Aereth 2010

Session 3 recap: When Birds Cry "Die!"

The lineup of heroes is as follows:
Mike: Tarthon, minotaur barbarian
Steve: Grumhorn, a.k.a. “Grue,” dwarf invoker
Felix: Manael, tiefling bard
Willie: Kheiron, githzerai seeker
Me: Graaver Stormcry, longtooth shifter druid-fighter

Unfortunately, neither Willie nor Mike could attend this session. Nevertheless, we wrestled with Tarthon’s character sheet (MANY cool abilities) and co-ran him for the entire session. (Kheiron’s sheet wasn’t available, so DM ruling was that he went out for smokes.) And did I mention that we’ve all reached 4th level now? Huzzah! On we go…

After the disturbing encounter with the two beholders, we reach the small town of Southwatch just as the dark clouds finally release a torrent of rain upon us. Wet, hungry, and a bit freaked out, we make our way to an inn — the Low Lantern — where the few patrons are a little disturbed by our sudden appearance. (Yeah, when a dwarf is the closest thing to “normal” in your D&D party, you’re going to get stares!) The proprietor tells us that there are no rooms available, but he suggests we see “Mother Myere” a couple of blocks away. She’s taken pity on traveling adventurers before, and she might be able to put us up for the night, even though it may mean crowding into one room. We’re not picky!

Stormcry asks the proprietor whether he has seen any unusual goblin activity in the area lately. (We do want to know why two FREAKIN’ BEHOLDERS wiped out a goblin camp.) He answers that last night was the second night of the full moon, which is often a bad omen, and that “lots of eyes are on the goblins” lately because of the increase in goblin movement. (Hmm, could the goblins have been fleeing or forced out of an area?) We assure the proprietor that we’re not here to cause trouble for anyone — we just want a place to crash. The proprietor is welcoming, but he says that where adventurers go, trouble follows.

Left alone with food and drink for a few minutes, we quickly discuss what the frak happened today. We share knowledge of beholders and review the items that we gathered in the cave complex: the ledger (written in code), the metallic triangle, the necklace, and the written reference “I must go back to the Star.” We decide that we’ll head at dawn toward the larger city of Rockport, where we should be able to pay a wizard or sage to help us figure out whether any of this will steer us toward Captain Longshanks’ treasure. ARRRRR!

We trudge back across the muddy streets to Mother Myere’s place. She indeed agrees to let us stay, and is pleasantly surprised to get money in advance. (She hasn’t had the best luck getting money from other adventurers she’s met.) She leads us to one large room on the third and topmost floor. The only other guest is on a floor at the end of our hallway. Mother says his name is Taraghan — which sounds familiar to both Stormcry and Grue, though we can’t place it. We agree not to disturb the unknown quantity in the building. Yeaahhhhh… about that…

Several hours later, we hear a thud. Then silence. It sounds like it came from the room at the end of the hallway. Stormcry and Tarthon are out first. Taraghan doesn’t respond to our pounding on the door. When Stormcry hears a shuffling of papers, we break the door open to see the body of a man, presumably Taraghan, slumped across a desk — and a window thrown wide open in the driving rain! Below is a small, dark-cloaked figure running across the slick rooftop of the adjacent building! The invoker Grue unleashes a Sun Strike, hitting yet not stopping the figure! Stormcry shifts into wolf form and leaps down, followed a second later by the minotaur Tarthon. Manael checks the body and discovers that he’s dead, Jim.

The rooftop chase is on! It’s a wild sequence, requiring many Acrobatics checks to keep one’s balance and avoid sliding off the slick surface. Tarthon falls! Fortunately, it’s not a big drop, and Tarthon can still tell what’s going on above, but it leaves Stormcry in solo pursuit. On the next rooftop, he catches up with the assassin — who has a beak! And is covered in blue and black feathers! No, it’s not Lady Gaga — it’s a kenku! Stormcry reassumes humanoid form and grapples the bird-like creature. Gotcha! But spikes pop out of its belt, stabbing Stormcry — with a dose of poison, to boot! Stormcry uses the newly retrained utility Ferocious Transformation to instantly shift back to wolf form and get some distance, followed by Call Forth the Spirit Pack. Spectral lions knock the kenku down. “You’re not leaving this alive,” growls Stormcry. Meanwhile, Manael jumps down from Taraghan’s window to join the pursuit, while Grue looks down, says “Yeah, right,” and proceeds to search the room for clues.

