Kingmaker. Frogs. And Cloudarc Monastery.

23 April, 2012

Field Notes – 2012-1904

Travelling north, the woodsman’s companion wolf flew overhead to find the location of the boggard village. (I should mention that his companion seems to be a half-celestial). Having located it, he and I went to investigate.

The village was at the shores of the hooktongue, surrounded by copses in which sentries were stationed. We approached and infiltrated one of the copses and proceeded to knock out the two guards that were present. I had a Dimension Door spell ready, but the recipient must be willing. Or at least – not un-willing. Rainor seems to know one or two martial art tricks and kept the two guards in the copse silent by way of knocking them a blow that kept them busy for a few seconds. Eventually one of them fell, but not before the other managed to sound an alarm call. But no matter, for I teleported the three of us out.

Prior to waking up our captive, I performed a Share Language spell on it. That done, we woke him and began to interrogate.

The tribe is named M’Butu, which translates as “They who swim in blood”. Their leader – one “Sepputu” – appeared to be a shaman of Gogunta, a frog demon of sloth and (I belive) poison. I rather felt that interrogating this captive was pointless – what would he tell us that we basically didn’t know? But I had figured without His Grace’s notions of warrior-like honour. Duke Jope told the captive that he would fight Sepputu, which our captive seemed to accept, actually using the words “trial by combat”. We announced that we would be there dawn the next day, and released him.

Next morning the entire tribe had turned out. A mass of a score or so ordinary tribesmen who I judged were there to observe, four warriors which were distinctly larger, and the shaman himself. I stepped forward to herald our challenge. It seemed that I had judged quite wrongly. As I stepped forward, the entire tribe simply rushed our position.

From which we can observe a number of salient facts.

The warriors and their chief led from the rear. That is, they control their society by fear – by punishment rather than by reward or by example. Their tactics were calculated to save the lives of their elites: they were prepared to use their commons to wear us down, at whatever price. And they acted without honor toward us – unconcerned by any possibility that by defeating us in such a fashion their commons might think less of them.

In short: although the notion of “alignment” is subject to cultural misinterpretation, without a doubt the culture of the boggards is what we would generally call “evil”. Not that this is in any way inconsistent with their veneration of a frog demon.

It’s is also worth noting that Share Language is all very well, but it doesn’t bypass the need for cultural understanding. The words “trial by combat” might have been the closest approximation to what the boggard meant, but it was a mistake to suppose that it implied chivalry or honour or varuous such things. I suspect he said “trial by combat” rather than “find out who is strongest by fighting” because our language offers a short phrase that was close enough.

To return to the narrative: at the charge of the entire tribe towards us, I managed to get off a Haste spell before nipping back into position.

His “position” was well behind everyone else. This guy is definitely turning into Professor Lockhart.

At this juncture I should mention a certain item owned by His Grace. It seems that during his liberation of the kobolds under the mountains (an amazing story), they gave to him the skull of a certain red dragon whom they venerated as their protector. This skull is mounted on a pole, and His Lordship bears it as his standard. It is quite magical, and I had a chance to see it in action.

A wave of dragon-fear came out of the standard, and almost all of the common tribesmen turned to flee. In response to his Grace’s war-cry “Faciat me ad magnus”, I cast Enlarge Person on him, and he proceeded to carve a path through them to get to the shaman. Bloody, but better to kill three of them than twenty.

In the next moment, the four warriors rushed forward to engage us. But again, the standard of Fredonia spoke, this time bellowing a gout of fire, neatly incinerating (or nearly so) three of them. His Grace ignored the warriors and the tribesmen, and accompanied by the knight ran for the shaman at the rear.

It was rather more bloody than that. As the regular boggards fled, Andrew took all of his attacks of opportunity. Jope was enlarged, with 10′ reach and wielding a great flail. Rainen and Klael also took their attacks.

On another note, it was nice to see Andrew’s quest item get some use, and in the precise situation that the item was conceived as being for: a mass attack by mooks. It worked perfectly and in-game mercifully saved the lives of 20 or so dudes who would have been killed if they hadn’t been frightened off.

In a moment, it was over. The shaman dead, three of the four warriors dead, and a mass of commons hiding below the surface of the hooktongue. I cast Share Language on the (now) biggest boggard about four times, he shaking the effect off each time, before asking Rainor to kindly knock him out for me. Rainor did so, I cast my spell, and our Knight revived him.

His Grace said simply “You are chief now. Stay and live here. If you attack pink skins on the road again, we will come back and kill you all.” Harsh, but a correct reading of the culture, I fear. Our Knight was concerned about their veneration of Gogunta. He insisted that they no longer worship her, which I think might be a trifle tricky to enforce. Nevertheless, we took down their idol. A pity we could not transport it to the museum, but circumstances were not favourable.

But, speaking of which, I took a moment to examine one of the dead ones, to settle a question that has caused some controversy – amphibian or humanoid? I required a little help to actually locate the heart of one of them (medicine is not my strong point, I am afraid), but I can verify that it was indeed three-chambered. Expect a paper soon.

Having trouble finding Zack’s “voice” here – is he making personal notes? Writing a letter?

The people of Fort Drellev were pleased to hear that the boggards of the south hooktongue had been pacified, although how long they stay passive for remains to be seen. While His Lordship and the knight engaged in politics, the woodsman and I fell to discussing Cloudarc Monastery.


Cloudarc Monastery! Lost for – ooh, who knows how long. A myth? A ruin? If there were such a place, it’s entirely possible that is is still going, although only if there were a few females. Rainor possesses a map indicating direction from the island in the middle of the mere. Somewhat helpful. But more interestingly, it seems there is a ruin above Giacomo’s Rest with a panorama also indicating the monastery. More than enough to triangulate, and only a few day’s travel away as the crow flies. Rather more than that as the mountaineers mountaineer.

