stash items. In the next hex, they run into 7 satyrs (could be a PC race, but not from this group), who turn out to be hungry cannibal druids.

The druids open with some Call Lightnings and an Erupting Earth (which does pitiful damage), and most of them start wildshaping into Allosaurs (indicating that Allosaurs are present somewhere reasonably close in the campaign world). Heat Metal proves effective (two of them use it), but the bulk of the damage comes from repeated lightning strikes that hurt the paladin pretty badly as they build up. It had (randomly) been raining in the hex, so 4d10 per strike still does about 10 points of damage even on a failed save. Ultimately, the party prevails, with several critical hits providing some sudden splattering. The cleric (Reybella)’s Spiritual Weapon pretty much always hits and does some pretty consistent damage, as does Inflict Wounds.

With three down, the other four attempt to run; the Paladin gets back-to-back Sentinel attacks that prevent two of them from running away… the only two that make it out were two who had not turned into Allosaurs early on. 60’ move + dash is a pretty good Escape button.

This took some time to play out because of the number of dice rolls; tracking HP and status changes back and forth from druid to dino and back went OK, except that my labels on the map need to be bigger. The druids were (by my calculations) CR 5. They may have been better served using some crowd control, but…cannibal druids are going to cast one spell and then try to eat people, not hang back and fling spells while hiding in trees.

The next day, the party finds a small abandoned wooden fort (50’x50’) that looks like it was attacked and wrecked at least a few seasons ago. They decide to fix it up some, without repairing the buildings, and use Stone Shape and Fabricate to create a hidden basement tunnel that they can store supplies and stuff in as a home base.

Session 5: 2/13/21

We’re back! The Arcane Trickster’s player has decided to drop out. Everyone is fine having a replacement, and I am fine running with 6 players, so we’ll probably have a new person next time. Everyone was in favor of implementing the Tasha’s optional class features, which mostly benefited the barbarian and cleric.

The group left their hidey-hole behind, along with the big and bulky door the artificer is working on (trying to create a small room/storage area similar to a Genie warlock’s chamber). They head southwest into an area of low-lying mountains, and while passing a pond are attacked (random encounter) by an Ahuitzolotl accompanied by two water elementals. The Ahuitzolotl is from Aztec/Mesoamerican mythology, and is an ugly, spiky-furred creature about the size of an Irish Wolfhound or Saint Bernard, but with hands instead of paws, a hand on the end of its tail, and the ability to drown people nearby (functionally it’s the poisoned condition, but not poison). I set it at CR 7, AC 17, 108HP, DC 14 on the drowning AOE.

It was underwater, so they didn’t have a way to see it coming. I rolled randomly and it ended up popping up next to the Paladin, who of course passed his save against drowning. The water elementals then popped up, and the whole combat took about two rounds. The party did a lot of damage pretty quickly, and the Ahuitzolotl did poorly on its attack rolls.

The random encounter dice have been super in the party’s favor, with never more than one per day. They spend several days searching this and another hex to the northwest, finding some vine ropes left behind somewhere, and a rocky area eroded away by acid, with a +1 adamantine acid dagger at the top. The backstory is that some acid-emitting oozes were here, and someone at one point used the dagger to help escape, the dagger having survived the acid... but the party didn’t put all that together.

I clarify some directions, as their search pattern for “The great one” was going to take them right towards an Aaracokra city. They move southwest again, making this the 3rd hex bordering the dragon’s actual hex that they’ve entered!

They search for a couple of days and eventually find a hidden yuan-ti camp. Approaching the camp peacefully, they meet with the leader, who refuses to shed light on the “great one” thing – but the Paladin catches him lying. The artificer gets into a discussion about magical theory with the local wizards, who sell wizard stuff – but nothing the party wants. The monk goes and commissions some local-style clothing from some clothing-makers in town. This bit was made up on the spot of course – but the clothing makers are three yuan-ti women sitting under an awning in front of a house. He describes what he wants, and in the conversation, they mention that the trousers are similar to what “our husband wears.” He asks a couple of questions and they respond that of course they’d never let a man go risking himself adventuring, etc., and that he does some of the sewing and tailoring. That’s about when the penny drops and the “one in 10 yuan-ti is born male” fact from a couple of sessions ago really comes together with the realization that their society is basically matriarchal and the men are rare, protected (and also limited as a result), and have multiple wives.

The party digs around a bit more with questions on “the great one” and get an answer from the leader that I specifically phrased as “cannot say.” I’m not sure they fully picked up on that implication.

They finally head into the hex where Bahadural, the dragon, lives...

I have some passive rolls pre-done, and Dmitri the barbarian, with his brand new Nature proficiency, noticed that the birds are acting strange, just watching them. The party discusses whether they could be familiars, or controlled by druids, and note that it’s just the birds. They actually talk towards some of the birds, saying they want to talk and meet. A half an hour later, in a more open area of the jungle (for DM ease of use and dragon flight), a booming invisible voice asks what an elf and dwarves are doing in this part of the world. There’s some back and forth in which the party talks about seeking to stop the Aaracokra. Bahadural, the dragon (under Greater Invisibility) asks a few questions, declines to answer theirs, and eventually decides that their goal of killing the Aaracokra leadership and priests is close enough to the deal he has regarding the sword he’s hanging on to. “Fine. Let the test begin.” 90’ cone poison breath, 22d6 damage, Con DC half.

The monk had already moved to the side and into the trees during the conversation, so he was out of the way (and immune to poison). Everyone saves except the artificer; the two dwarves take half damage after saving; the artificer’s Unicorn Spear grants resistance to poison and immunity to fear & charm, but he forgot about all this for round one, so he still takes 33 damage.

The party all goes before Bahadural (but he’s acted so he gets legendary actions). The monk lands one arrow blindly for 8 damage, and everything else pretty much misses; one Legendary Resistance is burned against a Faerie Fire from the artificer. Everyone passes their save against dragon fear except the artificer, who forgot his immunity. I’m certainly not tracking every item, resistance, and immunity that 5 different 13th level PCs loaded with gear have....

The player for the barbarian had a hard stop at 10pm (3 hour session), so we are currently paused after 4 rounds of battle. The dragon is above 50%hp still, the party has burned a substantial number of spell slots, and I think the party is also above 50%hp. Highlights and notes:

· The monk got bitten in round 2 or 3. My big dragons have “bite and throw” and he failed the opposed athletics check to avoid being caught and thrown to the side (random direction, 1d6x10 feet, 60’). Lucky him, he is immune to fall damage.

· The paladin figured out that Dispel can target a magical effect, and some quick googling returned results from Enworld & Stackexchange agreeing that you can dispel an invisibility spell within range, even if you don’t know where it is. 4th level spell slot, and Bahadural is visible...I think in round 2.

· Bless has been cast on everyone twice; lost the first time by a failed Concentration check from a claw or tail attack on the cleric. She also did a mass cure wounds for 33hp healing on 3 characters, and a 4th-level guiding bolt for 30-something damage.

· The barbarian drank a potion of Enlarge Person that’s been sitting in his inventory for a LONG time (possibly since level 5) and pulled out his halberd, allowing him to engage the dragon, who’s been keeping about 20’ off the ground. Getting bigger put him in range for a tail slap, but he was fine with that.

· The artificer tanked an entire full attack (3 attacks at +16) from the dragon using Mirror Image and his high AC. The dragon rolled pretty poorly.

· The monk has been consistently plinking away for 10 to 30 damage per round with his arrows.

· Once he became visible, the dragon cast Crown of Stars and has been firing one per round for some decent radiant damage. He also cast Hold Monster (3 targets), and everyone saved, and he used his breath weapon again. Everyone saved, had resistance, or both. 22d6, take 16 points of damage is pretty good. The dragon’s been moving around and attacking various targets.

· The paladin Hasted himself, then on the next round, Misty Stepped onto the dragon’s back, unleashing 3 smite attacks totaling over 100 points of damage. Pretty good! He took a tail slap in retaliation, and then after the barbarian moved up to poke with his halberd, Bahadural used his wing buffet attack; a failed save and the paladin takes damage and is knocked prone, and I have him roll another Dex save to stay on the back of a moving dragon that’s just knocked him off his feet... he rolls a 3 and falls to the ground. His concentration on Haste fails, and he’s down his next round’s actions.

Overall, the party has in four-ish rounds done less than 300 hit points in damage. This is not the kind of performance that impresses an ancient dragon and makes it think you are worthy of being handed an artifact that’s being held for the right person/group. They have enough defenses to possibly outlast it, but it’ll be a HP slog. Someone made a comment (maybe out of character) about needing a plan, and he taunted them about wanting to fight the Aaracokra and not even having a plan for dealing with flying enemies.

He still has two spells left. Originally this was Heal and Fire Storm, but too many Aaracokra use Fire Storm, so I need to swap it out for something else, of 6th level or above. I’m currently contemplating Wall of Thorns, which offers some nice battlefield control + damage.

I’m also thinking about him simply deciding that the party is not able to handle killing high priests and divine avatars yet, since they can’t even pose a lethal threat to him in a reasonable timespan, and telling them to go away and come back later. If I do that, I have to walk the line between being contemptuous but not so insulting that they decide that they want to hunt him down (his lair is nearby but requires going underwater to reach, so not easy to find). I want the party to have this sword, but right now, they are simply not meeting the qualifications of “competent enough to be trusted to actually do the job with it and not die.”

I think they’re still a bit too confident... trying for a PC kill is possible, but aside from the paladin, everyone’s still fairly high hp, and his average damage per round (excluding legendaries) is only about 60hp (30 to the barbarian). I’d have to land some crowd control first. I do like the idea of him landing in front of someone, eating a full set of attacks, and then just responding with a legendary action Heal on himself. If I do it, it’ll need to be next round, as the paladin is temporarily disabled due to losing Haste.

Stopping when we did ended up being good, because it gives me some time to think about this and how I want to handle it.


Between-session update:

We have a new player coming in to replace the Arcane Trickster. It looks like he's making a Goliath Ranger. Still no primary caster except the life cleric!

I constructed a better metric for "Is the party worthy of this item?"

They must be:

Openly be willing to declare that they are against Huitzopochitl. success

Have at least one previous noteworthy achievement. success

Able to survive a battle with him. undetermined

Able to injure him consistently and persistently – if they can’t keep up with a single dragon, how can they handle multiple flying priests and champions? currently a failure, <100hp/round average is not enough for high-end combat

Be able to reach a difficult target through stealth or mobility (teleportation, stealth, or high speed) for melee attacks. Too inconsistent currently. The only PC who has managed to attack pretty much every round is the monk using his longbow.

If they are not worthy, he may kill or eat one or more until they flee, if they do not do so when told that they have failed the test.

I have swapped out Fire Storm for Wall of Thorns on Bahadural's entry. I let Legendary creatures cast a levelled spell at a cost of two Legendary actions. The dragon is currently a little ways away from most of the party.

My current plan is to have him cast Wall of Thorns between himself and the party, and then say something like this:

"A band of five adventurers from a far off-land, claiming to have slain a powerful being and now to be opposed to Huitzopochitl. It had the ring of fate about it. Maybe the bargain would finally be done, and I could expect my reward soon.

But no, you are not worthy. You are too likely to fail. Leave, or I will start eating you, and will add the items you bear to my hoard."


Session 6: 2/27/2021

We jumped right into the remainder of the dragon battle. After the artificer went, I had Bahadural give his little speech and then cast Wall of Thorns. Hit two characters, both saved, 23 damage. The party did some moderate damage that round, but not a lot (ok, maybe 70 out of ~200hp left); the barbarian had to get closer and the paladin lost his turn due to losing Haste. At the end of the round (his initiative), I had the dragon land so that he could use his Stone of Earth Elemental Control to summon an earth elemental. This hurt more than it helped, as he took more attacks from everyone. The life cleric mass-cured everyone for 19hp each, and the Paladin Hasted himself and headed over to get towards the fight.

The (zealot) barbarian got right up in the dragon’s face and attacked him, doing damage. Tail slap for damage. Bite for damage. Claw for damage... down to 3hp. Crown of Stars zap to 0hp, DC 10 CON save and the barbarian is still at 1hp. Claw for damage to 0hp, CON save, barbarian is still at 1hp.

At this point, Bahadural was down to less than 150hp; his next legendary action was to use the wing attack/move half speed effect. Two of the three PCs next to him saved, and he took about 65 points of damage from OAs provoked by the movement. At this point, he was really low, and I was going to have him completely fly away... but the paladin, hasted, used his move action and hasted action to move and dash up the tree next to him, then try to jump on the dragon’s back. He’s jumping upwards while climbing to land on a dragon – Athletics DC 20 – fail. “Ok, when I see that my jump isn’t working, I misty step.” Bonus action used.

What’s left? The regular full attack action...on a paladin. Smite. Dragon has 20hp left. “STOP!”

The party earned the sword after all.


Artifact, requires attunement

This +3 mithril short sword’s surface has a snake-scale pattern on the surface, and is tinged green. The crossguard is made from a pair of giant fangs, and the pommel is an emerald set in gold.

True Poison. When you strike a target, it takes 2d12 poison damage or acid damage, whichever it is less resistant or more vulnerable to.

Divinity Sense. While you hold the weapon, you are aware of the location and position of all deities and divine spellcasters within 120’. At a range of 30’ or less, your awareness becomes perfect, granting you Blindsense against such creatures and thus the ability to attack without being hindered by Blindness or Illusion-based defenses.

Godslayer. When making an attack with this weapon against a divine creature or spellcaster whose spells come from a deity, your critical hit range is increased by 2.

Mind Shield. The wielder benefits from the effects of a Mind Blank spell, becoming immune to psychic damage, charm & domination effects, divination spells, and anything that would sense its emotions or thoughts, even when cast with the power of a Wish spell.

Sentience. Ssword is a sentient lawful evil weapon with an Intelligence of 10, a Wisdom of 12, and a Charisma of 14. It has hearing and Darkvision out to a distance of 60’.

The weapon can speak, read, and understand all languages spoken within the region, and can telepathically communicate with its wielder in a sibilant, snake-like voice. Once per day, it can cast See Invisibility on itself and its wielder.

This weapon is the legacy of a last attempt to stop the Aaracokra, and he’s been guarding it. There’s more plot stuff associated with it, which hasn’t come up yet.

So guess who gets the short sword? The barbarian! He thinks the 2d12 will balance out the loss of Great Weapon Master and will let him hit more consistently. There are two other candidates in line in case he ends up not using it. Interestingly, the bonus attack from GWM (on a crit or kill) applies even if not wielding a big weapon.

Dmitri introduces himself to the sword as Kingslayer; in the discussion of killing gods and priests, the sword asks if he’ll do it intelligently. “More with noise and extreme violence and enthusiasm” is the answer.

We now introduce (via convenient timing and Sending) the new party member, a Goliath Hunter Ranger. Magic items of note are the +1 quiver just like the others got, a +2 Bow of the Woodlands (the staff but converted – and oops, free Pass Without Trace always), and the two Shark Panoply items so far. He also gets handed the Bracers of Archery by the artificer, and inherits the Mirrored Helm from the barbarian, who no longer needs it. At level 13 with Dex 20, Archery Fighting Style, and gear, he’s got +15 to hit and +10 to damage. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes Sharpshooter later.

The group heads back to their little buried bunker, enlarges it a bit, and decides what to do. After considering and dismissing the idea of going back to the “are you worthy?” wizard and rubbing in her face that they were, in fact, worthy, and look at the shiny sword...they decide to instead head north to check out the slightly more isolated Aaracokra city near the Cursed Forest. This is, in fact, the least-populated one, although they don’t realize it.

They don’t explore in transit, just moving.

Random encounter: Tendriculous; they see it first and avoid

Random encounter: Small rust monster nest; “I’m bored, let’s kill them.” They have no non-magical gear at this point. It’s an extremely one-sided stomp.

They continue traveling north, randomly not encountering the Tortle Ranger Vampire whose territory they pass through the edge of.

Random encounter: Bee tree (large) – oddly enough, not 10 minutes after a discussion of using beeswax to make carbon fiber.

Random encounter: Two swarms of bugs carrying a disease; the bugs fail to hit. They are immune to weapon damage, but 2d12 acid/poison damage is surprisingly effective, as is the paladin’s radiant damage + thunder axe. The artificer was also a bug-zapper for this.

Random encounter near their destination: Aaracokra patrol flying above the forest. There’s debate about what to do, and I end up setting a 2 minute timer for them to decide (the patrol is moving). Ultimately, they’re too close to the Aaracokra city and don’t want escapees to give away their position or existence. It was a hard choice.

I have not, at this point, fully statted out the city of Ueysetlotl, which is the home of the temple of Tezcatlipoca, which is where they are going. They don’t even know his name (didn’t ask/didn’t stop to ask Yuan-ti). Tezcatlipoca is the god of night, cold, and death/undeath. Hold the night bit in your head, it’ll be relevant soon.

They approach the map hex, which is mostly farms surrounding the village, garrison, and temple. After some discussion, the monk uses his Silver Raven figurine to do some aerial scouting to get the lay of the land and general locations (garrison 100-400, spots for 8-10 air-skiffs, temple away from city, etc.).

There’s a discussion here (not very serious) about plucking some Aaracokra, making disguises, and then “I’ll introduce myself as Aaroncokra.”

The artificer has Arcane Eye (max range 18,000ft/1 hr) and wants to get close.

For some reason, they feel like they have to capture a structure to do recon from, and decide to capture a farmhouse reasonably close to town. The party’s stealth (with Pass Without Trace) ranges from 18 to 40 so they of course manage to sneak close in the dark; most of the patrols, and the air-skiffs, are daytime events anyway.

They burst into the house; I have them roll initiative, and one of the commoners inside wins; the commoner goes, flips something around on the wall so that the mirror facing the wall now faces the room, and then surrenders. I rolled randomly and there were 2 adults and 2 kids in the house, all Aaracokra.

Inspired by some stuff I read including a short story, Tezcatlipoca is served by mirror-walking Shadow Cats (kind of similar to Shadow Fiends, but more dangerous) and has a general “mirror use” theme going on.

We have the only and biggest alignment discussion I’ve ever seen, lasting 10-15 minutes and relating to whether or not they will kill the captives. There were a couple of dares back and forth in character like “go ahead, stab me!”

Ultimately, they decide to not kill the captives. The LG paladin and life cleric probably would have stopped it anyway.

They discuss doing commerce-raiding, food-supply/supply chain disruptions, and being land pirates – no, privateers, as a king sent them on this mission.

The artificer sends in his Arcane Eye. I pretty much say “I haven’t gotten all of the details worked out, so just ask questions.” Garrison is verified at 200. He sends the eye into the temple and sees decorations of stars, big cats, lots of mirrors, and some undead. Then one of the shadow cats walks out of a mirror next to the invisible sensor and eats it.

It’s late, and I push for what the party is going to do. I have rolled while they weren’t paying attention, and after they got spotted in the mirror, they were scried. If they stayed put, 3 shadow cats would be moving towards them.

The current plan is they are going to try to raid the temple or town, and the monk (fast) is going to get hasted and then break off to start some fires in the fields elsewhere as a diversion. Since their presence is already somewhat known and shadow cats are en route, he’s probably going to have to fight one by himself between sessions. It’s CR 10 but best indoors and with allies, so he’ll likely win but get hurt badly.

They have decide to attack the temple of a god of night, cold, and death at night, in the darkness. It’s going to be pitch black inside and enemies are going to have advantage on a lot of things as a result. This is the one temple (of 5) in which a daytime attack is flat out always the best choice.

They’ll probably get in and out alive, but I’ll be surprised if they manage to kill the high priest and desecrate the altar. If they do, it’ll be a big accomplishment.

They’ll level up at the end of the overall encounter either way.

It was a fun and eventful session.

Session 6a: 3/6/21

At the end of last session, the monk decided to go start some fires as a diversion. He informed me earlier this week that he had a church commitment at the time of our next session, so I did a quick one-on-one with him to resolve what happens and why he’s not with the party when they hit the temple.

The party is approaching the temple from the southeast. They’re about 2 miles away (based on the distance required for Arcane Eye). At a normal travel time (25’ dwarf speed) they will get to the temple in about 45 minutes. After the mirror incident, 3 Shadow Cats were dispatched from the temple towards them, and are en route. Shadow Cats are CR 10 creatures, basically jaguars made of darkness, on-theme for Tezcatlipoca. They’re fast (50’), have 20 Dex, AC 19, a few minor immunities, and have 4d6 sneak attack, pack tactics, and a 30’ range version of the monk Shadow Step feature, plus the ability to travel via mirrors up to 500’ at a time. We started with 10 in the temple. They are substantial threats that can deal good damage, and can maneuver all over the temple basically at will due to the mirrors hanging there.

It is night time, probably around 9pm-11pm.

Knowing the monk player’s general plans, I pre-calculated everyone’s travel speeds to make things easier to track. Here’s what happened:

He started with 10 rounds of Haste from someone (Artificer?), and used that to dash ½ mile in 1 minute (Usain Bolt eat your heart out). He then spent the next 5 minutes running west to cover the next mile, putting him approximately due south of town. 6 minutes elapsed.

We had a short discussion of corn growing height, and I rolled to determine wind speed and direction. Ratel the monk then peeled off some dead corn leaves, made a pile, shortened a candle and put it next to the pile so it’d burn for only about 10 minutes before the fire reached the pile... then used one of his pints of oil to soak a 50’ rope and the pile, and strung the rope along the top of the corn for 50’. Candle was lit at 21 minutes elapsed time, triggering the fire at 31 minutes.

The Aaracokra garrison has a few soldiers fly around at night on patrol over the village, and they have some torches along the walls to make it easy to spot the movement of anyone or anything sneaking in, despite lacking Darkvision. Flying 50-150’ up, at night, how long does it take to spot a 50’ line of fire to the south, possibly with some trees in the way? Not long. Roll 1d4, 3. Fire spotted at 34 minutes. At a fly speed of 1000’/minute, it takes about 8 minutes to reach 1.5 miles south of town... so the very first soldier arrives at the first fire at minute 42... after a 50’ long strip of corn has been burning and spreading fire for 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, the monk runs west one mile, and starts setting up another one, which he ignites immediately at 39 minutes. This one is spotted 1 minute later, but with the greater distance, no Aaracokra can reach it until 50 minutes elapsed.

The Aaracokra don’t have Darkvision, and don’t carry signaling gear (lamps, etc.?) for long-distance signaling at night. Dancing Lights or Light works, but the first responders are generally the guys lower in the power structure who aren’t likely to be casters. They have two fires that are turning into major grass/corn fires, and a round-trip messenger time of 10 minutes and 16 minutes respectively. It’s going to take a lot of time and manpower to get blankets or buckets down there to try to contain the fires. Scrying has a casting time of 10 minutes, so it’s not great for emergency dispatching.

By 55 minutes in, the garrison is all wide awake, and the temple has been notified. They’re starting to move out to contain the fire, and everyone’s on alert. The temple sends 3 more shadow cats out to hunt, heading towards the western end of the western fire (at this point, regional scrying or mirror communication lets them figure out roughly where things are happening faster).

The cats arrive at the western fire area at 63 minutes in (travel speed is 100’ dash + 30’ shadow step per round). I roll perception checks and one of them spots the monk’s tracks. He wasn’t trying to be sneaky, and dashing through cornfields leaves tracks and sign. The shadow cats are somewhat lone operators, so only one pursues him. The others look around for other clues and are out of the picture for now.

Ratel, meanwhile, has moved west 5 miles, watches for aerial enemies, and then ignites a 3rd fire at 77 minutes. He’s now used up all 3 pints of oil.

He heads northwest into the edge of the adjacent hex, which is light jungle, and climbs a tree there. The shadow cat isn’t dashing, and arrives at about minute 95 (I gave it some pauses for tracking). The monk moves tree-to-tree as soon as he spots motion to try to get away (Acrobatics DC 15, 4 successes). It finds his tracks at the base of the first tree and searches...and with a 29 on its Perception score, it does beat his 19 on Hide, but with layers of tree limbs and stuff in the way, it takes time. He barely beats its stealth roll, and hears it coming up the tree he’s in. Instead of shooting at it with his longbow, he jumps 30’ down to land on a branch right next to it, dealing 3d6 damage, dex save half, in a 10’ radius thanks to his Skyfall boots. This doesn’t hurt the cat much, but does break the tree branch. He then falls the remaining 10’ to the ground, taking no damage from either fall due to the boots.

Cue initiative.

The cat shadow steps next to Ratel, biting for 24 damage (getting sneak attack due to advantage), but missing with a claw swipe. He can now see that it’s an unnaturally dark jaguar, seeming to drink in the light around it; there are only a few motes of light on its coat, like from distant, dying stars. Also, it’s trying to eat him. He counters with two swings of his flail and two kicks, connecting with one of each for a total of 26 damage.

The shadow cat then blinks out of sight, reappearing 30’ away and immediately charging him from behind. It hits with its claw attack (advantage/sneak attack), dealing 24 damage, and knocking him prone when he fails a save. It almost bites his leg, but misses. He stands up and counterstrikes, landing one flail strike and one punch for a total of 26 damage. The flail’s paralysis ability triggers, but the shadow cat saves.

On round 3, the shadow cat does the blink/charge thing again, hitting with both claw and bite for 27 damage; Ratel is able to keep on his feet this time, and then counters with two solid flail blows and one unarmed strikes, dealing a total of 46 damage. The shadow cat is now at 26/130hp, and Ratel is barely bloodied. The cat shadow steps away, and then dashes 100’.

With the hunt time involved, we are now at about 2 hours since the party split. It will take 24 more minutes for the badly injured shadow cat to arrive back at the temple... which the party will reach 45-1 hour of elapsed time in – so the cat is now totally irrelevant unless the party delays.

Ratel uses tree-to-tree movement to travel south for a while, trying to leave no tracks, and takes a short rest.

Here’s how this impacts the next session:

10 shadow cats at temple to start with; 3 dispatched toward party's captured house

-3 dispatched towards fire; 1 tracked Ratel

-2 more dispatched to western fire (I actually think I forgot to roll tracking for them, but they are not at the temple either way).

= net 2 Shadow Cats at temple, plus 3 more that may run into party.

Garrison and civilians are completely distracted with three fires to fight out of town.

Subtract 2 guards from prison/jailhouse.

Temple is on alert and will respond quickly. Priests who would previously have been in their rooms on "asleep" status are instead missing from temple, dispatched to fire and issues. The village is there to support the garrison and temple, so the priests aren’t just going to ignore a fire. This removes 4 acolytes and a senior priest from the battlefield.

I’m also going to rejigger enemy placements in the temple to reflect the alert status. They’ll collapse in on the party more quickly, making for a sharper fight.

Session 7: 3/27/21

Not attending: The ranger and the barbarian.

The previous session was cancelled due to a lot of people being busy – I didn’t want to run a 3-person party for this.

The monk’s player was here, and I gave him the option to go ahead and level up to 14 now and pretend that his one-on-one session didn’t happen; he and the group decided to use Sending (the cleric apparently did have it prepared) to coordinate meeting up. The party (paladin, cleric, artificer) fort up in the farmhouse to pass time. 15 minutes later, 2 Shadow Cats arrive. I had originally planned for 3, but cut to 2 due to party size. These were dispatched by the temple to check out the weird mirror activity (last session) and traveled in a straight line; had the party left, they may have not encountered them, depending on their course.

