WotBS Tolamaker's Burning Sky

Tolamaker

Adventurer
60 cont'd.
Post-session thoughts
This session felt good because it was the first time in I don't know how long where we were able to begin and finish two separate fights with some roleplay in between. That's largely because I played this thing by the book, and it really helped things out. These fights went very quickly, to the point where I was almost disappointed by them, but I already heard my players bemoan lost hitpoints and debating when to take a long rest, so I'd say it's working great for a dungeon crawl. Meeting the Millorn Clan was fun, as was the immediate distrust of them. "How many times have we been betrayed this campaign" was said at one point. It's very funny hearing this when they've reached a module where barring one big exception, deception is not the name of the game.

Changes to the module
Literally the only changes I made was I renamed Jorrina Jorrinova in a case of bad Russianizing, and I accidentally mixed up which bulette tunnel lead to which dead end. Everything else was almost completely by the book. Next session (which just wrapped up) they finally enter Castle Korstull proper.
 

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Tolamaker

Adventurer
Session 61: First Steps

The party finally takes the right tunnel which leads into Castle Korstull. Jorrinova reveals that they heard from their contact that Korstull is full of tiny passageways and service tunnels, perfect for gnomes and halflings to squeeze into. The tunnel leads them to a racetrack-like area, where horse hooves have been baked into once-muddy dirt. As they inspect a small stream that comes from the north, two bloody knights on fiery horses materialize and attack them. Aripos immediately launches a deadly bolt into the breast of one horse, forcing it and its rider to seek refuge in another plane. The other knight rushes to explode in bloody necrosis to batter at Mishka and Gruz. The disappeared rider emerges from space to surprise Aripos, though he and Gruz are abole to finish them both off, while Mishka deals with the other rider.

With that attack dealt with, the party and the Millorn clan part ways, with Aripos leading them up the stream while Millorn takes their carts into the wider tunnels. Aripos finds a large wheel that doesn't quite catch the water. Above him, a mage and skeletons try to get the jump on him, but fail. With the rest of the party squirming through the tight passageway, Aripos is pummeled by attacks before Gruz dimension doors himself and Mishka into the room. The mage, an undead gnoll, turns invisible, and futilely fires off missiles and spells, but is subdued by Mishka and Eluriah.

Captured, the gnoll reveals himself to be Thordrik, a gnoll who received visions to come to Castle Korstull and partake in the Dark Pyre. His face is ecstatic as he describes the power it offers, and his own death and undeath at its hands in the firestorm. When the party asks why he is in the wheel room, he says he is holding the heart of the castle hostage. "The wheel powers many things within the castle. Until Inquisitor Griata accedes to my demands, I will not let it run!"

Suddenly very talkative, the party gets the lay of the land within the castle. Griata apaprently controls the undead within the castle through the power of the Dark Pyre. Several other factions exist within, including Gorkov (a Sindairese noble), and a group of devils "content to desecrate the chapel." Thordrik promises his aid if the party is able to help him assault Griata's hold in the upper levels, and throw himself into the Dark Pyre. "Oh, what a marvelous thing that would be!"

Post Session Thoughts:

THis session went a little slow, due to the fact that I realized I had not completed setting up the Foundry map, so we started a bit late. Couple that with my party's love for capturing people and then deciding whether to kill or help them, there was a bit more roleplay than I expected as well, but it was fun. The Fallen Knight and Nightmare fight was fun, but tampered by 4(!) crits in a row by my players, twice from the rogue. Critting on sneak attack is a lot of dice, and thus a lot of fun, so I forgive her.

Changes to the Module:

I renamed Griiat to Griata, to make him a woman, and I renamed Gorquith to Gorkov, in another case of bad Russianizing. Maybe I'll break out my bad Russian accent for when they meet him.

I accidentally made Griata and Thorkrid enemies, rather than allies, due to missing clues that suggest it. Thorkrid is a minor character with the backstory that he had visions of the Dark Pyre, and has come and died here. He's also a necromancer, so I thought that maybe his skeletons had been infected by the Dark Pyre as well. That, alongside his shout of "So long as we stand, the castle’s heart shall not beat!” I got the feeling that he was holding the wheel and elevator hostage, rather than guarding it for Griata like he's supposed to.

