WotBS Tormyr's War of the Burning Sky campaign [spoilers abound]

Tormyr

Adventurer
The process of bringing War of the Burning Sky to 5e took another step toward fruition as my Roll20 group started their campaign last night! Each entry for a party member contains their portrait, the information the other party members would possibly know, their background that only they know, and secret information that they do not know, but someone familiar with the campaign would find interesting. The party consists of:

Byron Kassonova

This blue tiefling College of Cirquelistes bard has skirted the law and has spent time recently working as a lookout for the thieves guild in Gate Pass.
Background: While the Wayfarers were based in Ostalin, Byron maintained a secret year-long romance with Nadia, one of Khagan Onamdammin's daughters. During this time, helped awaken her latent spellcasting ability. The Khagan found out and tried to have Byron killed. Failing that, he banished the Wayfarers from Ostalin. Byron was exiled from the Wayfarers.
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In this campaign, Nadia was sent to study at the monastery of two winds. She became bitter toward Byron for abandoning her. Finding acceptance and attention from Pilus, she became his greatest student. In this campaign, Nadia plays the part of Caela.
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The descendant of a long forgotten warlord from the island of Ostilin. After being exiled by a previous Khagan, he wandered the world looking to compile a comprehensive list of all theory relating to warfare (like sun tzu). This elderly human Way of the Kensei monk has a long, flowing white beard and fights with a whip in each hand. He has made several contacts in the city council.
Background: D'buld served under Khagan Onamdammin's father. When Onamdammin killed his father, D'buld was exiled. While in Sindaire he met Trinja and took her under his wing.
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I have not figured out how to more deeply integrate D'buld's background into the story for some interesting revelations later (beyond wanting vengeance on Onamdammin). I am open to suggestions.
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Trinja

The lone female in the group is a human Pact of the Hexblade warlock. She summons a glaive of physical shadow (think vantablack). She has been frequenting the temples as she wants to understand the source of her power.
Background: For as long as Trinja can remember, she has had good luck, but it seems like that good luck comes at the expense of others in her village of Gathin in Sindaire. When her luck seemed to cause the demise of her parents, she ran away at the age of 13. That night in the forest, she had a dream. A deep resonant voice called to her. She followed the voice to a clearing where a black glaive is buried in the stump of a fallen tree. The voice told her to take the glaive and she would learn to harness her luck. She grasped the glaive, and the dream faded to black. When she awoke, she was back at her camp, but she soon discovered she could summon the glaive and cast certain spells. She gained the ability to magically disguise herself as anyone she wanted, usually taking the form of a 20-year-old woman. D'buld is the only one that knows she is a 14-year-old girl. Additionally, Trinja is able to more consciously harness her luck. Often there is a sense that time momentarily slows down when she bends luck. When Trinja summons her glaive, she perceives time momentarily slow down and form over a half second, but everyone else sees it appear nearly instantaneously.
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Trinja's patron is Time.
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Dro'Marri Oldenforge

While he bears the family name of a long line of dwarven blacksmiths, and certainly capable of basic work, his talents, and interests, lie elsewhere. Rather than bring shame upon his family name, he left his family in Dassen behind, setting out for Gatepass. Blacksmith work paid the bills and allowed him to study Herbalism in his spare time. He is a Way of the Four Elements monk who favors fire, jumping to higher locations for tactical advantages, and swinging a light hammer as a weapon (and he wears blue overalls, a red shirt, and a hat). While he helps out the resistance with low-price repair work, he certainly did not expect to be called up to help with a mission out of town.
Background:
Mario and Peach Oldenforge were Dro'Marri's parents and led their clan from a stronghold near the Alydi Gap in northern Dassen. Shortly before he was born, his father took in a orc Ragesian officer who was unhappy with the lack of honor shown by his superiors. Bow-Tzaa of the Kupali Clan gained Mario's trust, but it brought difficulties for Dro'Marri being bullied because his father had taken in the orc and elevated him over the other Dwarves in the clan. When Dro'Marri was 10, Mario and Bow-Tzaa went on an expedition to the Glaskeel Cliffs to determin what creature was killing the griffons in the area. Bow-Tzaa returned with Mario's broken and lifeless body and declared the Glaskeel Cliffs as off-limits to the clan. The orc soon established control of the dwarven clan and married Peach. A year later, Luiij was born. All of these things caused the bullying to continue, and Bow-Tzaa's insistence that Dro'Marri take up the forge and combat didn't help things. After 10 years, Dro'Marri could not take it any longer and ran away from home, leaving behind his childhood friend Daisy. He wrote to his mother for a while, but eventually cut off all communication.
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Mario was killed by a giant ape on the Glaskeel Cliffs. A story that Dro'Marri was never told (it was always just a "horrible monster").
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Zed Tracom

Zed grew up in a corner of Shahalesti where racism against half-orcs was still alive and well. He moved away and finally settled in Gate Pass where his martial talents were appreciated by the local military.
Background: From an early age, Zed only knew life as a second-class citizen in Shahalest. He grew up with his orc father who would not talk about Zed's mother or what happened to her. After spending his teenage years working as a bodyguard for hire, Zed left Shahalesti.
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Zed's mother was a Taranesti elf. When the purge came, She made Zed's father take baby Zed and run so that they would survive. The were captured and forced into indentured servitude.
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We established that Zed and Dro'Marri knew each other previously from Dro'Marri having repaired some of, and Trinja and D'buld had arrived in Gate Pass together. Each player was also tasked with coming up with some secrets about their character which could be tied in with the story.

With the immortal emperor of Ragesia apparently dead, Ragesia has been lashing out and consolidating power. Spellcasters are especially to be pitied as rumors about that they are grabbed by inquisitors, Ragesia's magic-cancelling war clerics, and are never heard from again. The 2nd Ragesian Army has been ordered to take over the city of Gate Pass, hold its strategically significant location as the only way through the mountains to Shahalesti, and round up an magic users. The day before New Year's Eve, the PCs have been recruited by the Resistance, a group of citizens who work to ensure Gate Pass remains a free city-state, to help one of their agents escape the city with a case of Ragesian intelligence documents.


