- 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!