Still. I’m keen to go, as swamp really doesn’t suit me. Winter is coming on. If we go, we should go now. His Grace is agreeable. It seems Rainor is a mystic as well as being a very fine archer, and an old comrade. We are preparing a small expedition – one or two items will be necessary. A wand of Endure Elements most notably, but easy to procure in Freedonia. There was discussion of the problems of dealing with mountains. I have not yet had occasion to demonstrate an old Ninjitsu trick I learned a few years ago, and it slipped my mind.

Bard with “Archaeologist” template. Means you get rogue tricks. One rogue trick is to get a Ninja trick. Most Ninja tricks require a Ki point. One of the ones that does not is “Wall Climber”. Not quite as good as having Spider Climb – doesn’t work on overhangs or on perfectly smooth surfaces. But mountains? Piece of cake. A halfling’s climb skill sucks, on account of their low strength. With this hack, I deal with it.

In any case, we set out as soon as we may.

Yay! Finally doing Cloudarc, which Brett has been waiting patiently to do for yonks. Sorry we made you wait so long dude – hope it’s mega cool.
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Kingmaker – a new hope

19 April, 2012

Farewell, Switch. You are now an NPC, if Dave decides that family Verdant wants to dabble in the Dark Arts. Rather than the usual monument, Jope has named the forest to the NE of Fort Tuskwater “Verdant Wood”, or wilderness, or something. I regret mainly that I never got to level 12, never got to roll 27d6+30 on a scorching ray (3 touch attacks 4d6, 5d6 sneak attack each, 2 points per sneak attack die from the sniper goggles. Second level spell :O ), never got to drop a 5th level spell. She would have rocked. I can empty my dice-bag of d6s – won’t need them now.

I have built my new character. 20 point buy, rather than 25 – a penalty of dying. Cramps my style a little. But there you go – it’s all game. Bard with the Archaeologist option. Chrarisma/Dex build. Actually a better rogue than a rogue, but without sneak attack. Seriously useless in a fight, except as a buffing caster. But that’s what the party needs, so cool. The “take 20 twice a day” knowledge check make it easy for the DM to do exposition. And he has a decent UMD.

I have tricked him out with AC boosting magic items. Bards can use light armour and sheilds with no spell failure chance, so +3 shield and +3 mithril chain. Amulet of natural armour, ring ‘o deflection, dodge feat. His AC is 33.

A halfling. I imagine him as a half-sized Harrison Ford. His name, his name is Zack Jackson.

Perhaps I should let him tell his own story. I’m sorry that the quality of his writing is not really up to academic standards. But hey – it’s fantasy. These are field notes that he’ll polish later.

My name is Zack Jackson. Explorer. Adventurer. It was I who recovered the lost writings of the Xeth from the barrows of Artemis. I who first saw, for the first time in a mortal age, the ruins of Agrippa. I have also loved several women, but this is not that kind of memoir.

And it is I, Zack Jackson, who am currently looking for a patron and hopefully tenure. Somewhere with a decent library and a relaxed attitude to mud on the carpet. And so, Freedonia.

Freedonia! The very name! They have reclaimed the so-called “stolen lands”, made peace with the Nomen centaurs, conquered vast stretches of territory. Formerly inaccessible mountains are now a stone’s throw away, the fabled “Lake Silverstep” is (perhaps a little sadly) a tourist resort. The possibilities for academic research are endless. And this lord, Duke Jope – they say that after defeating the Stag Lord, the first thing he built was a castle, and the second a library. He recovered the cyclopean tablets from the lich tombs – invaluable artifacts which will keep academia busy for decades.

My kind of place.

His Grace is not the sort to finance purely archeological expeditions, but it hardly matters. He is engaged in extending his lands, and cannot help but encounter things of interest as he does. He seems pleased to have along someone with a bit of historical and geographic knowledge, and so I have finagled an invitation to his various military and acquisitional excursions.

It should be productive. I will almost certainly be fun. And there’s definitely a paper or two in it.


12-14-11. Field Notes. Lake Hooktongue.

While His Grace attended to affairs of state, certain of us organised an expedition to clear lands around Lake Hooktongue for purposes of integrating Fort Drellev more closely into the duchy. Our expedition was myself, General Rainor – an outdoorsman and archer, and Klael – a fighter of one of the local religious orders.

We commenced west of Tatselford, northwest and counter-clockwise about the lake. The terrain was boggy and difficult.

At the northern extremity of the lake, we were subect to an abortive ambush by Boggards. Boggards are frog-like humanoids, well suited to wetlands environments. Little is known of boggard society, other than that it appears to be tribal and small-scale. Little also is known of their biology: whether they are frogs that have become humanoid, or humanoids that have become froglike.

They were organised enough to set up an ambush. They had put a snag (logs, branches) across one of the major streams draining into the Hooktongue, arranging matters to make the snag look like a viable causeway. They also attempted to use the terrain, aware that we would likely find the going difficult in a swamp. However, Klael’s mount is fitted with Horseshoes of the Zephyr, and our Archer does not require mobility.

Examination of the barrier demonstrated evidence of tool use, not to mention the fact that they were swinging clubs and flinging spears. Overall, they demonstrated a level of sophistication usual for savage humanoid tribes.

TODO: secure physical samples, particularly of the heart. Amphibian hearts have three chambers, mammalian and humanoid hearts have four, so that should settle the question – there’s a monograph right there. Also secure skulls. Of little real interest, but it gives the taxidermists something to do and they look cool in a display case. Also the measurements pad out a paper nicely. Send wax casts to Dr Maskin – I owe him a favour, and he’s a keen phrenologist. He’ll want a cast of the inside of the skulls. Male and female, juvenile and adult. Not entirely sure how to sex. Cloacæ, or something more mammalian?

12-14-11. Field Notes. Lake Hooktongue.

