WotBS EmeraldBeacon's Burning Sky (online game)

Fuzzybear

Explorer
I've been thinking about how I would help with this feeling of missing something in the dungeon. In my gamelog, I mentioned how I would probably just add a room where Lee is summoning the storm, and have the fight there. But how could we kind of set up the dungeon exit scenario more?

I think I would add something to one of the rooms to that gives much stronger hints to the fact that Lee had been there, but left in a hurry. Perhaps a loose paper detailing a secret escape route (giving the players a chance to turn the tables?), or one of the soldiers surrenders and says that Lee left when the attack on the Wayfarer Theater was thwarted (or something similar). Something that tells the group that the reason they're here isn't here anymore. The fight with the inquisitor was difficult enough with my group that it might be seen as a boss fight, so it might feel like the proper end to the dungeon, alongside feeling like its setting up Lee as a long-term villain. And then he ambushes them!

Pretty rough, but that might be what I would do if I felt like the ambush was important enough.
I'd agree that I don't think things need to really change. While it was a bit confusing for them, I don't think it was awful either. I do think it is meant to feel like setting Lee up for a future bad guy, but that is why I felt like him just appearing after that felt weird. It was almost like it was trying to be a set up for something grander and then just cut it off immediately afterwards. The long term plot point just handed himself to the group right after. That's why it felt abrupt and less earned I think.

For all of that, I'm not sure if I would change it. I kind of liked that Lee wasn't sitting at the end of the dungeon by himself, hiding. Maybe what you said and having it more clear that he was just ahead of them and heading out would make the group chase him more enthusiastically. Perhaps a back exit? Though that cheapens the way in...
 

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emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Haha, yeah, even as I was writing it, I was kind of thinking "an even more secreter entrance than the super secret entrance"
Not that I'd incorporate it, but ...maybe there's an "escape trigger" build into the Teleportation Beacon? Something that has a particular command phrase (which could be discovered among notes in Damius' bedroom), that explicitly 'ports someone who touches it directly up to the surface, without needing to go back through the prison? A little toasty, to be sure (probably about 2d6 fire damage due to the distance traveled), but a quick and easy one-way trip out of the tomb, if someone is in a hurry, or doesn't want to swim.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Carefully inspecting the pyromancer's tomb, they find that the lava had dissipated, leaving them with a recognizably dangerous challenge. Slowly, they begin to notice variations in the glowing red runes surrounding the doorway, hinting at a possible clue to the puzzle. Methodically, they weed out which runes are likely controlling the lava trap; then, cautiously, the runes are dispelled one by one, freeing the door to open. Within the tomb, they find a preserved sarcophagus in a room filled with carved walls, depicting the pyromancer in life.

Now compulsively checking for traps, it isn't until the dwarf recognizes, with his stonecunning, that the etchings on the sarcophagus are not consistent with the local artistry or toolwork, and might actually be mystical runes. Again, careful inspection reveals the proper order to deactivate them, and in a pulse of magical pressure, the trap is dispelled. Within the heavy-lidded sarcophagus lay the shriveled remains of the pyromancer himself, his once lavish silk robes now as brittle as ash, the only item of notable value being a jagged gold ring, inset with crimson stones.

Dismayed at not finding any passageway downwards, they reconsider their options, and decide to head back to the prison, to see if they somehow missed a doorway or passage that Lee Sidoneth might have fled from. When they ascend, they find everything as they left it... but are alarmed at the intensity of the storm outside; what was once a peaceful eye, is now a raging tempest. They begin to creep outside, only to be ambushed by a waiting Lee, who has set a trap with awakened gargoyles and his pet squid Lula. Calling upon the fury of the storm itself, he brings lightning down among the already weakened group, as they scramble to get out of the water and stop the treacherous hydromancer once and for all...

SESSION NOTES: The team did indeed head out into the storm without taking a short rest, walking straight into a fight... but some clutch saves, useful spells, and that damn Hypnotic Pattern spell, they've pulled close to stopping Lee. Now, to see what happens when the wand flies into the air over the prison...
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
As the storm raged on, the fight against Lee Sidoneth began to turn to the heroes' favor. As his gargoyles crumbled, and Lula was slain in the waves, an arrow spelled his end; his dying words, however, called upon his master to let the storm finish his task!

The storm suddenly gained strength, tearing apart what was left of Sidoneth's body, while the control wand began to spiral into the sky. Hastily, the rogue latched onto it with her mage hand, pulling it to safety. In desperation, she wished for the storm to stop... and stop it did, slowly dropping from hurricane, to downpour, to shower, to sprinkling, until it stopped altogether an hour later, revealing the dying light of the sun setting on the horizon.

