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Piratecat's Updated Story Hour! (update 4/03 and 4/06)

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Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Campaign web site: www.piratecat.org

Defenders of Daybreak: the Early Years: Storyhour thread or archive

Archived Piratecat's Story Hour to this point: Head here to download the 210k zip file!

Defenders of Daybreak character sheets (still a work in progress): http://home.comcast.net/~dorian.hart/DefendersMain.html

Story Hour campaign art by David Hendee (Littlejohn): The art thread! and his gallery page.

A picture that looks a fair amount like Eversink: head right here!

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Well, I can't copy over my old story hour until the old boards re-open, so here's the first of 4-5 updates. Reminder: Tao has inadvertently inherited the island that Eversink's prison is built on, and a lot of people in Eversink are quite unhappy with this potential change in the power structure....

I'm going to temporarily close my other thread until I can copy the story hour over into it. Make all comments here in the mean time!


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Note: Agar is Nolin's new cohort, a happy-go-lucky halfling alienist/diviner with a tentacular familiar named "Proty." He was actually designed by Dr. Rictus, Palladio's player, to give him something to play when he's in town on game day. Agar has his secrets, but so far has proved to be quite loyal and friendly.
 
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Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Merchants hurry along slippery stone paths, slapping mosquitos and mopping the streaming sweat off of their faces. The stone mansions echo emptily, inhabited only by servants whose masters have gone somewhere bearable for the summer. The sweating sailors and dock workers sing strange, melodic songs as they unload trading vessels.

This is Eversink in high summer.

The Defenders of Daybreak deserve a break. They’ve had a hard spring and summer, and for a period of several weeks they separate to pursue their own goals. Raevynn is unable to travel, as she’s stuck doing menial jobs at the whim of someone on the Council, but almost everyone else has some freedom. TomTom creates psionic items in a meditation chamber/lab at House Meridian, Nolin checks in with his own bard’s guild and interviews adventurers who have been to the Underdark, Tao seeks out and trains new potential members of the Knights of the Horn. Finally, when the Council is preparing to return to session and the matter of the prison reemerges, the Defenders have their solicitor Daedalus Tellingstone broach the subject in Council, and the brisk negotiations begin. Will Tao end up owning the prison itself… and if so, at what cost?

At a strategy meeting with Tellingstone, he asks, “Are you sure you don’t want any bodyguards?” This question makes Velendo nervous, and he casts a divination. “During the next week, when and where will people try to assassinate or assault us?” In a vision he sees the answer, “Look to the rooftops if you prefer to live.”

Huh.

So they work out a plan. With TomTom and Agar invisible and flying, Nolin will maintain a complicated illusion of all the Defenders around him in two gondolas. Meanwhile, the rest of the Defenders will be covered with a seeming spell, following in two more separate gondolas. Mind linked, they hope to surprise the assassins before they ever have a chance to spring their trap.

A very nervous trip home from Tellingstone’s office revealed no one, and several trips through the canals the next day didn’t reveal any observers either. However, the following morning the group hit pay-dirt. Heading towards Tellingstone’s office once again, TomTom and Agar spot three invisible people on one of the moss-covered old rooftops overlooking the canals, one of whom is casting spells. As the boats approach, TomTom warns the Defenders, and gets into position to blast the people as soon as they reveal themselves.

He never really gets a chance, as he and Agar held their action instead of readying it.

Above the narrow and twisting canal, two of the men point wands at Nolin’s real gondola (along with the illusory gondola next to it, filled with illusory heroes all singing “Row, row, row your boat” in harmony). Hasted, the two men fire their wands at the area twice each, while the older man in the middle unleashes two spells. All six spells are the same, a spell unique to Eversink named Althea’s Hammerblows. Designed to pummel the target area with fists of force, Nolin (and his illusions) take more than 100 points of subdual damage in the surprise round alone. Before TomTom or Agar can even act, the two men with the wands fire them yet again, and Nolin drops unconscious.

Agar responds with chain lightning and TomTom with greater biocurrent, crisping one of the two wand wielders where he stands. The other wand wielder throws himself over the ledge into the canals below, and the wizard – terribly hurt – uses his fly spell to swoop down on Nolin’s gondola and teleport him away. The gondolier lies unconscious in the sinking boat.

Swearing, the rest of the group saves the gondolier and searches for the wand wielder who jumped into the canal. Tao spots him and dives into the water after him. He’s swimming desperately under water, lungs bursting, and his air bursts out of his lungs in huge bubbles as Tao grabs his leg… and reality rips in two, shrieking, as Tao uses her new powers to open a gate to the Beastlands. Tao and the man are swept through, along with a massive amount of canal water. Dripping in the hot sun, Tao asks, “Do you want to knock yourself out?” Boggled and terrified, he doesn’t answer quickly enough, and Tao smacks the flat of her sword against the side of his head. He drops like a bag of potatoes. She then grabs his body, plane shifts to the Prime (arriving far to the north of her target), and teleports without error back to the ambush site. Her attacker, a weak wizard or sorcerer of some type, remains thoroughly unconscious. “Why didn’t you just knock him unconscious while underwater, Tao? Overkill!” TomTom asks. “Shut up!” Tao answers.

It’s about this point when KidCthulhu reminds me one of Nolin's prestige class abilities: one round after he falls unconscious, the phoenix in Nolin's body lets off a 10-dice fireball that doesn’t affect him. The look on my face must have been something, as everyone started cheering. “We don’t really need to search for Nolin,” TomTom says. “Let’s just look for the smoke and flames.”