We continued around the shore of the lake to Fort Drellev. On the western shore, we encountered an extremely odd creature, or group of creatures, which snared their prey by imitating sounds. Our religious fighter was completely taken in and ran off while on watch to deal with them. We were roused by the woodsman’s wolf companion. I moved us to the site of the battle, but by the time we arrived the creatures were killed.

Dimension door. Two castings buys you a quarter mile of movement in the space of two rounds. Nice of Klael to run off and leave everyone undefended. Grr.

I forget what the things actually were. And I’m drunk. So you will have to pretend that Zack Jackson said something faux scholarly about them.

After this, we were joined by His Grace and continued on to Fort Drellev.

Reprovisioned, we explored the southern border of the Hooktongue. At the southernmost extent of the lake we discovered a set of crude piers, a small wharf which had been camouflaged. We were not able to uncover who built them, or why they were hidden.

On the following day, we encountered an oddity. An organised party of boggards were heading towards a depression in the ground. I and the woodsman investigated.

Rolled a 20 for stealth. +10, for being invisible and moving. Plus dex, skills, and size bonus came to 52.

A few of the boggards – I believe the younger warriors – proceeded into the bowl of the depression, which seemed to be a small hot mud caldera. The mud formed itself into semiformed figures which then attacked. I am guessing some sort of earth elemental.

The boggards were not faring well against the elementals. I decided at this stage to attempt to make peaceful contact with the more senior of the troupe, who had not entered the caldera. I used haste in the warriors, reasoning that this would a) demonstrate our bona fides and b) even up the fight so that there would be fewer of each should we be forced to attack.

I approached the chief, hands raised, but he elected to initiate hostilities. I attempted a Share Language on him, but he fought off the effect of the enchantment. At about this time the noisier members of our party, who had circled around the back, made their appearance. As the attempt to parley with the chief had come to nothing, His Grace elected to skewer him. He, the knight, and the woodsman made short work of the other boggards, and somewhat less short – but still successful – work of the elementals.

I believe we may take our earlier questions – who built the pier and why was it camouflaged – as answered. The boggards appear to have built it, and it was camouflaged as an eminently sensible precaution against the civilised races. Then again – why would boggards, who are aquatic, need a pier?

With respect to the caldera, if it is not in the habit of spawning elementals on a regular basis (that is, if those present were “left over” from a previous event), then His Grace may choose to make a health spa of it, something of a sister to Silverstep spa. “Hooktongue mud springs and wetlands eco-tours”, perhaps. Any name would do, provided the word “swamp” is avoided. The traffic would advantage the nearest large settlement – Fort Drellev – considerably.

As to the Boggards, our woodsman believes that the troupe came from the north, from the shores of the hooktongue (we were somewhat inland). His Grace has decided that we proceed there, and either make peaceful contact or eliminate them as a possible military threat.


Kingmaker

17 March, 2012

We change watch: Klael goes to watch the hostages, and Rainor joins us. There are doors to the north and southwest. I think. I am getting a little turned about, which is unnerving.

This dungeon is quite large, and Dave was mapping out the rooms by drawing them wherever we could fit them on the sheet. As a result, it was tricky for players to keep track of where things were, which nicely mimicked the disorienting effect of the Guards and Wards.

To the north is a cavernous room with pillars arranged as stepping-stones. A test of balance – another barbarian test, but one more to my liking. I step across. The pillars are rounded at the top and a little slick. Jope will not make it across here without a little help. I see some movement below. On the other side a short passage and a door which I do not open.

I head back to join the group – Rainor watching my progress. On the final pillar I become overconfident and fumble the jump. My ring of Feather Fall catches me, but below I find what is causing the movement – swarms of ants. Big ones. I cast Spider Climb from a scroll and flee, but I have several of the things on me, and thousands follow me up the wall.

I put up a Wall of Fire to burn them off. It helps, but not enough. Jope’s standardbearer uses the standard (a dragon head on a pole) to breathe fire. After a little longer, I manage by dint of rolling about to crush the remaining ants. But I need a fair bit of help from Ovthen to deal with the bites and stings.

The southwest corner is where the hag-priestess map indicated that the focus of the complex is, and we open that door.


Beyond is a temple, really. And barring our passage a human of indeterminate age. He and Jope chat a little. It seems that he more-or-less administers the test, and is not terribly pleased that Jope needed help to get through it. He is a priest of Gorrum, it seems – the chaotic god of fighting a lot. After a moment more of banter Jope simply attacks him. The fight might have gone on longer, but Rainor managed to stun him with a splendid shot to the temple, then – taking advantage of his momentary distraction – I got him with a Scorching Ray that arced up and transposed our positions. Although this sort of misfire can be a disaster, in this case it meant that he was teleported 30 feet away from his weapon. The next few seconds, well, nothing out-of-the-ordinary happened.

Yeah, we mugged that poor bastard. Three crits – two from Brett, one from me. We use the GameMastery deck, so it’s always a little more fun.

I open the next door. Beyond is a man who has sort-of half transformed into the hero (?) in the statues around us. With him are a squad of undead. The man attacks me rather than Jope, springing in and away. The undead move in. I drop a Glitterdust on the group, and retreat.

The man and the undead warriors pour through the door, I am hit again, then Rainor, then another one takes a swing at my ne…

I shall remember you, Verdant-daughter. To any who wears me I will tell your story too among all the others.

And so ends the story of Seldryn Verdant. She died looting a tomb – low on spells, out of action points. If she had cast Improved Invisibility rather than Glitterdust, it might have turned out differently. As it was, she was overkilled by 15 points – a definite character death.

Dave is not keen on respawning, and I don’t really want to bring her back nerfed. I had a look through Ultimate Magic, and two options have caught my eye so far.

First, there’s the question of her family ring: Thought and Memory. We could bring back her cousin who was present during the owlbear attack as a Magus, a gish class who probably can benefit from the T&M bonuses.

