Uncharted - The Hunt for all the Shinies

Session 31: House Party
Cribs: Baron Ziggy Edition

So, a weird session this week since we were down a player. At first, I intended to speed through the lands/titles section of the game and finally get everyone to the Untamed Wilds. What actually happened was a lot of free-range roleplay and a lot of in-character moments, and also the hasty creation of SO MANY MORE NPCs (which I only have myself to blame).

Also, as Ramar wasn’t able to make this session, certain things may need to be altered or added, since he is a part of this process. But, amendments are easy enough to make.

  • Firstly, there was a retroactive training montage featuring Weezl, Ziggy and Dharivol which covered the last month or so in game where she learns to use the short bow.
  • What happened is that the gnome passed the many checks (some at disadvantage) to learn the skill without incurring to much of a cost in ammunition and collateral damage. So now, our resident druid is proficient in short bows.
  • But, back to present day, the group find Salindra is sleeping off her fatigue, while they are all still reeling from a little exhaustion themselves. Alongside breakfast, Dharivol finds a letter addressed to him from the duchess herself. The letter pertains to her offer of enchanting his bow, asking for permission, and that she may need to alter the bow and get some of Scruffy’s silk.
  • Dharivol agrees and the week long enchanting process begins… which also turns into Dom asking if the bow is ready about every half hour or so.
  • The group discuss much of what they know about the Untamed Wilds, cross-referencing everything with Dharivol’s own experience. While speaking of the hazards and their plan of entry, they discover some of the ranger’s past. They learn that his wood elf father left his mother before he was born and that she died while she was young. He came across Scruffy not much later and they have been inseparable ever since. It also appears that the half-elf has taken after his father – who also appears to have been a ranger.
  • During this discussion, old session notes are brought up, along with poring over inventory sheets, and they (re)discover that their Wildfire Wine was made by wood elf monks in the Wilds itself. So, that has piqued their interest to investigate that, and also to see if Dharivol’s father has anything to do with them.
  • Later checking with Salindra they learn she never met his father, but she does know that the wood elves of the Wilds are rather nomadic. It appears that they occupy the western region of the Wilds of late. They also learn she is about 300 years old and has accounts in her library (which Ziggy went through while they were resting) written of her experience in the old country of sand elves.
  • The group also decide that taking a dwarven caravan into the Untamed Wilds and leaving it about half-way through its route is the best way to get into the Descent – the several hundred feet drop into the primeval woods.
  • They learn from Dharivol that there are cavern systems along the Descent, so there may be several ways to make their way down the sheer cliff. Taking tunnels, rather than climbing down the cliff face itself.
  • They also learn that the apex predator in the region aren’t the giant lizards that live there. No, it is the gargantuan bird that hunts them. A Roc. Dharivol has seen the majestic beast from a distance, which is easily done with its 200 feet wingspan.

  • Eventually the conversation turns to titles and deeds, and we fast forward to a meeting with one Kristoff Draven, and older human man and administrator for the crown, who talks to the party about the particulars of their arrangement.
  • He restates the offer of 3 separate parcels of land, and titles, or a singular large estate are on offer. The group take up the idea of an estate, which nets them the resumed manor of the Hinkell family, vineyards and a neighbouring orchard (“thrown in” thanks to their commitment to employing townfolk), a storehouse (complete with some old tools, wagon and cart), distillery (which requires some repair) and a homestead/workshop (similar to the homesteads seen about town.) They learn the left some time ago to return to their family in the Shimmering Gates. They also weren’t very good wine makers and seemed to cut a lot of costs in some areas and spend lavishly in others. Their brand had the unfortunate jingle “When you need a tinkle, grab a Hinkell.” Naturally, the group are interested in bringing that back to some extent.
  • The discuss the particulars of staffing and what would be required for the best start possible. They also ask about the other prominent winemakers in Hearthshire and learn that they typically reside in Sandhill. The most prominent family, with 5 wine masters, is the Velvedere family. But they learn that starting with one is likely enough, with two being ideal for later down the track.
  • It is also at this point, thanks to Ziggy using a wine merchant as a cover previously, we let fate decide the level of his expertise. One dice roll later, we learn that Ziggy himself has a natural instinct and intuition for wine tasting and flavours, in ways he is a wine master himself.
  • Kristoff states the estate’s worth in gold and says that consolidating their parcels leaves an excess, and, as thanks from the crown they are given a credit of 1,500 gold to spend of refurbishment, building and staffing.
  • Of course, this generosity helped along somewhat when Ziggy offers to take up the take of Baron. His requirements and duties are as follows: he must swear fealty to the crown and to his local lord, he must present himself for the newly installed corruption checks, must take part in local government and he’ll be given sway to hold his own initiatives and voice his own opinions in the future. His duties are somewhat lax compared to other lords but the crown are willing to accommodate the concept of an adventuring lord, seeing that his adventures, rewards and information benefit the area. It is, of course, how the duchess Helen Fairbridge first started out.
  • Finally the group learn of the other noble houses in Woodsrest. There are 3 families:
    - House Thalomir (established ~20 years) – an elven family that specialises in farming, seemingly ambitious
    - House Kerrek (established ~100 years) – a dwarven family that specialises in farming and orchards
    - House Urnot (established ~120 years) – a human family, considered to be incredibly hardworking but also has no time for politics

  • Time fast forwards to a week’s time, in which Weezl has planted her awakened plant (but has yet to meet it in game), and Dharivol finds his bow returned to him. The bow is now segmented, with its original form and that of a twisted natural wood that alternating along the weapon. The string itself is a shimmering silver string that appears invisible from some angles and like a line of glittering starlight from others- it is the enchanted webbing of Scruffy’s. The duchess promises that the bow will grow and adapt along with the ranger and his companion, and attuning to it reveals the weapon to create a stronger bond between them.
  • During this week Ziggy petitions for and holds a town meeting, introducing himself and the job prospects soon to be available at the new estate. He is very well received and a group of workers express interest. Not only that but the scion of the Thalomir family introduces herself to Ziggy and the companions, and expresses interest in working with him. Or at least sampling his wines once the vineyard is functioning. They do notice some dwarves among the crowd but do not meet the Kerreks. The group also keep an eye out for the gnome Slevv but do not spy him.
  • At the end of the week, there is also a party held at the group’s new estate (which they have not yet named), mostly on the grounds as the place is still being repaired and furnished. There they meet the Kerrek family proper, with Greeth and Kuin the family heads introducing themselves. Greeth excuses himself after pleasantries are made and Kuin, a bubbly dwarven matron, takes over the conversation. She tells them of the Urnots (at their behest) and that they shouldn’t feel offended they haven’t made an appearance, they don’t partake in politics and are mainly focused on their own work. She also warns them of the Thalomirs and their ambition. Kuin doesn’t wish to speak poorly of them but says they are more likely suited to the Hearthshire capitol itself.
  • Dharivol does entertain the crowd with his bagpipes, at Kuin’s request, and Weezl spies some movement at one of the buffet tables. She sees Henry, the now white-haired sorcerer boy, loading up a cloth with foodstuffs. Weezl helps him and despite his suspicions he allows her. He takes the food, and the druid (with a promise she won’t scare anyone), to the outskirts of the party under the shadow of some trees. There they find Quiet the tiefling, who apprehensively observes the gnome. Henry speaks simply to her and lays the food down, where she starts to devour it.
  • The pair have a conversation, largely ignored by Quiet, where the boy asks what it is exactly that the group did to him. He’s distressed over more than the colour of his hair. He seems to have more spells available to him now and keeps having dreams of a horse. Weezl brings up Unicorneleous and Henry agrees that is the name of the horse and he finds the whole thing ridiculous. The young man is quite short in his responses, tempered with suspicion and frustration. He doesn’t get any answers that satisfy him. Weezl does invite the pair to the party and he says that a vagrant isn’t likely welcome, and he’s worried for his new friend. Weezl tells him that a title doesn’t mean much, they’re easy to get, she turned one down herself! This, is also not an answer that pleases the young man. He thanks her for acceptance and Weezl says that if they want work, they’ll have opportunity for them soon. And with that she rejoins the festivities.

