Easter Monday and a few days of feverish preparation led to this session and the culmination of a few things… but more on that later.
The group starts the session at level 6.
- The party resume their conversation with Speck who has offered to scry for the party. Eventually they forgo scrying on a target person but instead choose an area- choosing the newly erected arena in the centre of town.
- While Speck casts his spell and his consciousness is literally elsewhere, Yuri rummages through her bag of holding for a few (unaccounted for) items that she could spare, and she gifts them to the party. It is only a couple potions, magical arrows and a low level spell scroll but she feels they’ll need it. When Speck “comes to” the girl sits back acting as though nothing happened.
- The mage then describes the situation with the arena. The Black Claw and Hearthsworn are present, along with Flamehearts casting spells on the 4 crystal-topped pillars. Lev eventually joins the gigantic man and they hold a conversation about having rituals and contributions completed and the smaller man leaves to presumably finish his night’s work.
- Speck then announces that he has a job, on behalf of Dannick to do- to try get Akali and Korran to work together. Every time he looks into the future they both die and his boss isn’t a fan of this particular fate. The party is completely baffled by this, saying how (amongst themselves) this doesn’t work with their plans, and that Akali and Korran don’t exactly like each other. ((They have seemingly forgotten that Dannick tasked them to find Akali for the sole reason that he’s lost contact with that faction and simply doesn’t know the state of affairs.)) So, realising his work is cut out for him, Speck heads off alone.
- The party gather themselves to get some rest and enjoy the company of Lily and David, and Dekgrad heads off saying he has some personal business to attend to. He ends up following Speck and before the man gets to the Masques’ warehouse base he stops him, asking why this is happening. Speck doesn’t want to upset his boss and he also doesn’t want to feel responsible for the deaths of his compatriots, as misguided as they may be. So, Dekgrad gives him his Philter of Love as a last ditch effort to get them to work together- and Speck is soooo not comfortable with this but thanks for cleric for the hail mary.
- Dekgrad then heads to the duke’s estate, coming upon a pair of guards and he asks for an audience with the duke- saying his has information of great import. The men scoff at the dwarf and ask why they should listen to him, and when Dekgrad produces documents signed by Duke Jaspitt himself, they change their tune and become a lot more helpful. They do, however, note the dwarf’s name, putting him off somewhat and offer to pass on a message. He declines and they say that he may be able to find the duke at The Five Aces and wish him luck.
- The establishment is extremely lively and there is a lot of money changing hands. The gambling hall is extremely packed and the dwarf is jostled but not accosted as some (smarter) nobles note their solid impact upon his armored form. At the back of the den he spies a very well-dressed man talking to some associates and approaches him. The man asks if the dwarf is after a table or needs any such assistance.
- Dekgrad asks where the duke may be and the well-dressed, bespectacled man- Lev, eventually, offers to take him to his lord. The gloved man leads Dekgrad by the arm and takes him to a private room, filled with food, alcohol, gold, sycophants and a very drunk, young lord Charles Thornton.
- Dekgrad implores the man to let them have a private conversation but Lev constantly twists his words around and eventually the duke demands to be told what is going on. But, finally, they give in when Lev assures his lord that he can bring everyone back for their party and they are left in the room together. The cleric states he wants to speak privately but the lord’s advisor states that this is private, with a burning, warm hand on Dekgrad’s back.
- The dwarf says how there will be an attempt on the duke’s life, but refuses to say who it is who will do it. He wants to avoid all bloodshed and asks for the duke to leave town if he can. Lev hounds the cleric for information, eventually saying that he will be VERY well compensated for the information. Eventually, Dekgrad caves, saying that it will be Korran but he doesn’t want anything. He just doesn’t want anyone to die.
- Lev thanks him and then pulls out a small gem, crushing it and stating that “Korran is no longer useful. Have them all destroyed tonight.” Smiling, he thanks Dekgrad for his assistance in protecting his lord, and tells him he may leave and enjoy his evening.
- Stunned and mortified, the dwarf leaves the rowdy establishment… eventually coming back to the others. Near the centre of town, a budding red light starts to glow brighter and brighter, and they eventually get some rest.
- The morning finds the party reasonably well rested, with a chill in the air and cloying mist filling the air.
- Stumbling in from the mist is a haggard, dirty and exhausted Speck. The man is confused and wounded but not too injured. He says how they were attacked during the talks that evening. Most escaped but he doesn’t know what happened at all. The party assume there was a traitor amongst Korran’s ranks.
- The mage offers to take the group to the survivors when they ask where they are (they guess it’s somewhere in the sewers when they catch a whiff of the man.) He’s been so distracted he has neglected to even use prestidigitation to clean himself.
- They quickly arrive to a small alcove in the sewers, faced with a small contingent of archers. On the ground is an unconscious Korran, who is missing his left hand, and Akali who is near him. Near to Korran is his gear, including a bandaged, bloodied bundle… his left hand. Weezl is not happy to be near him at all and reacts like an agitated animal.
