Uncharted - The Hunt for all the Shinies

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!

Pre-Session 17: A Couple of Weeks
Dekgrad leaves the party

A couple of weeks. A handful of days. That was the short amount of time their dwarven companion had been by their side.

In that sliver of time they had managed to do so much together. They had risked their lives and saved others. Two towns were now liberated because of their collected efforts. They were making the world a better place.

A heavy sense of duty and blossoming guilt weighed down the cleric of Sharindlar more than his armor ever could.

“I have a confession to make,” he had said. And he had come clean to his new companions. He didn’t have to but that ultimately is the kind of man was.

He had unknowingly tried to parlay with devils. This has not worked in his favour, it was never going to work in his favour, and yet he still blamed himself. Simply for failing to find a better way. One without bloodshed.

“I feel I need to find myself. I want to be on a ship again.”

And with so few words, they parted ways. So focused was he that he didn’t notice the fog receding before him, recoiling actively from the stout form of Dekgrad.

So focused, he didn’t notice just how much he had accomplished. His hands were dyed in blood, and not from killing, but from healing. Repairing. Fixing. Each action was not only tempering his own devotion but also, in small ways, healing the wariness and conceit in his new companions. He had given a platform for kindness that may have been trampled out by stronger personalities or, worse still, necessity.

In such small ways he had made them all much better people.

It hadn’t occurred to him that many only lived because he did what he thought was right and never asked for anything in return.

And so, with each step, Dekgrad continued with his celestial companion towards the Shimmering Gates. This city, corrupt as any other, still filled him with possibility and hope. Wherever he travelled, unknown to himself perhaps, he healed.

For Sharindlar, that was enough to bestow her favor.

And for Dekgrad, the promise of the open seas was enough.

That, and he knew he needed a good, strong, Dwarven ale.

This is a little something I wrote to commemorate the time Dekgrad and Lawrence spent with us. Not sure what he thinks of this piece so it may, or may not, end up staying on here. Either way, thanks for being awesome and helping to keep everyone alive.

Session 16: End of an Era
The devil is in the detail

Easter Monday and a few days of feverish preparation led to this session and the culmination of a few things… but more on that later.

The group starts the session at level 6.

  • The party resume their conversation with Speck who has offered to scry for the party. Eventually they forgo scrying on a target person but instead choose an area- choosing the newly erected arena in the centre of town.
  • While Speck casts his spell and his consciousness is literally elsewhere, Yuri rummages through her bag of holding for a few (unaccounted for) items that she could spare, and she gifts them to the party. It is only a couple potions, magical arrows and a low level spell scroll but she feels they’ll need it. When Speck “comes to” the girl sits back acting as though nothing happened.
  • The mage then describes the situation with the arena. The Black Claw and Hearthsworn are present, along with Flamehearts casting spells on the 4 crystal-topped pillars. Lev eventually joins the gigantic man and they hold a conversation about having rituals and contributions completed and the smaller man leaves to presumably finish his night’s work.
  • Speck then announces that he has a job, on behalf of Dannick to do- to try get Akali and Korran to work together. Every time he looks into the future they both die and his boss isn’t a fan of this particular fate. The party is completely baffled by this, saying how (amongst themselves) this doesn’t work with their plans, and that Akali and Korran don’t exactly like each other. ((They have seemingly forgotten that Dannick tasked them to find Akali for the sole reason that he’s lost contact with that faction and simply doesn’t know the state of affairs.)) So, realising his work is cut out for him, Speck heads off alone.
  • The party gather themselves to get some rest and enjoy the company of Lily and David, and Dekgrad heads off saying he has some personal business to attend to. He ends up following Speck and before the man gets to the Masques’ warehouse base he stops him, asking why this is happening. Speck doesn’t want to upset his boss and he also doesn’t want to feel responsible for the deaths of his compatriots, as misguided as they may be. So, Dekgrad gives him his Philter of Love as a last ditch effort to get them to work together- and Speck is soooo not comfortable with this but thanks for cleric for the hail mary.
  • Dekgrad then heads to the duke’s estate, coming upon a pair of guards and he asks for an audience with the duke- saying his has information of great import. The men scoff at the dwarf and ask why they should listen to him, and when Dekgrad produces documents signed by Duke Jaspitt himself, they change their tune and become a lot more helpful. They do, however, note the dwarf’s name, putting him off somewhat and offer to pass on a message. He declines and they say that he may be able to find the duke at The Five Aces and wish him luck.
  • The establishment is extremely lively and there is a lot of money changing hands. The gambling hall is extremely packed and the dwarf is jostled but not accosted as some (smarter) nobles note their solid impact upon his armored form. At the back of the den he spies a very well-dressed man talking to some associates and approaches him. The man asks if the dwarf is after a table or needs any such assistance.
  • Dekgrad asks where the duke may be and the well-dressed, bespectacled man- Lev, eventually, offers to take him to his lord. The gloved man leads Dekgrad by the arm and takes him to a private room, filled with food, alcohol, gold, sycophants and a very drunk, young lord Charles Thornton.
  • Dekgrad implores the man to let them have a private conversation but Lev constantly twists his words around and eventually the duke demands to be told what is going on. But, finally, they give in when Lev assures his lord that he can bring everyone back for their party and they are left in the room together. The cleric states he wants to speak privately but the lord’s advisor states that this is private, with a burning, warm hand on Dekgrad’s back.
  • The dwarf says how there will be an attempt on the duke’s life, but refuses to say who it is who will do it. He wants to avoid all bloodshed and asks for the duke to leave town if he can. Lev hounds the cleric for information, eventually saying that he will be VERY well compensated for the information. Eventually, Dekgrad caves, saying that it will be Korran but he doesn’t want anything. He just doesn’t want anyone to die.
  • Lev thanks him and then pulls out a small gem, crushing it and stating that “Korran is no longer useful. Have them all destroyed tonight.” Smiling, he thanks Dekgrad for his assistance in protecting his lord, and tells him he may leave and enjoy his evening.
  • Stunned and mortified, the dwarf leaves the rowdy establishment… eventually coming back to the others. Near the centre of town, a budding red light starts to glow brighter and brighter, and they eventually get some rest.