They prepare and arrive at the rendezvous point shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve. Torrent, a cleric from the Lyceum magic academy in Seaquen ushers them through a side door into an abandoned pub. There she lays out the mission: recover the case from another operative and escape from Gate Pass. The city is on lock down as the city council considers surrendering to the army to avoid a protracted fight.

As the conversation wraps up, distant explosions are heard. The wyvern rider Ragesian air force has arrived before anticipated and is dropping dragonbombs on the city. As they prepare to leave, D'buld hears creaking in the abandoned second floor of the pub. He moves to the boarded-up front window in time to hear, "Front door, go!" He whispers a warning to everyone else before taking a position to cover the stairs. Trinja summons her glaive and takes a stand in front of the boarded up door.

The door is smashed through moments later by two thugs manning a portable ram. They drop it and draw their weapons as they tell everyone to surrender. The heroes are not willing to take that sitting down and attack. The first thug is hit hard from several directions and is bloodied. Then some of the mercenaries who were sneaking in upstairs come down the stairs and attacking as a pair. Before more of them come downstairs, the pub is hit squarely by a dragonbomb,

Death screams are heard upstairs, and the blast throws one of the mercenaries down the stairs. The party fought 3 thugs and 2 scouts. 2 of the mercenaries ran after going below 25% hp, and the heroes knocked out the other 3. They dragged the 3 unconscious mercenaries out of the burning pub. Bruised but not beaten, they came face to face with the mercenary leader, a stern man on a horse. He looked down on the party with the countenance of a judge analyzing the accused...
 

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Lylandra

Explorer
Ooh finally! Looking forward to see more of your group's tales.

And an Ostalinian martial artist named Byron Kassonova? Gotta hide my own girl now ;)
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Ooh finally! Looking forward to see more of your group's tales.

And an Ostalinian martial artist named Byron Kassonova? Gotta hide my own girl now ;)
Oops, the martial artist and bard descriptions got a little merged together. Two of the character's names are puns/have a hidden fun bit to them. I only caught one of them, but that PC's player picked up on the other one immediately.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
The heroes exited the burning pub, dragging the unconscious mercenaries behind them. Above them the bombing attack from the Ragesian wyvern riders continued. The leader of the mercenaries sat astride a warhorse and regarded them with cold, analyzing eyes. He thanked them for saving his men and informed them that his group would be leaving because of the battle that had formed overhead. As other mercenaries came forward to pick up the unconscious ones and put them on horses, he warned the heroes that the Black Horse mercenary group would be watching the exits of the town. If they crossed paths again, he was honor bound to capture them, and they should surrender, as he did not want to harm anyone.

With the mercenaries riding away, the heroes decided that they needed to get to the depository quickly to meet with Rivereye Badgerface, Torrent's contact. As they approached the gate to the next district, a wave of fear washed over everyone in the area. Trinja, Byron, and Zed panicked, running out in the street and getting trampled by the frenzied crowd before calming down and being extracted by the others. Passing through into the next district, the heroes encountered a burned man calling out for help as he carried his badly burned wife. He collapsed from exhaustion as the heroes approached, and the couples children were sobbing as they did not know what to do. Byron assessed that the mother was on the brink of death and healed her. She would carry scars for life, but she would live. The family got over the initial shock enough to head to the Temple of the Aquiline Cross. Further on, a woman was calling for help from a window as the rest of the building was burning behind her. Zed and Torrent stretched a bedroll between them, and Byron convinced her to jump. Unfortunately, she stumbled on the way out the window. Zed and Torrent tried to catch her, but she tumbled out and hit her head on the ground. Seeing that she was unconscious and bleeding out, Byron healed her and sent her to the temple. Through the din of battle, the heroes hear a man calling out for his lost Kiki. He approaches them and begs for their help in finding his baby. When asked for a description, he starts out with, "Well, she is about this long..." Which was met with a response of, "Wait, long or tall?" They then find out that Kiki is the man's pet giant weasel. Trinja sees this as really important while Torrent facepalms and complains that they do not have the time for this. They send the man to the temple, and Trinja manages to find the weasel after a bit of a search. She calms the animal and fashions a leash for it. When it is suggested that they can return Kiki after they finish at the depository, Trinja responds, "Well, we can let Kiki decide if she wants to return."

Upon arriving at the depository, the guard informs them that they cannot bring Kiki in to the tower. Trinja manages to convince the guard that Kiki is a service animal for soothing emotional distress, and the guard lets them in. The path through the well-tended gardens to the tower is flanked by two fountains. The one on the left includes statues of the four primordial creatures from ancient myths. The one on the right has a statue emperor coaltongue. At some point in the last 40 years after the Ragesians withdrew from Gate Pass, the fountain was modified so that the jet of water emerged from the torch the statue held aloft. The heroes are advised that there are guards about (so don't try to break into any lockers), there is an ugly gnome inside (so don't be surprised), and bring a light (it's dark inside). Torrent cast light on her gauntlet, and they went inside.

After searching the first floor, they continue on to the second. They run into Rivereye Badgerface who apologizes for a cough he acquired while returning from Ragos. He then addresses Dro'marri by the name "Peppin" and guides the group to a locker that needs "Peppin's" password to open.

At this point, people are getting suspicious and telling Riverface that there is no password and Dro'marri is not Peppin. Rivereye suddenly points behind the group and says, "What in the world is that!?!?" Everyone except Trinja is fooled. "Riverface" disengages and dashes up the stairs to the third floor. Trinja manages to chase him upstairs and interpose herself between the gnome and one of the doors to the third floor balcony where a glowing ball of rainbow flame hovers above. Rivereye disengages and heads for another door, hanging a right and heading to the area of the balcony behind the door Trinja blocked. Everyone came dashing up the stairs, joining Trinja on the third floor. Trinja opened the door and saw the gnome drinking a potion. She cast hex, targeting Dexterity checks. Zed came out and attacked the gnome. The ball suddenly starts firing light rays at the heroes, targetting Zed first.