-- o --

“Oh,” thinks Nolin, “that hurt. My head hurts, my chest hurts, even my eyes hurt. Where am I?” Still disoriented and woozy, he takes a shuddering breath of air. Is someone cooking some meat? He smells burnt flesh, smoking wood, hot metal. Then he hears the voice of Rides The Sun, the phoenix who shares his soul. You were in danger,” she says in her quiet voice. ”I defended you.”

“Thanks, Rides,” answers Nolin inside his aching head. “Is anyone still standing?”

”No.”

Nolin opens his eyes. He’s lying on a charred table. Around him, the crisp and blackened bodies of a half-dozen men lie flung about a small room. The glass in the window has half-melted, and nothing but the smoke-laden air is moving. Then one of the men twitches a bit and groans, apparently still alive.

From somewhere outside he hears voices, and tries to drag himself onto his feet, staggering as he moves toward the window. The door smashes open ~ and it’s Mara and Malachite, along with the rest of the Defenders. Malachite looks around the small room and clucks his tongue. TomTom slips through the door and starts looting – err, examining the bodies, looking for insignia, items and clues. “Where am I? What happened?”

Velendo enters the room. “You’re in some shack on the grounds of the Eversink prison. You got teleported here by,” and he pauses as he examines the charred corpses for a moment, “him. I think they meant to kidnap all of us. We cast a spell to find you, wind walked over, and here we are.”

Velendo heals Nolin, and the efficient machine that is the Defenders of Daybreak shifts into gear. Half the group examines the bodies. They find one person alive, and several items, including a wand of Althea’s Hammerblows (which is illegal for anyone other than a designated representative of the law to possess). The wizard who teleported Nolin is tattooed and tanned, with a fair assortment of scars. Although it’s hard to tell after his injuries, he seems like he was the adventuring type.

A groundskeeper approaches; he is intercepted by several of the heroes, who grill him unmercifully. The man seems to think that the Defenders (still disguised by a seeming) are the same people who are doing business in the shack, and he wants them out as soon as possible. It turns out that it’s fairly standard practice for the prison groundskeeper to rent out “temporary access” to the shack and several other prison facilities to people who wish to smuggle... ah, import… goods into Eversink without paying the standard tariffs. This practice seems to be tacitly approved by the guards, suggesting that bribes are common.

The groundskeeper runs to get guards at Velendo’s assistance, and he soon explains that they were attacked and then defended themselves. Luckily, he had the foresight to register a complaint and fill out the appropriate paperwork days ago, back when he first did the divination, so with any luck the Defenders won’t be tied up with a lot of red tape when the attack and subsequent death of the attackers is investigated.

Questioning the groundskeeper and the one living man from the hut, the Defenders learn that the person who reserved the space was a weasel-faced man with greasy black hair, lots of tattoos, and pink, almost new skin. This suggests the same people that the Defenders rescued from the trillith’s Library of Screams, and with some thinking they conclude that only one of those victims might fit this description. That would be Brindle; the same psionic assassin who possessed Tao’s dead body, the only person who was able to stay sane while being tortured by the trillith, the man who is wanted by Eversink’s Assassin’s Guild (The children of Lethe) for betrayal.

They track Brindle from the shack to a small boat dock on the back side of the prison’s island. It’s clear that a small boat was launched from here not long ago. Irritated and angry, Velendo casts another discern location, and discovers that Brindle is currently on a ship about to leave Eversink’s harbor. Grinning with anticipated revenge, the group contacts Raevynn via sending, and shifts back into wind walk. Time to show people that you don’t try to kidnap the good guys!

To be continued….

Next: the Defenders attack! The attackers defend! The attackers attack back, the Defenders try to defend, much confusion ensues, and people die! And I'll point out the the only deaths aren't on the part of the bad guys....
 
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Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
Do you know what my favourite line is:

Luckily, he had the foresight to register a complaint and fill out the appropriate paperwork days ago, back when he first did the divination,

What a lovely idea, and so in keeping with the Eversink Ethos!
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Plane Sailing, they've become incredibly careful about this. They report all of their fights, they try to anticipate trouble, and they make sure that their lawyer files the paperwork far in advance. That way, when the law comes after them, they can properly demonstrate that they made a complaint days ago and the local guard wasn't able to help. The fact that their lawyer registers the paperwork with minor clerks, so that it isn't registered in time, hardly matters....
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Raevynn the druid is getting mightily sick of scraping algae off of the sides of canal walls. Leeches, filth, the hot sun, annoying overseers…. So when the sending from Velendo arrives, she is more than happy to shirk her civic duty. Dumping an armload of algae into a rain barrel, Raevynn leaps into the canal, following it out into the inner bay. She wild shapes into a huge dire shark and speeds across the harbor, seeking the ship that Velendo told her about.

Meanwhile, Tao has slid down the visor of her magical helm and activated its clairvoyance effect, trying to find the ship. She sees a likely candidate, and activates the clairvoyance once again to get a better look. Now her gaze hovers over a 40’ long masted vessel, with a motley collection of people up on deck: a sea elf, a minotaur, two half-orcs, a lizardman with a trident, several humans, a dwarf, a halfling, a kobold… along with a number of sailors working the rigging. And there, tied to the mast, Tao sees the psionic assassin that they’re hunting: Brindle.

Tied to the mast? Odd.

She reports what she’s seen, slips into mist form along with her friends, and lets the magical wind blow her out towards the bay. The consensus is that Brindle must have done something to anger his cohorts, and was captured as a result.

