The Horsepeople of the Unpocalypse

Session 26 Summary & Announcements
Leprechauns, Pseudodragon, Firefen

Current Campaign Date: 22nd Desnus 4697, Spring. Day 43 of Campaign.

Very very brief session summary

The party left Umok, travelling through the woods to find a path to the north-west. They encountered some trickster leprechauns, a pseudodragon, a mysterious cave that led to an underground chasm, and finally ended up about to enter the Firefen.

XP awards

Encounters, traps etc:
Leprechaun Mischief
Firefen Jet

Bonuses:
RP encounters with leprechauns and pseudodragon
Exploration

Session 26:
Currently level 6. Level 7 is at 35, 000 XP.

Session 26950 XP
Caiora25170 XP
Dunlaid25510 XP
Guldir25300 XP
Ragthorn23461 XP
Rye25550 XP
Queck24010 XP

Loot & Magic Items

I’ll update this section after next session

Current unclaimed magic items in party loot:

  • A +1 Heavy Flail
  • Yellowteeth Sewerpipes
  • Scythe +1
  • Arrows of Resonance x3
  • Silver Raven of Wondrous Power

Party inventory list, courtesy of Oliver.

Notes and messages

Can everyone please update their new, levelled-up skills here. Thanks! Doing so will net you an XP bonus.

Please inform me if there is a particular magic item or two that you want for your character. I make no promises that it will turn up, but it can’t help hurt to let me know, right?

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Session 25 Summary & Announcements
Phase Penguins; the Control Room; Megaloot

Current Campaign Date: 22nd Desnus 4697, Spring. Day 43 of Campaign.

Very brief session summary

The party suffered through a number of extremely hazardous traps before disarming the control room and opening the portal to the mysterious First World. The gnomes were brought downstairs, and just as they were about to escape into the portal, they were ambushed by dangerous, freakish creatures. The creature that these fiends most resembled was some kind of penguin, though the party could tell little more about them; they certainly seemed quite different to ordinary penguins. Though the penguins were dispatched fairly quickly, their poison continued to affect and severely weaken several of the party members. Several of the gnomes survived the attack and went on to the First World while the party rested up. The next day, Caiora, Guldir and Queck broke into Gnorman Megatinker’s office and looted rather extensively.

XP awards

This week was massive for XP. So massive, in fact, that the party levelled up!
Encounters, traps etc:
‘Portal Penguins/Penguins of Doom/Shaft Penguins/Penguins of possibly human heritage’
Stair slide/spike trap
Door handle poison trap
Alchemical key trap
Acid-in-the-eye trap
Mist-lever trap
Chest trap (disarmed)

Bonuses:
Bonus in-character-isms
Not metagaming the solution to the control room, playing it out in character

Session 25:
LEVEL 6!!! Level 7 is at 35, 000 XP.

Session 253120 XP
Caiora24220 XP
Dunlaid24560 XP
Guldir24350 XP
Ragthorn22701 XP
Rye24600 XP
Queck23250 XP

Make sure you have your character levelled up for next session! A quick reminder on levelling up:

  • increase your hp (your hit die rounded down, + con modifier).
  • increase your skills (class skill + int bonus)
  • add your favoured class bonus (+1 to either hp or to skills)
  • spells usually change
  • at every second level starting from 1st level (ie, at 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc) +1 feat of your choice
  • any other special class features that will be listed in your class (increased sneak attack, bonus feats, divine bonds, etc)
  • also make sure your BAB and saves are updated (they might not change every level depending on your class)

Loot & Magic Items

Notable loot:
Efficient Quiver
Handy Haversack
Local map of Umok and surrounds

Current unclaimed magic items in party loot:

  • A +1 Heavy Flail
  • Yellowteeth Sewerpipes
  • Scythe +1
  • Arrows of Resonance x3
  • Silver Raven of Wondrous Power

Loot from Session 25 is here.

Party inventory list, courtesy of Oliver.

Notes and messages

So, if you are leaving the wagon in Umok, you might need to do some creative juggling with your loot. Make sure you are up-to-date with what you are carrying, what your horse/pony is carrying, and what saddle your mounts have ( – there are saddles available in the stables in Umok if you want to switch from a riding saddle to a pack saddle). Party loot as of Session 23 is in Oliver’s party inventory list above, so you should be able to figure out what is where.

Can everyone please update their new, levelled-up skills here. Thanks!

Please inform me if there is a particular magic item or two that you want for your character. I make no promises that it will turn up, but it can’t help hurt to let me know, right?

Next session is on 22/4/14.

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Session 24 Summary & Announcements
Romping through Megatinker Enterprises

Current Campaign Date: 21st Desnus 4697, Spring. Day 42 of Campaign.

Very brief session summary

So, the party got to Umok and agreed to help the last remaining gnomes evacuate. Problem was, the rest of the gnomes had evacuated through a planar portal to the First World, the mythical home of the gnomish ancestors. This portal was located somewhere within Megatinker Enterprises, the main industrial building in the town. Their primary industries are bat guano, dried bat ears, and traps. The party encountered:
spear traps, spring-powered launching pads, bronze door-knockers that punch you in the face before making a rude gesture and making you fall asleep, a telepathic top-hat-wearing intelligent giant spider, many many sacks and piles of guano, an elevator that has a single button saying ‘down’, that actually sends you up, a vacuum-sealed room that sucks unsecured people in on ingress, and an access shaft that prompted innumerable ‘shaft’ jokes.

XP awards

Encounters, traps etc:
Spear traps x3
Stone-shape trap
Bronze-knocker trap
Springboard trap
Vacuum hazard

Bonuses:
Being in-character and RPing
Filling in skill-table
Doing party loot (Guldir)

Session 24:
LEVEL 5. Level 6 is at 23, 000 XP.