The gnome disengages and dashes up the stairs to the fourth floor. Dro'marri uses a ki for Step of the Wind and bounds up after him and just manages to catch and grapple him. The ball of light continues to rain down destruction as the rest of the group catches up, but the "gnome" cannot escape with disadvantage on escape attempts with Dexterity (Acrobatics). He tells the ball of light to, "Go home." It darts out and escapes, flying at a speed of 20 feet per second out the open door and across the city.

Once the "gnome" realizes the heroes are not necessarily hostile to Shahalesti (and Trinja questioned him in Elvish), he drops his disguise for a short (although still much taller than a gnome) elf with dark hair dressed all in black. Under questioning he reveals that he entered the depository with a small strike team and knocked out the real Rivereye and some depository guards. When he learned from the gnome that the case was trapped with a password that only "Peppin" knew, the spy sent his colleagues back to their safe house with the caseHe replaced the real Rivereye by casting disguise self and waited to meet the gnome's contacts. He explained under more intense questioning that the case would either be with his master at Gabal's war school or in the Elvish ghetto.

As the Shahalesti spy was taken away by the depository guards, Torrent found Rivereye and woke him up. He explained the attack and told how he convinced the spy that the case was trapped with a password that only Peppin knew in the hope that the people who actually showed up would realize that something was wrong and delay the Shahalesti from opening the locked case. He did not know what was in the case because he could not defeat the lock, but he was convinced that the case held important military intelligence and needed to be recovered for the resistance.

By this point, the air battle between the Ragesian wyvern riders and Gate Pass griffon riders had ended. The heroes decided to head to the safe house at the Temple of the Aquiline Cross for some sleep as it was 2:30 in the morning. They entered to a scene of displaced people jammed into the temple trying to survive the night. The mood of the room was not helped by a half-elf bard who only played minor chords and sung songs of enemy armies overwhelming paltry defenders. Byron was determined to lift the spirits of the room with hopeful songs. He pulled out his lute and started to play (best of 3 contested checks with the other bard). He started badly (rolled a 1), but he recovered while Trinja used hex on the bard to mess up her playing. As the bard fumbled with her playing, Byron finished strong, and the bard put away her lute with a huff.

The head priest of the temple came forward to greet the heroes, thankful that the mood of the building had changed thanks to the change in music...
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
I like the super Mario brother.

How's the group liking the game so far? You in it for the lung haul of 20 levels?
The "Mario" player is really good at puns (both good and bad puns). He picked up on the dual-whip-wielding monk immediately (D'buld Utch = Double Dutch). He comes up with stuff like, "So if we return Kiki to her owner, does that make us Kiki's Delivery Service?" :)

We are only two sessions in, but they like it so far and are starting to make the story and characters their own. We are planning on around 2 years to make it through the adventure path. We finished Age of Worms in 3 years, but we took several months worth of breaks over that time. So that seems like a reasonable estimate.
 
When I ran the playtest for ZEITGEIST, one PC was basically a hammer brother, working for a mafia Don who was Bowser rip off. We changed that before publication, though.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
The mood in the temple of the Aquiline Heart had calmed considerably. As Byron played, the party planned their next move. They had arrived to rest but were concerned that they needed to get out of the city before the bulk of the Ragesian army arrived. The elvish spy who had impersonated Rivereye Badgerface mentioned that he passed off the case to the soldiers that were with him and that his master at Gabal's school of war might know where it is. In the end, the party decided to take a short, 1-hour nap and then head out and at least case the school, but first, there was the matter of a certain giant weasel named Kiki.

It had been love at first sight for Trinja, and she did not want to give Kiki back to her owner. Before she could sneak out, Dro'Marri called out, "Is Kiki's owner here?" The merchant popped up, "Kiki? Oh, it is so good to see you!" Trinja tried to convince the merchant that Kiki would be better off with her, but when pressed, she could not offer any hard reasons why. She did manage to convince the merchant to let Kiki choose, and in the end, Kiki returned to her owner. Torrent came over to comfort a crestfallen Trinja. She gestured for everyone to come back to their corner of the temple. "Look," she said, "I know you are sad about the weasel, but it would not have worked out. Once we head out of the city, we will be taking the most direct route to Seaquen, and that leads through the burning forest of Innenotdar. It has been burning for 40 years. We are going to use the potions of stand the heat, but we do not have spares to use on Kiki. She is safer here. We are heading through the forest because these potions will allow us to survive the oven-like temperatures. The Ragesian army would have to go around, giving us a head start to Seaquen."

Trinja was not happy but acquiesced. The party had one of the priests wake them after an hour, and they headed to Gabal's school. As they approached at around 4:00 in the morning, they noticed someone standing near the gates, his face lit by the glow of a cigarette. After a brief discussion, the party decided to have the spellcasters approach and feel this guy out while the others hung back. After a brief bit of questioning, they learn the wizard's name is Diogenes and that the woman they are looking for is Shealis. Her lantern archon familiar had arrived back at the school almost two hours ago.

"She is a Shahalesti spy and she stole important military documents from us!" Trinja blurted out.

A shocked expression came upon Diogenes face which slowly shifted to realization. "I knew there was something fishy about her," Diogenes declared. He brought them inside and gave them a couple of dorm rooms, explaining that Gabal and most of his best students had disappeared several days ago when news came round that the Ragesian army was coming. He tells them that he will wake them in a couple of hours, but they should have a plan for capturing Shealis because she is so dangerous.

They consider trying to capture Shealis while she is sleeping. Diogenes says that it could work, but it contains significant risk. Her lantern archon familiar might catch them entering the room, and Shealis can shape her fireball to not hit herself or her allies. She might kill everyone with her fireball if attacked in a confined space. In the end, Diogenes suggests that Shealis might be trying to skip town with the case. He has a rivalry with her and thinks he can convince her to have one more duel with him before she goes. The duel circle is on the third level of the tower. Someone could try to swipe her component pouch. Without it, she cannot cast most of her most dangerous spells. The rest of the party can wait on the fourth flour and rush her while she is at a disadvantage. The party decides to go with that plan and grab a few hours of sleep. Byron stays up for a bit and applies red makeup from his disguise kit to make himself a red tiefling in case the lantern archon is present in the morning. He also writes up a (very poorly written) spell scroll before finally crashing to bed an hour after everyone else.

