Nov 5, 2017

22nd Day of Reaping, CY 580 - Luke, it's a trap!

In this session, Jarrus stepped up to lead the party. He had a plan that they would push their ruse as far as possible, and spring the trap if that's what this was. I'm never good at timing these sessions to end where I want them to, so we played a little bit online to push the story forward, but we still ended mid-encounter. Part of the reason for keeping this blog is to track myself when these things happen.

The party was led through an outer courtyard, and then through another portcullis to an inner courtyard where they were able to stable their horses. From there, they were led to a garden where they were told to wait while Icar spoke to the lady of the keep. The party spent quite a while waiting here as the sky darkened and the storm clouds rolled in. During this time, they became keenly aware that they were surrounded on the rooftops by archers, while other creatures under the influence of the keep waited to pounce. They also saw that a hobgoblin was walking with a Boggle on a leash - using
it as a bloodhound to sniff something out. Eventually, just as the thunder and lightning cracked overhead and the rain began to pour, the double doors to the inside of the keep opened, and a goblin women name Guliyet and her pet winter wolf welcomed the party inside.

Guliyet informed the party that Alforas was still at the keep and that the Lady Markessa would welcome them to dinner, where they will have a chance to deliver their message. She said she is looking forward to speaking with each of them. The party was led to a waiting room with a sofa and chairs and told to wait until summoned to dinner. Sensing a likely trap, the party decided to play along for now.

While waiting in the room, an eerie moaning sound started coming from the chimney. Suddenly, a white figure fluttered out from the chimney. "Run!" yelled Jarrus as he and Pontus went crashing through the door from which they came. Cadwin immediately transformed into a bat and flew into the corner of the room. Sarril, suspecting an illusion, risked staying in place and tried to disbelieve. He was able to immediately tell it was a sheet blowing out from the fireplace and pulled it down. Jarrus and Pontus high-fived each other, regained their composure, and walked back into the room like nothing happened. Still, the moaning sound didn't stop, and Cadwin sent his weasel companion up the chimney to investigate, where it was immediately stabbed by a dagger and nearly killed were it not for a quick heal spell Cadwin was able to get off. Pontus and Cadwin then decided to climb up the chimney themselves to investigate and found a crawlspace in the ceiling where a madman with a dagger was attacking them. Working together, Cadwin and Pontus were able to subdue the man, take his dagger and investigate the rest of the area.

Their search eventually led them to Judith - an escaped slave woman and her baby. She explained that the madman was also an escaped slave who was protecting her by setting up elaborate illusions and traps to make the area appear haunted. As a result, the hobgoblin guards were too scared to come down this hallway, allowing them to be safe for the time being until they could escape. Now that he was incapacitated and unable to maintain the ruse, she was certain they would soon be found. Sure enough, within an hour, two hobgoblin sergeants with boggles on chains came into the room, searching for the escaped slaves. The party pretended to know nothing as the search party passed them and went down the hall. As soon as it became apparent they were going to sniff out Judith, the party sprung into action, using spellpower to quickly take out the hobgoblins and silence them before the alarms could be sounded. Using the hobgoblin's swords, the fighters finished off the boggles to save Judith. During the fight, a human in banded mail carrying a two-handed sword - a captain perhaps - showed up with more hobgoblin guards, but a fully armed party was able to deal with him pretty easily.

For the next hour, the party carefully hid all of the bodies and cleaned up all of the blood, determined to stick to the plan and not spoil their cover. No sooner did they finish cleaning than Guliyet returned, with two strange looking cavelings in tow. She informed the party it was time for dinner, and led them away through the keep. They passed through multiple doors, around winding hallways, around obvious traps and through barracks packed with hobgoblin and other humanoid guards, eventually coming to a set of double doors, behind which was a large dining room with several people sitting around it, one of whom the party immediately recognized as Hazzard the Mage. A beautiful elf at the head of the table introduced herself as Lady Markessa, and bid them each to take a seat, saying she had been looking forward to speaking with the party.

Around the table sat several of Markessa's inner circle, while in either corner stood two intimidating presences. In one corner stood a 7ft. tall, dark-skinned man in black plate mail and a helm with no
Lady Markessa with one of her guards
eye-holes that the party knew as Icar - ready to draw his awesome two-handed sword at the first sign of trouble. In the other corner stood a familiar looking dwarf, whom the party learned was Agnar, brother of Ragnar who was itching to avenge his brother's death. Against one wall were three barbarian-looking men with hand-axes, also ready for action.

Jarrus, recognizing that the presence of Hazzard has given away their identity, quickly adjusted his story. He handed over a letter the party recovered from Sturm Bucholtz that incriminated Edralve (one of the inner council of Slave Lords) in plotting treason against the other Slave Lords. He told Markessa that the party was undercover, working for the council to try and flush out other traitors. He said they allowed themselves to be captured on purpose in order to determine what Captain Garana was up to and offered to reveal information to Lady Markessa privately, as he did not feel that everyone at the table could be trusted. The ruse seemed to be working on Lady Markessa, even while Hazzard and Agnar grew agitated and accused Jarrus of lying.

It was then that the party may have pulled off their most daring, and best coordinated maneuver to date. Jarrus turned to Agnar and said "That's right, I killed your traitor brother" which sent to the dwarf into a rage and started an argument amongst the group. While Markessa was distracted with getting the dwarf under control, Sarril let loose with one of his few remaining spells - Boccob's Rolling Thunder - and sent it right over the table at Markessa and Hazzard, hitting them both full-force and getting a few more people in the process.

For all of the times that the party complains that I roll 20s against them, they rarely notice all of the times I fail to roll well. This was not one of those times. As I went around the table rolling saving throws for each NPC, the players cheered as one after the other failed the roll. Many of the NPCs had massive bonuses to their saves, but I was rolling 3 and lower. At the same time, the damage roll for the spell was really massive, creating a double-whammy and doing enough damage to kill Markessa and her cleric. While the damage was just shy of killing Hazzard, the secondary effect of the spell is to stun anyone who fails their save. This one action eliminated all of the enemy spellcasters in one swoop. Now the fight was on.

Taking out the magic users made the fight survivable, but not easy. The fighters quickly realized that Agnar and Icar were no joke. And those three barbarian-looking guys turned out to be wereboars. Unfortunately, the session ended mid-fight, so we won't know if the party survives or not until next session. It is now early evening on the 22nd Day of Reaping, CY 580.

Oct 22, 2017

22nd Day of Reaping, CY 580 - Wherein the party takes out an entire orc army

I've probably mentioned before that the party never does what I think they are going to do, always keeping the DM on his toes. Today's session was no exception.

The party woke up after camping overnight in goblin territory. These were the Hill Beater Goblins, and the toll was paid, keeping them safe overnight. Upon waking, most of the party member felt stronger than before, having leveled up overnight. New spells and more hit points all around! After studying spells, and Cadwin summoning some bears and wild boars to escort them along the way, the party headed off along the road.

After a few hours, thanks to some overhead scouting by a familiar, they were informed that there was a hill fort  a few miles up the road, and also what looked like a small army of orcs marching on the road toward them. Expecting the pay another toll, the party engaged in discussions with the Flaming Skull orcs, whose numbers were around 150, and included 10 Verbeeg giants in their ranks. Jarrus introduced the party as slavers in the service of the Slave Lords, but instead of demanding a toll, the orc leader declared that they hated the slave lords and all who served them, setting up the inevitable fight.

Once again, Cadwin proved his worth to the party. Sarril was able to take out the first several ranks of orcs, including all of the officers with Boccob's Rolling Thunder while Jarrus engaged and took out the leader. The remaining orcs were only a challenge due to numbers, and Cadwin was able to take them all out of the fight with an entangle spell, which, at his high level, worked in a 150 ft. radius. This also took most of the Verbeeg giants out of the fight as well, which was good because they proved to be challenging to Pontus, who was fighting four of them in melee and, despite receiving healing from Luapan, was still nearly killed (good thing he has over 100 hit points!).

After entangling the enemy, Cadwin moved forward and cast the spell again (his high wisdom allows him to cast it a ridiculous number of times). Eventually he had entangled nearly the entire army, leaving them only to fight with ranged weapons. But for that, he cast Obscurement, limiting visibility and making ranged attacks impossible. Once Pontus and Jarrus were finished taking down the remaining free orcs and verbeegs, the party was able to get around the army, under cover of obscurement, and head to the hill fort.

The fort appeared to be well guarded, with hobgoblins looking through parapets with ranged weapons trained on the party. Sticking to the plan, the party boldly went up to the fort, claiming to be agents of Sturm Bucholz with an important letter for the merchant Alforas. They claimed to be on their way to catch him, but with a coming storm, they needed shelter until it passes. The ruse appeared to work as they were let inside to speak with the garrison commander, Icar. Icar did not know the party members and did not trust them fully, so he allowed them to come inside one at a time and disarmed them, placing their weapons in an outer gatehouse before leading them further inside.

At this point, the party passed through a second portcullis, which was then closed behind them. Cut off from their weapons, the party now headed further into the fort with Icar. We were not able to play any further to see if the ruse would continue working, or if they were walking into a trap. Stay tuned as we will find out in two weeks.

It is the afternoon of the 22nd Day of Reaping, CY 580.

Oct 15, 2017

21st day of Reaping, 580 CY - One Minor Slavelord Down

And here today the party did what the party does best - slaughter. Once again the blind druid, Cadwin, proved to be a valuable member of the party as Sturm Bucholz, the minor slavelord and thief below them went on an invisible back-stabbing spree. He only managed to get one attack in before Cadwin exposed him with Faerie Fire and Sarril followed up with Hold Person.