Session 241420 XP
Caiora21100 XP
Dunlaid21440 XP
Guldir21230 XP
Ragthorn20201 XP
Rye21480 XP
Queck20130 XP

Loot & Magic Items

Notable loot:
None

Only loot received from this session was 12 springs of varying sizes for Queck. There was also 30 gp and a key found in the foyer area. Rye tied up a bag of guano in Basement 1, but left it there to pick up later. The party found an expensive stash of dried bat ears, but opted to leave them, deciding that stealing them would be rather unkind to the gnomes.

Current unclaimed magic items in party loot:

  • A +1 Heavy Flail
  • Yellowteeth Sewerpipes
  • Scythe +1
  • (Soulspeaker)
  • Arrows of Resonance x3

Party inventory list, courtesy of Oliver.

Notes and messages

It was an interesting effect, ‘rolling’ perception behind the screen. My impressions so far are that it can slow the game down somewhat, and that people tend not to search nearly as much if I don’t ask them for perception checks. People also tend not to search the same thing if another character has just searched it, which is interesting. I’m not yet sure if it is more logical, realistic or enjoyable. I do think it helps with metagaming, though. I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s thoughts or feedback on it, too. (I’m also always open to general feedback). I want to reinforce that you can make as many perception checks as you want, just state what you’re looking at/inspecting/doing, then say “I make a perception check”. I also want to remind you that taking 10 or taking 20 is always an option, if you’re worried that your character isn’t doing a good job of looking. That goes for other skills, too.

Let me know if you’d like to see any particular kind of gameplay more or less (combat, in-party RP, RP with NPCs, traps, etc).

Please inform me if there is a particular magic item or two that you want for your character. I make no promises that it will turn up, but it can’t help hurt to let me know, right?

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Session 23 Summary & Announcements
Ambush in Stillgorge, arrival in Umok

Current Campaign Date: 21st Desnus 4697, Spring. Day 42 of Campaign.

Very brief session summary

3.5 days travelling. Caring for the (name-unknown) family – after a day or so, the family seem cured of their illness, though still very weak.. Travel from battle-site to monastery, then along the road opposite a marsh, then to edge of Chitterwood, through Stillgorge to Umok. In Umok, the party reunited Lloyd and Lucy Yellowbough. Lucy is the local sheriff, while Lloyd was captured by a hobgoblin. The party also met Justice Fastar Bairnell. The party agreed to help the Yellowboughs, Bairnells, and Melnars (Poddo’s family) escape Umok to the portal in Megatinker Enterprises.

Diagnosing disease

So, this is the spell typically used for diagnosing disease (from Ultimate Magic, listed here so we know for next time):

DIAGNOSE DISEASE

School divination; Level cleric 1, druid 1, paladin 1, ranger 1, witch 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target or Area one creature, one object, or a 5-ft. cube
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance no
You determine whether a creature, object, or area carries any sort of disease or infestation (including molds, slimes, and similar hazards), or any exceptional or supernatural effects causing the sickened or nauseated effects. If there is disease present, you know what disease it is and its effects. If the target is a creature, you gain a +4 bonus on Heal checks to treat the creature’s disease. The spell can penetrate many barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.

XP awards

Encounters, traps etc:
Dangerous building (monastery)
Trip wire traps (in Stillgorge)
Hobgoblin ranger + wolf companion

Bonuses:
A hefty bonus for conducting a large proportion of battle via charades :)

Session 23:
LEVEL 5. Level 6 is at 23, 000 XP.

Session 231150 XP
Caiora19680 XP
Dunlaid20020 XP
Guldir19660 XP
Ragthorn19145 XP
Rye20060 XP
Queck18710 XP

Loot & Magic Items

Notable loot:
Arrow of Resonance x3

Current unclaimed magic items:

  • A +1 Heavy Flail
  • Yellowteeth Sewerpipes
  • Scythe +1
  • Soulspeaker
  • Arrows of Resonance x3

Party inventory list, courtesy of Oliver.

Loot received from this session can be found in this document.

Notes and messages

Just flagging, to help people separate player-knowledge from in-character knowledge I might start rolling certain skills for PCs. Could I please get everyone’s stats for the following:
Perception, Disable Device, Sense Motive, Diplomacy, Bluff, Stealth, Linguistics
. I’ll quite possibly add knowledge to that list, although I think I’ll just start with the above skills for next session, see how we go. Database of skills is here.

Also, for things like perception, I’ll ask you what specifically you are inspecting; if you take 20 inspecting a door, you won’t have spent time probing the ceiling, for instance.

Also Walshy, sorry, but Dunlaid doesn’t get Ragthorn’s Cloak of Resistance, just like the party doesn’t get his other items either. Not for a while yet at any rate. Keep in mind, so far I’ve been adjusting party wealth for roughly 6 players. Having the party immediately take control of Ragthorn’s wealth would mean a treasure drought for quite a while, which I don’t think anyone wants.

A reminder that if Dunlaid is wearing the Orc Tusk Pendant, to include the ‘dazzled’ condition when in bright light/within the radius of a daylight spell.
Dazzled: The creature is unable to see well because of overstimulation of the eyes. A dazzled creature takes a –1 penalty on attack rolls and sight-based Perception checks.

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Session 22 Summary & Announcements
Somewhat epic battle against goblins

Campaign Date Day 38; 17th Desnus 4697

Auto-appraise

Everything is auto-appraised now, for ease of book-keeping. If you have ranks in Appraise, you can redistribute them. Unless otherwise noted, PCs are assumed to have used detect magic and spellcraft on loot.

Health system back to vanilla

Not sure if I mentioned this in-game, but after trying out different health systems and what-not, I think it is too much extra book-keeping, too confusing, and the party is a lot more capable of healing now, so we’re just going back to the vanilla system. No rest and refit, no healing 1 hp/min, just good ol’ fashioned lay on hands and CLW spells, or resting overnight (- rather slow), to get you back.

Something I forgot to mention about the prisoners

The farmer’s wife and children are incredibly weak and seem ill.

