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    May 2006

    Default The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives ("Crystal Cantrips" COMPLETE!)

    Welcome to SilverClawShift's Campaign Journals! The purpose of this thread is to collect and reorganize SilverClawShift's most excellent stories about her real-life D&D 3.5 games, all for your viewing pleasure. For those of you familiar with SilverClawShift's epic tales, sit back and grab a snack, and please don't be too worried by the fact that you'll probably lose about three hour's of your free time reading (or rereading) the following entries. For those of you who are new, prepare to be utterly. Blown. Away. What started as a plea for tactical advice against a swarm of deadly predators has become something truly amazing.

    But aside from being an incredible read, these Campaign Journals will demonstrate to you, dear readers, at least one thing very, VERY important:

    This is what tabletop gaming can be like at its very best.

    So if you're a newcomer to Dungeons and Dragons and you're wondering what it's all about, or a veteran disillusioned by months or even years of frustrating players and draconic Dungeon Masters, take heart! For the adventures of SilverClawShift and company will show you the greatest wonders of Dungeons and Dragons, from the tensest moments of horror to the most exhilarating times of excitement, from the intrigue of figuring out what's going on to the great relief of having it all come to a satisfying end.

    If Dungeons and Dragons is all about getting together with a group of friends and creating a fun and exciting story together, then SilverClawShift's Campaign Journals is tangible, undeniable proof of it.

    Again, welcome to SilverClawShift's Campaign Journals! Enjoy your read.


    Edit: The thread has been stickied! (Or, at least, as close as threads will ever get stickied.) Many, MANY thanks to Roland for the favor and especially DethMuncher for getting it done.


    (Please note that not all of the chapter titles and page breaks were made by SilverClawShift.)



    The First Tale


    Background Information: Or, “We're So Screwed.”

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    So, my group is playing a month long campaign intended to climax around Halloween. Naturally, this campaign is heavy on the horror side of things. I won't ramble on about the main story-arch or the sub-archs we're currently smack dab in the middle of (at risk of turning this into a 5 page thread).

    But we're currently a 6 person group of level 6 characters, and we're currently in deep dragon doodoo.

    We're on a large island/small continent which, aside from a noteable degree of isolation, is more or less like the nearby mainland. A little lighter on supplies and certainly no major cities or kingdoms, but not a bumpkin-ville. it's also been under a massive undead plague for a few weeks, of which we've been a part of.

    The undead are all mindless. Anyone who dies rises as some kind of undead creature, usually a zombie. The long dead are returning as skeletons and low-level homebrew ghost creatures (partially incorporeal, creepy suckers anyway). And it's not just humanoids, animals and even insects are simply not staying dead here.

    We were hell bent on figuring out why. We're starting to wonder if it'll be a better plan to just turn tail and try to convince some paladin organizations to rake over the place with holy wrath.

    Except there's a few stubborn villages who simply refuse to give up their ancestral lands/homes. We're currently in one of those villages, which has managed to set up a few concentric rings of walls and trenches that keeps them relatively safe for a decent length of time.

    Enter problem two. There's a nest of Kythons that lived deep deep in a cave system, who mostly kept to slaughtering things under ground. The plague has affected them too, and while the kythons have been more successful at keeping their undead numbers down (mostly through brutal claw to claw shredding), the whole thing has them riled up enough that they've broken from their natural instinctual cycles, and have come to the surface. They're moving across the island in a wave of carnage.

    For anyone who doesn't know what a kython is: They're from the book of vile darkness, and the fastest way to sum them up is that they're D&D "Aliens" (as in, chestburster, facehugger, queen alien aliens). They aren't LITERALLY aliens, they're more of a demon/aberration, but that's more or less how to sum it up fast.



    The Situation

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    We're in a village of a about 7 dozen people. We're surrounded by undead humanoids, monstrous humanoids, and animals. They're mooks, we could wipe them out with some patience and a good battle strategy, but there's a bigger problem on the horizon. Our scrying and divinations have let us know that we've got about one week, give or take a day, to get ready for a wave of kythons to attack the town in an orgy of blood and fury.

    There's a LOT of them. A LOT of juveniles, a good number of broodlings and adults, and a single slaymaster (you have to know about the kythons for that to make sense). Worse, anything we kill will get up and fight us again, though probably weaker. WORSE WORSE, anything THEY kill will get up and fight us.

    I think our DM wanted us to quest for something to help us protect the town, but we threw a curveball at him, and suggested:

    Us: "What if we taught the village how to fight?"
    DM: "In a week?"
    Us: "Better than nothing."

    In our games, 6th level means you're a downright famous member of your chosen class. Maybe not a world-shatterer, but a 6th level cleric is almost definitely someone other clerics have heard of. A 6th level wizard is a respectable and admired arcanist. Ect.

    Since we're considered "downright incredible" by 99% of the worlds population (99% of the worlds population being 1rst level NPC classes), and since our DM liked our suggestion so much, he's letting us go for it. We get to transform the NPCs into ready adventurers. The solid week of hands-on training will give them a (one-time only) jump to second level, and they loose their NPC classes, gaining real base classes instead.




    The Army

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    Our group is: Wizard, Archivist, Cleric, Rogue, Paladin, and a Dragon Shaman (very relevant of course).

    Our DM has agreed that, between the 6 of us, we know just enough to START anyone down any path they (we) choose. If someone wanted to become a spellthief, our wizard and rogue would know enough to turn them into one. If someone wanted to be a binder, our archivist would be able to tell them how to start looking into it. ect. So our options are "anything", and we've got a crapload of books.

    Not everyone can fight of course. Relevant numbers:

    29 males which we can count actually truly count on in a war (which is what this really is) with slightly above average stats from a life of farming and rough-housing (physically 10-13s with a few peaking at 14, the DM will give us exact numbers at our next session). Mentally a little less stellar, but we can still expect a few to peak up at 13 or 14.

    11 women who are hard-headed enough to join us on the battlefield and not freak out (our DM isn't sexist, this is just a slice of ye-olde-village life where not all of the women are ready to stab a zombie in the face until they're cornered. Please please please don't turn this into a sexism-in-gaming thread, that's not going on, promise). One of the 11 women is a schoolmarm with 16 INT and some pre-cursory training with a rapier (gets proficiency and weapon focus with it as free feats, regardless of what classes we give her). She also has a +1 rapier that's been in her family for a long time, which is relevant because we're looking at mostly simple weapons and farming implements here. She won't let anyone else use the rapier though, unless it's an immediate situation where a weapon is needed.

    7 teens (5 male, 2 female) who aren't as physically able as the adults yet, but are still ready to fight. They're also collectively furious at the situation and ready to go down swinging, all of them.



    Location

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    There's more people in the village, but they're either unwilling, or unable, to really fight with us. The elderly, the timid, ect. We've also established that at least another dozen of the women and a few more men will be willing to shoot arrows from the rooftops of barricaded buildings, but won't be willing to go into battle head on, and they'll retreat inside at the first sign of the rooftops being overrun by kythons (inevitable if they're too effective).

    The kythons will have trouble getting through some of the current defenses, and we have a week to make fortifications, simple traps, and anything else we can think of. If they can't overrun us all at once, they'll wind up attacking in waves, which will give us a chance to re-group and prepare for the next wave. And deal with any zombies in the town

    We've got a full map, but it's all pretty basic. Mostly one level buildings made of wood, a few second story buildings, we're going to use the schoolhouse as a base of operations (sturdy as heck, two levels, decent size) and the non-combatants will be inside when the carnage starts. We'll also try to persuade the DM to let us turn a few of the elderly into some kind of healers. That'll give us a chance to get our wounded patched up in between waves without wasting our resources.

    Our DM isn't afraid of telling us, "You could have saved these people, but failed". We don't know if this is even possible, or if we're in a hopeless situation. Our DM isn't the Devil, but he's not going to baby us, especially during a horror campaign.



    The Gear

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    We each have a good collection of 'junk' gear like (scrolls, piddly wands, trap making material, potions ect), a few decent weapons, some armor, ect. Our wizard can craft wands, and both him and the archivist can make scrolls. Past that, we're basically SOL.

    Our DM will give us some leeway on what we can find laying around the village (if we go looking for a scythe, we'll probably find a farming implement that'll work for it, ect). We can also expect to be able to improvise some weaker armor and shields out of stuff that's in the town, and there are some real weapons and armor stuff around.

    While it's not literally gear, there's also the fact that our wizard knows Arcane Lock as a spell, and can spend the week giving a few strategic locations a +10 DC to be busted down by kythons. The basement to the school (one door only, no way out) will certainly have an arcane lock, plus mundane fortifications, for if the survivors have to fall back inside of it.

    But ultimately? I have no freaking clue what to do, and neither does our group. We all have some notes taken down about kythons (or DM is the only one with a book of vile darkness), stuff our Archivist 'told' us with some knowledge checks. I just keep thinking of our DMs reply when our wizard asked how many were coming. "Lots."

    We've thought, if worse came to worse, we could try to barricade the survivors in the basement of the school, with some heavy heavy duty physical supplies, and try to run our hides out of there to bring in help... but where we could find help on this island, whether or not the barricades would hold for the undetermined amount of time it could take us, and the downright GRUUSOME possibility that we might not realistically make it back in at all... Not a pretty option.

    So.... any suggestions? Any advice, out of the box solutions, sound battle plans, and suicidally insane backup plans are welcome. Downright game-breaking cheese isn't really what we're looking for here, but even that we'll take into consideration at this point. If it's a one time deal to shine like rockstars, our DM will probably let us slide on it.



    Preparation

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    Our archivist is going to spend the week scribing useful divine scrolls (magic vestments, sound burst (! :D). The archivist is also our secret weapon, with the cleric as a backup to that. Bestow Curse baby. Our DM--- err, the KYTHONS won't see it coming. Hit the slaymaster (BEFOE he puts up spell resistance) with a curse that makes him lose half of his turns, 50% change of doing nothing all the way, permanent duration. If we can get off more bestow curses, they'll go on the adults. The broodlings should get stomped, the juveniles will be tough but killable... if we can cut the effectiveness of the adults by 50-25% and turn the slaymaster into a question mark, we might actually have a freaking chance of surviving this.
    Kythons aren't stupid, they're as intelligent (or better) than a human. Broodlings are dumb but cunning. If we can down the slaymaster and enough adults, they'll probably turn tail, either back to their caves, or just dispersed.

    We'll do the math at the table, but our wizard is going to scribe a bunch of scrolls, and of course, craft wands. Mostly of lesser sonic orb, but also of other spells that will be handy en masse. Mage armor, protection from evil, scrolls of magic weapon, and reduce person. Reduce person, for our snipers . +2 Dex, Attack, and AC. Effectively a +3 to hit, and a bonus to avoid getting slashed if they do wind up face to face with something before they turn tail and run.
    He's going to craft the wands as level one. They'll only do 1d6 damage, but he can churn more of them out. We figure a dozen snipers hitting all over is better than 3 snipers hitting harder.
    Wands of summon monster 1. We're going to spam celestial badgers onto the field. We have no delusions, the badgers are there to die while slowing down kythons. We're comfortable with that, and since summoned monsters just go to their home plane anyway, we like to think they'll be okay with it too.
    Web, will also be cast in the streets to slow the suckers down.
    Scrolls of cats grace will go to boost our snipers a little more.
    Displacement on the best frontliners (us) (50% miss chance please).
    And fly, for the big guns (the three pure casters).

    We have stone, and a good amount of it. Our cleric is going to spend the week Stone Shaping it into what we need. He can manipulate 54 cubic feet of stone per day. Which is a LOT of freaking stone, probably exhaust our supplies after a day or two at the most.
    We're going to avoid guerrilla warfare (against our cunning, stealthy, blindsight foes? screw it, we're not going to go into the shadows with THEM)

    Instead, we're going to jump straight to the last stand. Three buildings, the schoolhouse and the two buildings in front of it. (Basically, picture a dead end road. The schoolhouse is the dead end, with two buildings facing each other in a sorta-triangle. 40 feet between the faces of the buildings, which will become relevant.
    The buildings are going to be the ones we focus all our energy on. Arcane locks, HEAVY fortification, insane levels of rubble and stony hazardous terrain ALL behind the three of them. They will literally be reinforced with stone, with stone walls connecting the gaps, stone doors, stone covered windows.... we're basically going to make it unrealistic for anything to come in in any direction but the front. They might come OVER, but certainly won't get in THROUGH. We hope, anyway. But even if they get through the stone, there's still arcane-locked doors in their way... basically way too much trouble to come in the back way.

    So now we're fighting kythons in a stone bottleneck? What to do from here.

    The roofs and rear are going to have a few glyphs of warding. Our wizard doesn't know explosive runes at the moment, so that's out. He will set some alarms in the back, so we know if they're trying to get in that way.
    The street and areas in front of us, same thing. Glyphs of warding, set to sound-burst or inflict-wounds. That'll at least thin them out, and possibly stun some of them. The less we go toe to toe with at once, the better.

    We've also got a few traps and tricks for the frontal assault, which we're hoping to snag adult kythons with. The slaymaster will probably be too smart to fall for much, but we're going to put spiked pillars up ready to fall forwards, sideways, and wherever else we can position them. There's a chance our DM will even use his infamous line "Forget the math, that just killed whatever it hit".
    Spiked trenches will be set up, mainly to slow them down. The last spiked trench will be facing backwards. We're prepared to bullrush them into it if we get the chance.

    So who's "we"?



    The Army
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    Or should that read "The victims?"

    No matter. We're in this now.

    The buildings on either side of the street are going to be our BATTERIES. People who weren't good for much else are going to become dragon shamans. They don't need high stats, they just need to show up. Marshals will be trained the same way. 2nd level marshals don't actually NEED charisma, their major aura functions without it (based on level). Marshal major auras are wonderful things like damage reduction, damage boosts, melee and ranged boosts, and AC boosts. And save boosts. Really, they just freaking boost.

    We're going to fluff it that they're watching the war intently and shouting out warnings and good info. We figure, 24 people will become marshals and dragon shaman (5 marshals to every 3 dragon shaman, set up in redundant circles in all three buildings at the windows in a pattern which will overlap the carnage zone, so the frontliners will get 5 marshal aura boosts and 3 dragon shaman boosts regardless. HOPEFULLY we can keep things from falling apart, the redundant boosts will help, the dragon shaman healing will help keep everyone up and moving) That'll give us: Damage reduction 1/-, +1 to attack in melee AND ranged, +1 AC, +1 Damage from the marshals, and another +1 melee damage, another DR 1/magic, and fast healing 1 (up to half your hitpoints max) from the dragon shamans.
    The dragon shaman will ALSO be warlocks. We're going to try to fluff it as draconic powers manifesting in bizarre ways. "They say everyone has a little dragon blood in them". That will help us survive, and keep the villagers from killing each other afterwards. The dragon shaman/warlocks (1/1) will also be reduced . That extra +2 to attack (+2 Dex, +1 attack) means something. They don't need strength anyway, and they'll be harder to hit if it comes up.

    Each 8-man team of aura boosters will also have two meat shields with two handed weapons. They will also have a weak healer (better than nothing) who will have the main goal of stabilizing anyone before they die. The dragon shaman healing auras will then pick them back up from the negatives.

    That leaves us 14 people, one of which is Miss Beverly the schoolmarm. +1 rapier, high int, weapon focus with it? We were going to make her a swashbuckler, but 2nd level swashbucklers don't get the int to damage, so it's a waste. She's going to become a duskblade. +2 BAB, +1 rapier, +1 focus, +1 magic weapon... She won't be on the REAL frontline, but she's a backup frontliner who can cast true strike a few times.

    13 people left. Warlocks, battle sorcerers with sonic orb wands, and clerics with scrolls of useful cleric stuff and some big-gun healing for emergencies. Sniping out of barricaded windows ideally. We'll see if we can spare a few people to dedicate themselves to reinforcing barricades should they start to fall. We also want to stick at least one dedicated healer and one dragon shaman with a healing aura in the schoolhouse with the survivors, as an emergency heal-bot area.

    We're still going through stuff looking for other bright ideas, but that's the battle strategy as it stands.

    The Cleric, Archivist, and Wizard are all going to be flying. 60 foot move speed, able to get out of harms way. If we can crunch the numbers, there'll be scrolls of fly for me, the paladin, and the dragon shaman as well.

    The wizard will float above us dropping sonic-bombs and being our eye-in-the-sky. He's also going to be saddled with the responsibility of keeping the magic flowing with his scrolls and wands (those he didn't hand off to the trainees).

    The archivist is going to get everyone a +1 to attack and saves against undead AND abberations for the combat. MAYBE a +2, if the rolls are well. The archivist will also be flying, with the intention of dropping weak heal-bombs and keeping his eyes peeled for the slaymaster. When he sees him, he's going to let the cleric know, and the two of them are going to fly-by attack him with some bestow curses. If the initiative works out in our favor, they can both get him BEFORE he throws up his magical defenses, which would be sweet. 50% chance of inaction AND -4 to attacks if they both curse him. There'll be scrolls of sound burst and spiritual weapon for any incorporeal kythons with phase organs (hopefully there won't be more than one ).

    The cleric and archivist both CAN drop heal-bombs, but we have some wands of cure light wounds, and hopefully they'll be able to use their spell slots for other useful things. The cleric will also have turn-undead uses, which we will need.

    The Paladin is going to be buffed up as high as we can and keep his mount in reserve, save his smites for when he thinks they'll do some good, and have some lay-on-hands for stabilizing healing.

    The dragon shaman is going to keep their initiate aura up as we go into things, so we'll ALL have +2 to initiative. After the combat starts, they'll either get us +2 damage, DR 2/magic, or fast healing 2 (half hitpoint max). It won't stack with the other dragon shamans, but if we need an extra edge in one area, they can make it so. They're a copper dragon totem too, so they can spider-climb at will and give us acid resistance 10 if needed. Since a kython might have an acid-spitter weapon, that could come in handy. They can also use a 3d6 line of acid breath weapon (useless against kythons) and have 18 healing 'lay on hands' of their own.

    I'll be sneak attacking with a sonic orb wand. I've got enough UMD to not really worry about it, and with a sneak I'll be doing 4d6 sonic damage. With some good rolls and good positioning (easier to do if I'm flying at 60 feet movement), I'll be able to do some decent damage.
    I'll have real weapons of course, but I'll be trying to hit their Touch AC for a reason, so wand of sonic it is.




    How It Went Down
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    It was night, but a bright moon and a few continual flames gave us enough illumination that we weren't hindered by the darkness.

    We heard them long before we saw them. That was the worst part. The DM would describe what was going on.... it was cold, we could see our breath and the eerie pale lights and unnatural arcane glows making weird ripples on the disturbed snow, our own trenches fading into the distance. We could HEAR chirping, crawling, chattering... the archivist informed us it was only the young and less adept broodlings and juveniles we were hearing. The adults... we wouldn't hear them. We might not even see them before they closed the gap between us.

    Then the bastard started giving us turns. We would pace, ready actions, stare into the distance... making us describe what we did around the table a few times waiting for the slaughter to come to us. I've never felt so darn HELPLESS in a game before, being given a turn and trying to think of something else I could do to help our fight, though there was nothing.

    Then we saw the first of them. The warlocks opened fire, and rolled well. The boosts they had and the eldritch spears started nailing broodlings to the ground, and every few times you'd see a juvenile fall too. There were no adults.

    The wizard and archivist took to the skies. The glyphs of warding we'd set up started dropping sonic bursts on the battle field, stunning kythons and killing/softening them in small groups. The webs slowed them down. Most of them broke away and started swarming in a wider path at that. When they got close enough, the ones with weapons started peppering us with venomous bone shards and acid splashes. We took hits. The dragon shaman threw up his acid resistance, but we considered the early damage to be a poor indicator of our success.

    The first wizard "died". The DM rolled it true, right in front of us. 90% cover on a target from 80 feet away... bone shard to the face. 1 damage, 6 CON damage on a guy who only had 6 hitpoints. The healing auras actually picked him back up, and he fought for another minute before the secondary CON damage took him down to zilch.

    Still no adults.

    We started swinging at the juveniles. I managed to sneak-attack a few with acid orbs and literally just "POP" them. that felt good. Then I got bit on the arm and slashed to the nine hells by a kython adult. We hadn't even seen them, but the DM said they hid until they got past the last trench, fair and true. We started seeing more in the incoming wave after that. I survived it though, and downed a potion.

    The paladin shone like a bright star, truth be told. Lucky lucky rolls. Critical hits left and right, high damage, blocked almost everything that tried to hit him. Shrugged off lots of the stuff that did with damage reduction from the marshals.

    There's lots going on that I'm not explicitly saying. The wizard popped sucker-targets with sonic orbs, the villagers kept peppering the enemies with 1d6s, the first of the adult kythons fell, ect. We were taking damage, but we were SURVIVING it, and taking tons of those bastards down in the process. I'll stop describing the generic warfare here. Monsters died, we got hurt and healed, monsters started coming BACK to life, to get killed again and complicate matters. Kythons fought zombies, zombie kythons bit kythons before being torn into 6 separate pieces, celestial badgers got stepped on as living roadblocks....

    We saw a lineup. 5 adults and 3 juveniles ended their turns on a clean row.... in one of our traps. It wasn't something blatant, it was just that sooner or later, a bunch of swarming enemies were going to wind up giving us a good swing. We hand-axed the ropes holding up one of our trap poles, and BOOM, kython-kabob under a heavy wooden pillar covered in jagged metal and wooden spikes. some of them survived, but pinned, and the paladin cut their heads off (no roll, he had to use actions to do it, but our DM likes to let the numbers slide when you're running a 3 foot steel blade into a pinned monsters face).
    We managed to get another bunch of them under another poll, but after that, they started staggering their waves, tore down two of the polls themselves, and got a circumstance bonus to their reflex save to avoid it when we tried it again.

    The paladin bullrushed a few adults into the spiked trench. 5d6 piercing damage and a pinned kython each time. One tried to bullrush HIM into it, but he cut the suckers head off with a critical hit instead.



    The Tragedy
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    Two incorporeal kythons, one adult and one juvenile. They split up and ran THROUGH us, through the walls of the buildings on either side, and started chomping. We heard the screams. The buildings were fortified enough that we had trouble getting into them.
    The 50% miss chance made them ridiculous. The juvenile fell, but not before taking a few people with him.
    The adult, however, decimated the building he was in before we could do much. Took some heavy licks for his trouble (including from me, firing through a window with sonic orbs and a few sneak attacks... some of which missed entirely do to the incorporeal nature).

    Then he ran through the walls again and out into the open battlefield.

    The paladin got in two hits that avoided the miss chance. Heavy ones. Like I said, he rolled well tonight.
    The cleric sent a spiritual sword after him. It dropped the monster, but not before it slashed through the wall and tore a wizards face off.

    It fell near the doorway. Miss Beverly stabbed it in the throat for good measure.



    Broken Wings
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    The wizard got slaughtered. The archivist took heavy hits, but managed to stay in one piece. The wizard just got hammered with bone shards and acid splashes. Even after using a scroll of energy resistance, he just couldn't keep in one piece. he finally fell to yet another bone shard (which only deal 1 damage :-\ ) and came tumbling out of the sky onto the cold hard frozen ground. Died on impact, no chance of healing. The DM starts passing him secret notes.

    A few rounds later, he gets up.

    Now, it turns out, whatever's causing the undead to rise has a nasty streak. Most things that come back to life are mindless carnivores. Mook zombies and 'ceramic' skeletons (easily killed, that is :-p).
    Powerful people? People who are more noteable than your average blacksmith or wild wolf? People with a large number of class levels? Yeah, they come back to life as something bigger. Something SENTIENT. And something downright sadistic.

    The wizard spoke to us while it aided our enemies, and fought us. It said...awful things. The afterlife, the cause of the undeath, it's big. And bad. And more than some horrible plague or negative energy pulse... It's not some necromancer with a new trick. We don't know exactly what it is, but "Eil Ei" (aisle-eye), as it called itself, has us convinced that this is not a happy time to... uh...exist.

    We managed to hurt it enough to scare it off. But it's got the wizards gear, it knows how to cast the wizards spells, it remembers everything about US, and it DOES NOT LIKE US.
    Or anyone. Anyone still breathing that is.

    So, to quote our paladin, "Wow, that sucks".



    The Slaymaster
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    Oh boy.

    We didn't see him coming either. He managed to dodge the alarms, came at us from a side (over the top of one of the buildings) and went right into the freaking fight.

    The cleric and archivist WERE both successful at cursing him, in between his turns no less, so by the time his turn came, any magical defenses were too late. 50% chance of doing absolutely nothing each time he came up to bat, and -4 to attacks and saves and pretty much everything.

    His next at bat? Do nothing. I managed to get in a sneak attack sonic-orb, the cleric managed to hit him with an inflict-wounds spell, and the archivist flew off screaming at us to get the hell away from it. The townspeople peppered it, and we were amazed at how effective our tactic was.

    The problem is, a slaymaster who's half as effective can still F***ING kill you and F***ING eat you as an afterthought. One turn he's doing nothing, the next turn he beats the cleric into the DIRT and kicks him across the street into a wall. The cleric hit negatives, but the dragon shaman aura brought him back to conciousness, and he healed himself.

    The paladin charged and gave a good smite evil. I debate turning tail and running, but instead hit it for another sneak attack.

    Then the slaymaster turns to me. Hits me, grapples me, and rolls for damage. It rolls...max. No kidding. 35 damage, right there. I was already a little roughed up, and didn't have THAT many hitpoints to begin. He brought me to -12, just like that.

    The DM described it as "One quick jerking squeeze" and I'm a ragdoll. The slaymaster pitches me across the street too and starts fighting the paladin. He rolls well, manages to seriously mess the thing up and dodge a lot of its hits and took light damage. But in the end, the paladin falls into negatives and the slaymaster starts battering the front door to the school (the dragon shaman ran in, pulled in Miss Beverly (who was trying to charge it) and slammed and baricaded the door... none of us blame him in the slightest). The slaymaster is still taking blast damage from the snipers, but we're screwed right? dead wizard, dead rogue, cleric with 2 hitpoints getting torn apart by kythons, paladin in the negatives (looks dead, but is actually CLIMBING in health thanks to the surviving dragon shamans) and a dragon shaman who's drawing blanks on battle strategy.

    Oh. The archivist :) And our last good trap. THE HAMMER.

    As a final-day last-thought trap, the cleric made the hammer. It's a big dumb-bell shaped stone something. The heavier end is braced with wooden pillars, and it's resting in the rubble on a pivot point. The archivist, despite being down to squat hitpoints, swoops through the carnage, grabs the ropes out of the rubble, and flies hard, pulling, tearing out the wooden supports.
    The heavy end immediately falls to the ground hard (killing an adult kython that chased the archivist). The momentum sends the thing up, up, JUUUUUUUST OVER the peak where it looks like it might stand proud.....and CRASHING DOWN onto the slaymaster.

    That was our suicide switch, intended to hit flush with the front of the school and seal it in stone. We would send one brave (and dead) person charging for the ropes, hoping we could survive a few days in the stony tomb and then dimension door out, to try to rescue the survivors. We would also be praying the kythons wouldn't decide to just start tearing away... we honestly didn't know. If they decided to start hitting the weak spots in the rocky shell with acid, we would be screwed. They'd get in and slaughter us.

    Like I said, that was our "what do we do now?" suicide plan.

    But we didn't count on a slaymaster paying all his attention to beating in the front wall while our flying lunatic of dark knowledge sent a huge stone face onto the area.

    Splat splat goes the big angry bug.

    Our DM was actually a little shocked. Not SURPRISED, he knew about the hammer switch, he just thought the chance of us going for it then was non-existant.

    But the fight wasn't over.

    Some of the kythons broke ranks at that, scattering, no slaymaster rallying them. Some adults, and a decent sized swarm of littler ones stuck around. The place was in shambles. The schoolhouse was almost immpossible to get in our out of, but the chokepoint turned to work in the kythons favor instead :-\. With only 5 foot cracks in our out of the front wall (the slaymasters huge form kept the stone from sitting as flush as we had planned), the snipers became less useful. The cleric got shredded, and the kythons were trying to pour into the schoolhouse by tearing at the barricaded windows on the second floor. The snipers could only get one at a time now from each spot. It actually looked like we were totally toast, despite our good fight.

    But as all this was going on, so was something else. Something our archivist was watching with some magical vision, confused and amazed.



    Living Dead Girl
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    As the fight was going on, the DM started on me. (we didn't need secret notes past a certain point, I'll mention where).

    "Roll a will save".

    I was now in the realm of ghosts and spirits. The ethereal. But not THE ethereal, a twisted and injured one, whatever was going on WAS big. ALTERED PLANES OF existence kind of big.

    As a ghost walking around, I could see some rough forms of the real plane, and a bunch of dead bodies... and I could see other spirits. Kythons included. None of the spirits, allied or not, could hurt each other. Everything passed through everything else harmlessly. The DM noted that my +1 dagger was the only thing that felt like it had any weight whatsoever...

    I saw spirits being dragged back into their bodies kicking and screaming. The bodies then winked out of this plane....couldn't see the undead. For whatever reason.

    My will save was just high enough to resist coming BACK to life (I rolled a 4, one higher than I needed the DM said). The DM described it as sliding backwards towards it, as if I were on ice. I felt an evil presence trying to erase and dominate my thoughts, all I felt was the urge to maim, hate, hurt, and more importantly, KILL, and leave corpses in my wake.

    I managed to stop it just before I hit my corpse. I wandered, confused as to what to do here. Making will saves to stay dead, knowing it was a matter of time before I rolled a 3 or lower.

    I saw the dead kython with the phase organ. He was trying to go corporeal, but only could for a few seconds at a time. No one noticed another kython in the 'wave' blinking in existence for a few seconds...

    I took a potshot stab at him with my dagger....

    And it worked! my magic dagger was officially the most powerful thing here, everything else was just mist.

    Note: To TRY to compress this already huge post down, I'll go into speed-description here rather than posting another 3 pages of it.

    I cut the phase organ off the kython, and tried to use it, but was even worse at it than him (apparently non-kythons can't actually really use that stuff). The archivist noticed a confused rogue blinking into existence for half-seconds though. We went out of secret notes, as the archivist knew what was going on and could relay it to the survivors later anyway.

    I saw the slaymaster come climbing out of his battered body. He charged me, and realized it did nothing. Then he started fading back into HIS body...
    ...and I jammed the dagger in and twisted. His physical body shook, twisted, threw the stone block off of him with a terrible roar, went silent, twitched, ect... He couldn't come all the way back with me riding him with a magic dagger in his 'spine'.

    The survivors watched in horrified confusion as the body convulsed, before I finally dealt it enough damage that the spirit winked out of existence altogether. No more slaymaster.

    Seeing their slaymaster leader threatening to come back to life? The remaining kythons scattered in terror.

    But then what of me? I was still making will saves. And I finally failed one.

    What happened next was sheer awesome on my DMs part. He swears up and down that he didn't plan this, that it just made sense when he saw what was going on.

    The DM gave me a REFLEX save. Something a rogue could be expected to make. A reflex save for the purpose of activating the kython phase orgasn as I was sucked back into my body.

    My temporarily physical form couldn't be pushed back into my real body. The 'essence' trying to dominate me faltered, broke, and was ejected as the return to unlife temporarily failed. My spirit was pushed back into my dead frame, but the evil evil thing trying to hitch a ride was forced back into the nothing.

    I heard it, cursing me, promising me unspeakable horrors, telling me it 'wasn't done with me'.

    So that's that. I'm undead, the paladin is battered, the archivist and dragon shaman pulled through. The villagers are greatful, though still mourning their losses. The FREAKING HUGE kython force was actually scattered. They're still dangerous, but so are the zombies.

    The villagers are....waryingly accepting of me being there with my allies, just as they're warily accepting of me. My friends suspected a trick, the archivist interrogated me in a dark knowledge-esque way, the paladin pinged me for evil/good and found I was still good, and I'm not spitting curses at everyone and promising them a world full of the walking dead.

    So they're letting me stay with them. The paladin promised me that if he started thinking I was less than good, he wouldn't hesitate to smite me fast.
    The villagers are too grateful for everything we did to not thank me, but they are certainly keeping their distance.

    We went up a level. The archivist was actually kind enough to learn Gentle Repose to keep me from rotting, though I did have to physically stitch my wounds shut. He also knows some inflict spells, and is going to make me a few scrolls for healing.

    The wizard character is now an NPC, and no doubt we'll be running into him again. The force that was supposed to take me over is looking for revenge too, the DM informed us. And the kythons have not forgotten our existence, even if they ran scared.

    The wizard PLAYER is going to take over Miss Beverly the duskblade :D. He (she, whatever) gets a "Hey I'm now a PC!" XP boost up to 6th level, and the DM promises he'll close the gap between party members as fast as possible.

    The cleric player is going to have to roll up a new character, and is thinking of going factotum. If I know my DM, that means we'll run into him in the kython caves... Not a bad way to weave a new character into an established group, I say.



    Rewards

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    Aside from the level jump, we also got some other stuff. Not a lot of gear, but it's worth mentioning.

    We've got 14 doses of adult kython venom extracted from dead bodies.

    We scavenged a bone-shard hand crossbow which will turn bone fitted into it into tiny little piercing darts. 1 piercing damage only, but it can also hold poison naturally and automatically coast each dart with the poison/venom loaded into it. The archivist is holding onto it for the time being. Figures it might come in handy, despite the low BAB.

    The archivist suggested ("dark knowledge" as fluff, really the DMs direction) that he could reinforce the paladins armor with kython carapace. The paladins shield now has a mundane boost of +2 AC with no noticeable weight increase. Kython shell is good stuff. His full plate also has a mundane boost of +1, and his outfit is now dark and spooky (no shining armor here folks).

    One of the zombies that came shambling into town was some kind of arcanist in life. The paladin was squeamish about looting a random corpse, but agreed that being wasteful of supplies in such hard times would do no one any good.

    The zombie didn't have MUCH, but some good stuff. A spellbook - The archivist is going through it looking for stuff he can learn. It's mostly arcane stuff, but some the spells are also on divine spell lists, so he's going to copy those. Then we can sell the spellbook for some good cash if we ever find a place that would want it.

    A ring - Bonus arcane spell slots for spell levels 0, 1, and 2. Straight to Miss Beverly.

    A necklace - dull tarnished chain with a strange circular pendant. Turned out to give the wearer and anyone in a radius +1 to will saves. We figured the dragon shaman should get it, since we're all trying to stay in his radius anyway.

    Turns out, the DM wasn't going to tell us outright what the pendant really did unless we were smart enough to do that. The pendant ALSO gives the dragon shaman +1 to his auras, above whatever his class would make him project. I like it, a lot, personally. It's a clever little item.

    Miss Beverly also turned out to have a decent nestegg saved up, but not a lot of real gear, so the duskblade player is really running lean until we get to a place that actually has stuff for sale.

    I'm generically undead with no LA or adjustments. That's pretty darn good as it is, though not without its troubles.

    The phase organ? It's still attached to my spirit. Once per encounter, I can go incorporeal for one round. The DM said I might be able to get better at it with feats/levels/time.

    The phase organ also has some secondary effects. I've got kythonish spirit residue on me. Once per day, I can make a dose of adult kython venom fit for coating a weapon or arrow or something. I can also SPEAK with kythons, but I've already checked, they understand me and I understand them, but they will have absolutely-jack-crap to actually do with me. No profound sense of kinship in the slightest.

    That may sound like a lot, but remember I'm a rogue in an undead heavy campaign, heh.

    Looking back, you could get the impression that our DM tries to give us all something cool every time he gives us stuff. Not true, but I think he was inclined to give us all SOMETHING after what we just went through.

    Also, while I'm here posting about this, I might as well mention a great freaking scare the DM got out of us.

    We, the 4 surviving players, (with the new duskblade schoolteacher along for the ride (with swashbuckler levels no less, the player took them on level up )) have collected our wits, organized our gear, patched ourselves up, and tried to figure out what to do next. We decided to check out the mountains with the kython caves, naturally. It's the LAST place we want to go, but it's also the most logical next step in trying to find out "Just What The Heck Is Going On Here Gang?". We tracked the kythons back through their warpath, but got sidetracked. Not too far from the village, we found a little wooden cottage. It was ransacked and shredded, and the doorknob had the same pattern stamped into it as the dragon shamans sparkly new necklace. We figured this was the arcanists home, the kythons tore him apart, and he got up afterwards and happened to trail towards the village (probably drawn by the living kythons in fact).

    We're all pretty noble and virtuous by nature in this campaign, if not specifically PIOUS. Robbing the dead feels yicky. But the cold hard truth of the matter is, it's the dead of winter, we're on an island infested with undeath, and we're dealing with monsters so fearsome they make us STOP worrying about the aforementioned undead. he's dead, we're not (er... most of us.) We need whatever we can scrape up here.

    So we head in, and yeah, we have nothing to say in our defense. We were going to loot everything valuable like starving rats to help cover our rear ends when the next wave of trouble starts.



    I, Warforged

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    So, we're exploring the cottage very quietly. The roof and some walls were torn apart, so snow was starting to blanket over everything. We found a lot of useless spell scrolls, some good stuff like coinage, medical supplies, a few potions (a lot of them frozen and cracking the glass containers they were in, but a lot still usable, though unidentified). We found one of our DMs notorious calling cards, the "Magic Item with no directly applicable use" that we wind up figuring out what to do with. In this case, it's a coin that, when flipped, will change the pattern engraved on it so that it always lands heads. Except that if it initially lands on tails, the pattern takes a good 5 second to change, and does so visibly and with a series of faint clicking noises. useful, right? I'm hanging onto it though. I'm a rogue, it's a magic coin. That's, like, what I'm all about right?

    Anyway, through this whole thing, the DM is doing a good job creeping us out. A cold and dark cottage that someone actually LIVED in not two days ago, suddenly barely recognizable as a home. A lot of morbid detail. We had a pretty moody setup going here.

    Then, we find 'it'. The arcanist had some kind of weird construct, something like the rest of us had never seen before (archivist included). It was battered and partially disassembled, apparently by the kythons. It was also covered in strange markings, runes, glyphs, symbols, text fragments (on its forhead, etched in faint dwarven runes, "thus unbound unfettered and felled"). Ect.

    Nearby it, what looked for all the world to be some strange flute made of the same material and in the same fashion, though not covered in the markings or runes.

    We kind of fixated on the golem naturally (in retrospect, our DM would have tricked us into focusing on it if we hadn't in the first place). We managed to strap the sucker back into one piece. We shrugged and asked ourselves what to do with it, until we noticed that the flute had a detachable series of small black gemstones, which the archivist identified as being effectively "wands" with a single charge and a very simple activation. A little further examination, and he reveals that each gemstone contain a single spell, "repair damage".

    You know darn well what we did.

    So the DM describes the scene, getting more and more quiet. The construct begins to twitch, and jerk. The wooden grain of its frame snaking back together, the cracked stone plating melting into solid pieces once more. He gets real quiet, we're all leaning close together, and he tells us this.

    "Suddenly, the construct springs up in one fast fluid motion, grabbing <dragon shaman> by the shoulders and shouting...."

    And THAT is when the 6th player, the one with no current character, grabs the dragon shamans player by the shoulders and screams "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE CREATOR?!?"

    I. Almost. Peed myself.

    It took us five minutes to stop laughing/throwing things/settle back down and get to the game. The player decided to be a WARFORGED of all things. Him and the DM decided behind the scenes that a warforged experiment the arcanist cooked up would be a great new addition to the party. "It" primarily served the arcanist as an assistant during magical concerns, but also as a cook, housecleaner, and entertainment.

    So, now we have a warforged bard in the party. And I thought I was the odd one out

    They agreed that the best way to introduce the new character would be a shocker moment. I'm inclined to agree.

    So there we go. The bard plans (assuming it survives) to become a sublime chord and act as our primary arcane spellcaster, in a sense. And the DM successfully made us wet ourselves by playing one of our group against us. That bastard.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2010-03-25 at 08:25 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Kython Caves

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    Alrighty.

    So to recap the warforged portion of things, we did get him (it) to calm down fairly quickly. Despite the dragon shaman wearing his creators necklace, we managed to convince him that we had nothing to do with what happened. When he found out we were going after the kythons (and of course, having been shredded by them and knowing his 'father' was destroyed by them, is now very very anti-kython) he eagerly joined up with us.

    Of course, that really goes without saying, since he's a player-character :p. His natural armor is also pretty kickin' and enchanted well.

    The party is at that magical point where we realize we can start mutliclassing/prestige classing. The warforged plans on becoming a sublime chord, the paladin is looking to become a death delver, I'm actually gonna take a few levels of factotum to give myself a little more edge.

    Anyway, this has been a few sessions, so I'm trying to keep it neat and trim and give highlights.

    Now, we make our way through the snowy dead woods. There's lots of zombies around, but for the most part, we're taking care of them pretty efficiently.

    Then, we realize, there's trouble. Not trouble in the way you might traditionally think, but worse trouble. One of the zombies isn't shambling towards us. It's watching us. And when it realizes we're watching it? It disappears back into the trees.

    To quote the paladin. "Wow. That sucks".

    It wasn't the wizard, so it's basically foreshadowing that things are gonna keep getting worse for us with this whole 'not 100% dead and angry at you for being alive' thing.

    But we make it to the mountain range, and track the kython trail back to a cave entrance. The zombies (a lot of whom were still shambling for us) cease to be even a threat of a problem when we start climbing the rocks. Zombies aren't the best climbers, fortunately. We're keeping our eyes peeled for... uh, the sentient ones. If there are stronger undead watching us, we don't want them following.

    Me excluded of course.

    I'm sure you can imagine how this goes. We don't want to go into the kython caves. We just don't, prepared or not. But there's not a lot of places to check out, things aren't going to spontaneously get better, and we need to know what riled those monsters up.

    So we head in. We're taking it fairly slowly. I'm on point, cause, you know, I'm the rogue. Not that it really matters, we can't hide from these things the way we'd like to be able to. But I'm undead, along with some pretty sleek resistances, and I can blink ethereal and sprint if I really have to.

    The warforged keeps humming quietly. We keep having to shush him. The archivist is compulsively checking his bone shard crossbow, despite it being useless against kythons. "I don't know, it just makes me feel safer to have it ready."

    We do fight some kythons, but it's nothing like the war. We're doing very well at keeping them under control when they attack us. Never facing more than an adult or two at a time, still have some sonic orb stuff from the battle. Going well.

    We can tell the cave is going downwards, not up, which is making us generically claustrophobic. For some reason, it seems worse to be heading into the black when you're also heading underneath the surface.

    And then as I'm doing a random check for traps (just in case), I notice something scratched into the wall. It's a circular pattern filled with obscure arcane runes that we can't recognize. Not even the warforged who's covered in random obscure runes.

    The archivist is leafing through his notebooks furiously (read: the DM is giving him notes on what he's figuring out after he rolls a knowledge check... I know it's kind of silly, but it really helps with immersion when the character who rolls the knowledge check tells you what's up, instead of the DM telling you himself).

    The archivist, holding up a black handbook and a small rod with a light on the end: "It's... it's a seal."

    Us: "okay, what are we getting at?"

    Archivist: "Blasphemy. It's blasphemy. It's a seal of an otherworldly being, neither angel nor devil." he crosses himself here. "They enter this world through the souls of willing mortals, heretics, and corrupt us to unknown ends".

    (Now mind you, we all know what the binder class is, but good golly I was impressed with the archivist players acting here. Impressed enough that it was creepy.
    Anyway.)

    Duskblade: "So there's something down here in addition to the kythons?"

    Archivist: "...if I didn't know any better... I'd say the kythons made this."

    So we press on, very uneasy. Mind you, the whole time, I'm trying to talk to the kythons, like some kind of warped ranger (I wasn't even interested in diplomacy with them, creepy monsters, but the archivist correctly reminded me that I was probably the first mortal *awkward pause* uh, the first material creature to even understand what the kythons were saying, so I had to try). They won't have anything to do with me. They just won't. I try telling them we only want to find out why nothing will stay dead, telling them to back away before the bloodshed, asking them what the seals we keep finding on the walls mean. They just hiss curses at me, and either dissapear into the smaller sub-caves, or attack violently.

    But as we descend, we notice the kythons are actually thinning out. What that meant was still open to interpretation.

    Then we come into a massive chamber. We're on a ledge overlooking it. It goes easily 30 feet down and 50 feet up. The room is around 100 feet to a side, give or take.

    And there are undead kythons pinned to the walls, cippled with no limbs, or otherwise incapacitated. A zombified kython with no lower half crawls up the wall at us meekly.

    There are also seals carved EVERYWHERE. Scratched right into the stone, overlapping each other, seemingly for dozens and dozens of different vestiges.

    We're all rolling spot checks. The archivist makes it first.
    Archivist: "...Everyone get ready to run for your lives."

    A 'slaughterking' kython. The grand daddy of grand daddy kythons. The kind that kill slaymasters from boredom.

    To quote our paladin: "Wow. That sucks."

    The slaughterking? It's scratching the ground. (Now would be a good time to remind anyone reading that slaughterkings are more intelligent than a human being by a wide margin (20 INT)).

    We don't even know if it's seen us. Then, it hisses, in that strange clicking hiss that only I can understand (read: the DM gave me a note) "Leave this place now."

    I tell the group. The archivist tells me to try to talk to it (while we're all backing towards the entrance). I'm actually picturing this scene. We're god knows how far underground, surrounded by undead kythons and blasphemous religious symbols. I just say quietly, barely a whisper "I don't think I can". I was serious, I'm trying to think of what to say to this thing, and I'm just terrified.

    The archivist reminds me that I'm the only one who can even try. So I managed to say one word.
    "Please"

    The kython turns to look at us, growls quietly, and goes back to scratching. After a few moments, the area in front of him lights up. We see, what looks like a JESTER with dozens of arms spring out of thin air, juggling dozens of tiny objects.

    Of course, this is a real vestige, but we don't know that in character.
    Vestige: "Sorry there guv'na, no pacts today, otherworld's closed up shop. going out of business, huge sale, everything must go! *insane cackle*"

    Kython, still speaking in growling clicks and hisses (which the DM actually did, knowing I'd just tell the group, and wanted to do a quiet angry hissing voice for it): *angry hiss* "How is this happening."

    The vestige stops juggling, rubs his chin ponderously, and leans to the kython before saying very slowly, and very confidently. "Because we. Want. Out."

    And with a huge insane grin, the vestige turns from the kython and looks me dead in the eyes. Says in a boisterous friendly grin "I'm still mad at you!!!!"

    And then winks out of existence as fast as it came in, while the kython pounds the ground in a fury and tears off one of the undead kythons heads, throwing it at us, and scattering away into some dark hole.

    Sweet merciful macgilicutty.

    Anyway, to tighten things up a little here, we press forwards, and down through the dark hole the slaughterking went in. Everything was covered in slime, there were bones and dead body parts everywhere. By a few checks revealed that they weren't human, or even surfacers bones. There was apparently a whole eco-system that went much, much deeper into the caves, of which the kythons were only a part.

    We found the slaughterking deeper down, checking over a bunch of scratched in runes that were, apparently, his notes. He wasn't interested in the surface, he wasn't even interested in killing us (though he said repeatedly that he would kill us if we didn't leave).

    I managed to convince him we would gladly leave, in one piece, but we didn't know what was going on and could he please just tell us anything. We got some facts out of him.

    There's a lot, lot more vestiges than anyone, scribe, scholar, cleric or binder has ever heard of. In fact, there's millions. Billions. Countless. Most of them are weak, powerless, but they still exist in the 'nothingness'. No sensation, no communication. Nothing but black. Inky timeless black, forever.
    Kythons (who were originally created by fiends trapped on the material plane) weren't just a fluke experiment. There were seeds of intent lain in their race. The demon prince Orcus intended to use them, in ways unknown, to reclaim the vestige tenebrous from the nothingness and reclaim the measure of divinity he achieved. Kythons have some innate knowledge of binding, but don't actually do binding themselves, they just know about it.

    Whatever's going on (the kython didn't know, and is trying to find out), it's big. Something's wrong, the tether of the planes are fraying, and vestiges have apparently found a way to push themselves into the ethereal plane, hijack peoples souls, and use them as more than just temporary pacts. They're piggybacking back into reality on them and taking them over.

    Even insects and rodents are coming back, because any vestige that finds a way in is TAKING it, regardless of how insignificant. Even the eyes of a spider are better than no eyes whatsoever. The weak ones are degenerate and can't really be called 'minds' in any sense. They're just pushing into reality blankly to get away from the 'void'. Those are the shamblers. They kill for no reason other than to make more paths in.

    The more powerful vestiges are trying to piggyback in on more powerful souls (read, higher level characters and powerful creatures). A more powerful soul makes a more powerful 'ride', and lets them retain their sense of self, but more or less consumes whoever their ride was. They don't keep their powers, but they get the minds and full knowledge of whoever they come in on, and keep their own minds as well.

    It's possible that a powerful enough soul would let a vestige keep its own powers through the process. But they aren't worried about that. They just want to EXIST again.

    A lot of powerful vestiges are out in the world now. Some are still there, and at least one is still willing to make pacts and doesn't wish to leave the void. The others are scrabbling to get a way out of it. They would all love nothing more than to kill you dead and give another vestige a ride into the world.

    And we know tenebrous is still a vestige.

    So uh, yeah. To quote our paladin yet again: "Wow. That sucks..."

    And it does. It does indeed suck.

    The kython ran down another hole eventually, but promised that if it saw us again, or if we hassled it in any way while it tried to figure out what was going on, it would shred us to ribbons.

    We had a hard time convincing the warforged not to attack the kython. All he wanted to do is kill kythons.

    We came back to the surface in dreary silence. We were all kinda stunned sick actually, we have no idea what to do here.

    We made it back to the village, and they let us rest there for a while. We also went to another village (me in a heavy black hood and only coming out at night, and we managed to convince the warforged to act like he was just a golem under our control to avoid real trouble beyond a 'what the heck' reaction). Refreshed our supplies, got some gear for the duskblade (who the DM has allowed to come up to 7th level with us now).

    So, I'll put a breaker in here for the current climax, which is going to get picked back up tonight.



    Mainland ho!

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    The archivist asked us if we'd mind returning to the mainlands instead of exploring the rest of the island. He wants to get to church and pray with his brethren, but also to report what he's discovered and try to get some backing from the church at large for us to continue our explorations on the subject (though we admit to not being sure where to go from here).
    We also need to let them know they're missing one semi-famous cleric, and that the paladin is officially leaving his 'path'. Staying virtuous and noble, and remaining with the church, but will no longer advance as a paladin itself. The DM is letting him keep his abilities in this setup, which we all think is fair.

    So, we start sailing back to the mainland. It's not a pleasant ride. We see a lot of undead sea creatures actually. We killed a few undead sharks that gave us trouble, and we actually saved a school of dolphins from a zombie killer whale (really, the paladin saw a zombie attacking a school of friendly dolphins, and just went APE on us, tore off his full plate, swung out on a rope, dove and started fighting the thing in water. Naturally, we all helped after that).

    We thought. We saw. An undead blue whale. SWEET. MERCILESS. ASMODEUS. Save us now. Just thinking about that makes my back shiver. Tiny wooden sailing ship, UNDEAD BLUE WHALE. oh god.

    We don't know if it was still alive, something else, or just our eyes playing tricks on us, cause we weren't attacked by it. Gave us all the heebie jeebies though.

    So?

    We make it back to the mainland. We're sailing for port, cloudy day, releived to be getting away from the undead infested waters (especially before the nasty storm the captain smelled in the air hit).

    I don't know why it didn't really hit us.

    Undead infested island.

    Ethereal plane broken.

    Undead in the waters.

    I guess we really just weren't thinking about it as hard as we should have been. Because we docked in port, and tied the ship up and whatnot. We swung off it, and went with the captain to find the harbor master to let him know we were in port (and we were paying for the docking anyway).

    The place was empty. No one around. We peered towards town? no signs of life. We started getting a really uneasy feeling. We went in towards town a little ways (the captain came with us)? Nothing. We climbed a belltower. Took a look around the town. Noth- wait. There's someone. "Hey, what's going o-" the duskblade starts to shout, before the archivist clamps a hand over her mouth and pulls us all down so we're laying prone.

    Archivist: "we're in trouble"

    And then? We hear a single zombie moan angrily. Followed by about a thousand more moans from every direction.

    We managed to barricade the door to the belltower, and the doors leading back up to the tower portion itself. We had a single scroll of 'fly' left over from the war, and we used it on the paladin and sent him flying to look for somewhere we can head to. He found that the church was barricaded pretty heavily, and that a few other buildings, mostly homes and shops, were boarded up and might have people in them too.

    We just have to fight through streets literally flooded square to square with zombies to get there.

    To quote EVERYONE. "Wow. That sucks."



    Side notes
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    So that's where we're standing right now. We're gonna game for a few hours tonight, and hopefully tommorrow night too (but definately tuesday).

    We'll see where this goes I guess.

    *edit*

    Think I forgot to mention. The warforged really does not care about what's going on. He's staying with us cause we're friendly towards him and he doesn't really have anything better to do without an 'owner'. He's got a dispassionate outlook on everything, mainly because if he gets destroyed, that's that. No undeath, just a question of whether or not someone will repair him at some point.

    Still, he's party-loyal and utterly fearless.

    As for vestiges, yeah. They don't really 'exist' in the same way anything else does. They are literally nowhere, don't truly exist in any way we can understand, and aren't even really creatures/outsiders/ect of any type.

    They don't even have alignments. They just are. Or aren't. Depending on how you look at it.

    They're from the tome of magic, for the binder base class. Which is a very fun class that I highly recommend. Binders (who are usually considered heretics and burned at the stake by any organized religion, in fact, the book has an organization which is a collection of 4 otherwise un-associated churches who would gladly fight each OTHER, except they're more concerned with wiping out binders). Anyway, Binders can write seals and 'summon' forth a vestige. The vestige doesn't really exist in any physical way, and they usually appear as something that wouldn't even be capable of physically maintaining itself (even beyond the magical monstrosities normal in D&D).
    But they can make pacts. They latch whatever trace of their essence still remains onto the soul (or essence) of the binder, called a 'pact'. The vestige gets to experience reality through the body/eyes/ect of the binder who is tied to them, albeit in a limited way. Other than that, they are in the 'void', the nothing, the place that doesn't exist.

    When the pact is made, they give the binder a list of at-will abilities (with recharge periods, usually) and sometimes other cool stuff like damage reduction or elemental resistances or such. In return, they influence the way the binder looks (called the sign) and acts (called the influence) in some subtle ways.

    Vestiges can be really creepy, but the creepiness is very superficial. Once you get over the disturbing nature of the pacts, and the pact making processes, a binder is just another character with a weird way of getting power. They're harmless.

    Except in this campaign apparently. They found some way to force themselves back into reality, and they're going for it, regardless of the costs to us.

    The 'millions of weak vestiges' thing is something our DM made up, it's not in the real binder fluff, it's just why nothing, regardless of type of creature, will stay dead

    Anyway, we played a while on sunday, got together but couldn't actually play today, and are going to have another session tommorrow. I'll try to make some time to update on what's going on :).

    Thanks for the words of praise to the DM everyone. He deserves it. He makes up a lot of stuff on the fly, but he spends a lot of time between sessions coming up with ideas and material so he can weave it all together easily. We the players are all really grateful to have someone happy to play on the other side of the table, and good at what he does.



    Sit-rep

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    Okay, have some free time, so here's what's up.

    Our standing group, (level 8, all around the board), Rogue/factotum, Duskblade/Swashbuckler, Archivist, Bard, Dragon Shaman, and a Paladin/Death Delver (who is still virtuous and true and good and all, but is starting to flippin LOSE IT as far as sanity goes. He's hit negative hit points one too many times).

    (we also still have "Cap'n Carver" with us).

    As far as out of character concerns go, the paladin has seriously cracked. I mean, the PLAYER is fine, he's just embracing the idea of a paladin gone loopy . The DM is letting him keep his paladin abilities as long as he stays 'good', and he's still all about the paladin leanings and behavior and moral code. He's just getting creepy.

    The kython plated armor and shield probably doesn't help his image, cause he's in glossy black armor and all. But more to the point, him and the DM have been discussing something behind the scenes, and they've agreed that the paladin is losing his celestial horse. A celestial mount is kind of a reflection of the person riding it in some ways, and the noble angel-horse was fine when he was a sword-and-board paladin straight up, but now?...

    Thing is. He's KEEPING a celestial mount. WHAT he's keeping as a mount was revealed to the rest of us as a surprise, and I'll tell you when, and what.



    Hail to the Kings (and Queen), Baby

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    Our next session started in the same spot the other left off. We're pinned in a rather plain belltower, the streets are pretty much flooded with zombies. There's random houses that are boarded up, and the church is heavily barricaded, but we have no guarantee that anyone is actually in these places.

    We're at the top of the belltower, the wind is picking up and it's obviously about to storm hard. The zombies are circling us. They're not completely thick around the belltower yet, but they're COMING, and it's just a wall of corpses past the few gaps anyway.

    The relatively weak barricades we threw up start to give, and then finally let go with a whimper. The zombies come shambling in, moaning hungrily. Lots and lots of them. Even if they're all mook-strength, we're going to have a hard time with the numbers alone.

    The duskblade, no hesitation, jumps up, grabs a wooden beam, and gives the rope holding up the big heavy metal bell a quick swip. It falls, tears up the internal structure just a teensy bit, and pancakes a bunch of corpses. It also acts as a choke-point in the bottom of the tower itself, so we basically are seeing LINES of zombies coming up, instead of mobs. So that's a little good, but we're still in bad shape.

    The archivist comes up with an idea, and gets the DM to agree to it 'behind the scenes' (read: in notes).

    Now, in our group? Prepared casters tend not to prepare all their spell slots unless they know something's coming up. If we're about to trek through the woods, they'll fill their slots with buffs and useful stuff of course. If they know they won't get a chance to prepare spells later, they'll fill it up with what they think will come in handy. Otherwise? They leave their spell slots open. It still takes time to sit down and ready them all to be cast, but personally, I kind of like that. It makes magic something a little more cinematic and a little less "machine gun"ish. Spells take time to prepare, so if you have the time, you can prepare what you need. Otherwise, be ready with your best guesses.

    Our archivist has his spell slots unprepared. So what does he do? He touches the paladins shoulder (in and out of character) and says "Buy me some time. I need to pray."

    The dragon shaman, leaning over the railing and looking down at the corpses groaning upwards at us, says "Yeah, we ALL need to f***ing pray".

    So the archivist kneels in the corner, prayerbook open, wind whipping throughout the wall-less area we're in, while the rest of us try to find ways to make ourselves useful.

    The paladin rushes down the stairs (actually cackling 'heroically', would be the best way to put it) spinning his sword above his head. Takes up a natural chokepoint on the stairs and starts trading blows with corpses. The Duskblade/Swashbuckler readies herself behind the paladin and curses about not having a reach weapon. The dragon shaman keeps a little distance, but gets in aura-range of the paladin and puts up some damage reduction for him. The warforged bard sits calmly at the top of the stairs and begins a creepy flute song (...), and I perch on the stairway higher up and start plunking stuff with my crossbow.

    This goes on for a while, the paladin is taking some injuries, but is still fighting like a pro. The bodies are piling up in front of him and slowing the zombies down, but also confusing matters some (they all look dead anyway, I can't tell what I'm chopping at! It's just a wave of teeth and rotten faces)
    Finally, the archivist shouts down "I'm ready, I still need more time!"

    And starts climbing outside to get to the pointed roof of the freaking belltower. In what's about to become a torrential downpour. Lunatic.

    I ask what in the nine hells he thinks he's doing, and he says "Hemorrhaging divine magic, just get me time!"

    The thing is, he wasn't just casting spells. He was giving spell slots, but he was also asking for a miracle in a way. He's perched up there, clinging to a lightning rod (!!!) and reaching up towards the sky. Fog and vapour are drifting past, and he's running his fingers through it, mumbling chants and giving up his spell slots. All of them. For?

    The storm breaks. The DM makes him roll a reflex save (failed) and takes heavy electrical damage, and is temporarily deafened, but survives it. Slides down the rooftop weakly, the bard grabs him and pulls him in, and the downpour begins.

    The downpour with faint but present traces of holy water throughout the entire cloud system. Oh yeah.

    Apparently, the archivist got his miracle. He gave up his spell slots for the day... ALL of them, to pour as much divine and personal energy into the air as possible. He cast Bless Water a few dozen times in every spell slot he had available (except 0 level) and prayed that it would distribute throughout the clouds. And it did.

    It wasn't KILLING anything, it was too diluted. But the zombies were flailing and collapsing in divine agony. The more vaguely-not-stupid ones shambled for cover, but most of them just collapsed groaning in fury.


    And it got us what we needed. With the warforged bard carrying the injured archivist (yeah, not anything in D&D rules, but the DM and us all agreed that he wasn't going to be sprinting after getting hit by lightning, high level or no), we broke for it. We fought viciously through the zombies still in the belltower and broke out into the rain. Heavy heavy rain. Heavy...holy water rain. Hmmm, seems like we're forgetting something, seems like, seems....

    Oh right, I'M NOT FREAKING ALIVE ANYMORE.

    So I start screaming in agony too, much to everyone else's surprise. Luckily I'm a player character. I'm taking divine damage (1's not even dice, and sporadic at that, but still). I manage to put on my gloves while we run and put up my heavy black hood. I also dig through my packs and manage to find a plain cloak to hold over my head, which doesn't do much, but the "one divine damage" thing came less often.

    Jeez.

    So we make it to the church and start hammering the doors and shouting as intelligently as possible. "Please, we're alive, let us in!"

    And? After a moment, we hear running towards the doors. A slot opens up, and we hear a lot of confused conversation, but the guy at the door says "Go somewhere else!" Another voice behind him shouts "Open the door Gregor!" Enter a shouting match. He's refusing to risk opening the locked door, people behind him are agreeing, people behind him are shouting to open it anyway, we can't leave them out there, it's too dangerous, open the god **** door, it could be a trick, ect. We're shouting at them to open it, it's not a trick, for gods sake the zombies are weakened but still COMING FOR US.

    Me? I'm shrieking in burning divine pain. The paladin, in a panic seeing me in pain, starts slam-kicking the door to get it open. The group gets even more riled up, the screaming is reaching a peak, the zombies wails are getting closer, angrier, and hungrier.

    Dm: "<silverclaw> you take one more divine damage"

    Me: "Oh F*** IT! I go ethereal and through the door, ready for trouble."
    Everyone, DM included: ....*jaws dropped*

    Anyway. I ask if I catch 'Gregor', the guy at the door off guard for a sneak attack. The DM says, "You just turned into a spectre, floated through the door at 60 feet a round, and dropped back into a solid shape with a thud. You're darn right you caught him flat footed."

    So I elbow him to the back of the head, unarmed attack, sneak attack subdual damage. With the sneak, it was enough to send him way down, down for the count.

    I throw the wooden beams back and start unlocking the door. The paladin kicks it in, breaking the last few locks, and in we come. A big wild eyed guy with glistening black armor and a sword and shield (also glistening black), a freaky rune carved golem holding a singed and injured dark-eyed archivist (who, really, are creepy no matter how you cut it). A dragon shaman who's starting to show traces of lizard, and... well, I guess the duskblade schoolmarm with a rapier still looks pretty normal, but drenched.

    We immediately slam the doors shut and start re-barricading them. I'm sizzling like a smokebomb, and start tearing at my holy-water soaked clothes and stumbling and screaming in a pained panic. The warforged sets the archivist on a pew and makes sure he's okay.



    The Death of a Great Hero

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    *EDIT* Also, I forgot to mention. Cap'n Carver got red-shirted on the fight through the rain *END EDIT*



    A Game of Clue

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    So, now I'm basically naked. And dead. And smoking with holy "acid". And stitched together.

    Someone in the crowd: "She's one of them!"

    Paladin: "No she's not!"

    Someone else: "Who they heck are YOU?"

    Paladin: *readies sword and steps between me and the crowd* Someone willing to die defending the innocent!

    Crowd: "You killed Gregor!"

    Other part of the crowd: "No, he's still breathing!"

    Someone else in the crowd, pointing at the warforged: "What the hell is THAT THING?!"

    Warforged, calmly: "I'm a housekeeper."

    ...

    *cough*

    (also, for anyone who wonders if my group can keep in character and out of character stuff separate? And wonders about group dynamics and things like that? The paladin who was ready to die defending me from an angry crowd? Same player who was the rogue who gave me TO an angry crowd to be burned at the stake in another campaign.1 It's a game everyone, keep that in mind if you get mad at each other over stuff that goes down )

    1: Said event can be found at the bottom of this post.

    So, anyway. I managed to scrounge up, what basically amounts to a hobo outfit from the dry miscellaneous gear we had in our packs. A lot of nothing, tied cloth, cloaks folded into each other and held together with pins. My armor class sucks, but at least I'm not naked.

    We managed to get the crowd convinced that we were the good guys, somehow, but they remained pretty divided and not many of them trusted us. We got the archivist healed up, but he was completely out of magic. He's basically down to dark knowledge as far as class abilities go.

    The dynamics of the crowd were fairly interesting, as was their situation. They'd been in the church for days and days, no one trusted each other, they still weren't sure what the heck happened, they were out of food for the past few days, a lot of them were dying or disappearing.

    It was actually a little confusing. Not that we couldn't tell what was going on, it was just that the DM did a good job of feeding us information second-hand, with commoners bickering at each other and contradicting each other.

    Then Gregor started coming around, and that just made things worse.

    What we established was that:

    No one trusted us. Especially me.
    There was no food left in the church.
    People kept disappearing or dropping dead.

    Now, I'll condense down a lot of this part, not because it's not interesting, but because it's a pain to keep straight in conversation, let alone typing it all down. The game went murder-mystery on us. We're talking to people, trying to establish who knows what/was where/likes who/trusts who/is lying/isn't lying. It's an uphill battle since they don't like us anyway, and don't feel compelled to tell us a lot to begin with. The duskblade is making more progress than the rest of us.

    Finally, we start figuring out what's up. The duskblade starts accusing two women of being the murderers, and they freak out and start crying. A guy, (Levain was his name) starts getting in her face and growling at her, how dare she be trying to stir up trouble when there was already too much of it going on, she should be grateful they don't throw us through the windows and back to the zombies, ect.

    Duskblade: "My hair's still wet?"

    DM: "You're all drenched, except for <silverclaw> who took the time to dry off specifically because she was burning to death."

    Duskblade: "I wring out my hair casually, catch a handful of the water, and throw it in Levain's face."

    ...Oh HELL yes. We figured it out (well, she did. Well, the player (he) controlling her did. Whatever).

    Levain SCREAMS, the same way I screamed, and falls back clutching his burning and smoking face. The crowd immediately backs away from him with gasps and screams. Levain bares his fangs and charges the duskblade.

    Yeah, Levain was a vampire. People weren't just being killed in some random pattern, they were being EATEN. The archivist and duskblade collaborated information and figured out that much. No one knew who the vampire was, but the duskblade was trying to draw him out, making him go on the offense before he got put on the defense. It worked, and he was exposed.
    The interesting thing? Levain wasn't part of this undead swarm. He'd apparently been a vampire for a good decade, and this situation was very bad for him. He had feeding grounds, but no good way of covering his tracks.



    Ballroom Blitz

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    You want chaos? This fight we had next was chaos.

    The paladin does a detect evil. The DM informs him "You get pings all over. The whole group isn't evil, but some of them are."

    The paladin charges Levain for a smite evil, hits him hard. So hard, Levain immediately turns into a swarm of bats and flies down into the church basement to retreat. The paladin charges after him, the duskblade is in hot pursuit.

    Another guy from the crowd (he had a reason) takes the opportunity of the confusion to tackle the dragon shaman and starts fighting him. Isolated, the dragon shaman is doing fairly well in the fight, but his main party roll of 'making everyone better' gets weakened when he starts having to back up the stairs to the second level to retreat from the (now two) guys attacking him.

    The crowd starts fighting itself, accusations are flying, who knew what, why did you let this happen.

    A large part of the group swarms me. The warforged-bard runs to help me, and gets me a flanking position where I actually start getting sneak attacks (sub-dual still... I didn't want to kill the confused commoners unless it became me or them).

    The dragon shaman takes a running leap from the second level balcony and back to ground floor, softens some of the damage with tumble, but still hits negatives. One of the guys who attacked him moves for a coup de grace, the other comes after me.

    And then the archivist opens fire from the pew with his kython dart gun. 1 piercing damage to both of them.

    Attacker: "What did you think that'd accomplish? Oh no, a splinter, I-" and then falls to one knee, breathing heavily as the venom eats 4 of his CON right then and there. "What...what was"

    The other attacker loses enough hitpoints that he drops into negatives. The crowd backs away from the archivist and the three of us group together. The bard manages to get the dragon shaman back into positives, and the four of us go running after the paladin/duskblade/vampire combo while the first attacker limps after us.

    (I hope I'm explaining this clearly).

    Now, while this was going on, the vampire raked over the duskblade in bat-swarm form, and she's bleeding heavily. The vampire reforms, the duskblade gives him a whack, he gives the paladin a whack, they all trade blows for a few rounds while the vampire tries to turn the situation to his advantage (spider climb? still getting stabbed. Cover from the table? paladin kicked it over my head, ect)

    They drop the vampire, but, you know how that goes. He turns into a mist and seeps through a bunch of cracks in the stone wall (...and we all get hit with a heavy clue-by-four). We catch up, the paladin lays on hands on the duskblade so she stops losing hitpoints, and the paladin starts hammering away at the wall and trying to tear at the stones.

    Anyway. We get through the stone wall with some effort, and we find? Stone passages. Filled with spiders, webs, dust... A few doors here and there leading to other hallways and rooms. We know there's a vampire coffin in here somewhere, but it looks like something more too. There are unholy symbols, small altars, bloodstains.

    After a few looks around, the Archivist informs us that it's a 'temple' to the demon prince of undeath, Orcus. It's less of a full blown temple, but it's likely a place that a cult of Orcus can meet in secret. The layout also suggests that it will lead to under the cemetery too.

    We trek in a ways, carefully. We're looking for a vampire coffin after all, it's recovering down here somewhere. But after a few passages? We hear a thunk behind us. An oil barrel was just punctured and pushed over by the guy who attacked the dragon shaman, and it sloshes around our feet. He's looking sickly from the venom, but is standing strong.

