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WotBS Fuzzybear's Burning Sky



Episode 13 - Burning Questions​

First things first, I know it has been a while. I can only say sorry. I've been keeping up with the remastered episodes as they come out, but we haven't been putting them out much recently. A combination of holidays, too much effort for reward, and real life have contributed to these episodes just not being done as often.

Second - there was some discourse that happened off screen between episodes 12 and 13. We did this earlier on in the campaign when we weren't thinking so much about how our recordings would be released and more using them for ourselves. In this case, they split into 2 groups, Rayland and Winry in one, Myetharia with Jack and Bryn in the other. The first group started investigating the bridge building while the later went into the ruins of the elven town. After a bit of exploration, including Jack finding the sylvan necklace and Rayland ceding the lockpicking to Winry, they met back up on this hilltop shrine where they were ambushed, starting off the episode. I tried to give something of a recap before to keep people up to date, but we felt bad and stopped doing this after talking about it.

The combat itself was never going to be threatening and the dice rolls didn't help really. What was fun was giving Torrent a bit of purpose. I was hoping that Bryn was going to cast Turn Undead and have that moment, but when she didn't I really wanted to make sure that the shrine was opened up. This gave Torrent an important action to perform if Bryn didn't take care of things on her turn. By stepping up and turning the enemies, she cracks open the shrine in order to get the group inside. I did give the enemies a little bit of a pity, but I didn't want to dwell on their backstories unless it was required. The whole eating children thing felt gratuitous to really revel in much.

After mopping up the enemies, Rayland heads inside with Winry in tow. The gag continues with Winry spooking Rayland by following him when he is not expecting it. This was one of our groups favorite gags for a long time. Inside they find Bhurisrava's dead body, a Shahalesti soldier in stasis, a statue of Anyariel, along with what appears to be a stolen item. They spend a lot of time both here and in the future trying to piece together what happened here with many wild theories and really danced around the truth as much as they could. In the end they do figure things out, but it takes a number of episodes before getting all the information required.

I decided to make Diashan a former acquaintance of Myetharia back from before all of these events. It helped to connect her to her own fate, since she is currently bound to the fires of the forest, and make it more clear the importance to resolve the issues here successfully. I decided to give the shrine some ability to keep him relatively safe so that they could get the information out of him without it being a death sentence.

The party then heads back to the bridge and decides to break into the building after all. I made a small change to the "riddle" as my players would know the speak friend bit from Lord of the Rings. I did something similar, but wanted to change it up just a little bit. Instead of making it verbal, I decided to make it where anyone touching the doorknob, knocking, etc. would trigger the trap while anyone just pushing the door would open it simply. It was really just an overthinking trap which was fun. Investigating the rest of the tower, they start to get a history of Bhurisrava from the journal as well as finding the pouch of dream seeds. The group decides to settle in at this tower to decide which direction they should go when we end the session.

This brings me to one thing that I think is a bit of an oversight in the 5e conversion. There is a lot of discussion in this adventure about dispel magic uses and such, but there is no way for a PC to have the spell at the levels for the adventure path. I don't know if this is different from 3.5 when it was first written, and I know this would be different than 4e where it wouldn't be a "spell" per say but a ritual, but I do think it is fairly story useful. I decided to give the chance to recover a wand at the start of the adventure and Jack ended up getting it with mage hand in episode 11. This is the first time that it is really meaningful. I don't know if this is required per say, but I will say that I think it was impactful in getting all the story details out to the players more on their terms. I'm curious how everyone else went through this or if they had some other way of getting dispel magic to the players early.

Next time, a devil of a deal is proposed!

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So I figured I should update this with information at least. We are sorry we haven't been posting any remastered episodes; they were just too much time and effort for the player who was editing them. We were never doing this for money or anything, so it was always going to be as long as he was having fun doing it and liking the end results. While he does like what he's done, he just cannot keep up, so he is just slowly doing some here and there when he has time now.

We are still playing and uploading our unedited episodes to Youtube for those that want to keep listening to our game. Just expect a different level of quality as they will be raw.

