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

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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Kestrel said:
I ran Night Below about 5 years ago. It was a great adventure. I love the way you're incorporating the kuotoa city from it into your ongoing campaign. Great stuff as always PirateCat!

Thematically, Glubyal is actually an agglomeration of both Night Below (more in mood than specific encounters) and D2 The Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, mixed with the themes of the White Kingdom adventure from Dungeon; in particular you'll see some very familiar elements from D2. What I'm striving for here is the mood and setting from that classic 1e adventure, along with a complicating political conundrum and some more realistic ecologies. In this, I can't thank enough the folks over at the RBDM club, all of whom plied me with some wonderful ideas for Glubyal and kuo-toa culture.

One of the problems with long adventures is that they easily degenerate into a dungeon slog. Many people complained about this with Monte's Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, and I took the lesson to heart; too many similar types of encounters and challenges just isn't fun. That's a good thing to keep in mind. I read somewhere that a class ability that is never used really isn't a class ability; of course, this is the logic that led me to desperately try to start cutting off a limb as soon as Velendo gained access to regenerate.

In response, I've tried to structure the White Kingdom adventure with many and varied types of encounters. The dwarven vault provided a respite from butt-kicking, and Akin's Throat injected some much-needed role-playing encounters, even as both advanced the plot. Glubyal is allowing the Defenders of Daybreak to make plans and take their fight to an enemy who doesn't understand what it is that they're trying to do, which is something of a change from the Puppeteer and the White Kingdom's superior intelligence force. Games that are too grim for too long lose much of their immediacy, and the ability to mix in some humor goes a long way to making later encounters more serious by comparison.

I'm finding that the non-linear way in which the Underdark connects can let you change out different encounter types pretty easily. In the actual game, we're now closing on the end of the adventure, and it's fair to say that the decisions that the group has made along the way will have a fundamantal and abiding impact on how things are going to play out. It's a testament to my players that they're willing to embark on such a long adventure, and that they're still having fun as they follow it through with such guile. Good thing that the ghouls have some tricks up their sleeves as well. :D

Anyways, thanks for the kind words, everyone. I originally ran Eversink because highly political games scared me, I ran the dwarven vault because I wasn't sure that a realistic and traditional dungeon was still viable at such high levels, and I'm running this underdark crawl because I'd never done it before and wasn't sure if I could. You folks are watching me figure the subtleties out, and I appreciate your praise, especially because I'm learning as we go.
 

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Obi-One

First Post
Well, this is my first post to EnWorld, and more specifically, Pirate Cat's story hour. Having been an avid reader of this post since it's inception, I thought it time to add my two cents worth :)

Well done to not only you Pirate Cat, but your players as well. As a GM myself, it's heartening to see a great creative, collective experience getting better and better as it goes along. It's hard not only to find good players these days, but old school, rat bastard GM's who pour blood, sweat and tears into their campaign - and still make it fun! :D

I of course pass this sentiment along to the other GM's that post their campaigns on EnWorld as well. Great stuff.
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Agar’s eyes roll back in his head, and his back arches as normal eyesight is replaced by a vision.

The ghouls crouch around the corpse of a kobold, slurping at its intestines. There are many of them, more than a half dozen, but you can only see two clearly in the faint light. One of them looks up.

She was once a hard-faced elf. Now her face is rotting, and the permanent sneer from her torn lip sets her expression in a grimace of perpetual anger. “One more day, and we should reach their trail.” She glances reflexively at a longbow near her side and her rotting, impossibly long tongue darts out of her mouth to lick cracked lips. “One more day.”

A space beside her, which is completely empty, says nothing.

“You ‘tink?” What was once an orc nods, its pitted tusks gleaming with streaks of blood. “Damn gith hurt Huth. Dishonored da Goddess. Huth’ll feed ‘im is own intestines. Like this.” He slurps in more kobold belly, making the corpse jerk. “Heh.”

The nothingness in the space where there isn’t anything takes a bite of intestine as well.

“We may have already passed over their trail,” the shadowy darkness around them says. “Dinner would not talk, but I could tell that it knew the phoenix-thing; he leaves a stink behind him. I’ll bet it met them in Akin’s Throat. We’ll soon find out; the trade city isn’t far.” The psionic shadow slides across their faces, and the elven archer brushes it away. “Arballine, let me scout and find them.”

“No. We tried that, all of us, and it failed. I don’t fail twice. We’ll use stealth, but we’ll do it together.” She leans back. “If we passed them, then we backtrack. They’ll be trapped between us and Nacreous. No escape.” She rips off a chunk of intestine in sharpened teeth and caresses the arrows at her side. “No escape. I almost killed two of them myself. With all of us, they haven’t got a chance.”

The space where there is nothing doesn’t say anything, but the others look at it respectfully.

The orc abruptly jerks his head up, for his eyes have suddenly ignited with a familiar yellowish glow. The elf is the first to notice the change. “Advisor,” she offers with a respectful bob of her head.

“I wouldn’t get over-confident, my darlings. We don’t think they know you’re coming, but there are many of them, and they have to be finished off once and for all. There will be no reward if you fail, you know.” The orc giggles in a familiar way. “Far from it.” Arballine, the rotting elvish archer, dips her head as she bites back her anger.

“They. Took. Away. My. Beloved.” She hisses the staccato words out through clenched teeth as she gestures gracefully with her arms, almost hitting the space where there isn’t anybody. “Master Soder, they destroyed him, after all the work I did to keep him with me forever. I had promised him!” Her eyes flash. “They took everything you had given me. They made me a liar. They’ll pay for that, and for the pain, and for the embarrassment.”

