WotBS Emeraldbeacon's Burning Sky (live game)

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
News begins to spread of Ragesia's continued spread across the world, while more local matters turn to an increase of attacks by the goblins against refugees trying to navigate the Sour Lake swamp. In addition, the party learns of another refugee ship limping into South Harbor after an attack by some great beast, demanding the return of their child. Undeterred, though, they head back to South Harbor to continue their search for details surrounding the rash of presumed kidnappings there.

A brief meeting with Nathan Lowduke is unproductive, as his price for information seems higher than the team is willing to pay. A stakeout of Paradim Dogwood's shop, Majestic Creations, is interrupted when guards begin to patrol the area, looking for signs of intruders. As a final lead, they try to infiltrate the brothel they saw earlier, hoping to find some other information there.

Within, while the bard acts as a distraction (and has a lovely time in the process), the rogue slinks through the premises thanks to a handy invisibility spell, learning that there are not only signs of biomancy here, but also letters from Cerneban Gremman, a local businessman, explaining that deliveries from Majestic Creations would have to stop, due to increased local scrutiny.

The team flees with their knowledge, turning to seek Haddin for advice, who suggests that (outside of simply taking matters into their own hands) they seek the guidance of the Lyceum, who agree to investigate the matters further. In the meantime, while asking if they can provide any help themselves, they learn of a ship carrying numerous exotic creatures, that had run aground on the southern coast near the swamp, and tasked with returning any of the surviving beasts they can...

SESSION NOTES: Some party members are ITCHING for a fight, and knowing that both the Goblin and Dragon scenarios can end quite easily in a peaceful resolution, I decided to include the Attercop encounter as well. It should provide an interesting challenge to the group...
 

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emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
The team attempts to recruit some sailors to help them repair and salvage the ship, but on short notice, they can't find skilled labor that's willing to undertake the journey. Together, they travel to the stranded ship, approaching carefully from the shoreline. Mounting the deck, they are initially unprepared for a cluster of spiders hiding in the rigging to leap down upon them, followed by a group scrambling from the treeline towards the ship! The battle is short-lived, however, as the attercop pouncers seem to be no match for the team.

Exploring the hull, they find not only the other beasts (still secure, though both distressed and hungry), but a handful of the remaining crew, whom had been repurposed as living egg incubators by the attercops. Some quick applications of Lesser Restoration and Paladin Healing help to purge them of any arachnid additions, and together, they all spend the evening in the ship, planning to fix minor damage the next day, then free it from the sandbar and sail it back to Seaquen.

Progress is slow for the team, though, and initial attempts to dislodge the vessel prove unsuccessful, costing them an extra day as they wait for the tides again. A team effort loosens the ship, but after choosing to travel slow and safe (rather than trying to sprint to South Harbor), they are detained by the Shahalesti Blockade, who decide to be magnanimous, and allow those on the ship to disembark, while retaining the ship and its cargo for the time being. Crestfallen, the team accepts what it can.

The next day sees the Bard rush off to the Wayfarer's Guild for the first preview performance of The Spectacular Trials of Toteth Topec, an event that is, at best, marginally successful, as they work out the logistics of the full performace. Others work on personal projects, as the rain continues to fall across the peninsula for the umpteenth week straight...

SESSION NOTES: The players have revealed a bit of a metagaming issue, as some did explain that they were very worried about battling ettercaps after having looked them up... when I revealed they were battling ATTERCOPS, basically jumping spiders the size of mastiffs, they seemed greatly relieved... though I feel like I need to up the difficulty of things for them, just to make sure they don't get complacent. The overall failures of salvaging the ship took them down a notch or two, as they continued to roll poorly during that stretch, and didn't have any wildly creative plans to release the ship, outside of "can I go down and try to dig out the ship from the sandbar?" (My response was, "sure, how long can you hold your breath?")
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Seeking ways to pass time in Seaquen, the team splits up to tackle individual goals. While the Aasimar Paladin seeks the advice of Laurabec Adelsburg regarding the unsettling revelation of his apparent destiny, he finds few answers, but perhaps some solace in the fact that he can still choose for himself, what he wants to be. Later, he works among the refugee camps, seeking to aid others in their suffering. The Artificer works on developing some pet projects for the future, while the rogue crashes some courses at the Lyceum, hoping to gain some mystical insights.