In the end, I don't think it's a big deal, and it lead to a chance to give the players a bit of a heads up for what they might find in the castle. Also, I got to play a fanatic, which is always fun, especially when the players are suspicious of him. I turned his suicidal nature from the module to a desire to jump into the Dark Pyre, and they're having a hard time believing that for some reason.

The druid is already trying to convince people to wait until she can wind walk them up to the top, so I'll have to actually look up whether that's feasible. I remember that the elevator has a wall of force or something like that at the top, so we'll see.
 

I actually rather like the gnoll being self-entitled and refusing to work with the Inquisitor unless he gets special treatment, to which I'm sure the Inquisitor would sneer because who wants to trust this lunatic?
 

Tolamaker

Adventurer
Session 62: In Over Their Heads?

Corban breaks the tie over Thorkrid, and decides to leave him where he is, tied up. "We can always let him go or kill him later." The party pushes down the hall, and while inspecting the door, discovers a secret door in the wall. Mishka manages to wrench it open, and the party finds themselves in a passageway that has peepholes looking into some private quarters. Mishka muses that this might have been a way for Coaltongue to get information on visitors. Two of the quarters contain a Dark Pyre soldier. The party leaves the passageway and continue into a hallway with multiple doors. Corban and Gruz each take a door, and open them at the same time. Gruz's door is locked, though he hears horrific screams on the other side. Corban's door opens to a room with two pools. A zombie looks to them, begins to rush them alongside several swarms of hellwasps.

The party manages to fight off the wasps, though Gruz is paralyzed and almost infested with them. Once they've cleared the pool room, they go off to the side where there is a sauna. A hellish wasp nest dripping with honey rests in the center, and Eluriah is so horrified, she burns it all to the ground.

Gruz tells everyone what he heard in the other room, and they get Aripos to pick the lock. They burst in, and let loose on a strange morass of faces and screams. Mishka feels the thing try to suck her soul into its, but manages to resist. Terrified of what it's capable of, Gruz lands a banishing smite on the creature, sending it screaming back to its home plane.

Inside the room, they discover that they are on a platform that can raise up to the top of a shaft above them. At the top, there is a strange shimmer, which Corban says matches descriptions of the Astral Plane. Gruz goes up to investigate on his flying broom, and is immediately hit by a hold person spell. Once it wears off, he comes back dow, but Eluriah is still curious. She goes up and resists the hold person. Higher up, she is hit by a fireball. Pushing ever higher, she finally turns back when spiked metal balls bludgeon her from the walls.

The party debates what to do, whether to turn back and rest, or to forge ahead into other rooms. Corban wants to try one more thing, however. Taking Gruz's broom, he dimension doors his way to the shimmer. He sticks his sword across the shimmer to test it, and it returns unharmed. As he debates going through, and while the others watch him above, none of them are aware of the Dark Pyre patrol which has come to investigate the explosion...

Post Session Thoughts

This was a slow one, and then all of a sudden a quick one. The hellwasp fight took forever, partially because I run swarms has taking half damage from all single-target attacks, rather than just the normal piercing/slashing/bludgeoning. Everyone was suitably grossed out as I described the hellwasps beginning to climb into Gruz's mouth and nose to infest him. There was a moment where they debated teleporting him to burn the hellwasps with the Burning Sky, which is so cool I wish they hadn't managed to finish off the swarm before it got in him. The fight with the feaster of flesh and souls was quick, but still fun. I could tell he was going to be taken out pretty quickly (with not a single miss against his 20 AC) so I let him soul suck as a legendary action, just to give them a taste. I always have this urge to let a monster do all of it's cool actions, sometimes to the detriment of a fight, so I found this a nice middle ground instead of padding his HP.

The debate and exploration of the lift shaft was hilarious and frustrating. I know I'm the DM, I know I know everything that is coming, but it still always surprises me when players willingly hurt themselves just to get a little information. My players are also trying to kill me by using their potions before they take use up hit dice, but I gave up explaining resource management years ago. I very much look forward to next session as they are both split and ambushed.