“Now, now.” The puppeteer reaches over to pat her fondly on the shoulder. “You have new toys. We have the plunder from a half-dozen civilizations to choose from, and you’re entitled to the best. Your King wants you to kill them once and for all, not just challenge them. And soon, if they still have your things with them, you can take them back. Think of it as an added incentive.” He smiles, and one of the orc’s teeth falls from his gaping jaw. Idly, the puppeteer picks it up and jams it back into his body’s rotting gums. He speaks slowly. “The fall of the Queen has shaken all of us, but you must keep faith. There will be vengeance against the one who killed Her. Your King has a plan, and is taking care of this even as we speak; retribution shall be delicious. Oh, yes.” He chuckles. “But we can’t forget our goal, can we? And really, we can’t have those sun-lovers complicating things. We offered them the hand of friendship, and they rudely spurned it.” The puppeteer looks aggrieved and his voice turns icy cold. “Spurned it! Don’t they know that politeness is a virtue?”

The elf looks confused, but it’s the empty space beside her that doesn’t say anything.

The puppeteer refocuses, and his gurgling voice with the orcish accent warms as he pats the empty air with a worm-riddled hand. “Not to worry, not to worry. You saw them decimate your army; you know their capabilities. I have been trying to find them for you. It’s difficult, as the Ivory Breath fogs my divinations. I have tried to join with a company hidden outside Akin’s Throat, but they have either died in sympathy for our Goddess or have been destroyed.” He shakes his head, and pauses to pick back up the tooth. “That unit is roughly a day and a half from you. It might be wise for you to head there first, and if there is no sign of the offenders then keep heading to Akin’s Throat.”

The darkness swirls. “Anticipation and anger. A woman struck me with a mace. Hunger and revenge.”

“Precisely, Baendril. Precisely. Now, mind if I join you for a bite?” The orc’s body leans over, and the Puppeteer’s glowing yellow eyes illuminate the corpse as he reaches down with an empty hand. He pulls his full hand back with a wet squelch.
“Hmm. Don’t have any wine, do you?”

The vision ends, and Agar returns to the kuo-toa chamber.
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Within minutes, a malnourished and unkempt human enters the room and interrupts the discussion of Agar’s vision. The man stops to look up, and he stands there dumbstruck as he grips his clamshell tray hard enough to turn his knuckles white. “You’re.. you’re human!” he manages to sputter in a creaky voice, seconds before he breaks down and begins to cry. His tray sags before him, but painfully honed instincts keep it upright.

“Hush, now,” Velendo drops down into the water and wades over to comfort the man. Kuo-toa fingerlings frolic and splash around his feet as he moves. “It’s okay. Come over and tell us about yourself.” With an arm around the slave, Velendo steers him over to the group.

The skinny man looks up at them through straggly hair, his pale eyes terrified and unbelieving. “My name’s Dougal. I’ve been here for years. My ship was raided when these monsters came out of the sea. We were all taken, and there were some who had been here long before I ever arrived. Are you here to save us? Or are…” His mouth twists as he realizes that the group could be in league with the kuo-toa, and his mouth shuts like an animal trap.

Malachite shakes his head. “No, we aren’t allied with them. How many of you are there?”

He gulps, tears still streaming down his chapped face. “Less than thirty, although there were almost a hundred when I first was brought down. The Master here stole me from the Palace when he fled, and now I’m the only human I see. All the rest are still in the pits beneath the King’s palace.” He looks sick. “I don’t know how many are left. We were dying quicker and quicker; used in demon summonings, or as sacrifices to their heathen goddess, or even given to the ghouls as treats when they come to visit.” The man shudders. “That’s the worst, for they wouldn’t kill ‘em first. And there be only a handful of dogs left, too.”

Tao bristles. “Dogs?” Her eyes narrow into slits.

The slave nods in agreement. “They try to capture humans and dogs both. I think the ghouls like to eat them, perhaps, and the gogglers find ‘em a treat as well. They’ve been saving most of the beasts for the ghouls to eat, though. They say it’s only polite.”

Tao looks furious. “Okay,” she hisses, “now I’m mad.”

Nolin studies the man. “Do I recognize your accent?”

“P’raps. I’m originally from a place called Eversink where I’m a sailor for House Clearwater. Have you heard of it?”

Nolin looks amused. “You could say that. We know House Clearwater quite well, and we’re friends with Lady Sharala herself. Look, we’ll try to free your friends. Anything you can tell us…“

Dougal looks at Nolin as if he’s insane and twitches in anticipation of the expected blow. “Ahh, not to contradict you, your lordship, but Lady Sharala ha’ been dead for fifty years. In fact, that be the name o’ the ship I sailed on.”

Malachite smiles distantly. “Times change, friend, and many things change with it. Lady Sharala is now alive and well. If we can, we’ll introduce you.”

A webbed foot slaps on wet coral, and suddenly Dougal’s body language changes completely as he tries to blend into the shadows, unnoticed. The silhouette of Monitor Thoobel appears in the tunnel opening above them. “I hope the food is agreeable, and the slave is jolly?” he burbles. “He is my favorite. I selected him myself when the palace offended my sensibilities.”

“Oh, yes,” agrees Mara, as she looks at the food Dougal had brought. She eyes the raw eel with an unreadable expression, and gracefully announces, “The food is perfect.” Smiling blandly, she takes a bite. Nolin and Velendo have already tucked in, along with several of the dwarves, and Nolin smiles his honest appreciation.

Thoobel nods and dismisses his slave with a wave of a fin. The Monitor splashes over, reaching down once or twice to caress the fingerlings as he traverses the room. He pauses as he walks past Mara.

“Are you going to eat those?” he asks, gesturing at the few remaining leeches that Mara had plucked from her legs. Stone Bear’s raven glances up, squawks, and takes to the air.