    He strikes a torch and gives us this line. "Orcus prefers his sacrifices be made in the darkness, not the flame. But this will have to do", and starts lowering the torch to the oil.

    Paladin, out of character: “Then I guess it's time for me to summon my mount.”

    Warforged, out of character: “Yeah, a horse probably won't help us much down here.”

    Paladin: “Yeah, I don't have a horse anymore. Trust me.”

    The DM smiles slyly, and tells us what we see. A dark shape melts from the ceiling and descends slowly towards the attacker. We can't make it out in the shadows, but it's big.

    Paladin, in character, to the attacker: "As a warrior of all that's virtuous and honest in this world, I need to inform you that a giant spider is about to attack you from behind."
    The attacker smirks.

    And finally we see it. The flame from the torch reflects off its segmented eyes, and we see the dark, but somehow 'silvery' carapace of a celestial monstrous spider grapple the attacker effortlessly and spin him up in a bundled web before pulling him up and dropping the torch to the stone ground harmlessly.

    ...CELESTIAL MONSTROUS SPIDER?

    Yup. Our paladin has a brand new bag. And it's AWESOME. First off, a silvery carapace and golden eyes? Oh yes. And it's slower than a horse, but it has a climb speed, and webs (no venom. Paladin spiders don't get venom, fair enough). And he can RIDE it, and it's INTELLIGENT, and friendly towards us. I think it's less physically durable than a horse, but I don't care. CELESTIAL SPIDER MOUNT.

    Our paladin is still a good guy, and a warrior of paladin morals. But he's become, uh, 'dark' and insane enough that heaven isn't giving him a horse anymore. He's gonna be riding around on a Large sized spider.

    And I fully approve.

    Anyway, more has actually happened since then, but I'm getting tired, and the writing is starting to wear on my mind. We managed to find the vampires coffin and stake it.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2010-03-28 at 05:24 PM.

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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Town Wrap-Up

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    The townspeople are pretty overwhelmed at this point. Too much going on. The zombies, the murders, us busting in, the vampire, and now there's a demon worshiping cult in town and we have no idea who are members of it?

    But, they found out that in about 17 hours, the archivist is going to be able to summon enough food for everyone, and then some. It's going to be bland oatmeal, but nutritious, and people on the brink of starvation usually aren't upset about oatmeal.

    Suddenly they like us a whole lot more, which is fair I guess. They've even agreed not to kill me when no one else is looking. I'm still wary though.

    The paladin has opted NOT to let them know he rides a giant spider. Seems...uh, yeah. But we found a few rooms full of ancient religious lore, and a few useful items. I even found some decent makeshift armor that's good for me, and a collar that keeps me under a constant "Gentle Repose" to prevent me from rotting so the archivist can use his spell slots for more important stuff. (the collar was the vampires actually).

    So, yeah, when I have more mental energy, I'll keep going. But I will say that I don't think the BBEG will be a straight up vestige. (if we even have one straight up like that, our DM doesn't always give us one big "Mwuhahah" kinda guy. In fact it's kinda rare). I also don't foresee a macguffin, but it is possible. That's another thing our DM doesn't like to do, big "Omg reach this to save the world" buttons.

    I dunno how this is going to go down, truth be told. (also, we're higher level at this point, but we were 8 at the start of this section, so yeah)

    The psychos of the party are sleeping in the stone cellar/hidden temple of the church, for lack of better locations. The vampire is staked and beheaded, we've got some loose upgrades to our total party wealth, and the commoners we're with are actually kind of fond of us, even if we creep them out, because the one who mumbles constantly about evil things in the dark and chews his nails compulsively (archivist) occasionally comes out of the cellar and summons enough oatmeal to keep everyone in good health.

    The paladin finally named his mount, "Gold Widow", and the people learned about it when we started making runs out throughout the town looking for survivors. We made a ladder system out the second story window so we could get to the roof of the church, and the paladin summoned his giant spider mount.

    One of the commoners response to seeing the paladin riding around the outside of the building on a silvery spider? "*throw up hands* whatever, sick of this, things are normal and then BOOM, zombies, giant spiders, vampires, I DON'T CARE ANYMORE, JUST DON'T LET US DIE"

    Anyway. The archivist learns some decent new spells, and discovered more about the Orcus problem. Now, for anyone who doesn't know a lot about D&D demons, or binders, I'll summarize what's up and what we have figured out.

    Orcus is a demon lord. Arguably, he's one of the three most powerful demons in existence, warring with Demogorgon and Graz'zt (two other demon lords). At one point in this endless parade of death and slaughter, Orcus was killed.

    Orcus, was resurrected however. A surge of negative energy transformed him into the undead demon, Tenebrous, who became so wrathful and powerful that he even became a deity. For a time, Tenebrous existed in this form, trying to find a way to return as "Orcus" instead of as tenebrous, until one way or another he too was killed. His power managed to cause Orcus to rise once again, but as a living demon, not a god.

    The power of his divinity, "Tenebrous", faded into the nothingness between nothings, the void that vestiges reside in. Now, the binder base class (using pact magic) can summon forth Tenebrous (as with any other vestige) and bind him to their soul, granting him the ability to experience existence in exchange for some taste of his power. (This was all official D&D stuff, not something our DM made up).

    Orcus, however, is not happy with this setup. Orcus doesn't want to be a demon prince, he wants to be a GOD. He struggles to, among other goals, steal Tenebrous back from the void and regain that measure of divinity.

    And apparently, he found a way. Or at least, we can only assume

    Which leave us with exactly bubkiss. We're level 9 (12 now actually, but 9 at this point), and we discover that the world is broken because one of the three more powerful beings in existence did something horrible. Sounds like business for the gods, right? Except divine natures: 1) aren't simple, and 2) aren't something they just chat with mortals about. We kinda feel hopeless here.

    To distract ourselves from how helpless we feel, we spend some time trying to get the town in some semblance of working order. There's too many zombies to just start hacking away at, even with ranged weapons and magic it would be a waste of effort. So our paladin weaves a web from the top of the church to the next building. And so on. Meanwhile, we're using whatever material we can find to build makeshift ladder/bridges, and laying those between other rooftops. We didn't find many survivors, but the people can now move across the rooftops, and we did save a few of them (though they all freaked out when they saw their 'champion' come descending down on a strand of spider silk and a monstrous vermin). The dragon shaman can spider climb at will, thanks to his dragon type, so he used that to good end as well.

    While we were doing this, our archivist (who took "Craft Wonderous Items") is warding some of the hallways with divine traps to prevent anything from coming in that way, and crafting something for the townspeople. He made a series of dishes with lids that, once a day, can produce enough food to feed three people each. He made enough for everyone (and a few extra) and kept three of them for us. (as a note, yeah, our DM will let us design our own magical items, and is pretty lax on XP/gold costs for it, as long as we don't abuse it (and everything is approved by him in the end anyway, so we can't really abuse it)).

    (Also, I used my ability to go ethereal (now twice per encounter, and twice a day anytime in addition to that as 'ace up the sleeve' uses) to good ends while searching the town, and looted the heck out of it, not that there's anywhere we can spend anything currently. Hey, good team or not, dead or alive, I am still a rogue.)

    We tried to figure out who was in the Cult of Orcus in the city, but there's no way we can tell, as far as we're aware. If anyone in the crowd of survivors WAS an Orcus worshiper, they're smart enough to not draw attention to themselves now. And most of them are probably shamblers at this point, so we're kind of at a loss on that front.

    While we were trying to figure it out though, we picked up on something some of the commoners thought was just rumor, and some swore was true, about a witch who was visited by 'otherworldy forces', and who was driven away and lives in the woods outskirting the city as a result.

    So left between searching the town for clue about the Orcus cult, or the catacombs under the city to see exactly what's up with it, or go to see this spooky witch. We did something that, any horror movie fan knows to never do.

    That's right suckers. We split up.

    Team "Lunatic" set out through the city to get to the woods and look for the witch. The dragon shaman, the duskblade, and the paladin (and Gold Widow). We figured they'd be doing the most sword swinging, so having both heavy hitters and a heal-battery would do them to most good.

    Team "Dora" (....really). The Archivist, me the rogue, and the warforged bard, all set down into the catacombs. We're all the exploring type, the archivist would know more about what was going on, I'd know more about getting us through whatever we found, and the bard would be good backup for us.

    For anyone wondering how this works, we'd go back and forth between the teams at natural sticking points, but we were all interested, even if we weren't actually actively participating in between teams.



    The Shadow Lady

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    Now, I talk about moving around the town like it was no big deal. It wasn't. There was enough zombies that just being mobile enough to get through was problematic, and they weren't that dangerous, but even zombies hit on a natural 20, and some of them were heavy hitters. No sentient ones, thankfully.

    But it was stressful going rescuing people, much less leaving with no guaranteed route back in, or wondering when a zombie was going to smile at you and spring a trap because it still had a brain.

    So, the 'hitter' team sets out across the rooftops, weapons ready. Some of the zombies follow them as they move across the rooftops, but most don't pay that much attention. They make it to the edges of town fairly easily, move down off the buildings, and out into where it starts to turn rural, keeping their eyes peeled for signs of trails or travel that might lead to a house or cottage. They wished we had a ranger, or druid, or something.

    The woods were... rough. But more creepy than numerically troublesome. They kept getting attacked by undead animals. A rough patch was a swarm of squirrels. Zombie squirrels. Like I said, numerically they decimated everything they had to fight, but it was just kind of depressingly creepy. The undead animals were attacking the living ones, most of the wilderness had no real chance to speak of. It was a dead place. Sunny day after the storms or no, this was horrible.

    After enough traveling, they started seeing obvious traces of something more than just the dead wildlife. Obvious low-scale harvesting and hunting, things like that. They follow the paths they pick up to find a small cottage, Now, this cottage was assembled hastily, and some long time ago at that. Part of the cottage was ALIVE. Specifically, it was built so close between trees, that when the trees grew, they grew into and around the walls (anyone who's seen trees growing through powerlines knows what i'm talking about). Bulging masses of living wood like... like cancer or something. It wasn't a friendly looking place. It was dark inside.

    The paladin opted to approach it first, knocking and asking if anyone was there. He received no answer, but opened the door slowly, sword drawn, announcing that he didn't come with violent intentions, but would defend himself.

    He enters the cottage. Nothing but Blackness. It's like he stepped through a veil and there was nothing on the other side. He immediately stumbled backwards back into the bright, natural, streaming sunlight. The duskblade steps forward and pushes her hand through the doorway. It's just...black. The sun is shining normally, and the cottage is surrounded by windows, but there's nothing but blackness inside. And worse, all three of them are humans, with only natural light sources, and nothing that will let them see inside.

    But this is where they NEED to be. That much is clear. What choice do they have? The dragon shaman refused to enter. They didn't blame him. But the paladin knows no true fear, and the duskblade was always way too brave for her own good anyway. So the Dragon Shaman waited outside with gold widow, eyes peered for trouble, standing nervously at the entrance to the door (just so his aura would still affect the two inside) staring into the abyss.

    The paladin and duskblade held hands, so they wouldn't lose each other, and started feeling their way around. Knocking into this or that with a thud or crash. Sound was fine, they just couldn't see anything. They reached out carefully, finding a wall and padding their way along it, trying to discern what they were touching.

    Finally, they feel something warm. After a bit of 'manual' exploring, they realize it's a person, curled up in the farthest corner of the cabin. As they touch it, the darkness folds back from the doorway into them (revealing that it is a she, so it must be the witch they're looking for). Her eyes are 'gone', as in focused on nothing, staring into the distance, pupils dilated all the way out. She's shaking slightly, just staring. And now, even with the light streaming through the cottage naturally, she still looks like she's in some lightless corner, as if she had a thin layer of shadow smudged over every inch of her.

    And the entire cabin is full of bones. Bones everywhere. Human bones, animal bones, bones bones bones... and the paladin notices at least one human skull with horns and sharp teeth.

    Dragon Shaman: "Get out of the cottage right now."

    But they both start trying to figure out what's wrong, shaking her gently, asking her what's going on, who she is, ect. Trying to get any response out of her. She looks up at the paladin and says, shakily, tearily, and very slowly, "....he.......hates."

    Then the door slams shut.

    "It's all he does.... he hates... it's all he does."

    The dragon shaman starts pounding on the door, moves to break a window and finds that they're not glass. Whatever they are, he can't do anything to it. He breaths a line of acid onto the door? nothing. It's acid-proof.

    psycho woman: "He can't escape."

    And the walls start bleeding acid.

    To quote our paladin: "Oh holy wow jesus wow that sucks!"

    The woman just sits there, shaking, holding herself, the acid doesn't seem to be bothering her. But it's dripping from the ceiling and burning the paladin and duskblade. The dragon shaman switches his aura to provide acid resistance, but the cabin is literally puddling up with acid, the resistance won't protect them when they're swimming in it. They start freaking out, the duskblade punches the woman, but she doesn't respond, they start beating the walls. Nothing. The paladin bullrushes the door, hoping to knock it off its hinges. It buckles, but he hits it hard and stumbles back. He takes another charge, the door finally cracks, breaks, and the two of them come spilling out.
    They look back. The blackness has returned.

    The cottage is some kind of freaking venus flytrap. It's assumed that the bones are from other people and animals which were brave or stupid enough to wander in, and the woman apparently calls it home. The darkness, the walls, the acid, the window (which the duskblade checks, and apparently they're panes of force). It's all to keep everyone else out, and the woman in.

    But they need her, right? She's not responsive, but we need to know what's going on. So after much debate, the paladin breaks the door off from its hinges, chucks it into the woods, and charges in alone. He reaches the woman, and the darkness fades again, and the walls start dripping acid again. But he has an exit. He picks up the woman (who's now screaming in rage) and charges out the front door with her. She's fighting, weakly, but Gold Widow spins her up into a bundle of web.

    She immediately calms down. She still looks like she's covered in shadows, even with the sunlight beating down on her. She speaks. "Don't....let me go. Don't let him go" and resumes staring into nothingness and not responding.

    The cabin now looks normal, aside from, you know, the bones of everything that died in an acid bath. The paladin goes in again (yes, he has a death wish. He's a death delver, remember?). He can't find much that survived the acid. Wood and bone is just about all of it. But he does find a few items that were apparently treated to be acid resistant. Some kind of magical experiment. He came to the conclusion that it was the woman herself who set this up. Whatever's wrong with her, she didn't want anything coming for her, and she didn't want any way out herself.

    So, you know, hopefully we didn't screw up by tearing her out of her little burning nest.

    Team "lunatic" starts setting out back to the church in the city, unsure of themselves.

    They run into real trouble coming back. The shamblers that followed after them are thicker on this side of the city now, and they have a helpless 'hostage' in tow. They can't get to the rooftops. But they CAN get to the cemetery.

    Long story short, they go over the wall, up into the cemetery, and start hoping it's not a dead end. They find a mausoleum that is locked like a bank vault, and break into it. And find out that it's not a mausoleum. It's just a marble shell around a pit into the darkness below.

    Gold Widow starts dropping on a silk strand down into the pit, carrying the psycho witch woman, and the three others start climbing down after them.

    (And as a side note, my DM apparently does a really good "crazy woman who can barely speak" voice, because when he said "....he....hates?" It seriously sent a chill up my spine. It helped that his face was behind a screen.)



    The Sound of Music

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    The Striker team leaves the church through the rooftop pathways we've constructed, while the exploration team, me the rogue/factotum, the bard warforged, and the archivist, all set down into the stone halls branching out from the church. The DM describes the halls, including mentioning that everything's extremely dusty. My response? "So am I. Even this outfit is dusty".

    I joke, but this part is actually pretty chilling. While the attack team is topside, in stark unforgiving sunlight and running past moaning zombies, we're lowering ourselves quietly into what amounts to one giant tomb. We know there was a vampire down here, what else?

    It's slow going too. I'm creeping forward looking for dangerous situations, the bard is aiding me and doing some searching himself a few footsteps behind me (never know when the bard will roll a 20 while I roll a 1 right? We might as well both be checking). The archivist is a few steps behind the both of us, shining a small wooden pole with a magical light on the end (which doesn't provide much illumination) and scribbling notes about the construction of the area and some of the markings/designs of the stuff we encounter.

    Every now and then, we come across a door. I didn't have any trouble unlocking them, and there were no real traps to speak of (actually, there was one door that sent a small spike into the openers palm. 1 piercing damage, and a wicked STR damage poison with a high save DC. "I'm glad I'm dead". Even managed to get a few doses of the poison out of the device, after it pricked me).

    Inside the rooms were, sadly, a lot of nothingness. There were tables and chairs, tapestries, occasionally you'd find a weapon or two. We found a vial of black liquid that we had trouble identifying. The archivist couldn't figure it out, and it didn't seem to be magical. Out of sheer curiosity, the archivist popped it open and let the smell of it reach him. He actually had to roll a fort save to resist vomiting.

    "it's just ichorous sludge. Blood, or some other biological matter that's gone far rotten. Probably collected from a gravesite or something for a dark ritual of some kind"

    The warforged is still humming. I ask him why he hums so much, especially when we might be trying to hear danger approaching. Apparently his creator enjoyed his humming, as silence made him uncomfortable. So he made a point to hum whenever there wasn't much going on.

    But he'll be quiet if his new friends want him to.

    I hated telling him it was a good idea, but really, when every noise you make echoes throughout the dusty stone chambers of unknown horrors, it's time to shut the heck up. So he agreed to keep the humming to appropriate times.

    One of the more significant rooms we discover is, apparently, where the cult of Orcus actually spent time whenever they got together. There are musty old books, and less-musty books (which turned out to be journals about some vague plans of theirs). In the back of the room was an altar made out of skulls and chains, and a bone pile in the corner. The bones were stained with blood, and the room smells like a slaughterhouse.

    There wasn't much useful there, but we took a bit of a break while the archivist leafs through the books and journals, putting the ones that seemed relevant in his pack. One of the books he goes through is, at a glance, just a few hundred pages of music sheets. The bard perks up and grabs it from him, and starts reading it intently.

    The bard is content to check out the music book. The archivist is more concerned with going through the rest of the tomes. But me? I'm thinking "Why the heck does the cult of Orcus have a book full of sheet music? They don't seem like the jovial singing bunch, and if they do have some kind of ritual chants or something, I doubt they need a thick book of sheet music to keep it up.

    So while the other two are nose deep in books, I get to one side of the bookshelf and give it a good stuff push. It slides along the ground (very, very noisily, echoing throughout the halls. Which made me uncomfortable, and cause the other two to stare at me awkwardly). Yup. There's a hidden safe behind the bookcase.

    The archivist says he's perplexed, and asks me why I would assume there was a safe behind the shelves just because we found a book of sheet music. I told him that he just couldn't think like a thief, and the if you find one thing that's out of place, it usually means there's something bigger out of place related to it. So while they set back to the books, I set to safe-cracking. Which actually took 3 rolls to bypass. Inside the safe, was some cool stuff. A skull charred black (creepy). A pair of masterwork lockpicks, a dagger with unidentified properties (later, it turned out the dagger was enchanted with the sole property of being able to convert sneak attack damage on the undead into either STR or DEX damage instead of 'nothing'! :D), and apparently the reason the safe existed. A flute, with imagery in Bas-relief from end to end. Beautiful imagery depicting a sunrise and praying hands. The bard flipped through the book, and found some notes scribbled in abyssal, which the archivist translated. Apparently, the flute had belonged to a powerful priest of some unnamed religion. It was stolen by the cult of Orcus, and was being smuggled around looking for someone powerful enough to destroy it. The book too, was tied to the flute, and would re-appear near the flute even if burned to ashes. It was full of "disgusting" (to the cult) beautiful holy music, most of which was mundane, but some of which apparently had real magical effects. The book was supposed to be locked in the safe too. Apparently, the book decided otherwise. Not that it's intelligent, just.... yeah. There must have been a reason it was on the shelf, right?

    The bard tucked the book into the pack, and gave the flute a good looking over. Without thinking, he brought it up to his mouth (mouthpiece?) and started playing a few notes (and when the DM asked if he'd give up a use of his bardsong, he agreed).

    The DM actually played the theme to Pan's Labyrinth here. Which, if you haven't heard it, it's really beautiful and haunting. He described the area around the bard starting to glow faintly, spreading out in a soft but all encompassing light, driving back the shadows.

    Which is when we saw it.



    Bad News

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    Through the doorway, along the wall across the hallway, a pale humanish figure with flat gray-green eyes hunched, apparently wearing nothing but a few light chains wrapped around himself, watching us intently. When it realized we could see it, it hissed and ran forward out of our field of view. The bard stopped playing, startled, and everything was plunged back into shadows.

    We stood motionless for a while, nervous. Okay, terrified. We didn't want to leave the room, wondering if that thing was right around the corner waiting for a fight. We had no clue what it was (even the archivist. Rolled knowledge rolls, came up with nothing).

    Finally we realized we had no choice but to exit. The bard lifted the flute and played his tune again while we walked. It cast light out to a 60 foot radius (30 feet past my darkvision I got from being undead). The bard had to make perform rolls to keep playing the song every few rounds). We'd advance carefully, making spot checks. The archivist had his bone shard pistol out, I had my new dagger and a few other daggers in my belt. We didn't see anything.

    Then the bard failed a perform roll. The song ended, and the area was plunged into black again. The archivist had 20 feet of light around him, the bard could only see the archivist, and I could see in 30 feet around me (I could just barely see the archivist at this points, he was 30 feet away. (well, mind you, we were in a hallway, so I could see 30 feet in any given direction from where I was, not a 30 foot radius).

    The DM rolled some kind of attack, and then told the archivist to roll a reflex save to hold otno his light-stick. he failed. The DM didn't give us tactical information, he just told us what we saw. And he gave a lot of the information to us individually, so we didn't automatically know what everyone else was doing)

    Me and the bard both saw the archivist raise off the ground a few feet, and then the light source dropped and he was pulled.... well, away. Up, down, backwards? We didn't see, he was gone. The DM rolled for hitpoint loss on the archivist. Then he let the archivist take a shot with his boneshard crossbow, but he had to roll for direction, not anything specific. He did it by rolling 4 D20's. 2 D20's would be for the '2d' axis paralell with the floor, and 2 would be for opposite axis. Anything higher than a 36 on two dice was a re-roll. 1 and 36 were 'west' and 18 was 'east'.

    We didn't get to see what he rolled, but the DM said we heard a 'tick' sound as the boneshard hit in a specific spot between the two of us.

    Now, personally? I thought that was really darn clever. The archivist get s ablind pistol shot, so the DM rolls two 360 random directions and gives us the location the dart goes? It kinda pulled me in. Made me feel for the archivist, firing blindly, and really showed what a blind shot meant.

    The DM made the archivist roll some checks in secret (escape artist checks, with the benefit of hindsight). He failed.

    I had to roll a spot check. Then I got hit flat-footed, because the thing successfully closed the distance between us while hiding. It was a good hit on its part, and the DM said I could "Tell it was trying to sneak attack me, not realizing I wasn't alive".

    The bard runs to the light source, naturally, he can't see anything and isn't sure what to do.

    I debate running towards the bard, knowing he was probably freaking out as much as he does (I'm sure the DM just told him that he "heard the rogue shout in pain" or something). But instead I took a slash at the thing, hit it solid, and twice, but have no clue how much damage the thing can take.

    The archivist fails another 'unknown' check. The thing disappears. The bard runs towards where he heard me, ready for trouble. I run towards him.

    Heh, now, our DM is great, but he's also willing to be a jerk. The bard apparently told him that he was gonna attack as soon as he saw it (or something comparable). The next thing he saw was me sprinting into his field of view. BOOM. The bard socks me hard in the stomach, knocks me over prone. He's very instantly apologetic.

    I down a light healing potion, not sure of what else to do other than getting my hitpoints back to full, and take a scan for trouble, or seeing if I can see the archivist.

    The archivist fails another check. Manages to make a noise we hear through his gag. He's on the ceiling, 20 feet up. Tied to some random creepy architecture and trying to get loose.

    The thing comes sprinting, charging full speed, hits the bard with some kind of charging grapple, because it wraps around him and the two go sprawling past me down the hallway, tumbling over each other. The thing lands on its back and kicks the bard over him in one fluid motion, sending him another 40 feet down the hall into a metal door, 4d6 damage. The bard hastes himself and throws the light down the hallway, shouting at me to take it. I shout that I don't need it, and he says "SO I CAN FIND YOU"

    Why didn't I think of that? So I tumble up to the light, grab it, and then coat my dagger in kython venom (I can make it once a day, 'spiritually', remember).

    The archivist makes his escape artist check (natural 20) and wriggles out of the chains. But now he's clinging to a bunch of creepy spiked designs 20 feet up. He opts to drop, taking the 1d6 damage for the fall. The thing takes another dash this time past me towards the archivist (JEEZ it was fast. it must have had 50 foot move rate before adding running or charging on top). I got an attack of opportunity, and nailed it with the kython venom. It staggered, but didn't stop its charge, and bullrushes the archivist hard into the stone corner, think it was 2d6 damage. The bard sprints towards me, I sprint towards the creature.

    The archivist? Casts the only spell he has prepared besides cures. Light. On the chains wrapped around the creature. The creature snarls in rage and opens a full attack on the archivist, and drops him to negatives. The bard manages to close the distance between the two, get to the archivist, and give the creature two solid punches. I get up to the whole brawl and sneak attack the thing. It howls in rage and sprints down the hallway away from us, leaping up to the ceiling.

    The bard realizes that it's 50 feet away. His sound burst has a 45 foot radius. BOOM. 1d8 sonic damage, fails its save and is stunned. Drops from the ceiling and takes 1d6 damage from the fall. I UMD a cure wand, and bring the archivist back to consciousness.

    The archivist looks down the hallway at the thing covered in glowing chains, he's sitting there covered in his own blood, he has about 2 hitpoints. Takes his boneshard cossbow and fires. Hits the thing. 1 damage.

    It was the things last GOD D*** HITPOINT.

    The DM ruled that it hit the thing in the neck and tore open an artery. It slumped against the wall and fell into a pile, drowning in its own blood.

    Our jaws, all 6 players, are dropped. The paladin player (remember the other teams are still watching entertained) managed to erk out a small "...what?". The DM has his eyebrows raised, he was a little stunned too. The archivist player holds his hand like a gun and looks at it wide eyed. We all stare at the archivist.

    Archivist: ".... uh. Hmm. For how little damage this thing does, it's been extraordinarily useful to have at hand. I guess I'll just keep hanging onto this".

    One freaking damage. Un-freaking-beleivable.

    *sigh*

    Oh, also, he immediately came back to life, and was still pretty quick (which means he was probably a sentient vestige, just, you know, he wasn't smart to begin with, and they have the same mental faculties), but we cacked him pretty easily the second time. Basically just punched/stabbed him until he went down.



    The Six-Fingered Prince

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    So we patch ourselves up, and keep on pressing down. We came to the conclusion that the thing must have been a hunter for the cult of Orcus. Or an enforcer. Or something. Whether it used to be human, or was just some monster they managed to wrangle into their service, it was obviously down here to keep victims chained up for sacrifice.

    If we were nervous before, now we're jumping at our own shadows. The archivist actually panicked and shot a rat just because it squeaked near us.

    But we're adventurers. More than that, we're explorers. An archivist of forbidden religious lore, a one-of-a-kind (in this world) sentient golem talespinner, and an undead rogue. If we aren't brave enough?...

    The archivist pointed out that we were under the cemetery. The bard asked how he could tell, and he gestures to the ceiling. There is, what looks like, upside down blades of black grass. "Soulroot. It's a type of grass that only grows underground, near dead bodies or sources of negative energy. We must be under a gravesite of some kind".

    Of course, when he tells us something like that, it's info the DM gave us. But having the player who would know about it explain it? So helpful for immersion.

    We also start finding spell components. More vials of, uh, that icky black stuff that smells bad. Small bones, animal parts, traces of gold dust glittering. We start noticing strange patterns etched into the walls. "Sealing symbols... they're often used by demonologists to keep their summons from turning on them. We need them in church rituals sometimes... they can weaken or hold evil outsiders in place..."

    I've got a terrible feeling about this, but it's not like we're going to turn back. Finally, we come to the end of the line. Long stone hallway, metal door covered in "Sealing Symbols", with a red light glowing out from underneath it.

    We didn't even talk. We could have bickered about whether it was a good idea or not, but what would be the point. We all knew, one way or another, that door was getting opened. So I set to work on the locks.

    ...It wasn't locked.

    The door creaks open normally. The room is bathed in red light, and symbols on all the walls are glowing brightly with a more violent shade of red. In the center of the room is a tall dark figure with yellow eyes and sharp teeth. Circling him, are pillars of red light that seemingly have shapes of their own. The figure grins a wicked grin and waves slowly. We see that he has six fingers.

    Me: What? But, how? What's going on here?

    Archivist: It's... Graz'zt. A demon lord-

    "PRINCE!" it interrupted with a smile, in a deep and confident voice.

    Archivist: "A demon prince... wait. It's not him. it's an aspect... a lesser aspect."

    The figure gives an overly friendly smile with his eyes closed.

    So, yeah. To elaborate specifically. It was a weak splinter of the true Graz'zt, an aspect who arrived on the material plane to complete some minor but specific task he wanted done personally. We didn't know what, but he did tell us that the cult of Orcus 'intercepted' his planar travel, magically, and bound him here to prevent him from succeeding in whatever he wanted to do.

    We asked what he came here to do. "To destroy Orcus, of course". We kind of panicked a little at that. Asked it if Orcus was on the material plane. He simply rolled his eyes and dismissed us with a wave. Told us, actually very politely, that we didn't know the tiniest fraction of what truly going on. We asked if he would tell us more (the archivist, in particular, was wide eyed to actually be talking with an entity such as Graz'zt, even if through an incredibly weak aspect).

    He said that he might be inclined to shed some light on the darkness Orcus had shrouded us in, if we would do him a favor. Hesitant to make a deal with a demon, let alone a demon lord (er, prince), but really, REALLY needing to know what we were fighting against here, we asked what he wanted us to do. He told us that, somewhere in the area near the city, one of his more notable 'pets' was waiting to contact with him. He needed very much to come into contact with her, but was confined, mentally and physically to two locations. The True Graz'zt was still sitting in his palace in the abyss. The aspect of Graz'zt was currently confined to this small room with no way out. "Even if you somehow broke the seals binding me here, my time on this plane has run low. All that holds me here are these seals, and I don't know when I'll be able to return, or if I can avoid Orcus's forces the next time."

    Me: “So you want us to bring her...”

    Graz'zt: “Yes. Bring my pet to me, so I can do what I came here for originally. Then I might be inclined to tell you what, exactly, is "going on"".”

    Archivist: “Very well then. How can we find her?”

    Now, I'm sure you all see what's coming. We had our suspicions at the table.

    At that moment, a bundle of human wrapped in spider silk descended on a thin strand, to land off to the side of the figure. Graz'zt lets loose a low chuckle, turns to us, and says "I'm impressed. That was very fast."

    Come crawling down after her, are a dragon shaman and a duskblade, with a paladin riding a silver spider descending on his own line on the other side.

    Paladin, from above: "What in the 9 hells is this?!?!?!"
    Graz'zt, shouting up: "It's actually a tad bit more ABYSSAL than HELLISH down here.

    Graz'zt turned to the witch, who was apparently his thrall/servant/worshiper/'pet'. She crawled to him like a worm, inching forwards in her silk cocoon. All she managed to say was "Master".

    Dragon Shaman: “I knew this was a bad idea.”

    The two didn't even look at us. Graz'zt held his hand near the edge of his 'cage', and the woman ran her face slowly along the other side with her eyes closed. Graz'zt told her to stay strong for him, all she could do was nod.

    So then we get the exposition. Finally. We know, at least part of what's going on.



    A Long-Awaited Revelation

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    We've already established the nature of vestiges, binders, tenebrous, Orcus. We know Orcus is trying to get Tenebrous back from the 'nothing' to become a god, which would essentially make him unstoppable. Orcus is already immensely powerful, Tenebrous was powerful enough to slay deities. If Orcus and Tenebrous managed to exist at the same time, in the same form? Well, we're talking about a being that would be able to go toe to toe with Asmodeus in a steel cage match, and Asmodeus is one of the most powerful beings anywhere. But Asmodeus has a calm collected restraint, he's a creature of law and rules. Orcus/Tenebrous would revel in nothing more than outright CARNAGE on a multi-planar scale. We're talking end of days, in more ways than one. No more world, no more AFTERLIFE, NOTHING. In the end, that is. First there would be a few hundred thousand years of slaughter and pain and inescapable suffering.

    But why hasn't it happened already? Vestiges are crossing over at an alarming rate. Some true powerful vestiges have come back as sentient creatures, and still more are probably inevitably going to come back with their power intact. If there's one vestige who should have already found a way in, it's the one the 'jailbreak' was PLANNED for, right?

    Except Graz'zt knew something was up, and Graz'zt is one devious, devious bastard. He managed to get enough servants, with enough power, to learn pact magic (become binders) for him. In the final days before the veil between this world and the nothing was pierced, his servants summoned Tenebrous to them.

    Tenebrous did not want to make pacts of course. His freedom from the nothing was close at hand anyway. But apparently, that's not how pact magic works. He couldn't just refuse, not yet, not before the veil was actually pierced. The difficulty in binding him (to make a good pact) was astronomical, but he could still BE bound.

    Now, it's been pointed out that when you bind a vestige and make a pact with them, you show their sign, and are influenced by their behavior. Actually, you don't HAVE to show their sign, or be influenced by them. If you make a good pact (beat the vestiges binding DC on a charisma roll), you stay in control. You supress their sign, control their influence, but still get their powers.

    But because Tenebrous didn't want to make any pacts, the DC for binding him was outrageous. No one had a chance of succeeding. So any of those who forced Tenebrous to bind with them automatically made bad pacts. They had to show tenebrous' sign, and behave under his influence. What are his sign and influence?

    You look like you're standing in shadows no matter what the light source, and you become apathetic and detached. One of your powers? You can create an area of blackness around you at will.

    The witch was Graz'zts servant. Always has been. A powerful one at that. When Graz'zt saw that the veil would be pierced, and tenebrous would escape, he had the witch (and several other people, 22 others in total, apparently) bind Tenebrous, knowing it would be a bad pact, knowing he would be fighting them to be freed.

    As long as one living soul has Tenebrous bound to a pact? He CAN'T LEAVE THE VEIL. They're anchoring him away from Orcus simply by continuing to breathe. Tenebrous is fighting them to escape, it's a terrible strain, they're forced to hold him longer than pacts are meant to be held (24 hours. It's currently going on weeks).

    The witch set up her cabin (using power granted from Graz'zt) as a pit for her to hide in. She's been there for weeks, eating scorched fragments of cultists or animals that have come to the house after her (or randomly), and alternating between catatonic staring into her own black shroud, or fighting the urge to kill herself (Tenebrous trying to escape). She's actually RELEIVED to be bound head to toe in spider silk, because being powerless means she can concentrate all her energy on holding Tenebrous inside of her.

    Yeah.

    Wow.

    So, in the end, Graz'zt gave her encouraging words and reinforced her resolve and power in her servitude towards him. He convinced us (reluctantly) to undo the bindings holding him in the room, and true enough, he immediately vanished back to the abyss, no longer able to visit the material plane.

    He has no help he can give us, "Unless we come to the abyss to see him first hand, *evil chuckle*". But we really have only one SANE option here. We have to keep the witch with us. We have to keep her alive, defend her from the cultist of Orcus who would gladly kill her on sight, try to find as many of the other 22 as possible before they die, keep THEM alive, and try to find some way to get them to Graz'zt's layer of the abyss for safe keeping.

    We feel very very small.

    The dragon shaman asked if the paladin should 'fall' for consorting with Graz'zt and the witch. The DM pointed out that talking to a bound demon isn't the same as making a deal with it, and that the witch, despite being evil, is our PRISONER, being held to prevent greater evil being committed.
    Really, sorry to bring up the paladin falling deal. We don't need another discussion about paladin ethics. Our DM said it was fine, it's fine :-p

    So that's all there is about THAT. We have the witch, who can act as a beacon towards the other servants of Graz'zt by her masters guiding hand. And we're, you know, screwed. As is the rest of the world.

    And lest we forget, EVERYTHING THAT DIES is still coming back to life, so it's not like this new problem resolves the old one.

    So, we set out northeast. We told the commoners we were leaving, even though we aren't beholden to them anyway. We gave them dishes that produce free food, we've really done all we CAN in this world to help them. We're setting out to help more, if we can.

    But try this on for size. As we're setting back out over the rooftops in the city, watching the swarms of zombies moaning angrily at us, I spot something. One of the zombies isn't moaning. it's not even moving. And it looks very familiar. It's rotten and beat to hell, but... it looks, like....
    And then the zombie flies out of the crowd and swoops over in front of us for a moment to wink and blow us a kiss. It's the wizard. The one who used to be in our party. I draw my crossbow and move to open fire, but he snaps his finger, and he's gone with a laugh.

    OF COURSE he found us. He knows us personally, and is a diviner specialist. CRAP.

    We kept our eyes peeled, but apparently he was just stopping by to make us wet ourselves. He seems to take great joy in making us uncomfortable. I wonder what vestige he was.

    *sigh*

    Ah well. That's all for now. It's gonna be a pain getting caught up in time for Halloween, especially with the sessions going on :-p

  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    A Dance in the Woods

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    So we set out on the open road. Or more specifically, we set out through the woods, figuring the undead animals would be creepier, but less dangerous, than a lot of stuff we might face traveling in the open. We would make camp in the trees, sleeping in spider webs spun by gold widow, and we had relatively little trouble with undead animals.

    We did have some stuff go on, but most of it was minor. We traveled for days, resting lightly, using our magic lightly so we could go on for longer without the (risking) resting period. Occasionally we'd fight, most of the time we just simply out-paced the forces after us. It bit us in the behind once, when we wound up resting and woke to discover that the monsters we outpaced had found us, and there were a lot more of them than we would have had to fight individually.

    But we pressed on. After a few days of travel, the witch tells us the binder we were heading northeast for is dead. The next closest one is straight east.
    So this is looking positive right? Pessimism instantly overwhelms us as a group. Not in a bad way (the game was still fun) but we're certainly feeling rather hopeless. We ask the witch how far the next one is, and all she says is "far".

    We don't have a choice though. We change our course for east. As we walk, we start asking the archivist how we could get the binders to the abyss, alive and whole. He says that we can shift to the abyss, but without explicit knowledge of the plane, we have no way of telling WHERE we'll wind up. We could easily end up shifting directly in front of Orcus himself.

    Ugh.

    Yeah, things are bleak.

    To make matters worse, we noticed something that put our hairs on end. There was a large pack of wolves through the trees just ahead, all dead, sitting patiently and watching us. It seemed like there was something wrong with the picture (well, wrong in addition to the fact that they were rotting) and then we noticed. None of them had eyes. But they didn't just have eyes sockets. There was nothing but darkness there, as if their heads were hollow pits of blackness.

    We walked forwards slowly, weapons draw, and eased along one side of them. As we turned, so did they. They turned their heads to keep us directly in their field of 'vision', and turned their bodies when they couldn't turn their necks anymore. They didn't attack us. They just watched. They didn't follow us. They just....watched.

    We started looking around. Birds in the trees. No eyes. Craning their necks towards us. Squirrels. Rabbits. A deer. No eyes, not a single one, just that horrible empty blackness, all just staring at us as we traveled.

    At some point, they stopped staring at us. They were staring forwards, in the direction we were going. We actually stopped to debate veering off in some random direction at that revelation. Talk about ominous? You might as well have thunder crash.

    But after a long discussion, we come to the conclusion that, whatever's happening here, we can't FIGHT it if we don't know what IT is. So we press on in the direction the animals are staring. It's getting dark, very dark, even though the sun's only been up for a few hours.

    We see, ahead, in the trees, a clearing... in a sense. It's the opposite of a clearing. It's a void. We can tell where the land is, it's still there, but it's like we're staring into a starless sky at the same time. There's a dead body in the clearing, twitching. The animals, they're all staring at the body. We're staring at the body. Some of the animals aren't just staring though, they're running in a circle, and darting across it in strange patterns, climbing over each other, and continuing to run counter clockwise.

    As we watch, the corpse spins too spins. There on its back, it circles in brief jerking motions like a top. A blade thrusts OUT of one it its arms, shredding the hand into a puddle of gore with a sickening sound. It twists and jerks, spinning up onto the blade/hand. One leg rises straight in the air, and another blade thrusts from it calf, shredding the foot, pointing straight towards the sky.

    One by one, the things hands and feet are shredded by blades coming violently from inside its body. It's distant, but we can tell the things face is distorting, horribly.

    And then it begins to spin.

    Archivist: "Saints have mercy on us, that's the dancer."

    It sees us immediately, and comes dancing towards us in strange elegant patterns, spinning like some bloody bladed top the entire time. As it approaches, it spins so rapidly against a large tree that the trunk turns into woodchips where it moved and the tree collapses.
    We circle into a group, figuring splitting up is suicide. We put the witch in the dead center, to protect her.

    The thing (Paimon, a vestige, for those who haven't guessed, a vestige of dancing blades) comes spinning towards us, up into a tree in on fluid motion, spins, POUNCES, and falls directly into the center of our square (won initiative :-\) and hits the witch, hard. I'll spare you the gory details, partially because it'd take days and days to write if I detail every encounter we've had up until this point.

    But in the end, we had the vestige gurgling blood, and in its death throws. (Our DM, by the way, apparently does a really wicked death gurgle/vestige/garbled voice). And it asks us. "What do you think will happen if you kill me?"
    And our paladin says, triumphantly, "Back to the void with you."

    The vestige starts to reply. "yes... back to the void. But a more important question would be-" and here, the paladin rolls his dice (physically) saying he attacks the thing right now. He crits, destroys the thing utterly (sliced it in half in one strike), and the thing implodes into nothingness.

    We cheer.

    And then, from one of the animals (a dog), we hear a gurgling garbled voice. "The more important question..." it wracks and twists, its form warping. A blade thrusts from one of its limbs, which are becoming more human every second. "The more important question, is why do you think I'll stay there this time?" *Suicide grin*

    To quote our paladin... well... you know.

    What can we do here? The thing, if it can't OUTPACE us, can at least KEEP pace with us. We're surrounded by dead animals. We don't know if there's a size limit on corpses, but apparently the link has been MADE, the dancer is MANIFEST, he won't stay GONE, and we are TREMBLING.

    Then comes the awesome. The paladin and duskblade, fearless sods they are, both charge the thing in a rage. As this is happening, the bard nonchalantly (he's very nonchalant) asks the archivist why they call him "The dancer". The archivist just looks at him (it) like he's crazy and starts casting to help the Paladin and Duskblade.

    The bard? The bard whips out his flute and starts playing that song again. The light begins to glow around him... and Paimon (the dancer)? Begins to dance.

    "Stop that!" it howls. The bard keeps playing. It screams in rage. The bard keeps playing. It dances in circles around us, twirling furiously in the directions the bard takes it. And finally, the bard dances him straight between two trees. Two trees gold widow had spun a thick sturdy web in.

    The dancer stutters, starts slicing through the web, but gold widow is there. She immediately begins spinning the dancer under her... wrapping him, tightly, arms and legs extended, until he's nothing but a tube of web (screaming furiously at us of course).

    We book it. I mention that it's only a matter of time before it gets loose, to which the dragon shaman says "Then we'd better not stop to chit chat". Despite that, the archivist tells us a brief history of what we were just fighting. Most of us knew, in a meta-gaming sense though. But yeah, that was a vestige given flesh. Apparently they were starting to find ways in, and once they were here, they could just keep coming.

    Dang.

    Anyway, we ran and got some good distance between us. And then we notice? The animals. They're all staring at us again...



    Bloody Mess to the North

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    Before a similar mess could happen, there came the wind. Distant and soft at first, but growing until the trees were swaying back around us and we could barely hear each other. The wind carried a voice with with it (complete with a spooky sound clip). It was hard to make out (thankfully, the DM let us listen to it a few times) but we picked out what seemed to be an echoing whisper saying a lot we couldn't make out, plus "come to the north. We can help".

    The sound clip was very intimidating. It was ominous sounding at best. At worst it was horrifying.

    So now we're left with a tough decision. Do we follow the breeze, and head north with the witch in tow, hoping we can keep her alive? Or do we head east, trying to save another binder bound to tenebrous.

    We were fairly split over the whole thing, and actually talked about splitting up again (I convinced everyone that would be suicide at this point. Splitting up is one thing when you have a safe base, but at this point it'd be a game over).

    We finally decided to head north. We were having a hard time keeping this one binder alive, let alone two at once. If whatever was up there was setting a trap, well, we were screwed anyway. Things couldn't really get much worse, right?

    Haha. hee. Oh.

    I am, unfortunately, going to gloss over the travel a little bit. We had encounters with the undead, of course. Sometimes, we'd wind up squaring off against foes that were still alive, including a small group of Orcus cultists (and some summoned demons...) who tracked us down trying to kill off the Tenebrous binder. We even had to fight a few more binders, but fighting them meant "Finding some way to keep them from following us while we book it". I'm not trying to be abrupt, it's just, it would be a small novel if I detailed the whole campaign :-p.

    Eventually, the breeze came back. It directed us, in small bits, through the area we needed to go. We came to a rocky mountain pass we had to traverse, which was very stressful. The paladin opted to travel horizontally, on his mount, occasionally peaking out over the tops of the "canyon' we were in to make sure nothing was coming over the top. The rest of us just moved quickly, eyes peeled, panicking every time we saw a hole in the ground.

    At one point, as we came along a far skinny path, we saw faintly glowing runes etched into the sides of the stone walls. Being the rogue, I had to inch up to them. They were some kind of magical trap, so I started to disarm them. Rolled a natural one. They triggered instantly.

    We all had to roll will saves. The paladin rolled a 1, the dragon shaman and me both failed. The paladin experienced no effect, me and the shaman ran back the way we came, screaming in terror. And coming crashing down the path? A giant violent wave of... thick syrupy blood. The smell hit like rancid meat and we saw from a distance that there were corpses in the wave. Some of them were flailing. The Duskblade did a swift-fly and got out of the initial crash of blood, but her and the paladin could only watch in terror as the wave crashed over the rest of us.

    Then we all got another will save.

    We passed this one. Instantly, the canyon was bone dry, though me and the dragon shaman were still sprinting back the way we came, hollering in utter nightmarish terror. The wave of blood was an illusion, nothing more, accompanying a symbol of fear effect that had me and the shaman consumed with panic for several rounds. Guh.

    Finally the group managed to get back together, and me and the shaman managed to calm down, and we all (reluctantly) pressed on. When we came back to the area where the symbols of fear had been, we heard a quiet echoing laugh. Eil Ei. The dead wizard. That rat bastard.



    The Knights of the Sacred Seal

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    Anyway. We eventually got out of the canyon with minor violent encounters, the wave of blood was certainly the (horrifying) highlight.

    But as we came out of the canyon, we realized what we had been heading towards. As the last bit of rock turned from our field of vision, we got a clear look at one massive ginormous valley. Immediately after our rocky stone path, the stone began showing signs of being intelligently worked. It followed regular patterns leading down, all the way to the bottom, at which there was a massive MASSIVE keep, the size of a city itself. Its towers stretched to the top of the valley, where the stony mountain/hills made it blend in with the naturally occurring peaks. It was covered in jagged patterns that looked like some kind of massive defensive shielding, or violent siege weaponry, or possibly both. Spikes everywhere. We instantly got the feeling that this had been a very bad idea.

    From a ways up ahead, marching down the spiraled stones leading to the keep, another group hailed us, waving hesitantly. We started climbing down, and they climbed back up a short distance. We approached very hesitantly, but they were just as hesitant. I think we were the more fearful looking group, with our rune covered golem, our spider riding paladin in black armor, our (by this point) clearly dead and stitched together rogue ragdoll, and the rest of us weren't exactly the most normal batch. Plus we had a prisoner bound head to toe in spider silk.

    They were a smaller adventuring party, and an intentionally humurously generic one. An elf wizard, a halfling rogue, a dim-witted looking half-orc with an axe, an a human in tattered priestly robes. They had a fifth person with them, not counted in the initial description. A ragged and tired looking man who looked like he was covered head to toe in shadows, staring blankly at the sky.

    We exchanged stories, but I'm sure you can guess. They heard the call of the breeze too. They were adventurers as well (in fact, the archivist, priest, and paladin had all heard of each other in church documents, though they didn't share a faith). Quote the priest? "That seems like ages ago..."

    Anyway, yeah, they had one of the tenebrous vestige bound with them. They heard the same breeze we did, and decided to follow it as well. As we talked, I spotted a small group (no pun intended...) emerging from another rocky outcropping a distance across the valley. They were kobolds, all of them. And one of them? Yeah, covered head to toe in shadows, being dragged along by two others.

    We were, apparently, where we needed to be.

    We actually all (both groups) caught up the kobolds, who sneered and hissed at us (though one did make a small bow towards our dragon shaman). They huddled together and mumbled something in a reptilian tongue before nodding. One of them approached us, and said in stunted common, "We hate you."

    AWESOME. -_-

    He added, though, "Must work with," and the kobolds began marching with us. Ah. Well, it doesn't take an 18 INT to realize what he meant. He was right too, this was bigger than whatever they hated humans for.

    So we marched on down the spiral path. We saw others inside the keep, sparring, meditating, some of them looked to be adventuring parties too. As we came up to it, a knight on horseback came out of the front gate. He had a strange symbol painted on his shield... it looked almost like a... seal.

    The archivist (outside the game) gets a note from the DM. And immediately says that he screams “Blasphemer!" and picks up a rock and pitches it at the knight as hard as he can. Rolled a 17 too (still not enough). The knight knocks the stone aside with his shield and WHISPERS "Your reaction is not surprising, but is nevertheless too hasty."

    Archivist: "You're a heretic!"

    Knight/binder, still whispering: "no."

    Archivist: *to us "He's a binder! he's one of the ones responsible for this mess!"

    KB, whispering harshly: "No.”

    Archivist: "Your kind has finally ruined the world!"

    And the binder hisses "No" again. From him, comes a fierce come of wind that knocks all of us (kobolds and all) back 20 feet.

    The archivist draws his crossbow pistol, but the binder hisses, "Stay your hand and have patience, we are not responsible for this and seek to see it ended."

    The archivist reluctantly tucks his pistol back away, and we go with the knight into the keep.

    Then we get to trade expositions. The keep is a stronghold for Knights of the Sacred Seal. Vestige worshipers. But when all of this began, most of the members of the organization (which was a collection of knights worshiping several vestiges) either left or were driven off. When it was realized that most vestiges were no longer answering their calls, and the role some of them had in this mess... Well, things got hectic. A lot of them even committed suicide. It's taken this long for them to get everything straightened out, and order restored.

    They're a skeleton crew now. Only two groups of Knights remain in the keep. The Knights of Orthos, and the Knights of Halphax.

    Both of the 8th level vestiges. And the only two vestiges who are still answering the call and making pacts with binders. They could leave the void. But they don't. Halphax is so indifferent to the whole thing, that he sees no point. Orthos... well, Orthos is called the Sovereign of the Howling Dark in the book for a reason. He's quite probably THE original vestige. The nothingness is his domain now. Those two vestiges are staying in the void willingly, not trying to escape, and making pacts just the same as they always have.

    It's the lesser vestiges that are taking the opportunity to escape. The greatest vestiges? "Whatever".

    So fitting.

    So the knights are still in order, and both vestiges, Orthos in particular, want the breach, the 'veil' returned to normal. It wouldn't bring the dead back to life, and it may or may not kill the undead currently marching around with vestiges driving their corpses, but it would at least mean that vestiges killed would either re-enter the void, or cease existing entirely.

    So, we're in the keep of the binders. We all get rested up in shifts, the groups organize themselves, a lot of the adventuring parties actually joined into bigger groups, the ones who suffered casualties especially. We also went up a level, for finding the keep, so that was cool.



    Quoth the Paladin, “Wow, that SUCKS.”

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    We spent a while discussing various plans for fixing the problem (you know, the whole "the world is over" problem. That little thing). None of it really sounded... er, positive.

    Live Free or Die: Entreating the always eager unholy forces for aid, become their servants for protection and a new home (quote the archivist: "you seem very ready to make pacts with evil creatures, no surprise there").

    Noah's Ark: Attempting to cobble together as a group, circle the world looking for survivors, and physically shunt everything alive into some other plane of existence, to buy us breathing time (quote the dragon shaman: "abandon the entire world?").

    Martial Law: Go military and try to eradicate every undead creature we could, while keeping living creatures under close watch on various buddy systems and legal restrictions, destroying new corpses immediately, and trying to fan back out. (quote the warforged: "they all sound fine to me.")

    Of course, any plan involves facing the inevitable. Praying Orcus doesn't find a way to kill Graz'zt's thralls and free himself from the void, and knowing that sooner or later they'll die of old age anyway. We're not in a very strong position on the table here.

    What's more, it starts coming out that we're facing some very serious, and very rapdly approaching threats. No one was quick to mention it, but on adventuring party said they've been stalked for days by a massive band of Orcus cultists. Way too many for them to fight, they only got here by thinking on their toes and moving fast. Our Duskblade says: "that's not a problem, there's plenty of us now, banded together we can stomp them out the second they show their faces."

    The bard scratches his head. "There's the dancer too remember. He's tracking us down, and he won't stay dead. Will that be a problem?" The binder knights kinda freak out at that and ask for details. Oh gee, yeah, Paimon, the vestige, has a physical form that won't stay destroyed and is tracking us as we speak. Not to mention the handful of other vestiges given flesh who we also had to tangle with. Then I have to mention "The rogue/jester vestige is also ticked off at ME personally, because I was supposed to be his body".

    Before anyone can even react to the idea that we've got vestiges physically in the world, and coming HERE specifically, the kobold that knows common speaks up. "Master. ours master, he dies. Humans kill him. Comes for us."

    ...

    So we're like, Aw CRAP. You know what that means. UNDEAD DRAGON, HEADIN THIS WAY. HUNTIN KOBOLDS.

    Then everyone else starts piping up too. Vestiges, hordes of undead, a massive band of TROLLS of all things, that are still alive by the virtue of refusing to stay dead when they get torn apart by the undead. Seemed like every adventuring party had at least one thing hunting them through the woods leading to this point.

    Then something else crosses my mind. Eil Ei. "Uh, yeah, by the way, there's this undead wizard. He's a diviner specialist, knows us personally, probably has this place scryed to the last inch, might be contacting god knows what to stop us from whatever we're doing and may or may not be listening to any plan we concoct".

    Everything gets really quiet. We hear a gurgle and look over in the corner it came from. One of the adventurers killed himself in despair. Oh, yeah, that's, yeah. Fantastic. Wait. CRAP. BURN THE CORPSE.

    The dragon shaman, thinking on his toes (he's getting better and better, it's comforting to see him coming into the group) immediately hits it with an acid breath that disolves it almost to nothing. it's still twitching, but we all just immediately pounce, a sorcerer hit it with a fireball, a cleric hammered one of the bones that went flying. We turned it into DUST within seconds. It was kinda comical, except not. It was also very depressing. Kinda.... Yeah.

    Yeah, things were awkward for a while.

    Anyway. Given that new bit of information (the walls have ears), the arcane mages group together to discuss sure ways to get us some privacy, ways that can't be beaten by the other person knowing about them (cause heck, any plan for privacy we come up with he might be listening to). The binders mention that they do have one plan, that they're glad they haven't elaborated on. Then they tell us that everyone needs to start preparing. War is coming, after all.

    The archivist pulls us aside, and mutters something about Orthos, then asks us if we know anything about Halphax.

    Dragon Shaman: "Oh yeah. Everything. In detail. But you know, maybe you should refresh our memories."

    So the archivist mentions stuff you can find in tome of magic (metagaming versus roleplaying here). Halphax was a gnome, who specialized in building defensive structures. At one point in his life, he was blackmailed into using his defensive structures against his own people, keeping them as slaves to prevent someone he cared about from dying. That's part of how he became a vestige. The archivist ends his little comment about it with "Don't trust them. None of them".

    Still, the Archivist heads off with the Binders to discuss what to do and prepare some war spells. And the rest of us take watch around the keep. Already we get the feeling that this is the calm before the storm, because that's exactly what it is.



    Comic Relief

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    And boy did we need some of it. But this next bit actually really tickled me. We notice a little commotion on one side of the courtyard. Nothing major, just activity besides moping under the heavy weight of an entire world suffocating and collapsing and there's not a damn thing we can do about it and oh god the horrible crushing feeling make it stop.

    So the 5 of us head off to see what's up. There's a bard with scales tattooed on her wrists, and decked out from head to toe in miscellaneous clutter and bags and packets and pouches and extradimensional holding space. She's got "So much random crap" she barely knows what to do with it. So people are just shouting out stuff and she's digging in her packs and, if not coming up with the exact item, coming up with something reasonably similar. People are throwing gold at her and she's stuffing it in the packs, and, and...

    It's me.

    Or it's one of my old characters, a bard obsessed with dragons who has an item collection fixation. *SQUEEEE*

    Anyway, we get what's going on. Martial gear like armors, weapons, magical items that might save our butts, are going to end up getting handed out based on who needs what. If you've got a crappy sword, she's going to dig around and find a better one, to try to help make sure we're ALL (everyone there) geared up for the fight as well as we could realistically be. After all, stuff is useless if you can't survive to enjoy it.

    Anything beyond that? Selling at discount prices. There's not enough gold in this part of the world to dent all the random crap she has stowed away, none of it's good to her if the world ends, and if we save the world she can at least go shopping herself later. So if you want something, you can go for it. A dwarf asks for dwarven ale, she apologetically says all she has is elven wine. His reply? "Better'n nothin!" 25 gold. He also turns out to be a drunken master.

    We can't think of anything particularly worth asking for, but she did wind up gearing us up along with everyone else, good armor, good weapons, good times.



    To the Walls!

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    Good times which came to a sudden, and screeching halt, when a giant shadow passed over the courtyard. We look up. Yeah. Rotting dragon.

    Two of the kobolds scream, shrill and hard, while the others scatter. Even the shadowy one bound to tenebrous ran from the sight of the dragon. We ALL scattered, actually, but, we're all high level adventurers. We scattered with a plan. We...

    Yeah. We had no plan.

    The archers opened fire on it, the duskblade scrambled for the main door to the keep and shouted "get the mages out here NOW". Then all hell breaks loose. We see, on top of the dragon, Eil Ei, our ex-compatriot. The realization is sickening. If he managed to find the dragon, then...

    Right as we're coming to the realization that he could have been getting a lot done, we see stuff cresting the hills in the distance, and pouring out of the passages we came through. Undead. A lot of sentient ones, and enough shamblers to make things interesting. Vestiges too. The only one we made out specifically was Paimon (the dancer), striking a pose on one bladed arm at the pinnacle of one of the stone faces.

    The knights came out and started rallying everyone, we got all the gates in sealed up and supported, the archers opened fire on the undead pouring down the hills, the archivist came out and tried to shout to them to ignore the runners and hit the dragon first. Clerics started turning undead as the first of them hit the wall, and the dragon swooped in low. Bear in mind that, as usual, we largely get examples of what we see and react to, no raw tactical information.

    The dragon lights up the courtyard. One kobold fries to a crisp, the other manages to take partial damage from the flames and wises up and runs for cover with the other ones. The binders are shouting at everyone to get the ones bound to tenebrous INSIDE the keep, and a few knights run in with them and start barricading the doors to keep them protected. Something explodes on the other side of the courtyard, we have no idea what it was, or if it was friend or foe.

    We get to the top of the outer walls. Oh dear god we are screwed. The valley is flooding with undead. Which might be manageable, if it weren't for the much more dangerous unique enemies burning, slicing, rending, jumping, and screaming as they tear through the hordes to get to the walls.

    We hear the wizards laugh echo through the valley. DAMN him. We also can't help but feel partially responsible. If we hadn't come, there might have been more time to prepare, it was probably Eil Ei that brought everyone here. We open fire on the crowds. The archivist opens with a storm of vengeance, straight to the big guns (I love it). The dragon dodges around the edge of the stormcloud and swoops in for another pass, once again filling the courtyard with fire. He gets hit with a few spells, but undead or not, he's still a dragon, and he starts circling around for another pass. There's screaming everywhere. There's blood everywhere. The rear of the keep sounds more violent than the area we're at, and we have a freaking storm of vengeance just outside the keeps walls.

    The archivist says we need to figure out some way to keep the dragon off our backs.

    And the dragon shaman gets the best line he had in the entire darn campaign.

    "I'm on it."

    He sprints down from the wall, across the courtyard, takes a running leap up onto the wall over the place where the kobolds are hiding and starts spider climbing up. It takes him a few rounds to get up high, but he gets a lofty position, and jumps clean off the tower.

    And sprouts wings.

    And starts flying clockwise to intercept the dragon going counter.

    And spits a line of acid into the dragons face, enraging it and making it follow him through the air while Eil Ei misses with a ray spell of some kind.

    Oh hells yeah.

    (Now the usual disclaimer applies. As this is going on, so too is other stuff. We're casting spells, firing crossbow bolts, lending aid to other adventurers, and generally trying to keep the keep in one piece. Describing everything that happens would take pages, and it would be like reading lines of code "I fired for 2d6 damage, he fired for 9d6 damage" ect ect.)

    So the fight continues. The Dragon shaman actually pulls some really nice, off the books kinda stunts like swooping through the crowd of zombies and getting the area toasted with dragon breath as he makes a save to swoop back out of the area. (I can't adequately describe it here in text, but I'll repeat for the third or fourth time, that it's nice to see someone get away from the numbers and get into the story).

    After a while of warring, and thinking "Wow, we're doing surprisingly good", we start getting screamed at to fall back and get inside the second portion of the keep. The paladin shouts something about us holding the wall, and one of the other adventurers screams "THE WALL'S already BEEN BREACHED IN THE REAR". The courtyard is starting to fill with the undead. We start sprinting for the door. Some of the binder knights start throwing down walls of iron to buy us extra time. It made me physically sick to my stomach (and gods knows what was going through the paladins head) but we had to seal the doors before more than 3/4 of us made it back in. It wasn't an issue of bravery or cowardice. It was an issue of suicide or not. Nevertheless, my first course of action was to sprint headlong up the nearest stairs I could find, trying to get to some kind of window to yell to the dragon shaman to try to save someone, and to get himself in through the window as well.

    The adventurers try to start fortifying the doors as well as possible, the rest of my group runs towards where it looks like the ones bound to tenebrous are. They come to a locked door and hear screaming on the other side. After a number of strength checks, the paladin finally kicks in the door. The room they were in? Covered, wall to wall, in blood and viscera. There are exactly two "tenebrous bound" left. The knights in the room protecting them? One of them turns to the group and says, calmly, "Praise Orcus."

    Sonuvacrap.

    Our group manages to keep the cultists, the lying, sneaking, devious bastards, from killing the last two. Namely, by utterly maiming them beyond recognition, and then mutilating their corpses so thoroughly they can't return. They do the same to some of the dead "tenebrous bound", and manage to best the ones that have returned. Our archivist grabs the witch (ours, one of the only surviving ones, despite (or perhaps because of) being utterly bound in sturdy spider silk. The paladin grabs the other one (a shady (no pun intended) looking elf, and they all run deeper into the keep.



    Coin Flip and Vengeance

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    The dragon shaman (alone) manages to get back into the keep through the window I was at, and me and him run off to try to find the rest of our group. We spent a long time exploring the maze like stone and iron halls of the keep, until finally we come to what was likely the center. It's a massive stone chamber with six hallways leading down every direction, and a massive spiral staircase leading straight up. Four of the knights (think they were knights of Orthos) were charging up the spiral staircase. For lack of a better lead on where to find our friends, we charged up after them. We reached the top just as they were activating some kind of crystalline device, which immediately let loose a horrible gust of wind that threatened to deafen us, and then broke into 6 dark fragments.

    I asked what the hell they just did, and one of them turned to me and said "We're not sure ye." In elaboration, it was revealed that that was the firs step to opening a portal. A one of a kind portal to a one of a kind place. "Nowhere". After some mage-babble that my character couldn't understand (in character that is), they laid it out flat for us. They were basically going to open a portal inside out. The effect would be the destruction of the keep and a large chunk of the terrain around it, and the end result would, theoretically be a passageway straight to....well, nothing. The portal wouldn't go anywhere.

    And why the hell did they want to do this?

    They figure if they toss all the living tenebrous-bound binder into the portal to nowhere... well, one of two things will happen. Either the binders will become quasi-vestiges themselves, unkillable creatures, permanently locking Tenebrous away in the void, as some fragment of him could never permanently escape the 'sacrificial gates' tossed his way. With the one the 'breach' was intended for permanently trapped, it should naturally seal itself shut.

    Or?

    Or, tenebrous will be unleashed, Orcus will become a god, 10,000 years of pain unimagineable and then the end of creation.

    Wonderful.

    So I have to ask... what are the odds either way? "Well, we have no way of knowing, at all, so.... 50/50?" Yeah. Great. Grand. Awesome. a 50% chance of utterly damning or potentially saving the world. Of course, even if it works in our favor, it won't solve the problem of everything already THROUGH the void. it'll just mean things will finally start staying dead.

    The dragon shaman asked the binder if he really thought that was a good idea. He just shrugged weakly, and said "please help us..." handing each of us one of the 6 crystal fragments. Apparently, the location of the fragments would effect the size of the portal. They agreed to activate the portal in 5 minutes, on the dot, wherever the chips lay. The goal was to destroy the keep entirely, ensuring that the tenebrous bound inside would be sucked through it as well. What about the tenebrous bound being consigned to an eternity of nothingness? What about everyone else in the keep? Collateral damage. Somewhere, we heard the sound of iron wall groaning, maybe giving out.

    Ugh.

    What can we do though? We agree to help.

    We all go back down the spiral staircase, to the chamber with the hallways. The knights all charge off a hallway on their own, instructing us to get the crystals as far to each point as we possibly can. Then they're gone. We look at the crystals, at each other, and down the two hallways we're supposed to be running down. Our directions are northwest and southwest.

    I grab the crystal from the dragon shaman, and tell him to find as many people as possible. "you've got 4 1/2 minutes. Get as many people as you can to head west, come hell or highwater, and leave the binders in the keep." He asks what I think I'm doing, and I tell him I can handle both crystals, he needs to ensure there are survivors.

    So off I sprint, down one of the hallways, two crystals in tow. I figure I can get as far as I can in 3, or 3 and a half minutes, go incorporeal and take the crystal a similar distance in the slightly-off direction. That would leave things slightly off balance in that direction, giving any potential survivors a realistic chance to escape from the portal, as it would be off center on the west side.

    The dragon shaman moved as fast as he could, a sprint the whole way, through the side door we came in and shouting for anyone still alive to answer him. He finds one of the kobolds cowering in a corner. He manages to grab it during his run. In the end, he found a handful of adventurers, and our group heard his shouting. He had a heck of a time convincing the archivist to leave the witch behind. The archivist kept swearing it was a trick, it was a trick, they were setting us up for the biggest fall of all... the dragon shaman couldn't even argue. All he said was, "If it's a trick, we're doomed anyway". The archivist finally left the (now cataonic) witch in a quiet room and booked it with everyone else. As they ran, barricades were failing everywhere. Zombies were pouring in through holes in the walls, opened doors, crawling in through high windows (presumably they were so thick they were simply clawing over each other and through 12 foot high fixtures). Eil Ei was among them, and so were a number of vestiges. All they could do was run.

    The arcanists managed to get enough people flying that between them holding people, the dragon shaman flying (and he was strong enough to carry the kobold and one other person), and the paladin riding gold widow, that they managed to get over the crowd of zombies for just long enough to give them a running chance for the edge of the valley. They lost numbers, but most of them made it to the point where they were sprinting for their lives.

    Then the dragon saw them.

    The dragon shaman took to the skies yet again, while those with enough magic left were hitting the thing from the ground while on the run. He fought it viciously, acid versus fire. And he DROPPED the sucker clean. Oh yeah. During the commotion, the paladin managed to down Eil Ei. I know that sounds anti-climactic? but it wasn't. We were pumped up, cheering, the DM was dancing circles using magic, and the Paladin finally leveled him with one heavy power attack. Practically turned him inside out. GOD yes.



    It Takes a Thief...

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    Meanwhile, I'm running through maze like halls with two black crystals, trying to keep track of the time close enough that I know when to drop one and worry about the other. Finally I reach that point, throw down the crystal, and start running in a reasonable direction (southish). Then I get hit, hard, with a fist to the side of the head. I go sprawling, the crystal goes sliding in the wrong direction, and a nimble but malformed shaped dances between me and it. I move to get up, and I see the Rogue vestige standing between me and the crystal. "I know your tricks, rogue. I dreamt half of them up," it says with a creepy smile. Its arms are a blur. Its hands (there are numerous) all have black daggers. I try to get around him, but he's too fast for me to stand a chance, dancing circles around me and taunting me. It says again "I know all your tricks."

    Finally my brain clicks, and I don't see why I didn't think of it before. "I don't even know all of my tricks". Then I go incorporeal, dash past him, turn solid, grab the crystal, and ghost once again through a wall while he stabs at me (caught me twice, more brutal hits, I'm low on hitpoints actually). I hear his scream echo as he dashes down one of the mazelike halls to try to catch up with me. It's a pretty even race, actually. He's fast as a bolt of lightning, but I'm shortcutting through solid stone.

    Finally, I realize that I'm running out of time. I stash the crystal in a hiding spot, and bolt westward.

    We never did find out exactly how the portal got activated. None of the other binder knights were ever seen again. But with a sickening groan, the world shuddered, and suddenly everything felt a lot emptier.

    For some reason? I expected it to happen instantly. It didn't. The keep started to groan, and fall apart from the inside out. The portal was starting dead center, and spreading outwards. Crap.



    Reality's End

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    So we're dashing west, not knowing how far it'll come, hoping it'll stop at the crystals. Of course, I'm lagging behind everyone else, I'm the one who was placing the crystals. I didn't want to look back, but I couldn't help it. Behind us, consuming the keep, was just an inky black void. Blacker than a starless sky, blacker than the blackest nightmare of negative energy and darkness. It was an aggressive blackness. Nothingness.

    Iron fell, stone crumbled, and the very earth gave way. Wind rushed past us into the pit, threatening to suck us back towards it it was so powerful.