Changes to the Module
Any and all changes are either due to forgetfulness, or interpreting how the lift shaft would would if someone just flew up. I forgot the hellwasps were supposed to be an ambush, but I don't think that changed much. I decided that the traps weren't dependent on the lift's location, just deactivated if the lift and mechanisms were in the right place. Though I did forget that fire elementals are supposed to be summoned at the third level after the fireball. We'll treat that as a nice surprise if they ever bother to mess with the mechanism while the water is flowing. I also decided to simplify it and not have the traps go off while descending.
 

Tolamaker

Adventurer
Session 63 & 64: Ambush and Reconnaissance

The group is ambushed, and all but Aripos are able to react in time. Mishka takes the brunt of the attacks, fending off axe blade after bolt after wall of flame. As Aripos dodges the blows and tries to gain a good spot, a monstrously large ogre specter floats through the battlefield, directing the soldiers in Orcish. "Focus your fire on the mages," it hisses, before dipping through a wall to safety.

Gruz cuts through the Wall of Flame with a Dispel Magic, but Mishka goes down just before she's able to retaliate, and Eluriah is about to join her when Corban finally descends far enough on Gruz's broom to cast Mass Cure Wounds, bringing Mishka back up, and allowing Eluriah to cast her own Mass Cure Wounds. Slowly, the tide of battle turns, and the party is able to cut down the last of the skeletons. Before the last one is destroyed, the ogre specter looks in, shakes his head in disappointment, and then rises through the ceiling.

Recovering from their wounds, the group decides that they need to find a place to rest. They discuss going back to the pump room, but instead decide to try and find the sleeping rooms they found through peepholes earlier. As they make their way there, they run into members of Clan Millorn, who are also looking for a place to rest. Several of them are wounded, but they seem largely in good spirits. They tease out several skeletons, and make short work of them, when a large burning bulette comes barreling down the hallway and attacks them. Gruz quickly turns it into a mouse, and then they panic, trying to get rid of the mouse before it returns to its original form. Mishka tosses it into the spa room, and returns to the group.

Within the minute, they hear crashing, and the bulette breaks through several rooms to attack them. This time, they focus their fire, and kill it swiftly, just barely dodging its gnashing teeth. The party makes their way through the rooms, and Eluriah recognizes the art in each room as that of a famous Sindairese gnome artist. The party and Clan Millorn make quick work of taking their share of the loot, totaling to several thousand gold if they find a buyer.

As the party rests, they tell the clan that they found an elevator. When Oller asks if they found the pump that powers the elevator, the party demurs, deciding to keep its location a secret. Jorrinova speaks with Eluriah, and reveals that Clan Millorn has a buyer interested in the Torch. "They'll pay enough that this," she waves at the now empty frames on the walls, "will look like pennies. Think about it."

Eluriah is more interested in destroying the Torch, as she believes it is responsible for the necrotic firestorm. In fact, she even muses that the storm itself may be the Torch, enlarged by some magical mishap.

In the "morning," the group explores, finding a passageway up to the second floor, where they hear the sound of music. Turning into a spider, Eluriah ventures into a room filled with undead dressed in finery and eating each other's flesh. An undead bard sings songs of stupid skeletons, and a phosphorescent ooze with a skeleton floating in its slime sits on a throne and presides over it all. Eluriah returns, and the party all agree to leave them be.

Nearby, they find a room with a map. When Mishka reaches for it, it bites her. She rips it off before its venom can affect her. They also find a secret entrance into the same room Eluriah spied on, but decide to leave it. Returning below, they find a cistern that leads to the same water that runs through the pump room. Going upstream, they find a small cavern where they could potentiall rest, and water spewing from the rock. Following the river back down, they find Clan Millorn working on the pump. With Aripos' help, they manage to fix the wheel and pump, and water begins to churn.

Making their way to the entrance, Aripos runs into a patrol of gnome skeletons, and the ogre specter as well. Battle ensues, with Aripos taking hits from enemies his own size, while the specter homes in on Eluriah, slashing at her as she attmepts to maintain an Aura of Life. Dipping in and out of the walls, the specter has almost drained Eluriah, but Aripos lands a bolt that disrupts its entire being, sending it into nothingness. They are about to finish off the stragglers when a lucky shot sends Eluriah to the ground. Will she survive? We'll find out next week!

