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WotBS Dying To Reach The Scourge Prison

Bill T.

Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school with his familiar Star, daughter of Naizelasa.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Torch
  • Leon, a human spellthief wielding a double spear.
  • Seda, a spellcasting Seela, with Blanche, her sentient siberian tiger companion.
After recovering from fighting with the stone golems guarding the entrance to the Needle (the joys of having an army at your back), the heroes used Wind Walk and white clothing to sneak up on the entrance to the Eye. Once they realized that they hadn't been seen and that the fiendish war mammoth was standing well in front of the entrance, they couldn't resist trying to sneak behind it and bypass the outer guard completely. Dämmek, as usual, took the lead, and to discover herself Wind Walking no longer as she hit a critical threshold.

I figured they'd try to sneak past, but I didn't have the encounter at the Eye proper ready. I quickly replaced the Invisibility Purge on the Unhallow spells near the garrison with Dispel Magic, and the dice were quite cooperative in keeping the heroes from slipping past Garivus's crew.

At that point, the battle was on, Most of the heroes' Wind Walk spells were dispelled as they descended (along with several other spells), but Blanche and Star spent some time stuck Wind Walking. Volleys of arrows were exchanged, along with various spells, Star took a quick peek inside the eye, got a general sense of the room, but decided not to try to proceed past the sonic Wall of Fire.

Things got pretty dicey from there. Basel and Star(!) got trampled by the war mammoth, despite Seda's clear suggestions to the contrary. Basel died from the trampling (but got better thanks to Indomitability's Boon). Star soon died as well. She didn't get better (yet, at least).

Leon flew up in front of the war mammoth to attack it and Garivus, but a couple slams from the mammoth's trunk left him hanging unconcious in mid-air right in front of the mammoth. The wyvern riders, caught out of position well above the fight, eventually made it to ground level, and one of them snatched Leon out of the air and dragged him off behind the barracks. The wyvern then killed Leon; however, he too got better, thanks to some contingent spells, and, just Like Lightning, zapped both the wyvern and its rider. That's all the incentive those two needed to flee.

Meanwhile, Dämmek, also helping to attack the war mammoth, was grabbed by the other wyvern. Before the wyvern could fly off, Garivus targeted her with a dispelling of his own, meaning there was nothing to prevent the wyvern from flinging her into the tunnel to the Eye, through the sonic Wall of Fire and across the Symbol of Oh-Was-There-A-Symbol-There? That wyvern ended up dead shortly thereafter, as did Garivus and, eventually, the war mammoth. Sadly, Basel died as well — and didn't get back up this time.

Part of the problem they had was that Wind Walk was dispelled on some of the heroes and not others, effectively splitting the party. Seda couldn't dismiss it because it had been cast by Torrent, who the heroes didn't invite along. Of course, the other part of the problem is that the heroes didn't invite any additional muscle along — like oh, say, Torrent.

After looting the bodies of the fallen (and, in Leon's case, the brain of Garivus, who was unconcious but didn't actually expire), Seda and Dämmek spotted something flying towards them.

Seda: Look, up in the sky!
Dämmek: It's a bird!
Seda: It's not a bird. I know birds, and that ain't a bird.
Leon: It's a plane!
Seda and Dämmek look at Leon with confused expressions.

Actually, it was Chæluk, the avoral the heroes had fought at the henge in Ycengled Phurrst, who had decided that he needed to help the heroes rather than dither with the army in the pass.

There was a session break after the looting. Adding a level of fighter and a bunch of equipment to Chæluk brought him up to the same ECL as the rest of the heroes, letting me drop him in as a temporary replacement for Basel.

The heroes restored their Fly spells, Seda cast Resist Fire on everyone, and Chæluk and Leon cast True Seeing on himself and Dämmek, respectively (Leon had stolen True Seeing from Garivus's unconcious head). They carefully flew down the tunnel, gritted their teeth as they plowed through the Wall of Fire, and then carefully waiting as Seda, thoroughly unimpressed by the symbol, covered it with the whole-wheat flour Basel had had tucked away in his pack since the original heroes had first fled Gate Pass.