    Finally, with another groaning shudder, it stopped. We could still hear the moans of the zombies around us. We were sitting precariously on a hill, the bottom of which was a pit of terrible emptiness. And at the edge of the pit? Two scrabbling figures. The rogue vestige. And a silk wrapped cocoon with a face. CRAP. Then that sickening guilty feeling. If I'd gotten the crystals farther, none of us would have survived, but neither would the vestige and the binder.

    The rogue had a strand and was trying to pull her away from the pit. That boded well for us, in the sense that the rogue was obviously afraid of her falling into the void for some reason. bad for us, because he could kill her the second he got back to safe ground.

    No chance to hesitate. I ran, moving like I was going to tackle him. The rogue-vestige noticed me, and with a sick grin, pulled out a dozen daggers from thin air, ready for me. I was ready for him. I went incorporeal at the last second, slide past him and tackled the cocoon.

    The vestige howled in rage. sliding along with the two of us down the rocky slope into the void, holding the silk strand fiercly. The cocoon came to rest on a rock, I gave the strand a sharp tug, and we got stuck in a tug of war match. For a moment. Then the bard came dashing behind him and threw an elbow into the back of his head, staggering him, throwing him off balance long enough for me to pull and send the rogue screaming over the edge, with me wrapped up in the chord. The paladin came charging down too. The archivist, wisely, held the duskblade back and screamed at the survivors to stay back from the edge of the pit. The dragon shaman tried to take to the sky to come help us, but the wind was too strong. He moved to chase after us, but he was way too late.

    The void was closing. The rogue was screaming, holding his end of the silk strand. The cocoon was dangling on the other end, the middle stuck on a rock. I was clinging to both strands, trying to pull myself up it in time. The paladin tried to pull me up, but the combined weight of me, the vestige, and the cocoon/witch, he couldn't quite do it. In fact, the ground crumbled and he fell down next to me, clinging to my side, and I started slipping down.

    Paladin: "I'll let go!"

    Me: "Don't you dare! I can't make it anyway!"

    The Vestige slipped. He didn't fall. He just hung there, glaring at us angrily, cursing at us the entire time as he faded from existence. The Bard tried to pull us up, but couldn't even come close.

    So he started climbing down the strand, casually.

    Me: "What in the nine hells are you doing?!"

    Him: Coming with you?

    Me: "You don't have to do this. You can save yourself."

    Him: "But you're the flutefinder. And it's dark, and you'll need light."

    Me: "You can't light this place!"

    Him: "Then I'll keep you company."

    I couldn't argue. Whether he understood or not, he wasn't going back. The void started to close. The wind reached a peak, so ferocious we couldn't even hear each other. And the last of the light slipped away as the portal closed, and suddenly, we weren't hanging. We were just floating there.

    The paladin looked up at me, "You know what's funny?"

    Me: "What could possibly be funny right now?"

    Paladin: "I didn't even use any of my extra lives."

    I started laugh crying (borderline for real). The bard played his flute nonchalantly.

    And then there was nothing.

    And, uh. The end.

    I mean, sort of.




    Epilogue

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    Then the DM started the epilogue. The survivors, including three of our party, had a small but uneventful fight with Paimon. He danced around them, aggressively at first, then cautiously, then he started reacting to something they couldn't detect. In the end, he backed away from them in fear and climbed over the stone face they were near, dissapearing quickly.

    He was afraid of them, because the breach was closing. When he dies now, he'll return to the void. Trapped once more. The same holds true of every vestige still in the world, every undead creature still shambling. The world is not fixed. But now it CAN be fixed. Existence is no longer fighting a losing battle. Whether or not the world CAN be saved remains a question mark, but at least no more ground is being lost.

    The Duskblade said something about Paimon, the Dancer getting away. The archivist just replied calmly that it didn't matter. It was only a matter of time now, before the fight was settled. One way or another. A somber but realistic conclusion. The dragon shaman asked the kobold he was carrying if he was okay, and it replied "yes master". Made the dragon shaman snicker, and flutter his wings proudly.

    The DM informed the three of us lost to the pit? We've become vestiges. Full blown contactable vestiges. We're working on them as homebrew vestiges currently, and the paladin is probably done and ready to play with. Me and the bard still need to be finished though. What's cool is that the DM is going to gladly let us use those vestiges anytime we play binders, so as tragic of an ending as it is, it's still also fairly cool.

    Then the DM went around the table, asking the survivors what happens to their characters.

    All of them, of course, are going to band together to try to locate and protect survivors, as well as laying waste to as many undead as possible to try to restore some kind of balance.

    The duskblade is going to go back to being a teacher, but with training focusing on martial combat and spellcasting. A swashbuckling duskblade academy, with special courses on combating the undead.

    The Dragon Shaman is going to focus partially on nature, and on the wilderness. Once again looking for survivors, tracking down any undead dragons as a result of this catastrophe and destroying them, and trying to find living animals to group them up together and keep them safe until nature is strong enough to return to normal. He'll also probably wind up with a number of kobolds helping him in the matter.

    The archivist is going to particularily focus on restoring whattever remains of his church are around, and destroying the undead. Dark knowledge and divine magic are very handy for things like that. The next part, I'm gonna try to remember his everything he said.

    "I write a 2,500 page treatise on the nature and evils of pact magic, including how to identify binders and other practitioners of pact magic to avoid something like this ever happening again. No one ever bothers to read the entire thing, but everyone says they agree with it entirely, and a copy of it exists in almost every sect of my church. Included in the book, as examples of dangerous pact magic, are explicit step-by-step instructions for summoning and binding three vestiges. Despite my hatred of pact magic, I've at least ensured that my friends will always have a way to experience the material world, hidden forever in plain sight". Probably not word for word, but that's the jist of it.

    Yeah. he rocks.

    So that's that. A lotta candy, a lotta tragedy, and three new vestiges.

    I hope it was a satisfactory read, and that I didn't bore anyone too much with the way I tend to ramble. Thanks for being interested in it :). And sweet god, I hope it made sense.

    *Edit*

    Again with the little details. One thing I'd like to point out? I dunno if it mattered or not. But our DM kept flipping a coin every now and then. Either he had multiple paths laid out, or he just wanted to make us sick with worry.



    ...and so ends the First Tale.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-28 at 08:04 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait [until the next update]...

    --General thought process of SilverClawShift's fans

    To the great delight of many a D&D-playing Playgrounder, SilverClawShift would post another Campaign Journal from her real-life D&D 3.5 game in late-May, 2009. As of this thread's creation, the adventure isn't quite finished yet.

    Before we begin, here's a list of the PCs and a brief description of who they are and what they're like:


    The Dirty One-Third-of-a-Dozen

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    Class: Dragon Shaman
    Gender: Male
    Race: Dragonborn of Bahamut (a humanoid dragon, basically)
    Attitude: Holy, Good, and Virtuous. Captain of the ship.

    Class: Factotum
    Gender: Male
    Race: Kobold (with shiny nwe Shadow template)
    Attitude: Neutral, quick, and kinda sketchy. Likes moving fast, and stealing things.

    Class: Warlock
    Gender: Female
    Race: Human (sans legs)
    Attitude: Emo. Vaguely and unspecifically evil. Not "Let's end the world!" evil, just not a good person.

    Class: Swashbuckler/Sorcerer
    Gender: Male
    Race: Human
    Attitude: "I stabs the people and they stop moving. Sometimes I cast True Strike first. I like being not-dead!" He's got a fairly simple outlook to most games

    Our Factotum in this campaign was the Archivist in the horror campaign.
    Our Swashbuckler in this campaign was the Paladin in the horror campaign.
    And our Dragon Shaman in this campaign was the Dusk Blade in the horror campaign.

    Just thought I'd share that.



    ...and so begins our second story.


    The Second Tale


    A New Adventure!

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    So my group has recently started a new campaign, one that our DM says should last a good long while - which usually means we hit level 20, or even go epic at some point. By this point we're up to level 2, and we seem to be picking up traces of the central plot, or at least are on the right path.

    Some interesting stuff has come up though, and I'd be interested in getting some outside insight into things.

    The campaign world has an large central island, give or take equal sailing distance from every major continent. Naturally the island is a port-city metropolis, with a smattering of races and cultures from everywhere on the world. A lot of trade, import, export, ect. Not much you can't find there, and not many places on the world that you can't find a relatively direct path to.

    The player group is as follows:

    I'm planning on being a Human Warlock (with the classic "dark, mentally unstable witch" archetype). My current plan, unless something catches my eye, is to drop most of my feats into extra invocations to expand my versatility. I'm also probably going to carry around a handful of throwing daggers and the hardest poisons I can find, just in case.

    One player is being a Dragon Shaman (race: Lesser Aasimar turned Dragonborn). They're manifesting wings as a dragonborn, are boosting their CON and CHA almost exclusively (with a little into INT), and are going to take a lot of meta-breath feats. They're going for an "unkillable heal-battery with a hard to resist breath weapon" motif.

    Third player is a kobold factotum, with a one-level dip into barbarian for fast movement. They're also taking the Wild Talent feat to become a psionic character, and then taking the Speed of Thought feat for a +50 base move rate. The rest will be Font of Inspiration abuse, so there's not much else to say. A tiny, hard to hit, lightning fast, versatile scout/rogue who's everywhere we need him to be. He's bugging the DM for a chance to add the "Dark" template to his character for another +10 feet too.

    Fourth player is a human Swashbuckler/Barbarian. Probably wind up being a power attacking shock trooper or something.

    Anyway, onto the meat (and the questions).



    Cantrips in Crystals

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    Our group had a few small confrontations heading towards the island in the first place. We had an attempted boarding by a group of pirates, but with some flaming oil pints and quick thinking, we made it too much effort to continue attacking us, and forced them to turn off into another direction. Stuff like that.

    We had a larger confrontation when the captain of the ship we'd purchased passage on realized we were smuggling the kobold in our luggage (the kobold having been wanted for questioning at the loading docks regarding a string of thefts), but we resolved it by palming him 5gp to upgrade our tickets to include a "no questions asked" policy.

    We still wound up swimming the last 100 yards to shore when the swashbuckler said something rude to one of the deck hands. But at least the captain was nice enough to toss our luggage onto the islands docks instead of into the sea. He even told the dock master we'd been with him, so we didn't have to deal with too much hassle signing the log sheets and getting our stuff. Tough but fair, I guess.

    We started looking for work on the island, and something big sprang up almost immediately. One of the trading companies was searching for an "exterminator". We tracked down the owner and started talking. Seems one of his ships had been visiting a desert nation to acquire some recently unearthed treasures out of a long-dead emperors tomb. It wasn't until they'd gotten back and started opening things up to examine them, that they discovered some kind of pest had apparently been sealed up in the packaging.

    They were fist sized scarabs, with seemingly metal carapaces and crystals growing out of their back. The problem was, they were EATING metal objects during the voyage, but now they were eating the metal weapons and armor of anyone who tried to deal with them. And they could apparently cast cantrips, because they were spitting little fireballs and acid splashes at anyone they saw. They'd already killed four men since they were unloaded.

    The owner finally had to seal up the building they'd unloaded the cargo into. The local authorities considered it his problem. He agreed to give us 50 gp each if we successfully cleared all the bugs from inside.

    Well, to make an already long story short, the fight was brutal. We found out that we could strip the crystals out of the dead ones and cast the cantrips with them, which saved our butts when we realized that the white and gold scarabs could cast Cure Minor Wounds. No way we would have survived otherwise. It was brutal, but finally we killed them all and collected their shells to get the gems out.

    At the end of the day, we were level 2, and had a fair number of shiny little gems that could cast cantrips. That was the end of that session, so we're trying to decide what to do with the stones at this point.

    Anyone can activate them as long as they're touching their skin, just by concentrating on them. I can actually fire them along with my eldritch blast, which is cool, but doesn't seem remarkably useful.

    We have:
    12 Acid Splash
    10 Ray of Frost
    7 Cure Minor Wounds
    5 Daze
    5 Open/Close
    3 Light
    3 Create Water
    2 Mage Hand

    We also have 2 that can cast True Strike, and one that can cast Reduce Person, from one of the scarabs that was larger and meaner and could apparently cast higher level spells.

    Our DM agreed that the Cure Minor Wounds gems could be activated while we were in negative hitpoints, to stabilize ourselves. So we're each carrying two of those, except the dragon shaman who is carrying one.

    Right now we're just carrying the rest in a bag so we can grab them if there's something we might want them for, but I'm thinking of asking the group of I can have the offensive ones set into some quick and dirty (and cheap) rings so I can wear a whole mess of them at once and activate them with my eldritch blast as needed.

    Anyone have any clever thoughts on how these gems could come in handy? Or is it more likely they'll just be a novelty we find interesting, but not so useful?




    The Curious Mr. Therin

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    Anyway, we had another game session last night, and the plot thickened. Significantly so.

    Upon wrapping up the debacle with the bugs and counting out the gemstones, we went up to the owner of the shipping company to get paid. The owner noticed we'd collected the gemstones and a few of the bug bodies for further observation, and started getting really, really shady. At first he just told us that the bugs were part of the cargo being shipped in, and told us to hand them over if we were going to get paid.

    To which our factotum pointed out that, no, they weren't part of the cargo. We'd skimmed a copy of the shipping manifest inside the building. Nothing on it about any bugs. Which meant it was either an accidental infestation issue, or a SMUGGLING issue concerning foreign animals.

    The owner actually started to draw his sword in anger, but caught himself and re-sheathed it. He then calmly explained to us that the bug WERE an infestation, but that the owner needed to recoup the losses of the cargo and crew-men the bugs had killed, and that he might be able to find some use from them.

    We actually thought that pretty reasonable, or WOULD have if he'd said that from the start. And not almost attacked us when we'd pointed things out. I decided to test the waters, signaled my party that I was up to something, and told him he could keep the 200 gold, chalk it up to a free extermination, and let us on our way with the gems.

    The owner drew his sword but held it loose at his side, and said "Listen little girl. Those bugs belong to me. Hand them over, or there will be trouble."

    The swashbuckler calmly said "Trouble with the authorities, that is."

    The owner makes eye contact with each of us in turn, before sheathing his sword again and muttering "Fine. You four can enjoy your dead bugs, I'll keep the pay. Wait, you said you were looking for work around here right? I just lost four dock workers. How about you take their places? I'll pay you each 15 gold a week."

    Our Dragonborn immediately said "I believe we'll seek employment elsewhere for the time being".

    The owner laughed at us, smiled, and muttered "Good look getting hired anywhere looking like you do."

    We decided that instead of turning it into a fight, we should just turn tail at that and consider ourselves having come out ahead. If nothing else, it seemed like the owner had been up to something, and we'd obviously been a hiccup in his plans.

    So the first thing we did then was track down an herbalist/arcanist. At first he wasn't that interested in us, until we used one of the Open/Close gems to open the window behind his counter. We gave him one of the bug corpses, showed him the gems, and told him where they'd come from. He was EXTREMLY interested after that. He asked us what we had in mind, and we said we'd let him keep the bug on the counter if he let us know anything he found out about it. He smiled and agreed happily. We also sold him two of the gems for 50 gold, and took off, but not before warning him of how shady the shipping owner had been acting, and letting him know he should probably keep quiet about the whole thing. He told us that everyone on this side of the island knew "Charles Therin" (the owners name, we'd never asked. The arcanists name was Maguiller by the way) had been up to some shady activities for months now, but no one had any evidence to warrant sticking their nose into things. We also warned him that the bugs had killed four grown men, so the be careful with whatever experiments he had in mind.

    So after that we did some small shopping, mostly mundane equipment we could use, and rented a night at a local bar/inn. We told the bartender that we were looking for odd jobs if anything came up, and rested up for the night.

    The very next morning, the arcanist was waiting for us at the bar. Told us to come back to his shop, and not having much else to do at the time, we followed. He seemed a little strung out actually. Said that two of Therin's workers had come and harassed him about what we were doing there, but he told them we were just shopping for some generic ingredients and that aside from having a Dragonborn and Kobold with us, we hadn't really stood out.

    What was more immediately relevant though, was the state of the bugs, and the corpses that the bugs had killed.

    The corpses? There were no corpses. In fact, asking around, no deaths had been reported yesterday at all. The arcanist was more inclined to believe us, all things considered, but it did raise the question as to WHY you would cover up four accidental deaths.

    The bugs? Not just bugs. On the surface, they seemed like normal insects. Even at a glance dissecting them, they still looked like normal bugs, with a few oddities like some crystallized organs, but that seemed almost expected with the gems growing on their backs.

    But looking real close? Part of them were clearly metal. And not just metallic, but actual forged, tooled, and bolted metal. We took a glance through some magnifying lenses and saw what he was talking about. Obvious traces of sanding, tiny little bolts, and a stray gear.

    Weird.

    So the arcanist notices one of Therin's dock workers watching through the window, and asks if we'd agree to be his night guards for the time being. Therin wouldn't be so stupid as to attack in broad daylight, and the authorities would come running if Maguiller was attacked, but us actually being on the scene might be the difference between a scuffle and an assassination.

    So we just spent the day exploring the island. We had a few little side quests. A wealthy noble girl had lost her engagement ring out at sea, but the dragonborn just weighted his ankles and let his natural water breathing give him the edge over the divers looking for it. Found it, she rewarded him and gave him a peck on the cheek, saltwater and all. So 100 GP and a friendly noble on the island, not bad. Very handy to have courteous higher-ups, especially if you clearly don't look human. Stuff like that.

    At night, the Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler took up guarding the front entrance. I spiderclimbed up onto the wall of a taller building nearby and hid among some of the tattered canvas signs on it to keep a lookout on the surrounding area.

    We sent the kobold factotum back to Therins loading docks, to see if he could find out anything about the bugs, bodies, or Therin's shady activities.

    While he was messing around there, we did actually stop an attack. Two of Therin's dockworkers had gone and started breaking in the back door, figuring the two blatant guards at the front were all Maguiller had going for him. So I tossed a stone onto the sand in front of Maguillers shop to let my buddies know that our little gamble had worked, and spiderclimbed down to meet up with them. The three of us tried to just rough them up and drag them inside the shop for some interrogation, but they were actually fairly good in a scuffle, and it wound up turning into a fight to the death. Which was loud enough to draw the attention of the local authorities.

    Standard operating proceedure apparently involved putting the three of us in a holding cell until the whole thing gets straightened out. We actually didn't find that to be too unfair, since it was our word against the word of two corpses. Maguiller promised he'd vouch for us to the higher-ups that he'd been harassed by Therin's workers the day before.

    Luckily, our Factotum didn't get caught. He also didn't get too far into the loading docks before the commotion started. it was loud enough that the entire beachfront was lit up with guards, onlookers, and whatnot. He wound up tucking and running back to Macgiullers shop to hide inside for the night.

    So the next day Macguiller comes and vouches for us that he'd been harassed just the day before, while Therin is there calling us cold blooded murderers. Said his workers were on their way home for the night, and that they just happened to be passing by. It was more or less a hear-say stalemate. We figured it was going to turn out sour for us, but the husband-to-be of the noble we found the ring for camme in and vouched that we were good and honorable people.

    Truth is way less useful than a blue-blood's thumbs up.

    So we get released, and the local authorities tell Therin and the rest of us that, whatever is up between us gets dropped now. Any shady activity from either of us, and they'll bring the hammer of justice down on us with full force.

    Considering this is a D&D world, the hammer of justice might be an actual physical hammer, we're inclined to avoid it.

    So we laid low for the next few days, keeping an eye on Maguilers shop while he did experiments, and just avoiding trouble. On the second day, Maguiler called us all in to his shop to show us what was up. He'd managed to grow/heal/and cobble together enough of a bug to grow another two living bugs. Essentially clones of the first one (a cure minor wounds one at that). That's when we found out another interesting bit of info.

    The Bugs weren't naturally aggressive. The two just chittered happily around Maguillers shop, landing on things, exploring them a little, taking off little nips of a metal stick Maguiller was feeding them. He said that whatever these things were, they weren't aggressive by default, the ones that had been attacking were violent for some other reason.

    One of them landed in our Swashbucklers hair, seemed very friendly, and he asked Maguiller if he could keep it. Maguiller agreed, since he still had the original and a new living one to toy with. So our Swashbuckler acquired a pet with Cure Minor Wounds twice a day. Cute. Not incredibly useful, but cute. He named it Chitter.

    Now we HAD to know what was up. So that night the Factotum went back to the docks, while the rest of us stayed nearby in case trouble sprang up. Uneventful for us actually (we had to pause while the kobold adventured solo, it happens). He found some creepy stuff though. The dead bugs we hadn't collected (stripped of gems still) were locked up in a glass case together, labeled to be shipped back to the continent they'd come from. Along with other crates full of miscellaneous replies. Everything was going to set sail in the early AM.

    The factotum cracked one of the cases? Dead body. One of the dead dock workers, to be precise. With THINGS pushing at his skin from the inside. The factotum debated for a moment, before deciding against slicing open the corpse, instead re-sealing the crate and stealing copies of the shipping and receiving manifests, along with the record of all purchases made by Therin's sailing company.

    Him and the Swashbuckler (high INT, recall) both pured over the logs and manifests until they'd proved, conclusively, that what Therin listed as being shipped out COULDN'T be what was in those cases, because he didn't HAVE any on hand. They outlined the relevant parts in red, wrapped it in a bundle, and the factotum snuck up to the local sheriffs office and left the bundle sitting on the front porch.

    Which turned out to be a miscalculation on our part.

    The local authorities, including customs, went to Therins at just past dawn. They demanded to see what was in the crates that were, at the bare minimum, mislabeled and a gross oversight, and at worst a major crime.

    We were watching this from a safe distance away mind you.

    Close enough to see what was going on, but far enough that our presence wasn't an attention grabber.

    So there wasn't a lot we could do when Therin sighed, scratched the back of his head, and in one smooth motion tore the throats out of two of the guards with his bare hand.

    Then he started running for the boat, shouting for it to leave the rest of the cargo and set sail. Naturally we took off sprinting in its direction, but by now, things had gotten crazy. The other dock workers were all pulling weapons and trying to defend the area around the boat from the local guards as the ones on the boat started chopping at the ropes keeping it in place.

    We fought through them as fast as we could (I even started spiderclimbing UNDER the pier to avoid direct confrontation), but we couldn't make it before the boat took off. Then the dockworkers started setting fire to Therin's entire building. And themselves. They didn't even scream while they burned.

    We stood at the edge of the dock, watching the ship sail, with Therin glaring at us from the rear, watching his place go up in flames. A few quick skimmers took off to try to catch up, but he had gotten too much of a head start. Then we fought our way back through the flaming pier and could do nothing while everything else, including anyone who could answer a question, burned to ashes.



    Side Notes

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    At least the local sheriff had seen the entire debacle first hand. He obviously believed that we were on his side. We apologized for the anonymous clues, but told him they'd been from us. He was mad that we'd taken things into our own hands, but understood why, all things considered.

    So that's where we stand now. We know what continent Therin is headed to. Or at least where his LISTED destination had been. We figure with the cargo going to and from there so often, it's likely he had a reason to be heading in that direction. The local authorities are on our side, but they won't be doing anything at this point but attacking on sight if Therin and Co show their faces again. Anything off the island is outside their jurisdiction.

    We're gearing up and getting ready to buy a charter ship to take us in pursuit.

    Crazy.

    Oh, but the acid-splash laced Eldritch blasts have come in handy after all, at least :-p.

    *EDIT*

    Oh, I almost forgot to ask the question which was the whole reason I posted.

    Any thoughts on catching up to Therin directly? I can't think of any good way for a group of level 2's to catch a ship on the high seas, but if there's a trick or obscure rule that we might be able to take advantage of, I'm prepared to board that scary punk.




    The Ziggurat

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    So our next session starts where it left off. Therin in the open water, the local authorities in panic mode, and us scrambling to figure out what the heck just happened.

    We started off by scouring over the immediate area and grilling everyone Therin interacted with with questions (with the sanction of the local authorities. They knew they couldn't follow up on anything that happened off the island without coming into legal trouble in a foreign land, so they knew we were going to have to be their justice by proxy).

    With liberal application of Sense Motive skill checks, we found out everything we could. We found out his DIET even. He appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be a totally normal human who came across as a shady manipulative businessman.

    Except he tore out the throats of two trained guards in the blink of an eye.

    And his dock workers LIT THEMSELVES ON FIRE to escape capture.

    These are not normal behaviors.

    It remains to be seen whether or not the double-kill was some kind of cleaving sneak attack, or if Therin is more-than-meets-the-eye.

    In any event, once we'd established everything we felt we could reasonably figure out, we geared up and chartered a small fast ship to take us to the continent Therin had sped off towards. The local authorities actually even gave us some of their extra armor and weapons, some scrap gear, and some extra coin, in the hopes we'd take him down on behalf of the men they'd lost. We wished Maguiller well and left him tending to/experimenting on his healing bug.

    A word on the continent we were heading towards. It was a largely desert-land with an arab/egyptian motif. Pyramids, scimitars, and face scarves and whatnot. Magic was considered something only authority figures (pharoahs, clerics, and any apointed by them) were allowed to have any access to. Anyone studying or attemping to use magical abilities or items was breaking a serious law. Like a cut-off-your-head law. We would all have to be careful. Me and the Dragon shaman would have to be the most careful, having blatant flashy effects in our grasp at all times.

    So we set sail. The ship and crew we'd hired were known for being among the faster on the open seas, and we told them we'd double what we'd paid if they caught Therin's ship on open water. We had no sight of him. It was actually an uneventful trip (our Factotum noted that might have been one of the first times an adventuring team hired a boat to cross an ocean, and NOTHING BAD HAPPENED to the crew).

    When we docked, we were hit with a pretty strong sense of "not belonging here". A lot of un-hidden staring came in our direction when we got off. Probably mostly because half of our team was blatantly reptillian humanoids. A few passed spot checks meant our Factotum noticed a few people taking SPECIFIC interest in us. We couldn't be sure, but we suspected they were part of Therin & Co and were noting that we'd followed him here.

    Not really feeling comfortable in the open, we quickly found our way to an inn and rented a room to lay low in and use as a base of operations. Our immediate problem we noted was that no one was answering any questions about this "Therin" individual. They either didn't know who he was, he was using a different name here, or they were lying to us with enough fervor to get past our Sense Motive checks.

    After asking a lot of questions, we were approached by a local cleric. We were warned, point blank, to stop our line of questioning. He told us we were welcome to stay in the city (a small city, or a large town, population 3000ish), but that if we kept being 'troublemakers', we would find the trouble coming back down on us.

    While we were still reeling from that random little encounter, a scared looking kid pops us behind us from out of the alley he'd been hiding in. He said he knew who we were looking for. That this Therin was a bad man, and the group he was a part of had hurt his family. And he said he knew where Therin was staying.

    Since it was our only lead, we followed him, taking us out past the town walls, into the open sand and towards a a makeshift encampment out in a direction no one would normally need to travel, outside of sight of the towns. When we got to the makeshift camp, we found it empty. Wandering through the camp looking for signs and clues turned out to be the predictable course of action though, as the kid who led us there immediately ran out into the open sand shouting "THEY'RE HERE, I BROUGHT THEM, THEY'RE HERE!".

    So. Crap. We notice the ambush our failed spot checks hadn't noticed before, as a large group (over a dozen) of armed men surrounded the encampment, some of them mounted. The one that was obviously the leader started shouting to us that if we threw down our weapons and surrendered peacefully, he would.... make our deaths as painless as possible. WHEE.

    Me: "So we're outside of earshot and visuaal range of the town?"

    DM: ""You are completely and utterly gone.

    Factotum: "No matter how much noise we make, no town guards are going to hear it and come running?"

    DM: "Scream all you want to, ain't no one gonna hear."

    Me: "Perfect. Roll initiative, Eldritch Blast the smallest looking one in the face."

    So I popped the weakest looking one in the face with the eldritch blast laced with an acid-splash gem (killing him in the process) and our group took up defensive/hiding positions in the tents. The entire group of warriors converged on us at once. The fight was pretty rough, but between the Dragon shaman opening with a Damage Reduction aura for us, and then switching to a healing aura once we took a bit of a pounding, we managed to trim their numbers down to five within a few rounds of combat.

    At which point the leader of the gang crowbarred open a crate in the encampment, and a swarm of those damned insects came out, still firing cantrips at us. The fight got a lot harder at that point, in no small part because our Factotum had already used his inspiration point trimming down the group of guys, and we were still struggling against the remaining ones. Luckily we still had our Dragon Shamans aura, three competent fighters, and ranged Eldritch Blasts. Eventually we took out every last one of them.

    We debated setting the crates on fire rather than risk opening them up, but we eventually opted for cracking the crates open while sticking the bugs we saw with daggers/eldritch blasts before they could get out and swarm.

    We didn't see the kid again. Probably for the best, we would have had a hard time deciding between offing him and just dragging him around tied up until our business here was done.

    At the end of the encounter, we'd gotten enough XP to level up to 3, a bunch more crystals full of cantrips to replenish the ones I'd used fighting these guys, and a bunch of miscellaneous gear and gold. Not a bad haul, all things considered.

    We ALSO picked up a trail leading away from the encampment. In the OPPOSITE direction of the town. It looked like these crates weren't being taken from the town, they were being brought TOO the town. God knows why.

    So we trekked off following the trail. A small dust storm actually threw us off, but our Factotum used some inspiration points to regain the trail and we marched onwards. We also had to defend ourselves against a few piddling attacks from snakes, scorpions, and random desert problems. It was nothing too much, but we did have to pay attention to what was going on around us. A snake bit our swashbuckler, but he passed his fort saves and shrugged off the poison. I also acquired a dose of strong snake venom, and hung onto it for my daggers, just in case.

    Eventually, the trail led us to a box canyon with no seeming way down. What was interesting was that at the base of the canyon (about 300 feet straight down) looked like a small dig sit, which had unearthed what appeared to be three layers of some kind of Ziggurat (picture a pyramid made with platforms all the way up). We didn't notice much activity down there, but this was obviously where we needed to be. But there's utterly no sign of passageways or scalable surfaces. No way down.

    Now, there's one classic mistake beginning parties make, and one thing that NO veteran player would ever leave home without (once they needed it the first time and realized how screwed they were). Lots and lots of rope .

    We pooled some of our rope together until we had over 300 feet of it, tied it all together thoroughly, had our factotum take 20 while using some inspiration points to make DARN sure we'd spliced everything together strongly, and the dragon shaman started lowering us down one by one. Factotum, Me, Swashbuckler (in order based on weight, really, just in case). Once we were all down, he dropped the rope, unfurled his wings (strong enough to glide, but not yet strong enough to fly yet), and started swooping down towards us in lazy circles.

    At the ziggurat, a man hiding with a crossbow spotted the descending dragon shaman. But he hadn't seen us, and I won the initiative roll . I popped him in the face with my new improved eldritch blast, and took him down clean in one silent hit. At the base of the canyon, we collected our rope, regrouped, triple checked our gear and hit points, and started sneaking towards the structure. On the way, we noticed signs (and cast off shells) of the metallic cantrip-casting bugs, so this is PROBABLY where they're coming from, if not just a collection spot for them. We're not sure yet.

    Once we'd gotten to the top of the ziggurat and found a way in (a small doorway that you had to crawl through at the very tip), our factotum kobold perched in the doorway and made an authentic vulture call.

    See, we figured a vulture could reasonably be expected to make some noise out here in the desert, so the bird call wasn't so blatantly obviously an arrival of a foreign party so much as just a dumb animal in a dumb location. Our factotum also made a high-roll listen check to the echo of his own bird call, to figure out just how far the passageways descended. He rolled a 20, on top of having a decent modifier, on top of using some inspiration points for a boost, so he got a fair grasp on how far down the corridors go.

    The realization? "Way, way, way deeper than it looks from the outside".




    Adrift

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    Kay, I'm trying to get this caught up before our next game session Tuesday.

    So where did I leave off? The four of us were standing at the pinnacle of a partially unearthed ziggurat, trying to determine the best means of continuation. The passageway down was on the smaller side. Not so much that it was a horrible squeeze, but enough that it restricted movement a bit.
    We sent the kobold in first, naturally, so he could tell us any changes in the upcoming twists and turns. The rest of us crawled in behind him.

    There were a few trip-wire traps that the kobold managed to undo without triggering. We couldn't tell what they actually did though, just that we'd stopped them from going off. Near as we could tell, triggering them was more of a warning system than an actual kill-you-dead trap.

    We crawled out until the passage opened into a network of larger hallways. There were a lot of doorways, but they all led to single rooms. Searching revealed that the rooms probably contained ancient objects (hundreds of years old, if not thousands), but that everything had already been picked clean. Probably a long time ago at that, based on the dust build up. In other rooms, it looks like makeshift beds are being set up, and that what is possibly construction material is being moved in bit by bit. Perplexing. Like we caught this place in the beginning stages of being set up as a base of operations.

    So we continue on until we hear a distant echoing whisper. It's distorted enough that we can barely make out anything intelligible. What little we can make out seems to be in no language any of us know (and that includes infernal, draconic, elven, and most of the common ones). As we wind down more and more passages, the whispering gets louder and louder, until we finally round a corner and see the source.

    Sitting in the middle of a giant empty chamber, facing away from us, is a human. He's sitting on the floor, with two candles on either side, rocking back and forth and hissing and muttering to himself. He's dressed in dirty rags and a shredded brown overcoat, and looks like a decrepit homeless lunatic. It sounds like he's alternating between crying, laughing, and muttering rhythmically to himself. Language checks again, and most of what he's saying is in no language any of us can speak. Occasionally he slips into common, and we catch fragmentary phrases concerning "where to find the materials" and building some device.

    No I won't lie. Sitting at the table, we had no idea how to begin approaching this. We discussed what the heck might be going on, and our first conclusion was that he might be some poor innocent dragged out here to be used as a sacrifice or something. our second thought was that he was just a crazy derelict, maybe being inducted to work for Therin. Our third thought, was that we have no freaking clue, but whatever this situation is it's the opposite of okay.

    Not sure about what we were doing at the moment, we send the kobold (highest move-silent modifier), followed by me (second highest move silent modifier), with the two clunky warriors staying back by the doorway. I stay about halfway between both groups, as the kobold goes and gently pats the crazy mumbling lunatic on the shoulder, and quietly asks if he needs help.

    The Drifter (as we've taken to calling him) immediately stands and turns in one lightning quick motion, glaring at us in the dim candle light. We can make out that he's...clearly infected with something. His skin color is wrong, his eyes are sunken and hollow, his skin is bubbled and chaffed raw.

    And he hisses, seemingly to himself. "Who are they? How long were they listening? We can't know. Trouble. TROUBLE!" he shouts the last bit before backing up quickly and Hitting us with a Gust of Wind spell, blowing out the candles and knocking the kobold flat on his back. We hear a lot of clattering and echoing footsteps on stone. The noises are coming towards us.

    The dragon shaman thinks quick and uses one of the "Light" cantrips we had, letting us barely make out what's going on. A group of four new people aside from the drifter had come running out of rooms on the opposite side of the chamber we were in. The drifter was shouting at them to leave and start their tasks. We don't catch a lot of details, but they sprinted out into the hallway past us. We did catch that one of them was Therin, who stopped to bellow "YOU" at us. The Dragon shaman sneered and said "Yeah, Us", but the Drifter grabbed him by the neck and screamed at him not to waste time, that there was too much to be done. As one of the group walked by, I realized they paused, shifted, changed their face to look exactly like mine, smirked at me, and then kept running.

    We started to pursue (and I fired off an eldritch blast that missed entirely), but the Drifter (now in the hallway past us) hit the area in front of us with a "Soften Stone" spell and turned the entire area into mud. Then he hissed for his "Children" to come and pick our bones clean. Our Swashbuckler managed to break past the mud and chase the five down into the hallway a way, before he realized that engaging in a five on one fight with clearly non-mook NPCs wasn't the most strategic course of actions. The fact that the other three of our group started screaming in panic.

    Because a swarm of rats poured in front cracks in the walls, a swarm of bats shrieked down from the (too high to see) ceiling, and the entire area filled with locusts and beetles. A few spellcasting bugs and scorpions were in the giant swarm of vermin too. Now this fight was hell. One of the bugs hit the entire area with a grease spell, so we were on a greasy mud patch. Another one of the bugs hit the kobold with a sleep spell, but he shrugged it off. The rats were diseased, the bats were everywhere, and we had to make concentration checks to do anything fancy. We gave it our all, but the kobold and and me both fell into negatives about 3/4 of the way through the battle. The dragon shamans healing aura stabilized us and made us crawl back up, but all it was doing was basically keeping us alive while the rats gnawed at us. The swashbuckler also hit negatives near the end of the fight, but his pet healing bug stabilized him, and the dragon shamans aura brought him back above zero. The two of them killed the last of the bugs, before some CON damaging poison from one of the scorpions knocked him far enough into negatives that he was effectively down for the count.

    So three of us are comatose and barely hanging onto life, and the dragon shaman is standing there in single digit hitpoints and wondering if the filthy bleeding wounds he has are going to be infected with something. That's when we hear quiet echoing footsteps coming back down the stone hallway towards us.

    Our lone conscious party member assesses the situation, and immediately drops his weapon and falls face first into the muck, staying as still as possible. The footsteps stop at the doorway, and there's a too-long, incredibly uncomfortable pause, before he hears Therin's voice asking if he should gut us where we lay. Then the Drifters raspy whispering voice answers him. "The rats will tend to them by morning, help Jezz and the others move as many crates as we can." He laughs "We don't want delay, do we? No we don't."

    The Dragon shamans healing aura brought the kobold back up to one hit point, but like the clever little lizard he is, he just continued playing dead.

    We stayed there in the filth for a while. What could we do? We cleaned and stabilized our wounds the best we could, drank a few of our healing potions, bandaged ourselves up, and just waited. We weren't in any shape to bring the good fight up to the five NPCs of questionable level. The Drifter alone was obviously a force not to take lightly, and we still didn't know anything about Therin. We figured all we could do at this point was wait for them to clear out of the ziggurat and then tail them, hopefully finding some way to understand more about what was going on, and undermine whatever plans we could. When we were sure things were quiet, we searched the area and found a fair chunk of coin, as well as a few decent spell-gems from bug carcasses.

    Eventually, we felt our courage return to us enough that we were comfortable marching back up hallways with our heads down. By the time we got to the section with all the rooms, we realized they were long gone, and so were all the crates (presumably full of the bugs). There were scratches and stray bits of rope, so they had simply dragged them up the passageway. Which was fortunate for us, because it meant there was some way of getting out of the box canyon we were in.

    We got out of the ziggurat, thankful to be in sunlight and fresh air after the uncomfortable situation we'd been in. We searched around a bit, and noticed there was a trail in the sand (wheels, and tracks from pack animals). We followed the trail to a small cave in a crack in the canyon walls, and started marching upwards. We were in no shape for combat, so it was distressing that we ran into not one, not two, but three giant spiders on our way up through the saves. We survived, barely, with a combination of hit and run tactics (mostly running backwards and peppering them with ranged weapons and eldritch blasts).

    We limbed back to the town through the desert, triple checking to make sure anything magical was tucked away out of sight, and that we had no lasting magical effects. We also cleaned up the blood and muck from ourselves as best we could, so we didn't walk through town looking like we'd bathed in gore. We were trying to keep our heads down, especially given that we'd ruthlessly murdered at least 15 people that day. We only caught a few sideways glances as we hurried back to our inn room, locked the door, and focused on getting a good solid nights rest.
    Fortunately the inn didn't catch on fire or anything :p

    When we woke the next day, there was a team of armed guards waiting for us. They grilled us about what we were doing here, what we'd been doing yesterday, and whether we knew of anything suspicious. Thinking it best to just avoid as much trouble as possible, we bluffed, bluffed, and bluffed some more, until they seemed satisfied that we were just hapless foreigners who stuck out like sore thumbs.

    We knew Therin, the Drifter and Co had probably taken off that same day, so we had some catching up to do. We also knew we were on SOME kind of time limit, as the entire group had been rushing for a reason. Why we didn't know, but they were rushing to get as much of their 'plan' done as quickly as possible.

    Thing is, after the previous days events, we felt that we may be in over our heads. We thought we'd stand a beter chance if we regrouped, maybe hired a few thugs of our own to land a hand with future combat scenarios, and formulated a plan of attack. So we went straight for the docks to head back for the Central island we'd started on. We sent the kobold to go out and do his thing, to find any shipping logs and information as to where the Drifter and Therin had gone off to, while the rest of us went back to the ship we'd chartered to tell them we were ready to take back off.

    When we got to the ship, we found an interesting surprise. The entire crew had been slaughtered, seemingly effortlessly at that. They were just laying there, soaked in blood in the morning light. You couldn't see it until you started coming up onto the ship itself, which was why no one had reported it yet. Now this was bad. We knew we were going to look guilty as hell here, and there wasn't a lot we could do about that other than drag the corpses out of plain sight and wait for the kobold to get back.

    When he did, we found he'd been fairly successfull, but that he also had bad news. Turned out, FIVE ships had left port last night without much warning, and from the sounds of things he'd heard with Gather Information checks, it was a distinct possibility that all five of our would-be assassains had taken a different ship to a different destination, WITH some of the crates. Why? Beats us.

    We didn't change our plans though. We were going to head back to the island, report in with the authorities who actually trust us, and then pick one of the destinations and try to pick the trail back up once we had our wits about us, and didn't feel like we were behind in the game.

    The DM agrees that with the skill checks, the Factotum knows just enough about sailing a ship that the four of us can successfully get things moving onto the high seas. But as he's directing us to prepare to take off, we see guards come running down the pier at us, shouting that we hadn't gotten permission from the dock keepers to leave, that we had to list our cargo and destination. And that they wanted to know what happened to the rest of our ships passenger list.

    Which is what they were asking as they came up the ramp to our ship and saw the deck coated in blood and gore. AWESOME. Great, wonderful, grand.

    We had no chance at explanation. They attacked outright. So we frantically prepared the ship to take off WHILE fighting off armed and trained city guards. While blatantly using magic, drawing a LOT of attention, generating a LOT of commotion, and only causing more guards and dock workers to run to try to stop us.

    We finally managed to push off to the sea, and when the remaining guards realized we were moving, they dove overboard rather than be stuck on a sailing ship.

    So, we'd better have some disguises worked out if we ever want to come back to THIS land. We'd probably be executed on site if we tried to dock here again.

    On the plus side, we got enough XP on making it back to the central island that we leveled up to 4. (Our DM likes to level us faster up to level five or six, far enough away from the oner-hit-kill hitpoint totals). Also, our Swashbucklers pet healing bug molted on the shipride, got a little bigger, and can now cast Cure Light Wounds instead of Minor wounds. So that's cool.

    And that's where we stand now. :)

    Glad I could get things up to date before our next game session.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-28 at 08:04 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    May 2006

    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives


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    Update of our most recent gaming session (last night). This is probably going to be a really big post, sorry.

    So kiddies, what happens when you die in the presence of D&D brand adventurers? Anyone who answered "All of your worldly possessions now belong to them" can go home. Everyone else needs to meet me after class.

    The first topic that came up at the start of our game (as brought up by the Swashbuckler) was the legal status of the small sailing ship we'd just brought back into port. Ships aren't incredibly easy to come by. They're not something that can't be found, but you don't usually just stumble into a deserted ship walking to the market in the morning.

    We decided we'd get back to that after verifying a few other things.

    Our first course of action on land was to update the local authorities (particularly the captain of the guard) on what had happened, including the fact that Therin & Co had casually slaughtered the entire ships worth of crew. The guard captain was notably unsettled by everything, and began contemplating loopholes in the island charter concerning extra-continental crimes. He was trying to think of a way to send a small 'military' force with us while we tried to try to track down Therin (he didn't seem concerned about the Drifter. He hadn't met the Drifter).

    Unfortunately, he couldn't come up with anything relevant. He had to settle for using us as off-the-books mercenaries. He wasn't too thrilled about it, mostly because he wanted to send a larger force to capture and execute Therin. He was more pleased when he found our exact intention involved bringing a larger force of mercenary arms in the future.

    Which is when we brought up the issue of the ship. Most notably, that the ships captain had been among the crew when they were slaughtered.

    Being the salty-dogs they were, none of them really had anything resembling a will. The standard course of action in this type of situation was to sell the ship and use the profit for any necessary burial costs, and then to give the leftovers to next of kin or closest living relative (after a hefty tax, obviously).
    But the ships logs were a ridiculous maze of port listings, crew lists, passenger lists, destinations diverted to or from... This ship spent most of its time on the sea itself, it had no identifiable home port. There seemed like only one logical thing for any adventuring party to do in this situation. Perch on the deck of the ship like the greedy vultures we are. Even the Neutral Good Dragonborn, Servitor of Bahamut and Gold Dragon Worshipper, was fine with it. "Ship has no captain. A ship's supposed to have a captain."

    So, we inquired as to whether or not we could, maybe, say, pay the funeral costs of the crew and take on the ship ourselves. The guard captain wasn't strictly opposed to the idea, but he wasn't too interested in circumventing local traditions in order to LOSE possible profit. Our kobold factotum actually fielded that one, leaning out from between two of us and saying "We are taking a huge personal risk here. One that will be mutually beneficial if we succeed. We're not asking you to break the law or anything, just to look the other way while we take care of this mess, and not poke a formal nose into things".

    So, we now own a sailing ship.

    It needs a minimum crew of 5 on top of us for a realistic minimum. The four of us could do it alone SOMETIMES, but intense fatigue would be an immediate issue if we tried to sail that ship around solo. Fortunately, the guard captain managed to keep it quiet that the ships previous crew had been RELENTLESSLY BUTCHERED ON THE DECK OF THAT VERY SHIP, WHILE UNDER OUR THEORETICALLY WATCHFUL EYES, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to find anyone. As it was, rumors spreading gave us a hard enough time adopting a reasonable collection of workers.

    We had enough coin left over from buying the ship itself, that we could actually just hire a crew straight up. It was nice to not have to jump through hoops finding cheap hirelings. We even managed to find a few reasonably combat-ready fighters to come help us drop a train on whichever one of the Drifters crew we found first. We sparred them a little to make sure they weren't one-hit wonders (and to establish a bit of "We're the bigger dogs" in our crew members).

    We found time to buy two bottles of wine and christen the ship (we called her the S. S. Ironman. At first I thought it was stupid, but it's evocative enough in a fantasy setting that I started liking it). We also tossed an uncorked bottle off on our first voyage for the gods of the sea.

    We also tucked into Macguillers shop. He didn't really have any information for us about the bugs, but when we mentioned that we'd run into a few stronger ones (with access to heavier spells), he seemed concerned. When we showed him that our own healing bug had molted, grown, and that the patterns on its back had changed, he seemed VERY concerned. Since his own collection (he'd grown four more, though two were dead for experimentation) had remained static, he made an initial hypothesis that something we'd encountered had produced the effect. Either the Ziggurat itself, or something one of the Drifters crew had done/had... We had no way of knowing.

    Macguiller also started questioning his idea of selling the bugs to nobles as useful pets. Since they were likely linked to something beyond our understanding, and since they were BORN with traces of clockwork mechanisms, they might be more dangerous than originally assumed, healing or no. His previously heightened curiosity also became a lot stronger at the news. He gave us a discount on some critical necessities, and tossed in a free communicative magical item. Just an enchanted seal (the kind you stamp wax on a letter with), that transferred its writing to a blank page affixed with a related seal. He kept a clean and sealed piece of parchment on the desk in case we had anything urgent to send to him or the guard captain.

    And so, with our friends and allies updated, and our scurvy crew at the ready, we set off. As previously mentioned, there were five possible destinations. (and as a brief aside, our DM had the travel time between ports set up, so which ones we could hit consecutively the fastest played into things).

    One was actually headed towards the arctic continent. Now, it was possible that this was the truth, but one of our shipmates clued us in to the 'trick' of listing the arctic as the destination whenever you were going somewhere "off the books". Since there were no official ports or kingdoms there, you could just sail anywhere complaining of the cold and your entire journey would have been outside any watchful eyes. We ruled that one out as our first destination based on that bit of insight.

    - One was actually on the opposite side of the Egyptian continent containing the ziggurat. We weren't sure how fast word spread throughout a desert land like that, but we weren't tempted to press our chances by sailing directly back into the SAME kingdom with the SAME ship we'd just sailed off after slaughtering around 30 people and stirring up a bunch of trouble. Other side of the landmass or not.

    We ruled that out due to our overwhelming cowardice.

    One was on the temperate climate containing the worlds largest kingdom. Picture the British empire at its peak (only in D&D and run by an elven royal family). The benefit of going there was that the central island we were using as a major base was one of the colonies of this world spanning kingdom. If we DID run into trouble, one of their own men back on the island could potentially verify that we, if nothing else, had good intentions.

    - Two of the destinations were actually on different ports of this worlds "Dark Continent". A jungle land with no real central ruling body, mainly due to being filled with too many deadly creatures and venomous vermin for any great sense of stability. This is the lawless land, where the docks are barely maintained and only really there for officiating travel.

    After debating between the last three, we decided to go to the temperate climate with the great kingdom. Aside from being a civilized local, it was our best chance at getting any kind of official help should things get ugly.

    And we're off!



    A Man Named Priest

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    So on to the "Empire" as we took to calling it.

    As a side note, our DM used to be perpetually horrified that we never remembered the details of world geography, kingdom names, NPC names, and so on and so forth. Until he traded places at the table and tried playing. Now he agrees that it's a lot easier to remember descriptive detail than formal detail.

    Which is why even our DM usually describes people we're meeting as "Beardy Drunk Dwarf" and kingdoms as "Psuedo-British Empire". He has real names for when we ask, and sometimes we remember (easier with arch villains of course).

    Anyway. Back to it.

    Our seafaring trip was more or less uneventful. We had a run in with one of the empires military vessels, but our papers all checked out and we didn't say anything too stupid, so we were on our merry way.

    Once we got to the docks, we realized how COLD the trail had grown. Six weeks of sailing to the island a as a detour, plus a few days of recruiting, when the enemy had only needed four weeks (give or take) to go straight between the two ports. We were two weeks behind whatever the heck was going on.

    Since I was the only High CHA human face in the party (and because I had Beguiling Influence as my third warlock invocation, making me better at bluffing and diplomacy and such), I put on my best forced sunday smile and talk to some of the local port authorities about ships that would have arrived two to three weeks ago. I played up the "We were separated from a friend" angle as best I could, but I failed a bluff check and they weren't buying it because none of the ships that had docked had mentioned anything about lost crewmates. So I tried an intimidate check, rattle-hissing that maybe they hadn't thought it important enough to tell a random dock worker. Intimidate check passed, only four ships had come in during that time period, only two were from the egyptian continent. One had been nothing but cargo being dropped off, no departure of crew or passengers, and nothing unusual had been delivered. The other had listed a few departures of both passengers, but no cargo. The most notable of the passengers was a man called "Priest". Not a title, that was actually his name.

    Something told us that was the guy.

    I tossed the nervous dock worker a few coins and went back to being friendly, thanking him for helping us and mentioning how excited we'd all be to group back together. It was another bluff check, and I didn't know if I'd failed or passed, but we had to at least try to avoid arousing suspicion.

    So we went into the city proper, and tucked into the first pub we saw. Four weeks at sea, one of your earliest desires is for good food and drink, right? We tuck into the joint, order some drinks to gain a bit of favor, and the Swashbuckler leans to one of the barmaids and starts asking questions about a man named priest.

    She pauses, and says she doesn't know anything about no man named Priest.

    Failed bluff check.

    So he gets a little more verbally assertive. Except a burly and grouchy looking drunk a table away overhears, and barks at the Swashbuckler that "We don't come here to ask questions. We don't come here to think. We come here to STOP thinkin. So shut your mouth or I'll make sure it's the last time you ever open it."

    The swashbuckler said, "Are you stupid enough to have a one on one fight in mind, or do you have a small army tucked in your pocket?"

    So... almost the whole bar turns to glare at us.

    Swashies only response to the trouble he just stirred up? "Good, I was starting to think this town was nothing but talk! Roll initiative"

    So the drunk wings a glass mug at our table. Misses the swashbuckler and it goes right for the (hooded) Dragonborn. Since he's sitting with his back to a wall at a bar table, our DM calls this a reflex save. Which is the Dragonborns weakest save, so he fails horribly. The mug smashes right against his face, knocking his hood back in the process. He screams out in anger and flips our table. The kobold ducks under the table and makes a hide check. I spiderclimb up to the ceiling out of melee reach and shout "non-lethal damage! non-lethal damage! for the love of god non-lethal damage!"
    We JUST got here. Are we really going to call down the hammer on ourselves?

    The whole room is freaking out, because not only is there a barfight going on, but there's a bar fight going on with some kind of dragon monster, some kind of 3 foot tall lizard, and some crazy girl who can crawl across the ceiling. Some of them ran screaming into the streets, the angrier ones attacked us outright. Fortunately the group realized how bad of an idea slaughtering an entire room full of drunks would actually be, and didn't draw any lethal weapons. The fight was slightly harder as a result, but in the middle of things when a mass of city guards ran in weapons drawn screaming at everyone to stop, we were a lot happier that we weren't soaked in blood. I dropped from the ceiling, we all threw up our hands and surrendered.

    The guards arrested everyone in the building. We weren't in our holding cell for very long though. When they questioned the bartender and barmaid as to what happened, they did mentioned that we were attacked first. They elected to let us go with a warning about stirring up trouble (and we couldn't help but notice that our coin purses seemed a little lighter when they gave us back our gear).

    While we were thinking of what to do next, the barmaid approached us on the street and asked to speak with us somewhere a little more private. We all ducked into an alley. She kept glancing around nervously, as if she was looking out for someone, and said that she knew who we'd been asking about. This Priest character (she gave us a pretty good description, apparently he tends to dress a little over-the-top, even by mid-victorian noble standards) seemed really, really off. His smiles seemed too big, his stares lasted too long, his speech was close, but off in enough tiny ways that the whole picture became wrong. She wasn't the only one who'd felt that way, but he'd been accepted by the blue-bloods and the clergy outright, so people were afraid to say anything.

    She told us where he'd gone. To a city further inland, along with several of the local church members, his own team of men, and some paid workers with dig equipment. He hadn't really advertised what he was leaving for, at least not to commoners, and she thought she rather preferred it that way. She wanted nothing more to do with any of it.

    We gave her 10 gold for her troubles, and as thanks for the information, went back to our ship, grabbed all but two of our own men. We told the two we left behind guarding the ship to swallow their pride and SCREAM, and scream LOUD, for help if ANYTHING shady started happening. With the rumors about what had happened to the ships previous crew, and the unexplained bloodstains on the deck, they agreed with us eagerly.



    The Deception

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    And we set off for the next city. It was only a few days by foot, so we didn't bother to get mounts or a carriage or anything. Along the way, we did have a few run ins. An "unofficial" toll on the path (aka, bandits). We paid in steel, so, they're dead now. We also had a recurring problem with wild wolves anytime we camped for the night, but with watching in shifts we had no real problem. They didn't seem to be supernatural, it seemed to just be a whole mess of wolves in the immediate area.

    So, we got to our destination. It was a more run down city, more of a waypoint between the larger coastal city and the capital cities further inland. Since it was in a bit of a valley, we had a pretty good visual layout of things, and we could see right away that there was some kind of recent dig site off to the west border of the town. It was directly near an old and obviously abandoned church (roof caving in, dingy and dirty, but the stained glass windows WERE still intact, probably out of respect from the locals), and the digging itself seemed to form a giant star pattern around the building.

    Dragon Shaman: "There's NO WAY that's a good thing."

    So, that was obviously our first stop. We tell our merc-thugs to stay back and just keep their eyes peeled for trouble, and wander onto the church grounds. There are what looks to be very very old headstones being unearthed. The writing on them is not in any modern language, and they have random runes and symbols carved throughout them in bas-relief. And directing the digging, is a man in a ridiculously elaborate and expensive looking suit. Clearly, this is the man named Priest.

    We approach him, and when he turns to address us, we realize that he does indeed have a mile-long stare and an uncomfortable rictus grin. He seems as if he's trying to be cordial, but trying way way too hard. He addresses us in the same way, overly polite and paced slightly off from normal speech patterns. "Hello there folk, is there anything I can help you with to-" His last word cuts off, and his rictus grin drops into a flat tight lipped line. "Oh. You. How odd."

    The swashbuckler nods and calmly responds "Yes. Us. Speaking of odd, could we inquire as to what exactly is going on here?"

    Priest: “I don't believe I am under any obligation to detail the activities of myself on my church's own holy grounds--”

    Dragon Shaman: “Some holy grounds. Do you normally let your holy grounds fall into such disrepair?”

    Priest: “NOR am I responsible for the lack of dedication of various smaller sects throughout the land. Please leave.”

    Dragon Shaman: “We really just have a few questions *Intimidate check*”
    Priest: “And they are questions I have no intention of answering *failed*”

    The pastor that had accompanied Priest and his men came and asked us politely to leave the church grounds. That they're in the middle of preparations for a ritual, and that when they're done the town, and the entire world, will benefit from the wisdom they gain. Priest glares at the back of his head when he mentions preparations and rituals, but immediately returns to his forced rictus grin and once again starts surveying the dig teams.

    We left, not really in the mood to pick a fight with a group of questionably mixed intentions. We instead made some Gather Information checks in the town. All we got was more of the same. The clergy was preparing for some kind of ritual that they promised would be of immense benefit to everyone involved. We did pick up that it was Priest who'd come into town with the documents elaborating on the location of the stones they were unearthing, and the details of the ritual.

    Which was really all we needed. We waited for nightfall and sent in the kobold to find these documents and figure out what was up. He found that it was some kind of summoning ritual, that it had to be performed at dawn, and that it looked like they were almost ready. Nothing detailed WHAT, exactly, was getting summoned. We smelled demon. Or worse. But we had no proof, and no one was willing to talk.

    It seemed like our only two options were to try to sabotage the ritual beforehand, or to stay nearby while it was being performed to interrupt/intervene/study as the situation warranted. Even with the men we'd brought, the entire town seemed happy about what the clergy had planned, so anything we did would be calling down a giant mob of angry pitchfork bearing commoners. This seemed like something we would want to avoid. We opted for option two.

    So, every night, an hour before dawn, we'd do the same thing. The swashbuckler and dragon shaman would hide in the darker areas around the church with our men. The kobold would cling to my back while I spiderclimbed up to the collapsing ceiling, I would perch where I could see the area below, and the kobold would dash across the roof (he barely weighs anything, of course) to the pinnacle at the front, and wait for my signal if we should charge.

    After the third night, one of the men turns to our swashbuckler and says "Working for you is very boring, by the way". The swashbuckler laughs, asks if he'd rather be in constant life threatening danger. The guy says "Well YEAH. That's why I became a mercenary in the first place.". The swashbuckler just tells him to hang tight, and that things will probably get real ugly real soon.

    The next night. They start the ritual. Just before dawn, they begin lighting candles, heating oils, mixing arcane ingredients, laying powders, chanting... Everyone present except for Priest and the nameless pastor had on blank masks with crosses painted on the front. Your classic SpookyStuff ritual. And just before light begins to break, the area inside the church brightens as if it was the middle of day, sunlight streaming OUT through the stained glass windows and casting colored patterns across the unearthed grounds. The light flashes brilliantly, and the shadows from the windows burn themselves into the ground surrounding the building, completing the pattern they had drawn across the floor on the inside. And suddenly, where there had been nothing, on a stone pedestal in the middle of the church, stood an angel.

    An angel?

    Yeah, that wasn't what we expected either. But she stood there, with all the overwhelming perfection of a divine entity. Completely nude, eyes pools of glistening silver, hair just strands of solid white gold, wings tucked serenely against her back. She turned her head calmly to the left and right, surveying the area while everyone inside, Priest included, stood in shocked awe of her divinity. She knelt, and beckoned for the pastor that had been working with Priest to come to her. She cradled his jawline from above him, on her pedestal, and began to weep. Her words were a whisper, but they rung throughout everyone present with perfect clarity and an unbearable sadness.

    "Thou hast made a grievous mistake child." She kissed the clergyman on the forehead in an act of forgiveness, took his wrists and placed his hands over his own ears, and SHRIEKED. The entire building, Priest included, fell to their knees clutching their ears. The stained glass exploded outwards in delicate shards. Priest gestured at the angel, and several pained looking men began to attack her with some kind of black leather loops, trying to bind and silence her.

    I made the signal and jumped in through the hole in the roof, sticking to rafters and chandeliers on the way down to break my fall. The kobold lit one of the light gems we had and threw it to the ground out front, before jumping in after me (and making a very high tumble roll to negate the damage when he hit ground).

    The Swashbuckler, Dragon Shaman, and our men outside began charging in towards the building, kicking in the front door and climbing through the broken windows.

    The masked men inside began attacking us with ridiculous fervor, just as two of the men succeeded in gagging the angel with a leather strap and catching one of her wrists in another. She wasn't really fighting, she seemed unable to ATTACK outright. She just flailed around in an effort to make things difficult for them.

    Me and the swashbuckler went straight for priest. The dragon shaman tried to do some crowd control with his fire-breath. The factotum jumped on one of the guys with leather straps for a vicious sneak attack and took him down with one hit. The angel caressed his head for that, but gestured for him to run. Being an adventurer, he instead took out another dagger and went to swing at another one of the men holding the straps. Which means he had to make a spot check to notice that the corpse he'd attacked burned up in black fire... and that an identical body climbed out of the ashes. At that, he shouted to the rest of us that we were in BIG trouble.

    The Dragon Shaman had come to that realization too, after three of the guys he'd burned simply got back up and began attacking him from behind.

    Out of character: “Anyone run to run some knowledge checks to see what the heck is going on here? Maybe Religion or Planar checks or something?”

    In character: “WHAT THE HELL ARE THESE THINGS?!?!”

    Two of Priests immediate guards start to move in on me, but he tells them I can't hurt him and to get the swashbuckler instead. The swashbuckler gets bullrushed, but also scores a critical hit and takes one of them down. Not that seems to help matters.

    I fire an eldritch blast at the priest, but it curves away from his face and into the smoky glass orb he's holding in his left hand.

    Well? Crap.

    Priest just keeps smiling at me in his creepy rictus grin and says "Suffer not the witch to live," before dashing and giving me a good stiff kick in the face for way more damage than I was hoping to take, and knocking me completely prone. The dark orb he's got pulses, and I feel a bunch of magic rush out of me (he dismissed my spiderclimb invocation. As a warlock I can just cast it again, but it's not under effect anymore).

    The factotum is having a hard time trying to save the angel, and she still can't seem to actually fight back. She seems to be pleading with her eyes for him to escape, as if there's nothing that can be done. He, mournfully, accepts her urging and goes to help us in the main fight, while the men strap more and more of the black (obviously enchanted) leather straps on her and start dragging her off.

    Two of our mercs die off, which means the fight is starting to tip further against us, and we don't really have any idea how to stop these things from coming back (whatever they are, no passed knowledge checks on the subject).

    The swashbuckler and dragon shaman are able to knock out a few at a time, but they'll just get back up on their turn. Priest lurches over me, cackling about how my witchcraft won't help me against him. Realizing he's right, I pull out a poison coated dagger and sink it into the guys shoulder. His rictus grin doesn't change, but his eyes betray his pain and concern. Instead of carrying on the fight, he instead grabs a bunch of his 'men' as guards and follows his crew dragging off the angel.

    Not really having a solid plan, we kept fighting. We told our remaining crew to retreat from the fight, and try to avoid getting slaughtered. After killing a few dozen of these...things, they all at once cocked their heads to the side and then took off running out the front door. We followed in hot pursuit, as they all started jumping and clinging to the side of a black carriage. We could hear the angel let out a cry from inside it. Priest was urging the horses on. The last of his crew managed to climb on/in the carriage and they sped off into the night.

    We tried to give chase, but even the kobold wasn't fast enough to keep up with horses at full sprint. I fired off an eldritch blast, but it just arced through the sky and into Priests hand. I hate that stupid dark orb.

    So we went back to the church to try to quickly piece things together before getting a move on back to the docks. We found the pastor, still clutching his ears, weeping to himself. We bottled some samples of the black ashes those things had kept crawling out of, noting that the floor underneath it was charred solid black. No light seemed to cast on the spots, even the new breaking sunlight coming through the gutted windows.

    While we weren't paying attention, the pastor crawled over to a dagger, mumbled "please forgive me" and drove it into his own neck. We tried healing him, but he was gone. Which sucked, because we REALLY wanted to have him verify our story with the authorities if it came to that. Instead we quickly and quietly buried him in the church grounds, and tried to make it look like part of the normal dig patterns. Hopefully they would just cover it up and not notice, so there would be no explaining to do.

    We went through the church building. Found a few minor magical items. A silver holy symbol, a prayerbook with some spells in it that we might be able to sell or UMD as scrolls, some powdered gold, holy water... you know the drill. We're adventurers. If it looks valuable, we stuff it in a bag and call it ours.


    So. To wrap up the session, we sprint back to the docks as fast we can, hoping to be able to tail Priest and Co as hotly as possible. Fortunately, when we get back, the dockmaster was so thoroughly creeped out by Priest, his masked men, and the fact that they bothered to load an entire carriage onto their ship ("Just straight up the ramp and onto the deck!") that he was compliant with our inquiries regarding information.

    Priest went sailing back to the egyptian continent. The one where we're wanted murderers. And A bipedal dragon, a three foot tall talking lizard, a strung out looking witch, and an obvious swashbuckling pirate don't exactly blend in. So we're debating whether or not we're going to pursue him directly, or try our luck at another port. The other port on this continent is pretty close, so we might see what the other villainous monsters are up to before pressing our luck back in the desert.

    We're really worried about the angel though. So it's a toss up at the moment.

    At least most of our crew survived this time.




    Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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    Okay, I'm going to try to be a bit more concise this time, so it's not a giant wall of text like last time, but a lot happened in this session. We leveled twice, for instance. It was a rather lengthy night

    I'll spoiler things for more convenience.

    As a group we faced some inter-party conflict to start things off. Me and the factotum thought that we should head to another port and see if we could learn more about the Drifters allies. They took the angel alive for a reason, and we can't really bring the force necessary to save her right now. Also, I'm a little worried about running into Priest in a one on one situation.
    The Dragon Shaman wants to persue Priest and try to free the captured angel. The Swashbuckler is on the fence. We convinced him that it was in our best interests to avoid the desert continent for a while longer, either to lay low, or to wait until other options of travel are available to us. He agreed in the end, and by vote of 3 to 1, we reluctantly selected a new port to sail to.



    DARK CONTINENT

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    So we take off for one of the ports on the Jungle continent. It's fairly close, only a week of sailing away, so we're probably not going to fall so far behind we can't catch up with whatever is going on.

    The closer we get to the port, the rougher the weather seems to be. Torrential downpours and massive waves, broken up by periods of the sea being dark, grey, and calm. When we actually make it to port, we have to sail in through a cloud of fog so thick we had difficulty safely docking. There should have been a lighthouse active, and we could make it out (barely, through the fog), but it was dark and inactive.

    What's more, the docks here are completely empty. Deserted, abandoned, still, silent. There are other ships in port, but no one on them. No one on land. No officials sealing arrival and departure sheets, no one checking shipping logs, no one unloading anything... not a soul to be found.

    We take a few of our crew with us, and leave the rest guarding the ship, since we're not sure exactly what to expect. The kobold thinks to use an inspiration point and roll a high Survival check on the docks, trying to track any oddities or anomalies. He comes up with nothing.

    So it's off to the empty lighthouse we go.

    What strikes us as odd about the situation is how perfectly normal everything seems to be. There are no signs of life, but there are also no signs of struggle or theft. Nothing is broken or missing. Until we march up the spiral stairs to the top of the lighthouse, and see a body sitting in a chair facing out the window.

    The swashbuckler approaches with caution, and sees that the lighthouse keepers throat was slice ear to ear. The blood is pooled and congealed down his front and on the floor, so he clearly didn't see it coming or have time to put up much of a struggle.

    Not liking how that bodes for the rest of the port town, we look out the window, tho we can't make out much. It's just a fog that would put londons thickest to shame. We think we can see dark figures moving through the city streets, but failed spot checks mean we aren't sure if it's a trick of our eyes or not.

    So we start heading back to our ship to check back in and then go explore the port town...

    ...And find our boat being overrun by a massive hoarde of zombies! about 30 to be precise. Which is probably a good fifth of the population of this dingy little port town, but still. Our deckhands are screaming in fear and trying to shove the zombies shuffling up the ramp with ten foot poles, so we sprint over to join in the fight. Actually, most of the crew we were WITH stayed back due to cowardice, refusing to rush into a shambling mess of rotting flesh and broken teeth for some reason.

    The fight was more or less a mop-up. The Dragon Shaman could take out two or three with his fire breath, and another one per turn while his breath recharged. Our Swashbucklers INT to damage doesn't work against the undead, but fortunately he had a backup plan for situations like this. He sheathed his rapier, and pulled out the longsword strapped to his back, two-handing it and power-attacking to make up the difference in damage. He could also Cleave, so he was mostly taking them out two per turn. The Factotum plunked them from range with a small crossbow, while I spiderclimbed up a nearby wall and fired Eldritch Blasts into the fray. Then we re-boarded our ship to address our crew. But before anyone could say anything, we heard screaming from back on the docks. The four men we were with got overrun by a smaller group of zombies crawling out of the water. They were already dying, nothing we could do to save them except kill the zombies from range.

    After that, we went to address our remaining crew members, only to discover that they no longer considered themselves our crew. "We've lost six men in two weeks! We're not following you anymore, we signed up to sail and fight, not to get slaughtered by monsters and walking corpses! This isn't right!" We tried some diplomacy, but... they were having none of it. They grabbed their belongings and some supplies, unloaded them from the Ironman, and loaded them up on one of the quicker looking abandoned ships, and sailed off into the mist. Swashbuckler recomended executing them for insubordination, but the dragon shaman just glared at him and let them go, saying they were right, we'd been hemmoraging hirlings since we first set sail.

    We had no clue what to do about a crew, but we figured we'd worry about that later. We checked our gear, the Factotum elected to use his first level spell slot to put an 'alarm' on the deck of our ship (and we took down the ramp for the time being), and we got ready to set out into the fog.

    We stopped when our DM informed us that we just reached level 5 :p. So we spent the next ten minutes updating our sheets.

