WotBS Tolamaker's Burning Sky

I'll definitely be checking in on @RangerWickett 's MIssion update, as it looks very cool. We'll see how productive I'm feeling in a month or two.
I knew I'd forgotten to do something! Right! Time to get on that!

Congrats on finishing module 4. It's also rather nice to get a Heroes' Feast on tap, since the feast they were supposed to enjoy just nearly got turned into a massacre.
 

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Tolamaker

Adventurer
I have a satirical ttrpg news site, and I wrote an article loosely based on when the party decided to surrender themselves to the Talon guard.

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Tolamaker

Adventurer
It has been almost four months since I last updated this page, and that's because the initial plan of a short break kind of got out of hand. What I expected to be a 2-3 one-shots became a much longer exploration of some other games (plus holidays). Hopefully, we will return to the Burning Sky this or next week! But first, a few flash reviews.

Brindlewood Bay (4 mystery sessions, 1 freeplay)
I’ve run it once as a one-shot with two non-gamers, and it went really well. However, as a player for 5 sessions, I felt like it was a little sluggish, and kind of floaty. Some of this likely comes down to the GM, as well as the fact that I prefer to GM than be a PC, but I think it also falls on the rules. I’d like to write a longer review of it, but the gist is that Brindlewood Bay’s moves are written in such a perfunctory way that it leaves things out that I think are incredibly important. A practiced GM can take these and interpret them in a way to make the game run smooth, but when the GM is new, and following the rules to the letter, it stifles the game.

Alien (1 Rules session, two play sessions)
This was fun. I really enjoyed the mechanics of stress and the spiral that both made our characters more likely to succeed and naughty word up at the same time. This two-shot ended with our entire rag-tag group hanging on to a newly hatched alien, half of us bleeding out as we pummeled it with our fists and wrenches. Somehow came out of it all alive, with enough of a hook to continue if we want to.

Blades in the Dark (1 character and crew creation session, 3 play sessions)
Despite the fact that I’ve written four articles about the game, this is my first time running and playing the game! The first session was a pretty straightforward heist where I probably went too easy on them, but we were learning. The second session was a blackmail/heist job, where I also went too easy, but then the dice turned the whole mess into our first trauma for the group. The player of Gruz, who loves to misty step through the Burning Sky, really likes to test his luck with devil’s bargains and flashbacks. He is now Soft. The third session was half Ghostbusting and half mystery as the crew cleared out some ghosts, as well as solving a murder. This one kind of got out of hand for me, but it was still fun. While I think Blades is obviously viable for running one-shots, I think it really shines when the players have big goals of their own to lead a campaign.

This past week was spent figuring out the foibles of 5e in Foundry. We'll be running in the new VTT for all of Mission, and I'll report back later on how I feel about Foundry vs Roll20.
 

Tolamaker

Adventurer
Sessions 48 & 49: Home and Off Again

The party leaves Dassen, but not before Lady Timor meets with them once again. "While our agreement has technically been met, I would still like to take partnership of your future encounters with the Trillith. If you will have her, my aide, Gwenevere will join you." She introduces a human woman in expensive clothing, and a haughty look upon her face. Though the group has some trepidation, especially on the cold reception, they accept.

On the travel to Seaquen, they learn that Gwenevere is a artificer, specializing in armors and artifacts, and she is in fact quite full of herself. When they come back to Seaquen, they see that in the month of their absence, they see that the refugees have put into practice Eluriah's farming techniques. The find Lurog (Eluriah's husband) has taken care of their tree house as well. They report to Simeon, and are able to learn more about the ongoing war. The Legions have taken Gate Pass, and are also working their way through the north of Shahalesti. The remnants of the legion with Coaltongue at his death has been scattered across Sindaire. Simeon tells the party that they've sent a contingent to the Monastery of the Two Winds, to see if there is any connection between the wind-monks and the storm that almost destroyed Seaquen. Until they receive word, Simeon thanks them, and leaves them to their own devices.

