Mar 31, 2017

Meet the Player Characters: Shan-Ju

Shan-Ju: Human (Backluni) Monk

Hidden high within the peaks of the Ulsprue mountains there lies a temple. Falla-nil it is called, in the ancient tongue. The last of the four original monasteries built by the Al D'ai Shatain after the ascension of Zuoken, and the only one to survive the Invoked Devastation, Falla-Nil's sole purpose was to protect the last of the ancient artifacts known as the Scrolls of Zuoken. Or at least one quarter of them, as the remaining were dispersed to the other three monasteries and are believed lost forever. While the monastery is still active, it is but a shadow of its former self. After Zuoken stopped appearing to his followers around the year CY 505, many of the Al D'ai Shatain became D'ar es Shalim, "those who wander," and set out into the world in search for answers.

But those who stayed behind looked for their master another way. They sought his spirit within themselves. By focusing on his teachings and working to perfect their physical and mental disciplines, each step brought them closer to his essence. Some believed that if they achieved a high-enough level of mastery, they would come to find more than just the essence of Zuoken, but might find the demi-god himself on another plane, for the Scrolls of Zuoken teach that with enough focus, one can transport themselves anywhere within the multiverse. So far, none have achieved the level of mental discipline necessary to accomplish such a feat, but this may only be because a human lifespan is short, and the amount of practice necessary to achieve such perfection is more than most can give. But this only makes the Al D'ai Shatain try that much harder.

Shan-Ju was a promising student at the Falla-nil monastery who was raised with such teachings. The masters saw potential in him that they had not seen in generations. But it seems that some gifts come at a price. Shan-Ju, whose name honors the circumstances of Zuoken's ascension, knew he was gifted and, in turn, was impatient to learn new techniques and skills, always pushing to try things before it was time, and often resulting in difficult lessons. The biggest lesson of his life would come when he reached the 7th rank, and earned the coveted title of Master of Secrets. This title took on new meaning in recent history, for now the secret that is revealed to those who have proven themselves this far is that Zuoken is no longer in the world. Though the Disciples of Zuoken are not clerics and they do not pray to their god, he still appeared to them in visions or avatar form from time to time, until just over 70 years ago. No one has reported any contact since. Shan-Ju learned that a few years ago, another group of D'ar es Shalim left the monastery to go east, where they are talking to sages and wizards trying to use divination to reach him. There are many theories as to what has happened to Zuoken, but to Shan-Ju, the most obvious is that he must be lost somewhere on another plane, and if his followers could reach him, they may be able to guide him back.

The masters did not want to indulge such thinking, and tried to refocus Shan-Ju's thoughts, but he couldn't turn away. It became a personal quest for him. He needed to know for certain. The Scrolls of Zuoken were forbidden to him, but he knew the secret for extra-planar travel was hidden within. One day, he snuck into the secret place where the scrolls were located and he began to read through until he found what he needed. The secret that no monk has been known to have mastered before. If anyone could do this, he could. Shan-Ju read what he needed, and began to focus his mind.

The planes are nearly limitless. Where should he go first? He decided the Elemental Plane of Earth would be a safe place to start his journey. At first nothing happened, but Shan-Ju practiced what he had learned every day of every month for several months. Its wasn't easy. His mind clearly was not yet disciplined enough for such a feat, but he knew he would get there if he kept trying. Eventually, he was able to blink away for a moment before snapping back to the temple. So he tried again, and this time, when he saw the rocky caves before him that he knew to be the earth plane, he kept his focus, straining harder and harder. The image was holding, so he pushed his mind harder. And then he felt his body propel forward, leaving the prime material plane. As the prime material plane fell away before him, he caught a glimpse of a deep void. From this void came tendrils of swirling black and purple that seemed to wrap around him, and then pull him. Something was wrong. He was no longer in control. He tried to regain focus and fight this thing that had ahold of him. He strained his mind on the image of the rocky cave, snapping free of the tendrils and slamming into a rock wall. Wounded and dizzy, he looked around, relieved and proud that it seemed to work.

