WotBS Tolamaker's Burning Sky

emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
Here's my thoughts on those two...

I think Lee, being the practical sort, has tried to keep his finger on the pulse of the war effort, and probably believes that Ragesia has no legitimate opposition (honestly, without the PC's intervention, Ragesia wins the war pretty handily). Then, sensing the way the wind was blowing (pun intended), decided to get on the bandwagon early. Better to be in on the ground floor, he figures, than hedge his bets and risk getting caught in the crossfire, once the fighting really starts.

In the final chapter, as well, there's a druid Inquisitor commanding an orb of storms, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that he'd been offered a similar role. Should he successfully crush the fledgling rebellion in Seaquen, a high ranking seat at Leska's side would be waiting for him.

As for Katrina, we know she left her brother Rantle four years ago, and found her way into Ragesia. She was basically hired to train Inquisitors, thanks to her skill with offensive magic: they needed something to practice their counterspell abilities on. That experience would give her some notable insight and connections with the organization. Further, it gives her contact with even Leska & Coaltongue themselves, and that very familiarity is a good reason why Leska would have recruited her for her own plot.
 

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Tormyr

Adventurer
Katrina is looking out for herself. Her primary goal is to survive the war, and, like Lee Sidoneth, she does not see a way to stop Ragesia. To turn her to the Resistance, the PCs need to be successful in their missions (show that Ragesia can be defeated) and convince her that looking out for others is the right thing to do (think about others in addition to herself).
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Session 19

The party follows Laurabec to the Lyceum, where the erinys is placed within an amberglass cage constructed by Kiernan, a dwarf who teaches abjuration at the Lyceum. There, they and Laurabec and Simeon question the erinys (named Jezska) about her role. Jezska plays coy, pointing out that she merely attempted to enter a room, and they attacked first. She admits she was there to take the intelligence from them, and tells Simeon that she has not killed anyone or harmed anyone, and should be set free. "I was not ordered to bring any harm to the citizens of Seaquen, and I have no intention to. The Ragesians have no ill will towards this small town."

Simeon however reveals that he has no intention of letting Jezska go, and floats the idea of executing her in public. Jezska begins to be a little more amenable when Orwin suggest banishment in exchange for information, as opposed to execution.

Orwin asks who is summoning the devils that have been plaguing the party. While she is unable to reveal who summoned and gave her orders, she is able to tell them she was summoned by inquisitors. This worries Simeon and Eluriah, for while the Inquisitors are their enemy, they are still nominally clerics.

Eluriah asks her why no one can teleport safely, and Jezska says she doesn't know why. She compliments Gruz on his willingness to pass through the flames to get the job done.

Mishka asks who will be sent as a replacement for Jezska when she fails. Jezska says she doesn't know, but her contract is for the next 5 weeks.

Aripos asks what her favorite color is. Jezska says she would love to inlay gold in her black armor.

Gruz asks if Jezska heard any rumors as part of her undercover act. Jezska reveals that she charmed the entire Auyang family and a number of dock workers throughout the city. She says the charm should wear off when she is banished.

With questions done, a priest of Suijin, wearing the same blue and pink that Torrent wears, is brought in to banish the devil. As thanks for coming to her defense, Jezska breaks off the tip of her horn and gives it to Orwin, saying if he crushes it beneath his foot, she will come to aid them for a single day. When she is banished by Suijin's fishhook, her armor and weapons are taken with her, but not her scarf.

The rest of the week, the party decides to take some time off. They set up camp out of town at the edge of the forest. Orwin begins learning tattoomancy from Tenga, and researches devils alongside Aripos. Aripos begins their career as a thief, but it doesn't go smoothly, and he barely gets away before being caught. He drinks his sorrows away at a tavern. Eluriah continues learning Sylvan from Tiljann so she can sing the Song of Forms, and goes exploring in the sunken ruins to the east, discovering that they warm up and steam when the tide is low. Gruz tries to join a fighting ring among the Dasseni soldiers, but General Xava quickly shuts it down. He does try and get the scutlebut, and learns that Sindaire is under attack by Ragesia for not giving up its mages easily, and legions are travelig close to Dassen in order to reinforce the Shahalesti front. However, he learns about the Royale, a ramshackle arena that's been set up in the ruins, and goes there to fight, where he runs into Mishka who had the same idea. They both do well in their bouts, with Gruz undefeated, and Mischka barely losing her last fight with a halfling rogue. Mishka brings her winnings to Madame Xendros and buys a potion of hill giant strength.

Post-Session Thoughts
The questioning was fun, but also funny how they went in directions I thoroughly didn't plan on. When they asked what part of hell she was from, I googled nine hells and said Asmodeus, and Orwin's player who knows D&D lore far better than I do gasped, and basically convinced themselves that Asmodeus is the big bad of the campaign. I pulled out of character a bit to clarify, but that was a roller coaster. Everyone was on board with going to hell to fight Asmodeus.