    We all stayed single-classed for another level, except for the swashbuckler. He took a level in SORCERER of all things. The reason? "True Strike 3 times per day, punks!". He plans on using True Strike, then power-attacking for as much as his BAB will allow. Our DM also elected to make "Chitter", his healing bug pet, become his familiar. So Chitters stats received a significant boost since he's now directly tied to the swashbuckler.

    My blast became stronger, the factotum can now heal a little per day, and the dragon shamans auras are double in strength.

    Anyway, back to the story.



    THROUGH THE GHOST TOWN

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    We started sneaking through the town. It was indeed full of the walking dead, but with their slow move rate, we just kept up a steady pace and snuck between buildings. We only drew attention from a few of them at a time, and they couldn't keep up with us, so we just stayed ahead of them. This did turn out to be a mild tactical mistake.

    When we got to the edge of the town, we found a shop that had been boarded up pretty thoroughly. Surrounding the shop were around three dozen zombies, beating at the walls and doors and moaning loudly. Obviously, something relevant was in there, but in stopping to fight this huge group of zombies, we allowed the zombies that had been chasing us through the streets to catch up, meaning we were surrounded. I had the worst of it. Low hitpoints, low AC, my attack strategy kind of relied on being able to move out of range or poison things that got too close. Being surrounded meant I was taking a pretty harsh beating. The Factotum was almost untouchable, since he has the highest AC, but the few hits he did take were bad with his small hitpoint total. If it wasn't for the dragon shamans healing aura, I would have been toast, and the factotum wouldn't have lasted too long. As it was, we managed to slug our way through the last of them without hitting negatives, then took some time to catch our breath and heal up.

    We approached the boarded up door, and politely knocked. Our Swashbuckler shouted out, asking if anyone was inside. A small dwarf woman leaned out of one of the windows on the second floor in absolute shock, looking slightly off center (mentally, that is). She asked us if she was imagining this, before scrambling back from the window, dashing down the stairs, and tearing a few planks from the door so we could crawl through before replacing them.

    "You're alive! I haven't seen a living face in two weeks!" She hugged the swashbucklers legs and cried happily. She was talking too fast, babbling, almost nonsensical. "How did you get here? It doesn't matter, you're here, oh god, all hell broke loose, but you're here, we can leave. Let's leave. How did you get here, we can leave that way?"

    Dragon Shaman explained that we came by ship, but that we couldn't leave just yet. We were missing a crew and we had to figure out what happened here.

    "Oh I can tell you what happened here, hell broke loose here. The devil came and hell followed. There's no reason to stay really, no reason at all, we should leave."

    She was obviously a little shaken up by spending the past few weeks listening to the zombies trying to break their way into her tiny little sanctuary.

    We asked her who, exactly, the devil was, and what, EXACTLY, had happened.

    She just shook her head no ferociously. "She came in on a boat and everyone started dying. One by one, people just disappeared. She never made a sound. Not a sound, just walked through the streets wearing our skins and killing us one by one. Then after she killed almost everyone she found where the miners stay and killed all of them. Then everyone she killed started standing up, and she took the miners to the caves with her. I saw her leaving with them, wearing someone else's skin. The devil wanted the caves, we should let her have them, we should leave and let her have them."

    We felt bad for the tiny little dwarf woman, but we couldn't just up and leave after THAT, right? She seemed fine with us going too. Said she would just stay where she was cause it was safe but that she wouldn't go to the caves cause if we went to the caves she would just wear our skin and kill us all too and she had to stay here where it's safe and, ect, ect, ect.

    We told her we'd come back for her and climbed out one of the second story windows. There weren't many zombies left after our wholesale massacre of them, but there were still enough that it would be trouble if they congregated around the building again, so we had to leave it boarded up.

    And, naturally, we set off towards these caves.



    INTO THE CAVES

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    The cave mouth was set up near the top of an overgrown cliff face. It wasn't unclimbable, but it was tricky. Once we got to the top and caught our breath, our dragon shaman picked up a stone and threw it into the pitch black mouth of the cave. In response, a swarm of bats came shrieking out past us.

    Now, me and the kobold can both see in the dark (me with an invocation, him naturally). The dragon shaman and swashbuckler, cannot. We debated how to address this issue. Using a light source would potentially ruin our element of surprise, or worse, give the element of surprise to the enemy. The Swashbuckler can now CAST light as a cantrip, so what we opted to do was use the buddy system. I took the dragon shaman by the hand, and the kobold took the swashbuckler, and we both led them down into the dark with the swashbuckler ready to cast Light if need be.

    We led them down through a few twists and turns and paths, when we started seeing traces of reflective black stones on the ground and walls. A quick peak (and prying one out with a dagger) revealed it to be Black Onyx. Which, if not an explenation for the zombies, at least shows a relevance to what's going on. Of course, we all started pocketing the stuff left and right, because, hey, free black onyx.

    Which is when we started hearing a lot of intense fluttering all around us. Looking up? Bats. Lots of bats. Some of them the size of small dogs. Some of them larger than us.

    Kobold: "Light, light, lightlightlight now!"

    The swashbuckler casts light just in time for them to see the huge flurry of bats attacking us from all sides. The giant dire bats were making dive attacks that were knocking us prone, the smaller bats were just a swarm of tiny needle-like teeth and claws shredding us from every angle.

    Once again, the Dragon Shaman turned out to be our bail-out here. His fire-breath was the only thing that was keeping the swarm from shredding us like we were stuck in a flying blender, giving the rest of us a chance to fight the (turned out to be five) dire bats beating on us. The bats put up a good fight, but in the end, we stood victorious amidst a giant pile of lightly fried corpses.

    We pressed deeper into the caves, content that the ruckus we had made probably ruined our chance at surprise anyway, so we just hustled with the light spell active. Eventually, we came to a metal doorway with mine carts and digging equipment. The door was locked pretty strongly, the kobold using an inspiration point only barely managed to open it. When we popped the door, expecting more tunnels, we were taken aback when it actually opened into a huge, brightly lit cavern. A huge brightly lit cavern filled with a few dozen humanoid skeletons, hammering at the walls with picks, rummaging through the piles of broken stone, picking out the black onyx, and piling it into crates. It looked like this had been going on for a while, as there were crates and crates full of onyx gemstones.

    And in the middle of this macabre sight, dancing around in exaggerated steps like a lunatic with a huge grin, was...a woman with no face. Well, she had a face, but it was just pale, grey, and smooth, with eyes and a mouth. A simple knowledge check revealed her to be an obvious example of a changeling, a race that's basically doppleganger-lite.

    When she noticed us standing in the doorway to her chamber, she stopped in mid-stride and stood slack-jawed. Her face cycled through a few random male and female looking forms, before she finally picked one to settle on with a surprise expression. She pointed at us as a look of exaggerated recognition spread over her, and she nodded in understanding. We survived the encounter at the ziggurat, and now here we were. She didn't say a single word though.

    Instead the skeletons all stopped where they were and turned in our direction, huge nasty looking picks at the ready. The changeling woman held out her hands on either side, as if she were a scale, weighing her decision visibly. Then she apparently reached a conclusion, because she waved her hand, the skeletons all got back to work, and she sprinted down one of the tunnels leading deeper into the caves, looking quite concerned about our presence.

    We, of course, sprinted after her.

    The swashbuckler asked if we should stop and kill the skeletons, but we considered her a higher priority and pursued.

    She, to her credit, moved like a damn leopard. The dwarf was right, she never made a single sound. The only way we could follow her was by keeping her in visual range, and trying to assess which turn she'd made by traces she left on the floor and walls. The Factotum was our godsend here, as without him making Survival checks to track, we would have gotten lost in the mazelike tunnels.

    Eventually, we came to another, smaller, darker chamber. The changeling woman was backing up to a wall at our right, when we heard a shuffle come from our left. A very, very large troll zombie came staggering at us, while the changeling gestured at us frantically before climbing up into a nook and sliding down a stone path further into the dark. The Swashbuckler told me and the kobold to follow the changeling, while they handled the troll. I wasn't positive they could take it solo, but they were right. If we lost the changeling in the dark, we'd never find her, and we were the only two that could see in the lightless caves.

    So we tucked and dove into the same nook she had, while the swashbuckler and dragon shaman took the fight to the lumbering mass



    TROLL FIGHT
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    The troll lost the initiative roll, obviously, so my teammates had the first strike. The dragon shaman opened with a fire breath at the thing, which took a big chunk of its hitpoints down. The swashbuckler opened with a full two-handed power attack with his longsword, but rolled low on the attack and his blow didn't do any real damage. Since he was closer, the troll slammed the swashbuckler and caught him good. The Dragon shaman charged the troll and nailed him hard. The Swashbuckler took another swing, and this one connected cleanly. The troll slashed at the swashbuckler with another claw attack, and with the damage he'd taken earlier, that was enough to knock him into low single-digit hitpoints.

    The Dragon Shaman opted to swing at the troll again, clearly roughing it up badly, but the swashbuckler (in an unusual show of self-preservation) decided to move back a few paces. The troll turned its attention to the dragon shaman, and they traded blows (while the swashbuckler chucked a rock at the back of the trolls head only to realize it had no effect :p). Ultimately, the dragon shaman wound up in single digits too, and back away, but not before his breath weapon charged up again, and he popped the troll with it again.

    Crossing his fingers and hoping the troll was close to dying, the Swashbuckler charged it with another full power attack. He connected and sliced the things head off with one clean motion.

    The two of them collapsed together and caught their breath while the dragon shamans healing aura brought them back up to half hitpoints. Then they both down a healing potion and came charging after us.

  7. - Top - End - #7
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    CHANGELING CHASE

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    At the bottom of the stone slide was another (wetter) chamber. When me and the kobold slid to the bottom, we saw that the changeling had unfurled a scroll, and was standing over a hideous mass of bones and flesh stitched together into some.... more ABSTRACT form than your average humanoid undead. When she heard us hit ground, she turned to look at us, threw her hands up in an over-the-top "Shocked and Scared" look, dropping the scroll and running further down into the caves in the process.

    We grabbed the scroll, and found it was an "Animate Dead" spell. We figured, we might be able to use whatever the heck this monstrous looking thing was against her, so the factotum UMDed it and called the mess of bones to unlife. It twitched, jerked, climbed into some hideous spiderlike form... turned pitch black, filling the air with an icy chill, and EXPLODED in a shower of black ice and negative energy. A smackload of cold and negative damage, a concussive blast that sends the two of us flying hard into the wall (for more bludgeoning damage), and in one single move the two of us were in single digit hipoints.

    Kobold: “In retrospect, that was a fairly OBVIOUS trap...”

    So he uses his Opportunistic Piety ability and channels some positive energy to get us back into double digit hitpoints, and we press on.

    We finally come to what looks like, hopefully, a dead end chamber. This looks to be where the changeling has been living these past few weeks, as there's basic amneties set up, and some personal looking belongings. The chamber is also full of natural columns (the kind that form with a slagtite means a stalagmite), and the changeling does her best to hide behind them and evade us. Considering, to this point, she still hasn't made a single audible sound, she does a fairly good job. We never once catch her with listen checks, it's only when we spot glimpses of her that we can re-assess where she is.

    We split up, to try to corner her somehow, but she kept sneaking past us, trying to make it back to the entrance so she could climb up back the way she came. Finally I gesture to the kobold. I'm going to spiderclimb above the entrace, he's going to chase her towards it. I'll drop and grapple her as soon as I see her, and he can try to attack. After a few rounds, it works, and she comes sprinting towards the entrance, thinking we'd lost her. I drop and try to initiate a grapple, but it provokes an attack of opportunity and she punches me and slips by me up the hole. Except I can spiderclimb at will, so moving up the passage is a lot easier for me than it is for her making climb checks. Except every time I get up to her, she gets another attack of opportunity and kicks me in the face. I would just pop her with an eldritch blast, but since she's trying to ESCAPE, it'd be a waste, hurting her but allowing her to get further away.

    Fortunately, space finally work out to our advantage. When the two of us reach the next highest chamber (with the exploding undead thing, and the kobold in close pursuit), the rough terrain left by the shower of bones slows her down, while I just spiderclimb around the wall and perch at the exit leading up. The kobold comes up and blocks the path leading back DOWN, she backs towards the middle of the chamber, and I nail her with an eldritch blast. She throws up her hands. I assume it's another trick, but ready an action to fire at her again.

    Me and the kobold both advance on her, and she looks like she's contemplating taking another dash at the exit up, when the swashbuckler and dragon shaman come sliding down (looking much the worse for wear). We all circle her while she holds up her hands in depressed defeat. The swashbuckler asks if we should just kill her where she stands, but she presses her wrists together and waves them at him, pleading with her eyes, a fairly obvious show of surrender. The swashbuckler, a little surprised, says "She's mute?!" to which the changeling shifts her face to mirror his, and makes a "DURR" face (calling him an idiot without actually saying as much).

    The dragon shaman and kobold agree, they're not comfortable killing a surrendering prisoner, no matter how much of a pain she'd been. So we drag her down to the lower chamber to go through her stuff and see if we can find anything parcticularily relevant. We don't find a lot. Some magical items, wands and scrolls of animate dead and gentle repose (when we asked her where these came from, she holds out her hands in the classic "I don't know" pose and shrugs with a little smile). And a bunch of rolls of black silk cloth with golden embroidery. We unroll a few, and with a successfull knowledge check, instantly understand. She's a binder. The cloths are seals that she can use to summon vestiges. When we say it out loud, her face immediately changes back to an expressionless mask, obviously upset that we understand.

    We bring up the possibility of real interrogation, considering how compliant she's gotten since she surrendered. Which is when it hits the factotum.

    "Guys. She surrendered pretty quickly. Didn't even really fight."

    Swashbuckler: Because she didn't want to die?

    Factotum: But it was a pretty quick about face, even in the circumstances, don't you think? She didn't even put up a struggle, and now she's just going along with what we want?

    Dragon Shaman: So?

    Factotum: So, we need to get back to the docks. NOW.

    The changeling adopts the tiniest smirk at that. We're all hit with the "Oh Crap" realization at the same moment, and we start dragging her up towards the main cave entrance. When we get to the larger, brightly lit chamber? No skeletons. No mine cars. Most of the crates are missing, just a few stray crates partially full of black onyx, and tracks leading up the caves.

    She wasn't trying to fight us. She wasn't even really trying to get away. That's WHY she charged blindly into a dead end. She wanted to keep us busy while her undead minions loaded up the stones they'd been digging up!

    CRAP.

    Standing around in the chamber in slack jawed horror, her face shifted to a random female form and she pointed at us, making the motions of over the top mocking laughter, while mouthing the words "You're so stupid". The Swashbuckler reared up to punch her, and she shifted back to the expressionless mask and shirking away from him, throwing up her hands again.

    We booked it back to our ship, only to see tiny little forms through the fog. Skimmers, quick little ships, out on the open sea.

    Me: Any chance of us catching them?

    DM: The tiny little lightning quick ships, each being manned and rowed by crews of tireless undead, who will not to stop to eat, sleep, or even slow down? No, you won't catch them.

    Kobold: Crap.



    UNDEAD MOUNTS?
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    So we discuss what to do now. Our DM informs us that between the fighting, the chasing, the capturing, and the plot advancement, we'd picked up enough XP to level to 6.

    Naturally we all stop dead in our tracks to update our character sheets again, while the DM gets his notes ready for what happens next. I had a tough decision to make though. See, right from level one I'd been planning on getting Fell Flight at the first possible opportunity. Being level 6, I get my first chance at grabbing a more powerful Eldritch Invocation, and the ability to constantly fly was really really high up on my list of desires. But I hadn't planned on hitting level 6 while on an island full of black Onyx and shuffling corpses. "The Dead Walk" is another option at this level... And with my level, if I take that, I can control 24 HitDie worth of undead creatures.

    I decided, in the end, that I can ALWAYS take fell flight later. But I'd be a fool to look a gift horse in the mouth. And in this case, a gift horse takes the form of a pile of dead bats large enough to ride around on. And zombies retain their ability to fly

    I had to bring it up with my teammates of course. "How do you guys feel about our ship being crewed by the undead? *innocent smile*" Responses were mixed.

    We don't have to pay them, we don't have to feed them, and they'll keep doing their job even while we're sleeping.

    We can't sail into any official port with them above deck, and if any authority checks our cargo hold, we could have big trouble.

    I bring up the possibility of dumping the zombies overboard before we reach land, and restocking them when we have fresh corpses available.

    Dragon Shaman: How many corpses do you expect to stumble across?!

    Me: ...we're ADVENTURERS?

    Dragon Shaman: Right, a metric crapload, right.

    In the end, it was decided this was a horrible idea that we should avoid.

    Kobold: I don't think it's the most sound and safe decision we could make as a group at this moment in time.

    Dragon Shaman: As captain I have to say I'm not in favor of it. As a devout worshipper of a good god, I have to say I'm strictly opposed to it.

    Swashbuckler: Yeah, the whole "Undead" thing probably won't be in our bests interest.

    Me: ...*cough* You guys remember that there's a giant pile of rideable bat corpses up the mountain, right?

    *pause*

    Swashbuckler: I fully support "Operation Undead Labor"!

    Kobold: If I get a mountable bat zombie, you can turn everyone we meet into a walking corpse.

    Dragon Shaman: I hate you all.

    So because he can't sail the ship ALONE, the captain tolerates our plans. He mentions that we are crossing into the grey-area of heroics (yet again). I point out that, while yes, abuse of a corpse is questionable, they're going to be turned into extensions of my will, so they're only as good or evil as I am. He points out that, if I lose control of them, they'll revert to trying to eat anything they can fit their jaws around. I ask "And that makes them different from normal carnivores HOW?" He reluctantly agrees to go along with things.

    The large sized bats were all 4 HD, so I have a rideable bat corpse for all three people who want one, and still have 12 HD worth of undead I can control. After cramming a few hundred gold worth of black onyx into their skulls, they're ready to ride. We'll need to make some custom saddles to make riding them easier, but we can cling to their backs for now. My DM also agreed to let me ressurect the 1/4 HD bats at 4 for 1, so I also have 12 normal sized zombie bats sticking to the bigger one. Which I don't really think will come in handy, but it IS fun.

    I also named my mount. The DM got annoyed. "You've had LIVING companions you didn't name, and you just named a zombie?!" I argued that it was more of a VEHICLE than a creature, and that we named the ship too! I call him Sky-rat.

    I also resurrected five skeletons to serve us on the boat (faster than zombies, easier to stuff into small areas to hide them if need be), I had four left on my HD limit to use during battles, which seemed like enough for now. The trick is, if a warlock uses black onyx to raise the undead, they're permanent. If I DON'T use black onyx, the zombies that result only last a few minutes. Which is perfect for mid fight, because I can have a zombie fight for me, then crumble to dust without looking like I did anything suspicious.



    BACK TO THE GAME

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    Moving on.

    We tried coaxing the dwarf woman to come out of her store, but she said she'd rather stay where she has food and saftey. We're planning on informing the next port we're in about the situation, and that the undead have been cleared out, so they can safely restore order there. When we dock, we're going to stuff the skeletons in various hiding spots, and have the bats play dead and say we're using them for material in crafting. That should let us get away without too much legal trouble.

    We almost ended the session there, but we really wanted to get some more information out of the changeling for us to mull over in between games. So we collected everything useful we could from the town (including a whole MESS of black onyx from back in the cave!) and set off at sea. We figured we would have an easier time keeping track of the Binder Changeling on the open water, where she couldn't run off. We'd have to keep her tied up, of course, or she'd mimic us and probably start causing hell. We took her below deck while the skeletons manned things above. It stormed again when we were taking off, but thankfully, skeletons don't mind a little rain.

    We tried to lock a bell around her neck (really) since she was so quiet. She mocked us by 'washing' her ears like a cat. We noticed the bell made no noise. That's when it hit us. She's not just MUTE, and she's not just STEALTHY. She literally CAN'T make any noise. She seemed depressed when we pointed that out, so we asked why she looked upset about it.

    She thought for a minute, then moved her hands like she was playing piano and singing wordlessly. We asked if she'd been a musician, and she nodded. I asked, "This is a curse. Isn't it?" She looked sadder, and nodded again. The factotum asked what happened. She gestured for something to write with.

    Swashbuckler: “Dude, she's a binder, we can't give her something to WRITE with. God knows what she'll do.”

    The Dragon Shaman gives her some parchment, ink, and a pen all the same. He tells the swashbuckler to cut off her hand if it looks like she's trying something stupid, to which she goes wide eyed and puts one hand on her heart and one in the air (obviously promising to be good).

    The message she writes is very abrupt. "Bard. Seduced wrong person. Betrayed wrong person. Curse. Fin"

    Factotum: “So someone just wanted to hurt you as much as you'd hurt them.”

    The changeling glares and writes "Thousandfold" Music obviously meant a lot to her.

    Dragon Shaman: “Why are you working with these people now? Why are you doing this?”

    The changeling almost tears up at that, but writes "When he's a god, he promised to make me his herald."

    Swashbuckler: “When who's a god?”

    The changeling just glares. It's obvious we know who. The Drifter.

    We pause for a minute, before the dragon shaman asks if there was some other way to break the curse.

    She writes "Tried everything"

    He asks if we could find some way to break the curse, if she'd give up being evil.

    She adopts a mile-long stare, blankly looking at nothing in parcticular. “She writes "Too late. Killed hundreds. Liked it."

    He sighs and says "It's never too late. Anyone can be redeemed in time."

    She doesn't respond.

    I ask where they're taking the black onyx to. She looks at me like I'm an idiot. I ask if it's the ziggurat, and she puts one finger on the tip of her nose, and points at me with her other hand.

    The swashbuckler asks what they're trying to accomplish. She looks angry, throws down the pen and parchment. Question time must be over. Swashbuckler says we can beat the information out of her, as long as we don't break her fingers. Her form instantly changes to a terrified young woman, tear streaked makeup and a black eye, shaking her head back and forth in fear, before changing just as fast to an expression of calm, resolved fury and spitting in the swashbucklers face. He punches her, splitting her lip. She licks her lips with a thin snake tongue, painting them red in the process and continuing to glare back.

    The dragon shaman says this obviously isn't going to get us anywhere. That we should just tie her up and give her time to think about things. The factotum uses an inspiration point to make a ridiculously high "use Rope" check to make sure she's bound in the chair and can't move at all. Once we're confident she's not going anywhere, we go above deck to try to get our bearings against the storm and try to decide on a heading.

    Our DM informs us that a few minutes later, we see flashes of light coming from below deck and hear loud, laboured weeping. We rush into the room where she's kept, and see her still tied there, still unable to move. But in front of her is a seal, and a weeping vestige standing in it. She'd chewed the split in her lip and SPIT the seal onto the ground in her own BLOOD

    When she saw us, the vestige disappeared... by turning into streams of water and pouring into her. Instantly she began weeping (visibly, not audibly) as the vestige had. The walls begin to crackle with electricity, and she cringes and shuts her eyes tight. A bolt of lightning appears from nowhere and... hits...her. Square in the back. The sound and noise are deafning, and she's obviously scorched and in pain, but the lightning bolt also destroyed the ropes and part of the chair holding her in place. We moved to fight her, but she sprinted past us.

    I hit her with an eldritch blast, but she took it in stride (even though she was obviously badly damaged and in pain), and ran straight out into the storm, jumped onto the deck of the ship, and dove straight into the stormy waters. We moved to the edge. She'd taken my form, and was pretending (quite obviously) to struggle and drown, before switching to her pale grey 'mask', smirking at us, and sinking into the inky waters with a mocking wave goodbye.

    The dragon shaman dove after her (the only one who could breath underwater, which she obviously could too now, due to the vestige), but between his armor and low swim checks, she disappeared into the murky depths.

    We got the dragon shaman back on deck.

    And the session ended.





    Destination Unknown

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    Session Starts where the last one left off.

    Some crazy mute Binder Changeling just summoned lightning in the hold of our ship and managed to escape into the black choppy waters of the unforgiving sea. The four of us are up on deck with our five-man-skeleton-band, fighting a horrible storm and trying to pick a heading to follow.

    The Dragon Shaman (who IS technically the captain of the ship) once again wants to return to the desert continent. He reminds us that The Drifter now has an undetermined number of spellcasting bugs, resurrecting warriors, a captive angel, and now a small group of skeletons carting a metric crapload of Black onyx.

    We point out that we still don't know a whole lot about what's going on, and there are still three potential places to find new information about What's Going On(tm). We've ruled out the arctic. Even if the destination wasn't being listed as a lie, the odds of us finding anything to go on there are slimmer than elsewhere.

    We elect to head for the second port on the Dark Continent after all, but agree that unless we find a very good reason not to, our next step is going to be to haul back to the Egyptian continent (with a brief stopover in the central island to check in with Macguiller and resupply, since that island is in the path between our next port, and the ziggurat anyway).

    So off we sail, into dark and stormy waters, wondering in the back of our minds if a psychotic murderous changeling is clinging to the hull of the ship.

    It turned out to NOT be the case, because we safely made it to our next destination. We sailed in to the port on an overcast morning through still choppy waters. The land itself looked to be a dense overgrown swampy jungle, and our first assumption had been that we'd lost our bearings in the storm. Then we saw a tiny dilapidated wooden pier at the mouth of a massive river, waving the flag of the Empires colors (black white and teal, for anyone concerned with such things). We pulled up to the rotten planks near as we could and docked, hoping our ship wouldn't just tear the pier clean off if it rocked in the water.

    Before we could do much, a man came walking out of the port masters shack with a lazy stride. His dress style was some combination of normal attire and 'native' decoration, but all of it sported the empires colors. He waved as he came up to us.

    "Ya don't wanna be stayin here. Plague's struck. Everyone's sick, ain't no one getting better." We asked him if he was the usual port master, and he let out a high sad laugh. "Sure am. Five years of stampin papers here, or twenty-five years of hard labor back home. I'm still wondering if I got the better deal."

    We asked for the details of the plague, and he said it was like some kind of massive flu that everyone seemed to come down with at once. Headaches, chills, fever, vomiting. Symptoms kept changing, no one was getting healthy. Told us again we might as well take off. Again we told him we didn't have much choice, so he sighed and asked for our port documents.

    When we told him we'd come from an abandoned port, he looked at us dubiously. We promised it was the case, but he shook his head and put up his hand to shut us up. Told us he didn't actually care where we'd come from, 50 gold and he'd update our paperwork and be on our merry way. We agreed, if only to cause less long term trouble. He actually updated our papers to include our LEAVING this port all ready, because he didn't want us interacting with him once we went further into the jungle, so we didn't "bring the plague to him".

    We verified that the river was deep enough to sail a 10-man ship up it, and he nodded that we shouldn't have any problem, but that when the river forked, keep to the left. We asked what was down the right, and he said that it was nothing but a village of natives struck worst by the plague. He also told us "If you ignore that advice and go to the village anyway, at least trust me on this one. Don't listen to a word Papa HeeNo says. Head full of crazy ideas, really shady guy." We asked who Papa HeeNo was, and he just shook his head and mouthed "Witch Doctor" before looking around nervously and heading back to his shack with a wave.



    PaPa HeeNo

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    So we set up the river. Naturally, the first thing we did when we saw the fork was to push right. It was difficult maneuvering, and eventually the water did run too shallow, and we had to leave the SS Ironman where she sat. I gave the skeletons a few daggers and told them to defend themselves and the ship, but not to attack unless they or the boat were being tampered with. (I considered that to be an acceptable balance between "lethal misunderstanding" and "loophole allowing destruction of our ship").

    We took to the skies here, with three of us riding our giant zombie bats, and our Dragonborn flying on his own wings (flying for a round here or there and then gliding along with us, since his wings can only support a few rounds of sustained flight per day).

    We spotted the native village in a clearing, and considered landing our bats in some trees and walking the rest of the way, but we opted to just land in the clearing. They looked so sick and listless we didn't think they would get too worked up, once we explained we were there to find out what was going on. We were completely right, our landing on flying bat corpses and dismounting stirred no huge response. They were all watching us, confused and curious... the healthier looking ones anyway. Most of them seemed so ill they were delirious, with the ones who still had to together trying to tend to the worst off.

    Our Dragon Shaman was largely struck with empathy, asking the DM if his lay on hands ability would provide any help. I was worried that using the healing now would be a... less than ideal tax on our collective resources, but he still knelt by the nearest person and put a hand to their forehead, promising he was trying to help, and letting a point of healing light pulse into them. It seemed to have no effect, so he tried a higher number (five), but it still looked like it wasn't doing anything. That's when Papa HeeNo showed up.

    He came out of nowhere, coming up to our group from a previously empty direction. He was seven and a half feet tall if he was an inch, and slender as a scarecrow. He didn't look like your archetypical 'witchdoctor', by which I mean there was no headdress or bone piercings or facial paint. There was no doubt about who he was though, he had a foreboding presence that demanded attention. "You dasn't try and help... won't do no good, and they dasn't need any right now."

    The swashbuckler makes a passing comment that they obviously DO need help, because they're obviously DYING.

    Papa HeeNo just goes on talking in his deep monotone. "I know what causin dis here sickness. A Man causin dis here sickness, and when he leaves he takes that sickness with him. And he leavin real soon. Come, Papa HeeNo needs your help."

    So of course we followed him. We walked to a dark and twisted tree growing half on the land and half out into the swampy water, when HeeNo reaches into its bundle of roots, and seemingly falls through them and into nothing. We just kinda stand there awkwardly, until HeeNo reaches his hand out and beckons for us to follow. So one by one, we go tumbling down through the roots and into a dank and dark little room. There's a bundle of rags in the corner that looks like a bed, a tiny table on the floor, and the walls are absolutely strewn with bones, shelves containing jars of eyes, live mice, and god knows what else. Hand-carved trinkets and voodoo dolls abound. Water is dripping from everywhere, and you get the distinct impression that we are definitely under the water line of the swamp. Occasionally there will be a shimmer of something perfectly polished and cleaned, intricate gold objects and glass lenses and such, standing out against the otherwise filthy and horrifying surroundings.

    And Papa HeeNo is sitting crosslegged at his tiny table (which is covered in runes and symbols and laid out in an obvious pattern). He's shaking bones in his fists and throwing them across the table, scanning his eyes over to take them all in before scooping them up and shaking them again. He keeps doing this over and over while he talks, Rattle, Rattle, Clatter, Pause, Scrape, Rattle, Rattle, Clatter, in a perfect and unbreakable rhythm.

    He starts talking before we can say anything. "You knowin dis Man I spoke of. You searchin for him, wantin to stop him. He bad man, doin bad things."

    Swashbuckler: “The bones told you that?”

    Papa HeeNo: "Your eyes told me that. I seein you knowin when I sayin. I can help you against dis man. He almost finishin what he doin here, and when he leaves, the sickness leaves with him."

    Papa Heeno stares us all in the eyes one by one, never breaking his rythm of the bones. "But dis man, he comin back someday soon. And when he comin back, he bringin somethin worse. Aint no one gonna live no more when he comin back"

    I asked what The Drifter is trying to do. Papa HeeNo just replies with "Somethin Bad. Some Sickness. Bad Sickness".

    We pause for a minute to take that in, before he goes on talking. "I can ward dis place against Him for a while. Keep the sickness out. For a time. But I needin ya help to do dis. If'n ya help Papa HeeNo, Papa HeeNo helpin ya. The Spirits showin me a Boon for each of ya. Ya help me, and I give dis Boon to ya."

    We glance at each other before most of us either shrug or nod. The Dragon Shaman says we'll help any way we can.

    Papa HeeNo just keeps shaking his bones and throwing them at the table. "A snake woman lives in the jungle." He points off in one direction during the pause before scooping his bones back up. "She's a bad snake woman, and she be mad at us. We be feedin her for years, meat. We'n too sick to feedin her anytime soon. She gettin hungry. She comin for us soon. You bring me dis woman's head, and I givin ya da Boon." he laughs, an unnerving monotonous laugh. "But ya be sendin the dragonman in first, ya hear?"

    And with that, he gestures for us to leave.



    Whacking Day

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    Being adventurers, a crazy witchdoctor telling us to go murder a stranger for profit seemed like a perfectly normal turn of events.

    So after a quick inventory/gear check to make sure our stuff was in good repair and we were sound for combat, we took to the skies. The Dragon Shaman only had two rounds of flight left, so he reluctantly hopped onto the bat with the kobold (best weight distribution), and we set off. We didn't have to go far, it couldn't have been more than a mile before we noticed something odd against the dense jungle canopy. There was an obvious stonework path - abandoned and in disrepair but clearly man-made - leading up to the remains of a small two story stone building of some kind. A few locations had given in and showed the ground floor below, and through them, we could barely make out a small female figure. I had Eldritch Spear as one of my blast shapes, and she was in range of it. I wanted to pop her, but the group elected to land and find out at least a little more about the situation before we started shooting complete strangers in the back.

    We landed the bats near the stone pathway, and I ordered them to take back to the skies and circle above the building in case I needed them to swoop in for assistance. We set out up the path, and everything seemed relatively normal. And by relatively normal, I mean the area was completely devoid of natural life, and there were stray bones and skulls in every direction you looked, apparently tossed into larger piles the closer you got to the entrance. The building was obviously falling apart. Rough gravel in odd shapes (apparently from the collapsing stone), the whole building was covered in moss and vines, but a spot check made us realize there were still no signs of non-plant creatures. Not even bugs.

    We snuck up to the entrance and leaned around, we could see a cloaked and hooded female form walking around. We heard very faint, angry murmuring. The area was shadowy, and she was moving away from us, so her exact location was difficult to place.

    Remembering Papa HeeNo's suggestion, we sent the dragon shaman in first. We stayed pretty much lock step behind him, checking every possible nook and corner. The woman had apparently disappeared from sight when we'd crossed the threshold. We took it slow, with no sign of her. Our assumption was that she knew we were here, and that we were playing on her terms. We turned out to be right, when we entered a room where the floor had given mostly in, and heard her voice from the broken 'balcony' above, asking what we're doing in her home in a voice that sounded like wet ash being run through a grinder.

    The dragon shaman approached her calmly, saying that Papa HeeNo had sent us, but that we were interested in learning more about the situation. She giggled, an ancient rattling sound, and said there was nothing to learn. The Dragon Shaman asked if she didn't want to tell us her side of the story.
    She giggled again, and said "I can SHOW you my side of the story?" Before ripping back her hood and staring dead at the Dragon Shaman.

    He immediately rolled a Fortitude save (and we all rolled initiative). He passed it, and tucked and rolled back to our group, saying "F*** ME it's a medusa!". Me and the kobold immediately dropped our eyes to the ground and shielded our eyes with our hands. Just in case. Our fortitude saves were NILL. The kobolds was worse than mine, but he can at least use inspiration to boost it up. I'm stuck trying to roll high numbers just to keep being made of meat!

    Nevertheless. I won initiative. So when actual combat began, my first course of action was to run blindly into the room, rough terrain and all, and fire a blind shot (total concealment) with my eldritch blast at the medusa. And I HIT her too, for a good roll at that. The kobold ran out too, and fired a blind hand-crossbow shot (but missed). The medusa went next, and she jumped down and used her gaze attack again, catching both of us in it. Total Concealment meant I didn't have to roll against it, but the kobold didn't get lucky and DID. Fortunately, he boosted the saving throw roll with his Inspiration ability, and survived it.

    The Swashbuckler cast True Strike, but stayed around the corner to attack the next round. The dragon shaman ran into range, and hit the medusa with his fire breath for good damage. I backed up to the wall and out of her gazes range, and fired another eldritch blast (which missed this time). The kobold used an inspiration point to cast Acid Arrow, and connected with it, which was great because it meant three rounds of acid damage for her.

    The medusa dashed through the crowd, passing by the dragon shaman, the kobold, and coming to stop in front of me (sticking to the wall). Her snake-hair bit every one of us on the way. The dragon shaman shrugged off the poison, the kobold used his last bit of inspiration on the saving throw roll again, but the poison went straight to my heart. Four strength damage (HALF MY STRENGHT) later, and I was a wreck.

    The Swashbuckler dashed into the room and two-handed power-attacked for a promised hit, and a BEAUTIFUL damage roll. It was glorious. The dragon shaman attacked her for another chunk of hitpoints.

    I spiderclimbed up the wall, yelling up to my bats "BABIES! KILL HER!" before firing another blind eldritch blast (Whiff). They start swooping down for an assault. The Kobold takes a swing and connects, but for 1d4-1 damage .

    The medusa uses her gaze attack, and things got ugly. The kobold and me both immediately failed and turned to stone where we stood. The problem was, HE was trying to cover his face and standing on solid ground, I was magically clinging to the wall 20 feet up and supported by nothing but the force of my own dark will.

    I came tumbling down, straight onto my legs, which cracked and shattered under the weight.

    Uh Oh

    The fight raged on. The Swashbuckler dropped his longsword and quickdrawed (quickdrew?) his rapier, striking with it for another decent damage roll. She was looking to go down for the count. The dragon shaman closed the gap and attacked for another chunk of hitpoints. The medusa used her gaze attack again, and this time, the swashbuckler failed his saving throw too, turning to a statue where he stood.

    It was her last action though. The Dragon Shamans breath weapon had recharged, and he rolled max damage (he actually threw his hands up and shouted "YAHTZEE!!!!!" after he rolled).

    For a more cinematic description, he actually pressed his hand over the medusas face, slammed the back of her head against the stone wall, and aimed low, charring her body to a crisp below the neck with such a vicious blast that her body literally just gave away under her neck and collapsed.
    Then the bats came and landed around him. They hadn't made it down in time for the fight



    Last Leg

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    The DM decided that me being a statue didn't mean they were out of my control, thankfully, so they just sat around waiting for my next order (which obviously wasn't coming). The Dragon Shaman scooped up the medusas head into a sack, so he wouldn't have to worry about glancing at it the wrong way, and then set about rummaging through the abandoned building. He found a few interesting things. A pair of dice that were seemingly carved out of bone and covered in strange runes, that he tucked safely into a pack. Some silver and gold coins, some gems and jewelry. And a small jar absolutely covered in tiny lizard statues (which were probably just tiny lizards, petrified in a huge number of layers).

    In the jar was a translucent blue goo, and when the dragonborn wiped the goo on the side of the jar, one of the lizards sprang to life and ran off into the jungle. So he naturally returned to us, and brought the kobold and swashbuckler back to life. The three of them stood around for a while, debating on what to do with me. My stone legs were absolutely shattered. Peicing them back together would take god knows how long, and that's if they could even find all the right peices in the gravely rubble. Closer examination revealed that a lot of the gravel was actually stone insects, so the odds of peicing me back together was nil. Then the Swashbuckler raised the gruesome possibility of my mangled legs rotting off of me if they did something wrong.

    It was THAT comment that made them decide to resurrect me sans lower limbs.

    So, THAT SUCKS.

    The Dragon Shaman thinks it's ironic justice. I skipped over the ability to fly at will in order to have zombie mounts. Now I NEED a zombie mount to MOVE under my own power. He chuckled. I glared.

    The zombie bats move at 20 feet, so I'm the slowest party member on land now. But my adventuring career isn't over. I auto-fail any dex or strength check that needs legs, and take a massive penalty to full body dex checks. But my ACTUAL dexterity is still okay, and my aim with my eldritch blast is still fine. So I just have to rely on clinging to a zombie bats back for most situations. I'm less mobile in general, but... it could be worse. I could have shattered outright. My character is in full on hardcore emo-mope mode over her loss though.

    My current plan, two levels from now, is to IMMEDIATELY take the Fell Flight invocation so I can fly under my own power, and then to IMMEDIATELY purchase a floor length dress. I'll be floating like a wraith, but at least I'll be more or less where I was before.



    Lime in the Coconut

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    So we saddle up, and fly back to the village. The Swashbuckler and Dragon Shaman have to help me into Papa HeeNos underground...hut...thing. But we all get situated. He's put his bones away by now, and it looks like he's been busy. The entire hut looks like its contents have been rearranged. He laughs when we tell him what happened, and asks for the bag. He fondles the head through the fabric, nodding to himself when he feels the snakes. Says that he's very glad she's dead, and that he's gonna cut the snakes off and put them around the village to ward off outsiders... that it'll keep them all safer, longer.

    Then he says that "The spirits got two boons for each of ya now."

    He has the kobold sit in the middle of the table, with me leaning in behind him. The swashbuckler and dragon shaman sat on either side of the two of us. First, he says, he's giving us all a boon of knowledge (but he points at me and says "Dis boon for ya, most of all"). He pulls a cage down from over his shoulder, full of the tiny little white mice. He opens the door and says "Allright now I need ten of ya babies to help Papa HeeNo now" and ten of them scurry out. They're still moving like mice, randomly, darting around, but they all moved out as a group all the same. He shut the door to the cage, still teeming with the other rodents, and left it there on the table.

    Then he scoops up a cup and pushes one of the mice into it. The other nine just run around the patterns on the outside of the table, never crossing into where the runes and symbols and letters are. He gestures to me and leans across the table, until we're almost nose to nose, before saying one word. "Priest". Only he says it "Prees-Tah". I arch my eyebrows in surprise, and he goes on "Ah ya be knowin him den. Da spirits don't lie do dey? Dis Prees-Tah, he a bad man. He doin bad tings, da spirits don't like him none at all."

    Papa HeeNo cups his hand over the cup and starts rattling it around ruthlessly, probably bludgeoning the hell out of the poor mouse inside, before uncupping his hand and pouring the mouse out into the middle of the table. The mouse runs in a dizzy circle, before finally coming to rest, at which point Papa HeeNo SLAMS a thin iron spike down through the base of the mouses neck and into one of the symbols.

    Our group reaciton was "OH!"

    He scoops another mouse into the cup and repeats the process. "Da spirits... dey gonna tell us where ya be findin more about dis Prees-Tah. Dey gonna show where ya goin to learn ta stop stop him."

    He pours out another mouse, waits for it to stop and SLAMS another spike down into the table. He does it with all ten of them, before looking down at the pattern the mice formed, and mouthing wordlessly.

    "Papa HeeNo dont know what dis here means. But da Spirits say YOU do" pointing at me directly.

    As an aside, this next part is something me and the DM set up ahead of this session. It was setting this up that PROBABLY saved my character. Spiderclimbing up a wall while fighting a medusa was a poor tactical decision, and the fact that I lost my legs instead of shattering entirely is probably because our DM wanted the plans to carry on.

    He hasn't SAID that, it's just the vibe I get

    Papa Heeno just says one simple sentence. "Mercyglade."

    I just stare blankly at him, before replying quietly "The asylum".

    The factotum asks what asylum, and I respond "The asylum they put me in when I started talking back to the voices."

    The table (the REAL table, the one the players are sitting at) is quiet for a minute, and the swashbuckler leans off to the side and says "I now take a 5-foot step AWAY from the warlock..."

    We all laugh, and then the game continues.

    Papa HeeNo nods and goes on "Ya be goin back to Mercyglade. Ya be findin more about dis Prees-Tah. Ya be learning how ta stop him."

    I just nod quietly, looking conerned to the point of illness. Then he pulled out the spikes, scooped the dead mice into another box, poured some white liquid into it, closed it, and shook it all around while chanting. When he opened the box to pour the contents back into the cage with the mice, the ten 'helpers' he'd spiked all looked completely normal, hale, and healthy.

    Then HeeNo reaches into the box next to his table and starts pulling out odd little trinkets.

    The Swashbuckler gets a little wooden ring, intricately carved around the entire length. He says it'll give him more magic, and help him use it better. It turns out that the ring gives him an extra four first-level spell slots, and lets him cast first level spells as a swift action twice a day.

    The Factotum gets some kind of sandals. They're more like leather circles that go under the arch of the foot, and lace up around the ankles. They turn out to give him an extra 10 feet move rate, and let him make some downright ridiculous jump checks. Which is exactly what he wants out of life. It also gave him two extra inspiration points.

    The Dragon Shaman gets what looks like tiny golden webs made out of delicate feathers, that Papa HeeNo draps over the spikes on his wings. The golden clings to the dragon shamans skin, and will allow him to fly for three times as long as he could otherwise. When he gets the ability to fly indefinitely, the feathers will increase his maneuverability by one step.

    I get a pair of black leather wrist braces, laced, and covered in red runes. There are holes for more lacework to be done, and one thin silver chain laced on lower left brace. He also gave me a matching set of short black leather straps, and an additional chain. The way the extra straps sat, it looked like a loopy X made to go over a sphere. I had a clue what the extra bit was for. The braces themselves pumped up my eldritch blast by 2d6, and gave me an extra invocation of the lowest level (still no fell flight).

    Papa HeeNo says "Okay, da girl got the knowledge, ya all got ya tings. Three boons left". He pulls out three bottles of foul black sludge, and hands one each to the swashbuckler and dragon shaman. He tells the kobold to put his hands face down on the table in front of him, and sets the third bottle between them.

    He tells the two holding the bottles to drink. They hesitate, naturally, and he says "Drink now before ya makin the spirits angry". Since we're adventurers, and doing stupid things is just a matter of course for us, they both chug the bottles together while cringing. Then they both immediately pass out onto the floor together.

    Before me or the kobold can react, HeeNo pulls out two more of those iron spikes and SLAMS them down through the center of the kobolds hands, nailed them to the table. As the kobold scream, HeeNo, fast and practiced, opened the bottle and pours it out over both of his hands, before putting his hand on the kobolds face and SHOVES him back so hard his hands slide up over the tops of the spikes, leaving them still in the table and covered in blood and a nasty black syrup.

    The kobold topples back, knocking us both to the ground, and passes out on top of me. Papa HeeNo moved too fast to respond to, stepping over the table in one motion, and leaning down over me. I manage to get out "Was this a double cross?" before HeeNo exhales a black cloud of smoke in my face, saying "Sleep Now Girl".




    Ja Boons

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    We all come to at about the same time. Sitting out in the sunlight, laying in the middle of the village clearing, coming to with the worst headaches any of us have had. We ran over to the roots of HeeNo's hut, but it seemed to be nothing but dirt underneath. The entrance was gone.

    It turned out, whatever HeeNo had done was a blessing of some kind though. The Swashbuckler got +2 Dex and another first level spell known (which he didn't consider too hot, but we talked him into taking Protection from Evil. Since he's our strongest attacker, we like the idea of him having a buffer against being mind-controlled).

    The Dragon Shaman got a +2 to CON and a +2 to CHA, as well as being able to manifest two auras at once (he checked, he can still take the double-draconic aura feats to manifest three at once, at some point). Pretty darn handy, as the extra CON is actually another three rounds of flying for him, and the extra CHA increases the multiplier for how many Lay On Hands healing points he has).

    The Kobold got it the coolest though. When we checked, his hands had two perfect holes through them in the shape of eyes. The skin around them was jet black, and the black was spreading rapidly. If you looked closely, you could actually see it bleeding ever so gradually into his normal skin color. By nightfall, the black will have encompassed him entirely, and given him the Shadow template.
    Shadow Kobold. Wicked.

    He's trying to decide between Fast Healing 2 or Damage Reduction 5/magic for his shadowy perk.



    Intermission

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    Now, we have a problem here. A combination of me getting more into the flow or writing, and this session being very roleplaying-heavy with less combat, means we're actually only HALF of the way through tuesday night session, and this post is already ridiculously huge.

    I'm going to stop and post this while I work on the rest of this session, and HOPEFULLY I'll have the second part up before our next game saturday. I'll work on being a little more concise in the future.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    May 2006

    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Adrift Again

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    Second half of the last session, GO:

    So we finished testing out the new toys Papa HeeNo gave us, and content like adventurers always are (read: immediately looking for the next great conquest) we set back off for our ship. The other players had to help me onto my bat, and the humiliation and frustration resultant meant that I pretty much vowed to never LEAVE my bat again, until I was capable of flying under my own power (or found an upgraded mount).

    We made our way back to the SS Ironman, and found she was still unhassled (along with the hiding skeleton crew). So with some difficulty we pushed back down the river and continued sailing further up. the other path. On deck, we took a closer look at the two six-sided dice the dragon shaman had found in the medusas gear.

    One die was mostly incomprehensible arcane symbols. Knowledge Arcana skill checks revealed a little more about what they meant. The symbols were summed up as "Draconic", "Giant", "Skeletal", "Fiendish", "Unnatural", and "Swarm". The other die had animal symbols on it. A Wolf, a Bird, a Spider, a Tiger, a Rabbit, and a Humanoid. Knowledge checks turned up nothing.
    Factotum: ...Well? Throw em!

    So we cleared a spot on the deck and the dragon shaman rolled the dice. It came up "Giant" and "Tiger". For a moment nothing happened, but then the dice turned solid black, and a HUGE tiger flashed into existence standing above them. The tiger looked at us, roared, and charged in attack. It was strong, but we still managed to mop it up with a minimum of real danger. The dice had turned solid black, but we could see they were slowly changing color. We figured that was our indicator of how long before we could use them again, but it was too early to tell if it was once a day, or a few times per day, or what.

    The dice seemed... interesting. They were a wild card, for sure. It was obvious that it summoned a monster based on what roll came up, but the monster clearly also had no loyalty to the dice-thrower. Hopefully it would just attack everything nearby at random, meaning we could find ways to use it to our advantage (clear range, have kobold throw dice from rafter, watch chaos).

    We sailed up river, looking at the shoreline for anything suspicious. Finally, we saw another ship anchored by some trees up ahead... and closer examination? Revealed that the thing was utterly swarming with insects. In fact, they were swarming so thickly that the entire vessel was in a thick black cloud of them. Even from the other ship, we could tell that some of them looked clearly dangerous. There was no way we were going to board the ship.

    The Factotum raised the possibility that the bugs were some kind of defense mechanism. A shield for the ship or something, while the owner is away. It was working. We kept our distance from the cloud of possibly venomous insects (possibly carrying malaria or something). But we knew this was a lead we had to check up on. Especially when we snaked around the ship and got ot the shore, only to find an obvious trail of insects crushed under human feet leading off into the trees.

    Naturally we stumbled off in that direction, tracking down whoever it was. What did confuse us was that it was only one set of tracks leading away from the boat. Either the person at the helm could handle it all alone (less than likely), or they were pulling some shenanigans like us with a fake crew. Either way, the person we were tracking was not someone to take lightly, so we approached cautiously, amazed at the sheer number of crunched bug corpses strewn about. At one point during the tracking, we found a crystal-cantrip casting bug crushed under foot, and looted the two remaining crystals (mage hand ones, oddly enough).

    We actually had to track for two days at a brisk pace, with a few small random animal encounters on the way. Finally we came to a valley, and saw where we were going. It was another ziggurat... one that was almost IDENTICAL to the one back on the egyptian continent. Only this one was unearthed, and came almost to the top of the very very deep valley. It was easily fifty stories, with a base the size of several city blocks.

    Our DM had us roll spot checks, and we noticed that, in this area? Things weren't quite right. The vegetation was growing in strange patterns. Leaves were thicker in some areas as opposed to broader. Insects had odd numbers of legs, too many legs... we found spiders with wings. Lizards with multiple eyes.. and so on. Like this area was full of mutations or something.

    We suspected the ziggurat as the cause, and pressed on, following the tracks to the base. We could see no way in, but that wasn't our primary concern, since the tracks actually led up the side. So we just flew up, keeping an eye for where the dead insects were the heaviest, until we finally saw it leading into a crack in the side of one of the levels (give or take thirty stories up).

    We squeezed in (literally, it was a squeeze for large creatures, and the bats are large) and continued following the tracks. There were bugs on everything, and the further in we got, the thicker they seemed to get. It was the earlier ziggurat all over again... the deeper we got, the more we heard this creepy insane muttering in an entire smattering of languages. The babble would go from common, to infernal, to celestial, to ignan, to a language none of us knew, and back again...

    And again, we round a corner to find our beloved Drifter pacing through a massive swarm of bugs, angrily babbling to himself in a way that only the insane can seem to muster. A lot of it we didn't understand, but we did catch the phrases "Ultimate Parasite" and "ascension".

    We remember what happened last time. This guy almost single handedly took out our party. We were debating trying to sneak attack him, or whether we should try to start a dialog (from a distance obviously) when our decision was made for us. Some of the nearby bugs started chittering and flying at an increased intensity. So intense that it spread like a wave, the entire open chamber the Drifter was in turned into a scream of tiny insect wings as they alerted him to our presence. He turned to the doorway, and muttered louder, "Who who who who?"

    So... we got ready for grief and poked our heads around the corner.

    He barely even reacts to recognizing us. Just mutters "Bothering us again again still bothering us thought we killed them Priest was right they're still alive bothering us.". He stuck his tongue out and pulled a centipede crawling across his face in with it and bit down with a crunch.

    Our factotum starts to say "We don't want to fight, we just want to know what's going on." But the drifter just angrily mutters "No no no don't listen to them we're done here anyway we have to leave".

    And with that, giant insectoid wings tear out through his back and through the filthy rags he wears, and he immediately begins fluttering up into the darkness. Now we start to fly up after him, but we're hit with another massive swarm of stinging venomous insects. By this level, we're fighting them off pretty well... and we think we'll be able to do a general mop-up with fire breath and high-level tricks, but that's right around the time the giant spiders descended from the ceiling on silent strands, and the spellcasting bugs began swarming us (hitting us with FIREBALLS and VAMPIRIC TOUCH ). We were definitely outgunned, and actually took to running away once our hitpoints got too low, and the bugs showed no sign of stopping. The factotum did manage to pocket three Fireball crystals though.

    By the time we fought our way back into the daylight (where the majority of the bugs didn't venture back out into), we couldn't see the Drifter in any direction. He was probably crafty enough to duck down into the trees, rather than soaring blatantly through the mid-day sun. We flew back to the ship, and the Drifters ship still sat there, still cloaked in a cloud of angry bugs. He'd either taken off on his wings, or he'd hidden below deck. We landed on the deck of our own ship (and lit his ship on fire from a distance, just to be sure) and eagerly set off to get back down the river.

    It was around this time that it hit me. Our bats had taken a severe pounding during the bug fight, and they were now critically important to my survival and sanity. I took my own bat down below decks to keep him safe and out of harms way, and began thinking of ways to start healing/protecting him a little better for the next few levels. We don't have any reliable way to generate negative energy, so right now he's sitting at dangerously low hitpoints and I'm feeling remarkably vulnerable.

    We've discussed it a bit since then. Cleric (for Inflict spells) is out, because only one of us have the WIS necessary, and he's not multiclassing. I hate to delay my warlock progression any, and I certainly am looking forward to getting Fell Flight as quick as possible, but I may take a level of Dread Necromancer the next time we level, just for the ability to pump unlimited negative healing into my now-oh-so-important SkyRat. It's not like I don't already have the whole "undead aficionado" thing going for me.

    We're still up in the air about what to do now. Mercyglade Asylum is back in the temperate continent controlled by the royal empire. Even the Dragon Shaman thinks going there as soon as possible is a good idea. We also know that the villains plot is starting to come together, and we do want to bring the heat to them.

    Going to Mercyglade first will probably give us some critical backstory, and maybe even a necessary key to winning The Good Fight(tm). On the other hand, we're adventurers, and we can probably pull off something Just Crazy Enough To Work(tm) if we go straight to the other ziggurat.

    Or next game is tonight, so we'll see what happens.

    And WHEW, all caught up. It's a good feeling. This is a little shorter than the first half, even though it took about the same length of time. Out of necessity, I cut back a little on the extra details, so I could have the core critical stuff posted before our next game session (if I start falling behind, things'll get very abrupt when I'm trying to write it all out )

    Glad everyone's still enjoying my ramblings though.



    What To Do?

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    Next Gaming Session

    So we found ourselves in an unusual situation for our group. For the first time since the angel had been kidnapped, our Dragon Shaman wasn't interested in pursuing her trail directly. His rational was that by this point, she's either dead due to that being the plan anyway, or alive due to them needing her that way for whatever they were getting ready to do.

    The way we had hit multiple ports all within a week of each other meant that we weren't actually THAT far behind the group at large. We still don't know what Therin did, or where he went, and we still don't know what (if anything) was up with the unidentified fifth man. We do know that they now have a whole mess of black onyx, a live angel, and a new strain of stronger spellcasting bugs. We knew that the ziggurat we were in had caused mutations (It's even possible that The Drifters insects wings were from prolonged exposure to the ziggurat, and not from some class or spell specifically), and that the mutations had probably been changing what the spellcasting bugs did. It occured to the factotum that the Vampiric Touch casting bugs were the first ones we'd encountered that were using NECROMANCY spells... Between that and the black onyx? Well, we still don't know what exactly is going on, but it's starting to look like it's all definitely connected, and it's definitely something we don't want to LET happen.

    At the same time, the Drifter is flying under his own power. He doesn't have the wind at his back speeding up the process, and even when he gets to the continent, he's probably still going to have to set things up. Making a side trip to the Empire continent will only change our target destination by just under two weeks. Since we'll be avoiding docking at a major port, to get us closer to the city Mercyglade is contained in, it'll only be a days flight by bat. We all agree that, whatever else is going on, we need to know more about Priest and hopefully find out how to shut down those returning fighters of his.

    So that's what we all collectively agree (for the first time in quiet a while) needs to happen. We set sail northward, bringing us close to (but not directly on) the coastline of the temperate continent. We pick an area that's give or take near where Mercyglade is, tell the skeletons to circle in the waters, but to avoid any other ships, and take to the skies, flying in over the forest. Thankfully, zombie bats don't get tired, so a few hours later we were still coasting along happily, and spotted the outskirts of a major metropolitan city.

    The city wasn't our destination though. Mercyglade was an asylum, built a decent way outside of the city directly (No one wants lunatics in their back yard, after all), on a mountainside facing away from the city itself (don't want the lunatics looking out the windows and getting ideas, after all). So we steer further north and come in low, flying just over the treetops. Eventually, we spot our destination a few hundred yards off into the distance.



    Black Hawk Down

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    And right around this time, a giant rock comes hurtling through the trees and nails the underside of my bat, finally knocking it down to zero hitpoints and sending me and my dead mount tumbling out of the sky and onto the hard ground. Fortunately, we were only 50 feet up or so, so I survived the fall damage. Unfortunately, I was essentially helpless, laying on the ground next to a large dead bat, and watching the lumbering Hill Giant running awkwardly towards me and cheering about how he caught his dinner. He was still around 200 feet off, out of range of a lot, but fortunately I nailed him with an Eldritch Spear. Unfortunately, I rolled horribly and barely annoyed his hitpoint total.

    I was still able to spiderclimb at will, assuming I could drag myself (5 foot move rate) to one of the trees (20 feet away) before the hill giant came up and started pummeling me into pulp with his club. The option sounded... less than ideal. Fortunately, the next round of combat involved the Dragon Shaman calling for the Swashbuckler to throw him his rapier, catching it in midair, and flying off the bat to make a charging/piercing Dive attack for double damage, which was more than my puny blast had done.

    The Factotum and Swashbuckler both landed their respective bats in the treetops and jumped down to help us out, but used all of their actions doing so.

    Which meant it was the Giants turn again. He opened with a full attack on the Dragon Shaman, hit both times, and took over half of the dragon shamans hitpoint total off in a single round, when we'd barely scratched him. I was still laying in the brush a few hundred feet away, so all I could do was Eldritch Spear another blast into the giants face (rolled better this time, at least) and send my normal sized bats flying in to try to create a distraction. The Dragon Shaman took off flying in a (justifiable!) panic, as one more full attack would send him into negatives, but he hit the Hill Giant for a good chunk of fire damage from his fire breath too.

    The Swashbuckler closed the distance and made a two-handed true-striking power attack (thank god) for a massive chunk of damage, and the Factotum circled around to get into flanking position and made a really sturdy sneak attack. We all kind of winced, because it was the giants turn again, and frankly, the two combatants still in range were not built to take full-attacks form greatclub weilding giants. Worse, the Giant, being angry about the sneak attack, elected to open his full attack on the KOBOLD .

    Now, I may have mentioned this, but between his size, various bonuses, ect, ect, our kobold actually has the highest AC in the group. The way the giant rolled was actually two near misses, effectively rendering the giant moot for his turn. I told the kobold he needed to RUN, because the giant could actually reasonably roll well enough to send the kobold to -10 in a single turn. The kobold just shook his head and stayed in flanking position.

    I fired off another eldritch blast, feeling for all the world like a portable turret system, and rolled another good hit of damage. The Dragon Shaman used a good portion of his healing touch to bring himself above the "one shot kill" ranged and circled into position for another dive attack. The swashbuckler made another two-handed true-striking power attack, for another beautiful damage roll. The Factotum made another sneak attack, but rolled poorly and didn't really do much damage.

    *Wince*

    Giants turn. Frustrated with the kobold, the giant makes a full attack against the Swashbuckler instead. And he elects to mimic his assailaint in kind, two-handed power-attacking him. In one turn, he knocked him from full hitpoints, to NEGATIVE EIGHT. The DM described it as just a Steroid Fueled Major League Baseball SLAM that literally sent the swashbuckler tumbling heels over head (over heels over head, over heels...ect) backwards and spinning out unconscious into the grass.

    I fire another eldritch blast .

    The Dragon Shaman, being too far from the Swashbuckler to help, elects to make another dive attack for double piercing damage. The swashbuckler bleeds out to -9 and fails his stabilization check. Fortunately, the kobold has his ridiculous move speed (and is everywhere we need him to be), because he cleared the gap between himself and the swashbuckler with move to spare, and used his last inspiration point to bring the poor guy up to four hitpoints.

    Swashbuckler: Four whole hitpoints? I could kiss you!

    Except the Factotums inspiration has run dry.

    *Wince*

    Giants turn again.

    He initiates a charging bull rush against the Dragon Shaman, who is currently AIRBORN, a size category smaller, and not really all that strong. Yeah, the giant blew the Dragon Shamans opposed check out of the freaking water, and pushed him back effortlessly back something like 100 feet.
    I won't lie, I had a moment of temporary cowardice. The Hill Giant was now closer to me than he was to the kobold and swashbuckler, and our dragon shaman didn't really have much meat to bring to this fight. And I was prone and helpless. I seriously considered trying to drag myself to a tree to climb up it instead of continuing an attack. But I wound up shaking my head and firing off another eldritch blast all the same.

    1, 1, 1, 1, 2. Talk about bad karma. Or that was fates way of telling me cowardice exists for a reason

    The bats closed the distance and started swarming around the Hill Giant, but he refused to acknowledge them in favor of the whimpering target that kept firing bright shiny pulses of magical energy at him. The Dragon Shaman took a piddling swing, but barely scratched the behemoth.

    The Swashbuckler and Kobold both got up and started sprinting back to the fight. With the kobolds move rate, he got almost in range, but not quiet. He intentionally stopped shorter than he could have, to keep himself out of the giants move range, knowing he could close the gap on his next turn if he didn't get himself killed on this one.

    *Wince*

    The giant bullrushes again, this time knocking the dragon shaman from airborn to prone, and right next to me. I fire another eldritch blast, the dragon shaman breaths fire into the giants face. Neither roll was very good. We're a little concerned here, because on the giants next turn, he could realistically power-attack and kill either one of us flat, without really breaking a sweat.

    Which is when the kobold, moving a ridiculous distance lightning fast, makes a charge attack and FLINGS himself at the giant, with nothing but his itty bitty little sword, strength penalty and all.

    Apparently, the Giant had had exactly three hitpoints left, because four was enough to knock him into negatives and make him fall face first in the dirt

    Factotum: Can I do a one-handed handstand with the grip of the sword sticking out of the hill giants back, doing gymnast like poses in midair because I'm just that awesome?
    DM: I don't see why not!

    So we all collect ourselves, start healing up those in need (swashbuckler waved his hands frantically), and figure out what to do now. I ask if I can re-stitch the dead bat as a weaker version and re-animate it? No dice. A zombie dies when its not structurally capable of EXISTING anymore, that bat is pulp, says the DM. The Dragon Shaman suggests that I can ride with the Swashbuckler, like he's been riding with the kobold. By weight it should work, especially with me lacking legs. I just sit there moping for a moment, before it hits me.

    ME: Is that hill giant still breathing?

    DM: He passed his stabilization check, yeah, he's at -3 hitpoints.

    Me: I fire a an eldritch blast into the base of his skull and start rummaging through my pack for more black onyx.

    The whole table gave me this face

    Me: What? He's large sized. He's got legs, I need legs. I'm turning him into a skeleton, cracking open his ribcage, and riding around inside of him until something better comes up.

    The table continues to stare

    Me: Someone help strap me to his spine and pad his hipbones.

    So, I got new legs, which is interesting. The DM ruled that it's basically like any other zombie mount. Controlling him takes some of my turn if I want him to do anything tricky, moving is more or less straight forward, dismounting will take twice as long since I'm literally held in place with leather straps. I'd better avoid populated areas until I find a new option. He also can't fly, but his base move rate is better than mine was when I HAD legs, and it matches the zombie bats fly speeds. So it'll do for now.

    Plus he still has his greatclub

    As an aside, after that fight, we leveled up. I basically flipped a coin as to whether or not I was going to take a level of dread necromancer or another level of Warlock, but in the end, I decided on staying pure warlock. My current ride is ridiculously sturdy compared to the bats, and by the time it's a concern, I'm sure we can find other options for mounts for me and the others. Plus Warlock 7 is a good level, I get fiendish Resilience to allow me to heal myself, contributing to our overall group hitpoint total.

    So imagine our surprise when the (severe attention span problem) Swashbuckler announces that he's taking a few levels in Archivist next. We asked why, and he said "You've all got healing, we might as well round it out. Besides, now I can heal everyones mounts during down times. And I think I want in on this undead action myself." So now he's a Swashbuckler 4, Sorcerer 2, Archivist 1, contemplating staying in Archivist until he gains access to Animate Dead.

    And now our group has two fledgling necromancers. The Dragon Shaman face-palmed.

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    I'd also like to point out that we ALL face-palmed when we realized that throwing the dice from the air and summoning "Question Mark" creature to soften up the hill giant would have been WAY smarter.
    Our DM even laughed at us and said that's what he'd expected us to do, because the hill giant was a tougher fight than we should have been up against.

    Hindsight's 20/20, right?



    Mercyglade

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    Picking up where I left off (leveling up on our way to the asylum), this is the tail-end of our last gaming session.

    I should point out that me and the DM basically got together and sat down outside of the game sessions so he could teach me about the asylum. What it had been like, and so on, so I wouldn't fumble and shuffle awkwardly if someone asked me about the backstory.

    So we trek on towards the asylum. Me in my Giant skeleton (who I'm considering getting a giant hooded robe for to try to pass off as some kind of real giant in a pinch), and the rest of the group circling above on our two remaining bats (who are in less danger of being destroyed thanks to a few handy dandy inflict spells).

    The asylum itself is a massive compound, three individual buildings surrounded by two layers of wrought iron gates topped with spikes. One of the buildings has a series of towers jutting out from it in random locations. I mentioned that they had cells at the top for high-risk-of-escape patients. The Factotum asked how I knew, and I mentioned that the third one from the left had been mine. I drop a little exposition, that the asylum wasn't actually a terrible place. The doctors were mostly holy men of varying degrees, and truly wanted to help. They didn't torture us or anything, I was just high risk because I kept trying to escape.

    So we press on, and the closer we get, the more something seems wrong. We can hear a really faint echo from inside, sounding like a small group all crying. And the place looks to be abandoned of any activity. When we get to the outer gate (with me staying hidden out among some trees) we can see that, yes, something is definitely off. There's no one. No guards, no doctors, no patients walking in the courtyard. Windows are broken, no movement is occurring inside... The place doesn't look decrepit. It isn't falling apart under the elements just yet... it seems there's no one left.

    Relatively confident that our riding around with a posse of undead creatures won't draw massive amounts of attention, the fliers land and we all go in through the front gate. The hinges creaking garners us no extra attention. We can still hear crying echoing through the courtyard, and it's getting louder. We pass through the open terrain with no incident. We debate the best place to start searching for information (or the source of the crying), and come to the conclusion that this is one of those times kicking in the front door is not only acceptable, it's borderline desirable.

    So kick in the front door we do, and rush into the lobby of the asylum and take up defensive positions, darting our eyes everywhere for anomalies. We see papers scattered everywhere, and it's very, very dark, but aside from those two details, everything seems normal. Dusty, clearly unused for weeks, maybe months... but normal. Having been met with no resistance from our SWAT team style entry, but still clearly hearing faint crying echoing through the halls, we suddenly become much more unsettled, and opted to press on more carefully. We snaked through the abandoned halls, occasionally poking our faces into rooms only to find more of the same scene (papers everywhere, filing desks overturned... as if someone had been searching for something). Finally, we ascended to the second level, and entered a room that had a balcony/walkway circling and overlooking a great hall full of tables and benches.

    And everywhere we looked? Floating apparitions, looking for all the world like incorporeal patients in asylum gowns, weeping and babbling and muttering to themselves in a mad rolling wave. Suddenly, they all noticed us in unison, and began to disperse. Sinking into the floor, floating back through walls, floating into support columns... the crying, insane noises surrounded us, coming through walls and floor and ceilings... and everywhere we looked, we'd see spectral palms just barely breaching the surfaces of everything in sight...

    Dragon Shaman: How are everyone's FORT and WILL saves these days?

    Factotum: ...Bad...

    Swashbuckler: Middling

    Me: Same, not as low as the factotums...

    Dragon Shaman: I guess I'm on point... Anyone have anything that works especially well against ghosts?

    Me: Nope. It's all got a 50% miss chance...

    Factotum: This is so so bad.

    Which is when one of them raises from the floor in front of us, babbling incoherently. We all roll will saves, but even with using an inspiration point to boost his saving throw, the kobold fails spectacularly. His eyes glaze over and he just stands there, swaying lightly, babbling to himself sadly the same way the ghost had been. The Dragon Shaman scoops him up and flies out over the grand hall, banking in tight circles to keep him away from the ghosts while he's helpless. The Swashbuckler thanks his lucky stars that he took Magic Weapon as a spell known. He debates on whether or not the spell should go to his own blade, or to my skeletons greatclub. The reasoning being that he can make better tactical decisions, but the giant won't stop smacking ghosts around until there are none left, even if we all go catatonic.

    Eventually he decides to cast it on his own blade, but tells me that if he gets mindsnapped or something to have my skeleton grab it ASAP. He quick casts it and swings at the nearest ghost, connecting for a good bit of damage.

