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WotBS Tolamaker's 5e Burning Sky #1

Tolamaker

Explorer
The Party
Eluriah - Wood Elf Druid (Wildfire), originally from Sindaire. Very interested in finding out what happened to Innenotdar, as she has been a protector of the forests in her own home. Her spirit is a fiery deer, named Artemis.
Aripose - Forest Gnome Rogue (Assassin), also from Sindaire. Looks very young, and happily tells people he is an assassin. Has a pet hedgehog named Fern.
Orwin - Tiefling Artificer (Artillerist), Gate Pass local. Member of Gabal's school, but no one really knows what he's up to, so he basically created his own curriculum. Has a homunculus cat named Mechanicles.
Mishka - Half Orc Barbarian (Totem), Gate Pass local. Mom was a member of the original resistance, and Mishka wants to live up to that. Wears a bearskin pelt in honor of her father's Ragesian tribe.
Gruz - Half Orc Warlock (Blade), Former Dassen Military. His entire company was annihilated by a single monster, and he made his pact to be able to defeat it. Wears his company's former banner as a cape.

Session 1
The party assembles in the Poison Apple Pub to meet Torrent, a young cleric who is part of the resistance in Gate Pass. Their mission is to get secret Ragesian military intelligence to Lyceum, a mage school in the south. Then they have to get out of Gate Pass, and time is running short, because talk around town is that the council is going to let the Ragesian Inquisitors in tomorrow, and an army is on their doorstep.

As the party discusses how best to handle their escape from the city, Eluriah hears rushing footsteps outside, and alerts the party. They are prepared for the battering ram that comes through the front door, but not the rogues who had snuck in through the roof. A battle ensues, and the leader of the attackers declares that the party is "worth more alive than dead." Mishka cuts a man in twain, while getting attacked from all sides. Orwin tosses out a contraption that seems to provide shimmering shields to everyone. Eluriah rushes an archer, and knocks him out cold. She doesn't want to kill anyone. Unfortunately...

Suddenly, the roof explodes in a shower of fire, and the man on the floor burns to death as hot oil pours down on everyone. The attackers seem just as surprised as the party and begin to retreat. Eluriah knocks out another attacker, and pulls her to safety while the rest flee on horseback. The leader gives a single nod of thanks when he sees that his companion is safe before escaping on horseback.

As the party escapes the burning tavern, they see that the rest of the city is in an uproar, and winged creatures fly in the night sky, dropping sparking flames that burst into fire with explosive force.

Post-Session Thoughts:
Way overplanned, because I always forget how RP heavy my group is. I had everything up to Badgerface prepared, and we barely got out of the tavern in our 3 hours.
Players were very excited to start. We just finished Curse of Strahd, and while it was fun, I think everyone's glad to be out of the Mists for now. I personally enjoy the more cinematic scenes in the book, and look forward to next session.

Changes to the Adventure:
Not much that showed up here. I changed the the name of the the former empire to the Morusan Empire, so I could call the setting The Morusan Continent, because for some reason it bothered me that I didn't know what the world was called. So technically still the Empire of Morrus, but just obfuscating it a bit so it doesn't just sound like a name. In the end it doesn't matter, but it puts my mind at ease. Slightly lowered the number of humans in the setting, simply because I was kind of bored of humans by the end of CoS. I made the Khagan a half elf-halfling, because I love the idea of a halfling warlord. I'll likely be changing several human NPCs as we go along.

I am also using Kibblesmith's crafting, which hasn't come up yet, but will once they start fighting more magical creatures. No idea how that will come out. Part of choosing this adventure after CoS was more magic items, gold, and variety of enemies. Another was that players liked the idea of having a home base, and Seaquen will serve that role well. I'm hoping to get a little more homebrew with this campaign, particularly with PC feats and such, so that players can really personalize their character, and the crafting goes along with that.
 

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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I changed the the name of the the former empire to the Morusan Empire, so I could call the setting The Morusan Continent, because for some reason it bothered me that I didn't know what the world was called. So technically still the Empire of Morrus, but just obfuscating it a bit so it doesn't just sound like a name.
Eeek.
 



Tolamaker

Explorer
I forgot that Aripose's player was vacationing, so no answer this week!
Session 2
Coming out into the streets, the party finds Gate Pass in chaos as the city attempts to survive the night. A roar echoes through the sky, panicking Mishka, who goes running away. Everyone else held their ground, so Orwin sends Mechanicles after her to make sure she doesn't get in trouble.

