WotBS Emeraldbeacon's Burning Sky (live game)

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
"Well, I mean, if they take out half the catapults they MIGHT have a shot at a full victo--AAAAND the rogue just sabotaged all but one of them."
don't you just love dnd?
funny thing is, leaving one behind, they ended at 19 VP... meaning they still need to hold the line to guarantee a win. Not likely to be a problem, but still not a given.
 

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emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
As the second wave of forces approaches, the party braces for a new wave of attacks, when an Androsphinx unexpectedly appears above them! With a roar, the allied forces are sent into disarray, with several allies cowering in fear, or fleeing entirely.

Order is restored fairly quickly, though, as mounted knights and hearty trolls attack. The fighting drags into a prolonged slog, with neither side being able to gain much advantage, until the collected defenders finally surrender, their numbers depleted.

As reinforcements arrive for both sides, Gallo orders for the heroes to fall back, letting fresh troops take their place. He thanks them for their service, explaining that the Otharil Vale line is indeed holding, and that the fight should peter out within a few hours. Indeed, it isn't long before a call for a cease-fire is offered, and Steppengard's troops fall back.

The next two days are full of cautious patrols and brief skirmishes as the invading force retreats, until a courier arrives with a curious message: Steppengard wishes for all lords to attend a Peace Conference at Bresk, to set aside their prior disagreements and establish a common defense against Ragesian hostility. Though Gallo is certain it's a trap, neither can he deny his king's orders. Asking the team to serve as his bodyguards, he formally knights them all.

Three days later, they all arrive at Bresk, where a small but boisterous festival is in place. Many diversions, from carnival games, to stage productions, to a formal joust and archery tournament are available to peruse, with a banquet to come in the evening, for the lords and ladies of the nation...

SESSION NOTES: Aside from the previously-mentioned issue with the Androsphinx arrival, the second wave was more of a slow grind than anything else, as the knight squads couldn't reliably do damage to one another, with their high ACs, and the trolls were more of a nuisance than a threat. I think everyone was happy to be done with the fight... they were all very thrilled at their gifts upon being knighted, though, and moving into Bresk, they all seem very eager to participate in the festival.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
The festival is a pleasant diversion from constant political maneuvering and outright war. Both the paladin and the rogue aquit themselves well in their respective tournaments, while others avail themselves of food, entertainment, and other diversions.

Their interactions, though, begin to paint an awkward picture of a dangerous situation. An fireworks demonstration reveals that the city's alchemists have all been called to work in the castle. The king's own chef has been sent off duty, on the eve of an important banquet. And a guard explains that he (and many of his friends) have been re-assigned for this evening, leaving numerous blind spots around the castle.

Duke Gallo is, understandably, concerned at these revelations, and intends to take his own precautions. He asks the team to investigate the castle, possibly sneaking in through the described undefended routes. After a rather unpleasant but brief meeting with Nina Glibglammer, the squad rallies to a graveyard near the castle walls.

After dealing with a terrifying ghost-like being, and mowing through a wall of zombies frozen in sewage, they break into a torture chamber, and depose of a particularly troublesome mohrg named Jutras. A bit further in, they ambush the Ragesian ambassador and his inquisitor, before discovering a plot to poison the night's dinner... with the same poison that seems connected to the death of Valk, once the husband of the party's Artificer.

SESSION NOTES: I've been having fun planting weird prophetic dreams for players, that tie their stories to the overall plot. Ten years prior, the artificer's husband was indeed studying the Red Madness, when he seemingly fell under its effects, forcing her to defend herself. She saw a glimpse of Madness' true form at that time, and now, is meeting her old adventuring friend Nina... whom is startlingly passive-aggressive towards her. In this case, there's no secret that Nina is a problem... but the party still doesn't realize just how pervasive the Trillith situation is in the world, yet.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
The team locks the Ragesians in the prison cells, relieving them of all weapons, armor, and spell components, before knocking them out (to ensure they stay out of commission for at least one hour), before heading up to the Royal Vault. There, only one guard, clearly bored in his duty, offers only token resistance to those wishing to see the book. When they arrive , they are horrified to find an illusion in its place!