The artificer is on the roof and has 60’ darkvision. The other two are inside. The artificer barely makes the perception check to see the one of the Shadow Cats. Initiative is rolled, and he has a Shadow Cat next to him pretty suddenly – 50’ move + 30’ Shadow Step. The Shadow Cat has advantage on its next attack after Shadow Stepping, rolls well, and hits with both attacks including 4d6 sneak damage on one and 2d6 necrotic or cold (bite/claw). The Paladin Misty Steps up to the roof, misses with one attack and hits with the other, and then the other Shadow Cat “bamfs” next to him and does something similar. The cleric, down below, does not have any vertical mobility options. She casts Toll the Dead, but her target saves. There’s another round or so of attacks, and the artificer gets knocked down to 20 or 30hp (from max/total of 99). The farmhouse is 30’x30’, and there’s not room for the Shadow Cats to teleport, do a 20’ charge, and get the knockdown opportunity, but that’s okay.

The artificer uses the Stopwatch to activate Time Stop for 3 rounds, and uses the time to fly down into the farmhouse next to the cleric and cast Cure Wounds on himself 3 times. The Shadow Cat hunting him Shadow Steps next to him and attacks both the artificer and cleric. The other cat takes more hits from the Paladin including a smite or two, and ends up Shadow Stepping and dashing away with 15 hp left. The Paladin drops down into the building through the roof door (taking minor fall damage) to attack the remaining Shadow Cat. The artificer decides to fly up to try to spot and shoot the runner, eating a Natural 20 OA for 30-something damage and then not having the movement to get the black shadowy cat on a moonless night into Darkvision range.

The other shadow cat tries to escape the next round, but pursuit and Magic Missile does take off its remaining hit points.

Between Misty Step, smites, and healing, the party spent more than 10 spell slots on this encounter. I subtly reminded them that this was a scouting party.

The party leaves, with the cleric using Pass Without Trace (she has this as a result of stuff in Castle Dracula). They circle around to the north to meet up with the monk, noticing some fires off to the south of town in the process.

After some discussion, they decide that they do not have the levels and gear to take on the temple at this time. They short rest, and travel east into the Cursed Forest area, congratulating themselves on at least inconveniencing the Aaracokra. The Cursed Forest has lots of thick briars and brambles and is 100% difficult terrain. The party has already been adventuring for 4+ hours, and crossing the 12-mile difficult terrain hex will take 8 hours. They long rest.

This hex is a bit unusual, in that instead of “stuff to find” it is “after 2d6 hours, a group of Yuan-ti zombie assassins will attack the group, acting in coordination under Tezcatlipoca’s direction.” These are CR 8 assassins who deal 1d6+4 piercing + 1d6 cold + 5d6 poison damage (Con DC 15 half) + 4d6 sneak damage, with Assassinate, 2 attacks per round, and advantage on Initiative checks.

The monk is on watch and does not roll well on his Perception checks. Everyone is sleeping with their armor off. The monk gets to go (attacking one out of 5 zombie assassins), and then all of the assassins go next. A couple can’t reach the party in melee due to terrain, but others do. The cleric eats two crits, but her dwarven advantage on save vs poison + resistance cuts the 10d6 poison damage (I don’t double the poison damage on a crit; it’s 5d6 per hit) down to a manageable size. The paladin has no such resistance and takes 90-something damage.

This is the cleric’s first time taking a critical hit; since the very first Castle Dracula session (3rd level) she’s been wearing an Adamantine Breastplate.

The artificer wakes up, stands from prone, does the Iron Man 2 thing where his armor unfolds around him, then uses his action to grab the badly damaged cleric and haul her off the ground to a 15’ altitude with him. It was pretty neat.

The paladin, meanwhile, has about AC 13 or 14. He gets knocked to 0 and killed, then revivified, then knocked to 0 and nearly killed again. The monk stands over his 0-hp body (I decide this negates the advantage on melee attacks vs prone) and draws some of the fire. The party prevails, but the paladin now has two levels of exhaustion.

They discuss taking the yuan-ti bodies back to the yuan-ti for burial. A religion check informs them that hauling around bodies animated by an abnormally powerful (divine) process could be risky in terms of tracking, so they decide not to.

Long rests can be interrupted for only 1 hour, so they move 1 ½ miles away (the Paladin summons a Griffon to ride since his speed is halved). The monk, who has had 4 hours of elven trance already, keeps watch. It’s now daytime!

Two Aaracokra patrols pass overhead but don’t see them (50’ high creepy jungle trees mean they needed about a 21 to spot the party…close, but not quite). I ran this as “4d6 per hour, on a 1, there’s an Aaracokra patrol.” There’s an active search out for them.

They move on to the east into the next hex, and very quickly (4 hours) find an old abandoned tower (40’ diameter/30’ wide/2 floors) full of phase spiders. The artificer has been looking for something capable of shifting to the ethereal plane or casting plane shift since about the 2nd session to finish his extradimensional crafting workshop – he was happy to see these. With a Gem of True Seeing, Magic Missile, Spiritual Weapon (the cleric can’t see the target so she attacked with disadvantage, but it’s still force damage), and the paladin and monk being willing to invite attacks, they clean out the 8 Phase Spiders pretty quickly.

The party finds an old tablet; the paladin speaks and reads Celestial, so they could interpret them; it’s a short rhyme that is intended as a hint about what Huitzopochitl is doing.

The God-Form devoured the lifeblood of foes,

Gathering unto himself the small powers of those,

Until he shall appear here,

Filling our enemies with fear,

Giving us his power,

Our enemies to devour.

They are contemplating turning this old tower into a secondary base-type area. I’m not quite sure what they will do next.

The party has accumulated about the right amount of XP to level. They have successfully encountered one of the 5 main Aaracokra towns/temples, done some damage, and lived to tell the tale. Everyone levels to 14.

Attacking the temple now could have been a TPK, especially with 1/3 of the party missing. They made the right choice.

There was a lot of spiderweb from Phase Spiders left over. I have been asked about its use in crafting.


Session 8: 4/11/21

The ranger and barbarian’s players couldn’t make it again.

The party decided to do a bit of fortifying on the old tower they found, using Stone Shape to close the roof hole and to (by gathering more rock) make a nice solid door for it. They explore the runes on the outer walls, and determine that they created an Unhallow effect with the Tongues benefit for any inside it. It could be reactivated, but they elect not to spend the time doing so. There’s a good bit of discussion, and the party heads due south and then slightly east. They travel for 3 days to reach their buried base in an abandoned fort. The dice are very in their favor with zero random encounters.

While the artificer, Malamir, works on his pocket-plane workshop door, the monk (Ratel) and paladin (Teador, on griffonback) decide to explore the hex. There’s nothing else of specific interest here, but they are poking around, so I roll a couple of random encounter options. They spot some wyverns flying above the jungle and pop up to shoot at them. The wyverns attack, thinking they have easy prey at first. A round and a half later, one wyvern is dead and the other two flee. A very successful Nature check roll helps them butcher it, salvaging the hide, the skull, and the stinger. The monk later gets (roll) 8 doses of wyvern poison (7d6, Con DC 15 half) and pre-applies them to some arrows.

The group then travels southwest a couple of days (still with no 1s on the random encounter d6s) to reach a Yuan-ti village they had previously visited (hex 12.12). The monk gets his new clothes, sells the wyvern hide, and gets the skull boiled clean while there.

There’s a good bit of discussion and debate I’m skipping here, but they eventually elect to not show off Ssword to the Yuan-ti. They do ask questions, and get a short summary of each of the 5 Aaracokra gods, their city names, and what each god is generally about (domains/alignment) and the general activity known about their city/area. This includes typical garrison sizes (200, or 2000 for the capital city). They decide that they will need some allies to fight the Aaracokra due to the size of the enemy military involved; I do have a method for tracking combat power deployed to a fight and tell them so.

They decide (using knowledge from the absent Goliath ranger Helwyn) to go visit the giants in the southwest corner of the map, exploring along the way. They go one hex south and start searching it. I finally roll a random encounter, and it’s the toughest Aaracokra patrol (1 wizard, 2 clerics, 4 champions, 2 mid-rankers).

They hear or spot the patrol passing overhead. The monk dashes up a tree to see what it is, and tries to stealthily see from the top of the jungle canopy. He rolls a 23 or 24 for stealth. The Aaracokra roll a 16 and 17 on the perception dice, and the average perception score for most of them was +8…so they see him. Roll initiative.

This fight took the rest of the session and lasted for about 7 rounds.

Ratel wins initative and burns some ki points to put two arrows into the enemy wizard (closest one/front of the air-skiff), dealing about 60% of the wizard’s HP in damage. That wizard goes Greater Invisible on his turn, and stays that way (moving around) until nearly the end of the battle. Nobody tries to track or target him.

Reybella (cleric) tries out her new spell (Firestorm) and deals 35 or 17 damage to 5 or 6 enemies, as well as blowing out the heart/power box on the air-skiff. I thought they’d try to capture it for mobility, but nope. Boom.

The enemy senior cleric opens up with Dawn, but since you have to end your turn in it for it to take effect, it’s pretty worthless.

We mis-read the Boots of Speed and think they give disadvantage on all attacks. Combined with the Artificer’s AC 24, he’s nearly un-hittable despite being the focus of a lot of attention at first. Magic Missile, Harm, Blight, and a Sacred Flame do connect over time.

The paladin and cleric are riding the paladin’s summoned griffon. It works pretty well, up until the Aaracokra start targeting it after a round or two of failing to hit the paladin’s AC 22. They do eat a couple of rounds of Spiritual Guardian damage in the process.

One of the enemy priests casts Cure Mass Wounds twice, as well as Cure Wounds once (on the wizard). Healing 5 enemies for ~22hp each is a pretty big battle-extender, especially when the party lacks AOE damage. This makes him enemy numero uno for the party.

The artificer, boosted by Haste and Boots of Speed, comes up with a combo plan with the monk (who has boots that give immunity to fall damage, and a high speed). The monk runs up a tree. The artificer picks him up, then flies up 100’+ (I don’t recall the exact number), then uses the monk as an improvised weapon to attack the enemy priest that’s done most of the healing. On a hit, the enemy takes fall damage, and the monk gets to take one attack. On a near miss, the monk can make a dexterity save to re-aim himself (this happens once, successfully). The first time it was 9d6 damage; the second time, the artificer went higher and it was 15d6 damage, plus some AOE damage from the boots. The monk then fell another 70’ to the ground, landing next to and damaging the cleric who had been grounded when the griffon was killed (oops!).

The wizard eventually drops his invisibility in round 5 or round 6 and hits the artificer (very high up, >200’ above the party) with Bigby’s Grappling Hand. Over two rounds, this drops the artificer to 1hp. The two weakest Aaracokra attack him while he’s grappled, but still fail to hit his AC 24. The remaining enemy priest says to just take one for sacrifices, and they start to fly away. The monk makes two shots at disadvantage, popping the priest’s death ward and then killing it with the follow-up. The artificer gets reduced to 0 by magic missile after being squeezed, but he’s a half-orc, so he stays at 1hp. On his turn, he manages to use his action to escape from the hand. He’s still Hasted (never failed a Concentration save), and uses his move and hasted action to dash/fly towards the ground super-fast.

One enemy wizard and two enemy warriors escaped.

The cleric went down to about 20hp at one point, but the paladin and monk didn’t take much damage from what I can recall. The monk completely negated a critical-hit javelin with Deflect Arrows, then threw it back at the enemy and did 13 damage… and he spent a lot of time under the jungle canopy and thus mostly out of sight.

One of the enemies was carrying a potion of Supreme Healing, but used it during the fight. The party did acquire a new magical spear from one of the enemy champions:

Skirmisher’s Spear

Very rare, requires attunement

The wielder of this +3 spear’s speed is increased by 10 ft. If the wielder moves more than ½ his move speed during his turn, he may make an attack against an enemy as a Bonus Action during that move.

The monk wants it to make his speed even higher. I need to look up retraining rules to let him drop his trident kensei weapon (which he hasn’t used in 4 levels) for something else.

The party chooses to head southeast into some mountains and long-rests, knowing that they have probably earned some specific enemy attention. This is their second run-in with a patrol in this area of the map with escapees, plus some of them were seen during the attacks they did around Tezcatlipoca’s temple.

I’ll have to figure out enemy reactions between sessions. There will definitely be some heavy patrolling and reinforced search parties for them. The wizard in particular can shed light on what does and doesn’t work on them. The party succeeded on saves vs blindness (once) hold person (twice) and a few other things during the fight. Lower-CR enemies are still a threat, but DC 12 or DC 14 is fairly easy for most of them to make (monk, paladin, artificer all have or grant save bonuses).

Session 9: 4/24/2021

Our ranger player has dropped out due to the traveling/distance involved.

The cleric’s player could not make it tonight, leaving us with the barbarian, artificer, paladin, and monk.

The group decides to go ahead and detail-search the hex they are in (low mountains). They spend two days on it, nearly hitting the target # at the end of day 3, so I shift the encounter to happening at night. The Paladin (highest on the random Perception roll) spots some lights in the near distance that he can identify as Dancing Lights. The party decides to investigate. As they head up-slope, a few crossbow bolts miss them, but their foes stay well-hidden. They call out in various languages, but get no response. Ultimately, they get closer to discover that they are fighting against four drow warriors (the CR 5 kind from the MM). The only real danger comes from a lucky Faerie Fire hitting the artificer, who decides to come down to the ground anyway to try to disarm the drow. Thanks to the advantage, they land several hits, but thanks to his poison resistance, the damage is ultimately minimal.

Once the paladin and barbarian make their way up the difficult terrain, the fight is essentially over; the barbarian uses his thrown greataxe a couple of times, and then finally closes to melee, where he crits for 70-something damage against an undamaged 71 hp drow warrior.

They enter the cave that the lights had been in, kill the last drow (who was shooting up a vertical chimney in the cave), and end up meeting a pair of Triton warlocks who follow Oztalun, an elder aboleth who is one of the regional powers. After some discussion, the warlocks offer to take them to meet their Master (although without discussing who or what it is).

They travel across 2 hexes, then are shown an entry in an abandoned-looking stone hut located in a distinctive tree grove atop a hill.

From there, it’s a ladder, a mile-long tunnel, stairs, and a 3 hour walk in a big cavern with some guard posts and mushroom farms to another stairway, which goes down another 400’ or so to a crafting village centered around a lake. This is just one part of Oztalun’s lair, which is a large underground complex that stretches for dozens of miles and would be a nightmare to take against a telepathically-coordinated defense team capable of using levitation at will to navigate all the vertical terrain.

The party talks to the aboleth who meets them, Ekchuah, about weapons and armor and building a coalition against the Aaracokra. Ekchuah is very interested in Ssword and offers to buy it [the aboleths are against all gods and would destroy it, as it’s a fragment of a dead god], but the party declines. The artificer starts talking about making a flying vessel, and Ekchuah demurs in favor of having them make an appointment with Acat, another aboleth, who shows up the next day.

Acat gives me an opportunity to use knowledge of all the existing spells and items in the game when discussing options with them. After a lot of discussion, the party ultimately settles on Brooms of Flying as a cheap way to get flight for everyone – one that can be set up quickly. Uncommon = 500gp, crafting cost = 250, artificer half cost = 125gp; crafting speed 50gp/week on magic items… but all the Warlocks can cast Levitate at will, and there’s plenty of help around, so I call it 5 days for 5 brooms.

The party also gets better information about who’s where on the map, including learning about the Scorpionfolk and the possible old Aaracokra stomping grounds, and the existence of the Death Knight’s Tomb near the cursed forest – although not what that dungeon is.

There’s a moderate-length discussion about AC-improving items, so one of the Tritons mentions that they’ve had some contact with someone who claims to be able to improve and toughen bodies – a Fleshcrafter.

The party decides to head for him, so after spending a full 7 days underground in the (warded) lair), they head southwest on their brooms.

They start searching the next hex southwest, because they have figured out that searching is what led them to find out about the aboleth and a lot of good information and another regional power.

I roll a random encounter, and it’s the weakest possible Aaracokra patrol. There’s not much to hide behind, and their stealth checks were middling, so they get spotted. At this point, the party is pretty distinctive, as it includes the only dwarf for a few hundred miles and a flying iron man suit. They have been encountered multiple times, including by a wizard based out of the nearest city, and are known to be dangerous to the Aaracokra.

This patrol shadows them at about a quarter-mile distance. When the party splits, the patrol splits, using their speed advantage over the Brooms of Flying to keep at a distance. The monk goes northwest while the rest of the party goes southwest. After about an hour (3 miles each way) of distance passes, the group decides to pincer them. They coordinate via Sending, and herd the southwest group of followers north. A hasted griffin dashing moves 480’ per round all out, and so can reach them in about 3 rounds. The monk drops from above on one of them, and then they run down the other two from the split group – but by this time, they’ ve already sighted another Aaracokra patrol to the west.

They decide to head for the nearest jungle hex, which happens to be the one Bahadural the dragon lairs in … but he is cautious, and will only intervene if they use Sending to ask him to or something.

The air-skiffs withdraw as the end of the day nears, but most of the Aaracokra remain until replaced by fresh troops – always staying far from the party.

The party flies under the jungle cover, takes a short rest, and then does a forced march flight for about 3 hours, before, saddle-sore, taking a long rest. This means they won’t be done resting until after sun-up.

At this point, they are prime targets for a Scry’N’Die, except that the Aaracokra spellcasters are mostly clerical… so getting there will be more complex for them. I’ll have to look at options, but I think it may involve two high-level priests and Plane Shift. The Aaracokra could just fly in, but Scrying doesn’t reveal a large enough area to be great for navigation unless there are major landmarks around. It’ll be a caster-heavy strike force, as the non-caster Aaracokra have demonstrated that they struggle to hit… and they’ll show up buffed.

I have a couple of weeks to figure out what happens. If the enemy mis-jumps and/or arrives with only half their force, it’ll be funny (I’ll roll if they use Teleport and whatever happens, happens). If they arrive in full force, maybe they’ll kill some PCs or capture some, setting up for a prison-break-in-transit or something. We’ll see.

Session 10: 5/8/2021

I pre-rolled to see if anyone would fail the Wisdom save against Scrying the next morning (someone did). I set up a strike force of 2 Champions with +1 Lances, 2 War Priests (melee) with macahuitls that do +1d8 damage (so their total hit is like 3d8+5) and who start with Spirit Guardians up, 2 Senior Priests with 15th-level clerical casting, and 2 Wizards with spells up to 5th level. They used Transport Via Plants (the nearest Aaracokra city is the nature/earth deity) and came in flying, except for the War Priests. One of the Senior Priests opened up with Earthquake, creating several major rifts (nobody fell in) and knocking people prone.

The fight was over in about 3 rounds, with the exception of one fleeing Champion who got chased down via hasted griffin. CR 5-7 opponents with +7 to +9 to hit can’t connect often enough to be a threat to most of the party.

Ssword came into play for the first time, critting two or three times in conjunction with the Zealot Barbarian damage. I think there was one hit for exactly 100hp and another for about 90. Senior Priests count for two points, so it has accumulated 5 points in dead enemy divine casters.

The monk spent his time in a tree (passing all saves to stay in the tree during the earthquake) and using some of his remaining wyvern poison arrows to do 30-50 damage per hit when he hit. The life cleric cast Firestorm and hit 5 or 6 enemies (all but one standing) for 39 damage, with about half of them failing their save. The Paladin did his thing with Smite, but also at one point cast Hold Person, incapacitating one of the highest-level priests and causing him to fall (fall damage & accessibility to melee). The Artificer with the Skirmisher’s Spear +3 (bonus action attack if you move at least half your speed) plus Gauntlets of Ogre Power is now a pretty decent melee damage-dealer. The party having Brooms of Flying sure helps them reach their targets, despite the speed.

Meanwhile, Harm, Blight, Bigby’s Hand, etc. didn’t connect reliably, and not many clerics can pass a DC 35 Concentration save.


Lance +1 x2

Macahuitl of Blood (+1d8 slashing) x2

Potion of Greater Healing x2 (the wizards even get a chance to chug these)

The party moves on and out to the next hex to the southwest, searching it and eventually encountering a cultivated area in the jungle and a yuan-ti patrol, who curtly tell them to move on and go away. They do.

I roll random encounters in the next hex for the next day and get 3 1s, so I roll a few times and combine. The party gets attacked by two Dread Blossom Swarms (adapted from 3.5) with a Tendriculous on the ground below their brooms. The paladin and barbarian’s radiant & acid damage are most of what kills the two swarms off (65hp but lots of resistances). The paladin is paralyzed but on griffinback. Several players take some nasty Constitution damage, including the barbarian (it all comes back on a short rest). The monk runs up a tree, then drops onto a branch to deal thunder/shockwave damage to one of the swarms. The branch of course breaks, and he hits the ground within the sensing radius of the Tendriculous.

Next round, it attacks 3 times, critting on one hit, for a total of 99 damage. The round after that, he gets swallowed – but only after the cleric heals him for 40-something HP. The barbarian charges in and gets grappled, but never gets swallowed. The rest of the party stays at range, pelting the 280-something HP plant creature with Acid Splash (artificer), Toll the Dead (cleric), and Chill Touch (paladin). The creature goes down with the monk still having 10-20 hit points.

This combined encounter ended up as more of a threat than the Scry & Transport Via Plants force did, in terms of HP loss and potential for causing a PC death!

Proceeding south in search of the Fleshcrafter, the party finds a group of scarecrows standing in a crudely-hacked out meadow. They investigate, spotting a couple of dead rabbits that don’t appear to have been eaten. The monk spends a couple of hours hunting, eventually catching a live chicken. He flies far overhead and drops the chicken to see what happens. It dies on impact (1hp, 600’ fall, chicken rolled poorly to fly). The paladin starts to ride his griffin down, but it gets a bad feeling (Wis save barely passed) and suggests they not.

After some debate, the party moves on. They end up encountering 3 unicorns and 2 dryads, and having a chat. The area has felt scary since a few days ago, after some sprites reported freeing some straw people, but they don’t know anything specific about it. They mention some druids to the west. The artificer asks “Got any” and the paladin’s player jumps in with “Grapes?” and everyone lost it for a bit. There was a bit more conversation, but I don’t recall anything super-important.

Long rest, end of session. The party is now using Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum to block scrying while they sleep.

Session 11: 5/29/2021

Absent: Dmitri the Paladin, Reybella the Cleric. Party is temporarily dwarfless.

The party heads south into the next hex, where they automatically find a giant (2 mile diameter) area of cornfields. The perimeter is guarded by groups of scarecrows, but there are some cleared paths to “something” at the middle. Two of the three walk down the cleared path. Teador the Paladin flies his broom over the cornfield (having told his griffon to circle around outside and stay out of sight)… scarecrows head towards him, and he joins the others on the path, at which point the scarecrows stop.

They reach a small compound encircled by a seamless 10’ high stone wall. A gate is half-open. They knock, and a Magic Mouth spell tells them to wait a bit. After a few minutes, Farlas Clerval, the fleshcrafter, comes out and waves them over to his parlor. Farlas is an eladrin elf with white hair in three braids (so the two eyes in the back of his head aren’t blocked) who wears a rust-red (dried blood color) lab coat and a large surgical knife at his belt.

He has a homunculus bring them cookies, and lemonade fortified with corn whiskey. After a short discussion, the party gets the menu of available enhancements. He’s missing parts for the ones they’re most interested in, which are adamantine bone plating (immunity to crits) and a troll heart (regenerate 2hp/rd). Major operations also require substantial downtime to recover, and the troll heart implantation requires two surgical assistants, one of whom must be able to cast Heal twice per day, and a Constitution save at the end to not die.

Ratel the monk ultimately opts for two enhancements (at a cost of 8 hours of surgery @ 500gp/hr, plus 2 days recovery time):

Extra thumbsYou grow a second thumb on each hand, located adjacent to your pinky finger. You have advantage on all checks related to avoiding being disarmed or dropping something, and a +2 bonus on any checks related to climbing. Most gloves require modification to fit.
Poison jet sacsYou get a small, greenish sac implanted on the underside of one or both wrists. Each sac can be used once per day to squirt a 5'x20' line of poison dealing 1d6 poison damage per point of Constitution modifier, with a dexterity save for half damage (DC 8+Proficiency+Con). Alternatively each sac can be used twice per day as an object interaction to coat a weapon or piece of ammunition with poison dealing the same amount of damage.

The party during this time explores the compound a bit, seeing the semi-automated (scarecrow+homunculus) corn processing and distillery. A lot of the alcohol is used for powering the giant walk-in cooler area (they didn’t see details on it), but Farlas also drinks a LOT. Nobody seemed to bothered by the surgeon drinking on the job as he didn’t seem to act drunk…

From there, they head west towards giantish territory. They search the jungle along the way and find a crystalline greatsword embedded in a stone. There are 5 bowl-like depressions on the top of the stone, and writing – but all of the writing is in Sylvan or Druid. Nobody reads either of those languages, and nobody has Comprehend Languages on their spell list. Malamir the artificer copies down the writing. They try to pull the sword out, but nothing happens. Malamir does cast Identify on it, discovering that it’s a+3 greatsword that can be used as a reaction to try to block a single-target spell with a Dexterity save; on a successful save, the sword absorbs the spell and casts it into the next target hit within 1 hour.

Without the ability to read what’s written, no progress is made, but they’ll probably come back to it later.

Heading west into the mountains, they then find some bonfire stacks of wood like old signal beacons (think LOTR). In the next hex west, they encounter a herd of about 20 horse-sized goats. Ratel wants to try to get one, but when they land, the goats charge at them with bloody sharp teeth. The party decides that fighting about 20 horse-sized goats with big sharp teeth is probably a bad idea, and flies away from the Eater Goat herd. There is discussion about getting the goats to chase them towards the Aaracokra cities, or maybe capturing and air-dropping them…

Eventually, they find an abandoned giantish city with lots of collapsed tunnels. They explore, and explore, and get attacked by a purple worm. Malamir is swallowed, but the worm is killed. The monster manual specifies that purple worms usually have gems and gold in their gullet, so I roll and they get about 750gp (don’t recall exact amount), and they take the stinger. Nearly everyone is resistant or immune to poison, so the purple worm poison doesn’t ever land as hard as it should.

They long rest and then explore much of the rest of the city, eventually spotting some light through a pile of rubble. One Stone Shape from the cleric (who’s character is present when convenient when she’s out) and they end up finding a library that’s still partially intact and lit by Continual Flame. They search it, and roll near max on wizard scroll counts, finding: 2 9th level scrolls, 3 8th level scrolls, 2 7th level scrolls, and a Pearl of Power. I rolled on the wizard list and they got:

Finger of Death

Delayed Blast Fireball

Horrid Wilting




Psychic Scream

They were not stealthy when searching through the scrolls, tablets, and metal plates… so on their way out, two purple worms attacked them. Again, the party buzzsawed through them. Purple Worms aren’t very smart. One was close to getting away, so Teador used Banishment on it (DC 18 Cha save vs d20-3) to keep it from running away while they dealt with the other worm. Boom, 2 worms dead, about 1500 more gold and 2 more stingers.

They exit the abandoned city and we ended there.

