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WotBS Bill T's Second War of the Burning Sky: Shelter from the Storm [more spoilers than you can shake a stick adorned with ribbons and kerchiefs at!]


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Bill T.

Explorer
Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school who previously made his living as a baker, with his familiar Simon, a cat from Seaquen's docks.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Living Blade.
  • Gusle, a seela bard who escaped captivity from a circus before coming to Gate Pass. This player has been through the first few chapters already, so she was able to fill Torrent's role as guide, and her familiar Sparky, a rat from beneath Seaquen.
  • Jesús Tillamook, a half-elf cloistered cleric of the Stormbringer Phoenix, a sect of the Stormchaser Eagle that is dedicated to finding the Aquiline Heart so that they can reincarnate the Eagle.
When Basel gets back to their island, he encounters Gusle rubbing Sparky with some sort of strange-smelling unguent. Puzzled, he asks her what she's doing. "Oh, I got this kit from a lady in town. She says it'll make him into my familiar!"

"Oh! Should I get me one of those kits for Simon, too?" asks Basel. Basel does ultimately get a kit, but it contains catnip incense rather than weird goo.

Anyhow, after a good night's sleep after constructing a temple and barracks for hundreds, the heroes set forth to see if they can convince Natalie to spend the day in jail in hopes of keeping Naizelasa from getting terribly bent out of shape and eating Seaquen's nascent navy. Gusle wants Jesús to use one of the elixirs of luuv they got from H'andea, but Jesús isn't interested. He already has Nat wrapped around his finger (or whatever) anyhow. However, when he meets Natalie in her room at Roger's Jollies and tries to convince her to participate in their plan, she's adamant that she can't leave, as she has to make sure Roger's and its employees are safe.

He eventually comes to realize that Natalie is under some sort of compulsion. Fed up with the delay, Gusle (who has been listening in via message this whole time) suggests it's time to bop Natalie on the head and chuck her in a cell. Jesús is appalled by this suggestion of domestic abuse, so the rest of the heroes make their way into the brothel. Dämmek beats her allies up the stairs and then beats Natalie with the living blade as Basel and Gusle explain what's going on to Roger's madame. Jesús is still unwilling to attack Natalie, but he does walk past her to cast guidance on Dämmek, much to Nat's confusion and dismay.

This was the first time Dämmek had gotten serious about power attacking, and it only took her a couple of blows to knock Natalie out despite the penalty for using the blade non-lethally.

The heroes get Natalie tucked away in a cell in the Lyceum, and Naizelasa berates her in said cell loudly and angrily. The heroes are glad Naizelasa didn't get vicious, because they don't think they could have done anything to stop her.

Amazingly enough, the heroes then get to relax for several days -- no one tries to kill them, and no one needs their assistance. They quickly find themselves needing to get ready for the big event at the Wayfarer's Theater, and are eager to see the show.

The first two acts pass quickly enough, and then several of the heroes spot Giorgio rushing up the stairs, hands bloody. All the heroes go rushing off to find out what's up -- except Jesús, who finds the theater fascinating and insists on staying put lest he miss the opening of the third act. Eventually, upon hearing the confusing situation above decks from Gusle, he decides to head up as well, although he briefly considers going to look for the show's manager to complain.

Above decks, the storm rages as the heroes try to understand what's going on. The sides of the ship burst into flame. Basel recognizes the flames as teleportation-related and immediately understands the danger they're all in. A little bird lands on the orc guarding the captain's quarters, where Giorgio is doing...something.

Eventually, seeing that the heroes are going to make a fuss, Giorgio uses Wayfarer's Step to teleport into the rigging, and things quickly turn violent. One of the barrels near the main mast casts a spell, and the orc starts swinging his axe, nearly bringing down Jesús, who has been nearest the captain's quarters and still demanding to speak to the manager. Basel suggests to Dämmek that she throw the barrel overboard. She moves into position -- and the barrel explodes beside her, inflicting some hefty damage upon her and another hero, one of whom goes down, so Gusle has Sparky deliver a charge from one of her healing wands.

Gusle tries to use her Spellbreaker's Song to prevent further spellcasting, but the other barrel seems unaffected by her efforts -- it, and Giorgio, continue to cast spells. It doesn't help that the halfling sailor hiding under the stairs up to the foredeck, who they belatedly realize is Nira, moves back and starts attacking Gusle. Her first two blows are fairly ineffectual, although Gusle is aggravated by the fact that she's been poisoned again, but the third lands a substantial amount of damage. Nira is soon thereafter persuaded to abandon ship after she sees her allies fall.