  • Lastly, the group talk about supplies for the Wilds and Weezl says she’d like a bag of holding, or something that they can store all sorts of vegetation and such inside. They spend time investigating avenues and Dharivol finds a few sellers at decent prices, but Ziggy goes a step better, finding a few but also gets an offer from Yuri.
  • It seems the fence has kept her eye on the new lord and the rising estate as something to keep herself busy. No one has heard much from Dannick, so they’re just doing what they do. She does however have an offer for the group, a bag of preservation. A bag that can keep things fresh, but does have half the capacity of a bag of holding. It is, in effect, a Bag of Colding.
  • She says the price is 750gp and Ziggy talks her down to 700gp, when he offers 600gp. She proffers the item, seeing as the group seek to leave soon. Just before she leaves she gives Ziggy an offer – something that she thinks will interest him for 100 gold. Something a thief could always use.
  • He takes her up on the offer, giving her the money quite quickly, and she hands him a small pouch – one that can produce caltrops daily. For the price, and their friendship, she tells him it’s a good idea not to put it in a bag of holding, and also that he should empty it daily. He’ll get his money’s worth in no time.
  • As she leaves she says it would have only been 50 gp, but he tried to dick her out of 50 gp with the bag. There’s a wink and a farewell… and the session ends there.

This was such a funny session. At one point I realised that the players were just chatting in character for a good 20 minutes, and thanks to not wanting to advance the story too much that worked out well with me. A lot of character moments and old story beats came up as well, mainly thanks to a moment where everyone went over old game notes and their inventory.

So, the estate is being finished up, so we’ll have to sort out a few more details there on what exactly is being grown and how things are being set up in regards to the buildings themselves. All in all, I’m happy with how it’s coming together and it looks like everyone’s really enjoying it.

Now just to see what happens now that we have Baron Coppero in the party. To think this is where the party has ended up.

So, will the party figure out if there is a halfling mafia? Will they become the greatest wine makers on the western coast? Will they run into cannibal elves? WILL THEY ACTUALLY LEAVE FOR THE UNTAMED WILDS??? Find out next time!

Session 30: A Hole-some Experience
Running out of Hole puns...

Such a PITy…

  • The group arrive in town, late and exhausted but laden with their delivery of narcotic plants. They meet up with Krimm, who is sleepily watching over the pit, and he directs them to the manor.
  • The party are welcomed by servants who recognise them and offer the group refreshments. Soon they are met with a half-asleep, somewhat embarrassed, Salindra who is surprised at how quickly they managed their task. She takes the delivery off their hands and offers them guest rooms in her home and reassures them that they’ll reconvene in the morning at a more appropriate hour, in a more appropriate state of dress. But for now, the party gets some rest.


  • A half-elf ranger and his trusty wolf-spider are on a high-priority mission- deliver some rare materials (herbs, plants and reagents) to the Duchess of Woodsrest. It has NOTHING to do with the defacto leader of Woodsholme not liking him very much, or the fact that the man shows her parts of her homeland and past that she wants nothing to do with… or maybe it does. Either way, Dharivol and Scruffy make their way to the town in the north with their package, arriving with the dawn.
  • The witness the town starting to stir and find their way near to the duchess’ manor, and also find a dwarven man, nodding off, near a pit. He starts awake when they approach and despite being torn at sending the awkward ranger to his liege and current employer sees no other option. When Dharivol speaks to the man in dwarven he warms up to him much more and let’s him know where he needs to go, and then Krimm is thankfully relieved of his night shift.
  • Dharivol finds a warm welcome, differing from the mixed reactions he received from folk in town, and walks into the main area of the manor – to find a small group at breakfast. Here, he meets Weezl, Ziggy and Ramar. The paladin is a bit put off by the spider, to say the least, but it’s Dharivol and Scruffy who are met with a barrage of enthusiasm when Weezl and Imi introduce themselves.
  • Food is had and words exchanged – talking about where Dharivol hails from and where the group intend to go next. They have aligned interests with the Untamed Wilds with the ranger seeing the place as his home and the group seeing it as a place for adventure- along with Ziggy’s own interests in finding a particular volcano.
  • They quickly share information they have (thanks to me forgetting to hand off a map to Dom before the game… whoops) about the location of a smoking mountain on a map that Dharivol received as thanks for saving another scout (thanks to our little demo game), and Ziggy shows him his own drawing of the ruins, asking if the fellow half-elf knows the location. He does not but he’s the best scout the group could possibly ask for, even if they collectively aren’t sure where to get enough flies to feed Scruffy. The spider has been overly shy this entire time.
  • Eventually Salindra joins the group. She thanks the ranger for his service, though she was expecting the delivery earlier, and asks if he wishes to assist in the ritual that everyone else has seemingly been talking about. Dharivol, however, believes there’s to be a spider festival (thanks to misinformation from Eleanor) and is somewhat at a loss. Though, when he agrees, Salindra offers to add a bit more of a magical punch to his bow – though the effect will only be temporary.
  • It’s here where the ritual is discussed at length. She details the ointment she needs to concoct that she believes will assist in their senses and self-control (helping to avoid the eldritch being’s madness) which WILL leave them exhausted, the need to keep the skies clear, and the positioning of the other people in the town. The town is being evacuated with the existing guard on duty to protect the townsfolk, the group are all that is there to take on this alien foe. Needless to say, the party is confused at this strange show of trust and self-sufficiency.
  • Then there are the braziers- they will create a field that should retain the strange creature and the fires will also be vital in destroying the thing when it is (hopefully) reduced to a fraction of its power. It is vital they remain lit.
  • The group go to prepare themselves for the full moon that evening. Weezl helps with the preparations required on the braziers and ritual ingredients- learning a few things along the way. The gets some odd instruction from young Daniira who seems to think that the druid can fix up the enchantments on the braziers, which Weezl learns are a bit “messy.” The incantation is rather broad, and they later learn they are also flawed, but she does manage to shore up that deficiency, at a cost.
  • Ramar goes to check up on Krimm and the pit, bringing food and ale, but finds the replacement guard instead and offers him the meal instead- making the young man’s day. And the rest of the day passes rather uneventfully.

*Then… the ritual begins. The duchess, her daughter and Krimm are located far from the ritual area, making sure the weather is controlled and that the incantation for banishing the creature isn’t interrupted. The group have the ointment applied on the eyelids and mind’s eye, and they find themselves focused and able to see into the ethereal plane. Around the pit they see invisible tendrils of force whipping about, like haphazard wind currents.

  • The group find themselves feeling quite alone, each taking up a position to protect one of the braziers apiece… and then things begin. The barrel that was holding the being shatters and the “egg” floats up above the pit. It stares at the group before shrouding itself in darkness, roiling tentacles of darkness and shrieks of madness (thankfully muted), and then there is the sickening, sharp tearing sound of reality breaking… and in its’ space is being of shifting mass as dark as the void of space, with the chill of death, and countless eyes and mouths.
  • The party are caught off-guard somewhat (low initiative, yo) but still mostly act first. Then, it all goes to shit.

So, naturally, here’s a bit of a summary since I won’t be doing a play-by-play.