Hurrying out, they leave the guard to investigate while rushing to the banquet itself. Despite the urgency of their mission, they are remarkably polite in waiting for a soldier to confirm their status as tournament victors, and therefore banquet attendees. When finally admitted, drinks are already being shared, with the first course about to be served. Upon hearing the heroes' claims, though, Steppengard flies into a rage, and begins to attack anyone near him.

As everyone moves to intercept him, Nina Glibglammer begins to cackle, and transforms herself into a writhing ball of massive snakes, revealing herself as the Trillith named Madness. With the plot to drive the nobles mad via poison thwarted, she resorts to her own Confusion abilities (with limited success), before lashing out with her fangs. The team bard quickly puts her earlier knowledge of the Song of Forms into use, locking the beast in the material realm. In the end, it is Nina's old traveling companion, who deals the final blow.

Once Madness is finally defeated, everything falls silent for a moment, until Steppengard finally breaks down in tears. With a clear mind for the first time in almost a month, he is horrified at his own actions, and immediately casts aside his crown. With calls for moderation, the remainder of the Council of Nine agrees to put off any final decisions regarding the throne, and first establish the security of the nation.

In the next few days, Steppengard formally abdicates the throne, falling in rank to Baron. Gallo reluctantly accepts the role of King; in his first admittedly selfish acts, he elevates Dashgoban and Timor each to the rank of Duke and Duchess, naming them both the new Shields of Dassen, and charges them with demonstrating their service to the nation to his teenage son, soon to become the new Lord of his land. The group from Seaquen is lauded as heroes, and in a surprising move, Lord Megadon suggests that they be granted land holdings in the south of Dassen. All too soon, however, a call comes from Seaquen, requesting the heroes return swiftly, to address a possibly urgent situation...

SESSION NOTES: The party arrived before the banquet began, so no murderous rampage was available, which was kind of a letdown in the grand scheme of things. I boosted Madness' HP accordingly, just to make the fight last longer. In the final round, Madness dealt out three separate Long Term Madnesses, which rightfully terrified the other players... thankfully, the paladin was on hand to remove the poison that caused said afflictions.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
For most of the party, the return to Seaquen is a welcome sight, as the goblins have turned the safe passage through the swamp into an opportunity to sell overpriced souvenirs. For the newcomers, it's an introduction to a new city entirely, one that is now burgeoning with growth and construction, thanks to the use of the dragon's Lyre of Fabrication. Sadly, the opportunity to sightsee is cut short, as the Lyceum requests an immediate meeting.

Simeon and Kelkin both greet the team, exchanging brief pleasantries while debriefing them after the Dassen trip. Katrina arrives late, with Two Weeping Ravens (a monk ally from Ostalin and Sindaire) in tow. As Simeon warns the team about sharing information, for fear of Ragesian spies already within the Lyceum, he shares his concerns: Teams have been sent abroad to seek information about the Torch of the Burning Sky. One team was sent to Eresh, to inquire after the Monastery of Two Winds, and seek their weather-controlling aid. The team fell silent days ago. The heroes, therefore, must go to Eresh and find out what happened, and pick up for the apparently failed mission. Sheena Larkins, of the Wayfarer's Guild, has agreed to absorb the risk to teleport the team directly there.

The journey is brief and fiery, but unexpectedly, the heroes find themselves drawn into a Teleportation Beacon trap. Injured, cornered, and threatened, they are forced to relenquish their weapons for the night. However, they are promptly brought before the ruler of Sindaire: Khagan (a title much like Khan) Onamdammin, the inscrutible and pompous. At first challenging the heroes' purpose, after learning their cause, he permits them to leave, offering to ally with Seaquen if they impress his friend, the wind monk Pilus.

The trip to Eresh is slow, due to the continual, unseasonably cold weather. Several of the stone stairways leading into the foothills and mountains are icy and precarious, but the last one is shattered altogether, as if by some strange external force. The team quickly realizes that there is movement at the top of the hill... a Ragesian scout team, ready to repel anyone beyond their own allies. The fight is brutal, but swift, as the fight is taken to the cliffs surrounding the destroyed stairs.

Finally cresting the hill, the team looks down into the valley of Eresh, a quiet village tucked into the valley... and apparently barricaded by a division of Ragesian Soldiers at the gates.