Approaching the ship, the Defenders observe from above. Several of the people previously seen on deck can be seen no longer, probably because they’ve gone below-decks. Now, all the Defenders need is a distraction to slip their misty forms into the hold, allowing them the thirty seconds that they need to reform into physical shape! The approach of Raevynn in dire shark form gives them that opportunity. The sailors are lining the rail, pointing at the huge fish. Pleased that she’s served as a distraction, Raevynn still needs to get on board, so she dives out of sight. Underwater, she changes back to elven form, and uses thousand faces to make herself appear to be a mermaid. She then surfaces and feebly pleads for help. The sailors haul her up onto deck as she feigns unconsciousness, secure in the knowledge that she’s providing an awfully good distraction. A man kneels over her as she lies on the smooth deck, water dripping from her, eyes still shut. He gently cradles her head in his hand…. And jams a long knife into her throat.

Meanwhile, the Defenders have reformed in the crate-stuffed hold of the ship. They aren’t sure whether or not they were observed. Gathering at the end of the shadowy space and already mass hasted, Nolin puts his ear on the wall between the hold and the Captain’s cabin. He carefully concentrates and listens. And although the cabin on the otherside of the wood wall is silent, he hears from above, “Ready now? On the count of three. 1, 2, 3!” As he yanks his head away and shouts a warning, the trapdoor over their heads rises slightly, and the hold fills with the choking fumes of a roiling, yellow-green cloudkill.

TomTom’s first instinct is unfortunate. He dimension slides through the wall into the Captain’s cabin, but feels hideous pain as he materializes inside of something else. The psionic feedback flings him tumbling into the astral plane. Mists boil around him as he tries to overcome the pain enough to concentrate and reemerge back on the ship. It will take him four rounds before he succeeds.

Within the gas-choked hold, Tao grabs Mara, Malachite and Agar and dimension doors up to the poop deck. Nolin sprouts fiery wings and smashes open the trap door, rising like a phoenix (conveniently enough) into the air above the ship. And Velendo stands in the hold, surrounded by gas, shouting, “Hello? People? I don’t suppose anyone would like to offer me a little help? I can’t fly, I can’t levitate, and there’s nothing to climb! Hellooooo?” And then he sighs heavily, leans on his stone shield, and shakes his head.

Up on deck, the man pulls his dagger from Raevynn’s throat. She’s unable to scream without choking on her own blood, so she does the next best thing; she wild shapes back into a dire shark, healing herself somewhat while knocking a piratical minotaur and a male half-orc with a great sword off the deck of the ship. The human leaps clear as the Raevynn-shark rolls off the deck into the water, setting the ship to rocking horribly.

Nolin addresses the sailors. They’re a mean-looking disreputable lot: half-orcs, a tattooed lizardman, assorted other scum. Only a prim dwarf looks out of place. “We have no argument with you yet,” Nolin says in ringing tones. “We just want Brindle. What’s your business with him?”

“Well,” answers the man who just stabbed Raevynn. “He promised us a no-lose situation. We help him, we get all of your magic items. You have some nice magic items.” He wrinkles his nose. “But he lost, and now we’re going to turn him over to the Children of Lethe. They want him reeeeal bad. But y’know,” he says as he rubs his chin with his hand, “I think we might be able to keep your things after all.” His voice rises into an authoritative snarl. “Kill them all!”

Nolin the bard is flying, fiery wings beating the air as he keeps pace with the gently rolling ship. The alienist Agar stands at the back of the raised poop deck, just a few feet away from the Defenders front-line fighters: Mara the paladin, Sir Malachite the Hunter of the Dead, and Tao the Divine Agent. TomTom the psion/rogue is trapped in the Astral Plane. Raevynn the druid is wild shaped into the form of a dire shark, in the water next to the ship. And Velendo the cleric is stuck in the ship’s hold, unable to climb out.

Visibly arrayed against them are a mated pair of half-orcs (one knocked into the water), a small kobold, a minotaur (also knocked into the water by Raevynn) wearing the religious regalia of the God of War, a lizardman with a trident, a primly dressed dwarf, and a non-descript human (possibly the captain). Previously seen but currently unaccounted for are a halfling, a sea elf, and a human woman. A dozen or more sailors also crowd the deck.

At the human captain’s command, the demi-human mercenaries leap into action. The kobold whips a scroll out of his belt and reads it, greasy black smoke rising as the words burn, his long fingers caressing a disturbing holy symbol. Hand crackling with black fire, he then leaps over the rail right onto the dire shark’s back. Slapping Raevynn squarely by the dorsal fin, she feels the remorseless cold of a harm spell ripping away her life force. Raevynn fights off most of the effect and dives, stranding the kobold in the water along with the minotaur and one of the half-orcs. In the water, Raevynn can smell her own blood; she’s badly hurt.

Up on the poop deck, Tao, Malachite and Mara advance to the stairs leading down to the main deck. There they take a stand, opposed by the female half-orc, the lizardman with the trident, and the dwarf. Unfortunately, they also make a perfect formation to be blasted by surprise lightning bolts – four of them, to be precise, coming from two or more invisible casters. One of the invisible casters has the fluid accent of a sea elf, and has the same voice that Nolin heard counting down to their ambush. The lightning bolts are followed up by crossbow bolts coming from the rigging, fired by someone improved invisible and doing sneak attack damage. “Who has true seeing up?”, Agar calls desperately. His clothes are smoking from the electricity. The answer, unfortunately, is TomTom – stuck in the Astral – and Velendo, stuck in the hold. Down in the hold, Velendo shakes his head and summons an air elemental, trying to decide what to do.

The half-orc flies into a rage, her spittle flying across Mara’s face as she hammers her greatsword home through her defenses. The lizardman attacks Malachite, but instead of stabbing him with the trident, he catches Malachite’s holy blade “Aleax” in between the tines of his trident – and twists. Aleax screams as he bends slightly, razor-sharp edge chipping. Grinning a toothy grin, the lizardman then spins the trident and buries it in Malachite’s belly. The dwarf, looking panicked, cowers. The Captain coolly observes the combat.

