Thursday, 18 March 2021

Belswick 29 - Climbing Mt. Heresy

Last time in Belswick, our adventuring party joined the Eagle Lances of the Rock, a mercenary company that's fighting off the invasion by nasty, possibly heretical and definitely semi-French Arrayne in the south. To open a new route for the company, the party is to negotiate safe passage with the frost giants of the southern snake mountains. Off you trot.

Player comments in red, DM's notes in...teal?

Player-facing map of this path crawl. All connections take one day to walk (unless the random dice gods intervene). Dotted lines are hard-to-find paths, zig-zags are extra-hard climbs that take a Constitution save to avoid getting a point of exhaustion. The party mostly took the left-most branch (the Hinterlands), veering into the central path (High Mountains) by crossing from the Old Gate to the Ruined Tower. There are much more of those secret passages on the map, but they'll have to find those on their own :)


WHO WOULD ACCEPT THAT KIND OF SUICIDE MISSION?

  • Guy Montfaulc, diviner wizard and occasionally afflicted with psionic blackouts ever since his youth
  • Shams Metalgrog, dwarf and arcane knight looking for reasons to stay on the surface and not join her race's Downward Crusade
  • Barak Sapat-Gromesh, holy warrior of the ...god? saint? Gormesh, and scout for Tyaak's Free Lances of the Rock. Rides a massive dire boar named Zendod, Orcish for "fluffy".
    Shams: I love how there's an orc word for "fluffy". That changes my whole way of looking at them.
    DM: versatile beast, that one. Riding animal, totem beast, bedroll, emergency ration...

  • Pyrrha 'little red', wild girl of the small remnant of people that still follow the old ways. Big rages, summons flint weapons from the ground and flings dangerous magic around when "playing with people"
  • Ungulu the Vulture, birdling cleric of the Order of Light and member of the Inquisition. Very interested in heresy perpetrated by the new religious order of "Zulin" in Arrayne

 

WHAT DID THESE LOONS GET  UP TO?

A good old-fashioned pointcrawl, that's why! I mapped out the region, gave them the choice between three routes to the Frost Giant fortress, and entrusted my fate to the dice. Out of the hill road (long, boring), the high mountains (short, dangerous) and the hinterlands (middle length, weird), the players choose weirdness. They buy rations and trust to their survival skills to find food and water.

Every day, the group elects someone to lead them, who then rolls for weather conditions and random encounters. Chaos, take the wheel:
Pyrrha: mini-map and random encounter rolls were a treat! Too bad that we didn't roll any of the really kooky stuff, but this still was a very interesting trip.