Meanwhile, the Bard continues to play at the Wayfarer's Theater in preview showings of the grand production. They also concoct a plan, to have their cohorts watch the play, then quietly investigate the office of Guildmistress Sheena Larkins. One day, the Artificer scans for magical wards, finding none; later, the rogue disguises himself and silently slips into her office. He finds little of import, aside from a collection of correspondences entreating the Wayfarers for an alliance in the coming war. After nearly being discovered, he makes a hasty exit via a porthole (thanks to slippers of spider climbing, and some excellent stealth rolls).

Other adventures include a cursory tour of the old city, finding a number of collapsed ruins, along with The Royale, a large resort-like complex containing fighting arenas, hot springs bath houses, a casino, and a sprawling tavern. At the encouragement of his companions, the Paladin is encouraged to show his might in the pits, but is more or less cheated out of a win, when a weaselly rogue takes up the challenge, then drops him in a single attack with the thrust of a poisoned dagger. Nursing wounds to both his midsection and his pride, they take their leave.

Ultimately, concerned about the continual threats of the swamp, they take a day to proceed westward. The journey is slow but steady, as they look for whatever might be a threat out here. What they find, however, seems at first to be an abandoned city... a notion that is quickly dispelled, as they find buildings with wildly different architectural styles, all empty of any furnishings, with absolutely no city planning, all interspersed with rubble of other structures. Confused, they proceed, only to come across a sight that fills them with dread... a mighty Adult Green Dragon, plucking at the strings of a lute, all while a new structure builds itself only yards away.

Approaching cautiously, they ask if the dragon has lost something, for they have heard rumors, and wish to aid the beast if so. The dragon, a mother in mourning, berates them for claiming to be able to do what she could not, but seems to be more in anguish than truly angry. She charges the heroes with bringing their child - an egg, roughly the size of a basketball - and the man who took it, back to her. Fairly confident that it was indeed Nathan Lowduke who committed the crime, they return to Seaquen (while being watched by apparent goblins), to formulate a plan to capture the black market specialist...

SESSION NOTES: Man, the look on their faces when I said the words "adult. green. dragon." was amaaaaazing... The Paladin was incredibly crestfallen at losing another pit fight to someone who essentially alpha-struck him; in retrospect, I prooooobably should have fudged that critical hit from the assassin rogue down to a straight hit, just to give him a chance to unload a full smite.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Finding Nathan Lowduke isn't hard... after inquiring at the tavern he uses as a home base, he comes out to welcome Hadden and one disguised hero, while the others secure a horse-and-carriage for a timely getaway. After a brief conversation, a quick Dominate Person convinces Lowduke to accompany them, while the others swiftly make off with a carriage.

Nathan readily complies with all requests for information under Domination, then hesitatingly under the effects of a charm spell. Arriving at a self-storage unit, the team thief deftly gains access, while the artificer accidentally draws the guards back to the carriage. After a shockingly convincing story that she was drunk and wandered where she shouldn't, they are left alone, while patrols were increased. Inside, the rogue not only finds the dragon egg, hidden in a secret compartment, but also a smattering of other magical items (mostly consumables), and a small satchel of gold.

The very next day, the team proceeds into the swamp, but gets turned around as the marks they left the day before had been replicated on almost every tree... then float into an ambush by the swamp's resident goblins. With both sides quickly realizing that the situation could very easily turn into a costly stalemate, a negotiation was suggested, as a tribe leader was summoned. As a matronly figure eventually arrives, she bemoans the influx of travelers moving through their lands, but suggests a compromise: in exchange for a startlingly simple list of demands, she would arrange for a safe passage to be implemented through the swamp, where people could travel unmolested. Eagerly agreeing, the party moves on.

