WotBS EmeraldBeacon's Burning Sky (online game)

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Rushing to investigate the reported fire, the team found a smoldering building, already attended to by some of South Harbor's residents, while a distraught family waited outside, in the early morning rain. After helping to extinguish the blaze, investigations eventually revealed a number of things: While many pointed fingers at the refugees causing trouble, the fires seems to have started in the basement. The only access to the otherwise-sealed cellar was small cracks in the foundation, that would fit only vermin. A brief exploration of other burnt homes discovered similar circumstances to the fire.

Failing to find a direct answer, everyone moved north to continue spending time with the collected refugee camps. Ostaliners were cagy and observant, but eventually, their priest's favor for aerial combat became apparent. The Ragesian Philosophers all wanted to hear a good story, while the Druids favored good hospitality (and cats). Finally, in Seaquen, while everyone hoped to meet Torrent at the temple to the sea gods, they instead found a junior priest who made his general disdain for the refugees all too apparent.

Eventually, the team returned to the Lyceum in the evening, hoping that a bit of research at the library might aid their cause...

SESSION NOTES: As the heroes began to learn about rodent activity in the basements prior to the fires, they began to concoct elaborate conspiracy theories about Ragesian efforts to infuse rats with extraplanar fire energy and loose them upon the city... a possibility I readily encouraged, just to make the eventual reveal that much more disappointing.
 

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Tormyr

Adventurer
SESSION NOTES: As the heroes began to learn about rodent activity in the basements prior to the fires, they began to concoct elaborate conspiracy theories about Ragesian efforts to infuse rats with extraplanar fire energy and loose them upon the city... a possibility I readily encouraged, just to make the eventual reveal that much more disappointing.
I mean, they are not that far off...
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
I mean, they are not that far off...
That was the closest theory to reality. They were also wondering if Ragesia were training rats to bring incendiary devices into the homes, or if a disgruntled refugee druid was using wild shape to slip in and out after starting the fire, etc. They haven't even considered going to the eastern ruined city, but I planted a hint in the team's Dasseni member that there was something about this region (the gate to the fire plane, the pyromancer's tomb, etc) that almost sparked a memory, and the Lyceum library might help them research local history.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
After a bit of magical item requisitions from the Lyceum guards, the group completed a bit of research on Seaquen history. It turns out that, in ages past, a mighty pyromancer prepared a tomb for himself here, thanks to a naturally occurring weakening of the veil between the material plane, and the elemental plane of fire. That place, where fire energies seep through into your plane, accounts for the vulcanism, geysers, and hot springs that the eastern peninsula is known for.

The next day, the bard heads to the Wayfarer's Theater and begins rehearsing for the play, along with renewing tensions with the resident diva, Giorgio. Hoping to bury the hatchet, though, apologies and a promise of cooperation were made (regardless of appropriateness). The cleric returned to the Hospitalers, and in assisting them with their work, gained their trust further. Meanwhile, the Rogue, Warlock, and Barbarian returned to the Ostalin sector, and learned a few more pieces of information... their priest is not only a sound tactician, but an aficionado of live combat drills.

Ultimately, the party returned to their resident drunk's alley to discuss their findings, along with a new piece of information... the gift to the goblins is complete and ready for pickup at their convenience. Now, it's time to decide what to do going forward, with the following time constraints... in 10 days, the play begins previews, and a week after that is the grand performance for all of Seaquen's dignitaries...
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
In an investigation-heavy episode, the party split up to cover a few topics at once. A crucial book of philosophy was found in the Lyceum student library, and some magical items were ordered (though they wouldn't be completed for about a week's time). Meanwhile, the team searched in vain for someone who might know a bit about nature.