  • Barak leads the group out on the road to the Quarry and further into the hinterlands, gets them lost a couple of hours out of mercenary HQ because of cruddy encounter roll. Extremely steep climb means half the party is exhausted. Worse still, it started raining like hell because of crappy weather check. Only one character has thought to bring a tent. 
  • Ungulu sneaks out in the middle of the night with his acolyte Harald. Catches a wild beast and sacrifices it to definitely not the Authority, asking to speak with "his brother". Such power is granted, and the normally almost entranced "Harald" becomes more animate, speaking to his brother of "the pain that this half-life causes him". Ungulu promises to sacrifice more often so he can talk to Harald more. He is warned that the price will increase. Just this once, he will agree to bleed himself, and Harald slowly carves the sign of a key into his brother's palm. The party notice when Ungulu and Haralad come back all bloody from their "prayer" (lucky perception roll!) but their religion check is low enough that they don't know what the key symbol means. Probably nothing bad.
    • Barak: no-one is who they seem in this party. What the hell is this guy's deal!
    • DM: mad props for Ungulu. He's scary even for an inquisitor, he's got a dark secret and he's not afraid to show that at the table. Very fun to see the party come to grips with that.
    • Pyrrha: the way he goes through characters (Mike the Druid - Sydney the Sorceror - Morrti the Artificer - Ungulu the Inquisitor), he has to, or those secrets never make it into the session ;) But definitely a highlight: very dark, foreboding and emotional.
  • Next day the weather is better, and the party makes it to their first marker on the map: the Quarry. Here the blue-lipped workers are hard to distract and hard to stop talking when they start. The foxling overseer is happy to sell the party canvas for tents at a mark-up if they help make dinner. He gives them directions: continue to the Dwarf Farm, detour to the Cloven Oak (a lightning-struck tree), or take a short cut into the Raging Gorge in the high mountains. The group rests up and decides to go for the Cloven Oak.
    • Barak takes the opportunity to tell the story of his patron saint Gormesh, who preached to the Orcs and was struck by lightning but finished his sermon before exploding. He'll tell it daily or more this session.
    • Barak: Man I love playing this guy and coming up with his one-liners. Bless me with your lightning!
    • Pyrrha: keep the Flemish accent!
  • The climb to the oak is pretty doable, and the party meets up with the purple-robed beetlefolk acolyte Hannah of the Order of the Scroll, who is gathering old folk tales and who wanted to see the lightning-stricken oak. Apparently it's almost the anniversary of an old lightning spirit casting its might at the tree, and she'll hang around a couple of weeks to see if anything happens.
    • The party wake up at night to an atmosphere charged with electricity, and see Hannah performing a ritual with copper at the cloven oak. Shams gets her to confess that she's not tale-gatherer but a minder of this sleeping godling: she has to finish the ritual and ground the tree before the godling can awaken!
    • Touching the tree, the party get the idea that a proper offering might bring...attention. Shams places her family greatsword in the cleft, Guy sets a child's doll, Barak leaves a trusted handaxe,...and Pyrrha, Harald and Ungulu all climb into the tree. Pyrrha wants to use her magic power to draw the lightning, Ungulu wants to give of himself to bring Harald back to life. Hannah is FRANTIC at this heretical ritual, but cannot stop the group.
      • Ungulu: let's face it, Shams intimidated the shit out of her. Who is that dwarf really? One moment she's having her familiar heal the wounded, then it's browbeating beetlelings. I thought I was the scary one.
      • DM: he is. Fuck does that vultureling inquisitor scare me.
    • Lightning strikes! I roll a sick amount of damage and call for saving throws: everyone lives, but the tree-dwellers take a solid 40-something lightning damage. All the gifts evaporate under the discharge...including Pyrrha's magical abilities! Her spells, cantrips and especially her power to call weapons out of the earth are gone. In return, everyone has resistance to lightning for a month. And Harald? Harald looks a bit more present, a bit more focused. He's still pretty quiet...probably because he chooses to now. There's a bit of lightning deep in his eyes.
      • Ungulu: thanks so much to Guy for using his daily prophetic insight to improve my aweful dex save. Sadly even the higher result wasn't enough to avoid getting fried.
      • Pyrrha: my previous character Tilly the Dealmaker would LOVE to find out that the group has been indulging in a little heresy on the side.
      • DM: yeah, we should play a one-on-one session soon and find out how "retirement as an abbot" is treating Tilly. 
  • The group continues south, finding a short cut (lucky encounter roll!) as the weather turns fair. Shams leads the group past a still (moonshine made by the farm hands) and takes a small keg for a couple of gold pieces. She then takes the group to the Old Gate past the Dwarf Farm. Here the group finds five orcs in a hunting band, who are pretty sick after pestering an old lady at the Crystal Lake one day out. The party shares their own food and makes friends.
    • Pyrrha: Poor Shams. "I don't know what to do with my life anyway - oh hey, alcohol!"
  • On the next morning, Guy decides to lead the party not ahead to the Waterfall but into the high mountains, where he has spied a Ruined Tower through his familiar's eyes. Halfway the grueling climb it starts to rain again, then hail and lightning break loose: clearly they're in danger! Guy pulls up a magic dome of force that will keep out pretty much anything for eight hours. Barak stares at the lightning - did he tell the group about how his patron saint handled lightning? - and Pyrrha marvels at the dome and her own complete lack of magic.
  • The next day, the group completes the killer climb up the mountaint (by amazing rolls, no-one got exhausted!) and meets a bunch of...woodsmen? at the top, sheltering from the last of the storm in the Ruined Tower. "'ello? Oo are vous?", their leader calls out.

    "Shit, did we cross into Arrayne?"
    DM: We'll find out next session!

...DM, while writing up this log: fuck, only NOW does the little part of my brain that runs Hannah the Beetle realise that she saw a heresy-hunting Inquisitor participate in a witch rite to get power from some old god! I'm sure that won't come back to haunt the group.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Belswick 28 - junior mercenaries

Last time in Belswick, the players fought off assassins at the wedding of lord Haine Kerjules the Hedgehog and Olga the Widow - not succeeding in saving either of them (although in Olga's case, she'd been dead for a few years already). Now under the control of Haine's son Silas, fiefs Crossroads and Culfield are preparing to join the war of wider Belswick against southern Arrayne.

update: now with loot / gifts

 

CHARACTERS

  • Guy Montfaulc, diviner wizard and occasional haver of psionic blackouts (player sadly not present this session)
  • Shams Metalgrog, dwarf and arcane knight looking for reasons to stay on the surface and not join her race's Downward Crusade
  • Lomin Mor, elf rogue, disgraced former noble and longtime impersonator of the Lady Olga of Culfield after she passed away, to avoid a useless nephew inheriting the fief (leaves the group at least temporarily this session)
  • Barak Sapat-Gromesh, holy warrior of the ...god? saint? Gromesh, and scout for Tyaak's Free Lances of the Rock (new character of Lomin's player)
  • Pyrrha 'little red', wild girl of the small remnant of people that still follow the old ways. Big rages, summons flint weapons from the ground and flings dangerous magic around when "playing with people"
  • Ungulu the Vulture, birdling cleric of the Order of Light and member of the Inquisition. Very interested in heresy perpetrated by the new religious order of "Zulin" in Arrayne


THIS SESSION

Young hedgehogling Silas is a different ruler than his father, and the PCs find themselves out of favor. The old Kerjules' house wizard Guy is summarily dismissed after failing to save his lord, Lomin Mor no longer has his lady's ear (and wig, and dress), and it seems no-one has any more ties to Crossroads.