Post-Session(s) Thoughts
This ambush was stressful. I had even done a quick HP check before the start of the first session, and figured everyone, Mishka included, would be fine. When she went down before she could even take a turn, I think everyone at the table realized how much trouble they were in. You know it's a hard fight when the spellcasters are stuck on heal-duty. Everyone was suitably terrified of Reddengot, which was fun too, especially since he's a more passive figure in this one.

Once again, they killed me when they decided to keep forging forward, but the bulette and skeletons turned out to not be a big deal due to excellent stealth rolls, meaning they had largely dealth with the mooks before the big boi turned up. Turning enemies into rats has been an effective strategy for Gruz's player, but for once it wasn't any real use, because they didn't have a way to get rid of the mouse, or talk it out of fighting them. And so, the next session started with it crashing through the wall.

These two sessions were separated by two weeks of me moving across several states. When it came time to play last week, We were missing two players, Corban and Gruz, which meant for a very different dynamic, as they tend to be more vocal about their decision making. They were also much more cautious, almost to a disappointing degree when they decided against entering the Sindaire nobles room, but I understand why. We'll see if they return.

Changes to the Module
I think the first session was run pretty much by the book. Reddengot's second attack is supposed to be an ambush during the night, but I decided against it because the remaining players were the ones who had taken the brunt of the damage in the ambush. If it were Gruz or Corban there instead of any of the other three, I would have done it, but it didn't feel fair to pick on the people who had been on the front line the most by chance. As it was, it was still a tough fight, which only ended when I kept Reddengot near Eluriah so that she couldn't opportunity attack when he was in single digits, and forgot that ranged attacks from other players was a thing. I still look forward to ambushing them with the vrock.

Next session, we find out if Eluriah survives (she will, the battle is over) and the players will find that some members of Clan Millorn have stepped into the deep end with some devils.
 

Tolamaker

Adventurer
Session 65: Stumbling About

Eluriah is revived, and the party decides where to go next. They make their way to the barracks, where they find two doors. They open one that leads to a bunker that faces out to the entrance of the castle, and they ambush the skeletons there. Their fighting alerts two golems and another bunker, and a simple ambush turns into a more dire threat. Thankfully, the golems are unable to land a single blow, and they get out mostly unscathed. They then decide to make their way back up to the ooze skeleton to see what's going on there. However, they take a wrong set of stairs, and find themselves in a new level. They find a room filled with Morusan deities, but fail to notice the strange mist that compels Aripos and Gruz to become extremely religious, donating a good portion of their gold. Eluriah had noticed the mist and held her breath, and shoves everyone into the next room, where she manages to catch sight of the devils hanging in the rafters, and gives warning in time.

The battle starts with them being surrounded by bearded devils. Eluriah, unwittingly shoved to the front, pulls off acrobatics heretofore unseen, and manages to create an icestorm in return to batter the devils. The heroes are surrounded on all sides by beards and glaives and chains. Find out how they fare next week!

Post-Session Thoughts
This session was the first one where I started to feel the drag of the dungeon. There was nothing wrong with it, it's just been a long time poking around Castle Korstull. Two fights with a full party and a short bit of roleplay in the middle is not really my cup of tea four sessions in a row. If I had known then how I felt about it now, I probably would have done some mixing up of the dungeon a bit more, to consolidate fights or make the factions in the Castle more interactive, so, lesson learned. For example, I had planned on having the devils capturing a few Clan Millorn members, but then didn't because the group kept reiterating going to see the ooze, and then they went up before the idea could really cement in my mind. So, the devils are going to largely feel like an incidental enemy, rather than a major player. I'll likely let them find Pilmat the imp just to provide some context.

Changes to the Module
I forgot to set off the glyph of warding in front of the armory, so if they ever return there, I'll set it off when they try to open it. Other than that, all is going according to the book!
 

Tolamaker

Adventurer
Sessions 66, 67, and 68: Up, Down, and All Around

A bit of catch-up to do, simply due to getting a bit side tracked the past few weeks!