Aripos takes to thieving again, stealing from an art gallery. He leaves behind some footprints, leading tot he locals calling him the Tiny Toe Bandit. Mishka, effectively barred from the fighting pits, trains a halfling fighter in her stead, and makes money by betting on him. Corban tells their tales in the taverns, Eluriah makes healing potions, and Gwenevere helps Sheena Larkin investigate possible teleportation methods.

Simeon calls them to his office with concerning news. The party sent to the monastery has reached it, apparently right before a Ragesan army arrived. However, their sending did not sound urgent, and other attempts to reach them were "like talking to one drunk or drugged." When the party learns that Torrent was among the contingent, they are immediately spurred to action. Meeting with Larkin at midnight, she says they have found a connection between the plane of fire and the sun. Teleporting near midnight somewhat mitigates the damage against them.

A teleportation ring surrounds them, and they are engulfed in flames. Gwenever punches Mishka to make her angry, and Eluriah is protected by her ring of fire elementals. They are left standing, while the rest are knocked out. However, they are not teleported to a friend's garden, but a cage with a white obelisk on it. After explaining themselves to the guards, they are led to the palace of the Khagan. The Khagan is very charming, and listens to their story, and pledges a troop of soldiers to their cause, as Pilus, one of the monks, is his godfather.

Setting off, the party makes their way into the Ostalin mountains. In the passes, they see signs of wolf-tracks, but they don't see the goblin mage preparing a wall of fire above them...

Post-Session thoughts
These two sessions felt a little slow, likely because I was getting back in the hang of DMing. I always feel a little apprehensive in these transitory sessions, so I'll be happy once they get to the monastery and get the lay of the adventure.

Changes to the Module
I've incorporated some of what @RangerWickett has changed, but I also knew that I wanted to get a move on. One of the apparent complaints is that this adventure is linear, but because it leads directly into Castle Korstull, I feel like that's ok. To me, I'm going to focus more on the long-term subterfuge of Pilus and Onamdammin. I changed Onamdammin from imperious to charming. Instead, I made his subjects unquestionably loyal, to the point that the players are suspicious of how "perfect and organized" Ostalin is.
 

Tolamaker

Adventurer
Session 50(Holy naughty word): Battle in the Pass

The party is caught unawares as a wall of fire cuts between them, and arrows suddenly pepper them from above. The source of the flames is a goblin mage with a wicked scar across his neck, mounted atop a menacing worg. The goblin cackles and suddenly launches a second wall of flame, impossibly keeping both up at the same time. The walls separate Mishka and Aripos (the martials) from the rest of the party (the mages), and so they must all figure out what to do on their own.

Eluriah takes the brunt of the fire and arrow damage, and pulls back to send out a mass heal to everyone, letting them recover enough to retaliate. Corban begins to utilize his Wayfarer abilities to dance around the battlefield (getting burned each time). Though he is unable to land any hits with his rapier, his Shatter spells disorient the enemy. Gwenevere teleports herself through one wall to grant Mishka the Jump spell (oops) and then pushes her way through the second wall of flame, making for the base of the pass. Mishka uses a rune of enlarge self to grow to a massive size, and leaps to the top of the pass, swiping at the goblin at the same time as Aripos braves the flames to shoot him as well. The goblin is hardy however, and is able to not only control the existing walls, but also adds a flaming sphere as well, slamming it into Corban.

With the damage getting too much, Eluriah turns into a giant eagle and flies up to safety. Also burning up, Aripos uses his spider-climb tattoo to climb up the pass wall to escape the flames, though Gwenevere warns him not to climb up to the edge. It soon becomes clear why, as Gwenevere unleashes a lightning bolt through the soldiers on the edge. Mishka is finally able to (re)behead the goblin and a Ragesian Captain, and the weakened remainders begin to retreat. The party is able to finish them all off bar one who surrenders.

