Uncharted - The Hunt for all the Shinies

Session 26: Finale
Hearthshire Arc
  • The story resumes where the last ended… ambushed by spined devils.
  • Running along the parapets, with the goal in sight, they battle alongside Lukas. The man seems off by the party’s observations but can’t seem to place what is wrong.
  • They try to confront the wounded soldier but things are too pressing, so for now they keep an eye on him and are starting to become highly suspicious.
  • Ahead they spy more towers and Ziggy keeps watch for Lucis who is still flying and observing the battlefield. He appears oblivious to the party. So, they regather, stealth, avoid more sentries, Ramar appropriates a barrel of oil (stealthily?), and then make a final, mad dash to the royal chambers.
  • Only feet away from the doors, Weezl feels a hand on her shoulder and she is grabbed and thrown from the castle parapets. Thanks to her Boots of Spider Climbing she doesn’t fall too far! and the rest of the party come face to face with a six-fingered, red skinned devil of a man. Namely, a cambion, and a familiar one. Lev threatens the party though it is mostly directed at Ziggy.
  • The group fight back, causing him to flee and he calls out to Lucis as a last resort. Meanwhile, Ramar makes sure Weezl is okay, and then strikes at the cambion. Ziggy takes shot after shot, aiming for the fiend’s face (where he crit him once before), and Weezl turns into a Giant Eagle, after summoning two more to fight… again, similar to the last time they fought the fiend.
  • Lev tries to flee and is heavily wounded, with eagles chasing him down. His fate… unknown.

So, I didn’t want to be one of THOSE DMs and make this seem unfair, so Lukas/Lev had started acting somewhat suspicious from the get go. Largely, he was very angry when being attacked by lower level fiends. There were also a few, tiny, hints that things weren’t as they seemed:

Firstly, they had seen Lukas only moments before at the front of the keep. Secondly, I mentioned Lukas’ sword a handful of times, describing the blade and how he handled it. Every other time I’d mentioned the man he’d only ever used a spear (this was also more of a hint for Anna who knows of the Fire Emblem character I somewhat based him on). And lastly, and while completely minor I really thought it was fun, he could say the word “Soldiers.” Every other time, thanks to an accidental slip initially, he has said “Shoulders.” This has only been brought up a few times as a joke but the players did miss the minor inflection used on the word.

Also, had the players asked, he wouldn’t have known what the Signal Bell was. So using that would have given him away immediately.

  • Ziggy and Ramar charge into/through the throne room… trying to bust out of the doors to get to the crystal-topped tower. Meanwhile, Weezl flies to the tower and sees that inside is filled with the same crystal. It appears as though a large, red, crystalline tree is growing through the tower. She then tears off the door that Ramar was breaking down, in an attempt to make a mad dash to the tower.
  • The throne room is a golden, flickering nightmare. The walls and floor are etched heavily, and upon the throne (marked with the symbol of Graz’zt) is Persephone in the form of the Grand Duchess herself. Astride her are two porcelain-masked humanoids, seemingly male and female, wearing simple dark purple robes.
  • Ziggy attempts to fool the queen, wearing his own porcelain mask, but finding her charmed words attempting to reach him he quickly changes tact and gives her a piece of his mind.

Ziggy mouths off a LOT during this session. Frankly, it was in-character and amazing.

  • Seeing as things are escalating outside of their predictions, Persephone orders the masked people to stab each other. They do so, and crumple to the ground and their blood is forcefully pulled from their bodies as they scream in agony. The blood floods the etchings, revealing a similar pattern to one the party saw in Sandhill, when they last met the “queen.”
  • Quickly, the world begins to shift, break and fall apart. Folding and twisting like unraveling flowers. A chaotic wind stirs and the group find themselves in a hellscape, floating in an abyss. Floating in THE Abyss.
  • The platform they stand on is flecked with dark red, familiar crystal. The throne is in place… but what draws their attention are floating, tiny islands, covered in large clusters of red, glowing crystal. Throbbing with light in the tune of a slow, irregular beat. There are giant, opulent mirrors floating in space, and they swear they see a dark figure walk past some, and peer at them through others.
  • But, more than anything, they notice the giant, crimson, thorned and cystalline tree. It, too, glows and reacts to the surroundings… and they notice something embedded in the tree.
  • At this point Lucis appears near Persephone, to gloat and marvel at the party’s expressions. Especially when they notice of the unconscious form of Sam, pristine white and appearing to be dreaming, half buried in the crystal.
  • Lucis thanks the party for bringing them such an integral part of their plan. The elemental nature of the aarakocra saved months, maybe even years, of time. The monk’s natural affinity for elemental leylines was manipulated, perverted, to attune to the abyss, making the summoning so much easier.
  • And, in rage and desperation, and not without fear, the party strike out at their adversaries… beginning with Ziggy throwing the Dwarven Weaponstone at Lucis… which missed but summoned the holy spear regardless.

What occurs next is roughly 5 and a half hours of combat. While it is hard to capture the entirety of this battle I can only retell the gist of it. I’m certain there are many more highlights than I can mention, so instead I will focus on story-beats.

  • Persephone: The Queen of Hearthshire attempts to charm party members, and when that fails, she turns to fighting them with her claws. All the while she shows her devotion to the Dark Prince, promising that their sacrifice will be what enables the Demon Lord Graz’zt to walk the Material Plane.
  • Lucis: With the aid of Blur and his Abjurer’s Ward manages to avoid damage from the party for most of the battle. He becomes increasingly frustrated with the party, especially Ramar, who diminishes and resists his arcane powers, and Weezl who casts and flees consistently.
  • Ramar starts the battle attempting to destroy crystal clusters, knowing that they seem to be reacting to something. He finds they react to radiant damage and gets to work. In the first phase, he manages a heavy blow on Persephone after applying the blessed weapon oil of Torm on his blade (allowing him to reroll radiant damage). The smiting, blessed, blow devastated the Queen.
  • Weezl, in eagle-form, strikes at the tree holding Sam. Her Wraps of the Mad Bull gives her animal forms Siege and she destroys the tree in quick order, causing the unconscious monk to fall from the tree and nearly off the platform into the Abyss. She saves him and places him in relative safety, whereupon she reverts her form and finds an acorn. The acorn is the one gifted by the Fae Princess Verenestra and she does all she can to implore the fickle lord for help. When it seems as though nothing is happening, and realising they all need to be in accord with their plea, the acorn turns to mithral and the fae speaks to the druid.
  • Verenestra asks the party for their request and bestows them “with the ability to be helped.” And with that, they are told to think of an ally. ((As a DM, I’m so happy with what happens at this moment. Each player assumes that the allies will be summoned into the battle, and this HEAVILY influences their decisions.)) Ziggy chooses Dannick and is shown a vision of his stealth and speed in one of the floating mirrors. Ramar thinks of Lukas, the true Lukas and is shown a battered and burned man, standing tall and proud and screaming orders to his soldiers, his trusty spear by his side. And finally, Weezl calls for The Fury and is shown the strength of her and her husband facing down, fearlessly and recklessly, a giant demon.

This, results in boons. They gain the following:
Ziggy: +20 feet of movement, the ability to stealth regardless of environment, and 1 use of the Evasion skill
Ramar: Gains the Reach property on all attacks, +1 to all Charisma rolls, and +1 to all attacks.
Weezl: +2 to all checks (abilities, attacks, and damage rolls).

  • What happens next is that Persephone is quickly felled. She is “counter charmed” by Ziggy, and by that I mean she was critical-sneak-attacked and took a whole crap-tonne of damage. She stays down for a couple of rounds.
  • Lucis calmly fights, attempting to Disintegrate Ramar but thankfully a paladin of the Oath of the Ancients (and a lucky dex save) is not so easily felled. There are fireballs, cantrips (legendary actions) and just about anything that could be done to be a pain in the ass, to cause as much grief as possible.
  • Soon enough, Persephone stirs, only to be stabbed by the shattering mirrors, which stitch her together and form a macabre, bloodstained armor. A burning, beating heart shines in her chest, in time with the crystal clusters.
  • All the while, the realm’s maelstrom of madness tries to overwhelm and disorient the party. They mostly succeed but sometimes they fail, only to hear the voices of loved ones and old friends screaming or crying in pain and fear. For Ziggy he hears the voice of an old accomplice, a friend from the Shimmering Gates that he has not seen in an age. This shakes the man but also seems to fortify his rage.
  • The rogue, once Persephone’s defences fall, starts to focus on the woman. Cutting, slashing, diving and (of course) spinning in an unparalleled martial display. Sneak attack after sneak attack carve into the woman who seems mindless, though the voice of something larger and darker seems to boom from her.
  • Weezl, thanks to an Akira-like Moonbeam, blasts away entire platforms of crystals and Ramar bears through stinging shards to shatter the remainer.
  • The following battle involves many smites, a beast shape into a Giant Octopus, followed by the summoning of more Mud Mephits (of which two attempt, and succeed, at grabbing a thrown spellbook from Lucis), Ziggy falling to intense grief brought to bear by Persephone’s new powers and more counter-attacks.
  • David the talking skull does what he can to counter and cast what spells he can… but the sheer amount of arcane power causes strain that the artefact was never meant to sustain. He does everything in his power to support his friends but doesn’t seem to be holding together, not even with the new gem set in his eye by Ramar. The paladin seeming distraught at the effect the battle is having on the chattering skull.
  • Lucis falls in battle, only to trigger a Death Ward, and when it seems all is lost, tosses his spellbook into the Abyss (see above for the result of that). This Wall of Force only buys him a moment of time, and then, finally, he incinerates himself with a Fireball. This obliterates him and causes damage to the others around him. Taking out Ziggy momentarily.

Another aside, I made the players roll a single D20 and didn’t say why. Matt, however, rolled a nat 20, and this roll was to see if their allies discovered the Clone of Lucis. I dare say a nat 20 did it, and at the end of the session they were happy to hear that the lucky roll truly defeated the asshole and they wouldn’t have to fight him again.

  • And finally, the battle exhaustingly ended with the party cornering Persephone and defeating her with a Moonbeam, burning her away with pure focus and anger.
  • And then… the wind started to pick up. The dark red light started to dim, turning to black. And they realised the platform they were on was plummeting into nothingness, even the bleeding red star above them grew tiny, then disappeared.
  • For moments the party were in pitch darkness. With only the roaring of wind in their eardrums. They had won, but at what cost? How would they escape?
  • Ramar then turns to his shield and casts Light on it. The symbol of Aerdrie Faenya shining solidly through the darkness… and then it looked as though the darkness was a shell. Solid, but thin, and the light was causing hairline fissures. Then, as though looking through one’s eyelids at the sun, the darkness became warmer, brighter until… it shatters. Shattering into stark white light. There are no surroundings, nothing, and the party float, still falling, and seeing only one another, and the unconscious form of Sam.
  • From the brightness strides a man, tall, imposing, with a hammer in one hand and a tankard in another. He proclaims that was a battle well fought, with bravery and honor. Drinks will be on Thor tonight! And another man, in gleaming plate and a left hand in pure white. Helm thanks the group for blotting out the evil that was preventing his followers from worshipping him, and for bringing justice back into the realms. And another being, a woman of dark skin and impossibly long flowing hair, one recognised as Gaea, the earthmother, thanks the party for their sacrifices and for their pain, their endurance, and assures them that from this turmoil, things can now grow. And then other deities, minor and major, in various forms and aspects thank the heroes.
  • And just as suddenly, blinking the white light from their eyes, they find themselves in an untouched throne room. Two figures on the floor, bleeding out. Across from them, missing most of her left arm, The Fury, missing an eye is Tavon, Lukas looks burned and worse for wear, greets the party in his friendly and familiar way, and Dannick stands at the back of the room, holding a near unconscious, exhausted Speck.
  • Helen Fairbridge asks the party what has happened. Is it over? And they look outside, as the clouds break, and light shines over Hearthshire. What they hear, is nothing, and what they see are pure, blue skies.

About a year and a half in the making… finally completing my first major story arc as a DM. I have to say, I’m so thankful this is done and I’ve learned so much doing this. It really has been such a blast and so much fun going through all this with my (very patient) players. They never asked to go on this particular ride, and it was never meant to go for this long, but they really did me a solid in (literally) playing along. I cannot thank them enough. So, Evan, Matt, Anna and Lawrence, thanks. Really.