After the old lord and lady's funeral, they decide to head south to follow up on an invitation from Tyaak the eagle, a noble son setting up his own mercenary band to fight in the war against Arrayne.

Before leaving, some last affairs to take care of. 

  • Shams gets their former party member Abbott Tilbord to draw them a map of all the Du'van tombs in the area, and write a separate scroll with all the information the group has gathered on the old snake people. 
  • Lomin says farewell to the group, telling them that he has personal affairs to take care of in Arrayne. He then talks to Bishop Urael - his brother - and asks him to go back to Arrayne together. Urael agrees, but will need to make a detour to the north first. Lomin then has the sword of assassin St. Etienne de Cours identified by Guy: it's a magic sword that bites extra hard when facing werewolves. Lomin - actually Azrael d'Arendil - gives the sword to Shams, and gifts Guy with a scroll of the Knock spell.
  • Pyrrha puts her request to Silaw Kerjules: she was sent to inherit the estate of her brother Mike, which has reverted back to Silas after Mike's death. Silas will consider the request, if Pyrrha will spy on her companions and try to determine if they were connected to his father's death.
 

The trip is fairly quick and uneventful:

  • in barony Walden, one meeting with a bog hag just east of Crossroads, who trades Ungulu one happy memory for a secret of a person he can name. He describes his summoning spirits of the damned to lay waste to assassins at the wedding, and she's surprised to discover that he actually considers that a happy memory! In return...well, Ungulu just walks off and says he'll be in touch.
  • in barony Corsewall, one ambush by three giant spiders that quickly get turned into meat for dinner; Ungulu and Pyrrha whip out spices and pans and turn the ghastly things into a proper meal.
  • in barony Nether Stowey, one encounter with celebrating monks of the Circle of Thorns, celebrating nature's bounty with all kinds of meals. Pyrrha gives them a bit of the spider meat and they bless her with one use of Inspiration.
  • in barony Ballumbie, one encounter with a trio of bog mummies bearing the holy symbol of the Order of St Vivione the healer; they appear to warn people away from a plague that has vanished over 80 years ago. The group easily outpace them.
  • in barony Ballumbie, one charge by an enormous boar bearing an even bigger Half-Orc - the group get ready to roll initiative, when we introduce Lomin's new character: Barak Sarpat-Gromesh, a scout of Tyaak's and a holy warrior of Gromesh. Ungulu immediately wants to know - he is talking about the Authority, yes? But of course

Barak takes the group up to the Eagle's Eyrie: a steep climb of stairs and slopes going up maybe a kilometer from the valley below to a rock outcrop bearing five tall towers. You can take the place by force, if you can fly or have a lot of people to spare for the inevitable bombardment on the stairs.

Inside the castle:

  • Tyaak welcomes the party - he actually knows all of them: Shams and Guy met him in the mildly heretical Devil's Ring tournament half a year ago, and young Pyrrha (about 16) and devout Ungulu participated, what, 10 years back?

  • Tyaak explains that his mercenary troup, the Eagle Lances of the Rock, will undertake fast raids behind enemy lines rather than slogging it out with the Arraynians.

  • The Eagle Lances have had a couple of setbacks: surprisingly well-coordinated tactics without flags or horns in a confrontation outside Lissecourt to the south, and a band of negotiators with the mountain giants getting eaten while negotiating a back passage into Arrayne.

  • The PCs decide to join the Eagle Lances, stipulating that they do have other obligations. As long as those don't collide, they'll work for Tyaak to the best of their ability. Barak will join them as scout on their first mission: arrange safe passage for the Eagle Lances of the Rock from the ice giants of the southern Snake Mountains!

  • Pay: 4 gp / week, plus 25% of all ransoms and loot that the party acquires during their adventures. Ungulu waves this pay for an as of yet unspecified future favor.

 

LOOT AND GIFTS

  • Pyrrha: Inspiration (advantage on one d20 roll) for celebrating the feast of nature with monks of the Circle of Thorns
  • Guy: scroll with the Knock spell
  • Shams: +1 longsword, +2d8 damage to werewolves, belonged to Ser Etienne de Cours

Friday, 5 February 2021

Belswick 27 - wedding crashers

Last time in Belswick, my players worked their way through a wedding between two local nobles (one being their patron, the other an alter ego of one of the PCs). After getting a leading member of the Inquisition out of the way with a good dose of purgatives, their way is clear to a relaxed wedding dinner...until a band of assassins crashes the party and shoots their patron in the chest. Wartime is a bitch and all those nobles together were a juicy target. It's a party! 