The 3 purple worms were technically 39000xp (CR 15), which is over 1/4th of what the party needs to go from 14 to 15. They are pretty close to leveling by XP total. I think the PWs are a bit over-CR’d, as all they have going for them is big numbers, and the numbers are dependent on landing poison, swallowing enemies, or being able to retreat into the stone without getting hit by 3 OAs including one from someone who has Sentinel and can shut down retreating.

They won’t get to level until they accomplish something substantially relevant to the plot. It may be a few more sessions.

I am now at the point on the calendar where we’re due for an Enemy Action. I’ll probably have the Aaracokra find and attack one of the hidden yuan-ti cities that the party has visited, so that when they go back for a visit they find ashes and ruins. The enemy gets a vote, and it needs to be something the party can see.

Between session enemy action: The Aaracokra village in 12.12 is found and attacked. (d100) 80% of the population is killed. The remaining 20% escape. This is the village that the party visited and bought clothes at.

Assuming 2-1 losses, the Aaracokra lose 10 war power (about 30-40 troops) non-recoverable casualties.

If the party goes to that hex, they’ll find the village a bunch of burnt ruins with scattered bones and broken javelins. Useful items will have generally been looted.

Session 12: 6/12/2021

Dmitri the Barbarian’s player could not make it. Teador the Paladin’s player was late due to fighting Strahd in another campaign (the fight will be finished next session and 1 PC is dead, but it sounds like they’ll win).

The giant-inhabited mountains are somewhat safer, with random encounters being triggered on a roll of 1 on a d8 every 2 hours. I rolled over 20d8 this session and got zero random encounters.

The party continues exploring to find the giants. They explore a couple of hexes and pretty quickly locate two more signal beacon firewood stacks in the mountains. After this, they locate a small large hunting camp (ha) containing 4 stone giants and about 10 goliaths. They land, chat, and learn some things about where some of the giant cities are located (mostly to the west), and some basics about how the giants are governed. Quoted from my faction info section:

“The giants are long-lived, and consequently risk-

averse, prone to considering all risks.

Instead of the Ordning, adult giants are divided into

twenty-six different Clans, based on what astrological

sign they were born under (13 lunar months), and

whether the moon was waning or waxing during that

time. Each Clan head is elected by members of his

clan within the specific area or enclave, and rules for

two weeks, with the counsel of those who rule

immediately before and after him. Thanks to the

caution and consideration practiced by the giants, this

is actually a stable form of government, as no ruler

will take actions that he believes will be overturned

after his yearly term is ended.”

The goliaths generally follow the giants’ lead and do things that require smaller eyes and hands. They haven’t had too many problems with the Aaracokra, and (this is developed over several NPC conversations) usually have battles mostly via missile fire – javelins from above vs. rocks and ballista bolts from below. The Aaracokra don’t tend to fare well in melee against goliaths and stone giants.

One of the hunters in the camp is attending an archery competition soon, and mentions it. Ka Fareye, a very old and legendary archer among the goliaths, is looking for someone very skilled to get his powerful longbow. Ratel, our kensei monk, is interested in this. The party travels with some of the goliaths (getting some of the info above) overland to a couple of hexes away, where the archery competition is.

There are 4 phases to the competition over 2 days. I had picked out 6 NPC contestants as noteworthy , and had pre-rolled their results:

Arxerx, Drow eldritch knight, hailing from the Rodanite village (12.09)

Enele, Goliath arcane archer

Ka’ena, Goliath Ranger (female)

Aolani, Goliath Bard (female)

Redleaf, Satyr archer (champion)

Harenda, Yuan-ti abomination

Here are the competitions:

Rapid Fire

At 150 feet, 5 targets are set up. Contestants have as many arrows as they need to strike the bullseye (AC 22) once per target. Scoring:
Starting point value: 20

-1 point per arrow fired

-1 point per round or partial round used to shoot

Highest point value places first.

Long Distance

3 Targets are set up at 550’ (long range). The bullseyes are not much larger (AC 22), but most shooters will have disadvantage due to the range. A DC 24 Perception check gives +2 to the attack roll. Each contestant gets 6 arrows.

1 point is awarded for each bullseye hit. Highest score places first.


Targets are set up at a range of 50’, 100’, and 150’, all benefiting from half cover (+5 AC). Targets are AC 20 + cover. Shooters with the Sharpshooter feat or other ways to negate cover do well on this one.

Each contestant gets 6 arrows.

1 point is awarded for each bullseye hit. Highest score places first.


A hardened target with a thin layer of iron is set up at a distance of 50 feet. The bullseyes are AC 20, but the targets have a hardness of 10. Any arrow which deals less than 10 damage will bounce off.

Each contestant gets three arrows.

1 point is awarded for each bullseye hit. Highest score places first.

During the competition, they talked to several NPCs. The Yuan-ti warned that the Aaracokra sacrifices seem to be gathering power for something. The party also caught a couple of shenanigans:

-Aolani, a Goliath Bard, had been vociferously insulting people and talking the whole time. She got caught in competition 2 or 3 using Cutting Words. Teador the Paladin took her aside, and he and Reybella the cleric set up dispel/counterspell to counter Aolani if they caught her doing it again.

-Arxerx, the drow eldritch knight from the Rodanite village, got caught by Teador’s celestial griffin sneaking to competitors’ tents and casting Dancing Lights to make them tired. Teador told him to stop, and checked to verify it was nothing more harmful. 3 competitors suffered -1s on their total scores the next day as a result of this.

Ratel ended up tying with Redleaf the Satyr champion in overall scoring. Contestants with the Sharpshooter feat did substantially better (of course), but his overall higher attack bonus and kensei extra damage ability helped out a lot with the Power competition, meaning he and Redleaf were the only two who even scored any points.

I had Redleaf (fey) ask what sort of bet or contest they should use to settle who was best. Ratel first proposed shooting at targets guarded by the other (deflect arrows), but the satyr didn’t go for this. Malamir the artificer then suggested moving targets. We ended up settling on an animated target (AC 26) at a distance of 150’ and 450’ (disadvantage), with the iron on it so it required at least 10 damage for an arrow to stick, scored like the Rapid Fire section.

There were then a lot of dice rolled. Ratel cleared the close range target quickly, but it took 11 arrows (IIRC) to score on the 2nd target because he was rolling with disadvantage. Redleaf could not use the Sharpshooter damage bonus against the target (+10 to hit becomes +5, vs. AC 26). Lots of arrows were blown on the short range shooting, and then he scored a critical hit during his action surged 6-arrow first round against the 450’ target. Final score: Ratel 6, Redleaf 7. It was pretty tense and close!

Redleaf got the Bow of the Quetzal +3, which gives 1 arrow per round a Chaos Bolt effect. Ratel was pretty happy with the runner-up prize, a Cragtop Bow +2. It doesn’t require attunement, and has double the normal range increments for a longbow. He’s talking about getting Sharpshooter at 16, shooting enemies from 1200’ away for lots of damage, and I think he’s pivoting from melee monk over to archer.

During discussions, they got the fey riddle on the stone translated:

Useless to the blind,
A drinker, a spiller,

Chains this crystal blade bind,

Until offering is made in kind.

Dryness of ocean,

Melting of rock,

Color of air,

Flow of clock,

Hair of the wielder,

Place to unlock.

Ka Fareye, the old goliath, also told them that he’s seen plenty of people say they would stop the Aaracokra or overthrow them, and they all fail. More than just words will be needed to get allies to take the risk of moving, and that the Aaracokra’s strength is their connection to their gods. Overthrowing their high temples would be a good start.

Ratel wants to hire Arxerx (the drow) to sneak up to Aaracokra ships at night and light them up with Faerie Fire for bombing, but the drow is wary of losing his home with the Rodanites.

A bunch of discussion ensues about high-altitude bombing, making alchemical grenades, returning boulders, etc.

After this, the party headed north and found another giant city. They get the book they found in the purple worm ruins (improvised last session as a giantish diary containing a reference to the library) turned in and find out what it is. Shopping-wise, they find someone who makes +1 steel armors, a sage who can cast Find the Path and record results for them, and a giant who makes +1 Returning Boulders…. That giant was put there over 6 months ago when I wrote this area up, and happened to show up less than 1 hour after boulder-bombing was discussed. Funny!

Session ended there. This is the first D&D session I’ve ever run that had zero combat.
Here’s a map of the party’s travels so far.
Map after session 12.jpg


Session 14: 7/24/2021

Player-facing recap:

Everyone made it!

The party decides to work on raiding/destroying the temple of Tezcatlipoca, which is halfway across the map, with Aaracokra territory in the way. They decide to thread the needle between a triangle of Aaracokra cities, searching along the way.

They find a shrine with a snake twisted around a pole in the middle of a suspiciously regular item. They rest there safely, find 3 healing potions, and Ssword likes it there.

Moving on, the group continues to head northeast, finding some kind of Aaracokra operation with a couple of big gashes in the ground and buildings around it. It is bypassed and the group continues on northeast. They find a damaged nest that apparently belonged to wasps the size of dogs at some point in the past. Ratel (monk), Teador (paladin), and Dmitri (barbarian) go down to investigate, while Reybella (cleric) and Malamir(artificer) stay in the air. Dmitri’s sense of divine creatures pings, and Reybella and Malamir’s perception checks let them pick up on the general presence of some invisible flying somethings. Five pretty agile Aaracokra Slayers, each dual-wielding short swords, attack; their invisibility drops on their first attack.

I have them split into two initiative blocks and roll dual 20s (= 26 total) so all 5 go before the party does. They do some substantial damage with 4 attacks per round, and have some elemental resistances.

After 2 rounds, a couple of higher level priests arrive, using Firestorm a couple of times, Harm, and then a few other spells that don’t land very well.

2 rounds later, a couple of mid-level priests also arrive.

The party ends up killing all enemies except two of the priests (one Word of Recalls out).

None of the PCs outright die, but it’s pretty close. Dmitri uses his barbarian features to avoid going down at 0hp, and a couple of the others get down to single digit HP. Reybella pumps out a lot of healing with mass cure spells, probably 80-100hp per PC over the course of the fight. That made a huge difference.

Ratel used Stunning Strike for the first time ever, stunlocking one of the slayers into oblivion.

There are a good number of critical hits on both sides of the fight.

Dmitri stabs enough slayers and priests to death to get Ssword a little bit of an upgrade, with its mental stats slightly improved and its telepathy now extended to a 30’ range.

At the end of the fight, the group loots the area and boogie on to the northeast.

The artificer leaves his homunculus bird behind to see what happens; the Aaracokra do come and clean up the area.

The party travels for the next half of the day with nothing happening, and settles down for a long rest the next hex over…but I tell them to not actually take/apply the rest yet.

Non-player facing recap:

“Let’s fly through the middle of enemy territory across trade routes investigating everything while on our slow magic brooms and being very distinctive!”

+1 point on Ssword’s development chart for bringing him to a shrine to Sseth.

The party found an Aaracokra gem mine, but bypassed it. At this point I rolled random encounters, and got a 1 (regular encounter) and for this hex a 2, which meant Aaracokra patrol. The regular encounter was just some air elementals. Since the party is not in an air-skiff, the elementals ignored them as they moved out of the elemental’s path.

The group is very distinctive (nobody else on the continent is rocking Iron Man armor and flying brooms), so I had the patrol just hang back at a distance/high altitude. I set a DC 20 Perception check to spot them, and nobody made it on their pre-rolled scores, or on the Perception check for searching the next hex…

This was an on-the-fly call, and I think the right one since they were within 30 miles of Aaracokra cities. With the distinctiveness and failure of a previous strike team, some of the elite Slayers get called in. They are CR 14 (AC 20/HP150, Multiattack +12 for 1d6+14, heal 1hp each time they damage an enemy, elemental resists, minor blessings from Aaracokra gods). They attack from invisibility. I have priestly backup with 2 senior priests arriving later (following at a distance to not be spotted) and then two more War Priests later.

The War Priests really should have been there first. The +2d8 on each attack from Holy Weapon would have been pretty big for the Slayers, since they get 3 attacks with their main weapon.

There is a very limited population of Slayers, so they will not make an appearance again for a while. This means the next deliberate attack on the party will probably need to rely on summoned creatures for melee/beatstick firepower. I’ll probably go with some sort of evil conjured creature(s).

From this, the Aaracokra should learn:

-One of the party keeps not showing up on divination or scrying (the dwarf, effect of Ssword)

-Casters aren’t enough; high-end melee isn’t enough

-Area of effect spells and debuffs tend to fail often (party has generally good saves)

-Larger numbers are needed – this is hard to run at the table. I still forgot to use the Warding Light (light cleric reaction) feature the senior priests have most of the time.

-The Aaracokra need a better way to split the party up or use less blunt-weapon tactics (long ranged attacks, wear them down, etc.). The Aaracokra approach to battle makes this hard for them.

At this point, the party’s location is still generally known. They rest at night (Aaracokra do not have Darkvision) using Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum. At this point, given the number of divinations that can be directed at the party (near 3 cities, several reported fights, etc.) it’s safe to say the Aaracokra know where they are and can locate their resting place. The sound & vision blocking of Sanctum works both ways.

I need to figure out a less “roll initiative” way for the Aaracokra to wear down the party. They have Weather Control, and I’m considering having them park near the party and use Weather Control to create “unbearable heat” conditions. I need to dig into this a bit more, but I think it could keep them from resting fully.

Another option is just to spam summons or fireballs or whatever into the Sanctum.

The Aaracokra will have a problem in that the monk’s Cragtop bow +2 has a super-long range, longer than most spells, so they can’t attack from full safety.

They also explicitly have Symbol on the spell list for senior priests, so they could set up several Symbols as a trap, and then attack from the far side of them.

There are also plenty of lower-level Aaracokra around. I may need to stat up a group or mob template to represent 4 or 6 soldiers flinging javelins en masse. The party will buzzsaw through them, but it’ll be faster at the table than a bunch of individual soldiers running around with lots of misses.

The party has no teleportation, no earth glide, and no faster mode of travel than the brooms of flying, so I need to set up something where they can be defeated and run away without being TPK’d, but where it’s still possible to lose a PC or two. Luckily, the Aaracokra are militant, angry, and are not a hyper-organized/optimized society, so it’s OK if I design a plan that’s not perfect for them.

Now that Ssword can talk to the group and is a bit more aware, he’ll probably tell them they need to work on ways to get around without being seen. I’m not sure what to have him suggest, as I don’t see any great options for this on the cleric, artificer, or paladin lists.


Session 15: 8/14/2021

Everyone was here. Happy Birthday Duncan!

The party starts taking their long rest, but after a little over an hour, it’s become unbearably hot, to the point where they can’t rest. It doesn’t take long to figure out that it’s Control Weather. They depart Mordenkainen’s Sanctum and travel a couple of hours east, but it’s still hot. Malamir the Artificer uses his Stone of True Seeing and spots a Scrying sensor. Teador the Paladin dispels it, but there’s no guarantee another scrying sensor isn’t there shortly after.

The party ends up turning back west to try to find whoever is casting the spell. They fly due west, arrayed over 1200’ in a north/south line (300’ spacing) on brooms, with the griffon, homunculus, and Silver Raven figurine extending the line. It’s about midnight, and they’re now on rocky terrain.

Suddenly, two glowing four-winged celestials flash into existence (randomly chosen in front of Dmitri, middle of the line), firing four arrows that all strike him for about 70 points of radiant damage.

The enemy forces are two senior priests (one concentrating on Control Weather), one scarred wizard (using the Magic Missile/Bigby’s Hand combo from before – they realize that he’s probably the one they killed before, but Raised from the dead), and two war priests, plus summoned Celestial Archers.

The party being spread out really hurts. Dmitri charges forward (but the brooms are slow) and is down to about 3hp before he gets into melee with the enemies. I had intended for the battle to happen in the middle of an area affected by Symbol:Death (10d10 necrotic/turn, Con save half) set up as a trap. However, I realized partway through the first round that Symbol’s exclusions only apply to triggering the spell, not to the effects. Since the Aarakocra wouldn’t stand in the area of effect, I had to move it further out. Ultimately, Dmitri was the only one who was harmed by it. Lesson learned.

Ratel the monk spent the whole battle closing distance while firing arrows at the big bright glowing summoned celestials. I think he popped 3 of the 4 (the war priests re-summoned them). They have good damage, but AC 16 and 40hp is pretty low for a 5th level slot.
Reybella, at the far right end of the line, spends the whole battle trying to get close enough to do anything. She doesn’t have any speed enhancers or mobility spells (life cleric).
Teador the Paladin used his last 4th-level slot to Dimension Door into the enemy group. Malamir spent a couple of rounds dashing with his winged (artificer suit) boots.

Dmitri stayed up at 0 hit points with multiple failed death saves (hits). Zealot barbarians with Rage Beyond Death are very very hard to actually put down. Hit point damage just flat doesn’t matter.

Ultimately, the Aarakocra Word of Recall out, with nobody dying on either side except some summons. Five Aarakocra casters have now encountered the party, fought them, and lived to analyze lessons learned for future battles.

The party moves an hour east and rests, figuring they can’t do anything to stop the scrying.

They then search the hex, and discover an old cart track and pile of boulders that looks like a deliberately blocked cave entrance. It turns out to be a 30’ high x 20’ wide (+-) mine shaft. They follow it a few hundred feet back before encountering some interesting mushrooms with holes on the side. Malamir decides to touch one, and the Shriekers shriek until destroyed.

This reveals a 30’ square shaft going 200’ down, blocked by a massive and extremely thick iron grate. Malamir uses Fabricate to create a hole, and the party drops down. There’s a Symbol: Fear at the bottom, but most of the group is within range of the Paladin’s aura and isn’t affected.

They systematically check hallways. The first hallway has some brown mold (DMG pg 105), and some giant scrap, plus 26 20lb bars of silver (100gp value each). The next hallway has a giantish corpse with some rot grubs. Around this time Dmitri realizes that he’s been wielding a short sword and could be using a shield. This saves him from getting bit by rot grubs (+0 to hit, rolled 19; he’d just changed AC from 18 to 20 by putting on his shield).
The grubs die swiftly, of course.

The next tunnel goes farther into the mountain, then down a long ramp, and around a corner to a dimly lit room. Several of the party spot something reflective on the ceiling. Malamir and Teador fly up to investigate, and pass their Charisma saves. It’s a mirror. Malamir decides to Identify it, using Identify as a ritual. We discuss, and he has to make 2 more Charisma saves (bless + flash of genius means he passes both with exactly 15 on a DC 15 ). It’s a mirror of life trapping. Discussion ensues.

Teador decides to smash the mirror.

8 deformed giant-things rain down on the floor 40’ below. To be continued next session…

I go ahead and have everyone level up to 15.

Not for party consumption notes:
They did survive an encounter with another kill team. There is no plan for defeating scrying, so I have another attempt on them scheduled for some convenient time in the near future. If they seek out the Yuan-Ti, they’ll either set off wards against scrying, or they’ll lead the Aarakocra to a Yuan-ti village that can then be destroyed.

The Aarakocra now know that the short guy with the short sword doesn’t show up on divinations and seems immune to hit point damage. They’ll have a better plan next time. The War Clerics and others with +6 to +9 to hit just don’t cut it reliably enough. Unfortunately, there are only about 30 or so Slayers in existence, and 5 of them just got killed a few days ago.

Running caster-heavy battles like this is also time consuming and a bit tiring. Unless they go with overwhelming numbers, which is hard to run at the table, they will have a hard time overcoming the party. Sure, I could send in 8 clerics who all open with Fireball, but this is where D&D as a fun game conflicts with “fighting a war effectively.”

Right now I’m leaning towards the Aarakocra just spying on the party and letting them wreak havoc in the party’s wake unless/until they attack Tezcatlipoca’s temple.
I’m not sure if they realize how bad being able to be scried on consistently is…and at least two of the Aarakocra temples have full-time scrying rooms.

Dmitri is very hard to kill. Since Ssword gives him Mind Blank, he can’t be affected by Calm Emotion. Sleep or Death effects are about the only way to put him down now. Hold, Paralysis, etc. work , but he’s got advantage on saves, a paladin aura, and a friendly artificer around, so those are not super reliable. Grapple also doesn’t work well against a raging barbarian. If they keep going for Tezcatlipoca’s temple, they’ll run into plenty of Death effects anyway.

Anyway, this is one of the dozen-or-more dungeons scattered around the map…they finally found one! There was silver on the first floor, so I’m sure they’ll continue exploring out of greed. It’ll probably take all of next session. Lots of fomorians of a few different types.

Session 16: 8/28/2021
Dmitri’s player wasn’t here, but we had someone run the character anyway. We opened with 8 formorians raining from the sky, catching Teador the paladin at the bottom. He Misty Steps out of the bottom of the pile, and the fomorians stand up, spot what looks like food, and the fighting begins. Their psychic-damage evil eye is pretty effective (except on Teador with his +14 Charisma save and Dmitri with his immunity to psychic damage from Ssword). Note that the Evil Eye Curse does take effect on a failed save, even if the damage doesn’t hit. Dmitri and Malamir end up cursed. Malamir snags two of the Fomorians in a Web that lasts the entire battle (DC 20 vs a +0 Dex save and a +6 strength check…they never rolled well enough to escape).

All 8 Fomorians get killed off, although they do some clobbering in the meantime. If they were smart and coordinated instead of disoriented and confused, they could probably have brought down one or two characters by focus fire. Two are killed while being trapped by Web, and 3 others while trying to run away.
The battle is a bit loud.

The party heals up a bit, then heads on down the next passage, which shows signs of regular mining/digging at some point in the past, then down another very long ramp down farther underground. Near the bottom of the ramp, they hear someone counting down in Giantish “6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…go!” They book it back up the hall, leaving the fomorian ambush out of range.

A couple of arrows with Light on them are shot down the hall, and they can hear someone going “what is it?” in Giantish. Ratel the Monk heads down solo, with Teador following at ~120’ (Darkvision/Message range). He walks up slowly with no weapons drawn and manages to establish basic communication. The fomorians are very wary, especially when he mentions that there are others. They just heard all these scary sounds from above, and now here’s this little person who’s completely unworried and talking about “friends” and “surface” and “Aarakocra” and all sorts of other weird things.

He goes to the village alone and talks to a couple of their leaders, and eventually they figure out that he’s there looking for ways to be stronger. An exchange of gifts is determined. The party spends a couple of days using Fabricate to turn the big iron grating into several sets of giant-sized iron tools, to replace the bone tools the Fomorians have been using (the Fomorians have a couple of big mushroom farms and an Underdark-connected lake that they fish in extensively). They also do a bit of instruction on metal care, better tanning for fish hide, etc. They consider trying to get the Formorians to go to the surface, but realize they have 8 giant-sized bodies to hide... that part doesn't go so well. They do eventually Stone Shape away the recurring Symbol of Fear at the base of the elevator, so eventually there's nothing stopping the giants except a 200' vertical climb.

This takes 3 days. The Fomorians bring them a small (for them) container with a glowing blue liquid in it, saying it’s from the Fountain of Blessing that makes them tough. Nobody blinks at drinking a “this made us tough” liquid from some deformed giants. There’s enough for 3 doses.

Ratel the monk immediately chugs it and falls asleep. Teador the Paladin follows up by doing the same, and his player, who’s running Dmitri the Barbarian, says Dmitri would do so as well. They sleep for 8 hours, and the other 2 party members decide not to disturb their rest. The “Fountain of Blessing” has 3 effects, two beneficial and one negative. The +2 Constitution is fixed, and the others were a “roll to see what happens.” Here are the results:

Ratel (monk):
Constitution +2 (incl raising max)
Intelligence -2
Resistant to radiant damage, 20% of skin covered by jet black patches
Teador (Paladin):
Constitution +2 (incl max up)
Cha -2
Resistant to poison damage, 20% of skin covered with brown and yellow dots

Dmitri (Barbarian):
Constitution +2 (incl raising max)
Cha -2
Resistant to fire damage, burnt orange patches on 20% of skin

Ratel has a Headband of Intellect, so the downside on this doesn’t impact him at all. Radiant resistance is pretty good considering some of the enemies the party faces, too. Teador’s loss of Charisma hurts (reduced from 18 to 16), and Dmitri the paladin’s charisma is now down to only 6, but he’s got a LOT of hit points. Dmitri used to wear a Breastplate of Fire Resistance, so I’m pretty sure he’ll be happy with this.

Session 17: 9/12/2021

Two people felt sick, so we did this via discord.

The party headed towards Oztalun the aboleth to see about getting scrying-blockers. On the way, they explore and find an old mine-turned-living-space where something came out of a mirror and apparently killed everyone there several months ago. The place had been thoroughly looted.

They continue to explore and found a fog-covered valley inhabited by some druids. One of the druids spots a scrying sensor and kills it for them. They decide to leave to avoid bringing trouble down, and start discussing item-making, missing the chance to talk to the druids more and realize that the valley contains portals to the elemental planes.

I have the artificer roll an arcana check (22) and provide a link to the Amulet of Protection from Detection and Location. We start discussing special components to craft the amulets, and Nondetection only takes powdered gemstones, so…they’re crafted pretty fast.

They go on to assault the Temple of Tezcatlipoca, the god of death and cold. On the way, we hit day 100, and they see a big beam of light from the sun down towards the direction of the Aarakocra capital city that persists for about 30 minutes. The potential fight at the high temple of Huitzopochtli has gotten its first upgrade, as the flow of sacrifices has not been interrupted at all. There’s a continuing additive process going on in the background on the calendar.

The party decides to strike at noon. Ratel the monk flies up on his broom, keeping himself between the sun and town, and at about noon, drops 20 alchemist’s fires on the garrison, air-skiffs, and town, then drops himself down (Skyfall Boots), shattering one of the small barracks buildings. The rest of the party, meanwhile, approaches from the north and goes up to the top of the temple to enter through the skylight-type opening. Monks are fast, so with everyone moving around and in position, Ratel is delayed by 6 rounds.

The party drops down into a room full of magical darkness – but Teador the Paladin has a magic eye, Reybella the cleric uses True Sight, and Malamir the artificer has mounted his Gem of Seeing on his power armor. Dmitri the paladin can use Ssword’s divine sense as blindsight against enemies.

What followed was a long and massive battle with incredible carnage. The High Priest arrived late (round 3? Round 4?), having been alerted by his god only when the party was very close. The party fought a total of:
1 high priest, who cast Power Word Kill twice, Danse Macabre, and then got into melee with spirit shroud and 4 attacks per round, which went well until he got critted and shredded.
3 senior priests (2 escaped via Word of Recall), who put out 2 or 3 Cones of Cold, about a half-dozen Blights, 3 Harms, and I don’t recall what else.
4 acolytes who landed a Bane and a Hold Person but otherwise mostly didn’t have high enough DCs (2 escaped). By the time they had stuff to Counterspell, they were mostly dead.
5 shadow cats (1 dead, 4 escaped at <40hp via shadow stepping and mirror walking)
7 spellcasting skeletons (CR2, +6 to hit was not very useful)
5 regular skeletons raised by danse macabre
1 altar that casts Finger of Death every round on initiative count 20.

There were, if I recall correctly, four player character deaths, plus Dmitri the zealot spending most of the fight at 0hp and accumulating failed death saves, plus 2 PCs Banished and two or 3 PCs held at various times (usually briefly)

Around round 3 or 4, he had the bright idea of stabbing Ssword into the altar. This was one of the few ways of damaging the altar (nobody ever did a “hey, what would work?” question that would have triggered a moderately easy Religion check). This left Dmitri at disadvantage in the dark, as he lost his blindsight. He gamely swung away anyway, Recklessly attacking and taking quite a few hits.