The kenku hops up and does some crazy wing attack that blinds the druid-fighter. Unable to see, Stormcry nevertheless tries to pounce on where he thinks the kenku is … and hits! And here’s the fun part: The kenku was about to clamber down a storm pipe at that moment, so both bird-man and pissed-off wolf go off the edge! They land in the alleyway — in front of Tarthon, who had been following their movements. The kenku is cat food, right? Nope! Over the next few rounds, the kenku proves itself a match for Stormcry and Tarthon combined! After much fluttering, multiple uses of belt spikes, a natural 20 on Tarthon, and the barbarian’s retaliatory (and VERY damaging) Howling Strike, all three combatants are in rough shape. And in the middle of this, Stormcry is overwhelmed by the sensation that they’re being observed and that someone is rummaging through his thoughts! Holy Charles Xavier, Batman! Fortunately, the length of the battle has allowed Manael to reach the scene! [Good persistence, Felix.] The tiefling bard begins to sing the Canon of Avoidance, which bolsters Tarthon’s defenses against the attack of the killer kenku.

The fight continues! The kenku’s belt spikes poison Stormcry for a third time and then he’s stabbed for good measure (ouch!), but he’s able to land a solid punch and grab from Grappling Strike. Tarthon gets in a solid Howling Strike [Steve represented Tarthon quite well during this combat, Mike!], although the kenku stabs the minotaur with another natural 20 (double ouch!). Finally, Manael the bard speaks… The Killing Joke! A few seconds of Vicious Mockery sets the kenku up for the tiefling’s sword stroke, FINALLY slaying the assassin. Phew!

Being good adventurers, we promptly search the body. We find a pouch, which — bearing in mind the lessons of Macarthur Park — we chose not to open in the rain. After hiding the body in an alley, we head back to Mother Myere’s and give her the bad news: Taraghan won’t be paying rent anymore. Upon hearing of the longtime resident’s death, she’s suspicious of us. I don’t understand! Why should she be suspicious of a tiefling, minotaur, and longtooth shifter who announce that her only other guest is dead within hours of their … oh, I see now.

We now rejoin our show, “Grue the Armor-Clad Searching Invoker,” already in progress. Grue has found a tome or journal, yet the writing is as indecipherable as an episode of the new Hawaii Five-O. With the four of us reunited – and wondering how long until the villagers grab the torches and pitchforks – we conduct another examination. Stormcry finds a small strip of metal (bookmark sized) with a crystal “keyhole” at one end. Manael peers through the crystal at the writing in the tome. Success! It’s a history of the region, with sections on “Old History” and “Past Civilizations.” (And no, the crystal keyhole doesn’t help a bit with the ledger we found in the caves.) From what we can tell, the crystal lens came in a package with the note, “Hammet welcomes you. Come by the Old Gate.” More stuff to ponder at a later time since – yep, it’s the angry mob of villagers!

At this point, Manael the tiefling bard takes over the talking. OK, yes, the Diplomat in Devil Horns may not seem like an ideal option, but it’s the best we have! After Manael buys us a teeny bit of time to prove our goodness (or at least our non-evilness!), we escort the mob concerned townspeople through the rain-soaked streets to the alley with the kenku assassin’s corpse. [And with, oh, the LONNNNGEST of pauses, Rick made us think that the body was gone. Bastard! (That’s a compliment when you’re talking about the DM.)]

Mollified, the villagers lead us back to the local Knights of Columbus hall, where we discuss Taraghan’s murder with the village elders. We promise to provide news of the assassin’s boss, and perhaps his head. The elders are cool with this; Taraghan was well liked. We open the pouch that was found on the kenku. It contains 4 garnets and a note: “Taraghan — Long Street. Usual errand. Payment will arrive at the lighthouse.” The note ends with the symbol of a dagger and a black flower (a lotus?).

Stormcry and Grue suddenly realize why Taraghan’s name sounded so familiar. Translation: We’re reminded of a rumor that DM Rick had posted on our campaign’s page on Obsidian Portal:

A sage in Tarrasine was found murdered and his apartment ransacked, the second such murder this year. An unusual black feather was found at the scene, but little else in the way of clues. Other sages have taken to hiring protection or purchasing guard dogs. It is said Taraghan of Southwatch and Elbarr of Rockport are actively seeking bodyguards and neither has left their residence recently.

Well, it sure looks like Elbarr of Rockport had better up his life insurance. The “Lighthouse” in question must be the dilapidated one just outside of town. After getting to our bed(s) and getting some sleep, we go there. It’s a sunny morning, although obviously the ground is still muddy. As we approach, we see that the lighthouse is in pretty bad shape, and there’s an old boathouse right next to it. Expecting trouble, Stormcry and Tarthon burst open the boathouse’s door just as Grue releases an Astral Wind into the building … dramatically rocking the boats that are on the floor or hanging on frayed ropes. Hmm, that was anticlimactic. Grue and Stormcry move in. We see a glistening shape on the floor near the back. Just then, an orc-sized spider drops behind Tarthon and Manael at the entrance, as the glistening sac split open to reveal a horde of tiny and very hungry red spiders! Ay yi yi!