What basically started as me selfishly thinking “I wish I could run Curse of Strahd” and then attempting to make things Sandboxy turned into this. And, if anything, it was worth it for Turk Fabiene alone. I hope you all enjoyed it too. I honestly don’t think I deserved the applause you all gave me after everything I’ve put your characters through!

I’m really looking forward to the story being lighter and going back to what it was originally meant to be. What’s next is another session 0 and maybe some more world building. The characters all hit level 9 and gained the Folk Hero background feature for completing this arc, so, we’ll see what affect that has on the characters. Especially now that they have influence AND a reputation.

I just want to keep writing but like a good game- sometimes you just have to know when to call it. So, again, thank you. Until next time. Here’s to fresh starts.

Session 25: Exorcism and Castle Crashers

Full disclosure, I’m feeling pretty wrecked so this recap will probably be a little lacklustre. Apologies in advance.

  • Picking up where we left off, the group find themselves near the exit of the tunnel leading from Shelter to Heartshire. Before the exit is a Vrock that is familiar to the players, but not to the characters. Not yet anyway.
  • Soon enough, realisation hits and combat begins. What proceeds is a complete and utter curb stomp of the demon. While the group was still too scared to approach the creature, a combination of clever tactics and spell use spelt certain doom for it.
  • Weezl’s 8 summoned Mud Mephits not only burned through the demon’s legendary resistances but also managed to punch the ever living hell out of it over the course of the 4 round fight. Ziggy’s sneak attacks did some heavy damage and Ramar took nearly every blow and little to no damage. The paladin also locked down the Vrock’s movement with a grapple (and the DM forgot he could use Acrobatics to try escape). Regardless, it didn’t help that I didn’t roll many rolls over 10.
  • The creature dies pitifully while the party argue over potentially saving, then waterboarding it. They manage to salvage some of Sam’s old items (his ring and Wraps of the Mad Bull) and (for S-Ranking the fight) a Necklace of Fireballs.
  • In the aftermath they notice a small homunculus scurrying away that has dropped what appears to be a letter. The letter is seemingly addressed to them, expressing thanks for killing the demon and offering something of a peace offering, provided they let the city fall. They’re not keen either on Lucis OR the aybssal writing at the bottom of the letter.
  • They then explore the tunnel, leaving the portcullis shut and head to a small room (dutifully scouted out by Weezl’s mephit squad thumbs up).
  • What they find is a caged area, with a lectern, chalkboard inside it. Using David they use him to translate the book (written in Draconic) and the group solve’s the riddle written within… which causes a Wall of Force to spring up, breaking contact between the them. Some panic and a Scroll of Mage Hand later they manage to get the skull out of the elevator (they learn it can go to 2 of 3 locations listed) and get him to translate the rest of Lucis’ letter. They learn it was addressed to the vrock in case it proved victorious, with the text resulting in casting a banishing spell on the demon. In this case, however, it does nothing.
  • The group get some rest, and come up with the plan to put a spell of Summon Minor Elementals into David and get him to summon Magma Mephits into the elevator and send it off to the laboratory to cause havoc. Using that as their own distraction as they rush the castle.
  • Over the course of the night they learn their allies get into place, with Sonja/Triss arriving first, Helen/Tavon & Dannick/Speck second, and finally an exhausted Lukas.
  • They signal their attack in the morning, use their Scrolls of Nondetection, scamper through illusionary hedge and over castle walls to get into the fortress’ grounds. Meanwhile, the sounds of battle are heard, and climbing atop the parapets (when the swarms of demons have lessened somewhat) they see scenes of the battle unfold. Their allies blitz the swarms of demons until undead start to clamour from the earth and start to bog them down.
  • The clouds above them whip about and swirl like a drain emptying, and bright red light shining from the tallest spire of the castle, pours into the sky. Where the light pools and swirls, a dark red star burns menacingly. 5 beams of light streak towards the heavens.
  • In the sky above them, they see Lucis casting spell after spell… and the group sprint into the entrance hall of the castle. While they do so Ziggy shoots a seeking arrow at the wizard, unseen but unsure of the result of his shot.
  • The castle’s decor is stunningly similar to that of the Cranch estate, almost shamelessly mimicked. Before the party are tables laden with both delicious and horrifying foodstuffs, and humanoid servants, all wearing blank porcelain masks that are tending to the empty tables. They seem to pay no mind to the party.
  • They sneak across the way, some pretending to be servants themselves, and manage to get by some Maw Demons snacking on the corpse of a larger demon under the staircase leading to the next levels.
  • Foregoing the branch to go left, they head right, knowing that’s the way to progress. They dodge a falling chandelier and Weezl manages to snatch the imp that attempted to ambush them. They press forward, ever urgent, and sneak into the next room- which seems to be a meeting chamber.
  • There are papers on top of some of the tables, but they don’t read them as they’re distracted with the patrolling Barbed Devil leaving the room. They ambush it, and it manages to deal more damage than the earlier mini-boss, but they take it out easily enough.
  • They proceed back outside to more parapets leading to the next section of the castle. Again, they notice a few things: Spined Devils up a nearby tower surveying the castle grounds, and again, Lucis casting spells. They see, what they presume are the druids of the Order of the Falling Leaf as a giant grey eagle with bright blue eyes leads several other large beasts toward the castle and through the battle below. Approaching the front of the castle is Lukas and his soldiers in a phalanx, trying to protect a bloody Helen Fairbridge as she stalks towards the castle.
  • A streak of flame flies down at that group, and while the party cannot see what’s occurred, they feel the explosion and hear the cheer of devils. They mostly stealth forward, though a nat 1 on a stealth check leads Lucis to lock eyes with the party, then seemingly dismissing them. It’s no surprise, but the dude is a bit of a cocky sonofabitch.
  • They sprint towards the next building, and have a bit of inter-party conflict over how to tackle a door… but they find it unlocked and head inside… quietly.
  • They notice many rooms, and these appear to be servant’s quarters although they don’t appear to be in the best shape. They also spy another room across the way, which was once (presumably) a kitchen or serving area, but is now… a pleasure lounge? Plush carpets and pillows fill the room, along with the sweet scent of incense. In the room are 2 succubi and 1 incubi, the incubi is dressing some wounds, bitching about getting burned and that “the next time someone should check out the laboratory, he can do it himself!” It’s basically a room of divas, that the party does their best to avoid.
  • Ramar uses his divine sense and notes some devils on the roof, the incubi/succubi in the room, and blips moving overhead and around their position. He also notes elemental energies, possibly from a negative plane, across from them. But, they have pressing matters, deciding that Persephone needs to be stopped before anything else happens. Accentuated by the waves of evil that seem to blot out his senses every few seconds.
  • As they are about to head out onto the next series of parapets, and possibly to the last section of the castle, a crash is heard behind them and they see a humanoid figure tumble through the door they had come in from. A sword skitters across the floor, and the man runs back to hold the door, looking wildly about them.
  • There is some noise but they hear a “I am NOT getting that!” from the other room. God knows what those Mephits got up to in that lab…
  • So, the party see Lukas and he’s looking rough. He collects his weapon (quietly) and everyone, particular Ramar is upset at seeing him. He says that his soldiers didn’t make it, but they’ve just been trying to press for progress to help as much they can. And with no time to wait, no time to heal, they head out.
  • This time, stealth does not go in their favour (thanks to my low rolling) and a failed party stealth check, and then three Spined Devils spy the party. They observe for a second and then leap upon them in a fury.

… and the session ends there.

So, yeah, this session was pulled together really quickly and I was so tired but it was a really fun session. And yes, that’s even with the vrock dying in such a blaze of glory. Everything worked against that thing and while I didn’t expect it to win, I thought it would be a bit more of a threat- even with action economy working against it. The next fights will be balanced accordingly.

Seriously though, it was so great to get so many scenes out of my head. They’ve been there for a long time! From the music being played by the bards on the march on Hearthshire (Rip & Tear from the DOOM OST) to the scenes of the battle playing out. And getting to throw in Dawn and the Order of the Falling Leaf was really satisfying for me. It felt necessary to add in that nod to the event that started this entire (now year long!) arc.

There really isn’t much left of this arc, especially at the rate the party is moving at. It’s been fascinating seeing them act and roleplay with such urgency, it’s really kept the tension up. At least, from what I can tell. The game is VERY different from this side of the screen and I can only hope everyone is finding this even half as satisfying as I am.

So, as always, what will happen when next we see our heroes? Will they be able to stop the machinations of Persephone? Will they make Lucis eat dirt? Will David ever graduate from being a guinea pig? Will the party ever find out why I asked for names of NPCs at the start of this session?

Find out next time for the possible conclusion of the Hearthshire arc.

Session 24: A Long Tunnel
... the longest day

I’m going to aim for a more concise style of recap from here on. So… as always, let’s see how that goes.

  • Foregoing rest, the group decide to breach the tunnel collapse before them. Weezl makes her debut as a Giant Badger and Ramar goes to find lumber to use as tunnel supports. This process involves destroying everything in the past rest area and updating their register, along with an apology.
  • The group find Badger-Weezl asleep before the end of the tunnel and then decide to peek ahead. What they spy is a water-filled cavern that doesn’t appear to be too deep (thanks to a light spell/pebble) and kuo-toa… a lot of still kuo-toa.
  • This discovery ends with Ramar flying into a fury, rolling a nat 20 on his check to slide down the 60ft collapse on his shield, pulling off some rad Tony Hawk shit on the way down. He strikes at the kuo-toa… discovering that it doesn’t react to him at all, and appears to be undead and unmoving.
  • Divine sense is used liberally through the session (and each time they learn that the ground is always unhallowed), and this time it discovers MANY undead and a weird fiend/undead hybrid… which results in them tracking down, with a vengeance, an armored skeleton. The red eyed monstrosity, with reddish fog pouring from its eyes and mouth, covered in Hearthsworn plate, seems to gather undead as it stalks toward the party.
  • They come to blows, and the resilient undead is taken down, despite its unusual level of intellect and utilisation of undead kuo-toa.
  • The ’Sense is used again to discover more “Commander” skeletons and more skirmishes occur. The party take some wounds, some more than others, and Weezl summons a number of Reef Sharks (Bob and co.) to assist in combat (and they turn many of the fishmen to chum) and to ferry the party through the shallow waters.
  • It should also be noted that Ziggy cast a Scroll of Fireball, and a subsequent Seeking Arrow (and a needlessly high roll on lightning damage) ended up killing the commander and most of his minions. That dude just does DAMAGE.
  • They “Ping” again and note two Commanders retreating and opt to chase down one who has two larger undead with it, as opposed to the other who has a retinue of weaker undead.
  • They chase, only to find two giant undead Kuo-toa (similar to the one they fought with Speck outside the Kuo-toa den) cradling two Commanders. They catch up and combat occurs. This time crits are exchanged and things look a little dire until a combination of abilities and spells makes quick work of the Commanders, forcing the rest of the undead to fall dormant.
  • Meanwhile, they have been looting the Skeletons (the only skeletal undead amongst the many here) of their Hearthsworn rings and silvered longswords. Ziggy is also convinced their rings/hands are their weak point, which results in unintentional hilarity that mirrors some of the ridiculousness we witnessed at the live PAX show only a week before. And also, Ramar manages to salvage a suit of plate, but douses it in holy water before wearing it.
  • Eventually, after hours, the group manage to extricate themselves from the water, only to find a steep slope. Climbing it, they are ambushed by a retinue of well-armed skeletal archers, along with another Red-Eyed Commander.
  • This results in Ramar falling unconscious, rolling a 1 on his Death Save and Ziggy saving him with a (not so) Greater Healing Potion. Every roll pertaining to Matt in this game just did NOT work out in his favour. It was really bizarre to see.
  • Weezl fell back into summoning creatures, calling forth two Giant Eagles… who couldn’t see in the dark. She then turned into a Brown Bear and yanked the rest of the party up the slope (thanks to bear strength, their climbing gear rig, and decent climbing speed.)
  • Somehow the archers roll consistently high, causing a large amount of grief, but the Commander is taken out, after its’ unholy screech motivated the archers to be more effective than they had any right to be.
  • Fun fact: The commanders had an ability that required an action. They could roll a d6 and it would allow this many minor undead to move half of their movement and take an action.
  • The party loot and move on. Healing a little and taking things a bit more cautiously.
  • They note a lack of undead Commanders, though there are still pockets… though these are not kuo-toa and appear to be humanoid… and weirdly well-dressed. They discover the clothing to be burial attire and find scraps of wood and cushioning/cloth. Everyone is reasonably horrified, but not enough to stop Ziggy from pocketing some heirloom jewelry (with a crazy-high Sleight of Hand check).
  • It’s at this point Matt declares that he wants his future downtime activity to be a crusade- clearing out all the undead in these tunnels… or what some might call “Grinding.” The paladin is certainly motivated.
  • The group notice debris, and smashed and scattered undead. The wounds all seem to be blunt force. They discover a tumble of debris with hidden weapons (later they learn this to be some kind of trap.) They look for tracks, finding that of a dwarf, skeletons and other humanoids, and all of which are haphazard, some more recent than others. They also feel this sensation they they’re being watched.
  • They each call out, with Ziggy then calling out (something along the lines of) “I could use a stiff drink, what about you?” and with a high Persuasion roll they see a mound of debris shift and fall away to reveal a battered and armored dwarf. He is pale, horrifically wounded, missing an arm, and in the other gauntleted hand he holds a dark iron warhammer. There is a wild look in his eyes and he mutters inaudibly.
  • They each approach each other and the dwarf does not appear hostile. And at the mention of “Jk? TK?” the dwarf looks as though it tries to cry, but tears don’t come. They can’t. The undead dwarf’s tear ducts have long since dried.
  • Ramar (I think it was) casts Lesser Restoration on the dwarf (Jango Kraghammer) and he seems more coherent. He doesn’t know how long he’s been there and he’s been fighting this whole time, looking for the rest area and his cousin. This confuses the group as it is only a hundred or so feet away. Ramar walks into the room, noticing it is blasted apart, the result of a few kegs of oil, and a dead, burned dwarf slumped in the corner of the room. He investigates for a moment, and finds a glyph on the ground, under a layer of soot and muck. It’s a glyph of Protection from Good and Evil (and they later learn that it looks as though it was altered to only effect this one dwarf). Ramar, furious, destroys the glyph and the dwarves are reunited.
  • The realisation of everything hits Jango, and he drops his warhammer and gauntlet to join his cousin… the force animating him starting to wane. Ziggy and Ramar both offer the dwarf ale and a stiff drink, and he thanks them both… offering to fight alongside them in the time he has left. They tell him to rest and to find his cousin in the afterlife. He gives them a heartfelt thanks and thanks to Weezl’s Dispel Magic she manages to end the force giving the dwarf his unlife. He passes, restful as though sleeping.
  • The group set up a cairn for the two dwarves, and they find the small stash the dwarf had pointed them towards. Ramar takes up the warhammer and the dwarf’s gauntlets (of ogre power, thanks to Ziggy finding the other) and swears revenge. The group group collectively share this sentiment. Especially when they realise Jango was wandering for at least 6 months.
  • David offers to set up a watch and Alarm so they call all rest. He is given a torch and the group manage to finally rest, after what would have been roughly 16-17 hours of straight travel and battle.