Everyone convened at Laurabec's tent, where they discussed efforts to unite the collected religious groups in a cooperative effort to build the pantheistic temple. A tentative plan was established to start the negotiations in a few days. Meanwhile, the crew decided to secure the mayor's support for goblins to enter the city for trade and commerce, before the finalized the deal to provide safe passage through the Sour Lake Swamp...
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
As the party has been itching for some combat, I'm intending on having them stumble across the Fire Rat Swarms shortly... but looking at the team, compared to the CR of that encounter, it seems rather... anticlimactic. I'm toying with ways to amp up the threat level of that encounter, for a cluster of level 5 heroes. Since the as-printed fire rats seem to be basically just a regular rat swarm, with a tiny bit of extra fire damage flexed in, these are the changes I'm thinking of making:
  1. Doubling the number of swarms, from 1 per PC to 2. This would create action economy issues, because ten attacks coming in are worse than 5. I would have them arrive in waves, rather than dogpile the heroes... say, 1d4 new swarms arrive at Initiative Zero, until the total number runs out.
  2. Increasing each of the swarms' hit point pool from 24 to somewhere around 40. This makes them harder to drop, and monsters that last longer are more dangerous.
  3. Up their fire damage beyond just 1. If the fire damage they can deal is 1d4, 1d6, 2d4, etc, instead of just 1 per hit, they become a lot more frightening. Perhaps a successful strike also has a chance to set the attacked creature on fire, a la the Indomitable Fire Template.
  4. Give the swarms Fire Resistance, or even Immunity. These creatures have become infused with pure elemental power, and as such, should exhibit some of the same resiliency of creatures from that plane.
Any other thoughts?
 

You could make a whole 'death trap' sorta scene out of it, making the threat more environmental than just a raw combat. The party goes into a basement of a book-binder (who works for all the wizards of the Lyceum, obviously) to investigate, and they see a lot of paper, plus rare alchemical reagents for use in creating enchanted inks. It's a bunch of valuable stuff. The owner waits upstairs.

They spot a rat that's smoldering, follow it into a cramped tunnel that leads to a warren. A pair of flaming dire rats are the brood mother and father of the swarm, currently sleeping surrounded by hundreds of their children, nestled against some sort of glowing crystals that can function like alchemist fire but better (if you want there to be treasure). Invariably the PCs spook the swarm, which flows past them and sets the whole basement full of paper aflame, while the dire rats attack the intruders.

There's all the precious books and other materials worth rescuing, and the owner upstairs who's crying for help as the swarm attacks him. Does the party just flee? Do they try to save valuables? Rush to save the owner?

The basement is a 25-ft. by 25-ft. room, with stairs at the north leading up, and the entrance to the warren to the south. The whole basement is difficult terrain for non-swarm creatures, due to all the furniture and clutter. The warren is bigger, maybe 50-ft by 50-ft, with several chambers ranging from narrow tunnels to small rooms that interconnect in odd ways, and maybe a couple areas of lower or higher elevation.

In the first round of combat, two of the swarms move from the warren entrance to the base of the staircase, so getting out means running through them. The five squares they moved through catch fire. The other three swarms remain in the warren complicating the fight against the dire rats. The swarms are CR 1/4 each, so for the dire rats, use the stats for an ankheg (CR 2) except it breathes fire instead of spraying acid.

If you enter 1 or more burning squares on your turn, you take 1 fire damage, and if you end your turn in one of those squares you take 3 (1d6) fire damage. If you spend an action or bonus action, you can shove some of the clutter and furniture into another square (even doubling up), so that you clear a space. If the stuff you move is on fire, you take 1 fire damage, but it means that the clear space has no fuel to burn, so it's safe to move through or stand there.

One round later, the fire spreads to two more squares with flammable fuel, and the basement fills with enough smoke and embers to require a Con save to avoid being blinded.

One round after that, the fire spreads to another two squares. The stairs leading out are burned to the point that anyone larger than Tiny who tries to ascend them causes them collapse. Getting out now requires climbing 20 feet of burning debris while rats clamber over you.

One round after that, the fire spreads two more squares and a few ceiling beams start to crack. The warren is now filled with smoke that can blind, and the basement is filled with enough smoke that anything beyond 5 feet has concealment. Unless you're prone, you have to make a Con save at the end of your turn or else you take 1 nonlethal damage.

That's turn 4. After that, things don't get much worse environmentally, and if the dire rats aren't down by that point, they retreat into their warren and then disappear through tiny tunnels to be a problem elsewhere later. The challenge then becomes 'how do we get out of here?'

If any PCs get stuck down there, on turn 10 you can have some refugee bystanders come to their rescue. A low-level cleric happens to have create water prepared, and heard the commotion, so ran into the store. He extinguishes the flames in the basement. Other bystanders can help pull PCs up with ropes.
 