The entire party worked together like a well-oiled machine this session, which was really nice to see for a change. Pontus proved he could be a pincushion and absorb the crossbow bolts from the 10 orcs that were shooting, giving Jarrus time to finish off the 5 giant weasels that were actually quite a bit more scarier than they might seem. Before too long, Sturm, his weasels and all 10 orcs lie dead, giving the party time go through his belongings and recover quite a bit of information about the Slavelords.

In addition to learning that the inner council of 9 slavelords have some members plotting against each other (no surprise, really, as evil always turns on itself at some point), they also learned that the slave are taken to a hidden city in the Drachensgrab Mountains called Suderham to be sold and traded. Only trusted slavers are allowed there, so the party decided to use the information in the ledgers they found to pretend to be agents of Sturm travelling to Suderham to do his business. They learned of a merchant named Alforas who left a few days prior on his way to Suderham and if they were quick enough, they might catch him and free some slaves on the way.

The party decided not to waste time exploring the rest of the temple and instead find the quickest way out. That way appeared to be through a trapdoor they found in one of the tunnels. The trapdoor led into a chapel inside the ruined temple where they were attacked by sturges. But the noise they made fighting the sturges allowed the real enemy, a cleric of something called the Earth Dragon, and her minions to prepare for an attack. When the party barged into the next room, she was ready. It was a tough fight, but the party prevailed, even sparing the life of the cleric if she would answer some questions and provide safe passage out of the temple, which she did.

From there, the party wasted no time going back to town, buying some riding horses, and making their way to the southern road that leads into the humanoid invested foothills of the Drachensgrabs. With Pontus tracking the merchant caravan, the party was on their way, stopping to pay tolls to the humanoid tribes along the route to avoid trouble. It is now the evening of the 21st Day of Reaping, 580 CY and the party has made camp for the night. We shall see what dangers await them next week. . .

Sep 24, 2017

20th Day of Reaping, 580 CY - The party investigates the Temple Ruins in Highport

This week, as freed men, the party (who have decided that without Sir Gerard, they will just be called the Badass Motherfuckers, for reasons. . .) had two basic choices. Return to Greyhawk as originally planned, even though it's been more than a year since they departed for the Well of All Heals, or be the badasses that they know they are, and take vengeance on the Slave Lords. Okay, it wasn't really a choice. The party was pretty emotionally invested at this point, and definitely decided they were going to be the ones to end the rule of the Slave Lords once and for all. For Sarril, who was born into slavery, and Pontus, who had spent more time than he cared to rowing a boat for cruel masters, this was personal. For everyone else, it was a matter of principal. And so, after visiting an herbalist to stock up on what spell components they could, the Badass Motherfuckers headed to the Highport temple ruins just outside of town.

The party decided to wait until nightfall, then have Sarril's familiar, Krek, along with Cadwin in bat form, fly over the temple and to scout. They discovered that, in addition to the main gated entrance, there was another set of doors along the side, as well as two courtyards (a garden and a cemetery). After some brief planning, they decided to have Luapan levitate them over the wall and into the cemetery. Cadwin, ever in-tune with nature, sensed something was wrong. They party soon discovered that gloomy trees and bushes had a mind of their own, and began twisted, turning and growing to block the party's path in every direction they went. Cadwin's attempts to use his druid magic to manipulate the vegetation failed, leading the party to believe something was in control and it likely was coming from the crypt in the center of the cemetery. And so they hacked their way through to the doors and broke them down, finding a stairwell leading down into the darkness.

The end of the stairwell led to a narrow dirt tunnel that lead in a couple of directions. After the tunnel became impassable in one direction, the party turned around and headed the other way, where they came into contact with three insect men (Aspis) dual-wielding halberds with their four arms. Jarrus, ever the fighting beast, was able to easily dispatch these, but not before they screeched an alarm to alert the others. Pushing forward down the tunnel, with Pontus in the lead, they came into a larger cavern where four more of the creatures were waiting, along with several giant ants. As Pontus pushed forward into the room, he set off a trap that caught him in a sticky net, reducing his ability to fight and getting him further caught the more he tried to swing his sword. The narrow tunnel was making it impossible for everyone to get to the front, so Jarrus and Pontus switched places so Jarrus could take care of the Aspis. Unfortunately, Jarrus was taking a lot of damage, and quickly. Although the party now has three healers (two clerics and a druid), they could not get to Jarrus as giant ants emerged from a side tunnel, cutting them off from the rest of the party. Jarrus soon when down.
Not our party - but you get the idea

Seeing Jarrus drop from negative hit points, and the Aspis warriors about to chop his body into pieces, Pontus heroically jumped in-between Jarrus and his enemies, exposing his back to the creatures who landed multiple halberd blows that reduced even the barbarian's substantial hit points to near zero. With four more aspis coming to the fight (these wielding dual broadswords and dual shields), things were looking grim. Still caught up in the sticky net, Pontus wrapped his arms around

Our house rules state that if a character is knocked unconscious from zero or less hit points, but not killed, they need to recover half of their hit point total before they can be functional again. Jarrus is the party's "glass cannon." He deals a lot of offensive damage, but has relatively low hit points for a fighter (he is the exact opposite of Pontus - so they have learned to operate as a pair). The good news in this case is that it doesn't take a lot of healing to get Jarrus back in action, which happened in short order.
Jarrus, who was also now stuck to him, and dived back into the tunnel to the ground, protecting his brother in arms while Sarril stepped up and cast Boccob's Rolling Thunder to blast away the remaining Aspis in the room. He didn't killed them, but he severely wounded all of them, and stunned a few, buying the party a couple of rounds. In the meantime, Cadwin cast a hold on one of the giant ants and Luapan absorbed an attack to push past the ant and start healing Jarrus.

The party then worked on cutting Pontus and Jarrus free of the net, and decided to have Pontus keep the ants from the side tunnel at bay while Jarrus goes toe-to-toe with the Aspis warriors, backed by healers behind him. The strategy worked, and soon they cleared the room.

Being that there was nothing of obvious interest in the room, and the party was wounded and out of spells, they decided to retreat for the day. Unfortunately, there was no safe place to go. They finally decided to "make camp" on the landing of the stairs, half-way up to the crypt. For the rest of the evening, the party had to constantly fight giant ants coming up from below, and a wave after wave of ghouls coming down from above. The exit was completely blocked by thick vines, which seemed to move aside to let the ghouls through. Fortunately, neither the ants nor the ghouls were much of a match for Jarrus, who decided he would not sleep and would just stay up to protect the party (he is a half-elf, so needs less sleep than humans anyway). This strategy worked to give the party a rest and recover spells, then it was off to races again. . .

The party decided to go a different direction this time, and followed another tunnel path north until they came to an opening into a room down below. The large room contained a circular moat, where ten orcs with crossbows stood at the ready, below them was a man in leather armor, surrounded by several giant weasels. This certainly looked interesting, and it was time to stop for the day. It was late afternoon on the 21st day of Reaping, 580 CY.

Sep 10, 2017

4th Day of Richfest (Midsummer's Day), 580 CY - Freedom!

After putting down the brief slave rebellion, Captain Garana seized control of his ship, putting the crew to work repairing the hole and punishing the remaining, living rebels. Mysteriously, two ogres appeared on the ship to replace the overseers. The ogres carried large mauls and definitely meant business. The captain also seemed to replace a few of his officers, and himself acquired an eyepatch and appeared to have suffered some severe burns on at least his left arm (that anyone could see). To ensure the remaining slaves did not rebel again, Pontus had each of his fingers broken and his hands tied to the oars with leather straps, while Sarril had his tongue cut out. With order restored, the captain began rowing the ship, albeit very slowly, across the middle of the Nyr Dyv.

It was now the week of Richfest, in midsummer, something the old blind druid, Cadwin, was very aware of. The entire week of Richfest is sacred amongst those who still practice the Old Faith of the ancient Flan. Somewhere in the Flanaess, druid circles were performing powerful rituals designed to maintain the balance - but Cadwin had more important things on his mind. Searching for a cure for the Red Death brought him to Elredd, where he was captured by the slave lords. Keeping a low profile, he would not let on that he was a druid, or that he could shapeshift into a bat and fly away at any time. These slavers were onto something, and the alchemist who was recently brought on-board from Safeton may have had important information. Unfortunately, Cadwin was unable to learn much from the man before one of the newcomers, Pontus that barbarian, killed the alchemist in a botched attempt at escaping. For now, Cadwin just needed to bide his time until the ship docks again, whenever that would be.

The 4th Day of Richfest is on Godsday, the middle of the week, and is also known as Midsummer's Day - the exact middle of the year. The evening of Midsummer is also the only time of the year that Oerth's two moons, Celene and Luna, are both full at the same time, which is important to cleric's of most faiths, druids and mages alike. The evening of Midsummer is the time when many great
historical events have taken place, miracles and catastrophes alike. And so it was, on the day of Midsummer, the boat waited in the water - rowing only occasionally to counter drift. And that evening, as both moons became full in the sky, the waters rumbled and the ship shook violently. Up from the sea rose a mass of land, pushing the ship up and out of the water, and turning it on its side. Many of the slaves were tossed about and injured - some even killed in the process, but the captain was not concerned. He gathered a few of his crew and left the ship and was not seen again until morning, when he had the overseers load something into the hold of the ship. And as the sun rose, the land mass sunk back under the sea as quickly as it came.