  • The group wake, eat and continue on. The navigate, this time with stealth, and manage good time. They find there aren’t much in the way of animate foes, but they discover collapses, weird, empty chambers, and some Maw Demons, which they leave well enough alone.
  • And then the group find a pit, 40 feet deep, and maybe 3 hours of travel across (according to their map) and it is filled with still undead. Commanders and giant kuo-toa zombies stand atop a plateau, shifting and organising the swarm.
  • They come up with the following plan: Pass without trace and 8 motherfucking Giant Owls. This plan almost works, until we realise that half way across the put they need to recast the summoning spell… but, no matter, just hold onto some stalactites and BAM, easily done… that is, until Ramar rolls a one… plummeting into the darkness, until he activates his Parachute Emblem which saves his ass and allows him to be scooped up by some owls, and they make it to the other side.
  • That goddamn 1 nearly gave me a heart attack. We went from “hey, great plan, that worked out really well” to “Oh shit, well, nice knowing you all.” And then it all came back again with that emblem, which slipped my mind. Crazy shit, all in all. I just could not believe Matt’s rolls… seriously, what the hell?
  • So, the group press on, and discover a breeze- cool air that doesn’t smell of death. They see light, tinted dark and red, and then portcullis. They see another tunnel, branching to the left, and they see two figures. A robed humanoid, a man, with silver hair and a countenance of annoyance and superiority. And a winged creature, a Vrock, one familiar to the party. It wears Sam’s wraps of the mad bull on it’s forearms and legs, and a fetish of pristine white feathers around its wrist.
  • The pair have an irritated and silent conversation, where the man points at the party, and flippantly opens a “door” to leave, disappearing soonafter.
  • The group smell the toxic spores in the air and the creature stalks up, unfurls its wings and falls into a stance, beckoning the group before the gate to Hearthshire.
  • Before them stands the Vrock, Sha’kaat, the one that fell their companion, and against three powerful foes it stands confidently.

So, man, this session was so intense! I’m not sure if it was due to me being a little rusty or preparing too much content or the fact everything was so dark and grim, but damn it I wasn’t a bit drained by the end of it.

Thankfully, the group managed to get through the tunnel, in ways I never would have imagined. I certainly did not predict a shield-skating arrival into that main chamber, or the fact they’d forego their long rest in the beginning (though it worked out better that they did). In an interesting way, the character and player fatigue had an interesting interplay as things ramped up and became increasingly dark.

Everyone assures me they now have buy in to kill Lucis. I’m actually surprised how much impact the dwarven cousins had in the end… writing it and actually playing it out, there was definitely a lot more weight. Full disclosure, their story haunts me a bit. I almost feel that I need the party to kill Lucis for my own closure at this point… but, we’ll see how things go. There is still more of this story to tell.

Normally, I end these the same way, but this time it feels inappropriate. So, next time, tune in to see the party face down a demon, storm a castle and start a goddamn war.

My friends, may the rolls be in your favour.

~ Your humble DM.

Session 23: Going Deeper Underground
There's too much panic in this town
  • Coming off the back of straight wins at the tournament held at The Theatre, the party start to celebrate and carouse as best they can.
  • They notice a custom where, mostly children, trade a coin of worth (traditionally silver) to someone for a story. Seeing this they take the opportunity to ask for stories from a bunch of the people at the celebration, namely others they fought with, and eventually with Tavon Fairbridge.
  • Weezl asks the man for a story, the history behind the scar on his face. He details how he was fighting in the north with Helen and Leonidas and was overrun with undead, having faced a cult of black-scaled dragonborn. In the retreat a barbed arrow struck his face, nearly taking his eye.
  • They discover also that the man takes issue with hags and also learn that Helen’s two brothers were recently killed due to the constraints placed on how many troops can be sent north. It is reported that they fell in the north, past Caldridge and near to Bastion Cainhurst.
  • Tavon has also met Cricken when he was younger, noting him to be a talented sorcerer, if a bit of a renegade. The group ask about the Covenant of the Dawn and are told basically what they already know- that it is a group dedicated to the preservation of mankind at any cost.
  • Also in the revelry they discover, after judo throwing him over their shoulder (by a surprised Ramar), a tipsy Lukas who made bank off of the victories of the group. He tried to lose it by betting on them but it turned out that wasn’t to be the case. So, in friendship and fun he buys them all a keg of fine ale and several bottles of wine. They also discover that he’s a bit of a goof when it comes to women and that he has a bit of a odd relationship with Sonja who seems to enjoy teasing the man.
  • Now, Sonja (and Triss, who apologises for losing her cool during the tournament but has a much warmer persona outside of the arena) asks the party about the fighting that should be happening soon. They note that Lukas is drinking like a man who doesn’t expect to live a long life and figure that news is getting out. Sonja is excited to take back their town and is challenging any and everyone to tests of strength… which result in Ramar losing an arm wrestling match with her, and then Weezl following suit after she turns into a bear and loses in a wrestling match due to a nat 20. Then Ziggy challenges her, full of bluster, and while carrying on and screaming the whole while, manages to best the, now tired, woman. This results in much showboating, only to be announced on a grander scale when Sonja herself starts up a cheer for The House Reds.
  • Weezl also manages to run into Delly the gnome, who is pilfering food to take back to the workshop. Weezl is rather astounded by the differences between her and her ‘cousin’ but enjoys her company all the same, promising to meet up with her at another time.
  • The group spend the rest of the night, staying until it’s polite to leave, talking and learning more about the town and its inhabitants. After a rousing night of much celebrating and alcohol, they get a night’s rest back at the tavern The Calm Seas.

  • After sleeping in a fair while, the party come across Speck who passes on the scrolls he’d been working on (and here starts a thing where Evan rolled Intelligence checks randomly to remember things in game (which were completely unnecessary, though hilarious, 99% of the time).
  • Speck also passes on a missive from Yuri which he had forgotten to pass on until now due to everything going poorly recently. It is unfortunately covered in a mix of her wine and his blood, due to the beatings he’s taken recently. What follows is a dramatic reading by Ziggy which couldn’t have gone more differently than I imagined it could.
  • They eat and then go off to spend some of their winnings from the tournament, saying they’ll meet Speck at Fury’s Retreat for their inevitable battle planning session. This results in meeting Quen’s apprentice and picking up their skull-holder for Copperfield. Weezl also takes the opportunity to buy a shortbow, asking Ziggy if he’s willing to teach her how to use it when they get the chance. Ziggy then instructs her not to touch the bow but to mentally visualise shooting everything.
  • Going back to the Goliath-Dwarven smith, Ramar picks up some new armor, and Weezl gets herself a solid, wooden practice shield. They stock up on various other bits and bobs, trying to prepare themselves for the adventure ahead, and then head off to the keep… where they terrorise the poor young guard yet another time.

  • Stepping into the keep the party notice several planning sessions and they run into a now-sober-Lukas. He’s standing over maps detailing the area around Woodsholme with several other soldiers. A cloaked woman stands nearby with a stark white braid, and Weezl decides to peek under her hood, to notice bright red eyes and inkly blue-black skin. They meet Eleanor the drow, 2nd in command and acting leader of Woodsholme. They learn that the town fell to lycanthropy, including the duke, Roderick Wolfsbane. Eleanor is greatly entertained by the party, even going so far as to hug Weezl when the gnome says something that amuses her, and offers to work with them when everything is sorted.
  • Soon after they join the main room with Helen and Tavon, with Speck in tow. They talk over their plans, with things becoming a little heated at the mention of potential Masque involvement. Dannick states he will assist any way he can at no cost to their effort. Weezl is almost tossed out of the meeting when she stands up for the rogues but is saved with Tavon intervenes.
  • The group are given the task to head to the tunnel, to secure a line to Hearthshire, while the forces of Shelter will gather forces and strike from every other available direction.
  • To help, they are given the Portcullis Passkey (a twisted, greatsword keyblade), flares and a bell that will help them signal messages to other field commanders. With that, they promise they will meet up again to leave on the morrow.
  • The group spend the rest of the day getting supplies, while Speck readies himself for his return to Tradesway. Weezl writes him a message to return to Yuri. During the rest of the shopping escapade, the group head to the Hall of Dealings where they buy many, many scrolls off a band of mercenary arcanists.
  • Ramar buys waaaay too much incense (note to self: I have to refund him a BUNCH of gold) and also stocks up on holy water, knowing that there are many unholy terrors ahead.
  • And again, they rest.

  • They rise early, bid Speck farewell, and head to Fury’s Retreat where they meet the duchess. Helen appears to be in a better mood today. And, passing through an illusory passage they find the gate that leads to the tunnel heading to Hearthshire. Ramar successfully uses the key and the group head into the still and silent darkness, meanwhile the other task forces leave on their respective missions.
  • The trip is careful, and while not at full pace, the group manage to navigate the passage successfully. Hours underground, they find and investigate the two rest areas on the way, finding report logs and supplies (which they leave untouched).
  • With what begins as the druid looking for tracks, ends up with Ziggy somehow proving to be a master tracker with ridiculously consistent, high Survival checks. Often surpassing the gnome and gleaning a little extra information.
  • Every now and again the paladin uses his Divine Sense, coming up with nothing… except for the feeling of a shifting wind and what feels like the presence of unhallowed ground above them.
  • The second break room shows a requisition report, detailing an escalating situation, leading to one of the writers going missing and the other attempting a rescue attempt.
  • A short trip later and the group finally come across what they’ve been promised- the tunnel before them is collapsed. Hundreds of feet across and nearly 60 feet high. They investigate, noting blood stains, frantic tracks, and shards of bone and rotted flesh.
  • Ziggy goes off to take a leak, and upon his return he learns from Ramar that his Divine Sense is working, and under the tumble of earth and stone, he detects at least 30 undead, drawing a flat “WHAT?” from the rogue, who I imagine was still adjusting himself.
  • With that news ringing in their ears, Weezl goes to inspect the cave in… and the session ends there.