The dragon, Naizelasa, is deeply moved at the return of her child, and reluctantly thanks the heroes. With a terrified Nathan Lowduke under her watchful eye, she consents to let the city borrow her lyre for one month, while she teaches the thief a lesson (though she promises not to kill him).

From there, it's a return to Seaquen after a tense sequence of events, and a moment to relax, until the official premiere of the Spectacular Trials of Toteth Topec begins...

SESSION NOTES: This chapter was about tying up loose ends, since we had a player missing and had to operate online instead of in-person. Next week... the play, the battle, and the gathering storm!
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
As the play begins, the party is regaled with Katrina's amateur analysis of the narrative points of the play, including what (in her opinion) is a ham-fisted attempt to parallel the story of Toteth Topec with the current struggle against Ragesia, particularly the various elemental sages who help the titular hero.

At the end of the second intermission, however, as attendants finish serving refreshments to the audience, they notice a figure who doesn't seem to belong, hurrying out of the theater towards the deck. Meanwhile, the performing bard sees Pickens Frankart, bleeding from the stomach, wheezing about the theft of the control ring.

Together, the team quickly understands what happened, and rushes to the deck, looping Katrina into their attempt to rescue the ship. While Giorgio activates the teleportation desk, the orcish defenders try to fend off the other heroes. In the end, the team overpowers Giorgio's protectors, who either fall or flee, leaving the bard to his own end. Despite a desperate attempt to flee, he is tracked down and stopped, saving those on the ship from a fiery fate.

In the aftermath, after the Wayfarer's Control Ring was recovered, the team finds a charred boat filled with burnt Shahalesti soldiers... who nevertheless might not be exactly what they seem. Headmaster Simeon Gohanach requests that they find Harbormaster Lee Sidoneth, to figure out how the hell this attack could have happened.

As the storm begins to intensify, they investigate the home of the hydromancer. Inside, they initially find surprisingly little, beside evidence of a hasty departure. A secret door is ultimately found, though, that opens into a makeshift Biomancy lab, complete with another corpse of a half-formed elf, presumably a failed experiment.

The Lyceum agrees to send forces to the shop of Paradim Dogwood, to find and stop any experiments he might be aiding in. Meanwhile, Simeon suggests that, this late evening, the team takes time to rest, in the hope of gaining new information in the morning...

SESSION NOTES: Near the end of the fight on the ship, Giorgio (sensing his own mortality) decided to dimension door away, with a mere 20 hit points remaining. The burning sky dealt him 19 damage... enough to BARELY survive! I was beginning to consider how to use him as a later villain, when one of the heroes cast Fly on the archer, who raced after him and sniped him from the sky, with a desperation disadvantage shot. Collecting his unconscious body (miraculously, Giorgio self-stabilized after 3 failed medicine checks) from a VERY CONFUSED ship in the harbor, they now have another captive to question...

Since Setales got away, I'm thinking of including him in the Pyromancer's Tomb fight. (Nira did too, but she's definitely in the wind)
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
For the record, I'm also finally solidifying plans on how the eventual conflict between the Aasimar Pal-Lock and his father will go down. Rather than have them go in against a standard celestial (like a Solar), I'm gonna go full "Biblically Accurate Angel" on them, dropping an Ophanim miniature on the table (concentric rings of eyes) and have them challenge a reskinned & up-scaled Beholder or Death Tyrant.

I'm still feeling that the gap between chapters 9 & 10 is the best place for that confrontation, but I'm prepared to push it up if need be... mainly because Beholders aren't all that scary anymore, once the players reach the mid-to-high teens in level.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Overnight, the storm's winds intensify violently, making for a fitful night of rest. In the morning, Simeon provides what information he can: though the storm should be too small to support it, it seems to have formed a micro-hurricane, complete with an eye, centered over the old city. Providing the heroes with magical enhancements, and calling upon an old friend, the team ventures forth into the driving wind and rain.