The captain, presumably having obtained what he was looking for, sent the ship immediately back south, down the Selintan River, into the Wooly Bay and back toward Highport. The journey would take another three weeks in total, during which time Cadwin tried to learn everything he could. To call him truly blind would not be entirely accurate, as Cadwin had an uncanny sense of hearing and smell, which, when combined with his high wisdom, made him able to see many things that others could not. Cadwin was able to learn much about the newcomers - the party of Hartsbane, and realized that, despite their impulsive actions, were trying to do good in fighting against the slavers. He decided to share with Sarril that Luapan was still alive, and assisting the captain in finding whatever it was that he was looking for - possibly under some sort of charm, and that the captain had kept his word to resurrect any dead party members, having resurrected Jarrus, who was recovering in a cell on the upper deck. The captain could only resurrect one party member, and so Sir Gerard was gone for good, his body tossed to the fishes. He also informed Sarril that they would have the best opportunity to escape when the ship docked at Highport, as the captain and most of the guards are usually busy unloading cargo during that time.

Sure enough, when the ship docked, the captain, most of the crew and the overseers began unloading cargo and took up positions along the dock. They secured all of the slaves in their shackles first, to prevent escape, but that did not stop Cadwin, who was able to transform into a bat and get out. At the same time, Jarrus, who had been pretending to still be in an extremely weakened state after his resurrection, received a note slipped in with meal that said "Go Now!" And so he escaped. He and Cadwin met up and and managed to get Sarril and Pontus and Luapan free, then jumped over the side of the ship opposite the dock - but not before grabbing the chest from the captain's quarters. Jarrus put on the Helm of Underwater Action that the captain had is in quarters and walked with the chest underwater until he reached an empty dock further down the pier where the party agreed to meet. There wasn't much equipment in the chest, but there was some money, enough for the party to get themselves outfitted at a basic level.

Highport, like all cities on the Wild Coast, was once a thriving city built on trade, but since the Pomarj hoards and Slavelord have swept through, is now mostly abandoned buildings. That makes five escaped slaves trying to hide much easier. The party took refuge in the first abandoned building they could find, and started making plans. The first thing they did was sent Cadwin out to find a locksmith, which didn't take too long. After agreeing a fee to both remove the shackles and to keep quiet about it, the party was now free. But despite paying for his silence, and even charming him for good measure, the party did not feel safe now that they have been seen, and so the next morning, they moved on to another warehouse. They bought clothes and basic equipment and went looking for an herbalist, which is not a profession that would be practicing openly in a city like this. After bribing a bartender at a bar, they learned of an herbalist in the city who operated in secret, but would likely be able to help Sarril, Luapan and Cadwin replenish most of their spell components. As they left the bar, they were followed by another party who chased them into an alley where a fight broke out. Victory meant even more equipment for the party, some of it magical. Things were starting to look up, but at the same time, the party understood now that they could never truly be safe here.

Temple Ruins Entrance
The party then explored some temple ruins just outside of town that they learned slaves were taken to. During they day they didn't learn much, but at night they saw slaves being moved into the building, confirming earlier rumors. The party decided their next move would be to try to get inside, but first they needed to finish equipping, so they headed back to their new hideout. That evening they were stalked by four thieves on the roof. Cadwin's superior senses alerted the party to their presence, and they were able to dispatch them and avoid being slaughtered in their sleep. The party decided having the blind druid around probably wasn't so bad.

And so it is the evening of the 19th Day of Reaping, 580 CY, the second day of the 3-day festival of Boccob, which is quite appropriate given that Sarril's familiar, Krek, has found his way back to him, restoring Sarril's tongue and making him fully functional again.

Aug 27, 2017

6th day of Planting, 580 CY (Captured!)

I think I and all of my players agree that each of these sessions gets better and better, but also more challenging for me as the DM. This last session was a doozy. Trying to piece it all back together to document here is going to be a challenge, but I'll do my best. I am sure some details will be missed.

When we left off last session, the player characters just finished their largest and most difficult fight ever. The state of each character was as follows:

Luapan (Cleric of Celestian): Saved from death by an Elixer of Life administered by Sarril, but incapacitated and sitting up in a tree.

Sarril (Magic User/Cleric of Boccob): Was flying in the air and just took two arrows from red-robed monks down below and dropped from the sky with -9 hit points. Dying.

Sir Gerard (Paladin of Heironeous): -4 hit points. Levitating 10 feet in the air binding his wounds. Incapable of fighting.

Jarrus (Fighter): Barely alive with one hit point remaining

Pontus (Barbarian): Severely wounded, but still has 24 hit points and under the influence of a Stone Giant Strength potion. Feeling powerful and angry.

Hazzard the Mage
Sir Gerard, Jarrus and Pontus are grouped together, having just killed the last of the monks that were fighting them. Other than two monks over near Sarril, and one magic-user who teleported away, the rest of their enemies were dead. That includes 40 fighters, 6 clerics, one magic magic user and 4 monks. At this point, the magic-user (Hazzard) who had escaped returns with two more people. A large fighter (Belneiros) carrying a magical net, and a wicked cleric, whom Sarril would later recognize, by description, as Guilliana Mortidus of the Horned Society, and the same woman who killed Athan's mistress a few years ago. She has a bit of a reputation, and not a good one. She was also clearly in charge here, giving the orders and demanding that Pontus and Jarrus drop their weapons.

Of course Pontus refused, demanding instead that Guilliana and her companions drop their weapons instead. In the midst of their banter, Pontus tossed a healing potion to Gerard, who drank it and was ready for action. In response, Belneiros tossed his Net of Entrapment onto Jarrus and Pontus. Jarrus was instantly trapped and although Pontus was able to jump out of the way, he immediately got caught in Guilliana's Hold Person spell. Gerard, recognizing that the fight was over, dropped his weapon and stood down (please note that Gerard made it absolutely clear that this was not a "surrender," but more of a temporary cease fire). As for Pontus, he was ready to continue fighting. Although he couldn't move his feet (we treat Hold Person as a "root in place" spell), he was ready to take the head off of anyone who came within sword range of him. To counter this, Guilliana held a dagger to Jarrus' throat, threatening to kill him if Pontus did not surrender immediately, which he then did by angrily thrusting his large two-handed sword into the ground while yelling in barbarian rage.

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The party was tied up, stripped of their possessions, and marched to the coast over the next couple of days until they reached a small coastal town where a medium-sized galley with purple sails was docked. Guilliana and Hazzard spoke briefly to the captain of the ship, then left the prisoners with the
Captain Girana
captain and went on their way. The captain of the ship was Captain Girana, a Sylvan Elf turned pirate, who nearly as handsome as he was cruel. His ship, called the Ghoul, was a galley with 60 oars in total (two levels of 15 oars each per side). Two slaves per oar means up to 120 slaves rowing the ship when it is at full capacity. On the ship was the captain (an elf) and four officers (human), four overseers/enforcers (half-orcs), 10 sailors (humans), one pace-setter (big human on a drum) and just over 100 slaves on oars. Although the ship has sails, the captain prefers to row so as to be as hard on his slaves as possible. The party, except for Luapan, was immediately put to work rowing. Luapan was locked in a room on the deck of the ship near the captain's quarters.

The captain had the ship row out to sea for a few days, somewhere into the Wooly Bay, moving along the coast and making a couple of stops. After a few days, he had the party brought to deck and forced to kneel before him. At this point, everyone could see that much of their equipment that wasn't claimed by Guilliana or Hazzard had now been distributed between the captain and his officers. Captain Girana now wore "Greaser," the +3 intelligent long sword Jarrus had been using until recently. He was also wearing Jarrus' Boots of Speed, with one of his officers wearing the Boots of Striding and Springing that had belonged to Gerard. A few rings and some bracers were also clearly being worn. The captain then had a chest brought up to the deck and opened it, showing the party's remaining equipment inside. Making a show of it, the captain explained that any equipment that was not useful to him would be disposed of, starting with Gerard's +3 Frostbrand, which was tossed overboard into the middle of the bay. Next came Luapan's Mantle of Celestian, followed by a few other items, including all of the treasures that Pontus had collected from his enemies over the years. Finally came Jarrus' armor, which the captain recognized as the family armor of House Sunleaf. Captain Girana made some comments about Correal Sunleaf and his foolish son before declaring that he would etch the family coat of arms off the armor and put it to good use.

Later, in the captain's quarters, Captain Girana had Luapan brought in for a private conversation. He showed Luapan an ancient map with unknown runes and a location described using a star chart. He demanded that Luapan interpret the star chart to navigate the vessel to the location specified. Luapan agreed, but made some demands of his own in return. The captain, not too pleased with the response, showed Luapan a demonstration of his power by having four slaves executed on deck and thrown overboard. He informed Luapan that he has many more slaves available, including Luapan's friends, and that all were expendable. Luapan then agreed to direct the captain to the place he sought. Over the next two weeks the ship went north, up the Selintan River and into the Nyr Dyv, right toward the center where ships dare not go.

Over the course of those two weeks, the rest of the party rowed, while taking every opportunity possible to try and loosen their shackles. Eventually, Jarrus succeeded in breaking his chains, and managed to get the attention of the overseers. Seeing an opportunity, Jarrus attacked, and with his immense strength, was able to kill one of them before being subdued. While the penalty for killing a member of the crew is usually immediate execution, the captain revealed that his masters want the party alive for some reason. So instead of killing Jarrus, the captain executed four innocent slaves, then chained Jarrus to the wall behind the pace setter, for all of the other slaves to watch as he suffered in agony.