This leaves me with problems in regards to this thread. I can either go through my past notes from sessions and write up the results and my thoughts every few episodes or so, or I can skip ahead to our current time and start writing these as we play them instead. There will be a huge chunk of campaign missing write up though, skipping from early adventure 2 to end of adventure 5 where we are now instead.

If you have any thoughts or preferences here, let me know. As it is now, I am paralyzed by indecision and just haven't written anything for a few months instead. :rolleyes:

Thanks for everyone who has read and/or listened! We hope you are enjoying it as much as we are!


How about a general recap from where these writeups end, to where you are in the campaign now, hitting the major story points for the different PCs? Nothing too in-depth, but rather, speed-running the major bullet points... that would let you bring the story up to speed quickly, then pick up with the current plot lines?



The Rest of the Fire Forest​

Searching through the tower, they found the dream seeds as well as leads to head both directions, up and down the river. Jack tried a dream seed first, but being an elf, he is immune to the effects. Winry took one secretly later on against the party's wishes and passes out. She sees a vision of her troupe fighting and dying, then a storm brewing over the Monastery while her parents (who live nearby) watch in fear. I wanted to mix prophecy with fears here as much as I could, so this seemed a good compromise to serve as foreshadowing. The fight scares the group, but is defeated easily in the end. As they consider what happened, a familiar devil strolls up the bridge and calls out to them to bargain. After a lot of consideration, the group refuses Kazyk politely, who then backs off into the forest to be confronted again later.

While taking their rest in the tower, they play a team building game which reveals some interesting information - Rayland used to have a tattoo (but no longer does?), Jack had a relationship with his rival's sister, and Myetharia had a longer term romance with a thief. In the morning, they stash Torrent and Crystin with Diashan (mostly to make it easier for me) before heading up the river. Winry nearly is kidnapped by a fire salamander before they can fight it off. Then they meet up with Nelle at the river mouth and learn more about the forest's condition. Interested, but a little disappointed, they head back down the river and find Tiljann being attacked by the other seela. They do kill one of the attackers in rescuing her, but she forgives them and offers to bring them to her village.

They decided to pop one of the flight tokens here as they were concerned about Kazyk and their dwindling supply of heat resistant potions and flew down to the Seela village. They learn of the two main options listening to Vuhl and Tiljann, and while they initially liked Vuhl's idea, they soon grew concerned about the brutality involved. I tried to make him reasonably believable, but with Myetharia's condition, I hoped they wouldn't take up this path as it would mean her death. Instead, they head down to Gwenvere with a sacrifice. It seems to be going well at first, but upon seeing the hideous creature, Jack cannot hold back and attacks her. He even ends up with the killing blow in melee (a true rarity for a caster bard!) and repeatedly stabs her, seeming to snap.

Their flight continued on to Timbre where they got the last piece of the puzzle, learning of the sword in the lake. They decided to bring Timbre back to the village, worrying about her safety alone, before making plans to pull the sword and fight the beast. I considered greatly having Vuhl sneak attack her in the village and kill her, but decided that I still wanted my players to not hate me, so I waited for his inevitable betrayal for a more opportune moment.

The next morning, their last of potions, Winry draws the sword out and bonds with it. I made the decision here that it could take any form, including a monk weapon augmenting her unarmed strikes, because it felt bad to force it upon a specific person when someone else wanted the burden instead. It also helps that monks are notoriously underwhelming at scaling, so I figured this might help bring her into more balance (it does make her very strong at lower levels though). The battle was turning scary with Kazyk killing Singers and Vuhl's group being problematic, so Jack made the decision to get them to stop singing. He couldn't convince Papuvin though, so he ended up having to resort to terrifying him. The singing stopped, Indomitability agreed to cease attacking and retreated, along with Vuhl having completed his objective, leaving Kazyk suddenly alone and in danger. Finishing him off, Rayland and Myetharia receiving the first Trillith boon from Indomitability, the group celebrated success in their first major trial.

As the singing turned joyous instead, Myetharia's scarred body heals as the trees burn briefly before sputtering out. The group meets back up with their companions and flies out of the forest, finally free and able to continue their journey south.