This 'red wedding' session was very much inspired by Yames Young's If you Love your World, Set it Free - sometimes, you need to shake up the comfortable little world your players have built (and that you loved to build for them). War was already visible as backdrop a couple of sessions; now it's come to their doors and cost them a patron. I'm very curious to see how they'll respond.

 

OUR BEST MEN AND MAIDS OF HONOUR

  • Guy the wizard - human diviner of the Lodge of Augurs, player absent due to real life. Missed you man.
  • Lomin Mor the rogue - elf sneakthief and secretly a big softie with a heart of gold. Which he probably stole somewhere.
  • Pyrrha the barbarilock - young human girl raised by...well, we'll get into that at some point, but for now this tiny redhead is raging and throwing warlock spells.
  • Shams Metalgrog - dwarf fighter noble from the Deepward Crusades, not-so-quietly looking for a good way to stay in the surface lands.
  • Ungulu the inquisitor - vultureling cleric of the Authority and the Order of Light. Which means fire. Which means godawful murder spells and a more intimidating demeanor than the fucking warlock. Love it.

 

Ungulu, Cleric of the Authority

PLAYER SUMMARIES AND RESPONSES

UNGULU
Great session! Even waiting for my turn there was never a dull moment. Great job by the DM.

Highlights: Lomin ending up in the thick of the fight sacrificing his healing potions to NPCs? Where's the real Lomin?? (Then after the fight he starts looting. Aaannd he's back)
Shams - how often can you miss people with a greatsword?
Pyrrha - using your decapitated enemy like a pillow to sleep off the post-rage exhaustion? Genius.
Ungulu, to guard: "No authority, you say? I AM THE AUTHORITY."
DM: good job playing all the different NPCs, exciting combat, fun interactions and everything that happened was connected.

PYRRHA
Yes, very cool session. I get that the DM was a bit anxious to run it, but it was very good. Maybe you felt like you were endlessly flipping back and forth in the Monster Manual, but it really wasn't an issue. You had cool enemies on the board and a lot of interesting and impactful actions.
The assassin sticking with Kerjules again, and again...wow.
The intrigue during and after the fight, delicious! There are big changes coming
Lomin turns out to have had a real relationship with Olga. Big softie indeed!
Shams out of armor seems completely out of her comfort zone. And also personally hit by this attack and eager for revenge.
Ungulu, sweet lord! Burn em, rip their chests open, judge them all.. let someone else sort em out
Pyrrha could wade in and do her thing - targets softened up by fireballs go down nice and fast 😌

Very curious to see what this will all lead to. Looking forward to next game!

SHAMS
Super cool session with lots of different aspects. Applause for the DM, because there were a lot of NPCs to keep track of 👏🏼
Great roleplaying by the players, lots of intense but quiet conversation.
Shams is very disappointed. Big failure with her sword. So all the accusations from around the village have wormed their way into her head. And losing the old Kerjules is a big let-down. Especially now Kerjules the younger seems to go the war mongering way of the White Rose followers. I hate revenge, so let's look up those people.
Shams is not feeling like hanging around Crossroads for much longer. Her original mission of setting up a trade route is complete, so she's free to go her own way.
After seeing them in action, Shams is a big fan of Urael and Ungulu. Clearly first impressions don't tell the whole story.
Let's see if we can stop this war. Step one, the White Rose's followers.
That is, if we're not going to hell first. Welcome back Ricky!

This new d20 (a holiday present from my wife) went on an absolute murder spree this session.


THIS GAME, MAN

I'll admit, I wasn't feeling it before the game started. I'd just sprung an assassination attempt on a wedding party at the end of last session. Great cliff hanger, but it involved about 16 different NPCs, most with their own stat block. All represented by paper minis on a Dwarven Forge build, streamed over crappy video...it was going to be a lot of work and I was really knackered from work.

Of course, then the webcam conked out completely. Fuck you, microsoft livecam. But on the plus side, it meant I had to run the entire combat theatre of the mind style. That sure got me going! Old school baby. Well, old school with camera photos over whatsapp. Next time I'll try and use the phone as a webcam with iVcam.

 

THIS GAME

Long combat. Surprisingly cool to run; there were a lot of little roleplaying moments I could tuck in there. Sure, it ran to 2/3rds of the session, but it was fun!