Over the next 3-4 rounds, the altar had a 50% chance to fail to cast Finger of Death. At initiative count 20 on the 4th round, the altar exploded, dealing 8d6 (24) necrotic damage to all priests in the room, and dropping the shroud of darkness in the entire temple.

Ssword wanted to be stabbed into the high priest’s heart after the high priest got killed by Teador the Paladin. Now Ssword can cast Inflict Wounds on hit twice per day, and Cure Wounds (2d8+4) twice per day.

This whole time they have been fighting in one room. We end at a bit after midnight, and rather than choose to stay and take on the rest of the temple, the party will retreat (almost), leaving a dead high priest and shattered altar behind, but the rest of the temple intact.

Teador the paladin explicitly picked up the high priest’s corpse to take with them. In addition to taking the loot, they are going to do what they can to prevent resurrection.

Ratel the monk gets on his flying broom and is going to charge the garrison in town, then drop into town and wreak some carnage before trying to run away to meet up with the party. I will have to run the numbers, but I think he may get himself killed doing this. It depends on how many casters are with the patrols present and if any of them can land a Hold Person.

It was actually really convenient to do this on Discord, as I had a map spreadsheet available to move enemies outside the room around on, and could use Excel to do my math for me.

Breastplate +1
Shield +1
Spear +2
Ring of Spell Turning
Rare, requires attunement
This black cape has faint grey spots, like those of a hunting cat. The wearer is immune to the Blinded condition. In darkness or dim light, the wearer can turn Invisible (as the spell, but without Concentration required) as an action.

Session 17b: 9/20-9/22/2021
We did this over Discord chat.

Ratel the monk’s player decided to not go “assassin mode” by charging the village, but instead to run due east, stopping and setting fires every so often. I tracked movement round by round until it became pointless. A 60’ move speed monk (dash 120’) vs 50’ move speed Aarakocra (dash 100’) makes for a big difference over time.

It has been about 2 minutes since his dynamic landing.

Approximately 200 civilians are flying around in the village at low altitude.

All Aarakocra troops are out and about, but some are still fastening on armor. The guards at the prison are on high alert.
Both air-skiffs have lifted off.
Daytime forces of 40 Aarakocra:
20 Guardsmen
10 subcommanders
5 Champions
3 sun acolytes
2 war priests
1 senior priest

Ratel heads due east setting fires and firing arrows. A patrol in a nearby (eastern ish) hex is vectored on to him by Sending and/or the scryers from the temple (they can't scry him, but can scry friendlies). It has been about 2 minutes since his dynamic landing.

Approximately 200 civilians are flying around in the village at low altitude.

All Aarakocra troops are out and about, but some are still fastening on armor. The guards at the prison are on high alert.
Both air-skiffs have lifted off.
Daytime forces of 40 Aarakocra:
20 Guardsmen
10 subcommanders
5 Champions
3 sun acolytes
2 war priests
1 senior priest

Ratel heads due east setting fires and firing arrows. He continually pulls slightly away from the Aarakocra by dashing. A patrol in a nearby (eastern-ish) hex is vectored on to him by Sending and/or the scryers from the temple (they can't scry him, but can scry friendlies).
Patrol difficulty:
1-2 Pat 1
3-5 Pat 2
5-8 Pat 3
9-10 Pat 4
(roll) 6

Time for appearing is 2d10 minutes (16), which would be near the edge of the hex.
Patrol 3:
2 guards: stay with air-skiff
4 subcommanders 1 stays with air-skiff
So total is.
3 subcommanders hp 48
3 champions hp 96
1 wizard
1 senior priest {Tez}
Tactics: No heal, just disable/kill. They’re mad and focused on killing enemies.

I have him roll perception to see how far away the inbound hostiles are in front of him when he spots them. With his Cragtop bow, his long range is 1200’. The enemies close at 100’/rd (dashing) towards him, while he’s either dashing (120’) or going normal speed (60’) plus firing.
I used average damage for his bow shots at long range to speed things up.

Round 1:
Front Distance 1200', close by 160'
Pursuit Distance 1200', close by 40'
1 champion hit for 12+12=24 damage

Round 2:
Front Distance 1040', close by 160'
Pursuit Distance 1160', close by 40'
same target hit 1x for 12 damage, 1 miss

Round 3:
Front Distance 880', close by 160'
Pursuit Distance 1120', close by 40'
Different target hit 2x for 24 damage

Round 4:
Front Distance 720', close by 160'
Pursuit Distance 1080', close by 40'
2x misses

Round 5:
Front Distance 560', close by 160'
Pursuit Distance 1040', close by 40'
2 hits for 24 damage to one target

Round 6:
Front Distance 400', close by 160'
Pursuit Distance 1000', close by 40'
1 hit/1 miss against a different target.

Round 7:
Front Distance 240', close by 160'
Pursuit Distance 960', close by 40'
2 arrows fired at wizard, blocked by Shield

Round 8:
Front Distance 80', close by 160'
Pursuit Distance 920', close by 40'
2 arrows fired, killed wizard with purple worm-poison laden arrows.

Round 9:
Front Distance 30', close by 50' as they descend
Pursuit Distance 920', close by 40'
Subcommanders 6x atl-atl at +8 for 1d8+4+1d6, 5 misses, 1 deflected
Champion 6x javelin +9 to hit for 2d6+4, 4 misses, 2 hit for 28
Tezcatlipoca priest casts Cone of Cold, 31 damage
Ratel Dashes 120'

Round 10:
Front Distance 90', close by 50' to 40' range; no more plunging fire
Pursuit Distance 940', pull away by 20'
Subcommanders 6x atl-atl at +6 for 1d8+4 1 hit deflected, rest miss
Champion 6x javelin +7 to hit for 1d6+4 all miss
Tezcatlipoca priest casts Hold Person, save failed. Uses Diamond Soul to succeed.
Ratel dashes 120'

Round 11:
Front group Distance 210', close by 50' to 160' range, except Champions close by 100' to 110'range
Pursuit Distance 960', pull away by 20'
Ratel dashes 120'. Out of range of clerics and champions, atl-atl users can't reliably hit enough to overcome deflection.

After just 11 rounds, he’s zoomed past them, and is pulling away!

In retrospect, I could have used the chase rule from the DMG of dashing 3+CON times and then having to make a DC 10 Con save to avoid exhaustion. However, this would have applied equally to the monk and the Aarakocra, so he still would have pulled away. What about the incoming patrol that intercepted him from the front? I already had them heading back at maximum speed (dashing) as well.
At most, it would have added one round of time-on-target for them. Ratel as a high-level wood elf monk was still faster.

This is a nice case that shows why white-room optimization doesn’t cover all the bases. The only other ways I can think of for a character to keep up such a high ground speed for an entire hour are:
1) A shapeshifted druid
2) Ann arcane caster stacking Longstrider (+10’ speed) and Expeditious Retreat (granting dash as a bonus action for up to 10 minutes per casting) to triple dash for 120’rd until the caster runs out of spell slots or loses concentration
3) A rogue triple-dashing (90’, 105’ wood elf, 120’ tabaxi).

I found it a bit ridiculous but also awesome.

He travels for 2 hours in the Cursed Forest (dim light, difficult terrain, lots of spooky and dead plants) without stealth. Random encounter rolls, he picks up a Shadow Cat that just decides to follow him.

He stops to survey the terrain with his spyglass. Roll: Shadow Cat gets a natural 20 on its Wisdom check to not attack.
Ratel’s perception was 9+4 to spot the shadow cat while he was stopped
Shadow cat natural 20 + 13 to stay hidden and spying.
Ratel then stealthily proceeds into the jungle, and I roll for random encounters. He gets a troop of monkeys and a low roll to not spot them until he's in the middle of the group. He slowly backs out and away, which is a good response that does not provoke the monkeys into a poo-flinging loud riot that could draw attention.
I roll more random encounter dice and get another troop of monkeys and a couple of "nothing" responses, so he then settles in at the north end of the hex to await the party that evening….
But he still has a Shadow Cat tailing him, so the party will get attacked.

The next attack force would either be an adventuring-party configuration of Aarakocra elites (a monk, barbarian, sorcerer, etc.) or would be one where they get a Helm of Teleportation if they fight off their attackers. I don't want to keep them from exploring north, so I'll hold off on this and have the Shadow Cat pace them at a distance using its high move speed (50'/rd + 30' shadow to shadow teleport). It's a fiend, so it doesn't tire.
Of course, Ssword pings on Shadow Cats, so when the party meets up with Ratel, they may notice it, if it strays too close. I'll roll dice throughout the next session to see if they spot it.

If not, it'll follow them for a few days until I feel the time is right for an Aarakocra party using the Helm of Teleportation to bamf in and attack them. At this point, access to teleportation doesn’t exist only because their only primary caster is a cleric, and clerics don’t have anything good for same-plane transportation.

Also, I roll 4d6 for random encounters while the party rests and they get nothing, so they're going to level up to 16. They're a bit short by XP, but I use milestone leveling, and they passed the minimum requirements (destroy altar & kill high priest).

In theory, they could move very quickly with surgical strikes and finish out the campaign in a few battles. In reality, none of the other temples are nearly as easy to reach - all of them are in the middle of larger cities, with the exception of the main temple of Huitzopochtli, which backs up to a lake. I'm kind of hoping they sneak up to that one underwater when the time comes, because it's a really cool moment to create, and totally possible (especially if they get the rest of the Panoply of the Shark).

Session 18: 9/25/2021

The players for Dmitri the Barbarian and Reybella the Cleric were both out. Unlike last session, we had very little fighting, partly because I forgot to roll random encounter dice some of the time (lots of travel). When I did roll, I’d get results like “A tendriculous”, which doesn’t matter because they’re flying, or an Aarakocra patrol, which I don’t want to deal with again right now, and which is up high while the party is under the jungle canopy.

The party reunites and, of course, surprises me by heading east and then south into the Cursed Forest towards the Phase Spider tower they had taken over. En route, they discover a hexagon of standing stones. It will summon a copy of a powerful enemy from the past of whoever stands in the middle; if the summoner is reduced to 0hp, the enemy becomes real and can leave the area. There’s some discussion of using it to bring Dracula back, but they decide against it.

They pass through another hex, and hear a big meaty thumping noisy. It turns out to be a pair of Clay Golems brawling with each other in an unsophisticated fistfight that has ruined at least half a square mile of forest. There’s discussion of coming back later to deal with them or find whatever made them.

The party pushes on in a forced march to rest in the old Phase Spider Tower.

They then travel south to a yuan-ti village. On their way there, they are attacked by two Hellwasp swarms, which do substantial damage but are ultimately killed off. Teador takes 38 damage from a critical hit when the hellwasps get inside his helmet. Malamir makes good use of Chill (fire) Shield.

At the village, they speak with the leader, Ilsa (snake/abomination swordmaster). They do not disclose Ssword yet, but do show off the body of the high priest, which they had put in the extradimensional crafting space to avoid scrying. Ila is impressed, and shares information about the party’s planned next target, the temple of Tlaltecuhtli. It’s in the middle of a city of at least 20,000, with two garrison outposts. From the exterior warehouse district to the temple is a distance of over 1,000 ft. The temple itself is a giant block of stone raised from the earth and shot through with tunnels, and it’s inhabited by some kind of devouring creature that goes through a lot of meat. Ila is about a hundred miles away and doesn’t have more detailed information.

The party starts planning how to handle this, and settle on a plan involving potions of Invisibility (they have 1) and creating scrolls of Dimension Door for fast in/out. The yuan-ti can contribute some forces to attack in a diversion, kill guards so they can get into the city un-noticed, or something similar.

Ila greets the party the next morning with the news that it has tried Sending to four different contacts in the village the party had visited before, and none have responded. They volunteer to investigate, fearing the worst.
En route, they pass through a hex that they have never explored, so they pause to explore it, discovering a 15’ diameter circular ring of flowers that seems fey-ish to them. They decide to come back to it later, and proceed to find the destroyed yuan-ti village. They move south to another village (I thought they’d found it before based on notes, but they didn’t recall the description). They visit briefly, find out that none of the others in the area were destroyed, and leave to not endanger this village, which has more kids and families.

On the way back up, they decide to stop in the fey ring. They step in, and find themselves somewhere else. It’s a beautiful summer’s night, but after consuming the Hero’s Feast, they depart without dancing with the fey, exploring the rainbow-colored forest, or doing anything else. They return to 1 day before they entered. The players were already suspicious about time passing, and I did note that they did not see the footprints they would have left. I forgot about Malamir’s spider-cart-wagon thing. It would have been fun to have it be “not there” and then show up a day later or something. Oops.

They travel on towards the coast to try to buy potions from the tortle potioneers. As they travel, they ask about the moon to see if time has shifted. It takes a while of “the moon looks exactly the same as it did last night” for them to catch on that they traveled back in time 24 hours.
There’s discussion of exploiting time travel, but there are challenges related to fey unreliability.

They explore their way up the coast, finding a bunch of tortle villages. Most of them are fairly small and boring; there’s not a lot to do with a bunch of 70-120-person fishing villages. They do get a few warnings about an area to the west in the forest being weird or dangerous, and they buy a Necklace of Fireballs that a hunter found in a shark’s stomach last year.

Each village typically has 2-4 hunters, a couple of monks, a druid, and maybe a sorcerer. Their casters go up to about 5th-level spells, so the party could try to get a bunch of them together and they’d have a good fighting force…but the logistics of persuading a few people from each tiny village to group up would be challenging.

We end the night with them finding a petrified Nalfeshnee with a maul near the edge of the cursed forest. Greater Restoration clears petrification, so they’ll probably free it next session – but maybe not.

In this session, I saw them moving from “tactical assault with just the party” to looking more at war-fighting and what the yuan-ti can bring to the table in terms of enabling attacks on cities. This is a good step forwards in their planning, and will definitely make them more successful.

I have a bunch of random encounter tables, but I find myself skipping a lot in favor of just moving the exploration or plot ahead. Random Plant monster #5 or Aarakocra Patrol #10 is too much filler right now. That’s fine, it’s a DM’s job to manage time and encounters for that sort of reason.

In the background, the calendar is still ticking away. They have a generous helping of time, and I hope they explore more and find more cool stuff, but if they dawdle for many, many months, they will be in trouble. The Shadow Cat followed them as far as the Phase Spider tower. I need to do some more rolling to see if it made it farther than that to the yuan-ti village. Per the calendar, they’re due for another Enemy Action, so I’ll probably have the Aarakocra trap the Phase Spider Tower. That might be a good way to trigger one of the enemy elite-type attacks – trap/alarm -> helm of teleportation strike force while party is dealing with a Symbol or something. It’ll also make them mad to lose one of “their” places.


Session 19: 10/9/2021
Players for Reybella (cleric) and Malamir (artificer) were out.

Ultimately, they decide to attempt a Circle Against Evil/Greater Restoration/Planar Binding on the petrified Nalfeshnee. Reybella’s player gives approval over the phone. Once it orients itself, the Nalfeshnee tries to bargain with them, and finds their terms of “We’ll use your desire for carnage for good, just hold still for an hour while we finish casting” to be insufficient. It teleports out, manages to miss most of its attack rolls for a round or two, and then teleports over and tries to grab Reybella to abduct or threaten her as she continues to cast Planar Binding. It’s knocked unconscious and placed back in the circle.

Planar Binding says nothing about knowing whether or not the target made the save, so there are some deception/insight checks. It plays along. Dmitri the barbarian makes a religion check to see what they could use to trap it. “Tell us your True Name.” “My name is You’reanidiot” (attempted teleport). Dmitri wins the opposed Initiative check and knocks the Nalfeshnee out. Something similar happens the 2nd time around, and they kill it, taking the Maul of Extreme Pain.

They then head north into the cursed forest, finding an old, abandoned, and thoroughly ruined temple to some ocean deity or spirit. They rest overnight in a Stone-Shaped concealed area. Ratel the monk walks out the next morning to find 5 lobster-creatures with big claws and poison tentacles on their face. The party ends up killing four of them – the last kill is run down as it retreats in the water (Ratel runs on the water until he runs out of move, then sinks and kills it) because it was spotted carrying an amulet that it had just picked up (the party had missed it in their investigation). The whole fight, the monk hears no talking from them.
After the fact, the creatures are identified as Chuul, believed to be old servants of aboleths who have the ability to sense magic and magical items, and are known to seek such items out and guard or hoard them.

Somewhere along here there’s a random encounter with disease-carrying bugs. Ratel is the only one on the ground, so they go for him, but he’s immune to disease.

The party moves on to the north, finding a set of stone pillars in the cursed forest in the next hex up:

You find a pair of stone pillars 4’ across rising thirty
feet high. Two more pillars are set just in front of
them, but only 8’ high, and another pair 15’ in front of
that. There are no markings on the pillars.
Investigation/Perception DC 10: There are some remnants of
stone benches in a large arc around the short pillars.
Investigation/Perception DC 20: Near one of the pillars, you find
a wooden chest. One side bears a mark like it was
damaged by a blow from a weapon, but it’s otherwise
untouched. It is not locked.
Inside is a Bag of Holding Type 1. The Bag holds
several old drums, drumsticks, and two guitars. One
of them is very strange – it’s a neon yellow color and
made mostly of metal. (It’s a Guitar of Electricity).

Proceeding north, they enter the North Desert for the first time. It’s a desert/badlands area with scrubby vegetation and lots of mesas and boulders. There, at the top edge of the map, they find a crater with a giant onyx meteorite in it not long before sunset. Malamir can determine that it has a magical aura of necromancy, but doesn’t know exactly what it’s for.

A random encounter produces an Aarakocra patrol spotted in the distance. It’s near sunset, so the party decides to head that way and attack them as they are grounded. It’s about a 1 hour forced march, which is pretty trivial to succeed on.

DM notes: No progress on the main quest right now, but that’s OK.
They really like the Panoply of the Shark set and requested more item sets for future campaigns. The last item in the set is a leather armor, so it’s not really great for anyone in this party, but that’s ok.
Teador has dropped his shield and AC to try out the Maul of Extreme Pain.
I wonder if they’ll make the Chuul/Aboleth connection ever?
The party is running low on gold, but hasn’t tried to sell any magical items at all.
The onyx meteorite gives a boost to Animate/Create Undead, including allowing it to function with bigger or different creature types than it normally would. Of course, getting a dragon corpse or something there would be quite a chore.
I expect them to handily kill off this patrol group, even though it’s the toughest type. Based on their conversation about someone always getting away, they’ll probably have 1-2 people on straggler patrol . The Aarakocra have worse Darkvision, a clear weakness along with their air-skiffs grounding at sundown.

Session 20: 10/23/2021
Malamir the artificer and Reybella the cleric’s players couldn’t make it.

The three PCs sneak up on the patrol, which has landed and is making a campfire. Their stealth rolls are okay. The one guard flying around notices “something” and flies over to investigate. Ratel the kensei monk drops him with a single poisoned arrow. The assault goes off as planned and they kill all the Aarakocra rapidly. Now they have an air-skiff!

There’s discussion of selling extra magical items to raise gold to pay for implanting troll hearts or, if they get adamantium, getting the adamantine skeleton graft. They communicate with the yuan-ti via Sending. They also try to sell the air-skiff, but nobody seems to be interested in such a high profile transport option. The yuan-ti will buy some items, but need time to gather cash on hand. We also decide to handle this via Discord.

They start exploring west and find an empty fortified campsite, and later encounter the Shabaka tribe of scorpionfolk as they continue to explore. The scorpionfolk are Large and have formidable natural weapons, but they observe that they are currently wielding mostly shortbows, and make frequent use of necromancy on the corpses of their own as well as dead Aarakocra. They are very interested in killing Aarakocra but desperately short on numbers. Their own undead are kept mostly outside the camp.

Shabaka has a problem: His daughter (low level druid) is betrothed to a warrior from a neighboring clan, but the marriage is delayed because the warrior needs more seasoning. The two of them have disappeared, likely to “The Death Knight’s Tomb” in an attempt to prove themselves. He’s sent one of his top necromancers and the neighbors have sent one of their best warriors, but they aren’t optimistic.

They get directions and go.

Scrawled across the outside in crude carvings is “Death Knight Trapped Here. Time passes fast. Not worth the risk.”

The entry area is smashed, but seems warded against dust and bugs.
Carved into the wall near the door in elegant elven, with some letters filled in with silver, is the following (requires Elven or language magic to read):
Facility Rules
1. No temporal manipulation magic, including passive magical speed effects.
2. Do not leave the facility without checking with Manager Baartie.
3. Outsiders are not permitted to know of this facility.
4. We shall change the past to protect our future.

They also find a stone-shaped message in the ceiling:
Aryvandaar has fallen. We tried our best to undo it, but in the end, we have toiled these centuries, only to be undone by a Death Knight in service of some mortal kingdom that grew up while we focused on temporal manipulation. Senior Researcher Othshan and the others bought time, and smashed the Heart of Time, trapping the unliving here, and I alone have escaped. Its master is denied any prize and the service of a potent servant, but it is a hollow victory. The non-material planes beyond the Border Ethereal are unaffected, so the undead’s aura is beginning to permeate the area. If anyone of learning reads this, I shall abandon my heritage, change my name, and seek my fortune elsewhere. Perhaps I will return with an army one day.
--Junior Researcher Eliepiir Vyshaan

There are a few names here that go back to ancient FR history.

They find a room with some de-powered magical appliances, an elevator, and some Temporal Stabilization Discs. Malamir’s knowledge is called on to determine that these are important and should be synced with the rune circles in the room they were in, and worn.

The three take an elevator down and find a smashed storage room that appears a bit old and thoroughly looted. There’s a big greatclub near a giant splatter of old blood.

They take the elevator down again and find two adult scorpionfolk squaring off with a pair of Bodaks. The scorpionfolk (the rescue team) are surprised to have allies show up just moments after they stepped off the elevator and started fighting. The bodaks are put down pretty quickly and the teenagers/young adults rescued (they had used Invisibility potions and barricaded themselves in a room). Some decomposing elven corpses are found along with a lot of nice but old furniture and elven décor, as well as magic-powered washing/drying machines and similar.

They then go down to the 4th level (counting top as 1) and find two zombie ogres, another bodak, and two zombie wights. The zombie ogres explode when they die. Everyone makes a beeline for the bodak and kills it pretty quickly. Teador casts Haste. I have him roll an INT check and he gets a natural 1; that was his chance to remember the rules. He takes 5d20 (57) damage and loses his turn due to the inherent temporal properties of the area. The zombie wights do some damage with their greatclubs, but go down. One of them asks “Where did you come from?” at the party in clear surprise. The party loots the area, finding a +2 longbow, some +2 arrows, four wizard spell scrolls, boots of elvenkind, and mithril elven chain, and a few other minor items. The boots come off of a body where the blood is still leaking out. The rooms appear to have been barely searched. As the party loots, they get a very sped-up Sending from the yuan-ti asking where they’ve been and that it’s been months.

We left off there, and I think they are going to go up to the 1st floor to take a short rest before continuing down.

DM notes:
Hurray! This is the second actual dungeon they’ve gone into fully (the first was the fomorian/silver mine area). The single-room raid on the Tezcatlipoca temple doesn’t really count. It was brought up (by them) and they compared what they did to a guerilla/decapitation strike.

As you can tell there is some temporal displacement into the future going on here. There are two more floors, and the bottom floor is still frozen in time after thousands of years… 6 seconds there is like 600 years up top. They’re going to get some ominous sending from the future where they disappeared and Huitzopochtli won. There were some puzzled looks as they tried to figure out where time was passing at what rate, which way they should go, etc.

I think they’re going to head back up to the top floor for a short rest. Everyone’s down substantial chunks of HP from bodak aura, bodak glare, bodak scream, wight club, exploding zombies, etc. There is time pressure and if they leave, they won’t have enough Temporal Stabilization Disks to return… so there is no option to long-rest-recover their way through this.
If Malamir and Reybella show up next time, they’ll have no attrition, so it’s all manageable – but this is also a way to deliberately achieve the 5e paradigm of multiple encounters separated by perhaps one short rest, and preventing nova-ing. The paladin has mostly been sitting on his spells slots.

Session 21: 11/13/2021

Malamir (artificer) and Reybella (cleric) did not join us tonight.

The remaining 3 characters, injured from their explorations, go to the top floor, having Reybella heal them along the way. On the top floor, their temporal stabilization disks start to emit a whine, which gets louder as they approach the front door. After a couple of arcane and religion checks, they decide to go on back down to finish what they’re doing instead of activating the disks early.

The 5th floor (4th down) has two zombie ogres snacking on a recently dead elf, and should have had two bodaks, but I made a mistake and only threw two more ogre wights at them instead. The battle was pretty one-sided, but the PCs took a bit of damage. This floor had a bunch of metal tables, lab equipment, and chalkboards covered in obscure arcane symbols, complex mathematics, etc. Even the INT-19 (headband) monk could not figure out most of it without needing a lot of study.

They then took the elevator down to the bottom floor. On the way down, they heard a triumphant shriek, like an eagle, in their heads, and got a headache… apparently Huitzopochtli triumphed.

The bottom floor was a single room, 90’ in diameter, with a shattered crystal mounting in the middle, crystal shards laying all around, and 3 dead elven wizards… plus a towering figure in black plate with glowing eyes, wielding a warhammer in one hand and a longsword in the other. Drezhar the Destroyer, the ogre death knight, told the party that their little mercenary band was too late… and that he was prophesied to have his name live for thousands of years, and that they faced a legend.

Dmitri charges forth first, wielding Ssword, the artifact, which still functions. It actually harms Drezhar, which surprises him. He goes next, disarming Dmitri and kicking Ssword away (towards an ogre zombie also in the room). Drezhar hits like a truck for 3d8+7 weapon damage + 1d8 necrotic damage, several times over. As Ratel and Teador (monk and paladin) advance into the room, they discover that none of their magic items function… everyone is under the effects of an anti-magic field. Except for Ssword, none of their weapons now count as magic against a foe resistant to non-magic weapon damage.

Teador grabs Ssword and tosses it back to Dmitri, while Ratel shoots a couple of arrows. Drezhar uses his legendary actions to slowly bash through the barbarian’s massive pool of hit points with 3 more hits. I think one was actually a disarm again, but since it wasn’t the ogre’s turn, Ssword remained in Dmitri’s space and was easy to pick up.

It is pointed out that Death Knights typically have paladin/divine casting, and should be subject to Ssword’s expanded critical hit rate. This is correct, and Dmitri crits once this round for a lot of damage, allowing him to attack 3 times. Teador hits the ogre zombie for not a lot of damage, and Ratel runs in to start punching with unarmed strikes (Ki fist means they count as magic) but has a flurry of misses.

Drezhar tries to disarm Dmitri, but can’t quite stick the opposed rolls. He doesn’t need to knock Dmitri prone due to Reckless Attack. They trade HP damage, and Drezhar is pretty low when Dmitri hits 0 and has to save to avoid dying. Dying when your soul is 2,000 years in the future means you can’t be raised from the dead…
He can tell Dmitri should be dead from HP damage but isn’t, and gives an order to “just go ahead and disintegrate the short one.” Cue minor freakout. Ratel uses his next to last Ki point and lands a stunning blow on the Death Knight! Teador dashes over and uses Lay on Hands, which doesn’t qualify as magic in an AMF, to burst-heal Dmitri up to 80hp.