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As the ship approached its destination, the rest of the party members were preparing for their escape. Sarril had worked loose the muzzle holding his mouth shut, and managed to keep it hidden, but was quietly praying for any spells he might be able to cast in his limited capacity. Luapan had scrawled a holy symbol underneath a barrel in his hold, and was praying for any spells that he could cast. Gerard had been working on breaking his bonds for weeks, and finally managed to break free, springing immediately into action.

The fight that broke out moved quickly. Jarrus and Pontus both broke free of their chains, and this prompted a good number of slaves (at least those who were capable) to try and break theirs as well, with some succeeding. Gerard was able to kill an overseer and now, armed with a short sword, engaged the other two. It looked for a brief moment like the party had the upper hand, until Captain Girana teleported next to Jarrus and immediately killed him in a most gruesome display of horror. The captain then cast Mirror Image on himself, and started moving up to engage Gerard. Sarril, using some clever spell components he managed to get, cast a Hold Person on Captain Girana, which succeeded, and then, realizing the captain was a spellcaster, followed up by casting Silence on the bench next to the held captain. This took the captain out of the fight (for now) and turned things back in the party's favor.

Just as Gerard finished off the remaining two overseers, two of the officers came down into the hold to engage, one of whom had Gerard's +3 shield. These two seasoned fighters easily outmatched the poorly equipped Gerard, but help was on the way as Pontus weaved his way slowly up the ship on the deck above (so as to avoid the captain). Luapan also managed to break down the door holding him up on deck, and started to make his way down to the group (DM's Note: I've never seen so many players roll successfully - 5% or less - on a bend bars roll. They shouldn't have been able to do this, but they all managed to do it, so we just had to play it out). Luapan was able to cast a prayer, giving the party slightly better chances. The big change, however, was when Sarril cast Boccob's Rolling Thunder against the entire group of officers, killing them all, as well as taking out four innocent slaves, their benches and oars, and blowing a 10 ft. hole into the side of the ship.

Unfortunately, all of that happened on the last round of the Hold Person spell, and the next round, Captain Girana was back in action and immediately moved up and killed Gerard. The next round, the Captain dropped Luapan down to zero hit points (unconscious, but not dead). Stuck between the captain and a large body of open water, an unarmed Sarril and Pontus were forced to surrender.

It is now the 25th Day of Flocktime, 580 CY, and the party of Hartsbane, the Bad-ass Motherfuckers, has been decimated.

Aug 13, 2017

3rd day of Planting, 580 CY (heading to Highport)

So this session went on for too long, nearly getting me in trouble with the family, but the battle was long and intense, so what can you do?

The session started with the characters in the inn, having just defeated agents of the Slave Lords and realizing they needed to get of town quickly. They had about 30 minutes before the ice wall that blocked all of the entrances would disappear and reinforcements would pour in. They quickly split up and explored the rooms that the dwarf (Ragnar) and mage (Hazzard) were staying in, finding some documents that indicated some of the slave movements, including a noblewoman, an alchemist and an artist (possibly Dame Gold and guests at her dinner party?). The proprietor of the inn, Carn, offered an escape out of a secret tunnel in the cellar and, after the party decided to behead the dwarf in a display of justice and retribution for his crimes, Carn knew he wasn't getting out of this, and decided to escape with the party.

Using a Wall of Fire to melt through a section of the Wall of Ice so they could get to the cellar, the party also ended up setting the entire inn on fire. Some of the party members succumbed to the smoke and had to be carried out, but they all made it, and the fire, which quickly spread to nearby buildings, kept the citizens of Elredd very busy for the next several hours, effectively covering the party's escape.

After giving him some money to help him on his journey, the group parted ways with Carn, and headed out on foot toward the City of Highport. Late that afternoon, they came across a merchant caravan and convinced the merchant to allow them to travel together for safety. These lands were known as some of the most dangerous across all of the Flanaess, ever since humanoid hordes began sweeping across the Pomarj. The caravan had 20 armed guards to add to the party's own strength, which would soon be put to the test. For the next couple of days the caravan moved south, with only minor encounters along the way. But each night when they made camp, dozens of torchlights were seen along the tree line west of the road, and the sounds of hooting and hollering were heard all night long, interrupting sleep. This continued for three nights, and on the morning of the fourth day, the caravan encountered an orc raiding party holding white flags, asking to parlay. The parlay, was, of course, a poorly executed ruse, and the caravan was soon under attack by 40 orcs. Most of the armed guards were brought down quickly, but the party was able to make short work of the orcs through a combination of spell power and physical might. Luapan and Sarril were even able to use their healing spells to revive the caravan guards. The merchant, thoroughly impressed, asked the party what they call themselves.

"Bad-ass Motherfuckers" replied Jarrus.

"Hartsbane" replied Sir Gerard.

And thus was formed the party of Hartsbane, the bad-ass motherfuckers.

Unfortunately, the party would soon learn that the orc tribe was sent to wear them down ahead of the real ambush waiting ahead. As the caravan followed the road through a wooded area, Sarril felt something was wrong (the "something" turned out to be that he lost contact with his familiar that was flying ahead of them). When he turned to warn the rest of the party that something was wrong, he realized that he has been silenced. No one was making a sound. Multiple overlapping Silence spells had been cast on the road. They had sprung a trap.

As the party readied for action (everyone but Jarrus, who was in front and oblivious to what was happening, and kept walking), the trees around them transformed into armed soldiers. Each round, more soldiers appeared until there were 40 in all. As the battle continued, 6 clerics and 2 magic users appeared (one of whom was the mage Hazzard from Elredd). This trap had been planned well in advance and the attackers were very much aware of the party's capabilities. The foot soldiers did their best to stick with bows and avoid engaging in melee combat with Jarrus, Pontus or Sir Gerard - but that plan didn't work so well given the boots Jarrus and Gerard had, and Pontus' natural speed. The clerics and spellcasters tried to quickly take out Sarril and Luapan before they could escape the radius of the silence spells, but lucky saving throws prevented that plan from working. Although volleys of arrows were flying, the superior armor class of the fighters were preventing them from taking too many hits, and the few hits they did take were negated with some healing potions.

One of the fighters did manage to get a net around Sir Gerard, and even though he was unable to fight, he was able to get to a potion of flying and get away long enough to start cutting himself out. Soon, Jarrus had taken out all of the clerics and was going after Hazzard, who had already loosed a few lightning bolts and magic missiles and needed to go down. Sarril managed to go invisible and drink his own flying potion and take to the air where he used his Wand of Ice Storms to start devastating the fighters below. Unfortunately, the last lightning bolt Hazzard fired took Luapan down. Jarrus closed in on the mage, but he teleported away.

Even though Luapan was down, it did seem the party was starting to gain the upper hand. Sarril was able to get to Luapan and deliver an Elixir of Life, effectively reviving him, just as Sir Gerard managed to get free of the net and join the fight. Sarril unleashed Boccob's Rolling Thunder on the remaining clerics and mage, taking most of them out. The mage responded with some magic missiles of his own, taking Sarril down close to death (but not quite). Sarril was able to cast Minor Globe of Invulnerability and take back to the air. Soon, Pontus came in to mop up, killing the mage, before being attacked by two red-robed monks who seemed to appear out of nowhere. There were 8 monks in all, hiding around in the woods and grass, watching the battle, only to join in if it looks like they had no choice. They had no choice. The party was about to win this fight. Two of the monks managed to shoot down Sarril with arrows. It looks like he may be dead. The rest of the monks engaged with Pontus, Jarrus and Gerard. Gerard was taken down to negative hit points and he used to sword to levitate to safety while binding his wounds, but otherwise out of the fight. Pontus and Jarrus fought the remaining monks, eventually killing them, though with only a few hit points left between them.

It would seem the party just completed a hard-earned victory - possibly the most difficult fight they've ever had. At that moment, as they were catching their breath, three people teleported next to them. One was a large fighter carrying a magical net. The other was Hazzard, the mage who escaped earlier. And the third was a female cleric, skinny with stringy black hair, dressed all in black. Jarrus and Gerard, both recognizing that they cannot take on these newcomers, dropped their swords and declared their surrender. As Pontus' player was not present, we decided to end the session on this cliffhanger. Will Pontus surrender? Or will he go into a barbarian rage and go down fighting? Stay tuned. . .

It is the afternoon of the 6th day of Planting, 580 CY.

Jul 30, 2017

Where did the time go?

DM's note: I warned the players in advance that they probably would not be happy with me during this next session. They all showed up to play anyway, curious about what was in store. . .

The session started with the characters lost in the woods somewhere, with no memories of how they got there. They decided to wait until nightfall and have Luapan, cleric of Celestian, look at the stars and try to divinate where they are located based on those patterns. He is normally pretty good at such a thing, but something was wrong this time. Based on the pattern of stars and time of year, they should be in the Burneal Forest in the far north, and yet, as Sarril was able to figure out, this was not an evergreen forest, and that made no sense.

The next morning, Sarril took to flight and was able to get a better view of the landscape for a few miles around. Consulting the maps he had, he was able to figure out that they must be in the Gnarley Forest. The party headed for an east/west road Sarril was able to see a few miles to the south. That afternoon, when they reached the road, they ran across some travelers headed east. A paladin of Rao, a sage, a squire, and a couple of servants pulling a wagon.

