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WotBS Bill T's Second War of the Burning Sky [Spoilers, spoilers everywhere]

Bill T.

Explorer
Dramatis Personae

  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker who has been attending Gabal's school and previously made his living as a baker.
  • Gusle, a seela bard who recently escaped captivity from a circus. This player has been through the first few chapters already, so she's aware of the seela and can fill Torrent's role as guide.
  • Jesús Tillamook, a half-elf cloistered cleric of a sect of the Stormchaser Eagle that is dedicated to finding its heart so that they can revive the Eagle.
  • Leeta, a woodswoman that looks like a human but with sharper edges. She was born in Gate Pass on New Year's Day.
Tavern at the Start, but the End of the Tavern

“Gate Pass is in trouble," says Gusle. "The Ragesian army is marching on it....get far away from here before the idiot city council lets the Ragesian inquisitors in." Then the building shakes, and a deafening boom sounds overhead.

The heroes start working their way towards the exit, until Jesús decides to race up the stairs to see who's been thumping around up there. He gets severely thumped for his effort and ends up in an unconscious heap at the bottom of the stairs. Gusle leaps over the bar, Leeta leaps the flames on the bar, and Basel carefully walks around the flames and the bar, to heal Jesús and help him out of the building. The heroes dispatch the thugs trying to beat down the door easily enough (and their little dog, too!) before encountering the Brooding Man on Horseback. In response to questions, the brooding man turns his horse to walk off.

Getting Through Town

The party passes a family in the streets.... The heroes give the man a little help but then decide to keep moving.

...a woman smashes out a window on the fourth floor and cries for help. Basel grins smugly and shouts, "Jump!" The crowd gasps in dismay, then notice his red robe under his winter cloak and all start shouting "Jump, jump!". She does so, and, with a quick word from Basel, floats gently to the ground.
I was pretty sure Basel had Feather Fall memorized, and he was eager to use it.

The Depository

Wow, Rivereye really is that ugly. "Hi, Peppin! Got the password?"

"Sure!" says Gusle. Peppin leads them towards the third level. "Wait, isn't the locker on the second floor?" asks Gusle. "Yes, I'm sure it was."

Rivereye disagrees and continues up the stairs.

My mistake -- Larion should have rolled with Gusle's diversion, even though he had cast Unseen Servant on a door on the next floor up. Instead, he panicked and made for his exit.

Gusle, meanwhile, pulls her allies aside and tells them she suspects a trap. They hear a door close upstairs and cautiously work their way up, but there's no one there. They peek outside, and see the Gate Pass cavalry fly by...and also notice a glowing ball of light flying off into the distance, as well as Rivereye fleeing down the street.

Ragesian Cavalry Down!

The glowing ball reminds Basel of the glowing ball familiar of one of his fellow students, so the heroes head east to The Citadel. On the way, Jesús(?) gets beaned in the head by falling bits of a lance broken as aerial cavalry joust in the sky -- and they look up to see a bat-winged mount crash into the roof of a nearby building. When the heroes reach the building they see a rope off dangling from its side. A little further on they encounter the remains of a couple bodies, freshly murdered. After deciding that the fallen cavalier might have Military Intelligence of his own, they follow his tracks in the snow into a ground-level apartment. Peeking inside, they see a Ragesian wyvern rider trying to get changed. The rider holds his axe to the throat of a boy who apparently lived in the apartment. "Leave, or the boy dies!" Gusle tries to distract the wyvern rider with ghost sound out the window, which only makes him twitchier, but Basel greases the axe, causing it to slip out of the rider's hand as he tries to murder the boy. Leeta then dashes in and gives him a sharp jab with his sword. Amazingly, the rider remains standing. Gusle rushes in, pulls the rider's arm off the boy...and the rider collapses, unconscious!

..and thus Fallow Touch makes its first appearance -- in a grapple, no less!

The heroes tie up the rider and heal him slightly in order to question him. The rider answers the heroes questions condescendingly and sarcastically, unimpressed by the men's threats of torture. It's only when Gusle offers to turn him over so that he can be exchanged as a prisoner that he becomes reasonably forthcoming. That said, he's aerial cavalry -- elite (as he's happy to point out) and uninterested in the details of what the rest of the army is doing.

Gabal's School

Diogenes is here and friendly. Gabal is neither. After conversing Diogenes, the heroes decide to talk to Shealis. She grudgingly decides to let them see what's in the case. She gives them a location in one of the elven ghettos. She seems willing to share this information so that they could take it to the Lyceum and Shealis can take it to the Shahalesti.

I wasn't really happy with my choices here. If Shealis had fled when they knocked, the heroes would have been at a dead end. If she had simply attacked, they simply would have been dead. If I'd planned ahead, I might have been able to dream up a clue leading them to the ghetto, but I don't know what that clue would look like.

Safe House

As soon as Gusle understands how Mulysa's angsty music is affecting the people huddled in the temple of the Order of the Aquiline Cross, she joins in her in a duet -- and then drags the tune back to the upbeat melody it's supposed to be, causing Mulysa to give up dramatically and curl up to sleep.

She pounced on that so quickly that no other hero had time to react, let alone contribute. Free XP for the bard!

Looking for Intelligence

The city is very subdued this New Year's morning, with few people on the streets. The rumor is that the city council is preparing to accede to the Ragesian demands to let the inquisitors enter the city.

The four heroes head east to the elven ghetto Shealis directed them to. After several long orbits around the ghetto, both Basel and Leeta(?) manage to find a door into the ghetto. They promptly make their way to the shop Shealis directed them to, only to discover that the door and windows on the front are fake. They make their way to the back alley, discover the concealed door with the three levers marked by planar symbols and, after a brief discussion trying to figure out their significance, hear an invisible voice. "Hey, friend, I can help you get in if you help me."