The second option is that it seems that this “hero reborn” business involves a certain minor artifact sword, dedicated to Gorum. I am thinking Oracle of Steel, which is an option for Oracle in UM. Chaotic Neutral, of course. Oracle of Steel gets Disable Device as a class skill. It leaves us short of an arcane caster, but like any team that’s been working to together a while the only way to seamlessly replace Switch would be to make a Switch clone, which we don’t want to do.


Kingmaker – Oh for heavens sake! Really?

13 March, 2012

So we decide that we couldn’t simply leave whatever-it-was in the cave behind us and take the hostages back home. Instead we leave them with Rainen (who Rainor can telepathically communicate with), and go to investigate.

On closer inspection, the fog in the passage leading into the hill seems to be an “Obscuring Mist”. It tastes a little chaotic, if that makes sense. Beyond is was a room with three priestesses of the hag goddess – remember those cultists who gave us some trouble early on? There is a fight, and they are laying about with some sort of Confusion effect. I damn near kill Ovthen.

I didn’t blog last week’s Serpent’s Skull. Finally popped my DM cherry – killed a character. Tim’s. Needless to say, Ovthen is also Tim’s character. I don’t have it in for him, I swear!

We deal with the priestesses. There are two doors. Oh, and I might mention: there seems to be a Guards and Wards effect on the place. Webs, disorientation. A real pain. Very important we don’t become separated.

Beyond one door is a statue of a barbarian – no doubt the one who is al prophecies to return and scour the world clean of decent, civilised people. Beyond that, a room with four identical exits. Damn. With the magic on this place, you know that it spins around to disorient you.

Beyond the other door is an odd room – four differently sized boulders and four depressions in the floor. Ah – a puzzle. Do people really put those sort of things in dungeons, as in the books? It appears so. But why?

The boulders are too heavy for me to help with, so go back to the corpses and commence to cast Create Treasure Map. The map is quite odd. Rather than being filled with detail, it simply shows the chamber we are in, and instead of an “X marks the spot”, there is a circle drawn around a whole chunk of the map to the northwest. Then I understand – this place is not a temple of the Hag Goddess. These priestesses were here to raid it, and new only the rough location of something significant.

The boys trigger a trap in the boulder room, and several of us are caught in it. They then decide to put the boulders in in reverse order, and that seems to fix the problem.

Tim found out about the granted ability of the Strength domain – a +11 to Ovthen’s strength for a limited time. Nice. That’s how we shifted the boulders. Oh, and his Cure spells are 150%.

Onward.


Rainor and I think Klael go into the next room. It There is some sort of wheel on the ground, which they turn. Immediately the whole room becomes icy cold and conjured ice walls them in. They keep turning the wheel. I try to deal with the wall with a Scorching Ray, but it just burns a hole through and hits Klael (shooting a lot of own-goals today). Ovthen tries to bash through the ice from outside – I drop a Resist Energy on him. Eventually he gets through, and I leap through the hole he made as the room seals it up again.

Inside I first of all give Klael a Resist Energy by way of apology. After a moment, I need one for myself – it is cold in here. They keep turning the wheel. It clicks to a final notch and they hold it in place, and as they do the cold lessens somewhat. I jam the wheel in place. We discuss unjamming it – maybe it needs to be wound up and unwound, but Rainor disagrees and keeps holding the wheel. After a few more moments the conjured ice dissolves away and the next door opens. Seems Rainor was right.


The next room is simply a large chamber with an animated statue. We have Enlarged Jope, and the statue beckons him. They fight. My magic does nothing, and after a couple of wasted attempts at casting Displacement, I just sit back and watch.

Watching, I understand. For heaven’s sake! This whole place was built by barbarians and the rooms are a series of hairy male challenges. Strength, endurance. I suppose the other rooms test you for ability to drink mead, or stupidity.

Still – it rather works in our favour. The hag-goddess priestesses would never have gotten through. If anything, this whole place might very well have been built specifically to keep them in particular out. In fact, this place might very well have been built to admit someone just like his thickheaded lordship through to whatever treasure the priestesses were after.

In other words, we are not necessarily in enemy territory here.

Gods! This barbarian destined to return and conquer the lands … you know how these prophecies work: they are worded so vaguely that whoever happens to fulfil them becomes “the chosen one”. Can it be that Jope himself could be (or become) the prophesied conqueror? It all fits rather neatly, I fear. Lets face it: that’s exactly what he is doing. I wager that beyond this next door lies a sword in a stone, or some sort of ancient barbarian crown or some such.

Then again, perhaps the current ruler of Pitax is “The One”. You know how these prophecies work. Whoever wins becomes retroactively legitimised. I might keep this to myself for now.

Jope defeats the construct. Not far beyond is, well, no doubt something.

So Switch’s and my speculations about the campaign are out-of-game for the other characters for the moment.

Kingmaker

22 January, 2012

We’re back! More or less. Next week is CanCon, and game will be off, but it was great to get back to game, even if things are going to be a bit choppy, schedule-wise.

Michael,

Having liberated Fort Drellev, we decided that it would be a good idea to pacify some of the surrounding area. Farms are dull, but an indispensable source of regular income. We spent a week or two back home. I did a little crafting (a pair of bracers of armour for Rainor, scrolls, and a fresh wand of Grease), and so did His Lordship. We also organised a caravan to take materials back to Fort Drellev. We do intend to annexe their territory into Fredonia soon, and I’m fairly sure the locals understand that.

In any case, we accompanied the caravan to the bridge at the northwest, then headed into unclaimed land. We were looking for a Dire Tiger, and various other jobs for which there are bounties. We also need to find Cloudarc Monastery, but I suspect that such a thing is more likely to be in the mountains to the southeast of Freedonia.

Cloudarc is not part of the pathfinder module – it’s a special quest that Dave is putting on for Brett. He’s been waiting a while 🙂 – Andrew, Morgan and I have had ours.