The travelers greeted and party and explained they were on their way to Safeton to celebrate the Feast of Eidoira at the invitation of Dame Gold. Jarrus remembered Dame Gold as a noble who was resisting the efforts of the Slave Lords along the Wild Coast, and taking in refugees from their raids. The party realized they could travel with their new friends to Safeton and catch a boat to Greyhawk from there, but something was amiss. The week long Feast of Eidoira starts on the 4th day of Growfest. The party's last memories were the 7th Day of Wealsun. Sarril inquired about the date, and learned that today was the 3rd day of Growfest, of the Common Year (CY) 580! Nearly a year later than the last day they remembered.

The paladin explained that they were running late and would miss the start of the 7 day feast, but should make it before it finishes. Sarril and Luapan cleverly used their magic to help speed up the group, but levitating the wagon with the party on it so it could move at the full rate of a riding horse. They were able to arrive a full day earlier than previously expected. Just in time to see the aftermath of a raid perpetuated by the slavers.

Safeton had been attacked and Dame Gold's manor burned to the ground. All of the defenders within the town were killed, with only one dead enemy sailor found. The party missed the raid by only a few hours, but they had no chance of catching the attacking ships, which had burned all of the boats in the harbor. The party took some time to investigate the carnage and speak to townsfolk about what happened. They deduced that the raiders must have had some inside help to be able to carry off an attack with such precision at just the right time and place. They also learned that Dame Gold and most of the guests of the feast, or at least those who didn't fight, were taken prisoner. A partially burned journal on the dead sailor suggested they might be headed to Elredd.

The party discussed their next options. They could continue to Greyhawk and chase any of a half dozen or more adventure hooks left open there, or play Scourge of the Slave Lords! (because everyone knows this classic module, even if only vaguely). It wasn't a difficult decision. Sarril was born a slave, and has a deep hatred for the Slave Lords. Pontus was sold to the slavers by a tribal traitor before being freed and joining this party, so he wanted revenge. Jarrus despises the very concept of slavery as it is the opposite of liberty, and Luapan and Gerard are too good to ignore what just went down. So, after asking their new paladin friend to take care of the townspeople and get them to safety, the party caught the next merchant ship that came to port and worked out a deal for a ride down south to Elredd.

On the way, they discovered that a new deckhand that was hired on at a previous port is actually a spy for the Slave Lords. He revealed some valuable information concerning his contacts in Elredd and the party used that information to take on the Slave Lord agents head-on.

DM's Note: We were at the end of our scheduled session time, but no one had gotten to roll dice yet and everyone was itching for a fight, so we pushed forward some more.

The party went to the tavern where the Slave Lord agents were hanging out and started to order drinks (but didn't actually sip them - a good thing since the drinks were poisoned). It turns out, the Slave Lord's agents, after learning of the party's arrival (a paladin of heironeous stands out in a pirate town full of evil humans and humanoid scum), were planning an ambush. But the party struck first, before the agents could fully prepare. This gave them the upper-hand in the difficult tavern brawl that ensued. Sarril even sealed off the building with a wall of ice during the fight to ensure that no one escaped to call for reinforcements. Unfortunately, one of the agents was a wizard who was able to use Dimension Door to get out. Otherwise, the party took out everyone in the tavern, keeping alive the proprietor and a dwarf for questioning.

It is now the 3rd day of Planting, 580 CY.

Jul 16, 2017

8th Day of Wealsun, CY 579 (searching for the Well of All Heals)

The party found themselves waking up on a rocky outcropping, overlooking a small valley. They were deep in the middle of a forest somewhere. Their equipment was lying nearby, untouched except for the portable hole, which seemed to be missing.

No one in the party (nor their familiars) knew how they got here, nor even what day it is. Though everyone who was missing limbs found they had them again. Even Jarrus' missing hand was restored. Those who previously died and were resurrected gained their constitution back. Pontus even had his intelligence restored. But the memories of the last 24 hours, or possibly more, are little more than vague dreams.

Jun 18, 2017

7th Day of Wealsun, CY 579 (Hunting Xenous Zenpor)

After both Jarrus and Sir Gerard selected squires, and the ceremony to celebrate Asanther's life was complete, the party returned to the City of Greyhawk to prepare what they could before completing the quest that Asanther set out for them - to find and destroy the evil mage Xenous Zenpor. So while Jarrus and Gerard fitted their new squires with armor and weapons, Sarril was back at the Guild of Wizardry library, doing some research, as well as picking up some new 4th level spells.

Sarril was able to find a few facts about the wizard. Primarily that she was incredibly vain about her looks, and obsessed with spells and artifacts related to longevity. She was also an evil wizard who was briefly a member of the guild, but was kicked out when she displayed a desire to seek artifacts of power for her own selfish reasons, and did not give back to the guild. She was last heard from when she went seeking the Codex of the Infinite Planes - an ancient and powerful artifact rumored to last be in possession of Zagyg Yragerne. Xenous went into the ruins of Castle Greyhawk, and was never heard from again.

Based on what they learned from the guild, and what Asanther told them about Xenous current location, the party deduced that Xenous was likely trapped in a demi-plane, and looking for a way out, which the party might provide if they are not careful. Jarrus suggested leaving her there, though Sir Gerard insisted that destroying her is the best course of action. The party agreed, but wanted to spend one more day staking out Zorbo's House of Fun, learning everything they could before going in. And so, that evening, Jarrus and Pontus sat across from the building, having drinks, deep inside the Thieve's Quarter, watching the activity within the fun house.
Zorbo's House of Fun

Though the building was closed at night, they did observe a few men in bright yellow robes with purple trim beneath their cloaks enter the building. Instead of the regular silver coin, they used a gold coin in the slot outside the door. Figuring this to be the information they needed, Jarrus and Pontus returned to the Silver Dragon Inn to report what they found to the rest of the party. The next day, the 7th Day of Wealsun, the party headed to Zorbo's House of Fun to see what they could find.

The party placed five gold coins in the slot outside the door, one for each of them, and then stepped inside. Although they came in not long after another group of people, they found themselves alone in a large, round room with a single door on the opposite side from where they entered. The floor contained a spiral pattern of alternating purple and yellow, and was very obviously not level. The furniture had one set of legs longer than the other to
even it out. The ceiling was divided by a pattern resembling a double lightning bolt (or as one player remarked, a "Charlie Brown" symbol). A man was in the room wearing bright yellow robes with purple trim, and wearing an unrecognized holy symbol resembling the ceiling pattern. He introduced himself as Abbot Kormath Burrsten, and welcomed the party to the "House of Zagyg the Great." This took Sarril by surprise, "did you say Zagyg?"

"Oh yes," replied the abbot. "It was the great Zagyg himself who built this wonderful place, and the maze beyond. But didn't you put a gold coin in the slot? That is why you are here." The party took the opportunity to question the abbot about his faith in Zagyg and this place, trying to get any clues they could about Xenous. Unfortunately, the abbot didn't seem entire sane, and the conversation was difficult, but they did learn that beyond the other door was something called the "Maze of Zagyg" which is a demi-plane where the followers of Zagyg believe he hid many items of great power. The party learned that many have entered the maze, but none have ever returned, at which point the part asked the abbot how one might return. He sold them a crystal for 10,000 gold pieces that he said would return them to the prime material plane when broken. He said that while they are welcome to take anything they find if they should have need of it, he would like anything they do not need to be returned to the House of Zagyg, that it may be put on display. The party agreed, then entered the doorway.

They found themselves in a long hallway with doors on either side. Sarril recognized the place from a dream he once had, and he knew better than to open any of the doors. As the party walked forward, the hallways stretched longer and longer, making the end further and further away. They then decided to walk backward instead, which seemed to compress the hallway. They continued this until the end of the hallway, which was covered in a swirling mist, came to meet them. One by one, they jumped through the mist, until they were all floating weightlessly with mist blocking their view in every direction. They could not move normally in this place, but they found they could "will" themselves in any direction with a thought. Sir Gerard then asked Asanther to use her powers to locate Xenous, and he then moved in that direction while the rest of the party followed. Eventually, the maze came into view, and it seemed to be the size of a mountain range. The entrance was marked with the face of a harlequin, and they move right to it.

Finding their way through the maze proved challenging, and nearly impossible to map properly, given that it was made up entirely of curved walls. The party spent many hours wandering and retracing their steps before Sarril pulled out some parchment and ink and started to draw a map. Occasionally, the party would come upon a round room in the maze and be presented with a challenge. The first challenge was being attacked by 24 Crimson Claws, which were hiding behind a floating dead body.
While the claws were low hit die creatures, they had magic resistance, and the sheer numbers of them meant they were wearing down Sir Gerard slowly. Finally, remembering that Sir Gerard had a ring of fire resistance on (or maybe he didn't remember, and did it anyway), Jarrus poured flaming oil all over Sir Gerard and lit him on fire. This caused the claws to scatter, and eventually die of their wounds after a few rounds.

The next encounter was with another dead body, this one of a priestess in similar yellow robes of Zagyg with the same holy symbol. In this room was also a phantom, which replayed the scene of her death over and over again on a loop. The woman came face to face with am apparition, which caused her to be strangled to death. The phantom forced several party members, including Sir Gerard, to flee in terror. This was the first time Gerard realized that his normal divine aura that cancels the effects of fear was not working here in this place. After looting the body of some scrolls and a silver mirror, the party moved on, with the scared members closing their eyes and being led through the room by those who had made their saves.