The second barrel explodes, dealing more fire damage, and then the heroes hear something curious -- muffled attempts to call out by someone in one of the cabins at the bow of the ship. Gusle screams out "It's just ghost sound," but Basel wants to make sure, so she has Simon go investigate. Simon then hears something on the bowsprit, so he heads out to the very tip -- and bumps into someone invisible! "Oh goody," mutters Gulse, "I'll glitterdust them so we can deal with them," but too late. The person on the tip of the bowsprit kicks off the spar, and kicks Simon in the process, revealing himself to be an aquatic elf as he dives into the sea. Basel is totally puzzled by the aquatic elf.

...as he should be. The "elf" was actually a halfling transmuter who works for Paradim. He (and his little bird) were helping with the attack in place of Brutus, who the heroes captured shortly after reaching Seaquen. He'd used ventriloquism to cast buff spells on the bad guys without revealing his position, hoping to bait the heroes into attacking one of the fire barrels. It didn't quite work, but it got the heroes close enough to at least one barrel for Giorgio to make good use of them.

Dämmek body-slams the orc into the aft bulkhead of the main deck, which isn't enough to bring him down, but her next blow with the living blade is enough to do the job.

More fun with power attack!

Katrina, somewhat stymied for most of the fight, realizes that Giorgio makes a perfect target. She launches a fireball above his head, incinerating the rigging around him. Giorgio falls gently to the deck, surrounded by enemies.

Jesús, in the meantime, had been fruitlessly flinging flaming produce at the attackers, but gives up and instead works on breaking open the hatch into the theater proper so that the audience can escape before everyone is incinerated by the ship's teleporting. Just as he does that, however, Basel, worried that the ship might teleport before they can get to the teleportation mechanism to figure out how to shut it down, throws a fireball into the captain's quarters, ruining the teleportation mechanism and melting Dämmek's hair.

Giorgio, cornered by himself, surrenders, groveling. Basel holds his sword to Giorgio's throat and demands he turn over the control for the ship's teleportation, so Giorgio quickly drops the ring. They then demand he lose his weapons and other serious magics. He complies but, as they start to gag him, he suddenly teleports out of their hands to a somewhat nearby ferry heading to the harbor's east shore. His sudden departure shocks and greatly annoys the heroes.

The audience has started streaming out from below, and Basel pulls Sheena and Simeon into what's left of the captain's quarters and explains what happened as the ship makes its way to dock. They are very surprised by some of the things they learned, but Sheena is totally unimpressed by Giorgio's teleporting away, despite Basel's attempt to impress on her how astonishing it was.

...or something like that. I'm sure I don't remember the order of events, so I focused on each character instead. The telling is probably better than what happened in play anyhow -- the battle went slowly enough that the players were complaining and wondering if they'd missed their turn.

I had a really hard time figuring how to have Katrina contribute, as the rest of the fight's participants were all jumbled up and most of her options would probably injure her allies more than whoever she might target. I should have had Nira attack Katrina, which would have given them both something useful to do, especially since Nira had been getting ready to death attack Katrina from the start.

Finally, Gusle calls in one the favors promised the heroes by the temple's founders to get her the dexterity damage she took from the poison on Nira's sword healed.

We next play on the 14th.
 

Bill T.

Explorer
I'm preparing for the next session (Monday!) and am puzzled about a bit of trivia: What did the Ragesians do with all the Tidereaver's Tears that they'd been buying from H'andrea? The 3.5 edition mentions them in several places, but the only one to make an appearance in Seaquen is Lee's. The obvious place would be to have a few of them down in the pyromancer's tomb. Or did they not actually manage to buy that many of them?
 
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Bill T.

Explorer
Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school who previously made his living as a baker, with his familiar Simon, a cat from Seaquen's docks.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Living Blade.
  • Gusle, a seela bard who escaped captivity from a circus before coming to Gate Pass. This player has been through the first few chapters already, so she was able to fill Torrent's role as guide, and her familiar Sparky, a rat from beneath Seaquen.
  • Jesús Tillamook, a half-elf cloistered cleric of the Stormbringer Phoenix, a sect of the Stormchaser Eagle that is dedicated to finding the Aquiline Heart so that they can reincarnate the Eagle.
With the find the path spell provided by Ogoth, along with mage armor provided by Katrina, the heroes make their way to the eye of the storm. They discover Carer Tevensum and carefully explore the roof, searching for some sort of entrance while carefully avoiding the stairs down. Eventually, Simon doing the cat-at-the-edge-of-the-roof thing, notices that there's a gateway beneath the roof.

The heroes proceed in, Jesús leading the way, when they (that is, Jesús) is attacked by giant turtle-like creatures (Basel recognizes them as tojanida, but somehow not looking right, so he logically concludes they're some of Paradim's creations). One creature spits ink in his eye, blinding him, while the other bites his kneecaps, so Jesús flies away to hang onto the top of the gate where he entered the room. Dämmek tries attacking creatures and is surprised to miss, so the heroes all strategically retreat and are grateful that the creatures don't follow.