Whoo, boy! This was a really fun session! Truth be told I didn’t plan anything for the post-arena celebration and fully expected to skip past it, but it ended up with some really hilarious and amazing moments. Including Weezl’s goblin rapping (with a nat 20) provoking a bar fight and a lot of amusement.

The final moment with Divine Sense “working” was hilarious as we’d talked previously, when the skill wasn’t turning anything up, that it’s almost best WHEN it isn’t detecting anything. The alternative, well, that just ended up being really funny thanks to the timing of Evan’s bathroom break. You couldn’t ask for a more authentic response.

So, now that the House Reds are a household name, now that they’ve made friends in all the right and wrong places, what waits for them next? Will they manage to navigate the rest of the way to Hearthshire unscathed? Will their curiosity get the best of them? Will any other mysteries be unearthed? Will Weezl release an EP? Will Ziggy become a professional arm wrestler? And will Ramar need that extra AC? FIND OUT NEXT TIME!

Session 22: House Reds in the House
Super Smash Sisters Melee!!
  • We roll back the session a tiny bit into the past as everyone catches up on what’s happening. They strategise, including placing some terrain to their advantage (thanks to a new mechanic for “recalling the layout” of the arenas), and roll initiative.
  • The order is Ziggy, Weezl and then Ramar and this holds for every battle the group partake in in the tournament.

The rules for the arena matches are simple. You have 12 seconds before the fighting begins. You can move, prep and cast spells, as long as you’re not damaging anyone. Also, once you get KO’d you’re out for the whole round. This is enforced with a rune being drawn onto each contestant’s foreheads by goliath shaman… going unconscious activates the rune, causing the earth to fold around your body (into an earthen shell, or “coffin” as everyone started calling them) and stablise you.

  • When the battles begin the bards, atop their floating and moving “chandelier” platform begin performing (the greatest hits from the Guilty Gear Xrd soundtrack).

Round 1: The Flash Steppers
2 x Swashbuckler and 1 x Trainee Mage
Arena: Sand Dunes

  • The beginning of the battle began with 2/3 of the opponents’ team turning invisible. This lead to some interesting tactics as the group tried to cover as much ground as possible. And, eventually, when the battle swung in their favour, there was a defensive Fog cloud spell used… which ended up being absorbed by Mr Copperfield, thanks to his Magic Drain ability- which stores the spell so that it can be used later.
  • Ziggy’s strategy for the battle revolved around hit-and-running and running-and-gunning. The few times he tried melee ended up in a hasty retreat where he relied largely on hiding-shooting-hiding, which was incredibly effective giving him both Sneak Attacks and Advantage. Sure, rolls weren’t always in his favour, but he did manage to take out the mage in a single shot thanks to a nat 20.
  • It should also be added that Ziggy was getting very creative with hiding spots by the end of the battle, leaping over, down and into terrain – especially when he leaps into a small sandy volcano-like structure (making the Super Mario tunnel noise at the same time, of course).
  • Weezl buffed everyone with Longstrider, ensuring faster movement, and turned into a Giant Elk, so she could sprint around the battlefield. After a failed attempt to headbutt she discovers that the elk’s hoof attacks are pretty darn ridiculous (doing 4d8 damage… like, what the hell?) She was knocked out of her form temporarily, causing Ramar to nearly fall on top of her (as he was riding on her back at the time), but she resumed form and combat again soon enough.
  • Ramar provided an armored damage sponge in the form of… himself. For attacks that weren’t being thrown his way he was imposing disadvantage with his shield and managed to lay down a fair amount of hurt with the occasional smite. He also spent the second half of the battle riding atop of Weezl’s giant elk form, making the most of the druid’s enhancement movement.

Collectively the group absolutely blitz this round. The last woman standing did well to hold her own as long as she did but she realises she’s completely outmatched and surrenders when all the group converge on her.

Also, due to their performance, they’re placed in the quarter finals, thanks to the crowd’s support.

Round 2: The Salty Vets
2 x Veteran, 1 x Cleric Acolyte
Arena: Plains (forest)

  • Before the battle begins the party notice The Flash Steppes sitting in the front row, healed up and excited for the next match and they shout their support.
  • The strategy- take out the cleric. The poor woman did her best to survive as long as she could, and even hiding in a Fog Cloud (used by Ramar/Mr Copperfield).
  • The first few rounds, maybe 4-5 were largely placement and stalking prey. There was a lot of movement and next to no blows taking place, it was very different to any combat I’ve run so far.
  • Ziggy used his Ring of the Chameleon early in the battle and thanks to his mastery of the item he got to choose his form – turning his illusory disguise into that of a sapling tree. For the rest of the battle he was completely unseen as he ran around in the guise of the tree while firing shots with Windzard. The half-elf also managed to get the final blow with a critical hit (again…. AGAIN) with his bow. His tree form turning into that of a giant tree/dryad version of Ziggy when he loosed the final shot of the match.
  • Weezl helped with buffs again, this time with Longstrider and Pass Without Trace (ensuring that Ziggy was truly undetectable). She ran about, and up, the battlefield this time, running along the clear glass-like walls to get into position above the obscuring Fog Cloud. She ended up leaping into the haze and became a Giant Constrictor Snake. She also managed a solid vine whip, catching the last remaining competitor, and then turning into a snake to try hold them in place to finish the fight.
  • Ramar tried to stealth, he really did, but the combination of his armor and the chattering skull, he only managed to do a passable job of sneaking. Good enough, but not near what the group is used to with Ziggy’s shenanigans. Regardless, he helped in other ways. He disrupted the battlefield with the stored Fog Cloud spell, which he waded into to finish off the retreating cleric. There were some choice Misty Step(s) to get around the battlefield, from in and out of the Fog Cloud and again he took the flack off the rest of the party.
  • Thanks to some pretty low rolls in the beginning, Mr Copperfield managed to help out with his special ability Bone Up, giving everyone advantage on their next attack. Okay, it’s not actually called that, but its his variation of True Strike.
  • The cleric did their best to heal when they could, but even Sanctuary couldn’t stop the focus firing from the party. Being pulled into the fog by one of the Vets wasn’t enough to stop the paladin’s advance. The Veterans did their best with sword, shield and alchemical concoctions- throwing concussive and incendiary grenades at the party – and sometimes at each other in an attempt to get out of range of a certain Constrictor Snake.
  • But the battle ends with 3 KOs and none of them from the House Reds. Their surprising performance earns them the attention of a tall woman in the crowd, sitting at the back on a platform raised above all else. Behind her, a tall, lithe man they’d met previously. The Fury asks the crowd if they want to see these outsiders in the finals and they roar in agreement. They get an hour to rest up and meanwhile the crowd is entertained while the rest of the contestants fight in various battles- ranging from the standard format to massive free-for-alls. During the wait, they spy Sonja and Triss (whose name I messed up a whole bunch of times) pass them on their way to their own prep area.

The Final Round: The Blade Sisters
2 x Gladiator
Arena: Urban Sprawl

  • Draug introduces the contestants, using his gruff stage persona, and lets the group know there’s a change for the final round. There’s no short prep round, the battle actually begins NOW.
  • Ziggy sprints into position, going first in initiative (with a crazy high roll), only to be able to spy Sonja and Triss across the arena. The women down potions and then sprint in the direction the House Reds are, leaping across rooftops with both excitement and combat focus. And by leap, I mean, they are leaping 20-30 feet and up onto higher rooftops… thanks to their potions of Jump.
  • The battle goes from “Oh shit” to “OH FUCK” and this end up being the most chaotic of the battles, in my opinion.
  • The women leap around the battlefield, smashing with shields and landing flurries of blows, while Ramar desperately tries to defend and while Weezl attempts to get into position. Ziggy has turned himself into a box (thanks to his ring) and is trying to take potshots and manages to do so despite the lack of a clear shot.
  • Triss attempts to set herself up on a vantage point, stacking spears to throw at her opponents, but she is struck by Ramar’s Moonbeam spell… which she weathers, until a massive burst of damage hits Sonja. That burst of damage occurs when Weezl summons an Azer- a firey dwarven elemental who looked just like Dekgrad but with dark skin and a beard and hair of flame. The Azer then manages to hit Sonja for roughly 40 damage (thanks to a crit), while Ziggy scores a hefty sneak attack, and Ramar lays on the hurt as well… doing over 80 damage in one round.
  • Weezl also chances using Dispel Magic on her, ending the Jump spell, and cutting off her mobility.
  • The woman relishes the challenge, and goes back to wrestling opponents off buildings and hitting others, but soon enough she is taken out- falling off the building and becoming encased in stone – she is the one most surprised by this turn of events.
  • This leads to Triss going into a cool fury, striking at Weezl (who also dispels her Jump spell) and ends her concentration on her Summoned Minor Elemental- causing the Azer to return to its native plane.
  • Fun Fact: The Azer’s very specific instructions do lead to a small problem when it fails to attack Triss when Sonja falls… but only for a short time, when Weezl commanded the Flaming-Dekgrad to battle the other woman. The Azer did manage to put the gladiator onto the defensive as she kept using her Parry to attempt to stop the creature, seeing how dangerous it was against Sonja.
  • Other highlights include Ramar dropping to single digits but thanks to some Misty Stepping and healing, he doesn’t go unconscious – giving the House Reds a tournament run without a single KO on their side (if this was a video game there would totally be an Achievement for that). Also, LUCK. Holy crap, I rolled ridiculously high damage for the entire game until that one round of combat. It was actually pretty damn impressive. He also drank a potion of Hill Giant Strength but I’m getting the feeling that he didn’t calculate the bonuses and damage every time he attacked…
  • And finally Ziggy scaling the tallest building on the map to take shots at Triss, who had drunk another potion to enlarge her form. He manages yet another devastating series of ranged attacks to take out the woman who had completely abandoned defence for offence saving Weezl from being impaled.
  • He also used both of his Guided Arrows on Sonja, figuring out that the first one missed from the crowd’s reaction. The second one struck true.
  • With that… there was dead silence, and a massive eruption of cheers as flames flare and illusory fireworks fill the Theatre.
  • Eventually they are hushed, with the battlefield shifting to its neutral state before it slowly turns into a podium… and in the distance, the arena seating turns into chairs and tables- turning the arena into a gigantic festive hall.
  • The three best teams are each congratulated by The Duchess and Duke Fairbridge, with each of them getting coins. Silver, for 3rd, Gold for 2nd, and Platinum for 1st place. The coins have Shelter’s emblem on one side, and the date on the other, with runes around the edge. The runes read, in Draconic, “A simple token of when you stood above all others.”
  • Those in first place are also given three cloaks from Tavon’s bag of holding – Cloaks of Weaponry. They are also handed their winnings for winning in the finals and are told by the Duchess that she owes them a favour. But for now, she needs a drink and there is to be a celebration!
  • The hall opens up and many people filter in while the party begins!

And the session ends there… with everyone becoming Level 8.

So much combat!!! And it all managed to be so varied with a lot of different stuff happening. Everyone played really well and it was interesting seeing how strategic the battles were becoming while everyone stayed in character and roleplayed everything out.

Everyone also got to learn another one of Mr Copperfield’s abilities, which they seem very excited about, and it appears they may have a couple more small mysteries to uncover.

Also, giving lots of cover to a rogue is a death sentence for anyone who doesn’t have a ridiculously high Perception. Holy crap. Ziggy was scarily effective and didn’t take a single point of damage through the entire series of battles. It’s kind of weird to think of him at the end of a fight and not being covered in his own blood. (Sorry, Ev.)

So, what’s to happen next? Will the House Reds become a household name? What sort of branding opportunities await the adventurers? Will the party do a shopping episode next? Will they be too hung over to take on Hearthshire? Does Elk actually sound like Skeletor? FIND OUT NEXT TIME!!!