Personal Thoughts:​

I enjoyed this adventure a lot. It was convoluted, I made a lot of mistakes, but in the end it all made sense and worked very well to be compelling. I think it helped a lot that one of the PCs got their fate intertwined with the forest even though I screwed that up as I had talked about before. I think my group would have wanted to just leave with the bird token instead of staying involved if they weren't forced to stay around for Myetharia. They always had this feeling that this was secondary to the mission to Seaquen and a distraction, so I am thankful for my mistake. I do feel the combination of the trillith and burning forest was very complicated and nearly impossible to figure out if a "solution" was going to work, so I didn't always love how the adventure felt like it was leading to one answer. Tying someone permanently to the life of another species is pretty intense for such low levels as well, so I understood my party's reticence to take that responsibility. Thankfully Winry stepped up (and is rewarded with a really cool weapon), but it is quite the mantle. The fights were pretty well done and there were a lot of options in this adventure to make their decisions matter (Kazyk for example) which I loved. The party really responded well to those as well.

Overall, very enjoyable and a solid continuation from the start, though it does feel a little out in left field in terms of the opening plot. I understand it introduces a lot of important items and is supposed to act as a little more contained adventure after the first, but it does only have very light ties to the overall plot. The players reported loving it, especially how complex, unique, and interesting the setting was, how real the timer and danger felt, and pleasing the resolution felt. What is really interesting for me is how different this feels from the next few weeks across Dassen and to Seaquen passing in a near blur.

On towards Seaquen!



To Seaquen and the Lyceum​

Heading to Cornerwood, the DM job of NPC juggling during this stretch began in earnest once more. I did my best to make Tiljann the main focus, though spending a little time of Crystin was necessary as well to show her breaking free more and more from her father's influence. I still haven't 100% decided what I'm going to do with Haddin in the future since they left him there to presumably die, but I'm leaning towards a reappearance up north in the prison in adventure 8.

This section of longer travel also marks the beginning of some decisions that will affect the rest of our campaign. I always wanted to make the PC decisions on feats, especially minor ones, vs. ASIs in 5e more enjoyable for the party. I came up with a "system" for the party to slowly learn new abilities. I put this in quotes because it is fairly loose in structure and somewhat made up as we go along. Depending on how impactful I think the ability they would like to learn would be, I put a score for them to achieve to learn it. Then each week (10 days in our world), they get to roll for their progress during travel and downtime. They come up with the ideas when talking to me on the side about it and we refine it into something that seems reasonable.

For an example, Bryn, the cleric, wanted the ability to reroll 1s on healing spells and checks once. For the next few weeks of travel then, she tells the group what she does to work towards this (experimenting with herbs, different techniques, and refining her magical abilities) and eventually gains it as a feat. This has quickly become something that the players look forward to and beg for each time they are travelling, so I would say it is a success. I know it is something of power creep, but it allows me to be more mean with enemies without feeling bad if people are in danger more often.

This particular trip is largely uneventful. They choose the eastern path, meeting some knights, learning some thing about Dassen which may or may not be important later, and doing a fair amount of roleplay. It was something of a struggle to keep them from trying to take more shortcuts, but eventually they took the token for a boat from the feather tokens and sail across the bay following the shoreline on the way. While this avoided the hag encounter initially, I did give them a sight of the hags before weaving it in later during their time in Seaquen anyway. They also ran into the Shahalesti patrol on the boats instead. Rayland snuck onboard and learned a bit about what's planned there earlier than the meeting, but it worked out pretty well in the long run. Talking their way through, and showing off some of their elven nobility for clout, they make their way to Seaquen proper.

Since Rayland was from Seaquen in part, he had some history and knowledge here already to check in on. It made things a bit difficult to balance his strings to pull with the adventure wanting them to have some time to explore before the council meetings. It was never a big problem, but it did get some eyerolls at times that no one seemed to be taking things as particularly important. My players do not like red tape and really hate bureaucracy of any kind. This did annoy them, but fortunately, there were plenty of activities to distract them with!