Some highlights:

  • Shams dispelling the targeting beacon on Ungulu with a fist in his stomach. That sabre-wielder would have fucked him up. Of course karma means that she then hits absolutely no-one with her zweihander (summon weapon is key if you have to check your murdertools at the door) for the rest of the combat...so sorry!
  • Peter Walden, Hedgehogling noble, pulling the feet from under some thug on the banquet table, critting and breaking dude's neck
  • Peter's new wife Liselle trying to bodycheck her very spiky husband into another thug
  • Lomin Mor, Lomin EVERYTHING NOT NAILED DOWN IS MINE Mor, dancing past the entire mass of enemies to pour healing potion after expensive healing potion down his liege's throat
  • Lomin's older brother, bishop Urael, surreptitiously helping out in the fray with sagitta arcana spells (dog latin for Eldritch Blast, a very warlock and very heretical spell). Not that any of the party saw, but the party definitely took note :D
  • Pyrrha, new at this wedding shit and not impressed so far, ripping a flint greatsword out of the very earth and lopping off heads left and right. Biggest kill: Ser Etienne de Cours, a displaced knight whose family held holdings in Ozillac; an Arraynian barony before Belswick took it as recompense for the last war
  • Lightning bolts from an invisible mage (greater invisibility is murder) laying down scores of wedding guests
  • Ungulu, already a fairly creepy cleric, popping Spiritual Guardians. "Four white-robed spirits weeping blood rise from the earth and attend me. I go down everyone in the room: ignore, damnation, damnation, ignore...for now, damnation, damnation..."

In the end, the party prevents the entire table of collected nobles from being killed. They don't save everyone though: Haine Kerjules, Hedgehogling lord of Crossroads, sighs his last. While the entire band of knights, thugs, clerics (and what was up with that "For the White Rose" and "In the Name of Zulin" shit anyway?) and rogues gets mowed down by the group, one lone assassin buries his swords in Kerjules' chest up to the hilt. And again, because there's Lomin with the healing potions, and again...and then a couple of lightning bolts cut across the room, finishing the old knight.

Busy map. Even busier to run this theatre of the mind because the webcam broke.


CHASE

A pop in the air signifies the invisible mage has teleported away, and the chase is on through dark Crossroads. Guy leads the way with his diviner mentor Fergus, intuiting tracks and finding a bolted-shut shack with ritual chanting coming from inside. Pyrrha and Shams try but fail to knock down the door, and Ungulu gives it the last push with bright light focused into fire. Right before the enemy wizard can walk through a just-opened teleportation circle, the party's old cleric Tilbørd becomes visible behind him and whispers a word, stunning the mage. Ropes come out as the circle flickers and fails.

 

GOODBYE

In the feast hall, old Lady Olga of Culfield lies down to her new husband and says goodbye to him and to Lomin. Olga was formally still in mourning for her original husband Malcer. And if we're being pedantic, Olga has been dead for years; her old friend Lomin has been taking her place to keep an incompetent nephew from controllnig the fief. Lomin's bishop brother Urael has somehow managed to bring Olga back for this one wedding day. Lomin says his goodbyes - again.

 

INTERROGATION

We skip a couple of days. Haine's son Silas, now lord of Crossroads and Culfield, takes charge. The mage-assassin is in his dungeon; new knights are being elevated and war taxes are raised even further than before. Haine's court wizard Guy and his mentor Fergus are dismissed as useless conjurers of tricks. The party, formerly friends at court, are looked at as failures by the new strongmen assembled by the young hedgehog. Worse, there's dark mutterings about Guy and Lomin's slight Arraynian accents...are they working for the enemy?

And in the middle of all that, Pyrrha and Ungulu stride up to the dungeon, scare the guard witless and have a fifteen minute talk with the captured wizard. We fade to black and they get the information that southern Arrayne, newly at war with Belswick, is behind the attack.

More information: Zulin is the god of a newly elevated sect within the Church; the True Authority, it is claimed. (Heresy!) Finally, the White Rose was the name of a young Arraynian lady knight in the last war with Arrayne.


FROM HELL

As the PCs sit in the Crossroads inn, mourning and nursing wounded egos, they discuss where to go next. Suddenly, the flagstones begin to shake and smoke fills the air. A sinkhole opens up under the table and reddish-yellow light flares up. In the smoke, a shadow of what comes from below can be seen. Giant horns curving back over the skull, a tail snaking back and forth, clawed hands and bat wings flapping. The shadow grows. Cries of anguish sound from beneath. PCs cower behind furniture.

Up rises...Ricky the Imp, Shams' 1 foot high familiar whom she sent out to get One Answer from Hell (five remaining) a few sessions ago!

They really deserved a hope spot. Of course he had to open his mouth. Anguished: "you're all going to hell!"