SESSION NOTES: New chapter, yo! The Ragesians weren't nearly as effective as I hoped, as the party quickly circumvented the fire walls. I'm finding that this larger group (6 players) needs to be disproportionately challenged to really make them sweat...
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
(Two session update)

Descending into the valley that holds the village of Eresh, the team experiences a sudden, disorienting wave of general calm and disinterest. Fearing it is the influence of the Trillith "Balance," they help each other shake off the effect, and sneak past the Ragesian garrison just outside of the city walls. The invaders seem to be under the same, calming effect, and put up no resistance when one notices the heroes sneaking into the city.

Within, they all find the same eerie calm covering the city. People are going about their daily lives, but have no real energy or emotion to show. They check into the Peak's Shadow Inn, populated mostly by surprisingly calm Ragesian soldiers, acting more like they're on shore leave, than an invading force. The residents pay them little mind, as well.

After some searching, they find a town elder, watching over one of the previous Seaquen team's members. He's exhausted and delirious, but has resisted the mental effects... for now. Spending the night in a Tiny Hut, the team helps the ranger get some rest, before advancing towards the Monastery the next morning.

On the way there, they are beset upon by a group of Air Elementals, apparent defenders of the pass, but manage to dispel them quickly. At the Monastery gates, they meet Caela, a one-time rival of the team's monk, who adamantly denies access, and demands that the team deal with the unearthly calm in the city before speaking with the two masters.

Returning to Eresh, they make a sweeping tour of the city, inspecting all four elemental shrines, before experiencing the wave of calm finally breaking, manifesting as sudden bursts of exceptional emotional overflow, including some Ragesians out for a slaughter. Quickly handled, the calm soon descends again, as a local monk hurries to meet the strangers. Someone at the healing house wishes to see them... urgently.

There, the heroes meet the Trillith Balance. It is dying, its influence spread too far and thin and for too long, but it answers any questions it can. While it does not know what its kind is doing, it does feel that there is a greater plan in motion... and it knows there are more trillith out there than the party may realize. With some careful persuasion, the heroes convince Balance to allow them to shelter them for a time, letting the scales tip briefly to war, so they can find a more natural center point.

Accepting the offer, Balance enters the team's monk, imbuing her with its power. Almost immediately, though, the town erupts in chaos, and the Ragesian soldiers at the Peak's Shadow take it upon themselves to terrorize the Inn's proprietor, before they execute him. Quick action saves his life, but only reveals a different danger... the Ragesian army seems to be awake, aware, and approaching.

SESSION NOTES: This is one of the first situations for this group where encounters have occurred one after the other, without the team stopping to rest... I suspect the fight against the army will be rather taxing.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
(Two weeks' update)

Splitting up to cover more ground, the team enlists Thashalanos to help rally the citizens of Eresh against their invaders. Many of those still reeling from the abrubt removal of Balance's influence are shepharded into cellars or other secure buildings, while others take up whatever passes for a weapon, and march to defend their home. Even Eril, the ranger from the first team Seaquen sent, is ready to help through his exhaustion.

Some team members advance on the Ragesian positions, watching hundreds of troops marshal through the gates of the city. Meanwhile, the monk races to the monastery to request aid from the much more capable masters within. As an unfamiliar face greets her, he is uncertain of what to do in the situation, but promises to entreat the masters to intervene in any way possible.

Initially starting their assault with precise longbow attacks, the Ragesians send a squad of Wyvern Riders to intercept and interrupt the strikes. Fending them off takes a toll, as General Signus marches forward, issuing a demand to face the "troublesome fishermen" himself.

Forming a defensive line at the bridge leading into the center of town, Signus and his troops line up to attack, using the destructive powers of his bizarre mount to cause massive damage. Quickly identifying the threats, a few choice spells slow the majority of the enemies, disrupting their attacks. Steadily, the hostile forces are whittled down, ultimately forcing Signus to order a retreat.

Grateful at having repelled the Ragesians, everyone is shocked at an unexpected assault from a team of Invisible Stalkers, who rapidly incapacitate Three Weeping Ravens and abscond with him. Attempts to follow the flying beings are futile, though the monk does communicate with them briefly; under orders from their master, they have a specific mission to complete, and have no explicit interest in the party.