First day, we found some sort of beast lair, or at least a place where a beast had been. I assumed it was our Dire Tiger, and decided that I would scan the area with Locate Creature each night just before bedtime.

In the morning Rainor cast a fascinating divination. He doe nature magic, of course. The divination works with his own tracking ability, and allows him to actually see a creature by looking at its tracks. Rainor described the creature and without a doubt it was a Chimera.

Well!

The tracks were old, and we decided to push on.


Next day, we came to something odd. In the near distance was an enormous smell of offal, but before we could really investigate, we were attacked by tribesmen. I watched for a moment, but they were really to threat at all to the boys, so I left them all to their fun and wen to have a closer look to what lay ahead.

Well! I caught a glimpse of a Blue Dragon head. Chimeras fly, you know, so as I was a good distance from the fight – which was mostly over by this time (I have become quite hardened to slaughter, over the past couple of years. Not quite the human disdain for life, but getting there.) – I dropped a Hypnotic Pattern on the area. Hopefully, that would stop it taking wing too quickly and the lads could get a hit in.

The fight with the tribesmen ended, and His Lordship & co approached the spot where I was keeping the Hypnotic Pattern going. After a few moments, they signalled the all-clear. Approaching, I saw our Chimera, which had been savagely ripped in two by something. Something that hadn’t even bothered to eat it.

Bad news. This can signal the presence of something abberant or magical – something that doesn’t eat. But the real worry is that whatever it was had taken down a grown Chimera. Our Dire Tiger was the best candidate – although why it didn’t eat anything is a minor mystery. Perhaps Chimera meat simply tastes bad: I was not inclined to find out.

Back at the fight scene, there was one tribesman left. I had not prepared my usual full complement of spells that morning, so as to be able to to prepare and cast Locate Creature that evening. Instead, I spent a few minutes and prepared Toungues, and cast it on His Grace.

His Grace interrogated the wretch. I gather that there was nothing much by way of information. Some insults.

Jope: “You are not very good fighters”
Tribesman: “Says girlie-man dressed in metal”

Dave is a fine DM 😀 .

Most importantly, a mention of a name which escapes me right at the moment. Not a god, or anything any of us recognised. Apparrently, so-and-so would totally kick our butts, or some such. Also interesting was his mentioning that things around here – the lands, or something – had changed in the past few seasons. I got the impression that something large-scale, magical, but subtle (so far) was happening.

I have my suspicions, but they are out-of-game.

Oh – I almost forgot. A third thing of importance: the weapons these tribesmen were carrying were quite uniform and of excellent quality. I suspect Pitax.

Anyway. Rainor grabbed the tribesman, frogmarched him over to the chimera, and threw him in the offal. Then untied him and let him go! But a moment later I spotted Rainen and understood. Our wolf and ranger would have no difficulty whatever tracking them back to their camp. He ran off, and we returned to discussing this person, or thing, that the tribesman mentioned.

We do have a duchy, you know. His Grace has this whacking great banner with a dragon’s head on it. It’s quite magical. One of its powers is that it can Message any Fredonian military unit, once per hour. So we prepared a message, to the effect of “Require intel on ‘(name)’. Inquire sages, casters tower, temple. Report hourly.” and sent it to the captain of the keep guard. After a couple of hours, we were informed that (name) was some dead barbarian hero, prophesied to return and rampage across the continent, or some such.

Hmm.

We tracked our tribesman, actually slowing down our pace so as not to catch up with him. Rainor and Rainen had no difficulty whatever – zero, zip, none – following, despite the backtracks and dust-baths. We arrived at a valley exhibiting signs of human activity, and spied a tent camp.


A tent camp! The barbarians had taken hostages from Fort Drellev, could some of them be here? We had to know, before mounting an attack.

Well, guess whose job it is to scout out enemy encampments? There was brief debate, but the decision came down to “Someone invisible who can cast Dimension Door.”. Lucky me. Behind the camp was a steep hillside/cliff. We circled around and climbed it from the other side. I used Invisibility and Feather Fall and came down near an interesting entrance into the hillside towards the back of the camp.

I wandered down the passageway a bit. It looked to me like an old hewn passage recently re-opened. There was an abjuration across it further down (Mother’s gift had been invaluable more times than I can count). A alarm spell, or something like it. It looked divine (or at least fabulous). I debated dispelling it and looking further, but that was more risk than I cared to take.

Instead I investigated the tents. The big one was just a common sleeping area. One of them was guarded, so I snuck up behind it and made a little spyhole. Inside were two ladies with rather out-of-place clothing, one having a sobbing fit. It would be the simplest thing in the world to just teleport us all out, and that’s what I decided to do. I cast Reduce Person, stepped around the guard at the door, and wandered inside the tent.

Just as Rainor/Rainen has no trouble tracking a dude who is covered in offal, invisible Switch has no trouble wandering about a campsite at 3 in the afternoon when no-one is looking for her. We didn’t even roll the checks – her stealth is 23, +20 for being invisible. A guarded doorway is a little different. Arcane Trickster “Tricky Spell” lets her cast a spell silenced and stilled. Bonded item lets her cast a spell she has not prepared.

Inside I spoke to the one who was not having a crying jag. But she seemed to think she was hallucinating, or something. After a bit (and an incident with a pillow), I managed to half-convince her that she was not. In any case, I asked her to go over and calm down her friend. I then dropped the Reduce Person and the Invisibility, and teleported us all out. The crying friend was caught by surprise, but I managed to grab her anyway.

Switch has Cha 9, Wis 8. She is young and impulsive (for an elf). She also rubs people up the wrong way, the whole “I’m actually from a very old and respectable elven family” shtick, and comes across as flaky and generally not inspiring confidence.

Back on the brow of the hill, we all spoke a bit. The sensible one is Cassandra’s sister – Namaste’s other daughter. I was rather chuffed, until someone spoiled things by asking “what about the other three hostages?”