A few steps furtrher and they were greeted by Kreven's image giving his wonderful solliloquoy. Meanwhile, Chæluk and Dämmek saw the ambush awaiting them behind the fake walls and Dämmek, always quick to act, hit the cluster hiding near the rear-most column with an empowered Flame Strike from the Torch, which missed Koren, incinerated Magnus, and lightly toasted everyone else.

Magnus, we hardly knew ye....

One of the frost worms let loose with its trill; no one cared. The other enemies, having expected their ambush to take place on the ice sheet rather than the entryway, had to work their way forward under the heroes' fire. Velkiss slowed that down somewhat by creating a Wall of Ice between Dämmek (who had moved to attack one of the frost worms with the Torch) and the rest of the heroes. Shots were fired, gazes were cast despairingly and ineffectually, spells were flung, but, most importantly, frost worms were killed, and the resulting explosions grievously injured some of the heroes, who quickly beat a retreat behind the wall Velkiss had so thoughtfully created to heal.

Leon, in an attempt to stave off further attacks on the injured Dämmek, again demonstrated why we Like Lightning; alas, his electric dash left him near the Eye, and the Lurker took that opportunity to slam him to death with its tentacles and drag away his dead or dying body. Pilus sent an elder elemental to assist, but it was too late: After a decisive blow against the other frost worm (injuring both the heroes and their enemies), Koren hit it with a Hold Monster from which it never recovered.

Meanwhile, Kreven decided at this juncture to get nasty and used his most powerful domination spell on Dämmek. He forced her to drop her torch and move into the corner.

...and, at this point, I nearly wrecked the campaign. I had Velkiss pick up the Torch, and he succeeded in getting it to accept him! I started looking up the consequences to Dämmek and then realized just how big a mess this decision would make and retconned away his picking up the torch.

Kreven was able to utter a word of power that stunned Seda. Blanche then heroically dragged Seda back to the other side of the Wall of Ice for some urgent healing from Chæluk, and, incidentally, within the range of Chæluk's Magic Circle, giving her the opportunity to cast some healing spells.

Boy howdee, that got complicated. We didn't recall until a couple rounds later that the magic circle existed and would therefore block the Power Word Stun. We then had to retcon the actions she should have been able to take.

Alas, the wall wasn't quite the defensive barrier that they'd hoped, as Velkiss was able to fly over it and position himself to reach the heroes. At long last, Chæluk decided to accept Velkiss's deal to be dismissed without resistance, paid the price, and Seda immediately dismissed him with her dismissive whip.

With Velkiss out of the way, Seda and Chæluk cleverly flew over to be near Dämmek so that she too could benefit from the Magic Circle while Blanche acted as their vanguard. That worked briefly, but then came the final insult: Koren twirled and cartwheeled around the column they were clustered near, laid a finger on Chæluk, and teleported herself — and Chæluk — away.

I sure wish someone had had a camera handy to capture my maniacally evil grin when I realized that Koren could make her side victorious by abducting Chæluk, and that she had the appropriate knowledge skill to justify it. I had been planning to have her try to abduct Blanche if the tiger had managed to pounce on Koren or Magnus, but this was much crueler. Weirdly enough, Koren's first attempt to teleport had been blocked by the Forbiddance, and her second roll with Chæluk was barely good enough to overcome it.
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Bill T.

All the above leads me to my next problem: Now what? I plan on dumping the heroes in the Scourge dungeon, like the adventure suggests, although without much of their equipment but with their full levels and spell preparations (I figure things are pretty chaotic at the Scourge at this point, with an army attacking, so procedures slip). I also plan on making this the grand climax of the campaign, like the module offers. Most of the players are getting pretty overwhelmed by high-level play, and I'm told I seem to be getting overwhelmed as well, so I think I'd better cut the campaign short. I'll entertain the idea of letting them hunt down the trillith if they really really want to.

My plan is to let the heroes explore the prison, meet Guthwulfe, escape, explore the rest of the fortress, resurrect Basel with a conveniently-provided scroll, hold the battle in the clean room, meet Lord Shaaladel, and have the big final battle at the Obelisk, fully powered up thanks to the Torch stuck in the top. Typing that all out makes me think that might be a bit ambitious. I might not get to run the battle in the clean room, which would be sad, as they did spend time preparing for and practicing with anti-magic fields.