As the adventure text says, the tojanidas are hiding from the storm. I was surprised at how hard a time they had with the tojanidas, but their amazing natural armor is a big impediment.

The heroes come up with a Plan: Dämmek and Jesús will fly in, slam the gate closed, and then tie it shut. They get inked for their efforts, but successfully cage the tojanidas anyhow.

They then venture into the room with the card table, shelves, and large barnacle-covered chest. With Dämmek standing nearby, Gusle approaches the chest. It whacks her, attaching a glue-covered pseudopod to her! Dämmek steps up and hacks at the pseudopod with the living blade, and the blade ends up glued to the chest as well. Gusle whacks the living blade with her torch, igniting the blade and convincing the chest to release the blade. Gusle's fallow touch quickly makes it want to let her go as well, so Dämmek whacks it again. This convinces the chest to...negotiate?

The heroes strike a bargain with the chest -- if it promises to leave them alone, it can go eat the caged tojanida. There's a win-win solution (unless you're a tojanida, of course).

Dämmek carefully inspects the large crossbow in the room on the left side of the hallway into the prison proper and eventually unloads it, so Gusle, the first to go down the hallway, only get hit by one oversize bolt. Ouch!

The heroes starting crowd into the prison proper...

Of course!

...and the skeletons in the cells rise up to attack. Gusle and Dämmek start beating on the skeletons with their weapons while Sparky surveys the far side of the room, but then Jesús steps into the room and shatters half of them by invoking the Flamebringer Phoenix's wrath. The remaining walking dead are undeterred but are soon turned by Jesús. So much for that challenge!

The heroes proceed out of the cells and into the prison lobby, Sparky swimming along in the lead, and a trio of fishmen attack from the depths. The heroes manage to slay two of them, and the third flees. Gusle lets it go rather than risking an underwater grapple and it goes to hide in the room with the mysterious reddish glow.

The heroes quickly survey the guards' quarters and then Dämmek scouts out the glowy room, causing the fishman to dart down the hole in the floor the glow is coming from.

After a bit of consideration, the heroes take Sparky and Simon out of the prison for safety, instructing the familiars how they should react in a few circumstances; consume the potions of water breathing they picked up from Giorgio and his allies; and make their way to the glowing hole. They discover the bits of wire at the entrance to the hole and discern it was some sort of tripwire. They then travel down the hole. They're astonished to discover that there is another surface to the water at the bottom of the hole. The fishman with crossbow bolts sticking out of it him gives the heroes a good idea of what they're about to encounter. Jesús sticks his head down beneath the surface of the water and is startled to see a bunch of Ragesian soldiers with crossbows pointed in his general direction. Lucky for him, the Ragesians were likewise startled, so he is able to pull his head back before it gets shot.

The heroes put together a quick plan: Jesús will jump down first cast wind wall, and the other heroes will do other clever things when they arrive [sorry, I forget what]. The wind wall stops all missile traffic, as intended, but it doesn't stop the inquisitor from casting silence soon thereafter, preventing the heroes from casting spells.. The Ragesians push forward across the bridge and start engaging in melee. Gusle attempts to use joyful noise to counteract the silence, which lets the heroes use a few magic items without the inquisitor's knowledge, but one of the soldiers counters her spell with his axe. Some of the heroes take cover behind the braziers at the foot of the bridge and attempt to shoot at some of the Ragesians past the edge of the wind wall while others make battle at the foot of the bridge.

The battle is hard fought, but several of the Ragesian soldiers are brought down and a few fall into the lava, while the heroes find they are able to get outside the sphere of silence and start healing themselves. Eventually, the inquisitor creates a wall of fire blocking the heroes from crossing the bridge, but Basel manages to grease the floor under the inquisitor and a couple soldiers, bringing them all down, while Gusle uses glitterdust to blind several soldiers. At this point, the soldiers have pretty much had enough -- those that can't see are basically cowering while those that can are trying to hide in what little cover is available, despite the inquisitor's orders to the contrary. Dämmek charges through the wall of fire, leaps over the grease, and lops the inquisitor's head off.

As usual, I did a pretty poor job playing the inquisitor -- once the silence was in place, I couldn't decide what he should do. There were several rounds where he should have been blinding or otherwise nerfing Dämmek but I just had him standing there looking fierce. Oh well, the silence was pretty effective, at least.

At this point, the battle is basically over, but the soldiers keep trying to heal or otherwise keep themselves from dying, which enrages the heroes and leads to several more of the soldiers getting killed before the last two drop everything, put their hands up, and beg for mercy. The heroes throw the soldiers' weapons into the lava and bind the survivors, who happily answer the heroes' questions to the best of their rather limited ability. They do let the heroes know that they have a couple of captives but that no one else is in the complex, as Lee left recently. Gusle goes over the inquisitors corpse to discover whatever useful things he might have possessed.
 