- Dekgrad, with the use of his greater runestone and using all of its power (for the week) and imploring his deity he manages to reattach the hand… and slowly Korran starts to come to. Shock and a variety of other things are registering between the two thief lieutenants and Akali is protective of the man… who they had started to administer healing to, to cure him of his addictions.
- When Korran reaches for his dagger Weezl goes to kick it away from him. She fails to do so, and the elf grabs the blade, near cutting Sam when the monk goes to intervene. When Weezl speaks, the elf has a vague look of recollection but dismisses it. Akali explains that the dagger is sentient and is willing to take on his pain.
- The group are at a complete loss as to what to do, and Speck says that he needs sleep, whatever their decision is. He’ll find them at the arena and him and his (gender-neutral) lads will do their best to protect them. Dekgrad offers to use augury but they can’t decide on a decent way to phrase their question and when they cast the spell the answer is iffy, at best, as though there is some kind of interference.
- They then leave, trying to scout out the arena and to get themselves into a decent position.
- The group then witness the royal procession, seeing the grand duke and duchess for the first time (Dekgrad’s player joking that they seem nice). The Black Claw and his hearthsworn are present, and stationed at the arena are the Flamehearts- finishing spellcasting and reinforcing the wall of wind that eventually encloses the arena.
- In the stands are hundreds of people, mostly nobles and those with money. In the centre is a portly man with a large iron ring (the Warden), connected with many chains to roughly 30-40 people in manacles. Weezl recognises some of them as being Korran’s underlings from when she scouted out the warehouse.
- On two of the raised platforms are the Thorntons, including Charles and Sunday and Lev. And on the other the Grand Duke Leonidas and Grand Duchess Persephone along with The Black Claw.
- Duke Charles Thornton leads the event with details on what is to come and there is gold, secreted away in the seating, for everyone- to do with as they please. For bids or wager for the auctions and fights to come. And then Queen Persephone interrupts, shocking the Duke and the crowd to silence. She states that it all ends today- slavery, the pageantry, all of it. She wishes the entire place, the concept of it, destroyed. And as her enchanted words weave stronger and stronger through the crowd, the dark-red gemstones glow brighter and brighter, dying the area crimson. Eventually, she invites chaos and destruction, and the entire coliseum erupts violently and initiative is rolled.
Okay, to summarise, this was around 4 hours of crazy combat. But here’s some fun behind-the-DM-screen facts: There were 25 things acting in initiative, this is including the party members. And by things, I mean singular units, to groups of 30. The townsfolk themselves were treated as lair actions, to represent how they were everywhere and also making things a bit easier to manage for myself (also removing the chance for the players to hurt them- though AOE surely did anyway, and to increase map visibility.)
The challenge rating of the antagonists combined resulted in something being roughly CR 80. Though the party did have a large number of allies and a lot of those ‘antagonists’ mindlessly attacked one another in a complete frenzy.
- So, everything goes nuts. Townsfolk and guard turn on each other, hearthsworn mechanically start to hack at anything near them, and the flamehearts start to move, trying to stop the monk who has taken it upon himself to start destroying one of the crystal-topped pillars.
- Akali and Korran and their contingent of archers and spies run distraction, focusing on taking out nobles or anything along the far side of the arena- leaving the party to do their own thing.
- After being struck with a lightning bolt from Weezl the Queen and her King and bodyguard hit the ground (carried by a flying Black Claw), and seeing the arena being destroyed she releases her restraints on both of them… the king turning into an eldritch abomination of writhing flesh and tentacles, and the Black Claw swelling and returning to his own form- a Glabrezu, also known as a treachery demon. He relishes in the return to his unnatural form and roars in glee as he flies, hasted (thanks to Flamehearts), across the battlefield.
- Lev is struck, and battering out holy flames thrown by Dekgrad, resumes his Cambion form. Black skinned and six-fingered, a spawn of Graz’tz.
- Sam focuses on the glabrezu and pillars, while the rest do everything to destroy Lev. Persephone herself has also changed her form, with black leathery wings sprouting from her back.
- Nobles wrestle and scramble during the panic, and (making the players roll for Sunday and Charles) Sunday pushes his nephew from the tower… where he drops 50 feet to his death.
- During this bloodbath, Speck and his acolytes try to dispel magics and help where they can but are forcibly told to retreat by Weezl who turns into a giant scorpion, wrecking terrifying havoc (when we learn they can move like 120 ft in a round like a goddamn nightmare.)
So, highlights are as follows:
- Sam manages to shake off a lot of the mental influence from his curse, which unfortunately matures thanks to the presence of this particular ritual and abyssal energy- earning him the Feature: Fiend-blooded, gifting him with the ability to understand Abyssal… and god knows what else. His mental fortitude only fails three times, once-in response to the Queen’s own casting of Dissonant Whispers and her final command to protect her… charming him (for a round) and causing him to destroy Korran, laying into the battered elf with a barrage of blows and felling him, causing Akali to scream in distress and pick up her old blade. The last was when he attacked the Queen herself, but more on that in a second.