Session 21: Shelter from Scrying Eyes
-1 Eagle +1 Mohawk
  • Arriving to town took a couple of hours of riding and before long the group, along with their military escort, are in relative safety within the fortified gates.
  • Speaking to Lukas gives the group some information on some inns to stay in and of the main landmarks in town. They gather intel on the town’s situation and then the man sets off to make his report but says he will be at the Hall of Dealings if they require him later. They namedrop Jaspitt and find that it doesn’t incur too much suspicion but that could be because it’s astoundingly rare for townfolk to namedrop the Lord of Tradesway without a proper title.
  • At a request for clerics, Lukas offers the next best thing- a group of punkish teenagers (worshippers of Thor) and bards. They heal the group with song and words and tell them they will be performing soon. There’s a show at The Theatre beginning at noon. The group become very interested in, what is explained to be, a tournament held regularly as a way to show off one’s strength and martial prowess.
  • The group head to the nearby inn- The Calm Seas which is decidedly not the most calm, and most definitely crammed, establishment. Speck informs the group that Duke Cranch owns the inn and they should be welcome there (as per their standing agreement.)
  • They duck and weave among the many clustered tables and arrive at the bar to speak to the barman Kallum. He welcomes the group, recognising them after their introduction and mentions the lack of their bird friend, as he was keen to see an Aarakocra. Ramar picks up on his mention.
  • Kallum proffers a bottle of wine for Ziggy, as his request for a house red – complete with a gift tag – “with compliments, Jaspitt.” It is cheap enough but not terrible enough to incur grievous offence… but enough offence for Ziggy to take it personally.
  • Meals are served and the group speak amongst each other, and Ramar shares a little of his origin and his reasons for seeking Shelter, and Sam. They agree to band together for now, seeing each other as useful allies and noting they fight well together, in order to rescue Sam. Or to confirm his fate, at least.
  • The group then get some rest, with Speck being sent off early, and with David and Ramar doing a little bonding.
  • Imi is also summoned and Weezl, being inspired, finds a hand mirror and proceeds to give herself a haircut – a mohawk… or the closest thing she can manage with a Nat 1.
  • As much as the capybara loves her companion, she is a bit put off at the brutality the gnome inflicted on herself- with the many shallow cuts and scrapes and uneven patches of hair.

  • The group, minus Speck, awaken in the early evening rested and head down for a meal. The group are confronted with Weezl’s new ’do and Ramar is shocked at the appearance of Imi, who quickly befriends the paladin.
  • They then head off, believing talking to Duchess Fairbridge is their best bet and hedge their bets there. They also wish to register for the tournament and to seek a blacksmith to make a transportation solution for David.
  • On the way to Fury’s Retreat they stop by a small temple of Torm which is shouting prayer and encouragement to passersby. Ramar stops to talk to them for a while and they offer him a small vial of blessed weapon oil and wish him well in the tournament.
  • The group head to The Theatre and discuss strategy, and what to do next while seeing mages change and alter the arena’s terrain. They register their group with the fancy goliath Draug and he tells them how the tournament works and what they can expect. They then head off, after a bit of a Q&A, to head to the keep.
  • Getting to the moat of the great keep, the group are stopped by a pair of guards. With some confusion, fast-talking and flashing of official documentation, the group are eventually admitted to the keep, with much due to Ziggy’s terrifying ability to persuade (rolls over 20 helped with the near-impossible task.) He impresses himself on the guards that one actually seeks out Tavon Fairbridge the other commander of the keep and husband to Helen.
  • The man is friendly at first and then seemingly put off and somewhat abrasive the further the conversation progresses. They learn and share much information, valuable information which earns them Tavon’s patience. They learn he and his wife served along Grand Duke Leonidas and he is shocked at his passing. After collecting himself, and being prompted with the mention of the underground tunnel leading to Hearthshire, he suggests the following plan:

- To take the capital, action will need to be decisive and swift. They should flank from Sandhill (and here he learns that another Duke has fallen, again to his surprise) and Woodsholme. Woodsholme has fallen recently but he believes with a concentrated force it can be retaken.

- Using the town’s to flank, a strike team can strike from the tunnels to the heart of the capital itself. The tunnel however was sabotaged some months back and only 2/3 of it is clear. He is aware this is a great, and unknown risk, and gives the group a map of the tunnel so they can make up their mind.

- He will relay the information to the Lord Commander and they will act from here.

  • And with that, he excuses himself and the group- who are escorted from the keep, but not before they traumatise the poor guard further- her nerves getting the best of her and they do not improve as she sees the party stumble, drinking, from the keep’s gates.

  • The group then split, with Ramar seeking the elven blacksmith Quen Deskarr and organising a commission from her. She also explains her interest in developing minor runestones for altering and transferring enchantment. She’s not sure on the price but wishes for decent materials in which to hone her craft.
  • Ziggy and Weezl however head to the rambunctious inn, Three Tankards, Two Fists for some carousing, rumour-spreading and, for Weezl listening to some sweet tunes.
  • Weezl makes a beeline for the band, who are the teenagers she saw previously, and she gets a compliment on her rad new hairstyle. Ziggy, however, works the crowd. The room is filled with soldiers, fighters and at the back of the room is Sonja- one of the commanders, who is very amused with his antics.
  • Ziggy with booze and spell scrolls does his best to show how (in)capable a wizard he is and challenges the many to face him in the tournament tomorrow. With showmanship and panache, he gets laughs and cheers, and makes a drunken exit… and Weezl is eventually pulled away from the show.
  • The group meet back at the inn, share info and get some rest again.

  • In the morning, the group find Speck, eating and poring over one of his spellbooks. They talk on the nature of scrying and the hazards of teleportation, and Speck offers to get some scrolls of Nondetection written for the group. But it should take a day. If they need him, they know where to find him, and he wishes them luck in the arena.
  • On the way to the Theatre the group stop by a shrine to Cayden Caileen- also known as the “lucky drunk” and “accidental god”, visit a blacksmith (where Weezl gets her head properly shaved by a goliath blacksmith, who abhors untidy hair) where they procure some more arms and armor, and then arrive at the OrDelly Workshop run by a family of gnomes- where they procure some general goods, potions and a puzzle box (for Weezl.) Unfortunately they’re in a rush and soon arrive in time to draw lots for their tournament placing.
  • The group are seeded against a pair of swordswomen and a young mage, the “Flash Steppes” and they, “The House Reds” step into the sandy arena (recognised by Ramar from paying attention to the patterns the day previous.)
  • They see the crowds, and put their best foot forward, with Ziggy being an obnoxious showman, Ramar trying to look completely amateur, and Weezl looking like she lost a fight with a wolverine… but at least coming out of it looking rather fashionable.
  • Draug hypes up the crowd, and a horn is blown…

After all the combat from the last two games this one felt really slow to me! But, I am really happy to have the party in Shelter finally, I’ve been looking forward to this place for a really long time.

I honestly didn’t expect them to speak to any of the lords as soon as they did, but when your rogue is nailing those charisma checks and your guards are young and impressionable, then things are going to happen. Now, it’s just time to see where the tournament takes them.

Also, it’s been a long time since we’ve played games back to back! I was a bit tired but it was a whole lot of fun. Hopefully I’m a bit more on the ball next time.

So how will our adventurers tackle the arena? How much can they possibly win by rigging the betting system? Will Ziggy’s ploy pay off? Will Mister Copperfield enjoy his new censored home? Will Weezl start a punk band?! FIND OUT NEXT TIME!

Session 20: Gotta find Shelter
Featuring David Copperfield!
  • The group are (still) currently swimming in the chamber, discussing plans, after they had a small rest to go through their new loot.
  • They talk to the skull, Y3S2p2s, wondering what to call him. They ask it for his favourite type of magic and the skull mentions his fondness for illusions, which leads to the fateful question- who is your favourite illusion user? To which he (stupidly) replies with “Copperfield.” Now the skull is referred to as “David” or “Copperfield.” [I honestly don’t know what I was expecting.]
  • And despite Mister Copperfield’s 100% inaccurate divination reading, Ramar doesn’t want to hurt the skull’s feelings or leave any of these fishmen alive… so they head the “wrong” way, leading to a room full of stank and a small number of kuo-toa.
  • What follows is a complete blitz where Ramar shoves one of the fishmen into a pit, Weezl does the same with a vinewhip while hanging from the roof over the pit, and Ziggy ruthlessly cutting down another. The last is thrown headlong into the stank pit… which they discover later to be hundreds of feet deep.
  • Satisfied, they continue on, finding (dun, dun, dun) a door! Peeking through they see a kuo-toa priest, chanting, before a portal with 4 others reading to sacrifice themselves in some ritual. They watch it all unfold, with the ocean-like, glowing portal, spilling forth a horrid elemental crayfish with human appendages. It is huge, menacing, and probably not edible.
  • When the group enter the room, the priest Controls Water raising the water in the room by 20 ft… causing to be a problem until Ziggy using his final Seeking Arrow to strike the creature from the other room (which is genius since it means he got to avoid the disadvantage he would have had if he had fired normally) which ended its’ concentration abruptly, causing the water to spill away.
  • And then, IT WAS ON! (As usual, here’s a greatest hits, as opposed to a blow-by-blow):
  • Weezl conjures a fey being for the first time… and that creature was a Sea Hag. It spent most of the fight attempting to frighten things to death but consistently locked down the battlefield with its presence alone. The party was also brave enough to endure its visage. Eventually Weezl loses concentration, after the hag tanks a fair few hits, and the creature shrugs apologetically as it returns from whence it came.
  • Ramar with Shield of Faith tanks the majority of the other foes, smashing and smiting with abandon (and unfortunately low damage rolls.) However, his paladin aura did halve all of the damage coming in from Spiritual Guardians which was particularly badass. He also managed the final blow on the elemental crayfish.
  • Ziggy weaved in and around the battlefield, taking a few heavy hits from the hulking crustacean and from the head priest alike (with its lightning rod weapon). He did manage to cut down the priest finally with a masterful blow and Ziggy has learned to bit a bit more discerning with what damage he chooses to Uncannily Dodge.
  • The other thing worth mentioning is Weezl’s debut of her Giant Constrictor Snake form. Thanks to two uses of Wild Shape the tiny druid managed to withstand about 100+ damage from the elemental AND restrain it.
  • Mr Copperfield/David also, from the other room, shouted encouragement for his new friends, giving them advantage on their next attack. The skull had to guess when it was best to do so… he was also struggling to stay afloat.
  • It was a crazy battle with spells, lots of coordination and combos, a kaiju battle and MANY status effects. But finally the battle ends, and Ramar goes throw the priest’s corpse through the flickering portal in anger… causing a cry from the rest of the party. They loot things and Ramar does not know this. [I’ll admit that I flinched at the thought of the items I put on the priest being tossed through the portal (spell scrolls, idol and an elemental gemstone) but I would have ruled the portal closed with the gemstone returning to its native plane.]
  • During the fight, and for a short time afterward, a couple muted explosions can be heard.
  • Then came the portal, collectively, with different skills being utilised in concert, the group ascertained what it was (to the best of their ability) and how to thwart it.
  • With Weezl reading the tide of the dimly lit watery portal and finding when it was weakest, with Ramar seeing the points in the script that were in elemental script, and Ziggy finding the weakest points in the incantation, they surgically (via longsword) manage to mar the incantation… causing the water to shimmer and spill into the room… and reveal a shimmering portal. The original one perhaps?
  • Ramar has the idea to throw David into the portal and the skull is NOT keen, eventually resorting to casting Friends on the paladin… which leads to hilarity a minute later when Ramar tosses the skull into the portal, with the others managing to grab him just in time (thanks to Ziggy’s dex save being over 20).
  • The skull tells the party he can see a dim, stone chamber with chains and torture implements? He’s scared and does not want to stay. The group pull him back and they collectively don’t know what’s going on there, but they file it away for later.
  • They discover a small room used for ambushes and manage to pilfer a couple vials of poison.
  • Then there’s the way out (after finding a collapsed series of tunnels) but it’s underwater and Ziggy does not have the greatest lung capacity. So with another weird co-op moment, Weezl summons 4 reef sharks (Bruce, Johnno, Phil and another that wasn’t named) and Ramar casts Speak with Animals while the sharks go to find the quickest way out.
  • The very blokey sharks return and ask for some food, getting a couple dead kuo-toa, which makes the water super gross but they’re happy at least. They reckon they can get you lot out of here, to the hard water at least, in a coupla minutes. Easy-peasy. It gets cold though but it should be quick enough to get out. (There is also an amusing conversation about which shark was fastest, for Ziggy to ride… but unfortunately sharks aren’t super bright though they did try to be helpful.)
  • Ramar leads the charge on two sharks, with Weezl following behind, and Ziggy waiting until the path is clear. Until he hears a thunderous boom- when Ramar met the ice, head first, with Thunderous Smite with a super-powered headbutt. The sharks break the frozen surface and Ziggy appears soon after… to a frozen lake and a dozen frozen kuo-toa on the shore.
  • There are dead horses, broken carriages (which they investigate- finding papers and a little coin), and frost on nearby trees on the thick forest around them.
  • They start a fire and attempt to warm themselves when they hear another boom in the near distance. A flash of heat and light reveal it to be an explosion. Trees shake and animals flee.
  • Ziggy scouts ahead while the group gear up and follow suit. The half-elf manages good time- time enough to find the clearing from the previous explosion and from nearby foliage he sees a man tumble, rolling across the ground. He’s horribly injured, with a blackened broken arm, and blood pouring from his face and head… and it’s Speck. The mage is nursing a tome and tells Ziggy to run, as a giant, monstrous, arcanely mutated Kuo-Toa behemoth (roughly 15ft tall) blasts through the brush, ready to strike the mage.
  • They leap into action, with Ziggy running ahead to pull the mage to relative safety and giving him a healing potion, and Weezl turning into a Giant Elk…. which Ramar hitches a lift on, jumping onto her flank before climbing onto her back.
  • Eventually the back-up arrives, to see Ziggy bravely fall to the giant’s vicious strikes. Ramar issues a Compelled Duel to the creature, who is too weak to fight the man’s will. Weezl heals Ziggy before turning back into a Giant Elk and lines up an attack.
  • Meanwhile, they collectively try to protect Speck who, despite everything, struggles to move forward chanting (in what Ziggy recognises to be some Draconic) and with a broken arm (and 2 extra turns to cast spells) manages to cast Hold Monster [I forgot that paralysis meant every hit is a critical… but more on that.]
  • The party wails on the monstrosity, and eventually the mage joins them, and together, with Scorching Rays, a charged Elk headbutt, a brutal chop to the leg and an evisceration, the group (dealing easily over 100+ damage in a round) brutally end the monster… and are met with silence.
  • A bit of triage later, the group try to rest, even though Shelter is so close. Maybe a couple hours away? But they don’t want to risk the wilds… and in the distance they hear a horn being blown.
  • Weezl with her pipes of the sewers manages to summon two swarms of (army) rats, who, after being fed, agree to forming a perimeter watch for the group. They’ll bite them if things look weird. And so the group all collectively pass out.
  • They wake a short while later, maybe a couple hours, to nibbled ears and hands, and a series of squeaks “The perimeter is breached! We’ve got incoming! GO GO GO!” And so the group all dive into nearby bushes or up trees.
  • A short while later, an athletic man, with breastplate, short cloak and weapons walks into the clearing (of their still-burning fire) seeing drag marks and the like, raises his hands… and completely fucks up what he was going to say (drawing snickers from his comrades.)
  • Lukas introduces himself and his men as a patrol from Shelter and he would like to help take them back to town. They have horses and the means to do so. The group show themselves and he introduces himself properly. The group share information and he motions scouts to check out the lake. Also, noting Weezl’s ability to stand upside down on branches, he asks if she’s a friend of Eleanor, which Ziggy recalls is a scout (and an elf) from Woodsholme.
  • He offers the group rations, bread and food, which Ramar partakes of hastily, and soon enough they’re at the fortified wooden walls of Shelter. The weather is overcast with a light rain, and a clinging, low fog rolling along the ground. The sound of marching and the clanging of metal is heard, and they can see patrols, cavalry standing ready at the gates, and inside- two women training a group of children, with hard-edged blades.
  • And they are finally at Shelter.