After some amount of confusion by the fact that it's not just Jesús hearing voices, the heroes and the voice quickly come to an agreement.

Voice: "I need the case that holds the military intelligence."

Gusle: "The case? Oh, sure, you can have the case!"

Voice: "Just to be clear we understand each other, the case is what I need."

Gusle: "Yes, exactly, you get us in and we can give you the case."

Voice: "Ah, yes, we do understand each other!"

I thought it cool that Gusle came up with the same word game that Kurychek was playing.

So, the voice (identifying itself as Kurychek) shoos the party out of the alley and to an elven coffee shop across the way. Shortly they see a little elven girl walk into the alley and suddenly scream in pain. Gusle and Leeta race off to see what happened. The girl, quietly sobbing, explains that the wall bit her when she push on it and shows the bloody spot on he hand. Leeta casts a minor healing spell on the wound, which makes the wound go away without relieving the girl's pain. Jesús and Basel belatedly join them. Basel uses detect poison to determine that the girl's wounds were, in fact, poisoned, and Jesús tries to treat the poisoning the old-fashioned way. Sadly, sucking the poison out of a wound that was just healed doesn't work so well, and the girl passes out. The heroes rush the girl off to the coffee shop and ask someone to find a healer and the girl's parents.

I don't think I did a very good job of conveying to the players that the girl was being lead by Kurychek, so they never caught on that their deal with the devil got an innocent hurt. On the other hand, I rewarded them for a CR 1 encounter for going to lengths to take care of the girl after she passed out.

Fortunately, Kurychek is more than just a pretty voice. He manages to hold the door in the alley open while the heroes are tending to the girl. Leeta leads the way in. The room looks like it was decorated by a carpenter with a door fetish -- doors of every shape and size populate the otherwise-open first floor. Behind a pair of the nearby doors, she can hear something snarling. After trying to decide if it's a bear, a boar, a badger, or a barracuda snarling, the heroes manage to distribute themselves on either side of the doors and start to advance around it.

The snarlies pounce! Jesús gets bitten by one, and Leeta is attacked by the other. Basel notices that these are celestial badgers. "Hey guys, should we be attacking..." Leeta quickly carves up the badger attacking her. Jesús, not to be outdone, knocks the badger unconscious with a single deft blow to the top of its head. "...these creatures? They're celestial, after all."

No one seems to understand Basel's concern, so he gives up and they make their way up the stairs, except for Jesús, who decides to keep an eye on the street. They find two elven soldiers are sitting on a sleeping mat. "Oh, hello, who are you?"

"We're here to see the intelligence. You knew we were coming, right?"

The soldiers smirk. "Oh, yeah, Daria said something about people coming."

"Uhm, didn't you hear us fighting the badgers?"

The smirks get wider. "Nope, didn't hear a thing."

I figured talking to Shealis made things too easy, so I had the soldiers let the badgers attack. I was trying to bait the heroes into attacking the soldiers and give Shealis an excuse to attack the party. Everyone showed remarkable restraint, however.

Meanwhile, Jesús hears someone coming down the alley. He peeks around the corner and comes face-to-face with Shealis. He leads her in. She's rather dismayed by the badger bodies (celestial badger bodies!!) lying in the Hall of Doors. After a brief discussion with her soldiers, she decides that a suitable punishment for their troublesome ways is to clean up the badger bodies. "I want the floor downstairs spotless!" (Don't make Shealis angry!)

Shealis shows them the case. Gusle tries a password ("I wanted to make sure they'd changed it" -- uh...?), and Shealis determines that there is indeed some sort of spell on the case. Basel is worried that the magic is designed to destroy the contents of the case if it's opened improperly ("that's what I would do"), so they give up on opening the case and instead give contact information to Shealis so that she can send them a message once her allies get into it.

Then there's just the little problem of Kurychek and the case he's expecting in return for his assistance. "Hey, what about that chest? It's a case of sorts!" So, in a flurry of creativity,
  • Basel writes up a smidge of military intelligence.
  • Gusle writes up a smidge of military intelligence ''in Ignan'' (how prescient!). Shealis and Jesús judge Gusle's attempt to be more convincing, although Leeta disagrees.
  • Jesús uses Mage's Magic Aura to make the chest appear to be magically trapped.
  • Gusle and Jesús take the chest outside. "Hey, Curry! Was this the case you wanted?"
Magic Aura? Wow, I've never seen anyone use that spell!

Kurychek is angered by this apparent attempt to renege on the deal and flits into the building. Fortunately, Basel had cast Message on Jesús earlier, so he had fair warning. Basel, thinking quickly, decided he could disappear with the real case in hand, but Shealis grabs the case and says, "I've got this" -- and promptly turns invisible. (Good thing, Shealis's invisibility lasts much longer than disappear). Basel invites Kurychek to help him find the case.

Where Is This Dodge You Speak Of?

After briefly pondering the 50' city wall with its array of spikes and guards, the heroes heroically try to come up with another way out of the city. "Hey, Torrent mentioned this Councilor Erdan Menash guy, living near the big statue of Coaltongue," says Gusle. So, our heroes traipse off to the next district to the east to his garish building.

The heroes arrive shortly before the councilor gets home from, er, counciling. He takes the four on a grand tour of his home, pointing out all the wondrous equipment (you really do have to wonder why someone would make things that look that way). In the meantime, he tells the heroes about the darings-do of the people of Gate Pass during last night's attack.

Minor bit of amusement here: Gusle wanted to shake hands with Erdan. I boggled at the idea and had to point out that a handshake from a seela isn't very friendly.

Eventually, he gets to the point, realizes they're working with Torrent, and offers them a way out of the city -- and some spiffy equipment to go with it!