Bill T.

Explorer
Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school who previously made his living as a baker, with his familiar Simon, a cat from Seaquen's docks.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Living Blade.
  • Gusle, a seela bard who escaped captivity from a circus before coming to Gate Pass. This player has been through the first few chapters already, so she was able to fill Torrent's role as guide, and her familiar Sparky, a rat from beneath Seaquen.
  • Jesús Tillamook, a half-elf cloistered cleric of the Stormbringer Phoenix, a sect of the Stormchaser Eagle that is dedicated to finding the Aquiline Heart so that they can reincarnate the Eagle.

The heroes venture into the fire tomb proper and slowly work their way back to where Teymour is being held. He encourages the heroes to first help Faquaniel, as she's been the most recent recipient of the inquisitor's tender mercies. Faquaniel feigns sleep, but quickly perks up when she realizes there's a stranger in the room. With only a little bit of difficulty, the heroes heal her...

blowing a cure moderate wounds in the process

...and release her from the torture chamber, and free Teymour soon thereafter. Faquaniel, upon hearing that some Ragesians soldiers were taken prisoner, asks for a dagger. Gusle objects, saying that the soldiers surrendered. Faquaniel is not impressed, but a compromise is reached: Faquanel promises not to kill the soldiers, and Jesús even tags along to make sure they aren't killed. The heroes later discover that she had removed their codpieces and, er, sliced their cod. She also mentions that Lee wandered off with the control wand in case he had to change the weather in a hurry.

So, that leaves Teymour to explain how the two ended up caged by the Ragesians and what happened to them afterwards. He does explain that Lee's arrival improved their conditions substantially -- he put a stop to the soldiers' abuse of Faquaniel and forced the inquisitor to ask them questions while torturing them.

Last time I ran this, I played Faquaniel as a traumatized victim. I decided to go with a vengeful Faquaniel this time. I figure Lee the Lawful wouldn't tolerate abuse just for the fun of it, if for no other reason that to maintain order and discipline in the ranks. Lee's departure to monitor the storm gave the Ragesians one last chance to indulge themselves before the heroes took care of them.

The heroes spend a fair amount of time studying the teleportation magnet (a very appropriate term Basel came up with) and its environs. Basel wants to damage the magnet to keep it from sucking anyone else in, but Teymour objects on the basis that damaging powers beyond your understanding may have undesirable side-effects, like incinerating everyone in the room. Gusle decides to see if she can blindly deactivate the magnet, so she steps into cell containing the beacon, only to be rewarded with a silent splat as the tanglefoot bags and glyph of warding go off when she enters the room.

After everyone (silently) scrapes off the goo and wait for the silence to expire, Dämmek closely inspects the cell to make sure the entangling trap hasn't magically reset itself. Thus reassured, Gusle steps into the cell and tries to shut off the magnet. There's a bright flash as flames from the astral plane leak out and burn Gusle. Gusle decides she's not that interested in disabling the magnet after all, but Basel is fascinated to see the astral plane on fire, drawing a connection between what he saw and the fiery dangers of teleportation.

The heroes go back to the master bedroom to discover the ladder, the water barrel and -- oh, yes -- the lesser orb of storms, which they recognize by the decorations on the base. That leaves the heroes with a puzzle -- how did the Ragesians swim in and out of the tomb? Gusle is sure there must have used something so she casts detect magic and traverses the tomb, quickly coming upon the empty-looking bottle on the shelf in the room with the biomancy equipment. They open it briefly and, as soon as the air starts whooshing out, quickly cork it again. You never know what gases might come of of a magic bottle!

Having explored everything they wish to, the ask Jesús to spend a couple hours identifying the orb of storms and the magic bottle, which he does, and then they curl up for the night, asking the three elves to stand watch over the course of the night.

The heroes wake up refreshed, study their spells, and prepare to venture out of the tomb. As soon as Basel enters the water column, he senses that Simon is doing his best to feel anxious -- the signal that someone is about.

The heroes make their way to the entrance to the prison. In the room that they had locked the tojanidas in they see a large, barnacle-covered chest. The chest winks at them. They cast a few defensive spells (mage armor and resist electricity, as I recall) and then peek up out of the prison. A squid darts away from the prison as they step out, and they see Lee, standing above the entrance, dripping blood and holding a bloody sphere in one hand and a wand in the other. The squid darts back to attack. The battle is on!