Anyhow, there are some interesting details that I want to throw in:
  1. Katrina was part of the other fellowship that attacked the heroes in the Temple of Echoed Souls. The heroes nearly killed her but, miraculously, she managed to teleport out. One of the players had the great idea of having Leska send Katrina to the Scourge as an inmate for her failure. Rather than getting the normal treatment that Scourge inmates get, my plan was to bestow upon her a curse that prevents her from casting high-level spells. That gives them the option of bringing her back up to full power and using her as an ally. On the other hand, at least some of the players want to kill her on sight. I need to figure out how to role-play Katrina when they finally encounter her. Of course given her personality, she's going to have to have hooked up with Guthwulfe. I'm pretty sure I can arrange to have him protect her from the pain as well as himself by replacing a feat.
  2. I'm not too happy with the adventure's proposal to have Leska trapped in amber a cryoclastic flow as a workaround for her immortality and think I have a better idea: Find some way to let the heroes use the Black Scimitar to capture her soul. As written, the Black Scimitar would only do that for Rhuarc, but I'm hoping I can have someone at the Lyceum divine some way for others to do the same thing. Of course, before they can to that, they have to accept the scimitar's bargain. Furthermore, they sold the Black Scimitar and don't have the Torch and therefore can't get back to Seaquen to retrieve it.
  3. I may arrange things so that Etinifi's soul is so tightly bound to Leska's that trapping his soul will trap hers as well. I figure that's appropriately poetic, but I also don't want to make it too easy for them to defeat Leska. That said, it seems like Leska will insist that none of her allies attack Etinifi, which provides a small hint as to his importance to her, and Etinifi can tell them about their link if things get too hairy for the heroes.
  4. I'm planning to get the heroes some reinforcements. My first thought was to have the reinforcements arrive only if the heroes are having trouble with the grand finale, but I may need to have them arrive sooner so the can deliver the Black Scimitar. I already have a player working on writing Tiljann up at a reasonably-high level so that she can chaffeur the cavalry even if the forbiddance were somehow to remain active; I also can easily drop Three Weeping Ravens in with her. Maybe that'll be enough, depending on how the heroes get along with Guthwulfe and Katrina.
Anyhow, I'm eager for any suggestions the peanut gallery might have regarding how I should proceed. In particular, I'd greatly appreciate some suggestions regarding the Black Scimitar, as I've only recently started thinking about how it might be relevant. Fun ideas regarding Katrina would also be helpful. How might her recent experiences have affected her?

This is wild, and I just got up on my weekend, so I'll have to think on it

Are they friends with Pilus or no? Any friendly trillith you could bring in? Shalosha?

Bill T.

There was a hint of concern about Pilus' involvement in the storm at Seaquen, but they didn't follow up on it. Their interactions with Pilus is this chapter have been fairly pleasant. Seda is wearing Pilus' face as a necklace.

No friendly trillith...oh, wait, they rescued Indomitability and parted on reasonably friendly terms. They've never show any interest in freeing Gate Pass. I had been expecting to ask a question here someday about how much of that chapter would be reasonable to move off-screen, but it probably won't happen at all; either way, if I understand future chapters correctly, that does free him up to participate in Wintry Song. That doesn't seem like a great fit for this chapter, though.

Shalosha is the most complicated and interesting. Having learned at the Temple of Echoed Souls that the Shahelesti were responsible for the burning of Innenotdar (my own twist on the visions) as well as the genocide of the Tarenesti, the heroes (and especially Seda) now think of the Shahalesti as the other enemy after the Ragesians. That said, there's no reason to believe that Shalosha was aware of either of those actions until the Temple herself, so my assumption has been that she's at odds with her father over those actions. That said, they haven't spoken to her since the Temple, and they didn't feel kindly towards her at the time. They almost attacked her despite the fact that she was sitting out the battle with Etienna's crew.

Bill T.

Reading up on Leska, I have another individual for the "friendly" column: Naizelasa, lawful neutral sapphire dragon and Winged Champion of Seaquen. It's not immediately obvious what would entice her to help the heroes (rather than simply dashing in and saving her daughter), but she'd be of obvious help with the Grand Finale, Black Scimitar or no.