  • Before Erdan finishes making his offer, Basel starts pleading with Erdan for the masterwork longbow shaped like a stretched-out croissant.
  • He gives Leeta a "rose with thorns" (masterwork studded leather armor with armor spikes), rose-pink on the top and brown for the rest. He says he had it specially made for a druid, but the druid refused it because the spikes contained metal.
  • For Jesús he digs out a masterwork quarterstaff painted in a red-and-white spiral.
  • He gives Gusle the yellow smiley-face masterwork buckler. :)
Erdan then sends the heroes east to meet with Captain Herreman. On the way, the heroes notice they're being followed by some obviously fake city watch. The heroes duck into a bar and the watchlings start harassing Gusle. She steps outside with them, but refuses to go any further. It's then that she(?) notices a dashing rogue has been following them as well. He steps up and introduces himself, elbowing the obviously fake watchmen out into the street and on their way. The dashing rogue introduces himself to Gusle as Rantle (everyone else recognized him by the goatee). As they walk on to Captain Herreman's office, he explains that he's heard what the party is up to and asks them to take a scroll case to his fire-sorceress sister Katrina, who headed for Seaquen as soon as she heard the Inquisition was expected. Gusle quickly takes the scroll case and tucks it away.

Alas, that practically guarantees that the heroes will never look at the scroll case's contents, as Gusle is Good.

Herreman dresses the heroes up like guardsmen (leather armor and cheap swords for those not already so equipped) and tells them The Plan: They are to take one of the tunnels out to a guard tower on the south side of the city. The towers are designed to be inaccessible expect through the tunnel, but there is an escape clause: If desperate, the guards in the tower can hack out the supporting beams at the top of the tower, causing the tower to collapse into the tunnel and letting the guards escape. So that's what the heroes do. Only Jesús gets beaned on the toe by chunks of following tower, which he recovers from after a good night's sleep in another abandoned tower a few hours' walk from the city.

I originally came up with this plan as an alternative to Diogenes using his Charm to get the heroes out of the city. That plan struck me as implausible -- no doubt a guard would make his saving throw and call for help. Instead, I thought he (or Gusle) could use Suggestion to convince someone in charge of the guard towers that the four were new recruits assigned the next watch at the tower.

Walking The Gauntlet

After a few long, frigid days of walking through the snow,

Both elves kept failing their fortitude saves. I cut the whole roll-for-damage business short by simply having the party take frequent warm-up stops, forcing them to go slower.

the heroes enter a ravine and notice a couple of heads pop out of sight behind some rubble. Everyone gets ready to dance (with Gusle providing the dance music, of course). Leeta casts entangle right above where she saw the two heads, causing the owners of those heads to cry out in dismay as the underbrush tries to grab their legs. They nonetheless fling a couple of thunderstones at the heroes and manage to deafen Leeta and Basel with one. They then launch their attack, two at a time, to get their beatin'. The first two do some somewhat serious damage with their bows before their entangled allies remind them that the heroes are to be kept alive.

Oops. Well, no great harm done, and it emphasized just how bozo the bounty hunters were.

When one of the riders realize how badly they're outnumbered, he tries to gallop off back towards Gate Pass, but Jesús grabs the horse and pulls onto the horses rump, then awkwardly reaches out, grabs the rider, and drags him to the ground. Basel gives the rider a quick chop with his longsword to ensure he doesn't get back up. Once all the bounty hunters have been rendered unconscious or driver off, the heroes heroically loot the bodies of the dead.
.
So ends the first session. Now what? I made a mistake by forgetting Renard, which I think is why I found this encounter exceptionally dull. I suppose I could have Renard and Kathor corner them at the campsite should they explore it next, but...do I want to bother? I suppose it would drive home Kathor's change of heart when they encounter him helping to free Gate Pass.
 

Bill T.

Explorer
The Battle of Haddin's Farm

Dramatis Personae

  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker who has been attending Gabal's school and previously made his living as a baker.
  • Gusle, a seela bard who recently escaped captivity from a circus. This player has been through the first few chapters already, so she's aware of the seela and can fill Torrent's role as guide.
  • 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.
  • Leeta, a woodswoman that looks like a human but with sharper edges. She was born in Gate Pass on New Year's Day.

Aftermath Of The Gauntlet

After much careful investigation of the tracks on the road and the trail adjoining it
along with a fair amount of cajoling from the DM
the heroes decide to see what they might find up the trail. They reach a small grotto with tents ("I should have gotten us a tent", muses Gusle), horses (woo hoo!), and a few locked tunnels -- one containing a man wrapped in a shroud with a cat curled up beside him. Gusle eventually manages to pick the lock, and they carefully approach the two lying on the floor of the tunnel and eventually convince themselves he and his cat are both stone-cold dead. They inspect the contents of the jar he holds and discover the prayer it contains, "Don't let my death be in vain."

On that cheery note, they loot the tents, quickly finding the chest full of gold, rubies, and promissory notes redeemable at any Ragesian fort. They do a thorough search and find the key Renard had lost in his pants pocket.

"Hey, shouldn't we bury the dead wizard in the cave or something?" asks Basel.

"Sorry, busy loading the horses," responds Leeta.

Dismissive, Gusle asks, "What, you going to try to dig a hole in this cold? We don't even have a shovel."

"We don't need a shovel," responds Jesús. "We revenants cremate our dead with glorious fire! All hail the Stormbringer Phoenix!"

His understanding of the diety his cleric represents has evolved. I'm not sure I fully understand yet, but it should be enough that at least he has an idea of what his responsibilities are as a cleric.