  • Weezl makes the most of a 4th level Moonbeam, which does some massive damage and causing a volatile reaction with the creature- thankfully everyone is out of range and oddly enough throughout the entirety of the fight not once did it’s violent counteract strike friend or foe alike.
  • The group take some potshots but mostly stay in defensive positions… until it acts. It shifts and pulls itself through space to reach Weezl and then drops a shroud of darkness, a screaming, writhing void, on the gnome… and from it emerge 3 Nothics. The single-eyed creatures rush from the darkness to try to destroy the braziers.
  • Weezl surrounded by the star spawn and a nothic then does something amazing, Beast Shaping into a Giant Owl and flying straight up and not taking any opportunity attacks. It was the perfect retreat which helped her maintain her Moonbeam spell.
  • Then, possibly the most clutch action taken during the fight: Ramar casts Daylight. This destroys the darkness and negates some of the creature’s abilities.

The most amusing thing was Matt asking – is the daylight even effecting this thing? To which I replied “Yes, yes it is.” At the end of the fight what I detailed was this- it negated the shadow it cast as an aura, which can stop movement and cause necrotic damage, and also stopped the creature from using Hunger of Hadar (which was modified), which also meant that the being could not summon reinforcements. Which, isn’t to say the creature was neutralised but it would have been a VERY different fight without that brilliant move. After the session, Matt and everyone was super relieved to hear how much they avoided.

  • The rest of the fight was as such: there were rivalries between Ziggy, Ramar and the Nothics. They managed to mess with their braziers and do some damage to the respective PCs and they weren’t having any of it. And, thankfully Dharivol managed to riddle most of the enemies with a Conjured Barrage doing some respectful damage.
  • The ranger did draw the ire of the creature after that and was focused on, but he and Scruffy managed to avoid and deal plenty of damage as they fought and protected one another with both fear and zeal.
  • Things took a turn for the worst when the creature emitted a piercing, howling shriek, inducing terror… a Mind Break, if you will. All but Scruffy and Ziggy failed, and they were restrained by fear and took psychic damage… enough to knock Weezl from her Giant Owl form, and unfortunately she was in such a state she could not use her parachute emblem… and even more unfortunate is that she was located over the pit, adding 30 feet to her fall. She lands solidly, but soon enough gets out and becomes a Giant Scorpion, ready for round 2.
  • Abilities are used with abandon and Dharivol does a stand-up job of going toe-to-toe with this eldritch horror but finally the foe is felled with a Seeking Arrow fired by Ziggy which devastates the being…. shattering it and scattering most of it to the wind. A small shard of pitch black slowly floats to the ground- they have to destroy it.
  • Ziggy manages to grab the shard, even as it tries to break his will, he fights off the urges and suggestions it tries to force on him. But when he goes to throw it into the flame (thanks to half of the party trying to carry him to it) it fights back again, filling him with sheer terror, causing him to drop the shard.
  • Weezl then manages to grab the shard, dropping her beast form, and slamming the shard into the flames that hungrily jump up to devour it. They do so, burning the abyssal stain to nothingness, sending a shower of radiant sparks in the air.
  • And then, there is stillness, and peace, to the extent the party did not realise. In the back of their minds was a creeping tension which is now gone and now they notice that absence. Dharivol and Scruffy celebrate and Ramar fulfils a promise with a nothic, dragging its corpse to a brazier and stuffing it into it, purifying and destroying the creature utterly. He then turns his anger back to his usual friendly disposition, healing himself and the party.
  • Salindra joins the party, exhausted and pouring sweat. She thanks the party for everything and apologises that they had to experience something so horrific. The party tell her it’s no problem, it’s like any other day and they saw way worse in the capital. In their words they tell her “They’ve seen much worse” to which Dharivol retorts “WE HAVEN’T. That was the single worst experience of my life!” (Which, admittedly, was goddamn hilarious.) The duchess apologises again and he says she can make up for it by enchanting his bow permanently.
  • She then tells the group the can use the guest rooms again to get some rest and she’ll see them in the morning. For now she has to talk to the townsfolk and get them back to their towns.
  • Weezl then, inspired, casts Insect Plague for Scruffy instead opting for a cloud of flies to feed the giant spider- who happily accepts. The ranger also manages to get a bag of spider-meal for the effort.
  • Then exhaustion hits, near crippling in its intensity and the group naturally go to rest.
  • The morning finds them, still tired but more functional than before. They meet up for breakfast and find an exhausted Salindra, she’s somewhat beside herself with exhaustion, but has managed something of a short-notice reward. The gifts the group a package of rare herbs and seeds, and full access to her own gardens; a small satchel of glittering sand from her homeland – Dust of Disappearance, it’s something of a momento but she wants Ziggy to have it; and finally she and Daniira offer up a weird seed with small glyphs carved into it- the seed of an awakened tree (which Ramar says they should name Russel…).
  • And the session ends there.

So! We had a bit of a demo session last week making and running Dharivol through a small thing and now he’s into the game proper! I’m really loving the character and Dom is such a great fit for the group, I’m really excited to see what he brings. And, if you’re reading this, sorry that your first “real” fight was one of my stupid boss fights and also eldritch horror. No one signed up for that shit.

Also, I forgot that I have somewhat of a reputation for my boss fights and I have to say it was fun to mess with expectations. There was mention of anime boss battles and multi-stage fights, but hey, it was fun doing all the phases during turn one. I’m honestly really happy with how the entire ritual battle played out. I didn’t even forget that much!

And one more thing, the Hearthshire arc is officially completely finished! It’s so crazy to have nothing huge and scary lined up for that place but I’m so excited to prepare different content for everyone. I will admit, I’m going to miss a lot of those NPCs but they’re not going anywhere (or are they?) Honestly, I’m just really excited to see where the game goes from here, especially with our new addition/s to the cast.

So, what are our intrepid adventurers to do next? Shop for a vineyard? Hunt down cultists? Create the world’s creepiest pet shop? Burn down that apothecary? (Seriously, I’m fucking watching you, Ramar!) … Actually go into the Untamed Fucking Wilds?! FIND OUT NEXT TIME!!!

Session 29: A Hole Lot of Trouble
When the party directs the narrative

Apparently all stones must not be left unturned! All things must be fixed! The party looks like they want to move in here, after all.

That aside, I’m going to try to make the recaps a LOT more concise going forward seeing as the party size may potentially double in size. I’m not going to remember as much with so much more “input” going on. So, apologies in advance but I hope this suffices.

  • The party resume in the chaotic aftermath of their exorcism efforts and eventually move Henry to another room. They place the kid near Tomas (there’s an accent… so call him Tom) the one regularly injured person in the building. He, naturally, protests so Weezl heals him… rolling three 8’s in a row for a maxed out super Cure Wounds.
  • Tomas was surly before this but the healing supercharges the man and he’s pleased as punch. Thanks the party and let’s them know he’s to the east of town, working as a farm hand and he’s good at animal husbandry.
  • The party then acquaint themselves with the recently recovered spellcasters, two of which try to get out ASAP (being the two druids). They meet Tahna, the dwarven nature cleric of Chauntea, Garthis the dwarven life cleric of Moradin, Ophelia the wood elf druid (who is completely dismissive of the party) and the large goliath druid Darkath who had made it outside before being accosted by Weezl.
  • Some of the more injured patients are looked after, they obscure/remove areas where most of the eldritch scrawl was made, and then the party head off.
  • The group then make their way to the other apothecary to see what good they can do there. They meet attempts to turn them away as the smaller building is busy caring for more people effected by the madness that has plagued the town.
  • Weezl, utilising her all-terrain boots, scampers up the walls of the building to peek inside (with two nat 20’s on stealth rolls in a row), and finds a break room (kitchen) and another room with an old woman; she later discovers another room with a cloaked figure huddled in the corner.
  • To avoid being kicked out of the building, because some of the larger healers were brought out to strongarm the party to the exit, Ziggy then takes on an official air, pulls out a book and quill, and states that he has an appointment for an inspection- as an agent of the Hearthshire Apothecary and Herbalist Association… or H.A.H.A. for short…

This shit came out of goddamn nowhere. Evan didn’t even look at notes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that level of improvisation before and it was amazing. From spouting the name of the organisation, to the joke of an acronym, I was blown away and it took me way too long to recollect myself to roll with it, which I’m happy to say that I did.