  • The morning finds the party reasonably well rested, with a chill in the air and cloying mist filling the air.
  • Stumbling in from the mist is a haggard, dirty and exhausted Speck. The man is confused and wounded but not too injured. He says how they were attacked during the talks that evening. Most escaped but he doesn’t know what happened at all. The party assume there was a traitor amongst Korran’s ranks.
  • The mage offers to take the group to the survivors when they ask where they are (they guess it’s somewhere in the sewers when they catch a whiff of the man.) He’s been so distracted he has neglected to even use prestidigitation to clean himself.
  • They quickly arrive to a small alcove in the sewers, faced with a small contingent of archers. On the ground is an unconscious Korran, who is missing his left hand, and Akali who is near him. Near to Korran is his gear, including a bandaged, bloodied bundle… his left hand. Weezl is not happy to be near him at all and reacts like an agitated animal.
  • Dekgrad, with the use of his greater runestone and using all of its power (for the week) and imploring his deity he manages to reattach the hand… and slowly Korran starts to come to. Shock and a variety of other things are registering between the two thief lieutenants and Akali is protective of the man… who they had started to administer healing to, to cure him of his addictions.
  • When Korran reaches for his dagger Weezl goes to kick it away from him. She fails to do so, and the elf grabs the blade, near cutting Sam when the monk goes to intervene. When Weezl speaks, the elf has a vague look of recollection but dismisses it. Akali explains that the dagger is sentient and is willing to take on his pain.
  • The group are at a complete loss as to what to do, and Speck says that he needs sleep, whatever their decision is. He’ll find them at the arena and him and his (gender-neutral) lads will do their best to protect them. Dekgrad offers to use augury but they can’t decide on a decent way to phrase their question and when they cast the spell the answer is iffy, at best, as though there is some kind of interference.
  • They then leave, trying to scout out the arena and to get themselves into a decent position.

  • The group then witness the royal procession, seeing the grand duke and duchess for the first time (Dekgrad’s player joking that they seem nice). The Black Claw and his hearthsworn are present, and stationed at the arena are the Flamehearts- finishing spellcasting and reinforcing the wall of wind that eventually encloses the arena.
  • In the stands are hundreds of people, mostly nobles and those with money. In the centre is a portly man with a large iron ring (the Warden), connected with many chains to roughly 30-40 people in manacles. Weezl recognises some of them as being Korran’s underlings from when she scouted out the warehouse.
  • On two of the raised platforms are the Thorntons, including Charles and Sunday and Lev. And on the other the Grand Duke Leonidas and Grand Duchess Persephone along with The Black Claw.
  • Duke Charles Thornton leads the event with details on what is to come and there is gold, secreted away in the seating, for everyone- to do with as they please. For bids or wager for the auctions and fights to come. And then Queen Persephone interrupts, shocking the Duke and the crowd to silence. She states that it all ends today- slavery, the pageantry, all of it. She wishes the entire place, the concept of it, destroyed. And as her enchanted words weave stronger and stronger through the crowd, the dark-red gemstones glow brighter and brighter, dying the area crimson. Eventually, she invites chaos and destruction, and the entire coliseum erupts violently and initiative is rolled.