The third encounter was with the apparition that killed the priestess. Lucky for the party members that it attacked, they were able to make their saves to avoid instant death. It turns out the mirror, pointed at the apparition, would have forced it to flee, but no one thought of that, and so they killed it the old fashioned way.

The final encounter before they reached their destination at the center of the maze was with five terithrans. Terithrans are ugly beasts from the astral plane that have some pretty significant abilities, including being able to use a Power Word Stun at will. But Sarril heard them speaking up ahead in a strange language and decided to use the Tongues scroll he found earlier to listen to their conversation. After learning that they had already lost ten of their group to a "thing" in the center of the maze, and that they wanted whatever was inside a box in that room, Sarril was able to speak to them make a deal. If the terithrans would let the party pass, they would take care of the problem in the room and give the terithrans the box. Or at least, he would have negotiated something like that, except that mid-discussion, Sir Gerard pulled a "Leeroy Jenkins" and rushed into the room, sword in hand, to attack the box.

Gerard's Boots of Striding and Springing were not effective in this mist through which they were floating. As such, he didn't close the distance before the box opened, and four 16 hit dice elementals (one of each type) were summoned into the room. Sir Gerard found that he needed to take care of these elementals before he could get to the box. During this time, Asanther began to converse with the voice of Xenous Zenpor. Asanther telling Xenous that she has become more powerful and will finish in death, what she could not do in life. Xenous responded that she, too, has become more powerful in death, and that Asanther could not possibly comprehend the power she now wields. The next round, Pontus and Jarrus showed up to assist, and started make progress on wearing down the elementals. Pontus drank a full Potion of Fire Breath and unleashed it on the elementals, and Sir Gerard (who lost a few items as a result). It took a few rounds to kill the elementals, and during this time, the box opened and more spellpower was sent forth, including a Cone of Cold and a few more spells. Recognizing that he could not sustain any more damage, Sarril ran out of the room to get away from whatever the box was going to unleash next.

As soon as the elementals were out of the way, Sir Gerard rushed forward and struck the box with his sword. As he looked down into the box just before contact, he saw the disembodied face of a beautiful woman. As the sword came in contact with the box, there was a tremendous explosion which blew all of the party members in the room back against the mist walls. Everyone in the room took severe damage and lost a limb. But perhaps worst of all for Sir Gerard, the sword was destroyed, along with the Face of Xenous, leaving behind only an empty box in the room, which the terithrans were more than happy to take possession of. Only Sarril came out unscathed, as he has ran out of the room before the explosion took place.

After stabilizing the party as best he could, Sarril broke the crystal he had purchased from the abbot and the party found themselves, still sans limbs, inside the House of Zagyg. The abbot seemed surprised that they had returned, since no one ever has, though, they didn't return in one piece. The abbot suggested they find a priest to get an ointment or something for those wounds, or find the fabled Well of All Heals that is supposed to restore anything. Either way.

Jun 4, 2017

24th Day of Flocktime, CY 579 (wherein Sir Gerard gets a sword)

After some morning preparations, the party met back up with Luapan, who was off visiting his fellow clerics of Celestian at a nearby observatory in the Abbor Alz. The party shared with him what had happened in the city over the last couple of days, including the circumstances of Pontus' death, and Luapan, in turn, shared what he learned of Wastri, the Hopping Prophet, who seems to have established a large cult following far to the north in the Cold Marshes. Just another thing for the party to investigate at some later time, if they so choose.

After confirming directions to the Hamlet of Jakkarton, Sir Gerard led the party out of the City of Greyhawk, carrying the dead body of Pontus across his horse. About 20 miles east of the city, near the head of the Ery river, the party came across the a set of stone buildings that they knew to be the monastery of Heironeous, just outside of the Hamlet of Jakkarton. The party rode their horses down a small, seldom used path which led down to the buildings and a young woman came out to greet them. She introduced herself as Tythis, cleric of Heironeous. Sir Gerard introduced himself and the party, and explained the reason they had come. Tythis stabled their horses and invited them inside the temple to wait as she summoned Asanther.

A few minutes later, the door opens. An elderly woman enters, a woman whose right arm is missing at the shoulder. Her face is framed by a luxurious cascade of black and silver hair that falls to the small of her back. She wears a deep blue robe trimmed in silver. She is missing her right arm. She smiles gravely, a brilliant smile that radiates an aura of trust and understanding. Her movements, however, are weary. She nods, and moves slowly toward a covered chair.

Sir Gerard greeted Asanther and introduced himself and the party. He explained that Heironeous guided him to this temple in order that he may resurrect their fallen comrade. He then began to regale Asanther with tales of Pontus bravery and heroics - of how he rescued Prince Thrommel and helped destroy the Temple of Elemental Evil. He believes that Heironeous is not finished with Pontus in this world, and he needs to be brought back to continue his destiny.

Asanther explained that while only Heironeous' will can bring back Pontus, she was not strong enough to cast the necessary spell either way. She did, however, have one Raise Dead scroll in her possession that was provided to her by the high priests in Chendl. It is her only scroll, and the local Burgomaster is expecting that she will use it on him if the time should come that he has need of it. It is one of the few ways that she has to keep him in check, as he is otherwise a cruel tyrant to his peasants who rely on her for their protection. Because he is the lord of the land here, she is forbidden from taking any direct action against him, and so she helps the peasants as best she can. But she now knows that Heironeous himself sent the party to her aid on a quest, and she cannot deny his will. She stated if Sir Gerard and his companions would assist her in a mission, that she will use the scroll on Pontus.

“Mine is a tale of hardship and of joy; now of little importance." she said "As I have grown older I have also grown wiser. Many are my regrets, and few the deeds of which I am still proud. There is something I must do before I die. Years ago, I entrusted a very powerful magical item to a dear friend of mine. I must retrieve the item before I die . . . if I do not . . . the land may suffer and evil may fall upon the people I hold dear. Will you please help me?”

 Without any discussion with the party, Sir Gerard bowed to one knee and swore his sword to her service. Asanther then continued “There is a magical lake three days’ journey from here. The man who resides there is whom I seek. I will gladly pay you for your time with what little gold I own. Also perhaps, I shall entrust you with an item of great importance, if you are worthy.”

Sir Gerard insisted that no payment will be necessary, as it is his duty to assist her on her mission.
Asanther then prepared Pontus' body for the Raise Dead ritual, and read the scroll. After a few moments, Pontus opened his eyes heaved a breath of life. Asanther then performed some ritual healing magics on the now living Pontus to assist in restoring his body. As it was getting late, Asanther made rooms for the party to stay overnight, and prepared a simple meal for them.

Over dinner, she said “We should leave first thing in the morning. My only concerns are my lack of youth, and the possibility that I might meet resistance attempting to leave this area. Junus Jakkar, the local burgomaster, has ordered me to remain at this shrine. He fears that my departure, even for a day or two, could affect his field laborers. He is a greedy and insensitive man who fears too much. The land and its people are the most important things in my life. Even if I were to leave for a short time I would return. Janus thinks only of his fat belly. Forgive me if I speak ill of him, but he often bullies the people who work so hard to put food on his plate.”

The next morning (25th day of Flocktime), the part headed out on horseback with Asanther. The way out led through the hamlet. Asanther warned that the burgomaster's may try to stop them, and she would prefer to avoid violence. Sure enough, 10 armed and armored guards were blocking the road ahead. "Halt in the name of the burgomaster, Junus Jakkar!" one of them shouted. "Leave the good priestess with us and go quietly and no one will get hurt. Otherwise we will take her from you by force." Sir Gerard attempted to negotiate his way through the impasse, but their orders were clear. They moved in for the attack, but Sarril and Luapan were ready with Hold Person spells. The first round held about half of them, while the Sir Gerard, Jarrus and Pontus defended and did not attack. The second round, all but 1 were held, and the last guard ran away.

As they exited town, something invisible grabbed Asanther and started dragging her away. Recognizing that this was a summoned creature of some sort, Luapan cast a Dispel Magic, which succeeded, breaking the summoning charm and sending the creature away. The party then rode away on their mission, stopping after about 8 hours to let Asanther rest. Popping up the Daern's Instant Fortress, the party and their horses were able to rest inside, completely impervious to danger. They listened to some howling wolves for a while, but they eventually dispersed. And so the three-day journey continued uneventful like this.

On the evening of the second night, as the party made camp, Asanther revealed some more of her story. “The time has come,” Ansanther speaks in a voice little above a whisper, “to tell you of the wonders of the Lake of Mist. The lake is small but protected but powerful magics and surrounded by a thick mist. It can not be found on any map, But can be found with this. . .” So saying, Ansanther revealed a small, clear glass ball that was half filled with water. She continues, “Ilkif the mage once gave me this device. It will lead us to the lake through the magical mist.” As she held the item in her hand the water defied gravity and slide up the inside of the sphere. Smiling, Ansanther said, “Ilkif was always so clever. The water shows us the direction in which the lake lies. Beware though, for the mist is thick, and we must pass through it quickly, as fell things are known to live within. Lastly, beyond the mist at the edge of the lake stands the guardian. Fear not, it has never stopped me in the past.”