With a disgusted grunt, Stormcry grabs one of the adjacent boats and overturns it on top of the red spiders — and gets all of them! [There were 16 baby spiders. After Stormcry’s Strength check to flip the boat, Rick rolled 2d8 to see how many would be trapped. He rolled two 8’s! Huzzah!] Grue turns and uses Astral Wind to push Mama Spider out of the boathouse and away from Tarthon and Manael. The tiefling misses with War Song Strike, but Tarthon gives the spider a savage whack with Pressing Strike.

The flipped-over boat starts to rock with the agitated movement of the red spiders. Stormcry readies his axe for some spider-squishing duty while Grue manages to get his Astral Wind partially under the boat and slay some of the little buggers. The Grue-Stormcry combo of ranged blast and melee squish ends up being very effective over the next several rounds. A few spiders crawl out at a time, Grue blasts some, Stormcry whacks the stragglers. Rinse, repeat. [Rick said flipping the boat made a huge difference. Each spider bite does 2 poison and gives you 5 vulnerability to poison. So if one spider bites you, you’ll take more damage from the next spider! Yikes.]

Meanwhile, Tarthon and Manael takes turns on Mama Spider, who isn’t having much luck hurting either the barbarian or the bard. After Manael bloodies it with War Song Strike, Tarthon slams it with Goring Charge. The badly injured spider hops away and flees from the scene. Watch for her on Oprah’s network next week: “Adventurers Killed My Children.”

The four of us make our way to the lighthouse, well aware that if anyone inside didn’t know of our presence before, they certainly do now. We can see that the weather-ravaged exterior of the lighthouse is pockmarked with holes. The first floor is rectangular and juts out a bit from the main circular structure. A peek through the grimy windows shows the remains of an office or work area. Stormcry says, “This reeks of trap.” He decides not to go through the front door and, with Manael’s help, climbs onto the roof of the first floor and heads for the outside of the lighthouse proper.

As his friends watch, he climbs toward a gap on what should be the second floor. He peers through the opening — and sees a kenku pointing a crossbow right at Stormcry’s face.

And that’s where we ended it. [Nice lighthouse-by-the-cliffhanger, Rick!] Next session is scheduled for this Sunday. Hopefully, the recap of that session will be done in less time.

—Ken

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Session 2 recap: Underground puzzles and arrival of the beholders

At some point between the first session and this one, our group was subjected to the Retcon Virus. Remember Daanith, the tiefling warlock (played by the Group Gestalt in Felix’s absence)? This is not the tiefling you’re looking for… Daanith was Never Here. The group’s tiefling pal has always been the bard Manael. Got that? I mean, we would have been nuts to go into combat without a healer in the group, right?

Here’s the “new” lineup of our pack of 3rd-level heroes:
Mike: Tarthon, minotaur barbarian
Steve: Grumhorn, a.k.a. “Grue,” dwarf invoker
Felix: Manael, tiefling bard
Willie: Kheiron, githzerai seeker (!)
Me: Graaver Stormcry, longtooth shifter druid-fighter

We pick up right where we left off: in the cave complex within the cove. High tide is starting to come in, and there’s one passage as yet unexplored. It leads to a fairly large cave, with a massive square-shaped, altar-like stone in the center, about 12 feet to a side. Yeah, probably not naturally occurring. No other apparent openings. We move closer and notices that there are symbols on the top of the altar, largely obscured by muck. Tarthon scrapes away some of the gunk – and we all hear a grinding or whirring sound. Uh oh. Ahh, what the heck, let’s all scrape away some gunk and see what happens! [This “what the heck” approach will reappear later.] The “altar” is actually a puzzle board of nine square pieces. But what is the scrambled image? Hmm, could be a pirate fl— THUNK! Stormcry is hit by a crossbow bolt fired from a hidden recess in the stone wall! Message for you, sir!

[At this point, Rick places the nine scrambled pieces on the table and says, “You have 8 seconds before the next bolt fires. Starting…NOW!” Holy Jeff Probst, Batman! It’s a Survivor contest!]

A couple of more bolts fire before we’re able to put the pieces in the right order and avoid Tribal Council. Yep, it’s a very pirate-y symbol: a skull resting on top of crossed swords. [Insert shameless plug for my Foreshadows story here.] Upon completion, a massive stone slab slides down from the back wall to reveal a sharp stone decline down into a pool of brackish water. A flickering brown light is visible from somewhere in the pool – then it disappears. A strong odor of rotting seaweed – and something else – assaults our nostrils. More aquatic undead? Good bet. But if we’re to get a solid clue regarding Captain Longshanks’ treasure, descend we must! First, though, let’s search! We find a pearl-pommel dagger in an old leather sheath and a silver necklace.