Shan-Ju then set about his mission, exploring a vast underground cavern that was the elemental plane of earth. But after a few days, he began to realize the place he was in was small, only a mile or two across at most. The elemental plane of earth should be nearly infinite in size. If this is the elemental plane of earth, he was trapped inside a pocket. He wandered around some more and eventually found a portal which led to another elemental plane. There were four in all, water, fire, air and earth with more portals leading in and out of each one, and no shortage of danger in any of them. They were all small in size and only connected by the portals to each other. He tried to focus again to shift back to the prime-material plane, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't make even the slightest progress. It seemed he was trapped in this place.

It would be another week or so before he ran into the party. . .

Mar 27, 2017

9th Day of Flocktime, CY 579 (online session)

We've been leaving off on a lot of cliffhangers recently, which is good, because it keeps the players coming back. This time, we left off with a severely injured party, two members dead and one just teleported away to the gods know where. So where did Sarril go? Here is his story (we played this party out online, in preparation for our next session). . .

It turns out the touching the garnet power gem instantly transports the wielder to the center of the Fire Node, an oppressively hot dungeon full of carved hallways and doors. Within every crack in the floor spewed hot lava, making it an inhospitable environment indeed. Sarril was out of touch with his familiar, Krek, and unable to gain the extra benefits provided by him. Lucky for Sarril, the power gem made him immune to the environmental effects of the Fire Node. As he was collecting his bearings, another human walked into the room. The man carried a sword and shield but wore no armor. The stranger immediately said to Sarril "if you want to live, take off your armor now!"

Sarril wasn't sure what to make of this man - was he threatening him? The man repeated "I'm serious, take that armor off now. The heat of this place will kill you." Realizing there might be something to what the man was saying, Sarril removed his armor and stripped down to the bare minimum of clothing. The man immediately offered to take Sarril to a safe place, and Sarril followed.

The two walked down the hall to a door which was stuck tight. The man slammed his shoulder into the door and forced it open, then went inside with Sarril, and forced the door closed behind them. He then offered food and water to Sarril, and Sarril responded with his own Decanter of Endless Water, which was a welcome item to have in this place. The man introduced himself as Sir Gerard of House Hugard, from the Viscounty of the Reach in Furyondy, a paladin of Heironeous and proud member of the Order of the Hart. He could sense that Sarril was not evil, and that makes him a welcome addition to this place.

The two spoke for a while, introducing themselves and explaining how they got to where they are. Sarril told about the party he was with and their quest to find the gems necessary to destroy the evil artifact - a quest that Sir Gerard found to be noble. Sir Gerard explained that after many years serving as a squire for the Knights of the Hart, he was finally raised to full knighthood as a paladin and on his very first mission, he was given the honor of being part of Prince Thrommel's cavalcade as he rode to Veluna to be married. He doesn't remember what happened on the road as he was knocked unconscious by a spell early on, but he woke up in a cell inside the Temple of Elemental Evil. He was tortured and questioned for months about troop details at Castle Hart, but he never provided any answers. One day, out frustration, he was tossed into a portal and ended up here. That was years ago, by his estimate. Since then, he has watched many people show up here - almost all of whom eventually become food for the dragons or other beasts. But Sir Gerard's strong will and quick wit have managed to keep him safe. This is a test from Heironeous, who is saving him for some greater purpose. Perhaps Sarril's appearance here is a sign.

Sir Gerard also explained to Sarril all about the four nodes and what types of creatures could be found there. The water and air nodes being the most dangerous because they are open-air and therefore the party would be most susceptible to the dragons hunting overhead. Each node has multiple  dragons. Earth = black, Fire = Red, Water = White and Air = Blue. Sir Gerard goes to the water node only to collect water and to kill some of the aquatic creatures for food, but returns as quickly as possible, avoiding the other nodes. He also explained who some of the other inhabitants of the nodes were - all of them evil, so Sir Gerard would never ally with them to try to find a way out. But the arrival of a party of non-evil adventurers on a quest for good is what he has been waiting for.