Back in the water, Raevynn has circled and approaches the floundering minotaur at high speed. She leaps into the air, breaching and then slamming her full body weight down on top of the minotaur. He takes less damage than he would have on land, but he’s unable to attack her as she continues to circle. The kobold is sputtering and treading water, and the male half-orc is swimming towards Raevynn with powerful strokes, a knife between his teeth.

A few seconds later, Raevynn closes in on the half-orc, teeth ripping and tearing as she tears a chunk of flesh off of his side. He doesn’t even seem to notice as he twists his body and slices his knife across Raevynn’s back. He slams powerful fingers down into the gash he’s just made, hanging on for dear life as Raevynn accelerates to full dire shark speed, diving, in an attempt to shake him off. She is down to single digit hit points. The half-orc unthinkingly refuses to let go, though, and even as Raevynn dives deeper and deeper into dark water, he clings to her back, actually trying to bite her himself.

On deck, Agar unleashes attack spells as Tao, Mara, and Malachite attack with their swords, easily hitting their lightly-armored opponents. Three lightning bolts shatter the air this time, along with a disintegrate spell that Mara shrugs off. The invisible wizards are still out there. Nolin tries to find them, despite crossbow shots from the rigging that pierce deep into his vital organs. Combined with the savage attacks from the female half-orc and the lizardman, who continues to try to sunder Aleax, Malachite, Mara and Agar are all badly hurt; only Tao, with her protection from lightning spell up, is still feeling fine.

The dwarf looks up at Mara as she looms over her. “Oh please,” he whines, “don’t hurt me! I didn’t want to be here, I don’t want to do this, I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time!” Mara feels the equivalent of several strong hands trying to rip her brain apart; she marshals her faith and resist it, and the dwarf looks more worried than before. “That wasn’t an attack!” he squeaks. “I would never attack someone like you! Honest! I was just trying to defend myself!” He tries to “defend” himself yet again, this time with a dominate, and Mara decides that she doesn’t especially like lying psions. An air elemental whirls past her as it moves to attack her enemies.

Nolin has inspired greatness already, and he uses is preternatural hearing to detect where the wizards are casting from. Blanketing the area with fireballs, he tries to play a dangerous game of hit-and-run, as he tries to kill the invisible casters before they can kill his friends.

In the hold, Velendo is getting more and more frustrated. He can hear the lightning bolts, hear the combat… and he’s useless! From where he’s standing, through the acrid fumes of the cloudkill he can even see the coiled rope ladders 10’ out of his reach, right up on deck. Where the heck is TomTom? Velendo summons another huge air elemental; he can’t speak with it, so he can’t tell it to do anything but attack his enemies, but he sends it up to do exactly that. Maybe if he’s lucky, this one will take down one of the flying spellcasters. Then, finally out of other options, Velendo draws on that core of wild faerie magic that he had acquired almost a decade ago as a gift from the Queen of Faerie. “I can’t believe I have no way to get on deck,” he proclaims disgustedly, and a shuddering roll of the ship flips the rope ladder right down into the hold. Sighing, hearing the faint tinkle of fairy laughter, and trying not to choke on the fumes, Velendo (and his six strength) prepare to make the long climb up the ladder onto the main deck.

Over on the bow of the ship, the Captain smiles, and yawns, seeing that his troops have an obvious advantage. He’s realizing that he Defenders’ reputation is badly overblown. Kicking Brindle for luck, he leans forward, delighted by the combat. His warriors are doing well; he can sense their triumph from here. Those two damn paladins are worried and look almost dead, and that blasted wizard can’t be too healthy. Ah, the minotaur has cast water walk and is rescuing the kobold. But where’s the half-orc and the dire shark? The Captain shakes his head regretfully; if I had just pushed a little bit harder with the dagger in the throat, he thinks, she wouldn’t be a problem. Oh well, live and learn. Another two lightning bolts arc through the air; my, thinks the Captain, they just won’t get out of convenient formation, will they? How useful for us. Then the situation shifts, and he begins to frown.

Velendo hauls himself onto the deck at almost the same time Tao whirls both her blades through the female half-orc, unexpectedly gutting her almost in two with several perfectly-aimed blows. Malachite, almost dead, lays on hands on himself and then manages to finish off the blasted lizardman that keeps trying to shatter Aleax. “I can’t take another lightning bolt!” says Agar, trying to maneuver….

And two more lightning bolts arc down at him from near the whirling air elemental. Nolin fires off another fireball into the area, and he hears yelps of pain, but he’s too late.

Agar only screams briefly, the world full of exquisite agony, before everything goes black. Malachite also drops, only saved by Aleax laying on hilt before he actually dies. Mara is staggered, but she still manages to plant her holy mace Lightbinder right in the middle of the unctuous dwarf’s face. The dwarf drops, and Mara manages to barely stay on her feet as another crossbow bolt hits her from somewhere up in the rigging. “That’s it,” says Velendo. “We’re retreating.”

Nolin descends and TomTom finally manages to rip himself out of the Astral. He appears shuddering, covered in ectoplasm, and splashes into a puddle of his friends’ blood. Velendo encloses the entire group other than Raevynn in a flexible wall. “How bad off are we?” he asks.

Nolin answers with a tired voice. “Agar is dead. Dead! Malachite is unconscious, Mara is on her last legs, and I’m badly hurt. Tao looks okay, TomTom looks unhurt, and I have no idea where Raevynn is.”

A disgusted-looking half-orc bobs to the surface a hundred yards away, having finally lost his grip on Raevynn.