Man, it was so good to play again! Lots of new stuff got used and I’m really enjoying the new party dynamic. There was a fair bit of combat and the party was pretty tapped out by the end of everything but I consider that pretty well balanced after all is said and done.

This session was also the debut for my homebrew initiative system. And honestly, I think it worked out pretty well! It’s definitely suited for smaller parties but I found it was a lot of fun and I was so excited when the players prompted to re-roll initiative during the last battle. I feel like it makes combat a lot more team-based and it’s still very simple and intuitive to use. And I only skipped a player’s turn once (on accident, I swear!) Overall I’m really excited to keep using it to see what everyone comes up with.

Also, Speck was so close to being found dead. If the group decided to rest instead of chasing the explosions things would not have ended well for the mage. He was already on single digit HP when they came across him. But seriously, I’m just really impressed with how everyone dealt with every situation thrown at them.

So, what awaits the party at Shelter? How many Fire Emblem references will I fit into that town? Will the party even have time to explore all content I’ve put there? Probably not, but find out next time!

Session 19: Like a Revolving Door for Adventurers
Go Fish

“These salt-soaked caverns are teeming with pelagic nightmares – they must be flushed out!”

Donella’s stay with the group did not last, and as such, she was written out pretty quickly. However, this session was also the introduction for Ramar , Matt’s new character. After giving out some item cards and loot from the previous session, the next one starts…

  • The group leave The Maiden’s Fancy and their buddies at the thieve’s guild, returning to the Duke’s manor to rest for the night. They have a restful night and a rest devoid of dreams thanks to exhaustion… or other reasons, perhaps?
  • Ziggy and Weezl head down in the morning for breakfast, where they find Speck in completely different attire (with an additional spellbook) and a focused demeanour. The young man is still a bit hungover but is still steeled to face the day- including their teleportation to a location near the town, Shelter.
  • During the meal, the adventurers see Dirke and the boy is cleaned up somewhat and has been doing work for Jaspitt drawing maps and working on his portraiture- something Excellence has been helping him with, seeing as she can easily change her appearance. He chats for a while before realising he was to meet the duke and races off.
  • Excellence also tells the party that their friend Donella stole off in the night, with a rare mandolin that belonged to the duke. One of the housekeepers, charmed by the gnome, simply handed it over. Excellence, however, is somewhat relieved that it is gone as it seemed to actually have adverse effects on the lord whenever he attempted to play it.
  • With that, the group head down to the teleportation chamber, and just before completing the spell, Speck cries out in surprise, his arm forcefully moved, marring the near complete arcane circle… over his shoulder, before being torn from her place, Weezl sees the spectral form of a robed man grinning, puppeteering the wizard’s hand. And then… sheer white, then darkness… the sound of wind and a crashing thud…

  • Ziggy and Weezl find themselves in a room… a glowing glyph above them, etched into the roof 20ft high. It sputters and dies out. And the room is pitch dark. With 3 doors available to them, the pair investigate one of the doors, hearing the sound of wind around it. Weezl uses Mold Earth to create a small path under the door and they spy a tunnel, with pits that drop a good 50-60 ft. They decide, yes, we’re committed to this, and navigate their way down the tunnel, leaping the pits.
  • Ziggy takes a brief aside to talk to Dannick trying to figure out what’s going on and to do what he can to find Speck. He also (jokingly) suspects Nathaniel is behind this mishap, drawing “I fucking knew it” from the guild leader.
  • The druid finds this easy to do, walking along with walls with her Slippers of Spider Climbing while Ziggy has the beginning of a rather unlucky day, almost falling into a pit and getting lashed by a vine-whip by Weezl to assist in pulling him up. And this was not without a liberal sprinkling of Guidance assisting the rogue’s attempts at athleticism.
  • Finally the pair find themselves before a chasm… they can’t see the bottom so Ziggy pulls out a lantern, which gives off a little light, but not enough. Weezl decides she will help, using Sunlight to create a tiny sun to fill the area with light… in response, Ziggy throws the lantern into the pit.
  • Investigation (and a summoned magical raven) leads them to finding that there is a room on the other side of the chasm… part of the wall shows a tumble of stones which block the way, but easily enough moved by a druid. Weezl WILL get there. There are glowing mushrooms in that chamber and she wants them.
  • The gnome clears a section of the stones away, so the room can be entered, but there’s still a 60 ft pit to clear. Then, ensues an argument regarding Weezl’s magic shoes. Ziggy wants them and Weezl isn’t having any of it. They’re HERS. She argues that it takes an hour to attune to them and Ziggy states “Well I’m not fucking going anywhere!” ((I can’t, honest to god, explain how hilarious this exchange was. I need to draw it at some point.))
  • They decide that they will create a tightrope situation which does get the rogue across, even if it did mean the loss of his rope as the pitons couldn’t quite hold his weight in the centre of the rope. But, he does get across. They spy the door on the other side of the room and crossing the room notice something shimmering above them? A cube of sentient jelly (Gelatinous Cube, yo!) lands before them, threatening to engulf the pair!
  • What happens is thus: Ziggy does not roll well, getting eaten by the cube and being burned by acid… he does get out however (in a way similar to that birthing scene in Ace Ventura), and he does carry on about it quite a bit. Weezl freaks out, trying to pull the creature into the chasm pit behind her with her Vine Whips. It does eventually work, almost killing the cube, which (now smaller) slides away after the gigantic fall.
  • After some (prompted) healing the pair open the door, after disabling the locking mechanism, and find themselves led into a large chamber.

  • It had not been a good few days for Suriramar. Responding to a missive from fellow faction agent, he was heading to Shelter when he was blindsided by something, knocked unconscious and dragged into a wet, miserable, stinking cave. For two days he had been stripped down to simple clothing, his gear stolen, and lay shackled to a pagan altar, awaiting sacrifice or some other terrible fate. His own powers allowed him to stave off injury, infection and starvation, but captivity was taking its toll.

  • Gnome and half-elf enter the chamber… firstly noticing the giant, odd, crude statue of a crayfish headed, and armed, woman looming over a corner of the cave. Before it are levers, pools of water and lightly, green, glowing ooze on the roof. In front of the giant idol was an altar with a humanoid man shackled to the platform, seemingly unconscious.
  • Like any concerned do-gooders, they inspect the room first but make their way over to the prisoner… Ziggy stepping on some poisoned spikes and struggling to undo the shackles while he feels painfully ill- until Weezl fixes him with a Lesser Restoration.
  • The rogue talks to the man to find out what has been happening down here. They plan to get out and go to Shelter, a goal they share with the prisoner- Ramar. Ramar does mention his captors and their patrols, and also that his gear is nearby. They just need to figure out the levers that open the… nevermind. As the conversation has been happening, Weezl has been swinging off the levers and manages to unlock the door by accident.
  • The group get into the small room, shoring up the door with some molded earth, and find the shorter man’s armor and weapons. They find a few choice coins, a horrible couple of barrels of fish guts and offal, and a bag of crude bone idols (in similar fashion to the lobster woman-thing.) They each opt to take an idol, seeing as it could be a useful offering if need be (Ramar recalling that some of the fish-men take small tokens with them down one of the paths.)
  • They return to the chamber and decide to desecrate this idol, trying to smash it to pieces. The are taken with the stones it has for eyes- inky, black and seemingly void-like in appearance. Amidst the percussion of their “redecorating” they are ambushed by rampaging fish men! They rush into the room…

(Okay, real talk, I designed this room to be interesting but NOT for combat. What happens is hilariously strategic, the insane fish-men somehow making this area incredibly defensible.)

  • Ziggy has awful luck with most of his attacks… Windzard misses, as does his activated Dagger of Venom, a lot of 2’s are rolled… and these guys do NOT have decent armor. So, go figure.
  • Weezl summons a goddamn army of giant crabs. Eight of the tough fuckers. Count ’em. She somehow fits them onto the battlefield, creating small regiments of the grappling bastards. They seriously lock down the battlefield, with the fishmen getting caught or poisoned in their attempts to attack the party.
  • Ramar’s paladin aura protects the party from the few spells the creatures try to throw, not a single one effecting the group. The paladin also manages to smite one of the tougher creatures, and utilising Moonbeam manages to kill as many fishmen as crabs. He probably was more effective at killing them than the enemy was actually. Another fishman gets within range of him, and using a Thunderous Smite and an obscene amount of damage, destroys the creature, throwing it across the room and into the moonbeam… burning it away.
  • The group are fixated on defending themselves, killing stubborn Kuo-Toa, and making a point of them actually being able to kill things- with Ziggy using two of his Guided Arrows. One wounds one of the tougher creatures, while another manages to destroy a retreating scout with a thunderous boom (with a single shot and without line-of-sight.) He and the bow are pleased with their efforts.
  • Weezl begins to command crabs, and using her vines she drags some of the fishmen onto poisoned spikes… bringing one within range of Ramar.
  • The small man decides to smite the idol (each party member is perched on different parts of this thing through most of the fight)… and he does a Smite-enhanced Thunderous Smite on the statue… shattering it with force enough to launch the crayfish-head like a missile, turning the surprised and insane fishman into a bloody mist of gore and thrown limbs.
  • Finally, after being unable to pry out the statue’s eyes, Ziggy turns his attention, and his crowbar, to the final flailing, frothing fishman… smashing it right between the eyes and kicking it off the platform.
  • Ziggy finds and stores away the remaining idol’s eye, which had been lodged into a wall from the force of Ramar’s blow against the statue.