The two zombie beholders in the back of the room then close their central eyes, allowing all magic items to function again. Each one fires a Disintegration ray at Dmitri, but he makes his saves. Drezhar is then stabbed to death while stunned, and the zombie beholders go down pretty quickly, with only one more ray fired.

The party loots the death knight and discovers that the crystals of the Heart of Time are very hazardous and shouldn’t be messed with. Ratel considers taking them with him, but the temporal interference means he might end up in another millennium.

They then activate the stabilization discs and return to the room and time at which they attuned to them. Leaving that room, they meet the four scorpionfolk who just stepped off the elevator from below…from the middle of last session. Confusion ensues. Time travel is fun!

They escort the scorpionfolk back to their camp, where the adventuresome young fools are yelled at by the clan head for a very long period of time. The group rests there and buys several Oils of Sharpness from the smith.

They decide to head west to find adamantine for skeletal surgery. They explore as they travel, finding several scorpionfolk camps. They rescue a couple of low-level druids who were trapped by some gorgons. Ratel saves against gorgon breath once, then finds out what it is, and after that the party decides to kite and avoid the petrification-causing iron bulls. They are given a Goodberry Bag (10 goodberries/charge, holds 1 charge, recharges at dawn on a 6 on 1d6).

They meet an old scorpionfolk woman who keeps track of locations and lore of the land (cartography) and get some general terrain info for about 3 squares around, as well as being told that something strange is going on in 07.02 in the mountains.

We leave off with the party about to reach hex 08.03.

DM notes:
ALMOST got a PC kill. It was close! I gave Drezhar about an extra 40hp on the fly so that he didn’t go down before the beholders were at least revealed.
This was really fun and I enjoyed having a chance to pull off some time travel.
The artificer’s player hasn’t been for several sessions. They are close to finding the Adamantine golem. If he’s there, I think they’ll discuss turning it into giant power armor, which I have planned for (cue Pacific Rim music). It seems like their main motivation right now is finding adamantine and troll hearts to become nearly immortal, and the wealth to afford the surgery. They’d rather pursue that than go ahead and make the attack on Tlalchantli’s city, which the Yuan-ti are ready to support.

They are due by the calendar for an Enemy Action, so I’ll have it target something close to them to remind them that the clock is ticking.

Teador took the Full Plate +2, bringing him to AC 20, 23 with shield. Ratel took Eclipse and gave Dmitri the Skyfall boots.

Session 22: 12/11/21

Fairly short session today. The party attacked the Adamantine golem, and after a long fight in which 3 players were knocked to <20hp, successfully stabbed, shot, and bludgeoned it to death. This is an Adamantine Golem that I came up with, not the one from the book. CR 26, a kick attack to knock enemies back and prone, a vibrosword that gets two attacks in melee, and a coilgun (gauss rifle) on the other arm with a long range. The coilgun does 3d20 bludgeoning + 1d10 lightning damage with a strength save to avoid knockdown. Ratel hung out at long range pelting it with +2 arrows, Teador flew overhead (losing his griffin to a cannonball, but retaining his broom) and used Chill Touch repeatedly to keep it from regenerating, and Malamir switched between a few tactics, including trying out Summon Construct.

After salvaging 3,000 lbs of adamantium, 28,000 lbs of steel, and 50 lbs of mithril, they headed east and then south to sell materials to the yuan-ti and then visit the Fleshcrafter to get adamantium coatings applied to their bones. En route, they were attacked by a Rodan-descended Roc. Teador Dimension-doored atop it and attacked it a couple of times before it spun and knocked him off; Dmitri managed to jump onto it too, and hung on for an extra round, but then got knocked off. As it flew away, Ratel the monk used his sharpshooter damage and long range to kill it.

We ended there… selling and buying to be handled on discord, as well as potentially who’s doing what surgery in what order.

There was also some discussion of what to do with the Aarakocra after they “win.” Ratel is in favor of wiping them out as well as killing the yuan-ti. Teador the paladin is not. Ssword is listening and the campaign’s long-term ending will depend partly on what sort of values they convince it to follow.

I had it written up so that someone who wants to do the extra work and take on the risk could potentially crawl inside it and disable it while it’s functioning, and then retrofit it into a giant mech suit. It’s at the high end of powerful, but this is high end D&D. Unfortunately, the players decided to just wreck it.

The player for Dmitri the barbarian was sick and couldn’t make it. The player for Reybella the cleric may be taking a break from D&D… and this was the last session for the player for Malamir the Artificer; his work schedule means he has to leave at 9pm, so he can only come for around 2 hours. Malamir is going to go work with Oztalun’s people on a way to teleport back to Europe, where he hopes to create some items and maybe send over reinforcements occasionally. It’s hard to DM for just 2 people, and Dmitri is definitely the party’s hard tank/carry (zealot + artifact sword), so when he’s gone someone has to play him or they are at risk of getting squashed (2 PCs vs. threats designed for 4+). We may try to recruit an additional player.
The next scheduled session would also be on Christmas day, so we may not meet again until January unless something lines up for everyone’s schedules. That’s kind of disappointing.

The party is now very rich, although I’m sure they’ll find ways to spend most of it.

Session 23: 1/8/2022

Happy New Year! Our Cleric’s player is dropping out. She has too many other games and things going on :(
This game may go on pause while we do a couple of one-shots to introduce new players, so we don’t throw them into the deep end of high-level play.

The party headed southeast to Oztalun’s Lair and sold all but 300 lbs of adamantium, as well as the steel. I priced the adamantium at 50gp/lb and steel at 1gp/lb, with 1000gp of adamantium traveling back to Europe with Malamir. Between that and a few other items, the 3 players got 113,000 gp. They then went north to meet with the yuan-ti, who have lost another village to enemy action.

They reviewed their plan for attacking the nearby city of Tlalchantli, which involved using potions of invisibility and scrolls of Dimension Door to get in and out. Ultimately, they decided that with only one person able to cast DD, it was too risky. I told them with all the complexity on the enemy side, I wasn’t going to run several friendly NPCs to fill out the party too. That attack has been shelved with apologies to the yuan-ti until we get more players.

They head north to the edge of the map, then west to the edge of the ocean, without exploring…specifically looking for trolls so they can get some troll hearts implanted for regeneration.

Heading south, they find a valley whose bottom is a circular(ish) sheet of glass. Not sure what happened, but something big happened here a long time ago. In the next hex south, they find a cliff face carved to resemble a humanoid skull. Inside the mouth was a small cave with a swarm of snakes and a circle carved to aid in extraplanar summoning. They kill the snakes, an old foe from the very first session of Castle Dracula. Four manticores land on the air-skiff, which is hovering near the entry. The manticores attack and last about 1.5 rounds. (random encounter)

Heading south, the group encounters a small tribe of nocturnal Halflings, who wield flint knives and are mostly fishers who try to stay under the radar. When asked about trolls, they point the party to two hexes south, and explain that ‘tricksters’ (faerie dragons) help keep the trolls away, and they help the faerie dragons.

The team heads south, and finds a small troll village with huts, wooden shields, javelins, and the like. Ratel the monk and Dmitri the barbarian drop down while sending Teador the paladin to go park the air-skiff someplace safe. The discussion this whole time (going back several sessions) was “Let’s go kill some trolls and take their hearts.” Now they’ve arrived, and the trolls actually have houses and lives of their own. “Are we the baddies?” is asked.
I look at the MM entry and confirm that they can take a troll’s heart out without permanently killing it.

After some extensive out of character discussions, they decide to offer the trolls some magic weapons in exchange for letting them harvest a few troll hearts. I have to clarify that they can preserve the troll hearts for up to 2 weeks in the little freezer-boxes they got from the Fleshcrafter, so they don’t have to convince the trolls to take a 3-week round trip to someplace far away to get their surgery done.

When presented with a Returning Greataxe, a +2 Spear, and the Kraken Flail +2, the trolls talk a bit, do some rock-paper-scissors, and then select 3 unlucky members of the tribe. Ratel, with the best medicine skill in the game, performs surgery. It takes help from other trolls holding the donors down, and it’s messy and loud, but by the end of the day, Ratel is washing off the blood in the ocean and they have 3 troll hearts on ice to implant.

I then roll another random encounter as they head south. A couple of lightning bolts lash out at the air-skiff as they fly above the beach. Looking down, they now spot a kraken along the edge of the beach. Dmitri and Ratel drop down to attack, while Teador steers the air-skiff farther over and sets it to land before getting off on his Broom of Flying.

Dmitri gets whacked by tentacles and thrown away, but gets back in melee range pretty quickly. The kraken does more lightning damage to the boat, and I notice that it has 120’ telepathy. I had picked the boat as a target because what does a power-hungry kraken hate? Flying people with weird heart-powered boats. The Kraken speaks in their minds (except Dmitri, he has mind blank) and calls the air-skiff an abomination and proclaims the death penalty. They answer in kind and do some damage, but Ratel also responds that they stole it and are killing the ones who made it.

The discussion goes on, telepathically, in a fraction of a second. Ultimately, they agree that the kraken would prefer the Aarakocra gods dead (in accordance with notes on the Kraken page in the MM), and wouldn’t mind helping attack them other than the mobility issue (crossing mountains, etc.). They strike a tentative deal to pay the kraken to help them in their fight. They need merely return to this beach and say his name, Huizhong, and he would come.
After checking, Teleport does not limit the size of the creature being moved, although I do say a kraken would probably count for all 8 slots.

So now they probably have a Kraken lined up to help with a single battle.

The party then travels south over the ocean (slightly safer), noting an area with undead sharks and little life, plus an island, and then turn east to visit the Giantish city of Athos. Here, they spend several days searching and finally locate a Cloud giant named Marva, a Celestial Sorceress capable of casting Heal as required for the surgery. The best Medicine check in the party is about a +7, so they look for someone who can do that. I think, and roll some dice, and ask them “in a world with magic healing, who has a high medicine skill?”

Since the 5e books don’t include “Deliver Baby” or “C-Section” or “Fundal Massage” spells, a midwife would definitely have cause to boost Medicine skills as high as possible…and they find a Goliath midwife named Kaamia.

They’ve now hired the assistants they need to get troll hearts implanted and their bones plated with adamantium. I owe them costs for those assistants, and they’re talking about possibly hiring some goliaths or giants to help guard them on the way there and during the surgery.

DM Notes:
Wow! I did not expect what happened. Hiring assistants wasn’t on my radar, as I assumed a party cleric would do it. It’s a good solution available to those with wealth, though. I also didn’t expect the approach they took with the trolls, although I really appreciated how the trolls having their own bit of civilization instead of being mud-dwelling near animals changed how they viewed things. I like it when my players have to debate and plan and make interesting choices to figure out “what is right?” and “what does my character think is right?”

They skipped over some really interesting encounters by not exploring along the way. This “get wolverine surgery” thing has really grabbed their attention as an intermediate goal. I hope they go back to some of these areas.

The Kraken was just a random encounter for the area…but the info in the Monster Manual was just enough, and the willingness to talk back to it took it from a combat encounter to something totally different. I think making the final attack with an anti-deist kraken on their side is a pretty awesome idea. The High Temple of Huitzopochtli is near a very large lake, so they could pre-position him.


Session 24: 3/12/2022
We’re back! Dmitri’s player couldn’t join us, and Ratel the monk’s player had to join via Discord chat on speaker.

Dmitri, Ratel, and Teador all got adamantine plating applied to their bones and troll hearts implanted. I skimmed this pretty fast instead of doing any description, because after the nearly 4 weeks of surgery and recovery time, the two new party members met up with them (coordinated with Sending in the background): Saqwam the tortle Fathomless warlock, and Rivkah the satyr Creation bard.

They discuss plans to attack Tlalcehutli, the city of the Aarakocra earth goddess, and we review what they know about the city layout (last discussed 3+ months ago). They decide to do some more reconnaissance before making a plan. The warlock had chosen Soul Cage as his 6th level mystic Arcanum. This lets him, as a reaction, grab the soul of a nearby humanoid that dies (no save).
There are several suitably unsettling applications, like draining life from a captured soul, but the big ones are:
Query Soul. You ask the soul a question (no action required) and receive a brief telepathic answer, which you can understand regardless of the language used. The soul knows only what it knew in life, but it must answer you truthfully and to the best of its ability. The answer is no more than a sentence or two and might be cryptic.
Eyes of the Dead. You can use an action to name a place the humanoid saw in life, which creates an invisible sensor somewhere in that place if it is on the plane of existence you’re currently on. The sensor remains for as long as you concentrate, up to 10 minutes (as if you were concentrating on a spell). You receive visual and auditory information from the sensor as if you were in its space using your senses.
A creature that can see the sensor (such as one using see invisibility or truesight) sees a translucent image of the tormented humanoid whose soul you caged.

They decide to go find an Aarakocra patrol, Soul Cage a priest, and use the priest’s knowledge to find out more about the temple they’re planning to attack. To increase their chances of success, they decide to watch and target the biggest enemy patrol they can find, on the (correct) theory that a larger patrol will have a higher-level priest in it.

The enemy patrol was 9 strong including 2 priests and a wizard. As usual, Ratel used long-distance archery to kill enemies, while the others used Dimension Door to appear on the back of the enemy air-skiff, after half the patrol had charged towards Ratel and was 2 rounds of movement away.
Some spells were thrown around, and Saqwam took some substantial damage, but nobody was in serious danger. Teador the paladin got hit with the Sky Nail spear, failed his save, and spent the last 2-3 rounds of the fight stuck to the sky (reverse gravity, single target) launching firebolts down and wishing he had his griffon with him. The enemy wizard spent most of the fight under Greater Invisibility, but launching magic missiles and blights. One of the enemy priests tried to Blind the 3 PCs who had landed on the air-skiff, and ate a 5th level Warlock counterspell. Rivkah pulled out See Invisibility, and the writing was on the wall at that point. It was also late and Spring Forward (lose an hour) night, so we called it because there’s no way the enemies would successfully escape. The 10th level enemy war priest was Soul Caged, and we’re supposed to get a list of questions between sessions (so I have time to compose answers).

DM notes:
One person on Discord slows things down a lot… things kept cutting in and out, so his turns took substantially longer.

We have two new players, both pretty new to D&D (they’ve been through a couple of lower-level 1-shots).
One is playing a satyr Creation bard, and she didn’t join in the one-shots until they were partway through (mom of one of the other players). Bard has a lot of options and levers but not a lot of damage. I think she’ll be re-working spell selections after tonight.
The other is playing a Fathomless warlock, serving Oztalun the aboleth. Warlocks are fun! He gets a big built in plot hook and some objectives and information that the rest of the party doesn’t know or understand yet. Nothing PVP, but he’s got the inside scoop on what’s going on with Ssword. His Mystic Arcanum are Soul Cage, Finger of Death, and Maddening Darkness. He’s definitely leaning into the ‘eldritch creepy’ side and I think the huge area of Maddening Darkness is going to occasionally totally shut down groups of enemies, especially in confined spaces.

We lost time with Discord setup and with item assignments and inventory checks that I’d asked people to do beforehand that nobody did, so we only got about 2-2.5 hrs of actual play in.

There was still a lot of “what do you do?” “Hey, what should I do? Opinions?” and looking up spell lists and options. Bard has a LOT of moving parts and options.
Fathomless is pretty useful… the watery tentacle is basically a free 3rd level Spiritual Weapon PB/day.
Both are still learning where to find things on their character sheets, and having custom items that aren’t on DNDB doesn’t help.

I’ve run several of these “fight an Aarakocra patrol” scenarios now, as they’re fairly common. In this one, the party faced 4 champions, 2 subcommanders, 1 wizard, 1 war priest, and 1 senior priest. That’s 5 different enemy types with 3 different spellcasting blocks to pick from. It’s good to have variety, but I’m thinking about going through and cutting down some of the variety to a smaller number of priest-types, and perhaps to shorter spell lists also. It doesn’t matter if they have cantrips ready because no fight is going to last long enough for them to run out of spell slots. I’ve also noticed that the “gish cleric” war priests are not good enough at offensive casting, nor do they have a good enough melee to-hit (+8) to make reliable use of their melee casting buffs like Holy Weapon. I think there needs to be a niche for a mid-level cleric, but I’d like to do it in an easier-to-run fashion.
I also keep making the mistake of putting all the enemy spellcasters in the same initiative grouping (because there are only a few of them), which means I have to pick and resolve 3 different spells all at once.

Session 24: 3/26/2022

Dmitri’s player was unable to make it, so Ssword has moved over to be with Teador the Paladin. They discuss and execute a modified version of the original plan for the attack on Tlalchantli, the city of Tlaltecuhtli, the earth goddess. They meet up with a large group of yuan-ti nearby and get some scrolls of Dimension Door and potions of invisibility, and then spend a couple of days sneaking to the city. The yuan-ti have a spy base nearby, so this goes pretty smoothly.

They decide to attack at mid-day, when the patrols are out of town and the temple isn’t full of sleeping priests in large numbers. The yuan-ti launch a couple of major raids on the north and south end of the city, closest to the garrisons, firing arrows, lighting warehouses of food on fire, etc. The group waits a few minutes, downs potions of invisibility, and slips through the roads until they are within Dimension Door range of the temple. They teleport up to the top, finding, as expected, a vertical flight shaft that connects all the floors and leads straight down to the altar, 120’ below.

Not everyone has flight, so 3 of them ride down in a Bigby’s Hand elevator (it moves 60’ per round and can grapple a huge creature, so it can carry a few willing medium creatures) while Ratel the monk slow-falls down. They did occlude sunlight on their way down, so the priests at the bottom were not caught totally off-guard.

We paused the fight due to time about 5 ½ rounds in (2.5 hours of combat, approximately). At this point, Cipactli is dead, the high priestess has Antilife shell up but is down about 100hp, and one senior priest is dead…and the altar is destroyed by means of Ssword draining divine energy through it.

Battle highlights:
The altar acts on initiative 20 each round, opening a 10’ wide pit 1d10+1x10’ deep under the closest target (Dex save to avoid falling in). On the next round, it opens a new pit and the old one slams shut. Only one character fell into a pit (Teador) and he misty-stepped out.
Someone fired Synaptic Static as an opener and did over 100 points of damage to 4 of the enemies. The debuff sticks around a long time with none of them having INT save proficiency.
High priestess opened with Bones of the Earth. The strength 12 warlock tortle is still pinned between the ceiling and a pillar (it’s a strength check to get out, not a strength save). He’s taken some damage, but also has been out of the way of the biggest threats and appeared incapacitated until he dropped Maddening Darkness on about 1/3 of the room, doing a pretty good amount of damage. It’s still up.
The battlefield has been too mixed-up for the lower-level priests to use Fireball effectively. They’ve mostly been missing with Sacred Flame and Guiding Bolt. Almost every single Inflict Wounds the priests tried to use has missed also.
The enemy priests did land a Banishment and a Hold Person, but concentration got knocked down fairly quickly for those.
Ratel the monk got swallowed by Cipactli and managed to do enough damage to get thrown up, as well as landing enough Stunning Strikes to burn through Cipactli’s legendary resistances and stun it. Cipactli died shortly thereafter.
Ssword spent 5 rounds draining the altar and is now back in play.
Psychic Lance is pretty good at disabling enemies… lots of INT saves failed in this fight.

I’m pretty sure we’ve hit the turning point in the fight, but several PCs have been knocked about quite a lot, and reinforcements are probably on the way relatively soon (it’s been about 45 seconds since they were spotted).

DM notes:
The party:
Rivkah, 16th level creation bard, satyr - has analysis paralysis and actually used her dagger once instead of a cantrip like Thunderwave. Still did some damage with Psychic Lance, Electric Guitar (lightning bolt), and I think synaptic static.
Saqwam, 16th level Fathomless warlock, tortle - still figuring out what he needs to do with stuff. Maddening Hex was a good pick though.
Teador, 16th level vengeance paladin, half-elf - Solid mobility and damage carrying the fight. Hasn't used Lay on Hands yet.
Ratel, 16th level kensei monk, wood elf - I think he's out of ki points. More stuns this session than the previous 24 sessions!

Enemy forces:
1 high priest capable of casting 9th level spells
2 senior priests capable of casting up to about 7th level
4 sun acolytes casting up to 3rd level spells
2 champions (melee)
1 Cipactli, a CR 20 huge crocodile creature covered in mouths that bites everything near it, and hits for +14 with a 3d12+8 bite attack, plus tail slap, etc. It also can burrow through the ground and is tough and scary.

I’m not optimizing my tactics too much here. The enemies are mostly focused on “biggest threat” rather than “lowest AC”, which means they were missing a lot. I had the two melee enemies do the same thing each turn, and the Sun Acolytes would all cast the same spell so I didn’t have to use as much mental bandwidth. The simplified caster statblocks seem to be working. The big slowdown is waiting on dice rolling and dice math, plus the newer players taking time to figure out what to do. They are getting faster!
The High Priestess has Mass Heal (700hp healing) on her list, and I’m not using it, as that would have wiped out all the damage the party did in 4 rounds of combat. This doesn’t need to stretch out further and the resources burned means it could turn into a TPK. This is the second session for 2 of my players.
I will edit her statblock to reflect some other earth-themed 9th level spell.

It may have looked grim for the PCs for a while, but with no DM fudging aside from sub-optimal tactics and ignoring one spell, they are going to win this. High level PCs are pretty tough and have ways to recover from problems. This is why I don't worry about "How will my players solve X;" they'll figure out a way. It's just my job to give them interesting problems to solve.

Session 25: 5/14/2022
We’re back! We’ve been doing 2nd & 4th Saturdays, but Dmitri’s player has not been making those days even though they’re when he’s supposed to be available. We’re also only running from about 7:30(7:45) to about 10:30, which is a short-ish 3 hour session, so we are going to switch to “Most Saturdays” instead.

We picked up mostly where we left off, working off of a couple of photos of the battlemap. Top of the round, with Cipactli dead, the High Priestess against a wall but protected by Anti-life shell, Saqwam the tortle still trapped against the ceiling by Bones of the Earth, and 40% of the room covered by Maddening Darkness.

Ratel the monk shot a couple of arrows at one of the Aarakocra champions menacing Saqwam, and Rivkah the bard moved over and lined up a lightning bolt from the Guitar of Electricity that hit four of the Aarakocra. Teador moved over to attack the HP, but was stopped by Antilife shell. His Chill Touch missed. The High Priestess spent her turn chanting while touching the ground…not good. Saqwam realized he could attack the pillar, and hit it with the Warlock tentacle and Eldritch Blast, blowing it up and sending him crashing to the ground.

Ratel shot the high priestess, breaking the concentration on Antilife shell. Rivkah lightning-blasted the Aarakocra again with her guitar, and the High Priestess resurrected Cipactli (1/3 HP, disadvantage on attack rolls). Luckily, Cipactli was right before the High Priestess in initiative order. The party focused the High Priestess down, then killed Cipactli pretty quickly, although not before the giant crocodilian creature bit Ratel and grappled him in its jaws. The junior priests spent this time failing to connect with Hold Person or Sacred Flame, although Rivkah did get held once for one round.

Once we hit 4 enemy priests, all with fewer than 30hp, it was apparent the fight would be over, so I said it was basically over… no need to roll it out. The Aarakocra don’t retreat, it’s against their ethos. Teador used Ssword’s divine sense ability to tell that, although the priests on the upper floors were alarmed, there weren’t enough present and grouped up to meet an immediate counterattack. They had time – a few minutes, perhaps – to check the temple. They loot the high priestess’s body, and then decide to take the whole corpse along to prevent easy resurrection.

There were two halls and two doors out of the main sanctuary, and the two doors would not open (enchanted to stop those with ill intent).
They almost didn’t check the treasury, but looked there last. First, Ratel found the high priestess’s very rich quarters (looted easily grabbed décor for 250gp), then he went the other way down the side hall and found a room with extensive alchemical and enchanting supplies, and grabbed wizardry inks plus woodworking and leatherworking tools.

The other three checked the other hall, finding a storage room containing 3’ high urns full of unclotted blood, and bowls full of preserved hearts. The other area down the hall led to a larger room with a lot of curtains, a faint smell of perfume, and a DC 16 Calm Emotions effect. Rivkah felt really calm and chill as they explored this room, finding curtained-off areas each containing a bed, stools, a small crib, and blankets. When they leave the room, they notice they’ve all healed 1hp from a low-level ongoing effect in the room. An earth and fertility goddess has a labor and delivery room for the well-connected…

Eventually the party does check the locked doors to the treasury, and immediately are confronted by a pair of stone golems. After two round, they’ve done over 180hp in damage, and the golems have slowed 1 PC, missed 6 times, and hit twice for 40 rounds. The outcome is clear and nobody’s in danger of getting killed, so they proceed to loot the room.

After this, they exit the front door of the temple and immediately Teleport back to a rendezvous point with the yuan-ti, who then use Sending to communicate to the diversionary forces. It’s time to count the loot and LEVEL UP TO 17!

17,850gp worth of gold, silver, gems, décor, gem-encrusted weapons, etc.
Shield +1
Dagger of the War Mage +3. We determined that this stacks with the Rod of the Pact Keeper +2, so Saqwam’s Eldritch Blast is getting a serious to-hit boost.
Potion of Longevity
Oil of Sharpness
2x 6th level spell scrolls (I rolled, Arcane Gate & Disintegrate)
1x 7th level spell scroll (Symbol)
1x Earthquake scroll
Quake Plate +2: Legendary, requires attunement
This +2 full plate armor is crafted from precisely shaped slabs of grey rock dyed dark red with blood. When struck, the wearer may use a Reaction to cast Earth Tremor with a DC of 14. The wearer may cast Move Earth once per day. If the wearer can cast spells, Earthbind and Erupting Earth are added to his list of spells known and prepared as long as he is attuned to the armor.

This was a good place to end. Teador the Paladin has access to Holy Sword, giving him +2d8 damage/hit as long as he can keep concentrating with his +15 Con save. Ratel is probably going to take a level of Rogue, as +1d6 sneak attack, 2 expertises, etc. is better than “+4 ki if you have no ki” at 20.
The bard & warlock both have 9th level spells to choose.

In Between
I noticed last night that Ssword had accumulated 7 points on the power tracker, enough to hit the next transformation, which means he’s going to have a dream. Coincidentally, Teador the Paladin (wielder)’s player asked me for an updated statblock:

Artifact, requires attunement
This +3 mithril short sword’s surface has a snake-scale pattern on the surface, and is tinged green. The crossguard is made from a pair of giant fangs, and the pommel is an emerald set in gold.
True Poison. When you strike a target, it takes 2d12 poison damage or acid damage, whichever it is less resistant or more vulnerable to.
Divinity Sense. While you hold the weapon, you are aware of the location and position of all deities and divine spellcasters within 120’. At a range of 30’ or less, your awareness becomes perfect, granting you Blindsense against such creatures and thus the ability to attack without being hindered by Blindness or Illusion-based defenses.
Godslayer. When making an attack with this weapon against a divine creature or spellcaster whose spells come from a deity, your critical hit range is increased by 2.
Mind Shield. The wielder benefits from the effects of a Mind Blank spell, becoming immune to psychic damage, charm & domination effects, divination spells, and anything that would sense its emotions or thoughts, even when cast with the power of a Wish spell.
Sentience. Ssword is a sentient lawful evil weapon with an Intelligence of 14, a Wisdom of 16, and a Charisma of 18. It has hearing and Darkvision out to a distance of 60’.
The weapon can speak, read, and understand all languages spoken within the region, and can now audibly converse in a sibilant, snake-like voice.
Spells. Once per day, it can cast See Invisibility on itself and its wielder. Twice per day, on the wielder’s turn, it can cast 2 spells twice each: Inflict Wounds (3d10 necrotic) on hit, and Cure Wounds (wielder only, 2d8+2).
(this draws from descriptions a specific place, plus a “side plot” option I have scripted out)

"When you rest, you have a dream. You are in a small library, about 20x20’, containing four bookshelves, a table, a few chairs, and two doors. The bookshelves are about ¾ full and appear to be in good condition, containing a variety of hardback books labeled in the yuan-ti script.