Gathering the survivors that still waited in the tomb, they returned to the Lyceum, finding it overrun with those seeking shelter from the storm. Headmaster Simeon thanked the heroes for their efforts, but asked them to return the next day to discuss their findings, as things were... busy. They decided to spend the night at the campsite of Laurabec Adelsburg, to share their experiences with her.

What they found, though, was the celestial giant eagle Takasi, in mourning over his lost partner. The pair flew countless sorties over the water, rescuing at least two dozen that had been washed out to sea, before Laurabec lost her grip and fell into the waters. Takasi explained that a rescue operation was futile: he could already feel his connection to her severed. He thanked the heroes for their deeds, then explained he had nothing left holding him to this world, and prepared to depart, before the Dragonborn persuaded him to stay with them, and fight back against the evil that took Laurabec away.

The next day, the chaos of the storm became readily apparent. Dozens, perhaps hundreds were dead (mostly among the refugees) and damage was catastrophic across the peninsula. At the Lyceum, Simeon welcomes the heroes, explaining what he had already learned from the two whom had been held prisoner by the Ragesians. After some discussions, it was agreed that the Lyceum would maintain posession of the Orb of Storms, that they might investigate its origins, and that they would establish control over the teleportation beacon, so that they could better control any future invasion of the city. Simeon identified the powerful ring from the Pyromancer's Tomb, and though reluctant to release such a powerful artifact, decided it was best in the heroes hands.

And so, the city began to rebuild. Despite the devastation, hope prevails, and the city began a slow process of rebuilding itself... until a week later, when the heroes recieve a new summons to the Lyceum.

SESSION NOTES: As hyped as the team was about finally defeating Lee, they were deeply troubled by his mention of a "master," and they're now fixated on finding that information out. I did have a distraught Torrent drop some hints about knowing he had some associates in Ostalin, but not knowing more than that. Then I dropped the bombshell about Laurabec on them, which GUTTED at least half of them... I'm going to lead off the next episode with some talk about how the city recovers in the week after the storm, probably focusing on the "fabrication" of the great hall of the new Unified Temple, which (by unanimous decision) will be dubbed Saint Laurabec's Cathedral.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Seaquen is covered in debris cast about from the storm. The refugee camps have been devastated, as almost every haphazardly built structure was annihilated or carried away. Thankfully, emergency shelters built by the Lyre of Fabrication helped to create emergency homes for the displaced. The city seems to be pulling together, though, thanks in no small part to the desperate need to cooperate for survival.

In the week since ending the storm that had plagued Seaquen for over a month, the weather has been surprisingly clear and bright (much to the Droalesti cleric's dismay). It has also been unseasonably cold, even this close to the start of spring.

Eventually, the team is called to the Lyceum to undertake a new mission: Dassen has agreed to allow Ragesia to move through their lands unmolested, as they march on Seaquen. A jovial man named Balan Bastom has been recruited by the Lyceum, to negotiate with King Steppengard of Dassen. His intention is to encourage Seaquen's northern neighbor to resist the Ragesian military - or at least get enough regional lords on board to force the King's hand.

Before leaving, the team is also approached by a nervous young man, claiming to be the son of Duke Gallo's proxy to the royal court, asking the heroes to bring a letter to his father, if indeed they are traveling to Bresk.

SESSION NOTES: The heroes have become quite mercenary in their latest endeavors, expecting payment for their services going forward. I relented, and granted everyone a small amount of gold, plus a healing potion, as they leave on their mission... what they don't know, is that in doing so, they're beginning to lose some of the trust and goodwill they earned from the Lyceum, and might end up finding them much less eager to share in the future.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Before departing Seaquen, the team cleric decides to try and contact his parents, whom he hasn't seen since early childhood... the Sending spell makes contact, but the response seems chilling: every word they exchange puts BOTH lives in danger, so don't try to contact again.

Together, the squad moves north through the swamplands, noting the relatively clear path marked by the Severed Head Tribe, even passing another group of refugees on their way south. Emerging near the city of Vidor, Balan makes a deal for transporation, trading their boats for a pair of horse-driven sleigh.

The journey north begins uneventfully, as the travel through southern Dassen is bitterly cold but surprisingly beautiful. The Nasham River, frozen over, makes for an easy northwest journey. That is, of course, until a pack of refugees, on foot, stagger towards the river, pursued by a monstrous centipede-like creature, sizzling with unnatural heat. The fight against this juvenile Remorhaz is painful but quick, and nearly 30 of the fleeing refugees survive. They thank the heroes and tell their story, before continuing towards Seaquen.

As the team proceeds towards Bresk, a journey spanning just under a week, they are startled when one sleigh comes to a sudden, complete stop. A brief investigation shows that one of the rails is caught on a loop of leather embedded in the ice... a loop that is attached to one of three bodies, frozen in the river below.