Tao, looking grim, says, “They wanted our magic items? Well, we got theirs!” She picks up the magical trident from the dead lizardman and enunciates carefully through the flexible wall of force, waving the trident as she does so. “We. Have. Your. Magic. Items. You. Don’t. Have. Ours! Ha! Ha!” “Tao!” rebukes Velendo, but then he notices the angry Captain – and exchanges glances with TomTom. “That’s a doppelganger,” says Velendo. Half the group rolls their eyes with worry. “I hate doppelgangers,” someone says.

So with the three bodies of their dead foes, and the unconscious or dead bodies of their allies, Velendo activates the rod of security. And in a heartbeat, they move from the deck of a rolling ship to the warm sunlight and gentle grasses of Haven. “Paradise. I wish I was less angry so that I could enjoy it more. I wonder how Raevynn is doing?”

Good question.

Near death, Raevynn had finally managed to shake the half-orc free from her side. She is still seething with anger, though, and she has a vengeful side. Surfacing far from the ship and turning back to elven form, she casts fire seeds. Should she? She shouldn’t. But she is furious, and she’s going to whether she should or not! Wild shaping into a bird, she picks up the fire seeds in her talons and flies over the ship. She sees that the air elemental is gone, so she craps on one of the mercenaries, drops her cargo on the sails and keeps flying. The seeds explode into a tremendous conflagration, consuming most of the sails and rigging. Success!

Then Raevynn realizes that she’s being pursued.

Two people, a man and a woman, are flying after her faster than she can fly herself. Not good. Using her last wild shape, Raevynn turns into a fish, and plunges into the ocean. Muscles aching, still bleeding, she makes her way back to Eversink.

“One thing is for sure,” the rest of the group agrees, back in Calphas’ paradise where they have sheltered. “Those bastards are going to pay. We heal, we bring Agar back to life, we use divination spells, we file the right paperwork, and then we kick their asses.”

To be continued….
 
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KidCthulhu

First Post
What PC hasn't mentioned is exactly how F-ing big a dire shark is. They boggle the mind. Ravevyn was over 40' long, and weighed upwards of a ton. Picture that thrashing around on the deck of an average sized trading vessle, and you have some idea of the chaos she caused.

Big shark. Too bad Nolin doesn't really have the bass range to sing the "Jaws" theme.
 

Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Fade said:
Couldn't Velendo cast Summoning spells to summon things that can fly, and participte in the battle that way? A Greater Air Elemental could certainly lift Velendo out of the hold, and thats a Summon Monster VIII. If he only has a VII prepared (what he used to summon the Celestial Elephant) a Huge Air Elemental has a strength of 18, which should be enough to lift the frail Velendo. (original question deleted by PCat)

Well, you're mostly right. Finding himself alone in a Cloudkill-filled hold, with nothing better to do than complain over a mind link, Velendo summoned Air Elementals. Unfortunately he hadn't memorized tongues, and he doesn't speak air-elemental, meaning he couldn't instruct the elementals to lift him out of the hold; they simply attacked his nearest opponent.

To address other points raised recently:

1. Velendo has a +31 to his Concentration checks; 19 points in the skill, +2 for Con, and a psionic item crafted by Tom Tom that gives him +10. So casting in the Cloudkill wasn't a problem.

2. In Velendo's opinion, yeah, our tactics have suffered recently, particularly since the battle against the Voice of the Tree. There are a couple of explanations for that. Once is simple over-confidence generated by recent victories. Another is (and I mean no offense to any of my party-mates) a subtle shift in party composition from people-who-plan to... er... people-who-plan-less. ;) In particular I note the absence of Palladio, our most steady thinker.

Here's Velendo's take on party personalities/tactics:

Tom-Tom (psion/rogue): tactically and strategically sound; a real asset.
Tao (ranger): also a shrewd character, tactically speaking, occasionally (as we've seen recently) prone to over-kill.
Malachite (paladin/hunter-o'th'dead): doesn't do dumb things, but generally just kicks the nearest evil butt. Hey, that's what he's good at.
Mara (paladin): Tactics? Bah! There's Evil to be Vanquished! CHARGE!!!!!!!
Nolin (bard/wacky-custom-fiery-phoenix-prestige-class): Sometimes brilliant, other times completely baffling. Usually more inclined to do the fun thing than the right thing... fortunately, sometimes, they're the same thing! ;) Plusl, he casts mass haste, which makes up for any number of sins.
Raeveynn (druid): Utterly baffling. Has amazing abilities and firepower, uses them in a seeming random fashion, seldom optimized.
Agar (wizard): Velendo has no sense of his tactical abilities yet.

And in the battle you're about to read about, Tom-Tom's player was absent, and anyway he (Tom Tom, not his player) was trapped in the Astral Plane the whole time due to a misfired dimensional slide.

You can bet Velendo was not happy being left in the hold of the ship!

Anyway, it's Velendo's opinion that if the Defenders head into the Underdark without some serious re-consideration of tactics, group strengths and weaknesses, etc., they'll last about 30 seconds before something eats them. Hopefully the sequence of battles you're about to read will have taught the group some valuable lessons!

-Sagiro
 
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Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Note: this just goes to show that Encounter Level or CR is never a really accurate portrayal of challenge. These pirates/mercenaries were on average 4-5 levels less than the Defenders' average level; I expected this to be a cakewalk. Bad luck and some errors in tactics made all the difference in the world. :)

Next update: Agar bounces back! Lawyers earn fees! Divination spells get abused! Babies get used in unique and innovative ways! And in the Smugglers' Tunnels beneath the city, a trap is laid....
 

Swack-Iron

First Post
Sagiro said:
Hopefully the sequence of battles you're about to read will have taught the group some valuable lessons!