Okay, to summarise, this was around 4 hours of crazy combat. But here’s some fun behind-the-DM-screen facts: There were 25 things acting in initiative, this is including the party members. And by things, I mean singular units, to groups of 30. The townsfolk themselves were treated as lair actions, to represent how they were everywhere and also making things a bit easier to manage for myself (also removing the chance for the players to hurt them- though AOE surely did anyway, and to increase map visibility.)

The challenge rating of the antagonists combined resulted in something being roughly CR 80. Though the party did have a large number of allies and a lot of those ‘antagonists’ mindlessly attacked one another in a complete frenzy.

  • So, everything goes nuts. Townsfolk and guard turn on each other, hearthsworn mechanically start to hack at anything near them, and the flamehearts start to move, trying to stop the monk who has taken it upon himself to start destroying one of the crystal-topped pillars.
  • Akali and Korran and their contingent of archers and spies run distraction, focusing on taking out nobles or anything along the far side of the arena- leaving the party to do their own thing.
  • After being struck with a lightning bolt from Weezl the Queen and her King and bodyguard hit the ground (carried by a flying Black Claw), and seeing the arena being destroyed she releases her restraints on both of them… the king turning into an eldritch abomination of writhing flesh and tentacles, and the Black Claw swelling and returning to his own form- a Glabrezu, also known as a treachery demon. He relishes in the return to his unnatural form and roars in glee as he flies, hasted (thanks to Flamehearts), across the battlefield.
  • Lev is struck, and battering out holy flames thrown by Dekgrad, resumes his Cambion form. Black skinned and six-fingered, a spawn of Graz’tz.
  • Sam focuses on the glabrezu and pillars, while the rest do everything to destroy Lev. Persephone herself has also changed her form, with black leathery wings sprouting from her back.
  • Nobles wrestle and scramble during the panic, and (making the players roll for Sunday and Charles) Sunday pushes his nephew from the tower… where he drops 50 feet to his death.
  • During this bloodbath, Speck and his acolytes try to dispel magics and help where they can but are forcibly told to retreat by Weezl who turns into a giant scorpion, wrecking terrifying havoc (when we learn they can move like 120 ft in a round like a goddamn nightmare.)

So, highlights are as follows:

  • Sam manages to shake off a lot of the mental influence from his curse, which unfortunately matures thanks to the presence of this particular ritual and abyssal energy- earning him the Feature: Fiend-blooded, gifting him with the ability to understand Abyssal… and god knows what else. His mental fortitude only fails three times, once-in response to the Queen’s own casting of Dissonant Whispers and her final command to protect her… charming him (for a round) and causing him to destroy Korran, laying into the battered elf with a barrage of blows and felling him, causing Akali to scream in distress and pick up her old blade. The last was when he attacked the Queen herself, but more on that in a second.
  • Weezl conjures giant eagles to harass Lev and also turns into a giant scorpion for the first time. The terrible insect form proving to be more than formidable, striking down mortal and fiendish enemy alike. Also scoring a crit on a frenzied Hearthsworn with her stinger and killing them in one hit (doing something like 60 damage… seriously, who thought this shit was a good idea?) Weezl’s quick thinking at the end of the battle, conjuring more giant eagles, and a nat 20 Perception check led to her finding an unconscious Sam at the end of the battle who was bleeding out and dying. The result of trying to chase down a retreating Persephone but not having the fortitude, thanks to his curse, to strike her down. The Queen herself did not have that limitation.
  • Ziggy did what Ziggy does best- sneak-fucking-attack. His deft swordplay and footwork only second to his killing blows with his glassbow. He managed to get a critical hit, felling Lev (who only had 5 HP left) who was retreating to _Persephone, and also managed to finish off The Black Claw. This did earn him a comment of “kill stealer” from some party members but I can’t think of much else that’s more thematic for the half-elf swashbuckler.
  • Ziggy however did end up on the unfortunate end of a bit of AOE… including the exploding form of the king-turned-tentacle-monster… and the rogue did fall unconscious a couple of times near the end of the battle.
  • Dekgrad was slowed down by the press of the panicked citizens for most of the battle, but did manage a few choice spells- his sacred flames actually doing work, alongside his spiritual weapon. His aid buff at the beginning of the battle increasing everyone’s HP by more than 20% and it went a LONG way, especially for the monk who was on the opposite side of the battlefield for a lot of the fight. It was also Dekgrad’s use of mass healing words that brought a few choice people back and topping off some felled NPCs. Even topping off Speck who even turned to vengeance by the end of the battle. He might not have hit as much as he’d have liked to, but he tanked a SHITLOAD of hits. Not even joking. 20AC is nothing to sneeze at.
  • But eventually, the battle was over. Perhaps not won, but over. Persephone retreated but her cadre and support network in Sandhill definitely crippled or gone completely. The ritual she was enacting mostly thwarted. Whatever she was doing, the party had stopped the worst of it- in the aftermath noticing the grooves cut into the stone, now running with blood, creating a large… summoning circle.
  • The group manage to save roughly 50 people between them with Medicine checks at the end of the battle (mostly thanks to Dekgrad’s nat 20 medicine check, but they notice a lot of the red stone shards used as makeshift weapons causing much of the worser wounds.
  • Sam and Dekgrad go about destroying the rest of the glowing/inert crystal pillars, and they move their remnants and the piles of cursed gold to the centre of town.
  • While everyone tries to collect themselves, Dekgrad approaches the group with a confession. He tells them all how he thinks this is his fault, that so many more people died because he tried to end things without bloodshed. The guilt weighs heavily on him (and at about this point the table realises what’s going on) and he says that he has to leave to try find himself. He thinks he wants to be on a ship again and he’s going in the direction of The Shimmering Gates. Ziggy, being somewhat of a native, tells him to watch out for the shorter folk (meaning halflings.) And while everyone is somewhat stunned, he summons his celestial dachshund, bids everyone a hearty farewell and rides off… not noticing that the mist is already rapidly dispersing and actively recoiling from his armored form.

And so, ends the this part of the tale of Dekgrad, cleric of Sharindlar, sailor of stone-ships and lover of ale.

I may have actively had to listen to upbeat music while writing this out because I’m getting a bit emotional over the whole thing. Lawrence, you’ve been an absolute pleasure to have in game (in game and at the table) and you are a goddamn top-tier roleplayer. For someone who started this very session saying that you probably should have read your stuff more, as a character you were more than on top of things, even from the get go. Seriously, thank you. Your energy, generous nature and humour will be actively missed. Even if a lot of it was inappropriate jokes about the Aid spell. (And that’s not rubble :p.)

As for everything else. Holy shit. It literally is still effecting my head with how much I was trying to juggle in this battle (I was laughably out of it yesterday.) I did forget a couple things, but more importantly- Ziggy/Evan your bow met 3 requirements for awakening. Not even fucking joking. 1) Hitting a target resistant to piercing, 2) Scoring a crit with the weapon, and 3) Scoring a killing blow with the weapon. So, expect an updated card soon. And I can’t believe you technically managed that in one shot.

Also, I have no idea how to balance the game around a hasted Aarakocra monk. So don’t expect to find potions of Haste ever again for anything under 2000-3000 gp. Because, HOLY SHIT, 300ft of movement is a bit much… even if it meant Sam nearly died in a ditch away from everyone.

Seriously everyone, amazing work and thank you so much for bearing with me. I was so nervous that this session was going to be a slog, or a failure, or just plain not fun. You were all amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have to say my biggest regret was that I was so busy juggling everything that I didn’t get to watch everyone very much.

And the group reach level 7. Yep, just took one session. No big deal… unlike those Stinger Crits.

Session 15.0: Dreams and Passages

A series of passages read at the start of session 15… it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write prose and it was heaps of fun.


When you return to your room in the inn that evening you notice the warm verdant glow of your staff. Before you know it, you feel at your side, tickling your ribs is a familiar wet nose and your hand instinctively roughs the fur of the capybara’s head next to you. With deep, soulful, half-lid eyes, Imi presses her head against you, the closest thing she can do to an embrace and she stays by your side for the entire evening. If you speak to her, she listens as she always does. Sharing both in your joys and fears. Occasionally she pokes at your pockets, wondering what tricks and treats you have squirreled away that day.