Stormcry ties a rope around himself and, with Tarthon holding the other end at the top of the slope, he wades into the water. It’s very claustrophobic; the water level is up to his shoulders – and rising – and there are only a few inches of space above his head. But this hazard is minor compared to the aquatic undead that lunges at him from the vile water! It fails to wrap him in the type of deadly embrace that nearly slew Daanith, uh, I mean, Manael. Stormcry punches and grabs the undead and yells to Tarthon, “Pull me up!” Four more undead emerge! Manael and Kheiron hit with ranged attacks, Stormcry hits again (getting temporary hit points from Manael’s inspiring manner), and Grue zaps several with searing radiant energy. Just before Stormcry and his new date get back to the slope, another undead claws at him, dealing a nasty injury. Two of the undead sink suspiciously from sight. Another undead – different from others seen to this point – rips off a chunk of its disgusting flesh and hurls it at Tarthon’s face, blinding the minotaur. Ewww! The tiefling bard Manael uses Majestic Word on Stormcry, which nearly heals him completely! (Warlock? What warlock?) Stormcry then moves up the slope, and the group hopes to lure the undead into the Survivor Immunity Challenge room.

Stormcry’s summoning of spectral wolves destroys one of the undead, and Grue follows up with Radiant Wind, which deals undead-frying radiant damage and does more damage if the undead approach the dwarven invoker. Kheiron the seeker throws his hammer to deal an Elemental Spirits strike on one of the undead – and his weapon returns unerringly to his hand. By the golden locks of Thor! The brown, flickering light reappears, hovering in the center of the chamber’s very low ceiling, before it disappears with a barely audible, Nightcrawlerish “pop.”

The two undead who HAD disappeared now reappear at the bottom of the slope. And they stink like a pail of soiled diapers! [Trust me, it’s bad!] The stench overwhelms Kheiron. [That fits. Willie isn’t used to diaper stench.] As two of the undead move up the slope, they do take that yummy radiant damage from Grue’s previous attack. However, no sooner does Tarthon shake off his blindness does the flesh-lobbing undead succeed in blinding Grue! Kheiron succeeds with another attack, but the githzerai has clearly been weakened by the stench, and the strike doesn’t do as much damage as it should. Stormcry hurls a handaxe at another undead, which nearly destroys it.

Here’s comes the brown light again. It washes over the area, dazing most of us and compelling us to move forward toward the center of the pool! Oh that’s not good. Tarthon is now between several of the ghouls. Grue again summons Radiant Wind, which damages Tarthon but does a lot more damage to the adjacent undead.

Kheiron attacks Stencher #1, compelling it to strike – and destroy! – one of its allies. Tarthon sees no problem with the undead adjacent to him: He clobbers Stencher #2 and whacks Stencher #1 with the backswing! Stencher #2 sinks below the water. Manael strikes an undead with Impelling Force, which, after Felix rolls damage, forcibly impels the few rotting scraps remaining to slide up the slope.

The two Stenchers are the only foes left, but they’re tough. Stencher #2 reappears and attacks Tarthon. Stormcry wildshapes into a wolf and pounces from the top of the slope onto the creature, destroying it! The tide has definitely turned in our favor, but… the brown light reappears, dazing Stormcry, Tarthon, and Manael and pulling them Very Close to the center! Grue has had enough: Rebuke Undead! That destroys Stencher #1 and nearly wipes out #2. Kheiron finishes the battle with … a crit on #2!

Poof! The brown light disappears and does not return. We’ve all recovered our senses. Now what? Stormcry senses that there must be another outlet in this pool; otherwise, if the water level rose at every high tide, wouldn’t this chamber be completely flooded? The water level continues to rise, so we return to the storage chamber we previously discovered.

After waiting a couple of hours for the tide to lower, we return to the brackish pool, and Stormcry and Tarthon grab sunrods and make several dives into the pool to search for passages. They find three: 1) a dead end, 2) a set of stone steps leading out of the water (which they don’t want to explore further just yet), and 3) an above-water natural alcove, with a chest!

Within the chest is a ledger, written in a language unfamiliar to either the shifter or the minotaur. After Stormcry and Tarthon find a way to carry the ledger back to the others without getting it wet, Manael uses the Comprehend Languages ritual to try to read it. No dice. It’s not a language, it’s a code. After putting the ledger and the other found items in the storage room, the group decides to jointly dive and see where those stone steps lead.

We step up into another chamber. On the floor are a lockbox and a chest. Alongside the chest is a human (or humanoid) skull, and nearby is a human skeleton, lying motionless, one of its arms stretching toward the lockbox as its last living act. Yeah, there must be traps here. Hey, lookee that! Two crossbows sit in recessed niches in the farthest two corners of the chamber’s stone ceiling.