XP stuff

Encounters, traps etc:
(Hob)Goblins, lead by Roachmouth
Horde of goblin-dogs and couple of boars
(Hob)Goblins, lead by Hrok’svar

Bonuses:
In-character battle speech

Session 22:
LEVEL 5. Level 6 is at 23, 000 XP.

Session 22 Total2000 XP
Caiora18530 XP
Dunlaid18870 XP
Guldir18510 XP
Ragthorn18225 XP
Rye18910 XP
Queck17790 XP

Loot & Magic Items

Notable loot

  • NECKLACE OF FIREBALLS (partially used)
    -2 beads remaining, 3d6 each.
  • An incomplete part of a Silver Raven of Wondrous Power (currently inactive/non-operational).
  • A +1 (magical) Heavy Flail

Current unclaimed magic items

  • A +1 Heavy Flail
  • NECKLACE OF FIREBALLS
  • Yellowteeth Sewerpipes
  • Cloak of the Black Rat
  • Horn of Rallying
  • Monocle of Cunning
  • Hand of the Mage
  • Scythe +1
  • Soulspeaker
  • Orc Tusk Pendant

Loot received from this session can be found in this document.

To be updated further with party inventory list from Guldir.

Notes and messages

Retcon trade-agreement quest response

The party convinces the Proconsul that there is a business opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. Unfortunately, it seems like he doesn’t believe some of your claims, but he is clearly interested. He will be sending a small cohort of merchants and privately-paid guards to Davarn to further assess the situation. The party later hears a rumour that some of the refugees have been hired as local guides and guards.

The instructions, found in the farmhouse or on Hrok’svar’s corpse

Hrok’svar, take Roachmouth – filth that he is – and your troops to the Umok road. Don’t go too far north, but I want you to dissuade people from coming south.
Collect slaves if you can, but don’t take unnecessary risks.
Gorgash should be finished with the initial excavations by the beginning of Sarenith (14 days away). You’ll know when it happens.
-Captain Makila, Ash-Bone Company

White gloves are a reagent for Archmage Pimpernel

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Session 21 Summary & Announcements
A quick couple of weeks in-game

UPDATE:

I am reconsidering using the honour system at all. I will talk it over with the group at the next session.

UPDATE: A couple of people have asked why the fame is as it is/what is the progression. Basically, a character starts with fame equal to their charisma modifier, plus their character level. At level one, the party’s fame would have looked like this:

Lvl 1 BaseFame
Caiora0
Dunlaid1
Guldir4
Ragthorn0
Rye5
Queck1

Since then, the party has: gained four levels (+ 6 fame), won ‘difficult’ (as judged by me – I set the bar quite high) fights x2 (+ 2 fame), ‘Completed Adventure’ x3 – I interpret this loosely as finishing a story arc, and I also wrap things like completing certain quests or thoroughly exploring/interacting with a setting into it (+ 6 fame, this reflects exploits in Falcon’s Hollow, Five Kings Mountains, and Elidir), publicly sacked the Kreed Mansion (+ 1 fame), and escorted a large number of refugees for about a week to safety (+1 fame).

Additionally: One of the penalties of Caiora dying and being reincarnated was a small drop (-1) in fame; conversely, Rye’s enormous generosity and selflessness towards the poor and the church of Sarenrae has made him relatively more famous than the rest of the party (+3 fame).

Hero Points

I’m pleased to announce that all members of the party have been awarded 2 Hero Points! These are very rare resources that can help you do things like cheat death, give you a large bonus to an attack or check, give you extra actions, act when it isn’t your turn, gain ‘divine’ (GM) inspiration, and others. The reason I’m giving out two at once is to represent the party’s efforts over the last twenty one sessions. It is worth noting that you can never have more than 3 at once (unless you take a feat for it).

Fame and Honor

Additionally, a while ago I posted that the party was accumulating Fame & Honor. I’ll need a bit more player feedback as to what honor systems they want to use, if you wish to use the honor system (it is optional). Until I get confirmation on a player-by-player basis, I won’t be awarding honor (or accompanying awards – I’ll do this retrospectively though if someone adopts an honour system).

On the other hand, the party has amassed a decent reputation. Provided that the following Charisma modifiers are correct, (Caiora -1, Dunlaid +0, Guldir +3, Ragthorn -1, Rye +4, Queck +0) the party has the following level of Fame, and Prestige Points:

CharacterFame
Caiora15
Dunlaid17
Guldir20
Ragthorn16
Rye24
Queck17

Prestige points can be spent for temporary bonuses and boons, as well as being spent to give you permanent titles that grant you a variety of effects.

XP stuff

Encounters, traps etc:
Canceria and Colobous
Being poisoned
Initial scouting/skirmish with goblins

Bonuses:
Some RP & Logistics Planning – see Marching Order
Creating in-character documents – Rye

Session 21:
LEVEL 5

CharacterExperience Total
Caiora16530 XP
Dunlaid16870 XP
Guldir16510 XP
Ragthorn16225 XP
Rye16910 XP
Queck16190 XP

Loot

Report from the Treasurer:
Assuming we sell the phat rapier and collect the gold, we all receive 280 gp from session twenty’s loot. And a few magical items that have entered our hoard (already sorted for all but the pipes and cloak).
-Guldir

PS. Also note, Scimitar of Holiness was appraised for 4315 gp.
PPS. Do all your shopping before next session starts; after that, I won’t allow any shopping retconning.

Mounts and Wagons

These rules are for Animals and Transport, and are slightly more developed than in the Core rulebook. I’ll be using them, and will let the party upgrade their current shitty improvised wagon for 50 gp, which will then become a Medium Wagon, capable of hauling 2000 lbs of cargo, provided it is pulled by two large mounts or four medium mounts. I believe Guldir has volunteered to be the one to drive the wagon, though I should add at this point that the party could also opt to hire a driver for the wagon (which would cost 10 gp a month).