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Oh, and if the PCs take a bit of damage and you expect them to have other combats the same day, I'd have a bystander provide a couple healing spells. This lets you have some more action without overly depleting party resources for other challenges.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
You could make a whole 'death trap' sorta scene out of it, making the threat more environmental than just a raw combat. The party goes into a basement of a book-binder (who works for all the wizards of the Lyceum, obviously) to investigate, and they see a lot of paper, plus rare alchemical reagents for use in creating enchanted inks. It's a bunch of valuable stuff. The owner waits upstairs.
You know, this gives me other ideas. It's already afternoon, and the party probably won't be doing much more than just this, but they ARE going to the home of Magistrate Lorb Votberd, to convince him to permit the goblins of the swamps to practice trade within the city, and protect them from local harassment. I was going to limit the encounter to "go ahead and persuade him if you can, but it'll be tricky," but now I'm thinking of adapting your plan into something more robust.

Votberd wants no part of the goblins, and will press the party to just exterminate them if possible... but when HIS home is suddenly on fire, and the party members rush to save him, his demeanor might undergo a sudden shift in attitude. During the meeting, the fire might be reported as nervous and harried staff members trying to deal with a situation without disturbing the boss, or all-out panic as an evacuation is called for... but regardless, the party can find the rats in the process of torching the larder, leading to your "situational hazard" encounter. If they search, they find a burrowed tunnel BARELY large enough for them to squeeze through, that they can follow through a shallow cavern system to find a nest that's more dangerous than just a couple of swarms.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
A DungeonDraft map I threw together for the potential purpose of a fight...

1657257776319.png
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
The team travelled to Magistrate Lorb Votberd's home, hoping to earn his support in allowing the sour lake goblins to travel into and trade freely with the city of Seaquen. After a bit of persuasion, they got an audience, and proceeded to explain why it would be a grand idea to pursue this new line of free trade, for the benefit of all Seaquen's citizens and refugees... after all, a safe route through the swamp means more opportunity in the future.

The Magistrate, though, countered with the simple fact that, while a safe passage might be profitable in peace times, it would also allow refugees to flood Seaquen like never before, escalating a situation that was already untenable in the city. The team's pleas fell upon deaf ears, as he outright refused to support their efforts. As they stormed out to leave, though, they were met with panic in the hallways... for there was a fire in the cellar!

While one of their party helped to evacuate the Mayor and his staff, then set up a bucket brigade, the others stormed the kitchen, finding it filling with smoke rising through the floorboards from below. They doused everything with what water they could find before proceeding downwards, finding a cluster of fire-infused rats! After a short but heated (heh) battle, the managed to stop the worst of the fire from damaging the structure further... and upon finding a cramped tunnel breaking through the basement walls, they informed the mayor of their findings. Sheepishly, he thanked the heroes for their quick action, and vowed to honor their request out of appreciation.

With that situation handled, the group prepared to investigate the tunnels further, hoping to put an end to the rodent-ferno, once and for all!
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Delving underground, the party clears out a nest of fire rats, discovering even more, smaller tunnels leading east towards the old ruins. Realizing they can't explore further, they do come to the conclusion that the rats are finding ways into either older basements that have some deterioration, or newer ones that were never sealed off properly. Shoring up the underground construction should be enough to keep these rats, acting only on the instinct to feed, out of their cellars. The next day, town criers spread the news of how to defend against the rodents.

Visiting the Lyceum, the team collects a couple of small crates of magical supplies to bring to the goblins, but are stopped by Simeon. He hasn't made progress on the Ragesian Intelligence yet, but has some promising theories to test. Information provided by the Erinyes Jeszka has proven helpful, though, and tensions throughout the city are dropping a bit. He also asks, hesitantly, for the party to contact Torrent, to see if she has more luck contacting Lee Sidoneth. Simeon is concerned about the unnaturally prolonged rain storm, and hopes the Hydromancer has some answers... but says he hasn't been able to contact him.

Torrent, found at Seaquen's water temple, has been busy with her own duties, and hasn't spoken to Lee. However, she is eager to get back in the field, and happily accompanies the party into the Sour Lake Swamp. There, they find the goblins ready to negotiate... but still lacking a cowardly chieftain, who fled immediately after the party was spotted. Frustrated, the team heads deeper into the swamp, hoping to drag him back and finally seal the deal...