    I fired an eldritch blast at the ghosts face point blank. It went through the miss chance, and rolled One 4, One 5 and Three 6s. I guess my dice knew I was mad at them. It was enough to make the ghostly creature disappear in a sad quiet puff of light. I beleive that's when I hummed the ghostbusters theme song.

    The Dragon Shaman was close to getting swarmed by flying apparitions, but a quick check revealed that his breath weapon was a Supernatural ability, which meant it could affect the ghosts (with a miss chance). He reared up as high as he could and breathed a cone of fire straight downwards, catching as many as he could in the blast. He got four or five of them, but not enough to destroy any, and the whole group kept pursuing him.

    The kobold continued to stare in abject horror while babbling like a lunatic. We needed to keep him safe, as he was the only one of us with an attack that could directly affect the ghosts (Opportunistic Piety could either turn them, or hurt them outright). Even if he were able to act though, we were definitely getting swarmed by way too many of them for his presence alone to turn the tide.

    The Swashbuckler took a jump onto the edge of the balcony and swung out at the flying cloud of ghosts trying to get the dragon shaman (ignoring the growing cloud of ghosts that were swarming our position). But due to the miss chance, his sword just swung through them and caused no real harm.
    I Fired an eldritch blast at the group behind us, but it just blew through them like they weren't there (well, because they weren't).

    The fight basically went on like that. Hopeless. The kobold finally stopped babbeling incoherently at one point, and managed to get off a Turn Undead, sending four of the ghosts screaming and clawing straight down through the floor to escape his divine wrath. Unfortunately, the next turn, the swashbuckler and kobold BOTH failed the will save to avoid becoming babbeling messes again, and were both rendered helpless. We were taking wisdom damage left and right...

    I shouted to the Dragon Shaman that we needed to BOOK, and fast. He agreed, and banked to the balcony to join the escape. I had my giant skeleton chasis grab the incoherant swashbuckler, and we both started to run back to the front door, carting our helpless compatriots along with us. It was daylight outside. If we could just make it back into the sun?

    Which was about our last thought as the swarm of ghosts finally wisdom drained us into nothing, and sent us into a catatonic restless state full of nightmares and tremors...



    Meet the Staff

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    We woke up from our horrible coma to brand new surroundings. Each of us sat in a plain metal chair, manacled into place, and utterly motionless. We could make out that we were in an office, and we were facing a large desk. A tall bald man with glasses sat scratching at the desk with a pen. A spot check revealed two things. There was no paper, the desk there was almost solid black with repeat applications of ink without any effort to actually record what was there.

    The second thing we noticed, was that we could clearly make out the wall through the man.

    He sighed, and stopped scratching at the desk with his pen (though the pen just sat there pointed down as if he were still holding it). He rubbed the smooth top of his head and sighed again.

    "We prefer not to have impromptu visitors here, you know. It gets the patients so worked up."

    Not knowing what to do, the Swashbuckler just squeaked out "Sorry Sir."

    "You might have undone an entire weeks worth of treatment for some of our more encouraging ones"

    The dragon Shaman squeaked out "Yes sir, sorry... we weren't trying to cause any trouble."

    The (apparently) ghostly director once again started scratching at his desk with the pen, before sighing again. "Well, there's no sense dwelling on an honest mistake, is there? Tell me, who were you here to visit, anyway?"

    We paused awkwardly, before the Factotum said "Actually, we're really just here for information. See, there's a man. Calls himself Priest... We think he's been here before... maybe a patient? He's been causing trouble, and we were hoping to find out more about him...?"

    The bald man looked up from his desk, startled, and suddenly the manacles holding us in place unlocked and opened all at once. The director laughed, and said "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were constables! My mistake, we should have been expecting you back, what with all the trouble occurring here!".

    We all rubbed our wrists, and I looked around for my Giant skeleton. He was nowhere to be seen.

    The director continued "A patient here you say? Come with me, we'll check the hall of records and see what we can't find out for you!"

    I sat awkwardly for a minute before the Dragon Shaman offered to carry me piggyback... Humiliating, but I was grateful for the help all the same. So the four of us cautiously trailed the ghostly director as he floated down the dark and abandoned halls of the former asylum. Everywhere we looked, we would see the occasional pair of eyes, or even a face, pressing out of the walls and furniture...watching us closely. Occasionally we'd see a spectral doctor or orderly keeping tabs on us as well...

    Finally we made it to the hall of records. Drawers slammed open in unison and papers began flying out in a rapid wave, circling the room as if a small tornado had been let loose. The director asked "Priest, you said? I'm terrible with names, always have been, but I'm not finding any records of a man named Priest serving as a patient here. I'm much better with faces... perhaps you could describe him?"

    When he said that, I made a point of looking down and back, covering my face a little behind the Dragon Shamans head.

    The Swashbuckler fielded the question. As soon as he said the phrase "Horrible grin", the papers all stopped flying and immediately settled on the floor. The director looked at us with a mixture of recognition and sadness. "Oh." he said, as a whole new set of drawers slammed open, and a whole new set of papers began flying around. One leafed out through the mess and flew in front of our group. The kobold snatched it, and began to skim it
    .
    The director went on "Priest wasn't a patient. He was sent here as a temporary aid from the church. He was only with us for a few weeks before this ghastly trouble all began."

    The kobold nodded, and asked "Why did they send him?"

    The director sighed. "One of our patients had a... problem. We were doing all we could to help her, and keep her from escaping. But it seems we let her down on both counts." I buried my face deeper into the Dragon Shamans back. "She sold her soul, it seems, in a bid for dark powers. Used them to escape in the middle of the night... we never COULD get the markings off her cell. Seems the shadows and symbols in the process burned themselves clean into the walls and floor. After so many years of trying to remove the markings, Priest came in to examine the cell and learn more about what had occurred... But after a few weeks, well. Everything went to hell one night. We're still trying to sort through the whole mess, you see. The cells in the east wing caught the worst of it. Ghastly, ghastly business."

    The swashbuckler asked what had happened to the east wing. The room we were standing in faded to pitch black, and suddenly when the lights faded back in, we were standing in a different room. Only this one had suffered serious fire damage. So serious that sunlight streamed in through a few weak holes in the ceiling. The director floated cautiously between them.

    "The fire struck at the same time half of the patients began some kind of riot. That's why we're trying so hard to keep them from getting worked up now, we don't want a repeat of that unfortunate night. Thankfully, most of them seem to have forgotten what happened..."

    We started floating out into the burned out shell of the hallway. Doors lined either side. And inside each cell, we could see an identical scene of utter horror and depravity. The cells were all burned out as well. But each of them contained a single corpse, nailed to the floor on top of some kind of strange symbol, that looked like a bird made of fire. Their heads were all facing the cell doors, upside down, mouths opened in a charred scream.

    The director said "I try not to speak of it in front of the others. But my own personal belief? Is that this Priest character somehow found out how our patient had sold her soul. Found the raw mechanics and actions that transpired, that is. I believe he's taken the souls of these poor patients here..." The director stopped to face us. "If you can find a way to right this, we would be very grateful."

    We nodded in agreement. The Dragon Shaman asked, hesitantly, if the director could tell us anymore about the woman who'd sold her soul. I looked at him from across the table, and mouthed "no, no, no" doing the throat slashing gesture.

    The DM just smirked. All three of us kind of glared at the Dragon Shaman then, with an expression of angry disbelief. It was pretty obvious I was the escapee that had sold her soul. The Dragon Shaman was just stirring up trouble .

    The director gave a few more details. She heard voices, kept trying to escape, the director had done everything he could to help, but in the end had failed her... according to the guards, she officially sold her soul one night, and by the time they could open the door to intervene, she'd already used her newfound powers to blast open the lock on the window, climb down the tower wall on the outside, and sprint off into the night.

    Which is when, as I'm sure even DEAD people have guessed by now, the director ***** his head looking at me. A wry smile crosses his face... and all he says is "Oh. Welcome Home." Before the entire group is once against swarmed by Wisdom draining apparitions. We ran. We made it about 30 feet...



    Escape

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    Before we each woke up, this time separated, in various predicaments. We still had all of our gear, fortunately. The DM went around the table describing what we saw when we woke up.

    The Swashbuckler woke to absolute blackness. He thanked his lucky stars that he had a Light cantrip, and cast it, only to discover that he was in some kind of featureless pit with a trapdoor above him. They'd thrown him into some kind of solitary confinement pit.

    He managed to two handed power-attack the door hard enough to knock it clean open, which drew a lot of attention from the "orderlies" who began floating after him. But a good acrobatic jump, a climb up through the door, and he was sprinting towards the nearest window. He took a few wisdom draining attacks from ones that got too close, but was moving really quickly (despite the cluttered and difficult terrain), before he finally tucked and rolled through the window (taking some slashing damage in the process). Still, he was home free... the ghosts didn't chase him into the sunlight. He jogged around to the front courtyard, naturally, taking note that the sun was indeed starting to set.

    The Kobold woke up in the middle of the hall we were first attacked in. Completely surrounded by the ghosts of former patients, who all seemed very busy doing nothing. None of them were paying him any regard. Probably because he wasn't actually doing anything. He was afraid to move, but he took advantage of his shadow template ability to hide in plain sight, and made a high-rolled check to sneak the heck out of there.

    He managed to make it to the front courtyard without blowing a single roll, and ran out into the protective daylight around the same time the swashbuckler did.

    My situation was a little tougher. I woke up in my old cell, charred arcane symbols and all, with two ghost orderlies watching me from the doorway. I dragged myself over to the window and looked down, only to see the surface was facing away from the sunlight, and that ghostly hands were reaching out through the wall and skimming back and forth across it slowly. Spiderclimbing down was clearly not an option.

    Fortunately, the undead bats in the courtyard were still under MY control, even if we considered them the kobold and swashbucklers mounts. I called for them to come to me, and waited until they were in sight before blasting open the lock on the window. The orderlies moved to attack me, but I managed to drag myself up and over the edge of the window in time to go tumbling out and onto the back of one of the bats, flying around to the front courtyard myself. It IS the obvious meetup point in that kind of situation, after all.

    Once in the courtyard, I could see my hill giant skeleton standing in through the front doorway, from when we'd almost successfully escaped. He'd been waiting motionless the entire time, like a good mindless creature. I called him out, and had my friends help strap me back inside of him.

    The Dragon Shaman actually woke up in a padded cell. He tried running against the door repeatedly in an effort to knock it over, but he wasn't quite strong enough. In the end, he wound up TORCHING the outer wall with his fire breath, taking cover against the doorway (and taking some wisdom draining attacks of his own in the process) until enough of the wall had burned away that he took a flying leap at the top section, bursting out into the open air and flying around the outskirts of the gate.

    Once we were all together, we agreed that an IMMEDIATE departure was called for, as the setting sun meant the ghosts wouldn't be confined to the building any longer. We debated setting fire to the building, but thought the most prudent course of actions was to simply run for our lives and back to our boat.

    Those who fight and run away, after all.

    So now we're caught up before tomorrow nights session :).

    Hope it's even better!



    Approach

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    Last nights session.

    It was a doozy. Fortunately, I managed to get the entire thing written up

    So we collectively agreed on something for the first time in a while. It's high time we go poke our nose back to the villains main base and see what trouble we can stir up. We still haven't decided what we're actually going to try to accomplish when we get there, but we can worry about that later.

    Or quote the Swashbuckler "Once again blurring the line between bravery and idiocy!"

    So we set sail from the northern Empire continent, and head off back to the Egyptian lands. The trip itself is relatively brief and uneventful, once again made more brief by the fact that our skeletal crew labors tirelessly while the rest of us are tucked in our bunks at night.

    When we get close enough to the egyptian continent that we can start to make out the shoreline and the port that we last escaped this place from, we start to circle in place instead of charging in full steam ahead, circling in the open waters for a few hours until nightfall.

    We're concerned that they haven't forgotten either our ship, or our faces (not to mention the whole "Undead monstrosity" thing I'm riding around in). So we wait until darkness falls, and send the kobold on a bat flying in to do a little scouting out of the city. We all wait patiently on deck while he flits about on silent wings in the dead of night, and finally returns to us with the news.

    "There's no one there."

    Swashbuckler: “Like, everyone's gone home for the night and left the place unguarded?”

    The kobold look at him blank and repeats, "There's no one THERE. The city's EMPTY."

    So... well, crap.

    We opt to stop circling aimlessly in the open waters, and pull in to the city at large. We dock and tie up the ship, and a glance around reveals that the kobold was 100% correct. The place is deserted.

    Me: “On the plus side, I don't have to be sneaky with my skeleton.”

    The dragon shaman gave me a sideways glance, but agreed that it did make our approach much easier, considering the only one of who could belnd in isn't exactly the master of diplomacy (swashbuckler).

    We go in cautiously, sending the kobold to ghost a few hundred feet in front of us before giving us the clear. About halfway through the city, we realize it really IS deserted, and rather suddenly. But not so suddenly they didn't have time to lock their doors and make sure everything was in proper order.

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Shop Till You Drop

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    I had the kobold pick the lock on what looked like a tailors shop. The Dragon Shaman insisted that we were NOT looting this city (even though we were already wanted criminals who would be executed), and I reluctantly agreed to leave behind some gold for whatever I took. I wasn't after much, just a huge black cloak and brooch for my Giant skeleton, and some dresses that would work to conceal my lack of legs once I had fell flight (and would fit over my leather armor with some minor alterations).

    Since I was shopping, the swashbuckler and kobold thought maybe it would be a good idea if we started sneaking into shops to restock our gear? We were definitely behind on normal supplies, and this was the first time we'd stopped at any civilized place for weeks. It happened to be EMPTY, but it was still a civilized place.

    At first the Dragon Shaman didn't like the idea, until he looked down and noticed he was still using the same beat up eight-gold-costing morning star he'd had since level 1. He reluctantly agreed that it was probably a good time for a re-supply run, and that we might as well take advantage of the lack of "being tried as wanted criminals" to grab some new gear.

    He'd been taking armor and weapon proficiency feats for lack of better immediate options, so this was something he (out side the game) was kind of looking forward to I know. He swapped out his cruddy beat-to-crap morningstar for a Masterwork Bastard Sword. He also found a suit of Masterwork fullplate that, with some relatively minor modifications, was suitable for him to wear (what with the wings and all). He came up a tiny bit short on the gold for all of it, but gave himself a 'Trying to be a hero, 10% off' discount.

    Fortunately, The Sword/Shield/Armor combo is light enough that he can still fly normally, but he won't be carrying any of us casually unless he pumps his strength some more.

    The rest of us spent our loose coin on some scrolls and potions, a spellbook to serve as our fledgling archivists prayerbook, some better armor and weapons for ourselves (nothing too special. Some more daggers for me, better fitting leather armor for the kobold, a masterwork rapier for the swashbuckler (and he found a Masterwork buckler with no arcane spell failure chance)). And yes, we gave ourselves varying discounts as well.

    Our little shopping detour was interrupted when we heard a haggard cough echoing down the streets. We sent the Swashbuckler first, since he was currently the only one who could pass for normal, with us trailing a few feet behind. We pinpointed the noise to one of the alleys in between buildings, and creeping down, we noticed who was making the noise. A homeless man, obviously completely blind, and laying in a pile of filthy rags. He blended in so well, that if we hadn't noticed the noise, we never would have spotted him. He was clearly dying, infected with something horrible.

    Not wanting to touch him due to fear in infection (and all of us lacking any kind of way to remove a disease. We could produce healing effects, but not remove disease), I reached out with the giant skeleton hand to pat him softly on the arm and made a hushed noise to alert him to our presence. When he reached to grab the wrist of the skeleton, and felt bone instead, he gasped, and asked, "Is this the reaper coming to free me from this life?"

    The Dragon Shaman said "Not quite yet friend... tell me, where has everyone gone?"

    The homeless man drew a ragged breath and told us, the plague had spread through the city like an uncontrolled fire. Everyone was sick...even the healers and holy men had fallen ill. But a man... Priest, had promised them a cure... they believed him...followed him out into the desert, where they were beginning a ritual to take the sickness away. No one who'd passed had been willing to help the blind and dying homeless man though, as they figured (rightly, he said) that he was only hours from the end.

    So we established two things. Priest, despite being obviously unhinged and unnerving, was nevertheless able to convince people he was important enough to let him do as he wished (browse unchecked through mental patient records, lead a church sponsored archaeological dig, get an entire city to follow him pied piper style out to an unearthed ziggurat...)
    The second thing was where we needed to go now. We'd been heading that way anyway, but it was nice to know what to expect.

    The homeless man wheezed, and asked us if we could do him a mercy. As the Dragon Shaman was asking "What's the moral thing to do here anyway?" I put my hand gently on the homeless mans forehead...and fired off an eldritch blast. The dragon shamans response was "Oh gee, look at that! SURPRISE!"

    Bitterness aside, we gathered up our new supplies, left what we didn't immediately need back at the ship, and told the skeletons to pull out of port and return to circling the waters off shore until we came back (playing it safe), did a hitpoint/status/gear check, and set off in the direction of the ziggurat. We took the bats with us, but walked while they flew overhead.



    Blockade

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    On the way there, we were attacked. Whether it was a chance encounter, or something deliberately prepared, we're not sure, but we were attacked by giant scorpions of various sizes in the open sand. Since it was night, we hadn't noticed them approaching until they were actually in combat range. We managed to wipe them out, and finally leveled up for our troubles.

    Which means I finally got Fell Flight! The text of Fell Flight says you gain a fly speed equal to your move rate... but the DM was kind enough to give me a fly speed equal to my NORMAL move rate, and not my new "drag yourself 5 feet at a time by your arms" move rate, because that would have just been cruel, even for him. So I eagerly flew out of my skeleton ride and put on one of the dresses, finally back to equal 'footing' among the others (actually technically better footing, as I can move in any direction at will...)

    The Swashbuckler took another level of Archivist (Swash 4, Sorc 2, Arch 2). The Kobold elected to stay pure Factotum to gain Cunning Surge (and can now spend inspiration points to take an extra standard action on his turn). The Dragon Shaman got a stronger breath weapon. All of us got a high enough BAB that we get a second attack each round.

    And we moved on through the desert.

    When we arrived at our destination, we found no one around the box canyon directly. But when we got to the edge and looked down? We saw it was absolutely filled with a WAVE of people. They were all kneeling and facing the ziggurat, crying, and praying for strength. The sounds of the desperate. Some of the less ill were standing guard, holding large falchions and other curved blades. Around the ziggurat directly where several elite looking warriors. And on top of the ziggurat? Priest knelt surrounded by his group of men, leading the people of the city in the ritual prayers.

    We pulled back away from the edge of the canyon and started talking about our options. NONE of them seemed very positive. Our primary goal was getting INTO the ziggurat itself... but ideally we could do that without the entire population of a major port city pursuing us in a rage. The kobold could probably make it in, if he could fly. With a bat though, he'd be obvious, and wouldn't be able to do it stealthily. The full plate wearing dragon shaman would be even more obvious. The Swashbuckler had no real options other than fighting his way in. I could float out above the ziggurat and drop straight down, but there were enough torches that someone would be bound to notice me, and I can't hide in plain sight like the kobold can.

    We sigh and scratch our heads.

    I suggest that I can probably get us in violently. I can control 32 HD worth of undead (Dragon Shaman: "No"), and I'm only controlling 27 at the moment (Dragon Shaman: "No"). If the Dragon Shaman can make it down and torch 5 people in his fire breath (Dragon Shaman: "No"), then I can re-animate them and have them attack anyone nearby (Dragon Shaman: "No"), and just raise whoever THEY kill when their numbers start thinning out (Dragon Shaman: "No"). Hell, if you keep everyone off my back (Dragon Shaman: "No"), I might be able to take out the whole canyon (Dragon Shaman: "No!!!").

    Swashbuckler: "At least it's an IDEA?"

    Dragon Shaman: "No it isn't. Attempted genocide isn't an IDEA. It's an ATROCITY."

    We sigh and scratch our heads.

    Swashbuckler: "Go in gangbusters style? Fly down, send the bats careening into the nearest attackers, dash into the entrance and try to seal it behind us so no one can alert whoever's inside?"

    Me: "You mean pin ourselves in with a psychotic druid who's shown that he can wipe out the four of us casually? I don't think sealing the entrance is what THEY'RE worried about, it's what WE'LL wind up worried about."

    We sigh and scratch our heads.

    Factotum: "What about a distraction? We could throw the hill giant skeleton down one side of the canyon...maybe light it on fire first. And when everyone's excited and confused, the Warlock can fly the two of us to the ziggurat opening... we need to be stealthy inside the place anyway. It won't do to have two armored tanks trying to sneak through the dark tunnels with us. You could wait guard out here to save our butts when we inevitably come running out in a panic because we got in over our heads."

    We look around at each other and finally nod. I can make a cloud of darkness that surrounds me, so the two of us will just be a darker spot against the night sky. I can drop at 60 feet a round, and given the height of the ziggurat as opposed to the drop, it'll be give or take 9-12 second before I can have us both inside through the doorway. And even if anyone DOES look away from the flaming skeleton long enough to notice us, we'll just be a shadowy blot that disappears in a few seconds.

    Yup.

    That's HONESTLY the best plan we could come up with. Go us.

    So me and the kobold position ourselves at the edge of the canyon, as close to the entrance to the ziggurat as we can get, while the Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler get on the other side with the Hill Giant skeleton. The swashbuckler coats it in two pints of oil (all good adventurers carry rope, oil, and chalk, FYI) and the dragon shaman hits it with a fire breath as I give it an order to go toppling over the side of the canyon and (if it survives) start attacking anyone who attacks it.

    The reaction is, exactly as predicted. EVERYONE in the canyon, Priest and his men included, look back at the behemoth falling to the canyon floor below. I grab the kobold and start flying down as fast as I can, while the skeleton hits the ground. Between 20d6 fall damage and 5d6 fire damage from the breath, it turned out to be something like 95 points of damage, which meant the skeleton was still up and kicking (well, clubsmacking) the guards who rushed it in fear and confusion. The ruckus generated was MORE than enough for me and the kobold to make it into the entrance of the ziggurat unnoticed, and the flaming skeleton killed a pretty high number of guards before they finally took it down.

    The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler both booked to the entrance of the tunnel leading out of the canyon (the one we'd gone up that first time), getting into position to attack whenever anyone came up to figure out what had happened.

    And we were in.



    Inside the Ziggurat

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    We could both see just fine in the dark, so we didn't have to get any light source or anything that would give us away. We'd been here before, so it was a pretty straightforward sneak-job. We didn't get lost or make any pointless detours into empty corridors like the first time. Along the way down though, we noticed something kind of peculiar. The spellcasting bug corpses were...everywhere. They look like they'd been thrown into a wood chipper, and were so shredded it took close examination for us to notice that some of them had parts of them ripped out cleanly. None of the spellcasting gems were to be seen. They'd all either been taken, or expended from the bugs casting them in self defense. We couldn't tell which.

    But occasionally, we'd find a partially intact corpse with black onyx haphazardly jammed in where the gems should have been. We say partial because, it looks like after the onyx was pushed in, the bugs wound up being crushed out of frustration...

    All of this seemed very bad.

    We came to the great chamber we'd encountered the Drifter in before. The high-ceilinged chambers that we kept bumping into him in. Immediately, the kobold started sliding around the outer wall to get further into the chamber, while I (in my dark blot of shadows) floated up the wall and stuck to the ceiling, looking downwards. I noticed spiders and other various insects sticking quietly in the shadows, but none of them noticed me while I floated to a nice safe position that would give me a good view.

    The scene in the chamber was... disturbing, to saw the least. The Drifter was there, in the middle of everything, surrounded by black onyx and a strange glowing symbol carved into the rock floor. The same symbol was on his forehead, a glowing gold rune. Therin and the Changeling were there too, along with a number of Priests men (who must loan out a few of them to Therin while they're working together, or something. Which would explain the guys burning themselves to death at the docks in the beginning... they weren't killing themselves, they were just HIDING. By killing themselves. Or whatever.) The fifth mystery-man wasn't present.

    On the outside of the strange carved symbol, were thirteen people from this city, of various ages and genders. They were all bound and gagged, helpless, facing the Drifter as his wings buzzed uncomfortably and he muttered quietly to himself. Occasionally, Therin or the changeling would double check the bonds on some of their prisoners.

    There were also thirteen jars. Each one filled with a spellcasting bug... each one looking like its back had been torn open. Whatever gems they'd had were gone, replaced by cut crystals of black Onyx. The bugs were still alive and well, though extremely agitated. These must have been the successful ones...

    And on the back wall? Chained and strapped and gagged? The angel. Her eyes were gouged out , but it didn't stop her from turning her head to 'look' directly at the kobold, and then up at me on the ceiling, before returning her 'gaze' straight ahead and giving a defiant tug at the chains holding her to the ground. She knew we were here, and presumably, she gave that one subtle tug at her bonds as a way of telling us to free her. Angels aren't known to be quitters, I suppose.

    A closer look at the center of the chamber revealed one of the angels eyes laying on the ground, facing directly north at the tip of the strange symbol.

    The kobold crept alongside Therin/Priests workers, checking them for keys or anything that would help him free the angel. He found nothing, and elected to go and begin picking the locks on the chains directly. There wasn't much I could do from the ceiling. I could fire a blast at someone to disrupt things, but it would be suicide for me (and I'd be taking the kobold down with me).

    The kobold managed to spring one of the locks, but the DCs were really high. He was forced to take 20 to get some of them...and there were a good number of locks

    As he was working on freeing the captive celestial, I was watching the ritual starting to go down, still trying to think of anything I could do to stop it that wouldn't just get us destroyed. After thorough examination of my abilities and gear, I came up with.... diddly squat. All I could do was watch and hope the kobold managed to spring the angel.

    The drifter finally stopped muttering to himself, and nodded at the changeling, who proceeded to walk around, cautiously opening the jars containing the black onyx bugs. When she opened each one, they honed in directly on the Drifter himself, and...apparently began to chew their way into him. The first one caused him to flinch and grind his teeth, but he simply stayed where he was with a steely resolve... until the fifth one started chewing on him. Then he finally winced and cried out in pain, falling to one knee while his wings fluttered aggressively, and the constant swarm of smaller bugs around him began to buzz around, agitated.

    The changeling hesitated to open the sixth jar, and Therin simply asked "Sir?" with a concerned echo... but the Drifter cried out in pain again and glared at the changeling, barking at her to keep going. She looked very worried. So did Therin. The drifter simply scowled and gritted his teeth more. The changeling ran from jar to jar... by the tenth one, the Drifter began screaming out in pain, which even made Therin look uncomfortable, looking around nervously and trying not to focus on the sound.
    The kobold sprang another few locks.

    By the time the changeling had opened the 13th jar, and all 13 black onyx bugs were attacking the drifter, he was freely screaming in pain, rolling in place and trying to fight off the bugs. The changeling and Therin kept exchanging nervous glances. The prisoners looked catatonic with terror.
    The kobold sprang the last lock, and disappeared back into the shadows, after patting the angel between the wings to let her know he was done. She remained in place... too clever to give it away that easily and risk being recaptured.

    The drifter... stopped screaming in pain. He stopped screaming in pain, because apparently, the bugs had done him in. All thirteen of them had chewed and chewed until he'd finally bled out, and was laying in the middle of the symbol... his blood pooling out and flowing through the cracks of it while the bugs continued to feed on his corpse.

    Therin shuffled uncomfortably and the changeling backed nervously towards the exit. They weren't 100% on the situation either, apparently.

    When the Drifters blood finally pooled into the entire symbol? The golden rune on his forehead stopped glowing, and the symbol on the floor flashed gold instead. And when it did, all 13 of the bugs immediately fell onto their backs and went into death throes, curling their legs tight as they perished, only to flip themselves back over and stand motionless. After what seemed like too long of a pause, the strange golden symbol on the floor and on the drifters forehead flashed on the backs of the bugs.

    At which point they all flew into a frenzy, circling each other angrily before flying out and attacking the 13 bound captives... who also began screaming in pain, until the bugs finally worked their way into the bound victims... causing the same glowing rune to spring up on their foreheads, and then they suddenly stopped struggling.

    I didn't like where this was going.

    Therin, the Changeling, and their workers all began circling the group, untying and ungagging them as quickly as possible. Therin asked "Sir, are you alright?". At which point, every ungagged victim spoke in a creepy unified chorus "Yes. Yes, I just didn't expect it to hurt as much as it did."

    At which point, everyone present turned their eyes to the angel... Only to find her sprinting alongside the outskirt of the chamber, heading towards the exit door. They all screamed varies cursewords, a great wave of rage coming as they moved to attack her. The spiders on the ceiling all came to and began descending on silk strands, one of them dropping directly in front of the exit.

    Feeling uncomfortably noble, I gave away my position by firing an eldritch spear at the spider blocking the doorway, allowing the angel a clean escape. The kobold gave away his position too, when he cast "Grease" on the doorway just behind the angel, allowing her to run unhindered while anyone making it to the door began to fall and crawl. I flew towards the front doorway as fast as I could, trying to dodge the spiders and taking hits from some ranged attacks and thrown rocks... one of the group cast Contagion on me, but I passed the Fort save. Another one had apparently cast some kind of lightning spell, because me and the kobold were both getting struck by bolts of electricity while we booked for the exit. The kobold managed to make a running, springing jump over the patch of grease without much problem. I just flew over it. Therin managed to jump over it too, but the changeling and some of the "previously victims" all fell prone in the muck. The rest couldn't get through the collapsed bodies, but Therin was persuing and howling in rage.

    And glancing back as we ran for the exit with everything we had?

    One of the victims in the grease pit had begun a violent coughing fit... coughing up blood, gore... until they literally fell apart in a showering of bone and viscera... revealing a whole swarm of the black onyx bugs from their insides, which began flying out. The others began coughing in the same way


    Outside the Ziggurat

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    The entire time this had been happening, our two warriors had remained outside. They had run to the entrance of the pathway out of the canyon and positioned themselves for attack, as mentioned. A group of guards came running out of the cave system to see what had caused a giant flaming skeleton to drop down in the middle of their prayer session. The Swashbuckler whipped out his new trick, cast "Enlarge Person" on himself, did a power attack and killed a guy, cleaved and killed a guy, great cleaved and killed a guy, great cleaved and missed... rolled his second attack and killed a guy, cleaved and killed again, and great cleaved to kill two more guy. The Dragon Shaman toasted the rest of the (now MUCH smaller) group with a cone of fire.

    They laid low until another, smaller group came up a few minutes later. They tried to hide, but, neither of them are stealthy characters, so they wound up killing THAT group too.

    Eventually, after not hearing back from any of the exploration guards, Priest sent five of his men up. The fighting got redundant in a very serious manner. See, Priests men were no incredible warriors, expecially compared to two level 8 PCs. But they just kept burning into ash and then climbing back up to fight again. The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler knew they could pretty much keep mopping the floor with these guys.... but it was only a matter of how long it went on before even MORE came up. If a large enough force came? They'd be overwhelemed. And that's not knowing what tricks Priest himself is capable of (besides shutting down some magical abilities).

    Swashbuckler: “So what the heck do we do?”

    Dragon Shaman: “We have to buy our friends inside as much time as we possibly can. We keep fighting like spartan soldiers, regardless.”

    Swashbuckler: “That's exactly what I hoped you'd say.”

    They wound up fighting in the open sand for the majority of the time we were in the ziggurat, before, ask predicted, whole droves of guards and Priests men began storming up to see what the heck was going on. They fought viciously, but when the number started to get overwhelming, they started to sprint around the outside of the canyon, looking for a place where they might turn the terrain to their advantage.

    It wasn't long after they got overwhelmed that a sightless angel came sprinting out of the ziggurat, immediately taking to the skies and trying to fly out of the canyon (amongst many bewildered guards and confused gasps from the crow, and Priest shouting some obscenity, obviously knowing that this wasn't the plan).

    Immediately afterwards, a lightning fast kobold who was so dark he was practically a shadow came springing out, followed immediately thereafter by a deranged looking warlock floating at high speeds, scooping the kobold into my arms and flying after the angel.

    Immediately followed by a howling and cursing Therin, throwing a weapon at us (and missing outright).

    ...Immediately followed by a buzzing hideous mass of spellcasting bugs, jet black, full of black onyx, and glowing with an eerie golden hum from the collective display of so many runes. Which then dispersed among the crowd and began to attack all of them.

    Some of the bugs left the canyon, flitting to where the Swashbuckler and Dragon Shaman were fighting a small army of mook guards (and still cleaving through them like butter until...). The bugs began to attack everyone present, guards included. Whenever the bugs successfully 'killed' one of the men, they would fall to their knees, clutching their stomachs in pain, before looking back up with a brand new glowing rune on their forehead.

    The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler were both tough enough to fight the bugs off without TOO much difficulty... it was easy enough that the Dragon Shaman could take the time to pry out one of the black onyx gems and pocket it.

    They did start to get overwhelmed by sheer numbers, which is when the Dragon Shaman opted to throw the summoning dice...

    Guess what it came up?

    No no, go on, guess.

    Give up?

    The first die was Swarm.

    The second die?

    Rabbits.

    He randomly summoned a swarm of rabbits. He smacked his own forehead so hard he winced in pain. "Really? I pull out a last ditch ace from my sleeve, and it's a swarm of rabbits?"

    Instantly, the battlefield fills up with around three dozen tiny white rabbits. Who all hop around for a minute before flinging themselves at the faces of everyone nearby. Now let me clear one thing up before hand, these weren't monty python killer rabbits of unstoppable doom. They were literally just harmless white cotton balls, who were still nevertheless trying to DESTROY everything they saw.

    By the time the Angel, Me, and the Kobold met up with them, half the canyon was filled with the eerie golden glow of those now sporting the golden rune on their foreheads.

    By the time we realized it was hopeless (about 12 seconds later), the other half of the canyon was full of the glow, and every ninth or tenth person was falling to the ground, coughing out their insides... rapidly multiplying bugs included.

    The ...unusual... cover of the bloodthirsty rabbits distracting every active combatant was enough for us to make our escape.



    Escape (Again)

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    We took to the skies, trying to outpace the growing mass of bugs and possessed people screaming in fury and pursuing us. The Swashbuckler and kobold each took one of the bats, while me, the Dragon Shaman, and the angel (who was blind, but could still apparently observe her surroundings in some fashion) all flew under our own power. We told the angel we had a ship just off shore that we could recover on, assuming we could outpace the mass of bugs. Thankfully, the bugs, while spreading rapidly, were moving about half the speed we collectively were. And the angel seemed to be able to fly circles around us all, but was going slower to keep with the group.

    She thanked us for coming back for her, in the very calm matter of fact way that only an angel can seem to muster.

    The Kobold asked how she can get around so fine without eyes, she just responded that "Celestial creatures do not see. We either know, or do not know."

    Which was a good enough answer that we all clammed up for the rest of the flight. We landed on the deck, and sent the skeletons working double time. The Swashbuckler asked if we actually had a heading, and the Dragon Shaman replied "Far away from here".

    The Swashbucklers healing bug, Chitter, molted again. Must have gotten close enough to the ziggurat, because it powered up and can now cast Cure Moderate Wounds.

    We talked to the angel about what had happened. The ritual they were performing hadn't actually needed her at all. Gouging out her eyes and decorating with them was done out of malice, not necessity. That first part of the ritual had gone off perfectly, as we could see by the results. The Drifter had bred a strain of Necromancy casting gem-bugs, and had made them powerful enough that they had been able to cast? You guessed it. Magic Jar (also frequently referred to as "Soul Jar"). Then he'd somehow transferred his consciousness into the bugs... who then took over the other people... who then acted as hosts while the bug multiplied rapidly inside of them to increase the process exponentially.

    Factotum: “So his goal is... what? Take over the world and leave nothing but himself? That doesn't sound like how you become a God.”

    The angel 'looked' at him and said point blank, "No. He does not care about your world."

    Factotum: “So...what does he want?”

    Angel: “I was bound physically to this world as a guardian millenia ago. Once he had become the ultimate parasite, he was going to infect me.”

    Factotum: “...And?”

    Angel: An”d then we would return to heaven.”

    We all stopped for a minute to take that in.

    Dragon Shaman: “So he was going to use you to wrench open a path into heaven and then... infect it? That's how he was going to become a god. By INFECTING a god?”

    The angel just nodded.

    Factotum: “So, then, it's in our best interests to keep you as safe and hidden as possible.”

    Me: “I think we should kill her.”

    Dragon Shaman: “What the HELL, okay, we just went WAY past the "Gray Area of Heroics" and screaming into pointless evil. Really? Kill the angel? Really?”

    Me: “Damn right kill the angel! If she's dead he can't hitch a ride in her.”

    Angel: “She is absolutely correct.”

    We all stop and stare at her.

    Dragon Shaman: “But that's blatant evil?”

    Angel: “Destroying a celestial creature is an evil act under any and all circumstances, correct.”

    Dragon Shaman: “But we should kill you?”

    Angel: *long pause* “I am unable to advocate the performance of an evil act under any circumstance, by my very nature.”

    Swashbuckler: “So... we could kill you to stop this Drifter guy from becoming a god, but we'd still be performing an evil act by doing so. So you can't TELL us to. Can you kill yourself?”

    Angel: “Destroying a celestial creature is an evil act under any and all circumstances. As I am unable to advocate the performance of an evil act, so too am I unable to perform an evil act myself, by my very nature.”

    Dragon Shaman: “Okay, we get it. Killing you might be a smart thing to do, but it's still Evil with a capital E.”

    Angel: “Correct.”

    Me: “I'm okay with that. I'll kill her. I'm already the bad guy, I'll save you all from having to make that choice.”

    Angel: “I am unable to allow an evil act to transpire in my presence without intervention, by my very nature.”

    Me: “Okay, wait. I'm a little confused.”

    Angel: “If you attempt to perform an evil act, I am obligated by my very nature to destroy you in opposition.”

    Factotum: “You can't LET us kill you, no matter how good of an idea it might be.”

    Angel: “Correct.”

    After a long uncomfortable pause

    Dragon Shaman: “Are the four of us strong enough to defeat you?”

    The angel replied as flatly, coldly, and as factual as if she were reading a dictionary entry: "Yes"



    Wrap It Up

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    So after that... deliciously warm and friendly conversation, the Dragon Shaman admits that... maybe I was onto something. But even if I am, he doesn't have the conviction to go through with it as long as any other course of action exists. The other two agree, but we're putting "Murder a Being of Pure Light and Goodness" as plan B.

    If we're in such dire straights that nothing else can be done, that little plan is going to be trotted out and re-examined. It'll be my finger on the trigger, obviously, but the others aren't comfortable with being evil by proxy.

    So now we're acting as bodyguards for her. Things are about to get Very Very Bad(tm) on this world, but it'll get a lot worse a lot faster if the Drifter manages to hijack even a minor deity, let alone a major deity or (deity forbid) an OVERDEITY...

    We think for a few minutes about what to do. We consider stopping by central island to see if we can't get Macguiller and the local legal authorities on our side. We do have an ANGEL vouching for us at this point.

    But after mulling over our possibilities? The factotum mentions "Papa HeeNo did say he was warding off his village, didn't he? If he knew what he was doing, and he clearly did *points at eye shaped hole in palm* then that might be one of the safer places we can stick her until something better comes up. How long do you think it'll take for the Drifter parasite to spread?"

    Dragon Shaman: No way to be 100% positive, but I'd say that continent can't last more than... a week? Two? The ocean will slow him down, luckily there are a lot of unconnected landmasses in the world... there's got to be safe pockets. We just need to find more and start figuring out a method of counter-attacking this.

    We agree, and set off for the jungle continent, hoping we can convince Papa HeeNo to hide our angel until we can figure out what to do next.

    I have a feeling things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better.




    Devil With the Blue...

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    Wrote until the wee hours of the morning. I'm gonna need a nap today.

    Our adventure resumes, with us on the open water, heading westward towards the jungle continent inhabited by (among other things) Papa HeeNo and his hopefully now-healthy tribe. Our intentions, as a group, are to tuck the angel away in Papa HeeNos sanctuary, and see if there's some kind of communicative spell he has access to (it's something we currently don't have). Once she's safe, we're going to return to Central Island ASAP and check in with the only other clever person we've met, Macguiller, and see if we can't get some kind of insight from the guy.

    After that, we're going to hop off to the arctic port. We're starting to wonder if maybe that listed destination had been factual, after all. Might explain the mystery man, whoever he is. And we might as well follow up on the two leads we neglected, now that the APOCALYPSE is happening a few hundred miles off our tailside.

    Speaking of our tailsides though...

    So we're about 50 miles out at sea, having been sailing top speed until dawn breaks and the sun comes up. Which naturally filled our hearts with resolve and renewed our... yada yada yada. We're playing Sir Robin and running with our tails between our legs for a safe hiding spot.

    We're moving along as fast as our sails can take us, which unfortunately turned out to not be fast enough, as we spot something approaching from the direction we just left. We know we're outpacing the mass of bugs by a fair speed, and there shouldn't have been any ships able to catch us outright with our head start. Keep pace with us maybe, but not overrun us.

    Spot checks reveal nothing other than it being a big mass of blue moving in our direction. And that it's moving very fast. The blue is making it blend into the water enough that we're having trouble getting hard details.

    So, the four of us stand there at the stern of the ship, watching this rapidly approaching... something, and scratching our heads like buffoons and wishing one of us had had the sense to purchase one of those piratey collapsible telescopes. Until it finally closes enough distance that the kobold passes a spot check, and the DM sends him a note about what he sees.

    The kobold chuckles nervously and announces "Uh, guys? That's a blue dragon. A LARGE SIZED DRAGON. Flying angrily at our ship."

    We pause, taking in that fact for a moment before running back to the deck and starting to secure things, checking to see what we can use to our advantage in a fight like this. A Large sized dragon is literally 1/4 the size of our ship itself, and the possibility that it could capsize us is very real. It's also definitely WAY over our CR, which means one of us is probably going to die outright.

    We help the skeletons swing the ship around ("HARD STARBOARD" shouts the dragon shaman ) to bring our two piddly ballistas in line with the dragons approach. The Swashbuckler and Kobold both helped the skeletons man the Ballistas, waiting for it to get into range, while we ask ourselves WHY in the world this dragon is charging us so furiously? We can't come up with an answer, as we haven't done anything to enrage any of the Draconic race... We haven't even SEEN a draconic creature yet...

    ...When it finally flies into range, and we can make it out in better detail. The Dragon has a golden glowing rune on its forehead.

    We all stopped dead in our tracks at that, as the kobold managed to get out "Did it just occur to you guys how much trouble we're actually in? Cause it just hit me all at once how BAD our situation is."

    We're in complete agreement. Blue Dragons live in the desert. The growing mass of bugs apparently found Big Blue's lair, and successfully infected it. So we're sitting there trying not to think about what ELSE the bugs might be infecting, and what ELSE is going to be hunting us to the ends of the earth, when the dragon starts screaming out at us to hand over the angel, amidst various threats and promises of unimaginable tortures.

    We asked her if she could outpace the dragon, and she told us flatly that "No," it can fly much faster than she can. So we sent her below decks and locked up every entrance as securely as we could. Finally the dragon got in reasonable range of the Ballistas and we opened fire. Both hit for medium damage (3d8 each) and the group manning them began to reload for another shot.

    In the meantime, me and the Shaman took to the skies with the bats flying separately. I didn't want to risk the bats in the fight, as they were extremely valuable, but we were clearly outmatched and needed all the help we could get here. We flew out to fight the dragon directly. I hit it with an Eldritch Spear as soon as it got into range and was mortified to discover that it was old and developed enough to have spell resistance. I passed the caster level check to bypass it, but not by much. At least I hit it for a relatively high damage roll.

    The Blue Dragon covered the huge gap between us and fired a breath weapon (line of electricity) at the Shaman. The DM told him not to bother rolling a reflex save, as it was impossible for him to even pass it, and he took a nasty chunk of hitpoints. The Shaman cleared what was left of the gap between the two and hit the blue dragon point blank with his fire breath weapon for a similar chunk of damage. The ballistas fired (and both hit) for another good damage roll.

    I fired another eldritch blast while backing off to one direction as much as I could, bypassed its spell resistance again (thankfully), and forced it to split its attention between me, the shaman, and the ship. The Shaman was in between it and the ship, and adult dragons don't actually have great mid-air maneuverability, so it was forced to attack him to continue advancing. It hit him straight on, with a scary damage roll that the DM decided was enough for it to LITERALLY just swat the shaman out of the sky and into the ocean below. The Dragon Shaman had to use his turn to scrabble out of the water (wishing he wasn't in full plate) and flying back in pursuit. If the Dragon shaman didn't have CON 22, there's no way he'd have survived all the way to this level, by the way.

    My bats attacked from either side, but neither could make a dent in the blue dragons AC.

    The fight raged on for like 15 rounds, so I'm gonna stop trying to give a blow-by-blow here.

    The Dragon landed on the side of the ship and crushed one of the ballistas, but the bats attacking it gave the kobold a flanking position, and he made a really good sneak attack at the dragons exposed underside. The Swashbuckler opted for two-handed power attacking, increased his size with Enlarge Person to put him on better footing with the dragon (which made our ship groan from the increased weight of the two).

    The Dragon spent a lot of time knocking us around, but it didn't capsize the ship directly like we'd feared. About half the way through the fight, we realized it was because it didn't want to risk killing the angel itself, not knowing where she was below decks. It DID attack our rigging, knocking the mast clean over and destroying our sails in the process. It utterly destroyed two of the skeletons, one of the bats, and sent the kobold running in fear from its Frightful Presence aura once. I spent a turn rummaging through my pack of poisons for an ingestible, high DC CON damaging poison, handed it to one of the remaining skeletons, and sent it off to fling itself into the dragons mouth to fight its way down its throat. The trick worked, destroying the skeleton, but giving the dragon 7 CON damage for a huge drop in hitpoints.

    We rolled the randomly summoning dice. It came up Giant and Spider, at which point a HUGE sized spider (literally bigger than the dragon) appeared. It sort of gave us an edge, in that it was attacking both sides, which occasionally occupied one of us, but occasionally distracted the dragon while we pounded away at it. The dragon eventually shredded the spider (huge or not, it was still Dragon versus Spider), but it had been more beneficial than detrimental.

    At some point during the fight, all four of us wound up in negatives, with a lot of very close calls. I don't think the DM was pulling his punches, I think we all just stayed out of range when we were too-low on hitpoints until we were healed enough to survive another hit. But between all four of us having various healing tricks, we kept getting back up to rejoin the fight. Finally, on the stern of the ship, between the enlarged Swashbuckler pounding away at its face, the Dragon Shaman hitting it from behind with fire breath and bastard sword attacks to the back of its skull, me peppering it with Eldritch Blasts left and right (some of them missing due to spell resistance), the poison eating away at it, and the Factotum hitting it in the face with a Fireball spell from the bow of the ship, the beast finally, mercifully, was felled.

    At which point it began to cough in its death throes, choking up the black onyx bugs!

    The Dragon Shaman coup de graced it to prevent it from dissolving into a swarm of the horrible vermin, but it still coughed up around two dozen of the soul-stealing insects beforehand, who made a beeline for us, and for the various cracks and holes the ship had developed during the fight. We managed to kill them without much trouble, the final bug crawling rapidly towards a hole in the deck when the Kobold whipped out his hand crossbow and plunked it from afar.

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    Damage Control

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    At which point we began to assess the damage. We were in very, very bad shape. Our hitpoints were nil, ranging from single digits, to the kobold with the highest at like 25. All of our daily healing was expended, except for the Swashbuckler having a few cure-minor wounds. We had no healing potions left, and most of our daily abilities were expended.

    The ship was in shambles. Our crew was down to two intact skeletons and a single surviving undead bat. The rigging was DESTROYED, and would take days of dedicated labor to fix. Days we needed to be resting to heal ourselves from the fight. Days when the Drifter hivemind would be heading in our direction, knowing exactly which heading we'd been following, and that our ship was in no shape to sail. There were low winds

    There was talk of abandoning the ship. The Dragon Shaman didn't like the idea of leaving the S.S. Ironman behind, considering she'd been a very loyal vessel. He did concede we were low on choices though.

    I could fly under my own power. The Angel could carry the kobold while she flew. The Dragon shaman could only fly for limited durations. He had a lot of stamina, but he wouldn't be able to fly under his own power all the way to shore. The bat could only carry one of them with weight concerns. Even if the Shaman and Swashbuckler stripped and left all their gear here, they'd still be too far over weight. The Dragon Shaman and kobold could ride a bat together, but not with the full plate, so the Shaman would be giving up some very critical gear.

    Dragon Shaman: "We could row. We wouldn't have to spend the time repairing the mast then."

    Swashbuckler: "Rowing would give us no rest, which we sorely need, and we'd be moving at half speed. Maybe if we had more skeletons."

    Me, to DM: "How many hit die did that dragon have anyway?"

    The DM smirked, and said "More than you can animate in a single casting".

    The dragon was 18 Hit Die. I could CONTROL the dragon as a zombie, with room to spare in my max undead capacity. But I was level 8 and could only ressurect 16 HD worth of creatures at once.

    Except I had a scroll of "Desecrate" that I'd taken from the changelings gear back when we'd found all the black onyx in the first place. Desecrate has the nice side effect of allowing you to animate twice as many undead per casting...

    Dragon Shaman: "I am NOT letting you DESECRATE the stern of our ship!"

    Me: "How about the Bow?"

    Dragon Shaman: "Look, I'm IFFY about bringing a dead dragon back to life anyway. Bahamut would be upset, but I admit we have to give ourselves a little leeway right now, the stakes are high. DESECRATING our vessel to unholy forces still isn't okay."

    Swashbuckler: "I'd rather not make our ship unholy. But I'm ready to look the other way, we need an answer here."

    Factotum: "Likewise. I can just stand on the opposite side of the ship and hum loudly and pretend it's not happening until it's done."

    Dragon Shaman: "The angel. She won't approve."

    Me: "We won't tell her."

    Dragon Shaman: "She'll know."

    Me: "But by then it'll be done and over. She knows I'm evil, she'll just have to man-up and deal with what happened."

    The dragon shaman, in real life, ran his hand through his hair and sighed, before looking clean across the table at me and saying point blank:
    "I won't let you desecrate my ship".

    Me: I float towards the stern backwards, keeping my eye on the dragon shaman the whole time. I tell him I don't know how he thinks he's going to stop me.

    Dragon Shaman: "Roll Initiative."

    Kobold: *Coughs loudly* “OH, wow, we're not getting involved in this.”

    Swashbuckler: “Count me out, let me know who wins. I am Switzerland here.”

    Me: “Fine. Roll initiative.”

    So... there we stand. On the deck of an utterly smashed and ruined ship, in the middle of a calm ocean with still winds. Covered in our own blood, beaten to within an inch of our lives, bruised and broken. Low on supplies. I have five hitpoints, the Dragon Shaman has like a dozen.

    And he wins initiative. He crosses the deck of the ship until he's adjacent... and readies an action, taking a deep inhale and telling the DM that he's ready to torch me with his fire breath if I so much as twitch aggressively.

    I sat in silence for a bit, thinking of my next move. His fire breath is 4d6. I have 5 hitpoints. "If you roll all ones, I'll survive to hit you with an eldritch blast."

    Dragon Shaman: “If I roll all fours, you'll instantly burn to death. Feeling lucky?”

    I think for another minute and sigh. "Okay. I won't desecrate your ship".

    Combat ends, everyone looks relieved. I fly over the the dragon corpse and start pushing it off the back. It's slow going, but it's close to being toppled with its own weight anyway, I just need to shift it over the edge. Finally it shifts enough that it topples into the water. I float over on top of it and pull out my Desecrate scroll.

    Dragon Shaman: “Excuse me?”

    Me: “I'm not desecrating your precious ship. I'll Desecrate this little chunk of water I'm floating on, and raise the dragon, and we can all be on our merry way! We can whistle a little tune while we go!”

    Swashbuckler chuckles and shrugs. "She's not desecrating the ship. You can still go kill her out of spite I guess."

    The Dragon Shaman sighs and shakes his head. Agrees. The ship's not tainted with evil, my actions are my own, if I want to make my own redemption that much further away then so be it.

    Me: “So be it.”

    So the ship floating off a ways, I UMD the Desecrate scroll and make the surrounding area pulse with unholy negative energy, yada yada yada. Fortunately the dragon corpse floated long enough for me to get off the scroll, stuff its face full of black onyx, and reanimate it.

    So me and my new (very powerful) blue friend fly up to the deck of the ship, and we begin re-discussing strategy. I was just figuring on having an extra flying mount to chariot us all away, but the Kobold had a remarkably amazing idea.

    "Chain it to the bow of the ship and have it pull us!"

    The Dragon is strong enough that even carting our ship and crew behind it, we'll be moving at easily five times our normal sailing speed. And that's not reliant on winds, and it's non-stop. It'll fly all night and all day. We'll still need to take turns at watch, to make sure it doesn't keep dragging us straight onto dry land, but it'll be a REMARKABLE upgrade.

    The DM even gave us a golf clap. He hadn't expected us to do anything like this, but was impressed that we'd turned such a horrible situation into an IMPROVEMENT over our normal standings. He even confessed that he expected one or two of us to die distracting the dragon while the others escaped.

    And of we sailed! Or... flew... Or off we got dragged! Yeah, that one sounds right.

    Off we got dragged!



    Papa HeeNo...Again

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    The rest of our travel was plagued with the most horrible weather we'd encountered to date. It became hard to tell the difference between day and night, the cloud cover was so dark. Torrential downpours were constant, the skeletons spent their time scooping water of of the below-decks (not that it was critical, the dragon was strong enough that pulling us up and forward had our ships normal waterline ABOVE the actual waterline. Lightning cracked and thunder rolled, and cyclones and maelstroms sprung up on all horizons.

    The Dragon Shaman said the gods of the sea were angry at me, and this was my karma taking face. I said something about the gods of the sea being neutral and uncaring, and his reply was "well SOMEONE is mad at you".

    Despite the storm, the Dragon serving as our undead engine turned the "several weeks later" journey into "several days later", which was good, because time was definitely not on our side. When we spotted land, I had the dragon sink into the water to slow our arrival. We were going far faster than any sailing ship could muster, so the dragon had to drop and start swimming, letting us slow naturally and walking ahead of us.

    When we reached the entrance to the river, and the lazy local portmaster came out with a smile and a wave, saying something about the plague clearing up right after we left. He cut himself off when he noticed the huge (now pale and dead) blue dragon starting to peak above the waterline as the shore got more and more shallow. He just tilted his head and stared at it as it pulled our ship up to the dock.

    Dragon Shaman: "We don't actually have any port papers, by the way."

    Portmaster, shaking his head with a glazed distant expression: "No concern. No concern, I'll just... pretend I never saw you?"

    Dragon Shaman: "Good man."

    So we made it to Papa HeeNos area. We elected to just leave the ship floating in the water, and gave the blue dragon and skeleton orders to kill anything that tampered with the boat while we headed further inland to the village with the (perfectly willing to follow our lead) angel in tow. When we were almost there, just before we could actually SEE the village, we came to some kind of barrier. It didn't look like anything, there was just a point in the trees where we could no longer press on without passing a Will save, and then a fortitude save, in quick succession. The save DCs were ridiculously high. I floated up to see if the barrier had some kind of space limit, but no matter how high I went, it was the same thing. It just quietly repulsed us from entering.

    The angel could cross through it. Whether her saves were just that high, or it was a side effect of being a creature of pure goodness, we didn't know.

    As soon as she crossed the barrier though, Papa HeeNo was standing there on the other side, as if he'd been there the entier time. He said "Ah Ah Ah no no no. Ain't no one comin in da village no more, ya hear? We off limits. I knowin ya be bringin da bird girl, she'll stay. Da rest of ya need to be goin now, aint no cause for ya bein here."

    Factotum: We could... really really use a place to rest. Resupply a little maybe?

    Papa HeeNo just laughed and waves us off. "Ya be leavin, now." Then he reached over, grabbed the angels wing and stretched it out, and roughly yanked one of the bigger looking feathers out of place. The angel didn't flinch. Papa HeeNo then reached up, plucked out a single one of her hairs, and tied it around the feather, before letting it drift to us from across the barrier. "Ya be keepin dat wit ya. Day still be followin you instead a her now. Now go. Da spirits be lettin ya know if I wantin ya back ever. Git."

    The angel didn't say a word, just turned towards the village and began marching away. Papa HeeNo waited to make sure we started heading back to the ship before doing the same.

    Kobold: “That didn't really set my mind at ease.”

    Swashbuckler: “It didn't? Cause my first thought here is, 'Wow, that guy knows what he's doing.'”

    Me: “The angel did seem to trust him implicitly.”

    Kobold: “What if he's got her under a charm or something, and is planning to kill her?”

    Me: “Then we won't have to worry about that at least.”

    So we leave the jungle uneventfully, heading back to Central Island.




    Global Warning

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    We half expected central island to be destroyed when we got there. The way things had been going with us pulling into dead cities and sneaking to haunted asylums, it occurred to us that it'd actually been a while since we'd dealt with normal people.

    We still had the mental wherewithal to disguise our status as "The Necromancy Boat”. We didn't bother to hide the skeletons or bat, we just tied a rope to each one of them and handed them each a weight, and sent them overboard with the underwater dragon tugging us into port. No sense bothering to try an explanation when we could just let them soak in silence.

    No one noticed the undead creatures a few hundred yards back and deep under the dark water, fortunately. They did immediately notice that our rigging had been shredded from the base up, and that all four of us looked like we'd had boulders dropped on us. Because of the speed of our travel, it'd only been a few days since the dragon attack, and we were still worse looking for the wear. We'd managed to top our hitpoints back off around day 3 through a combination of rest and our various methods of curative treatments (lay on hands, fiendish healing, regeneration, the Swashbucklers healing bug familiar, and good old fashioned cure spells). That didn't mean we DIDN'T look like we'd almost lost a fight with a dragon.

    The portmaster didn't even ask for our papers. He just looked around the deck of our ship and said "What in the hells happened here?"

    All we said was that we needed to see the captain of the guard (who came rushing out once he realized it was us). The first words out of his mouth? "Did you have a run in with Therin?"

    Which is when it hit us that we hadn't been back to central island for a full update in a WHILE...we laughed.

    We brought the captain of the guard up to speed. He was a little dubious about our story, until we showed him the familiar spellcasting bugs, only clearly twisted and evil and dark. He accompanied us to Macguillers shop so we could bring them both up to speed at once and have Macguiler check out the newest strain (and verify that the gems were of the soul-stealing variety).

    His assessment of the black onyx gems was identical to ours, with the added conclusion (one we hadn't even checked) that the gems were so perfect and pristine that they were worth a lot more than normal black onyx gems of their type. I made a mental note that me and the Swashbuckler/archivist would have to harvest every available one, for undead related purposes.

    Macguiller, in a little magical experiment, took a live crab and put it in a makeshift mesh cage, before activating the black onyx gem on it. Instantly, a glowing rune appeared on the crabs back and it began to attack the walls of the mesh cage ferociously. Before it could make much progress, Macguiller took a thin metal spike and slammed it home on the crab... which caused it to shake and sputter and crack open, causing another one of the black onyx gem bugs to pop out from inside it and begin attacking the same spot on the cage. Macguiler spiked it to.

    The guard captain, watching intently, whistled and asked us how many of those bugs had been out there? When we said "A few thousand, and spreading" he looked at us with wide eyes and nodded. Said he'd send out every available ship to every possible port (excluding the ones within a few days travel of the egyptian continent) with sketches of the rune, the bug, and a warning about exactly what they were. Hopefully enough places would take it seriously to develop some decent defense strategies.

    That's when we dropped the bombshell about the dragon attacking us (leaving out the dragons timely zombification obviously). The Swashbuckler casually asked "How many dragons do you think are in the world, anyway?" The Dragon Shaman and DM both replied together "Too many".

    Still, it felt good to have the authorities on our side. The guard captain took a sketch of the symbol, the bug, and started writing down the key details, and went back to have as many copies scribed as possible, and sent out with every willing ship.

    We took the resting period to look at the map of the world, And chart out how fast the bugs might be spreading. Given the actual bugs pace, it didn't look too bleak. A hundred miles out in any given direction from the initial ziggurat was the raw potential.

    Factoring in the spreading and travel of faster creatures made it a little worse. Infected horses, camels, or other quick moving creatures could have spread the bugs out to just over three hundred miles. At which point they could destroy themselves to let the cache of insects out to re-start the infection process in new locations...

    If the obviously Adult dragon who'd attacked us had nearby offspring who were also infected? Even just wyrmlings or very young hatchlings?

    700 miles give or take.

    And god knows what was out there for the drifter to take over.

    Before we got too depressed thinking about that, we gave Macguiller one of the gems from the Swashbucklers healing bug and asked if he could maybe try to grow as many of those as possible. The bugs themselves were apparently not the evil plot, and having more healing in the world, especially central island, would probably be a good idea after all.

    He nodded in agreement, and we wished him the best. We re-supplied as best we could (the captain practically gave us extra gear from his guard militia. Bolts, throwing daggers, whatever we thought we might need). We found a wand of Endure Elements that would be very important to us...

    Because with that, we set off to the arctic circle.

    To end the session, the DM let us level up. Said we'd definitely earned it with the display against the dragon, the securing of the angels (temporary) safety, and sending out a mass signal for the rest of the world to defend itself against a very real threat. Whether or not anyone would believe it remained to be seen, but at least we'd warned them.

    The Dragon Shaman is now immune to Fire and has learned his final Draconic Aura. Immunity to fire will be less valuable in the arctic, probably, but at least it's something handy for the future.

    The Factotum opted to finally take his level in barbarian for the boost to speed, making him even faster and more "Everywhere". The rage might also come in handy, for the boost to will saves, hit points, and damage.

    The Swashbuckler took another level in archivist, and got 2nd level spells (learned Cure Moderate Wounds and Gentle Repose). His reason for learning Gentle Repose? "I'm not going to desecrate any areas, but if we find another powerful corpse, I'll just keep it from rotting horribly until one of us has enough levels to turn it into a zombies.” Pretty clever.

    My Eldritch Blast got a little more powerful, but I didn't learn any new tricks for it. I can also animate things with 18 HD now, which is Ironic with a capital I because the struggle and roleplaying that resulted from NOT being able to animate the dragon means I now COULD animate the dragon, which would have reduced the conflict and just... yeah, make you go cross eyed.



    Sinking Ship

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    So we take off for the arctic circle, just as planned.

    As we announce that we intend to follow through with our plan to head to our potential icy-deaths, the DM smiles and waves a copy of "Frostburn" at us, reminding us that we we're wearing all wearing leather armor, except for the dragonborn, who's wearing a giant suit of highly conductive metal (who mumbles and curses a little about not going with a Silver Dragon as his totem instead of Gold).

    The Swashbuckler proudly points out that he has a wand with 50 charges of Endure Elements in it, and the Factotum Kobold mentions that he's going to be casting it on himself each day to save charges. The DM just nods casually and says "I have the rules for exposure and hypothermia bookmarked. Don't run out."

    So we sail on until the waters turn pitch black and frosty, and great chunks of ice threaten our path at every turn. The storms that have plagued us ever since I cast "Desecrate" on the open ocean continue to do so. Maybe it really is bad karma. I definitely felt the brunt of the suffering, as at one point, I actually have to fly up and ride on our blue dragons head to give it a better guiding hand at navigating the ice, or it would drag us right into huge chunks that would reak havoc with the SS Ironman. When I was up there on him, the DM informed me that I noticed he was stiffening up in a very severe way. It hit me that dead bodies don't produce heat, and while a skeleton might be fine in this weather, a zombie won't be. So we would have to expend Endure Element charges to keep our flying mounts mobile, or we'd be hoofing it through the arctic ourselves.

    Once it gets cold enough to be a concern, I UMD the wand and give all six relevant targets a charge from it, for 24 hours of protection from the cold.

    Finally, we reach the destination that is listed as the arctic port. True to what one of the sailors earlier in the campaign told us, there's nothing here. The water dead-ends into a huge and unscalable wall of ice that's easily 30 stories high, maybe further (we couldn't make out the top in the bad weather). There are impressively sturdy wooden posts and bright colored markers (sporting the Empires colors) around signifying it as an actual official location, as opposed to random wilderness, but they're beaten by the weather and a lot of them are missing. Repair runs up here can't be very frequent...

    At the 'port' though, is another ship, tied to the wooden posts, anchored, but still tossed and beaten against the ice wall. It's crumbling, the hull is compromised and warped. Whoever left this ship here either never made it back, or weren't planning on returning.

    Our first thoughts as seasoned adventurers, is how we're going to traverse this nigh impossible wall of slick ice in these heavy winds.

    NAH, I'm fooling, our first thought was "Is there anything valuable on that ship!?!?"

    The Swashbuckler hopped on the bat, I carried the kobold, and the Dragon Shaman flew himself over to it. Most of the surface was slick with layer after layer of ice. We could see occasional stray papers on the deck, frozen in place by the wet mists that blew upwards. We couldn't find much of value on deck itself, but there was some salvageable rope.

    We open the doors to head below decks. The first thing we notice is that the hull looked much better from our ships side. From the opposite side, there's a clear and gapping hole, and only the ropes and the fact that it's freezing into the glacier are holding it afloat. The second thing we notice? Two BIG FRACKING DIRE POLAR BEARS who immediately roar and charge us. One of the bears actually won initiative (actually, the kobold won initiative, but his first action was to immediately spring back above deck through the door the bears couldn't fit through.

    The bear pummeled the swashbuckler with a nasty claw attack, knocking him prone and blocking the doorway. Me and the Dragon Shaman both hit it with our signature supernatural abilities (fire breath and an eldritch blast). The Swashbuckler stood up, and the other bear charged in and slammed me clean into the wall. The kobold had a flank on the bear through the doorway, and hit it with a great sneak attack with his hand crossbow before it hit the Swashbuckler with another claw attack and started a grapple. Fortunately it failed to properly grapple. The Dragon Shaman ran at the second bear and brought his bastard sword to it with a roar, fighting it one on one. I opted for a more prudent course of actions and floated back out through the gapping hole in the ship, helping the Dragon Shaman with an eldritch blast.

    The Kobold dashed further out, took careful aim, and threw off a fireball. It hurt the bear through the doorway, but not the Swashbuckler (who was behind the wall). The Swashbuckler did a quickened Enlarge Person on himself, figuring if the bear wanted to wrestle, he'd wrestle. He grappled it out of spite, and succeeded.

    The fight pretty much went on like that. In the end, we had some tough moments and took a decent licking (well, me and the kobold were attacking from range, and were fine ), and took out the bears, who had had the audacity to seek shelter in something me and my companion sought to loot.

    For our troubles, we found a whoooole bunch of water damaged supplies, a few intact bottles of rum, a compass, and a whole lot of nothing. I figured, much like with the dragon, if we weren't getting GEAR we might as well have another fighter/mount on our side. So I reanimated one of the bears as a skeleton. It brought me up to my undead limit, but it seemed a valuable addition to things.



    Due North

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    Then we head back out into the bitter winds and even bitterer waters to begin contemplating how to get up the ice wall. It's not too difficult, the dragon is strong enough to bear the winds as he flies, so he can take us up one or two (or even all four) at a time and set us down. The greater concern, once we reached the top, was whether we wanted to take the dragon with us. I thought flying over the incredibly deep snow would be a lot faster and easier than trecking through it, and the way I saw it, time was definitely against us. In a grand sense, we needed to be working against the bugs as fast as we could. In shorter terms, we had about a weeks worth of endure elements, so we needed to wrap this frozen adventure up as fast as we could and be on our merry way.

    The Dragon Shaman rightly pointed out though, that the ship and the dragon were our two most important assets. If anything hurt either one of them, we'd be stranded here. I completely agreed with that line of reasoning, which was WHY I wanted to bring the dragon with us. We could keep an eye on half of our assets, rather than none of them. And besides, the dragon could carry all of us by weight, if something DID happen to the ship.

    Dragon Shaman: “But we already established that all four of us can't ride him without an unreasonable chance of falling off in flight.”

    Me: “No... but we could tie some ropes to his legs and let you glide behind him? The kobold could hang onto you too, we could all fit that way.”

    Dragon Shaman: “Wait. You want you and the swashbuckler to ride the dragon comfortably while I cling to a harness and parasail behind him at 150 feet per round? ...that's the greatest thing I've ever heard. Get the rope, we're doing it.”

    Me: “ I meant if something happened to the boat.”

    Dragon Shaman: “Well he flies faster than any of us right? We want to spend as little time here as possible. Let's just travel like that for now.”

    And so we did! We left the skeletons (two human, one bear) and the zombie bat guarding the ship (and gave the skeletons poles to push away from the ice wall, hoping that would be enough to keep the ship from getting too beat up while we were away). The Dragon Shaman couldn't match the dragons fly speed in any sense, but his wings were strong enough to let him GLIDE pretty fluidly behind, and the rope gave him enough leeway to bank side to side in the process. When we set off through the snow the DM pointed out that, if anyone saw us, they would know there was something wrong with me, as the wind whipping around had my dress blowing freely side to side and revealing my lack of legs quite clearly. I shrugged. Who we'd run into, I didn't know, but there wasn't a lot I could do about that. I'd just explain that I flew with magic because I was vain, and hope they wouldn't do anything irrational.

    We were heading in no particular direction. We were actually following due north for lack of any guiding hooks or logical place to head off to. Making great time flying, and since we weren't trudging through the snow, we were likely moving ten times as fast as any normal arctic expedition might (150 fly speed versus 30 feet move speed, versus moving half speed because of the incredibly thick snow and harsh conditions). In just a day, we'd probably made it over a weeks worth of travel in. We had to make camp twice still, as we saw nothing relevant in many days worth of travel.

    It was winter here in the arctic, which meant no sunlight. The kobold and I were the guides here, as we were concerned light would bring down undue attention on our party (and the two of us could see in the dark). Around the tail end of the third day though, we started hearing things. The wind was a constant low howl, but this was even lower. A deep, sad, maddening moan echoing through the dark snowy night. It wasn't rhythmic enough to be natural. It was guttural. Intentional.

    Along the way, the kobold made a spot check to reveal a dark shape under the snow. We landed to dig it up, and after uncovering enough snow and it was shown to be our fifth mystery man. Someone failed in his little task, apparently... whatever that task had been.

    We pulled him all the way out of the snow to loot his corpse (adventurers!), which is when we saw it. He didn't die of exposure. His lower legs were gone just below the knees... and it looked like they'd been BURNED off. Charred bone stuck out through raw blackened (and frozen) flesh.