Although, she may not be exactly happy with Basel....

Bill T.

A simpler question to go with the above: "Minister of pain" is in Guthwulf's feat list, but I don't see a description of it anywhere. What does it do?

Bill T.

Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school a corpse carefully tucked into a bag of holding with the corpse of his familiar Star, daughter of Naizelasa.
  • Chæluk, an avoral the heroes first encountered defending the Taranesti henge.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Torch an invisible spiked gauntlet she retrieved from a dead drow.
  • Leon, a human spellthief wielding a double spear who can strike with blasts of earth.
  • Seda, a spellcasting Seela, with Blanche, her sentient siberian tiger companion. a small twig from the First Tree that functions as a holy symbol.
Seda had been relying on the living blade to function as her holy symbol, but the "twig tucked into my hair" was clever enough that I gave her it despite having lost much of the gear when they got thrown into the prison.

Koren teleports Chæluk into one of many cramped cages in a 20-by-25 foot room and then swiftly teleports out of the room. Chæluk says, "oh, bugger" and quickly succumbs to a crisis of confidence that eventually renders him unconscious.

She used one of the nullifier cages long enough for the charisma loss to render him unconscious, then temporarily disabled the cage so that he wouldn't be turned into one before having him chucked into the prison.

Dämmek, still under Kreven's control, is ordered to knock Seda unconcious and tie her up. She then pulls Leon from the tentacled monstrosity under the ice sheet, gathers much of their equipment into their bag of holding, and uses a sled to drag Seda and Leon to a fortress just below ground level. She gets a bag put over her head and is instructed by Kreven to "not use any spells or psionic powers, but otherwise she should be herself". The three are then thrown into the prison as well.

There's a subtle intelligence test here that Dämmek failed (despite still having her headband of intelligence): Because the prison is protected by hallow anyone in it is immune to mental control, so she could have used spells, but she didn't think to try it until much later when Guthwulf suggested she do so.

This not-so-small detail affects a couple of the encounters in Act Three: One of my players realized that Agony's power word stun couldn't work (although I suppose that room could be exempt from hallow). Similarly, Koren shouldn't be able to dominate the children in the room with the nullifier cages. I think I'll simply omit the unhallow in the scourge fortress, although I might tack its benefits onto the horde zombies anyhow.

Chæluk is awakened, unharmed, by someone landing on his head. After a surprising amount of polite conversation, he releases Dämmek and Seda from their bonds, and the three of them manage to return Leon to consciousness. Soon they spot a statue of a bear walking towards them. They stay safely tucked into the chute from above as the golem walks by, but the madman capering behind it rushes them when he sees them and starts clawing at the walls.

Crazy Harry Let me out! Let me ouuuut!!​
Heroes What's your name?​
Harry I just want to get out before the pain starts!​
Heroes Have you been here long?​
Harry, Chæluk, and the bulk of the prison's other inhabitants AIEEEEE, THE PAIN!!

After about ten minutes of screaming, the pain finally relents. The heroes question Harry, don't get much in the way of useful answers, and eventually accept his invitation to the party.

The heroes spot Ugar and company looting other prisoners. The prisoners see Seda, demand something from her, and get a lightning bolt in the chest for their efforts. Ugar survives the blast, but at least one of his henchman dies. Ugar, seeing a possible change in the prison hierarchy, grudgingly follows Seda at her request.

They run into some people trying to sound out the words of a song. Seda's able to piece together that they're attempting the Song of Forms and, with a little prodding, sings it for them.

I wasn't planning to have the encounter with the choir, but one of the players asked something about songs and I felt compelled to run it after all. Although, now that I think about it, compulsions aren't suppose to work in that part of the prison. :geek:

The heroes again start following Harry to the party, only to shortly see a woman in a beautiful, red and surprisingly clean dress. "Oh, look, it's Katrina, the traitor we fought at the Temple of Echoed Souls. Did Leska send you down here because you betrayed her too?"

I was a bit surprised at how nicely they treated Katrina. They didn't even threaten to kill her. How disappointing!