The next morning (28th day of Flocktime), the party continued on the road, which led into a forest. Thick mist began to surround them, and grew thicker to the point that they could only see 10 feet in any direction. They realized they could go no further with their horses, so setup the Instant Fortress and placed the horses inside, before shrinking it back down to a cube. As the party continued through the mist, shadows could be seen in the mist 20 feet out. Low to the ground and long, there were no less than 12 shadows circling them as they walked. An occasional howling could be heard. The party ignored the shadows and continued to follow the water in the glass sphere, eventually leaving the trail and arriving on the shore of a lake. The mist cleared, and they could see, suspended in the air above the center of the lake, an enormous, opaque sphere. Standing at the water's edge was a stone statue next to a brass gong. The statue struck the gong with its fist, causing a reverberation across the water. The statue then turned toward the party, raised its fists, and moved in for the attack.

"Please, tell the golem why we are here. Ilkif will hear you," pleaded Asanther in a whisper. Sir Gerard spoke to the golem, telling it that the party was escorting Asanther and that she seeks the mage, Ilkif, but the golem did not respond. It attacked first with a "slow" spell on the party, which everyone successfully saved against. Hiding behind the golem was the pixie, Snotme, who fired sleep
arrows but could not hit (the party did not notice the pixie). The party was soon in full melee, with Jarrus and Pontus attacking the golem while Sir Gerard, whose weapon was ineffective, attempted to position himself between the golem and the others.

The pixie then cast one of the few spells it had that could be effective, "Otto's Irresistable Dance," on Pontus. This took Pontus out of the fight for the next couple of rounds while the rest of the party whacked at the golem like a piƱata. With the incredible damage Jarrus is dealing out with two attacks per round, the golem didn't last long, and crumbled into pieces. Snotme, the pixie, flew to a safe location and, as the party started to approach the lake, yelled out "I wouldn't go in there if I were you! There is a big, bad, terrible monster in that lake. It will eat you up, yep, swallow you whole it will."

Ignoring the pixie, the party went to the water's edge where Asanther placed the glass sphere into the water. The sphere grew large and a door opened on the side. The party stepped inside the sphere, and
began walking as the sphere rolled across the lake surface. They reached the underside of the larger sphere, and rose up, merging into a foyer, at which point the glass bubble they were in expanded again until it merged with the larger sphere around them, placing them inside Ilkif's very strange home. The furniture was made of an opalescent substance that resembled soap bubbles, and was clearly not of this world. The upper levels of the sphere were transparent from the inside, giving a beautiful view of the lake.

As Asanther began calling for Ilkif, she feared something was wrong when she received no response. The party led her up to the third level, where they heard a faint moaning coming from behind a door. Everyone rushed in to find a man lying in bed, fevered and delirious, and possibly dying. Asanther rushed to his side  “Ilkif, my poor Ilkif. . .”, she cries. She then turned to the party and said “Please leave us alone for a time. I will do all
in my power to help or comfort him as I can. Please, our time together may be short. I also suggest that you rest, since we all know that we are safe here.”

The party decided to hang out in the main living area, as well as raid the kitchen for food. A few hours later, they heard a loud explosion come from behind the door which shook the sphere severely. Using his newly acquired Boots of Striding and Springing, Sir Gerard rushed through the door and bounded up the stairs through an open trapdoor. The room above looks like it was once a magical workshop, but was now engulfed in multi-colored flames. In the center of the room, resting on top of a burning tome, was a beautiful, glowing sword. To the right and left of the sword were the bodies of
Ansanther and Ilkif. Ilkifs left hand resting on the burning book, his right wrapped around Ansanther. Asanther lied still. Her right hand on the pommel of the shining sword.

Sir Gerard picked up the sword, and immediately knew what it was. A +5 Holy Avenger. But more than that, the sword contained the soul of Asanther, who spoke to Sir Gerard, explaining to him that it was her final wish that she be placed within the sword before she died so that she may continue to do the will of Heironeous and fight evil. She also explained that her most pressing mission is to finish a quest that she had previously failed - to kill an evil mage by the name of Xenous Zenpour. When she
was a paladin, she and her party attempted this feat and failed, with all of the members of her party being killed and she losing her arm. She had been waiting for one worthy enough to succeed where she could not, and she knows that Sir Gerard is the one.

As the party was surveying the damage, the sphere around them started to collapse and break apart. The quickly ran down the stairs and the floor beneath them fell away. Everyone grabbed onto to alien-looking furniture as they were dumped into the water. The furniture floated, allowing them to paddle to shore. As they had just been earlier discussing the need to furnish the inside of the Instant Fortress, the party decided this was the perfect opportunity and set up the fortress and placed the furniture inside before continuing. Using Pontus' outdoor tracking skills, they were able to find their way back out of the mist, recover the horses and be on their way. Since they did not have Asanther slowing them down, they were able to make it back to the Hamlet of Jakkarton in just two days, arriving the afternoon of 2nd day of Wealsun.

Back in the Hamlet there was pandemonium, as the villagers, believing their beloved priestess had been kidnapped or murdered by the party, were quickly turning into an angry mob. The burgomaster came out of his manor house along with his mage, Mercres and many guards. The burgomaster demanded justice for the kidnapping and murder of his citizen. Sir Gerard then pulled out the holy avenger sword, which spoke to the crowd in Asanther's voice, assuring them that this was her plan and the party had done a noble deed in assisting her in her dying wish. The crowd then split in two, with half of the people praising the party and getting angry at the burgomaster for his misdeeds, and the other half suspicious. The guards were afraid to act, knowing from experience the superior strength of the party, and it seemed things were at an impasse. Tythis came running up the road to see what was going on and grew concerned about the whereabouts of Asanther (as the party would soon learn that Asanther was her mother - a secret they kept to avoid the shame associated with a paladin failing her vows). Sir Gerard was able to sway the rest of the crowd to the party's side in a persuasive speech, which then turned the crowd, as well as most of the guards, against the burgomaster. Soon they were chanting for the death of Junus Jakkar, for all of the horrible treatments he had inflicted on them. Possibly not wanting to be strung-up by association, Mercres cast a spell and turned Junus Jakkar into a slug, after which he was quickly squashed to death by the citizens.

Recognizing a power vacuum, Sir Gerard insisted that law and order must prevail in the absence of the local lord and asked the villagers to elect a new leader. They gathered together and asked Tythis to be their new leader, which she cautiously agreed to. Sir Gerard then realized he will need to stay for a few days to make sure the transition of power takes place smoothly. He would help Tythis prepare for a ceremony to honor the life of her mother. During their conversation with Tythis, she expressed that she never knew her father, whom the party was able to guess must have been Ilkif. They told her all that they knew of him and Luapan gave her the burned spellbook - the only thing they had of his to give her and honor his memory (well, except for all of the furniture they crammed into the fortress, but that didn't occur to anyone at the moment). Sir Gerard and Pontus then remained in the hamlet while the rest of the party went to Greyhawk to get supplies.

While in Greyhawk, Jarrus was able to pick-up his completed full-plate armor, which he realized he
Janziduur, Priestess of Tritherion
now needs assistance with, so he advertised for a contest in the hamlet of Jakkarton to take place the following day in order to select his squire. He also visited the Temple of Tritherion, and realized he aligned very well with the teachings of this deity, and shared a lot in common with the priestess, with whom he bonded. She helped him spread the word of the contest for his squire.

After collecting some more goods in the city and taking care of other personal business, the next morning (3rd day of Wealsun), Jarrus, Sarril and Luapan rode back to Jakkarton to help setup for the ceremony. Several young men, and a few young women from Greyhawk and from the hamlet arrived to test themselves for the honor of being Jarrus' squire. It seems Jarrus (and the party) has started to develop a reputation, and many people would find it an honor to be associated with him. The contest was held and Jarrus selected a girl by the name Tonya for the prestigious job of being his squire. After seeing this, Sir Gerard decided that he will also test the candidates, to see if any might qualify to become his squire - though he has his own criteria used to judge.

And so we left it, on the 3rd Day of Wealsun, 579CY, one day before the ceremony to honor Asanther. Will Sir Gerard find his squire amongst the many hopefuls?

May 30, 2017

Pontus is Dead

Barbarians in the big city. What can you do about it?

Gerard and Pontus made their way back to the inn the evening of 22nd day of Flocktime. Sir Gerard explained the encounter with the mind flayer and that Pontus' brain had been partially eaten. Sarril placed some healing on the wounds, but it didn't seem to improve his mental condition. Sarril decided he would need to do some research in the morning, but was suspicious that the mind flayer might return, so decided to sit invisibly in Pontus and Jarrus' room, ready for something to happen. Sir Gerard went back to his own room to sleep.

Right about the stroke of midnight, four babau demons appeared in the room and impaled Jarrus to within an inch of his life. This wasn't the encounter Sarril was expecting, but he was ready. He screamed for Pontus to wake up and sent his companion, Krek, to wake up Sir Gerard. When Pontus woke up, a few rounds later, he was no longer babbling and drooling. He was fully functional, though 8 intelligence points lower than before. The fight went several rounds, with Sarril alternating between healing Jarrus and casting various enhancements on both fighters. Many scrolls were burned and potions were consumed, and Jarrus narrowly avoided death several times. Eventually, Sir Gerard showed up, and Sarril was able to get a Minor Globe of Invulnerability up, which negated the babau's gaze attack. Finally, Sarril was able to burn a scroll of Force Cage, taking two of the demons temporarily out of the fight. The tide of the battle was now turned, and the party was able to push through to victory.