  • Then came the Deception check of 26. Soon enough they meet the gnome gentleman that ignored them previously, Skevv. He runs the apothecary and was completely on the back foot at the official nature and mountain of jargon and BS thrown his way. This was only made worse for the gnome when Ramar, sounding like a godsdamned HR document, jumped in on the con.
  • Admittedly they met resistance initially because of the paladin’s Hearthsworn armor, but Ziggy and the paladin were both clever and unrelenting.
  • They manage to get upstairs, where Ramar detects two more people afflicted in the same way as the other apothecary. Ziggy does his best to manipulate the situation, but does spy some thieves’ cant from the gnome when he presses a bit hard. He sees “get help.” and “now” and two men dart from the building, which Weezl notices.
  • Minutes later they return, recollect themselves and head in, making a poor show of looking natural.
  • Weezl scopes out the room with the dark figure about the same time that Ramar makes his way into the building. She then darts through the kitchen window, where Ziggy/Archie Fatawa’s meeting is being held, and goes to meet the paladin.
  • What happens is that the two are met with a horned young tiefling woman with blue skin and an agitated demeanour. Flames lick up from her hands to her arm and she huddles into the corner. When they make a move she unleashes Burning Hands into the pair, setting the room alight. She is then grabbed and a combined Lesser Restoration effort helps ease the woman. She passes out, but the room is aflame, which Ramar fixes with a combination of salt water via Alchemy Jug, and the use of a cloak.
  • There is smoke everywhere but they press on to the next room, where the older woman sits unmoving. They approach and they hear Dissonant Whispers. Ramar hears the voices more keenly than the druid and darts from the room, and chaos ensues. Weezl attempts to cast Hold Person but it is countered. When Ramar returns he is thrown, again, from the room with Telekinesis, and eventually they bear the woman down and Restore her as well.
  • Ziggy at this point is struggling to keep everyone in one place, and when the two unconscious women are placed in the kitchen area, he is ignored by Skevv. The gnome darts off to find healing supplies, and the room is filled with healer acolytes… one of which manages to sneak into Ziggy’s blindspot and place a blade over his kidney, telling him that that’s what the establishment pays for (mirroring the half-elf’s own words) and tells them to leave peaceably. They do, but they are left worried about the establishment and the patients there.
  • The group then decide to order some iron filings from a blacksmith, and take a swim. When Ramar drops off his armor at the inn, he sees both Darkath and Zindor working the bar. Finally they float down the stream out of town. During which Weezl becomes an octopus and plays with her elemental water gem, which restores itself somewhat during the swim- becoming brighter and whole.
  • Out of tow Ziggy expresses worry about the book he’s been reading and wants a blessing/exorcism. Ramar responds with gusto, using Protection from Good and Evil, and the paladruid combination L.Resto the half-elf. If there was anything effecting him it wasn’t anymore.
  • Relieved and sharing his woes, the party support each other and head off to talk to Salindra. They meet up with the duchess at her estate and talk about the ritual and what materials are required. They learn they don’t have a lot of time and leave that night for the Purple Pipeweed. They also talk of the possibility of a cult, skulduggery, and about Skevv. They learn the gnome has bad blood with Hearthsworn but don’t know what. They also learn that the tiefling’s name is Quiet and she does not speak. They know not why.
  • With Weezl’s navigation skills and the duchess’ directions the group make quick work of the trip. They run into some baboons, rest in a cave with some giant badgers, and forage. Finally, that evening, they find a clearing and a LARGE patch of this toxic, narcotic weed. And also the group of giant boars that eat it… stoned and aggressive these beasts rush the party as they are half-way through harvesting.
  • There is a chase. During which, Ramar stores a large patch of the plant, and uses the alchemy jug to summon litres of mayonnaise. Because, the pigs had the munchies… and strangely enough… it took about half of the creatures out of the fight with the exception of the giant Miss Piggy who kept savaging the paladin.
  • It always gives a DM pause to hear your druid ask “what sex are the boars?” You can’t help but wonder “why the hell are you asking this?” What resulted was the summoning of a lady boar to attempt to draw away two of the male (of three total) boars. It almost worked. But what was more effective was Weezl polymorphing one into a snail, and Ramar’s debut with the Wand of Fear.
  • The group manage to escape to their mounts and extricate themselves without killing the beasts. They manage a fast and exhausting trip back to town, managing to return the next evening giving themselves a full day to prepare for the ritual, now that they have all their ingredients.

… and so ends the session.

Another self-directed session which was all too amusing at times. It was really interesting having NPCs that were dismissive or wary of the party, and I may have enjoyed playing some of the spellcasters a bit too much (I really enjoyed Darkath, Ophelia and Garthis). Naturally the player’s created?uncovered? more potential plot hooks. So, we’ll see what happens there. Maybe we’ll one day end up in the Untamed Wilds Admittedly, it’s my fault for putting a hole in the ground filled with demonic ooze.

Also, I really can’t get over how adept Ziggy/Evan has become at fast-talking. It’s really impressive and I’m still blown away. H.A.H.A. was absolute genius. Though this isn’t to discount everyone else’s actions in game. I feel like everyone was really on point and it really has been a joy running this game for everyone.

It also may appear that we could have potentially two or three people joining soon! I have no idea how I’m going to run this but I’m looking forward to the challenge and seeing what fresh blood brings to the table. I’ve bought more resources to try speed things up on my end at least. But we should have a session 0 and see where that goes.

So, until next time… will they solve the mystery of the ooze? Will they uncover 15 more mysteries along the way? Will Weezl get to play with the next den of critters she finds? Will Ziggy actually create an apothecary organisation? Will the party have some new recruits? And more importantly- will they interview them? Who am I kidding… we all know they will… UNTIL NEXT TIME!

Session 28: The Pit (part 2): Secret of the Ooze
That's a TMNT reference.

^ by player request. Y’all can thank Anna for that one.

  • The game starts with some retroactive description of the past couple of towns the group passed though. They then start at the ooze pit and Mielikki’s shrine.
  • And then there were Moonbeams. Two, in fact, one larger than the other. They obliterated dark oozing matter, which attempted to lash out, to no avail. And soon enough, during a conversation even, with a divine arrow sealing the deal, the ooze crystallised, cracked and quickly reverted into a small pitch black sphere (roughly 6 inches across).

[Fun fact: you crazy bastards dealt 296 damage in 5 rounds. So now I think I maybe know why a lot of things aren’t weak to radiant damage..]