They bit and bit hard into all the side adventures around the city, wanting to dive into every thing that showed up with the town criers. They investigated the arsons, fell into Jezska's trap, barely survived, met with the faculty of Lyceum a bit, ran into a dragon egg, fought the swamp hags, rescued Katrina, negotiated peace with the goblins, and auditioned for the Wayfarers (Winry succeeded!) all before the war council! I ended up cutting things off here as I wanted to move along the plot. It had been 7 or 8 sessions at this point of running around, so I was a little antsy to get things moving.

There were a couple of player backstory happenings around here as well. First, Rayland's master Aemon Ming (who replaced Paradim and was expounded upon) is the Necromancy professor at Lyceum. He is also running a side business of Biomancy that is frowned upon but legal. I thought this fit well given the parallels between Necromancy spells and Biomancy from the adventure path. Aemon Ming had sent Rayland to Gate Pass to investigate things there initially, but when it took months for him to get in contact or return, Ming thought him dead. He then started making other plans as things started falling into place with the Ragesians and Biomancy that no longer included Rayland. When he returned, things started getting complicated and he needed to decide if he wanted to risk his future plans for the return of Rayland's services or continue with plans. In the end, he decided not to take the risk and abandoned him there feeling that his loyalties to the party may cause troubles if Rayland knew the plans Ming had.

The other backstory point that came up was with Myetharia, a noble from Calanis. We had worked in pre-game some of her growing up having interactions with Shalosha and being a childhood friend of hers. In the years that passed, with Shaaladel's wife dying, Shalosha slowly was phased out of such relationships and more directly groomed for her role, but she always remembered her friend that she missed so dearly. With Shalosha coming to town, there was more tension and subtext to every word that was spoken. This made her appearance in the war council a bomb in more than 1 way. The players knew elves may show up at some point, but the princess was a surprise. And for Myetharia it was a sudden crash into her past that she would rather keep buried.

This may have been the player's favorite section of the campaign so far (up through adventure 5) which is high praise indeed! They spent a ton of time here and likely would have stayed doing odd jobs for the rest of a campaign if there hadn't had a longer story in place. After how intense and focused the first adventures were, this was a huge relief and opportunity for the players to grow deeper into their characters and start unearthing major backstory plot points.

Next post will be the 2nd half of the adventure in Seaquen and thoughts on the adventure as a whole.



A Show, A Storm, and A Prison​

Moving things along from solving all of the town's problems, Shalosha appears as the Shahalesti delegate and presents the terms of "alliance". She looks focused despite seeing Myetharia and I made mention to it feeling like she has a mask on after some insight by the players. I wanted to hint that she doesn't like what's going on but knows her role to play. Perhaps I made it too easy, but with her being a part of a PCs backstory, I figured this would happen no matter what. I began planting the seeds very early on for her disagreements with Shaaladel and being a potential party ally though and they were well received. The group did not enjoy the rest of the meeting though as spent a lot of it just being frustrated at the small minded people who are after their own agendas.

Instead of dealing in depth with the politics of the religious tensions, I decided to have Crystin be the focus of gluing them together. This gave the players a good feeling for spending the effort to save her as it had a benefit on Seaquen and allowed me a good way to skip that section but still give the good results. Tiljann similarly found her way to the Wayfinders and was part of the upcoming show that the party now had tickets to courtesy of Giorgio.

Spending a bit of downtime here, we skip ahead to the day of the event. The play goes as expected, though the party gets suspicious of some of the presence on the boat. During the show, they notice Giorgio leaving and decide to investigate. On the main deck, battle ensues as Myetharia throws one of the barrels of alchemist's fire at the half-orcs unwittingly causing the explosion that was planned by the defenders. In the end, Giorgio was Commanded by Bryn to leave and jumped off the boat into the water before the teleportation scheme could succeed. In an attempt to run, Giorgio Misty Steps away, but is chased down by Rayland with some help from Sheena Larkins. Through some interrogation they learned about the plot, but the storm grows dangerous. Simeon helps the group find the prison with Find the Path and they head there immediately with the help of the Tears and Indomitability's boon.

Arriving at the prison and locating the way in, they find chuul that appear to have been created by Aemon Ming around the opening. They attempt to carry off Bryn and Rayland, but just barely don't succeed in their plans, being killed just before getting around the corner. Rayland spots a treasure chest and investigates only to be surprised by the mimic and nearly killed. Though things started off poor, the next room goes well as Bryn's Turning destroys many of the skeletons while Winry's punches make short work of the rest. The sahuagin are dispatched quickly as well before they decide to short rest prior to heading down into the tomb.