“Err… no.” Mara grimaces as Thoobel reaches down, only to pop the swollen leeches into his mouth one after the other, clearly savoring their flavor. “We were… saving them for you.”

“So kind!” His bulging and watery eyes gleam in the gray light.

Velendo clears his throat. “Monitor, we have a number of tactical questions for you.”

“But of course. Let us begin by describing the area.” He lays out a map. Thoobel eagerly describes the approaches to the Glass Pool, and the area itself. On a map, he shows where the wall surrounds the plaza, and where in the plaza the Glass Pool itself lies: right in front of the Royal Palace.

Velendo shakes his head at the poor tactical position. “How strong are Blel-Plibbit's guards? How do they compare with the guards that recently attacked us?”

Thoobel grins widely, almost splitting his face in two. “He has about 4000 trained soldiers, compared to about 1500 of my own. Only a few hundred are elite, though. Blel-Plibbit are approximately 60 whips, the clerics of the Sea Mother. The whips obey her whims. Working together, all can create lightning, but the may also favor acid or drowning miracles as well.”

Malachite frowns. “How many whips do you have?”

“Only a handful. But my troops are fervent, because we are truly blessed by the Sea Mother. When the moment comes, the false king’s Whips will fail, and their power will become our own.” He leans forward and whispers, breath fishy-cold in Malachite’s ear. “I have seen it.”

Splinder the dwarf keeps a straight face, but his thought reverberates over the mind link. “We’re screwed. I know a fanatic when I see one. I’m not expecting any miracles predicted by this piece of walking seafood.” Thoughts of agreement silently echo between each adventurer’s head.

Malachite continues smoothly. “Of course. What about Blel-Plibbit himself?”

“He is an utter coward, and not fit to be consort to the Sea Mother. He is the only powerful priest which she creates, unjustly raised above all others, and he prefers to flaunt his power with mostly water-based spells.” Thoobel’s large eyes flash. “He always travels with at least two trained whips, who may or may not be assassins. He always had at least four Claws near him, powerful warriors, and a monitor to watch his religious adherence. That was once my job,” he waves a webbed hand, “but I saw the truth.”

Velendo tries to smile. “Most certainly. Are there undead in the city actively working with Blel-Plibbit? Have your own forces come up against actual undead during their rebellion?”

“There may be. The White Kingdom typically has an ambassador. The mindflayers often do as well.We have not fought undead, however.”

Mindflayers,” thinks Malachite in disgust. “Squidheads.

“Do Kuo-Toa have any unusual resistances or vulnerabilities that we should know about when fighting Blel-Plibbit's forces?”

Thoobel’s chest puffs out in building fury. “No! Kuo-toa are the true inheritors of the earth, which has been stolen from us by you surface folk, driven away by your cheating lies. We are perfect, and some day you will drown in the juices from your own treacherous black hearts!” He pauses in mid-rant, as if hearing some distant voice, and his angry maw twists into a friendly smile. “But not today, of course. Today we are allies.” All traces of his sudden anger are gone.

Mara and Malachite both try to detect evil, to no avail; minor divination spells are still disrupted from Imbindarla’s death.

Velendo tries to continue. “Err. Yes. Are there any unusual physical or magical defenses/traps around the Glass Pool itself?”

“It is always guarded, both by guards and by the power of the Sea Mother Herself. She watches carefully for blasphemy or disrespect. She will ignore you, however, as she ignores slaves; you are not kuo-toa, and thus beneath her notice.”

“Well, that’s something. Monitor Thoobel, would you be willing to donate troops to the fight?”

“But of course! My troops merely await my word. Now, Blel-Plibbit knows that I have you, but doesn’t know if you are alive or dead. I could – ”

And once more, Agar keels over in a trance. His head makes a dull “clunk” as it hits the stone.

To be continued…
 
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KidCthulhu

First Post
That Thoobel. He's crazier than a bedbug without a bed.

To review the cast of characters from Agar's vision:
The crazy archer who misses her beloved is the archer we met in our first undead battle, while still on the surface. The one who nearly took Mara out with one shot. Her beloved, as you may remember, was a suit of hide armor made from her flayed former boyfriend. He was still sentient, and begged to be killed. We were happy to oblige.

The shadow is, of course, the shadow from beneath the dwarven city of Mrid's Gate. The 1+1 = 2 guy. Who had the whole party flat on their backs. Him. We hate him.

The orc is one of the guys from the army attacking Mrid's gate. I don't remember much about him, because he was attacking at about the same time as the appearance of a chick with boobs, a very interesting bikini and six arms. Nolin tends to have a one track mind where exotic females are concerned.
 
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Fajitas

Hold the Peppers
Piratecat said:
Dougal looks at Nolin as if he’s insane and twitches in anticipation of the expected blow. “Ahh, not to contradict you, your lordship, but Lady Sharala ha’ been dead for fifty years. In fact, that be the name o’ the ship I sailed on.”

A ship?! I got a ship named after me?! That rules!

Actually, it's a little creepy.

No, wait. It rules!

NOTE: Shara, of course, has never used the phrase "That rules!" in her life.
 


Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Serpenteye said:
I guess you don't need me saying it, but this story is awesome. :) All it needs is some PC-deaths to spice things up a little and remove the players feeling of immortality. Your players must be pretty damn skilled and lucky to have their characters survive every fight the DoD have ever fought. They have come soo close so many times, yet somehow noone has ever died since the very beginning, truly they are blessed by the Gods. Too bad the Gods are dying...:p
I actually feel sorry for the poor villains, but then I always root for the bad guys in fiction, I'm weird that way :D

Some of these deaths happened before Velendo joined the Defenders, so I'm probably wrong on some details, but I believe the death toll from the beginning, up to where the Story Hour is now, is:

Arcade (PC) - killed by doppelgangers
Alix -(PC) - also killed by doppelgangers, and later killed by an unwise liaison with the God of Murder (death permanent. Currently a larvae in Hades.)
Grundo (former PC, then NPC dwarf) - killed by minotaurs, raised, and later killed by a dragon in the Academy of Flamecraft (death permanent)
Nolin (PC) killed by -- er -- short goblins
Sharada (NPC "slave"/princess) - killed by Toraz-worshippers (death permanent)
Tao (PC) - killed by a prismatic spray in Ioun's Tower, and later killed by the trillith
Raevynn (PC) - killed by a delayed blast fireball from an evil gnome. Reincarnated into someone else's body after some time as a ghost.
Rofan (former PC) - accidentally worshipped false God and killed by party (permanent death)
Valdek (PC) - killed by a trilith (death permanent)
Agar (PC) - killed by mercenaries in Eversink

I may be forgetting one or two. (I have edited in the ones you missed - PCat)

That works out to about one death every other level. Hardly "no one has died since the very beginning."

Plus, we have been extremely lucky many times over. :D

-Sagiro
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
We're at seven regular players (Agar, Galthia, Malachite, Mara, Nolin, Stone Bear, Velendo) although at this point in the story hour we were at eight (Tao). There is another four main NPCs (Priggle, Cruciel, Burr-Lipp, Splinder) and about 20 dwarves, as well as a familiar (Proty) and a mount (Luminor).

On average, we have one person missing about every other game.

Agar - halfling diviner/alienist/planewalker
Galthia - githzerai monk/acolyte of the fist
Malachite - human paladin/hunter of the dead/radiant knight
Mara - human paladin/radiant knight
Nolin - half-elven bard/rider of the flame
Stone Bear - human shaman/fighter/sacred fist
Tao - half-elven ranger/cleric/divine agent
Velendo - human cleric

Priggle - svirfneblin fighter/gnomish combat engineer
Cruciel - angelic (half celestial) fighter/devoted defender
Burr-Lipp - bullywug fighter/gladiator
Splinder - dwarven fighter/dwarven defender
 

Grog

First Post
Piratecat said:
Anyways, thanks for the kind words, everyone. I originally ran Eversink because highly political games scared me, I ran the dwarven vault because I wasn't sure that a realistic and traditional dungeon was still viable at such high levels, and I'm running this underdark crawl because I'd never done it before and wasn't sure if I could. You folks are watching me figure the subtleties out, and I appreciate your praise, especially because I'm learning as we go.

Piratecat, could you (or possibly one of your players) give us some idea of the phases your campaign has gone through? When it first started, I believe you said it was a fairly standard, combat-oriented D&D game (please correct me if I'm wrong here). Then it shifted to Sigil (exotic city adventuring), then the comet cycle (epic quest to save the world), then Eversink (political), and now the Underdark/White Kingdom (creepy extended dungeonesque setting). I'm probably missing some stuff in there.... I'm just curious as to how the game has progressed (since there's a lot that's not covered in the story hour).
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Grog said:
Piratecat, could you (or possibly one of your players) give us some idea of the phases your campaign has gone through? I'm just curious as to how the game has progressed (since there's a lot that's not covered in the story hour).

Sure! I started off July 11th, 1992, Focused on a fairly small mountain town (Rampart) nestled between mountains and a huge forest, up in the northwest corner of a small country (Gaunt, originally spelled Gont and somehow changed over the years.) It was a homey place to start adventuring. I used many Dungeon adventures to start us off. Action slowly spread out across the country, leading to other towns as the group explored their homeland. Some of these adventures involved thwarting the machiniations of the Brotherhood of Night, an Imbindarlan cult.

Eventually I was ready to show more, but the group was nicely settled in and didn't want to travel. I got them to actually go abroad by making TomTom go hunting for a psionic trainer. That led to the wonderful Dungeon adventure "Chadrathar's Bane" (and Nolin's death by inch-tall goblins), and their introduction to the outer planes via Sigil.

After a bit of planar travel, they came back to their homeland. This led to the erinyes/stepmonster debacle (when an erinyes married Alix's noble father and became his step-mom.) Meanwhile, doppelgangers organized by the Brotherhood of Night began to destabilize the country and overthrow the king. Much intrigue ensued.

After exploring the Academy of Flamecraft (where Dylrath found his magical mirror), and dealing with a Helm of the Hivemind that threatened to absorb the party wizard Arcade, the group tracked a doppelganger plot far to the east, racing overland to the huge coast city of Oursk. Inspired by Waterdeep, Oursk was my first try at a big city adventure, and led to such notable moments as killing Silverpin Bloodmantle (an antipaladin of Toraz, god of murder), getting buried up to their necks in sand with the tide coming in, and inadvertently walking into the insane lich Hagiok's secret academy under the dungheaps.

Here in Hagiok's academy, the group found key clues that suggested a scary plot: the Brotherhood of Night were planning to force a certain conjunction by dragging a star from the sky. The conjunction was designed to open the lock that kept out horrible, neolithic undead worms that had once destroyed the previous incarnation of the world but had (mostly) been locked away by the gods. Trying to stop it, the group races several thousand miles to the west. In doing so they ignored a huge military conflict on the Penngian peninsula, which was a major distraction engineered by the Brotherhood.

Yup, this ended the Oursk period and started the comet cycle, my first attempt to ape Sagiro by providing a somewhat epic plotline. It was also designed to let the group see the world by walking through it.