  • There is a conversation with an angry Krim Grayslaughter and a concerned Salindra Dustwalker, with her daughter Daniira following cautiously in tow. Ziggy was a bit more casual until things looked like they were getting pretty crazy.
  • The learn a few things about this ooze: how it’s more active, and retaliates, at night; and it is more dormant during the day. They’ve tried moving the “egg” form of the thing but find it rots and destroys anything it touches.
  • They learn that to counter it, Salindra is trying, on her own, to devise a ritual that may seal or destroy the eldritch spawn. This requires a few rare herbs and plants and the party are taken to her home so she can find some tomes so she can show them some accurate depictions. They have roughly 5 days until the full moon, when she suspects the ritual will be at its most effective.
  • On the way to the manor, the small elf girl discusses hair colours with Weezl and “defeats” Ramar when she asks if he’s one of the bad men that came through town earlier.
  • While Salindra was looking for her tomes Daniira plays the part of hostess asking what drinks anyone would like. Weezl asks for tea, Ziggy asks for some wine, and Ramar requests iced tea. While this occurs they spark a conversation with Krim, learning that his family name comes from his clan that hunts down Duergar. He hails from the east and the upperdark. So, not quite from the Untamed Wilds, or under it. But he knows enough of the area- enough to say they should be careful and there’s no point in mapping the area as things move, sink and shift.
  • Before too long, and after a number of crashes of breaking glass, Daniira returns with beverages. Weezl has some lukewarm tea, Ziggy is given what can only be described as a half-full vase of wine, and Ramar is also given some tea. When they promise the girl they can keep a secret she blows a small chilling wind on the tea, cooling it. She tries to do the same for Weezl but instead is surprised by her mother’s return and mostly blows frost onto the gnome’s face and eyebrows.
  • With the plants descriptions, and a firm goal for this ritual. Ramar spearheads a plan, involving holy water a barrel, and some creative Mold Earth, from Weezl, to seal this egg. At least until the ritual can be cast. First though, he needs powdered silver.

I was really impressed with how you guys tackled this. Going from my suggestion of “art pieces/silverwear”, which was veto’d because y’all want fancy cutlery for whatever house you end up with, to grinding silver pieces, to deconstructing Silvered Swords. It was some impressive inventory management.

  • With a plan set, the group head off to find craftsmen and learn that the process to get their materials is going to take a few hours. But they figure they can complete it before evening. (Also, Ceremony is such a fun spell.)
  • The party stop by the nearest apothecary which is run by a boy in his early teens, the back room is bustling and the occasional wail of distress can be heard. The boy, Abe, has a shaved head and thick glasses and doesn’t know much about the store. Eventually, Weezl and Ramar offer to talk to the boy’s father to see if they can help the people. Abe warns them that the people are sick and that it might be a bit hard to see.
  • While the two head off, Ziggy busies himself in the store. They have successfully come across some old Aardana root that was required by the ritual and managed a decent discount, capitalising on the boy’s insecurity. So Ziggy tries his luck finding other ingredients. He fast-talks his way into enquiring about the Purple Pipeweed, which he mistakenly calls The Purple Dragon a number of times. They both learn that it’s a prohibited substance, which leads to some awkwardness, but to make up for it Ziggy ends up requesting a pipe and some tobacco, which the boy is adept at flavouring – something he’s picked up in helping his father.
  • Ziggy also uses his memory quill to draw over the documents the boy has to gain some more intel on this pipeweed, which he sketches out for his own collection later.
  • At Ziggy’s request he concocts something both hot, spicy but with the edge smoothed out. With the bite of cinnamon and a dash of lavender. When the half-elf asks what it’s called, the boy joking says “Purple Dragon.” They both seem very happy with themselves.
  • Meanwhile, the others find a room full of mentally distressed and comatose villagers, about 20 in number, crammed into this large workshop. The feet of another 10 or so people can be heard on the floor above them. They see a man, in his late 30s, named Gabriel guiding some helpers and leaning near a window, catching a break with a cigarette. He explains the situation- that they’re running low on supplies, they’re restricted to mundane healing and even still it doesn’t seem to help those of addled mind. Many of the patients here are lashed to their beds.
  • Spellcasters in the area were among the most heavily afflicted by the madness, and things are worse at night. The paladin and druid both offer their assistance, seeing if they can try to heal some of those who are the worst off. They are introduced to a young man named Ash who has been restrained and is wasting away. The two then, in tandem, cast Lesser Restoration, being made to roll a die (adding their spellcasting modifier). They collectively hit over 30 and seemingly aid the man. He breathes easily, comes to for a short while and then passes out from exhaustion. It seemingly works, but whether it holds or not is another story. Regardless, Gabriel is amazed.
  • They ask about aiding the spellcasters and talk of Greater Restoration which Weezl can cast once a day. They shy away from doing this when they hear that the worst case is a young man, roughly 16, named Henry. The boy was always able to cast, though at times strange and unpredictable things happened around him. There is a collective “oh shit” and they nearly back out, but they step up to the challenge saying they’ll be back tomorrow.
  • Meanwhile, Ziggy hows Abe his bow and the boy is astounded at the magic weapon, they all collectively see the state of what’s happening upstairs, and the barred doors on the ‘spellcasters’ doors. They also meet Juniper, the doctor’s wife, who is assisting with the patients upstairs. They also witness the one regular injury in the place, with a farmer with a broken leg.
  • They promise they’ll be back after they get some diamond dust (which they organise easily enough with some more inventory management), and they manage to collect their silver as well. They head to the pub, then realise it’s nearly evening and they have an “egg” to sort out. They race across town, getting to the pit and using a hefty barrel, shifted earth and some holy water concentrate to build a well around the levitating egg. It seemingly holds but is agitated. Krim had been waiting for the group and says that, once it is done, that he’ll stand watch for the night. He has flares if he runs into trouble but they should get some rest. This is his job after all.
  • Ziggy thinks of the folios dealing with Azatoth but knows that opening the book near the pit isn’t the best idea. However, in his recollections, as focused as they are he finds he has absently scratched in an eldritch symbol into the book’s cover. Disturbed he puts it away and does tell the party about this before they retire that evening.
  • The group then head to “The Pub”, a large, literally large, establishment that is profoundly busy and run by a heavily tattooed but reasonably tailored goliath named Zindor. He is taciturn and gruff and all about business. The party find rooms easily enough, at half the price (thanks to their Folk hero status), and discounted meals. Until Weezl casually inquires about the goliath because of his accent. She then refers to goliaths as barbarians. This, the man does not like, and when Weezl does not back down, he throws her silver back at her, taking away her meal and says she can sleep on the street.
  • Weezl meets the boys upstairs, thanks to her boots, but it was an tense moment. She is unapologetic however and settles in unaware. Imi is then summoned, which at first alarms, then confuses, and then delights Ramar as he sees her as a fey creature with his Divine Sense, something he couldn’t do previously. His mithril bangle blooms with tiny flower buds when he uses this ability.
  • The capybara plays and gets some scratches, also getting water throughout the inn. The rest get some sleep eventually.
  • Morning finds the group and Weezl strides down into the inn with her buddy. Ramar, feeling keenly embarrassed, climbs out the window of the inn and walks through the front door. Ziggy slinks in as though nothing is amiss. And thankfully another woman is running the counter at the moment, she seats the group together and gets food served quickly enough.
  • Behind the counter, the group spy a new addition to the bar, a “List of Shame” with a reasonable approximation of Weezl placed under it. Weezl takes out her notebook and remembers accurate details but misses on the execution of her own drawing, sneaking behind the counter to place her picture of Zindor over her own. She rolled a 15 on Stealth, he rolled a 16 on Perception.
  • Coming in the door, fresh from his morning rounds, is a roar of “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” and the gnome is chased out of the building. She runs along walls and the roof to evade him, with Imi running interference.
  • Ramar eventually opts to leave, in armor, out the window again taking some breakfast and a flask for Krim. He does NOT stick the landing but the food completely survives impact, much like a drunk stacking it with a full pint.
  • The find the dwarf, who is tired, but nothing occurred during the night. The barrel lost some water but seems intact. It should last another couple of days at the rate it’s going. He’ll sort out more holy water, knowing that it’ll work, and top things up. They’ve done enough for now. He thanks them and goes to get some rest, now that run is peeking into the pit at the barrel.
  • Then it’s back to the apothecary. Upstairs they find Gabriel who is looking a bit beside himself but says he’ll come in to try help calm Henry. He recommends they don’t do anything to provoke him and that things may get unsettling very fast. Ziggy sleight of hands the Bands of Bilarro, getting that ready as a failsafe.
  • They remove the heavy wooden bar and walk into, what was probably a bedroom. Crowbars have been turned into makeshift bars that cover small windows. Tattered and torn barlap cloth cover the windows, but most of the red-maroon material is wrapped around a young man who stares absently at a wall. The room is mostly empty and in tatters.
  • Henry has dark hair with a shock of white and an awkward, wide, wild smile. His eyes state off at flicker about the room. They see the boy’s hands and nails are ruined, and they notice the scratchings and etchings into the walls and roof. At first it’s nonsense, but as a whole, 3/4 of the room is a spiralling, maddening mess of symbols. Ramar gets a familiar, unwelcome sense of vertigo when he feels the symbols pull at him.
  • Gabriel leads the conversation, to a point. He says he brought friends for him to meet but stumbles, completely out of his depth. Then the party step up. They talk to the boy, which is fine, until it’s not. He mentions a ritual, and how he’s a powerful caster, and when Ramar continues talking about the ritual, the boy is shocked and afraid, then angry. The ritual isn’t nearly ready to be complete! But soon it will be. He becomes suddenly agitated and furious. And Weezl casts Hold Person. The DC is 15, he rolls a 16. It doesn’t work, and the room turns to chaos.
  • They tell Gabriel to run and he scrabbles at the door, panicked and uncoordinated.
  • Henry raises his arm, pointing at Weezl muttering some eldritch babble, his eye grows an extra pupil which focuses on the party, his tongue splits and lashes, he has several small eyes grow on his face and arms… he casts Telekinesis but Weezl manages to stand her ground and everything else is buffeted around the room.
  • “Gotcha, ya bastard” (I think it was) says Ziggy using the Iron Bands of Bilarro. The Strength save DC is 20, and Henry… rolls a natural 20. He grabs the ball from the air, and with telekinetic force, slams it into the ground, wedging it into the floor.
  • Ramar leaps onto the boy, inspired, and grabs him and casts Protection from Evil and Good, and it manages to sever the connection, the rapture, of this alien being temporarily. The boy screams and crumples to the ground, still viciously mutating. And Weezl jumps onto the boy, with a wave of diamond dust, she casts Greater Restoration. Druidic symbols of silver-white dance up her arms and strike the boy like lightning. She rolls… getting a 26. And, she barely succeeds.