Here they tried something very creative, though I'm not sure how well it really worked for them. Heading down the waters, Jack decides in a moment of panic to attempt to dispel the seal and unleash the waters from above into the room. With a river of lava and a portal to the plane of fire, it ends up creating a huge amount of steam and haze causing the encounter with the Ragesian soldiers to bog down. They did eventually win, taking one hostage to question further though really learning nothing. The next room though confirmed many suspicions with the vat of biomantic fluid and a book of notes from Aemon Ming. Rayland now fully convinced of his involvement, he knew he would have to find him afterwards. The fight with the Inquisitor went pretty well, the tight confines and wall of fire providing some difficulties but ultimately 5 v 1 was never going to end well for the Ragesian. He did manage to hurt them enough that they didn't dare risk the tomb itself though and lost out on that particular reward.

Heading back out into the storm with the control wand, Lee attacks them. This fight was much more dangerous than I had thought it would be. I will say that it went quickly, but Jack was very nearly killed by Lula before they could take care of Lee. Ending the storm, they return to Seaquen to find it in tatters but surviving. Takasi approaches the group with information, and Bryn is fortunate enough to be able to bond the saddened creature. Rayland's former master Ming has already skipped town a week before, getting a head start on events he knew would happen, but where to is unclear.

The adventure resolves with the orb handed over, Lyceum mages investigating the tomb and pillar, and a bit more downtime as they wait their turn to be sent on assignment by Simeon. They meet some of the other groups being sent out (to be seen in later adventures), talk with Shalosha a bit more, and then hear word of Ragesia moving towards Dassen soon. A week after the storm, Simeon calls them in, giving them some rewards (to catch them up on useful items a bit), and going over their new task.

Next time, a trip back north!



A Bresk Trip to the Gap​

I am a little bit ashamed of that title, but I'm also going to leave it.

My players were (and still are) very anxious to head back to Gate Pass due to their connections there, so at every opportunity I've been dropping information about the goings on over there. Simeon however has other ideas for the group and sends them north into Dassen instead to get the support of the king to prevent direct attack lines to Seaquen for Ragesia. I spent a bit of time with Jack and Balan getting to talk about diplomacy. This has been something of a theme for Jack so far in this campaign - working diplomacy and avoiding conflict whenever possible. It hasn't worked as well as the character would have hoped I think (though still fairly often), so Jack has recently been questioning his methods more recently and has even taken levels in warlock to show his changing personality. This connection with Balan here helped later on when events took a more sinister turn for the diplomat.

We also used this travel time to talk about the political nature of Dassen including fairly in depth discussion of each of the Lords and Ladies and their proxies. One of these proxies had a more direct connection to the party as Rayland's second brother appeared. I skipped over this in Seaquen (oops) but Winry started to investigate Rayland's mysterious past and started to find out suspicions that Rayland was involved in some shady biomancy/necromancy efforts courtesy of his master Aemon Ming. Along with this was another halfling, Riv(enstone) Rose introduced as Rayland's brother.

The reality behind these requires a bit more explanation. What the player knows is that something happened to the 'original' Rayland in the past and somehow he was split into 12. Each of them woke up exiting a biomancy tube with a colored sticker on it and each took up some facets of personality of the original while incorporating the color of their tube into their name. While they are clones effectively, each is very slightly different in mentality and this manifests both in the choices they make and their looks as they change over the next months. When Ming found out what happened he was shocked and overjoyed, but he has never been able to replicate this result - creating many lives from one. His ultimate goal was to resurrect his wife for whom resurrection had failed. So he has been running experiments to circumvent the traditional end of life ever since. This was a major success, but one that infuriates him to never have figured out. This also led to his helping Ragesia (Coaltongue seeming to have a secret to extended life) and then fleeing the destruction to head to Pilus (more on this next adventure).