Similarly, they are extremely interested in the specific name of who is sending the devils. Even though I know the answer, I find the question moot. Ragesia is sending the devils, its all that matters. On the other hand, they took everything she said at face value. To be fair, I think I only lied directly once, but still. To be fair, I abhor non-stop insight checks, so I'm glad they were simply asking questions and debating the answers rather than trying to play lie-detector.

This was my first time using Xanathar's downtime actions, and it went pretty well! I essentially gave every player one mechanical activity and one RP activity. Mechanical activities give gold and new proficiencies, while RP just means learning and chatting. I was expecting our Artificer to start crafting, but I think they haven't really focused on getting components yet.

Changes to the module
I don't think I changed much, if anything? Not that it came up, but my headcanon Simeon never intended to brutally execute Jezska. One thing I want to emphasize at Seaquen is that the professors are scholars, not warriors. Well, most of them, at least. I tried to play Jezska as more legalistic than monstrous in showing that she wasn't acting against Seaquen, she was simply retrieving Ragesia's property. I think it did a good job of showing the players she wasn't a mindless killer. And even though they beat her, I guess she put enough fear in them that they're on their toes waiting for the next devil Ragesia sends.

I've told the players that they don't get a long rest until they hit level 6, so maybe that will incentivize them to get moving on these sidequests and finish them quickly. I don't want to get bogged down, so I'm going to trim down the number of possible sidequests quite a bit, because from my experience with Curse of Strahd, this group will want to do them all.
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Out of curiosity, is there payoff for the increasingly powerful devils sent after the group? From my skim of the chapter outlines, no, but I could be missing something.
 

The idea I had is that Guthwulf is sending them, and after he fails several times, Leska's patience is wearing thin. They happen to be touring the Koren Obelisk over the Scourge prison (where adventure 8 happens) when word of the failure at the Temple of Echoed Souls comes in, and Leska figures she can't trust Guthwulf.

He realizes she's about to arrest him for torture and execution, so he preempts her by jumping down into the prison on purpose, so at least he'll have his magic to protect himself.
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Session 20

Two weeks go on as the group sets themselves into Seaquen.

Tiljann joins the Wayfarer's Cirque, and Eluriah goes to the Theater to make sure they aren't a circus that uses animals in its act. Diashan becomes a devotee of Laurabec's and is helping her establish a pantheistic temple.

Gruz begins researching the creature that slaughtered his company. He isn't able to find anything out from the Dasseni soldiers or researching in the Lyceum. The night of the full moon, his patron, Lady Dalia of the Moon descends and tells him he will not find his information in the Lyceum. She says that the creature that attacked him is a monstrous, unnatural being. She chose him to eradicate this alienness from the earth, and tells him there are traces of this "contagion" in Seaquen as well. If he find and destroys it, she will gift him with a token of her thanks, a Pearl of Power. Gruz then begins his search anew, but is unable to make any headway. He returns to the Royale, and has two ties, and a win.

Eluriah learns more Sylvan from Tiljann, and sets up community gardens among the refugees. She finds a couple who are stealing from her garden, and meets with the leaders of the various refugees to try and make sure everyone has enough food with her druidcraft.

Orwin continues his tattoomancy apprenticeship, and checks in on Crystin's studies. She is working with Deacon, a half-orc who works with sorcerer's to control their powers. Orwin sees Haddin sneaking around to check on Crystin as well, and has a small talk where they reaffirm their dislike for each other, but Orwin says he understand why he's nervous to let Crystin go.

Aripos begins running heists in earnest, and earns enough to get an animated tattoo of Fern dancing on them. He also finally bathes, in the warm waters of the ruins.

Mishka also stays at the Royale and is getting to a point where she is having trouble getting contenders. She also finds out that there are refugees from Gate Pass arriving in Seaquen, traveling through the now safe Innenotdar. When Mishka is searching for news from Gate Pass, she runs into Orwin's parents, and is able to reunite them. Orwin's family owned a shop in the first district that was destroyed by Ragesia clashing with Gabal and his students. They say the dragon killed Gabal. They also have news of Mishka's mother, who they say has helped rebuild and organize the Resistance.

After their second week, Deacon comes to the group and says he's worried that Katrina should have arrived by now. He's heard of trouble with the Head Chop tribe, a group of goblins that aren't happy so many people are moving through their territory. He asks the group to travel into the marsh and see if they can help.

Post-Session Thoughts
A good session, lots of roleplay and generally just having a good time. I did a bit better with giving information, and setting them up for their next quest. I also got to sit back a lot and just let the players chat, which is always fun. The fighters are earning a lot of money, but I'm okay with that considering they don't have a lot to spend on it. I expect once we start getting into item crafting they'll start sinking their gold into that.