Lee casts a spell to make the water hump up, slamming Jesús back into the prison, as the squid attacks him. Eventually, they manage to drive the squid off. They hear Lee order someone to defend the stairs. Dämmek works her way towards the stairs, while Gusle turns herself into a syrine and swims out into the humpy water to assist. They see an aquatic gargoyle guarding the stairs. They engage -- Dämmek takes the direct approach, wading forth to do battle using the living blade (but dropping her tidereaver's tears to do so), while Gusle moves around to flank and instructs Sparky to head towards Lee. Gusle then tries to draw the gargoyle away from the stairs, but alas, Sparky manages to swim behind her and get onto a stair, drawing the gargoyle's attention. Luckily, it drops its guard when it turns to attack Sparky, giving Dämmek the opportunity to make one final attack with the Living Blade. The gargoyle turns to pebbles and vanishes -- Sparky is saved!

Meanwhile, Jesús and Basel take the shortcut -- Basel flies off to Lee's right, while Jesús flies over him and blasts him with burning hands. Then Basel hits Lee with a grease spell, making Lee fall on his face. Lee nonetheless continues to cast spells while prone, ignoring Jesús's continued blasts of fire from the air and Basel's trivial spells.

Faquaniel, surprisingly, wants to join it the fight as well (or at least get the chance to fly), but it's too late -- Jesús is engaged and she can't get far enough out for him to be able to bring her up, so she and Teymour end up sitting the battle out.

Eventually, Lee realizes the danger he's in and throws a bolt of lightning at Basel, but it's too late -- Dämmek has come around to attack Lee from just outside the patch of grease, and Gusle has come to the far side, focused on the wand he's holding. This is just the situation Basel has been waiting for -- he casts haste on the entire party (well, except Simon, who's nowhere nearby) and the heroes start laying on the hurt. Surprisingly, Dämmek's attempt to knock down Lee with the sharp edge of her blade is not only ineffective, but Lee is able to knock the sword out of her hand. All she has left is her spiked gauntlet, which she vigorously applies to Lee's forehead. Lee collapses to his knees, shouts, "Master, let your winds destroy them!" and is shredded as as the eye of the hurricane's eye tightens on them into a whirlwind. Gusle, though, sees that as her cue -- she dives for the wand, sliding across the grease and, as soon as she gets hold of it, commands the storm to stop -- which it does!

I got a little too focused on The Plan there. Lee probably should have started throwing lightning bolts at Jesús as soon as he cast his first burning hands. It wouldn't have been very effective, especially since Jesús has evasion at this point, but it would have validated his choice of casting resist electricity.

In any event, I was quite pleased with how the heroes dealt with Lee. Everyone used good tactics. Lee would have hammered Jesús if given the chance, but couldn't have done anything effective with Jesús hovering out of reach. Basel, despite his fascination with
fireball, used good spells to good effect with good timing. Everyone took advantage of their maneuvering capabilities, and I think Gusle's tactics speak for themselves.

The heroes gather up what few possessions Lee had, as well as whatever they had lost during the battle, and headed back to town. The pass by the remains of the Battle Royale and get into the remains of Seaquen proper. Gusle, true to form and joined by Sparky and Dämmek, start search and rescue operations, with Sparky finding buried people, Dämmek digging them out, and Gusle healing them. Gusle likely blew through the entire healing wand she got from the inquisitor that day.

I had had some warning that they were thinking of spending the night in the pyromancer's tomb, and kept a straight face when they decided to stay the night. I wanted to give them a feel for the consequences of their delay, so I played up the devastation caused by the hurricane. At least one player had been aware of the risk they were taking and were clear-eyed about it, so I don't feel like I was being unfair to them.

Basel, meanwhile, proceeds back to what's left of the Lyceum and reports to the faculty what they encountered, leaving only a few things out (like Faquaniel's revenge).

Jesús continues further on and is pleased to see, and Gusle is ultimately thrilled to hear, that the barracks Gusle built with Naizelasa's input withstood the hurricane quite well. The Pantheon of Unity didn't fair quite as well but, true to its name, the refugees' religious leaders have already started working to repair it. Apparently, the monks represented by Three Weeping Ravens weathered the storm with only minor injuries. Natalie was severely injured, on the other hand, and Majestic Creations (Paradim's shop) took some damage as well. Oh, and no one has managed to track Giorgio down.

Takasi approaches the heroes at some point and reports on Laurabec's passing and related circumstances. Curiously, as far as anyone knows, the Shahalesti fleet was destroyed -- no one saw any of their ships since the hurricane struck. The Wayfarer's Theatre sank with most of the crew and cast on board, but, strangely, Tiljann is not alarmed. She's try to find people to help refloat the ship in order to evacuate it.