My. The Defenders (and Abernathy's Company) are held up by my group as the paragon of high-level adventuring, and those of us that read these story hours have a good time relating their tales to those we game with. Ever since the trillith fight, the cleverness and raw firepower of the Defenders has been legendary amongst us.

So it's quite startling to see them almost get their butts handed to them by a rag-tag bunch of pirates. Either it was an off day, or their tactics really are slipping!
 

KidCthulhu

First Post
This was not an example of the Defenders at their tactical best. I blame our overly permissive society.

I think we were really pleased with our new trick of Discern Location combined with Windwalk, and hadn't really stopped to think about tactics or possible situations. And we were guilty of some VERY bad positioning.

Consider it a learning experience.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
It’s another perfect day in Paradise.

The sun is the ideal temperature, just a little warm, but balanced by a cool wind that smells like hope itself. The sweet-smelling flower petals are lifted by the breeze and cascade across the meadow, landing on the turned earth of three freshly-dug graves. Fruit trees, heavy with divine fruit, provide shade and nourishment. The dark blue lake by the waterfall is cool, deep, inviting, and empty.

In this tiny fragment of heaven, voices can only be heard from the bower atop the low hill. There, thunder ripples over the chanting and prayers, and pure light streams out from somewhere within. For a few seconds, the observers are deafened by the voices of angels.

And Agar rises from the dead.

Later, once Velendo has wiped the sweat from his brow and Agar has had a chance to reacquaint himself with life, the Defenders sit around and plan. They heal, discuss what they did wrong, suggest what to do next, examine the belongings of the deceased ruffians, and talk tactics. The general consensus is that they should return with a wind walk active, fly to the Temple, and use it as their base as they scry and discern location on Brindle and his “allies.”

The items which they recovered from their foes are examined by Nolin. Several of their tattoos were psionic, crawling off the dead flesh and onto TomTom’s arm as he exerts his will on them. The most interesting object is the trident, which speaks in Nolin’s mind. “You are weak. I wish to be wielded by the creature that destroyed my former wielder. He is strong. He can destroy.” It is soon revealed to live for destruction and shattering, and the paladins confirm that it is intrinsically evil. The group gives it a taste of its own medicine and sunders its shaft, leaving the weapon head until later. As a further taunt, Aleax the sword lays on hilt upon itself, and the bent blade straightens. It’s clear that the two weapons strongly dislike one another.

Nolin and TomTom also examine an intelligent rock. “Please help!” it pleads. “I think I’m dying! I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be alone. Don’t let go of me; I can’t sense people any more, and I’m scared.” It turns out to be the dwarven psion’s psicrystal, and the group watches sadly as the pathetic stone slowly dwindles away, its interior light fading along with its personality and intelligence. “Oh well,” quips Tao. “Anyone want a gem?” Everyone gives her a dirty look.

Finally, after a night’s rest, the group is ready to go back to Eversink. They pluck or eat all the sacred fruit from the trees, leaving only a single orange. Everyone but Tao shifts into wind walk, and Tao plucks down the last fruit.

The world dissolves, and the group feels themselves being ripped apart by wind. A storm is raging, rain pelting down and a strong breeze blowing in off of Mistrinith, the inland sea. Tao has on her slippers of water walking but has trouble maintaining her balance on the rough waves. Still, it isn’t hard for her to see the ship anchored nearby. Its sails are lowered in the rough weather and it is anchored, but it is flying the colors of House Meridian. Agar can pick out a figure standing on its bowdeck, staring out into the tossing ocean, wet blond hair whipping back in the wind to reveal storm-colored eyes: Shara. Quickly, the group wind walks over to her, and comes inside. Delightfully, not only is Shara there, but Kiri came with her.

Ordering the Captain to return to the docks, Shara explains. “Raevynn visited me yesterday. She told me what happened, and explained that she has had a druidic summons at the worst possible time. She wanted me to help you since she couldn’t. And luckily, Kiri is in town as well. So with directions from Raevynn, we thought we’d come meet you.” It’s hard to have a proper reunion on the small, tossing ship, but they do what they can.

Taking a small longboat to shore, the group ducks out of the driving rain into the offices of a building that House Meridian owns. Shara commandeers the interior office (and demands mulled wine and pastries), and the Defenders add Kiri and Shara into their strategy. Nolin leaves to report the attack to the Dock Guard. Finding the guard alone, he decides to charm person him. His new friend explains that the Defenders must have fought a group known as The Dockside Royals. They’re the most powerful gang down on the docks, responsible for making sure that the other gangs and miscreants stay in line. The guard doesn’t think that they work for a specific house, although he knows that they’re a thorn in the side of House Clearwater. He’s clearly afraid of them and the power they wield, even though “they’re all a bunch of cruel, ex-pirate or ex-mercenary scum. You’re best off avoiding them, my friend. They mean bad news.” Nolin confirms that the guard isn’t bribed by them, and asks the man to file a report that the Dockside Royals were involved in two attacks upon the Defenders, and that the Defenders are requesting assistance from the city. “Do you want me to come with you, Sir?” asks the charmed guard gamely. “No,” answers Nolin. “You need to do your duty, and right now your duty is here.”

Returning to the group, Nolin recounts what happens and says that the paperwork should be filed for “letting us kick these bastards’ asses.” Velendo is appalled by the charm spell, but Kiri explains that it isn’t uncommon for guards to wander around with that special daze that you only get from having three or more charm spells cast on you at once. Hearing that, Velendo worries a bit less, and he can’t deny that Nolin was efficient.