Changes to the module
I really cut down on the number of sidequests. This is largely because we've spent so long in Seaquen, I knew that if I introduced half the NPCs and problems from the module, we would finish the chapter in mid June. That means only the goblin tribe, the missing people, and I think the Rabble Rousing that leads to the assault on the blockade are really going to matter. I mentioned the temple, but that's going to be background if anyone wants to bite on it, and I just don't have time to throw in the dragon egg. Fingers crossed, they'll get to see the Wayfarer's performance before February ends, but I know that is a long shot.
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Session 21
The party goes into the marshes, and meets the Head Chop tribe, a group of goblins with a well-cared-for guillotine in the middle of their village. Their territory is scattered with poles and skulls. When Aripos sees a alligator skull, he takes it, but jangles some bells. Soon they're surrounded, and Aripos reluctantly puts the skull back.

In the village, they see a group of refugees who have been trussed up. The refugees say they were just traveling through, and have only been given water, not food. The chief and his translator say that the refugees have been breaking their territory markers, and scaring off game in the area. They demand spell scrolls, a packet of Dust of Dryness, and the heads of the witches Handrea in exchange for letting the refugees go.

The group travels quietly, and are able to narrowly avoid an enormous crocodile in the marsh. Eventually, they find a number of huts clumped together, and Aripos goes to investigate. He finds a dead body chained to a wall, and with human-shaped bite marks all over his body. When he tries to leave, he is found, and the skeletons attack. Aripos is stuck by himself, swarmed by skeletons, as the rest of the party rushes in to the rescue. As they near, three witches emerge from a haze and begin working together to stop the party's progress.

Mishka is targeted by the witches with spells galore, but manages to mostly decapitate their pet crocodile. Gruz gets up close and personal, counterspelling as many spells as he can, and Eluriah turns into a black bear, and begins clambering up their house. The fight continues next session.

Post-session thoughts
I fetl kind of rushed with this, and am afraid I didn't do the goblins justice. I wanted them to seem creepy but somewhat justified, but didn't really back it up. It was serviceable I suppose. I did expect the party to haggle a bit more on the deal for magic items, but they seemed to find the deals reasonable (I just rolled three times on Magic Item Table A in the DMG). I figure that Hessilen is a burgeoning mage, and Ogatar wants him to have access to more spells.

Once we got to the Handreas, I had a bit more fun. I rolled random encounters (hence the giant crocodile) and they were stealthing, so the Handrea's wouldn't have seen them with my perception rolls, so I figured the party would get the drop on them at their home. (I also couldn't think of how to make the party go to their home if they were ambushed). Also, they have the skeletons to back them up, so it wasn't a pushover.

The Handreas are no joke. The party has been burning through their inspiration with this fight, with so many crowd control spells, the skeletons have been slowly whittling away at the heroes. I'm usually pretty bad at running spellcasting NPCs, but the makeup of the witches and the tactics in the chapter are very helpful in organizing what each Handrea does, whether that's control, support, or damage.

Changes to the Module
I wanted to make the Severed Head Tribe (They're Head Chop because I couldn't remember their name, but remembered the guillotine) a little more sympathetic. I've always had a soft spot for goblins, so I wanted their motivations to be a bit more nuanced than a bunch of bandits. I also made it so that the decanter of endless water was a gift from Simeon to maintain good relations, so the party won't be bringing it back with them.

I also made Hessilen a man, because I had been thinking about how I literally never have gay characters. Because no one spoke Goblin, I just had Ogatar make very expressive gestures, and Hessilen would blush occasionally. Ogatar likes the idea that the party can't understand what he's saying.
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Session 22:
The party closes in on the Handrea's, as Orwin finally arrives. Handrea has warded Handrea, who is acting as the tank, sending magic missiles to almost kill Aripos, who survives with a single hit point. Meanwhile, Handrea is handing out heals to Handrea.

Eluriah drops in on the Handreas' hut as a bear, ending Handrea's concentration on Stinking Cloud, allowing Mishka and Gruz to move forward. However, Handrea casts Fear, and both Gruz and Mishka fail their saves, running as far away as they can. Orwin arrives in time to heal Aripos a bit, and to cast Darkness, dropping all three Handreas and Eluriah into pitch black. Eluriah is caught by a Burning Hands, knocking her out of Wild Shape, and is knocked down by Handrea and a skeleton. Another skeleton fails to land a killing blow in the dark.

Mishka and Gruz come to their senses, and come running back, and Orwin drops his Darkness to allow them to attack. The party pushes their way in, killing Handrea. Realizing they can't win, Handrea and Handrea raise their weapons over Eluriah's body, telling the party to leave.

Mishka and Gruz back down, waiting for someone to make the first move, when Orwin decides that the best course of action is to cast healing word on Eluriah. Handrea and Handrea strike... and miss, and Mishka dives in to eviscerate the Wizard. The Druid runs off, and is about to jump into the swamp when Artemis shoots a flame seed, and burns through his stomach.

