WotBS Tolamaker's Burning Sky

Tolamaker

Adventurer
Session 79: Soul Survivors

The party take their turns reminding the DM that almost all of them have teleportation abilities, forcing 41 to drop the wall of force, and go toe to toe with Mishka. The onslaught of everyone, alongside their gifts from the temples, leads to the disintegration of 41, leaving only his mask. The party starts to regroup, when the mask regenerates, and they are forced to defeat him once again. Rushing through to the next room, they find the true body of 41. The vision that takes hold shows a young monk who rushes forward too fast, and for the wrong reasons, leaving a soulless husk. But a flicker of hate still burns, and when the forest is in turmoil with the genocide of the Taranesti, 41 awakes, and takes control of the soul-shaping temple. With a single push, the ghost of the master of the temple is able to finally put the weakened 41 to rest.

Post Session Thoughts:
The last session ended on what seemed to be a bad moment for the party, but the teleportation really undercut the moment, and the fight was rather anticlimactic. The reveal of the astral projection was a bit of a jump scare, but pretty easily dealt with. I think if I were to do it again, I would buff 41 with more legendary actions, not more HP. I would probably still buff his AC, DC, and to-hit.

There's a part of me that also wondered if I should have corrupted the gifts of the temple as well. As it is, they are a straight up buff, which I don't believe my group needed (The one-time Heal spell from the sacrifice would still fit, I think). Just as 41 corrupts the visions (I said last time that the book didn't have this explicitly happen, oops, I just missed it on a reread), I think that it might have been a fun turnaround to have the buffs turn around. The regeneration might reverse, the flight might turn into half-speed, and other things like that. Maybe make it a legendary action by 41, once per round, just to build the tension.

This session was pretty short, because we leveled up, and then spent a while talking about what people wanted to change about their characters with the temple. Other than a few stat changes, the only real change was Corban's character trading rapier proficiencies for scimitar so that he could use Shaalguenyvar. I hadn't done any planning or Foundry prep for the next session, so we really just talked about planned downtime before parting ways.

Changes to the module:
The only change I made was that I didn't include a parting vision where Leska told Coaltongue of the Aquiline Heart. No real reason, other than it didn't feel like it fit the moment, and the group already got a lot of information about trillith and the Torch, so I felt like they had enough lore to work with.

Post Module Thoughts:
I liked this module overall, mostly for the Temple mechanics and story. However, while the Ycengled encounters were important for establishing Shahalesti as an antagonistic ally, the actual encounters and characters didn't really emphasize that for me. I think what might have helped here, and made me less likely to cut a lot of Ycengled would have been better Shahalesti characters. 41, Rhuarc, Quillathe and Yvonnel are all characters that have backstories and tidbits that really helped me flesh them out in ways that made them more interesting to interact with. Ycengled really only had Malhun, who has ties to other future enemies, but no real chance or reason to share those connections. I think a good addition to the module would be someone like a Shahalesti commander who is a true believer in High Elf supremacy to give the players a face to hate.
 

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Tolamaker

Adventurer
Sessions 80, 81, 82 - The Storm Breaks Back

Returning to Seaquen, the party hands over Katrina and Inquisitor Etienna over to the Lyceum. Simeon's eyes light up when he sees that they have brought the torch back to the Lyceum, and says "This will turn the tide. We cannot thank you enough." While Simeon and the Wayfarers take time to figure out the inner workings of the Torch, the party goes their own ways for a while. Eluriah travels back and forth with the newly freed Ycengled elves, working to reinvigorate the forest after decades of decay. Corban begins work attempting to learn more of the scimitar he discovered, but is unable to find anything in the libraries. He spends his time carving a teleportation circle into the treehouse. Mishka goes into the makeshift Lyceum dungeons to speak with the Inquisitor, to see if the vision of her father in a Ragesian prison was true, or just taunts from 41. Her attempts to intimidate the Inquisitor fail, who laughs in her face, and she breaks the Inquisitor's arm, being separated in a moment by a wall of force from Kiernan, who kicks her out of the dungeon.

Aripos and Niel decide that they need to steal back Aripos' fines from his earlier trial for burglary. THey successfully sneak into the treasury, but while escaping into the night, a strange chill fills the air. In the treehouse, frost forms over the newly carved bark as Eluriah returns from another Ycengled trip. Mishka is traveling from temple to temple, making every offering she can to ensure her father's safety, when the night air freezes with the onslaught of blizzard, and elementals form from the ice and snow.