I explained after the game that the DC was 30, reduced by 5 for using Greater Restoration. I fully expected another co-op effort, and it was amazing that it barely worked. Honestly, there were so many great rolls in this game.

  • The boy’s form viciously snaps back to its original form and he lays very still. Gabriel hasn’t even gotten out of the room. Ramar then goes to lay on hands on the boy, pumping 40 points of healing into him. The shock of it heals all his wounds and most of his scars, and turns his hair stark white. The boy does not stir, but he breathes.
  • There is a weird sensation in the air, and there is a radiant glow from downstairs. Ramar sprints to see what it is while the rest regroup and collect themselves (and their belongings). Downstairs, somehow, amongst all the patients and their helpers… with mouths agape or in wonder, stands a beautiful, radiant being. A unicorn.
  • The paladin speaks to it in celestial, and it responds in kind. “For what reason have I been brought here? For what do you require of me?” It senses the illness and distress, but knows not why it is there. It knows it was summoned but not the purpose. It does then help to Calm Emotions of the people within the building. They all settle, including Gabriel. They ease. It then motions for Ramar to climb atop it, when it asks who is in most need of aid, and it teleports upstairs. It uses its horn to heal Tahna the dwarven cleric and three other addled spellcasters… completely curing them of their affliction. The unicorn then realises that its time is nearly up, and it greets both Weezl and Ziggy, bowing to the half-elf who has a symbol to Mielikki. (For it claimed its name was unimportant and that it was simply a servant of that goddess. Ziggy/Evan dubs it Unicornelius.)
  • And in those last moments it asks if there is any last favour it may perform, and they realise it can make plants, and ask for a Black Rose, which it druidcrafts for them, before flickering and disappearing from the Material Plane, back to wherever it came from.
  • Amazed and confused the group gather and ask what is going on, realising that (through the unicorn’s own conversation prompts) they are all speaking Sylvan, with their bracelets all showing tiny buds. And, from the other room, where the resting Henry lies, they hear a light giggle, “heh heh, Unicornelius.”

And holy goddamn that was a fun game. So many rolls just led to interesting moments and hilarity. We also got another persona of Ziggy’s: Archie Fatawa (this came out of his Abe + interactions with the young apothecary.) There was also a lot of talk about business and real estate and some on-point problem solving. Hopefully we’ll see what happens with that offer of land in the sessions to come.

Honestly, I’m just really loving everyone’s characters and interactions at the moment. I’m also massively impressed at some of those clutch rolls. It just made for a really interesting narrative, at least from where I was sitting.

I could go on, but this recap is long enough. I just have to say, I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Episode 27: The Promise and Evasion of Downtime

First game of the new year! YEAH!

I had planned for this game to be mostly free-form and downtime but… that didn’t work out. About half the session was spent closing off the narrative from the last game and the second half was a little more according to plan.

So naturally, because time and events end up being a bit loose, I may forget a LOT of what happened in the second half. I’ll try to do a summary of what I can recall at the very least.