Korran’s troubled and manic voice invades your consciousness as you try to sleep, but you’re nestled awake gently as your spiritual companion and best friend lies against you, comforting and warm. Slowly sleep takes you and you dream of a land of greens and yellows, spring and autumn, of twilight, and twisted beauty.

When you awake, you remember seeing a paddleduck and the silly creature makes you smile. You recall bounding through the most vibrant green and purple grass atop Pupok, the fields spotted with blood red flowers who sang with clear, rich tones. You have the vague memory of drinking tea but don’t remember the context. Imi bops into you playfully and lifts her head regally, ready for the day. You get the impression she isn’t leaving your side anytime soon.


The warm embrace of dwarven ale rocks you like the inconsistent speed of a rollercoaster. The familiar spinning of the room, much like a lullaby from a time you don’t rightly recall.

You dream of a great dwarven hall in the midst of celebration. You smell the mead and hear the music. Torchlight dazzles against your gleaming plate armor and against the columns of precious metal, gemstones and streams of ale from many tapped kegs.

You see many dwarves drinking and cavorting, men and women, and you recognize some. Some you served with, but… they’ve fallen. Didn’t they? But here they are, with others, with kin, singing and sharing tales. In the far back atop large thrones are mighty dwarven kings. You try to catch a better look at these figures, who playfully banter with one another, clanking tankards made of mithril and gold. They look similar, you know their faces but before their names reach your lips, a gentle hand takes yours.

You don’t even catch a glimpse of your partner but you’re quickly put into a spin and led through a dance, which you soon match pace with and your steps are light and skilled, your armor as light as air. The music swells and, in time, stops, and soon enough the next song plays. You see a beautiful, ample, curvy dwarven lady before you. She smiles with a kindness that near breaks your heart, but instead you feel it bolster you. Fill you with courage and strength. She gives you a light kiss on the cheek and you hear a playful shout from the thrones at the back of the room.

You remember then, as the dream fades, the joy in being chosen. And just before you open your eyes, you remember the face of that great dwarven king locking eyes with you in those fleeting moments before consciousness. You remember the playful wink and a raised tankard.

You awake with a clarity that you have not felt in such a long time, but you don’t find it unpleasant. Your cheek maintains familiar warmth, and it nestles in your breast. Deep down you feel a resonance, in the foundation of your own being, and that resonance, in a language long forgotten but now remembered, two words: Life and Mercy.


You take a breath after your weapon drills; sweat peppering your brow and your focus slowly ebbing. You feel the weight of the masterwork blade in your hand. The keen rapier, the blade of a leader. Even though you’ve only had the weapon for a number of days it almost feels like an extension of your own self.

Sheathing the blade, you towel yourself off and notice the gleam of your shortbow- Windzard. The glass cannon. Another weapon you’ve held for a short time but slowly and surely, despite a rough beginning, the weapon is opening itself up to you. Becoming yours. It, like you, yearns to grow stronger.

Once owned by a scared girl, but one brave enough to take that final step into the unknown; this weapon is proof of your history and your culture. One, some say, is dead. That girl’s bravery, that tenacity, is also yours. And somehow, you hear something, soft as a whisper on the breeze… but it is lost to you. Too soft.

You breathe, and your pulse slows and you turn your attention to the bow. You concentrate. And for a moment, a sliver of a moment, you feel a pull… to some dark place. You feel a call, primal, and welcoming. You soon notice you’re grinning to yourself and as that realization hits, you reclaim yourself.

Your eyes are drawn to your pack and gear, and then you feel something in your hand… a single gold coin.


You meditate on your evening. You remember the panicked scream of Weezl, despite the need for silence, for stealth. You remember her tiny, clammy hands shaking as you carried her to safety.

You remember the open hostility and cruelty in the actions of so many of the humans here. The guards, the nobles, the townsfolk.

You remember the resigned suffering of so many people. Trodden down into the dirt and muck as though they seemingly belong there.

They don’t know the freedom of flight. They don’t even recall the strength and pride of standing tall. They falter.

“I swear to protect…”

Like a heartbeat you feel the words enter your mind. A forceful pulse that surprises you.

“… swear to protect…”

You steel yourself, closing your eyes, which slowly feel warm. A simmering heat.

“… are absolute. For they are law… for they are just.”

You breathe, basic meditation exercises. Simple, done a thousand times before. You fortify yourself. And finally there is silence, and stillness.

Your mind is a fortress and only you hold the key.


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