Post Session Thoughts:
Ya'll this was stressful. There were no big attacks, no swingy damage until Handrea the Wizard crit on a quarterstaff attack on Eluriah. Then, every single attack against the prone and unconscious Eluriah failed, which was a miracle. Once again, no final words. I'm very grateful that all of my players are more than happy to roll up new characters, but it was still a rush. Extra stress was that Aripos' player was gone today, so I was running him, and he almost bit the dust. The thing is, he seems to believe he's immortal, so he would 100% rush in with 1 HP, but it doesn't mean I felt good about it. Thankfully, he received some healing before it got too much worse.

This was a nailbiter, and one of the few times I felt like I ran spellcasting NPCs competently. The skeletons were nobodies, just dealing 3-6 damage when they were lucky enough to hit, but I could tell when everyone had dropped below half-health and started to realize they couldn't just leave the skellies alone. Orwin's darkness was a blessing and a curse, as it stopped the Handreas from using their spells, but also made it difficult for Eluriah to receive backup. Then when it came time to negotiations, we were still in initiative, and both Handreas had their actions prepared to stab Eluriah if anyone acted against them. Practically two auto crits. Both with advantage couldn't roll above a 9. Overall, one hell of a 4 hour combat.

Changes to the Module:
Didn't get a chance to do anything other than fight. I used this map from Dungeon Mapster, because its what came up when I googled "dnd swamp house map"
 

Fuzzybear

Explorer
The H'andrea fight was a really rough one for my party as well. Fortunately, one of the PCs decided to investigate the huts, found Katrina, who then proceeded to assist with some fireballs to turn the tide for my group. It really is a fight that is more difficult that it seems due to the numbers if they fight both the witches and skeletons all at the same time.
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
It really is a fight that is more difficult that it seems due to the numbers if they fight both the witches and skeletons all at the same time.
Yeah, I kind of feel like if I didn't have the fight take place at the huts, I would still have the H'andreas precast a few Animate Deads to even the playing field. They have a ton of control spells, and the skeletons let them capitalize on it without burning more spell slots.
 



emeraldbeacon

Adventurer
I need to find a way to get the witches' names (name?) out during the fight, when my players get there. It feels like Team Handrea is almost more just an in-joke for GMs, that they're all named the same thing, when it could be so much more confusing amusing for the players, too... maybe make sure they latch onto any females in the group and, cackling, call them "the new H'andrea?"
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
My players met the Severed Head tribe before the witches, so they were able to introduce them as "the witches H'andrea". But I don't think anyone realized that was the case until I kept referring to each of them as H'andrea. "H'andrea casts sacred Flame. Now it's H'andrea's turn, and she's going to target X with Magic Missile.

If you want it to be more in-fiction, you can have the witches creepily cackle and call out to each other. "Won't they make delicious stews, H'andrea?" "Oh H'andrea, I definitely agree, dear!" When the first H'andrea went down (the cleric), I had the other two scream out "H'andrea!"
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
I so love it when this thread has a bold title. Means I get to read another engaging (and sometimes, gripping) recap.
Keep up the good work!
Glad to be of service! I keep wanting to add a bit more of the drama that's present in the fiction of the game, but I'm usually exhausted and want to keep it fresh in my mind.
Thank you.
Thanks, it was fun, and the players enjoyed it. Almost as much as they enjoyed eviscerating them.
and one of the few times I felt like I ran spellcasting NPCs competently.
I am a scoundrel and a fool. I cast Animate Dead like 2-3 times as an action, rather than the 1 minute required. I also forgot about their Hellish Rebukes, so I think it all evens out.
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Session 23
The party searches through the Handreas, and pulls a number of rings and vials and potions off of them. They see that one of the vials they have is the same as the empty vials that line the shelves of the potion hut. Orwin takes some of the potion to determine what it is later.

Searching through the various other huts, Aripos finds Katrina, Renard's sister. She is a fire mage who was going to go to Gate Pass before the war started. While traveling to Seaquen with her bodyguards, she was captured by the Handreas, and her bodyguards were taken away on different days. She assumes she would have been the next one put in their pot. Mishka gushes about Renard to Katrina, and Katrina laughs that her brother Rantle is still going by this new name. She laughs again at the letter she receives, and frowns at the scroll of fireball, muttering that she doesn't know why he would send that to her. Searching the last of the huts, they set the little village ablaze, and go back to the Head Chop Tribe.

At the tribe, they hand over the required scrolls and the heads of the Handreas. The goblins begin to party after freeing the refugees, and the party settles in for the night (and a level up). Aripos brought back the crocodile skull, and boils it overnight so he can have a helmet. Mishka trades the bear skull she plundered from Smiley back in Gate Pass for a goblin necklace and owl skull. Orwin identifies the various vials which includes a Philter of Love and a Tidereaver Tear. The Tear allows one to safely navigate a storm, as though unnaffected by wind and water. After breaking down the unfinished potion the Handreas were making, Orwin discovers that the main ingredient is blood. He theorizes that due to the amount of empty vials in the hut, the Handreas were mass-producing the Tears for someone. Gruz makes a deal with the goblins for them to report to him if anyone attempts to visit the Handreas huts. The group discusses why someone would want to easily navigate a storm as they go to sleep.