In Dassen we meet a second clone brother, Rex Royal. Rex has ingratiated himself to Lady Dene, doing his best to pick out the prettiest lady he could find. Rex embodies the scheming con-man who is decadent and luxurious. Rayland begins to find out about him when he is recognized at the gates of Bresk and mistaken for his near identical brother. Concerned and interested in how to use this, Rayland heads out to seek an audience with his brother. Agreeing to meet in a bar and under the cover of a hood, Rex teases Rayland, telling him that he could have support from Lady Dene in his wishes if he is willing to plead and grovel... and give up the name. Hinting at something of a past struggle for who got to keep the original Rayland name, both of the clones know there is something more to this name than just a word as Rex is unable to simply claim it for himself once he left Seaquen many months ago. This infuriates Rayland (whose player knows nothing about this significance even now) who storms out.

To change gears, Myetharia attempts to use her Shahalesti nobility with Lady Namin to get more support from the known elf sympathizer, but is largely rebuffed due to her status in the Seaquen delegation. Bryn wanted to investigate the murders of the king's family that they heard about on their way to Bresk and learns a handful of rumors about what might have happened. Included in these rumors are the ideas that resurrection is not a possibility as the hearts were removed (which while this makes sense storywise, how did this actually happen?). Jack tried to make his way into the castle dungeons after hearing that people were jailed for anything currently, but is also refused. After being refused, he meets with the proxy for Dashgoban and makes a close friend through drink. All of these connections begin to manifest the next day as they head to court and see the truth for themselves.

Given 3 days to leave by an irate Steppengard, the group decides to try to trip the trap on the way out of town but finds none to the north. Suspicious they attempt to head back to the inn only to find Balan gone. Suddenly the stakes raise as the inn comes under attack and they successfully flee out of town as Madness wants. Just as everything seemed to be going to plan, the group shocked me by deciding to split the party completely! Rayland and Winry decide to stay in Bresk to find out more while Jack, Bryn, and Myetharia head up to Gallo's Fend to meet with Lord Gallo. Suddenly, I had a lot more work ahead of me! The next few sessions were crazy for me as I did my best to keep both groups involved and interested.

First Rayland and Winry found out there were warrants for their arrest. Disguising themselves the best they can, they head back to the center of town to find out more about these Ragesian ambassadors as they suspect foul play. Rayland is caught and taken in for questioning while Winry initially escapes but gets greedy and is caught herself, but they do find out about ingredients for a poison being ordered to the castle. Rayland is questioned by Torrax after talking briefly with Jinis. After questioning, they take the chance to attempt escape. I did my best to corral them into the torture room (as Madness would want) and they did find the way out, though they tripped the trap with Jutras. Jinis, knowing all is lost if the party does not escape, throws himself at Jutras to allow the others to flee through the sewers and out of the city. Since they found their gear, they had the bird token to start flying to the Gap, but they were a few days behind the rest of their party.

I think this is probably far enough for this post. There were a number of changes to the module that I made to align things more and add backstory pieces here and there, but it was remarkable how well even their off the rails thinking was supported by different sections of the module. Being able to use the captured part as well as the not captured events was really cool for instance as they effectively hit all pieces of this adventure when they split up. It also made the sacrifice of Jinis more interesting as the players got to talk to him first despite not going to the prison themselves. It does make for a sad conversation later when they return to Seaquen and talk to his son, but those are the conversations and events that drive character decisions and growth.

Next time in the second half of this adventure, a fight for what's right.



Def-Fending the Fend​

(I think it's getting worse)
Since Jack, Myetharia, and Bryn were arriving up at Gallo's Fend well before the others, I made the decision to allow Rayland and Winry to use temporary characters with simplified stat blocks to represent some experienced soldiers from Gallo's military to accompany the 3 on their trip up to the watchtowers in the Alydi Gap. The two that joined us were named Sterling, a massive hunk of a man who spent half of the time successfully hitting on Myetharia, and Clara, a business-like and serious fighter. These were pretty huge changes from Rayland and Winry respectively as each sought to seemingly create the character the least like their long-term one, Winry becoming Clara. It was a difficult transition for Winry to become Clara and lose all of the brightness and carefree attitude that she embodies, but Rayland playing Sterling was just a fun diversion and a chance to poke fun at the others.