Sarril then mentioned that the rest of his party would be looking for him, and he needed to get back to them immediately. Sir Gerard then equipped himself and escorted Sarril through the hallways of the Fire Node dungeon, opening stuck doors and closing them behind as they went, until they reached a portal leading to the Earth Node, and stepped into it.

Mar 26, 2017

8th Day of Flocktime, CY 579 (continued)

Continuing from the previous session, it is still the 8th Day of Flocktime and the party is down one barbarian. They decided to take the time to carefully search the area for the elemental power gem(s). (DM Note: this was the first session after I instituted new house rules regarding the timing of searches, and this resulted in more random monster rolls while the party was doing this). Athan managed to find a couple of ochre jellies (or they found him) while searching around. The jellies immediately began attacking him, hitting him with blobs of acidic jelly that burned his flesh. As he screamed in pain, the rest of the party rushed in to help, attacking the jellies with everything they had. Athan started using Magic Missile to hit the jelly that was starting to crawl onto his body. It was having an affect, but he was still getting hit multiple times every round. When he was down to only a couple of hit points, Luapan asked if needed healing, but Athan proudly answered "no, I'm okay, I got this" before getting hit twice more, taking him to -13 damage.

The rest of the party managed to kill the jellies before they made a complete meal of their former party member, but he was otherwise beyond saving. They placed his body in the portable hole, along with statue-Pontus, in case they should be able to find a way to bring him back - though the clerics knew that would be nearly impossible to do for an elf. And so the tragic story of Athan came to an end.

As the party was finishing up their fight with the jellies, a strangely robed man with a shaved head appeared before them, swinging a glaive-guisarm. After the fight, he introduced himself as Shan-Ju, a Disciple of Zuoken who found himself unfortunately trapped in this strange place after botched attempt at planar travel. He had been here for a few weeks, staying out of sight, looking for a way out. He was watching the party for some time, seeing if they were people he could trust, and decided to reveal himself when he realized they were good people. The party accused him of not helping their friend, but he insisted he did try. To prove his trustworthiness, he would reveal to them everything he knew about this place. He started by drawing a map, and pointing out where the worsts dangers were. He also led them to a place he determined would be safe for rest.

The party, severely wounded and out of spells, knew they had to rest somewhere in this inhospitable place, so they followed the monk down a tunnel and into an alcove where the the natural dangers of falling rocks, etc., did not seem to be severe. The party setup watches and got some very limited sleep. They were attacked in the middle of the night by Xaern's - strange rock creatures that eat metal weapons and absorb their magic. The party managed not to lose any gear, but the encounter prevented them from getting a full rest. The next morning (assuming it was morning), Sarril recognized that they needed to find these gems quickly, as every minute spent in this place was wearing the party down, and they already lost two members already. He had the brilliant idea to use a Potion of Treasure Finding that he had recovered from portable hole in Senshock's quarters. Using the potion, he was able to determine the direction of treasure, which appeared to be in a large cavern to the south, according to the map that Shan-Ju drew for them. He hoped the gems they were looking for would be there.

Taking the most direct route, Sarril, Jarrus, Luapan and Shan-Ju came to the cavern where they were immediately attacked by Chaggrin Grues - nasty creatures from the elemental plane earth that stick their claws in their victims and rip them apart. The grues gained a surprise round by rising up out of the earth to attack the party. Some party members got claws stuck in them, taking auto-damage every round. There were five grues and four party members, ensuring that everyone got at least one set of claws, with some taking two sets. It was all Luapan and Sarril could do to keep healing everyone while Jarrus and Shan-Ju fought them off. It was another very near TPK, but the party managed to survive. Everyone was near death, healing spells were mostly used up, but everyone was still breathing.