Torrent runs to heal a man who had extreme burns. Eluriah runs to save a man in a burning building with a blanket, but Orwin casts featherfall, ensuring the man's safety. Gruz ran to a dwarf woman, thinking she had lost her child, but it turns out her "baby" is Kiki, her giant weasel. Mishka gets ahold of herself, and rejoins the party as things get under control. The party decides the weasel is fine, and leave.

In the sky, a griffon rider of Gate Pass succeeds in defeating a wyvern knight of Ragos, but is immediately eaten by an enormous red dragon. Eluriah keeps an eye out for where the wyvern fell, and when they get to that area, they see that the rider survived. Following him into a house, the knight had killed most of a family, and is about to kill the youngest child when the party descends and kicks his ass. Gruz shames the man, saying this isn't what soldiers do, and the man drops his weapon. They knock him out and take him to district guard gate, and take the boy to Torrent's temple. Orwin says if the boy has nowhere else to go, he can find a warm bed at Orwin's parents' store.

The party goes to The Depository, a bank in the Capitol District. The guards aren't sure about letting so many people in, but Orwin is able to convince them that it's for a good cause. Inside, they meet Badgerface, a tall gnome who asks for the password to a spellscroll case. When it becomes clear that the gnome doesn't know the password either, they become suspicious, and suddenly elves in guard armor open fire from the floor above. The gnome suddenly uses a new voice that Orwin recognizes, and tries to escape. Gruz braves the Burning Sky, and misty steps up in front of him, blocking his path.

The fight soon becomes a shoving match, with Gruz shoving the gnome over the rails, and one of the guards shoving Gruz right after. The session ended with the gnome bloodied within an inch of his life, and giving the order to the guard at the top to "Tell Shealis we don't have the password." Next week, the thrilling conclusion to the Battle in the Bank!

Post Session Thoughts:

Very fun session, lots of cinematic moments. Everyone was suitably awed and scared by the red dragon descending from the clouds. It was very satisfying to reel Gruz in crying about my baby, and then shriek that "Kiki isn't an outdoor weasel!" Feels like we're moving about a mile an hour, but having a good time. The group has decided that the red dragon is the lynchpin of the Ragesians, and its fun to hear them talk about the implications.

I completely botched the bank fight, which is drawing to a close pretty handily for the PCs (except for Gruz. Burning through a misty step and then being tossed down the stairs did a number on him). I forgot about the potion of spiderclimb "Badgerface" has, and let him get trapped when he could have easily escaped. Made for some fun moments with throwing off, but it didn't end up being enough of a challenge.

Changes to the Adventure:
Moved the wyvern knight encounter up because they took special note of it. It feels like a lot of the adventure NPCs have inflated HP, so I brought them down a fair bit. Torrent got the biggest downgrade, mostly so that I can keep myself honest and not use her as a meat shield.

I consolidated the Spy vs. Spy encounters, cutting out the ghetto entirely (bye bye celestial badgers). Having two separate "your intelligence is in another castle" moments felt too much. So, those guards came down to the Depository. We'll see what Shealis has up her sleeve next time.

Not exactly a change, but I've been really stressing that they need to get out tonight before the council lets in Ragesia, and that's done a great job of keeping them moving. I really enjoy hearing them debate taking a rest vs pushing on.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Nicely done. Don't worry about changing things up in the adventures to fit you and your group.

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Tolamaker

Explorer
The party finishes up the fight, knocking out Badgerface and one of his associates. Mishka chases the final one up, where he is climbing down a rope. She cuts the rope, sending the man falling down (to 1 hp). Eluriah runs up, draws her longbow, and sends an arrow through his throat.

Elsewhere, Aripos hunts down his hedgehog Fern, who got scared in the firebombing. He finds Fern hissing at a very large weasel, who has a collar around his neck that says Kiki. After hissing back at the weasel, Aripose calms it down and takes it to its home, where an elderly dwarf gives her 10 gold for returning her "baby." Aripose makes his way to the Depository in time to see a man get shot by Eluriah.

The party discovers that Badgerface is actually an elf after his Disguise Self wears off. Orwin recognizes the elf as Larion, a recent student at Gabal's School of Magic. He also knows that Larion joined at the same time as Shealis, another elf, and they spend a lot of time together. Gruz tries to intimidate Larion by holding him over the edge of the tower, but Larion says he's prepared to die for his country. Eluriah argues to let him go as a sign of goodwill, but Torrent and Mishka aren't willing to let someone who killed Gate Pass citizens go scot free.