The next day, they make it back to Seaquen with Mishka's newfound ability for wayfinding (Elk Totem). As they near Seaquen, the rain and winds increase, worrying Eluriah that the storm and the tears are connected Katrina sees them off after giving them advice to pick part name and symbol. "Good branding is what is gonna get you your next job! If you can pay a bard to sing your praises, all the better!"

A week of downtime passes. Aripos robs a jeweler, pretending to be a groom-to-be. He also begins fermenting apple cider with the help of Eluriah. They plan on selling it at the Royale to viewers in the stands.

Mishka is able to fight the minotaur champion at the Royale, and is regretfully informed by the promoter that they aren't sure if they're going to be able to find one-on-one matches for her anymore, due to her success. However, they mention the possibility of a larger prize pool for a true Battle Royale. Mishka and many of the party are very interested, Orwin and Eluriah have no interest in blood sport. When she's not fighting, Mishka carves a bear out of Indomitability's horn.

Eluriah learns some more Sylvan from Tiljann, and is at the point where she can understand what is being said, but doesn't quite have the grammar right. She gets to learn about all of Tiljann's new tumbles and part in the upcoming play. She also visits Shayam, the druidic professor at the Lyceum. Shayam wants to travel out to sea to determine if the storm is natural, but the Shahalesti blockade has Seaquen locked down tight. They make an agreement to wild shape into swimming creatures and investigate in secret.

Gruz learns some more Dwarvish from Mishka. He also searches out the source of "unholy shapeshifting" his patron wants him to eradicate. His snooping points towards Paradim Dogwood, a biomancer who isn't part of the Lyceum proper. He talks Aripos into pulling a small heist to learn more about what is going on with the strange wizard. But that will have to wait. A small band of goblins cause a stir in Seaquen when they arrive to tell Gruz that they saw half-elf approach the huts and then return to Seaquen. They kept their distance, and don't know where he went, as they have learned to avoid mages, which they say he looked like.

The party is getting ready to Rumble, and continue their investigations , but that will have to wait until next time.

Post-Session Thoughts
While to some extent this was largely filler, the session was fantastic from a plot perspective. I really love when players begin piecing disparate things together. I might have to rearrange some things if they get too far, but who knows? We still have the Lyceum meeting and more coming up soon.

I've been structuring downtime weeks with each player giving one mechanical thing and one RP thing, but I think I might start compressing that even more. Its fun, but can turn into one player taking the spotlight for 5-10 minutes, which isn't forever, but adds up with 5 players. We'll see.

Changes to the Module
All of my changes were accidental. I forgot to introduce the missing people sideplot (I'll do that at the beginning of next session I think) and I forgot that Nebelekus's whole thing is that he doesn't look like a mage. I don't think it makes a big difference, but I kind of like when characters don't look like they were perfectly cast for a role.

I changed the shape of the Tidereaver's Tear because of what art I found. I used Dungeon Strugglers art for their Liquid Lightning item, and just used a basic color changer. It left the lightning streaks behind in a way that I really like.

TidereaversTear.png
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Session 24

This week's session was a battle royale in the Royale in the ruins. I had had the idea for a PvP session in mind, and the rest of the group was up for it. Aripos, Gruz, and Mishka kept their characters, while both Orwin and Eluriah figured their characters wouldn't be interested in such a contest. They made Norwell (Oath of the Open Seas Paladin) and Soju (Way of the Drunken Master Monk) respectively.

I won't go into the details of the fight necessarily, I'll just outline how I planned the session. I wanted to have a couple of things, and compromised as I had a busier than expected week. I wanted a battlefield that was not an open field, and could change during the fight. I also wanted the fight to not necessarily be just everyone for themselves and potentially gang up one by one on whoever was strongest. I wanted there to be prizes of gold and items, but didn't want it to be a simple loot grab for the party with everything being shared by the winner.

The Prizes: Every entrant (3 main PCs, 2 replacement PCs, and 3 DMPCs) earned 25 gold for participating, and 50 gold for every knockout. The winner would gain a Spellwrought Tattoo from Tasha's at Tattoomancy, as I had Tenga sponsor the match. The only change to the Spellwrought tattoo is that it would be once per day, rather than one use only. It would cost an attunement slot, and only go up to 2nd level. That way, whoever won wouldn't find a sword they're not proficient with, or some +1 wand for a martial character.

The Fight: Lots were randomly drawn to determine four teams of two. If any one person was knocked out, the remainig person became immune to all damage from the other contestants, and couldn't deal any damage to them either. They could move and grapple, and prepare actions. Once there were two people who had lost a teammate, they joined the same team, and rejoined the fight. Once it reached three contestants, it became a free for all.