This trip to the north is remembered for being the first time that Jack went ape... literally. Jack picked up Polymorph at his last level up and this was the first real chance to cause some mayhem with it. He took the chance to grab the wyvern around the next, punch it, and then slam it into the ground killing it. It was quite the memorable introduction. Meanwhile, the Ragesian Inquisitor, when they realized all was lost at the outpost, decided to try to take the party with them and cast Shatter in the middle of the watchtower causing it to partially collapse on everyone. This was a GREAT end to the fight, bringing half the party into dying states, and really punctuated the cornered enemy feeling that they fostered by doing their best to trap them in and prevent word from being sent to the rest of the army.

Returning to Gallo with the information, they get the quests to travel to other nobles to get Gallo some support in the coming battle against his king. As they begin to leave, Rayland and Winry arrive and the group is reunited. I wouldn't recommend for others to try to deal with the party being split like this as it is very challenging to keep everyone involved, but my group genuinely enjoys the others having spotlight. During the time that Rayland and Winry spent in Bresk, the others just listened and commented ideas, but the other 3 were going to have real fights and could use more swordarms to help, thus the necessity of fillers. It did work for us though and got all the information out and the timing worked pretty darn well for everyone to be reunited before further trips.

With Jack's ability to polymorph a few times and Bryn using Takasi, the group has some ability to take jumper flights a few times a day. This made their trip to Dashgoban easier as they effectively avoided the forest encounter. On the way from Dashgoban to Timor I tried to introduce the town and slowing the army, but they weren't interested and were quick enough that they really didn't need to be either. Jack's past events with the proxy of Dashgoban prove useful as he is simple to convert to the defense and Timor little problem herself once the problem is laid out. With both leaders sending support, the party groups to head back to Gallo when Bryn notices her son among the soldier militia of Lady Timor.

Bryn's family live in the farms around Gate Pass and were displaced during the fighting there. On their way in, her adult son Keth was separated from the rest and couldn't make it in before the siege began. Instead, he struck out the opposite direction and went south with a mission and retribution on his mind. There he met up with a patrol of Lady Timor's group and decided to join up to do what he could to protect others from what happened to him while learning to use his strength with the thought to return to help Gate Pass. Now this doesn't fit the best in terms of real world ideas in some ways, I wanted to get something for Bryn's story involved a bit more. Bryn is a bit of a mom for the group, but she is also a mother in the world, having a grown son that she decides to leave at the start of this adventure. Part of her impetus to leave is due to her failing marriage after catching her husband cheating. She never reacted and never told anyone in her family about what happened, so her meeting up with her son here started sparking all of the questions about what happened and why. Bryn did her best to assuage Keth's concerns that it was his fault, as well as his feelings of failure at being away from his family, Bryn has to confront her own cowardice in avoiding real conversation.

Once they return to Gallo's Fend, they have a few days to prepare for the incoming arrival of King Steppengard and the battle. Honestly, the battle itself was a huge amount of prep work but never felt very interesting for me or the players. It might have been partly due to their efforts beforehand to remove Kelkin, free Nashara, and then destroy literally every catapult the night before with a series of absurd stealth rolls by Winry and Rayland. It might also be though that the throwing massive amounts of normal men at effectively the brick wall that is the party felt like it had little chance of succeeding. There were also lots of rules and such thrown in about how the war was scored and such, but they all felt above and beyond what would actually happen in the adventure. Perhaps the party was too effective, perhaps it was my fault and I misunderstood, I'm really not sure, but I would say this is the weakest part of the adventure.

The one thing that really captured everyone's attention though was Myetharia getting a Sending just as the wall of Steppengard troops approach. Shalosha reaches out to her and informs her that Lord Shaaladel is sending troops to Gate Pass to "reinforce" the city. Everyone is suspicious, especially after recent Shahalesti attempts at "diplomacy" so this news is met with deep sighs and worried frowns. It is always fun to throw in a curveball just when they start to think they know what's going on. They had been so concerned with Gate Pass and heading back there previously when in Seaquen, but the talk had started to die down. This was like a slap in the face and a reminder of what is happening in their home and what they fight for.