Clearing out a fortress of giants (G1), the group headed west. They were dogged by Torazian deathgranter squads allied with the Brotherhood of Night, determined to stop them in as messy a fashion as possible. They found a country with unique gods, a flooded dwarven kingdom (near where they slaughtered the skaven), an invasion of mounted orcs, and a time-trapped arch-mage (Congenio Ioun.) Alix betrayed them, and was hoist by his own petard.

They headed out across the desert, avoiding thri-kreen and meeting for the first time Teliez, son of Toraz. By this point the alliance between Toraz and Imbindarla had crumbled, and everyone was trying to stop the Brotherhood of Night. You see, the conjunction had failed - and the Brotherhood was trying to free the Worms by breaking the lock, smashing the comet into the stone circle that kept the worms trapped. They met Splinder as they tried to assault the mountain and stop the comet.

The group took a 2-year (in game) vacation after the comet cycle. The king slowly became more unstable during this time, and the group worked to heal him. Then some plane hopping (*coughmodroncough*), following up old plot threads, the skaven lawbringer T'Cri, and stopping a cult of Orthyss that was breeding abominations.

And then came Eversink, and the White Kingdom.
 
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Jobu

First Post
Piratecat said:
Actually, that's five permanent deaths out of thirteen. One of the things I'm especially happy with is that people don't treat it as a respawning video game; the trip to and from the afterlife can change you in mysterious ways, and it isn't a minor thing.
As one of the party members who's died TWICE I would like to have some say in this discussion....
Death One: SUCKED....failed the fortitude save vs Massive Damage. And since this death was in an area of Time Stop Tao was stuck in a sort of Limbo watching the Defenders. Coming back from this death changed Tao from a Ranger to a Ranger/Cleric.
Death Two: Having your neck snapped by the Trilith - kinda hurts. But THEN to have your dead naked body paraded around like a Doll by some psion....let's just say Tao was not too thrilled to meet that guy later after Battle One with the Dockside royals. While dead Tao met her Goddess and said that she still had more to do in Life and that she wanted to take a stronger stand in doing Galanna's bidding. So, upon being brought back by Valendo (who had her dressed up in some frilly white robes - jeesh) Tao was a Ranger/Cleric/Divine Agent.
And - Yes. As I have moved away from Boston, Tao is no longer with the Defenders. But that is still a couple story hour postings away.
 

Elric

First Post
Nolin: flaming narcissist?

I just came across a part of a poem by John Donne that seems to describe Nolin perfectly:

"Prince, Subject, Father, Sonne, are things forgot,
For every man alone thinkes he hath got
To be a Phoenix, and that there can bee
None of that kinde, of which he is, but hee."

What does everyone think? :D
 

Thomas Hobbes

First Post
KidCthulhu said:
Very nice, Elric. And extra points for Donne. A brilliant, brilliant man.

Actually, the bit about Mara removing leeches, combined with the tidbit that Nolin sleeps with her at some point, made me wonder if he might have improvised something like this:

Marke but this flea, and marke in this,
How little that which thou deny'st me is;
Me it suck'd first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee;
Confesse it, this cannot be said
A sinne, or shame, or losse of maidenhead,

Yet this enjoyes before it wooe,
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than wee would doe.

Etcetera. Full text here, for those interested: http://lardcave.net/tig/hsc/2eng-donne-flea-comments.html
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
All right, it's update time! First, a map of Glubyal. Yay, Excel! You'll see where the reservoir is that dumped all that water onto our heroes, and the rough location of the three portcullisses that were supposed to shred them.

EDIT - Then a map of the Holy Plaza itself that will make more sense once you've read the story hour update below. I'm moving this out of the update itself and putting it here, where you have to click on it to see it, in deference to folks with smaller monitors. Having to read every post by scrolling left-to-right is no fun at all!
 

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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
“Agar! What is it?”

The halfling shakes his head as if to clear it of cobwebs. “A vision. Thousands of fish ripping down a wall with a bolt of lightning, then swimming through the entrance. It was like a dam breaking.” He looks up at the monitor looming above him. “I think we’re in trouble. It was happening right now.”

Thoobel fixes Agar with his watery eyes. “Blibdoolpoolp has granted you vision! You could have been a holy seer, if you had not been hatched into an impure form. I shall return in moments!” The group watches his slimy back retreating up the tunnel, and gathers back around the map to plan their battle strategy.

“So here’s the palace, and here’s the Glass Pool.” Malachite points at the map. “These are breeding pools where the royal spawn resides. This triangular building named the Clatterhouse is the residence for the clerical ‘whips,’ and the House of the Sea Mother is where the religious monitors are. Hopefully, both of those will be mostly empty. We know the Glass Pool is relatively shallow water with a core of ice around the middle.”

Velendo nods. “Apparently, Blel-Plibbit goes out onto the ice beneath a statue to Blibdoolpoolp. He lies on the ice, and she sends him wisdom and visions.”

“Hummph.” Nolin snorts. “More likely the elemental sister of Silissa is trapped under the ice, and he’s communicating with him somehow.”

“Do you suppose the kuo-toa know that she’s there?”

“Who knows? Probably, or they once did. It’s got to be hard to imprison an incredibly powerful elemental spirit in the middle of your holy sacrificial pool without anyone noticing.”

“But Thoobel doesn’t know anything about her. Gods only know how long she’s been imprisoned. Let’s see; if we enter through here, we’ll need a distraction….”

Within a few minutes Thoobel is back. “It is true!” His voice quivers with excitement. “Your presence here has forced the false king’s fin. Even now, his troops are breaking through the northern barricades. The way I see it, you have a finfull of choices.”

Velendo leans back, considering. “Yes?”