Damn. They were in another tent at the other end of camp, it seemed. The place was in an uproar. There was absolutely no reason to delay, and plenty of reason not to. I cast another Feather Fall (why do I prepare two? Because, that’s why.) and we entered camp. Rainor stayed on the hill to shoot things: he would have no trouble getting down if he needed to with his monk training.

The fight was, well, brief really. In the middle of the afternoon people were dozy and I imagine half the warriors off hunting. The boys had no trouble. His Lordship wanted an Invisiblilty Sphere, but I refused after what happened last time. If the very first thing you are going to do is attack, why waste a spell that will dispel the moment you do? I’m not made of magic, you know.

Klael positioned himself in front of the tent with the hostages. I made a spyhole at the back, and prepared to shoot at anyone who got past Klael. The ladies positively threw themselves at Klael (a paladin – all shiny armour and good looks) and actually interfered with his stroke at one point. But there was no real difficulty: two dangerous fighters on the ground, and a skilled bowman above with a clear shot at everything. I hadn’t done much … but I suppose clearing out one tent so that we didn’t need to split our forces was a help.

So. We have five hostages, and half a barbarian camp who haven’t come back from the day’s hunt, yet. We have an unexplored possibly quite old passage into a hillside, warded by some kind of divine abjuration. We are about a week away from Fort Drellev, the hostage’s home. I’d like to explore the passage, but it would be a pity if the returning barbarian hunting parties killed the ladies while we were busy inside. But if we just leave, who knows what will come out from under the hill to harry us? What shall we do?


Kingmaker

20 December, 2011

Michael,

It’s been a while since I wrote, and I’m a trifle drunk. But I’ll manage as best I can.

I checked a couple of doors, and behind one was the Baroness. My plan was to shoot her, then demand her surrender. Well: I shot her a tiny, tiny bit too well – she was completely unawares. I feel, well, a little badly about it really. But what’s done is done, and gods knows what kind of spellcaster she was and what she would have done if she’d had the chance.

The baroness was a level 8 aristocrat, and Switch put 16d6+16 points of hurt into her with no warning. She’s neutral: this sort of behaviour is acceptable, but barely, and not if she makes a habit of it. It is war, and aristocrats take their risks. It comes with the position.

We secured the castle, more or less. Dropped the portcullis and dealt with the troops inside. Rainen (I think) saw two groups leave the castle – the baron and some giants headed for the secret entrance down by the lake, and some other troops heading eastward towards Pitaxe.

His dukeness split us up: he would wait at the balcony, Rainor and Rainen above, and Klael, the warden (you know, the fellow we were there to rescue), and me below.

Hmm. Well: we closed the big secret door down in the basement and waited. After a few minutes, we heard banging on the outside. Now, Rainor a while back had given me this magical bird that could carry a message, But I didn’t think to use it. We fell back from the door, and I put up an illusionary wall. As soon as they levered the door open, we started tossing alchemists fire through. There were some screams (I really don’t like this combat business at all), and a little grim comedy as my illusion fooled the regular troops: I could actually see them pulling their blows as they hacked at thin air with their tools. I heard a female voice telling them it was illusion – Drellev’s bard/lover, no doubt.

It might have fooled the regular troops, but it didn’t fool the more experienced of our foes. Drellev himself came through the wall, and attacked. Klael took the brunt of it, but whatshisname also fought. Completely outclassed, of course, but with all that human “I’m only going to get old and die soon, anyway” bravado.

Meanwhile … something damn odd. I noticed a couple of illusion auras, and they had broken through our line. Not actively looking for them, you understand, but mother’s gift probably saved all our lives. I dropped a Glitterdust on them forthwith. What the dust revealed was – honestly, a human-sized and two giant-sized air elementals. We pieced it together later: the bard and two giants has come throug our ranks in Gaseous Form. A nice tactic.

Well, after revealing them I got away from them, which meant heading into the front. I finally had a chance to cast Improved Invisibility, and then proceeded to do what I rather felt was my job: taking out the bardess. Meanwhile, she had dismissed both spells, and the giants were attacking Klael and the castle warden. I put a Scorching Ray into her.

I think it was about now Rainor entered. One of the giants charged him, straight through Switch’s position. I appealed the call. “Roll a phenomenal stealth check”, said Dave. Natural 20, for a total of 43, not including the bonus for being invisible (which possibly might not stack with the Cloak of Elvenkind). Phenomenal enough, it seems. 🙂

Around now, His Grace finally arrived and things began to look more equal. The bard decided to flee. Klael had fallen (again – his God must be mightily sick of reviving him by now). I pursued the bardess until I had reached Klael’s position. I dropped another Scorching Ray into her, which was enough. (I had to get help to do it. Normally I reserve that for emergencies, but dammit: she was getting away. It was an emergency!) Then I pulled out a healing potion and revived Klael. About now, Rainen had come through the long way (ie, through the tunnel from the lake) and could help out Klael himself.

Scott’s paladin is built around being able to do a lot of healing for himself as a swift action. But he was tanking it and soaking up a lot of hurt from Drellev and the giants.

As for Switch, Dave’s comment at the table was “people on the boards who say Arcane Trickster is a weak class don’t know what they are talking about”. Switch has a Ring of Wizardry II (Thought and Memory), a Pearl of Power II, and a bonded item (T&M, again). I think she put a total of 5 Scorching Rays into various soft bodies over the course of this assault. A 11th level character with a Dex of 18 and Point Blank Shot does not miss a ranged touch attack.

At this point in that game, at the table I said to Scott, “Ok: Klael has had as much help as he deserves”. 😛

Looking back, His Grace and Rainor (when had he arrived?) were in trouble. Rainor was fighting hand-to-hand, which is a little unusual. One of the giants nearly killed His Grace and he had to withdraw.