 

SPOILS OF WAR

  • some 300 gold worth of coins and gems in hidden pouches
  • the magic sword of Ser Etienne de Cours, not identified yet

 

THE ENEMIES

All from the Monster Manual NPC section, with small changes:

  • Priest, leveled up to lvl 7 for a Stone Shape escape spell (not used)
  • 2x Acolyte, for spell support, blessings and minor healing
  • Knight, for buffing attack rolls
  • Veteran, bodyguard to the Knight and secondary anchor for the front line
  • 2x Thug, support fighters
  • Assassin, for taking down the noble targets
  • Spies, support assassins
  • Mage, with level 5 swapped out for Teleportation Circle and a level 4 for Evard's Black Tentacles (not used)

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Belswick 26: getting married

Last session in Belswick, our heroes escaped the collapsing lair of Xiximanter the Serpent Lich, hired a bunch of dwarves to turn it into a quarry for dressed stone and take care of their affairs in the villages of Crossroads, Culfield and Witmarrow, and blast to kill themself out of existence experimenting with Xixi's horrible fungal cloning chamber. This session, it's wedding time as Lomin the rogue's alter ego Olga gets married to Lord Kerjules the Hedgehog!

NEW CHARACTERS

Last session Morti the Artificer blew himself up and Tilbord the Cleric/Bard/Warlock/Abomination actually retired as an abbot and teacher of the new Open Book orphanage in Crossroads!

This session we see these players' new characters: wild and fey Pyrrha, wearing a sun dress, wolf-pelt cloak and conjuring arcane fire and flint weapons; and vulture-faced Ungulu the Cleric of the always understanding, always friendly Order of St Kurelda of the Light - the Inquisition. They have ties to both Lord Kerjules and Mother Iranelle of the order of light, which is enough to get them forced on the party! Ungulu brings with him a fellow Acolyte of the Light, one Harald who took his vow of silence so serious he cut out his own tongue.

LOOSE ENDS

Guy the wizard wasn't present for last session's haven turns, so we handle those now. He has regained control of his magic as something clicks in his mind and his graps of psionics fades...for now. He spends time recovering from this childhood-affliction grown stronger and exchanges letters with fellow student Ylaine de Nantres in Arrayne, who has spotted Guy's sister Josephine. But didn't Guy talk to her on the Isles of the Dead back at the beginning of the campaign??

Catching up with his mentor Fergus, Guy presents the spellbook of Xiximanter, which contains one very dangerous, very heretical spell banned by the Church of the Authority: Plane Shift. Both understand what they have in hand: a one-way ticket to they pyre. After coded correspondence with their August Lodge of Augurs and Diviners, Guy's remaining college debt of about 45000 gp is erased, he gains a nominal 4000 gp reward for the spellbook, and a position as Ardent Seer and Adept of the Lodge worth 30 gp/month!

We zap back to the end of last session, when Shams, Guy, Lomin and Tilbord each got woken up by the shattered ghost of Brent the Cloned Bandit! It's a bit of a struggle, but they manage to defeat the ghost wearing nothing but nightshirt and hastily scrounged weaponry. The last of this guy, hopefully?

WEDDING TIME

It's time to get married! Lomin has been playing the role of long-deceased Lady Olga of Culfield, who was a close friend and didn't have heirs or relatives who could inherit. Now Olga will marry Lord Kerjules of neighbouring Crossroads to cement the region against coming war with southern Arrayne.

We run through a couple of scenes during the wedding:

Tourney! Mostly good-natured archery, jousting and melee, until spurned inheritor Sir Drake Selbern steps up in his crude plate armor to insult the living daylights out of old, decrepid Lady Olga. This needs a champion to settle the guy once and for all. Eyes turns to Shams the Dwarf, but who steps up but newly introduced Pyrha wearing nothing more than a sun dress? It seems like an unfair battle, and it is - the barbarian girl absolutely demolishes Selbern as he hacks into her with his sword.

Wedding ceremony! The Crossroads church is packed as Bishop Urael - Lomin's brother - seals the two nobles in holy matrimony. Interestingly enough, both Olga and Lomin are seen in the church, a gift of the bishop. Afterwards, it's time to pay up: Urael wants the party to make sure Mother Iranelle of the Inquisition isn't present at the wedding dinner. After typical PC-debate, the group settles on tried and tested poison.

Reception and gift-giving, during which Lomin buys four potions of purgatives from Annabelle the potion maker, intimidating her with his knowledge of her link to the former goblin infestation in Xiximanter's tomb. Inquisitor Ungulu amuses himself intimidating a dozing guard at a cart - and discovers a hidden magic sigil below the wares. Before he can interrogate the guard, the guy disappears in a cloud of purple mist. Meanwhile the other characters each try to slip the old nun a dose. One attempt goes awry but two others via invisibility and sneaky disguise succeed, and soon the White Robe is waddle-running to an outhouse, not to return for the night...

Finally, a wonderful evening feast where the whole party is invited. Urael has one last gift to bestow: a dinner with the memories of the departed, to wish well and feel connected. It's a strange thing to see Olga dining with her dead husband Malcer, to see the shades of Brent the bandit and Vedric von Vermis the wizard harrassing Tilbord in a corner, for always-glib Lomin to have a tearful heart-to-heart with his murdered fiancee Valanthe, and for Guy to speak to his dead sister ("do not mistake the medium for the message").