  • The group quickly start to move (with their new contingent of remaining crabs), heading down one of the paths… leading to Ramar falling into a small pit of quicksand. Somehow, SOMEHOW, Ziggy manages to use a crab to help pull the man out of the sand, and Weezl uses magic to solidify the ground for a time, allowing them to escape unscathed.
  • After interacting with an idol, offering coins, they continue… only to find themselves back at the very room they had teleported in from. They decide then the arcane circle should be destroyed and with some creative use of pitons, rope, and a Nat 20 on a strength check, they manage to destroy a chunk of the masonry- ruining the spell circle.

  • They head back to the altar chamber and head into the next room, one with a low roof so the party has to swim to proceed, to find the dead scout and blooded waters. They see glowing red coral in the distance and they decide to check that out. Weezl turns into a Giant Octopus and with her crab buddies swims down the small underwater path… however it is trapped, and a current tries to slam them all into spikes at the beginning of the path. All but a single crab make it, and it disappears in a puff of ether, returning to the realm of the fey.
  • The Octo-Weezl smashes the coral, with a Nat 20 again (what the hell, guys?) actually destroying the enchantment carved into the walls, and she gathers the party and they swim to a small chamber… a small chamber that is filled with GODDAMN LOOT!
  • They find some dry land and in the dark they investigate the small platform- finding jewellery and gold… and (rolling on the Magic Item tables) a +1 Longsword and a Potion of Hill Giant Strength. Useful shit, especially for their new paladin friend.
  • Weezl, rolling the highest investigation check, actually finds a small chrome-metallic skull. Humanoid in appearance, about the size of a fist and unusually dense. It feels faintly magical and they notice it looks as those it had gems set in its eye sockets, but they are now empty.
  • Ramar tries to find gems that will slot into the skull, and putting one in the slot causes it to adhere… not being able to be pulled out. He then decides that a blue gem would nicely match the green one and places that on the skull too… And then we rolled a whole bunch of random shit… leading to the party’s first sentient item – Project: Y2S2p2s; a mage’s study project in creating magic items- a “Talking Machine”, also known as a Vox Machina (the collective facepalm from the table was amazing, matched only by the reaction that I decided to use Tiberius’ voice for the thing.)
  • The skull, not yet being named, has tried to help- using some reliably unreliable divination magic. And with that, the party know which path not to follow next in order to escape… and so the session ends there.

Another long recap, but fuck it, that’s just how I write this stuff these days.

I had such a blast with this session. I feel like everyone had fun. And being the DM, I honestly felt like we were all players at the table for this session. It’s really hard to explain but it was great.

It was fun working in a lot of elements I’ve been thinking about for a while and I really love dungeon design. Matt’s response of “That’s such a good idea” when I mentioned the relocated Transportation Circle made me so chuffed.

Also, there were SO MANY GOOD MOMENTS. Ziggy and Weezl were hilarious as always and everyone had an opportunity to do some really cool shit. Everyone also seemed to really love the idea of “Project: Skully.” I’m sure PVP will eventually happen over who gets to name this thing, but, y’know what? I’m cool with that (I’m actually not, guys, you gotta be friends!)

So, what will happen next time? Will Ziggy roll above a 2? Will Weezl summon another 8 crabs to create another shell’d wall? Will Ramar continue to be a walking bunker/nuclear silo in a 5’5" frame?! FIND OUT NEXT TIME, WHEN THE PARTY FACE…. THE REST OF THE DUNGEON! DUN DUN DUNNNNN!

Session 18: Beginnings and Ends
It's been a crazy 24 hours.

So it has nearly been 2 months since we’ve played… and we left on a pretty massive cliffhanger. Because of this, and introducing a new player/character to game, this was a pretty weird session. That all being said, it was good to be back. I’ll try make this a bit more concise than normal (he says every time.)

  • So, to recap, Ziggy has just pulled off a heist on the Thornton estate (nabbing info and some loot), and Weezl is off magically growing a garden. Sam however is staring face to face with a Vrock – a big, vulture demon.
  • In the shack with him is Innis and two other dwarven clerics of Waukeen, and Speck (the somewhat traumatised mage.) The building is an old warehouse that has seen much better days and demon is currently contained in a glyphed circle.
  • What follows is horror and panic, with the clerics legging it from the building (with Innis’ blessing (pun intended)) and Speck doing the same. The demon tries to bargain with Sam, to get them to join forces, and when Sam strikes the creature, combat begins.
  • After a flurry of blows, the demon settles into a fighting stance, drawing an “oh shit” from the table. Blows are exchanged, kung fu stances are swapped, and the whole time the demon tries to talk Sam into joining forces with him. There are times when the monk almost falters.
  • The blows get heavier (with crazy consistent rolls from Matt) and he uses some potions and Wholeness of Body to perk himself up… but the creature eventually loses it- going into a frenzy – after screeching and stunning Sam.
  • What follows are attacks with advantages and a critical hit. Grabbing the monk’s limp body, the vrock slams him into the floor and walls like a rag doll. In a final ditch effort, Sam grabs the symbol of the Covenant of the Dawn, feebly trying to push it into the demon’s face… but the demon recognises it and laughs cruelly as Sam’s consciousness fades. He rolls Death Saves in an attempt to come back by some form of miracle… but fails, his spirit heading back toward the Plane of Air… until it stops… grabbed by some force, yanking it away, back, into darkness… into… nothing.

So that was fucked up… and our first character death… and this is why everyone says not to split the party :/. In Sam’s defence though, he nearly solo’d that fight. It was very close.

  • So, Donella (who now has a page: here) has been travelling to Sandhill from The Shimmering Gates. It’s been a long walk on short legs, but the night before she sees the sky doing some crazy shit but this only piques her curiosity.
  • Her travel is peppered with conversation and performances, to earn a meal, information, or some coin, and eventually she meets a peculiar dwarf- one who was riding a large, glowing, dachshund. She finds out some information about the goings on in Sandhill and about the dwarf’s companions and eventually they part ways.
  • Arriving in town leads to needing info and directions to food- and she gets directions to a nearby bakery. Charming the old lady owner, she finds out more about the town and eventually where an inn is- being pointed towards One-Eyed Jack. The woman gets her awkward grandson Benji to lead her there. And on the trek there, there is some conversation and Donella notices that some flowers are growing very rapidly here. It’s… odd, but she needs to know what’s going on.
  • Getting to the inn leads to getting some drinks and offering to play for a room. At Thorne’s behest she shows off her skills with a mighty performance and impresses the dwarven matron- who gives her a key. Donella decides to freshen up and get some food.

  • Ziggy does some quick disguise work and heads back into town, deciding he needs to find everyone and potentially get the fuck outta town. He finds Innis at the ruined shrine to Waukeen, and inquires about Sam but the dwarf is cagey- and takes the rogue to the old storehouse…. and there is no body. There are definitely signs of battle but as far as the cleric knows, Sam was carried off by the demon.
  • Time is of the essence and Ziggy races off to get Weezl – who has been working on revitalising the plantlife of Sandhill. Seeing Ziggy she offers him a tomato and he relays the news. She has a similar reaction- they have to get to Hearthshire and get Sam.
  • As they’re about to make their move to try find Akali, who they feel is their best bet for information, they notice Speck who does a terrible job of spying on them. He tries to make a run for it, but doesn’t get away. They ask about Sam and the man is suffering some trauma… he’s had 3 charges of his die in less than 12 hours, and he’s not handling it well. Ziggy offers some “god-wine™” and they now have a drunk, emotional mage on their hands. And they make their way to the Inn to try recollect themselves. Weezl leads the mage by the hand.
  • At the inn the group notice a peculiar gnome, but they focus instead on Yuri who is flipping through a book and making notes. News is relayed and everyone is in varying states of distress. When they state they need to make a move on the capital, Yuri (who usually defers to Speck) straight up says they’re being insane. But they can get to Dannick and see what they can do from there.
  • The group are then inspired (thank you, players, for helping me out here) and realise they need allies- so they do what people do these days: they crowd-source. And they get two interested parties, thanks to Ziggy’s meandering, impassioned, speech and Weezl’s distracting musical accompaniment. One is a drunken farmer, who passes out, and the other is Donella. NATURALLY, they decide to do a goddamn interview, because that happens every time.
  • They discover, thanks to her own admission, she’s a capable thief, and a better singer. And, so, the two forest gnomes have a play off… with the bard’s +6 against the druid’s -1. And… somehow, this goes on for about 3 turns of contested rolls. Donella starts taking things seriously and Weezl ends up summoning headbanging rats. But in the end, they notice she IS good and she can do some magic, and she’s in. Why not?
  • So, upstairs they collect themselves and BAMF themselves to Jaspitt’s place. While they’re there they torment the housekeeper Nathaniel and get an audience with the main man himself, and Excellence. They learn that they need allies and Shelter is a solid bet… even if The Fury (the duchess there) isn’t a fan of Jaspitt. They also learn there is a underground path that leads to the capital from that town. It seems like a solid bet.
  • Speck is also asked to scry on the Sending Stone Sam was holding… learning that he was being carried, mid-flight, to Hearthshire. But, the pace is breakneck and the demon is already about half-way there.
  • They learn Speck can teleport them near to Shelter in the morning. He needs rest first. They also remember that Dannick owes them a favour for getting him back into contact with Akali so they go to collect whatever “support” it was that he can offer.

  • On the way to The Maiden’s Fancy, the group warn their new bard friend about Dannick’s “condition” (which doesn’t help later, in the moment, when she asks Weezl “what is wrong with him?” Skirting disaster.) But they meet up with the guild leader and get an audience with him. Very quickly he’s in “business” mode and the group share information. This ends with Dannick saying he’ll give his support when he can, but for now, they can have Speck (traumatised as he is. The man ends up comforting him, in his own way. Helping him gather himself somewhat.) And Dannick gives Ziggy a coin- similar to the ones they gave Akali. So they now have a direct line to the Masques’ leader. The man also wants to be told when the battle is to commence because it’s been too long since he’s been able to cut loose.
  • The group actually joke with Dannick a little and honestly, it’s a bit unsettling. Kind of like Hannibal Lector making awkward jokes and finding them amusing.
  • Also, on the way to the entertainment house, Yuri takes Ziggy aside- noticing his glances, and they talk business in regards to moving the jewellery. She’s happy for the distraction and says she can do it. Ziggy says she can take a decent cut, and she assures him she always does.
  • Finally they talk about how they don’t know the fate of Sam and Dannick says that they usually scry on the targets of certain “jobs”. If it fails then they know the job was a success. So, Speck, settles into spellcasting… and quickly, with tears in his eyes, says it doesn’t work. He wipes his face and tries again desperately and just as quickly he’s left with nothing. Desperately he calls to Ziggy for the Sending Stone and this time… he gets something.
  • The divination mage then recounts what he saw… stonework, and somewhere dark, and the broken form of Sam. Nearby is a demon and a robed figure. He swears he’s seen someone who looks like the man he saw, but he was older? Is this the man’s son? The man being the missing necromancer – Lucis. And the session ends there…

So that was the game. It was only about 3 hours, with a bunch of breaks, but it was a pretty crazy session. It was a bit hard to run, doing a lot of solo stuff, but people assure me that it still worked.

And with that, things are definitely ramping up. The final battle looms and the stakes have not been higher. And honestly, killing a character feels damn awful. I tried to emotionally prepare myself but damn if my hands still didn’t shake while rolling those dice.

Donella has been a wonderful, and bright, character to have along, and Sara is already rolling with the punches. I’m really looking forward to seeing how she changes the group dynamic. Plus, it’s nice having more positivity because I kind of don’t realise how dark my games are until after I run them… ha ha ha…

So! What will happen next? Will Dannick just murder everyone for them? Will the group actually kidnap the Duchess of Shelter’s child? No, seriously, Ziggy and Donella both thought this was a great idea despite Jaspitt’s protests… FIND OUT NEXT TIME!