    Which immediately raised a whole heap of questions. Who, what, and WHY were his legs burned off? And why hadn't scavengers picked his corpse clean? The arctic wasn't a bustling place, but there WERE creatures here. Probably fiercely hungry ones.

    We still looted his corpse. Some valuables, some supplies, we took the coat just in case we started running low on endure elements. The only thing he had that really stood out was a magic mirror of some kind. We assume it was magical because it was a full six inches across, thrown in a pack full of lose gear, but it wasn't broken, scratched, or marred in any way. It had no frame, it was just a circle of silvered glass. We didn't feel we were at the best time or place to thoroughly examine it though.

    Along the path further, we started noticing more dark shapes. Other men, equally warmly dressed. Every one of them had their lowest extremities charred clean off. The way we found them all, facing away from the main path, made it look like they'd been fleeing... they weren't grouped together, they were spread out and killed in various locations.

    And we heard another moan coming from the pitch black snowscape.

    We stopped for the kobold to do a boosted Listen check... which is when the attack came.



    Into the Night

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    We all rolled will saves (we all passed). Then it came in. It moved fast. Lightning fast. Faster than the kobold, and he was a flickering blurry dart when he moved his top speed. It swooped in at an arc from above, out of the black sky, moaning hauntingly. It passed over our group, hit several of us in one blow. We all took slashing and fire damage (the dragon shaman naturally only took slashing damage, being immune to fire). The immediate area lit up with flames as the top layer of snow was suddenly filled with two thin twin tracks of fire that brushed between us all in an elegant arc, apparently the creatures path of attack.

    The Swashbuckler had gotten an attack off, hit with his rapier, realized it was a poor option and drew his longsword. The four of us grouped up back to back, the dragon circling us while we all stared off into the biting black coldness. The moan died away, and in another round, so did the flames, leaving us back in total darkness. The Swashbuckler cast light on the ground behind us, making our shadows dance off into the horizon eerily while we struggled to make out anything against the bleak night sky.

    Me: “Knowledge arcana check anyone?”

    The kobold rolls one under the DC to see if he knows anything about what we're up against. The Swashbuckler/Archivist likewise has nothing. Because he only rolled one under, the DM was nice enough to give the kobold a single word. The creatures name, something he pulled out of old memories and terror stories.

    Kobold: "Wendigo".

    Just then, the moan returned. We all rolled another will save. Once again, we all passed. And once again, the creature came arcing out of the pitch black sky to attack us all in one fell swoop. It ignore the undead dragon and swooped through the four of us, slashing us all with burning... something. It was too fast for us to even see how it was attacking us. But not so fast we couldn't lash out at the blur with our various methods of assault. I have Hideous Blow as an invocation, so I can fire my eldritch blast through a melee attack. I failed a spell resistance check though, and only hit it for a 1d4-1 damage. The others smacked it a little better, including the true-striking Swashbuckler who once again topped off the "Who's Who" list in damage dealing.

    Kobold: “Knowledge history checks, maybe?”

    The kobold rolls high enough to get out a little more info. The Wendigo is a legend of an undead creature, fueled by hate and hunger.

    Swashbuckler: “That doesn't really help much, we could have established that after killing it and desecrating its corpse.”

    Dragon Shaman: “NO DESECRATIONS.”

    Swashbuckler: “I didn't mean the SPELL.”

    DM: “And now it strikes again.”

    Another howling moan fills the air. Another batch of Will saves. This time the swashbuckler fails. We brace ourselves for another attack. The Wendigo swoops through our group (taking three attacks in the process), grabs the Swashbuckler from behind, and screams off in a straight line, dragging the swashbuckler with him for 150 feet before dropping him into the snow and disappearing back into the black sky. As he dragged the swashbuckler, the swashbucklers feet burst into flames, leaving a trail across the top of the snow until he crashed back to the earth. He took 5d6 fire damage, and we got a better look at the creature. It was human looking (mostly) but twisted and feral. Its clothes, hair and its own skin hung from it in long tattered streamers, and its lower legs? Burned off below the knee.
    We run towards the Swashbuckler, but even taking a double move the kobold was the only one who made it to him when the low howling moan carried back across the wind. Will saves. The Swashbuckler and me both fail. The Wendigo comes, down in its arc, getting attacked by the dragon shaman, but dragging me off (west compared to the Swashbucklers north). I didn't take any fire damage (no legs to burn), but the Wendigo was so enraged by that fact that it raked its claws down my face, almost damaging my eyes in the process (fort save), and dropping me down into the snow, 150 feet from the dragon shaman and even further from the Swashbuckler and Kobold. The kobold healed the swashbuckler some, and then sprinted in my direction. He reached me, but didn't have the actions left to heal me. I still felt better not being alone. The Dragon Shaman and swashbuckler ran towards each other.

    Moan. Will saves. We all passed, but the Wendigo didn't relent. It swept down in an arc, hitting me and the kobold with the slashing fire damage (and taking a serious blow from me in the process, with a dagger strike laced with an eldritch blast that got through its spell resistance for the first time). It swept away from us, to the dragon shaman, exchanging blows, before 'rebounding' over to the swashbuckler and trading blows with him as well, before disappearing back into the night sky.

    The thing cleared 240 feet in its turn while fighting everyone it passed. Scary fast.

    The kobold healed me and the entire group ran back towards each other. Another moan, another will save, we all passed. The thing swung through for another round of exchanging blows with all of us. It didn't seem to care about the dragon, and the dragon was too slow to get a lick in even if it got into range.

    We were almost grouped together when the swashbuckler failed another will save, with a ONE, and got dragged off another 150 feet. And then another. And another. He was getting dragged off alone, taking heavy fire damage, trying to roll a passing will save and fighting back every time and failing spectacularily, and all we could do was chase after him and listen to him screaming, quietly (selfishly) thanking ourselves it wasn't us.

    Eventually, we lost sight of the Swashbuckler (the kobold was keeping up with him, but was trying to stay between both groups...and the swashbucklers screaming drifted off into the night so far he couldn't track both at once... and he elected to stay with us as the most logical course of actions), and then there were three




    Puzzle Piece

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    We flew north in grim silence. We didn't know if or when another attack was coming, or what to expect. At this point, we were questioning what we were even heading towards. We found the fifth man, we found his magical toy. We could examine it and see what it did once we weren't in constant environmental (and now supernatural) danger. How badly did we need to find where he was going? He obviously wasn't vital to the first part of the ritual (which meant this trek had something to do with infecting the angel and sending her home to heaven).

    We were heading towards day 4 of our arctic travel, and had 30ish Endure Elements left (the kobold could cast it on himself with his Factotum spellcasting, but not on anyone else). If we went too far, we wouldn't have enough magic for the trip home. The Dragon Shaman said we at least needed to see what happened to our Swashbuckler companion. The kobold said "I have an idea or two about what happened, and I'd rather not run into the Wendigo when it gets hungry again".

    Still, we pressed on, resting for another night and topping ourselves off with another Endure Elements for the days march. I say 'day', but bear in mind it's still pitch black eternal night in this region. Which is why we're confused to see a dim glow coming from over the next few snow banks.

    We press on carefully, getting closer and closer, until we realize what the glow is. Its the swashbucklers rapier, with a "light" spell cast on it, sticking out of the snowy ice. We search around frantically until we find him, tucked under an ice bank, curled up in a ball, with his hands and face stuck into his pack to conserve as much warmth as possible, shivering like he's at his last.
    Until I UMD an Endure Elements charge for him . He slowly stops shivering and stands up, still shaky from the cold damage he's taken. The Dragon Shaman tops him off with a lay on hands. He'd been really close to freezing to death, but the kobold managed to treat his hypothermia and frostbite with a boosted heal check. He'd taken some cold damage that absolutely couldn't be healed until we had him in warmer climates though, and was suffering some DEX damage we had no real way of fixing except for healing via rest. We ask him what happened (the DM had handled that part via private messages).

    Swashbuckler: “Oh, you know. Will Save, Cure Moderate Wounds, True Strike, Power Attack. Stuff like that.”

    Dragon Shaman: “You beat it?”

    Swashbuckler: “I'm still moving, it's not. It had nothing valuable.”

    Kobold: “...He's so great.”

    By the end of that fourth day, we'd cleared almost 1000 miles. We considered ourselves at the halfway point of our journey, and were about to turn back (for better or for worse) when we saw...whatever it was we were headed towards. Ahead of us, in the snow, was some kind of stone structure. It looked to only be about 500 feet across, a perfect stone disc, supported about 5 stories off the ground by four huge pillars built perfectly on the compass points. (closer examination revealed the pillars to be circular stairways).

    It had no ornate decorations. There were no runes, no magical symbols... it was all simple, basic, stone. A bare stone platform with four bare stone pillars.

    We landed the dragon straight on the platform and began poking around. We established quite quickly that there was nothing actually here. Search checks reveal nothing, magical sight reveals nothing. It's just... rock.

    That's not good enough for us, obviously. So we circle back off the platform and checked UNDER it, searching through the snow. The kobold manages to find something buried in the dead center. We dig it up to reveal a horribly, horribly weathered treasure chest. The classic kind of treasure chest, with a big elaborate lock. A big elaborate lock that's utterly rusted solid. The kobold digs his lockpicks around in it, but nothing will budge.

    We all turn to the Swashbuckler (at the table) who smirks, grabs his dice, and asks "Two handed power attack for six?"

    One clean strike and one bashed off lock later, we're cracking open the chest like the greedy imps we know we are in our hearts. The DM even played the classic zelda "Found a treasure" sound effect. And was it worth the fight through the harsh arctic climates, that would be lethal to anyone not magically protected and being escorted by a giant dragon?

    Oh yeah. definitely. The chest was, quite literally, full to the top with coins stamped from precious metals and beautifully cut gemstones. Two things were immediately noticeable, however. One was that the entire chest was divided into four compartments. The coins were separated into the four compartments by what was engraved on them. One compartment just had smooth featureless coins, the other three had a variety of faces, symbols, letters and numbers... the kobold rolled some knowledge history checks on them, and discovered that they were old currencies from ancient (and defunct) kingdoms. Thousands and thousands of years defunct kingdoms, and that none of these coins were still around, they just existed as sketchings in certain history books. Defunct or not didn't matter, because we were busy scooping out the coins into sturdy canvas bags to strap to the dragon to cart off for us. A quick count revealed the whole chest to be somewhere around the 100,000 GP mark (gems included). Divided four ways, we were all kinda giddy over the find. It might even be worth more, if we could find people who were concerned about the 'ancient kingdom' status of the coins.

    The thrill at the idea of a shopping spree was tempered by the fact that if we didn't figure out a way to "Save The World(TM)" there wouldn't be anywhere to spend our pile of recovered treasure.

    Which brought us to the second point of interest in the treasure chest. Strapped to the lid was a big metallic blue ring with a hinge to open it, the same size across as the mirror disk we'd carted up here. Without even thinking about it, the Dragon Shaman grabbed the disc, pulled out the mirror, and pushed the two together, locking the hinge shut with the mirror inside (which pulsed with a quiet blue light and then did nothing).

    The idea that the mirror might have been magically booby-trapped didn't occur to us until way later, fortunately, nothing uncomfortable or lethal happened .

    Kobold: “Okay, it's time we seriously think about this situation. We're at the magnetic pole of this world. And hidden here, in nigh impassable terrain, is a giant stone platform with four pillars, a treasure chest with ancient currency from dead kingdoms spread across the entire globe, and the frame to a magical mirror. I'm thinking "teleport", anyone with me?”

    We all agreed it seemed more likely than not at this point. This platform must have been an old nexus used for travel between kingdoms. God knows who created, why they made it at the magnetic pole (must have been a requirement) or how exactly it worked.

    So we climbed one of the pillars and started poking around to find out, mirror in hand. It turned out that you could trigger the mirror with a UMD check (even after triggering it, we couldn't figure out what the NORMAL, non-UMD trigger was, but that seemed irrelevant as long as we could make the thing work). Once triggered, it stopped being a "looking glass" and became a literal looking glass. We could see clean through the mirror, and when we did things looked a bit different. The four pillars all had four doorways on top of them, and each led to a different room. The rooms were all bare stone. Nondescript, the same as the platform we were on itself. They also had no doorways leading out.

    We figured that the four stone rooms led to different points in the world, but without going through and finding out the hard way, there was no way of telling where they went off to. We couldn't bring the dragon with us either, so we'd be crossing our fingers and hoping the mirror let us come back to this nexus point with the mirror, assuming we took the plunge through.

    The other thing we noticed was that the dead center of the stone platform had a heavily locked doorway made of some kind of metal. It was only there when looking through the mirror, and it was absolutely covered in chains, heavy padlocks, and the whole thing looked very, very intimidating.

    And we decided to end the session right there, with us on the stone platform deciding what to do (mainly because we honestly couldn't decide what to do ).

    The DM informed us that we were leveling up to 10. The Kobold Factotum didn't really get much out of it, aside from more hitpoints and skill points. The Dragon Shaman got a stronger breath weapon, and his aura bonus shot up to +3. The Swashbuckler took another level of archivist (which puts him at 4, 4, 2 Swashbuckler Archivist Sorcerer). That means he's one level away from being able to animate and control 20 HD worth of undead creatures himself, which means we could be bringing a good force to bear against any targets we decide to plan an attack against. he's also mentioned to the DM that he wants to learn the Reincarnate spell ("just in case"). The Dm said he'd be able to take it as a cleric spell on level up (in three more levels that is). The swashbuckler said once he's got that, he'll probably go back to martial classes with his spellcasting as backup.

    I got energy resistance 5 to two elements of my choice. I picked cold and electricity, figuring if we spent much time in the arctic, being naturally resistant to cold would come to my advantage. I also got a new Lesser invocation, but I haven't decided what it is (I'll need to pick by our next session).

    I really like Spider Shape from Drow of the Underdark. The biggest reason I want it is because it will give me good control over my size. At this level I'll be able to turn into a Small, Medium or Large sized fiendish spider at will. In another level I'll be able to turn into a tiny one, and then I'll be able to become Huge and Gargantuan.

    My other top choices are Curse of Despair (access to the Bestow Curse spell has saved us on more than one occasion), Flee the Scene (50 foot teleport with an image of me left behind is just slick, ability to fly or not), Ignore the Pyre (changing energy resistance 10 is just prudent), or Walk Unseen (invisible, yes please).

    I'm also trying to decide if, at level 12, I'm going to take another "Extra Invocation" feat, or an item creation feat.

    We'll see I suppose.

    Also, I should probably start numbering these to keep things straight. I consider this "update 11" in any event.


  11. - Top - End - #11
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    May 2006

    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Where To?

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    So this will be update twelve on my campaign.

    To start the session, we let the DM know about our finalized character sheets and sent him the updated ones to bring us up to level 10. I opted for the Walk Unseen as my newest invocation, because being able to fly and be invisible for 24 hours a day is basically what makes Warlocks so deliciously warlockish.

    Then we resumed our campaign exactly as we had left off. The four of us (and our undead dragon) are standing on a giant stone platform, with the bitterest of the bitter arctic winds whipping us over. We're stuck facing four doorways leading to "question mark", and a hatch we're afraid to open. And all of it relies on a magical mirror that we can't see them without.

    What do normal deity-fearing adventurers do in this situation?

    "Send the kobold first"

    Our reasoning is that he's smaller, sneakier, and faster than the rest of us will ever be by a long shot. He's going to trot through one of the doorways real quick. Just into the room and back, and tell us the scoop from the other side. If he can't get back at all, the plan is for him to go into hardcore-stealth-mode and try to find a way back to central island, one way or another (up to and including hijacking a rowboat and braving the open seas alone, though that's obviously the last on the list of options) while the rest of us do an about-face in the arctic.

    One way or another, we've established that me and the Dragon Shaman aren't going through the doorway. I don't want to leave my small undead army (not to mention the heap of trea-sha! we found here), and the Dragon Shaman doesn't want to abandon his ship to the icy waters. We feel we might be hamstringing ourself here, but we aren't so quick to give up our stuff if there's a way to avoid it.

    So the kobold takes the magic mirror and hops through the doorway (we picked north, no real reason). He goes through, takes a quick look around the room both with and without the mirror, and comes back our way. He's already established a few things. The doorway leads to a plain stone room with only one doorway in our out. The noteworthy thing about the single doorway is that, WITH the mirror it becomes a portal to the platform. Without the mirror, the doorway just leads to the rest of the structure. The second thing he established?

    Kobold: “Yeah, it's definitely a ziggurat. The doorway out led to a giant stone chamber, they're getting relatively familiar looking. I don't think it's either of the ones we've been to either.”

    Dragon Shaman: “How could you tell?”

    Kobold: “Well it wasn't full of giant murderous bugs. They might have cleared out of the jungle ziggurat, but I didn't see any insects at all. A few would have hung around, right?”

    Swashbuckler: “Could you tell where in the world it was? Like by temperature?”

    Dragon Shaman: “It'd probably be hard to gauge something like that inside a giant stone structure, especially if it's mostly underground. Especially because he's used to the whole "spit freezes in midair" temperature we're in right now.”

    Swashbuckler: “But if it's really humid, like a jungle, as opposed to a desert?”

    Kobold: “Ref?”

    DM: “You couldn't tell.”

    Kobold: “That's that then.”

    So we send the kobold through the other three, very scientifically. What he gauges is that, the one on the west probably IS the jungle ziggurat. It's got a lot of strange looking insects crawling around, that he avoided irritating by being able to hide in plain sight. The one to the south is like the one to the north. More old cobwebs and dust than any real activity. They haven't seen any use (at least, not like the other two). When he goes through the one on the east and looks around, he immediately comes tumbling back through the doorway to inform us that the east ziggurat is clearly the desert one, because it's brimming with black onyx bugs covered in golden runes.

    We're torn between examining that one first, and not bothering to examine it at all. We're curious as to what happened in the wake of our departure, but at the same time, "bugs everywhere oh god get them off".

    We know what to expect of the jungle ziggurat, so our plans it to examine the other two, find out where they are and what's the dealie-yo, and then double back and check out the Drifters base and see if we can't find anything relevant there. Once we have everything figured out, we'll come back to the arctic platform, grab our dragon, and head out and see how the world's been faring against the swarm of black onyx bugs. If we can establish where the other two ziggurats are, we can tuck our ship somewhere safer, knowing we have alternate means of travel.



    North

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    We press into the northern ziggurat. It looks to follow the same layout as the other two, but things look to be in different condition here. The main chamber was full of rotten wooden rubble, which closer examination revealed to look like a collapsed wooden walk (or specifically, a whole series of collapsed wooden walkways laying on top of each other). Nothing was living in the wooden rubble, we saw no rodents or insects.

    More noteworthy was the pillars. Everywhere in the chamber were great stone pillars ring with human sized boxes...obviously coffins. There were hundreds in this chamber alone. The coffin thing made us a tiny bit uneasy, but nevertheless, we were hit with a sense of calm peace. This seemed to truly be a resting place. The kobold did a knowledge (history) check, but came up with nothing. A knowledge (religion) check did verify that the place was consecrated though.

    The dragon shaman sighed, smiled, and said "good place to be". We all generally agreed, me included, if only because it meant we weren't in any real immediate danger. As we explored, some of the coffins did seem to be rotted open, but the skeletons inside were just collapsed peacefully in place. The swashbuckler commented that this would be a great place to return to when he leveled again, as he'd instantly have 20 skeleton warriors (and taking "Practiced Spellcast" for his archivist levels after that would let him have 40 HD of undead minions). The dragon shaman asked if he was honestly okay with regularly raiding a consecrated tomb, but the Swashbuckler said "Trying to save the world, ect, ect".

    We checked the rest of the ziggurat. The other rooms were more of the same. Lined up and down with coffins, all with no name and no noticeable markings or explanation as to what they were. When we reached the ziggurats exit, we found that it was sealed shut with stone. With great team effort, we managed to move the stone door...only to find a wall of dirt. This ziggurat, wherever it was, was apparently buried. We decided that in a few levels, we would set a small team of skeletons digging a tunnel out and up, but for now there was no sense scrabbling through the dirt.

    In fact, depending on where the Southern doorway led, we might rather keep this ziggurat buried and sealed off... a secret and fortified location that we could use as a base, and the foundation of an undead army if it came to that... it occurred to the Kobold Factotum that in one more level, HE'LL be able to cast Animate Dead too, to which the Dragon Shaman replied with an exasperated "Really? We're ALL going to be necromancers except for me, really?".

    The Factotum doesn't necessarily want to be a necromancer (especially when it comes to raiding blessed tombs) but is of the mind that we need to pick up any advantage we can, and having an army of 120+ skeleton warriors is not something to ignore outright.

    The Dragon Shaman agreed not to burn any of us to death over the issue, but has gone on record to say the idea makes him feel uncomfortable.

    So we returned to the portal room, exited the ziggurat back into the biting arctic winds.



    South

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    We entered less cautiously, feeling airy and calm from the sealed, blessed, and consecrated tomb. When we walked through the portal to the southernmost ziggurat though... well, we felt an instant weight drop on our shoulders. The Factotum did another knowledge (religion) check to reveal... yes... just as the other ziggurat had been consecrated, this one was indeed desecrated. I chuckled and mentioned something about this being useful too, because we could drag corpses to it to make our undead more powerful. The Dragon shaman glared, but nodded and said it was numerically sound for us, and it wasn't OUR fault the place was desecrated and unholy.

    We pressed on, being a little more careful than before. Whatever made this place unholy was probably not going to be to our liking... which we discovered was very true when we exited into the great chamber that apparently all ziggurats have, only to find a giant throne on a pile of human skulls, and what looked for all the world like a giant mummy sitting calmly on it. A closer spot checked revealed the mummy to be an ogre who'd been wrapped and bandaged and properly treated in a funerary procession.

    An Ogre Mummy. Adventurers don't have "lucky days", but this was the opposite of lucky. A mummified ogre? Great.

    And as we're processing how screwed we are, the ogre mummy just lets out a harsh gravely whisper, the first word spoke by dried vocal chords in god knows how many centuries: "Why are you here?"

    We all sit in awkward silence for a minute, hoping the kobold will say something clever (in real life. He's our best roleplayer, hands down), when the SWASHBUCKLER (great player, weaker on the roleplaying) says, "We're just poking around, sorry".

    Our whole table just stares at him, before the dragon shaman says "We're just poking around? Really? you reached down, and that was what you pulled up?"

    The ogre mummy doesn't move, and just replies "Weary. Rest. Never Rest." before going into some kind of fugue and saying "rest, rest, rest, rest" over and over. As we look around, we see corpses, looking dessicated but still intact... somewhere between a zombie and a skeleton, crawling around on the walls and glaring at us with somehow still-intact eyeballs. Some of them lick their lips. They look eager and full of hate.

    Dragon Shaman: “Okay... anyone have a spell that'll get us out of this situation?”

    Kobold: “Not high enough level yet.”

    Swashbuckler: “I mostly stab and heal”

    Me: “All of my powers are self only, and nothing helps here.”

    Dragon Shaman: “...these things are going to attack us. That much is obvious to anyone. Maybe WE should make the first move here?”

    *akward pause*

    Me: “Eldritch Spear, Mummy, Face. *rolls 7d6*”

    So my character makes her attack move, which by this point in the campaign I've decided is the "Rock On" hand gesture with an underarmed swing. The mummy takes a good rolls worth of damage, 30ish, and roars with a kind of dry high pitched whine through aforementioned unused vocal chords. At that, skelezombies start dropping off the ceiling and pouncing off the walls in attack mode.

    Our immediate assessment as seasoned adventurers is "HOLY CRAP RUN FOR COVER", which we do. The kobold springs his ridiculous move rate towards the exit to the rest of the ziggurat, hoping he can find a reasonable choke point for the swarm of wall-crawling skelezombies (our DM never named them, I'm guessing they were one of his little "I'm making this up, I am god" type monsters). The Dragon Shaman and me both fly, dodging falling conscious corpses, and, like the cowards we are, we leave our True-Striking swashbuckler on the ground by himself. In our defense, he's the most likely to fight through a crowd of the walking dead, which he proves by actually doing so with little trouble while the rest of us cover his movement with eldritch blasts, cones of fire, and the Kobold even broke out some of the spellcasting gems we harvested from the bugs to thin out the crowds on the Swashbucklers path to catch up.

    Whether suicidal tendencies or tactical genius, we found an unoccupied room and used the choke point of the doorway to hack at the Skelezombies while they swarmed in at us, We couldn't take them all out, as they spilled into the room and gave us a decent fight, but we clearly had the upper hand. That is, we HAD the upper hand until the Skelezombie squeezing through started outnumbering us AND the ogre mummy started squeezing through the door,

    The fight got ugly, but with me sticking to the ceiling (mostly out of range, though some of the skelezombies could jump and hit me), the dragon shaman torching cones worth of the undead creatures, and the Kobold being wise and sticking to support and boosting the occasional attack or damage roll (while the swashbuckler naturally cleaved his way through anything that got close to him), we were doing alright. The mummy got in a really good lick on the Swashbuckler and sent him sprawling into the far wall and into negatives, but his healing familiar tucked him back up to positives and his next action was to cast Enlarge Person on himself and charge back at the mummy with a righteous roar.

    The Dragon Shaman wound up directing his cone of fire breath at the mummy and hacking at the undead harassing him. All in all, we took some solid licks, but we managed to kill the entire group like seasoned adventurers should. Without the choke point it might have been a different story, but we beat them into the stonework all the same.

    It was when we were all leaning against the walls, catching our breath and re-assessing the situation, we noticed some of the skelezombies we hacked up starting to...twitch. it took a passed spot roll to notice, but really subtly, we could see movement coming from the first ones who had dropped. By the time we were up and ready to react, the first of the fallen had started making a haggered hacking coughing noise and returning to unlife.

    This place wasn't just desecrated. It was...more intense than that. The dead did not rest here.

    We started fighting again, but when the Ogre mummy started making the same haggard coughing noise, we realized how bad our situation was. Rather than fighting an eternal and perpetually losing battle, we retreated further up towards the normal ziggurat exit. We found it rather suddenly, when the dragon shaman wrenched open the stone doorways to the outside only to be hit with a blast of heat so intense that it forced the rest of the party back away from it (even with endure elements up). The dragon shaman leaned out, being immune to fire, and smirked a little.

    The ziggurat was built against an active volcano (probably magically warded against being destroyed by it). The Dragon Shaman looked back at our party from the doorway leading out to the open air (the open superheated air with a pool of lava at the bottom) and said a single word. "Hide".

    The rest of us, seeing where he was going with this, tucked into the nearest rooms and took up the most stealthy positions we could, while our fullplated Dragonborn Dragon Shaman stood in the doorway with his wings outstretched, watching the twitching and slowly rising mass of the undead coming his way. When enough of them were up and shambling, he took a step back off the stone ledge and above the pool of lava, beating his wings.

    Ah. To be totally immune to fire damage.

    He flew backwards against the far wall and clung to it, keeping his eyes dead set on the shambling corpses and occasionally breathing fire at nothing to look intimidating and violent. The trick worked, and all of the undead marched blindly out over the ledge to fight him, only to trip and fall down into a giant pool of molten rock.

    All except the mummy. He stood at the doorway screaming angry (and simple minded) curses across the open volcano cone, at least, up until the Swashbuckler came running out of the room he'd been hiding in and bullrushed the unaware mummy out into the lava.

    The Dragon Shaman flew back to our group, and as adventurers are often called upon to do, we re-assessed the situation.



    Storm Clouds

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    We could get in and out of the active volcano with a small degree of effort. The Dragon Shaman was fine, but the rest of us became a little fatigued from the sweltering heat of the open air. I could fly the Kobold out without too much trouble, but the Swashbuckler was too heavy for me. The Dragon Shaman had to take off his armor, fly the swashbuckler out, fly back, put his armor on, and then fly out.

    Fortunately, being immune to the heat meant the repeat trips were no great concern. Once we were out in the open air, we established that it was actually night time on this part of the world, and that we were very close to Central Island. Specifically, we were on one of the smaller offshoot islands nearby. We were basically within swimming distance.

    This was great news! We had ziggurat portals connecting the Jungle, the Desert, and Central Island! As well as access to a secret base somewhere underground, only accessible with the mirror itself. As long as we controlled the mirror, our travel options just got a lot more slick. We figured we would go check in with Macguiller and the captain of the guard while we were here, then head back, grab our dragon and gold, and sail back to the island.

    We got across the water without much trouble. We found a seemingly unclaimed rowboat of some kind and 'borrowed' it (we honestly had no intention of keeping it) and headed for Central Island. We opted to make camp and wait for daybreak as opposed to waking Macguiller up. Time was of the essence, but spellcasters need their rest if they're going to do their spellcasting thing.

    He was happy to see us in the morning. He'd been growing and breeding the healing bugs ever since we left, and had created a fair number of them. Unfortunately, even using the gem from the Swashbucklers stronger familiar only produced bugs that could cast Cure Minor Wounds. Apparently whatever power caused the bug to molt and become stronger wasn't something that benefited its offspring. Either that or being a magical familiar changed the rules somehow.

    Still, the bugs were friendly enough. They seemed intelligent enough that they were about on par with very stupid puppies. Macguiller had them in cages for convenience, but they didn't seem to mind, as long as they were well fed (he'd been feeding them copper pieces. The value of the metal didn't seem to matter, just the volume).

    The Guard Captain was happy to hear from us too. None of the ships he'd sent out had reported back yet, so he had no way of knowing if the rest of the world was prepared in any capacity. We couldn't give him any insight to that, but we decided we were comfortable telling him about the teleportation platform we'd found. We discussed moving people off the island as a backup plan, but it was ruled out for two reasons. One was the difficulty in moving a whole population through an active volcano, and then across 500 feet of open arctic air. The second reason was that Central Island had some of the best militia the empire had to offer, since it was a hub and supply location for every continent. He'd had his guards practicing archery against small targets, and felt this was one of the safer places to be.

    We actually agreed with him that it seemed sound, and mentioned that we were planning on using central island as our base of operations for the time being.

    Which is when everything started to get darker. The rising sun disappeared behind a mass of black billowing clouds off on the horizon.

    DM: The captain of the guard says, "That's odd, there wasn't supposed to be a storm today." Everyone roll Spot checks.

    The kobold opted to boost his spot check with an inspiration point, and he was the only one that passed. I'm sure some of you guessed it. We pretty much knew without the spot check confirming it. They weren't storm clouds, it was a giant swarm of black bugs, rolling our way in a massive cloud. The captain of the guard shook his head bleakly, before barking out orders to round up every able bodied person on the island to fight. He apparently didn't realize how hopeless this situation was.

    Me: :We can't let the Drifter get access to the mirror. The kobold can outpace all of us by a ridiculous amount, send him running back to the volcano and through the portal. Wait at the doorway in the arctic for us and we'll try to make it in one piece.”

    The party agreed, and the kobold immediately started sprinting back the way we came. The rest of us got Macguiller, who started packing up his most essential gear and grabbed a few cages of the healing bugs. We were going for an evacuation, but the rolling mass of bugs came in really fast, and hit hard. It was like flipping a switch. One minute it was a peaceful and serene sunrise on the beach, the next minute we were in a complete warzone. Bugs were whipping through the air and taking pot shots at everyone they passed. For the most part you could shrug them off, and they only did a point of damage, but there were so many hitting so often that it quickly became a losing battle to keep your hitpoint total up. We sent Macguiller off running and tried to cover an escape for him by drawing attention to us. The dragon Shaman did good torching cones of the things, while the Swashbuckler was cleaving through the swarm. Instead of eldritch blasts, I tossed a few pints of flaming oil to catch any of the bugs that flew too close to it.

    We weren't at it for long though, before the cloud parted and three familiar shapes stepped out. Priest, the Changeling, and Therin all had been riding inside the thickest part of the cloud, like some kind of perverse chariot. Therin shouted at us to give up the angel, but I tossed an eldritch spear his way...just to have it arc into Priests sidepack harmlessly. He pulled the dark orb out of his sidepack and waved it at me, his horrible rictus grin never leaving his face. "Hmm, I wonder why it does that anyway? I mean, all I ever used it for was binding some souls from an asylum... Tell me girl, have you ever been committed?"

    The dark orb pulsed and my flight hiccuped for a heartbeat. My reaction was immediate. "We need to leave, NOW" and I started flying off in the direction Macguiller went. My party followed, but we didn't get far before my flight gave out entirely and I crashed to the ground helpless. The Swashbuckler tried to pick me up, but Therin made a sliding tackle and the two went tumbling off further along.

    The Dragon Shaman and Changeling stared each other down, and she pulled out a rapier and a short sword before striking an elegant pose with them. The Dragon Shamans response? "You don't have to do this. There must be some way to break your curse. Her pose drooped for a moment, and she looked down, obviously feeling some kind of shame, before immediately making a whirling, dancing leap across the distance between them, hitting in a flurry of light blows (that barely beat the Dragon Shamans AC, and barely scratched him from his damage reduction). On his turn, he just shook his head at her, which made her falter in her stance.

    Meanwhile, Priest had run over top of me, waving the orb at me and saying "Very familiar". I pulled out a poison coated dagger and sank it into the same spot in his shoulder that I'd hit when we ran into each other before, and said "Yes, very familiar".

    Priest's rictus grin didn't even falter though, as the orb pulsed and he hit me with my own eldritch blast, saying "You were in the asylum weren't you? Your soul works for me as sure as the other patients do... though yours seems much more useful".

    Therin kicked the Swashbuckler hard enough to send him flying through the air, before doing some kind of jump/backflip, flying easily 20 feet through the air and landing on the Swashbucklers chest with a crunch. The Swashbuckler was winded, but knocked Therin off of him with enough force to knock him prone, quickdrew his rapier, and got in a good piercing hit and a slash across Therins face.

    The Changeling dropped her swords and held her arms down at her sides, looking away sadly, before opening up with a ridiculously powerful punch clean across the Dragon Shamans jaw and tumbling a few feet back from him before putting up her fists and kissing one of them, dancing like a boxer. Binders usually do have a lot of tricks, after all.

    The Dragon Shaman ignored her, noticing me yelling for him, laying under Priest. The poison was clearly affecting him, he just felt like he still had the upper hand. Until the Dragon Shaman cleared enough distance to hit our area with his fire breath. He caught me in it, but I turned on my Fiendish Resilience to start healing the burns, and sunk another poisoned dagger (with a different poison) into priest. The second poison coupled with the burn was enough to stagger him long enough for me to crawl a few feet towards the Swashbuckler.

    Who was locked in an epic duel with Therin. Therin swept his legs around and took the Swashbuckler down in a grapple before trying to do the throat slash move he'd shown off before, but he missed from the Swashbuckler wriggling away from the blow. Then the swashbuckler headbutted Therin to break the grapple, and ran him clean through the torso with his rapier.

    The changeling did a tumbling roll over to the Dragon Shaman and took another bare-fisted swing at him. She missed, and took a hit from a bastard sword, before the Dragon Shaman flew over to me and started dragging me with him. He couldn't fly with me in tow, but he didn't drop me all the same, opting to run with me scrambling to keep up.

    Priest hit him with one of my eldritch blasts for the trouble.

    While Therin and the Swashbuckler continued to trade blows back and forth in a very bloody display of sheer testosterone. The Changeling opted not to persue the Dragon Shaman, picking up her swords and running at the two duking it out. The Swashbuckler seemed content to make this a fight to the death, and he might have insisted on it (despite our urging him to make an escape with us), until we heard a roar echo from deeper into the island. A dire tiger came running out...complete with a golden rune on its forehead. A look around revealed a lot of golden runes springing up in various locations... including the foreheads of some of the guard captains men off in the distance, who were busy fighting the men who'd been strong enough to not yet be infected.

    Dragon Shaman: This fight isn't going to get BETTER. We're losing here, and we're going to start losing harder.

    The Swashbuckler finally agreed, and started taking double move actions to escape with us. They both dragged me far enough away that I was out of range of Priests orb, and my ability to fly returned. I thought about hitting back with an eldritch spear at SOMETHING, out of spite, but figured it would be fruitless. Instead we just hauled as fast as we could towards the island with the volcano. Me and the dragon Shaman were flying, and when we got to the ocean, we saw Macguiller had already gotten the rowboat and was almost to the other side. The Swashbuckler didn't think twice, just dove into the ocean and started swimming for all he was worth, with the huge mass of black onyx bugs swarming above the water and dipping down into it after him.

    We were keeping pace ahead of the mass... barely. Therin was closest to catching up with us, he was a very fast and tireless man. The changeling was behind him, priest was nowhere in sight (my poisons probably finally caught up with him enough to make chasing too much of a fatigue).

    Underwater, the Swashbuckler had a bad run in. A shark with a golden glowing rune on its forehead swam at him and tried to take a chunk out, but his dodge bonus to AC let him flit off to one side at the last second and keep swimming. It took a few passes at him, but it didn't manage to connect before he got into shallower waters and ran after us.

    We were worried, since the Dragon Shaman couldn't fly the swashbuckler OR macguiller down, but macguiller cast feather fall on both of them, and they jumped down to the ledge and into the underground volcano/ziggurat.

    The bugs chased us the whole way. Therin and the changeling stopped at the lip of the volcano, despite the dragon shaman beckoning for them to follow with a smirk. He considered flying back up and trying to grapple one of them into the lava, knowing he could take it and they couldn't... but by this point, the black onyx bugs were basically forming a wall of chitinous shell that was hindering our movement. We had to book. We made it to the portal room, and the Kobold opened it up from the other side for us (despite the mass of bugs attacking). We all made it through safely, along with a few dozen black onyx bugs. In the cold, we had less trouble fighting them. insects do poorly in freezing temperatures, and we hadn't even killed them all before they started to just fall out of the sky. We stomped them all for good measure, harvested the black onyx gems from them, and escorted Macguiller and his cage of healing bugs (who were also freezing) over to the northern most portal.

    That was where we wrapped things up. Macguiller and a few healing bugs are safe in the underground ziggurat. How safe remains to be seen. The bugs seemed intelligent enough to know their allies and to escort them around. The infected seemed to have a clear idea of what they were trying to do. By this point, it must be obvious we have access to the mirror, and we know what it does. IF someone knows where that last ziggurat is buried, it won't be a secret base for long. If not (which we're hoping) it's now one of the two safest places on the planet.

    We leveled up to 11. The Factotum and Swashbuckler can both cast Animate Dead now, so it might turn into Bugs Vs. Skeletons here pretty soon. The Dragon Shaman can now remove diseases and other status effects with his lay on hands, which might come in handy. This was a great level for me. my damage reduction went up a point, my eldritch blast got another D6, and I learned my first Greater Invocation.

    Priest has my soul. I'm almost sure of that now. There's no way the DM was hinting at anything else. I sold my soul in that dinky tower chamber, and Priest somehow found a way to tap into the transaction and pluck it from its rightful owner.

    That works fine for me, because that means Priest has my soul instead of some demon lord. And now I have to go pluck it from HIM. My characters current main goal is getting my soul back, everything else is secondary until that happens.

    I took Repelling Blast as my first Greater invocation (and Ignore the Pyre as my extra lesser invocation). Let's see if priest can hold onto the orb of his when it's forcing a reflex save to be knocked back 30 feet.

    I hope that works, in any event.

    And that's where we stand now.



    Holy Exterminators

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    So we started off our session with a bang.

    We gave our DM our updated character sheets, established that the Swashbuckler took Animate Dead and Magic Vestments as his spells for 5th level archivistdom. We also established that he had an extra spell slot, and was going to use it to boost the AC on my leather armor/shredded dress combo, since my AC is currently the lowest.

    Then immediately after our DM said "Game on", the next words were the Swashbuckler saying "Okay, time for me to animate some corpses!"

    The dragon shaman was alright with us raiding a blessed tomb of ancients long forgotten and defiling their bones, but only if we were reverent about the whole thing. We walked quietly through the main chamber for a minute, running our hands across the coffins and saying out loud that we didn't mean any disrespect, but that we needed their bodies, and that the entire world was at stake.

    With that, we started wrenching open the doors and hauling their ancient carcasses out into the light of day (well, we couldn't animate them in the consecrated ruins, so we were actually hauling them out to the dark of an arctic night, but still).

    After harvesting the black onyx from the spellcasting bugs, we had way, way, way more than enough gems to animate them all, stuff our packs full of spare, and still have plenty for future animation. It occurred to us that even if the world pulled through, black onyx was going to become a very common commodity... undeath might be very common in the future. Bleak, but not worse than the alternative (a single hive mind becoming a deity. Or MULTIPLE deities at once somehow).

    We debated dragging them across the platform and trying to animate them in the Desecrated ziggurat, but a quick glance at doorway to it showed that the Drifters minions (Changeling, Therin, and an ill looking Priest) had all made their way down, and were examining the portal room. We noticed Therin say "They must have the mirror" to which the changeling made an exaggerated solemn nod and put her wrist to her forehead in the classic "Woe is us" pose. Priest ran his hand along the edge of the doorway, obviously knowing where the portal WAS, and said "We shouldn't talk in this room". They exited, looking like they were coming through the portal, but vanishing from view as they simply walked out into the rest of the ziggurat.

    The room was also practically opaque with Drifter bugs, which the trio walked calmly through. The question of the Drifters intelligence has been raised, but he's obviously still smart enough to recognize his allies if nothing else.

    We camped out in the blessed temple for a night in order to reanimate more corpses than the others would be able to raise in a single day. The Factotum got in on it too, so we now have 10 skeletons being controlled by the Swashbuckler (leaving him 10 HD for anything interesting he finds), and 30 being controlled by the Factotum (also leaving him 10 HD for anything interesting).

    While we were dragging the corpses out onto the snow platform, we noticed something though. The snow and ice that regularly settled, froze, broke off, and blew away, had formed a very obvious pattern. It had all settled in the shape of the jungle continent. Papa HeeNo obviously wanted us to come back around.

    Since we were just waiting around to raise more skeletons anyway, and knowing we might not get another chance, we took this opportunity to poke around the platform some more and see if we couldn't understand things better. We activated the magical mirror to check the dark chained hatch. The Kobold put his hand to the metal, only to discover "It's warm. It's not just warm, it's HOT. I don't think this hatch leads to HEAVEN guys.". We sat there processing that the hatch may very well lead to hell, when it hit us. If the hatch was a pit leading to hell (not confirmed, but, seems likely no?) then HOW was the angel planning on getting to heaven?

    So we circle under the platform and look up. Sure enough. Looking through the mirror at the underside of the platform? Another perfectly circular portal, this one producing a soft blue glow around the edges of the gold and pearl seal of metal, just as thoroughly locked as the hatch above. This platform was literally where the world ends. Follow your compass to the one spot it spins wildly with no direction, and you find a stairway to heaven, and a pit straight to hell. It made us wonder if the ziggurats were even man made, or were just some kind of fundamental aspect of this world itself. Two regarding life, two regarding death, two that made things stronger, two that made things 'different'.

    We still weren't opening either of these freaking hatches.

    So once we had all the skeletons raise, we armed them the best we could with what was laying around. I gave up a bunch of my daggers, the Swashbuckler gave up his old rapier, the Dragon Shaman gave up his old morningstar. The rest of them we armed with improvised clubs and staffs made from their own coffins.

    We took the whole mess of skeletons and opened the portal to the jungle ziggurats. We realized that if they know we have the mirror, heading to the arctic platform is probably the next step on their agenda, and it's time we start staying a step ahead rather than a step behind. The BUGS won't survive in the cold weather, but the drifter will undoubtedly find creatures to infect that WILL be able to.

    Knowing that, we couldn't be slowed down by escorting a small army of skeletons through the snow. We'd fly at rapid speed on the dragon, and leave the skeletons at the jungle ziggurat with orders to kill any bugs they see (bearing in mind, these are NORMAL bugs, not drifter bugs, he seems to have abandoned the jungle ziggurat), but not to leave the building. We'll sail there as quick as possible to catch up with them and go from there. Macguiller set up a small workshop in the blessed temple, knowing that we're (probably) the only ones who can get into the place, whether they reach the arctic or not.

    So with the skeletons whack whack whacking away at any bugs they see, great and small, we set back off into the blistering cold of a lightless winter.



    Freezer Burn

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    The dragon zombie was stiff and icy from laying out exposed for so long, but an endure elements spell had it back up and running normally in no time. The dragon shaman grabbed the ropes, and we set off flying for our ship with utmost haste. The trip back was uneventful until we realized (by terrain and pathways) that we'd reached the area all of the Fifth Mans crew had been slaughtered. And none of the bodies were there.

    Kobold: "That can't be too odd here? The near constant winds and billowing snow, they probably got buried by the elements relatively quickly."

    DM: "Sure thing. Spot checks."

    We all rolled, we all passed, and we all noticed a pack and lose gear from the body that we'd looted. But no body.

    Me: "Should we set down and investigate it?"

    Everyone else in near unison: "NO!"

    So we fly on as quick as zombie wings will carry us. Just when the drone of the arctic winds against our face begins lulling us into a false sense that we'd passed the danger, we hear the dull hurtful howl that had become familiar to us after our prior experience. The hollow cry of a wendigo... scratch that. The hollow cry of a CHORUS of Wendigos.

    Whether they were weaker, or because we weren't touching solid ground, they couldn't hammer us as hardly as the first one. It might have even been a combination of those two facts, as the first one may have been some kind of Wendigo Lord or something. Either way, this batch couldn't make us roll will saves. So instead they just engaged us in midair .

    They were fast. Not as fast as the first one, but still fast, and they arced through the sky in a furious assault pattern, leaving trails of fire everywhere behind them, slashing at us with burning darkness. I changed my energy resistance to fire and started popping them with eldritch blasts. I beat their spell resistance about half the time, so at least I was chipping away at them.
    The Swashbuckler had braced his heels against the dragons spikes growing off its spine, and was in an attack stance, slashing back at anything that tried to get near us (and doing a decent job of it). The Dragon Shaman was holding on to the ropes dragging him for dear life, so he couldn't do anything but bank left and right to dodge them and hit them with an occasional fire breath. Everything was happening too fast for him to tell if it was working on them or not.

    The Kobold at first thought he couldn't do anything either, since he was clinging to the Dragon Shamans neck and holding on to HIM for dear life. Then it occurred to him that, if these things were undead, he could hit them with an Opportunistic Piety. He single handedly 'blew up' three of them in flashes of holy wrath by hitting them with Turn Undead uses. I popped two, and the Swashbuckler hacked three, and the Dragon Shaman was finally vindicated when he roasted the last one and watch it fall silently out of the sky.



    Deep Rising

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    The rest of our flight (and nights spent camping) were uneventful. Only so much happens in a frozen wasteland. When we made it back to the ship, we were relived to discover that it was intact. It had taken some beating from the elements, but it was in good shape. The skeletons with barge poles had done a good job of keeping it away from the wall, and it appeared to be unbothered by any manner of creature.

    So we lashed the dragon back to the bow and had it pull us towards the jungle continent. We could see, in some areas, dark clouds on the horizon. Everytime we saw them, we had to wonder if it was natural storm clouds, or the drifter coming our way. occasionally, stray Drifter bugs WOULD find us... small swarms that would scurry around the deck in a deliberate suicide mission, searching for a way below deck to the angel (not knowing there was nothing but a feather and a bit of golden hair below decks).

    We could fight the swarms without too much difficulty, but it made us feel caged and cornered, even though we were on the open seas. The bugs were spread out. Searching. They didn't all descend on us immediately, which was a plus. Maybe they couldn't pinpoint us instantly just by finding us. Just get a vague sense of direction and nothing more.

    It was halfway between the arctic and the jungle continent when it happened. The entire ship rocked with a horrible sickening lurch, and we leaned to one side before settling back on an even course. Naturally we all ran to the edge and looked over into the waters... at first it looked like nothing was there.

    That's how big the creature was.

    The waters were darker where it swam under our ship. Out a ways we could see the lighter waters, and we realized how screwed we were. It was a kraken. A giant squid that utterly dwarfed our ship. And as our vessel bucked and groaned under the pressure again, we could see a golden glowing rune just below the surface.

    Swashbuckler: "Roll initiative, I'm diving in."

    Kobold: "NO. We need to get on the mounts and take to the skies. It's sad, but it's time to abandon ship."

    Dragon Shaman: "I'm not willing to abandon ship. If you guys want to fly off, that's fine, but I'm staying to fight this thing, and I'm going down with the ship."

    I have the dragon bank hard left (as hard left as a zombie can turn anyway). The kraken veers off a ways slowly before jetting back and striking our underside, rocking us horribly again. Then it jets off ahead of us and turns around.

    Kobold: "You can't give up your life over a boat. It's admirable for the captain to go down with his ship and all, but there's obviously more important things going on. We need you."

    Dragon Shaman: "I shake my head sadly and lash a rope around my wrist before drawing my sword and getting ready to swing overboard for a hit at this thing when it comes back."

    Kobold: "It will swallow you WHOLE if it gets a chance, look at the size of it! It's five times the size of the SHIP, which is twenty times the size of US."

    The Kraken jets back at the bow, and I order the dragon to fly straight up. The ship rocks back as it it hit a giant wave and groans horribly from the shift in weight. The kraken clips the underside of the stern before the weight of the ship causes the dragon to crash back down to the water, and I order it to resume flying straight. The Kraken is behind us now, and circling around at another strike on our left.

    Me: "Why in the world doesn't it just wrap its tentacles around the boat and capsize us?"

    Kobold: "Same reason the dragon didn't ram itself through the hull and tear us apart from the inside out. It doesn't want to risk killing the angel that isn't actually there."

    The Kraken jets forward at us, and I have the dragon bank hard right. The Kraken clips the back left of our ship and tears off a great portion of the wooden planks all along the side in the process. The Dragon Shaman swings down and plunges his sword into the beasts side, and the DM decided that do to circumstances (the squid moving multiple hundreds of feet per round with a sword being raked down its side) that the hit was triple damage. We could still tell it barely scratched the thing.

    Dragon Shaman: "We're not going to be able to kill it, are we?"

    Kobold: "It tore open part of the hull. We're going to sink."

    Dragon Shaman: "We already know the dragon pulls us above the waterline. We can take on water and still sail fine as long as the Dragon's pulling us."

    Swashbuckler: "Wait! How strong is the dragon? Can it lift the ship?
    DM: Not a chance."

    Swashbuckler: "What if the bat helped? The bat's pretty darn strong too, right?"

    DM: "Even with both of them you're looking at 1/5th the carrying capacity necessary to lift, let alone fly."

    The Kraken jets at us again and tears off another section of the hull. Its tentacles grope around inside for a minute before it swims off for another strike.

    Kobold: "...What about just the deck?"

    DM: "...Huh?"

    Kobold: "We go around smashing at the support struts and the planks below the deckline. If we can get it weak enough, the kraken will just tear the entire bottom of the ship clean off when it hits. Can the dragon and bat combined lift just the deck, us, and some cargo?"

    DM: "Hold on *scribbles some notes before smiling* Yes. Actually the dragon himself should be able to do it."

    Kobold, looking at the Dragon Shaman: "....Captain?"

    Dragon Shaman: "Yeah. Let's do it. I swing over the edge and start kicking planks loose below the deckline."

    Swashbuckler: "Me and the kobold will go start chopping at the struts
    Me: I'll call the dragon back and start roping it to the deck as centered as I can."

    The Kraken strikes us again, tearing off another huge portion of the hull and groping around inside for a target that doesn't exist. I popped it with an eldritch blast and it jetted off to the side in anger, preparing another strike.

    By the time it circled and jetted at us twice more though, the kobolds plan went perfectly. With a ragged cracking tearing sound, the entire hull of the ship came clean (well, pretty ragged actually) off from the rest, leaving nothing but the deck, the captains quarters, and the dazed looking crew cheering and flying off into the sky. The Kraken made a lunging strike at us with its tentacles, but it was nowhere close enough to knock us back to the waters. I still hit it with an eldritch spear out of spite.

    The upside is our ship is now... well, one of a kind for sure. The downside is that the feather was below deck, so now the Drifter knows it was chasing nothing. Which PROBABLY means it's going to be heading for the jungle too. Can it sense the angel somehow? If it can, it's going to tear the feather apart and head in the same direction we are.

    We spent the rest of the flight towards the jungle carefully cutting loose the jagged planks and making the bottom of the deck as smooth as possible for landings. Along the way, I also turned to the two remaining skeleton crew, and said "I suppose you're not needed any more. Jump over the edge. If you survive the fall, destroy each other".

    The Kobold responded with "Wow, cold", but agreed that we didn't need a manned crew anymore, and I might as well have the extra room in my controllable undead capacity.

    The DM let us transfer control between the undead creatures, so I gave up the sole remaining bat to the swashbuckler. It's officially his mount, his property, and under his mental control now. We're going to try to find a flying mount for the kobold too, hopefully by next level when the Dragon Shaman will be able to fly constantly under his own power. Then we'll all be airborne effectively as much as we want.

    We've also started modifying the deck of the ship to get ready to install metal grips for the dragon in the center of things. That way we won't have to rope him to it, I can just make him grab or let go as the situation calls for. That way we can land, take the dragon with us quickly, and still just fly back, grab ahold, and take off with relative speed.

    When I asked the Dragon Shaman about installing the grips on his deck, he just shook his head and said very solemnly "yeah... about that. I can't be captain anymore. I'm relinquishing command to you, it's your ship now."
    We were all quiet at that for a minute. I just said softly "I'm sorry", but the Dragon Shaman said not to be. That sometimes the wrong course of action might still be the only way to lead to the right result.

    We re-christened the ship with one of the bottles of rum we'd taken from the decrepit ship in the arctic. Since we had a blue dragon as our central power source, I wanted to name the ship the FS Bluebird. The party liked it, so we christened it as such and sailed/flew on to the jungle.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-06 at 10:56 PM.

  12. - Top - End - #12
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Check It Thrice

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    We didn't even bother heading towards the port, going above the clouds and changing our destination for Papa HeeNos village straight away. It would only save us an hour, but an hour mattered now. Above the cloud cover, we stopped getting harassed by the occasional drifter bug. We wondered if we disappeared off his radar, or if he was gearing up for something bigger.
    Either way, when we reached Papa HeeNo's village, we couldn't fly in through the barrier around it. But the angel came flying out to meet up with us, silently landing on the deck of the ship and heading into the captains quarters without saying a word. After we watched her enter the only lockable room still on our ship, we turned around and were MAJORLY surprised to find Papa HeeNo standing on the deck of the ship, looking very sad.

    "Ya gots to take da bird girl with ya now. She ain't safe here no more. Aint no one safe no more."

    We looked off on the horizon and could see, very faintly, a dark cloud heading our way. We knew what it must be. Papa HeeNo just spit off the side of the ship, and a thunderstorm immediately broke over our immediate area. We asked him where we should go. What we should do. He just shook his head and looked straight up into the rain. We looked up as well, and in the instant we did, a lightning bolt curved through the clouds above us, flashing a shape into our eyes that followed anywhere we looked. We were dazed for a moment, but when we straightened up, we realized it was the eastern edge of the desert continent. The area where we found the first ziggurat.

    We had to go back.

    We looked around the deck for Papa HeeNo, but he was gone just the way he'd come. Not having any reason to stay (nor being able to land in HeeNos village), wanting to get the angel away from the approaching cloud on the horizon, and needing to pick up our skeletons, we simply left. We flew to the jungle ziggurat and circled, ordering the skeletons to emerge and climb it. They all scrabbled up the slopes as a group, which was difficult given the torrential downpour, but finally they made it to the pinnacle, and we began throwing them rope and pulling them on deck. We checked the weight, and even with the angel and skeletons, we were still a few hundred pounds under max flight capacity.

    So we started discussing strategy. We could go to the original ziggurat through the portals via the mirror, but they're be expecting that. They had utter control over two ziggurats (including one we were trying to get into) and we'd probably be walking into a death trap if we just mirror-walked ourselves in the easy way. That left the hard way. We escorted the angel through the jungle ziggurat, across the arctic platform, and into the Consecrated ziggurat with Macguiller. He promised to try to keep her safe, and she cracked the first smile we had ever seen out of her when she began to pet one of the healing bugs.

    Then we mirror-walked back to the jungle, climbed back into our ship, and began flying towards the desert continent. The plan was to hit it like a D-Day dropship. Have the skeletons hanging off ropes on the sides and jumping down as we circled the canyon, fighting to clear us a path. When we had one, we would all fly down individually, and send the Bluebird flying as high above the cloud cover as it could and circling until we re-emerged. Either we would come back out the way we came in, or try to mirror-walk to the arctic platform and re-assess our situation with whatever information we gleaned while inside.


    It was getting late, so we ended session there. We leveled again, up to 12.
    The Dragon Shaman has a much stronger breath weapon now. The Factotum gained the ability to bypass damage reduction and spell resistance, the archivist got a step closer to getting Reincarnate and other 4th level spells. I got the ability to craft items with a UMD check, but I still haven't settled on a crafting feat.



    Cat Scratch Fever

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    So, to get everything up to speed before I begin. I took the Scribe Scroll feat, for maximum versatility. I need to be able to make things quickly, while we're in travel mode, and for versatility I need to be able to limit the crafting to one of any given spell that we have a use for.

    Macguiller and the angel we're protecting are both in the Consecrated ziggurat full of corpses. It's buried, how far we don't know, and where we don't know, so for all reasonable assumptions the only way to access the two of them is via the magical mirror that's in our possession.

    The four of us are reasonably well rested and in hale and healthy condition, ready to get our war on.

    We're going to HAVE to get our war on, because our current plan of attack is to fly our Undead Dragon Powered Airship to the jungle continent the Drifter 'virus' originated from, straight to the ziggurat, drop our forty armed skeletons (and a skeleton dire bear) around the ziggurat like shock troopers, make sure we have a clear path, and haul into the ziggurat to see... why we're going there. It hit us at the start of the session that our lead is literally a bolt of lightning. We might be running a fools errand.

    Never let it be said that adventurers aren't fools. With that, we set off for the few days travel to the desert ziggurat.

    Since the overland travel was going to take a few days, I set out scribing scrolls (and the Factotum installed thick heavy wooden handles on the deck of the ship for the dragon to grab onto, so he's now detachable). I can take 10 to automatically pass the check to scribe an arcane scroll, and I can also automatically make an arcane scroll of sixth level or lower, but to make a higher level divine scroll, I have to actually pass a real UMD check.

    So first I made a scroll of Reincarnate for the Swashbuckler to put in his prayer book next level. Then I set out trying to make a scroll of Regenerate for my ruined legs. The first check I rolled a 2 (). The second one I rolled a 12, one over what I needed, and successfully scribed the scroll. After casting the spell and regrowing my legs, my character came out onto the deck of the ship and did a little victory jig.

    The timing was perfect, as not more than a half hour after re-acquiring my legs (and remembering how to walk on them), the desert continent appeared on the horizon.

    The drifter bugs were not very thick. In fact, there weren't that many at all. We came to the conclusion that the drifter was focusing less energy on filling the planet with a giant swarm, and more on infecting everything possible. The huge masses of bugs were not the front wave of an ocean of insects, they were more like strike teams sent out to search and infest. This was good and bad for us. Good because it meant we could focus less on fighting through a cloud of insects. Bad because it meant we'd be fighting whoever was left behind instead.

    As we flew over the desert city, we saw it was full of the infected. Their faces turned up and watched our ship fly overhead, golden runes flashing on their foreheads in the sunlight. A few on roofs took pot shots at our underside with crossbows, but there wasn't a lot they could do other than observe our path. We were certainly far too fast for them to try to keep up.

    Except we were intercepted halfway between the city and the ziggurat in midair. An entire swarm of Sphinxes, great lions with wings and almost-human faces, flew over the deck of our ship, golden runes flashing on their foreheads as sure as any other creature.

    The fight was an interesting one, as immediately me and the dragon shaman rolled overboard and began to attack the sphinxes in mid-air. The Swashbuckler hopped on his Dire Bat and also joined the fray, leaving our poor kobold stranded on deck and firing crossbow bolts at our enemies. He was still pretty handy, as we would occasionally fly in patterns that gave him ranged sneak attack opportunities, and some of the sphinxes landed on the deck and began assaulting him directly as a result.

    At one point, the Dragon Shaman landed on the deck and managed to grapple/mount one of the sphinxes, and charged up for a lay on hands to see if he could cure it of the bug infection. The DM said he could "Feel multiple bugs wriggling around inside, and could pinpoint one and tell how much juice it would take to kill it". It turned out to be 30 points of healing... which was a lot. Our Dragon Shaman can only heal 120 points a day, even. Still, he let fly and pulsed the bug he'd pinpointed, at which point the glowing rune faded from the Sphinxes forehead! And it coughed up a dead onyx bug onto the deck of our ship! And said "Where....where am I?" clearly very confused! And then it cried out in pain! And... another golden glowing rune flashed onto its forehead...

    The Dragon Shaman also, unfortunately, could not tell how many bugs were writhing inside of the infected sphinx. It might be three at a time, it might be a dozen. It was at once disheartening and enlightening. We knew we could kill the bugs with positive energy (or healing energy specifically), but 30 points of healing per bug was a whole heap of healing, especially when facing a swarm that could literally escort people through it by holding them aloft oversea. We now had a useful bit of information, but with no real practical application. Unless we could find a way to drop massive heal bombs somehow.

    What DID make it an interesting development was the Swashbucklers familiar, chitter. All of the sudden, Chitter went from being "Something to keep alive" to a vital combatant. Or at least, a handy little helper. It managed to make two touch attacks to hit one of the sphinxes with two heal spells, temporarily driving the bug out of it, and giving the Swashbuckler a better chance at attacking. it was MEAN, because he was attacking something that didn't even know why it was engaged in combat, but... well, we just couldn't think about that. Six seconds of its pain and confusion in exchange for our lives. The Dragon Shaman disapproved, but the Swashbuckler promised to only break out that trick when we were in dire straights.

    The fight raged on, and while we took a few licks, eventually we tore the Sphinxes up and sent most of them sprawling broken and hurtling towards the surface. We'd managed to kill a few on deck, and while one had done the whole "dissolve into a swarm of bugs" thing (which we then also had to fight) we remembered to coup de grace the others to kill them before they could do it too.

    Before we tossed them overboard (being uncomfortably close to our weight limit for staying aloft), we of course checked how many HD they had. The two best ones were 12 HD and 9 HD. The Kobold took the 12 HD one (after destroying two of his skeletons, reaching his undead cap), and the Swashbuckler took the 9 HD one (after destroying 3 of his skeletons to retain control over the bat AND the sphinx, and reaching his undead cap).

    So we're all airborne now, thankfully. The Sphinxes are not as fast as the dragon, but faster than the bats (and me and the Dragon Shaman for that matter). They're also strong, so they can lend a hand (wing) in carrying the ship if need be. In fact, one of them is strong enough to lift the ship (but not with as much weight as the dragon), so between the two sphinxes, the dragon, and the bat, we could actually do some major hauling if we had to. Me and the Dragon Shaman are the slowest flyers, but we can fly under our own power, and if necessary for speed the two of us could always climb onto the dragon and fly it directly.



    Location, Location, Location

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    Once we were straight and ready again, we had the dragon stop flying in circles and resume heading towards the ziggurat. It only took us another minute or two to reach it, and when we did, we saw it was going to be a relatively easy approach. The canyon had a large number of rune-scarred faces glaring up at us angrily, but we had a large number of armed skeletons.
    Before we dropped our undead shock troopers, we threw the dice into the canyon. It came up Wolf and Swarm, and suddenly a pack of seven wolves sprang up and began attacking everyone nearby. Collectively, they managed to kill the wolves, but that was just when we swooped down through the canyon at the lowest angle the Bluebird could successfully make and still get out safely, and we sent the skeletons (including the skeleton bear!) jumping over the edges and landing as high on the ziggurat as they could. They were low enough that most of them took no fall damage, and the ones that missed the pinnacle didn't take enough to destroy them. They ran down the ziggurat weapons ready, and the infected people (softened up from the wolves) ran up to fight them.

    I gave the dragon orders to fly above the cloud cover, and then to circle in the area. Me and my fellow adventurers flew down (sans mounts, only taking the bat for both the Swashbuckler and the Kobold together). On the way down, the Kobold cast Stoneskin on himself, and we got ready for a fight.

    A few of the infected broke through the skeletons, and were attacking us with thrown rocks and a had weapons at the ready, but we fought through them with little effort and made our way into the ziggurat. We felt very very rushed, figuring the entire cities worth of people (and god knows what else) might be swarming on our location as we search.

    We made our way to the main chamber with only a few peeks into side rooms to see if any new developments had arisen. Aside from masses of black onyx bugs with the golden glowing runes, we couldn't find anything noteworthy. Even once we reached the main chamber, things looked to be in about the same condition as they were the last time we'd been here. The symbol had faded from the ground, there were bugs crawling lazily around (not even bothering to try to attack us, since it knew we were strong enough to just bash them outright). We took the time to scoop up the angels eyes, and it hit me that I could try to regenerate her sight, but it still seemed disrespectful to leave the eyes laying around.

    We opted to take a closer, slower look, time pressures or not. In the smaller chambers off the main chamber (one of which being the portal room) we found little scraps and remnants that showed the Drifters minions had been staying here. We even found a scroll of Cure Light Wounds that had gotten left behind, but not much else.

    What we finally DID stumble across (in the same pile of crap we dug the scroll out of) was a map. It was a very sparse and general map, and it was so ancient it practically crumbled in our hands. It was missing landmasses, it was labeled in some ancient language non of us knew, and it listed a few things that no longer exist... but it was definitely a map. A map with the location of the four ziggurats clearly labeled.

    It slowly...very slowly... dawned on the entire group that they KNEW WHERE THE FOURTH ZIGGURAT WAS, AND HAD ALL ALONG. It value was a secret base was nil, because the KNEW WHERE IT WAS THE ENTIRE TIME. It was only their lack of interest (maybe!) in unearthing it and the difficulty of digging it up that kept them from already being inside of it. We didn't know if they could tell the angel was in it or not, but we officially no longer considered it a safe location.

    The kobold noticed something else to, with a triple success on knowledge history, geography, and religion rolls. The consecrated ziggurat had a symbol next to it meaning "holy", and the desecrated ziggurat had one next to it meaning "unholy". more important though, was the location of the consecrated ziggurat. It was directly underneath the church. The church the angel had been summoned and bound in, it was buried below it.
    Kobold: Anyone else putting four and four together here?

    Me: "All I've got is "We need to find out if they know where the angel is."

    Kobold: "No no... we have a portal up to heaven, and a portal down to hell. We have an angel who was bound to the world at a consecrated ziggurat , and we have a desecrated ziggurat half the world away...?"

    *long pause*

    Dragon Shaman: "They're going to summon a devil."

    Kobold: "I wonder if the devil would put up a fight, or go along with things?"

    Swashbuckler: "Why didn't they just summon the devil first?"

    Me: "Maybe it's harder? Or maybe hell just wasn't the Drifters first choice, who knows."

    Kobold: "We need to get back to the jungle ziggurat now."

    Me: "We also need to get the angel out of the underground bunker as quick as possible."

    Dragon Shaman: "But we can't bring her out of the bunker just to put her in harms way at the volcano..."

    So we had to stop and formulate a plan. We were going to go through the mirror portal, snag the angel, come back through the desert portal, put her on the ship and tell the dragon to obey her commands and send her far away, and then go back through the portals to the volcano to try to stop them from summoning a devil.

    Follow?

    So that's exactly what we set out to do. We opened a portal to the artic platform, to which the DM made us roll spot checks.

    You've never seen an entire table just lock up like that before. We all just stared uncomfortably, before akwardly shuffling around and rolling our dice.

    DM: "Okay, you don't see anything."

    *long quiet pause*

    DM: "...Well?"

    Kobold: "Ah. Uh, god. I guess. I guess we march calmly out onto the platform...without a care in our heads... stupid rules against metagaming."

    Dragon Shaman: "I hate life."

    The worst part is we successfully went across the platform, into the consecrated ziggurat, explained things to Macguiller and the angel, and took her with us back across the arctic platform and to the desert with us.
    So the DM was just SCREWING with us, or something was WATCHING us. Either way, I second the Dragon Shaman on the whole hating life thing.

    Still, we did what we set out for. Getting the angel up to the desert surface was hard, as the bugs began to swarm her. We fought them off and got out into the sunlight, only to discover that our skeletons had won the fight! And there were still six of them left, and the bear! The Swashbuckler cast some inflicts on them to get them healed up, we grabbed the dice, and we got all the skeletons and the angel on the deck of the ship, ordered the dragon to obey her (and the skeletons and bat and sphinxes to defend her), and told her to avoid trouble at all cost. We didn't have the faintest clue as to WHERE to send her off to, but we gave her the seal Macguiller had given us (my suggestion, thanks to you guys reminding me it exists) and told her to keep him updated as to where she was, so he could keep US updated.
    Then the four of us flew back down to the canyon. On the way down, we saw masses heading towards the canyon (just as predicted) but we were too far ahead of them for it to be a concern. As long as they didn't notice the angel flying above the cloud cover and off into the distance.

    We made our way back to the portal room, back across the artic platform, and went to the Volcano ziggurat on central island.



    Till They're Hatched

    Spoiler
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    We realized, going into the Volcanic Ziggurat, that we could be walking into any kind of horrible trap, ambush, ritual, or...god knows what. We looked through the portal first, but didn't actually see anything relevant, and so, like adventurers, opted to just charge blindly into things.

    We discovered that the portal room was barricaded... from the inside. And tucked into a blind corner was a small pile of personal belongings, and a human sized clay egg. We poked around for a minute before the dragon shaman realized what was happening. He rummaged through the personal belongings, found a journal, established that it belonged to the changeling, and flipped it open to the last few entries. The entries were about Priest and Therin growing less and less trusting of her, and how things were becoming bleaker and bleaker. Apparently, they WERE planning on summoning a devil, which had been bound to the world as one of its pillars just as the angel had. Apparently as well, that was the last straw for the changeling, who was bailing out.

    Her last entry was about how she hoped the others would ignore her long enough for the transformation to take place.

    She was becoming a Dragonborn. Which means she's vowed to serve Bahamut and was trying to redeem her soul.

    And she was hatching. She broke out of her egg, now a draconic humanoid like our Shaman (though skinny and lankier), and looked around in panicked surprise, stumbling awkwardly out of the broken shell and struggling (clearly shaky and struggling to balance herself) away form us and into the far corner, looking about as pitiable as something can look.