DM speak, I use Shalosha and her contact with Myetharia as a way for more news of the world to find its way to the party's ears. Rayland actively searches it out some, but this gives another path and a reward for a backstory idea. It seems there is always a section in the adventures that talks about what is going on in the rest of the world which I really appreciate, so I try to get that information to the party whenever it makes sense to give the world more depth. This is one of the stronger points about the adventures I would say, the timetable exists and the world doesn't feel static as the players take action.

Next time, a double dose of returns!



Maddening Returns​

After the success at Gallo's Fend, the group returns to Bresk with significant concerns about the goings-on. They knew from before that there was some poison being put together, some insanity the king was dealing with, and how suddenly things had been changing. From all the hints, some of them didn't want to participate at all in the festivities around the city, but given a bit of prompting and cajoling, even Jack decided to take part in some. None of them wanted to be a part of the joust, and with Jack off his normal game he failed to win the intermission entertainment competition which only added to his unhappiness. After some fun with arm wrestling and other carnival games, they ran into the former chef and things started to click into place. Rushing across the city towards the graveyard, I had the chance to throw in Jack's main rival from his backstory. If they had stayed around it would have been more of a confrontation, but as it was they were rushing by and Jack say him and attempted to humiliate him in passing. Gil, his rival, was going to be the entertainment instead of Jack when he lost, but it was left hinted at instead.

The fight with the Tragedy in the tunnel was really solid, both because of the confined space for the players but not for the enemy, but also for the mental trauma that is possible with the faces. I got to spend a little bit of time in this encounter making my players question what was happening to their friends and family while they are busy which is always a good time. Rayland then got some revenge for his torture before they raced upstairs towards the Book. With some good perception, they discover what happened, return the book, and head towards the dining hall. I decided to make this last fight a bit more interesting by saying that despite them getting the book back, some of the attendees had already eaten due to them taking some time to rest a bit too often. It all came to a head with a noble stabbing another and Madness unveiling. Since they came quickly and did deal with the book, I mostly used the other nobles attacks as flavor and did not really threaten them unless things went poorly for the party.

In the end, Madness did exactly what was anticipated, making things scary, but with how well the party had dealt with the plot it never got too far out of hand. They save the nobles, foil the plot, but cannot make the King whole again. They do complete their mission though and gain an agreement and alliance with Dassen to not allow Ragesia through and fight instead, though it cost them Balan's life to gain it.

On the way out of Bresk, Rex and Rayland got to have a bit more discussion. The name has some arcane properties to it, tying to the original Rayland, and here is where the names got even more confusing. Rayland decided to give it up to Rex, taking up the name Revansoul (Rev) instead. Rex however found himself unable to take it for himself, unable to speak the words even or pretend to be. Shaking his head ruefully, Rex smirks and says it isn't for him after all, but Rev now has decided to strike out on his own path instead. Even now it is hard for me to not say Rayland at times, but Rev is getting more natural the more we play. I don't know if I'll write myself into a corner here, but we don't know where this story is going fully. I have a couple thoughts on what happened to the original Rayland, and as we get closer to them I will have to make a decision on it. I don't know what I'm going to do in the end about the names, again I have some ideas but nothing solidified. We'll see if I regret that in the end or not. We are having a lot of fun exploring the mysterious past that even he doesn't know though. He doesn't have a full backstory written or anything, so as questions come up we get to improvise and flesh things out.

Next they headed to Seaquen and met with Simeon. I got the opportunity here to give them some gifts to power up their characters a bit more in line with magic item expectations, especially giving magic weapons to some who didn't have them as that can be a big deal. Some of the items were mainly stat boosts, some were flavor. It depended on what they already had and needed so that they can be on relatively even footing again.

Then they learned of their next destination. Winry is from the area around the Monastery of Two Winds, so this being something of a home coming for her. The party also knew that the previous group sent there had stopped reporting in. Hearing that there may be some ways around the issues with teleporting, they meet up with Sheena Larkins and gear up for the next trip, one that will last much longer, heading through Ostalin to the Monastery to locate the Torch of the Burning Sky!

Next time, the home of the wind!

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