At the start of next session I will confirm what kind of saddle everyone is using on their horse. It is assumed that everyone is using normal riding saddles on the mounts they are riding, and I’ll ask you to purchase x2 saddlebags if you want to carry up to 40 lbs of gear on your horse. I assume the spare mounts have pack saddles; if a mount doesn’t have this (or saddlebags) they will be unable to carry gear/loot. (Of course, you’ll be able to load yourselves up with loot on your own persons in backpacks and the like while sitting upon your mount, but there is a limit to your own encumbrance as well as the mounts’ encumbrance too).

Additionally, I’ll be checking the mounts’ encumbrance values.
A light horse can carry up to 525 lbs, a pony up to 450 lbs. This includes the weight of your character, any armour they’re wearing, and saddles/barding your mount has, and any other gear you’re carrying.

Time

To get a sense of the time spent over the last session, check out the table below:
The session spanned 12 days of in-game time, almost a third of the entire campaign’s length to date!

Notable IncidentsDate
Canceria poisons the party; Bessy is put into a permanent coma. Rest of the day is a day of mourning. Caiora’s body is returned to the druids; “Return in a week”5th Desnus 4697
Party does things:6th Desnus 4697
Ragthorn crafts a wand from obsidian, and studies at the Academy, learning many new spells7th Desnus 4697
Guldir helps to teach Rye how to write and investigates Canceria, finding out that several groups have been tailing them8th Desnus 4697
Dunlaid helps with the investigations, visits an armoursmith to get fitted for a magical set of full plate armour9th Desnus 4697
Rye smuggles a number of orphan children into the city, puts Bessy’s comatose body to rest and investigates Canceria10th Desnus 4697
Queck develops a serious addiction for Magetang and spends her time drinking in the Fox and Toad before stumbling home most nights to the Rusty Spoon11th Desnus 4697
The party meets with Proconsul Falkon. Trade negotiations and employment as deniable assets for the Isgeri Government.12th Desnus 4697
Caiora returns from the dead as a male elf. Party returns to palace to finalise trade negotiations13th Desnus 4697
Contracts are signed. Party prepares for travel, purchasing all the necessary gear for their travel and selling all unnecessary loot14th Desnus 4697
Leave Elidir, taking the route south overland with a wagon and horses. 15th Desnus 4697
End of second day, reach the bridge over the Conerica River16th Desnus 4697
Towards end of third day, party is ambushed while travelling towards Umok on a deserted road17th Desnus 4697
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Short synopsis of the campaign

Act 1

The party convened at Falcon’s Hollow following the arrival of a trade caravan in the town. Shortly afterwards, the town was quarantined due to a mysterious plague. The party contacted the local herbalist and wise woman Laurel to offer their help. The party searched through the local forest in an area known as Darkmoon Vale for various cure reagents, in the process slaying a powerful worg and finding several interesting locations. After collecting the reagents the party returned to Falcon’s Hollow and distributed the cure to the now fully-infected town. Moreover, civil unrest was fomented and the local administrative leader – a representative of the Lumber Consortium – Gavel Thuldrin Kreed was removed from office and exiled along with his family. The Andoran military arrived in Falcon’s Hollow and encouraged the party to move on, at which point they explored a few more locations in Darkmoon Vale before using the formerly hidden entrance to the Five Kings Mountains hidden inside the Big’Un rock.

Act 2

The party travelled through the Five Kings Mountains, encountering a kingdom in disrepair. They arrived in the dwarven township of Carissa to find it under attack by a large force of orcs, goblins, and other beasts. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, the party avoided major conflict and managed to pass through Soryu mushroom farm before reaching the town of Davarn. The party agreed to undertake a number of missions for the Grand Council of Davarn while also warning them of the events occurring at Carissa. The party started to escort a number of refugees out of the Five Kings Mountains, yet as they were leaving they were attacked by a detachment of the earlier-encounter army. Defeating these, they agreed to take almost all of the refugees with them to the Isgeri capital of Elidir.

Act 3

The party travelled overland through the Isgeri hinterland, eventually arriving at Elidir and leaving their charges outside the city. Numerous contacts were made and areas explored, including notably the Observatory, where Caiora was slain by a shadow. Eventually a full-blown conspiracy and cult was discovered and destroyed, an official named Inspector Isaac was robbed for huge profits, and the party managed to retrieve Caiora’s body.

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Session 20
Plumbing the Depths of the Knave

With one last kick to the sides of old Shane, tied up securely, the party hefted their weapons and wands and started to search the complex below the mask shop. A series of disturbing letters and diaries were unearthed, revealing sordid secrets and explaining the presence of the cult in the observatory. There were other signs of the cult’s nefariousness: a series of tiny cramped cells, accessed by trap doors and reeking of decomposition, and a store-room with a number of unusual magical reagents, hidden amongst large piles of chalk, ink, and paper. Descending further down the maze-like warren of stairs, corridors and rooms, the party encountered a cool draught blowing from a window cut into the thick stone wall ahead of them. Craning their necks, they could see the window looked over a deep cavern or sinkhole; tiny lights flickered far below. To their left, a stairway lead deeper into the gloom, curving away and following the curve of the cavern.

Having just slain four competent wizards, the party was surprisingly blasé about their descent. They had little preparation, just a quick patch-up of their wounds, while the darkness below was expecting them. Yet despite suspecting that more dangerous things lurked below, they had to retrieve the body of their friend Caiora, stolen for unknown reasons, and fully avenge the long-ago murder of the cleric Aidan and his halfling charges. The only real choice was to forge on.