Then a group of servers walks in from opposing doors and denounces these heretical proceedings in the name of unknown Zulin. Strange angelic creatures covered in wings and eyes start to swirl around their leader, before Guy dispels the cloud and Ungulu lobs a cleansing fireball into the mass - but not before one of the group shoots Lord Kerjules in the heart with a poisoned bolt. The hedgehogling goes down, frothing at the mouth - and that's where we'll continue next session!

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Belswick 25: killing PCs during downtime

Last session in Belswick, the players vanquished Xiximanter the Lich and finally cleared the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. Hoorah! Now they deal with the aftermath in a length downtime session, which ends with a double botch and sudden PC death. I already ran part of this haven turn for two players in a mini session for 2 players; this time, we pick up with almost the entire group - our wizard couldn't make it.

 
IN CROSSROADS AND BEYOND, war with Arrayne is in full swing. Soldiers pass through, taxes are raised and whispers talk of dangerous spies from the southern kingdom. Crossroads fares well: the town has grown since winter with new shops and inhabitants who are turning the town into a supply point for the war.

THE PARTY STARTS OUT in the lab of Xiximanter the Lich in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. As the roof starts to crumble and collapse, Tilly races to rescue as many artifacts and books as he can. Helped by Shams, he saves a few books, but heavy rocks knock the talking alchemy set containing parts of Xiximanter's soul out of his hands. Choosing wisdom over valor, the pair exit the collapsing lab. The rest of the tomb seems stable enough.

INVESTIGATING THEIR HAUL, the party puts the following on the table as Tilly manages to wrench their secrets out of the ether with identify spells:

  • Ring of Spell Storing, 5 levels max, requires attunement, 2500 gp
  • Bag of Holding, weighs 2 inventory slots and can contain 20, 1200 gp
  • Potions of Healing: 2x greater (100 gp each, 4d4+4) and 1x superior (500 gp, 8d4+8)
  • Xiximanter's Alchemist's Stone: one use as level 14 Transmutor (heal & cure of inflictions, revive, give youth), 2000 gp
  • 3 Tuning Forks for the rare and discouraged cleric spell Plane Shift (wizards don't get this spell, or any other of level 7 or higher; those simply don't exist), total value 750 gp


Xiximanter's Spellbook in Du'van, worth 3250 for the spells alone and at least double that to the right collector - Order of the Scroll, Order of Light or Lodge of Augurs & Diviners:

  1. detect magic, shield, thunderwave
  2. acid arrow, detect thoughts, invisibility
  3. counterspell, dispel magic
  4. dimension door, polymorph
  5. cloudkill, scrying
  6. contingency, programmed illusion
  7. plane shift


LOMIN the Elf Rogue talks to lord Haine Kerjules about the lord's upcoming wedding to Olga of Culfield - Lomin's alter ego. Lomin confesses he has been playing Olga's role since she died 2-3 winters ago. Kerjules is distraught - if this comes out, his name is ruined! Without asking for huge bribes or favours, Lomin suggests that "Olga" can pass away soon after the wedding, making sure that the secret is safe.

There is a sickness in fief Culfield. Animals and serfs are winded and lightheaded - bad air from Witmarrow swamp? Manuel the steward, haggard and pale, gives Lomin a letter "for the priest". He explains he doesn't know what's inside or who gave it to him. He explains he was assaulted on Candle Night and given this missive for Tilbord. Lomin promises to take the letter to Tilly, as Manuel is working day and night to pay the war taxes and keep the estate running.

Lomin's brother Urael, roving bishop in the order of the scroll, visits Lomin with a proposal. Not only is Urael looking into Azrael--sorry, Lomin's claim that he was framed for murder by their own brother, he can help make the wedding go smoother. Urael is willing to use magic to make it seem that Lomin and Olga are both present at the wedding. No price is discussed.

SHAMS THE DWARF ELDRITCH KNIGHT gets her armor and shield repaired, is inducted into the Marble Library of the dwarves by her aunt Tole, and visits potionmaker Annabelle to stock up on healing potions. Weirdly enough, the potionmaker doesn't seem to recognize Shams or remember her being rescued from the bandits in the Serpent Tomb. (For that matter, where did that Annabelle go?)

TILLY THE BARD/CLERIC/WARLOCK is busy starting up his orphanage in fief Crossroads. He is happy to get help from the nun Moira the mouseling of the Order of the Scroll. Tilly's mentor Father Eustace has been having trouble taking care of the Sleeping Priest Hieronymus in the northern woods. Luckily, Mother Iranelle of the Order of St Kurelda is passing through to lend an hand. Always fun to talk with the inquisition when you're an arch-heretic!