The party, though separated, are able to defeat the elementals around them, and spend the rest of the night regrouping to defend Seaquen. In the morning, the devastation is widespread, but was contained. in the halls of the Lyceum, assorted allies from across the continent gather as Simeon informs them that they believe this attack was the result of a new weapon by Ragesia: an obelisk of eldritch ice, powered by kidnapped mages. He explains that with the combination of Katrina's help, and an imprisoned inquisitor, they have finally been able to decipher the spy missives that the Stormbreakers brought to them at the beginning of the year. "The information is old obviously, but it gives us enough to know where they are being held, and some ideas of their capabilities. Coupled with our own new weapon," Simeon gestures to the Torch brought forth, eliciting gasps and mutters from the crowd, "we finally have the means to strike back. To take the fight to them!"

Monks representing the East and West winds come forward and present a mask that speaks with the voice of Psi Lu, the master of the West Wind. He informs them that he would be happy to provide air reconnaissance with his "magnificent air ship." Simeon trepidatiously agrees, though the party confirm to one another that they will keep an eye on him. Kiernan comes forward, and with the aid of several illusions, lays out the map for the Scourge Fortress, detailing where troops will land, and where the Stormbreakers will go to take out the magical shield that will prevent them from leaving. The fortress is deep within Ragesian territory, near their northern border, so the Torch is their only hope in and out.

The next day, the assembled armies of Dasseni soldiers, Sindairese clans, a contingent of wind monks, and Gate Pass refugees gather to the north of Seaquen. Simeon hands the Torch to the party to do the honors, and they raise the Torch together and strike it to the ground. A firestorm erupts around them, almost a mile wide, and in a rush of heat the armies are deposited on the snowy mountainside. Gathering their wits, officers and soldiers under the direction of General Xava begin marching to the gates of the valley, where alarm horns and the glitter of spells are already waking. With a word of encouragement (and several fly spells) from Simeon, the Stormbreakers take to the sky and make their way to the center of where they believe the Eye of the valley is. Below, they see streaks of fire burn from the gates, spattering over shields of light thrown up by Timor mages.

In the valley, once their flight runs out, it is remarkably empty. They are able to sneak their way to an outpost, and Aripos lands a near-killing blow on a wyvern rider about to begin patrol. However, an inquisitor on a flying mammoth manages to disrupt their ambush, and the party is put on their back foot when Gruz is almost gored to death (with a nasty crit from the mammoth). While the party dispatches most of the guards, one soldier makes her way into a cave, which is heavily guarded by sigils of faerie fire (negating Aripos' greater invisibility he had just popped), and walls of fire. Finally, Eluriah is able to spot the final sigil that would have stunned one or more of them, and they make their way in to see a perfectly mirror-smooth ice lake. In the ice behind, a shimmering form appears: a withered old man with fine clothing, and a sneering face. He taunts them, and when it is clear they have no intention to run away, he grins, and drops the illusion that has made the cave appear far smaller, revealing soldiers and monsters at his disposal.

One of the combatants is another Wayfarer, who brings in one of her compatriots close in to do damage, but Corban intercepts with his own Wayfarer teleportation, freeing Eluriah from being ganged up on. Gruz takes to the air to avoid the burrowing remorhaz, and fires eldritch blasts out. When a monstrous aboleth bursts forth from the ice, Mishka rushes forward to intercept it, evading its psychic enslavement with the boon of Madness' protection. Aripos takes pot shots at an ice demon who trades psychic information for gold, and the evil Wayfarer grabs Eluriah and takes her to a winter wolf and the reemerging remorhaz. The thrilling conclusion comes this week!

Post Session(s) thoughts
These three sessions were fun, for different reasons. Interrupting the downtime with a combat encounter where they were all split up, seeing the fruits of their labor in the different peoples gathered as part of the army, and the sheer variety of enemies at the Eye have all been a hit. I also enjoyed telling them straight up that they would get no long rests during this mission, and I think that halfway through the Eye fight they're getting a taste of what that means. And I spent two rounds with the remorhaz doing nothing because I started burrowing for safety, but then couldn't catch up with anyone until Koren literally teleported Eluriah into place.

Changes to the Module
I moved the blizzard attack to before the big meeting on a whim, because it had been nagging at my head that it felt very strange to go to a meeting where you're briefed about a weapon that the enemy is developing, and then they attack with that weapon just after you learn about it. Switching up the order seemed like a better way of proving the danger, and then explaining why they needed to destroy it.

I have maintained my strategy of putting enemies one encounter level higher than recommended, and it still is working well. I think this whole adventure will be a real test of that, because right now at the Eye, it feels like a good challenge. It will be interesting when we're 3-4 sessions deeper near the end of the module.
 


Tolamaker

Adventurer
Sessions 83, 84, 85: Voices from Afar

The party manages to turn the tide when, as Eluriah is in the jaws of the Rhemoraz, Corban manages to out-counterspell Kreven to polymorph Eluriah into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. She and the Rhemorhaz bite each other viciously, and she manages to barely eke out ahead. After being batted about by Eluriah's tail and Gruz hounding her, Koren teleports away to safety. The rest of the enemies are dispatched, though Corban exchanges gold witht he ice devil for information on how the Obelisk works. They chop at the icy lake, and the shield over the valley is disrupted.