So, Basel and Jesús build a little funeral pyre for the man and his cat. Just as they're about to set the pyre on fire, the shroud glows, and the two suddenly realize that the corpse is wrapped in a dream shroud, which lets the wearer use the following powers

  1. With a moment's thought, determine if an action will negatively impact his alignment or relationship with his deity.
  2. Use it to cast align weapon once per day.
They quickly put out the tinder they were using to start the fire and remove the shroud from the wizard's remains.

The House Haddin Bui...Forged By Magic

They travel most of the day and start to see the effects of the fire forest -- a red sky, flowers blooming out of season, and a grove a banana trees surrounding a stone house. A young fragile-looking woman stands on a small hill. When the heroes gets close, she says, "The Scourge comes, and the skulls of the dragon pursue you. I saw it in a dream." She then apologizes, introduces herself as Crystin, and makes her pitch -- she knows the inquisitors are coming for her father (and her?), and she knows that the heroes can lead her to safety.

Anyhow, after they all stable the horses, Crystin leads them into the house. Her father, Haddin, immediately starts barking at Crystin, annoyed that she brought visitors and ordering them all to various tasks related to making dinner. Gusle tries to sweet-talk him but doesn't get very far. Jesús would like to try but can't imagine what tack he should take to persuade him.

Someone on these forums -- sorry, I forget who -- suggested that Haddin should be demanding and pushy, and I like the idea enough to try it. Sure enough, everyone pretty quickly came to despise Haddin, and his subsequent behavior lowered their opinions even further.


After dinner, Haddin tells everyone where they're to sleep and then makes his way to bed. "Hey, wait, I thought he was too old and feeble to get around on his own!"

...if you see what I mean.



The Inquisitor Comes A'knocking


As Leeta is finishing up packing up in the morning, she asks Haddin, "Are you sure you don't want to come...."

"Haddin!" shouts a menacing, feral voice outside the house. "Come out and surrender or die!"

"Haddin, do you know who that is?" asks Basel.

"Haddin, what would you like us to do" inquires Gusle.

"Must be the inquisitors. Bah! I can deal with them."

Mysteriously, the front door opens all on its own, and in rush a half-dozen walking skeletons. "Eep, er...see ya!" says Haddin.

So, the heroes start battling the skeletons, Crystin shrieks in terror and scurries up into the attic, and Haddin runs out the back door -- only to be immediately brought down by a crossbow bolt.

Meanwhile, Leeta skewers a skeleton right between the ribs with her sword, as does Gusle. "Where's the guy with the stick?" they ask -- only the world has strangely fallen silent around them.

The guy with the stick, Jesús, calls out from the back door, "Hey, looks like Haddin's been shot!"

"Daddy's been shot??" exclaims Crystin as she races down the ladder and heads for the back door. "I've got to help him!"

Jesús steps in her way and tells her, "I'll go out and help him, but you have to promise to stay in the house, out of danger."

On reflection, this reaction from
Jesús was something of a surprise. I had conducted an alignment quiz before the heroes reached Haddin's place, and there was some disagreement among the players about whether Jesús is evil or merely neutral with a dark sense of humor. This selfless act seems to refute the pessimists -- although, after the battle, everyone accused Jesús of having the hots for Crystin. I trust they were only doing so to rile him up.


Jesús goes out to grab Haddin, who is now sporting at least two crossbow bolts and slowly starts dragging Haddin back into the house -- and gets rewarded for his efforts with a crossbow bolt of his own in the shoulder. Crystin manages to drag them both into the house and bar the back door while Jesús uses a wand to help Haddin recover from being shot.

Meanwhile, the other three heroes continue to battle the skeletons in silence, until Jesús comes back into the room and says, "Shoo!" The skeletons that made it into the house don't flee -- rather, they shatter on the spot.

Then, suddenly, a halfling appears out of nowhere and stabs Gusle -- hard! Some more dancing ensues, but the halfing tumbles out of the house just as Basel draws his sword to stab him in the head. Hey, everyone can hear again!

Jesús shoos the rest of the skeletons into oblivion, which gives the orcs an opportunity to step up in front of the house -- one with a big silvery axe who guzzles a potion labeled "Eat me" and becomes nine feet tall, two human soldiers with armor, shields, and swords, and a half-orc wearing little more than a mask and bear skins.

Jesús leaps out the front door and bashes Mr. Big in the leg with his candy-strip quarterstaff -- which Mr. Big takes as an opportunity to return the favor with his Large-sized shiny axe. Leeta works her way outside to help Jesús while Basel casts a spell to send an orb of fire at the orc in the mask.

"Overconfident and impatient" was one of the character traits he assigned to the clerics of his sect, so I expect we'll be seeing a lot of him charging recklessly into battle. Keeps things exciting, at least!



"You shall not cast!" shouts the masked man while waving a small scourge in the air. The orb flickers briefly before splashing, rather harmfully, on the masked man's chest.

"Hocus pocus!" says Gusle, and a flaming log floats out of the fire, out of the door, and drops on the head of one of the armored men, who yelps as he gets burned.

Hmm, clever. I decided on the spot that the falling, smoldering log does d4 damage (Reflex DC 10 to negate). That's probably a bit too much damage for a cantrip, although the DC was sort of low. I suppose the alternative would have been to call for charisma check vs. the target's touch AC. Has anyone else had to deal with such cleverness?



At this point, Haddin suddenly decides to participate. "Abraca-cough-hack-pocus! Kill the inquisitor!" Mr. Big blinks in confusion -- so Haddin scurries up into the attic himself!

At this point, the battle devolves into a slugfest -- Jesús and Leeta are forced to withdraw back into the house. Basel magically splashes the inquisitor with acid, provoking him to again shout "You shall not cast!" to no apparent effect. The two armored men rush into the house and start hacking at Leeta and Gusle, who in turn return the favor. Several times, one of the heroes go down, so another has to step up to heal them.