Eventually, they find their way to an old ruin on the coast, apparently once a prison. Delving within, the fend off a number of sea creatures seeking shelter from the weather, along with a few planned diversions. Eventually, they discover a tunnel bored into the stone itself, radiating with unnatural heat.

Triggering an un-noticed trap, they feel confident that stealth is no longer a viable tactic... and upon descending the hundred-foot shaft, they find themselves in a stiflingly hot chamber, through which flows a river of molten lava. Perhaps more alarming, though, are the ranks of enemy soldiers lining up on the other side of the stream...

SESSION NOTES: A very straightforward mission, in the first half of the dungeon crawl. Like my online group, the Chuul fight was VERY dangerous, as it's quite easy for one of them to nearly alpha-strike a hero. I decided to slightly nerf the paralysis ability, to require that the creature be grappled from the start of the turn for the Chuul to get its tentacles in the mix. Otherwise, I think there would have very likely been some PC deaths in the very first room.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Descending into the chamber below, the team faces a squad of Ragesian soldiers and their Inquisitor master. The battle is heated (pun very intended) as a massive fireball rocks the heroes, but after some tense moments, the Inquisitor is knocked down, and forced to retreat. As the collected Ragesian soldiers begin to fall, the survivors eventually surrender, only to be hastily knocked out to avoid a double-cross. It isn't long before the Inquisitor is tracked down and disabled for good.

Exploring the tomb of the Pyromancer, The team discovers more biomancy projects, evidence that someone (probably Lee) was building the creatures that defended the tunnels above. A strange blue orb is also found, cold to the touch, radiating intense magic.

Two survivors are located, who offer their stories of surviving the fires of teleportation only to find themselves here, in a prison cell of sorts. Tortured and weak, they nonetheless offer that they heard a man claiming he needed to take the control wand, in case he has to change the weather immediately.

Exploring deeper still, they find the final resting place of the Pyromancer himself, in a tomb untouched by Ragesian pilfering. Bypassing some truly deadly traps, they find a desiccated body, along with a strange red-gemmed ring.

Returning to the surface, they find the storm intensifying even more, as Lee Sidoneth lies waiting to spring a trap. Setting his pet squid and a pair of animated gargoyles upon the team, he pushes the team to the brink, only to fall to the paladin's blade.

As his body crumbles from unknown forces, the control wand for the storm spirals into the windy sky, saved at the last moment by a desperate mage hand. As the fight concludes, the winds slowly begin to subside...

SESSION NOTES: Woof, the Inquisitor almost TPK'd the party in one shot with that fireball opener! But what else could I do, when they all stood so neatly in a tiny box? The battle with Lee was tense, and Torrent actually went unconscious, but was saved at the last moment. Next time... learning about the aftermath.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
As the weather clears, the team catches their breath. Torrent mourns the betrayal and death of her former mentor, while the two survivors are brought topside. Everyone travels to the Lyceum to report on their adventure, and crashes, hard.

The next day is spent wrapping up the adventure, learning about damage to the city (and its residents), and the aftermath of not only the storm, but the investigations around town. Thanks to their efforts to unify the refugees, while their belongings were mostly lost, much life was saved due to their unexpected cooperation. The same couldn't be said for Laurabec, who gave her life trying to protect those in need. A mournful Takasi shares the paladin's story with the team, who quickly petition him to join them instead of just returning to the celestial realms.

After a week of much-needed downtime, the team is summoned to a meeting at the Lyceum. Steppengard, king of Dassen, was on the verge of a deal with Ragesia: the military nation would be allowed to march their army through Dassen unmolested, en route to destroy Seaquen. A jovial half-elf named Balan is tasked with negotiating a change of policy, to resist Ragesia instead. The heroes would serve as protection, assistants, and advisors along the way.

The journey north is unseasonably cold, with winter lasting far longer than it should. They travel north along the Nasham River, frozen solid, fending off a playful young remorhaz along the way. When their sleigh jerks to a sudden stop, they find a trio of bodies buried shallowly in the ice... agents of Lade Dene, murdered, presumably en route from the capital Bresk, en route to their home lands. They pack the bodies in their sleigh, planning on returning them to civilization.