By 6:30, Diogenes wakes everyone up and they drag themselves out of bed, Byron being the slowest of the lot. They get into positions to execute the plan. Trinja casts disguise self to make her look like an elf so that the lantern archon will not recognize her. Diogenes went up to Shealis' room, and Shealis emerged a few minutes later without her familiar. As Diogenes and Shealis headed from the dormitories to the tower, Trinja went around the outside and found the window to Shealis' room open and the archon floating inside. Meanwhile, Diogenes and Shealis ascended the tower, where they ran into Byron. Byron managed to get Shealis to look at his scroll. She sneered at the poor work but noticed when Byron made a move to grab her component pouch. In a flash, Shealis pushed Byron up against the wall, turned her hip with the component pouch away from him, and sticks a finger under his chin. She demanded an explanation, but Byron's explanation was lacking. A level 3 magic missile exploded from Shealis' finger, slamming his head back into the wall.

Byron's vision exploded in stars, but he did his best to stay focused. He managed to wrestle Shealis' component pouch away from her and used misty step to head up the stairs to the third floor while running up the stairs the rest of the way. The burning sky licked at his body as he reappeared up the stairs, leaving him at 1hp. Shealis remotely contacted her familiar, and Trinja watches as the lantern archon streaks across the yard, and into a window on the third floor. She jumps through the open window and searches the room, but she does not find anything.

The explosion of the burning sky alerted the rest of the group upstairs, and they started to run down to the third floor. Dro'Marri does his best to cover Byron and shield him from taking damage. The lantern archon fires but misses. Diogenes casts fog cloud in an attempt to disorient Shealis, but she follows the wall up the stairs to the third floor. As she emerges from the fog, she fires off another magic missil, catching Byron and D'buld. As Byron is knocked unconscious, Shealis' component pouch falls to the floor. Torrent runs down the stairs and heals Byron. However, if Shealis gets back to her component pouch, it could spell doom for the party.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Zed charged down the stairs. He had a score to settle with the lantern archon. His axe sliced through the archon, but it reformed, the floating ball of light only partially affected by the ax blade. The others started to attack Shealis and her familiar with limited success, and Shealis' component pouch lay unnoticed on the floor. Shealis grabbed the pouch and began to cast a fireball, but Diogenes, having dissipated his fog cloud ran up the stairs and stopped her just in time with a counterspell, exhorting Shealis to stand down. Shealis barked back to Diogenes to stay out of this as the combat continued. The heroes were landing blows, but the elven war mage was skilled in surviving close quarter combat. As she tried to fire off another fireball, Diogenes once again managed to stop her with counterspell before warning the party, "I can't do that again, guys!"

Finally, the heroes were wearing Shealis down, but she dropped a fireball at her feet, wrapping herself and her familiar in pockets of clean air. The effect was devastating, and Zed and D'buld fell unconscious. Byron's Tiefling heritage saved him from a similar fate, while Torrent and Dro'Marri ducked behind the railing of the stairways. Trinja, having searched the dorm room, had clambered out the window, fell on her face, got up, ran across the quad, and sprinted up the stairs. She arrived in time to hex, Shealis, making her clumsy. Shealis sent her familiar to go warn "the others" and made to escape herself, but she was surrounded. She held of attacks from all sides and cast invisibility on herself. A solid snap from D'bulds whip connected and broke Shealis' concentration on invisibility. She drank a potion of fly rose above the heroes' heads to escape through the same window her familiar exited. As she flew over Zed, he grabbed her ankle and held on. Dro'Marri followed, jumping up and grabbing on the other ankle. Shealis was unable to escape and blasted Zed and Dro'Marri with magic missile, nearly knocking them both out. However the held on, and Byron leapt up and knocked her out with the pommel of his sword.

D'buld quickly tied Shealis up which was good as she quickly awoke again. They removed her valuables including her spellbook, componenet pouch, 8 healing potions, and 10pp in Shahalesti coinage before starting to interrogate her. The interrogation go nowhere with Shealis as she would not deign "the base races" as her equals for talking, and she was getting annoyed at Diogenes' repeated failed attempts to use charm person on her. It was not until Trinja started talking to her in Elvish and asked everyone else to give them space that she was able to make headway with Shealis. Eventually Shealis agreed to take the party to her hideout and view the contents of the case, but the intel would still head back to the Shahalesti empire. However, her familiar was already heading to the hideout, and Shealis imagined that her compatriots would soon try to leave the city.

Trinja walked over to tell the rest of the party the deal and then had the idea to search Shealis, dorm room one more time. She had been looking for the case and Shealis, spellbook originally, but maybe there was more to find. She said she needed to grab something from her room before bolting down the stairs, sprinting across the quad, and falling through the window again. A more thorough search of the room found some notes showing the location of the Shahalesti safe house as well as a code word of some sort. She fell through the window, sprinted across the quad, and bolted up the stairs, arriving out of breath. After briefing the party, they decided that they had enough info to go directly as a backup plan, but they should try to go with Shealis as an attempt to avoid future issues with the Shahalesti empire.

Shealis asks for her equipment back but allows those who need it to drink a healing potion and leaves her component pouch with Byron as a gesture of goodwill. A crowd of people had gathered around the gates of the school to protest the presence of the wizards. So Diogenes showed let the party out through an underground tunnel that led into a nearby alley. Shealis leads the party through two inter-district gates and, after ensuring no passerby is watching, opens a secret door into the Elvish ghetto in this district. Everything matches the pilfered notes as she leads them to a side door on a carpentry shop, but Dro'Marri notices a raven following the party.

Before proceeding she reiterates the terms that everyone can see the intelligence, but they cannot take it, and she asks for their agreement. Everyone agrees, but D'buld is hiding the fact that he is more than willing to double-cross her and take the intelligence. In the end, Zed and D'buld fail to convince her that their intentions are true, and she asks them to stay outside. Dro'Marri asks Shealis about the raven, and she expresses worry that someone is following them, but the raven is no longer visible. After manipulating the figures in a carving on the wall, a door opens, and everyone except Zed and D'buld enters the shop. They walk past a group of 5 celestial badgers, their coats shining with metallic hues of silver and gold. Trinja plays with them and tries to get them to follow her, and one follows her as the party is led upstairs. A trio of Shahalesti soldiers scrambles to their feet, anticipating a fight, but Shealis tells them to stand down.