An odd "BRAAPP" emits from near Crystin a couple times, and a crystalline shard strikes Mr. Big in the forehead each time. Basel, having set his sights on the inquisitor, starts firing arrows out the door and beneath Mr. Big's crotch until the inquisitor goes down in a heap. Mr. Big seems confused, unable to decide whether he should enter the house or turn towards what's left of the inquisitor, until he eventually starts beating on the doorway in frustration. Jesús tries to Cause Fear in one of the soldiers, but the soldier is not afraid of his magic. Haddin joins the action as well -- he dominates one of the armored men and orders him to attack his peer. After much poking and shooting, Mr. Big and one armored guy goes down, so the second surrenders.

Smarg was vacillating because he was caught at the edge of the inquisitor's
Magic Circle against Evil. The orc had failed both saving throws against the Dominate Person Haddin cast before fleeing into the attic, so, as soon as he stepped out of the circle he was compelled to go kill him -- which meant stepping into the circle, freeing him from the compulsion, so he would head to attack the heroes, stepping out of the circle, etc.

Jesús is being played by the youngest and newest of our group, so we had to cajole him into trying a spell. Unfortunately, the target failed the saving throw. It probably would have been smarter to fudge the result and have the soldier cower, just so he could see the effects of his nifty spell. I've discussed his spells since them and he seems more inclined to a buffing spell rather than something directly offensive.

Basel and Crystin were the only two not to go to negative hit points during the battle. Leeta, Gusle, and
Jesús went negative at least once. At one point, Leeta, having just been healed and still prone, had to crawl over to Gusle to heal her to consciousness. Fortunately, that was right after Haddin had dominated one of the armored men.

I also decided to pull a punch near the end of the fight: Smarg was able to swing through the open doorway and take a life-ending chunk out of
Jesús. I wasn't really ready to kill him off at that point (see above re: youngest and newest), and it was a bit rude to knock him dead while he was away from the table, so I walked the action back and had Smarg down a healing potion instead. Yeah, I'm a wimp.

Aftermath


The heroes quiz the surviving armored guy about the disposition of the Ragesian army around Gate Pass. He snarkily points to the stripes on his shoulder -- all zero of them -- and explains that his responsibilities end at the tip of his sword. Basel is eager to step outside and slice the inquisitor's throat, but is intelligent enough to realize that maybe it'd be more useful to interrogate someone who might know something.

...mostly because I demanded an intelligence check and told him! I was a bit surprised at how bloodthirsty he got over the inquisitor, but maybe Basel's just a bloodthirsty sort of elf.


It turns out that the inquisitor didn't bleed out after being brought unconscious by Basel's blistering bow barrage.

Huh, imagine that. What are the odds? ;-)


so they strip everything of value from him. The examine the contents of the scroll case and discover his orders:

Inquistor Boreus, you are ordered to proceed to the farmhouse occupied by the wizard Haddin and kill him, thereby eliminating the threat he poses to our forces in Gate Pass. Do not take him alive. He is not needed.

Inquisitor Guthwulf
so signed this third day of January of the first year of the reign of Supreme Inquisitor Leska Merideus, Empress of Ragesia​

They then bind him, gag him, and heal him. They also invite Crystin to participate in the interrogation. Suddenly, a light seems to come on in Crystin's head, and she says in a whisper, "My father. By the gods, he's been.... You've got to get me out of here."

Yes, again. Gotta love that Magic Circle.



"Sure thing!" "You got it!"

Apparently, the heroes like Haddin less than Crystin. I can't imagine why. ;-)


So, the inquisitor spills what beans he knows, including that Ragesian Empire will hunt them down no matter where they go, and he rattles off the names of his superiors in his chain of command. He readily explains the the functioning of the magic items he carries, much to Gusle's surprise.

I think my reaction to her question about the brooch was, "Oh, that." I can't see him getting excited about explaining equipment, especially when the heroes all had their weapons ready to prevent him from casting a spell. It seems more interesting to let them know than it would be to make them wait until one of them can cast
Identify to use the magic items they've earned.

The heroes then hold a big brainstorming session -- how to get Crystin away from Haddin without Haddin interfering? They didn't understand why Crystin suddenly decided she needed to get away, and they were worried that Haddin might dominate one of them to prevent it. Eventually, they realize that Gusle is not a "person" and therefore isn't susceptible to being dominated. Gusle makes up a story about how they need Crystin's help cleaning up the bodies, pilfers the picture of Crystin and her mother, gives Haddin one last chance to come with them (for show), and wanders off. Oh, and to make sure Haddin doesn't suffer, they leave the inquisitor and the soldier who surrendered in Haddin's care, so they can help defend Haddin when the Ragesians send another kill team.

Yes, again. I was told afterwards that she did this mostly because it seemed like the least of the available evils -- she didn't want to simply kill the inquisitor, but they didn't dare try to take him with them. She also knew that leaving Boreus with the Haddin was an option since she'd been a player when I previously DM'd WotBS.

I need to do a little bit of retconning when we get together next -- Crystin would have been back under Haddin's influence when they dragged Boreus into the house, so they would have had to drag her away from her father at that point. It will be easy enough to handwave past, I think.
 

Bill T.

Explorer
Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker who has been attending Gabal's school and previously made his living as a baker.
  • Gusle, a seela bard who recently escaped captivity from a circus.
  • 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.
  • Leeta, a woodswoman that looks like a human but with sharper edges. She was born in Gate Pass on New Year's Day.
Follow the Flaming Brick Road

Well, to be precise, the flames were beside the road, and the Elfroad is made of stone, not brick, but the heroes nonetheless follow it into the fire forest. The run across a body and fragments of at least another one lying in the road. As they inspect the bodies, the whole one grabs Leeta and cries out, "Kill me, please!"