We play with the GameMastery™ critical hit and critical fumble decks. Unknown to Switch, Rainor had fumbled and had had his ability to shoot a bow nerfed for 3 rounds, to general hilarity.

Anyway. I’m not a cleric, you know, and there’s not a lot I can do. But I maneuvered in and put a Displacement on Rainor. I had been saving it for His Grace, but he wasn’t there, so tough titty.

Damn! Giants are bad news. They have a good chance of hitting, and they hit hard. Ovthen held off two of them, but only because he was AC-ed out to the max. Jope had to run off – no choice. I think he took the brunt of it for two rounds or so, and that’s all our main heavy fighter could take.

Displacement really shines as a defensive spell when you are up against things with a good to-hit. Let’s say your enemy hits on a 19-20 (2/20). With displacement, that reduces to half (1/20), so effectively it’s +1 to AC. Lets say, OTOH, that you enemy hits on a 7 (14/20). Displacement effectively gives you a +7 to AC: better than the best non-epic armour you can get.

It definitely saved Rainor’s life. The way Dave was rolling was also a big help 😛 .

We killed the last giant, and all but one of the guards, and then we piled onto Lord Drellev himself. I don’t know who struck the final blow.

The guard, quite sensibly, surrendered. I think he may have soiled himself. We spared him – not a nice man (according to Klael), but not supernaturally evil. He told us that many of the pitaxe mercenaries were of the opinion that a lord who couldn’t hold his keep was no lord, and left. Demonstrating once again (if more demonstration were needed) the sheer folly of using mercenary troops: anything you win or keep with their aid is not truly yours. We rely on kobolds, admittedly, but they are definitely ours, and will fight to the death for Freedonia.

We decided on a fiction: that this warden person (Cassandra’s father – the one whom we had come to rescue) was the one who slew Drellev. We laid one of the giant’s swords on him and took him out on a litter (couple of spears from the armoury). The locals were suitably impressed, but rather more impressed by Drellev’s head on a pike.

Possibly a little unsafe, politically. His relatives have a claim on the barony, now. Right of conquest and all that. But I think I might mention in strictest confidence to one or two of the right people what actually happened.

We returned to Tuskwater. Business as usual: bills to pay, statues to erect. His Grace sent some cash to Fort Drellev for rebuilding, which was very gratefully received.

I’ve given Rainor my Braces of Armour and strengthened the enchantment on them (The chain shirt that Jope did for me is better, but Rainor doesn’t wear armour). I do want another Wand of Grease – the one I am using is just about done. And scrolls, of course, always scrolls – silver dust and a few days of scribing. I really, really, really should do up a replacement spellbook, too.

We simply must deal with these barbarians. There’s also a great deal of land to the east to claim. Perhaps I might petition for a grander title than “Baroness”. His Grace, after all, will soon have enough lands to style himself a King, which will be terribly amusing. Do you think I should fancy myself a “Countess” amongst the humans? It might annoy people, but that is the whole point.

Until next I write,
Your sister,
Seldrynn.


Kingmaker

28 November, 2011

Missing a lot of time, I’m afraid. I’m getting close to a major milestone on my chainmaille, and that’s taking a fair bit of time.

Michael, this will be a little rushed, I’m afraid.

After the debacle with Ovthen alerting the whole town, Rainor and I decided to set up camp in that abandoned inn where the meeting was to be. After sundown, the other four (His Grace & “friend”, the Paladin, and the Dragon Disciple) sauntered in, assuring us that they had not been followed.

Hmm.

Anyway. At the appointed time, Satinda appeared. I say “appeared”, because it was an illusion – could have been anyone or anything. I Dispelled it, of course – we are all on quite the hair-trigger at present.

Satinda was on the roof. She and Jope spoke and hammered out the details, which were essentially what you would expect. She also mentioned a secret entrance to the castle but at about that time the soldiers who our clanking contingent were not followed by decided to attack.

There were some soldiers and whatnot. And a quite significantly powerful mage: he dropped a Chain Lightning and a Disintegrate on us – which did not manage to kill anybody.

I’ve said many times, to anyone willing to listen: Disintegrate is not a combat spell. There are more effective things – the most effective of which is buffing your fighters. It is, however, a brilliant spell in a different way: Disintegrate is rogue-in-a-can. There are not many traps, locked doors, and other environmental dangers that cannot be dealt with with a brief zap and it’s a very, very worthwhile investment to prepare one, or carry a scroll or two if you can afford the cash. I used it on a Necklace of Strangulation, once, arguing that I wasn’t trying to “make it let go”, I was just trying to destroy it (took two zaps before it failed the save). It specifically will drop a Wall of Force or any of the Bigby’s X Hand spells. It’s one of those spells that will get you out of all kinds of jams. If you need a hole widened, a siege engine disabled, a bridge collapsed, then Disintegrate is just the thing. Just don’t bother shooting it at people.

Anyway – he ran off (oh, he was Flying – should have mentioned it). Duke Jope offered mercy to the common soldiery, although not before a spectacular double nut-punch by our Monk/Ranger, vaulting down from the roof and dealing with two soldiers at once. “Stunning Fist” indeed. I think one of his victims actually vomited.

We decided to leave the town and hide out overnight. Rainor found a secluded spot, and I put up a Tiny Hut to conceal us further. We were undisturbed.


In the morning, we discussed assaulting a castle. Our paladin recalled that Satinda mentioned a secret entrance (well done, Scott). So I was sent to enter The Musty Clam again. It was locked up tight, but there was a window. No problem.

A tenth-level Rogue/Arcane Trickster does not have trouble breaking into an unguarded building.

Inside, it was plain that whatshername had abandoned the place. I rather hoped that she had left a message for me, so I went up to her office. Two secret compartments in the wall were open and empty, but the one in her little shrine was still undisturbed. And yes, inside – a map. Thankyou, dear. We shall try to not mess this up as badly as we have messed up everything else. I’m not terribly worried – once the boys get down to hitting things with sticks and lumps of metal, they manage quite nicely.