You hear a soft sound behind, you of something sliding over the carpet.

Teador takes note of the exits, then turns around.

You turn, and see one of the snake-like yuan-ti. This one seems bigger, and has dragon-like wings and glowing eyes. "

Teador would put his hand where he thinks Ssword would be and say "who are you, and what is all this?" readying his shield as he backs up 5 feet to get closer t one of the doors.

The yuan-ti looks down at itself. “I am Ssword, it sseemss. And you are a hairy monkey persson, not a yuan-ti.”

Teador gives Ssword a slightly confused look. “That I am, hopefully it’s not an issue for you. I guess you’ve never seen yourself like this?” He seems to keep his guard up.

“No… no…” It seems lost in thought for a moment. “The yuan-ti were once hairy monkey people, lacking in intellect and grace compared to now, and perhaps I can finally do what I wass ssuppossed to.. Would you, I wonder, become one of them, the better to crush our enemiesss?”
(Mechanically you would gain some yuan-ti traits over time without losing existing species traits)

He seems taken aback at the offer "uuhh... Thank you for the offer, but I think I'd prefer to stay a... monkey, as you call it" he puts some air quotes over the word money, then looks around the room briefly "what is this place by the way, how did we get here?"

“Ssss… You do not want to become…better…and ensslave our foes to build a gloriouss empire anew one day?
This place isss real… I think. Look for a ssspring atop a hill, about twenty milesss sssouth of the large lake.”

"I'll definitely keep that in mind, don't you worry Ssword... but nonetheless that's interesting, does this place have any significance to you, like should I be actively looking for it?"

“Yes, a ssecret library. Find it.”

The dream fades. You feel like your views on politics and ethics don’t line up with Ssword’s, but it might be persuaded to change some views if you work at it.

Session 26: 5/21/2022

This was a shorter session at a bit under 2.5 hours. We don’t think we’ll see Dmitri’s player often; he hasn’t been responding.
Since most of the map has been explored, and since the original map they were filling in and making notes in got lost, I handed them a printout of the terrain map (not annotated) to use for planning.

Rivkah (bard) took Power Word Kill as her 9th level spell for now. Ratel the monk took a level in rogue (just 1) for the sneak attack and skills, as he’s not impressed by Monk 20. Teador continued to Paladin 17, and Saqwam took True Polymorph as his 9th level Mystic Arcanum.

After finishing with level-up discussions, it was “What do you do next?” Teador says there’s a library he’s been told to look for. The party proceeds, on foot to not draw attention, to within 30 miles of the Aarakocra capital. Along the way, a titanic snake attacks, hitting Ratel and swallowing the monk whole with its first surprise attack. That is, I think, the only attack roll the snake ever got to make, as it rolled a net -2 against Psychic Lance and was incapacitated, then got stunned by a Stunning Fist from within, then Finger of Death’d, Eldritch Blasted, stabbed, and hit repeatedly until dead.

They search in the area described, and find a hidden switch behind a small waterfall. The switch is trapped with a poison that only harms non-yuan-ti, and Teador takes 8d10 poison damage (resists for half) on a failed save. The waterfall piles up behind a temporary wall of water, the rock next to it opens, and a tunnel is revealed. The party goes inside and down under the hill, finding an area with some machinery that pumps water up to the “spring” atop the hill to generate the waterfall that helps conceal it. After some searching, they discover the key Ssword said ought to be there, and enter a very small library.

They spend 12 days in the library without going outside. Why?
-One Anyspell tome (detailed below)
-One set of the teachings of Sseth, which Ssword wants to be placed near – and by the end, Ssword is upgraded to Freedom of Movement 1/day and Mass Healing Word 1/day
-One of each of the 6 types of stat tome.

With a paladin (str, cha), a bard (cha, dex), a warlock (cha), and a monk (dex, wis; already used a dex tome), there is a lot of interest in the Cha tome. This took some time to settle out, and by the end:
Str tome: Teador the paladin
Dex tome: Rivkah the bard
Con tome: Saqwam the warlock
Int tome: Held for possible sale or trade
Wis tome: Ratel the monk
Cha tome: Teador the paladin

12 days later, they emerge for some fresh air and some showering under the waterfall.

There is discussion of setting fire to the Aarakocra’s agricultural areas, but they would need a lot of rope and flammable liquid and time to cover ~1200 square miles. The giants would be the best source for large quantities of alcohol. The party heads towards the city of Tlaloc, the rain/weather god. Early on, the player for Teador commented that they do well at avoiding random encounters… so the dice this time generated a random encounter in every hex. Once it was a flock of blood hawks; once it was a small group of yuan-ti spies who cautiously gave away little information; once it was a large Aarakocra patrol (3 air-skiffs and about 30 of them) that they BARELY avoided (1 point lower on any of the 4 stealth checks would have put them below the DC, then when moving away I rolled 3d20 with “if two of the numbers are over 10 they get spotted” and the rolls were 14, 3, and 9).

They lost time evading these. I was going for the “you’re hunted, the enemy is out in force now, you want to stay unnoticed” and I think I got it.

Then we ended the session with some bad perception rolls on their part leading to them not spotting a Quetzal until it was close, and it beat their stealth checks by a lot and headed their way. It’s 180 feet away, Ratel started rolling and got a natural 20 on his first attack, and that’s where we will pick up next time as it was too late to start this fight, as a quetzal is (per knowledge checks) smart, perceptive, and slightly less powerful than an adult dragon.

Anyspell Tome
Very rare, requires attunement by an arcane spellcaster
As an action, the attuned user may speak the name of any spell and open the book, and the spell will be written inside. It may be cast from the book as though from a scroll, or scribed into a spellbook. Doing either one consumes the magic, wiping the page clean. The book has a recharge time in days equal to 2d10+ the level of the last spell used from it, and must stay attuned during that time.
DM note: This is a balancing point to avoid a wizard being able to scribe every spell on the wizard spell list into a spellbook in just 3 months. It’s still a chance to get any situational spell with very little lead time, or Wish every 2d10+9 days. Just shy of legendary based on that.

In Between Sessions

Teador the (LG) Paladin has Ssword (LE). There’s a side plot option where Ssword can be persuaded to be less of a yuan-ti supremacist tyrant in his attitude, which will carry over
When he turns out to be a shard of the dead god Sseth. You know where this is going.

I made the comment to Teador’s player that his character could tell their ethics and values were not aligned. He said he didn’t think he’d be able to do very well role-playing out persuasive conversations and arguments. I respect that, and so instead we’re going to do a series of opposed Persuasion checks for various aspects of Ssword’s morality. Ssword is just an intelligent sword right now, so he can be persuaded to change at least some of his views.

However, he’s arguing morality in his dreams with a reasonably strong entity with mental scores equal to or greater than his (vs. Ssword, his Cha is greater, his Int is substantially lower, his Wis is slightly lower). I’d like to make it not just a one-sided thing. I am currently planning to do a "best 2 out of 3 rolls" resolution mechanic for the arguments, probably opposed Persuasion checks, although other skills (Religion, History, Insight) could be substituted in.

If he crit-fails (lose by more than 10) on both of his losing rolls on an argument, then TEADOR converts to Ssword’s views on a topic.

Aspects up for debate:
1) Yuan-ti supremacy: Ssword/Sseth should advance the yuan-ti primarily, who are better and worth more than other beings. (evil)
2) Tyranny: Rule with an iron fist and conquest is the best form of government. Those who don’t fall in line should be crushed. (evil + law)
3) No redemption: Enemies must be wiped out. The Aarakocra who served Huitzopochtli must all be killed. Deliberately phrased to avoid tripping on “vengeance paladin”. (evil)
4) The ends justify the means: Any action is okay if it leads to victory. (Evil; possibly chaotic)
5) Utility: Altruism is foolish and not worthwhile. Only help those who are useful. (Evil)
6) Order: An orderly people with firm laws and codes is stronger than one with more “freedom.” A few people may be harmed by this, but it’s worth it. (Law)

Teador’s player agrees, and we handle the first two arguments as though they happened while in the Ssacred library.
#1: Vs. Tyranny: The best form of government is one that allows it's people free to be individuals and rule by conquest aside from the absence of morality it breeds nothing but revolution and hatred.
He rolls a pair of 26s, while Ssword rolls an 8 and a 22 (d20+4 for non-proficient – I will add a proficiency bonus with the next power-up).
His argument against tyranny as an inferior, conflict-causing form of government is successful.

#2 Vs. Yuan-ti supremacy: No race in reality is greater than one or another, each have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Ssword rolls 14, 15, and 8. Teador rolls 23, 20, and 14.

Session 26: 5/28/2022
Saqwam’s player is out, and his dad subs in for his first time playing D&D since 8th grade. Welcome to running a 17th level Warlock you haven’t had time to get familiar with!

We start by resuming the battle with a single Quetzal that was teased last session with it at 180’ away. Ratel gets highest on initiative, and uses that 20. Quetzals have 195hp and it takes about 70 points of damage from the crit + poison. It flies closer to the party on its turn, and tries something, I don’t recall what, but it didn’t work. The quetzal ends failing saves against Earthbind (from Teador) and then a Psychic Lance from Rivkah the bard, and being incapacitated early in round 2, leaving its final ~60hp to be battered down by two Ssword stabs, 2 monk arrows, 4 eldritch blasts, and then Rivkah would get to go again before the Quetzal could take an action. It dies, they loot the body for feathers and a couple of fangs as trophies, and the party heads west.

The comment from last session pays off, as I roll for a random encounter as they enter the next hex. I roll on the encounter table and get 1d3 quetzals again, so I reroll it and get the exact same result. Then the d3 turns out to be a 3, so the party spots 3 Quetzals having just spotted them.

The fight takes 3 or 4 rounds and the rest of the session, and a lot of damage is done as the Quetzals each have legendary actions (but not resistances) and can use Chaos Bolt for their LAs. One quetzal gets hit early and then spends most of the fight under Greater Invisibility; another eats a lot of early damage from, among other things, a failed save against Finger of Death from Saqwam, and then turns itself invisible (greater) and flies off.
The party kills the other two, but not before eating a pair of Prismatic Sprays from the other two Quetzals (damage, no lasting effects). The Invisible one ends up grabbing Rivkah with its tail and flying up. Rivkah almost tries casting Teleport to get to the jungle floor (I’m a nice DM and explain what Teleporting to a place you’ve only seen casually can entail). Teador flies up on his fast griffon and, working with Ratel (archery) they end up killing the Quetzal; Rivkah falls 80’ to the floor, leaving her in the 20s or 30s in HP. The other Quetzal went down to a mix of Ratel’s poison arrows, archery from Teador’s summoned Celestial (5th level), some Eldritch Blasts from Saqwam, and a Bigby’s Striking Fist from Saqwam that stayed around for a few rounds.
At this point, the party is fairly battered and depleted, and one Quetzal – a smart and fast creature serving their enemies – has gotten away. They decide to head west 1 hour and bunker down for a long rest, using Ratel’s 29 on Survival to try to conceal their presence….

DM note: There’s a party of 4 Aarakocra Elites (basically PC chassis but simplified and with some high level abilities) that I could send after them, but I’m also getting tired of yet more jungle fights. On the other hand, I could say they found a small cave and are slightly boxed in.
The Elites are, at this point, most definitely an adventuring party hunting the PCs, and they do have access to Teleport as well as information about where the party is reported to be.

I’ll figure out what I want to roll and see if they find the party. They will also be unofficially added to encounter tables for that hex for a couple of in-game days. It’s too bad the party isn’t searching the hex, as there’s an illusion covering a stone slab in the hex. Under the slab is a Death Tyrant (I’d buff it for a solo fight) and a Staff of Power. I may have the Elites find it if they don’t meet the party, and then their Twinning sorcerer will be even stronger…

I may be able to pressure them into departing the hex via Teleport and trying their plans by some other means, as the recon for them is definitely ratcheting up.


Session 27: 6/11/2022

The party is now back up to 5 reliable members. Troudaar, the Goliath warrior (samurai), has been quietly traveling with the party for a while (that’s the excuse). We equipped him out of spare gear the party had: Broom of Flying, anti-scrying amulet, Plate +2, Maul of Extreme Pain (+2 maul, +2d8 psychic damage), Ring of Spell Turning. It took a while to get his character sheet built, so actual playtime was only about 2 hours.

The party finishes their long rest, hidden in a cave (I wanted some terrain variation). As they discuss what to do next (at my prompting), Ratel overhears fragments of discussion in the Aarakocra language in the near distance. He had the highest pre-rolled Perception, and can understand any language as a monk. There were fragments of a discussion about “they must be around here” and “the bounty on that group.” The party talks briefly about what to do, and I mention that Ratel doesn’t hear anything anymore.

Teador the paladin hastes Ratel, who heads outside. He sees two Aarakocra hidden in trees not too far away. Being a hasted monk, he runs up the tree to the farthest one, which is wielding two wands, hits the spellcaster in the face several times (no stuns), then runs the rest of the way up the tree, does his boot-drop thing for minor damage, and lands on the ground with a very loud noise. I check with the rest of the party, and they were in a “wait for him to be a diversion” mode and not “ready to rush outside” so they sit out the rest of the round. All the enemies go.
The barbarian-like enemy closest to the cave chugs a potion (Storm Giant strength). The spellcaster twins Hastes on him and on the monk Aarakocra. The monk one flies in and makes four attacks against Ratel. Three miss, but on the fourth, his hand and forearm go translucent, and he reaches inside Ratel’s chest and tries to pull his heart out. Ratel makes the Con save and only takes half of the 10d10 force damage. A lightly armored Aarakocra flies over, blinking in and out of place twice (horizon walker teleport) as he stabs Ratel twice, once with 9d6 sneak attack damage.

Ratel starts of the next round simply running dead away at Hasted Monk Dash Speed after disengaging. I don’t remember the number, something ridiculous like 320’/rd. The monk Aarakocra, also Hasted, flies after him, ending up 40’ behind.
The spellcaster moves and the horizon walker/rogue hides, disappearing from the map.
The rest of the party runs out of the cave and starts heading in the opposite direction.

In round 3, Ratel dashes further away. The enemy monk catches up, ending his turn only about 25’ overhead – just out of melee range.

The Aarakocra spellcaster casts a 4th level Mind Whip at the party but gets Counterspelled by Saqwam the Warlock. The horizon walker rogue blips in, stabbing Teador the paladin with sneak attack, and Rivkah the bard with no sneak attack. This was a mistake, as Teador got to use Sentinel to make a reaction attack for 20-30 damage against the rogue. The high strength barbarian, meanwhile, charges in, his fingers ending in two inch talons. He attacks Saqwam once and Troudaar twice, hitting every time for about 20 damage per hit; Troudaar passes his wisdom save to avoid having to attack the ally standing next to him (Beast barbarian feature). I forgot the 4th attack from Haste.

Teador smites the snot out of the horizon walker rogue with 94hp of damage inflicted. Rivkah considers using Power Word Kill but decides to use Psychic lance instead, leaving the rogue with 3hp. Saqwam fires two Eldritch blasts that blow the barbarian back 20’ away from him, and a 3rd that kills the rogue. I think he forgot the 4th ray.
Troudaar action surges, attacking the beast barbarian 6 times including one crit. The damage is decent as only about 60% of it is resisted, and that was a lot of hits.

In the distance, Ratel fires two bow shots at the monk overhead and moves somewhere. The monk easily follows, pummeling him with 3 attacks and another heart-ripping attempt, which Ratel again saves against, I think – don’t recall.

Back at the main battle, Teador drops Concentration on haste (basically stunning Ratel) and successfully Banishes the enemy caster (basically stunning the monk and barbarian). The party deals a bit more damage to the beast barbarian, and then Rivkah asks how many hit points he has left. I say he’s pretty badly hurt and allow a medicine check to determine that he in fact has 97hp. Power Word Kill, boom and dead. Saqwam Counterspells the enemy caster’s Vitriolic Sphere, then casts Danse Macabre to raise the two dead enemies and zombies, making them much harder to bring back to life.

Once both monks recover from the post-haste Lethargy, they trade blows. Ratel is on the ropes with much lower hit points, but finally succeeds with a stunning fist, and the battle is over thanks to repeated stuns at that point. The enemy sorcerer pops out of banishment just in time to receive about 12 different attacks before he gets to go, and Shield avails him nothing.

The party heads west, then curves north, with a long rest somewhere in there. The random encounter chances are very high currently due to the Aarakocra’s alert status. They run into 2 more Quetzals and have very bad group stealth checks. Ratel (very stealthy) moves normally, and the rest of the party uses a pair of Dimension Doors to get 500’ or so out of the Quetzal’s path. They evade another patrol (3 air-skiffs and 30+ Aarakocra) with some decent stealth checks, and then another (1 quetzal, 2 air-skiffs & 20 Aarakocra) the same way. A couple of people have rolled 2s or 3s for Stealth, and Rivkah turns whoever is least sneaky Invisible, which helps bring the group average up.
During one of these encounters, Saqwam orders the zombies to bury themselves in the ground as they are insufficiently stealthy… thus end the zombies.
The party is now about 12 miles away from the city where Tlaloc’s high temple is.

Also, they get to level up to 18, and loot distribution resulted in a net +4 AC for Rivkah and +1 for Saqwam, bringing them up to 20 and 19 respectively from 17 & 17.
1 potion of storm giant strength
3 potions of superior healing
Ioun Stone of Protection (Rivkah)
Ring of Protection +1 (Saqwam)
Short Sword +3 (Rivkah)
Studded Leather +3 (Rivkah)
Wand of the War Mage +2 (Rivkah)
Brooch of Shielding (Troudaar)

DM notes: I was worried this was going to be too tough for my players. It wasn’t! Maybe it would have been if they were at 4 instead of 5. I didn’t use the head-hunter’s stun-on-sneak-attack ability right away, and I should have. If something’s too tough for the players, it’s probably not. These were under-geared for PCs but highly geared for typical NPCs. The strategy of splitting them definitely helped, as the monk’s heart-ripping attack and speed would have been very dangerous had he faced anyone but another monk. The counterspells shut down the sorcerer, who was stuck concentrating on Haste and couldn’t bring his twinned Flesh to Stone to bear. Due to the splits and early death of the rogue, they never got to the point where he could use Twinned Power Word Pain either. He could have counterspelled the counterspell, but it was on a second page (character entry too long) and I missed it.
Still a good fight and had them worried a bit.

I think this proves I can stop worrying about throwing the kitchen sink at them.

Session 28: 6/25/2022

After some discussion, the group decides to head north, slightly further away from Kiayaltepetl. They search the hex for a place to make a temporary hideout/base, and in the process, discover a suspiciously round island in a round pond. Teador flies over on griffin-back and Ratel runs across the water. They determine that the island feels slightly holy, but can’t make the Religion roll. As Teador, a high-level paladin, approaches the small crater in the middle, he hears whistling noise. A boulder falls from the sky with a bright flash, shattering in the crater and sending dust and rocks flying. Inside is a golden rod, one foot long, with a large ruby at one end and an amethyst at the other end. In his head, he hears a voice: “The light of the sun does not belong only to Huitzopochtli. Wield this well.”

His response: “Oh great, another voice in my head.”

This is a Rod of the Sun:

Rod of the Sun
Legendary, requires attunement
This rod has a huge ruby at one end, and an amethyst at the other. The wearer may use it to cast Daylight at will, and Dawn once per day. The rod may also be activated (as though drawing a weapon), causing it to generate a glowing hot blade. This can be wielded as a +3 sword, with options listed below. Half of the damage dealt by the weapon is fire, and half radiant. Greatsword: Base damage 2d10; Longsword, base damage 2d8; scimitar, base damage 2d6.

Troudor the Fighter takes it, and may use it.

There’s then more discussion, and two of the four PCs go to recon Kiayaltepetl, the city of Tlaloc the rain god. Rivkah flies up on her broom at night at high altitude, then flies over the city in the clouds, and descends, using Invisibility from her Instrument of the bards. She rolls several d20s but always rolls high, so nothing happens on her approach. Her massive perception (+12) lets her make out many details in the dark despite not having Darkvision. She spends some time going over the inner city and decides to check out one of the big buildings. It has iron rods sticking up at every corner, joined together by iron bars around the roof, and only a single covered entranceway. She sticks her head in, sees that it’s a library, and in doing so, sets off the trap, taking 22 points of lightning damage and making a brief thunder-and-lightning show, so she leaves.

Meanwhile, Ratel the Monk, with 2 levels in Rogue and Expertise in Stealth, makes his way to the city, learns what’s on the outer ring, then swims across to the inner ring (because walking on a 50’ wide river at night with no cover is bad for hiding) and investigates a few buildings. When Rivkah sets off the trap, he leaves as well.

What they/the party have learned, summarized:
The entire city is surrounded by miles of chinampas, which are a cool permaculture/aquaculture nerd thing that were actually used in Mesoamerica (go look them up). The Aarakocra don’t need bridges, so approaching on foot means moving between a lot of islands across a lot of 10-25’ wide canals.

The city itself is arranged like a bullseye target. At the center is an island with the temple, which is a stepped-pyramid temple with the roof removed, leaving it a bunch of ground-level passages separated by increasingly tall stone walls. There’s a ring of water/river around it, then an inner city containing priest quarters, the library, a lush garden area, and a large stone building surrounded by two wooden fences that nobody got to take a good look at.

Then there’s another ring of water, and you’re in the outer city, which has a large market/artisanal area, two regions of high-end houses/mansions, two areas where there are garrison barracks and air-skiff parking, and a very large warehouse district with lots of small docks. The Aarakocra farmers use small barges to bring their goods here, where they are stored and trans-shipped downriver to the Aarakocra capital in bulk.

They start talking about plans of attack, and decide that they want help. The next session is probably going to involve some Teleportation movement and diplomacy, as they try to recruit the yuan-ti, some giants or goliaths, etc., to join in the attack. Both forces will have to travel >100 miles through the jungle unobserved, so a big question is going to be “how do you make this happen?” It may take a couple of weeks of in-game calendar time to facilitate this.
Teador thinks the yuan-ti need to come out of the shadows and seize an entire city.

It will probably be 4 weeks until the next session.
DM notes: A shorter session due to scheduling, but zero combat! Nobody flubbed stealth rolls, and Rivkah rolled high enough on the random d20 rolls to not have the permanent weather effects over the city cause her to get hit by lightning as an intruder.
They are really starting to look at the “war/logistics” side of this, rather than just “adventurers striking temples.” That’s part of getting a good/successful ending, so I’m glad they are thinking that way. Soon they will forge an alliance, and make a plan for what happens after they defeat Huitzopochtli!

Teador vs. Ssword, Debate 3:
At issue: No redemption, wipe them out.
The paladin's argument:
"While I am in agreement that those who do evil must be punished even killed in some extremes, painting a broad stroke like that runs the risk of catching several innocent people. I have met some Aarakocra that are good people, so that speaks to me that perhaps some if not many of those who serve this evil God might be doing so unwantingly."

Ssword 21, 13, 9
Teador 24, 28, 14


Session 29: 8/6/2022
Teador’s player is out sick. The group decided to wait until he’s back to assault the temple in Kiayaltepetl, so they instead head up into the nearby mountains to explore. After searching for a day or two (on foot due to no air-skiff), they spot a cave protected by a small palisade. When checking it out, Ratel notices an Aarakocra with black feathers keeping watch. They haven’t seen Aarakocra with this color scheme before. Approaching and some short discussion reveals that these are Revenant Aarakocra opposed to Huitzopochtli – the champions of a destroyed tribe, reanimated for vengeance. They have ~3 weeks left before they “die” one way or the other. The party promises to bring them in on the next major attack. All 3 of them are packing magical weapons.

Heading northwest, they search another hex of mountains. As they top a low rise, they notice some trolls hiding about 80’ away. Ratel attempts to engage in diplomacy, but is unhappy with a response of “Get in our cookpot.” Further talking is attempted, until the trolls decide that the party is trying to trick them and just attack. They are big and fast and hit for some damage, and there are 7 of them. Ultimately the party can outdamage them, and by round 2 or 3, several have gone down but popped back up. The bard, warlock, and monk all lack fire or acid damage sources.

Two Rocs pop into view in round 2, and make a pass on round 3 to pick up some snacks. I roll randomly for targeting, and one of the trolls ends up carried off. Troudar’s player then realizes that he did in fact get the Rod of the Sun, and does thus have a flaming sword. Two trolls are killed the next round – as they’d already been knocked down, they only had 10hp. The third troll Troudar scorches runs away and is finished off. Ratel hops up on top of one of the trolls he’d stunned and makes an animal handling check (21) to get a Roc to attack it, resulting in another Roc being carried away.

Power Word Kill was used to kill one troll by Rivkah the bard, and Finger of Death from Saqwam killed another troll. Flaming sword: 3 Rocs: 2 High level necromancy: 2.

The party continues exploring, and finds the village of the Blue Updraft Aarakocra tribe. They do not like Huitzopochtli, but, as a small tribe that has suffered losses, also fear him and his warriors. They have few fighters, no magic, and don’t want to do anything that would cause a fighting force larger than the entire civilian population of their tribe to be casually dispatched to hunt them. There’s some discussion of fostering better ties between the tribes/villages, but when you’re low magic and a day or two apart over dangerous terrain, options are limited.

They do relay a rumor of strange skinny rude people with green-yellow skin hunting for something off to the northeast. It’s fourth or fifth hand, so that’s all they know.

DM note: The Revenant’s magical weapons are good but not great at this level. They will still be a reward of sorts for the party.

I did a “roll for 2 days and combine the random encounters” for the trolls. I meant for the Rocs to be a threat for the party, but the way it turned out was fun. I’m glad someone thought to direct the Rocs towards a troll to use one threat to remove another. It’s odd to have an 18th level party with nearly no sources of acid or fire, but that’s what happens randomly sometimes. Two of the characters who had acid damage before were from players who dropped out. I know I gave someone a trollbane bota (acid spray 3x/day) but again I think that was a player that dropped. Not all parties are formed in total coordination all at once in a whiteroom optimization scenario.

Spot the gith rumor. There’s a crashed illithid UFO that I’m looking forward to them finding.

Session 30: 8/20/2022
DM notes: We are losing Rivkah (bard)’s player due to college classes. I had to help the newer players identify a couple of options they had from class features. This session lasted about 3 hours – 1 hr of planning and 2 hours of battle. The battle is paused after, I think, 4 rounds? To resume next time.