Questioning him, they learn that this group was sent to guard against anyone who might come to the aid of the monastery. He also mentions that they sent a runner yesterday to make a report, and they had not returned. Making their way to it, they see that the Ragesian forces have camped outside the wall of Eresh, which sits below the Monastery. Eluriah flies over the town, and sees that the soldiers and villagers don't seem to be fighting one another. The party agrees to try and infiltrate at night, but their sneaking leaves a lot to be desired, and they are immediately spotted by a guard who says "You're not allowed to be here."

Gwenevere half-heartedly says, "Yes we are," as the party prepares to fight, but the guard seems to take this well, and doesn't bother them anymore. As they look around, they realize that all of the soldiers are extremely laconic, and feel a strange sense of calm begin to fall over the group...

Post-session thoughts
Remember how I accidentally gave the party a troop of Ostalin troops? Well, I simplified the fight by simply saying there were more soldiers on the field, and they were fighting each other, and didn't bother with them. Easy-peasy.

This fight was a really fun set up ruined by incredibly terrible rolls on the part of my NPCs. I think only 3-4 Ragesians landed a hit, with the only real damage coming from Menchi's fire, which everyone was suitably impressed and scared of. The entire sequence of realizing they're trapped, and each using their own tools to get out was a real treat. But the combat itself was a bit of a slog, not helped by the fact that the way I run health in Roll20 (counting up, because adding is easier than subtracting) isn't how Foundry is set to work (a lot of macros make subtracting the easiest method). So I accidentally added and removed health alternatively, realized I had naughty word up, and did a half-ass job of deciding how many hits each person needed to die after that. It worked out, I think, but it was a bit annoying. I'll have to figure out a system that works for me.

The party spent a solid 15 minutes discussing what they should do outside of Eresh, and it was very fun listening to all the plans they were coming up with that I knew would be immediately deflated as soon as they realized the uncaring attitude of the Ragesians below. It was a great way to end the session as realization hit them that something is very wrong here.

Changes to the module
This may or may not be a change, but Menchi's ability says he can hold multiple flaming spheres, not fire walls, but the description of the fight has him launching multiple fire walls. I decided this was cooler, and decided that Menchi had such an affinity to fire that he had no limits to his concentration on fire spells. Made for a very cool boss.

I delayed the strange nature of the Ragesians for in person just to make it hit harder. So, not a lot of changes, really! Next time (tonight really) everyone makes some Charisma saving throws!
 


Tolamaker

Adventurer
Yeah, I am. Specifically, making Caela the Ragesian collaborator, not Pilus. I like the idea of Pilus as a Ostalin nationalist, who wants Ostalin to come out on top of this conflict, especially if it helps Ragesia's downfall. I'm wondering if a good motivation for Caela is that she also wants Ostalin to survive, but believes Ragesia to be too strong. Maybe she comes from Pilus and Longinus' area, and has also seen the might of the Ragesians (Pilus hasn't revealed his plans to her either. This is a very fractured monastery!). I think I'll make her motivations to be that she has been in contact with General Magdus to ensure Ostalin does not become a target in reward for helping create another Orb of Storms. If that's the case, why is Ragesia invading? Maybe she wasn't moving fast enough, so Magdus sent Signus up to rattle the cage, thinking that the isolated monastery wouldn't warrant much attention. But Balance's interference leads to a build-up of violence, and Signus believes that the lethargy is some sort of monk weapon Caela is using to betray them, which is why they explode when Balance dies.

I think the backstory that makes sense is that the Orb of Storms is an artifact that has been written about before, and needs to be constructed in the Valley. Caela managed to create one, and sent it to Seaquen before realizing that it could be used for more than just an offensive weapon. She is still working on creating the new one, and will finish it as the players are making their way into the lab (growing storms as they approach). I want the players to learn this information as they go, not just in one big jumble at the end, so I'll need to figure out how to tease it out in the monastery and in town.
 

Fuzzybear

Explorer
Session 50(Holy naughty word): Battle in the Pass
I completely bungled this fight. I'm not sure why or how anymore (it's only been a month, but it was not very memorable), but it just went by so simply and without issue. I'm glad to hear it went off better for you though!
 

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