The party fight their way through the devils, finally dispatching the chain devil with a quick beheading. The chains fall silent, and the part make their way cautiously through the halls to a room with a mirror. Staring into it, they soon discern that it is showing a different room, with a terrible flame at the center. Along the walls are other mirrors, with distant images. A robed figure emerges from the flame and observes them curiously. It wears the mask of an Inquisitor. In on of the distant mirrors, Corban sees the Millorn clan being captured by undead, and being taken to the ooze banquet hall. With a dramatic crash, the mirror cracks, and the party rushes down and up again to rescue the gnomes and halflings.

In the banquet hall, the undead nobles have not yet restored their defenses, and so the party bursts in just as Oller is swallowed up by the ooze. Battle breaks out, and it soon is apparent that the party will win. The ooze calls for parley, but Aripos is too angry about his cousin being actively eaten, and so kills Gorkov the ooze. The rest of the ghoulish nobles are dispatched, and Oller is rescued from the dispersing ooze. In the throne the ooze had resided, Aripos finds a map of the castle, with instructions on how to ascend the lift without activating traps.

Realizing they have cleared out the entire first and second floors, the party decides to make sure they found everything. More searching discovers a +1 crossbow behind a glyph of warding, and a secret room is discovered in a priest's quarters that leads them to a treasure trove of offerings made to the gods. Unable to find the proper entrance to the other side, they take hammers and pickaxes from the siege tunnels and force their way in, where they find a few small coins, and a brightly shining feather. Mishka determines it belonged to a humanoid sized creature, and Aripos believes it belonged to St. Cefrey, the leader of an order in realms long-forgotten who guards against an ancient evil.

After running into zombie-servants who still attempt to fulfill their duties, the party takes a final rest before making their way up the elevator shaft with the Millorn clan. They also share a meal from the Coldcreek Culinary (heroe's feast) and Gruz gives a rousing speech. They are tense, but thankfully nothing happens as they noisily ascend to the top of the castle. At the top, they begin to float as they have entered the Astral plane, and are able to rearrange what is up and down with some concentration. Corban rearranges himself to be on the ceiling immediately.

As they exit the lift, a glyph explodes underneath Aripos' feet, failing to remove the effect of Heroes' feast. Murder holes open up on either side, and Dark Pyre soldiers light into the party. Gruz turns his gravity sideways and slips through the crowd, and fights along the wall. Escaping the tunnel, the party runs into more Dark Pyre rogues, and soon Gruz is knocked unconscious by skeletal gnomes, bleeding out on the wall. Mishka dispatches the sergeant while Eluriah and Corban heal everyone. As Gruz is about to be knocked out again, Corban polymorphs him into a giant ape, who proceeds to pummel the soldiers into pieces, although only barely able to survive in the small hallways.

In the next room is a large golden skeleton of a dragon. Mishka breaks off one of the teeth, which sets off a strange angry howl from behind them, especially spooking Clan Millorn. Before they can figure out what made the noise, the doors on either side of the room open, with skeletons on one side, and a demonic vulture and fire elemental on the other, led by the robed inquisitor from the mirror room.

Gruz immediately changes gravity to rush the vrock, failing to banish it with a cleave of his greatsword. Corban slows the enemies, and Mishka and Gruz are able to kill the inquisitor, causing her and the Dark Pyre beyond to explode, destroying the undead soldiers as well. Eluriah's draconic spirit kills the elemental, finally empowering the ring she had taken from the Pyromancer's tomb.

Stepping into the pyre room, the party sees a window which shows a line being carved through the firestorm as hundreds of Ragesians, and a handful of Shahalesti, march on the castle.

Changes to the module

It's been a while, but I'll do my best. I had the Millorn clan captured by the nobles, because I wanted something that would make the players rush back, and it did the trick. It's not clear where Gorquith keeps the instructions/map, so I figured his throne was a good compromise. Because they killed him, they didn't find any of the healing items. Cefrey was Eluriah's PC from our Strahd campaign, the second of the five old-PC items I have scattered throughout this campaign. I figured making the old cleric become a saint made sense.