    Dragon Shaman: "It's okay.. we're not going to hurt you."

    Me: "I still think we should kill her."

    Dragon Shaman: "I growl at the warlock."

    Me: "I don't mean to be spiteful, but can we trust her? She's a liability at best, I don't want to spend my time sleeping with one eye open."

    Dragon Shaman: "Can she talk?"

    The changeling shakes her head sadly and cups her face in her hands

    Dragon Shaman: "...Sometimes redemption takes the hard road."

    To which the changeling covers her face in a weeping gesture and nodding, before looking around confused for a moment, and then looks up as if she's remembering something, scrambling awkwardly (and naked, mind you) to her feat, grabbing a few articles of clothing and throwing them on herself as she leads us stumbling up through the ziggurat, gesturing for us to follow her. The swashbuckler asks why she's stumbling so much, but the Dragon Shaman reminds him that Dragonborn are clumsy in their new bodies, especially right out of the shell.

    We make our way to the entrance, out where it leads to a pool of open lava in the volcano's heart. And up on the ledge? We see Priest and Therin standing on opposite sides of the volcano. It's not immediately obvious what they're doing, until Therin shouts to Priest "Are you sure this is a good idea?" and a grinning Priest replies "Not at all, that's why it was Plan B!" And with that, he looked down and smiled even wider "And look. The sacrifice is here!"
    As the gears started whirring, and it hit us how deliberate the word "Sacrifice" is, the dragon shaman turned to the changeling, who was slinking back down the hall away from us silently. She shook her head... her face now melting back into an expressionless grey mask, before she mouthed the words "I'm sorry" and stomped the ground as hard she could.

    When she stomped, the ground and the entire doorway shook horribly, and we had to make reflex saves to stay up. The Factotum and Swashbuckler passed, me and the Dragon Shaman failed. The lava pool out the doorway began to swirl and churn immediately, forming some kind of super hot vortex with black swirls. The two upright members of our party moved to attack her and get the kobold a flanking position, but as they did the stonework cracked away from the floor in vague shape of a humanoid, and the shambling mess of rock bullrushed the dragon shaman clean over the edge, tumbling into the lava.

    The Dragon Shaman just glided over the lava pool and started a slow spiral upwards, shouting up at Priest "You think a little heat is going to slow me down?"

    Priest responded "Well, it's not so much about the heat as it is about the DARKNESS. We're not after your flesh... we're after your soul!"

    Dragon Shaman: "...I think I'll bank a little higher, away from the swirling vortex?"

    Therin joined in, shouting at the Dragon Shaman that they needed the soul of a kind heart, and if he didn't just give up and dive into the pool, they were just going to pick some infected kid, shove them in, and have the drifter abandon them halfway down.

    The Dragon Shaman cringed, rolled a sense motive check, failed and cringed again, before saying "Whether you're bluffing or not, I won't kill myself to satisfy you. I'm one of the only ones who can stop you."

    Therin just laughed.

    The rest of us were up and making a move to attack the changeling, but she managed to make it past us to the doorway before flying straight upwards just far enough to land on the lip of the volcano where Therin and Priest were. When priest saw me down on the ledge, he waved the orb haphazardly at me. He shouted down that his workers hadn't been very valuable to his plans lately, and that getting rid of me would be worth the price of getting rid of them too. Then he tossed the orb cassually out over the open air, spinning down into the open lava
    I didn't know what would happen to me if it hit, but I did the only thing I could do. I fired a Repelling Blast straight at the orb, and successfully knocked it back far and hard enough to lodge it into the rock face across from the doorway. Priest went wide eyed and started running over to the area it was, but he had no way down to get it (as far as I hoped). I flew out over the lava, suffering heat damage and fatigue as the swirling vortex churned hot air up at us, but I took it in stride and booked for my soul lodged in the rock face. I got to it before it could work loose, and circled it with the leather straps Papa HeeNo gave me. I could tell immediately what the orb and straps did. As long as I had on the bracers, it would bind my own soul back to me. I wouldn't age, I wouldn't die naturally. All I had to do was keep me, and the orb safe, and I would cheat a demon lord out of my soul.
    I'm sure THAT wouldn't become a concern in the coming centuries or anything, right? Demons never hold grudges.

    I could also feel that I had some control over the orb, but in the fray, and the panic induced by hovering over a pool of soul-stealing lava, I didn't get a good empathic feel for what the orb was capable of.

    I looked up and saw Priest glaring down at me, and smirked up at him, waving my newly acquired soul in his direction. I started floating up away from the lava, to get out of the damaging area, and once I was clear I hit Priest with a repelling blast, which knocked him 20 feet straight up before he tumbled back down into the same square. I got up to the edge just as he was climbing up and starting to run down the slope.

    The DM informed me of something I realized I could do with the orb. As long as it was covered in the straps and I was wearing the bracers, I could call the orb back to me as a full round action. This was relevant, because I realized I could also THROW the orb and fire eldritch blasts from it as if it were me.

    I smirked again, and pitched the orb as hard as I could in front of Priest. He watched it sail past his head, and as soon as it was past him, I used it to fire a repelling blast backwards, knocking him towards me. I caught his wrists just before he spilled out into the flaming death chasm, holding him there above the lava and staring down into his face. He was no longer smiling, even though the corners of his face were still curled up slightly in a sick grin. I asked him why he always had that hideous smile on his face. He laughed and said, "Oh, because I'm having such a GREAT time. Tell me, did you catch me to interrogate me, or to try to redeem me?"

    My response?

    "I just wanted a chance to spit in your face before I killed you".

    Which is exactly what I did.

    As Priest fell into the lava, he screamed satisfying. The pool literally bubbled up to 'catch' him, swallowing him whole and pulling him below the surface. The pool flashed black... but then continued to churn. The ritual needed a kind heart. Priest hadn't been an appropriate sacrifice, and the volcano was still hungry.



    "Hell is yourself and the only redemption
    is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person."

    Spoiler
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    As this had been going on, the Dragon Shaman had flown up to engage the changeling, and Therin had literally leapt down the volcano and landed on the stone platform, to fight the Swashbuckler and Factotum directly. I'll get back to Therin later, because that's where everything winds up flowing back together.

    First we have to talk about the Dragon Shaman flying up directly at the changeling, who was staring back at him with an icy resolve.

    The Dragon Shaman floated up and landed in front of the Changeling with a roar, taking a hard swing at her with his sword, but missing. The Changeling in return stomped the ground again, making another mini earthquake. But the force of it made the lip of the volcano crumble around them, causing BOTH of them to stumble. The Dragon Shaman managed to get a grip on the edge of the crumbling stonework, and grabbed the Changelings hand before she could fall.

    She just looked down at the swirling mess of lava and looked back up at the Dragon Shaman sadly, expecting to be dropped. She was limp, not making a grip against the Dragon Shaman and letting her hand slip out of his without struggling. The Dragon Shaman screamed for her to hold on, but she just laid there slack. He asked if he could make a strength check to swing her up onto solid footing. He rolled a natural 20 .

    When he threw her up back onto stable ground, instead of dropping her, she stared at him slack jawed, obviously confused and surprised. Her face melted into some random female form she hadn't made before. The Dragon Shaman, clinging there and expecting to be pushed off any second, didn't even struggle. He just looked up at her and asked "Is that you? Is that what you really look like?"

    The Changeling kept staring, tearing up, still slack jawed, before grabbing the Shaman and helping to pull him up. She barely succeeded (full plate alone being heavy as heck), but in the end, they both tumbled away from the edge and she collapsed next to him, covering her face, not making a noise even though her chest was heaving, obviously crying as hard as anyone can.

    The Drifter was not happy.

    The bugs in the area saw this happen, and immediately kicked into a vicious frenzy, a thick black mass descending on the Dragon Shaman and Changeling. He sprung up and hit them with a really strong fire breath, carving a charred swath through them, but they were so thick that even the damage he caused didn't stop them. They formed a massive fist twice the size of a person and literally punched the Dragon Shaman clean fifty feet away. He could see through the swarm that they were attacking the changeling, and that she wasn't fighting back. Before more than a few seconds passed, she glared back at him from inside a dissipating swarm... A golden rune glowing on her forehead. She growled loudly at the Dragon Shaman. A high wailing noise of unbridled fury.

    It was a sick joke. She was no longer silent, because it was no longer her.
    And with that she ran at the volcano and jumped off.

    Except I had been floating there above the heat, and when I saw what had happened, I decided to do the Dragon Shaman a favor. I managed to get under the Changeling and caught her, using the counter of her falling to swing her and throw her through the doorway into the ziggarut. A temporary solution, but it gave our Shaman time to work something out for our little redeemed shapeshifter.

    I paid for the move though, and the giant mass of drifter bugs that had knocked the dragon shaman back literally swatted me out of the sky, sending me sprawling down for the lava (which bubbled up hungrily at me). I managed to float for all I was worth back UP, barely catching myself in midair, roasting myself lightly in the process (fire resistance or not).
    I was floating back up out of range of the lava when the bugs smacked me down again, definitely close enough to knock me clean into it. But the Dragon Shaman had been running to the volcano, took a diving glide in my direction, and tackled me in through the doorway into the ziggurat, meeting up with the rest of our party, Therin, and the infected changeling.



    Therin

    Spoiler
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    As all of that had been going on, Therin had been utterly wailing on the Factotum and Swashbuckler. We were pretty sure he's just human by this point, he's just apparently one of the most hardcore brawlers on the planet (pretty sure he's a monk a this point).

    To open, after jumping down the volcano and landing with a thud, he threw a kick at the Factotum which connected hard enough to send him sprawling back through the tunnels. The Swashbuckler took a True Striking swing at him, and slashed him pretty good (and then another good slash afterward), but then Therin opened up with some kind of rapid fire flurry of punches. A lot of them didn't connect as the Swashbuckler ducked and weaved, but the last one hit hard enough to knock him back against a wall.

    The Factotum revealed that the speed portion of his build had been effort well spent, as on his turn he managed to spring up, sprint up from the darkness like the living shadow he is, slide across the dusty stone into a flanking position, and pop Therin with a massive sneak attack that darn near pinned him to the wall.

    Therin backhanded the Factotum, again with enough force to send him sprawling against the far wall on the opposite side of the corner, before also taking one good heavy handed punch at the Swashbuckler. The Swashbuckler dodged it by sliding down, and Therin broke a chunk of the wall.

    The three basically went on like that, fighting their way deeper and deeper into the stone maw of the ziggurat, and the two of them dropped in hitpoints significantly. Chitter healed the Swashbuckler, and the two healed each other, and while Therin was obviously bloodied and in pain, he wasn't stopping. The fight was taking a lot out of them, and they truly gave it their all.

    Around the time the Factotum started running out of inspiration points and getting too beaten to reasonably continue the fight, the infected changeling came sprawling in through the doorway, ranting and cursing loudly. Followed shortly thereafter by me and the Dragon Shaman.

    I hit Therin with an eldritch blast, and we were thinking we were about to ge the upper hand... when everything got darker. The doorway of the ziggurat? Was literally BLACK with drifter bugs pouring in. The changeling chuckled, hard.

    Therin stopped fighting, looking at the infected changeling in fear. He asked what in the world was going on. The changeling answered "She betrayed us. She started helping them.". Therin asked if he was supposed to just believe that blindly, and the changeling shifted to resemble him (with the glowing rune) and said "Yes. Yes you are". What that implied was obvious, and Therin immediately cowed down with a nod.

    We all turned our attention to the doorway, and the gradually approaching mass of bugs.

    The changeling cackled. "That idea you had Therin... drop an innocent into the volcano... We don't know why we didn't think of that before...would have been so much faster for us."

    Therin looked at her in confusion, before the bugs began to part... an a red scaly devil came walking out between them... with a golden rune on its forhead .

    We wanted to fight. But... what could we do? The bugs were starting to literally climb together into shapes, humanoid forms shambling our way made of chitinous shell and still living insects.

    We ran.



    A New Hope

    Spoiler
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    We bolted for the portal room, sending the kobold with the mirror first. The entire chase, a chorus of voices were screaming at us to give up the mirror. They knew where the arctic platform was, but they wanted a shortcut, obviously. Fortunately, we successfully beat them to the portal room and shut the doorway behind us. The Dragon Shaman wanted to try to drag the changeling along, but there was no way. He was sincerely hoping that the attempted homicide-by-suicide thing had been a one time course of actions. He wanted to try to abduct and heal her.

    We knew we needed to start keeping an eye on the platform soon. They'd be coming this way. But first we ducked into the consecrated ziggarut to check in with Macguiller. We found him pacing in an obvious panic, barricaded in the portal room. We asked what was wrong? Our fears were confirmed. Priest had apparently set his men digging to reach the blessed ziggurat, and they'd gotten through. Macguiller had managed to make a quick and sturdy barricade with some magical help, but it was only a matter of time before they got through.

    I giggled. And asked the DM if my gut instinct was true. The mental patients were soul-bound through it, right? The holder owned their immortal souls, (even if that soul is their own?) The DM smiled and nodded. I took the full round action to call it to me (from the volcano, and it still worked). Then I blasted through the barricade and floated out before them, telling them they worked for me now.

    The Dragon Shaman told me to free them. I floated down to him to talk face to face. I said that I saved his little girlfriend out of mutual respect, but that he was not going to be redeeming me. That as long as I held my soul physically in my hands, I didn't NEED any kind of redemption. I was currently my own God, and I intended to keep it that way.

    The Dragon Shaman said I was acting no different from the Drifter with that last comment, and asked why they shouldn't be fighting me too. My response was just "An issue of scale. And the enemy of my enemy, and all of that".

    The Swashbuckler actually chimed in and said (in character, mind you) "I don't LIKE you. But I'm very glad we're friends."

    The Dragon Shaman scowled, but said nothing. I told him there was no shame in prioritizing, and that even his Deity would understand WHY he was looking at the big picture right now. He nodded in agreement, sneered, and said "You're right. You're small time, we have more important things to worry about".

    I actually fell out of character at that, with an "OUCH. Harsh. Wow". We laughed.

    Then we started discussing what to do. I set my undying mental patients marching towards the doorway of the ziggurat as a watch. They weren't strong (at ALL), they were just undying. Then we tried to formulate an immediate strategy based on what we knew.

    We needed to defend the arctic platform at all costs at this point. The Swashbuckler asked "Why not just GIVE the drifter hell? Do we care what happens to hell?". The Kobold rightly pointed out that there would be nothing forcing him to stop at that. In fact, he'd have every reason to keep going once he made it to another plane, because he could just keep infecting and infecting until there was nothing left but him. And the more of him there WAS, the faster he would spread. So we had to secure the ziggurat, secure the platform, and try to sync back up with the angel with utmost speed. Then we started talking about the bigger picture. This world was utterly screwed. We hadn't found a way to STOP this infection from spreading. All we knew was that we could kill the bugs with healing magic, but that it just wasn't possible for us to make that much positive energy...

    And when we said that, the DM said calmly "Behind you, you hear chitter scraping and chirping, starting to molt and evolve from his exposure to the desert ziggurat".

    We all just stared down at the table and let those gears whirr in our brains for a minute.

    Dragon Shaman: Okay. New plan. Macguiller, grab every healing bug you can, and start breeding more. We're going to move to the desert ziggurat and HOLD it, come hell or high water.

    Kobold: "WHOO!"

    Swashbuckler: "HOLY CRAP WE HAVE AN ACE UP OUR SLEEVES! It's a magical time to be us."

    Me: :D <~ this face!

    So that's us.

    Session is over, but next session, we've got to prepare ourselves for the mother of all asymmetrical sieges. We have to hold a massive stone ziggurat in a blisteringly hot desert with only one entrance, AND we have to simultaneously hold an exposed-to-open-air stone platform in the ARCTIC WINTER.

    We don't know what's coming our way. But our Dm sure likes to watch us squirm, doesn't he?

    And we leveled to 13.




    Eye Spy, Something Red

    Spoiler
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    So to start the session, we sent our updated character sheets to our DM as normal. The Dragon Shaman pointed out that, just in case it came up, that we could share his "Breath Water" ability as long as we were close to him. We didn't see it coming up, as anytime we'd be in the ocean, we'd have our eyes peeled for infected blue whales or god knows what, but it was worth knowing.

    More immediately relevant was the Swashbuckler's news about his spell selection. He'd taken Sending and Repel Vermin. Under normal situations, that would have been an odd spell selection, but he said it seemed to fit with the current predicament. We were interested to see how Repel Vermin would work against the drifter bugs. They were individually weak... So with one casting the Swashbuckler would have over an hour of being a walking citronella candle. The DM Also ruled that Chitter didn't apply to that, being essentially a part of the Swashbuckler anyway.

    He also scribed Reincarnate into his prayerbook, which our DM probably didn't notice and start planning over... Sure.

    Then we started discussing plans. Yeah, that Siege plan I mentioned above? Pay it no mind. The Dragon Shaman didn't think it was a good idea, and the swashbuckler agreed. 2 on 2 means we needed to hash it out, and the Dragon Shaman pointed out that our first and foremost goal was the assassination of the infected devil before it could open the gate to hell. Any other plans, even including the protection of the angel, had to fall by the wayside until the immediate threat was neutralized. It wasn't about good or evil, just about our IMMEDIATE need to fight an IMMEDIATE threat to the stability of the planar cosmology as we know it.

    After hearing it put that way, me and the kobold were actually swayed. He was right, growing the healing bugs was a tertiary pressure, not a primary one, and we needed to bring our full force to bare.


    We knew that the Drifter bugs couldn't survive in the arctic cold, so anything coming our way was going to be charioted on the wings of sturdier creatures. Not having an immediate plan, my compatriots began animating and arming some skeletons, while I set out scribing two scrolls of scry. One for the Angel, one for the devil. (also, while I was scribing those scrolls, the Swashbuckler scribed a new scroll of Reincarnate, just to have at the ready).
    Auto-success, and a day and a half later, and we had two scrolls of scrying ready to go. First we scryed on the angel to determine her status. The FS Bluebird was still in good condition, and the angel was calmly sitting at the doorway to the captains quarters, staring out patiently at the dragon charioting her around. We couldn't make out the rest of the ship, but she didn't seem injured or in distress.

    We scryed on the Devil before doing anything else. It was traveling in a thick vicious cloud of insects, alongside Therin and the Changeling. The bugs were so thick, we couldn't make anything else out, but they seemed to be traveling very quickly. Their haste was probably our greatest advantage against them. If they buckled down and began infecting monsters, they could bring an army we couldn't defeat, and we knew it. But they're booking it with such speed from target to target (likely the schizophrenic and impatient Drifter responsible for that) trying to accomplish their goals as fast as possible, that we had a chance to throw monkey wrenches in their gears.
    While we scryed on the devil though, we did see the bugs thinning out slightly, and some type of flying mounts rising up through the swarm. The Scry cut out before we got details, but they appeared to be some kind of smaller dragons.

    While we had the chance, we had Macguiller inspect the two hatches leading to heaven and hell. He confirmed that's exactly what they seemed to be, and gave us a little insight into the manner of 'locking' that was holding them shut. There seemed to be alternate ways of opening the portals, and in fact the portals seemed to be able to open to multiple different planes, depending on HOW they were opened. The one on the underside lead mostly to higher planes of goodness. If it was opened properly though, it would lead straight to the highest reaches of true heaven. We would bet our last gold piece that the angel was the key to opening it to those highest reaches.
    The portal on the topside indeed would open in a pit to the lower planes, in a similar fashion. The devilish creature likely being the key to opening the pit to the lowest reaches of hell itself. Opening the gates at all would be worrisome, but the devil or angel opening them directly would be much much worse.

    We weren't 100% sure on what to do, but we wanted the angels insight, and we considered it time to start keeping her with us at all costs. We didn't want her back in danger, but we needed to pool our resources from here on out. We sent a sending spell to her telling her to return to the desert ziggurat.

    The Dragon Shaman and the Swashbuckler were going to go through the desert portal, meet up with the angel, and plot the likeliest course between the volcano and the arctic (the path the devil was likely traveling). They were going to fly the Bluebird at them from behind and launch an assault from the backside. Meanwhile, the angel was going to return to the arctic (where she'd be safe from swarms of bugs), and me and the kobold were going to fly back FROM the artic in an effort to head the devil off. Both teams were going to strike with the strongest force we could bring to bare in an effort to kill the devil (with extreme prejudice, was the phrase used if I recall correctly ).

    If we could capture the changeling, we would do so, but the Dragon Shaman promised not to let that distract him from the goal at hand.

    So that's exactly what we did. We left Macguiller and the angel in the holy temple, with the magical mirror (why bring it to the drifters men anyway? It's safer in the cold). Macguiller was going to go back and forth, moving healing bugs to the desert ziggurat and setting up magical defenses and mundane barricades there. Him and the angel would move to wherever they could be kept safest.

    We also asked the angel more about the hatch. She said she could open it now and escape to heaven, but that doing so would prevent it from SHUTTING until she returned. She was one of the pillars of this reality, bound here for the express reason of connecting us with the planes of goodness. Even dead, she would still be physically HERE (though goodness would wane and the balance would be upset, it would not instantly shatter, and could be repaired in time).

    The same applied to the devil, the other way around. They were part of what made the material world...material. Killing the devil would upset the natural order of things, but not irreparably so.

    Dragon Shaman: "So if you tried to escape to heaven and shut the door behind you?"

    Angel: "This world would simply become a new layer of hell."

    Swashbuckler: "Heavy."

    Me: "And if we somehow uninfected the devil and pushed him through the pit to hell to get rid of him? Would this world become part of heaven?"

    Angel: "In a sense. This world would indeed become physically connected with the higher planes, but the natural taint of evil it contains would violate heavens nature. The results would be chaotic and destructive. I'm not sure what would happen in that case."

    Dragon Shaman: "So no easy answer. Why does that not surprise me?"

    Me: "We have an easy answer. Kill both of them."

    At the the angel unfurled her wings and cracked her knuckles, assuming a rigid and ready stance, obviously preparing for the fight she would be forced to unleash. The dragon shaman just shook his head no at me, which made me back down. The angel immediately relaxed and tucked her wings back into place.

    So we set out with our plan. The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler left through the desert and got on board the Bluebird, sailing off to catch the devil from behind. Me and the kobold mounted the sphinxes, protected them from the elements of the cold, and started flying from the arctic platform to head them off in their path. The angel and Macguiller began moving the healing bugs to the desert ziggurat to make them grow, and warding it against all comers.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-08 at 04:25 PM.

  13. - Top - End - #13
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Red Baron

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    We tried to figure out the timing. The devil had a head start on reaching the arctic, but the bluebird was faster than the sphinxes. We figured the sphinxes would meet up with the mass of bugs slightly sooner than the Bluebird, so it was me and the kobolds responsibility to be enough of a pain that they slowed down enough for the Bluebird to catch up.
    As we flew over the course of days overland travel takes, we saw the darkness of the arctic fade and the light gradually returning to the land. We also saw very little in the way of combat. The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler saw more trouble, coming from an infected area and soaring through a wake of bugs and infected monsters, but nothing very strong attack them, it was just a small drain on their resources.
    We turned out to have been wrong on the timing though. Maybe it took the devil longer to mobilize than we'd anticipated, but the Bluebird spotted the cloud of bugs before we did. They tailed it for a few hours, obviously having been SPOTTED, but just holding back and waiting for a sign that we were near. The cloud sent back masses of bugs to fight them, but it wasn't enough to deter them in any real fashion.

    It was when me and the kobold riding the sphinxes saw the mass of bugs that all hell really started breaking loose. The cloud sent off tendrils of black bugs flying in unison, acting as some kind of disembodied tentacles that tried to swat me and the kobold out of the sky. We successfully bypassed them though, and clashed with the cloud just as the bluebird flew into it from behind. I threw up a wall of flame in the clouds path of travel, and the whole mess screeched in anger as the dark fire literally raked through the swarm and sent thousands of the bugs falling out of the sky. The Dragon Shaman leapt off the deck of the ship and started breathing fire everywhere, while the kobold let loose with area spells to thin out the bugs numbers.
    The sea below us was literally black and bumpy with the sheer volume of dead bugs that we were leaving falling out of the sky. It was when we'd thinned them out enough to have put a noticeable dent in the cloud (maybe 5% smaller, after maybe ten rounds of destruction) that the real trouble started.

    The cloud parted to reveal a whole mess of medium and large sized dragons of various colors, all belching breath weapons at us, with Therin and the Changeling mounted on two of them. The devil was still flying under its own power.

    We knew we were about to take a beating, but it was okay. That was the plan. While me, the kobold, and the dragon shaman all engaged the dragons, the Swashbuckler had been flying the Bluebird up OVER the cloud... he was taking a little bit of a beating from the bugs, as they were manifesting as medium and large sized... humanoid... forms. Like elementals made from bugs. Bugamentals. Still, he fought them plainly, without magic, bug versus sword, not wanting to reveal the ace up his sleeve until it would truly blindside the drifter. And then, once he'd gotten the Bluebird up in position over the devil? He revealed his hand.

    He cast Repel Vermin, causing the bugamentals to shriek and dissipate away from his presence (and littering the deck with bug carcasses from where he passed), and took a running leap off the front of the ship, no mount, no fly spell, just him.

    He fell through the cloud, causing a whirlwind as he pierced a twenty foot by twenty foot hole straight through the cloud, untouchable by the swarm, and landed on the devils back, grabbing it around the neck with a sharp thud. The devil faltered in mid flight, cursing and tumbling out of the sky with our psychotic swashbuckler clinging to him in some kind of deranged bearhug. The bugs couldn't do anything about it, and in fact, the repel vermin spell seemed to be weakening the drifters hold over the devil, and the rune on its forehead waned and weakened in pulses, growing stronger and dimmer back and forth.

    It didn't matter though. Whether the devil was infected or not, we were going to slay the thing to take it out of the picture (pillar of reality be damned, the angel herself said things would repair over time). The Swashbuckler grabbed one of the devil's wrist and swung over the side, flying UNDER the devil and holding onto him viciously, freeing up his hand to draw his rapier and making true striking power attacks at the devil from underneath it.

    The Devil, to its credit, clawed at the swashbuckler with its free hand and shook violently in mid flight, but in the end? The Swashbuckler finally managed to drive his rapier up through the devils throat. He killed it... but didn't drive it far enough past negatives to stop what happened next. With a lurching cough, the devil dissolved into a swarm of bugs, and the swashbuckler tumbled out of the sky...

    ...right onto the back of the Kobolds sphinx, who had made one hell of a swoop underneath him to catch the swashbuckler. They didn't avoid crashing into the sea, but the kobold managed to guide the sphinx back at a hard enough angel that his mount took the brunt of the fall (breaking its body and destroying it, unfortunately), and sending the two spilling into the sea.

    Me and the Dragon Shaman though? We were getting our butts kicked. Everywhere we looked, another medium sized dragon was banking into us and literally body-slamming us in a new direction, sending us tumbling lower and lower through the cloud, away from the Changeling and Therin. I sent my sphinx down as a mount for the kobold and swashbuckler, but it was taking a minute to reach them (and wasn't in good shape itself). The Dragon Shaman could drop in mid-flight hard enough to avoid some of the strikes, and I was teleporting with Flee the Scene and confusing the heck out of them, but we were not winning.

    The Dragon Shaman had a plan though. He told me to order the undead dragon in the sky to obey him, which I did, and then he banked out of the cloud and left me there. Which I was none too happy about. Everywhere I moved, a host of dragons and bugs followed me, and I wasn't fast enough to make a successful escape. The Dragon Shaman had gotten out by dive-bombing, but I didn't have the maneuverability to get out the same way he had without some kind of decoy (and flee the scene wasn't cutting it).
    Worse, Therin had broken away from the changeling in a rage, and was flying at me in a fury. He raked at me with his dragon mount, and shrugged off the repelling blast I threw at him to try to get away, his dragon grappling me and biting at my face. I grabbed its jaws, but I wasn't nearly strong enough to do much.

    And then the DM made me roll a listen check. I passed, and I heard a distinct whooshing of air from above, different from the other noises of battle. Which made me notice that the Bluebird was directly above me, and falling hard. The Dragon Shaman had gotten to the deck, flown it over Therin and the thickest cloud of dragons... and ordered the undead dragon to drop it. I was apparently collateral damage

    I successfully managed to cast Flee the Scene despite the grapple, and teleported straight up at the last second... through and over the ship crashing down, leaving it crushing Therin and a whole mess of dragons as it drove them down into the surface of the sea with a horrible sickening crunch, and the sound of shredding wood as the entire deck crashed into hundreds of pieces.

    I just floated there in the mess of (angry) bugs, staring down slack jawed at the ruined deck and the pile of dragon corpses... corpses which I immediately raised and sent flying into the fray to fight the surviving dragons.
    The Dragon Shaman meanwhile, did a dive into the surface, to go below water and make sure Therin was actually dead. He'd survived the hit, somehow, and was weakly paddling towards the surface. The Dragon Shaman swam at him, and when Therin spotted him, he made a desperate lunging strike with his hand, attempting to do the throat-slashing move. The Dragon Shaman bit his hand in mid-water to stop him, and ran him clean through with the bastard sword. There was no noise, Therin just stared in the silence of the water as the blade ran him through, and sliced clean upwards, cutting him in two.

    The two floated there for a time, in a cloud of Therins blood, the Dragon Shaman just calmly staring until he was satisfied there were no surprises coming. He then cut Therins head clean off, and swam to the surface, breaking out of the water and struggling to fly upwards.

    By that time, the Sphinx escorting the Swashbuckler and kobold had joined me in the fray, and we were finishing off the last of the dragons. I activated my fiendish resilience to start healing from the fight, and the Dragon Shaman started slying around with us, addressing me directly.

    Dragon Shaman: "Oh. Good. You survived."

    Me: "Yeah. I DID."

    Dragon Shaman: "GOOD. I'm GLAD. I was HOPING you'd see the ship and teleport away at the last second. "

    Me: "I did. I DID teleport away at the last second."

    Dragon Shaman: "GOOD. I was so WORRIED you wouldn't."

    Swashbuckler: *biting his knuckle* "Awkward..."

    We regrouped and tried to find the changeling, but the cloud was dissipating, and she was nowhere to be seen. Even with the Swashbuckler driving bugs away in a sphere around him, we couldn't push through them fast enough to find out what happened to her.

    She was the last of the Drifters original group, but the Drifter himself wasn't going to go down so easily obviously. We needed to find her and heal her, for the Dragon Shamans sake. But we also needed to find a way to heal the world at large.

    I got on my blue dragon, which I guess was officially my mount now that the ship was destroyed. The team also destroyed the remaining sphinx, and I animated some more suitable dragons and transferred control over them, so now three of us have undead dragon mounts. Which makes us pretty fast, in an overland travel type scenario. We warded the dragons against cold weather and set off back to the arctic, planning to camp out and wait for Macguiller to notice we were there, then come up with a new plan.



    Plan C

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    We made it back to the arctic without trouble, and after a few hours of camping on the platform, Macguiller noticed us and opened a portal to the desert ziggurat for us, but as he was opening it, he noticed activity through the jungle portal through the mirror. We all looked through it, and saw the Changeling! Staring patiently at the doorway.

    As soon as we looked through the portal, she eyed the corners of the doorway (obviously unable to see through the portal... but somehow able to tell when we were looking through it) and said,


    "I know you're listening to us. There's something you must understand. We do not care about this piddly little world. There are limitless others for us to rule. This is what will happen. We will come to the Ziggarut we first met at. The angel will be there. Then we will return to heaven in her. If she is not there? We will set out to RUIN this pathetic reality until there is nothing left but us."


    With that, the changeling walked calmly out of the room, and a single spellcasting bug, this one a swirl of purples and reds, walked calmly into the middle of the room. One of the purple and red gems in its back flashed brilliantly, and then with a sudden lurching swirl, the center of the room was nothing but a deep crater where the bug had stood. It self destructed, and took a huge chunk of the floor with it

    The Dragon Shaman barked to open the portal, but before we could, a SWARM of twenty or so of the red and purple bugs flew into the room...and all proceeded to activate at once. With a sudden flash, the portal was....gone. We were looking at nothing but an open door frame with arctic snow drifting lazily behind it. And immediately thereafter, the doorway itself crumbled into gravel and dust.

    We were all speechless.

    We couldn't figure out what to do here. We didn't know how many of those...self destruct bugs he had, but we could only assume he meant it when he said he would ruin reality. We couldn't let him destroy the desert ziggurat, or our healing bug idea would be utterly ruined. We couldn't let him have the angel outright, or we'd be damning countless innocent souls as we ruined heaven itself (and god knows how many worlds...how many planes... how many cracks the drifter would find in reality and press through into new ones).

    Our only thought? Running, with the angel as bait. The Drifter has shown himself to be uniquely single minded, despite apparently being of multiple minds. If we showed him the angel... and then bolted with her? Maybe we could get him chasing us rather than wrecking things. Maybe long enough to get our healing bugs as a valid weapon against him. We felt pinned.

    And regrettably, we didn't have as much time to game last night as we would have liked to, so we had to end the session just then. Our Dm said that we're moving the story along really quickly though, and that it probably won't be too many more sessions before things wrap up, one way or another.

    We didn't level this session, as it was on the brief side. We asked if we'd be hitting level 20, and the DM said "probably not in this campaign", so we probably are reasonably close to a climax.

    I'm just the messenger though [/QUOTE]




    Running Away

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    So, the three party members capable of necromancy have undead dragons large enough for us to ride. We trimmed down the rest of our undead just for simplification and the ability to raise corpses as we find them (but the Swashbuckler is keeping his undead bat, which is clinging to the underside of his dragon and ready for suicide missions).

    I also have my 13 mental patients bound via their souls to my service. I asked the DM about it, and he said I could 'pull' their souls out of the dark orb and put them into smaller gems if I felt the need to sell or destroy them. The Dragon Shaman face-palmed, but it was just idle curiosity about what my character could actually do with them.

    Then we set out seeing what we could do about our problem at hand. We asked Macguiller his thoughts about the healing bugs. His response was that the healing bugs looked to evolve faster than the other types of bugs, probably because they were channeling positive energy, the force of life itself and all, so it was augmenting their growth. In the time we'd set up shop and started forming plans, several of the bugs had already molted from cantrip casting bugs, to 1st level casting bugs, and the rest were looking healthy and ready to molt any time. They were also breeding like rabbits.
    We asked him if he thought they would be able to evolve to cast mass curing spells, and his exact word was "undoubtedly". We asked him how long it would take? "I'm not sure... a week? maybe two?" We didn't have two weeks. The drifter was bearing down on our position, and if we didn't fork over the angel and the mirror, we were going to find out just how many of those self-destructing bugs the drifter had managed to get mobilized. We hoped he was bluffing, that there was no way he could actually honestly wreck the planet with those bugs alone. He could still do a number on us, massive infection combined with anarchy would be very destructive, but not so much that the world wouldn't heal in time.

    But if he could just 'nuke' the planet with disintegrate spells? Well, no more world as we know it.

    Kobold: "o we do a tiger-by-the-tail. We run, with the angel prominently displayed as bait, and give him just enough fight to keep all of his attention focused on us. And we pretend this ziggurat no longer exists. Does the drifter even know Macguiller is still alive and well? Or that he's valuable? I don't think he does."

    Dragon Shaman: "No... no I'm pretty sure he DOESN'T know actually.
    Kobold: Right, so we bolt, Macguiller wards the entrance and plays bug-farmer, and gets ready with a counter-nuke. And he can go through the papers and stuff that they left there in the first place, there might be something relevant in there."

    Me: "And we have the mirror. We can open portals to everywhere possible and start blanketing the world in bug-bombs when they're ready."

    Yay, we had a plan!

    The Dragon Shaman wondered how thoroughly the jungle ziggurat was destroyed. We probably couldn't rebuild the ancient portal constructed when the world was young whose other half had now crumbled to dust, but we could at least assess how beat up the ziggurat looked. The explosions there were nothing but a warning to us, so we could see how much power the drifter poured into that warning. If there wasn't much damage done, the Drifter might be bluffing. If there was a lot of damage done, we might be in serious trouble. If the ziggurat had been turned into a lightly smoking crater?..

    So we set to find out the hard way.

    Run from the drifter, head towards the ziggurat, and... just keep running, until Macguiller can get our secret weapon up and running.

    We set out immediately, leaving my mental patients as guardians and hopping on our undead dragons. The four of us, the angel, and three zombie dragons flying in a circle over the desert canyon, waiting for the drifter to show himself. It was night time, so...we almost didn't notice it coming. It was only the golden glowing runes shining faintly against the mass that revealed it headed our way.

    The horizon in all directions was...black. Just a solid black mass of advancing bugs so thick they were literally tumbling against each other more than flying in a cloud. There were no infected creatures. No dragons, or people waving swords, or anything. Just bugs. So many bugs that they scrabbled to our location like a titanic black ooze, more a single mass than anything else.

    They were on every side. Everywhere we looked was just a wall of bugs. Occasionally, in the rolling chittering form, we'd see temporary shapes. The drifters face, hundreds of feet tall and made of solid bug. the humanoid shaped masses of various sizes (the bugamentals, as we called them) forming and then discorporating back into the swarm at whole in rapid succession.
    We had to leave before they simply flooded our location.

    Swashbuckler: "Up and over?!"

    Everyone: *nod* "Up and over!"

    We flew up at a steep angle, over the mass, discovering that it reached just above the cloud covers. We still managed to squeak out a bit higher, and fortunately, the dragons were faster than the mass of bugs. black tendrils snaked out from the mass at us, making slow exaggerated swings to knock us from the sky, but we outmaneuvered them. Occasionally, the tendrils would link together and form lanky clawed hand-shapes, trying to literally engulf us as we flew, but we were fast enough to avoid most of them, and when they did get close, the dragon shaman would open with some heavy breath weapon to char a path clean for us. When that failed, I would sever the tendrils from the mass with ever shifting walls and rings of fire.

    What really unnerved us the most was the noise. There were no angry roars or howled curses. It was just a deafening constant hum of chitinous wings and clicking mandibles. On some level, I regretted not taking eldritch cone . A few times, swarms broke off to intercept us and formed bugamentals on the backs of our dragons, but we fought like adventurers fight and destroyed everything that got in our faces.

    I feel the need to point out that our escape from the desert ziggurat took quite a while, and there was a loooot of combat against bug swarms in various incarnations. Short of listing a roll-by-roll list from our session (which we don't actually right down or anything like that :p), this is going to be a shorter entry than it actually was at the table.

    We fought our butts off to defend the angel from the mass, and we had to keep our eyes peeled on the canyon fading in the background. LUCKILY the drifter ignored the canyon and the ziggurat, meaning Macguiller was, theoretically, safe there for the time being. That meant we had to avoid the area for as long as possible while the bugs evolved and bred... a hopeless task maybe, but it was all we had.

    Finally, after shredding and roasting our way through metric tons of possessed beetles, we broke out into semi-open waters, heading away from the coast. We couldn't really rest outright, because smaller swarms kept cutting us off, but it was relaxing to get away from the Slowly Advancing Wall of Doom that had been on us.

    We flew in a triangle, with the angel gliding in between us and the dragon shaman below her for maximum protection, and made our way to the jungle ziggurat.



    Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

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    This next part was a solo mode for the kobold.

    When we made it to the jungle continent, it occurred to us that we couldn't realistically land and poke around to check things out. The slowly advancing wall of doom wasn't THAT much slower than us, and we were still getting scrapped by swarms. We had to keep booking, but we also wanted to know as much as possible.

    The solution? The same solution we always had when something questionable and uneasy came up. Send the kobold!

    He figured out how many rounds he would be able to move while hasted, how far he'd be able to move per round, and set him off like a black little bullet. He cast haste on himself, sprung off the dragon as it banked low to the trees, hit the ground with a roll, and kept moving at a ridiculous pace (we stopped to figure out his speed, and came up to about 40 miles per hour. Barefoot).

    So moving like the devil's chasing him, the kobold clears the distance to the ziggurat, pads up the side without breaking side, and tucks and rolls into the entrance so fast he actually winds up bouncing and rolling off the ceiling and continuing his run without breaking stride.

    The ziggurat was still standing. That was good news. The bad news was that there were still a few of the self destruct bugs inside of it. The kobold managed to dodge them like they were a minefield, but they kept flying at him and popping, hurting the stone structure itself and generally tearing up the place, leaving huge craters in the walls, ceilings, and floors. At one point, he realized he was going to be unable to avoid one of the disintegrate bugs in his path, so he pulled out his handcrossbow, and using an inspiration point, made a running shot at the thing and plunked it clean where it sat.
    As he dashed past, he scooped it up and stuffed it into his sidepack so we could check it out.

    When he got to the main chamber after a few rounds of running, he realized that we probably weren't in as bad of shape as we might be, but that things also weren't really looking up for us. The main chamber was crawling with the self-destruct bugs, and there were craters all over. The whole place looked really unstable, and the portal room itself was practically blown clean through to the outside.

    The kobold did a 'run up the walls' move, and managed to spring off with a successful jump check, changing his direction and leaping over the giant mass of disintegrate bugs that were chasing him, rolling gracefully on the other side of the swarm (and taking a pretty heavy hit of damage when some of the closer ones 'popped' with him nearby), but managed to start sprinting back out towards the entrance.

    When he got back out, we were circling back over the area just as planned (knowing how many rounds he had before he had to turn back, and all that, we knew how many rounds it would be before we needed to be back over the area). With his last round of haste, he sprinted up the side of the ziggurat and did an inspired-jump check to fly off the pinnacle and land successfully back on his dragon mount .

    It was a detour we were all glad we made. We knew the threat the drifter had made was credible, but not that the world was going to be instantly scorched down to its core. Well. Probably not anyway.



    Whoops

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    Whether it was because we'd poked our noses where they didn't belong, or simply a natural side effect of being on this part of the world, we began to get attacked by self-destruct bugs making kamikaze dives at us. On top of that, the black onyx bugs were becoming thicker and thicker no matter where we went, and the angel was taking a lot of 'splash' damage from being so close to us while we fought to protect her (and from some of the bugs getting through and attacking her directly).

    We started realizing how hopeless things were getting, and I once again mentioned the possibility of simply offing the angel as a logical course of actions. Even the Dragon Shaman was hard pressed to say it was a bad idea, but in the end, the party just couldn't bring themselves to go through with it.

    Which turned out to be a mistake, because finally, after fighting god knows how many swarms (it might not come across in the writing, but we practically rolled our dice smooth with the sheer VOLUME of combat we experienced in this session), finally, the angel fell.

    And immediately disappeared into the massive cloud of bugs, which began shifting north. We could hear the angels voice from inside the massive cloud saying "See? Why did we have to do this the hard way, when we could have allready been gone from this miserable world? Why did we drag out the suffering?" before her voice faded away under the whirr and hum of the drifters wings.

    The bugs largely left us alone (though we did still have to make a token effort at fighting them off, to be more trouble than we were worth to kill), presumably because they felt there was nothing more we could do. The Drifter considered himself the winner already, and was escorting the infected angel to the arctic platform directly.

    We talked options. Macguiller would be nowhere near ready, but he might have generated enough positive energy to heal the angel. If we could get back to the desert ziggurat before the angel made it to the platform, we might be able to set up some kind of heal-bomb ambush. A few of the stronger healing bugs, the lay on hands from the Dragon Shaman, and whatnot, and we might be able to 'clean' her.

    At which point, I put forth the possibility of uninfecting her and then pushing her through the portal, plunging this world into a new layer of hell. Everyone stared at me.

    Me: "What? We're screwed. Have you not noticed the massive cloud of bugs is now EVERYWHERE we go? What are we trying to save here? The world? No, this world's dead, it just hasn't caught up to that fact yet. There's nothing left but us, Macguiller, and the drifter as far as I can tell."

    Kobold: "So we just damn our entire world?"

    Me: "To save heaven and every other world? Yes."

    Dragon Shaman: "When did you suddenly become self-sacrificing and altruistic?"

    Me: "I'm not. I PLAN on going to hell when all of this is over with, one way or another. Physically. I'm over here transcending into a demonic form bit by bit and all. You guys would be the ones sacrificing yourselves nobly, I'll be going home."

    Swashbuckler: "What if we uninfect the angel, push her into heaven, and find out that one of the drifter bugs managed to hitch a ride inside of her?"

    Dragon Shaman: *points at the swashbuckler* "GOOD QUESTION. What if?"

    Me: "Then I still get a free ride to hell?"

    Dragon Shaman: *loud buzzer noise* "Time for a new plan! We kill the angel."

    Me: "THAT WAS MY PLAN TOO"

    Kobold: "That was her plan too, it's true."

    Dragon Shaman: "You wanted to do it while she was still an angel, I'm doing it because it's a last ditch effort."

    Me: "Yeah, I wanted to do it back when it would be EASY. Now it's going to be a WAR."

    Dragon Shaman: "The righteous path is rarely the easiest and all."

    Me: "Evil will always triumph because good is dumb."

    DM: "Penalty flag! no movie quotes."

    Nonsense conversations aside, killing the angel is what we wound up settling on. It wouldn't destroy the drifter, but it would destroy his last chance at getting off this rock, and that was good enough for our party. We debated on the best way to approach, but we decided to cut them off in an ambush by flying back to the desert ziggurat and heading to the arctic platform. We weren't sure how fast the angel/bug swarm could travel, or what other travel options the drifter had, but by all reasonable calculations, we would get to the arctic platform before him and with time to spare at that (but not much time).

    So that's what we did. Macguiller was surprised to see us after only a few days travel back and forth, and said he thought he might be on to something after going through Priest and the Drifters notes on the rituals they'd been performing. That there might be any number of counter rituals.

    Kobold: "Counter-Rituals? Elaborate."

    Macguiller: "I'm not completely positive yet, the notes are... psychotic, disjointed, there are critical bits missing and obviously he didn't list things that could obviously be used against him... but I MAY be able to piece together a ritual that's the opposite of the one he performed to become this monstrosity in the first place. Something using the healing bugs and a willing host to create a sort of... 'curative' alternative to this mans possessing."

    Dragon Shaman: "Wait, like someone with a healing touch?"

    Macguiller: "More like one massive pulse of positive energy, based on how many bugs were sacrificed, but yes."

    We let Macguiller get back to his bugs and books, and the DM informed us that we leveled up to 14. Me and the Dragon Shaman each got an extra 1d6 for our respective abilities, the Kobold got access to 5th level spells, and the Swashbuckler went back to taking levels IN swashbuckler to keep his hitpoints and BAB up (both for his sake, and for his familiar, Chitter).



    Stairway to Heaven

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    After leveling up, we hit the arctic platform, and immediately we could make out the glowing mass in the distance. It was a huge swarm of bugs, and it was getting gradually smaller and smaller as it got closer. The Kobold made a boosted spot check, and realized what was happening. The black onyx bugs were traveling in a mass so thick that it was keeping the ones on the inside safe from the direct effects of the arctic chill. The outer layer was freezing and dying, exposing the next layer, and so on, and so on... the drifter was coming in a swarm, and he was leaving a massive trail of dead bugs in his wake.

    Again we pointed out that this world might wind up with a serious necromancy problem if things every went back to normal...

    Things might not get back to normal though, if the angel inside that huge ball of bugs made it to where she was going. We climbed down underneath the platform, and figured there was no sense trying to be clever, so I threw up a ring of fire around the portal and me and the dragon shaman began circling around the area below it, ready to bring hell. The kobold hid, figuring he might get a chance to make a good sneak attack, and the swashbuckler enlarged himself, figuring that in this situation, the Brutal the Better.
    We all wished we had war-hammers.

    The bugs reached us and began attacking, but we maintained our positions with a quiet resolve, devoting most of our attention to the mass itself (and noting that the bugs died off in just a few rounds when separated from the mass, but that my ring of fire seemed to have made enough heat to prolong the survival of some of them. It was helping them, but it was also keeping them from sailing right through to the portal. Our attention was so focused, because we were looking for the angel in the mess of bugs. She was the threat. The portal didn't matter if the angel could be kept from it.

    Finally, we spotted her, weaving back and forth and trying to decide on the best method of attack. We thought. Because as we were busy focusing all of our attention on her, we didn't see the infected changeling coming up behind us and firing a magical crossbow bolt-of-lightning at the Dragon Shaman. Hit him square, for a smackload of damage (and causing me to change my energy resistance from fire to electricity ). When he got hit, the angel took a chance and made a dive through the fire at the portal. I made a grapple at her ankle while she fumbled at the locks, but she missed her attack of opportunity, and I successfully grappled her and dragged her down. I dragged her far enough for the kobold to take a running scramble up the enlarged Swashbucklers back and fire off a vicious hand-crossbow sneak attack at her, hitting her for a good batch of damage.
    By this point, the Dragon Shaman recovered from being hit by lightning, and was left trying to decide between engaging the changeling, and engaging the angel. I made up his mind for him by shouting "TORCH ME" at him. In retrospect, I wish I'd kept the fire resistance, but being smacked with a cone of fire was worth it to take the hitpoints off the angel too. I activated my fiendish resilience to start healing the difference.

    The swashbuckler took a run to hit the changeling, but the Dragon Shaman told him not to hurt her. Confused, the Swashbuckler raised an eyebrow and
    hit her with a healing spell instead, temporarily forcing the bug out of her and making her gaze around in a confused daze, spotting the Dragon Shaman and looking desperately sad before another glowing rune started flashing on her forehead. At least it took her out of the fight for a round.

    I tried to maintain the grapple, but enough bugs grouped together that they formed a short-lived bugamental and bullrushed me, knocking me away from the angel. She made another dive at the portal up to heaven. The Kobold hit her with a fireball, and the Dragon Shaman moved to attack, while the Swashbuckler prepared to keep hitting the changeling with cure spells to the best of his abilities.

    The Angel successfully unlocked the portal

    A glowing pillar of light descended down from the hole in the platform, and she and the (temporarily re-infected) changeling cackled with glee. I shifted the ring of fire to a SHEET of fire directly over the portal... which was enough to keep the BUGS from getting in, but not enough to keep the angel from passing through herself!

    I wasn't about to follow. The kobold couldn't jump high enough to hitch a ride, and the Swashbuckler was engaging an enemy (and not small enough to fit through the portal regardless). The Dragon Shaman was our last great hope. He banked, arced through the fire, and flew straight into heaven itself.
    Or a transitory plane that is. It turned out, the portal didn't lead directly to heaven, it led to a realm that was nothing but a pillar of light, with a brighter light at the top. And the angel was soaring up as fast as her wings would carry her. The Dragon Shaman chased her with everything he had, praying for strength the entire time, and finally, mercifully, grabbed her ankle just before they reached the light at the top. The angel howled in rage and kicked at him with her free leg, but he didn't have to do much to stop her. A full built draconic humanoid wearing a heavy metal fullplate... he simply stopped flying.

    They sank like stones, tearing back out of the pillar of light so fast that they pierced the wall of fire and hit the ground below the platform like a flaming comet. I pushed my way through the fire and pulled the portal shut, while the Dragon Shaman successfully grappled and pinned her underneath him, and pulsed a healing touch into her to temporarily cure her of the Drifters infection. She looked around confused for the first time that we'd seen her (well, still blindfolded and missing her eyes, but she FLAILED around confused). The Dragon Shaman spoke, making her jerk her attention up to him.

    All he said was, "I'm sorry we failed you".

    And all she said was, "I forgive you."

    Then he spiked his sword down through her neck before the infection could take hold again.

    The bugs went APE.

    They hit us like fists, trying to knock us around (but doing a poor job of it, since they were freezing to death so fast without the ring of fire making a buffer against the winds). The changeling vanished in a cloud of bugs as they carried her to the top of the platform. Me and the dragon shaman flew up after her while the Swashbuckler and kobold ran to the pillar stairways to chase on foot. But when me and the shaman got to the top, we didn't find a fight. We found the changeling holding a dagger to her own throat, telling us to stay back or the changeling would die.

    Me: "Good, I don't care if she lives or not. Fire an eldritch blast."

    Dragon Shaman: "I hold my sword to the warlocks neck before she can fire, saying "I DO care if she dies".

    The changeling just smirked, held out her free hand, and said, "Mirror. Now."

    By now the kobold had joined us, and was holding the mirror out, asking if he should do it. The Dragon Shaman said yes, but that was his heart, not his head. We started to debate, but the DM stopped us to remind us that anything we said here was in character, because there was an angry changeling with a dagger in her own neck listening to us.

    So we had to talk without actually TALKING. We couldn't reveal why the mirror was important, so it became a game of wondering what the other players were thinking. At least by this point the last of the bug swarm was starting to freeze to death.

    The Dragon Shaman said to hand over the mirror, and I agreed. I think my exact words were "It's a travel toy, nothing more." The Swashbuckler said not to, but when the changeling cocked her head at him, he clammed up, afraid of spilling something important. In the end, the kobold threw her the mirror.

    She backed quietly towards the door to the consecrated ziggurat, opening a portal and stepping through it. Then she shut the portal for travel, but left it open for communication. We gathered around it, while the changeling shook her head, and said, "No choice now no choice no choice. Just wanted to leave we just wanted out. Only way out now is to ruin everything. We're going to raze this planet..." she shook her head and set the mirror down at her feet, before looking up at the dragon shaman directly. "She's suffering because of you." And then made some kind of gesture that caused the mirror to shatter into dust.

    As the portal faded away, we could see the changeling through it, the rune fading from her forehead as she looked around confused and scared, the drifter willingly uninfecting her just to let her starve to death in a temple god knows how far underground with nothing but bones and dust to keep her company.

    The Dragon Shamans player actually looked a little ill, rubbing his forehead and saying "No."

    Then, the three remaining doorways all crumbled to dust, leaving nothing but an empty platform, and two undetectable portals that can't realistically be opened. And us standing there in the arctic, with no mounts.

    Kobold: "...Sure is a good thing I just learned how to cast Teleport and the Drifter doesn't know about that!"

    And with that, the Kobold snapped his fingers, and we disappeared in a flash, re-appearing at... the courtyard to Mercyglade asylum

    Me: "Really?!"

    Kobold: "I'm sorry! It was the only location in range of my teleport spell! Without a distinct mental image we could have wound up shunted of anywhere. We're in range of Macguiller now though, I can get us there first thing tomorrow."

    So... we ran away from the asylum, hoping no ghosts noticed we were BACK, and found a suitable location far enough from everything that we could make a makeshift camp and settle down for the night. We were far enough away from everything that we even saw some uninfected animals. That was a relief. The Drifter wasn't literally everywhere yet.

    But it was only a matter of time. We had to get back to Macguiller and find a way to stop him.

    So, that's that!

    Until next session, thanks for reading my incoherent ramblings




    It Probably Sounded Like *Bamf*

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    The pillars of good and evil for this world are dead. According to the angel, "dead" is better than "gone", as this world is still a material plane rather than being plunged into one of the upper or lower planes. What that means for the distant future is a question, but a more pressing question is what our IMMEDIATE future is.

    After all, the Drifter can infect creatures by swarming the hell out of them, and now he has bugs that create localized disintegration effects. There are two fortunate things to consider for us.

    1) If he had enough disintegrate bugs to destroy the world, he probably would have allready. The effects of their explosions are limited to a very manageable area, and while he could seriously mess some stuff up given time, there are limits to what he can do. We hope.

    2) Every infected creature we've seen has been... less than epic. A lot of young to adult dragons, massive beasts, and the like. It's worth noting that we haven't fought any ancient infected dragons... no infected tarrasque or the like.

    At the end of the update, our party was camping in the woods dangerously close to my wisdom-wrecking backstory. We'd found some uninfected animals in the woods, which meant the drifter hadn't focused too much on this continent.

    It was that fact that had us wondering if magically jumping to Macguiller or the Changeling first thing in the morning was the best use of our resources. We figured that first, we should try to scry on our subjects of interest. Since it's a fourth level arcane spell, the Factotum could cast it in the morning, and I could have a scroll of Scrying ready by then. So we let everyone get some rest while I stayed watch and inked us up the scroll.
    In the morning, the kobold scryed on the changeling at the Dragon Shamans request. We thought the worst case scenario was suicide, but it turned out to be much worse. The Changeling was balled up in a corner, clutching her ears and obviously sobbing hard. Around here were a small hand full of the drifters bugs. Closer examination revealed her to be bleeding from the mouth, meaning those bugs were ones she probably coughed up. What they were doing to make her clutch her ears was anyones guess, but the dragon shaman was not happy with the situation. He was level headed enough to know it wasn't an instant priority, he was just very concerned.

    After that unfortunate revelation, I scryed on Macguiller. He was carving symbols into the floor of the ziggurat furiously and checking his notes every few seconds. After a beat, he looked around in shock, looked up at us, pulled out a lens and looked at us through it (verifying who we were, most likely), waved to the scrying location happily, and pointed eagerly at the symbols he was carving before giving us a thumbs up. Then he scribbled a rough sundial, pointed at it, made a 'circle' gesture, and then held up two fingers.

    Kobold: "He knew we were scrying on him? Macguiller is one clever cat."

    Me: "Makes sense, he's had plenty of time to ward the place off."

    Kobold: "The two-fingers... do you think he meant two days?"

    Dragon Shaman: "That's what I got out of it. Two days and he'll have something ready for us to use."

    Kobold: "So we need to avoid him entirely for two days to avoid drawing attention. Who's ready to go save the Changeling?"

    Dragon Shaman: *raises hand eagerly and waves it while making this face > *

    Then the Kobold snaps his fingers, only to be told by the DM, "You feel a shunting, staggering step in reality, but find yourself in the same location, as if you teleported into the same spot. You still have your spell slot btw."

    Kobold: "Huh. Try to teleport us into the desert ziggurat then. " *snaps his fingers, only to get the same result* "I suppose it's just as well that that didn't work. What do we want to do now?"

    We checked the map for places we could make it to in one hop. Nothing seemed too promising. Everything that was in range was a huge question mark, (central island standing out as a really big "AVOID THIS PLACE" choice in our minds). We didn't want to just camp in the desert outside where Macguiller was working, for fear of calling the hammer (the bug hammer) down on him. Since the kobold needs a pretty firm grasp on where we're going to not shunt us X miles into bad territory (where X is whatever the cruel gods of the dice decide), we're kinda hesitant to come to a firm decision on any of it.

    So then the kobold, never one for being slow, blurts out "Hey, the bar we got arrested in, I can pin that down pretty good!" and snaps his fingers before any of us can say "Wait".

    And suddenly we were standing in the middle of the bar we hadn't been in since before the angel was summoned, with the group smacking our foreheads and the Dragon Shaman saying "don't DO that!"
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-28 at 06:46 PM.

  14. - Top - End - #14
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Bar Brawl, Redux

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    The bar was in bad shape. The windows and doors were all roughly boarded up and barricaded in a really haphazard fashion, and the place looked like it had seen a fair number of destructive fights. It was also full of a small handful of refugees, people who looked injured and very unhappy. And very surprised that the four of us had just magically shunted into the room. They actually readied themselves for a fight, and we thought some combat was about to go down before one of them said "You... you're not infected! what's going on here?"

    We didn't have to ask what 'infection' they were talking about. Instead we asked about the condition of the town.

    The barmaid who had vouched for us when we got arrested poked her head out from behind the bar, surprised (but not unhappy) to see us. She told us that they'd gotten warning of the swarm of bugs before they'd shown up, a ship from central island had reached the port and gave the authorities the sketches that the captain of the guard had drawn up.

    No one had taken it very seriously until swarms of the bugs started showing up and infecting people. While they hadn't taken the warning seriously, knowing what was going on was probably the difference between having survivors or not, because as soon as people began being infected and attacking one another, everyone left knew that the warning hadn't been BS.
    They'd immediately set down barricading themselves wherever they'd been. Now things were mostly quiet, but the streets themselves were littered with dead bodies and stray bugs. No one who'd gone out for any reason had managed to return... at least not uninfected. And every now and then, and new assault would begin on various locations, as barricades gave out and the newly infected attacked other positions. So far the bar had managed to repel any attackers, and they could see through the cracks that other locations in town still seemed fortified, but that (in the bar at least) there weren't many people left to fight, and they weren't sure how long they could last like this.

    We figured it was probably the same in any number of cities.

    We started talking options. I could use "flee the scene" to hop out into the streets and see exactly what we were dealing with. The problem with that plan was, while I could 'flee the scene' right back into the bar, it would let the Drifter know instantly that we survived being stranded in the arctic, and more than that, we were allready back to a mainland.

    Then we realized... that was actually GREAT. Because while it ruined our element of surprise (and really, the element of surprise is less useful against a world spanning hive mind that a strategic attack will do little against), it would pull potential heat away from Macguiller. What's more, the Drifter hates us enough, personally, to probably abandon this tiny little town in favor of pursuing us with a violent rage. The drawback being that we couldn't really rest while we were on the run, and we had two days to kill yet.
    But we weren't completely ready to plunge ourselves out into the wild bugfighting nightmare just yet. I needed 18 solid hours to make a scroll of teleport, and figured it was best that I take the opportunity of the (relatively safe) bar to scribe it in. We needed at least one option for mass transport other than the kobold, and having two ways to get to the desert would be preferable.

    The Dragon Shaman still wanted to go try to dig a path to the changelings location (and he had a valid point. If we were going to be running distraction for macguiller, we might as well do it in a way that the drifter would expect as obvious). So we compromised. Me and the Kobold were going to lay low at the bar while he rested to cast Teleport again, and I scribed a scroll or two of the same.

    The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler, lunatics that they were, were going to brave the 'storm' all on their lonesomes, and head towards the church on foot and wing. If they force marched themselves (and they both had the endurance to hustle the whole way there) they could make it in just over a day and a half, giving them a few hours to work their way down to the ziggurat. Now, we have no clue how deep it is, but the Dragon Shamans stance is that is doesn't matter, because more than anything they're just trying to buy Macguiller (and the town, and any other surviving towns) time by dangling themselves out as bait that we know the Drifter will take. He's going to try to make it as far down as he can (in fact, his plan is to start killing any of the self-destruct bugs he can find and hurling their gems at the same spot, in the dirt, trying to tunnel down with disintegration... which you gotta admit, is a pretty sound plan to come up with under pressure and with no real options.

    So that's exactly what we did, with an agreement that in two days, on the money, me and the Kobold are going to teleport to the abandoned church, grab them, and teleport to the desert, and go from there. The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler sneak out into the streets and start booking it with everything they have in the direction of the abandoned church. They actually make it part of the way through the town before finally drawing attention to themselves, but when the hammer drops, it drops hard. The entire street they were on fills with a wave of bugs barreling down at them from both directions, forcing them to go up (the dragon Shaman flew, the swashbuckler did some acrobatic bounding and leaping up nearby fixtures until he made it to a rooftop).

    They ran for all they were worth, tumbling, diving, and avoiding the thickest of the bugs. Fortunately, they made it far enough from the bar that we didn't also become a point of interest. So I set to scribing while the kobold set to helping with the wounded and keeping his eyes peeled for trouble.
    On their path, they were accosted by any number of infected people and animals. The Drifter liked swarms of bugs (not illogical, he liked bugs a lot before becoming the hivemind anyway), but even where the swarms were heavy, there were still infected creatures. Which meant the massive walls of bugs were mostly from when he was trying to hammer-stomp the angel (which turned out to be a successful strategy...so...go him).

    Along the way, the Drifter would harass the dragon shaman about what he was doing to the changeling, and there was no stopping the mental assault. Every voice that arose from the crowds and swarms would get cut down or burned, but the drifter would simply switch to a new voice. Telling him that the Changeling had only had a temporary lapse in judgment, and that he was going to see to it that she came back 'under his wing' if it killed her.

    We did a bit of a flash-forward on the story here, as detailing my scroll scribing and the dynamic duos sprint through bug infested wilderness would be...tedious at best. The harassment occurred to the dragon shaman on their run, but back in the bar, we were relatively unaccosted.

    I say relatively, because one of the survivors there was one of the men we'd gotten in the barfight with way back when, and he contemplated getting some old-world justice on us while our "bigger, stronger" buddies were away.
    The kobold tried to talk him down, and he might have succeeded if he'd been human. Unfortunately, low-minded commoners from hard working port towns are rarely the most enlightened of individuals when it comes to matters of race and gender, and attack us he did.

    The combat lasted one round. . The kobold got into a flanking position to sneak attack, but I popped him with an eldritch blast without actually looking away from my scroll-work and set him so far into negatives that there wasn't much left to call a corpse.

    Commoners.



    Rem Ad Triarios Redisse

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    By the time a day and a half had passed, I was done with one Teleport scroll and working on a second one, meaning we were close to jump-time.

    The Dragon Shaman and the Swashbuckler, on the other hand, were not in the best of shape. They were exhausted from the run and had taken a definite beating along the way. The two of them had enough healing to keep them both ticking, but they were definitely worse for the wear for having made this difficult trek (especially without any support). On the plus side, them leaving had indeed lowered the frequency of the attacks on the bar (from 'a lot' to 'one the entire time' which we repelled with little trouble).
    The pair on the run found themselves walking into an ambush though. The church town had NOT been a place where people had held out, and the entire area was full of infected baddies. Mostly people, but there were infected animals (including wolves), and the whole mess was congregated around a group of infected trolls. The trolls would have been MORTIFYING if the dragon shaman hadn't had a fire breath weapon, as it was, they dropped from "We're screwed" to "we're slightly less screwed".

    Much to the Dragon Shamans disappointment though, there were very, very few of the self destruct bugs around. It seems that maybe they had been a bluff on the Drifters part, or they simply weren't prepared to mobilize in a formidable force. Whenever the Dragon Shaman saw one he could reasonably kill, he'd grab the gems from it, fly high, and hurl them into a newly forming pit in the dirt. The Drifter laughed each time he did it... obviously considering the whole thing futile. And he might have been right, as they fought viciously for far too long, barely able to hold out until the time limit came up.

    But then, mercifully, me and the Kobold showed up in the area. Our arrival was met with a wrathful uproar and an increased ferocity of attack from the infected and the bugs... and the forming of several 'bugamentals' that started to attack...

    But me and the kobold had no intention of turning things into a bigger brawl. The Dragon Shaman grabbed me, the kobold and me both grabbed the (on the brink of death) swashbuckler, and the kobold snapped his fingers.

    And then there was silence.

    We appeared unaccosted in the sands, somewhere between the port town on the Egyptian continent, and the desert ziggurat where this entire mess had begun, and apparently where the final chapter would be written. The kobold let us know that this was as close as he could get us to the ziggurat without feeling resistance from it, and that we'd have to go the rest of the way on foot.

    At least when we got there, we'd have our undead mounts back.

    It took us about an hour to get there. Unfortunately, the place wasn't as 'isolated' as we'd expected... My mental patients were outside of the ziggurat, weapons in hand, fending off a pretty wicked looking attack. Apparently, at some point, the Drifter had decided to poke his nose in this direction again. Whether he did it out of idle curiosity, or because he suspected something, we had no way of knowing. All in all, it looked very bleak though.

    The outside of the ziggurat was absolutely riddled with pockmarks from exploding bugs. So many pockmarks that the ziggurat itself seemed significantly smaller, as if it were a giant stone onion being peeled away layer by layer. As we watched, no less than four of my mental patients died in rapid succession. Fortunately, they were rising in a pattern fast enough to keep the entrance to the ziggurat relatively secure. Unfortunately, there were dark clouds on the horizon that were likely reinforcements... and a boosted spot check from the kobold revealed dark shapes moving on the horizon... not bugs. he couldn't make out what they were, but it was something worse than a swarm.

    We hurried inside and sent the dragons out to defend us, figuring they could buy us as much time as possible. Inside, the structure was obviously weakening. Shaking, dust falling from the ceiling, small bits of rock breaking loose from impacts of the bugs exploding along the walls. Obviously, we ran right to Macguiller, who was pacing around the main chamber, checking everything he'd set up again and again.

    It looked very, very similar to the setup the Drifter had used to turn himself into the hivemind. A massive symbol carved into the floor (sometimes overlapping the one the drifter had previously carved). Smaller symbols everywhere, and arranged in an imperfect circle around the whole mess were thirteen of the healing bugs. Particularly big, strong looking specimens too.

    The first words out of Macguiller's mouth? "OKAY. I need a volunteer!"

    None of us jumped with our hands up

    Kobold: "Maybe... maybe tell us what we're volunteering for?"

    The entire structure shook violently. We had no way of knowing what was going on, but whatever had hit us had been big. Probably a concentrated attack from a swarm of suicide bugs.

    Macguiller: "We don't have time for a detailed explanation! Our time here seems incredibly limited."

    Me: "...Trust me, it will take less time to explain what's this ritual will do than to convince us to step into it blind."

    Macguiller, sighing deeply: "Okay... leaving out as many details as possible, whoever stands in the circle when the ritual is complete will become a massive battery capable of storing ridiculous amounts of positive energy, which they'll be able to release in a massive pulse all at once."

    Dragon Shaman: "That sounds great!"

    Macguiller: "It will definitely kill the person who does it."

    Dragon Shaman: "That sounds less great."

    Macguiller: It'll possibly kill everyone nearby too.

    Dragon Shaman: "...Well then. I guess It has to be me..."

    Swashbuckler: "I'll do it."

    The dragon shaman and swashbuckler both eyeball each other, while the kobold and I slink down in our chairs, trying very hard not to get noticed during the 'volunteering for guaranteed suicide' thing.

    The dragon shaman and swashbuckler argue back and forth about which one of them it will be, while the compound shakes and rattles even more violently. A pinpoint of light appears in the ceiling of the chamber (meaning they were eating away at the structure at a frightening pace). I threw a wall of fire over it to plug it up and the argument continued.

    They asked macguiller for more details, who, with another sigh, Said that any healing magic cast on the person in question would instead transfer into this 'battery' of positive energy they were building up. So whoever did it wouldn't be able to heal at all, except through resting.

    The dragon shaman pointed out his ridiculous constitution making him less likely to die. The Swashbuckler pointed out that with his familiars help, he could potentially generate a lot more healing points per day, so if they got separated he could top off even faster.

    Another pinpoint of light appear in a different location, but the kobold plugged THAT hole with a flaming sphere.

    The two asked macguiller one last question. "How much healing energy do we need?"
    Macguiller: ...lots. And lots and lots. But I have a plan to address that too.

    The dragon shaman and swashbuckler looked at each other, and finally the dragon shaman conceded, owing to the difference in positive energy output. The Swashbuckler stepped into the circle, only vaguely regretting arguing so hard for the suicide spot...