The party eventually agrees to hand him over in exchange for Badgerface and the information. On the way to the school, they run into Jennis, a drow student who catches on to what is going on, and wants to help. They go to the dueling grounds, where Larion calls for Shealis. Shealis comes out, holding a bruised and battered Badgerface by the neck. Badgerface is holding a spell scroll case. They say that the case is trapped with a fireball spell if they don't know the password, but Badgerface convinces them to let Orwin, a tiefling, open it. He falls over laughing when the case opens and nothing happens, and loudly insults he elves for thinking he knows jack naughty word about magic. The information is written in Infernal script, but is in code, so Orwin agrees to copy the information and share it with the Shahalesti.

Post Session Thoughts:
Pretty slow-moving session, but I was down for it. There was a lot more disagreement about what to do about Larion than I had anticipated, but it meant I got to sit back and listen to the arguments for a while, only jumping in to clarify information. One fun thing when they were interrogating Larion is that he honestly believes that the Shahalesti had nothing to do with Peppin's murder. It reminds me of how the various US intelligence agencies weren't sharing information in the early 2000s.

Gruz failed his Intimidation check on Larion, and almost threw him over the edge in frustration. They had a lot of low rolls on getting information out of him, so Larion came off as a very smooth operator. That almost made it difficult to play him until Eluriah gave me an opening, both by being an elf and advocating for letting him go. That opened things up for him to be at least a little cooperative.

Changes to the Adventure:
Most of the changes were accidental. I already mentioned condensing the Spy vs. Spy portion, but apparently I also straight up misread some information. I only noticed after the session that technically the intelligence is a book, not a sheaf of papers, so technically they probably wouldn't think copying it down would be a timely activity, but oh well. I also misread where the real Badgerface is. Somehow I completely missed that he's in the Depository, just hidden. I could have sworn that he was being kept by Shealis. It worked out fine, but it was just very strange that I had completely missed those two bits of information.

Wise-cracking Diogenes became hard-core partying Jennis. I tried to crack wise, but my brain is usually mush in the middle of a session. So she quickly became Gabal's best known keg-stander who's game for anything.

@Tormyr My players when they see me stumble through the module
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Tolamaker

Explorer
This is the way. I'm still mad nearly 15 sessions later that I forgot to have Kiki show up after introducing the merchant. They were interested in the situation and then completely blew past reintroducing it during their rest.
Honestly, I might have too, but Aripose specifically likes animals and went running after Fern, so it came up pretty organically.
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Session 4
The party finishes handing off the information, and the Shahalesti leave with their copy of the Ragesian military intelligence. Badgerface tells them they should have opened fire as soon as they had the intelligence, but thanks them for saving his life. He is not happy to find out that his codename has been Badgerface, and says he will take revenge on Erdan Menash when he sees him. Mishka suggests pissing in his bed, and Badgerface likes this.

The party decides they need to get out of Gate Pass soon, as it is almost 4 in the morning. They head south, and hear an orc bard playing a sad festival tune. She nods to Mishka when she says to keep up the fight, but doesn't seem to take heart. Gruz notices someone following them, and the party unsuccessfully tries to shake them. The figure reveals themselves to be none other than 𝕽𝖊𝖓𝖆𝖗𝖉, Folk Hero of Gate Pass. He apologizes for scaring them, and says that he would like them to deliver a letter and a gift to his sister. He dashingly offers to provide a distraction as they scale the walls, and gains the attention of the guards as the party makes their way out of the city.

The party decides to move at night, and travels for two nights towards the Fire Forest of Innenotdar. While giving watch some ways away from the road, Gruz overhears some mercenaries with the same insignia as those that attacked them in the pub. He tries to approach, but makes noise in the snow. He manages to convince them that he's just a wandering Dasseni mercenary. In talking with them, he discovers that the mercenary group hunting for mages are called the Black Horses, and they offer him a job. He turns it down, and they part amicably. The next night, Eluriah notices the Black Horses camp, and they skirt around it.

Eventually, they come close enough to the Fire Forest that the sky turns red. Near the ashy plain before the Fire Forest, they see a small farmhouse with a girl standing there. She asks if bears were following them, and reveals that she has visions. She thinks she and her father need to come with the group. Eluriah thinks the "bears" she sees in her visions are Ragesian Inquisitors, a torturous religious order that wears bear skulls to shield their souls. The party agrees to try and convince her father.