I let the players change their gravity as a free action, because it seemed more fun that way. Not technically a change, because I'm not sure if the book specified if it was an action or not.

The fight at the top level was more difficult than intended, because I ran the first two waves practically simultaneously. I felt like I had too, because it felt like the first wave was going to go down too easily. This led to a near-death experience, but ultimately turned out OK. I probably would instead split the Dark Pyre Swarmers up between the first and third waves instead if I were to run it again, just to give both other encounters some more oomph. The final fight felt a little anticlimactic after the near-thing from the first two waves. I think this is the first time I changed the challenge of a fight significantly in this module, and I would say it was to mixed success.

Post Session thoughts

There were a lot of great moments in these sessions. I was very straightforward with the group that they had cleared all the levels up to the elevator, so basically sped through checking other rooms for loot. They had abysmal Investigation rolls, so a bit of loot was left behind. i decided that the relic-feather was placed there by a particularly doddering Sindairese priest taken in by the mist, and was going to be retrieved, but then Coaltongue was assassinated.

Even though they found the instructions for the lift, I decided to read off to them what didn't happen, and that was quite fun. I already do this with loot they miss at the end of a module, but it was fun to do in the clattering ride up to build tension. The gravity changing was also a blast, even if only two players really played around with it. If I had the cash or the skill, I have a killer illustration in mind from the Griiat fight with Corban on the ceiling, and Gruz on the wall fighting an elemental and inquisitor while a draconic spirit fights the vrock.

The next session is tonight, and I'm hoping to finish the module as well! That will put us at 11 sessions for the adventure, which I'm happy with.
 


Tolamaker

Adventurer
Their opinion is mixed, but leaning negative, I'd say. The elf druid in particular thinks she's stuck up, and generally doesn't like the Shahalesti. Seeing the Shahalesti march alongside the Ragesians hasn't really helped.

I think the group is ready to stretch their legs a bit! I'm also hoping to weave in a bit of personal backstory from two of the players into the adventure, so I'm excited to see how that plays out.
 

Tolamaker

Adventurer
Session 69: A Nice Little Windfall, Then a Wakeup Call

The party finds a strange object in the room where the Dark Pyre once burned. It appears like a rug, with a wooden frame, and benches across it. A console has an inset where a gem might rest. The Pyre itself has burned to a dwindle, and Gruz and Mishka inspect it. They don't think it is the Torch, but are unsure. back in the hall, Oller of Clan Millorn runs his hands over the dragon skeleton in awe. Eluriah explores deeper and finds footprints in ashes that lead to a secret door. It leads to a throne room with a man in the fetal position, surrounded by two others in similar garb who look as though they have died recently. She heals his wounds, but is unable to stop his babbling. Surrounding him on the floor and walls are prophecies that he has seen and written in his own blood. Corban writes them down, noting some similarities between some of the visions and their own experiences. They wonder if the trillith have anything to do with it.

Above on the ceiling, there is a magical mural that swirls with colors matching where everyone in the room is. When Gruz goes to sit on the throne, he feels a sense of trepidation, but goes forward. When he sits, he is flooded with the sense of belonging, and suddenly the patterns on the ceiling make sense to him as everyone's emotions and thoughts seem to be written upon their faces. Corban also sits down to experience it, but when Aripos tries, he stops short, believing himself unworthy. Mishka and Eluriah also fail to sit upon the throne, leading them to wonder if it only allows those of noble blood to sit upon it.

Further in, they find the imperial bedchamber, with very fine bedsheets that have been stabbed and slashed. Corban gathers it up anyway. In the throne room, Mishka loots the ruby-encrusted torches. Gruz finds a wardrobe with many fine clothes, and Aripos finds the motherlode of the treasure room, filled to the brim with coins and magical items. They divvy the loot up with Clan Millorn while Eluriah takes an elixir of greater restoration they found and feeds it to the man on the ground. He comes to, and reveals himself to an inquisitor, part of their martial order dedicated to portecting the emperor. He tells how he was standing on guard when his compatriots throats were cut and he was poisoned, slowly losing his mind as dark elf and half elf assassins took Coaltongue's body away. The last thing he remembers is the surge of fire, "like hat of the Torch", and then he succumbed to the poison. The party leads him to the Dark Pyre, which he says is similar to the Torch, but "twisted."