The band of four plot right away to attack the Temple of Tlaloc, the rain god. They pick up the Revenant Aarakocra, and make their approach. Saqwam the warlock uses Scrying to observe the moat around the temple, making it a valid target for his 14th level Fathomless 1 mile teleport feature. He then turns himself, Teador the paladin, Troudar the fighter, and one of the revenants invisible, and they fly to within 1 mile of the temple. The other two revenants are visible, but are at least Aarakocra when seen from a distance.

Ratel, meanwhile, borrows Teador’s summoned gryphon, and flies high above cloud level, then drops down onto the temple. The clouds thicken around him as he falls, and the last 2000’ of the fall are spent dodging lightning strikes once a round. He lands next to the altar, his Skyfall boots damaging it and the two closest Aarakocra (20d6 thunder damage, Dex DC 12 half). He immediately stabs Ssword into the altar, where the blade starts to drain power from it, and initiative is rolled.

Saqwam, the one who’s teleporting everyone else to the battle site, is dead last. Two Slayers (4x shortsword attacks for 1d6+14 each at +12 to hit) leap from the doors to engage him, and he eats several cantrips and spells. Luckily, “thunder and lightning” as a theme involves a lot of AOEs that have to be carefully targeted to avoid friendly fire, and he’s nearly surrounded, so he doesn’t go down.

The party teleports in at the edge of the temple and starts to disperse. There were 4 PCs, 3 NPC allies, and about 10 different enemies in a couple of different areas.

Every round on initiative 20, a 30’ diameter circle of enemies is hit with 4d8 lightning, Dex DC 16 half. The thunderstorm reduces visibility to 40’ and causes disadvantage on perception checks. The ground is also soon going to be muddy and difficult terrain, but that hasn’t kicked in yet (DM judgement). The altar also casts an upcast Ice Storm for 5d6+4d8 damage once per round, but the altar got Ssworded early, so that only went off once.

Two of the Aarcokra revenants tie up a senior priest and an air elemental off to the side. They have magic weapons and are doing okay, but the only reason they are still up is the “regenerate 10hp/rd if not damaged by radiant.”

Ratel initially stunned both Aarakocra slayers, but they passed their saves the following turn, downed him, and then stabbed him when he was down until dead. He’s immune to crits (adamantine skeleton), so it took 3 hits to kill him when he was at 0hp. The Aarakocra aren’t messing around and are really going for kills now. Teador (hasted) revivified him the following round, but Ratel went down again when the High Priestess hit most of the party with Horrid Wilting. Teador then stepped over his unconscious body and kicked him for 50hp of Lay on Hands before killing the remaining living Slayer.

Teador spent his time being the healer and also handing out a lot of smite damage. One of the revenants was with him and targeting mostly the same targets.

Troudar missed his second turn due to a failed save against Banishment, but Teador was able to break the Concentration on that pretty soon thereafter. He stood and delivered a solid 20+ damage per hit for a lot of hits, that’s what high level fighters do.

Saqwam used, if I recall correctly, Counterspell (blocked a 70hp heal), Soulcage (now self-healing himself as a bonus action), Eldritch Blast once, Synaptic Static, and Blight. He’s attuned to the Anyspell Tome and will be using that to Wish-teleport the party out when they are done.

There was a brief discussion of teleporting out after the altar was dead, but a religion check revealed that leaving the High Priestess alive makes rebuilding a lot easier. She’s now 50’ up on a wall, and they can’t quite see where she is, so we still have a couple of rounds of combat left. Other enemies still standing include 2 Ahuitzotls, 2 damaged Air Elementals, and two Senior Priests of Tlaloc.

DM note: I I think I’m going to drop most reactions from enemy Aarakocra. Too many things going on to remember them. This is the first character kill in quite a while, although it certainly hasn’t stuck. There’s a lot of AOE damage that’s stacking up over time, and more reinforcements are inbound. The weather-related spells are all AOEs and the Aarakocra are just now free to target the party with them without hitting a lot of their own. Whirlwind is a junky spell for the level it’s cast at, but Cone of Cold and Freezing Sphere will be incoming. Of course, the casters have lost most of their melee screen, and reinforcements are slow and mostly more priests. When seconds count, help is only minutes away…

Session 31: 9/3/2022
We pick up right where we left off. At initiative 20, people take some lightning damage based on Dex save results. Lightning continues to come down for the duration of the fight, but Dex saves are usually made.
Troudar the fighter wields his mighty mallet, finishing off the air elemental and the stunned ahuitzolotl next to him. Ratel goes next, running up the wall to near the high priestess. He shoots, hitting once for quite a bit of damage thanks to purple worm poison, which he’s almost out of. It’s then the “Enemy Caster” turn, which is most of them.

The High Priestess drops Freezing Sphere in the middle of the open area, damaging most of the party. Many of them pass their CON saves. F.S. also has the fun side effect of freezing standing water, and it’s been pouring buckets. For the remainder of the fight, the center of the temple (ground level) is covered in ice. Any creature starting its turn on the ice has to pass a DC 10 Acrobatics check or fall prone at the start of its turn. There were many failed checks.
The other casters go, but mostly miss with Guiding Bolts or things that are saved against.

The other Ahuitzotl is finished off with a Hasted stab from Teador, who then drops concentration and loses his turn by casting Circle of Power, giving everyone advantage on saves vs magic, and basically Evasion on successful saves. I think Saqwam turns invisible and moves to the side, as there are no ground targets. One of the revenants wields a Club of Humanoid Bane and catches up to the high priestess after killing one of the Senior Priests.
Troudar’s next turn is an Action Surge to double-move with his broom up to the High Priestess, where he uses Fighting Spirit to make 3 attacks and deletes her from the board. The remaining air elemental finishes off one of the revenants.
Ratel shoots at the other Senior priest (just within 30’ visibility range), doing about 40 damage thanks to poison and leaving the priest with about 60 hit points left. Teador uses Ssword’s blindsight vs divine casters to target the remaining priest with a Firebolt, then rolls a natural 20. We use big crits, so that’s 40 + 4d10 and he rolls well. That firebolt went right into the hapless priest’s beak and killed him!

The remaining lesser casters are finished off, partly by Saqwam using True Polymorph to turn into a Planetar and dealing 40+ damage per melee hit. Bodies are quickly retrieved, and the party teleports out quickly. The remaining Revenant turns down the offer to go with them in favor of staying and killing more.

Everyone levels to 19!
Adamantine Breastplate and Club of Humanoid Bane +1 from the Revenant. It’s just a club, but against a humanoid, it’s a 3d6+1 damage club.
From the high priestess:
Cloak of Displacement (goes to Troudar, who drops his Ring of Spell Turning)
Dagger of Precision +2: +2 Dagger, Dex increased by 2 to max 22 while attuned (Goes to Ratel, who gets rid of the Skyfall boots…again…for now)
Ring of Air Elemental Control (Goes to Teador, who drops the Anyblade…again…for now. He’ll need to kill an Air Elemental for it to be much use).
Shark Leather +2, the last item in the Panoply of the Shark set. Unfortunately no takers, as the set is more for rangers and rogue types and we have none of those.

Also, Ssword gets smarter from absorbing divine energy… after all, it was made from a fragment of divine energy originally. A fragment of Sseth, the yuan-ti’s dead god. Take a bit of divinity, and add a bit more, and more, and eventually you have a god again.

The Ssword of Sseth would like to be revealed to the yuan-ti, so that they can begin worshipping Sseth again, giving the Ssword more power. Sseth was lawful evil. Troudar isn’t a fan of the idea. Saqwam is definitely against it, given orders from his patron. Ratel is fine with it because it helps kill the enemy. Teador, the wielder of the Ssword of Sseth, reveals that he’s been working on changing the Ssword’s alignment and persuading it to change its views to be more open and acceptable.

Next time, unless they change plans, they’ll be traveling to visit the yuan-ti to start spreading the word of Sseth.
They don’t have an air-skiff, and it’s 7 days until the Anyspell Tome can be used to cast Teleport again, so I’m not sure how they plan to travel. Saqwam’s player has now realized that he can True Polymorph himself into an adult dragon every day, so maybe by dragon-back.


Session 32, 9/17/22

This was a more exploratory session, with not much serious combat. The party starts heading towards a yuan-ti city, but they are all far away and will require a circuitous route. There is discussion of using True Polymorph to travel via dragonback, but it’s ultimately decided against. They decide to search the hexes they travel through along the way. They get lucky, and only one random encounter gets rolled across several days…and that encounter is a pair of Air Elementals! The Ring of Air Elemental command is now fully powered up. We didn’t bother rolling for 4 19th level characters vs 2x CR 5 elementals.

The group heads southwest to 05.05, where they spot an abandoned rock quarry with 5 stone huts down at the bottom. They descend; Saqwam uses Ghostly Gaze to look through the stone huts, and sees 5 translucent, ghostly figures, which he (Nat 20 religion) identifies as Banshees. There’s no obvious treasure to his x-ray vision, but Teador the Paladin wants to smite undead anyway.

The party lands and passes all their saves, wiping out the Banshees in about 1.5 turns. The 30’ +5 Paladin aura is very helpful.
Investigating afterwards, they notice runes of imprisonment and warding carved around the edges of the quarry; the banshees are apparently trapped there, and have been for who knows how long.

The group departs, heading southwest, where in the next hex they find some chewed up petrified people (none in raisable condition) with a bit of gold. The basilisk or whatever did it does not seem to be around.

Somewhere around this time, a running discussion that lasts the rest of the session off and on begins. I think it started with Saqwam collect a rock from the quarry, and it went through him possibly eating them, the party being in Roc territory, Teador being as dumb as rocks, what rocks taste like, etc.

Heading further southwest to 03.06, they find a large opening in a cliff-face over a waterfall. Troudar notices signs of traffic in and out. They fly in, then walk back in the cave. It forks, and they follow the right fork back, where it terminates in a large room. Teador and Ratel walk in, and both pass their saves against a Zone of Truth. In the room is a Quetzal sitting on a nest (snake/bird creature with prismatic stuff, serves Quetzalcoatl). It interrogates them briefly, and asks if they brought tribute?
PC: “What would be acceptable tribute?”
Q: “Valuable gems… oh, or the heads of those people that have been giving the Aarakocra fits. I’ve heard the bounty is immense!”
PCs: “We’ll just be leaving now.”
They depart in peace from the Quetzal nesting grounds. Troudar’s good Perception rolls let him realize that an invisible Quetzal is following them out.
Saqwam picks up a rock on his way out to serve as an anchor to teleport back in the future if needed.

Southwards, they find an abandoned cliffside dwelling possibly occupied by Gargoyles at one point in the past. Ratel takes a 150# stone stool and stuffs it in a Bag of Holding. More rocks.

In the next hex to the south, they find a cave that has an overgrown but clear opening coming up to it. Entering it, it appears to be an abandoned mine. They explore and find an elevator going down. Checking the rest of the floor they are on, they end up going down a hall with four short halls to the right prior to the end. The first short hall contains a headless zombie and a 50’ silk rope. The second, third, and fourth halls all each contain a headless zombie, and a healing potion, 34 gp, and a +2 crossbow bolt. The zombies are dispatched without bothering to roll.

The passage continues with a couple of side exits, one containing a non-magical steel shield, and a room that appears to have had something dig through the rock in the past.

The party then doubles back to the elevator (fits 3), and take it down while Teador floats down above it. The group makes an Intelligence save, and detects a psychic aura that makes them feel bad…except Teador. He got an 11 and didn’t notice anything.

When reaching the next floor down, they find 3 brains with legs waiting for them. Ratel beats them in initiative and kills one, damaging another. He passes his intelligence saves, then Troudar picks up the injured brain with legs and uses it as a weapon (Tavern Brawler) to kill it and nearly kill the other living one. Saqwam uses his crossbow but misses, then Teador skewers the last one.

We left off there and will presumably continue exploration next time.

DM note: Yes, Intellect Devourers. Saqwam’s player specifically said “I feel like this is someone leaving candy out to bait a path for a kid, so they can then come along and kidnap the kid, and we’re the kid.”
There’s more if they go deeper….

Session 33, 10/1/22

The party explores further, having not made any knowledge checks to identify their foes. They proceed down a twisting but clearly artificial corridor, and find a very large (>100’) oval room. There’s one other tunnel leading out of it. They check over the room and find what they identify as a Teleportation Circle (for the 5th level spell), but it’s written in a language they can’t identify.

DM Note: Qualith, the Illithid language. History DC 20, nobody made the check.

Proceeding up the other tunnel, Saqwam, near the rear, notices a tiny (1’ wide) crevasse that seems to go somewhere. Teador the paladin (INT 8) sticks his head in. There’s an Intellect Devourer inside. INT save, with disadvantage because he failed his save against the psychic aura last session. 6. Roll 3d6, 16. Teador is now Stunned and his intelligence is 0. Troudar moves the drooling paladin-vegetable away while Ratel sets up with a readied attack and flattens the Intellect Devourer.
Saqwam identifies it, and the connection to mindflayers. After a brief discussion, the party decides to execute a planned retrograde exfiltration of the area.

There’s some discussion, including “If you could read his mind, you’d just hear the sound of static.”

They tie Teador to his griffon (outside) and continue exploring. It will take 2 more days for the Anyspell Tome to recharge, allowing them to cast Greater Restoration. The only random encounter during this time is a few manticores, not worth rolling out. The book recharges, and Saqwam restores Teador’s brain. After re-orienting him, and giving him several different explanations for what happened, the group moves on.

They find a carved opening in a mountainside, and explore it. Inside is a large, clearly artificial room containing nothing but a single stone humanoid figure. It’s features are stylized and blurred so that there’s no clear species model, but it’s continually moving through an extremely long pattern of katas and martial arts forms with perfect precision and placement at every point.

Studying and mimicking its form and precision can lead to a greater understanding of how to make unarmed strikes. Anyone who follows its lead for 8 hours gains a permanent +2 to damage with unarmed strikes. This is physically taxing however, requiring a Strength save at the end of each hour. On a failed save, the character gains one level of exhaustion. The DC is equal to 14 minus the would-be martial artist’s proficiency bonus.

Everyone except Saqwam participates, and thanks partly to the Paladin’s +5 aura (you can do it!) they all pass the series of saves and now punch and kick more precisely than before.

The next hex south contains a pack of Winter Wolves, who follow the party for a while. There’s a brief conversation, but they don’t have anything to give the wolves (the Aarakocra bodies they carry around will still have decomposed some in the Bags of Holding), and don’t think they need the services of the wolves for anything either.

Continuing on, they find a path above a cliff. A rope is tied nearby, going down the cliff face to a small, square opening. Entering, they find a small room with a scorched and blackened Goliath body in the middle. Teador walks across the room and sets off an Immolation trap, getting lit on fire (8d6) and taking a round or two of continuing damage before using Dispel to end the spell on himself.

Detect Magic and Thieves Tools are used to find and disable the trap, and the Detect Magic also reveals an illusion containing a door on the other side of the room. The door is locked, so Troudar kicks it down. The hallway beyond is full of completely opaque fog. Teador uses Gust of Wind from his ring twice to clear fog, but runs out of charges before they hit the next bend and the 3rd (longest) stretch of fogged corridor. This fog is all from the Guards and Wards spell.

Moving down the corridor, Teador trips a pressure plate, and everybody except Ratel gets zapped by a lightning bolt (disadvantage on saves because they can’t see it coming). After this, they all fly (brooms and Ring of Air Elemental Command floating). At one point, Teador fights off a Suggestion to explore openings to the left and the right. He warns the rest of the party, so they get advantage on their save versus Suggestion. At the end of the hall, they find a rotating color wheel they can’t really figure out, and another locked door behind an illusion. They break the door, and go into another fogged corridor. Ratel picks the lock at the end of this one.

They enter a large room that is mostly a living area, but contains some statues of elven wizards in heroic poses. Immediately, a gem on the ceiling lights up with Sickening Radiance. They destroy it before it does much damage. A few seconds later, one of the statues points at Troudar and does something, but misses. Teador rolls higher in initiative and destroys the statue after it misses him in turn.

The party spreads out to explore the room, and after about 2 more rounds of time, four Helmed Horrors under the effects of permanent Improved Invisibility attack the party. Saqwam the warlock is closest, so he gets two of them on him, and loses about 2/3 of his hit points. Teador gets Ssword to give him See Invisibility. Everyone else spends the whole fight rolling at disadvantage.

We stopped here due to time.

DM Note: This is a wizard’s study home away from home, and when you’re an elven wizard, you have a LOT of time to make it hard to get into. Everything the party runs into here is on the Wizard list or associated with spellcasters. I don’t usually use traps, but this place absolutely calls for it… and they are, I think, pretty well telegraphed. The Suggestion pointed either to a room with several Symbol:Deaths in it, or to a fall into a room with an Illusory Dragon in it.
One player made a comment about hoping there’s good loot. We’ll see if they can get it. They already missed the illusion-covered door to the room that the wizard used to arrive via Teleport Circle.
Nobody in my party has the spell, but I have left a number of Teleport Circles scattered around the map, including one sealed up in the basement of Huitzopochtli’s high temple.

Session 34, 11/26/2022
We are closing in on 2 years! One more meeting this year and then a 4 week break due to the Christmas holiday. Today’s session was only around 2-2.25 hrs due to time.

At this point, the party has cleared all of the active threats. They explore the sitting room, and with the Investigation check I mention that the furniture is well-made. “What kind of wood?” “Roll a nature check” as I buy time…. “22”… “umm, Red Ironwood.” It turns out that’s a real wood, and a very hard and expensive wood. Later on, Ratel spends some time cutting up some chairs for wood to sell or use to make stuff because it’s so valuable. Lesson learned: If you improvise an expensive sounding wood, make sure it’s a real one, or that nobody in your party has actually worked with exotic woods.

The party cautiously proceeds down one of the two fog-filled corridors after checking the door for traps. They find two guest rooms (nice furniture, apparently untouched but clean), and a partly empty library. Searching the library, they find 1200gp in spell scribing supplies, two empty spellbooks, and an array of 12 wizard scrolls.

Exploring the other hall, they found the master bedroom, which contained a Robe of Eyes and Cloak of Elvenkind. Right now, nobody has suitable attunement slots.

From there, they proceeded to the wizard’s study, picking up a couple of high-level scrolls, a Staff of Charming, and a Wand of Paralysis. Again, attunement slots. While Ratel starts cutting up some wood, Teador decides to open the other door in the back, ignoring the fact that furniture arrangement indicates it was rarely used. The door is not locked, but is “stuck.” He yanks it open, and a Magic Mouth yells in elven about hating thieves, right before a Glyph of Warding (fire) goes off, destroying all the papers and any un-held items in the room, plus damaging the party.

Luckily, they grabbed the valuable stuff before the door was opened, so nothing of value was burnt. A greedy or speedy group may have tried the door first, and lost the items in the room.

After this, they decide to take a long rest. Despite having three good, comfortable bedrooms, everyone but Teador decides to rest in the library. Saqwam doesn’t need to sleep, so he reads, Ratel reads and then trances for 4 hours in a wingback chair leaned against the wall, and Troudar just finds a comfortable corner. Paranoid PCs are gonna be paranoid.

The party proceeds back to the long fog-filled hallway, making sure to specify that they float to avoid the pressure plates and lightning bolts.

However, this does not prevent them from passing through the area with a DC 20 Suggestion effect to check the sides. Unlike when they came in, two PCs failed.

Troudar went to the eastern room, a 10’ triangular room. The door slams behind him, and two Symbols light up on the walls… one of Death (10d10 necrotic) and one of Insanity (INT save or insane for 1 minute). There’s a second Death symbol on the door that he triggers when he turns around and sees it in the following round. Before getting pulled out (below) he spends a couple of rounds moving randomly in the room and takes somewhere around 150hp of damage.

Ratel, meanwhile, turned west, and walked down a short corridor. The floor at the end of the corridor is an illusion leading to a 100’ fall. He falls, hits the ground unscathed (monk) and has a dragon pop into existence in front of him. He fails his Wis save against fear and his Int save against the breath weapon, and uses his turn to run away back upstairs to tell everyone there’s a dragon. He sees the closed door and opens it, subjecting himself to two of the three Symbols. He fails his save against insanity as well.

Saqwam, meanwhile, thinks there’s not much he can do. “I walk farther away.” DM: “You walk further away?” “Yeah.” Pressure plate triggered, lightning bolt saves from everyone except the insane guy locked in a small room.

Ultimately, Saqwam uses Bigby’s Hand to grapple Ratel and pull him out of the area of effect, then Teador uses a Paladin ability to end the ongoing spell effect. Ratel wants to go back for Troudar, and insists that he be dropped where he is.
Ratel was being held right over the square with the pressure plate. Lightning bolt saves from everyone except Troudar…again.

Ratel makes his saves and pulls Troudar out, then Troudar is healed by Teador. The Paladin +5 aura (30’) helped a lot with this.

They then decide to go back and confront the dragon, triggering Suggestion again. Luckily, the only one who failed was Troudar, and since he’d already checked one side, checking dragon-side was his reasonable choice…and he was headed there anyway. He starts floating down at 30’/rd on his broom.

Ratel runs down, punches the dragon, and misses with 20-something and 30-something to hit. This is fishy. He yells something up the 100’ drop about waiting, but the other PCs decide they don’t hear him.
Teador casts Haste, and then uses a Hasted dash and his flight speed from his ring to Magneto-hover down past Troudar to reach the bottom, coming into view of the dragon at the end of his turn. Ratel then decides to just leave, wall-running/dashing back up the 100’ drop past Teador and Troudar.

The dragon breathes fire on Teador and moves. Teador makes his save, then Hasted-floats back up past Troudar.
Troudar eventually catches up, and the party exits without further issues.
A triggered Illusory Dragon can be a fun thing. It’s a nice spell.

DM note: The wizard’s library contained some basic scrolls to refill a spellbook in case of catastrophic loss. I don’t think anyone picked up on this.

Session 35, 1/7/2023

The December session was cancelled due to sickness.

Teador’s player couldn’t make it due to work.

Once everyone gets back up to speed after the long break, the party continues south and east, working their way towards the Yuan-ti, but exploring along the way. They find an old giant hideout with a couple of Superior Healing potions and some oversized bandages, needles, thread, etc.

They then spot a couple of goliaths heading south while carrying longbows. Introducing themselves, they learn that the two goliaths are named Sadat and Ihtafeer. The group offers to travel with them, but then starts debating it. Saqwam notices himself saving against a Suggestion to travel with the two. Ratel takes him aside and they have a conversation in Primordial (to be sure the two goliaths can’t understand them), but ultimately decide to travel with them. They do notice the two asking a lot of questions. hey are very interested in what the party is doing, and eventually offer to show up when the party is ready to attack the Aarakocra. After traveling close to the giant city to the south, they part ways and the group heads in a more easterly direction.

Passing through some already-explored areas, they find an abandoned cliff settlement. Along the way, they also find an overgrown statue of a Yuan-ti Abomination clasping hands with a Giant. Uncovering the inscription, it commemorates a peace treaty between the people of Sseth and the giants, and the giants sending stone-workers to help built Sseth’s main temple, which has now been converted to the High Temple of Huitzopochtli. The Ssword of Sseth thinks this was around 800 years ago. I roll an Int check, and that also jogs the sword’s memory. There was a secret back route…a Teleportation Circle hidden in a small chamber underneath the temple. If someone can cast Teleportation Circle, they have a possible secret way in. Nobody in the party has it, but I do let them know that the yuan-ti should have at least a few wizards who can cast the spell. This is not the first Circle they’ve run across.

Due to time and turnover we recap the kraken that may help during the final battle, as well as remind them about the Crystal Sword locked in a stone by a riddle…the party is close to the area.

A few days later they find an old fortified cave with a small shrine to Lolth. Everything else there is just scraps aside from a half-shredded backpack containing two Unbreakable Arrows and 3 Acid Flasks.

The group continues southeast into the jungle, and spots an Aarakocra patrol about 900’ away. They decide to attack it, and Ratel immediately flies upwards on his bow and starts raining arrows upon them. Once the first guardsman falls, the air-skiff makes a quick U-turn and starts flying away. Ratel pursues, running across the treetops as monks do, while trying to shoot down any that aren’t within the boat for cover. He continues to pursue. After about a minute and a half, he’s 900’ away from the party, and the session ends with the sharp crack as six Aarakocra arrive via teleportation to a point not far in front of him.

DM Notes:
I know none of my players have played Baldur’s Gate II, so I felt very safe naming the Rakshasas disguised as Goliaths after two of the Raskshasas from a quest in that game. They failed one of their deception vs. insight checks, and failed to land a Suggestion, and acted a bit over-interested, but the party never cut them loose or interrogated them more thoroughly. I made sure to phrase a few things with weasel words like “We’d be happy to show up to one of your battles with some friends if we know in advance.”
I did have the Rakshasas offer to help with night watch duty. Saqwam has the invocation that means he doesn’t sleep, and Ratel is an elf and only trances for 4 hours, so they specified that there were always two of them awake on watch. If they had not been paranoid, well, Rakshasas do have Dominate Person.

I forgot to roll Random Encounter checks for part of the evening, then near the end did roll the weakest possible Aarakocra patrol. At this point, the party has attacked 3 temples and is very well known to their enemies. There is only one entity in the entire setting that will fly up on a broom and start putting arrows into people reliably from 900’, and that’s Ratel. His character has grown very, very confident. Now he’s going to face a full ambush party by himself for at least two rounds, including several Slayers. He’s solo’d quite a bit before, but it really only takes a failed save against Hold Person. On the other hand – he’s a Monk with high WIS saves, and he can spend a ki point to reroll a failed save. If they kill him, logically they may try to escape with the body for interrogation. I would not want to perma-kill a PC at this point in the campaign, so I’ll probably have him raised and imprisoned, and then let the others find out about it quickly… say, perhaps by Saqwam soul-caging one of the others and finding out that they had a plan to capture, interrogate, and then sacrifice any of the PCs they capture. Saqwam’s a warlock, so Soul Cage is his only spell of that level. I’m pretty sure it will happen.

Assuming the PCs succeed, they’ll get a Helm of Teleportation out of it. I had an ambush marked down for the abandoned keep they’d designated as a “base” but they have not returned to the area since I put that in place.

Session 36, 1/21/2023
Teador’s player couldn’t make it due to work. Starting at 7:30 and ending around 10:15 means we are ending up with some pretty short game sessions. RL happens.
When we left off, Ratel had six Aarakocra teleport in front of him. He wins initiative, turns, and high-tails it back to the party, running across the top of the jungle canopy at 180’/rd (1 ki point per round). They give pursuit, but he quickly outpaces them. Saqwam True Polymorphs into an Adult Gold Dragon, picks up Troudar, and heads to meet him.

The Aarakocra pause, group up, and ready an action to Teleport in front of Ratel. Roll 1d100… 05. They Teleport someplace else, and having only one charge left in their Helm of Teleportation, do not return.

The group stays in the area, and Saqwam remains a dragon. Unfortunately, True Polymorph specifies that your gear melds into your body and provides no benefit, so he is no longer protected from Scrying. At dawn the next day, the group is on the ground when the same team of Aarakocra teleport in. There are two Slayers, two priests of different levels, a wizard, and one wielding an atl-atl.

Troudar flies up to the atl-alt javelineer and reduces him to about 15 hit points. Ratel then shoots him, hops onto the back of Saqwam the Adult Gold Dragon, and starts picking on the next target. Saqwam hits the enemies with Dragon Fear (4/5 fail) and then breathes fire at the two Slayers who, with +14 to hit, missed most of their attacks on Ratel.