SESSION NOTES: The Remorhaz fight seemed a little odd, narratively, as the stakes with the refugees never seemed that high (it was more of a countdown timer than an actual threat), and while the beast hit like a truck, the heroes seemed to have plenty of action economy to deal with it. It didn't hurt that the Bard decided to forgo an action to perform a nature check on the thing, and nat-20'd it, thereby gaining virtually all the knowledge the party could ever need in fighting it. :p
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Inspecting the bodies under the ice, and pooling their knowledge and skills, they make a series of disturbing discoveries. The three men killed here seem to be wearing official regalia of the house of Lade Dené, but aside from a small amount of personal items, have nothing of interest on them. By all accounts, they were killed while traveling, then buried here under the ice to avoid detection (a plan that failed due to being placed too shallowly). After some very astute searching, the team suspects that the presumed couriers were leaving Bresk en route to their homeland before the attack; meanwhile, the assailants moved back up the Prince's Way towards the nation's capitol.

A short while later, while moving along the river, they notice a commotion on the parallel road, where soldiers, wearing an unusual variation on the national regalia of King Steppengard, harass a small caravan of halflings. Clumsily rummaging through their carts, they seem to be operating as police of some kind. Balan suggests leaving them be and not drawing attention, but when a human woman is pulled from the cart and threatened with immediate execution, the heroes could not help but spring to her aid. Rapidly subduing the soldiers (without killing anyone this time), they tend to the wounded and seek answers.

The halfling caravan is shaken but thankful, and begins hastily repacking to continue their journey, while the woman explains herself. A minor noble under the Lade Dené, she was romantically attached to a man who's been accused of the assassinations in Bresk. When the heroes ask further, she stares in shock. Surely they must have heard: only days ago, the wife of King Steppengard had been brutally killed... along with all eighteen of his children.
 

Was it a missed opportunity that we didn't have the PCs awkwardly attend a funeral to try to show how sincere their sadness was?

Hm, nah. I doubt many parties would have had fun with that. Put performative grief in politics is a fascinating topic.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Was it a missed opportunity that we didn't have the PCs awkwardly attend a funeral to try to show how sincere their sadness was?

Hm, nah. I doubt many parties would have had fun with that. Put performative grief in politics is a fascinating topic.
I think that I'd only run a funeral if they party/players expressed interest in doing so. A PC death would probably warrant such, for example.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
After a few questions, the heroes learn that, only a few days ago, all of King Steppengard's children were murdered by various means, along with his wife. To compound the tragedy, their hearts were removed and destroyed, to make resurrection nearly impossible. In his rage and despair, the king demanded justice, and began to hunt down anyone who may have been involved.

The rest of the journey to Bresk is reasonably quiet, punctuated only by the arrival of the giant eagle Takasi (who elected to remain outside the city, but stay close in case you need his vastly superior aerial abilities). Security is tight in the city, which feels much quieter than usual; not only is everything in a official period of mourning, but many are afraid that they'll be the next target of the king's "Talon" police force.

Establishing themselves in a large and well-apportioned suite at The Golden Griffon, the team discusses their options. As initial efforts to meet with nobles and their diplomats are met with bureaucracy and suspicion, the question remains: exactly how are they going to convince a king, cloaked in grief and anger, to help Seaquen?

SESSION NOTES: One of the characters is a nephew of Lord Dashgoban, who abruptly left home years ago (shortly before Steppengard's ascension to the throne) for "reasons." He's about to run into a familiar face from his past, which - I hope - represents a nice little complication in his side roleplay.
 

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Established at the Golden Griffon tavern and inn just outside of the castle, the team settles into find out what was happening in town, and to possibly convince some of the local envoys to the king's court to support Seaquen's plight. Splitting up, they each tackle different goals.

The cleric and bard head temple-hopping, with only marginal success, though they do learn about some of the various proxies, and how to contact them.

The rogue joins Balan in speaking with the proxy of Lady Dené, passing another diplomats in the process, including a curiously short half-orc woman. Their discussion goes well, and the proxy is thankful for the return of the bodies found on the road.

Meanwhile, the barbarian and warlock go to speak with agents of Lord Megadon on a foxhunt outside of town. The hunt is not going well, and the proxy is in a sour mood, which helps defeat their efforts to convince him to their own cause.

Returning to the Golden Griffon, the team debates what to do next, when the Barbarian meets with a familiar face from his past... a woman he was once engaged to, but hastily left long ago. She's now working in the embassy of his uncle, the Lord Dashgoban, and came seeking more information about the man who claimed to be of the noble family...

SESSION NOTES: Unexpected lore drop! I got to catch the barbarian off guard with a custom character from his backstory, that he might not have expected to show up this soon... she's his former GF/fiance, and currently the envoy to Lord Dashgoban... but he doesn't know that yet. ;)
 

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