The Field: I used a mostly empty field because I ran out of time. However, I still wanted something that would make people make more interesting choices than who to attack. So I came up with the Frankenstein Beholder.

I liked the idea of beholder eyestalks that were firing wildly as electricity coursed through them. I picked the antimagic eye, the fear eye, the charm eye, and the paralyzing eye. However, I didn't want anyone to lose their turn because of random chance, just add some strategy, so the paralyze became a slow (half speed and only action or bonus action), and the charm became a confusing ray, forcing the player to attack someone at random, including their teammate (which would deal no damage), and even the Beholder. It never happened, but I would have had them roll to hit and damage, and at 20 damage dealt would have destroyed the eyestalk, and thus the ray. All rays would fire at initiative turn 0.
1647201858762.png
(Each tiny token represents a stalk. Beholder for antimagic, dragon for fear, pixie for charm/confusion, and ghoul for paralyze/slow)

Each ray would shoot into one quarter of the arena, so players picked where to be based on what eye was pointing where. But the Beholder was on a pole with gears and cranks, and anyone could use their object interaction to rotate the beholder and stalks to different quadrants. The antimagic eye was simply on and filled the quadrant, while the other eyes rolled to see which player they targeted, with the lowest die roll being a d4 if there were fewer people in the quadrant.

Finally, to ensure that any full casters didn't get to just go completely nova, everyone had a single adrenaline shot ability to take a short rest as an action. That way Gruz got to recharge, and everyone could heal.

Team Hearts, the Orcs: Mishka and Caius Bolt (Orc Tempest Cleric)
Team Spades, the Captains: Gruz and Norwell
Team Clubs, the Killers: Aripos and Vong Tru (VHuman Samurai from Ostalin)
Team Diamonds, the Halflings: Soju and Robinia (Hunter Ranger)
These teams were completely random, so it was very fun to see the coincidences line up.

How Did It Go?
Really well for the most part! It was very fun, and I tried to make my DMPCs big damage dealers to make them get targeted first, which did happen. My VHuman Samurai didn't last to the end of round 1, my Tempest Cleric was outmaneuvered by people positioning the antimagic field, and my Hunter Ranger didn't hit enough of her shots until late in the game.

The rankings of the fight, by KOs went
Norwell: 4 KOs (and eventual winner)
Mishka: 2 KOs
Aripos: 1 KO (Second Place)

My plan for teams was interesting, and good for organization, but it didn't really solve my focus fire problem. Once anyone began doing a lot of damage, most teams went for them. Mishka was the first PC victim of this. I also really wish that I had added some terrain or brush for cover, so that Aripos' player could have had more chances for stealth. Thankfully, this was all for fun, and everyone really enjoyed it. The highlight was definitely the Beholder head, and rotating the body. While the other stalks did play a small part, the antimagic cone was the real game changer. It casters wanted nothing to do with it, but the martial characters were stuck deciding between getting heals or staying safe. It really added a lot to the fight.

In the end, Norwell one in a straight up knock down fight with Aripos, and won with 13 hit points and no spell slots left. Everyone made some money, everyone's asking how much one of these Spellwrought Tattoos costs, and next week, we get to have the War Council I almost started on accident (checks calendar) three months ago!
 


Tolamaker

Explorer
Last session was a loss due to a combination of Daylight Savings and northern and southern hemisphere mixups! We played Microscope last week, which I've been meaning to teach to the group so that if I'm ever gone they can still play something that doesn't need a GM.
Session 25
Eluriah and the druidic instructor Shayam swim out into open waters, and determine the storm is completely surrounding Seaquen, and is not natural. They resolve to tell the leaders of Seaquen and the Lyceum about this. Eluriah also leans some more Sylvan from Tiljann, though Tiljann is distracted as the play is coming up soon.

Gruz learns more Dwarvish from Mishka, and Aripos pulls another heist. Then, they both break into Paradim Dogwood's home, as Gruz believes that there is something going on there that has to do with the monster that ravaged his company. Inside, they find many strange body parts in jars, and a cauldron of biomantic goo that they take a sample of. They don't find anything incriminating in the cottage itself. They take the goo to Orwin, who is able to tell them that it is essentially pure distilled transmutation magic, derived from the life force of many insects.

Mishka wants to test the goo, and commissions a hair growth potion from Paradim so that she can braid her hair instead of waiting for it to grow out. Paradim takes a sample of her scalp and gives her a shampoo to rub in several days later, which grows her hair out to her knees by the late evening. She also begins practicing weaving, as her mother had taught her years ago, and she wants to incorporate the practices of her mother's traditions into her armor, clothing, and weapons. She gets help from refugee orcs to catch up on the basics.