- Weezl conjures giant eagles to harass Lev and also turns into a giant scorpion for the first time. The terrible insect form proving to be more than formidable, striking down mortal and fiendish enemy alike. Also scoring a crit on a frenzied Hearthsworn with her stinger and killing them in one hit (doing something like 60 damage… seriously, who thought this shit was a good idea?) Weezl’s quick thinking at the end of the battle, conjuring more giant eagles, and a nat 20 Perception check led to her finding an unconscious Sam at the end of the battle who was bleeding out and dying. The result of trying to chase down a retreating Persephone but not having the fortitude, thanks to his curse, to strike her down. The Queen herself did not have that limitation.
- Ziggy did what Ziggy does best- sneak-fucking-attack. His deft swordplay and footwork only second to his killing blows with his glassbow. He managed to get a critical hit, felling Lev (who only had 5 HP left) who was retreating to _Persephone, and also managed to finish off The Black Claw. This did earn him a comment of “kill stealer” from some party members but I can’t think of much else that’s more thematic for the half-elf swashbuckler.
- Ziggy however did end up on the unfortunate end of a bit of AOE… including the exploding form of the king-turned-tentacle-monster… and the rogue did fall unconscious a couple of times near the end of the battle.
- Dekgrad was slowed down by the press of the panicked citizens for most of the battle, but did manage a few choice spells- his sacred flames actually doing work, alongside his spiritual weapon. His aid buff at the beginning of the battle increasing everyone’s HP by more than 20% and it went a LONG way, especially for the monk who was on the opposite side of the battlefield for a lot of the fight. It was also Dekgrad’s use of mass healing words that brought a few choice people back and topping off some felled NPCs. Even topping off Speck who even turned to vengeance by the end of the battle. He might not have hit as much as he’d have liked to, but he tanked a SHITLOAD of hits. Not even joking. 20AC is nothing to sneeze at.
- But eventually, the battle was over. Perhaps not won, but over. Persephone retreated but her cadre and support network in Sandhill definitely crippled or gone completely. The ritual she was enacting mostly thwarted. Whatever she was doing, the party had stopped the worst of it- in the aftermath noticing the grooves cut into the stone, now running with blood, creating a large… summoning circle.
- The group manage to save roughly 50 people between them with Medicine checks at the end of the battle (mostly thanks to Dekgrad’s nat 20 medicine check, but they notice a lot of the red stone shards used as makeshift weapons causing much of the worser wounds.
- Sam and Dekgrad go about destroying the rest of the glowing/inert crystal pillars, and they move their remnants and the piles of cursed gold to the centre of town.
- While everyone tries to collect themselves, Dekgrad approaches the group with a confession. He tells them all how he thinks this is his fault, that so many more people died because he tried to end things without bloodshed. The guilt weighs heavily on him (and at about this point the table realises what’s going on) and he says that he has to leave to try find himself. He thinks he wants to be on a ship again and he’s going in the direction of The Shimmering Gates. Ziggy, being somewhat of a native, tells him to watch out for the shorter folk (meaning halflings.) And while everyone is somewhat stunned, he summons his celestial dachshund, bids everyone a hearty farewell and rides off… not noticing that the mist is already rapidly dispersing and actively recoiling from his armored form.
And so, ends the this part of the tale of Dekgrad, cleric of Sharindlar, sailor of stone-ships and lover of ale.
I may have actively had to listen to upbeat music while writing this out because I’m getting a bit emotional over the whole thing. Lawrence, you’ve been an absolute pleasure to have in game (in game and at the table) and you are a goddamn top-tier roleplayer. For someone who started this very session saying that you probably should have read your stuff more, as a character you were more than on top of things, even from the get go. Seriously, thank you. Your energy, generous nature and humour will be actively missed. Even if a lot of it was inappropriate jokes about the Aid spell. (And that’s not rubble :p.)
As for everything else. Holy shit. It literally is still effecting my head with how much I was trying to juggle in this battle (I was laughably out of it yesterday.) I did forget a couple things, but more importantly- Ziggy/Evan your bow met 3 requirements for awakening. Not even fucking joking. 1) Hitting a target resistant to piercing, 2) Scoring a crit with the weapon, and 3) Scoring a killing blow with the weapon. So, expect an updated card soon. And I can’t believe you technically managed that in one shot.
Also, I have no idea how to balance the game around a hasted Aarakocra monk. So don’t expect to find potions of Haste ever again for anything under 2000-3000 gp. Because, HOLY SHIT, 300ft of movement is a bit much… even if it meant Sam nearly died in a ditch away from everyone.
Seriously everyone, amazing work and thank you so much for bearing with me. I was so nervous that this session was going to be a slog, or a failure, or just plain not fun. You were all amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have to say my biggest regret was that I was so busy juggling everything that I didn’t get to watch everyone very much.
And the group reach level 7. Yep, just took one session. No big deal… unlike those Stinger Crits.