SESSION NOTES: Not too much plot this time, owing largely to the fact that one player called out absent, and two more either were no-shows or dropped out mid-session. Attendance has been a big issue for toe two big culprits, leading me to think I need to set some ground rules for the situation... but also, to make sure that they still want to be part of this game.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Descending into the swamplands, the group makes good time, eventually following a muddy trail - and the continual sounds of frog calls - to a secluded grotto a mile or so from the village. The party tried to approach quietly, but with a strong warning thanks to his amphibian alert system, Ogatar quickly disappeared from view. Everyone tried to talk him down, but a fireball in reply told them that discussion probably wouldn't work. That was confirmed when, once cornered, the team realized that Ogatar apparently could only speak Goblin! Frustrated, the cleric cast Tongues to facilitate communication, eventually earning a reluctant surrender.

Returning to the village, Hessilen dragged Ogatar away to give him a piece of her mind, while the party idly admired the fresh water fountain in the center of town, seemingly creating clean water from nothing. Upon Hessilen's return, she explained that, with her influence over her cowardly husband now solidly in place, she can assure that the treaty can move forward. Plans are made to bring the goblins into town a week henceforth, to provide formal introductions, and allow a more streamlined transition to a relationship of cooperation. After inquiring about the fountain, Hessilen was dismissive, calling it a pretty trinket and not much more, as the Goblins don't use it for much beyond washing the nearby guillotine. A trade is offered for it; the barbarian, now in posession of the Living Blade, trades his dwarven greataxe (great for head-choppin!) for it.

Back in Seaquen, the decanter of endless water initially is left in the care of the Ragesian Hospitalers (whose immediate need for fresh water possibly outstrips any other group), with the understanding that it's only a loan. The team finishes the day at Laurabec's tent, working out a plan to truly begin their campaign for a unified temple in the morning...
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
The moment you realize that your resident Bard has optimized for Persuasion (+9 modifier thanks to Expertise, and as an Eloquence bard, he can't roll lower than 10 to persuade or deceive), and can't possibly fail any of the DC19 checks to unite the religious groups of Seaquen, even with disadvantage...

The Good Doctor Whatever GIF by ABC Network
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
The moment you realize that your resident Bard has optimized for Persuasion (+9 modifier thanks to Expertise, and as an Eloquence bard, he can't roll lower than 10 to persuade or deceive), and can't possibly fail any of the DC19 checks to unite the religious groups of Seaquen, even with disadvantage...

The Good Doctor Whatever GIF by ABC Network
Like a certain player's rogue who couldn't fail to unlock the DC 30 locks in the Ebon Triad's hoard. 🤷‍♂️
 

Fuzzybear

Explorer
The plus side is that you can plan what you're going to say. Or you might decide to make some of the checks other skills and weave them in some. Give them some benefits for their choices, but you can still tinker a bit to give some challenges that might suit other characters some as well.

E: a word
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Together, the team set out to tackle the challenge of the unified temple, starting with the Ragesian Savages, who were honored at being selected first for the project. From there, they split up to handle different goals... the Ragesian Philosophers agreed with sound logic, while the Sindairese Exiles sympathized with a need for a place to belong. The Ragesian Hospitalers were impressed by an effort to do good for good's sake, while the Dassani Dwarves respected tradition and history.

With five groups in the bag, the crew handling the Ostalin Mercinaries had a hard time convincing the military unit to join in, though they did pledge to join if an overall consensus was made. Likewise, the Ragesian Druids enjoyed a night of storytelling and camaraderie, but were reluctant to commit to such a grand project.

The Seaquen Locals balked at having one of their own argue a case before them, and forced Torrent to the sidelines... a role that she quickly balked at, and pointed out that just as religion is meant to bring people together under a higher purpose, so too would this temple... and they relented, giving the team enough support to guarantee the temple's backing! Now if only they had the MEANS to build it...

Session Notes: I upped the difficulty from DC19 to DC20, just to make the bard's rolls not automatic, and wouldn't you know it, his were the only rolls that failed. Everyone else succeeded, with a couple of nat 20s along the way! I also dropped the sobering fact that while they managed to form a CONSENSUS for the temple, CONSTRUCTION itself would be difficult given the state of the city at the moment. Laurabec shared some information about a local story she'd heard, of a musical instrument that could create buildings from nothing, but doesn't remember where the tale came from...
 