Hundreds of steep, crumbling steps stretched before the party; as they stumbled their way downwards, a strange clacking noise echoed up from below. The child Bessy skipped ahead, ignoring Rye’s warnings, just as a skeletal figure charged upwards and narrowly avoided skewering Bessy through the stomach. Zombified halflings and dire-rats followed, and the party pushed back against the undead forces, rallying around Bessy and dispatching the first wave with slashing swords and concussive blows. A wave of holy energy emanating from Rye destroyed two of the skeletons outright, while Dunlaid and Colobus the Armoured Crab made mincemeat of zombie rats. Pressing onwards, the party tromped on another couple of minutes, before rounding the final curve of stairs and facing a large antechamber. Before them stood a lumbering, towering ogre, blocking almost the entire passage. Its putrefying abdomen was rent open from some previous encounter, an expression of mindless rage on its face consistent with undeath. Tattered, blood-soaked rags adorned it, and its hands held the mutilated corpse of a halfling, so bruised and battered that the heroes could not tell whether it had been man or woman, old or young. Next to the ogre were several more skeletons, and the remains of Caiora, risen again in undeath. Her chest had been rent open, though she still wore the hide armour customary of a druid. An unfeeling, uncaring expression rested on her face; she recognised neither the party, nor anything it seemed. Her mind and soul were elsewhere, and all that was left behind was this mangled puppet, raising a spear and shield and marching forward, oblivious to her desecration.

Arrows and bolts flew over Rye’s head as he readied himself for the charge of the creatures before him. With a gurgling roar the ogre surged forwards, swinging the halfling corpse by a leg. The tremendous blow landed squarely across Rye’s torso, the force of it causing gore and innards of the moldering carcass being used as a weapon to spray onto the stairs and walls around. With a grunt of pain, Rye backed off a little, giving room for skeletons to rush forward while Dunlaid and Canceria held the line. Rye tried channeling, which seemed to work a little, though the beast kept on attacking. Guldir and Queck peppered its torso with projectiles, while Ragthorn blasted a hole in its chest, molten bone cracking under the weight of decaying flesh. A wild swing of the ogre almost shattered the frame of Colobous, though the skeletons were quickly dispatched. Finally, a slew of slashes, spells and holy water brought down the ogre, just before it had time to finish up whomping poor Pinchy with a rapidly disintegrating halfling body, and the entire corridor filled with a squelching mass of sinew and flesh. Though the party held back at first, it was obvious that the Caiora-thing was not who she was once; they were left no choice but to attack and damage her body. Being the hardened adventurers that they were it didn’t take long, and Caiora’s lifeless-ness soon returned though it wasn’t much consolation for the grim task. They affixed most of the corpse to Colobous, though a severed arm they kept separately. Wiping the gore and grime from their blades and faces, the party cast a couple of spells upon themselves, and opened the final stone doors to the chamber beyond.

Before them lay the cavern glimpsed before, candles guttering in dim light; a pillar rose out of the darkness, upon which squatted a shrine to a dark pantheon of gods. Three narrow pathways diverged out of the passage before the party and bridged the chasm below, joining the pillar from the west, north and east. The flayed corpses of halflings cluttered up the paths along with scraps of paper, crumbled stonework and the broken halves of statues. The rough-hewn outer walls of the cavern were decorated with more skeletons and flayed corpses, as well as runic inscriptions, scrawls of arcane diagrams and equations written in crusted blood, and paintings of a dark or grey figure on scraps of paper.

The shrine comprised of three elements: a central dais, bloodstained; four crumbling columnar pedestals, over which one was draped a very large cape; and behind the dais, three busts on pedestals, their hideous and unnerving gazes boring across the room towards the party. Even at this distance, the flayed, impaled head of Zon-Kuthon was visible, and from the party’s earlier research, Abraxas and Norgorber were also recognisable. Both the busts and the dais were surrounded by circles drawn on the floor, sparkling in the gloom, made up of tiny particles of silver dust.

Layers upon layers of magical defenses had been laid, and the air shimmered vaguely with enchantments. Markus Yellowteeth stood before the dais, three mirror images copying his every action. Already, he was casting another spell, ‘Fly’. Springing forwards, Dunlaid charged, tousling with Markus and wounding him slightly. The rest of the party fanned out, Guldir (orating furiously) and Queck providing covering fire while Rye protected Bessy, and Canceria and Colobous followed behind Dunlaid. A queer, shrill noise left Markus’ mouth, just before Dunlaid dropped his sword, squeezing him tightly and preventing escape. Markus seemed possessed, an unearthly wriggling and writhing overtook him and in a flash the aristocractic old man with a grey moustache had grown a rat-like snout, sprouted black fur upon him and his wiry frame began to bulge with muscle. Again they wrestled, though the bulk of Dunlaid in full armour held him firm and pinned. A gleam shot through Dunlaid’s eyes as he took out a rope, ready to restrain the freakish wizard. “I’ve got him now! Almost disappointing how eas-” With another ghoulish undulation, the man before him burst, spewing forth hundreds of large black rats that began to fly through the air, biting and swarming around Dunlaid’s head.

To make matters worse, crawling out of the cracks in the walls and from the chasm above and below, thousands more rats crawled to the grotto, getting underfoot and squirming into clothing, gnawing and scratching. Swearing, the party redoubled their efforts. Fiery spheres rocketed through the air. Dunlaid and Canceria jumped back as Queck rolled a large barrel of dwarven whiskey towards them, a fuse stuffed in. A dull thud reverberated through Guldir’s bones, even across the room, as a small fireball of high-proof whiskey vaporised several hundred rats at once. This seemed to stir something else, and an infrasonic moan echoed through the cavern. Dunlaid doubled over, vomiting through his helmet, while fishy chunks cloaded Colobous’s reverse-scuba mask. The cloak wrapped around one of the columns rose to life, an uncanny expression of malice on its face, swooping through the air away from the dais. The party recognised it as a Cloaker, a mysterious and evil aberration from beyond this world. Colobous was utterly unnerved, and scuttled from the room in clanking strides.