Tarthon steps forward toward the chest and the skull. The shadows in the chamber move! They coalesce into an ebon being who then reaches behind the chest to grab a silvery rapier! Initiative! Tarthon strikes quickly, but the shadow creature seems to roll and shift with the damage and instantly deals a nasty retaliatory strike against the minotaur. Grue blasts it with a radiant attack. Ohhhh, Grue, you got its attention! Stormcry wildshapes and rips at the creature with his claws, yet its shadowy, insubstantial form seems to negate much of the damage. Manael attacks with Stirring Shot (our first Daily power of the session!), which not only damages the creature but gives temporary hit points to anyone else who hits it. Good news! Hmmm, the shadow creature seems to be regenerating. Bad news!

And it really isn’t happy with Grue. It flows past Tarthon and strikes at the dwarven invoker, but it fortunately misses. Grue then uses his Daily power, Brilliant Beacon, creating a freakin’ zone of radiant energy! Regenerate THAT! Kheiron cleverly follows up with Winter’s Spirit, immobilizing the creature and preventing it from escaping the zone. Time to take down this bastid!

Tarthon uses his Battlecrazed Greataxe’s innate power and an Action Point to deal a world of hurt, but it’s not destroyed yet! It hurts both Grue and Tarthon. Wolfy Stormcry pounces again and – even with Shadow Boy’s resistance to damage – kills the creature. Nice teamwork and tactics. This could’ve been a much nastier fight.

The group catches its breath and proceeds to disable the automatic crossbow turrets. Tarthon and Grue take a quick acid bath for their troubles, though. Painful, yes, but now the two of them are thoroughly exfoliated. Now to see what’s here.

The skull is of primary interest because of the cryptic message found in the storage chamber, referring to the treasure’s whereabouts being in First Mate Yarrick’s head. Stormcry, after seeing that something’s inside the skull cavity, cracks it open. Within are 5 clay balls; 1 Cinnabon, which deals 2d8 points of fatty damage to arteries and… ohhh, cinnabar! – never mind – and an odd, roughly triangular plate of metal. There are no markings, but Manael soon determines that it has a strong magical aura.

The lockbox has a bunch of silver ingots. Nice! The chest has the Charlie Brown treasure: I got a bunch of rocks. Stormcry has trouble accepting this, so he works himself into a sweat to break open one of the rocks, which transforms into smaller rocks.

Tarthon suggests that he and Stormcry take a closer look at the spot where they found the chest and the ledger. Make it so! On the wall there, they see barely legible scrawling in the Common tongue: “I must go back to the Star.” (And yes, “Star” is written with an uppercase “s.”)

The group, feeling fairly certain they’ve explored enough and getting a bit worried about the weather, exit the cave area and return to the shallow waters of the cover. It’s VERY stormy out now! The clouds are quite dark – as are the eight bat-winged creatures swooping down! Kheiron takes no chances: With a nice sense of irony, he blankets the creatures with his Daily power of Swarming Bats, slaying four of the critters immediately. Stormcry tries to take out two of them with a druidic attack, but fails. Manael does not miss with his strike.

The remaining three critters head toward Stormcry and Tarthon – not to attack, but to swipe their stuff! [They’re like flying gremlins, interested more in mischief and thievery than combat … and they were created by Mike for a Pathfinder bestiary! Rick saw them, liked them, and converted them to 4e. Oh, the Frankenstein-like embarrassment of having your own creations turn upon you!] Two of them grab the newly acquired dagger from Tarthon – and the triangle thingie from Stormcry! Tarthon does a sweep attack that kills both before they can fly away, but the triangle falls into the roiling waves. It’ll be lost to the sea within seconds! Grue tries to grab it but fails. As Kheiron finishes off the last of these annoying beasts, Grue, Stormcry, and Tarthon make one last dive into the water – and they recover the triangle. Phew!

After a difficult swim from the cove to the beach (again requiring Stormcry to aid Grue, The Boulder Who Walks Like a Man), we’re wet, cold, and tired. We decide that the best course of action is to head back the way we came. Southwatch is about one hour away, while the next town in the other direction is probably two hours away – and that storm is going to hit soon. We walk along the side of the road, trying to keep to the treeline while maintaining a good pace. After a short time, though, we see a group of figures – a dozen, perhaps? – walking in our direction on the other side of the road. Do we hide, or confront them? Ahhhh, what the heck…! [See, I told you it would come back.]

Stormcry calls upon his inner Captain John Sheridan: “We won’t start this fight, but by Ildavir, we’ll finish it!” As it’s clearly a gaggle of goblins moving toward us – freakin’ nineteen of them – the fight is on! There are a couple of snipers moving toward us on the right, a squad of nearly a dozen coming at us from the left, and a group of five or six lingering in the back – one of whom is BIG. And another one looks a bit familiar! It’s the lone goblin who escaped the fight in the last session! Yeah, no point in parlay here. Get those Action Points ready!