Sir Gerard, who previously suspected that the Daern's Instant Fortress was cursed, now believed it was something in Jarrus' possession that was attracting these demons. Jarrus turned out his pockets and empty his bags. Something clicked. He had 24 gems taken from Zuggtmoy's throne, where previously he had 33. Nine were missing, which is exactly the number of babau they had faced so far. The party agreed the gems must be cursed. They talked about going and exchanging them at the Moneychanger's Guild, but Sir Gerard stood his ground, stating that these cursed items must be destroyed. And so Pontus placed the gems on a magic shield and smashed each one with a magic mace, just like a blacksmith using an anvil. After crushing each gem to dust, the party went back to sleep.

The next day, Sarril went to the Guild of Wizardry library to research mind flayers, while Pontus talked to Olaf, the proprietor, about how to make some money. It seems that Pontus had developed some severe amnesia, and while he knew the names of his party members, he couldn't remember anything that happened over the last couple of days, and he had only vague, sporadic memories of anything prior to that. Olaf explained to Pontus, once again, how he could make money fighting in the The Pit. Pontus thanked Olaf and made immediate plans to join the fights that evening. In the meantime, Sarril's research didn't return promising news. Few people were ever known to survive an Illithid attack, and those few who had were never the same again. Still, he thought to take Pontus to the Temple of St. Cuthbert to see if they could help. After making an excessively large donation, he was able to meet directly with the High Priestess Eritai Kaan-Ipzirel, who expressed that this was definitely uncharted territory. She did have an Elixir of Health, which cures Feeblemindedness, and it was possible that his affliction is similar and this could help, though there was no guarantee. She also expressed it was their last potion, and they did not have the ability to make more at this time. She asked why Pontus was more worthy of this potion than her own paladins. Pontus replied that he was not worthy, and that St. Cuthbert has already helped him more than he deserves. Both Sarril and Pontus agreed that when the time comes that St. Cuthbert calls for their help, they will provide it. This pleased the High Priestess, who sold the potion to them. Pontus drank it right away. It did not have an immediate effect, and the high priestess explained that if it is going to work at all, it may take some time.

(DM's Note: I decided that brain injuries are going to heal slowly for anything short of a Wish or direct divine intervention. I established a rule that each morning, Pontus will have a percentage chance equal to his constitution score to heal one point of intelligence that day. With each point of intelligence recovered, he will get some portion of his memories back. Even though his brain has been physically healed, this represents the slow process of reorganizing his thoughts and memories)


Aestrella Ashfarel
That afternoon, Jarrus went out to check on his armor, which was coming along nicely, and Pontus went out to buy some horses. Pontus got distracted along the way by a beautiful woman who turned out to be Aestrella Ashfarel, Grand Diva of the Opera House (who was "slumming" in a little-known sweet shop run by some women in the Artisan's District, where she could get away from her fans that recognize her). Aestrella was incredibly charming, and Pontus was once again in love. He insisted that she come to the pits to watch him fight to prove his love to her. Aestrella, who had given the name "Astrid" to Pontus in order to keep her identity secret, was amused by this, but explained that she had other commitments. Nonetheless, she hopes to see him again. Despite this distraction, Pontus was able to eventually make his way to the stables outside of the gates and buy four horses.

That evening, Pontus was really excited about fighting in the Pits - despite having never been to any of the fights and having no idea what to expect. While still in his room at the inn, he strapped umberhulk mandibles to his forearms, fashioned a mask out of various monster teeth he had collected and then smeared blood across his chest in the shape of crow wings. Jarrus decided he would go with Pontus, as his manager to be in his corner. It should prove amusing at least. Sarril decided to catch-up later, and Sir Gerard wanted no part of such nonsense, instead spending his time in the common room of the inn, listening to the conversations around him and trying to learn all he can about what is going on in Greyhawk.

Jarrus lent Pontus a cloak to cover up his accoutrements, and followed him to the secret place where he was able to give the correct password to get into the Pit underground. Inside was a seedy, crowded place. The Pit was a small, round arena below the floor where people could gather around and lean over a small wall to watch the fights. Some assigned seating was above, where it was clear that wealthy merchants and other important people could sit. And above that were special boxes where nobility of various sorts could watch. One of the boxes, which extended slightly over the pit on the opposite side, contained a shadowy figure who seemed to be in charge of the place. Off to one side of the pit was a cage, where Pietain Morvannis, Manager of the Pit, sat. Jarrus was able to speak to Pietain and get Pontus (whom he introduced as "The Umberhulk") added to the list for the Non-lethal Gladiator category. There were three type of fights that evening. Wrestling, Non-Lethal Gladiator (which uses blunt weapons, no armor, allows tap-out/surrender, and the rules prevent a killing blow to a knocked out opponent), and Full Gladiator (essentially no rules). Sarril arrived a bit later, and when he heard the announcement that The Umberhulk would be fighting Strom the Mad with 10:1 odds, Sarril immediately began placing large wagers on the Umberhulk.

After some silly wrestling matches that seemed to be popular with the older crowds, the Non-Lethal Gladiator combat began, and the place really filled up. Jarrus and Pontus were taken down into a waiting room to get ready. The first fight was between Eglantine, an extremely nimble fighter, and Grunk the Destroyer, a large half-orc who had previously tried to start trouble with Sir Gerard at the inn that morning. Shields, clubs and maces were spread around the arena. Eglantine elegantly grabbed his weapons and started striking Grunk from all sides. Grunk was slow and having a lot of trouble hitting him. Eglantine started getting cheered on by the crowd, and at one point turned to smile and raise his hands up (popular fighters get paid more by the house to fight, so this is a common tactic). Unfortunately for Eglantine, Grunk took advantage of this posturing to land a solid blow to his head, exploding Eglantine's brains across the side of the pit. So much for non-lethal combat, but accidents do happen, and its part of the game.

Next up was The Umberhulk (Pontus) vs. Strom the Mad. This was Pontus' moment. This was what he had been waiting for. He rushed out in full regalia, screaming his barbarian roar, getting the crowd stirred up. The fight lasted a while, but this gave The Umberhulk that much more time to work the crowd into a frenzy. By the end of the match, they were shouting his name. The Umberhulk took a lot of blows, but his injuries only fueled his rage. Victory was soon his. As the crowd shouted his name, he reached down to his unconscious opponent, ripped off his ears and tossed them into the crowd. The crowd gasped in horror. Some became sick to their stomachs. But some were even more excited. But Pontus broke the rules. He attacked his opponent after the fight. Guards immediately rushed into the Pit and escorted Pontus away and back into the preparation room. On his way out, he looked up and saw the shadowy figure in the box above smiling at him. But in the back room, Jarrus gave him an earful (no pun intended) about what was wrong with what he just did. After some time, a messenger came in to say the next fight would be between The Umberhulk and Grunk the Destroyer. It seems the crowd has tasted blood, and now they want more. Pontus was more than happy to fight again.

Jarrus went out to find Sarril, who was collecting his substantial winnings from the first fight, and already placing bets on the Umberhulk vs. Grunk match. He brought Sarril back to heal Pontus before
Grunk the Destroyer
the next match. Sarril gave him the last of his healing potions, which were able to bring him back to full health. Then the announcement was made, and Pontus went out into the arena to face his opponent.

Pontus again screamed his barbarian yell, but this time it was met in return by a deafening, inhuman sounding roar from his opponent. The match began, and both man and half-orc went for their weapons and shield, both selecting clubs. Though the odds were 2:1 in Grunk's favor, the actual match was much closer. Both combatants were of the same level. Grunk had a clear strength advantage (19 STR) and was specialized with a club, giving him +1 to hit and +2 damage. But his constitution was not substantial, so his it points were only slightly above average for a fighter, and he had an average dexterity, making his AC 9 with a shield. Pontus, on the other hand, had only a +1 strength bonus, but had ridiculous dexterity and constitution bonuses with his barbarian class doubling them. He had triple the hit point average of a fighter of the same level and his natural AC was 4, 3 with a shield. This was the fight Pontus was itching for. This was the fight that would prove his combat superiority.

But +9 damage on each hit was starting to add up fast. Pontus did land a critical hit at one point, but couldn't make the follow-up damage roll count. Grunk also got a critical hit in, doing over 30 points of damage in one round. Things were not looking good for Pontus. Pretty soon, Pontus was down to 3 hit points, and it was Grunk's attack. With +9 damage, there was no question that another hit would take Pontus into negative HP territory, and a roll of 5 or 6 on the damage die would completely kill him. But Grunk only got one attack this next round, so he could miss entirely. At this point Pontus was given the opportunity to surrender the match, or keep going. There was not a second of hesitation in Pontus' mind, of course he continues the fight. And so I rolled the attack roll for Grunk. . . 20 - critical hit! I rolled a 5 for damage, bringing the total to 28 ([5+9]*2). Pontus was very, very dead.

DM's Note: At this point I realized that I had been giving Grunk +11 for damage instead of +9, because I was double-counting the specialization by mistake. I went back and recalculated the damage, and it turned out Pontus did not have 3 hit points left, he had 12 or so, which would have kept him alive if it wasn't for the critical hit. But he was still dead either way.

The shadowy figure in the box above smiled widely, then walked away. The crowd cheered Grunk's name as Jarrus and Sarril collected the pay and carried the dead body of Pontus back to the inn, where they explained to Sir Gerard what had taken place. Sir Gerard insisted that they head out to the Village of Jakkarton the next day to visit the priestess of Heironeous named Asanthar, whom he was certain would be able to resurrect him. And with that, the party rested for the night.

The next morning, Gerard (not knowing that Pontus had already bought horses) purchased four horses while Sarril went to the Guild of Wizardry to buy some fantastic, and expensive, magical items for the party. It is now noon on the 24th Day of Flocktime, 579CY.