Desperately, the party fought on. Queck readied to unleash a mighty hail of bolts, while Rye and Bessy stomped and kicked rats to their death below. The swarm of flying rats had gathered in mid-air behind the shrine and was reforming into a man-rat-thing. Norgorber’s blessing fell upon Yellowteeth, and he began to quickly blink in and out of existence, swooping and falling upon Dunlaid and Canceria once more. Feinting, he managed to land several painful blows with his shining, jewel-encrusted rapier. A flurry of bolts hit him from behind, while an arrow passed cleanly through his neck leaving a large hole from which spewed black ichor. His rancid breath grew more ragged, and dear Colobous charged back into the fray, only to be knocked into the abyss below. Silently, the great crab fell, till with a clanging noise he grabbed hold of a rocky outcropping and held on, trembling.

By this stage, the rat swarms had been destroyed, and Rye was free to join the others, even Bessy throwing her fine dagger into the Cloaker before darting in to retrieve it. With a final spine-tingling moan, the Cloaker’s tail was severed, and the bizarre beast dropped away into darkness, leaving Yellowteeth surrounded and beset on all sides. Magic clubs beat at his flesh, swords and scimitars flashed in the light of fire and shield, and projectiles slammed into his body tearing at his robes and skin. Yellowteeth could take no more; he flew back, away from the interlopers and settled on the dais. Dropping to his knees, he raised his hands, eyes rolling back into his skull. Arcane energies flowed between the dais and the statues of his unholy masters. Then there came a sound, distant at first, that grew into a cacophony as the entire cavern reverberated and shook. Acting quickly, ropes and nets were thrown around and heaved on until the entire hulking mass of Colobous rose back up to the surface and over the lip of the cave floor. Meanwhile Dunlaid ran forward, took careful aim with his sword, and cleaved Yellowteeth’s head clean off, a fountain of oily ichor spraying forth over the dais. Yet the damage was done; if anything the rumbling was growing steadily more intense by the second. Snatching what little he could, Dunlaid joined the rest of the group. As they ran from the cavern, jets of fire shot upwards from the depths, filling the entire grotto with a gigantic fiery explosion that the party jumped away from just as the detonation occurred.

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Session 18
Retribution - Exploration - INSPECT THIS!

The group wearily pushed open the door to The Rusty Spoon, the tavern they were using as a base of operations. It had been a long day. Guldir and Ragthorn had staked out the Fox and Toad, a rather classy establishment up the road from their current lodgings. Guldir was still angry at Ragthorn; the pleasures of drink and a lack of agreement on operational procedure had meant that Guldir had spent several fruitless hours waiting in a back alley for their mark, Inspector Isaac. Meanwhile, Ragthorn had tried to speak with Isaac as he left the tavern, been rebuffed, and had settled for following him back to his residence from a somewhat conspicuous distance as only an inebriated dwarven wizard is wont to do. Rye and Queck were finishing up collaborating their observations of the Inspector’s house with Dunlaid, when the group noticed a rather unusual looking individual in the corner, eyeing off the party. She was a half-elf, wearing what seemed to be pieces of shell. Next to her was a mastiff-sized crab.
Guldir rather grumpily sidled over to Xane, the gnomish bar hand.
“Who’s that?”
“B-b-been waiting for you, apparently. S-s-said she wanted to talk with you,” Xave stuttered back.
With a nod, the party surrounded the half-elf, who quickly introduced herself.
“I’m Canceria Snips, I work for Grovewarden Wolfeye. This is my crab, Colobous. You can call him Pinchy.”
Canceria had some information about the wizards that were somehow connected to the observatory that Caiora had been slain in. Something about a dark cult, evil spirits, and long-buried secrets. Canceria had followed the wizards back to a business not ten minutes down Augustina hill, a mask shop by the name of The Laughing Knave. They were carrying a body. Canceria offered to help the party, explaining she was after a particular magical item, though she was vague about the details.

The next day began as usual: preparations. There were prayers to smite the heck out of evil spirits, spells memorised, meditation and physical stretches. Today, following leads was taking a back seat to vengeance. The group travelled the half-hour it took to get to near the top of Augustina hill. They took a left before the summit, avoiding the Opera house and making a beeline for the Observatory of Maximus III. The morning sun shone above them, the view from the hill allowing them to see the sparkling Conerica river beyond the palace to the north. A quick look affirmed what the party already suspected – the wizards that had been here yesterday were long gone, having achieved their nefarious aims and departed. Instead, the two regular guards were posted – stoic defenders of bureaucratic rigorousness. Apparently, they had no memory of having the day off yesterday. Damn those wizards, meddling with the memories of innocent guards!

A plan of attack was decided, basically to retrace their path through the observatory and douse their foe – an evil shadow – in as much holy water as possible. Things were about to get very wet and very scary.

The party got in to the observatory easily enough, flashing their documentation and entering the main telescope chamber. Entering a chamber where Ragthorn had suffered after breaking an idol of Zon-Kuthon, Canceria proved her usefulness for the first time by immediately identifying a secret door, something Ragthorn had not managed to do earlier despite noting a strange draft in the room. A tiny button in a crack opened the door, which opened with a rumble.

“Hmm. File that one away for later,” was the group’s response.
Traipsing through the rest of the complex, it was clear the wizards had been in these long-forgotten chambers. Signs of their passage were evident. Most of all, when the party came to reclaim Caiora’s body (and her valuable magic items), they were gone. All that was left was a large puddle of blood. Having reached the final chamber (attributed to a character known as Archon Redgrin), most of the party readied their holy water, while Ragthorn applied a magical force armour upon Rye and got ready to blast with his magical force missiles.

Just as well; for when they rounded the final corner, there were two shadows, not one. They were writhing, two souls, twisted by undead energies, yet fighting even in death. As the first vial of holy water sailed past the strange pair, crashing into the wall behind, the shadows detached and sunk into the floor. A moment later, and combat was joined. The larger of the shadows arose from the floor; Dunlaid attempted to shake his holy vial up, thereby agitating the carbonated liquid and spraying it on the spirit, yet shook it too hard and broke the glass in his hand. The small shadow went straight for the new druid, no doubt feeling that to have a new druid in the party so soon after her death was disrespectful to say the least, especially given their similarities (“Another half-elf druid? Really?”).