Winning initiative, Kheiron does the proper controllery thing and attacks the nicely gathered group on the left. Good thought! Oh, a miss! Too bad, but there are nice consolation prizes in the form of damage if the targeted goblins move forward. Meanwhile, Tarthon does the proper berserkery thing by charging straight at the Big Guy with Howling Strike! Manael takes his own shot at the larger group with Shout of Triumph followed (via Action Point) by Impelling Force. Blammo! Seven goblin minions, shaken and stirred into oblivion!

The goblins still standing from that group rush forward and attack both Kheiron and Manael but – clearly stunned by the David Cronenbergian deaths of their buddies – miss badly. Grue zaps the group in the back with Lightning Revelation. Zzzax! [Man, invoker powers have the coolest names!] Heh heh heh, all is good – until the Big Guy retaliates with his own Lightning Revelation at Tarthon! What the—? He even fries one of his own goblin buddies in the process, though another goblin who took the full brunt incredibly still stands. Uh oh, he must be a Tough Guy! Burnt minotaur hair now stinks up the woods, and Tarthon gets the bad feeling that he picked the wrong group to tackle by himself! This is confirmed when the Big Guy morphs into a massive wolf-like form. Damn, it’s a barghest!

Stormcry, who had already shifted to beast form for a planned attack on the two snipers, sees his wrasslin’ buddy in trouble and Pounces on a goblin minion next to Tarthon, killing it, then he shifts back to humanoid form and (via Action Point) whacks the barghest with Grappling Strike and grabs it. Tough Guy Goblin sets up some sort of shadowy zone around Stormcry and Tarthon, obscuring their vision – but Stormcry isn’t letting go of the barghest!

The deft githzerai Kheiron avoids an opportunity attack from one goblin in order to kill another with Possessing Spirits. Across the battlefield, Tarthon is pissed off! He enters the Swift Panther Rage (his Daily power) and swings at Big Guy Barghest. Thanks to the shadowy field, the carnivorous creature ducks the worst of it, but still takes damage from the primal power of the barbarian’s backswing. Manael lethally zaps another goblin! The remaining goblins in what WAS the larger group attack Manael (miss!) and Kheiron (hit – ow!). Grue resumes his attack on the group in the back, blasting them with Radiant Wind and (via Action Point) Sun Strike. Two goblins are roasted divinely!

Big Guy Barghest escapes Stormcry’s fierce hold. It shifts – which, as it was marked by Stormcry’s fighter attack, provokes another successful whack from the longtooth shifter. “Come HERE, doggie!” And the barghest is grabbed again! It uses its second action to escape the grab – and fails – then uses its own Action Point for another escape attempt, which succeeds, and it backs away from Stormcry. While free, though, the Big Guy is now out of actions: no attacks this round. Stormcry shifts into beast form, Pounces on the barghest, and uses his armor’s innate power to push it away from the badly injured Tarthon – who is promptly bloodied when he’s hit by one of the goblin snipers and the Little Guy Goblin in the tougher group! Normally, Tarthon doesn’t mind being bloodied, but he’s clearly got a couple of major opponents nearby. Tough Guy Goblin, standing a dozen feet away, aims a potentially nasty bolt of force at Stormcry, which the shifter avoids.

Kheiron, already wounded and not happy to be in melee, attacks his goblin foe. His first swing is off target but the second one (Action Point) kills it! Tarthon, in trouble, swings at Little Guy and hits. Little Guy may be small, but he’s got moxie! Manael moves up to help Tarthon – which provokes an Opportunity Attack from the adjacent goblin – but the tiefling bard yells, “Talk to the hand, baby!” as his Infernal Wrath scalds the attacker! [A highlight of the evening from Felix.] He then moves forward and hurts Tough Guy. Behind him, another goblin runs up and injures Kheiron. The githerzai seeker is seeking a Band-Aid! Grue attempts to punish more goblins, but the dwarf’s attack misses.

Big Guy Barghest uses some latent talent to shift past Stormcry and get into a flanking position with Little Guy on Tarthon, and it rips into the minotaur. [Fourteen points of damage – and that was with a BAD damage roll!] Little Guy follows up with his own strike – and Tarthon drops! Manael uses Majestic Word to resuscitate Tarthon, then he gets up close and personal with Tough Guy and deals a nasty hit. Grue invokes Divine Call to pull Stormcry and Tarthon out of immediate danger, then he strikes at both Little Guy and Big Guy Barghest with a radiant attack, searing the barghest and convincing it to flee!