Changes to the Module
Mostly superficial ones. I had decided a while ago that Erdan Menash was a gnome. His eccentricities seemed to fit one well. And when the players called Badgerface Badgerface, I thought it would be funny if that was just a code name, not his real one (Rivereye). And from there, I basically improvised some unknown history between these two gnomes, one who is more fun loving, and the other a hardened professional.

I swapped the names of Rantle and Renard. Renard just sounded much more heroic and over the top, which is how I played him.

I made a pantheon, because I got tired of making wishy-washy statements about a god of healing or magic. I'll post it after this one.

Post Session Thoughts
Fun session, and basically the second in a row with only roleplay. I kept mentioning Erdan Menash as an ally, but I think it just came across as he was bankrolling the Resistance, which is sort of true I suppose. Another mixup came when I described ash falling from the sky. I meant that it was coming from the Fire Forest, but everyone interpreted it as Gate Pass being put to the torch. Made for a much darker end to the session, but I liked it.

Meeting Renard was fun, as Mishka's player went all in on the fangirling. This led to Eluriah and Aripose being extremely suspicious of him, and generally not liking him. I played Renard as so virtuous and selfless, he didn't even notice their insults. Very fun to bounce back and forth between adoration and barely veiled contempt. Though I think they were fair not to trust another stranger giving them things to deliver.

These players really didn't want to interact with anyone, and scaling the walls and giving the Black Horse camp a wide berth was part of it. They rolled really well for a group with two heavy armor users, so I gave it to them (also I wanted to keep it moving). They did miss out on the dream shroud and some lore though! Next session will likely be the end of Gate Pass, and then onto the Fire Forest of Innenotdar!
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
The Gods of Morusan
I wanted to give each major race two gods in their likeness that they might favor, but not feel like anyone was bound to a certain god just because of race. So I gave each one two positive/neutral apects, and one neutral/negative. Pilfered gods from various regions that roughly lined up with the Campaign Guide's descriptions. Elf Celtic mythology, gnomes- Russian, Humans - Roman, Halflings- Japanese, Dwarves-norse/germanic, and then I got lazy and chose orc gods from D&D. Then, because I started having fun, and came up with color combos and symbols, and then decided I had to stop.

Airgetlamuada – God of Leadership, Hunting, and Death. Portrayed as a young elven man with a silver hand. Colors: Silver and Green.
Gruumsh – God of Rain, Invention, and War. Portrayed as a one-eyed orcish man carrying a spear. Colors: Yellow and Blue.
Ilmr – God of Prophecy, Poetry, and Dementia. Portrayed as an old dwarf in both male and female forms with blue flowers in their hair. Colors: Blue and Orange.
Meditrina – Goddess of Medicine, Learning, and Poison. Portrayed as a one-armed human woman wielding a staff with a snake entwined about it. Colors: Green and Black.
Nantosuelta – Goddess of Nature, Motherhood, and Monsters. Portrayed as a red-haired elven woman holding a staff with a small house on the top. Colors: Black and Red.
Sif – Goddess of the Earth, Farming, and Hardship. Portrayed as a blonde dwarf woman carrying crops. Colors: Gold and Green.
Suijin – Goddess of the Sea, Commerce, and Piracy. Portrayed as a halfling woman with short-cropped hair, often eating some sort of fish dish. Colors: Blue and Pink.
Svarog – God of Hospitality, Smithing, and Fire. Portrayed as a bearded gnome man riding a cloud. Colors: Black and Orange
Talasius – God of Marriage, Building, and Pain. Portrayed as a blind human man holding a torch. Colors: Orange and Purple
Tamanoya – God of Jewels, Art, and Envy. Portrayed as a halfling boy with gemstones for eyes, usually red jade. Colors: Red and Silver
Uzat – Goddess of Passion, Freedom, and Chaos. Portrayed as an old orcish woman holding a chalice of wine. Colors: Purple and Silver.
Zorya – Goddess of Dawn, Children, and Time. Portrayed as a young gnome girl leading a white pony. Colors: Yellow and Purple
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Session 5