The enemy priest tries to dispel Saqwam’s polymorph, then eats a full attack routine from a dragon. The Aarakocra wizard gets knocked down to single digit HP by Troudar, and finished off by Ratel again. The remaining enemies leave via Word of Recall as they have lost two of their number without doing major damage (Cone of Cold does not count).

Atl-atl of the many: When you launch a javelin from this, 1d4 copy javelins are created, each with their own attack roll against the target. Requires attunement.
Helm of teleportation: Requires attunement. Ratel dropped the Bracers of Defense for this.

The group bails on the hex and heads southeast to solve the fey riddle and get the sword out of the stone:

Useless to the blind,
A drinker, a spiller,
Chains this crystal blade bind,
Until offering is made in kind.

Dryness of ocean,
Melting of rock,
Color of air,
Flow of clock,
Hair of the wielder,
Place to unlock.

Their answers, in order:
True Polymorph into a magma mephit and try to fit into the bowl
Breathe into one of the bowls
Sand, like from an hourglass
A bit of Troudar’s hair

The sword comes out.
Troudar is now hairless.
Ratel succeeds on his Constitution save as the bowl tries to suck all the breath out of his lungs.
Saqwam is de-polymorphed as the bowl destroys his Magma form, and succeeds on a Con save to not die (improvised system shock roll).

The sword is a +3 crystal greatsword. The wielder, when targeted by a single-target spell or ranged spell attack that he can see, can use his Reaction to make an attack roll. If the attack roll meets or exceeds the spell DC or spell attack roll, the sword absorbs the spell, discharging it into the next target struck within 1 hour. It can only hold one spell at a time.
Yes, you can catch and redirect Disintegrate with this.

After some discussion about trapping Eater Goats and releasing them in a city, or using the Helm of Teleportation to conduct city bombardment via 9’x9’x9 rocks 3000’ into the air, the party teleports to the old fort they had dug a hideout under, over in 15.11.

We ended the session there.

For next time, the discussion question is: What is your action plan and where are you going? I feel like they’ve been muddling around with no clear plan. With scheduling getting tougher and sessions getting shorter, I’d like to see this end soon… but they keep not committing and following through to a single course of action.

Session 37, 2/4/2023
There were two planning periods this session where everyone sat and talked about strategy and next steps. I’m going to consolidate them into one section for clarity.

With the player for Teador, wielder of the Ssword of Sseth back, and having Teleported near yuan-ti territory, the group heads north after some discussion about revealing the sword or not (random encounter: big beehive in tree, only a threat if you mess with it). The closest village is actually one of the first yuan-ti settlements they visited, the one where a scarred wizard first challenged them with “Are you worthy?” and set them on the path to finding Ssword in the first place nearly 2 years ago IRL.

Once there, they reveal the existence and nature of Ssword to the leader (Ila, a snake-form yuan-ti). I have Ssword drop the “I am the Ssword of Sseth, a fragment of what was once a god and may be again” line. Not being a fan of narrating NPC to NPC conversations at the table, it’s pretty short. Ila calls together the entire population of the settlement after the discussions are all over with, and Ssword talks to them about his history and what he could be. The Ssword of Sseth asks them to get out their old books and records of prayers and rituals, and to believe. Not all believe him, and there is arguing and talking, and a near fistfight (Ratel wanted to put 4cp on “the smaller one” in the fight), but that there would be evidence in the morning of those who believed the strongest.

The party is not left alone that evening – lots of people want to see them and talk and ask questions, including Priya, the scarred enchanter. She is sure to come over and ask questions, and promises to help when they need it.

The next morning once everyone’s awake, one of the yuan-ti runs out in front of the village, slices her arm open, and then heals it. This is the first clerical magic they’ve had since Sseth was killed. Following this a LOT of Sendings and messages start going out to all the other yuan-ti villages and outposts.

For now, the Ssword of Sseth can only grant clerical powers in a 1 mile radius (range based on what I’ve read of the Time of Troubles in the 2nd edition transition). Also, he hits his final power-up and can cast Harm on-hit and Heal once per day each.

The team then heads out to begin executing the plans they made slightly earlier in the session. Here’s my summation, which may not be as accurate as what they wrote down and kept for themselves.
1. Get the giants on-side to participate.
1a. Provide them with evidence that demands action regarding Huitzopochtli being present in person on the Material Plane, as they’ve stayed cautiously neutral and the yuan-ti haven’t gotten them on-side in 300 years.
1b. Acquire this evidence by raiding an Aarakocra temple to steal documentation regarding their plans and purpose.
1c. Deliver the evidence so the giants will help with military action.
2. Either go destroy the last outlying temple altar, or proceed directly to Huitzopochtli’s high temple and lay waste to it.
3. Influence the long-term outcome through their discussions with Sseth and plans with the yuan-ti and giants.

To that end, they are teleporting to a giant city near the city belonging to Quetzalcoatl, the god of invention. The first teleport rolls for a similar location… “Oops, wrong city”… then they try again and get where they planned. From there, they head north (random encounter: bull elk, pretty, but not the time to hunt) for a day. Approaching the hexes around the city, they determine that they are not stealthy, and spot a number of Quetzals circling the area looking for anything. They do not think they can get past the eagle-eyed giant intelligent magic birds, so they re-route to another hex to approach the city…and run into the same thing.

After some discussion, the silver raven figurine is sent to retrieve a small object from some kind of sheltered location a mile or so away from Quetzalcoatl’s city. They then use that to teleport without error to that location. The party will wait there. At dusk, Ratel the stealthy fast monk will don his Boots of Elvenkind and the Nightcloak (we had to look it up, it was from September 2021!), which allows him to cast Invisibility at will. He will infiltrate the city and look for any written documents that could be useful.

He doesn’t read the Aarakocra language, but he asked the yuan-ti for some cheat sheets of symbols and words to look for, and with a Headband of Intellect he should be able to pick them out.
We’ll run that over Discord before the next session, and the plan is to get the documents, exfiltrate quietly, and then go talk to the giants before going on offense.

Every Aarakocra city is different…this one has a lot of logging operations around it, and is the main manufacturing assembly line for the air-skiffs.

Since the party got the yuan-ti 100% in their corner and and restored Ssword to full power, that’s a major accomplishment, so everyone levels up to 20.

From here out we are entering Epic Boon territory.

DM Notes: Level 20, hurrah! I am definitely glad I let them get the Helm of Teleportation. It might have been good for them to get it earlier, but once you have fast travel, exploration also takes a back seat, and they would have missed a few things. It’s not like they are ever going to see all the content anyway, though.

I didn’t do a statblock for Priya, but she’s around a level 14 enchanter. Easy to throw in if they ask for her specifically.

I am overall pleased with how the Ssword of Sseth subplot has been playing out.

Session 37.5
This happened after Session 38, but is set beforehand.
Ratel waits until dusk, sneaks across the fields, and then up and over the fence with a 34 in Stealth. He approaches the quiet, dark sawmills, explores there for a bit, and then takes some cautious observations of the building to the east. He thinks he sees some Quetzals on the top floor, and skips it.

Ratel then slips alongside the troughs that air-skiffs travel along while being assembled.

Turning invisible (18th level monk), he crosses to the temple, finds the door shut, and peeks in the top. He decides it’s not safe to go in the temple, and proceeds east past the long buildings. He pauses for a while to listen to talk in the sitting areas around the Fountain of Hues, and hears mostly craftsmen talking. It sounds like there’s a lot of enchanting and work with special materials here.

Moving east, and going invisible several times with Empty Body, he ultimately decides to infiltrate what turn out to be priest quarters. He finds an unoccupied room on the 2nd floor, checks it out, then hides in the wardrobe (with a very high stealth check). He waits until the occupant comes back, then listens and waits while the occupant east, changes, and sleeps. He trances during the day to pass the time, and waits for the occupant to leave the next night.

He then examines the room, finds some personal letters, and takes them because they have a few of the appropriate symbols. He almost decides to leave, but instead turns invisible and goes up to the next floor.

There are four buildings of priest quarters…3 of them have Senior Priests. The other has the High Priest quarters. I roll a 4 on the 1d4, so the top floor is the High Priest quarters…all of it. Ratel looks around briefly for a desk or writing area, and finds one. It’s neat and organized, with blank vellum, parchment, and writing materials on top. There are two locked drawers, but Ratel’s Rogue levels come in handy and he pops the lock with an 18+12=30.

One drawer has a number of letters, documents, etc., which Ratel cannot read. However, they do contain some of the symbols on his cheat sheet, so he thinks they are at least some of what he needs. He takes them.

The other drawer contains sealing wax and official seals (one personal, one for his position). He takes impressions of both seals and steals one container of the rainbow-colored wax.

As he’s finishing this up, he hears a thump as someone lands in the next room over in the apartment. Using his Empty Body ability to turn invisible, he quickly moves to the window and out the curtain, slow-falling to the ground. I call for a new Stealth check for this (it’s been a while), and the High Priest, who is VERY perceptive, beats him and hears Ratel exit. The HP moves into the room, sees his desk drawers open (I didn’t ask/prompt him to close them) and the curtain moving, and looks outside. The High Priest has permanent True Sight 120’, so he sees Ratel… and of course the party’s descriptions are well-known at this point.
Initiative is rolled, and Ratel wins. He uses his move and bonus action dash to move 120’ north, then activates his Cape of the Mountebank to teleport a further 500’, landing invisible outside the wall. The alarm is raised behind him, but it’s too late for anyone to catch him before he makes it back to the party.

DM Note: Document secured for the Giants. He successfully avoided the teaching areas beneath the Quetzals, as well as the main archives and details in the Temple, which would have had a lot more information. This will be enough to persuade some, but not all.

Session 38, 2/18/2023
Ratel’s player couldn’t make it. A family member with “some” D&D experience joined while visiting in town, playing Rivkah… Walking in to a high level game with a 20th level bard you’re unfamiliar with and haven’t picked a spell list for is not a smooth transition.

I didn’t get the one-on-one recon/infiltration session done with Ratel between sessions as planned. We have “assumed” that it succeeded, and will do minor retcons as needed when I get it done in the next 2 weeks.

Assuming success, “What next?” ended up being a plan for the party to go ahead and attack Quetzalcoatl’s temple and destroy it. The city is laid out as a long, thin rectangle, about half of which is occupied by an assembly line for air-skiffs. They decide to go for a night attack, and teleport in around midnight to the sawmill area. It’s vacant, and they find some barrels of corn oil (used to lubricate the trough the air-skiff frames travel down). Heading to the western side where a bunch of logs are staged, they douse them in about 30 gallons of oil, then Fireball the storage lot and immediately Teleport across the city to a concealed point near the temple.

(note: They used the Silver Raven figurine to pick up stones from target points for teleportation without errors)

They then wait about 5 minutes to see the response, and see some Quetzals flying overhead, which causes Teador to say they should go for the temple at once. They are invisible… but as they round the corner, a Quetzal has the temple ground entrance blocked. I ask how quiet they are, and the results are something like 3, 7, 11, 14… so the group gets Prismatic Sprayed . Teador gets an 8 and then rolls double 7s, but that’s one that does nothing on a successful first save. Wanting to hold on to invisibility, the party changes course and flies up to the top of the temple, leaving the Quetzal behind them to call out a warning. Initiative was rolled with the Quetzals getting a nat 1.

The second Quetzal on top of the temple is actively looking for them, but when I say it starts to… I don’t even remember if I said what… “I Banish it!” It succeeded versus one Banish, but not the second one. Teador has a +15 Constitution save, so unless he takes 30+ damage in a hit, it’s still banished. As of writing, we’re about 5 rounds into the fight and that Quetzal is still in never-never land.

The group drops into one of the two vertical entry shafts to the top level of the temple, and finds the altar, the high priest, 4 lesser priests, 2 iron golems, and a floating blue golem thing.
Late in round 1, six more smaller golems, with weapons similar to the staff weapons from Stargate, enter the room as reinforcements.

The enemy high priest uses an 8th level Summon Fiend for a Yugoloth that does nearly nothing. The group opens with Chain Lightning (Paladin’s Air Elemental Command ring) and the Lightning Guitar, which ends the summoned fiend due to Concentration failure. Then the two Senior Priests in the room cast Spirit Guardian on top of the party… so anyone who goes anywhere is going to take damage. They stay still, except for Troudar, who starts moving to engage the golems (40 damage from SGs). The Iron Golems get close enough that one of them can breathe poison and does damage.

Next round, the High Priest drops a Prismatic Sphere on the party (except Troudar). Saqwam the Warlock tries to counterspell it, but can’t. Two Dimension Doors fix the problem, except that Teador is blinded for the next minute.

I don’t have a detailed record of the full fight thus far (it’s on pause until next session), but the dice were terrible. Over 5 rounds not a single combatant has rolled a natural 20. Troudar got reduced to 0 while attacking the High Priest, and used his Samurai capstone in a round where he was also Action Surging, for a total of 12 attacks made at +14 to hit against enemies of AC 22 and lower. I think he scored a total of 4 hits.

He did manage to block a Prismatic Ray with his sword, then discharge it into the High Priest.

Teador has stabbed the Ssword of Sseth into Quetzalcoatl’s altar, and plans to use his action next turn to cure the 1 minute blindness from Prismatic Wall. He's currently using the Rod of the Sun, which does half its damage as radiant and half as fire...which means it does 0 damage to Iron Golems.
Saqwam got tired of being beat up by an iron golem and a priest and just turned into a Planetar.
Troudar is back to full HP thanks to Power Word Heal, but the dice still hate him.
Rivkah (new player using someone else’s bard) has had a hard time figuring out what to do and doesn’t have a lot of great options.

DM Notes: Terrible, terrible dice. I feel bad for them. They are facing 3 high level casters, 2 Iron Golems, and 6 CR 2 mini-golems. This is the easiest temple fight by the numbers, yet they are having more trouble than any other temple attack… Ratel the super-mobile death/stun dealer being missing makes a huge difference. They are letting enemies stack up around them instead of staying mobile, and nobody is using any form of crowd control or mobility control.

There’s a Mind Golem in the room hitting them with Ego Whip (one at a time) at a relatively low DC, but both Teador and Troudar have failed their INT saves and had partial turns as a result. It has low AC and low hit points, but nobody has fired so much as a Fire Bolt at it.

Troudar’s Crystal Sword (+3/+3) is great for blocking rays and spells, but has less damage than the +2/+2d8 maul he was using before. I need to fire more rays at him to let him get the chance to use it.
They did have the High Priest down to about 60hp, but he used his one-off “heal 100hp” bonus action and cleared it.

Bad dice, bad tactics… and reinforcements should start showing up shortly.

Debates with Ssword, Continued
There have been plenty of long rests, and we’re catching up. Ssword is now at Cha 20 and, being aware of his true nature, Proficient in persuasion, so he has a +11. Teador’s arguments:

The ends justify the means: Any action is okay if it leads to victory. (Evil; Possibly chaotic)
Teador’s argument: While I respect a great desire for victory, I can not agree with any action being okay. If the means are more destructive and dangerous than the victory against the enemy you are trying to defeat, it does not make it a victory. Or outside of war, if the means harm innocence or cause issues even less than the problem you’re trying to solve, that doesn’t mean the solution you applied is okay, since you’ve only shifted the problem to something else.
Teador’s rolls: 26, 26, 26
Ssword’s rolls : 24, 25, 12

Result: The Ssword of Sseth does not believe the ends justify the means.

Utility: Altruism is foolish and not worthwhile. Only help those who are useful. (Evil)
Teador’s argument: That’s untrue more in the idea that you believe that you can’t, with your altruism and helping others, raise those deemed “unuseful” and make a greater society by the end, which simply isn’t the case for even non-sentient beings.
Teador’s Rolls: 18, 30, 32
Ssword’s rolls: 12, 25, 19

Result: Altruism has a place, at least sometimes.

Cumulative alignment shift to Lawful Neutral.

Order: An orderly people with firm laws and codes is stronger than one with more “Freedom.” A few people may be harmed by this, but it’s worth it. (Law)
Teador’s argument: I can understand that a society with rules, laws, and a fundamental understanding of morals is a good society, however, without giving the people freedom is to box them in and limit them as a species. Many of the advancements in magic or technology in the land I come from is largely due to the freedom those bright individuals were given to invent or express themselves. Not only that but a society boxed in completely and limited by strict laws and codes is a much less happy society, leaving them either depressed and less able to commit to anything, or leaves them outraged and they will lash out against the system limiting them, it’s much more worth it giving people freedom in many areass.

Teador’s rolls: 30, 21, 24
Ssword’s rolls: 26, 22, 26

Result: Teador does not convince the Ssword of Sseth of the value of freedom versus a more strict order.

DM Note: Changing Ssword’s mind would have been much harder, had the Ssword of Sseth remained in the hands of a Charisma 8 barbarian, instead of being wielded by a Lawful Good character with high Charisma and persuasion proficiency… especially later in the game when Ssword has such a high modifier.

Session 39, 3/4/2023
The battle continues! We swap Ratel in for where Rivkah was in the map left over from last time and resume play. I think the fight lasted 3-4 rounds before I called it.
Teador, blinded from the Prismatic Wall, spent what I think was his first round casting Destructive Wave, a 5th level Paladin spell that I’ve always overlooked. It’s not really that much more damage than Fireball, but it’s in a 30’ radius, so it covers over double the area that Fireball does, and with a more favorable damage type, and knocks enemies prone on a failed save – of which there were a lot. He cleared out 4 or 5 small golems completely and knocked an Iron Golem and a few enemies flat with it.
Saqwam, changed into a Planetar, went to town with the big sword that does 4d6+7+5d8-ish damage twice a round. He also used the healing ability to clear Teador’s blindness after a round or two. Once he was not blinded, Teador critted an iron golem, then added a 4th level smite, and did 142-ish damage with that one hit. The followup knocked the last 20hp off.
Ratel killed an enemy priest, then helped go after the high priest. He got counter-struck with the Rainbow Morningstar and had to suffer through 3 rounds of being Restrained by the petrification effect – although that didn’t stop him from landing some stunning fists.

There were a couple of more Prismatic Sprays. It’s fun, but all the dice-rolling can be annoying the fourth time the spell is cast. It may be worth making a spreadsheet similar to the one I use for Perception checks… pre-roll a bunch of lines of Prismatic Spray with what D8 is rolled (just going around the table) and what the damage type and amount is for it.

The enemy high priest got knocked to sub-30 hit points once or twice more before dying. Reinforcements arrived 3 rounds in a row. First, a senior priest (who cast Heal on the HP) and a couple of acolytes, then the Quetzal from the rooftop after the High Priest used Power Word Stun on Teador, then a few golems came up from the 1st floor.
The Quetzal’s abilities were mostly saved against, and the one full attack routine it got was just a bunch of misses due to bad dice-rolls. Then it got stunlocked and died.
Troudar was the target of a lot of abilities and passed almost all his saves (Indomitable and paladin aura). He did get to block a Guiding Bolt with his crystal sword, but after most of the casters were down, switched back to the Maul of Extreme Pain for the extra damage.

It was getting late, and there was no doubt that the party, with everyone >80hp, could deal with the last couple of golems. It became “Ok, do you loot the room and leave, or do you explore the rest of the temple?”

DM note: There were enemy soldiers outside, but the party made a mostly unobserved approach to the temple, there’s a fire, and most of their leadership is either busy with the fire or in the temple getting slaughtered. I decided that the quetzals would probably end up organizing an ambush outside for when the party left, or would send in a huge mass of soldiers if the party was still there after 10 minutes.

I kept rough track of time as the party sped through the top floor of the temple, wrecking the heart & blood storage room, ignoring the room that stores ritual vestments, and saying “Not going to stop” for a room full of enchanting components and reagents – 15,000gp worth, but it’d take 5 minutes to properly loot the room into their bags of holding. They then find a meditation room, a scrying room (crystal ball stolen, and a “That’s how they were spying on us!” discussion), and a library of inventor’s notes on failed and successful inventions, enchantments, etc. Ratel decides to steal about 20% of the room there, shoving shelves of papers into their bags…. Then they light the room on fire.

Heading downstairs, they stick to the middle of the building and go through a testing area (measuring apparatus, targets, and a damage ward that didn’t get triggered), opening doors as they explore. The next room was golem storage (1 iron, 1 clay, 1 stone, 1 mind golem). Nobody including me had any doubt they could handle the fight pretty quickly, so I just put down a tick mark for a half minute or so. Golem storage then lead to a room at the center of the temple with no other doors in. They figure out that was probably where they wanted to be, and the high priest had had a key. They were right! It was the treasury.

After looting it, they activate the Helm of Teleportation, using a rock from their hideout as a focus, and teleport straight out, completely skipping the blocking force outside.

We go over loot, and the choices of epic boons. I have presented each of them with a short list of ~4 boons to pick from based on what their characters have done or focused on, plus a species-based option. They’ll pick.

Loot from the Treasury:
+3 halberd
Necklace of Adaptation
Wings of Flying cloak
Manual of Golems (Iron). If someone had a way to accelerate the passage of time, they could afford to build an Iron Golem…

Loot from the High Priest:
Breastplate +2
Shield +1
Polychromatic Mantle: Legendary cloak that gives resistance to all the damage types Prismatic Spray deals, as well as advantage on saves vs. Blindness and Petrification
Rainbow Morningstar: Legendary +3 morningstar, 8 charges, regain 1d6 charges per day. On hit, once per round, discharge a charge to deal an effect to a target as though the target had failed a dexterity save against Prismatic Spray.

DM Note: The endgame draws closer! It’s fun to hand out epic options.

Now I'm up to current in posting!


The campaign is posted for sale on the DM's Guild! 296 pages total, NOT including the campaign log.
The preview packet includes a lot, including the campaign log up to Session 40. I'll update it with the full log once we're done, which should be around Session 43.

Session 41: 4/1/2023

The party is escorted directly to the leader of the Yuan-ti village, who is happy to see them…they are important, and Teador is trailed by a number of people as he carries the Ssword of Sseth. It will take a few days to find someone who may have records of the Teleport Circle under the high temple, but they think it can be done.

There is some discussion of how to get the Yuan-ti to the final battle. They can sneak to the area in the jungle in small groups, but will need to know when to go, and what to do. They aren’t suited for open field battle. It will take two weeks for the teleport ring to be ready, so they decide to have the Yuan-ti check in with them once per day with Sending, and will count on the Yuan-ti’s long-established internal communication channels to distribute word from there.

There is a logistical problem – nobody in the party can cast Sending. If they get the giants to agree to come and fight, and set up the ring as a destination for the Teleport Circle spell that will fit the giants (unlike the under-temple one)… how do the giants know when to cast the spell from 100 miles away and come through? They travel south to the next Yuan-ti hex and recruit Priya to come with them. Nobody specifically asks about her spell list, but she definitely has Sending, Invisibility, and Teleport Circle.

There’s discussion of how to get the portal ring in place in the Aarakocra city. Options discussed true polymorphing into a dragon, getting turned Invisible, and flying it in, as well as shrinking it, Teleporting in, and setting it up, or carrying it in on/under a stolen air-skiff.

The group returns to the giant city via Helm of Teleportation and meets with Pono and Fef, who look very concerned. In the absence of the party, a very large Aarakocra force showed up and issued an ultimatum: If the giants work with the party, the Aarakocra will return and bombard the city, killing everyone there.

The PCs are immune to scrying and divination…. But the Giants are not. It is still 12 days until the portal ring is ready. Extended discussions ensue, with thoughts of diversionary strikes, hitting the capital early, trying to defend the city, bag of holding bombing raids, and the like. The final choice is that the giants officially kick out the players and refuse to work with them.

Unofficially, Fef is a point of contact for Sending and will spread the word. There will be some volunteers acting in a non-endorsed individual capacity when the party is ready to go in two weeks. It’s a reduction in their force, but better than nothing. They make a mediocre Deception check with advantage showing disappointment and leave. If they’re lucky, this will be enough to fool the divination spells the Aarakocra are using.

Teador has the party take a couple of days doing a sweep of the hexes around the city looking for any enemy Forward Operating Bases. None are found. After some discussion, they decide to kill time by hunting enemy patrols to thin their numbers until the ring is ready.

They use the Ssacred Library of Sseth (very well hidden, within 2 hexes of the enemy capital) as a teleport destination, and start traveling around, looking for enemy patrols. There’s no way they can’t win, and over a few days, they wipe out 3 patrols (3 air-skiffs and 30-something enemies) in 3 hexes. Saqwam snags a few priest souls to interrogate with Soul Cage, but doesn’t verify much new information. They continue their search, but the next patrol they run across is six air-skiffs and 70-something Aaracokra.

The group decides that it’s too much to take on, and that they should leave… but Teador wants to use Chain Lightning from his ring first to thin them out. It has a range of 150’ and hits several enemies. By this point, Ratel’s player has had to drop off Discord for the evening, so nobody has anything longer ranged.

They hide in the path of the enemy force, but not well enough. They are spotted. The air-skiffs hold back, and the enemy force spreads out in two wings to encircle them completely, before advancing all at once. When they hit 150’, we roll initiative to see who is fastest off the mark with spellfire.

With 72 enemies, I am not tracking individual spells or HP. Instead, I use multiples of 6 to determine how many enemies of each type, and then decide that they’re spaced equally around.

Saqwam opens with Circle of Death. I do some quick math on a 150’ diameter circle, and it hits around 1/7th, or about 10 of them. Unfortunately, the damage on a failed save is about 24, so it doesn’t kill any enemies.

Troudar the fighter is next. He dodges, as he has no weapons long-enough range to hit.

I look at the spell lists for the enemy senior and junior priests, and rather than splitting things up, have them all advance 30’ to a range of 120’, and eighteen castings of Fireball fly at the party.

Fireball’s average damage is 27, with a Dex DC of 12-16 depending on caster.

I have everybody roll 4 dex saves to see how they do. Teador and Troudar pass all 4, and Saqwam fails one save.

Using D&D rounding (down), Teador takes 27 x .5 (passed saves) -> 13 x .5 (fire resistant) -> 6 damage per Fireball. 18 x 6 = 108 damage.

Troudar is not fire resistant, and 13 x 18 is 234, so he is reduced to 0hp.

Saqwam takes more than 234hp in damage and is killed (reduced to 0 then plenty of hits).

Troudar, as a Samurai, can take a full turn when reduced to 0. He uses Second Wind, then grabs the other two and activates his Helm of Teleportation. Teador Revivifies Saqwam.

Teador rolled poorly on initiative, and never got to go. It was a short fight.

It’s only 3 days until the portal ring will be ready, so the party puts things in motion – they use the next check-in to tell the Yuan-ti to move, and they send Saqwam and Troudar to teleport to the west coast to call the Kraken’s name and wait for him to arrive, so that he will be ready to be teleported to the battle site.

Next session will be sitting down with the map of the enemy capital city and planning what they will do in what order to kick things off, and then we’ll start the final battle.

Everyone gets an epic boon for getting the plan in place and lining up allies. No choices have been made yet.

DM Notes: Another 2.5 hour session. I’d rather do longer sessions, especially for the Big Finale.
18 Fireballs was hilarious. There should be 2 sessions left, unless they decide to change plans or something.
Last edited:

An Advertisement