Hey, it's an extra-dimensional space, after all. As long as they keep the hatch closed, they'll be fine and well-fed. I'd love to construct an adventure around rescuing the Wayfarer's, but, with the opposition dead or driven off, can't come up with anything that would make the rescue even remotely interesting. Any ideas, anyone? Relatedly, is there a good point in the campaign to have Giorgio reappear?

We next play on the 26th, but we'll also have a mini-session on the 18th to give the replacements for Gusle and Jesús a trial run -- Jesús hasn't been working out too well (too wimpy), and Gusle is being swapped out to backfill some of the things Jesús was contributing and vice-versa. This partly explains why Gusle was willing to blow through a fully-charged healing wand on anonymous strangers.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Personally, I think Giorgio would do his best to lay low after this, but you could insert him as an advisor or entertainer for King Steppengard in adventure 4 or Onamdammin in adventure 5 (and 11). Other possibilities could be working for the Ragesians in adventure 9 or 12.

Raising the Wayfarer's Theater seems like a job for the Lyceum. With the teleportation controls melted, I can't quickly think of a good mission to raise it as most normal options would be a large mechanical or magic solution. I thought everyone had made it off when they returned to dock.
 

I suppose theoretically some Wayfarers inside the theater could have recklessly tried to travel from this extradimensional space into another, hoping they could navigate their way back to the real world, but in the process unleashing some extraplanar horrors - Half-Life style.
 


Bill T.

Explorer
Dramatis Personae
  • New this session Lucius, a member of the Gate Pass resistance headed to Seaquen to hook his group up with the Lyceum. He wield a pair of short swords and a silver tongue.
  • and Seda, a spellcasting Seela, sick and tired of singing, with her mountain lion companion Smoke.
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school who previously made his living as a baker, with his familiar Simon, a cat from Seaquen's docks.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Living Blade.
  • Gusle, a seela bard who escaped captivity from a circus before coming to Gate Pass. This player has been through the first few chapters already, so she was able to fill Torrent's role as guide, and her familiar Sparky, a rat from beneath Seaquen.
  • Jesús Tillamook, a half-elf cloistered cleric of the Stormbringer Phoenix, a sect of the Stormchaser Eagle that is dedicated to finding the Aquiline Heart so that they can reincarnate the Eagle.

Lucius, after passing through Innenotdar and learning about the seela who have recently left the forest, encounters a mountain lion watching him out of some undergrowth in a forest in Dassen. Hungry for something to eat, and mistaking the cat for something smaller,

...because the DM botched the description...

he starts to attack. The mountain lion charges him, but lets him go when given an order by the Seela Seda. Having established that they are both headed to Seaquen, they decide to travel together.

Excellent decision! The next day, they encounter a weary elf riding a weary horse moving as quickly as they can north. As soon as the horse smells Smoke, it bolts, dumping the elf on the ground, and runs away. Lucius and Seda question the elf and learn that he is being chased by an inquisitor. Just then, the two notice the sound of hoofbeats coming up the trail. Prepare for the inquisition!

The two, with very limited help from the elf, manage to defeat the inquisitor and his allies. The elf then explains that he is from the Shahalesti embassy in Dassen and is headed to Shahelsti with important news: King Steppengard's entire family has been assassinated, and the Ragesians have taken advantage of Steppengard's grief to arrange safe passage for the Ragesian army through Dassen in order to attack Seaquen -- safe for both the Ragesians and Dassen.

The above was the mini-session with the players trying out their new characters -- and it lets me let them introduce the information that sends the heroes off in adventure 4. I actually ran the battle twice, in particular to see the techniques and limits in Lucius's sneak attacks. The second run took awfully long....

Meanwhile, in Seaquen, the heroes have returned to the pyromancer's tomb and are investigating the stone dragon's mouth inside the first room in the tomb. A couple of the heroes find it challenging to cross the wall of gloom just inside the dragon's mouth, but they all eventually make it into the vestibule. Gusle is able to read the warning Damatarion wrote above the door at the other end of the vestibule about disturbing his body's rest. They are alarmed by the lava flowing above their heads and even more alarmed when they realize that the door is somehow connected to the ceiling.

They give up, and ask advice from Simeon, who came down to inspect the teleportation magnet. He's thrilled to learn the pyromancer's name, since his name had been lost to history; otherwise, he has little more to suggest.

Jesús isn't content to leave well enough alone. He goes back into the vestibule and tries to shove the door open. He gives it best, mightest shove, but the door doesn't budge. On the other hand, lava starts dripping from the ceiling, burning him, so he quickly scurries out of the vestibule. In a matter of seconds, there is a loud ka-wump from within the dragon's mouth, and a trickle of lava spills from it. Well, so much for that bit of exploration! Eventually, they leave with Simeon, who has left his assistants to prepare the teleportation magnet and its surroundings for possible visitors. On their way back to the Lyceum, Simeon suggests that the heroes go visit Cernaban to inquire about Nira.