Meanwhile, a rat approaches Zed and D'buld outside. They are surprised when it speaks, "Hey, I know your friends are going in there to get a case filled with Ragesian intelligence. The Ragesians summoned me to retrieve the case, but the letter of my contract only means that I have to retrieve the case, not the intelligence. We can help each other get what we want. What do you say?" After confirming that he was also the raven that Dro'Marri had seen, D'buld agrees. He memorized the movements required to open the secret door, and he lets the rat inside.

Almost instantly, the badgers notice the rat's presence and start hissing. The rat says, "Oh boy," and everyone upstairs hears the noise, the Shahalesti going for their weapons. A look of contempt crosses Shealis' face as she regards the members of the party who are upstairs with her...
 
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Tormyr

Adventurer
The heroes start to say that they don't know what is going on downstairs, but Shealis cuts them off and tells them to head downstairs. Meanwhile, D'buld watches as the rat shapeshifts into a raven and flies on top of one of the doors. He decides to just close the door and wait to find out what happens. The heroes and elvish spies come down the stairs to find the badgers surrounding a the raven and trying to get to it. Shealis doesn't hesitate and blasts the raven squarely with a fire bolt. Everyone does a double-take as the raven is unaffected by the blast. Several others fire arrows which do minimal damage. The raven goes invisible, and Shealis shouts, "Kill it! Protect the case!" as she feels a flutter of wind go up the stairs past her. The elves head up and train weapons and magic on the case on the floor, waiting for any movement. Torrent runs up stairs and jumps on the case, and then freaks out a little as she realizes everyone is pointing weapons at her. There is a scuffling sound a few feet away, and everyone fires in the direction of the sound. An imp appears and falls to the ground, dead. After a few moments it dissolves into a puff of fire.

Some quick talking on the part of the heroes convinces the elves that the imp was not with them. Shealis lets them try to open the case, and Dro'marri manages to crack it open with a hammer and chisel. Inside is a large book written in Infernal. Byron takes a look, but the words are nonsense, and he realizes that it must be all written in code. Shealis allows them to copy five pages and gives them the name of a contact in Calanis that they can contact for more information. With a "something is better than nothing" philosophy, the heroes leave the safe house.

They decide that they should go see council member Erdan Menash. He has been vocal about resistance against Ragesia and may help them escape the city. On the way, they realize they are being tailed. They wait for their tail to catch up, and a bunch of city guard approach them, demanding that they come in for questioning. The heroes refuse and walk away while the guard follows from a distance. Eventually, they realize several of the guard have disappeared. After a few minutes, the missing guards appear from a side alley and step out in front of them. After a quick quip that the heroes should have come quietly, they attack.

At this point, the heroes have been awake for almost 30 hours with a few hours of sleep here and there. As the guards move in to attack, the heroes realize that these are more Black Horse mercenaries, and they are outnumbered. As they start taking hits, a figure jumps down from the balcony. He lands and says, "Well hello! It looks like you are in a bit of trouble. May I help?" as he pulls out his greatsword.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Rantle to the rescue :D
Yup. I have a house rule for falling damage that does more damage per foot but allows a creature to negate damage up to the value of an acrobatics check. Rantle jumped off the 20 foot roof, risking up to ~15 points of damage, but he stuck the landing. That and his dashing good looks and swagger caused Dro'marri (or more likely his player) to declare, "I already hate this guy." :)
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Immediately, Rantle swung into action. He told Trinja and Zed to attack a single target in the middle (showing off the Commander's new Leader Tactics) and organized them into picking off one at a time. Dro'marri was surrounded and almost knocked out. He disengaged and ran behind some allies while Byron used his Wayfarer's Step to teleport to the top of a roof. He hurled vicious mockery while avoiding the melee. Rantle dropped a healing potion at Dro'marri's feet while taking swings with his greatsword. Slowly the tide turned, and a worrisome fight turned to a victory as they surrounded the mercenaries and knocked out or captured 7 of the mercenaries; the last one escaped down an alley.

GM: While the Black Horse mercenaries did okay at the Poison Apple pub, this encounter started a bit of a streak of me rolling badly for them and for Torrent.


Rantle helped the heroes tie up the mercenaries and offered to turn them over to the authorities if the heroes would do him a favor. He heard about the events at the pub the night before and had an idea that the heroes were on a mission to Seaquen. He asked them to deliver a scroll case containing a message and a scroll of fireball to his sister who had been heading to Seaquen but dropped out of contact a week ago. He also told them that he would make sure the thieves' guild would not harass them as they tried to leave the city. They agreed and headed on their way.

Council member Erdan Menash had a relatively successful career as a merchant specializing in outfitting adventurers before turning to a life of politics. His three-story house with an iron fence around it would be what you would expect of someone with that career...if not for the green, yellow, and purple paint job. The guards at the front gate sported the same colors in their livery. Taking a deep breath to not burst into fits of laughter, the introduced themselves at the gate and requested an audience with Council member Menash. One of the guards escorted them to the door, where a servant showed them to a reception room. As Byron started to think of a way to sneak around to find some documents of Menash's to forge a signature of off, the servant returned with refreshments and said that while Council member Menash was out, he was expected to return soon. The heroes settled in to wait.

About 30 minutes later, Erdan Menash burst in through his front door, loudly cursing at the council who was going to give in to the Ragesian demands. Then he noticed his guests and brightened considerably. He asked them what their business was. They explained the situation and their need to get out of the city. Menash started to come up with an idea and got sidetracked. He gave the heroes an impromptu tour of his home. The second floor contained his workshop which included dozens of decorations for the day's now cancelled Festival of Dreams. The other side of the second floor contained a remarkable array of weapons and armor. Byron and Trinja complimented him on his amazing collection.