With little effort, Katrina convinces the heroes to meet someone. Harry throws a fit, because he wants them to go to the party, but they convince him they're on the way to pick up more partiers. That said, as soon as they get to the hallway leading to Guthwulf's lair, someone whispers something in Harry's ear that sends him fleeing.

They easily overcome the traps in the hallway, but, before they see anyone, Seda hears the Song of Forms and picks up the song on her own in response. This provokes Gus to peek around the corner, which provokes him to tell Guthwulf to look around the corner. They're amazed by what they see, stare sternly, but soon break out laughing.

Conversation ensues (except for Seda, who continues singing the Song to give Etinifi a break),

Yup, she figured out it was Etinifi pretty quickly. I'd dropped a hint in the previous chapter that he's still alive and singing.

which ultimately culminates in them agreeing to Guthwulf's plan to break through the whisper hole and fight Agony. They rush in, dispel the magical barrier containing Agony, and attack it. The heroes and their allies all remain standing throughout the battle, in large part because Guthwulf burns through all his healing spells. Gus has a lot of fun, as Agony's attacks keep healing him instead of hurting, but, on the other hand, he's hard pressed to land a blow on the trillith. Both Chæluk and Katrina are able to attack Agony without taking any damage themselves, so they bombard it with energy even after Dämmek slams it into a wall and knocks it to the floor. Eventually, one of Leon's sneak attacks disables it, at which point he proceeds to steal all its remaining spell-like abilites.

That was a pretty challenging fight. The harm SLA was striking fear in the heroes' hearts despite the fact they kept making their saves. I deliberately played Agony as unintelligently as his stats indicated, so he kept trying to do things to Gus that either didn't work or actually benefited him, which kept me entertained.

He then uses his warmage strike to free Etinifi, who says something cryptic and rhyming.

They didn't engage with Etinifi much at all. Unless they do something about that in the next session or two, they're going to be going up against Leska without some important information. That said, they did learn that Leska was immortal and encouraged to think back on what they've learned about "killing" immortals.

While the heroes start to discuss next steps, Pilus mentions he sees a woman teleport in above the scourge fortress. He says she's wearing primitive charms, a skeletal mask, and crimson robes. Seda realizes, and Katrina confirms, that it must be Leska. Etinifi indicates that he wants Leska dead. No one objects, so Pilus, after encouraging the heroes to find a room with a strong ceiling, lets loose with...something, causing the whole prison to shake. Sadly, he doesn't think that whatever he did reached Leska.

This was my excuse to have Pilus use Tempest to lay waste to the fortress and things adjacent.

Guthwulf explains that the forbiddance is no longer active and suggests that he can make it possible for Chæluk to teleport the heroes out of the prison. That'll be the first thing they do next session.
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Bill T.

Dramatis Personae
  • Basel, an Innenotdaran (aka grey) elf evoker from Gabal's school a corpse carefully tucked into a bag of holding with the corpse of his familiar Star, daughter of Naizelasa.
  • Chæluk, an avoral the heroes first encountered defending the Taranesti henge.
  • Dämmek, a brainy and brawny human swordswoman with keen senses and the Torch an invisible spiked gauntlet she retrieved from a dead drow.
  • Etinifi
  • Guthwulfe and his trusty undead sidekick Gus
  • Katrina
  • Leon, a human spellthief wielding a double spear who can strike with blasts of earth.
  • Seda, a spellcasting Seela, with Blanche, her sentient siberian tiger companion. a small twig from the First Tree that functions as a holy symbol.

Quick summary of the last few sessions:

Chæluk, with an assist from Guthwulfe, teleports the heroes to the surface. The first group teleports well above ground level, as Chæluk has never seen the area outside the Scourge Fortress and so can't simply aim for ground level. Fortunately, Leon knows feather fall.

I decided to omit the defenders outside the Fortress for simplicitly, although I sort of wish I'd at least left the giant to lend some urgency to the escape, That said, the session was long enough as it was.

The heroes enter the Fortress and are ambushed by the the zombies outside the armory. Fortunately, Chæluk is leading the way, and so he simply teleports back into the front room when the zombies grab him. Seda suggests to her compatriots that they should back away from the broken grate to give themselves room enough to attack the zombies as a group.