Crystin wakes up her father, a cantankerous man who does NOT want to leave. As Gruz and Mishka try and convince him, Eluriah suddenly announces that there's nothing they can do, and goes to leave. She opens the door to see a group of Ragesian soldiers and an Inquisitor approaching, and Haddin commands them to protect him. Eluriah immediately unleashes Artemis, and the battle is on. Aripose and Gruz deal with a pair of goblin rogues in the back, while Mishka and Eluriah take the front. Eluriah takes three hits in a row, and is terribly wounded, but the damage snaps her out of her haze, and she realizes Haddin was dominating her. Inquisitor Boreus cancels a Catapult spell from Orwin, and then Burning Hands Mishka, Eluriah, and almost killing Torrent. The barbarian Smiley is dominated by Haddin, but Boreus dispels it, and the confused barbarian takes an Enlarge potion. It doesn't do any good, as Gruz Mind Spikes him immediately after, killing him. Mishka catches the Inquisitor with a javelin to the back, and the fight ends with the remaining soldiers surrendering.

The party interrogate them and find out that the Inquisitor and his retinue expected there to only be Haddin and his wife and child. They explain that mages are rounded up, and then sent back to Ragesia. Mishka convinces them to tell their superiors that Smiley and Inquisitor Boreus chased them foolishly into the Fire Forest. Orwin tells Haddin that there will be more Inquisitors coming, and Haddin begrudgingly begins packing his things. The party is able to gain a little gold and a few crafting materials, and take a short rest before heading into the Forest. Will they be the first beings to make it through alive? Can they ever escape the overbearing shadow of the Empire? Will Torrent ever roll above a ten? We find out, next week!

Post-Session Thoughts

Hoo boy, this one was a doozy. Loved all of the roleplay stuff, while the fight was a mess on my end. Everyone absolutely despises Haddin only a few minutes after meeting him, so mission accomplished. They were angry enough he was dominating Eluriah, but Crystin was helping in the fight with magic missile (with one max damage hit on Smiley) before Haddin told her to go hide with him. At the time, she had done the most damage, and they were worried they were in for a tough fight. The dice eventually turned around. But not before Torrent went down, then took damage from the burning hands, and rolled a nat 1 on her death saves. Everyone freaked out, I found it funny to lose their NPC guide, but then three different people offered their inspiration to let her reroll, so I did. Sill failed, but wasn't dead outright, but it was good to put some fear in them before she got healed. Also, no joke, Torrent did not roll above a ten all session. Not on attack rolls or saves.

Mishka's player has started a collection of bear skulls from the Inquisitor and Smiley. She believes the Ragesians are desecrating them. Good stuff. Also, everyone got to shine in the fight.

Aripos and Gruz - Split the party to eviscerate the goblins. Aripos got off a nasty sneak attack to kill one at almost full health, and Gruz dove through a window (1d4 slashing damage) when the the doorway was blocked off. This is a holdover from his CoS character, who also liked to take damage from diving through church windows.
Eluriah - Accidental tank from the domination, held off javelins from the soldiers, and threw heals around keeping everyone up.
Orwin - Mechanicles, his cat homunculs dealt some nasty damage, and his temp hp turret gave enough buffs to last the fight.
Mishka - Held Smiley in one place, and took an enlarged hit to the face.

And everyone got to single digit health except for Aripos. Boreus was untouched until he began to run away after Smiley died, where he then got utterly demolished, so they got all his healing potions.

The NPCs on the other hand were a mess, and its my fault. I completely forgot how Cancel worked, and had Boreus doing other stuff until I remembered two or three rounds in, "Oh yeah, I should probably let the antimagic cleric do some antimagic." Felt bad after some big spells went off, and kind of threw me off my groove. I don't usually get down on my mistakes too much, but I just felt especially dumb after forgetting that. In reality, I think it was a really good fight, I was just in a funk. I also didn't pop Enlarge until too late, so Smiley only got to take a single swing with it.

Players finally got their level up, but we only took a short rest, so the next session should be interesting. Everyone took an ASI, so they're already jonesing for level 5.

Changes to the module

Somehow, I don't think I made any changes at all! I knew the fight would be long, and I'm really interested in seeing where Crystin and Haddin's story goes. I guess officially I gave Torrent death saves, but I do that for most NPCs tagalongs and to bosses with minions that can heal them. Overall, great session.
 

With the benefit of hindsight, if I'd had more word count available, I would probably have offered a couple possible paths through the fire forest, with some more perilous than others, to give the players a bit more agency early on. Then Indomitability could intercede to stop them from going any farther, but it would hopefully make the adventure's start feel less of a railroad.

Also, don't beat yourself up. You still nearly killed the party, so going harder and killing them wouldn't really have helped create a fun campaign, no?
 

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