  • In the throne room, there are allies, the fallen, and the blasted body of Lucis. The area is locked down and a sweep begins of the area under the command of (the wounded) Fury. Ramar takes charge of Sam, stabilising him. He heals the monk but Sam does not awaken from his coma. He Pings and discovers a seed of abyssal energy still in the monk’s body.
  • Weezl goes about stabilising the two thin masked figures that are bleeding out on the floor. Removing their masks they find Persephone and Leonidas before them… weak, starved, exhausted, and the king looks to have been subjected to cruel experimentation, while the queen’s hair is cut short.
  • Ziggy makes sure Lucis is dead and starts to collect the wizard’s possessions, including a staff, rings, a familiar jade figurine and an amulet (also familiar).
  • Weezl notices something in the room adjacent and notices the pixie Minette who calls her over when things have settled a little. She tells her, and the group, that Verenestra has stated that there are items nearby that now belong to them. Minette points out an opened secret passage which leads to a steel door. It’s traps, and all found after this point, have all been stripped of their potency, possibly part of the dead of the Faerie queen.
  • The group, going back and forth between allies and cache, take a haul of gold, art pieces (with some interesting paintings, and draconic sculpture and iconography) and a handful of items (rings, an iron ball, a wand and some bracers).
  • They leave to make sure the area is safe, and upon leaving hear commotion. There is a fireball, a flash of sickly yellow light, and screams… in the direction they were heading- the laboratory. They sprint, in time to see Sonja fall… the half of her that remains anyway, and Triss runs in screaming to the room.
  • The party springs to action, with Ramar sprinting and leaping off the parapets to the room’s landing with a mighty bound, Ziggy slides on debris and leaps across the gap flawlessly and things do not go so well for Weezl. She falls, but manages to barely latch herself to the landing with a vine whip, swinging herself up onto the wall with her boots of spider climbing doing the rest of the work. Up on the landing they see a furious Triss slashing at a younger, suited up, Lucis. Behind them is a retinue of crossbowmen getting into position.
  • Ramar tackles the woman, pulling her aside, and Ziggy interposes himself defensively, while Weezl is luckily out of the way when a barrage of bolts strike the wizard’s new clone (who on inspection was slightly burned and harried BEFORE the sword sisters got to him).
  • Quickly and swiftly the party decapitate the body, kick the head across the room… only to have Triss break down in anger and pain, skewering the head into the stonework with her trusty spear. Ramar takes charge of the situation, ordering Triss and her men to take the body up to the throne room and to secure the area. The party presses through the doorway that leads to the laboratory, finding a weirdly webbed, sticky and oppressive hallway which seems to struggle against them at every step.
  • Reaching the laboratory reveals much of Lucis’ work. Or what’s left of it. The fire mephits went to down on this place, and much of it is destroyed and even now small fires still burn or smolder. Weezl puts out the fire on the cabinet which seems largely intact, but they also note the gigantic, near-complete corpse golem, and laboratory equipment, and also two nearby rooms.
  • They enter one to find 4 standing, vertical, shattered mirrors. They leave that for now, only to come back later to discover a pre-programmed illusion of Lucis stating that “3 of the mirrors contain lies…” and that he’s only there to demoralise them, they should retreat. Staring at the fragments they catch glimpses of people they care about. Allies and friends.
  • In the other room is only ruin, and a gaudy sarcophagus. It is open, along with some chests and there is a broken bottle of whisky. There isn’t much else but they gather this is where Lucis v.2.0 had come from.
  • Ramar in a panic sprints out to make sure that Lucis’ body is definitely taken care of and he finds it intact and loots it. Adding a few more slashes to make sure it cannot rise again. He finds some vials, a distinct amulet (with a white on black inverted diamond design).
  • Back in the laboratory the group give it a once-over, and find the locking mechanisms on the sturdy cabinet destroyed (thank you, nat 20 on the Mephit roll… it makes sense in context, trust me). In it are… papers. There are roughly 10 spell books, on of which belongs to Harnoth (with amended notes in Lucis’ hand). The other books focus on different schools of magic and are all written in differing hand and cipher.
  • They find a number of folios pertaining to Lucis’ many experiments performed to take down Hearthshire. They find details on contacting Great Old Ones, namely Azathoth and its’ son, The Nameless Mist, the book is written as if by two people writing the same passages, and frankly it is unnerving.
  • Other folios detail (with investigation undertaken over the next few days and weeks) information on weaknesses in the areas and the methods he’s utilised to corrupt or ruin them, along with his designs on the cursed items he gifted to other leaders. The notes go back years and all look like the lead to something bigger than summoning Graz’tz. The group are horrified to discover that it appears that Lucis thought he had an answer to the demon prince and that he was only a stepping stone to a greater purpose.
  • Interested in Woodsrest, they learn that the diadem that was gifted to Salindra mentally assailed its user whenever they would utilise or witness magic – to show them visions of great pain and agony. To show their power turned against them, hurting, maiming and killing those they care about… so, it makes sense that the duchess went into hiding and outlawed magic. Fearing it from others as much as her own.
  • They can’t seem to find an object that pertains to Tradesway (or Shelter) and read about the meticulous detail that went into Lucis hiring hunters to find a den of doppelgangers, and using the methods he knew to work best.. he tortured, killed and manipulated them to adhere to his designs. And then, there was one left, that he trained personally, taking them to functions and high society soirees, and finally unleashing that creature into Tradesway. The creature had a penchant for unique appearance.
  • Among the notes are details pertaining to dragonkind, written in utter reverence, but with notes correlating to tomes that do not exist there.
  • The group also find an odd jug (alchemy jug), a small rod with a button (immovable rod) and vials of a dark red liquid (vials of demon blood), and finally a dark leather map tube with notes written both in common and draconic. The map, and information, points to an island above the continent, that supposedly doesn’t exist. Lucis appears to have had designs for the area, either as another stage to his plan, or a Plan B. It looks as though even he was apprehensive about following this up without a few sacrificial expeditions’ worth of information under his belt. They discover that a powerful undead being rules a tomb there but that is all they can glean at this time.

*After all this, the group return to the throne room. People are out of sorts and Triss stands vigil over the body of her best friend. In the silence, a giant eagle, followed by other smaller eagles, approach the room… transforming into Dawn, the leader of the Order of the Falling Leaf, the woman that sent them onto this mission.

  • She tries to broker peace with the group, especially Ramar who does not wish for anyone to be near Sam. With some coercion she gets to inspect the monk and says that she may have a way to help him, but the ritual will take time. They agree to this and, for this reason, stay in Hearthshire for a time.
  • Dawn is deeply saddened at what has happened to Sam. She only wishes to make right this senseless wrong. If not only because she feels profoundly responsible.
  • Weezl offers the wraps of the mad bull back to Dawn, who states that the wraps were both a gift and a lesson- one she believes may have been too difficult considering the task that had lie ahead of them. The power and strength was meant to teach temperance, patience and defence. To not overextend oneself. To have the power to step down. But perhaps youth or the trials themselves were too much. She says that Weezl may keep them if she may find them, and their lesson, useful.
  • Renthis, the gentle giant of a man, the original owner of the wraps of the mad bull, and their namesake inspects the fallen Sonja, at swordpoint. He, feeling Dawn and Triss’ grief says that he and the acolytes can right this, if they wish it. She can be reborn but will only return if she’s willing, if that’s something Triss would think she would want. She eventually steels herself and agrees to the Reincarnation.

At this point I made the players roll on the table to see what Sonja potentially came back as… and the roll was definitely interesting.

  • The ritual, led by Renthis and overtaken in its final stages by Dawn, ran into the early evening and as a moonbeam brushed the form (overtaken with beautiful vegetation, in a hill-like cocoon) it eventually revealed the blue, scaled form of a dragonborn woman.
  • Sonja stirs, only to find confusion and horror and is eventually settled by Triss and the magical suggestion of Dawn.
  • With ALL THAT CRAZINESS over with… the group take leave, helping to clear the grounds and they end up staying in the military camp set up on the outskirts of town. They find that the soldiers defer to them but also allow them to rest.

So, many many things happen over the next couple of hours, so I doubt I’ll cover everything. But here is my best, short summary of what the group achieve over the next few weeks.