Someone on these forums -- sorry, I forget who -- mentioned the dirty trick of wandering around looking for miniatures and then grabbing a player when Durval suddenly moves. I certainly startled the grabbee by doing this, but the other players didn't seem to be that impressed.

"Hey, I know him!" exclaims Basel. "That's Durval, one of the married students from Gabal's school. Bit of a slimebag, too, if you ask me."

After a great deal of discussion, attempts by Gusle to slip Durval a dagger, and more discussion, the heroes finally decide to put him out of his misery. But then he stands up again and keeps begging for them to kill him! They eventually do so, again, and this time he stays dead.

A mile or so later, a small winged creature comes screeching out of the trees and takes cover behind the heroes as a flaming bat chases it down. The heroes have a wild time trying to beat off the bat as the winged creature (a "mephit", per Professor Basel) hides behind whoever is nearest.

Bridge Over Troubled Fires

The heroes reach a stone bridge crossing a deep gorge. One side of the bridge has a big chunk of railing knocked out near the middle.

"Hey, I wonder what knocked out the side of the bridge." says Gusle. Maybe we should look down through the hole in the side." The rest of the heroes are willing to entertain Gusle's idea, and Leeta stands guard at the railing across from the break. "Huh, I can't see anything down there."

"Oh well, let's keep going," responds Leeta. "Everyone, let's head AIIEEEEEEE!" A section of bridge collapses under Leeta's feet and she plummets to the bottom of the gorge!

What a fiasco. I had intended to have a Crystin premonition about people plummeting to their doom but forgot. Everyone merrily wandered across the bridge without a worry. Things were looking bad enough that I either forgot or deliberately omitted the indomitable fire bat swarm. I don't think these heroes have any way to deal with such a swarm, anyhow, other than rebuking it.

Gusle makes it safely to the far side, so everyone else follows the path she took, one by one, but for Crystin, who wants nothing of this whole collapsing-bridge nonsense. They manage to string a couple of ropes together so that they can lower Gusle to the gorge to help Leeta. Leeta, of course, is unconscious but, despite the sixty-foot fall and the fire, still breathing. Gusle isn't in any position to haul Leeta up, so she lassos Leeta and signals the men to haul her up. The men, it turns out, aren't sufficiently manly, so Crystin, in a huff ("Elves!"), crosses the bridge and hauls Leeta up with a little help from the men. They then do the same for Gusle, since she doesn't seem to have much of a talent for climbing rock walls. "Well, I guess it's pretty clear there isn't anything down there, huh?"

I learned after the session that she knew there was something good down at the bottom of that ravine from the last time she played WotBS and was intent on finding it again. The sad thing is that she missed her spot check to notice the fallen wagon by only one or two when she got down there.

Given the beating everyone took, the heroes decide to spend the "night" near the falling bridge before continuing deeper into the fire forest.

Hell Of A...No, A Dog Of Hell

As the heroes proceed down the road, they suddenly notice a burst of flame among the flames. "Odd, that was some sort of teleportation magic," Basel point out. After a bit of discussion, they continue anyhow, eyes peeled.

"Hey, look, there's a large dog at the side of the road with a bone in its mouth," observes Leeta.

"That's not just a dog, that's a hellhound, Leeta." The dog paws out onto the road with an air of cordial ferocity, drops the bone, and backs away.

What can I say? "Cordial ferocity" is a cute enough turn of phrase that I have to use it any time I get the opportunity.

"Eww," says Jesús. "That's a thigh bone from a person. It's got writing on it: 'Leave the case containing the intelligence. Cooperate, and we might find an arrangement to spare your lives. Carry this with you if you wish to bargain.'"

The hellhound licks its chops.

"Well, no case. Do we take the thigh bone?"

The hellhound smacks its lips.

"May as well, maybe we can talk some sense into whoever this is."

The Devil, You Say

In a burst of flame similar to what the heroes saw earlier in the morning, a devil appears fifty feet down the road. "Ah, so you don't want to bargain, then!" It stares at them, as if in concentration, and then horrifying, twisted-looking creatures form from flames surrounding Gusle. They immediately claw out at her, and she goes down.

Kazyk surmised that Gusle, the seela in the party, was the least likely to agree to a plan of action that would result in the death of all the seela and therefore directed the lemures to attack her.

"She's been attacked by the damned!" proclaims Basel.

Battle ensues, but the the heroes are hard pressed to do any damage. One of the damned monsterlets is dispatched, but the devil charges forward, clobbering Basel (Crystin?) and slashing Jesús in a single smooth slash with his glaive. Jesús flees down the road, as the devil continues his assault. Finally, having injured everyone, and getting more than a little of his own medicine from Leeta, he pantomimes tipping his hat and disappears in yet another chrysanthemum of flame.

What a fiasco. Kazyk won initiative and was able to bring down two of the PCs before they even got a chance to act. Another round brought another one down. I was fortunate enough to forget his cleave feat that time, and decided to skip the wounding property of the glaive, or I would have most likely have had a TPK, Jesús's fleeing notwithstanding.

The party once again heals their wounded and proceed down the Elfroad.

Session break here -- we picked up again a couple of weeks later.

Oh deer -- flaming deer!

Flaming trees go "kablooie" and fall, blocking the path ahead.

Crystin yells at Basel, "Look out! Move move!" Basel looks puzzled until he sees a spear of smoke appear right above his head, whereupon he takes a large step backwards. Crystin, on the other hand, appears to have been dazed by her vision.

As a wall of fire advances, the heroes battle the miniature fire stags formed from the smoke cloud that resulted when the smokey spear attacked. Several of the heroes go down, only to be dragged back from the wall and/or healed.