Beaming with gratitude, Menash remembers the need to get back to business. He gets to work on orders for Captain Herreman, a leader of a nearby barracks and a good friend of Menash. As he finishes the orders, he tells the heroes that he feels that dark times are ahead for Gate Pass, and he wants his weapons to be used against the Ragesians. He offers the heroes a choice of any of his weapons or armor. Torrent chooses a falchion that looks like a dolphin with the pommel as the head and the sweep of the blade as the body. Trinja chooses a breastplate that is stylized to look like a rhino head. D'buld chooses a pair of whips with heads like scorpions and blades embedded all the way through the whips. Zed chooses the prize of the collection, a heavy crossbow that looks like a porcupine that shoots bolts out its back end. He also purchases a green, yellow, and purple lance. Byron chooses a hand crossbow that looks like a mosquito with the bolt being the probiscus. Dro'marri, the blacksmith, thinks all of this is dumb: weapons and tools should be functional, but keeps his opinion mostly to himself.

They thank Council member Menash for his help and head to the barracks. Captain Herreman is a gruff, half-orc soldier, but as he reads the note from Menash, the corner of his mouth curls into a smile. He explains that he will outfit the heroes as city guard and provide them with horses. He gets all of the needed supplies together while the heroes grab a nap before they all head out with Herreman's patrol at sunset. After a hard 30 hours, the exit from the city went uneventfully. Herreman sent them on their way and advised them of a campsite to sleep as they, "looked like hell." The heroes thanked him and set up camp. Zed took the first watch and dozed off. He came to and didn't see anything amiss. So he woke up D'buld for his watch. D'buld took over for 30 minutes before the sun came up. Thankfully, nothing happened in the night.

They proceeded south towards the fire forest of Inennotdar. The trail wound through a narrow valley as the heroes talked among themselves when suddenly *BOOM*, a thunderstone exploded in their midst. The horses of Byron, Zed, and Dro'marri spooked and galloped down the valley. The Black Horse scouts hidden on a precipice above started raining down crossbow bolts into Torrent. After half the heroes' horses took them down the valley, another mercenary and someone in a horse-themed armor attacked Torrent as well. Torrent was hit heavily. Zed and Dro'marri abandoned Byron and went back to the rest of the group. While Byron still tried to get his horse under control, more mercenaries down the path surrounded him, and the rest of the heroes circled around Torrent. If the heroes could keep the cleric alive, they had a chance.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
One of the scouts sounded a horn down the canyon. A few seconds later, Byron heard the thunder of hooves echoing from further down the valley. He turned tail and galloped back toward his allies. The mercenaries fired at him struck at his horse, and tried to pull him down, but he managed to continue. A trio of mercenaries formed a line to block him from rejoining the group, but he managed to have his horse trample through the brush at the side of the path and go around them.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the heroes worked on neutralizing threats. D'buld rode around a mercenary and engaged their leader in melee. The leader panicked and fired an arrow into his own leg.
GM: I have a house rule that double 1s or 20s during advantage or disadvantage are really bad or really good, respectively. Dro'Marri's player quipped, "He was an adventurer until he took an arrow..."

Dro'marri rode to the precipice where the scouts were firing down at them. He stood on his horse and jumped up to the precipice. Making a charge, he shoved the most injured of the scouts off the ledge.
GM: Going back to the falling damage house rule from last page, this scout made a good Dexterity (Acrobatics) check and negated most of the 19 damage he would have sustained from the 20 foot fall.

As the battle continued, Dro'Marri managed to shove the other two scouts off of the precipice, landing one on top of the other. They got up and engaged Trinja. One of the scouts scored a critical hit, but it was absorbed by one of Trinja's mirror image's. Dro'Marri saw they three scouts were in a line and decided to try to kick off of each of their heads, one after the other. Unfortunately, he mistimed his leap but landed on his feet.
GM: The player wanted to do a Mario-styled triple jump but missed his attack roll and the acrobatics check to set it up. He made the Acrobatics check to negate the whole 19 points of damage from the landing though and landed on his feet.


Byron arrived on the scene and cast a healing word to keep Torrent in the fight. Behind him, Kathor Danava galloped into view. Byron, already injured, cast charm person on Kathor in an attempt to not be hit by the scary warrior. Kathor veered of toward Zed, telling the mercenaries to be sure not to kill "my friend over there." Zed having hacked away at several mercenaries turned and attacked Kathor. This broke the spell on Kathor, but it didn't matter as a mercenary's crossbow bolt pierced Byron, and he fell off his horse. A mercenary, not wanting to miss out on a 100gp bounty, rushed over and stabilized Byron.

Torrent, seeing Byron fall, panicked and charged the Black Horse leader. She finally landed a solid hit. Trinja, followed her lead and dealt the leader with a solid blow, knocking him unconscious. Seeing the leader fall, Kathor called out for everyone to stop and gave the mercenaries' surrender. A mercenary complained and was knocked out cold by Kathor's gauntlet. Kathor explained to the heroes that his father was the general of the army attacking Gate Pass and that he had left for reasons that were his own. He fell in with the Black Horse as they were the first people to appreciate his horsemanship skills. He soon found himself regretting that decision as the mercenaries only cared about money and lacked any real sense of honor. He told the heroes to tie up the mercenaries and gave up the location of their base before riding off back toward Gate Pass.

The heroes easily found the camp set up at the entrance to a grotto. Inside the grotto, the found a set of locked gates. The realized that these makeshift rooms would have been used for storage of the clay pots from the festival of dreams. Inside one room, the found a sleeping person that they could not wake up. A search of the mercenary leader's tent revealed a key, and they unlocked the gate. The found that the man was dead from exposure with his cat familiar dead beside him. He had wrapped a faded silk shroud around himself in a vain attempt to stay warm. The heroes respectfully pulled the body out and dug a grave. After finishing with the burial, the shroud, which they kept, glowed briefly. The realized that their actions had somehow divinely blessed the shroud and made it a minor magical item.