  • After a few days they get into contact with Speck, who is still exhausted but recovering. He identifies all their items, netting them:
    A ring of the ram, a ring of regeneration (which they loan to The Fury and Tavon to help regrow their limbs/missing eyes), a ring of feather falling, a ring of protection +1, the iron bands of bilarro, bracers of archery, the alchemy jug, immovable rod, quarterstaff of warning +1, 2 potions of longevity (were previously in Lucis’ possession), Sam’s giant elk figurine, and a familiar silver pendant – the Symbol of Hecate.
  • They speak of Harnoth and his spellbook, and Speck offers to take him under his wing. He’ll spend some time trying to find him.
  • Ziggy also spends time assessing Lucis’ pendant, noticing that it’s an inverted symbol of The Custodians.
  • David is assessed and somewhat repaired… though Speck honestly has no idea how the skull works. This is a level and type of transmutation magic that he has never seen before and he has a suspicion that its’ origin is from another continent entirely. But for now the skull is no longer consuming gems at such a fast rate and can only hold a single spell, though countering magic will shut him down immediately.
  • The group talk to The Fury and Tavon, who now are intact, and speak to them about the Kraghammer cousins. She says they’ll honor their memory and when Ramar offers back their items, she says that she thinks they would be pleased to see them in service of the man that avenged them. And as thanks for everything, they offer an open invitation to their town and their keep (provided Ziggy doesn’t harass the guards).
  • After a tenday they notice many workmen and dwarven craftsmen rebuilding the town.
  • There is a large funeral service held for the fallen.
  • The Masques seemingly go underground and there are rumours that Dannick has stood down. This prompts Ziggy to harass her for 4 days with incessant tapping and “calls” through the coin she gave him, leading to her confronting the group in person. They learn that Dannick is simply lying low, creating a false power vacuum to see what tries to rise in its place, which has lead to Akali wiping it out- earning her the nickname “The Reaper.” Regardless, she’s happy to see the party, though admits her plan with the Thornton bastard didn’t work out and they let him go his own way. Korran, she assures them, is being dealt with and is on missions to redeem himself.
  • She introduces Yuri who has been keen to see them all again, and gives Ziggy his score (after taking her cut) of the pilfered Thornton jewelry. They drink and she tells the party she is more than happy to work with them on any future ventures.
  • The group also notice a table of young men sporting pencil moustaches… it appears this has become a trend as the group’s celebrity status grows. They toast the party and Ziggy signs one of the young men’s flagons.
  • The group do a bit of a tour of the towns, revitalising their fields with Plant Growth. And now that both Ramar and Weezl can cast the spell it makes the job easier and more potent.
  • The group get an invitation from the king and queen, saying they’ll go to them if need be. They, of course, meet them at their keep. Ramar returns their portcullis key to them, and they discover Tavon has been staying around to keep Leo company. The royals offer the group both land and titles (of Baron/Baroness) if they wish for it. They don’t know how else to repay the group, but they assure them that even without the title, as long as they remain in good stead with the area their opinion and counsel will always be welcome. The party also notice there is less opulence and wealth on show and it seems that is being used to rebuild the duchy.
  • The party say they’ll think on the offer but they’re honored.
  • They also learn that the royals have instated regular testing by the hearthsworn, clergy and arcanists, to help detect and prevent future corruption. They also learn that Olivia of Sandhill has stood up at the current commander of the Hearthsworn. Ramar states that she’s insane, and will do an amazing job.
  • The group also run into Lukas on their travels, who states he’s been looking for them since the battle. He recounts how he witness some demon guy get killed by some giant birds, and seeing it as their work, the score is theres- and he offers up Lev’s brilliant scimitar… which they discover is a knockoff of a weapon pertaining to the legendary blade Wit. Because, naturally, Lucis is a total asshole.
  • Now that Sam appears to be stable, Ramar wishes to take him back to his monastery. He doesn’t want the monk to wake up amidst everything here, knowing that it may be traumatic and deeply upsetting for the young aarakocra. With some preparation, Dawn offers to get the party near there via Tree-teleportation (you all know the spell).
  • They reach the bluffs, overlooking the beautiful ocean in moments. They succeed in traversing the path to the monastery to be greeted by an ethereal, old, aarakocra monk. He greets the party and gives them time to explain themselves, eventually taking back Sam – rougher than Ramar feels comfortable with. He welcomes Ramar as a child of air, and the others as companions.
  • The group are taken to a large open area, looking out over the horizon. The stonework is immaculately and beautifully tiled and Sam is hoisted up by two of his brothers. The One falls into a stance, and begins striking the monk, striking through his body. Each time a fist or claw passes through the monk, dark black ichor spatters from the other side. There is no wound, no puncture, but pressure points are struck. Tens of blows. Until finally, lining up with the chakra of the heart and soul, two fists strike in unison… destroying what is left of the corruption in the monk.
  • For the first time in a monk, Sam draws a full breath. Soon enough he awakens.
  • The group catch him up on what occurred and The One holds off on chastising him too strongly. He, lightheartedly, thanks the party and offers them an open invitation. To visit, if they wish. The group spend some time in the monastery, enjoying the air that seems a living part of the area. Sam and Weezl both fly together for the first time, and Weezl learns to meditate with the monks. They welcome the party and share with them hospitality. Finally, they are to leave.
  • The One and Dawn have an amusing conversation between masters and Sam bids the party farewell. He shares words with them all, telling Ziggy to look after Weezl (“She is like a child.” “No, that’s just what gnomes look like.”) He tells Weezl to be wary of Ziggy, and does the same with Ramar. As they wave goodbye, Ziggy (with amulet of Hecate in hand) waves to the monk (which was the most hilarious and douchebag thing he’s done so far… that was seriously 26 sessions of build up for that.) Sam yells something to Ramar in Auran, and they part ways. The party heading back to hearthshire.
  • Free of that stress and worry, the group go about recovering the lands. They also decide to FINALLY visit Woodsholme and Woodsrest. They learn a few rumours about The Untamed Wilds in Woodsholme (determined by the players telling me things they’d like to see in the area, and that’s what the rumours consisted of) and reach the slowly repairing lands of Woodsrest.
  • At Woodsrest they see clerics trying to heal the land, which is looking pretty good at this point. But they do notice the act does require effort, as though the land itself if fighting them. They also find a large pit near the centre of town. It’s about 40 feet across and 50 feet deep and has a dark black ooze which seems to be trying to crawl its way up and out of the pit. Ramar pings it and suffers an existential crisis, as the ping never comes back… seemingly going for an eternity, and he succumbs to a moment of suffocating darkness and maddening whispers which seem to last longer than the instant it took.
  • They also talk to an impossibly old, possibly crazy, wood elf gentleman who talks about the goop and that the clerics are doing something with it, but they should stay away from it.
  • Meanwhile, Ziggy goes to try find Salindra, duchess of Woodsrest. Instead, he finds Daniira, a girl who is the spitting image of Daniriel the sand elf ghost who gifted Ziggy his bow and medallion of Mielikki. The one they put to rest on the outskirts on town.
  • The girl is playing in the grounds of the manor, near to the shrine of Mielikki, along with an ashen skinned, grumpy-looking dwarf. However, the dwarf, while heavily armed, is affable enough. A proclaimed guard and a better babysitter. He does a terrible job of security and Ziggy manages to charm Daniira and trick the dwarf into letting him know where Salindra is.
  • The sand elf girl is playful and cheeky and Ziggy seems to take a liking to her.
  • Entering the shrine, Ziggy sees Salindra who stops a fair way from the elf. She is wearing her gifted, cursed diadem and Ziggy speaks to her. Talks about why he’s there, and at the mention of Daniriel, a ghost outside of town, her bow and the medallon, the duchess grows more and more confused, and finally with time, acceptance. The duchess is confused as to his forwardness, and treats him as a full-blooded sand elf, which the rogue admits he is only half of. She doesn’t understand why he’s telling her all this at no cost to her. Ziggy continues to astound her by giving her Lucis’ notes on the cursed diadem, and she seats the man next to her as they continue to talk.
  • The duchess is amazed at his charity and assures him that they are learning more on the diadem, that they will make it better and she will use its strength to protect her people. She is ashamed of who she was and seeks to only become better. It will take time, but that is the old ways. Much like the bow she crafted for her friend, who she lost during a severe storm all those years ago. She seems to learn from the bow of some of the things Ziggy has achieved with the item and assures him that he may keep it, when he offers it back to her. She also says that she is welcome if he ever wishes to learn more of his heritage. She’d be more than willing to teach him of the remnants of their culture.
  • Finally, she embraces the man and they share a quiet moment in the shrine.


There were a lot of character moments and I am legitimately excited to see what the party do with their offer of titles and land. I feel there was so much character growth and it was fun offering up so many answers to what has been going on. Lucis, posthumously, still seems to be freaking the players out… and you can’t ask for much more from a villain.

Also, holy shit, there’s a dragonborn in this setting. Sometimes the dice provide some pretty crazy story beats… so, we’ll see where that goes.

So, I imagine there’s a little bit more to wrap up here, and then finally… TO THE UNTAMED WILDS!

Here’s to a great 2018. I’m really excited to find out where this game will be in a year’s time. Thanks everyone for being such amazing players. I’m a goddamn lucky DM and couldn’t ask for more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session 25: Exorcism and Castle Crashers

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

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

… and the session ends there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My friends, may the rolls be in your favour.

~ Your humble DM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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