Shara casts scry and looks for Brindle. She sees a dimly lit cabin on a ship. The cabin is empty except for a cage with two seagulls. An empty hammock swings back and forth, papers sit on a desk, a ship in a bottle sits on a shelf… very nice, but where is Brindle? Probably polymorphed into a seagull, they decide, especially when a detect magic cast through the scrying mirror shows that the seagulls are radiating alteration magic. The ship in a bottle is also highly magical, radiating primarily alteration magic as well.

Shara then casts scry, looking for the minotaur that the group had fought the day before. She finds him, gathered in a small stone room with a number of other people and (oddly enough) the sound of a crying baby. Almost instantly, though, one of them shouts out, “Silence! We’re being watched!” Then Shara feels a mind forcing itself back through the scrying link. She resists it, but it breaks through, and Shara realizes that her scry is now showing all of the Defenders to their enemy! Shaken, she drops the spell, and the Defenders scramble in a near panic out of the office back into the rain. Within minutes, they all have successfully wind walked or teleported to the Temple of Calphas.

Inside the temple, Velendo casts Discern Location on the minotaur. He learns that the creature is “in the passage of the Smugglers Tunnels, below Pillar Island, here in Eversink.” One more scry (via a scroll) reveals the location and shows five people standing in a tunnel, even though (once again) someone with tremendous strength of will mentally forces their way back through the link, revealing the Defenders’ position. The second scry is dropped, and Tao and Kiri prepared to teleport everyone in. “What did you see?” TomTom asks.

Shara answers, “Five people with their back to a wall, including a bullywug, a half-orc, a minotaur, a sea elf and a kobold. Odd group. Errr….” Her voice trails off. “I could have sworn the half-orc and the bullywug were holding hands.”

The group exchanges glances. “Reincarnation of that female half-orc?” someone asks. “No,” someone else answers. “Needs the bodies, and we took them.” Mystified, the group casts their preparatory spells and then touches either Tao or Shara. With a disorienting jolt and a slight splash, the familiar conference room is replaced by a dank tunnel. Four inches or so of water cover the floor, and the walls make this look like it was once a hallway in someone’s home, long since sunk beneath the mud. All all the Defenders of Daybreak, only Sir Malachite is not invisible.

Down the tunnel, illuminated by torches, nine people are standing in tight formation. In the front row is a bullywug, a male half-orc, and a sea elf. In the second row is a human male (the doppelganger), another sea elf, and an older human woman. And in the last row is a halfling, the minotaur, and the kobold. “Decided to return, have you?” needles the doppelganger with a smirk. “We were getting tired of waiting for you.”

Then the sound of a crying baby splits the air, and the Defenders realize with a shock that three of the mercenary pirates in front of them have babies strapped to their chests: small, pink wiggling armor, and presumably a defense against area attack spells!

"Babies?" sputters an outraged Velendo. And the battle begins.

To be continued….
 
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Mishihari Lord

First Post
Babies?!!! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha! I love it!

So let's see ...

The defenders can't use area attack spells but their opponents can.

Everyone is in a narrow tunnel with no room to dodge or hide.

12th level opponents or not, I think they're about to get smacked down again. I wonder if they'll have sense enough to immediately retreat?
 

KidCthulhu

First Post
Strange you should mention Raising the babies. Velendo's words something to the effect of "We're not going to try and kill the babies, but if that's what we have to do to get these bastards, then I'll Raise them later. No way are we going to let scum like this think that you can take innocents hostage and get away!"

And as for the half orc and the bullywug, Nolin goes off on that subject in great length during the next post. I must say I excelled myself with rude innuendo and outright insult. Caused the half-orc to come out of the (mumble, mumble, mumble-spoiler) and charge me, it did.

Taunts and insults. Two more arrows in the quiver for the bard who's not afraid to piss off a barbarian.
 

Vurt

First Post
I wouldn't normally post this, but since it sounds like the action has already played out, well...

If someone were charging my character with a baby strapped to their chest, I think I'd "polymorph other" the baby into a grey ooze or some such. Turn your disadvantages into advantages! Then after the fight, change it back, and raise or heal as necessary.

Hmmm... What strange childhood memories that person would have...

-- Vurt
 
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Fajitas

Hold the Peppers
Piratecat said:

And incidentally, next post will show you a truly rat-bastardy combat technique for your bad guys to use. Fun, fun, fun!

I cannot even begin to stress just how much Piratecat's bastardness is only beginning.

He did, however, strike a perfect balance. The Defenders had a righteous head of mad built up, and we were going against a group of lower level foes that we knew we could take easily (as long as we didn't a) screw up , or b) have really crappy die rolls, both of which were the contributing factors to the last debacle).

Despite the level difference, PC threw us an incredibly challenging encounter. This was not the easy mop up, satisfying ass-kicking payback encounter we'd been expecting. He definitely kept us on our toes.

Though I would have liked the chance to cast at least one Chain Lightning. >sniff<
 

Jobu

First Post
Taunts and insults. Two more arrows in the quiver for the bard who's not afraid to piss off a barbarian.

Of course this only happens after the valiant Bard has already cast "Meatshield". He may be dumb, but he doesn't like to get hit in the face.
 

Fajitas

Hold the Peppers
nemmerle said:
Personally, I think purposefully killing babies is an evil act - whether you have the power to raise them or not.

Velendo's argument was that we needed to send a message that using baby-shields was not a viable strategy. It does not stop the Defenders. It just makes them madder.

And it wasn't so much a question of purposefully killing babies as it was of not letting their presence prevent us from stopping the bad guys. We're not the ones who brought them into this.

I was a little surprised to hear it from Velendo, truthfully. But lord knows Shara had had the same thought.

And Fede, it's not so much that Shara didn't have a Chain Lightning memorized. It's more that....