Sarril found the treasure pile and, using Detect Magic, tried to quickly find the gem he was looking for. He found it in the form of a garnet, and as soon as he touched it, he disappeared, leaving Jarrus, Luapan and Shan-Ju alone in the cavern on approximately the morning of the 9th Day of Flocktime - at least for those back on Oerth.

Mar 5, 2017

8th Day of Flocktime, CY 579

We started the session with the party having just released an "elf" with blue hair and blue skin from the mirror. The strangely attired, and strange looking, elf attempted to speak with the party using a variety of different unrecognizable languages before Sarril said something in Ancient Suloise that was understood. The elf asked where they were and what year it was, and then asked Sarril to hand over the mirror. As the elf started to cast a spell, Sarril handed over the mirror and the elf's spell destroyed it, releasing Athan, several horses and squirrels, and an apparently human figure in red robes with arcane symbols on it, and a water weird. The party didn't get much of a chance to assess the situation before what Sarril believes was a time-stop spell was cast. Within a blink, the blue elf, the red-robed man and the water weird were gone, leaving behind Athan, the horses and the squirrels.

The party decided to look for a new place to rest, being that this building was demolished. They settled on an abandoned temple of St Cuthbert, which was still mostly intact due to its solid stone construction. While the magic users did their thing, Athan and Luapan and Jarrus went exploring. Jarrus walked around town to see what the townspeople were like (answer = skiddish) whole Pontus and Luapan investigated the broken mage tower. While nothing of value was discovered in the tower, the eerie shadows moving inside indicated it was not entirely empty. Pontus managed to fall through two flights of rotten stairs and got some splinters in his butt, but is otherwise okay. The party spent two nights in the temple, discovering on the second night that demonic creatures were circling overhead, and realized it was time to get moving again. So on the morning of the 7th day of Flocktime, the party headed back to the temple to look for the power gems needed to complete, and then hopefully destroy, the skull. Finding a, once again empty temple, they headed straight the portal teleporting them to the Earth Elemental Node (demi-plane of earth).

This harsh environment, resembling a series of caves winding and twisting every which way, was filled with dusty, very cold air that was hard to breathe and difficult to see in. The environment was also dealing damage from falling debris every turn. The party soon learned they can limit the damage by use of helms and shields, though the visibility and general cold continues to be a problem. Following the caves around, the party eventually came to a lair of a small black dragon protecting two eggs. While the two fighters managed to make short work of the dragon, its mate was sneaking up from behind to hit the remaining party with its breath weapon. Sarril managed to avoid it altogether, while Athan made his save. Unfortunately, Luapan failed to save and his clothing and most of his skin was burned/melted off by the caustic acid. He dropped to -4 hit points. Athan released a lightning bolt, followed by Sarril shooting magic missiles, bringing the second dragon down. Sarril was then able to fully heal Luapan, who, in addition to losing his clothes, lost some of his items due to the acid as well.

The party explored further, running across a couple of Galeb Durr (earth-elemental type creatures with magic abilities). The party decided to talk to the Galeb Durr, who expressed appreciation for dispatching the black dragons who were not respectful of the earth. The galeb durr warned the party about the gorgons up ahead, which ended up being the next encounter. The party found a large cavern full of stone statues - a sure sign that this is where the gorgons must reside. Because of the extremely
low visibility with the dust, the party was unable to see the gorgons, but Pontus heard their breath, which prevented a surprise attack. Two gorgons attacked, with the first being quickly dispatched by Pontus and Jarrus working in unison, but the second turning Pontus to stone with its breath weapon before being dispatched by the rest of the party.

To keep statue-Pontus safe from breaking, the party placed it in the portable hole before checking their inventory and determining that no one has a stone-to-flesh scroll. Luapan (at the time being voiced by Ian since Graham had to leave early), wisely suggested speaking with the galeb durr again. Unfortunately, stone-to-flesh is not a spell they were capable of, so at this time, Pontus is to remain a statue unless/until someone can figure something out.

It is the afternoon of the 8th Day of Flocktime, in the year CY 579 - with the party trapped in a demi-plane somewhere. . .