Funny enough, they never inspected the vestibule again and didn't realize tha the lava had vanished. They now assume that getting into the tomb will be a mining operation.

Cernaban isn't around when they reach the remains of his business the next morning, but they do strike up a conversation with one of the workers. They learn that Cernaban is out arranging for building materials, and that Nira hasn't been seen since the hurricane -- unsurprising, since she's currently rotting in a cell beneath the Lyceum, but Cernaban's associates don't know that. Nira wasn't particularly social and was somethnig of a workaholic.

Eventually, they track down Cernaban and have a long, pleasant conversation with him. Cernaban lets them know what happened to the ships in the south shore: When Pickens and the people who listen to him learned that the Shahalesti had attacked the Wayfarer's Theater, they decided to attack the Shahalesti blockade. Unsurprisingly, between the increasingly bad weather and the strength of the blockading flotilla, the battle went poorly. So far as anyone knows, the ships that weren't destroyed by the Shahalesti were destroyed by the hurricane. On the other hand, so far as anyone knows, all the Shahalesti ships were destroyed by the hurricane as well.

When they get back around to the topic of Nira, he's equally uninformed, thinking of Nira as nothing but a steady second, and is shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that Nira would be involved in a plot to murder people, and promises to have his staff conduct an investigation into Nira's activities.

Surprisingly, the heroes seemed to actually take him at his word on this point, despite having already indentified him as the local crime lord. They earlier suspected that he was a really good liar and don't usually trust what they hear from him. Amazing what you can get away with by using a little glibness!

Instead of heading straight back to Seaquen, they decide to swing by the refugee area in hopes of meeting the hippogriff riders they spotted when they were headed to meet Cernaban. They're a bit surprised to see that the riders, Ostaliners, are waiting to meet them, along with Arick, the cleric of Nuador that Jesús battled to convince him to join the pantheistic temple. As they approach, Arick shouts out, "Give us the half-elf!" Gusle bristles and insists he's not their to give, but Jesús flees as fast as he can.

The heroes are confused...

I exclude Jesús from "heroes" at this point, given his abject cowardice.

...but Daemmek takes a firm stance, fires a warning shot into the ground in front of the Ostaliners. Arick is not impressed, but the hippogriff riders are cowed!

Unbelievable -- an untrained, rushed intimidate check with a 10 charisma is enough to wreck the whole encounter. I had planned for the cavalry to rain arrows down on Jesús, but Daemmek rendered them irrelevant with a single shot from her bow. In retrospect, that was a total misreading of the intimate skill.

Arick grabs one of the hippogriffs himself and gets ahead of Jesús. Jesús, realizing that escape is unlikely, runs back towards the heroes while the heroes quiz the cavalrymen about what's going on, eventually learning that they intend to take Jesús back to Ostalin for treason.

Arick and Jesús start to get into melee, and the heroes eventually join in as the two trade blows. Gusle, arriving last, uses Sparky to turn Jesús invisible and tells him to run off, which he readily does. Arick remains undeterred, and with the help of magic, attempts to head in the direction he heard Jesús run in. He almost decides to surrender, but after healing himself decides to continue the fight -- foolish, that, because Daemmek puts her strength behind her next blow and drives the living blade through Arick's heart. "Oops, I didn't mean to really kill him!"

The heroes go back to the cavalrymen with what they manage to loot from Arick but notice a few more Ostaliners come up -- another person from the cavalry, but also a couple squires and grooms as well. They ask if they are speaking to Prince Haizenius, and kneel when Jesús tells them they are. Everyone is baffled, but the newcomers explain that the Arick was hoping to hand the prince over to the Khagan in hopes of getting back in his good graces. These five, however, believe the Khagan is incompetent, and that his plans to invade the rest of Sindaire will effectively hand their entire empire to the Ragesians. They therefore wish to have Jes...Haizenius come back to Ostalin to help lead a revolt against the Khagan. Haizenius immediately agrees, but Dämmek, at least, is a little more cautious, and checks with her allies to see if they agree that this Ostaliner groom is telling the truth. She is.

And thus Jesús is written out of the story. This was a fun surprise, since he was thinking that his character was going to be dragged off to Ostalin in chains, not welcomed as a liberator. This scene also let me plant the rumor that the Khagan is planning to invade Sindaire, which is supposed to come up at some point in the next adventure or two.

"Look, up in the sky!"

"It's a bird!" says Dämmek.

"It's a dragon!" says Gusle.