Wow, tactics — not something this group uses a lot!

The heroes quickly dispatch the zombies. They then make their way into the armory and take their own sweet timing going through what they find there. Most exciting is a scroll of resurrection — Basel rejoins the party! Sadly, Star is still dead.

The heroes then proceed across the hall into the conference room, where they battle yet more zombies.

They then proceed on to discover the Vast Pool Of Inky Death, which they'd had some inkling of thanks to the bits of it lying around the fortress. Rather than confront the ooze, Basel creates a wall of ice across the doorway to give everyone time to prepare, much to everyone else's consternation.

This is the second time Basel has used a wall of ice to delay an encounter, and everyone else's reaction seems to be close to, "What are you so afraid of? I was killing these things before you were born!" (Well, sure, he's an elf, so he's the oldest by far, but the point stands).

Not content to fight the enemy whose nature and location they know, the heroes move on and break into the room with nullifiers cooped up with a modest horde of children. Not content to face a single foe, Chæluk teleports himself and Dämmek to the far end of the hallway in an attempt to lure the ooze out. He succeeds, eventually, although Dämmek barely avoids fighting the rest of the battle without the benefit of armor or clothing. He teleports the two of them back into the conference room, where Etinifi is busily stuffing his face with the donuts left over from the meeting that was in progress before the resistance attacked the valley.

After all, Etinifi hadn't eaten in months....

It turns out Chæluk had the right idea; while he was baiting the pudding (with Dämmek as the bait), other heroes were struggling with the nullifiers, being somewhat constrained by the narrow hallway. The pudding slooowly advances on the nullifiers and easily consumes them, and then the heroes manage to dispatch the pudding without many (any?) of the children being consumed by it.

Everyone, including me, was really skeptical about Chæluk's tactics, but it turned out to be a good move, The pudding, being mindless, was completely ignored by the nullifiers until it was much too late for them to react effectively.

After playing around a bit with the effects of an anti-magic field and peeking around the wall to look into the room, Guthwulf explains what he knows about the clean room, both physical details and the presence and purpose of the anti-magic field. Having been given the run-down, and seeing the arrow slits themselves, the heroes cleverly decide to...walk through the clean room to the door at the far corner.

They entered the clean room at the start of a new session. Clearly the use of tactics was a single-session aberration. :rolleyes:
Given how clever Chæluk was being with dimension door, I half expected him to simply teleport a strike team in behind one the arrow slits. That would really have messed with Clark's plans!

Dämmek manages to spot one of the archers shortly after she enters the room, which is sort of unfortunate, as the archer spots her spotting him as well, meaning the fight starts while most of the heroes are still outside the clean room. Clark and his infiltrators manage to take down (but not outright kill) Chæluk and Leon before the infiltrators are defeated and Clark quietly surrenders. The archers, meanwhile fight until nearly the last after Blanche and Dämmek race up the stairs on either side of the clean room.

Clark is happy to explain everything he knows, including how to get to the Obesisk chamber and what they will find there, but will wait in the clean room until they finish fighting Leska, Kreven, Koren, several inquisitors, and a variety of more mundane warriors. The archer they captured, on the other hand, is appalled by Clark's betrayal, and gets thrown into the prison as a precaution.

Just as the the heroes are about to make their way into the Obelisk chamber, they hear someone striding confidently into the fortress. They arrange themselves in and above the clean room to welcome the newcomer, who turns out to be Lord Shaaladel himself. There are a few tense moments as Seda confronts the Shining Lord over what he did to Innenotdar, especially when Seda demands that he betrothe Shalosha to Basel. Shortly thereafter, the other heroes suggest to Seda that any question of reparations be postponed until after they've all dealt with the immediate problem.

So, everything is just about ready for the grand final battle. One interesting twist is that I was recently informed there is a special guest star coming to join us; last we saw her, she played Crystin at the finale of chapter 2, four years ago. The only logical choice I can come up with for a character to drop in is Shaaladel's chauffeur, so I've dusted off Shalosha so that she or her clone can accompany the heroes into battle.
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