In the aftermath, the team, dejected, exhausted, and badly wounded, retires to the Peak's Shadow for a night's rest, before meeting back at the Monastery for more information. After a few tense moments, they are admitted, and meet the two brothers, masters of the east and west winds, Pilus and Longinus. They express reserved gratitude for helping to repel the Ragesian threat, and appreciation for ending the eerie calm over the city... but they claim to know nothing about either the first squad from Seaquen (other than their existance, and their non-admission to the monastery grounds), or what happened to Three Weeping Ravens. Perhaps more frustratingly, they haven't seen Caela since before the Ragesian assault...

SESSION NOTES: I'd like to solicit some advice on how to deal with a particular tactic this team seems to adore using.
The team bard loves to cast strong control/debuff spells like Slow or Hypnotic Pattern, then straight up flee the battlefield, to avoid facing the possibility of dropping concentration. Many of the Ragesians in this Signus fight were ill-equipped to deal with such magic, and as such, were trapped under the effects of Slow for the entire fight. How would you counteract this? Should I ensure that my enemy commanders are all carrying at least one vial of shatterspell, to reliably dispel negative effects?

One small boon for me: As Signus did retreat, this is the first significant time that a Ragesian has faced this squad of heroes, survived, and left freely. Finally, they have a second data point about these heroes, beyond the data their Lyceum Spy is feeding them...
 

DnD does have a persistent problem if there being a lack of counterplay to offense. If you don't succeed you're save, there are few ways to fight off negative effects.

That's over reason I put in inquisitors as a key Ragesian unit, though Signus I believe didn't have one. But yeah, shatterspell is a valid tool, I think. Or runners with shortbows to chase down the offending the mage who has now separated from the party.

Though thinking ahead, I'd focus on protections for narratively important foes, and let the PCs enjoy winning against the little guys. Plus, next adventure, Castle Korstull is full of close quarters, so getting away without triggering another fight is gonna be a challenge.
 

Fuzzybear

Explorer
I do have a similar thing happening in a way with a bard who casts Hypnotic Pattern a lot and tries to stay safe. Thankfully he doesn't do the full run away as far as possible maneuver and stays on the map at least though. I would agree with @RangerWickett that the next adventure has a lot more avenues to punish this kind of behavior, say running straight into a patrol the first time the bard tries it for example. That may deter them in the future. I would also talk to them on the side if this behavior you think is ruining the campaign's narrative. Just telling them to stay on the battle map might be enough to make it not a problem. Trying to stay safe while holding concentration is a normal thing, but there is an extent where it is impeding enjoyment.

I also agree with you that Ragesia would seek to try to counter this tactic though more aggressively as things go on though. Even though we won't see a ton of them in the next few adventures IIRC, I would start planning now for the coming foes that are meant to be big deals (Rhuarc for example) to have easy ways to avoid simple incapacitation like that. The next major time that I can think of where we see a lot of Ragesian soldiers would be the prison sequence, but I wouldn't be too upset if they succeed well there anyway since they are intended to make it in anyway. By the time we're looking at more major scale battles, the enemies will have leveled up a lot as well and could have preventative measures against mind altering effects to dampen its effectiveness.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Catching up on some adventures!

Fearing for Three Weeping Ravens' safety, and suspecting that Caela may be behind not just his abduction, but other missing people from Eresh, the crew heads into the Forbidden Valley, seeking answers. A short distance into the fog-shrouded woodlands, they meet a team of Two Winds Monks, hell bent on repelling the intruders. Moments later, a bizarre creature joins the battle; a freakish conglomeration of lion and dragon, with deadly spines on its tail. The fight is taxing, but successful, as all but one of the monks (whom fled) is disabled, and the beast is felled.

Descending into the Valley of Storms itself, the team sees more evidence of strange, mutated creatures, likely the product of biomantic experimentation. They soon notice, and carefully circumvent, a tribe of two-headed giants, all of whom seem far less interested in talking than in smashing.

Eventually, they arrive at a small, lonely tower standing alone in an open field. Approaching it, they soon discover that the entire structure is an illusion, covering a pit trap filled with deadly spikes... and deadlier creatures. These arcane "mishaps," melded with ice and groaning in agony, are "survivors" of the previous adventuring party, now turned into weapons. They are hastily dispatched, revealing the doors to a large, subterranean complex.