GM: I don't know if it was the session 0 where I talked about actions having consequences, our previous Murder in Baldur's Gate city-based adventure, or the more "real" nature of this campaign, but the players have been very cautious in not killing anyone so far. They have knocked out all the mercenaries, pulled them out of the burning pub, cut a deal with the Shahalesti, buried a stranger, and generally behaved very well as PCs. This will likely stand them in good stead in the long run.


After taking a short rest, they released all the mercenaries' horses, sent the unconscious mercenary leader and his horse on their way and untied one of the mercenaries. They continued their travels south for several hours. One mile from the fire forest, they emerged from the mountains to warmer air and were able to shed their heavy winter gear. They could see the forest ablaze in the distance, and ash wafted toward them. A half-mile from the forest, they came upon a farmhouse. A young woman with dark hair and clutching a black staff stood out front.
 
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Tormyr

Adventurer
The young woman had a faraway look in her intense blue eyes as she told the heroes that she had seen them pursued by Ragesian inquisitors in a dream. She then snapped out of it, blushed, and apologized, explaining that she sometimes has visions that come to her. She introduced herself as Crystin and asked the heroes to take her father and her with them as she saw it was a place of safety. She brought the heroes into her house to meet her father.

Haddin was a cold, calculating man with a disregard for the lives and well-being of others. When Dro'Marri heard Haddin's name, he recalled a story from almost 20 years ago in which Haddin, an upstanding member of society, was accused of using a domination spell to forcibly reform his criminal half-orc half-brother. A riot formed as people were afraid they had been mentally controlled by Haddin in the past. Haddin's brother tried to defend him and was killed by the mob. Haddin fled Gate Pass with his pregnant wife. Crystin was about the right age to be Haddin's daughter. The old, overweight man looked like the years had crushed his humanity.

Haddin refused to leave his home and vowed to defend it against whoever came. When Crystin tried to interject, Haddin told her to be quiet, and she instantly stopped talking. As the heroes argued with Haddin, Dro'Marri and D'buld watched the road outside. They noticed a small figure, a goblin, scurrying around the perimeter toward the back of the house and some movement behind one of the 10-foot-tall mounds along the road. Dro'Marri circled around back while D'buld investigated the road. Crystin's head snapped up as she said, "They're here."

A booming voice from behind the mounds along the road reverberated into the house. "Send Haddin out, and nobody will be harmed! Refuse, and everyone dies!" There was 30 seconds of silence as everyone inside argued about what to do while D'buld and Dro'Marri dove for cover. A group of skeletons advanced on the house with another goblin. Inside, the heroes heard a click as a floating key held by Haddin's mage hand locked the door. Trinja, Byron, and Zed demanded to be let out, but Haddin wouldn't budge.

Byron looked through the keyhole and used misty step to pass through the locked door. He found himself in the middle of a battle with D'Buld surrounded and an inquisitor concentrating on a half-cast spell. He tried to send a healing word to D'buld, but the inquisitor released his cancel and the healing spell fizzled. Eventually, the heroes inside the house managed to convince Haddin to let them out.

D'buld was now dealing with a menacing half-orc and a number of orc Ragesian soldiers as well. Torrent ran outside and failed to turn the skeletons but managed to bury her axe in the chest of a soldier. Byron used misty step to get on the roof and let loose a constant volley of vicious mockery. Suddenly, Haddin ran outside, shut the door behind him, mounted a horse and rode it around the back of the house as a bloodied Dro'Marri finished knocking out the goblin who had taken up a position in the stables. The inquisitor roared at his minions to capture Haddin, and the chase was on.

The rest of the heroes tried their best to hold off the Ragesians, destroying half of the skeletons and soldiers and the hulking half-orc, but they were horrified to see the inquisitor heal the half-orc who drank a potion of growth followed by raging. The huge half-orc started smashing his way toward the heroes. Haddin rode away on his horse, and the huge, half-orc barbarian gave chase, stopping on the way to hit Byron who was at chest level on top of the house. He landed a devastating blow, knocking Byron unconscious. Byron rolled off the roof, landing on Dro'Marri and knocking him out as well.

GM: When I had set up the barbarian in Roll20, I accidentally clicked his attack while enlarged and raging. It was a critical hit that rolled high and did 31 damage. At our next game, the damage was still in the chat window. One of my player's asked, "Who's smiley?" I told him not to worry about it. :) The hit on Byron wasn't a critical, but it was still over 20 damage.


Hearing the bumps on his roof, Haddin decided it was time to head out the back door and take the advantage. Everyone did a double-take as a second Haddin emerged from the back door of the house and dominated Smiley. Haddin ordered Smiley to kill the inquisitor and any other Ragesian or skeleton on the way. Smiley turned and charged at the inquisitor. When the inquisitor's rebuke magic failed to dispel the domination on Smiley, he turned, jumped on a horse, and rode around to the back to find the spellcaster.

GM: Up until here, with two of their number bleeding out, the heroes had felt the end was near. Smiley rolled a 1 on his saving throw (resulting in a -1), and Inquisitor Boreus rolled a 1 on his attempt to dispel the domination. The player's mood swung upward.


Haddin ran back inside the house and closed the door while Zed and Torrent stabilized Byron and Dro'Marri. The inquisitor cast shatter and blew apart the back door, catching Haddin in the blast. He lost concentration on the domination spell. Crystin, kneeling over her father, cast a magic missile at Smiley, knocking him out. The fake Haddin on the horse fired an eldritch blast, and everyone surrounded the inquisitor, knocking him unconscious before D'buld finished him and Smiley off.

Haddin decided that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to leave the region for a while. Battered and bruised, the heroes decided to rest for the night at Haddin's house before heading into the fiery forest of Innenotdar.

The next day they set out. Each of them drank a potion of stand the heat which protected them from the oven-like heat if not the fire. They had enough potions for two days of travel, which should be enough. As they entered the forest, they could still feel the heat even if it did not harm them. After a quarter mile, they came on a trio of corpses. Two of them were torn apart, and one had flames playing over its surface. Byron decided to search the corpses, relying on his fire resistance to protect him.