Heading north, with information from the airship coming through now, they get caught in a fog, where they come across a strange translucent gnome, who refuses to admit that he's a ghost. However, a strange noise comes from the distance, and he suddenly "dies," falling into his frozen body at their feet. Horrific creatures with no flaps over their eyes and mouth come loping from the distance, and attempt to eat the party, but they dispatch them handily.

When they come in sight of the Scourge Fortress, there is a second army here, waiting for orders. It seems impossible to enter the Fortress undetected, but Psi Lu descends from the clouds, to unleash a blinding white light from the airship's eye, obliterating the defenses below. The party is knocked back even this far way, and Gruz has a flashback to the same white light destroying his company, filling him with dread. THey rush forward, dispatching the last survivors guarding the path, and rush in to the now crumbling fortress.

Moving room to room, Kreven taunts them all the while. In a moment of inspiration, they block several doors in order to be able to fight one group at a time, avoiding being overrun. However, they are not prepared when the enter a perfectly square, perfectly clean white room. As they enter, their magic items lose their luster, and ambushers pop out to catch them unawares, without their magic. Mishka is peppered with arrows, and only stays upright through sheer determination. Gruz and Aripos are able to dance about the room quick enough, pushing through one of the side doors to dispatch the archers. Several times, Eluriah and Corban forget their magical limits, and attempt to heal, and are left with empty hands outstretched.

Finally, through a bloody jumble, they finally capture Clark, a clerk who has been slowly poisoning them with his knives, and manage to gather some information, including the fact that Mishka's father is supposedly still in the prison below. Will they descend into the prison, or try and find the secret entrance to take on the Obelisk?

Post Session thoughts

83:
This one was fairly straightforward. Playing the gnome Ander Folthwaite was fun, just to waste some time having the players try to explain that he is in fact dead. His soul accidentally got sucked up into Shaalguenyaver, and Corban feels bad about it.

84: Another straightforward one, but it did lead the return of Kreven's Palpatine voice. I probably should be more sinister, but ever since I started the voice it's honestly just been very funny every time he taunts them. They also found the armory, and had a lot of fun with the attunement pillar there (I assume an addition to the 5e version.) It felt like the right balance between a long rest and a short rest, after such a long adventuring day.

85: The Ambush. I'll admit that I assumed this would either be a very boring fight, or an overwhelming one that I might end up fudging a tad. It's just a room with antimagic. But this lead to one of the most hectic and tight fights in a long while, due to several crits on the part of Clark the Clerk against Mishka, who each time managed to make her Barbarian Con saves to stay at 1 HP. Every time someone tried to use an item, or cast a spell, there was this groan around the table as people remembered. Corban's player tends to be the most mechanics-savvy, and even he got caught a few times. There was also a fun moment where Corban felt useless, and so fed a health potion to Mishka, and then was downtrodden when I reminded him that it had no effect. Cue Mishka's turn, where she ran out of the field at the entrance, and convinced me that the potion was still in her, just suppressed, so she got the effects. Really fun stuff.

Perhaps infected by the sillier nature of Kreven's voice, I decided during questioning that Clark was really just a really good clerk with eidetic memory, and he kept getting promoted up the ranks, even though he really just likes bookkeeping. When they asked how he got so good at knifework he just shrugged and said he got a lot of practice in between filing.

Changes to the Module
I made no real changes to the module, and it's been working great. The only change has been a consistent Encounter bump by one each time (in place since Castle Korstull), and it's stayed steady. We'll see if we have to bump that up come the finale.
 

Fuzzybear

Explorer
Cue Mishka's turn, where she ran out of the field at the entrance, and convinced me that the potion was still in her, just suppressed, so she got the effects. Really fun stuff.
This is awfully kind of you. Fun without being overly lenient though which is great.

Gruz has a flashback to the same white light destroying his company, filling him with dread.
I honestly wish I could have connected this better. I made a different decision though, but it sounds awesome. Very FF9 reminiscent, and I mean that in a good way.
 

Tolamaker

Adventurer
I honestly wish I could have connected this better. I made a different decision though, but it sounds awesome. Very FF9 reminiscent, and I mean that in a good way.
Yeah, I didn't have a strong idea of what to do with the player's backstory of "my entire squad was wiped out," for a long time. Even after I decided that it would be one of Pilus' creatures, I didn't have a strong idea. Once I read the description of the airship dropping its laser beam, I knew that could be a fun connection to make. I'll likely change a future enemy on the airship to be the specific creature.
 

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