Exploring outside for a time, the team also finds a glass dome roof, hidden by illusory magic, beneath which seems to be an office or study of sorts. Within, they see the unconscious form of Three Weeping Ravens, bound, and under the watchful eye of Caela herself...

-----

Without another viable way to enter, the crew heads back to the main door, and carefully removes an arcane run protecting against entry. Once inside, they find a massive biomancy operation, with dozens of small tanks, each holding a separate body under development, along with a massive tank that seems empty.

Their slow progress through the facility is interrupted by a whoosh of wind and a crash of glass, as an elementally-charged minotaur rushes to confront them. Partially made of air, attacks do little to faze it, as it gores and smashes anything in its path, inadvertently releasing the biomantic beasts in the process! The fight is taxing and painful, but a well-aligned confusion spell stops the beast in its tracks long enough for the team to whittle it down to size.

Approaching the office, the crew moves into confront Caela, promptly springing her traps... but some key teamwork and a steady counterattack helps to keep her more focussed on moving, than on attacking. Eventually, she is cornered and pinned, and knocked out by the Paladin.

As quiet finally settles over the facility, the team stops to catch their breath, when everyone begins to feel a low, distant vibration...

-----

A brief exploration of the Biomancy facility is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of a sudden, inexplicable storm of great localized intensity. As the glass dome shatters, and the ceiling begins to collapse, the entire team hastens to the door. As they climb out into the winds and cold, they spot an impossibly large object high in the skies above, shrouded in wind; something that almost looks like a mile-long creature, with a massive "eye" in the belly watching the events below. Caela seems to have been re-injured during the escape, and perished before aid could be delivered.

Returning to the monastery, Pilus and Longinus greet the heroes, apologizing for Caela's actions, and thanking them for discovering the scope of her treachery. Pilus admits that the biomancy lab was his, and that he was busy building an army to help defend Ostalin, whomever the aggressor became. After hearing the heroes' request, the pair agree to develop a means to access Castle Korstull.

A week later, with an orb to hold back the weather, the crew heads south to hook around the mountains into Sindaire. On the way, they are led, quite unexpectedly, to the hometown of one of their own; a halfling community dealing with the oppressive nature of Khagan Onamdammin's regime.

After replenishing their provisions, they continue the journey into Sindaire. Here, the Ragesian First Army sits as an occupying force, taking what supplies and equipment they need. Mostly ignored, the heroes arrive at the small community of Gathin, where they witness soldiers harassing a group of farmers. When violence seems imminent, they jump to intervene...!

-----

Offering a number of discordant reasons to talk - requests to parlay, demands to cease violence, and claims of higher authority - the Ragesian military doesn't hold back. Knights and soldiers, along with a mighty hell hound, pounce upon the heroes, who quickly begin to lock down the crew. One by one, they attackers are felled, until only one surviving soldier remains, unconscious.

The farmers are cautious but thankful for the heroes' intervention, and agree to trade an older wagon for some of the Ragesian horses left behind. The team artificer is startled to meet one of her estranged daughters there, but is able to share a few quiet moments of recollection and reconciliation. Upon learning from their prisoner that the First Ragesian Army would doubtlessly be missing them, and would likely send a force to seek retaliation within a few days, the farmers agree to vacate their homes for their own safety; they will attempt to go to Dassen, where land exists for them to start anew.

The journey to Korstull becomes slightly more perilous. As the edge of the fire rainstorm approaches, the orb provides a dome of protection of sorts. Camouflaged lava pools lay in their path, though they seem easy enough to identify. The prisoner is horrified that the heroes are travelling INTO the firestorm, as no one ever comes out of it alive. The heroes are not concerned... not only are they protected (for now), but there are signs of another group that must have passed through here very recently.

Moving into the canyons around Castle Korstull, they see the remains of a terribly well defended fortress, with attack bunkers lining the cliff walls, as they approach an enormous pillar of fire above the entrance to the castle. Through the flames, they see a figure high above for a moment... along with another adventuring party of gnomes and halflings! Their surprise is interrupted, though, with a crash of lightning... and skeletons rising to fight.
 

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