Suddenly, the corpse on fire reached up toward him, saying, "Kill me!" Byron, partly on reaction, obliged and sliced off the humanoids head. The body collapsed, and the flames on it slowly died out. Byron continued to search the corpses, scorching his hands in the process. After he was done, Haddin said, "You know, it was funny watching you burn your hands on them when you could have just had me do this," and he searched the bodies with mage hand.

GM: I had been using every opportunity to make Haddin come off as a supreme jerk and brought up a lot of his control over Crystin as well. The players (and heroes) really disliked him, but this incident sealed the deal. Hatred of Haddin: 100%. Achievement unlocked. :)


The heroes had not expected to run into anything in the burning forest, but this experience shook them. What was going on in the forest?
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Shaken by their encounter with the burning man, the heroes proceeded further down the Elfroad. The fires burned all vegetation without consuming it, but the fires on a particular bush or tree seemed to curiously weaken as they walked by before flaring back to full strength behind them.

After a mile, a screaming creature flew out of a burning tree toward Byron. The magma mephit was screaming in Ignan, and two giant bats, their bodies fully engulfed in flames flew after the mephit. The heroes fought the bats while the mephit used Byron as a shield. After a short fight, the bats lay on the ground, the flames still playing over their fallen forms.

Then, to everyone's horror, the bats got up again. The heroes quickly smacked the bats down again, and this time they hacked the bats apart for good measure. The flames engulfing the bats died down and were extinguished.

D'buld stepped forward to address the mephit. After a brief discussion, he learned that most creatures in the forest were like this: engulfed in flame and refusing to die. It told the heroes about a little bit about the lay of the land, including the forest, a river that was coming up in a few miles, and the village downriver with the annoying singing. Considering its debt paid, the mephit flew off into the burning forest.

The heroes came up to a bridge that spanned a 60-foot-deep gorge. The bridge had a section on the right that had broken away. A crashed cart in the gorge below showed the means by which the bridge had become damaged. Further inspection by Zed indicated that there were several weak points on the bridge where it was not structurally sound. D'buld decided to test a section to see what happened when it was stepped on. After a bit of effort, a section of the bridge crumbled away. Unfortunately, the falling stones disturbed hundreds of bats.

The bats, like their larger brethren, were on fire. They swarmed the heroes and their companions, Haddin, Crystin, and Torrent. The heroes swatted at the bats but were finding themselves overwhelmed. Haddin succumbed to the bats fiery bites, and Torrent quickly healed him. Dro'mari called for everyone to make their way across the bridge. D'buld sprinted across the bridge, but he missed a weak section of the bridge. The stones gave way, and D'bud slipped through the hole, hitting the far slope on the way down and falling unconscious among the burning brush.

With his new comrade fallen to the bottom of the gorge and moments from receiving mortal burns, Byron sprinted across the bridge. Leaning through the new hole, he cast healing word and revived D'buld. D'buld scrambled up on the crashed cart and put out the flames. The heroes finally managed to kill the bats, smashing any that looked like they were starting to get up again.

Nothing seemed to follow the natural order of death here. As the heroes and their companions carefully crossed the bridge. Haddin seemed pensive after having just faced death.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
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Tormyr

Adventurer
The heroes followed the road, the burning forest forcing them to stay on the path. They came upon another bridge, which they gingerly started to cross. On the other side, a hell hound padded out of the burning forest up to the bridge's exit. The heroes froze, waiting for an attack before they realized it was taking no hostile action and was carrying a large bone in its mouth. The hell hound dropped the bone at the end of the bridge, backed up 30 feet, and sat down to watch the heroes' reaction.

Byron, the most resistant to fire and best at escaping, slowly walked forward and examined the bone. Its work finished, the hell hound retreated into the forest. The bone was the femur of a humanoid, and a note was scratched into its surface.
Leave the case. Cooperate, and we might find an arrangement to spare your lives. Carry this with you if you wish to bargain.
They did not know who the message was from, and complying was going to be a problem as they did not have the case with the Ragesian intelligence. In any case, they decided to carry the bone so they could initiate dialog with the sender. Ten minutes later, a green bearded devil appeared in their path. He introduced himself as Kazyk, a humble servant of Ragesia, and demanded the case in the nicest way possible: with honeyed words and veiled threats. The heroes tried to explain that they only had a few pages instead of the entire book, but the devil sighed and said he would have to make sure of that to fulfill the requirements of his contract. He summoned some imps and directed them to attack.

The imps turned invisible and flew toward the heroes. Meanwhile, Kazyk used misty step to jump into the burning forest and flank the heroes. The heroes circled up and tried to defend themselves, but Kazyk would run up, attack with his glaive, and misty step back to the safety of the forest. Meanwhile, Zed dropped his battleaxe at his feet and switched to his porcupine crossbow. One of the invisible imps flew between his feet, grabbed the battleaxe, and dropped it 30 feet away in the burning forest.

The heroes managed to destroy the imps, but Kazyk handily beat them. After striking each of the heroes with nary a scratch on himself, Kazyk bid the heroes farewell and warned them to be more helpful in the future.

The heroes picked themselves up, nursed their wounds, and continued on. Byron ran into the forest and retrieved Zed's battleaxe. They were worried about what they had gotten themselves into. The forest's worst problem was supposed to be that it was forever burning, but the inhabitants of the forest seemed much more dangerous.

GM: Haddin's arc progressed much faster than I thought it would. After achieving maximum jerk after just a few sessions, the Haddin's and the heroes' impressions of each other changed with his near-death experience. Seeing Byron act selflessly to retrieve Zed's battleaxe after having saved D'buld on the bridge presented him as someone who fought for others, and that clashed with Haddin's worldview.

With how the encounters in the forest had gone so far, it was surprisingly easy to sell that the forest was a dangerous and deeply oppressive place. Then it got worse.
 
One of my players has a friend who used to do concept art for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. As a Christmas present to everyone, he commissioned her to do line art of all the characters and then inked them himself. They turned out pretty well and became our tokens on Roll20. I updated the first post with the character art.

http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?631729-Tormyr-s-War-of-the-Burning-Sky-campaign-spoilers-abound&p=7392032#post7392032
The art doesn't show for me.
 

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