“You can stay and fight them with my people. We will surely lose without you, but it will be a bloody battle, and perhaps you can help! I don’t know enough of your fighting skill to say.” The look on Thoobel’s face indicates that he doesn’t think much of this choice.

Malachite clears his throat. “We have some skill in combat. What are the other options?”

The kuo-toa makes a gentle gesture with one fin. “You have already had a difficult day. Blel-Plibbit’s troops won’t make it this far for at least a half an hour; if you wish to not press your attack today, I can smuggle you to a hiding place where you can rest. Then my people will likely be slaughtered or flee, but he who sits in the Coral Throne will not easily be able to find you, and you may destroy him tomorrow. I will come with you, so as to see the cleansing of the throne.”

“And to avoid the bloody mess he’s sending his loyal followers in to,” thinks Malachite bitterly over the mindlink.

“Not much of a people person, is he?” quips Nolin mentally.

“Waiting until tomorrow will mean that you are better prepared, but Blel-Plibbit will likely fortify his defenses if he can not find you today. Thus, the coward might be better guarded. The last option, to attack right now, is only wise if we are strong enough. He is scared of me and what I can do, and I think he is scared of you as well. He will have sent his most powerful troops and priests to come and destroy us. If we flee and take the fight to him, he will most likely be caught unawares.” Thoobel studies at the group intently, as if trying to decide whether or not they are powerful enough to successfully attack the palace.

“He keeps staring at us,” whispers Agar over the mindlink.

Worried about the upcoming battle, Velendo tries not to sound exasperated. “He’s a kuo-toa, Agar. That’s the only thing he can do.”

“Good point.” Agar thrusts his consciousness back into his mind to inventory his spells. In his mind’s eye, they hang there quivering – multi-limbed tentacles of potential energy, squirming with eagerness to be cast. Reluctantly he pulls his mind back. “Well, I still have quite a lot of resources today. I say we go now.”

Stone Bear concurs. “I’m ready as well. I can’t get any readier than I am right now.” The group rises, prepared to take the fight to the enemy.

“I’m glad,” burbles Thoobel. “I will instruct my people to delay them as much as possible. You will need to breath water where we are going. This is possible?”

“We can do that,” says Velendo. “For just a few minutes?”

“For almost an hour.” Velendo blinks in surprise, and Thoobel gives a laughing cough that sounds like a dying seal. “It is a big city,” he explains. Then one of the fingerlings that Stone Bear is holding pops a tiny fin out into the air, and the monitor notices. He turns to Stone Bear.

“You have several of my spawn with you?” Stone Bear nods, his eye sockets revealing nothing. “Good thinking. They will learn from the battle, if they live. The weak will die, the strong will survive to better themselves, and I can easily sire more. It will be good for them to know how a human fights.” He doesn’t say why, but turns away to lead the group out. The blind shaman just tucks the fingerling back into his satchel, shakes his head, and follows the kuo-toa up the tunnel.

* * *

Beds of edible seaweed, swaying back and forth in the current. An undersea corral of bluish giant lobsters, each ten feet long with claws the size of an overweight halfling. Poisonous coral the shade of diseased flesh, home to a hundred darting little fish. Inquisitive eels. Scum-coated tunnels that have been long-forgotten, twisting beneath the domiciles of proper kuo-toa as they meander towards the center of the city. And no decoration or artistic flourishes of any kind, anywhere. Glubyal slowly opens itself to the Defenders as they retreat from the encroaching army of Blel-Plibbit into even greater danger, and it is not a welcoming embrace.

* * *

The group crouches in the shadows behind a coral building fifty feet from the side gates of the royal plaza. “At least four kuo-toa guarding this side of the coral gate,” reports Galthia.

“Everyone ready?”

“Let’s go.”

Inivisible, the stealthier members of the group begin sneaking across the tiled square. They are silent, but the guards’ heads swivel as Galthia moves across.

“Galthia! They’ve seen you!” He freezes, as does Priggle. It’s not entirely clear that the guard has seen him. The paunchy kuo-toa speaks to his fellow guard, then slowly makes his way across the open space, swinging his pincher staff back and forth and craning his head in every direction.

“It's their eyes,” thinks Priggle. “They must be able to see invisible movement. When you stand still, though, I think you’re invisible to them.”

“Well, why didn’t they see you, then?” Galthia’s mental voice sounds a little bit insulted. Priggle's response, however, sounds resigned.

“Who notices the deep gnome? No one, that's who. We're not even important enough for our enemies to hate.” He sighs mentally.

“Screw this,” thinks Tao. “There’s just a few of them. Let’s take them.” She rushes forward with Stone Bear, but neither of them are close enough to reach the enemy. Galthia and Priggle are, though, and they move to attack as well.

Priggle brings the edge of his pick across in a hard, short arc. It rips right through the kuo-toa's left knee in a small explosion of blood and bone. As the guard begins to topple, Priggle reverses his gnomish weapon and brings the hammer head right down on his opponent's face. the guard doesn't get back up.

Galthia strikes the second guard, but luck works against him as he loses his balance on the slippery tile. The guard has time to croak out a warning. On the far side of the gate another guard responds by raising a conch shell to his thin lips, and a warning horn sounds out across the royal plaza.

“Damn damn damn!” swears Nolin. “I thought about using silence, but we were worried about it dampening our spellcasting. I should have done it anyways!”

“Don’t worry about it, Nolin,” calls Galthia. “What’s done is done. We need to kill this one and get this gate open!”

“I’m on the gate,” declares Priggle. “Not that anyone noticed. Or cared. Or even thought to ask me. That’s fine. Don’t feel bad about it.” He purses his lips while he studies the architecture for a few seconds, then raises his pick and takes several impeccable swings that completely shatter the magically hardened coral. The huge gate clatters to the tiled floor in pieces around him. A kuo-toa guard suddenly appears in front of the deep gnome, but it reels backwards with a dozen crossbow bolts stuck in his chest.