    Macguiller started the ritual. And that's when the entire ceiling began to cave in.



    Return to Madness

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    Through the cracks, streams of bugs begin pouring in in long tendrils, acting almost like unified tentacles. Macguiller yells for the Swashbuckler to stay where he is, but he does draw his sword to fend off anything attacking him.

    We don't know if the Drifter realizes we're even performing a ritual, he might just be attacking out of spite and out for revenge, but our goal is still to keep him away from the Swashbuckler as best we can.

    Sunlight begins streaming through the cracks in the roof as large chunks of rubble give way. The Dragon Shaman takes to the air and begins roasting the tentacles with his fire breath at the thickest parts, and hacking at them in impotent fury while waiting for his breath to recharge. The Factotum tells me to put a ring of fire around the ritual area, which I do (my exact response was "It's a solid plan, and I endorse it"). After I throw up the fire ring, the kobold springs into it to protect the Swashbuckler directly. I fly into the area too. The Swashbuckler was going to cast "Repel Vermin" on himself, so we could really focus on protecting Macguiller, but Macguiller said that would ruin the ritual. At one point, Macguiller did get 'swatted' to the ground by a tentacle made of living bugs, but the kobold hit him with his healing touch to patch him up and the ritual continued.

    At one point, a massive chunk of the ceiling gave way all at once and began falling directly onto the Swashbuckler, but the dragon shaman flew himself in the way of it, and with a strength check, managed to deflect it off to one side (while suffering massive physical trauma from basically using himself as a cushion to protect the swashbuckler )

    After a few more rounds of fighting the tentacles, "it got real" when through the cracks, actual non-bug monsters began jumping down. We had to make spot checks due to the confusing nature of the battlefield (falling stone, ritual chants, a ring of fire, and the air full of OMG BUGS). We made out at least a few dozen people, a handfull of minotaurs, and what looked like living statues (gargoyles) all with runes glowing on their forheads.
    The fight was bad. Even being high level we were really outgunned, and missing our heaviest hitter (who was forced to watch us failing to stamp out a problem he could have easily taken by enlarging himself and starting to bodyslam ).

    Finally though, we held out for long enough that Macguiller pointed a tthe swashbuckler and said the last few words of his chant. Instantly, the Swashbuckler was swarmed by the healing bugs (good thing he didn't cast "repel vermin" or something... that was a case of our Dm protecting us from our own short sightedness). At first only the healing bugs used in the ritual swarmed him, but eventually, every healing bug still active crawled out of the cracks and made their way to him the best they could, coating him in a chitinous shell of writhing golden insects. He began to glow with a heavenly light, and in a massive pulse, the insects all simultaneously died and fell to the floor around him, and he was left with a vague otherworldly glow.
    Macguiller smiled broad and said it had worked.

    As a beneficial side effect, the pulse of the ritual finalizing was enough to kill every bug in the chamber, and heal the creatures we'd been fighting. Unfortunately, the idiot gargoyles just continued attack but the surviving minotaurs and people helped us finish them off, and we got a few seconds to catch our breath (we could hear the bugs outside making their hideous buzzing chittering noise, and we knew they were just re-swarming).

    We had to escape, and doing it on foot would be suicidal. I still had one scroll of teleport, but it was only enough for our group. I couldn't even bring my mental patients, let alone any of the surviving group. They were very upset about that revelation, but the Kobold calmed them by pointing out that if what we were trying to do worked or failed, nothing that was happening right now would matter (once for a good reason, one for a horrible reason).
    We looked over the glowing Swashbuckler, who just gave a small sad smile about his impending self destruction. We asked Macguiller how much healing energy we needed.

    Macguiller told us there was no way of knowing for sure, but that when he had enough stored, it wouldn't even be a decision for him. He'd just pop in a brilliant display of positive energy... and god willing, it would be enough.
    If it wasn't? Well, there's always suicide.

    We said our goodbyes, with Macguiller pulling out a few wands and promising they were going to go down swinging... then we sprinted up through the tunnels (the much SHORTER tunnels, now that most of the structure had literally been turned into dust over us). We booked as fast as we could while Macguiller and the other survivors caused a distraction by fighting in the main chamber... and when we got far enough away, we linked hands, and...realized that we didn't have anywhere to go.

    Dragon Shaman: "The bar?"

    Kobold: " Lunacy, the Drifter could put two and two together what we were doing in that area, and he'd expect us to return."

    Swashbuckler: "Well, central island is damn well not going to work, last we saw the air was literally just a wall of bugs."

    Dragon Shaman: "Same for the jungle area, even Papa HeeNo wouldn't have been able to do much against that mess."

    Me: "...ugh."

    Kobold: "What?"

    Me: "Mercyglade . And then I snapped my fingers."

    And we were once again left looking at the front wall of an asylum full of angry ghosts. And in this part of the world, the sun was setting.

    We leveled up here, by the way. Actually, this was the end of the tuesday campaign, so there's one more campaign, and then the climax. I'm going to go ahead and post this now, not because I want to keep teasing, (I'd really love to be done with this) but because we game again tommorrow night and I don't know how much I'll be able to get written up before our next campaign starts. Doing my best, promise.

    *edit*

    Oh, and I finally took Eldritch Cone



    I Hope You Brought Sunglasses

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    So we're in front of Mercyglade asylum, and the Swashbuckler is glowing faintly, having become our Deus ex Machina. We need to pump him full of as much healing magic as we can realistically get our hands on, and we need to do it quietly enough that we don't just get hammer-stomped into the ground by the Drifter.

    The world's teetering on the brink of total collapse under his ravenous influence, and we have no secret allies or hiding spots left, (except for a haunted asylum sure to be the death of us). The Swashbuckler is our only remaining card, so to speak.

    It's officially just us versus him.

    So first thing is first, we pump (almost) all of our remaining healing magic into the Swashbuckler. The Dragon Shaman dumps all but 5 of his "Lay on Hands" healing touch, the Swashbuckler uses most of his spell slots to cast cure spells, and the Kobold uses every use of his own healing touch. We only saved enough healing magic to stabilize party members who hit negatives, for emergencies. All in all, we pumped close to 500 hitpoints worth of positive energy into the guy... and we could see the difference quite clearly. His glowing aura became very pronounced giving off a strong light...

    That was bad news. He was a bright shining beacon that said "I'm the special one, kill me first!", not to mention making him harder to hide in the approaching darkness.

    Speaking of which, the rapidly approaching darkness had us once again (third time now! ) booking away from Mercyglade asylum as fast as our legs would take us. We didn't even have our zombie dragon mounts to drag us along at a rapid pace, it was just the four of us, running through the mountainous woods, and hoping we didn't find any trouble (we weren't in a great position for combat, what with all our healing magic being tied up).

    We ran through the woods, trying to keep a low profile as the sun set (as low a profile as one can when you're glowing with the energy of a small holy sun).

    After we'd gotten far enough from the asylum, we took to trying to figure out what to do about the Swashbucklers light. He couldn't suppress it, but we found that if we wrapped him in enough fabric we could stifle it. It still shone through, but not as a piercing floodlight of divine energies.

    Annnnd it was at this point that we realized... we hadn't run far ENOUGH from the asylum to escape the notice of some of the vengeful spirits inside of it. A few ghostly figures of rotting mental patients and orderlies came floating out between some of the trees, howling maddeningly.

    I'm not ashamed to say that we ran for all we were worth. I would fire eldritch blasts back at them, and occasionally connected (even killed a few), but they pursued us for miles before finally turning back. Why they turned back is something you can speculate on, but we came to the conclusion that there's only so far from their haunted-home they could realistically go, and we finally got out of their range of attack.

    Fortunately we didn't take too much abuse during the run, but we'd cut into the night time hours we could rest during, and we NEEDED to rest to recover any healing energies we had to put into the Swashbuckler.

    It also occurred to us that I had, strangely, become a valuable meat-shield. The Dragon Shaman still had a huge AC and high CON, but most damage he took, he was going to have to deal with, as we couldn't afford to waste it on stupid things like "life threatening wounds". But I had Fiendish Reslience, which meant that once a day, I could turn on fast healing and shrug off injuries that should kill me.

    It wasn't perfect, but I was the only one of us that could hit negatives, and still stand back up afterwards. I was hesitant to fling myself out in front of the party though, for any number of reasons (including cowardice, selfishness, and the realization that I'm still SQUISHIER than the other three party members are by a long shot).

    Still. There's selfish, and there's stupid, and I was not the latter. I promised I'd do whatever I could to keep ole Swashie safe if it came to that.



    Discovery

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    I also had to keep watch the entire night, which put me in a state of irritable sleep-deprived fatigue. The other party members needed a full rest to recover their assets, I didn't. So while it was prudent, I still had to stay awake all night staring out into the darkness for signs of trouble.

    Leaving the unhinged and unashamedly evil witch guarding you while you sleep was an interesting decision for the party to make, but I didn't bring it up. Just did my job. In the morning, they once again started pouring as much healing magic into the Swashbuckler as they could. I quote the DM here, "He begins to glow with a brilliant light that rivals the rising sun". We didn't know how much healing energy we needed, but when you start glowing brighter than the rising sun, you know you're probably close to it.

    You know you're also a big sore thumb on an otherwise bleak and ravaged landscape, and predictably, we were spotted.

    By a single Drifter bug.

    We spotted the glowing run on its back when we turned away from the Swashbuckler to shield our eyes. It was just sitting peacefully on the side of a tree, staring at us. It didn't attack, it didn't try to escape, it didn't even move. It just watched us.

    I plunked it with an eldritch blast, but it didn't matter whether the bug lived or died... what mattered was the Drifter had done the smartest thing he could have. Send a small number of bugs to as many locations as possible. And now he knew where we were.

    Before we even had a chance to discuss what we were going to do, the first wave of attack came down on us. It wasn't an epic assault... a few deer, a wolf, and some small woodland critters. The combat wasn't difficult (though it was exhausting knowing that every tiny little scratch or knock on the head from a hoof was going to stay there for lack of a way to cure it). But the fact that we were being attacked by infected woodland creatures was not good news for us.

    After we killed the infected creatures (and watching them dissolve into swarms of bugs afterwards, fanning out to likely infect more creatures ) we ran. Since it was daylight, we could see the area around us a little better, and we noticed some caves up on one of the hills about a mile away.

    But we also heard creatures charging at us from all sides, including the direction we wanted to go. Normal animals or not, there were so many of them that a fight (especially a fight with no healing magic) would have been ridiculous. Fortunately, the kobold recalled that his spellcasting was recharged, and we linked hands, he snapped his fingers, and teleported us into the cave mouth.



    Please Don't Feed The Trolls

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    Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

    The smell hit us all at once on our arrival in the strange unexplored cave system. It wasn't just an empty stone face. It reeked of rot and refuse, and before we had a change to even assess our situation, the kobold was struck bodily by a club so hard that it nearly bent him in two.

    We'd teleported straight into a den of trolls. Uninfected trolls, but it didn't really matter if they were infected or not. They were TROLLS. They jumped out of the darkness and began attacking us with clubs, claws, and teeth.

    It was everything we could do to keep the Swashbuckler safe while we fought. He regretted not carrying a reach weapon while the three of us backed him into a wall and formed a protective half-circle around him, fighting off the trolls who were more interested in the 'shiny man' than the three normal looking defenders.

    Luckily, we were decked out in all kinds of firey abilities. The Kobold hit the biggest looking one with an acid arrow, while I put up a wall of fire covering our area and the dragon shaman torch-breathed anything that got close. Most of them went ahead and charged right into the flames, but them standing IN a wall of fire while we fought definitely gave us the edge. The smarter trolls hung back and pelted us with very heavy rocks, which certainly hurt, but I was peppering them with Eldritch Blasts, which I guarantee hurt a whole lot more. Finally, mercifully, we killed the last of them and scorched their remains to guarantee they wouldn't stand back up.

    We took a moment to catch our breaths, before I remembered excitedly: "Hey wait, fresh corpses!"

    The Dragon Shaman just went "Really?" while we were stuffing black onyx in their stupid troll faces. The Swashbuckler didn't have any spell slots to raise anything, but me and the kobold both raised as many as we could, leaving us with around a dozen undead giant bodyguards. Hey, we needed all the help we could get.

    We kind of half thought the DM would give us a bit of a breather... after being chased by ghosts, attacked by swarms of woodland creatures, and then teleporting into a nest of hungry trolls. How foolish we were.

    The DM informed us that we could hear a faint "whooshing" noise outside, as if large amounts of air were getting displaced, followed by a very not-rythmic thumb that vibrated through the ground itself.

    The kobold dashed up the the entrance, with the rest of us a few heartbeats behind. When the kobold got to the cave mouth, he realized that we hadn't been deep enough to conceal the Swashbucklers holy glow. Everything in the area knew where we were, which meant the DRIFTER knew where we were. And we didn't have any more teleport tricks up our sleeves, and wouldn't without a good nights rest.

    A good nights rest it didn't look like we'd be getting. On the horizon, we could see it. A dark shape so massive it rivaled the mountains we stood amongst. A being of such epic size that "Colossal" didn't even begin to cover it. A massive, misshapen, spidery form 'crawled' along the ground in our direction, composed entirely out of bugs. Where its 'legs' hit the ground, it uprooted trees and left gaping craters in its wake. The horrible thing lolled to one side, so massive that its components didn't have the proper mind to make it symmetrical.

    And it had the Drifter's face.

    A face we'd almost forgotten, one we hadn't seen since he first completed the ritual to become the parasite he now is. But there it was, clear as day, his face sculpted entirely from living scarabs in a chitinous monstrosity.
    And as we looked on, we could see smaller swarms fluttering up to join the mass, contributing to its misshapen awkwardness.

    The drifter was coming, and it looked like we had his undivided attention.

    The kobold said what we were all thinking. "Deeper into the caves. Now".

    And with that, the session ended (and we leveled up again). The kobold got access to sixth level spells he couldn't cast without a good nights rest, the Dragon Shaman got another boost to his breath weapon, the Swashbuckler actually took another level in archivist for more healing spell slots (that he still needed a good nights rest for), and I got my first Dark invocation. I wanted Dark Discorporation so bad. SO BAD.

    But I did the smart thing and took Impenetrable Barrier to throw up walls of force. Being attacked by forces that outnumber us to an extreme amount, in a cave with limited mobility... the ability to create an indestructible wall only made sense.



    Triarii Routed

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    So we ran deeper into the cave system in the mountain, not really sure what to expect. We saw signs of life along the way, but we just weren't sure if what we saw was traces of the trolls we had already killed, or something worse. We tried not to think about it, simply running along the previously-dark caves now lit by the walking sun we counted in our ranks.
    We could hear the horrible monstrosity that was the giant drifter 'construct' scrabbling closer and closer to our cave, but we just ran deeper and deeper.

    And to our absolute horror, we discovered a full on dead-end.

    There were no turns, there was no where to double back to, and we had no way to teleport our troubles away this time. Even I couldn't escape with Flee the Scene, because there was nowhere in range for me to flee TO.
    I audibly kicked myself for not taking Path of Shadow instead, but what was done was done. Like it or not, we were forced into a final-stand situation.
    We couldn't even try to rest here, as we'd just woken up and started a new day. We, were, screwed.

    The entire mountain shook as the Drifter monstrosity finally connected with the terrain immediately surrounding it, and the entire cave system began to shake. Stuck literally between a rock and a hard place, we began weighing the likelihood of a cave in versus the likelihood of the drifter swarm just absolutely shredding us into tiny bits.

    A larger boom and the ground shaking even more made the decision for us. We couldn't let ourselves get buried under a few thousand feet of collapsing rock. If we could arrange some kind of controlled cave in, MAYBE, but even that would be stupid and suicidal, as the Drifter would have a full day to try to tear his way down to us.

    So we ran back up. About halfway to the surface, we saw how futile our struggles were. The entire tunnel was literally filled with rapidly approaching bugs. It was truly just a massive wall of chitinous shell and tearing mandibles, and the occasional "pop" as one of the self-destruct bugs went off in a rage.

    We didn't even have a way out. or so we thought at first. The Dragon Shaman panicked and hit the wall with a fire breath, carving out a 30 foot cone of freedom. Of course, the bugs just instantly refilled the space, but it gave me an idea.

    I through up a wall of fire...30 feet into the mass of bugs. And then an impenetrable wall directly in front of us, buying us a few turns to think. Of course, the self-destruct bugs, since they were using a disintegrate effect, just began to eat away at the impenetrable wall... but not so fast that we couldn't hack at the bugs to keep them at bay while explaining the plan.
    I do a double wall setup. When the dragon shamans breath recharges, I drop the impenetrable wall and he hits the (weakened by the fire wall) mass in front of us with his breath weapon, at which point I cycle the walls thirty feet further and we repeat and fight our way back to the surface, 30 feet by grueling 30 feet.

    Swashbuckler: "And what do we do when we get to the surface?"

    Kobold: "Split up."

    Dragon Shaman: "Suicide."

    Kobold: "Our only chance. We know the drifter has trouble focusing on multiple areas at once, the only way we're going to keep him from stomping us on sight is by moving in multiple directions. I'll go with the Swashbuckler, you and the witch take to the skies, we'll send the trolls out in four groups of three to fight, and we'll cross our fingers."

    Swashbuckler: "But what's our long term plan?"

    Kobold: "Die horribly I guess."

    Swashbuckler: "I'm glowing like the FREAKING sun, I can't need that much more healing juice. One more day, that's gotta be all it'll take."

    Me: "We're SOL. We need to run and hopefully we'll come up with something. Anything."

    Swashbuckler: "I wish I had some healing potions."

    We all stopped awkwardly at that and skimmed over our gear-lists, but we actually DIDN'T have any healing potions. Which is fortunate, in a way, cause we would have felt really stupid.

    It did give us a goal though. Book for the nearest town and raid the Apothecary and churches for any kind of healing juice. That might just be enough to top him off.

    Assuming we can make it that far.

    Which, upon finally fighting our way out to the cave mouth, seems less than likely.

    There were so many bugs that our visibility was limited to about ten feet in front of us, but through the fray, we could make out that the 'tunnel smash' we'd been fighting up from had only been one of the swarm/monstrosities many legs jammed into the face of the mountain.

    With me making a pair of walls meeting in a V shape away from the cave (fire and force, respectively), and me and the dragon shaman using our cone weapons (fire and eldritch magic, respectively), we managed to clear enough of a gap to let the Kobold and the trolls out first. The kobold booked straight up the mountain like the speedy little ninja he is, making a hide-in-plain-sight to disappear into the fray, even from the bugs that were causing the swarm. It worked by him moving too fast, in too unpredictable of a pattern, for the swarm to get a good grasp on where he was in relation to the other parts of the swarm.

    The trolls, as ordered, march/shuffled into four groups and away from each other, drawing the attention of some parts of the swarm without really doing much against it.

    Then me and the shaman fired off another pair of cone attacks to give the Swashbuckler a chance to get out. When he broke free from the cave entrance and began running upwards (following in the kobolds trail, as he was going to guide the swashbuckler to a town), his light was so blinding that the swarm actually reeled from his presence, backing away slightly for a moment before moving to attack him.

    Unfortunately, being such a bright target meant that...well, he was a bright target. The Drifter monstrosity reared back in pain from the sudden increase in light, but then recovered and sent an arm-swarm flying in the Swashbucklers direction, swatting him and sending him tumbling over the rough path and clinging to the rocks.

    The Dragon Shaman and I both left the cave. We were going to instinctively run to the Swasbuckler to help... but we came to the conclusion that it really WAS best to try to divide the drifter swarms attention here. So instead? We flew up at the drifters massive face, zig-zagging and slashing at the bugs ineffectively, before both of us unloaded directly at the 'eyes' of the Drifter.

    While he was a swarm... he really couldn't focus through every pair of eyes at once. That had to be WHY he was forming 'limbs' and 'bugamentals' and all of that. Which meant when the Dragon Shaman breathed fire at his face, and I created a ring of fire inside his 'head', he still reeled (in a sense) from the strike. The swarm 'hiccuped' and his entire bodily shape grew indistinct as the outline holding him together slightly detached from itself.

    It gave the Swashbuckler and kobold time to get within visual range of each other and attempt to run over the top of the hill/mountain to tumble down the other side, leaving me and the Dragon Shaman as the distraction. Obviously, part of the swarm still pursued... but the effects weren't as devastating as if we'd been in one massive group.

    Me and the Dragon Shaman flew past each other in the opposite direction. I shouted out to him, "If you die before I do, tell them I repent my lifetime of evil deeds!" The Dragon Shaman shouted back, incredulously, "Truly?". I just smiled, and said "No, not really" before firing an eldritch cone straight down and 'dropping' out of midair and through the newly formed hole in the swarm.

    The Dragon Shaman muttered an expletive under his breath before exhaling his breath weapon straight up and going further skyward, leaving the Drifters focus splitting between us. We could tell it was having an effect, because his 'face' was gone, and just replaced with a massive swarm of bugs. Holding onto a solid shape was getting too tough.

    Not so tough that he didn't just utterly destroy all our zombie trolls though, and then "stomped" both the kobold and the swashbuckler in a pillar of bugs. They both took massive damage as a result, but continued trying to escape.

    Me and the Shaman weren't in much better shape. We were taking heavy slashing damage from the bugs flying by us and scraping with their mandibles along the way. Every space we tried to clear for ourselves just instantly filled with a new set of bugs. I hit solid ground, made a ring of fire around me, and starting firing eldritch cones upwards. It was all I could do to keep the area directly above me cleared, as swarms circled, launched themselves down at me (trying to "stomp" me too), and doubling back for repeat tries as I kept firing cones up getting more and more desperately close to faltering and getting crushed under a massive pile of insects.

    The Dragon Shaman was plagued with suicide-bomber bugs, bursting the in path and making him roll Fort saves to shrug off the effects of their disintegrating shockwaves. Finally though, he managed to get above the Drifters 'head' area, waited for his breath weapon to full recharge, and then stacked every meta-breath feat he'd taken onto a single breath attack, and dive-bombed his way into the thickest part of the swarm, letting out a massive cloud of blistering heat through a bellowing roar.

    As an aside, I apologize to the more meticulous playgrounders, but I don't actually have his list of meta-breath feats .

    But the effects were pretty impressive. He took out such a huge swath of bugs that the entire swarm hiccuped again, which bought all of the rest of us some extra time in our various pursuits.

    Unfortunately, the drifter reacted well to the dragons dive-bomb, and actually swatted him out of the sky in the same direction he'd traveling. The combined force was enough to barrel him into the ground next to me, making a decent crater. The Shaman was low on hitpoints. There was nothing I could do about that though, instead, I took to the skies and left my ring of fire around him, letting him weakly fight off the descending bugs with his sword and shield while waiting for a breath weapon to recharge. I tried to fight skyward to pull off a similar stunt, hoping we could make a difference in letting the two runners get away.

    We didn't. They were taking a brutal pounding out in the open, and with both of them having limited mobility, there wasn't much they could do but TAKE it. The Swashbuckler even enlarged himself, making himself an easier target, but a stronger and more stable one. But in the end, it was no use. The Drifter Swarm created a veritable wall of bugs, and with a mighty 'sweep' managed to knock the two of them off the hilltop and into the trees below. They crashed, hard. The kobold had a handful of hitpoints. The swashbuckler...

    The swashbuckler hit negatives

    I got similarly swatted out of the sky, and hit the ground hard, activating my Fiendish Resilience just before I crashed and ALSO fell into negatives.

    The kobold had no healing. The Dragon Shaman could stabilize one of us, if he could REACH us without dying... it was looking for all the world like we'd failed at the last bit and managed a TPK despite everything.

    When the DM rolls a D4, and has the kobold make a spot check.

    "You notice a twitching form scuttling around in one of the Swashbucklers packs. Chitter is molting."

    Yup. Like all adventurers. We'd forgotten about the arcanists' darn familiar.

    The kobold pulls out Chitter, noting that he's bigger and brighter... meaning he could cast higher level healing spells... meaning...meaning we'd forgotten to use the bugs darn healing in the FIRST place.

    The kobold just lets out a sick grin and looks down at the bug sitting happily on the back of his hand. "Hey little guy. ...Time to do your thing."

    Chitter pounces off the kobolds hand and onto the swashbucklers face, and with a bright flash, expels one of his healing gems.



    "I Am Become Life, Savior of Worlds"

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    The effect was instantaneous.

    The Swashbucklers glow became so bright that the entire world, even the sun, seemed darker against him. And in brilliant pulse that erupted from his location, he vanished entirely. For a heartbeat, everything stood still. The swarm around us even stopped in its tracks, as the glowing sphere collapsed in on itself before bursting outwards in all directions, a cleansing wall of pure energy so brilliant and powerful that there was nothing to do but watch.

    We watched the wall travel off into the distant at the speed of light, and knew there would be no stopping it. Nothing would stop it until it met itself on the other side of the world.

    And it worked. The Drifter bugs didn't falter, or scatter where they were hit... they fried where they stood, falling out of the sky with heavy thuds, landing in great heaps, blanketing the ground four or five feet deep like some kind of perverse snowfall.

    The Dragon Shaman watched them closely. Not a one of them twitched.

    They were done for.

    The kobold stared into the distance, making an inspiration-point boosted spot check. He could see animals in the woods, running around in confusion, clearly not infected.

    I finally healed above negative hitpoints with fiendish resilience, and scrabbled my way out of the three feet of bugs I'd been buried alive in, coughing and spitting angrily.

    We did it.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-28 at 07:24 PM.

  15. - Top - End - #15
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    All Good Things...

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    So, the epilogues.

    First, the Dragon Shaman made sure to mark the area where the Swashbuckler had fallen, noting that he would ensure that the location was always hallowed and revered.

    The three of us rested up in the (now cleared of danger) cave, and as soon as we were recovered, the kobold teleported us to just outside the church where the consecrated ziggurat had been, as per the Dragon Shamans request. There was no longer a reason not to, so the three of us dug our way down to the doorway to the ziggurat, and managed to pry it open. We could hear a faint hum coming from inside.

    We went lower and lower, and finally found her. Sitting next to a broken human-sized egg that looked like it had been cobbled together from bone and bits of broken coffin... a very makeshift egg. With a Dragonborn female curled up on the floor next to it, sleeping soundly.

    I said that it could be another trick, but at the noise, the ex-Changeling woke up and looked around in confusion, before whispering in a melodious voice with tear-filled eyes, "No. It's not."

    Me: "So we're just going to forgive her?"

    Kobold: "Yes, we are. She's not the same person anymore. That's what becoming a dragonborn means."

    And with that, the Dragon Shaman helped her to her feet, and we left the ziggurat.

    *******************************************

    With that taken care of, we set about assessing the damage around the world. It was pretty severe. Over the next few days, we made stops at various notable locations. We picked up Macguiller and the survivors in that ziggurat, now uninfected. We went to Central Island (it is Macguiller's home, after all) and discovered that through it all, the captain of the guard had survived. Not only had he survived, he's the only person on the island who never fell to the infection. He barricaded himself in the cellar of the prison, which had enough provisions to see him through (barely). Most of the populace was in fact, gone (dissolved into the drifter swarm, most likely), but there were survivors nonetheless.

    The same was true in a lot of places. We'd visit various coastal towns, kingdoms, and the like. Papa HeeNo and his tribe were gone, but there was no way to be sure he didn't just move them somewhere. He wasn't likely to grab our attention now that we weren't needed.

    Some towns survived, some didn't. A small handful were completely untouched. Some were destroyed entirely. Others fell somewhere in between the two extremes. There were misunderstandings after the infection disappeared, and a lot of innocent people were executed for having BEEN infected... but, well. What are you gonna do?

    The world, slowly but surely, churned on as it always had.

    *******************************************

    The Kobold, feeling antsy and unsure, decided he needed to do something to make sure. He tried to Scry on the drifter. He tried, but the spell faltered. He wasn't convinced though, so he tried twice more. The third time, the spell started to fizzle, but suddenly made a connection... On a five year old girl, with a glowing run on her forehead.

    We poured over the surroundings, and finally reached the conclusion that she was in the volcano ziggurat on central island!

    Obviously we teleported right over there, and found there was no way in. The lava had bubbled up and cooled over, sealing the entrance.

    So, the Dragon Shaman tunneled in, and me and the kobold carefully followed through the blisteringly hot rock that threatened to return to being active any day. We found her... the last infected person, one of the children who'd lived on central island and somehow didn't fall into the volcano. Presumably, she was one of the kids the Drifter had 'thrown' into the volcano, but had missed, and simply returned to being infected when her death wasn't needed.

    She sat in the corner of the desecrated main chamber, holding her knees and rocking angrily. When she saw us come in, she snarled. Began muttering insane babbling thoughts to herself. Said, "We came so close, we saw the light, we saw it. We could taste it..." Then she glared up at us, and said, "You don't know what we ARE. You think we'll stop? We'll never stop!"

    The Dragon Shaman had heard enough, and said we should heal her. I said that was stupid. She was infected, and no matter how thoroughly we healed her, we would never know enough about things to be sure she could ever be let back into the world.

    Dragon Shaman: "You're seriously suggesting we kill a five year old girl?"

    Me: "...Do what you want. I'm officially done with this world, and now I have the time to find a way off of it."

    So they heal-bombed the hell out of her. They made sure she was kept under surveillance for days, constantly being hit with healing magic to make sure the infection was really gone.

    Once the kobold scryed on the drifter over and over, and still got nothing, he was convinced the Drifter was truly gone, and they let the girl back into the world.



    ...Need Not Ever End

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    Final epilogues.

    The kobold took the little girl as his ward, and no one really objected. Her parents were dead, and he was one of the heroes who'd saved the world. He said he was going to take care of her partially just to be kind, but partially to ensure that he was there to do something if the Drifter turned out to be tucked away in some tiny part of her mind.

    Aside from that, when asked what he was going to do post-story, he said "I saved this entire world, and now I'll continue robbing it blind".

    Then the DM asked me what I was going to do post-story, and I said I was going to plane-shift myself to the abyss, along with my soul-bound mental patients, and start a little mom & pop soul trading business. Hopefully I'll keep growing in power until I can become a true fiend, and then, fingers crossed, a demon princess.

    The Dragon Shaman coughed.

    See, no. Cause once I have some time to think about it, I'm going to hunt her down and either get her to repent, or END her.

    The DM looked at us both for a minute, thinking, before drawing a plain square on the battlegrid, and saying "Okay. You find her right as she's finished packing her bags (and souls) and getting ready for the ritual that will take her to the abyss."

    So the Dragon Shaman walks into my little inn room.

    Me: "Can I HELP you?"

    Dragon Shaman: "Yeah... see. I've had some time to think about it. And remember when I said you were small time, and we had bigger things to worry about? Well we DON'T have bigger things to worry about any more. And now? You're officially the most evil thing I know."

    Me: "So now we lock horns and fight to the death?"

    Dragon Shaman: "You could repent."

    Me: "...Roll initiative."

    So, we fought. Hard. But it was kind of a stalemate. For every hit one of us made on the other, we would shrug it off or instantly heal it with fast healing or lay on hands.

    After a few rounds of combat, the DM sends me a private note that says, "You need him out of the room to complete the ritual".

    So... we fight a bit more, still really a stalemate... but finally, he lines up a few feet in front of the door to the room... and I hit him with a repelling blast that knocks him clean into the hallway, before running and slamming the door shut.

    Me at the table: All I say before slamming the door, is "See you in Hell."

    The Dragon Shaman got up and kicked the door in... only to discover the room is gone. Not empty. GONE. It's a doorway leading to the open air, and the foundation the building was built on.

    *******************************

    So, having taken care of my epilogue, the DM turns to the Dragon Shaman.

    Dragon Shaman: "So I didn't kill the witch, but I saved the world and got the girl? Happily Ever After?"

    DM: "Happily Ever After. No one knows who the ex-changeling is, or what she did, except for you and the kobold. But you both respect the fact that dedicating her soul to Bahamut is a second lease on life?"

    Kobold: "Oh yeah."

    Dragon Shaman: "Definitely."

    DM: "Then that's how it goes. She becomes a Dragonborn Bard, joining you in trying to subvert the actions of evil dragons and promote Bahamut's will on the world, and becoming famous for writing and performing songs of your deeds. Occasionally, you find her scribbling enigmatic looking seals, but that might be another story entirely."

    Dragon Shaman: "Happily ever after?"
    DM: "Scout's honor."

    *******************************

    The end



    Some Final Words

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    Wow. I'm so glad to have that all DONE. I didn't think I'd have time to wrap it up today before our gaming session. Thank you everyone for taking the time to read it, and for being patient with the delays and my occasional incoherence. Hopefully it wasn't a let down (every story has to end sometime, some how ).

    Usually, after a really big story, we have a batch of smaller stories, or some one-shot combats, or things like that, but our DM had such a big plan for our next campaign that we're actually jumping into another rolling saga tonight.

    I'll try to post about it too, but I'm a little busy in real life right now, sooo... I can't make any promises about promptness or anything like that. Still, thank you for your interest and kind words everyone


    ...and so ends the Second Tale.


    __________________________________________________ _______

    Vignettes

    The Vignettes are smaller side tales that SilverClawShift made over the course of the years, just little bits and pieces that came from her earlier (yet no less interesting) campaigns. Most of them (hopefully all of them) have been compiled here for your viewing pleasure.


    Favorite Kill

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    We were playing an earlier version of the Dustlands (featured in my sig, and despite the delays, I swear it's not deceased).

    The party:

    "Deathwish": A human Cowboy/Desperado who, predictably, had a deathwish. His true love had gone missing, and a Loaman truthspeaker had given him the vision, "You'll find her on your deathbed". With nothing else to go on, and unwilling to off himself, Deathwish was the most unpredictable and careless gunslinger in ten cities (and probably more). At one point during our adventures, Deathwish had acquired 50 feet of nigh-unbreakable rope (which was another story alltogether).

    "Cordelia": A human Spellslinger (early version)/Trailblazer (the gist of the Trailblazer class is that any mount you make a successful check on turns into a firey (and frighteningly fast) steed). This was me.

    "Slick":A Sliss (snakeman) Grifter who carried a "Deck" of small stiff spell scrolls and liked to mix UMD and Sleight of Hand checks.

    "Levanitheklin": A Wasteling Healer.

    "Still Sure": A human Raindancer (early version).

    So, onto the story.

    ***************************************

    Way out in the desert (predictably), a Sliss tribe with unnaturally blueish skin was making raids on small towns and taking living hostages. In the long run, it turned out they were preparing for some kind of blood ritual to revive a long-dead Vampire Lord Blue Dragon buried in the sands.

    Unfortunately, we performed poorly, and the sucker came tearing out of the sand at dusk and got ready to tear our group a new one.

    "Still" got busy warring with the enemy tribes raindancer, (yes, we called it a dance off. We're not 100% serious all the time :-p). Two high level raindancers going at it is borderline apocalyptic, the battlefield was being peppered with lightning bolts, hailstones, hot scorching winds, vision obscuring fogs, rain falling up, ect.

    "Levanitheklin" was at Still's side and trying to keep him alive.

    "Slick" was distracting the enemy tribe (the entire tribe) by blending into them in and out and making them fight each other.

    I was taking potshots at the dragon for lack of a real plan at that moment, doing little else but pissing it off and making it turn its attention on me, hitting me with one NASTY breath weapon and almost pounding me flat into the sand.

    And in comes Deathwish, after seeing the thing open up with its breath weapon. "Imma try to lasso its jaw shut before it can do that again." We all just stared. Deathwish wasn't just a cool name, after all.

    So he makes a Use Rope check and a ranged touch attack, both succeeded with crazy high rolls, and the unbreakable rope snags behind the fat part of the dragons jaw and pulls tight. The dragons, ticked off obviously, tried pawing at the thin tight line digging into its face, but the rope was too small and too tight for it to get it off. Deathwish was making the strength checks to hold the rope tight, but was getting flung around the battlefield in the process, nailing everything he hit with some mutual bludgeoning damage. Finally, the dragon gets mad enough at me hitting it and the line holding it tight, that it decides to take to the skies. Deathwish does not let go.

    So he's being dragged at a few hundred feet per round across the still hot desert sand, trying hard to 'waterski' as opposed to being dragged face first. Shouting "Whoa whoa whoa WHOAAAAAAAAAAAA" the whole time. And the dragon starts fading into the distance.

    In the interest of not losing our friend, I shout that I need some kind of mount (ours were dead). The healer takes a beat to summon his class's unicorn (...), and I run and hop onto it. At the time, we hadn't decided if summonable animals (let alone OTHER PLAYERS CLASS FEATURES) could be taken over by a Trailblazer, so I asked the DM if what I was trying would work.

    He thought about it for a minute, and then decided the "Rule of Cool" trumped any problems with it, and I made the Mounting check to dominate/burn the unicorn.

    So now I'm on a scorched black unicorn, with glowing red-hot hooves, evil red eyes, and a flaming horn. Rule of Cool indeed. I shout to the group that they won't be able to keep up, so just keep fighting and follow the scorch marks when they can. And suddenly I'm hauling ass through the desert at night, at about 360 feet per round, leaving burning hoof prints and scorched plantlife in my wake. (Mind you, this was before the Ghostrider movie too).

    (As an aside, the group successfully killed off the Sliss tribe, and started following the trail we left a few minutes later).

    So our Gunslinger is being dragged by an ancient angry blue dragon vampire, and I'm following hot on their trail (pun very much intended). After a chase, the dragon ended up over very rocky terrain and started to bludgeon the hell out of our cowboy by swinging him into rocks. Being faster than the dragon (I was almost capped in the Trailblazer class), I managed to pull ahead up some high rocky hills, and jumped off a peak into the dragons face, which cause it to falter in flight and fall abit. The cowboy took the opportunity to scramble through a gap in the rocks and loop the unbreakable rope around a HUGE boulder, and make a stable knot. When the dragon tried to soar off again, the rope snagged in the middle, and with the counter-weight of the boulder it sent him crashing to the ground wing first.

    I took the chance to jump off my mount and onto the dragons face, and "Opened Up" on him (a core concept of the spellslinger class is the ability to go nova). Hit him so hard with raw magical energy I knocked myself back off of him a good 50 feet and into a rock face, and he was seriously jacked up as a result.

    But he wasn't even close to being DOWN, just hurt and angry. So the dragon pounces up and at me. Except before he can squash me like a bug, the cowboy is ON him, the rope now wrapped around its entire head and horns in various spots, the cowboy holding on like they were reins and jerking the dragons face around as it tried to move (strength checks, sometimes the dragon succeeded, sometimes it got its field of vision forcibly pulled in another direction). The Cowboy is also occasionally pulling out his spellshot pistol and firing a round point blank into the base of the dragons skull.

    The dragon, not liking what's going on, takes off again but the cowboy is directing him (in a loose way) back towards our group. So I'm back on the unicorn and following again, and we meet up with our group a little past where the now-deceased Sliss tribe had been. The Raindancer starts helping the cowboy by directing gale-force winds into the dragons face, making its flight even more difficult than the cowboy had been. Slick tosses illusions at the dragon left and right, enough of them beating the dragons will save to distract and confuse it amongst all the wind and the reins pulling its face.
    The healer hops on the unicorn with me, and we make a running jump up onto the dragons tail, ride up it onto its back, where the healer jumps off to join the cowboy (and I make another running jump through the dragons beating wings and directly into the storm force winds, because I was going too fast to stop).

    The HEALER goes nova, clinging to the dragons head and making constant touch attacks to deliver heal spells. Finally between the hurricane force winds and hail, the pistol rounds to the back of the head, and the pulsing positive energy, the vampire dragon 'dusts' in midair, dying and burning to ashes in seconds.

    Leaving a terrified cowboy and healer careening through the air at top speed through the ashes of what HAD been a massive elder blue wyrm. They hit hard, rolling and tumbling forwards at first, then backwards as the wind took over. The raindancer killed the dance, but the winds still had the rest of us being tossed like ragdolls for a second.

    I wish I could have made that sound more climactic. We were so thrilled that we managed to kill that thing, the DM was amazed (he'd wanted it to be the campaigns BBEG! The campaign had to do a plot change when we tore the sucker out of the sky). It had been our first encounter in a week, and we used basically all of our daily resources/features, and almost every consumable gear we had. That wasn't a fight we should have won.

    It also threw us out of commission for a week to recover. We crashed where we were, not even making a campfire, just sleeping in a huddle. The healer touched us up a little in the morning, and we limped back to the nearest town to rest and re-stock on what we could.



    For the Sake of an Innocent

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    Technically he declared war on the seventh layer of hell specifically, and its archdevil Baalzebul, any other devils caught in it were collateral damage.

    The best part was the reason though. A single man, a first level commoner at that, had made a deal with an evil cult. It wasn't in exchange for his soul, it was an exchange in food and aid for his struggling family until the harvest season came up to yield better crops. The cult sabotaged his crops so he couldn't afford to hold up his end of the deal, and then "lawfully executed" him (read, ritually sacrificed him) and sent his soul to hell.

    Our favored soul decided their sabotage was a breach of contract, rendering it null and void, and that the man should not have been harassed (let alone executed) over the event.

    He even tried to get messages to Baalzebul himself (and Asmodeus when that didn't work) for a legal discussion on the matter. Neither gave any formal acknowledgment.

    So the favored soul kidnapped the entire cult, executed the entire group on sanctified grounds, telling them to tell their masters "Formal war has been declared".

    And it was waged. Church officials called him a lunatic, asked if all the resulting bloodshed (and probably destabilization of the universe at large) was worth a single soul. his response was "A single innocent soul. And yes."

    We stormed the first layer through various inter-planar portals, held the archdevil of the first hostage (and even sent a battalion of the churches armies to help the devils hold the front line in the blood war! we didn't want the whole universe collapsing over this).

    Fought our way down to the seventh layer and saved the farmer. We're told explicitly by a slightly bemused Asmodeus (whose voice causes nosebleeds and nausea, and sounds like a mixture of thunder rolling in with the shrill of a million babies shrieking in pain) that our presence had been entertaining, but that we were to LEAVE, now.

    The favored soul ordered a tactical retreat. Cause I mean. Asmodeus. DAMN. But we still did what we went for.




    "But We Remembered the Fire Resistance!"

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    How many people have co-players who would double cross them at a moments notice? Is it a personality trait of theirs, or just good roleplaying? Thankfully, in my case, it's the latter.

    My friends can't get together for gaming anytime over the next few days, so we grouped up this afternoon for a pretty long session of getting excited over what we roll on shiny dice, like all good and right people should.

    We decided to play some eberron material randomly (a word about my group, we have very short attention spans, and other gamers have described our playstyle as "like shadowrun" even if we're playing D&D). Our DM is fantastic at coming up with things on the fly, and his notes are usually just ideas scribbled with enough space to try to link them together as a coherant story. This works surprisingly well if you have a quick thinker with a knack for theatrics/cinematic style/dramatic storytelling. It helps that our group tends to cooperate and act as a unit in real life, even when our characters are killing each other. We would rather have an interesting story than claim success in our own minds.

    Which brings me to the title of the thread. Those backstabbing jerks.

    Another trait of our DM is that he lets us get away with absolute murder when it comes to our insane ideas about character builds. None of us are really powergamers, so he tends to give us a blank check when we're picking our race, class, backstory, ect.

    So it wasn't a big deal for me to be a Shifter, with Binder selected as a base class. (an aside that I hope doesn't violate any licenses. Anyone who doesn't know the Binder base class should at least be aware that the fact that you are likely to be persecuted is a huge part of the classes flavor. Binders are considered heretics at BEST by most churches). Binder is also a CHA heavy class, so I become the spokesperson/smoothtalker by default.

    To keep this from turning into a novel, I'll skim over the backstory about this situation the best I can.

    - Around first level, early on in the game, my group (generally chaotic, and good, in various quantities) had to take a low level cleric of the Silver Flame hostage for various reasons I won't get into detail about here.

    - We didn't mean this cleric any harm, and weren't planning on hurting him. We just needed a hostage that the authorities would be worried about being responsible for killing to cover our bases.

    - The party went out for some business while I kept watch over the cleric. I was our Plan B, as the rest of the party could warn that their failing to return to our hideout, alone, would mean me slitting his throat. A bluff, but that was the plan.

    - I'm alone with this sniveling tied up cleric for a good two days. During that time, I kept binding a vestige to keep my power level up and ready in case I found myself in an emergency.

    So on three separate occasions, this cleric of the silver flame sees me drawing an enigmatic seal, and verbally making a pact with a terrifying monstrosity from outside of reality to share my soul with it for 24 hours. He knows my name.

    *******

    Cut to 3 levels, and a number of months of adventuring later. We're all level 4, and becoming rather notorious. Our group goes by the general style that level 1 is an average person, level 2-3 is exceptionally skilled and noteworthy people, that level 4 is fantastically capable, and that level 5 is the equivalent of an olympic athlete or a noble prize winning scientist or some such. Above level 5 is superheroic to varying degrees.

    So we're a bit infamous in some circles. We're not bad guys, but we're certainly not doing things by the book, off the beaten path, marching to the beat of our own drum-... you get it.

    My group is trying to pass through a mid sized town without much fuss, maybe pick up some gear and refresh our supplies, and head out to our next destination under the radar.

    Because it's relevant to the story at hand, I'll list some facts about me at this point.

    - I have a vestige bound that grants 10 fire resistance

    - I have a class feature that grants 5 fire resistance

    - I have a cute little ring that gives me 10 fire resistance and my DM agrees that they all stack cause he's cool with stuff like that.

    - The vestige I have bound brands a symbol into my palm as a sign of our pact (a temporary brand, but still).

    - The vestige I have bound also gives me the ability to wreath myself in flames. The flames wouldn't hurt me, so the fire resistance doesn't matter, but it's still relevant info.

    - I'm wearing a sort of low-key-but-still-elegant noble outfit, as the partys spokesperson I like to look presentable. My scruffy, scarred up, slightly pungent 'allies' probably look like mercernary bodyguards or something.

    On to the story. Our party decides we could use some healing gear, and the logical place to hit up for something like that is the local temple. Which just happens to be dedicated to the Silver Flame. I'm fairly confident that my charisma will get me through this without hassle, and probably at a discount, despite being a shifter (and therefor a second class citizen in most places, especially to the silver flame).

    I meet the guard in front of the temple and start smooth talking. I introduce us as a party of adventurers, and ask if we might purchase some healing potions to keep us in one peice if we encounter any trouble. The guard says he thinks he's hear of us.

    I put on the charmed/elated act, thinking maybe he'll suck up to the bigshots. I introduce myself as >my name< (DANGER WILL ROBINSON) and reach out to shake his hand.

    He asks, "THE >my name<???"
    "No one but! :)"

    He reaches out to shake my hand. Grabs my wrist. Looks at my palm. Accuses me of being a heretic heathen, declares me guilty on the spot, and tries to abduct me for a swift execution.

    Oh boy.

    The ensuing chaos was remarkable. This bumpkin town is immediately whipped into a frenzy, with people shrieking "Witch!", "Heretic!" ect. so a full on city street full of 1st level commoners, a handful of silver flame guards of undetermined class or level, and a few more higher level tempalrs coming out of the temple. All trying to abduct me.

    In the frenzy, my group has managed to keep a low profile, and comes up with a fantastic idea. As I'm attempting an acrobatic escape/dodge/jackie chan style climbing running and sliding scene, the party rogue comes up, sneak attacks me with a blackjack to the back of the head, and knocks me out cold.

    And they PRESENT ME TO THE GUARDS SAYING THEY CAPTURED ME.

    THOSE RAT BASTARDS.

    They get REWARDED for being the ones to bring me down, and I'm immediately tied to a post and a pyre is built. I wake up as they give a small speech about impurities in the world being cleansed with holy fire, and they light the bonfire. It flares up, and I am officially being burned at the stake for being a heathen.

    While my party looks on with a sick shrug.

    But wait. My story gets better.

    The DM declares that the open flame, combined with my 25 fire resistance, isn't enough to actually do me any damage. The fires flare up, and my poofy noble clothes are now aflame.

    The fire burns through the rope (met with open mouthed staring) before it actually hurts me, thanks to the fire resistance. I crawl down OVER the bonfire, looking for all the world like some japanese horror vision, while literally engulfed in natural flame. I activate my vestiges halo wreath of fire, doubling the intensity of the flame visually, and give my best feral roar while shifting (+2 strength yay) and strike out at the nearest person, a random guy standing in the street in terror. The Dm decides that no real dice roll is needed, as he's frozen in terror, and my clawed, flaming hand rakes most of his face off and drops him. Things near me are starting to combust, and I'm leaving scorching footprints.

    The crowd scrambles like a cattle stampede. All but two of the silver flame templars turn tail and run, screaming into the evening. My 'friends' immediately do a double double cross, the rogue slits ones throat and they all beat the other one to death there in the street. While I stand there. On fire. Staring angrily.

    They tried to play it off that they knew I was going to get out of the situation.

    "We knew you'd be fine, we remembered you had all that fire resistance"
    "no you didn't. You didn't know they would use fire. They could have cut my head off."
    "Oh come on, they ALWAYS burn heretics at the stake..."
    "..."
    "We remembered the fire resistance!"
    "No you didn't"
    "...hmm."
    "*stares angrily*"
    "You know you're still on fire."
    "I am aware."

    We continued adventuring together. Very Very awkwardly. With a lot of staring.

    My revenge has so far been subtle, but sweet. As the parties spokesperson, and the one responsible for getting us out of trouble at all costs, I've taken a lot of opportunities to make them look horrible, going so far as the explain in a hushed tone to a guard that our dwarf friend was severely retarded after a troll smacked him around for a while, and that we felt obligated to look out for him.

    Subtle revenge isn't enough though. The campaign isn't over. And if, for one tiny split SECOND, it becomes easier for me to let the party die a horrible death while I walk away whistling? They will be rolling new characters.

    Uh, so, yeah. Anyone else have double crossing bastards they call friends?


    ...and then...

    But Vengeance Is Tastier When You Heat It Up A Bit

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    So I got my revenge tonight, and it was sweet and tasty.

    One common trait of our games is that we leave a MOUNTAIN of notes after each session. We all carry a small notepad, and anything we need to discuss in private, we scribble on the notepad. Helps keeping out-of-character knowledge from becoming an issue, because you didn't hear that information in the first place. The most common notes are between the DM and players, but if characters decide to head off to discuss something alone, we can actually plot without the DMs fore-knowledge of our plan. Makes things interesting.

    And we recycle the massive amounts of paper we tear through, don't worry.
    Anyway, the end result is that we don't really raise eyebrows when secret notes are being passed. It's a given, and it's not necessarily something sinister, just a roleplaying aide.

    So my party (now level 5, the last level before we become engines of superheroic destruction), finds a relatively quiet out-of-the-way corner of the world to crash in for a few days and collect our bearings after some particularly BAD planning went south. We had a mini quest in the town helping out a gnome stage magician (this was NOT something I set up, the DM dropped it on us as randomly as anything else, I had no prior knowledge about it).

    Then we planned on relaxing for the evening. While the party started a brawl in a bar for entertainment (really.) I headed out for a shopping excursion. Since this was all out-of-character stuff for the other players, it consisted of me and the DM passing notes about what I was hoping to accomplish, while he DMed a random bar fight.

    As a side note, the vestige I had bound gave me a number of random abilities, one of which included being treated as a wizard of my level when it came to using spell trigger items like wands, so I could use em freely same as a 5th level wizard.

    Now, what I did, and the DM approved readily, was find the gnomish stage magician we'd helped earlier, and talk to him about buying some of his stage magic stuff, which the gnome was fine with (he was a real spellcaster who just happened to use it in theatrics instead of adventuring, putting on a 'brilliant' show for entertainment purposes).

    So I came back to my party with
    - A number of wands that did various useless magical tricks
    - A few pints of flammable oil

    The local authorities (with a semi-southern sherrif twang, which was a ncie touch) were berating my party for causing such a ruckus. He let them go with a slap on the wrist cause he could tell 'they didn't mean no real harm', along with a warning to keep their noses clean until they passed to the next town. My party sheepishly agreed that the fun was over, and we headed to a nearby inn for the night.

    We were going to get separate rooms, but I suggested we'd probably feel fine with crashing in a room together (we did it in dungeons and the wilderness anyway) and it'd keep our cost down, which in the long run could give us more cash for crucial gear, so my party agreed that we'd just rent a sizable room and work out some sleeping arrangements there. We roleplayed it, arguing over who was gonna sleep where without letting it get too heated, with people arguing that they weren't sleeping on the floor until the party wizard reminded everyone (me included) that we all have bedrolls and blankets and sleeping gear in our packs, like always. Having a pillow makes sleeping on the floor more bearable, and we let the fighter (swashbuckler, actually) sleep in the bed cause all the extra physical stress was worse on the joints and back ect.

    So the Dm tells us we all fall asleep while I'm handing him a note. The party starts describing waking up, and he gives us the always ominous "Oh no, wait." Which means he's being the devil.

    Or in this case, that I'm being the devil.

    And he starts making them roll listen checks over the swashbucklers snoring, which they fail, and are very freaked out about.

    Especially when they realize, the DM didn't make ME roll a listen check.

    The DM makes them roll a few more, which made me nervous, but none of them passed. They were starting to get nerve wracked, with the rogue actually grabbing his character sheet and yelling "WAKE UP MAN, WAKE UP, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!" but it was too late. I abandon the notes and say aloud to the dm "I splash the rest of the oil in the swashbucklers face".

    Jaws drop.

    DM: "You wake up with a cough and a snort, immediately assaulted by the overpowering smell of volatile, COMBUSTIBLE chemicals."

    Swashbuckler: 'I shout "What in the hells are you doing?!" loud enough to wake the party."

    DM: "Sure, I'll give you that. Everyone stirs, the smell of flammable oil permeating the room."

    Me: "I wave my crossbow pistol around and say "No, no one move, or this is liable to get very messy very quickly!" with a sweet smile."

    DM: "Nate, roll a spot check (Nate's our wizard, and he passed the check). You notice the bolt loaded into the crossbow pistol is glowing faintly, a dull red tip that, even in your groggy state, realize is probably ripe with magical fire."

    Nate: "I say aloud, "For the love of god no one move!""

    Swashbuckler: "Screw that! Roll initiative, I jump out of bed at top speed and attack with my fists!"

    DM: "Jump out of bed at top speed?"

    Swashbuckler: "Yeah!"

    DM: "What's your Dex? *rolls a secret dice* take 5 bludgeoning damage from smashing your face into the wall of force over your bed."

    Swashbuckler: "You've gotta be KIDDING me. Where the hell did THAT come from."

    Me: *Out of character (which we just say out loud)* "The gnome uses moveable walls of force to roll marbles over the tops of the audience."

    Swashbuckler: "What the hell? What's that mean?"

    Me: "I'll explain later. Back in character now though. I figured you'd be the one to try something like that. Aren't swashbucklers supposed to be INTELLIGENT?"

    Swashbuckler: "Fine, back in character, what do you want from us?"

    So I went on to explain that I'd gotten some unique magical gear while they were all wasting their time peaking under waitresses skirts and smashing mugs of ale on random passers heads. I tell them that they're all already under the effect of one of the spells. Which is controlled by me. And that if I decide, they will immediately take 1d2 points of fire damage any round I decide I'm unhappy with them. A weak effect... except that they are all soaked, along with the room, in torch oil.

    I also tell them that, while they get will saves against the second effect, I can try to force any of them to freeze, or pick the direction they run in (which will be away from me, requiring them to close the distance if they want to attack, if they get a chance to).

    Wizard: "Ug. God. Alright. What do you want us to do?"

    Me: "Burn for me."

    Wizard: "...what?"

    Me: "I activate the fire ability. "BURN FOR ME!!!!!!""

    DM: "everyone flip a coin for damage, and then roll 1d6 for fire damage as the entire room flares up like the pits of hell themselves."

    Rogue: "Oh *EXPLETIVE* Oh *EXPLETIVE* THIS IS NOT HAPPENING.

    DM: "No, it is, you're very much on fire."

    Swashbuckler: "I roll off the bed, avoiding the wall of force, and ATTACK."

    Me: "Not really."

    Swash: "Huh?"

    DM: "Roll a will save."

    Swash: "Oh you've gotta be *expletive* kidding me." *rolls and fails, by a wide margin*

    Me: "He runs out of the room."

    Swash: "Runs out of the room screaming "OH GOD I'M ON FIRE""

    The DM goes on to explain that everyone in the inn goes into panic mode as the flames spread out of our room and a group of random people run by FULLY engulfed in flame. Along with making them roll 1d6 for fire damage randomly (about once a round). All while I run behind them, laughing maniacally, making them run in random directions and freezing occasionally, while on fire, screaming "DANCE MY PUPPETS, BURN BURN BURN. BURN AND DANCE! HAHAHAHA"

    Then I cast invisibility on myself and disappear into the alleyway (we're outside at this point, along with the evacuated inn).

    DM keeps making them roll 1d6s while they dance for me unable to put out the flames, and freezing anytime they try to stop drop and roll or go for something that might help. when the wizard is at about 1/5th of his hitpoint total, the DM gives them this.

    DM: "Suddenly, the illusory flames wink out of existence, and you're left standing, panting in terror, under the night sky. In your skivvies."

    Rogue: "WHAT?!?!?!"

    DM: "Good question, I'm sure you'd be wondering what the hell that was about in character too. But there's no time for that, the local authorities show up, and immediately place you all under arrest, dragging your protesting forms into the night, saying he knew you were trouble and that he shoulda locked you up after the barfight."

    Jaws still dropped.

    Me: "I watch and wait while everyone tries to figure out what happened, until the crowd starts shuffling nervously back into the inn or leaving as warranted, and sneak back to my room, locking the door and curling up in the bed."

    I slept soundly (though the room did still smell of oil) and got up bright and early to wait by the jailhouse for my party.

    The local lawman and his goons escorted them to the front, and told them he wanted them out of town by nightfall, or they'd spend a lot longer than one night in the pokey.

    I asked them if they slept well, with a huge grin.

    I explained to them that the ILLUSIONIST I'd gotten all my magical gear from assured me that none of it would cause any real damage, but that it still felt "hot enough to make the front row break a sweat when it flares up on stage".

    Swash: "I guess I don't really need to ask WHY..."

    Me: "No. You DON'T. *back in character* I lean in to the party and look the rogue dead in the eye, and say in a small, friendly whisper, "don't *expletive* with me." and walk away."

    Jaws are still mostly dropped here. Rubbing foreheads and eyes in great annoyance/recovery.

    Me: "I shout out "Are we gonna have any more problems? Or do we know who's the baddest dog on the block now?" (I'm a shifter and all)."

    Rogue: "We'll be good."

    And there was much rejoicing. By me. I've got my eyes peeled for them trying to turn this into something more, but I'm confident I can stay one step ahead of them if they try to. Hopefully they'll realize they had this coming, and that I didn't have to use FAKE fire, and was being very generous to them in how I got my revenge. After all, it wasn't FAKE fire that was burning me. Or my clothes at least.

    Good times, good times.



    If You Mix A Portable Hole And A Bag Of Holding, Stuff Happens

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    In this campaign (it was a horror campaign, and our DM is good at horror), I played a bard whose draconic ties didn't manifest in any flashy way, but as raw undilluted greed and a tendency to hoard like crazy. Plenty of extra-dimensional holding space, plenty of random oddball items that no one in a million years would find useful (our DM LOVES to throw 'useless' magic items at us and watch us figure out a way to make it useful. One we could never come up with a good use for was a bucket that, when placed on the ground by a sentient creature, would wait for 36 seconds, and then flip upside down (or right side up). It wasn't strong enough to flip more than liquid contents, or a comparable weight. What the hell do you do with this bucket? aside from pranks on exhausted farmers.)

    Anyway.

    The BBEG we had our sights set on was a kobold sorcerer lich with permanent reduce-person cast on himself. Yeah. We were hot on the heels of a Tiny sized Kobold Lich. ADVENTURE. EPIC. EPIC ADVENTURE.

    His lair turned out to be extra-dimensional. In a kobold village (lot of traps) deep through the kobold tunnels (even more traps) there was an inner sanctum. The inner sanctum had traps, and...nothing else. No lich. No sorcerer. We cast every kind of dispelling/purging/sensing magic we had at our disposal. And all we got was an unbelievably faint magical aura coming from...

    A rabbit hole covered with a rock. Which we managed to widen physically, then magically, and enter.

    Our BBEG was a reduced sized kobold lich sorcerer with an extra-dimensional lair hidden in a rabbit hole. Covered in a rock.

    Oh ye gods. The horror. The horror.

    No. Seriously. The unrelenting gut wrenching terror of moving a single inch.

    A question for the gaming community. Do you know what a giant extra-dimensional tower is like after a bored (reduced) kobold lich sorcerer spends 1100 years setting up his defenses?

    Traps.

    More. Traps.

    HORRIBLE traps. Nightmare traps. Traps that, for example, summoned cows and then tore them inside out and showered us in their blood and gore. Why? No tactical reason. JUST TO MESS WITH US. Just to throw us off our game and rattle us and make us wish we weren't there.

    This was a COCKY reduced kobold lich sorcerer, and he did not respect his invaders.

    And for every 'just to mess with you' trap there were 4 'kill you in creative ways' traps. The rogue caught an average of 2/5, and we wound up wishing he'd catch the non-fatal traps because they were really starting to freak us out. I think the worst was the giant rotting angelic face with golden bird wings that simply screamed, and screamed, and screamed.

    So we get to the lich. And this fight is... well, it's hard as hell. But it's also annoying (in a fun way). He's a foot and a half tall, undead, ENTERTAINED BY OUR PRESENCE, and has enough spell slots to do all kinds of horrible things that aren't actually fatal, they're just playing with us.

    We're outgunned. By a RKLS (reduced, ect). And not just a little outgunned, he's playing with us, and we KNOW it.

    But there's no way our DM would let us get in here and not at least hint that we were going to a no-win fight, so we start looking for what to do in this situation.

    To make an already long story just a little bit shorter, our rogue and wizard manage to team up while the rest of us distract the little guy, and they.... *drumroll* SET OFF A TRAP

    But it was the win for us, because this trap wasn't supposed to trigger unless the lich lost. He panicked and was flung off into the nothingness as his tower began coming apart brick by brick.

    DM: "Alright, healbot. Roll a knowledge (the planes) check."

    Cleric: "Uh? Uh. *roll 17* + a lot"

    DM: "You realize the abyss you are currently staring into an an ageless, timeless demiplane of infinite size. Nothing here will die of thirst, old age, or starvation. There's nothing here. You will simply drift forever into the black.

    Cleric. "Uh."

    So we're scrambling for the exit at the base of the tower, as the tower comes apart in random directions. Many stunts, many feats, ect.

    At halfway down, we set off... guess. Guess what we set off.

    If you guessed 'trap' you get 1/2 point. It was a gravity reversal trap that made us fall up into the ceiling. So now we're working our way up to the bottom of the tower ( ) and we make it, but we also don't.
    The rift is too big for us to make it across, and the way the tower is coming apart, trying to float to it will just send us off in random direction. The rogue comes up with a bright idea.

    From one of my many bags of stuff, I produce a mithral chain (). The rogue promises this idea will save us all. They wrap themselves in mithral chain, and here's the idea. I slingshot them to the portal out using the big statue as a counter-point, and then they yank me back to the exit. Except when they get slingshotted up there, and I grab the chain and get prepared to be yanked... nothing. I look up and see the other end of the chain just floating there.

    And I drift off into the eternal void of soul destroying nothingness, facing an eternity of losing my mind.

    Why? The rogue figures I been stealing more than my fair share of the loot, cause I'm so greedy (I wasn't).

    The cleric shouts out that he's sorry, but they can't find a way to get to me without risking themselves, and says something about always remembering me. Gee, thanks. I'm sure that thought'll keep me warm. Out in the eternal nothing. I'd rather go to the 6th level of hell.

    The Dm gives me the Game-ologists last rites. "Roll up a new character I guess."

    Me: "No! Wait! I can still do stuff right!"

    DM: "Uh. Sure?"

    Me: "Okay, I, uh. I take off one of my boots and let go."

    DM: "...kay. The boot floats off slowly in a random direction. Everything in this INFINITE plane repulses everything else, and the only landmark was destroyed by your party."

    Me: "I take off my other boot and let it go too!"

    DM: "...it also floats off randomly."

    Me: "Goodbye boots!" :(

    DM: *slaps forhead* "Okay. You have fun in the abyss. When you're ready to roll up a new character, I'll weave you back into the game. For now, we're gonna move on."

    So there I sit. Tuning out the rest of the party continuing adventuring, moving onto the next higher up on the BBEG scale (A vampire so old the lich was afraid of him). Staring at my character sheet. Humming TAPS.
    I kinda zoned out for a while and just relaxed, watching them play and mourning my characters loss. Then I saw it.

    "WAIT!" I shout, interrupting a random discussion.

    DM: "Wait for what?"

    Me: *holding out hands as if there was something there* "I HAVE A BAG OF HOLDING."

    DM: "Yes. Enjoy your worthless loot in the abyss."

    Me: "I HAVE A PORTABLE HOLE."

    DM: "... oh crap?"

    Players: "???"

    Me: "IF YOU MIX A PORTABLE HOLE AND A BAG OF HOLDING, STUFF HAPPENS."

    Players: "Just entertaining yourself in the hoary netherworld then?"

    Me: "No no no! There's two things that happen. You can put a bag in a hole, or the hole into the bag. One way destroys both of them, the other OPENS A RIFT TO THE ASTRAL PLANE AND SUCKS EVERYTHING NEARBY INTO IT."

    Cleric: "Which does which?"

    Me: ":D"... "D:"... I don't remember."

    DM: *Chuckle*

    Me: "Let me roll a check?! Knowledge arcana?!"

    Dm: "Sure."

    Me: "*fail* CRAP. What about knowledge, history?"

    Cleric: "WHY would that answer this question?'

    Me: "Cause it has to have come up before at some important time, and maybe I can remember which does which that way."

    DM: "Sure, roll."

    Me: *fail* "Oh god."

    Everyone's staring at me at this point. And I'm totally lost in my character for the record. I'm looking back and forth at my hands, trying to decide which to do. Finally, I stuff the portable hole into the bag of holding and pray.

    SUCCESS.

    I AM NOW IN THE ASTRAL PLANE.

    Anyway. Story over. It keeps going, I fought my way to the ethereal plane, haunted my party for a while, managed to kill the rogue, and then found a way onto the material plane and rejoined the rest of the group.

    ....that was really long.

    Sorry.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2010-03-28 at 05:26 PM.

  16. - Top - End - #16
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    To the great joy of many, SilverClawShift started another campaign journal, this one in a completely new (and very interesting) setting.

    As I've run out of space to simply edit and post SCS' writings onto the first page as I've been doing so far, I will instead post the writings at the end of the thread, where normal posts go, and provide a link to that post in this last first page post.


    The Third Tale

    Update 1: Introductions, Setting notes

    Update 2: Beginnings, and a little swordplay

    Update 3: Jobs, and a little rat infestation

    Update 4: A dragon, and a little toll dispute

    Update 5: Blood bars, and a little...uh, nothing, really

    Update 6: Zombies, and a little bloodletting

    Update 7: An audience, and a little pranking

    Update 8 : A twist, and a little chase
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-08-20 at 11:40 AM.

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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Whoo, that's a lot of posts!

    EDIT: Thanks, CBS. There goes my week(end).

    EDIT (again): Whoo! First (ish) reply!
    Last edited by Forrestfire; 2009-06-30 at 08:06 PM.

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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Glad to see it's all up.
    Quotes, and more
    Homebrew; see also Contests
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    DruidGuy

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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    13_CBS, thank you. Now I can sig BOTH of Silverclawshifts campaigns in one thread. Awesome.
    The Silverclawshift Campaign Journals Two FANTASTIC campaigns detailed here. An absolute must read.

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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    If only we could get this thing stickied...

  21. - Top - End - #21
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    *Bookmarked*

    *Additional vote for Stickyingishness*
    Awesome avatar by the amazing Serpentine!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Shadows View Post
    Spell Mastery. Seriously a Wizard without Spell Mastery is like a Fighter without Weapon Focus: possible, but why?

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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    I hate to be the one to ask, but what does SilverClawShift think of this?

    Do you have her ok?
    Kudos and thanks to Mortugg for the awesome custom avatar!

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  23. - Top - End - #23
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    She said she was fine with it.
    Here: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showp...&postcount=416

  24. - Top - End - #24
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    I think I missed it, and I don't want to go back and reread it, who was Captan Carver(from the first adventure), The only time I remember seeing the name is the little mini-spoiler that said
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    he died.

  25. - Top - End - #25
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Wow, i never really got around to finishing the the horror campaign, talk about really sad. If Possible could we get the homebrews of those vestiges.
    Thanks to linklele my awesome Half Elf Bloodrager up there.
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  26. - Top - End - #26
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    At any rate, this is freakin' awesome o.o
    Characters:
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    Ast, Binder - All That Glitters Deceased.

    Elaine Silverwind - New Cyre

    Thanks Mr. Saturn for the awesome Pokeatar

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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Yes! Additional vote for it to be stickied!

    (Wasn't there a moderator who joined the hype for the first campaign? )
    HOHO! GUESS WHO JUST FINISHED HIGHSCHOOL!


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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Great work 13_CBS, nice job restructuring the whole deal, and that introductory blurb was a very nice piece of prose. And I loved the Sailor Song. You should add some other songs where they are appropriate.

    I was wondering though, how come some of the chapter titles are in all-caps and others aren't?
    The key to wisdom is to have strong opinions, weakly held.

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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    I loved reading the Horror campaign, and I'm part way through this second one and enjoying the hell out of it. I'm not exactly sure what makes these things so special, but I find them far more entertaining than most fantasy books I own.

    Maybe it's the D&D aspect? I wanna start seeing fantasy novels written from the perspectives of players playing a D&D game that then becomes that novel.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Default Re: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

    Quote Originally Posted by Lilienthal View Post
    Great work 13_CBS, nice job restructuring the whole deal, and that introductory blurb was a very nice piece of prose. And I loved the Sailor Song. You should add some other songs where they are appropriate.
    Thanks!

    I was wondering though, how come some of the chapter titles are in all-caps and others aren't?
    The Titles that are in all-caps were made by SilverClawShift (she made non-all caps titles as well). Out of respect for her writing, I left those alone, though the titles I made are all non-all caps.

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