What a fiasco -- they were getting dropped by the stags left and right, didn't do a good job of tracking the wall of fire (so I had to pause it a round), and once again nearly ended up all dead. If this hadn't been the first encounter of the session, I think I would have been willing to let the TPK happen. Indomitability is testing the heroes, after all, and these heroes don't seem to be up to the task.
One bit of cleverness I employed was to have the wall advance five feet every time the PCs took an action. That made the action smoother. I hoped it would give them a bit more of a sense of urgency about getting away from the wall, but apparently that didn't work.

Eventually, they defeat the stags, and a voices booms out from the fallen trees:

A fiery vision of a dragon's head with antlers appears and roars "Come! Follow the river. Set me free!"

"Erm, we've got wounded here, can we discuss this later?"

"Rest your flesh now in the ruins beyond the bridge. Then you must follow the river down to the singing lake. I lie trapped beneath its surface. Set me free!" replies the voice.

"Yeah, sure, whatever."

Well, that didn't go over very well. Here's supposed to be their opportunity to learn about the Big Bad Evil Stag, but they were all so wrapped up in their own problems that they couldn't be bothered to interact. I don't recall having had that problem when I previously ran this adventure, so I don't know what, if anything, I did wrong this time.

A tower on the river

Leeta searches the door for traps -- and finds one! The whole door appears to be trapped.

"Should we heal ourselves before we go in?"

"Mr. 'Free me now!' said we should rest here."

I could have sworn Indominability told them to rest in the town, but whatever. The tower's a better place anyhow.

"Yes, but what if there is someone inside waiting to attack us?"

"The door's locked, and no one answered when we knocked."

"What, you think they stopped to lock the place as they fled the burning forest?"

Eventually, Gusle takes courage (and tools) in hand and, with tremendous difficulty, opens the door.

Well, that was a bit disturbing. Since they don't have a dedicated rogue, the bard is pinch-hitting, and her Open Lock modifier wasn't enough to open the stupid door! I decided to fudge it and let her open it anyhow, and held the pantry with the dream seeds as too hard to unlock. Just today, I realized that "aid another" would have been enough to let her open the lock.

Basel seems most eager to see what the flaming stone is just inside the door. He reads it, says "friend", and enters. As he gives the room a thorough scan for unwelcome surprises, Crystin hops in and starts up the ladder, but Basel chastises her and so she meekly waits for everyone else.

Gusle then enters and uses detect magic in an attempt to, you know, detect anything magical. She makes her way to the top of the tower to discover that, like Zen, the only magic in the tower is the magic they brought with them. On the other hand, they do find a locked pantry in the upper floor. After an exhausting but futile attempt to unlock it, they decide to open the pantry "the half-orc way" to discover nothing but a seed packet with goblin writing on the front. No one speaks goblin, and no one recognizes the seeds, so they go back downstairs.

The heroes briefly admire the wooden map of the city. Jesús recognizes the holy symbol on the desk as a holy symbol of an elven diety, but he must have slept through those lessons at cloister. The symbol, however, seems to be a stylized representation of the sun on the horizon.

They look through the journal of Bhurisrava and develop a variety of wild theories.

Dream seeds

Gusle decides to tempt fate: "Ah, heck, healing is overrated, I want one of those dream seeds. What's the worst that could happen?"

So, Gusle quickly falls into a deep slumber and shortly thereafter yelps as a little blue dracoloid (Basel declares it to be a dream elemental) appears above the table at the center of the room. It blasts Crystin with an icy ray. Rather than refreshing her, the ray knocks her unconscious. Leeta responds with a well-placed swing to the creature's throat -- only to have the blade warp around the creature's neck and slice through her own neck!

Not a fiasco! While exasperated that her first critical hit of the campaign happened to hit her own throat, she took it with such good humor that I felt no compunction about letting her die -- not that she expected to survive that damage anyhow, she ended up below -20 hit points.
On the other hand, I have Gusle's player running Crystin, and she was a bit annoyed that Crystin went down as well. Oh, and she was horrified by the effects of Ego Whip -- the hazards of putting everything in the charisma basket.

Realizing how desperate a situation they're in, and that the dream elemental needs a dreamer to exist in this world, Basel says, "Grab Leeta!" as he grabs Crystin and jumps downstairs, using feather fall to break their fall. Jesús takes a quick but good look at Leeta, determines she's unlikely to be alive, and jumps down without her, much to Basel's dismay.

Clever enough for me. I figured that there was enough stone between the floors to block Detect Magic and therefore whatever it was that permitted the dream elemental to remain in the waking world.

The dream elemental, obligingly, stays upstairs, although it does manage to chuck another icy ray in Jesús's general direction while he tends to Crystin's wounds. None of them have any good idea of how they might recover Leeta -- she's about as hard to get to as is possible given the layout of the second floor. Crystin, though, gets the clever(?) idea of banging swords together in hopes of waking Gusle.

After about ten minutes, Gusle wakes up with the sensation of banging in her head. Her first sight upon waking is of Leeta, with a huge pool of blood around her head and shoulders. Her second sight is of a wildly frantic blue dracoloid, which attempts some sort of mind-affecting magic before vanishing.

Someone knocks at the door to the tower and shouts, "Gusle, are you in there?" Basel, upon hearing Gusle's name mentioned, cautiously opens the door to see a woman wearing a chain shirt and a greatsword. "Hi, I'm Dämmek. Torrent gives her regards. She sent me to help you guys. Know anything about the voice demanding to be set free?"