“Reload, men!” bellows Splinder. The dwarves obey, even as Stone Bear sprints through the gate to see three kuo-toa guards still standing.

No armor, thinks Stone Bear. Not very bright of them. His raven takes to the air as the shaman throws himself at an enemy. With accuracy sacrificed in favor of sheer power, Stone Bear’s fist punches most of the way through a guard’s chest. He uses the dying guard as a pivot as he spins around, and his foot almost takes the head entirely off another guard nearby. Stone Bear lands on the ground gracefully, two corpses collapsing beside him.

It’s almost the first time that the other Defenders have seen him in combat. Someone whistles quietly in admiration. The last guard standing is chopped down by Tao, who rips the horn from his hands seconds before she slides her swords into his belly.

“They know we’re here,” Stone Bear says unnecessarily.

“On it,” says Nolin. He pulls out the Shara Ball. This glass globe had been crafted by Sharala Clearwater, and contains a piece of her essence; it knows the spells that she knows, and is able to cast one on occasion. Unfortunately, Shara also imbued the item with her disdain for Nolin. “Shara? My greeting to you. Would you be so kind as to create a convincing illusion of us as far away across this plaza as you can? We want to draw any guards to the opposite side from where we’re heading.”

Shara’s voice is tinny and faint as the ball awakens. “Oh, it’s you. How charming.” Her sarcasm could cut glass. “In some other horrible situation that your primping and songs can’t save you from?

“Shara, please. Now really isn’t the time to insult me. You should feel free to express yourself at great lengths later, but things are really kind of urgent at the moment.”

Inside the glass globe, a tiny image of Shara smiles self indulgently. “Then of course. I’m flattered you asked.” The image concentrates, and far across the plaza a very realistic image forms, even as illusory warning horns sound from other parts of the plaza as well. More gurgling shouts fill the air as the distant kuo-toa guards begin to react.

“Thank you,” says Nolin sincerely. “We’ve got a distraction, folks. Let’s go.” To the inspirational tune of a victory march sung by Nolin, the Defenders of Daybreak surge forward into the Plaza of the Sea Mother. They fan out as they race towards the Glass Pool. In front of them, the silhouette of something large scuttles forward to intercept.

To be continued….
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Hey, it's a hard life being a svirfneblin. Everything wants to eat you, no one fun ever invites you out, and you need a stepladder to jump onto a bar stool. No WONDER he's pessimistic!

EDIT - going over my notes, I made a few errors in this last entry that I've since corrected. I was combining two different combats in my mind, but it's straightened out now.

And look! Kuo-toa illustrations, courtesy of WotC. There are several of these, but this is closest to how I envision them. You can even see Blibdoolpoolp in the background, waving at you.

52062_CN.jpg
 
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dpdx

First Post
Okay, who else took "Blel-Plibbit goes out onto the ice" and ran with it:

Line change for the kuo-toa. Blel-Plibbit goes out onto the ice, and...

OH! That's a brutal hit by Monitor Thoobel! The referee has raised his hand, waiting for the puck to change possession, and... yep, that'll be two minutes for roughing, Bill.


Right you are, Gary. Monitor Thoobel clearly left his tailfins for that one. I'm surprised he didn't get a five-minute major for boarding.
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Thoobel catches at Velendo’s arm and gestures at a stone building nearby. “This is where the Kept are imprisoned.” His eyes are alight with insane purpose. “I will free them to join our cause! You can do without me for a few minutes?”

More crazy monks? thinks Velendo. That means more allies, and more potential targets. Sure, can’t hurt. “Of course. Go!”

Thoobel slips silently away, and the others continue to move farther into the Plaza of the Sea Mother. Galthia uses his superior speed to scout far ahead of the rest of the adventurers.

* * *

A servitor rushes in through pearlescent arches and bangs its head submissively on the floor. “Mighty Sea King, I am the bearer of tidings!”

Blel-Plibbit swivels his ponderous head to gaze at the minion. He pops another squealing tidbit into his wide mouth, and his favorite monitor steps forward to bang a pincher staff on the smooth floor. “The mighty Sea King commands you to speak! You have the upworlders captured, as you have been commanded?” Blel-Plibbit smiles in anticipation.

“Err.. in a way, O Commander of Tides! Knowing how eager you would be to deal with them yourself, for no other kuo-toa could possibly exact judgment for their many and unknowable crimes, we are delighted to say that they have come to YOU. Even now they are in the plaza outside, being punished for their sins against the Sea Mother! Is it not just that you will be able to punish them personally for their sins, fearful majesty?”

Blel-Plibbit’s smile fades, and he gestures at the musicians to stop playing their soft horns. Quiet settles on the throne room, and over the panicked gill-flapping of the groveling messenger the King’s ears can make out the faint sound of alarm horns in the plaza outside. Blel-Plibbit’s face contorts in anger, and the terrified messenger buries its face even farther into the tiles.

“Idiot! They are outside, free and armed? They have evaded the armies and have come here themselves? And that traitor Thoobel with them?” The Sea King’s croaking voice rises to a near-shriek.

“We knew your majesty would wish the.. urrkgl.. klapplgl.. gaak.” Blel-Plibbit gestures, and the messenger’s twitching body beats out a rapid tattoo on the tiled floor, fins kicking the polished stone for just a brief moment. Eventually, at a nod from the Sea King, two of his faithful bodyguards remove their weapons from the sack of dead flesh.