The rattling of chains alerts the party to a group of Shahalesti and Ragesians who enter the floor, and demand that they turn over everything they have found. Darius is confused and calls for parley, but is suspicious that the two forces are working together. When Corban attempts to cast mass suggestion, the elf paladin leading the group calls for battle. The paladin is quickly trapped by a mental prison cast by Gruz, and is killed by an ally who thought they were helping. Atop the dragon skeleton, Oller's form shifts into that of the seela Vuhl, and then a half-orc, and then a mass of writhing tentacles. He raises a black gem and slams it into the skeleton, raising it as a living thing with muscles stitching back together. The dragon goes after Mishka for "defiling grandmother," and "Oller" goes after Gruz.

In the ensuing chaos the elves are all killed, and the Ragesians make an ordered retreat. Darius runs to the Pyre room and finds the lever to open the wall, calling for the party to escape. Gruz manages to banish Oller for a time, and as the party backs away, and as Mishka and Gruz fight on their last legs, they manage to fell the dragon, causing it to fall to the ground as a pile of bones once again. They retrieve the black gemstone, and rush to the palanquin, which flashes with light and takes off into the air. Behind them, reinforcements arrive, and Princess Shalosha and her retinue jump into the air, flying after the escaping party.

Post Session thoughts

I went into this session planning on finishing the module, and we hit the 99% mark. It was a bit rushed, but I honestly felt like we hit all of the beats, and it made the ending feel like a real climax. I was very glad how quickly the players caught on that they've dealt with some of Darius' visions, and the treasure trove felt like a well-deserved reward, even before the true final fight began. Different people multiple times made comments about the skeleton coming to life, and I teased them by reading out the section that says that Griiat failed to animate the skeleton. The second Oller slammed the gem in, everyone shouted because they knew what was going to happen. I also made two tokens for Foundry, so that they could see skeleton knit itself back together. The party was actually convinced to start running until I had to say these two terrible words: "It's bloodied." As soon as they knew they had managed to whittle it to half health, I knew they weren't going to run from the fight.

Technically not done with the module, but this was probably my favorite ending of the campaign, alongside Mad King's Banquet. The Dassen ending wasn't the most difficult of fights, but there was so much story going on, that all the players fully bought into the drama. This fight was much more dire, and even though I thought I might get them to run away, they managed to squeak by into killing Aggression in a way that didn't feel cheap.

Changes to the Module
I probably screwed some things up with regard to Darius' character. I tried to portray him as a noble protector, the first inquisitor the party has met that isn't a devil-dealing blood hungry zealot. I'm afraid that might have led me to making him too helpful, even against the Ragesians, because I couldn't remember how to get them out of the window, so I just said he found a secret lever, even though ten minutes earlier I had said he didn't know the castle, he just went where Coaltongue did. Ah well, it was a roller coaster session, and I'm nit picking an otherwise good time.

Similar to how I combined the ambush at the top of the elevator, I knew I wanted the Ragesian/Shahalesti fight to merge with the dragon. Even buffed for the party (+2 to hit, AC, and spell save DC, extra legendary resistance, and +40 hitpoints) I was fairly certain that Aggression would be an easy target to solo. So having Aggression break out in the middle of the other fight, and adding Deception on top of that, I felt like it would be enough of a clue to get the party running. And yet...

I don't know whether to call this a naughty word-up or a calculated risk of changing the fight, but because I added Deception (CR 12 on top of the Aggression's CR 17) but I didn't give Aggression the bonuses I mentioned above. I didn't realize this until the killing blow by Mishka. I waffled on correcting before announcing the kill, but with Aggression having used all of its legendary actions already, and three more PCs to go, I figured it was OK. It might have made a bigger difference earlier, but like I said, the fight wasn't easy, and it didn't feel like I was holding their hand. Also, we found out one player was under-reporting damage because they forgot to apply a class feature properly, so it probably balances out roughly.

Next time, a chat aboard Coaltongue's sleigh palanquin.
 

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