Iranelle's titanic bodyguard is one of the dreaded Scarlet Guard of the Archbishop Hector himself. Its armor reminds Tilly of a deviant design powered by stolen souls he once saw, but when he tries to investigate, the guard cruelly grasps Tillys hand and shoves him back, hand on the hilt of his enormous greatsword.

MORTI THE GNOME ARTIFICER is busy investigating the resurrective sarcophagus left in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. He wants to turn it into a walking tank with parts scavenged from his clockwork rhinoceros Uni. It turns out that there are control gems missing. "Crucial control rods missing", hiss the Du'van serpent folk runes; "continue anyway?"

By happy accident, Lomin has found a couple of the gems "in the dirt" and is willing to sell them to Morti. Together with the wizard Fergus the Augur - Guy's mentor, now happy that his tower can finally be built with stones from the Tomb - Morti manages to create enough copies of the control gem to repair the sarcophagus.

Gems in hand, the gnome returns to the Tomb of the Serpent Kings to finish his new invention. The dwarves quarrying there are eager to get the gnome and his foolish contraption out of the way! Which side of the crystals goes where though? Messing around, Morti rolls poorly and gets zapped with arcane energy. As he flips the gems around, I ask him for one last Arcana check - with advantage, because he's been very careful so far.

Morti's first Arcana roll is a 1. Red light begins to glow inside the sarcophagus, quickly shifting up via orange, yellow and green to blue-ish purple. From behind him, Morti's almost-intelligent Green Book of Inventation mutters "oh no, and this one was showing such promise..." Luckily, advantage means you get to roll twice and keep the higher!

Morti rolls...a second 1. The jagged light from the sarcophagus quickly dopplers beyond violet straight into a blinding flash of octarin...and as the light fades, the entire room is empty.

Morti's player had told me he was interested in trying out a new character. We weren't quite ready yet to make the switch, but a double botch like that with an ancient arcane device has to be rewarded somehow! Goodbye Morti, I would have loved to see more of you. And maybe we will? After all, they didn't find a body...

As we start to fade to black, a last scene. Everyone is in their respective bed sleeping or trancing, as a raspy whisper curls into their ears. "You bastard...you killed me! Not once, not twice, but thirty times!"

Standing at the foot of each bed, half transparent with hate-yellow eyes and bearing the wounds of all the executions his clones were put through, is Brent the Bandit, cloned and murdered and now back from the dead one last time to get his revenge!



PLAYER QUOTES

SHAMS

  • Tilly thinking that knowledge is much more important than his life. Bit of a bother if you think about it.
  • Morti and Tilly are exactly the same. That gnome - by the Authority, if I find him I'll hit him until his eyes are straight again...
  • Good job by the dwarves setting up the trade house. Trade route already good for Witmarrow. But the war is showing the rotten parts of society.
  • Oh yeah, and a wedding - little culture shock there, I've never seen so much hubbub about a simple contract.



TILLY

  • Morti surviving a fight with a lich to then disappear himself with an experiment. Seriously, double 1 on a roll with advantage...it's a gift. 😂😭
  • Tilly staying in the background during the lich fight only to risk his life to save a book as the ceiling caves in.
  • Shams is the only hero in the group, and her imp the only paladin 😂 Thanks for saving me!
  • Lomin scrambling to get control of his shady business and ending up richer once again.
  • Big changes in Crossroads, interesting! And more big changes to come. Marriage. War. Bring it!



LOMIN

  • Hilarity ensues. And shenanigans.
  • Thank Shams for tagging along with Tilbørd, or else it would have been a double casualty today. Although of course there was also a succubus around to lend a manicured hand.
  • Morti surviving Xiximanter the lich to die as he sticks his fingers into the wall plug...
  • DM: you have advantage on this roll!
  • Morti: great, only I rolled double ones...
  • Lomin was in great form. Loved the little talks with Kerjules & Urael, but also with Morti & Baphomet / Annabelle.



MORTI

  • Great session!
  • Morti's double 1 - nuff said
  • Tilly is going to retire.... No more soul training of deal making?
  • Lomin plays a real rogue
  • Shamms saves Tilly, well done!


POTIONS THAT ANNABELLE CAN BREW

Common recipes: 50 gp each
comprehension, false life, hate, healing 2d4+2, heroism, love, sovereign grease, ventriloquism

Uncommon recipes: 100 gp each
breathlessness, burrow, clairvoyance, darkvision, energy resistance (one element), fire breath, giant size, glibness, greater healing 4d4+4, hide from animals, hide from undead, levitation, magic weapon, purge poisons, shrink, speak with beasts, speak with birds, speak with crawling things, speak with fish, speak with plants, spider climb, tongues, transposition, water breathing

Rare recipes: 500 gp each
deep sleep, flight, gaseous form, haste, superior healing 8d4+8, invisibility, poison (DMG), sovereign glue, transformation: rat, transformation: salmon, water walk