Orwin watches closely as Tenga tattoos the winner of the Royale battle, Captain Norwell, with a Dragon's Breath tattoo, an array of translucent scales that glow blue when he casts the spell. There, he hears scuttlebut that one of the Ragesian legions has begun assaulting Seaquen's northern border.

The group eventually all goes to the council, and find that there are not only Lyceum faculty, but also representatives of Seaquen, refugees, and the nations of Dassen, Sindaire, and Ostalin as well. Tiljann and a Wayfarer are there as well, handing out tickets to the premiere of their play, The Spectacular Trial of Toteth Topec. Simeon welcomes them all, and reiterates the threat that Empress Leska and the Scourge represents to everyone, and opens the floor.

The Mayor of Seaquen, a dwarf by the name of Votberd, begins railing against the refugees, complaining about the space they take up, the drain on resources and food, and the influx of crime that they have brought. Laurabec interjects and argues that the refugees have been the main victim of those crimes, and specifically calls out the fact that many refugees have gone missing in the past week or two. Simeon pulls them apart,a nd tells them that is perhaps a discussion for a city meeting. Votberd grumbles about Simeon over his bounds, and Laurabec returns to the side, with her teeth gritted.

Next, Eluriah and Shayam present their findings to the council. Simeon asks how long until the storm approaches dangerous levels, and the two druids estimate it will be at hurricane strength within the next three weeks. Simeon agrees with their assessment that they should work on fortifications of the city and the refugee camps to ensure stability. Lee Sidoneth steps in to say that while the storms ahve caused some capsizing of fishing boats, he still believes that he can work out a system where the ships are unmoored, but still safe within the harbor. "That way, we can be ready to respond in case of an attack. But I want it known Simeon, I see no wisdom in attacking Ragesia." Some outroar comes up at the mention of outright war, and Simeon assures the others he also has no desire for warfare.

The Dasseni Ambassador, a human named Keifer Numhaut echoes Votberds displeasure for the refugees, complaining of Seaquen's acceptance of them causing them to "run ransack" through Dassen. He makes it clear that Dassen has no reason to support Seaquen. "We have no love for the Ragesians, but if Shaaladel killed Coaltongue, then let them sort it out amongst themselves."

Aripose not so quietly suggests assassinating Leska, which causes another uproar. None of the ambassadors want to hear talk of assassinating a head of state. Mishka wonders if Leska perhaps assassinated Coaltongue and used it as an excuse for war and her own power. General Xava acknowledges the possibility, but also says that if she could choose to go to war with any country, there were easier pickings than Shahalesti. Xava then says that if the Scourge begins to ravage other countries, that locating the Torch is of the highest priority. "Old Coaltongue conquered most of the continent with it, and we haven't seen it used since. If Leska had it, she'd be using it."

The Sindairese ambassador, Otakar, coming back to the assassination, provides some more information. 'The Old Dragon was putting down dissent among the nobles of Sindaire when a storm of fire opened up above Catle Korstull. Now everything there is dead, burned by months of searing rain. I don't know how anyone could have gotten into that firestorm to retrieve the Torch, no do I know how you would expect to either."

This sets the party's mind on Innenotdar. Mishka tells the council of their journey throught he fire forest, and their information regarding the orcs and goblins who set the fires. This surprises the ambassadors, who were not aware of Innenotdar's fire going out. Xava muses on why the Emperor would have sent orcs to set the fire when he could have used the Torch.

"Because he was a monster," comes an imperious voice. The council looks to the doors and see three elves floating in. One holds a scroll and the banner of Shahalesti, and cries "Hail Shalosha, daughter of the Shining Lord Shaaladel of Shahalesti!"

Post-Session Thoughts
Alright, so I had warned the group this would be a info-dump session, and it really was. The biggest thing for me with a lot of NPCs is getting caught in conversations with myself. Whenever that happens, I try and summarize the conversation instead, with the occasional in-voice quote thrown in. It also highlights that most of my voices are just my own with a little gruffness, which is funny. Once the group joined in with questions, it got a little easier. I want to get all the information out, but I also don't want to be talking for 5, 10, 15 minutes at a time as I play with my dolls and make them watch.

I made some changes that I'll get to later, but I liked the session a lot. The storm and the council really helped remind them of the bigger picture going on, because we definitely got sidetracked with downtime stuff. I was really happy Eluriah's player latched onto the storm, and the realization that there is a wall of storm clouds in a perfect circle around Seaquen was a nice reveal. It also let them remember the weirdness about Innenotdar catching on fire, and Mishka's player straight up asked me if they had ever questioned Diashan's involvement in the fire. I think they could hear my grin through the mic when I said "Nope!"

I will also reiterate what my players have been saying for a while, but its clear that a lot of work went into making the world of WotBS, and it really shows. I may add or change things, but its a really compelling setting on its own. In fact, that's why I feel so confident when I do change things, because the setting is robust enough changing a few plot points or details doesn't derail the larger picture.