...well, you'll see.:D
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Luckily, Velendo had cast a water walk just before they teleported in, so the Defenders are only leaving ripples in the low water instead of invisible foot-shaped holes. “That’s an illusory wall behind them!” exclaims TomTom and Velendo, whose true seeing shows the truth.

Shara smiles a tight, frightening sort of grin; she knows that if the Dockside Royals are removed, that will leave a power vacumn in the control of the docks. And who better to fill a power vacumn than….? Moreso, she has a debt to pay on the behalf of the Defenders. She prepares to pay it with a chain lightning, but Agar actually beats her to it. He lets loose with a chain lightning of his own. The lightning crackles out from his hands, the ozone smell overwhelming in the 15’ wide tunnel as it arcs towards the non-baby-carrying thugs. It hits the first one….

And stops.

No *pop* of spell resistance, no arcing, nothing. The bolt just winks out of existence.

Kiri’s lightning bolt and polymorph other spell do the same. Then, all sound disappears from the area where most of the Defenders are standing. A silence spell? But none of the people in front of them cast! Velendo casts a nervous look behind him down the long, dark corridor, and decides that discretion is the better part of valor. One or more people must be down there, somewhere in the darkness, casting spells at them. Moving until he is out of the silence, he creates a Calphas’ Reflecting Wall, similar to a wall of force but only see-through from the near side. Now they won’t have to worry about guarding their backs, and nobody back there can see them.

Not moving forward, the Dockside Royals fire missile weapons at Malachite, the only person who is visible. They pepper him with painful, well-aimed arrows and crossbow bolts. The slightly older human woman then tosses a small bead up the hall. As it hits, it balloons into a huge ball of flame, roasting many of the heroes who had anticipated lightning bolts. “Damn!” shouts Nolin. “She has a necklace of missiles!” Most of the group, still in the silence, hear him through the mindlink instead of with their ears. The doppelganger does hear him, though, and targeting on his voice (and perhaps using his ESP) he flings a crystal globe at Nolin. Glass shatters, and invisible or not, Nolin finds his front covered with green slime. The slime quickly begins to eat through his shirt.

Malachite and Mara both rush forward to fight the front line, the sword Aleax singing a quiet hymn of triumph. Malachite swings the glowing sword forward, and is surprised to see its radiance snuffed out as it approaches the armored sea elf fighter. Despite the sudden dead weight and poor maneuverability of the weapon, Malachite manages to slash the sea elf, and pulls his sword back to hear Aleax groaning and disoriented. “It was as if…” the sword says, but is interrupted by the sea elf. “Look at what you’ve done!” it hisses to the paladin. "I was the apex of creation, one of the scaled folk. And now? Now I’m an… an elf.” He practically spits the words in disgust. “You will pay for that, scum. And where is my trident?”

Malachite smiles. “Shattered.” And pulls Aleax back into a guard position.

Next to him, Mara is attacking the bullywug, her holy mace Lightbinder extinguishing every time it dips towards her enemies. The half-orc, however, has a weapon that leaps into purplish radiance every time it extends out to slice at Mara.

Through the mindlink, Shara and Kiri put it together. “There must be an antimagic field centered on the sea elf in the middle – the one with one of the babies,” Shara explains. “They can throw things out of it or attack out of it, and their weapons become magical as they leave the field. Ours stop being magical as they enter the field. Nice. The only way we can take them on is with missile weapons or direct combat, and we still have to worry about hurting the infants.”

“Don’t worry about the infants,” says Velendo. “If we kill them, I’ll raise them. We can’t let these people get away with the notion that it ‘s “okay” to use despicable tactics like this. They’re just sealed their fate, and they’re going to have to pay, babies or no.” Everyone looks at him with surprise, but another wave of missiles is flung from the piratical mercenaries, and the group desperately tries to come up with a strategy that will work. Malachite, Mara and Tao are better swordsmen than their opponents – but not if they’re getting hit with missiles while they try to fight, and not if the rest of the Defenders are effectively powerless. Tao dimension doors into the darkness behind them, preparing herself to take out some of the people in the back row. Shara prepares a telekinesis spell and readies an action; as soon as one of her opponents sticks a limb out of the field, she will grab it with the telekinesis and pull.

Then from behind the group, through the Calphas’ Reflecting Wall, a man appears, dropping into a fighting stance even as he tries to clear his vision from the aftereffects of a dimension door. He is carrying an open cage with two seagulls in it with his left hand, and has a large puppy-sized rat under his right arm.

Before he can react, TomTom drops a greater concussion on him and Kiri hammers him with a lightning bolt. “Aieeeeee!” screams the rat, dropping from his grip. “Don’t hurt me! Don't hurt me! This isn’t my idea!” The group exchanges looks; the rat’s voice is that of the dwarven psion that Mara slew the previous day.

As the seagulls leap aloft from their cage, Velendo spins around. “You people use babies as shields,” he growls, voice shaking. “You deserve no restraint from me.” Then, voice raised high in a holy chant of power, he casts destruction on the stranger. Screaming, before he ever moves a step, the man erupts into a pyre of greasy flames. In seconds he is reduced to ash in the water, his soul dammed by Velendo’s judgement.

The rat squeals in horror. And TomTom, spinning his head, shouts to Mara, “Those aren’t seagulls! They’re polymorphed rust monsters, and they’re heading for your weapons!”

To be continued….
 
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Blackjack

First Post
coyote6 said:
Poor rock. :(

You have no idea. PCat gave the stone a pathetic, frantic, desperate high-pitched voice. As its essence drained away it got more and more sad, its pleas for help stronger and stronger. I found myself having more sympathy for the rock than for most humanoid NPCs.

Then again, I play Malachite, so this is no surprise...
 


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