Soon after, they encounter a group of Steppengard's soldiers harassing a caravan of halflings, who had been hiding a human woman in their carts. Rather than allow her to be executed, the team leaps into action, subduing the soldiers. They then learn the horrible truth: These men were members of the king's private police force, hunting down any who might be complicit in the assassination of the king's wife and eighteen children, only 2 days prior. After finding evidence that they also likely killed Dene's agents, the team resolves to kill the soldiers and cover their tracks.

Arriving in Dassen, the team returns to their prior mission: Seeking out the proxies to the various lords, and gaining their favor for the audience with the King 2 days hence. Splitting up, they generally have success, with a couple of small stumbles. Their most notable piece of information learned: Jinis, the proxy of Duke Gallo, is currently in prison, suspected of involvement in the murders....

SESSION NOTES: Two notable details for the team here... the Paladin got another message from his celestial father, praising him for the execution of the Steppengard guards, as his decision was decisive and just... which only made the PC that much more uncomfortable. The gnome artificer, though, has had some unsettling memories come up in her dreams... a harbinger of her upcoming "reunion" with one of her old adventuring partners, Nina Glibglammer.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Updating for 2 sessions...

At the audience with King Steppengard, the crew witnesses a prisoner being questioned, who seems confused and conflicted in his answers. The interrorgator, a gnomish woman, proclaims that the man - a clerk for Duke Gallo's proxy - is clearly being influenced, most likely to cover the Duke's crimes. As the prisoner is taken away, the team paladin is summoned for the group, and a passionate plea is made for the sake of Seaquen.

The argument is persuasive, but the king seems unmoved, and insists that no aid be given to Seaquen, as he will not allow Dasseni blood to be spilt for a cause that is not their own. Dejected, the team reconvenes at their in, after some of the royal proxies encourage them to take pity on the mourning king.

That evening, though, a man arrives to warn them of danger; a jester in the king's court tells them that a warrant has been placed for their arrest, as accomplices to the murder of the King's family. Told that Duke Gallo might be able to help them, the team flees the Dasseni capital immediately, camping just outside of the city. The night is uneventful, but the following day finds the giant eagle Takasi warning them of troops amassing at the gates, and heading towards their camp.

Hurrying northward, the heroes manage to maintain a slowly dwindling lead, pushing hard towards Duke Gallo's lands. Their arrival is met with a contingent of Gallo's own men, who quickly move to protect and escort the heroes northwards, to the ridiculously well defended city of Gallo's Fend.

The duke is both pleasant and competent, and he promptly offers the team a place to stay while in town. The next morning, he summons them to outline the current situation: Steppengard is coming, to kill Gallo out of revenge. While Gallo can defend his lands, he can't also hold the Alydyi Gap to the north, should the Ragesians invade. His plan, thus, is to face Steppengard's army openly, and force a surrender or truce, so that the Council of Nine could vote on the Ragesian matter. To that end, he asks the heroes to find proof of Ragesian treachery at the north end of the Alydyi Gap, then bring it to Gallo's closest allies and secure their support.

The journey through the Gap, along with one of Gallo's men and a pair seeking their own purposes, is slow and tiresome. Eventually reaching the final outpost at sundown, they find it occupied by Ragesian Orcs, rather than the expected human troops of Duke Gallo. Careful reconnaissance reveals an inquisitor waiting for something, before signaling the attack. As the wait stretched into the early evening, the Wyvern Rider departs, and a high-speed attack commences. The roof of the fortress was taken fairly quickly, as the team began to prepare a final assault...

SESSION NOTES: This team had a combination of good instincts and good luck. They executed an excellent series of stealth checks to approach the tower, allowing their new team druid to perform some ideal scouting (thanks to a spider wild shape). This got them some valuable intelligence on the numbers and skills of the troops within. They also were highly paranoid of the soldiers, and the delay stretched on long enough to allow the wyvern rider to depart, removing a dangerous foe from the equation.
 

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