Stormcry, Tarthon, Manael, and Grue then focus all their next attacks on Little Guy and Tough Guy. It’s still a brutal fight. Tough Guy bloodies Manael with a bolt of force. Tarthon whacks Little Guy brutally – but the goblin isn’t even bloodied yet! [Maybe HE should have been Tough Guy!] Kheiron unfortunately is stuck in a frustrating battle with the one remaining goblin minion. C’mon, hit him! Oops, Kheiron is hit again by the pesky bugger.

Tough Guy makes a run for it, but he’s chased down and killed by Stormcry. Little Guy, after finally being bloodied by Tarthon’s Howling Strike, decides to book, too. Oh no, you don’t! Tarthon charges after him and hits! Stormcry and Grue miss, though, and Little Guy turns, ready to fight to the death. The seeker Kheiron slays his minion opponent (huzzah!) and next freezes Little Guy with Winter’s Spirit, holding him in place – and setting him up for Manael to deal the battle’s final blow. Guiding Strike!

Woof. That was a tough one.

After catching our breath and tending to our wounds (and, um, looting the bodies), we continue on. The sky looks more threatening by the minute. As we follow the contours of the cliffside road, we catch sight of smoke up ahead – coming from an outcropping along the coast, a few hundred feet ahead. Stormcry takes the shape of a fox and moves cautiously ahead to investigate, the rest of the party following several dozen feet behind.

Upon the outcropping is a large campsite … or what’s left of it. Fires burn in various spots, and many bodies are strewn across the ground. Goblins – a couple of dozen – all dead. Taking his normal form again, Stormcry examines one corpse … and discovers the goblin has been dead no more than fifteen minutes. The other adventurers, standing well back at the point when the outcropping juts out from the coastline, nervously look about for the beings responsible for what was clearly a massacre.

Grue sees two circular shadows move across the group. He gets the group’s attention, and we all look up to see two horrifying creatures floating in the air above us, one even more massive than the other, and both of them complete abominations – nothing born of Nature.

We see this…

Beholders. Two of them. Holy crap.

Malice and power radiate from them as they look down upon us with their obscene eyes. Have I mentioned that we’re only Level 3?

[I’ve been playing D&D a long time, and I can count on two hands the number of chilling, “Oh shit,” virtual-pants-wetting moments I’ve had as a player. This was one of them. Nicely done, Rick.]

Stormcry, still by the bodies, and the other adventurers stand completely still. We know – even if we don’t realize what these creatures are – that their power is FAR beyond ours. We make no move for our weapons … except for Tarthon. [Mike, playing his character perfectly, shrugged his shoulders when asked and said, “Yeah – he’s still going to hold his axe.”] The larger beholder sees Tarthon holding his weapon and, with a casual motion from one of its eyestalks, blasts the barbarian with a ray of force that hurls Tarthon several dozen feet back! [As Rick said, “Yeah, I think he hits … with a +30 to attack.”] Tarthon is knocked on his back – but is surprisingly unharmed. Still, the minotaur is wise enough to remain on the ground and not reach for his axe – even after the smaller beholder crackles at him in a Peter Lorre voice, “Lose your axe, minotaur? Hee hee hee!” At this, the larger creature turns a disapproving eye (or 12) at its companion, instantly silencing it.

The larger beholder then says to all, “A new player has entered the game. This audience has ended.” Instantly, from both of the beholders, beams of laser-like energy erupt from their eyes and begin slicing through the cliff. The outcropping – with dead goblins and a live shifter and minotaur – is about to collapse into the water 150 feet below!

Stormcry wildshapes and makes a dash toward his companions on the other side of the blasted earth! Tarthon, prone, spends a couple of valuable seconds just standing up. The minotaur runs, but the earth is already crumbling beneath him! Kheiron and Manael try to get a rope ready to throw, yet there’s no time. Stormcry leaps across and transforms back to his normal form the second he lands – just as the cliff starts to fall! Tarthon makes a final, desperate leap that’s fated to come up a foot short – but Grue and Stormcry reach out and grab hold!

The adventurers stand at the ragged edge of earth, looking down in shock as the goblin encampment – and the entire outcropping – fall into the crashing waves below. The two beholders are gone, leaving only a disturbing rippling in the darkening sky, as though they exited through a rent in space itself.

—Ken

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Session 1 Recap
Goblin Surprise and a Glimmer From the Darkness

Okay, here’s the bigger after-action report: Tarthon (minotaur barbarian), Graaver Stormcry (longtooth shifter druid-fighter), Kheiron (githzerai seeker), Grumhorn a.k.a. “Grue” (dwarf invoker), and Daanith make their way west along the coast away from the Dragonspire Mountains, where they recently finished up some work as caravan guards and probably set fire to a couple of villages.