I brought along a few spare characters. Dämmek is a duskblade, which I think is how I came up with the name (apologies to readers who speak Luxembourgish). And here I was hoping that she would grab the cleric I brought along, given how much trouble they've been having with staying alive. The cleric's name, by the way, is "Torrent". :giggle:

The heroes, afraid to cremate someone in the fire forest, instead decide to fill Leeta's pockets with rocks and throw her body into the river.

Gusle's dream

[Harp music signals a flashback]

She soars above the tower on her strong wings, hearing strange singing in Sylvan. She sees a devil on the road as she heads back the way she came from Gate Pass. Upon reaching Haddin's place, she sees the inquisitor and a couple guards talking to the devil. The devil is carrying a sack. The inquisitor looks into it -- as does Gusle -- and they both see that the sack contains Haddin's head, crudely sawed off.

On that cheery note, Gusle flies on again towards Gate Pass. She encounters Brooding Guy in a ravine where they battled a bunch of the Murderers. Strangely, he seems to have some notion that someone is nearby. Finally, she reaches Gate Pass. The western end of the city has been breached and is a total shambles. She continues out of the city to see that the Ragesians are attacking the west gate of the city, which stands firm, for the moment, against their assault. Then she notices a red-robed spellcaster flinging fireballs and other spells through the Ragesian camp, wreaking mayhem, until a red dragon lands on him, chews him up, and spits him out.

[Harp music signals end of flashback]

"Arrogant bastard," declares Basel. "That's the one thing Gabal and I vehemently disagreed on. I told him he should never go into an invading army's camp without back-up."

"Yes, but, didn't they want to capture spellcasters alive?"

Basel smirks and says, "You tell the dragon that!"

How Ghastly!

The heroes easily find the stone willow tree that they believe conceals the Shrine of Anyariel. Jesús and/or Gusle notice a couple of bodies hanging from the tree. Uninterested, they proceed to the tree's trunk to search for an entrance -- and the hanging bodies leap down to attack! Gusle starts singing a cheery song as one bites Basel, who promptly stands stock still. Jesús attempts to rebuke them -- and instead of affecting the ghastly things, a door opens in the trunk of the tree!

Small mistake on my part -- rebuking shouldn't have opened the door. No big loss, but I think they would have been happy to try to pry their way in.

Dämmek gives one of the slavering undead-enders a slice to the cheek and steps back; it responds by stepping forward and biting her, rendering her immobile as well! Things aren't looking good for our heroes, but Jesús's next attempt to rebuke them is wildly successful, and the two critters cower while everyone beats them to pieces.

Fiasco dodged. It looked too likely to me that everyone was going to end up paralyzed and eaten, so I fudge the results of the second rebuke check (luckily, the player in the euphemism and someone else was rolling the rebuke check) and instead the heroes were able to trivially hack up the ghasts.

The Shrine of Anyariel

Basel peers through the opening in the tree trunk and sees a beautiful glowing ball of eldritch magic -- and, curiously, he steps back quietly to confer with the other heroes. "Psst, hey guys, that's a ghaele, a chaotic good whatsit from the outer planes."

"Ooh, like an angel! Let's go see if it lets us in!" responds Gusle.

"No, no, you see, it's chaotic good!"

"Yeah, so?" says Gusle. "It's good! We'll be fine."

"Yeah, but it's chaotic! It might declare us all evil and destroy us on a whim!"

I get the impression that Basel has an extraordinarily guilty conscious -- anytime he encounters a good outsider, his first reaction is to flee lest he be judged as insufficiently good. Gusle, on the other hand, seems to feel the need to burnish her non-lawful credentials.

"Meh." Gusle walks up to the ghaele, with Crystin trailing eagerly behind. "Hi, wise and wonderful glowing ghaele! We want to pay our respects to the shrine and and I remember the tales of Anayriel from my youth. I have been a long time away and have not had the chance to visit before."

"Sure, come on in. By the way, my name's Hubert. You look sort of beat up. A quick touch and -- presto!, you're all better."

And you thought "Dämmek" was a crummy name!

So, everyone parades into the tree, and Hubert heals all their wounds. They work their way down the spiral staircase to see a strange scene -- a statue of an elf woman with a wood-n-viney sword dominates the center of the room. Behind it is a broken display case. Two elves lie on the floor, one wearing a Shahalesti uniform and the other, a redhead in simple robes, lies face-down. He's been clawed up and there is a simple mace lying just out of his reach.

First magic weapon of the campaign and, of course, no one is interested.

The heroes ask Hubert about this and that, and learn that he was placed here by a god of healing, in answer to the prayers of an unknown priest. He doesn't know about anything outside the shrine -- he's to protect the shrine until those responsible for the destruction of Innenotdar are brought to justice.

Gusle cast Detect Magic several items glow with magic in the temple basement, but surprisingly the body of the Shalalesti soldier glows the brightest.

Basel attempts to search the body of the Shalalesti elf, but discovers that both the elf and the uniform are petrified, making a thorough search impossible, as even the pockets on the uniform won't flex to let Basel put his hand in them.

The group decides to the mouth of the White River (northeast of the elf village), where Bhurisrava said he would "deliver the despairing" in his final journal entry.

Well, all in all, these last two sessions have been rather frustrating for both me and the person playing Gusle. The last time I ran this adventure, the heroes didn't have nearly as much trouble staying alive, and so she's complaining that she doesn't feel like they are accomplishing anything this time around -- they're just struggling to stay alive. The previous group had the same size party, although the PCs all had a free level of aristocrat and were more skilled at D&D tactics and character optimization, which might explain the difference. On the other hand, flipping through the adventure, it seems like every encounter is at least CR 5. This is supposed to be for third-level characters?
The next session seemed to go better, at least. One of the players has been typing up notes. Hurray, at long last, someone else is recording what happened!
Edit: Speling.
 
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