Changes to the Module
The biggest one is definitely that they didn't find anything insidious in Paradim's cottage. I was already planning on changing his plot a little, as we aas a group had decided not to include atrocities against women in the ravages of war that would be going on, so I cut the kidnapping/brothel sidequest, but I decided to go farther and make him an unwitting accomplice to the Ragesians. Everytime they were spying on Paradim, they saw him delivering a barrel somewhere but they never followed him to see him deliver it to Lee. I kind of got a soft spot for the weirdo biomancer who keeps adding eyes and teeth to his body, and does plastic magic surgery on people. So Paradim is innocent, but still tangentially involved in the plot. Also, it gave the group a chance to put two and two together a little early. I didn't expect them to bite, but wanted to offer it.

The second change came from a possible misreading, or a change I had decided on months ago, I'm not sure. For some reason, I thought the council was supposed to take place near the play, so I put it off for a few weeks. This turned out to be a misreading, but I actually like it, as it let the party do what they wanted for a while without thinking of the bigger picture, and now it means I get to lull them into thinking the play is just a big lore dump before I jump them.

Next week, the Shahalesti make their generous offer!
 

Tolamaker

Explorer
Session 26 (Technically last week's, but I was lazy)

Shalosha enters a council she was not invited to, and imperiously announces Shahalesti as the only power that can face down Ragesia. She tells the other nathions’ delegates to throw in with Shahalesti, and offers her own hel, by taking control of Seaquen and protecting it form outside forces. Everyone explodes into hubbub, and Eluriah voices her dislike of the elvish princess. When Simeon calms everyone down, Eluriah tells Shalosha that if she wants to prove that she wants to help, figure out what is going on the with storm that is building. Shalosha looks concerned, as though a mask has been cracked, as the Shahalesti were unaware that the storm only extended around Seaquen.

As the Shahalesti leave, the group goes to Simeon’s office, where he slumps, tired. He thanks them for their news of the storm, and offers some news of his own, regarding the Ragesian intelligence they received. He says that the creator of the intelligence was Kreven, second-in-command of the Inquisitors, though he’s unsure of his place now that Leska has taken the throne. Simeon says that they contain orders for the Scourge, rounding up “disloyal” mages. However there seems to be something else going on, as references to the Scourge don’t only sound like a military operation, but as if something is being pieced together. He says that if the group is able to find more intelligence, he may be able to figure out more of the code.

Leaving the office, the group speaks with Laurabec, to learn more about the missing people. She says that it is almost all 20-30 year old adults, but only humans and half-orcs. No full orcs have been taken from the refugees, as far as she knows. Gruz pulls Diashan aside and asks her to her face what she was doing in Innenotdar. Diashan blanches, and tells him to meet her before the play at the Wayfarer’s Theater.

Traveling to the refugee camps, they question those who have lost friends and family. The throughline seems to be those who have been finding work or begging in the town at night. Eluriah wildshapes into a bloodhound, and follows the scent of one of the refugees, and it leads them to the docks, where the seawater and rain has washed away any remaining scent. However, she then begins sniffing for dead bodies, and they find a rotting corpse who has been caught on the timber below the docks. Gruz calls over some Dasseni soldiers, and they pull the body up. It is the body of a half-orc woman, who appears to have vitiligo. Her body is green, but her neck and up has faded into that of a white human’s. Orwin and Mishka investigate, finding no identifying articles, but do note that her tusks are so small they might be normal canines, and her ears look to be pointed. When Mishka feels the neck, where the colors change, she notes that it feels similar to her scalp after she used the biomancers hair growth potion. Orwin muses that someone was trying to make her look like an elf.

Post-Session Thoughts
So, I had kind of been feeling that I had left the kidnapping plot aside too long, and this confirmed it. If I had brought it up earlier, I have no doubt they would have followed it and found the
Ragesian base in the pyromancer's tomb
. As it is, they are forced to pick between following this murder investigation and going to the play, which they've also voiced as having high-priority targets. While making players have to choose between two bad choices can be interesting, I haven't had a chance to think about how I could have rejiggered the plot so that there wasn't one "correct" way to go about it.

I made up all of the investigation stuff as we went along. It's been a little bit since I was surprised at the direction they wanted to go, but I think it went alright! I remember when I first started and had no clue how to run a game at all, I would get real mush-mouthed and kind of hem and haw as I tried to shove them back onto my little path. I still do that to an extent, but I'd like to think I'm a little more artful about it.

Changes to the module
The idea behind the body was that it was
a test run where Lee discovered he wasn't skilled enough at biomancy to believably change skin color and the more prominent features yet. Remember that I have removed Paradim from the conspiracy, so Lee has been asking Paradim about biomantic theory, pretending that it is only for his own body modifications. The body was dumped, and he made sure Brutus and Setales only nabbed humans and human-leaning half orcs.

Next, the group goes to a play!
 

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