Session 17: Choose A, B, or C
We choose all of them

The session starts with the party hitting level 7 and dealing with the aftermath of the prison carnival from hell. Dekgrad has left but there are still things to do and there’s no time to rest.

I’m also going to attempt to make these recaps a bit more concise going forwards because, holy crap, do I write too much for them.

And standard warning: things may be a bit out of order.

  • The group reel momentarily from the departure of their cleric friend and then decide to strategise, while knee deep in the dead. Okay, realising that, they do find a clearing, and priests, Hearthsworn and guard go about tidying things up.
  • Weezl does spend some time stabilising and helping where she can, saving another dozen lives. She is momentarily stopped by priests, who then leave her to her work.
  • Ziggy notices his bow is acting strangely but makes a note to check that out later, and they find (broken) magical glasses, and a dagger, on Lev’s body. Or at least, where it was. It, like the Black Claw, has dissolved. They also pick up the vocal amplification rod… which Weezl ends up getting (there is later an argument over Ziggy wanting to test it with his sword’s similar ability… but Weezl does not want to give it up at all.)
  • The group decide there are a few pressing matters: sorting out the Five Aces (gambling den), checking out the Thornton Estate and talking to Akali. Akali has been ordering her agents while cradling a semi-conscious Korran. Meanwhile Speck is nearby, deep in thought, until he pats his pockets down and looks motified, and Yuri has items passed to her that she throws into her bag of holding. Yuri and Speck look like they’re trying to keep things together.
  • While conversing, the group are interrupted by a hearthsworn woman, Olivia, who they had spied earlier in the day (white paint on left gauntlet). She questions the group about who they are and their motivations, she is met with Weezl’s bizarre recollections, Ziggy’s flattery, and Sam’s scrutiny.
  • They discover that she has no recollection of certain events and even people (she doesn’t recall the Flameheart/spellcasters at all.) She does piece things together somewhat, removes her Hearthsworn ring, and then leaves to tell her comrades to do the same. This was not a simple decision for them.
  • The group then head over to Akali and Korran and the woman isn’t so forthcoming with the party, skirting around certain answers. She glares daggers at Sam, who does give her a healing potion, but she does not relent- holding Korran protectively. She tells them that the Masques have plans for Sandhill and says she may tell them in time, but she does not trust Sam (or the rest by extension.)
  • It is then the group talk to Speck who tells the group that he’s missing a certain item (one gifted from Dekgrad.) During the commotion with the raid the night before, one of the thieves must have stolen the Philter of Love and shared it, thinking it a healing potion… causing them to fall for one another. Speck does not feel good about this and is terrified of Akali’s reaction to this news. He then asks the group to restrain her while he attempts to remove the charm.
  • During this conversation, Ziggy talks to Akali about what is going on when he sees the “restraining plan” in effect over Akali’s shoulder.
  • This plan is- Sam sprinting and tossing Weezl at Akali, in mid-air, the druid turns into a Giant Octopus, while Speck runs behind, desperately trying to catch up and cast Dispel Magic… the transformation surprises him so much he fucks up the spell casting and has to do it a second time.
  • Ziggy manages to dodge the mass of tentacles which restrain the rogues and the wizard does his best to explain things over the sound of loud, angry, French swearing. Eventually the love potion is dispelled and Akali loses it and kicks the crap out of Korran, knocking him unconscious (who they then tie up… and Akali steals his boots.)
  • By the end, she’s pissed, and says that they can find her at the general store- she tosses Korran’s boots at the group saying they can have them, and Speck says he’ll take Korran to Dannick when he can, so their boss can sort him out.
  • Weezl then takes Yuri for a ride while she’s still a giant octopus and the girl thanks her for the distraction. She and Speck are both struggling with the loss of their comrades (in particular, the two young mages.)
  • The group (short rest) and ID some items (the boots are Boots of Elvenkind, the glasses are busted and the dagger is a Dagger of Venom.) They notice different groups organising everything- David and Olivia are chatting, Masque agents are doing their thing, and Hearthsworn and guard are locking the place down.
  • The group go to talk to David about getting some holy assistance for their trip to the Five Aces and while doing so, a dwarven man approaches them. This is Innis, dwarven cleric of Waukeen (the goddess of commerce and merchants.) David is too busy to help and Innis is pretty keen to follow along, though he gives them all a fair bit of shit (especially Sam since he looks like a noble. This does not relent when he turns into a “dear gods, it’s hideous” bird.) He also happily points out that the bird is possessed (he’s a bit of a dick.) Olivia tags along as well. It seems that Olivia and Innis have had run-ins previously.
  • The group get to the gambling den, which is still full of people, and Sam disguises himself as a Flameheart. They barrel down to the back of the place where there are two doormen and closed doors. This ends with Sam trying to brute force his way past while taking things off the guards (crystals they pull out of their jackets) and when he kicks open the door, Olivia grabs him and throws him aside. She uses her authority to get to the private rooms and informs them they won’t be held accountable. (There is also a moment where the druid yells into her mic-rod-thing and briefly deafens a few people.)
  • They find rooms full of people partying, and then find an office. They find some vials of liquid, crystals, a bag of gems and a bag of gold (amongst other stuff.) Sam finds a false bottom in the desk, but doesn’t check for traps, getting sprayed with acid and damaging the leather tome that was in the bottom of the desk. It is in Abyssal (which he can read, thanks to his curse) and seems to be some gospel to demon lord Graz’tz.
  • They can’t find any secret doors or anything, until Speck uses some magic to find that some art pieces are a key to some lock… which opens something in one of the private rooms.
  • The group sprint off to find a passageway open, leading down into the dark. Innis clears the gold and miscellany from the desk and pockets it all while the rest leave.
  • They head into the passage and find a large, 40 ft x 40 ft chamber of rough dark stone (imported from the Abyss. Seriously.) The walls are lined with dark iron torture implements and smelting tools, and the centre of the room has a large metal dip that could be used for smelting. Arcane sigils and abyssal is carved into the floor and walls.
  • At the back of the room are dark iron cages with shifting masses held within them. At closer inspection (resulting in Ziggy getting hit) the warped, fleshy, beings are Lemures… lowly denizens of the abyss/hells. They figure that these were nobles/townsfolk that were corrupted so far as to turn them into demons… and then they were used as ingredients for creating the corrupted gold. It’s horrible, and fucked, and Weezl does not stay for long. Most people leave pretty quickly, but Sam takes the time to destroy the torture/smelting instruments.
  • They leave, but opt to leave the gambling den open, seeing as people may get angry and this is easier to deal with. Olivia says she’ll keep an eye on the joint.
  • Then the group go to the Thornton estate. Sam turns into Lev (thanks again to the Hat of Disguise) in another attempt to force his way through, and it works for the most part. They get inside when Oliva stops them, asking them what their goal is. She tells them they’re out of line (she has observed their methods and has had enough) and will have the Hearthsworn (and fellow paladins of Helm) scour the grounds and secure things.
  • The group isn’t happy with this, but she says she doesn’t trust someone who is possessed. This is thrown back at her, seeing as she was controlled as well, and she asks Speck to remove her magical oath of the Hearthsworn (it is sworn to the crown, to protect the towns and their people, and to uphold law and justice.) He does so (and it takes a couple of tries) and she tells the party she will have the rest of her men and women ‘treated’, though it does look like this has emotionally drained her. She tells the party to leave, and they reluctantly do so.
  • As they go their separate ways, they talk about Sam’s exorcism, which Innis offers to do on the morrow, with a few choice lads. He tells them that the coins/gems he took will be sufficient payment. He needs Speck to do his thing, and the wizard obliges, but says he needs rest and they part for the evening.
  • The group head back to One-Eyed Jack and see a quiet establishment and Thorne wrapping up for the evening. She asks where Dekgrad went and Ziggy (hilariously) tells her that “he just fucking boosted… he rode off on his long dog.” (It seriously came out of nowhere and cracked us all up.) But, they all have a drink to Dekgrad, with three of them having the drink he named after himself- and learning that while Sam eats fellow birds he is not comfortable with eating eggs at all.
  • Before the group get some rest, Ziggy goes to see what’s up with his bow. With some illusory target practice (thanks to Weezl) he learns that the bow can now fire Seeking Arrows and can potentially become even stronger with attunement.
  • And with all that, they decide to finally get some rest.

Also, this is definitely not shorter than normal… ugh.

  • And it is during (a late) breakfast where the party decides to split 3 ways. Weezl wants to use Plant Growth to revitalise David and Lily’s fields; Ziggy wants to break into the Thornton estate; and Sam is going to head off with wizard and priest for his exorcism.
  • So firstly, Weezl: She talks with Lily and her pet rat, and before getting to business makes a Ladybug super huge and they all ride around on the now-giant insect. She then settles into her 8 hours of spellcasting with Lily keeping her and Imi occasional company.
  • Ziggy manages to vault the walls to the estate and Metal Gear Solid his way to the manor after a minor altercation with some guards (resulting in a broken flute glass (due to a nat 1 on the throw) and using a Scroll of Sleep.)
  • Climbing up the construction’s scaffolding and ladders he gets to the second floor. He gets in, explores a few rooms (exploring a study and dodging servants.) He discovers what appears to be guest rooms and finally a staircase leading upwards. He ties a bell and string at the top of the staircase.
  • He then finds a series of larger rooms, and when trying to break in (forgets to check for traps) and sets off an alarm. He runs into the room, steals a small chest of EXPENSIVE jewellery, and trying to escape runs into a large walk-in robe. There are dresses everywhere, but he needs to get out, so he dumps ball bearings everywhere and gets out onto a small balcony- then climbing outside and up onto the next floor.
  • He breaks into another room, alerting people somewhat, and then notices a large desk, amongst many other things. He quickly rummages through, finding scrolls and ledgers (business plans and correspondence with the Queen), and legs it out again. He tries to make it to scaffolding and makes it to part of the building that is being worked on. This leads to guards following him, and after Ziggy dumps more ball bearings, one of the guards falls out of the building… surviving the fall but not moving. He then leaps onto some ladders and while travelling down, is nearly spotted- he uses his Ring of the Chameleon which makes him look like a large, rumpled painter’s sheet. He eventually legs it to the back of the estate, looking like a fluttery ghost, and gets away- running to some alleyways to look at his loot. He considers leaving town immediately.
  • Then Sam: the monk starts to hear voices and has been reacting to shiny things, noticing them keenly. The voice saying to kill and take these objects. On the way to the site Innis has chosen for the exorcism, the voice is more persistent and Sam closes his eyes, trying to shut it out. And it eventually stops… until he hears the Queen herself start talking to him. Offering him the job of being her guard and captain. She promises him riches and power, but he rejects the offer. She says there’s time… and they arrive at the abandoned building, where they meet two dwarves who are finishing up drawing a silvered circle of arcane glyphs on the floor.
  • The ritual begins with the three dwarves chanting, equal distance from one another, and Speck goes to dispel the magical effect of the ring, before the dwarves tackle the curse/possession itself. The dispelling magic takes a few attempts and Speck is pretty darn nervous. And then the dwarves kick in, chanting louder and louder, and eventually Sam starts to find it hard to breathe and feels a pain in his chest. The being in his mind implores him to stop, that they could become even more powerful together.
  • The pain suddenly erupts as claws start to dig OUT of his chest, causing blood to spill, and from the wound, black, brackish ooze and gunk pours heavily onto the floor. His vision goes blank from the pain, and when it come back he sees the terrified expressions on his companions’ faces… and before him stands a creature, 8 feet tall, with an even larger feathered wingspan. Its piercing red eyes peering from its vulture-like face and beak. Its elongated limbs are tipped with black, evil claws. And its smell is a fetid, toxic stench.

… And the session ends there.

I can’t believe a three person party split 3 goddamn ways. I just really can’t. Ah well, it’s my fault for making the party realise how important time is.

A lot seemed to happen this session. A lot of ends were tied up but we’ll see where things go. The start of the next session will be interesting considering all of the party is preoccupied with their individual tasks while Sam is facing his outer-inner demons.

That being said, even though the curse hasn’t always had the most impact (due to Matt not being able to make sessions) I’m pretty chuffed with how this has turned out. Even if it feels kind of sadistic saying that right now.

So, that all being said, what will happen next? Will Ziggy really skip town? Will he turn into a sheet again? Will Weezl spend the rest of the campaign turning bugs into behemoths and revitalising gardens? Will the monk-bird defeat the demon-bird? FIND OUT NEXT TIME!


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