As the force missiles flew and holy water splashed, so did the shadows fight back, sucking the life energy from their victims and weakening their bodies. Yet, as quickly as the battle had begun, so it was over. The greater shadow was banished with a combination of holy dousing and two force missiles to the head, while the smaller shadow was hit by the normally curative powers of the paladin’s hands (though not before the plucky halfling was blasted across the room from an over-concentration of holy energy).

Some say that the only thing that makes you forget the pool of your friend’s blood on the floor is a huge sackful of magic items, and in this case it certainly proved true. In fact, finding the valuable items only provoked the party’s thirst for more loot; acting on intelligence given by Thog Oakencock of the Pilferboots (the city thieves guild), the party surmised that the secret door in the observatory lead to Inspector Isaac’s house. Down dusty staircases and strange wells, through old locked doors and a long winding tunnel, finally the party reached an impasse. It was a trapdoor, locked and barred on the other side of the party.

Handily, Rye managed to convince a gullible cook on the other side to let him in, claiming to be lost. Not-so-handily, Rye was bundled into a pantry and eventually smuggled out of the compound without managing to let the rest of the party in. Yet, through some lucky miracle of fate, the trapdoor was not immediately re-barred. The rest of the party waited until well past nightfall before sneaking in and subduing the lone indoors guard. To put a long story short, they looted the shit out of that place, turning up almost a hundred pounds of gold bullion as well as a tankard that refills itself with ale. The only catch was the party’s plan to ambush Inspector Isaac as he returned home from the Toad and Fox. Instead, they ambushed the Inspector’s wife, returning from one of her nightly sojourns. While they managed to incapacitate the wife and most of the guards, one got away, dodging fireballs and arrows as he ran. It is hard to tell whether that guard is a lucky man or not; Inspector Isaac does not favour servants that fail to protect him or his property. Rueing their impulsive actions yet grinning with glee at their huge score, the party disappeared back whence they came, escaping through the secret tunnel back to the observatory with several sacks full of gold, and a couple of liberated halfling slaves to boot.

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Session 16
Dust and Shadows

The session started well enough. Ragthorn, Caiora and Guldir were in the great library of the Austere Academy of the Arts, Sciences and Arcane, and had just spent several hours trawling through great tomes, filling their heads with knowledge and their hands with dust and grime. Perhaps the most relevant information gained was about adamantine:

“The latest recorded fall occurred in Isger near the Five Kings Mountains in 4670, around 27 years ago. Adamantine is an ultrahard metal that is only found in rocks that have fallen from the heavens. There is no singularly-accepted theory to explain the origins of adamantine. Weapons fashioned from adamantine have a natural ability to bypass hardness when sundering weapons or attacking objects, while armour made from adamantine grants its wearer damage reduction. It takes an incredible force to mar or damage adamantine.”

However, the dust must have gotten to Guldir’s head (or perhaps it was the ration eaten instead of that rather suspicious sausage?), and she decided to retire for the rest of the day in the Rusty Spoon. Caiora had an excited look in her eye, and went off to commune with the druids in Grovedale by herself. Apparently, she had discovered some vital information about the mysterious Douchehound, and wanted to corroborate this with her new-found friends.

Meanwhile, Queck, Rye and Dunlaid started to make their way towards Rosden market (the largest market in Elidir) and the Observatory. However, they quickly stopped after spotting a slightly blood-stained and muddied hat on the road adjacent to Little River. Next to the cap squatted a small child, crying over his lost father, whose hat it was. After some minor information gathering with the boy’s mother, Ragthorn was fetched from the library, and the party of four tracked some bloodstains and disturbed mud to the riverside near the Church of Sarenrae. As evening was setting in and the shadows grew long, Dunlaid walked under a footbridge, where he was ambushed by a pulsating pair of gigantic leeches. With quick reflexes, he bifurcated one of the creatures spraying a wave of blood in an arc on the riverbank, while Ragthorn and Queck provided covering spells and fire. Rye stepped up to take out the other leech, though it proved more troublesome, grappling him and attaching to his face before tearing a bloody hole in his cheek. Yet, it wasn’t long before the slippery beast was dispatched with a series of blows, bolts and well-aimed telekinetic fisticuffs. After recovering and staunching the bleeding of Rye’s wounds somewhat (though there may be scarring), the body of the poor fisherman Tom was discovered nearby in the river, drained completely of blood. He was recovered, with difficulty, and brought back to his grieving family. Though no monetary reward was forthcoming (indeed, Rye donated a few coins to the family), they were given thanks and jellied eel to eat (Tom’s last catch of eels, perhaps).

After this, the party strolled through Rosden, noting the busy market, before starting their way up the hill that the Observatory stands upon. Here they were stopped by an obnoxious, sneering young noble who introduced himself as Maximus VIII, and quickly escalated an unpleasant verbal exchange into a fully-fledged lethal fight on the streets of Augustina. Queck, anticipating the combat, distracted Maximus and his two guards, bluffing and pointing out an “escaped halfling” behind them. She then crept up to Maximus, stealing the golden necklace from around his neck, and rolling away behind a fig stand, before he even noticed. Then the combat began in earnest; Maximus drew a rapier and shortsword, while his bodyguards quaffed potions that made them grow huge, and hefted greataxes. Queck got into position on the rooftop above where she began peppering the brutes with lethally precise shots, and Dunlaid and Rye went toe-to-toe with their enlarged foes, both sides striking mighty blows and sprinkling the cobbled pavement with blood. Ragthorn used his fiery spells with abandon, blasting scorching rays and flaming spheres at all-comers. As quickly as it began, so it ended: two dead bodyguards (discovered to be slaves, merely working at the behest of their master), and Maximus, struck repeatedly in the face by the blunt side of Rye’s scimitar and a brick lobbed at his mouth by Queck, his teeth shattered and legs broken. Realising the situation to be ‘delicate’, the bodies were dragged into a nearby residence. Maximus was restrained and brought back to consciousness, while he was briefly questioned. However, little information of use was gained from the terrified noble. Rye stepped upstairs to briefly quiet a small boy, huddling under a bed. When she returned, Maximus was no longer breathing, his broken face a slightly purple hue (a bar of soap mysteriously lodged in his throat). Doing their best despite this upsetting turn of events, a number of sacks and bedrolls were used to transport the bodies to Floater’s Paradise, where they would not be noticed amongst the piles of rubbish and dead giant leeches. The fine details of this operation were not elaborated on, though Queck was the primary instigator. She stayed behind to deal with a few things, before retiring for the evening at the Rusty Spoon.