So. I took the map back to the team, and Rainor had no rouble finding the entrance. A concealed cave on the Hooktongue, set up with a deeper channel for access by boat. We descended the bluff, and Rainor unhooked the rope and came down the cliff using this odd monk technique. I admit some envy, but I manage well enough.

Go team Elf! Nature Boy and Urban Girl! Yay!

Inside and further in, a cave. And a pair of Black Puddings – that mage’s specialty, apparently. We’ve dealt with them before, you know. The trick is to use missile weapons to split them into smaller bits, then area-of-effect fire. I don’t really do evocation, much, but His Grace’s sorceress is reasonably competent.

At the back of the cave, a door. I slipped under when the boys levered it up a tad and went looking for a lever on the inside. I found it – but I think they broke the mechanism and go the door open just a second before I could open it from the inside. We’ll have to get that door fixed. And make it stronger – a door that can be opened in half a minute by 3 determined men is no barrier at all, when it comes to castle defences.

Having Dimension Door prepared drastically changes the risks you can take. 🙂 There was loot and a Bag of Holding, but Switch is not that kind of rogue. Ordinary theft is rather beneath a member of house Verdant, don’t you know.

Beyond that, the basement. And the treasury. We looted the gems, but the bulk of the coinage will of course go back into the barony – the walls, fixing the door, hiring some reliable defenders. And a monument. Always a monument.

A set of secret doors, but all of them secret from the other side. A trapdoor in the ceiling, with a rather clever little ladder, leading to a closet, and two doors leading to a wine cellar and a prison.

In the prison was Cassandra’s father, of course. Words were exchanged – I think His Grace managed to get an agreement that Freedonia would annexe Fort Drellev, and that this person would be Baron.

He was warden, or something, and gave us a nicely complete description of the keep. Also of interest were the – ahh – domestic arrangements. It seems Lord Drellev is married to the mage’s sister, but they are estranged and he is banging the (female!) bard. Interesting.

We left him below to guard the exit (we have fought together for some time – he’d only get in the way). Some of our loot – a magical sword and breastplate, and a Potion of Lesser Restoration, and he was altogether a different fellow.

We went up the secret trapdoor.


And another one above it. Very clever – no doubt these hidden little doors go all the way to the top of the tower.

Really nice castle design – hidden passages and an escape route. First time I’ve seen secret doors that made sense, rather than being an obvious plot device.

We went up to floors, and then heard a discussion being had. The boys in armour can’t help but clank a bit. His Grace ordered an Invisiblity Sphere which I did, but it was a bit of a waste as we had been heard and it fails the moment you do anything offensive. Oh well. His sorcerer dropped a Haste on us, there was another spell from somewhere, and then we burst out of the closet.

After the first few moments, in which Jope did the usual, the mage dropped a Wall of Force across the room, isolating him. Nice spell – nothing I could do: they are quite impervious to Dispel Magic. His Grace used a potion of Fly and exited out the window. Meanwhile, I had cast Improved Invisibility and skipped though the melee. The mage was a bit towards the back, and need to be dealt with.

Tumbling through a threatened square. Switch has Boots of Elvenkind, Improved Invisibility, and is a rogue. Evading mooks is not a problem. Higher levels are more of an even thing: it’s Acrobatics vs CMD, and CMD includes BAB. So a fighter’s CMD levels up at the same speed as a Rogue’s ability to tumble past them.

I put a Scorching Ray into the mage, and the Jope came through the window. The guards and the rest of us fought. Jope’s little sorceress was killed, I’m sorry to say – I’m not sure whether by sword or spell. The bard Dimension Doored Drellev and herself away. They do have a castle full of mercenaries, including giants, so they’ll be making a stand there. The mage used a full Teleport spell (I’m pretty sure that’s what it was). He could be on another continent.

Switch does 4d6 sneak attack per ray plus 2 per d6 of sneak attack. And I rolled high: lot of sixes. 90 odd points of fire into the mage. Next round either Switch, Jope, or Rainor would have killed him.

Anyway, there are only guards left. Our paladin is yelling for people to surrender, but I want to use the rest of this Invisibility – it only lasts a minute. (Next purchase: a rod of Extend Spell – my current rod just doesn’t have the power to extend a greater spell). I have run upstairs – looking for the wife, the mage’s sister.

Apparently not a nice pice of work, but then again most people are not. The paladin is right: I really shouldn’t kill her out of hand. It might be nice for His Grace to be able to make a show of mercy, and the mage is still alive, so giving him reason to take revenge might not be a good idea. I’ll shoot her once then offer quarter, I think – she’ll probably survive. Her brother did, and I got an especially nice shot on him. She’s probably a mage of some description (enchantress is my bet), so bound, gagged, and I think hooded might be best. Damn – was that Jope flying outside the window? They are looking for the Baron, I only have a few seconds. Catch this bitch, Dimension Door down to the dungeon where whatshisname is guarding the exit, then … I don’t know: up the secret door to the closet, out the closet door, and follow the sounds of fighting. Giants bellowing will be a clue. I might use a regular Invisibility to cover that – it lasts longer.

I am on the top floor of the castle. I see a T-shaped corridor, doors to the left and right, a door ahead. The room ahead will be the master bedroom. I suspect that the lady has her own room that she uses during the day, so I’ll search those first. Left, or right?

(Hmm … a brief thought. The warden called this woman “vain”, which is code for “attractive”, usually. If Jope kills her husband and his lover, I wonder if she might be interested in becoming a duchess? I wonder why Drellev has so little interest in her? If she is neither stupid nor too attached to Drellev, perhaps she might be pragmatic about things. She is – after all – nobility. Technically, and perhaps even by birth. Her brother and Morgana, also, might find they have common interests.)