Blel-Plibbit’s voice rumbles. “Gather the Whips, children, and the Monitors. Let the casting of Miracles begin. I am the Sea Mother’s mate, and I shall have to deal with them myself.” But the Sea King’s voice cracks slightly as he says it, and deep in his belly he knows the sharp bite of fear. In self-denial he crushes the messenger’s cooling head with one massive foot, and then spreads his arms in preparation for prayer.

* * *

At first glance, the Royal Plaza isn’t much to look at. No decorations, no tiles, just polished stone and coral jutting at odd angles from the plaza’s floor. The odor is revolting, but Galthia has been exposed to both githyanki and mindflayers before, so it’s relatively easy for him to stomach. Ahead he can see the silhouette of a huge stone building, and far to his left he can see something that looks like odd sculpture. In the flickering gray-green light cast by algae and luminescent slugs, vision is difficult. Not so difficult that he can’t see the enemies scuttling forwards ahead of him, though.

“Interesting.”

“What is?”

“Four giant lobsters. There are two kuo-toa on the back of each, armed with long spears or lances.”

“We’re closing now… see them! Stand clear, Galthia. I suggest we open with a bang. Hey, someone get out some drawn butter.”
Nolin calls to the phoenix inside of him, and Rides the Sun eagerly answers with a sacred pillar of fire that lights up the darkness. Three of the four lobster mounts are killed instantly by the flame strike, cooked in their own shells by the holy fire. Their riders tumble from the back of the dying creatures, hitting the ground and bracing their weapons.

“I’m charging!” Mara spurs Luminor forward. The horse’s powerful hooves strike sparks from the stone, and Mara’s holy mace glows brightly in one gauntleted hand.

“Mara, wait! No!” Velendo shouts. But he’s too late. Before Mara can close with her mace, six of the kuo-toa jam their long spears into the charging war horse. Luminor screams in mortal pain as his own momentum carries him deeply onto the barbed weapons. Mara screams as well, and the noble war horse topples to the side. Blood gouts out of him, and tears of rage streak Mara’s face.

“I didn’t…” She crouches beside the dying horse, mace out. Around her, slime-coated kuo-toa close in for the kill. She flips back her hair, and her face is a mask of fury.

Then the rest of the Defenders arrive to stand beside her. Galthia strikes Luminor with a healing blow from his hand to stabilize the mount, even as Tao and Malachite distract the kuo-toa soldiers from the front and Stone Bear circles in from the side. One kuo-toa manages to stab the downed war horse once again, and it twitches convulsively; Mara feels every wound as if it were she herself getting hit. Then she places a hand on Luminor’s withers before he can die, and she shuts out the world as she focuses the healing warmth of Aeos into the horse’s body. “Come back to me.” Beside her Luminor’s wounds begin to close, and it snorts feebly as it tries to clear the blood from its healing lungs.

Mara looks over at the kuo-toa beside her and smiles a terrible grin. “You’re going to die for that.” And within a few seconds, it does. So do the kuo-toa on either side of it, cut down by powerful blows from all of the Defenders working together. Dark blood flies in the gray half-light, but the kuo-toa don’t scream for long.

Farther back, the one remaining war lobster has charged Nolin, claws snapping. One claw crunches around his body, but Nolin’s celestial battlecloak stiffens into rigid armor in order to protect him. “Huh,” says Nolin as he draws his rapier. “I haven’t used this since the Beastlands. But you aren’t undead, so let’s see if Galanna is watching.” Taking a lackadaisical fencing stance, Nolin smiles at the two kuo-toa soldiers on the lobster as he thrusts with the rapier. It’s a perfect hit, penetrating the chitinous shell and thrusting deep into the war lobster’s head.

“Buh-bye,” waves Nolin with a friendly little gesture. And to the surprise of both kuo-toa, their lobster begins to change. Claws become branches, legs become roots, a tail becomes a trunk, and suddenly there’s a 30’ tall lignified lobster-tree standing before Nolin. The bard whistles softly and examines his rapier. “Damn, this thing is great,” he says to himself, and runs forward. “I wonder why I don’t use it more often?” Thirty feet in the air, two near-helpless kuo-toa soldiers watch him go.

With Luminor healed and the soldiers mostly beaten down, Galthia runs forward again to scout. He is running along the back of the palace looking for doors when he hears a clattering behind him. Turning, he sees a cloud of mist spreading from the side of the building. His first instinct is to discover what is causing it, so he reverses his path and runs back.

The mist is impenetrable to sight, so Galthia edges into it, staying right at the edge where escape should be simple. He’s caught off guard by the terrible pain and the sound of running water. “What?” he begins to ask, and holds a hand up before him as his legs begin to buckle. At first he thinks it’s his blurring vision, but then he realizes that his vision is fine; his hand really is running, the flesh sloughing off and changing into seawater as he watches. Internal organs liquefy, and the monk staggers as more than forty percent of his flesh turns instantly to sea water and splatters to the ground. It’s only by pure will power that he’s able to keep his feet. The mist swirls around him, and he hears a croaking hymn rise from somewhere. Webbed feet slap the stone from somewhere in the cloud of mist, and Galthia realizes that his life is at stake.

“Don’t go into the mist!” he thinks urgently to the others. “It’s….”

“We’re coming!” says Velendo urgently. “Hang on!”

Not fast enough.

With his watery flesh cupped in one hand, Galthia feels a sudden presence at his back. He turns suddenly, and there’s a kuo-toa monitor looming over him. A rock-hard fin is raised back, and the weakened githzerai can’t do a thing to dodge it. It slaps him, splashing away remnants of his face. Another fin hits, and another, each tearing through once-strong defenses to shatter the weakened body beneath.

For Galthia, everything goes black.

To be continued…
 
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