Fuzzybear

Explorer
I was quite interested in this report from your game because I had made the whole temple event just fluff and not an interaction for the party. Since they had brought Krystin, I had her heading that up for them as I thought they had plenty of other things they were interested in anyway. Really fun to see another group do a section that we didn't. I really like that there was so many options in Seaquen that you can spend as much time there as you want.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Coming off their success at negotiating the creation of a pantheistic temple, the team splits up to handle a few different lines of thought. With the rogue in tow, the Barbarian heads to the Lyceum, hoping to gather some more information about his peculiar wild magic traits. He stumbles into a spellduel against a peppy (and mildly terrifying) halfling warlock, before asking fellow dwarf Kiernan Stekart if he has any further insights. He doesn't, as he's never heard of a BARBARIAN with magical tendencies before, but urges him to share any insights he DOES learn.

The Warlock joins the Cleric in seeking Lee Sidoneth, on behalf of the Lyceum. Finding him at his home, the hydromancer was quite busy, and uninterested in conversation, claiming that he was at his wits end trying to manage the tense situation in the harbor, all while wracking his brain over why the storms have been endlessly battering the city. He suggested that the worst of the weather seemed to coincide with the arrival of the Shahalesti fleet, requesting that the Lyceum should investigate that possibility.

Finally, the Bard travels to the Wayfarer's Guild, to continue rehearsals for The Spectacular Trials of Toteth Topec. Before heading to the ship, he happens to notice a body on the shore... deformed, misshapen, a bizarre mixture of elf and orc? Calling the city guard to investigate, he proceeded to his destination. During a break in the action, Giorgio pulls him aside, and expresses concern at Guildmistress Larkins' relative absence regarding the performance. While she claimed that researching The Burning Sky was a more important task at the moment, he explained that she had been receiving Shahalesti guests aboard. Giorgio wasn't sure if she was being manipulated, or if she were secretly conspiring with the elves, but either way, he was concerned that she'd been compromised.

The team met up in the afternoon after an unfortunate galley incident aboard the Wayfarer's Theater Galleon, to exchange notes and plan for their next actions...

SESSION NOTES: I decided to introduce some "maybe the Shahalesti are the threat" elements between Giorgio and Lee Sidoneth, to possibly throw the players off the scent of the real danger... we'll see if they nibble on any of that bait.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
As the clan leaves the Wayfarer's Guild, they notice the same investigation into the mysterious body that had washed ashore. After convincing the city guard (and the Lyceum investigator) to let them see it, they noticed the strangely mixed-race body was apparently strangled, not drowned, and that its assembly was either natural or magical, as there was no evidence of surgical alteration. Unsure of what to do going forward, they remembered two other strangely altered figures they'd met before... the Biomancer Paradim Dogwood (whom they saw at Lee Sidoneth's home), and the Ragesian gladiator they'd fought several days prior. They decided to follow those leads the next day.

In the meantime, exploring the northern shore area, they found a mysterious shop that was only opening at dusk, learning about a peculiar process called Tattoomancy, where magical items could be applied directly onto one's body... permanently. The cleric was intrigued, especially at the young drow woman performing the procedures, and elected to purchase a Cloak of Protection tattoo.

The following day, the team went to the Ragesian Savages, where they witnessed another few bouts of combat, and met the strangely altered Tusktooth. He was glad to see his prior opponent, and invited them all for drinks, where he explained that in his tribe, gaining strength was all that truly mattered. Upon hearing of Dogwood's operation, he rushed to be augmented with bestial features. Using directions he provided, they team finds the shop easily enough, and are quickly disturbed by the implications of his work... creating strange abberant creatures through arcano-scientific means. Dogwood was eager to sell them on the procedure, until they began to ask questions about a body. Denying any knowledge or involvement, he turned the group out rather suddenly...

SESSION NOTES: Dogwood's involvement is currently in flux. I'm planning on making him actually culpable for some of the missing people, slaves sold to Gremman's brothel, but innocent of the effort underway by Lee Sidoneth and the Ragesians; they are the ones creating the Shahalesti duplicates for their own nefarious projects.
 

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