Several hours later, and night had well and truly fallen. Caiora had spent much time talking with Grovewarden Regina Wolfeye, and had even been granted a lengthy audience with Treelord Rawlins. There was talk of great beasts, forces both for good and evil. They had travelled together, shapeshifting their way through the city as anonymous animals, knowing balance in all forms. After the discussions were finished, Caiora knew her quest more clearly. She travelled back to the Rusty Spoon, noting that Guldir was still in her rooms, and decided to try the Observatory. Coincidentally enough, the rest of the party was just arriving. On the hill opposite, the festivities at the Cracked Mug were clearly warming up. Yet, for this party, there would be few celebrations this night.

Things started well enough. The party was grudgingly admitted to the main telescope room of the observatory, and spent some time admiring the stars and the green planet Castrovel that Caiora pointed out. No falling adamantine or space dragons were spotted. Seeking more information, perhaps from local scholars or their documents, the party decided to further explore the Observatory complex, using Ragthorn’s ‘Knock’ spell to open some locked doors. A series of offices were found, including one very old office that held an old key and a drawing of a young Tetra del Arcuno (current head of the Academy). Descending a set of stairs, the party came across a circular antechamber, possibly recently disturbed, in the centre of which stood an obsidian bust of Zon-Kuthon. Remembering the powerful magics of the similar bust in Archmage Pimpernel’s house in Darkmoon Vale, Ragthorn attempted to destroy the horrible visage; yet, this statue was protected with dangerous magical wards. Ragthorn struck the statue, trying to break it, but merely triggered a trap. First Sakti was struck by a crippling black lightning, causing the poor creature to cough up a froth of blood and lose strength. The rest of the party retreated a safe distance away, while Ragthorn tried again. He swung harder this time, knocking the statue off it’s plinth; yet the price he paid was a similarly excruciating jolt of blackness, a darkness spreading forth as the bust shattered, this time causing Ragthorn to go blind. He clutched the shards of obsidian to his chest. As the party returned, he assured them that he would be ok, and though they looked doubtful, they acquiesced, and continued in his absence.

The next room was a horrifying lair of meathooks, bones, petrified stone people, and several cockatrices that ambushed Dunlaid, Rye, Sakti and Caiora. Sakti and Dunlaid felt a hardening and stiffening of their skin as they began to grow a rock-like outer layer, provoked by the vicious bites of the freakish part-rooster, part-bat, part-lizards. Dirt, grime, rubbish and broken glass littered the floor, making the encounter more difficult, particularly in the gloom of the dungeon. Yet, the party rallied, forming a conga-line of flanking and destroying the creatures one-by-one. The horror was not quite over, as the mounted heads of unfortunate victims of the cockatrices were displayed in pride of place on the walls of the next staircase upwards. This lead to a large hall, with tables and a number of private semi-partitioned chambers dotting the walls, along with more signs of dark rituals in former times. It showed some sign of recent use, and investigation showed that there was infact a secret door to the main telescope room.

Knowing that there couldn’t be much more to the observatory complex – the final stretch in sight – the last series of doors was breached, leading to an ornately furnished room belonging to Archon Redgrin, whoever that once was. Two skeletons lay on the floor, one of them human, the other a female halfling, with a dimly glowing scimitar buried inside of her ribcage. Yet, no sooner did Rye retrieve the blade than a vaguely humanoid shadow rose out of the floor, writhing with freakish un-life, and attacked. The spirit was an undead shadow, though somewhat different and more advanced than any Rye had seen or heard of before. It attacked with mad rage, passing through Rye’s armour to suck the lifeforce from his body, weakening him dramatically. Rye tried to fight back, blasting it with a large amount of holy energy; yet the evil force withstood the attack. A rush of realisation: if the creature drew all the strength from her body, death would follow, and the shadow would feast. Dunlaid tied a rope to Rye’s backpack, ready to drag him away should he fall. Caiora also shot forth a stream of holy energy at the shadow, yet took an enervating touch in return, a blow that made her suddenly sag to her knees under the weight of her armour and backpack. Fatigue overcame her as she tried to pull things from her bag, dumping them on the floor, and urging her companion Sakti to run before the shadow could turn on him too. Sakti, terrified and helpless to inflict any damage on the loathsome incorporeal foe, let forth a piteous mewl, before turning tail and fleeing. Dunlaid, Rye and Sakti could do little as they looked over their shoulders at Caiora while they escaped. The shadow, swollen with the stolen life force, loomed over Caiora. With a dull “whoomph”, the nearby light sources flickered, as the shadow prepared to strike a mighty blow on the poor half-elf’s defenceless frame, too weak to flee. Sadly, strike it did: a sickening whoosh followed by a tearing noise as Caiora’s life energy was utterly blasted from her with a fell blow. Limply, she collapsed on the floor, a rag-doll cast aside by a brutal and malevolent shadow. The survivors did not stay to watch; stricken with grief, they escaped the observatory complex as quickly as they could.

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