Nope, sorry Gusle, it's a bird -- Takasi, to be precise, who says that he had a revelation while flying west. He explains what Laurabec and he had been planning: That the two of them were going to head north and provide aid to the refugees fleeing the Scourge in defiance of weather and Ragesian patrols. He has noticed Gusle's fundamental Goodness that she radiates even simply standing here now, and so he invites Gusle to join him on this noble Quest. Gusle is stunned by Takasi's offer, asks a few clarifying questions, and, after some consideration (certainly more than Jesús), decides to join Takasi, so the two fly west.

And thus Gusle is written out of the story. This was also a fun surprise, since she thought that she was going to become Naizelasa's attache in Seaquen. Gusle really deserved Takasi's company. Given that Gusle really was being played as Good, having her go on a heroic (and slighthly chaotic) quest that Laurabec would have taken seemed a much better fit that representing a lawful, self-aggrandizing dragon.

Incidentally, was the business about Takasi going west intended as another homage to Tolkein? It's sort of subtle in the text, but when I said it out loud during the previous session, it sounded very much like how the elves in
The Lord of the Rings would go west.

Gusle later realizes, as they pass the Dragonspire, that they need to borrow the lyre of building from Naizelasa to rebuild Seaquen, but that's all off-stage.

Dämmek and Basel are pleasantly surprised by how calm the next few weeks are. They both spend a lot of the time studying magic -- Dämmek with Crystin, Basel with the librarian. No one tries to kill them, no desperate mission calls, no one even tries to steal their stuff. Eventually, while strolling about, they see another seela walking toward them, accompanied by a mountain lion and maybe some guy. They decide to approach the newcomers when all seven hear a truncated scream down an alleyway. The seela and the guy (Seda and Lucius, in case you hadn't guessed) see the woman collapse, and then the shadows surrounding here start to move toward them. Oh my!

Lucius charges in to rescue the woman while Seda starts singing the Song of Forms. Dämmek and Basel join the battle as well. Blows are struck, spells are cast, and strength-draining slams are made in return. Seda has to call Smoke back because of all the strength damage she'd taken, and Dämmek has to retreat for the same reason. Lucius, surprisingly, takes minimal damage, despite keeping at least one shadow in sword range. Finally, after defeating the shadows, he heads into the alleyway to check on the woman only to have her shadow get up and attack him! A little more chopping defeats the remaining shadow.

This encounter was supposed to be an opportunity for the heroes to meet, greet, and battle some easy opponents together, but the shadows kept doing huge amounts of strength damage and it kept feeling to me like one of them was going to die. I therefore delayed the fourth shadow a little longer to at least avoid having anyone surrounded.

Singing the Song of Forms turns out to be not very fun, since the singer is stuck concentrating on singing. At least she had the animal companion to run -- that is, until it was too weakened to safely participate.

The heroes introduce themselves, and Seda and Lucius explain that they have important information for the Lyceum. So, they go to the Lyceum and tell their tales. Katrina is there and happily greets Lucius, and notes the irony of his trip -- if she had known her brother was in the resistance, she could have established contact with their cell easily enough.

On the other hand, Simeon is rattled by the news from Dassen. He dashes out of the room to start some preparations and asks the heroes to come back the following day to help with the effort in Dassen.

Our next session is November 9th.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
My players just returned to the tomb in adventure eleven. The warlock has the 5e invocation Devil's Sight, so when the tripped the lava trap and ran away, she saw through the magical darkness as the lava filled up. . . and a minute later vanished.
 

In retrospect, that was a total misreading of the intimate skill.
Well, the intimate skill sounds like an even bigger misreading of intimidate. 💋👩‍❤️‍👩 :)

What prompted the player turnover?

Also, at least with bards, my recollection was that you spend an action to start singing, and then you can continue without needing to spend more actions, like the way 5e does concentration spells. You just can't have more than one thing active at once.
 

Bill T.

Explorer
It's the same group of players, it's just that some of them weren't happy with their characters. Jesús was a monk/spontaneous cleric and the player, being very new to the game, was a having a hard time figuring out how to play the cleric side. We swapped spells around a time or three and he still wasn't having much luck. We went with the rogue because he was having a lot of fun beating things up and talking to people (not, generally, at the same time). Gusle wasn't quite in the same boat -- plenty of experience there -- but didn't want to compete with Jesús's character for the Face role and didn't find the Gusle character particularly compelling anyhow. She stuck with the seela mostly to get Indomitability's boon but also because I've convinced her the Song of Forms is important.

Bardic music in 3.5 is hit or miss. The SRD says, "Some bardic music abilities require concentration, which means the bard must take a standard action each round to maintain the ability," amen, and the description of the Song of Forms says, "maintaining the song requires concentration." But, point taken -- maybe I should change that. Nothing like being stuck singing in the big battle with Madness, and Madness is much more likely to direct her attacks at the singer than the stupid shadows were.
 

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