On the road, they come across a stupid bastard, or, more appropriately, his corpse, since the stupid bastard had just been ambushed and slain by a pack of goblins who now attack us. Goblin snipers fire alchemical bombs that trigger explosions near us. The vibrations soon draw two massive burrowing insectoid beasties – ankhegs! – who are just as happy to chomp on the goblins as on us. Combined attacks from Daanith, Grue, and Kheiron take out one sniper, while Tarthon dives into the pack of goblins and Stormcry gets into a “Who Hugs the Best?” contest with one of the ankhegs. Things get REALLY dicey when a bulette (!!) is also attracted by the vibrations! It’s pants-wetting time! (Rick scaled down the Land Shark from its “standard” form, but still DAMN NASTY.) Daanith, who was knocked on his tail by the bulette’s ground-breaking eruption, narrowly avoids a devastating chomp, thanks to the shadows clinging to him from his Shadow Walk. Fortunately, the bulette is soon drawn to attack the heavier and thus more thumpy ankheg near Daanith and Grue. Kheiron summons a wide cloak of bats to blanket the area around the battling Rodan and Mechagodzilla while the rest of the party focuses on the remaining goblins and the other ankheg. The last goblin successfully flees as we polish off the other ankheg. We then move on tippy toes across the battlefield so as not to draw the attention of Mr. Tremonsense Bulette, and we collect the body of Stupid Bastard and scoot out of the area quickly.

Stupid Bastard had a torn note, written by someone telling him of clues to mysterious and highly valuable items belonging to Captain Longshanks, a pirate who sailed these waters many years ago. The clues were at a spot named Wyvern Rock, along the beachfront two hours back the way we came. It’s still early afternoon, so … off to Wyvern Rock!

A thorough search of the beachfront reveals nothing, but someone (Grue?) spots a glint in a cave, located in a cove. The only way to get there is to swim. Since four of the five guys are wearing light armor, this is not a problem for anyone except Grue. :-) Reaching the cove, we’re attacked by two giant crabs. Stormcry, Daanith, Grue, and Kheiron see danger. Tarthon sees tonight’s dinner. The crabs have other ideas, and Stormcry and Tarthon are grabbed and nearly eviscerated. This makes Stormcry and Tarthon bloodied, which makes Stormcry and Tarthon happy. Kheiron attacks with a power that causes one crab to attack the other, leaving both dazed. This key move frees the party’s two bruisers, and the combo of melee and ranged attacks soon bastes the crabs. (Mmmmm…. basted crabs… ahhhhgglllll….!)

Stormcry assumes wolf form and, as the only one with both great Perception and low-light vision, scouts ahead into the dark passageway. [Note to self: Must avoid this “useful” and death-attracting combination in future characters.] Green slime pops onto Stormcry and starts to eat him! As Stormcry’s urging, Tarthon strikes the goo, even though he knows that his friend will take half the damage. Tarthon gets a critical hit. OUCHIE. (Stormcry is bloodied again. Yay. See above.) Grue discovers that the radiant damage from his Sun Strike is very effective against the slime, so he pours it on, and Daanith also tosses an eldrtich blast. The green slimes sloughs off the acid-chewed wolf, who smells really bad. More green slime is spotted on the ceiling, but these buggers are cleared out after multiple attacks from Grue and Daanith.

The passageway leads to a wide cave containing a lake, created naturally by water running through the passageway at high tide. It appears too deep to wade through, so Stormcry swims across the narrowest part with a rope, setting up himself as an anchor (with Tarthon on the other side) for the other guys to move across. First up: Daanith! The awkward warlock gets entangled in kelp! Dammit! Stormcry goes back in the water to assist—and then the aquatic undead emerge! Kheiron fires off an attack that damages the main target and, with its supplemental damage, destroys two of the adjacent undead. (Yay, minions!) Grue’s attack pushes two of the undead away from his allies, and Stormcry destroys one with a druidic attack … but Daanith is ripped into and embraced by one of the undead, who shoves the tiefling’s face into its vile chest and starts to drown him! The retaliatory fiery strike of his tiefling heritage does little damage. He’s going to die!

[Commence furious perusal of Felix’s character sheet. Did he take a damn teleportation power?! No! Wait, what’s this? Ethereal stride? Bing!]

Daanith teleports 15 feet away from the deadly embrace and onto the far side. Phew! Have some fire, sweetie! Uh oh, a second wave of undead emerges, advancing toward Tarthon, Grue, and Kheiron! The minotaur happily welcomes the close-quarters combat, and after several strikes – especially from Grue’s radiant attacks and a Rebuke Undead – the disgusted creatures are wiped out.

We all make our way across to the far side and find treasure chests! Woo hoo! Oh, not so woo hoo—as soon as one chest is opened, all four split open to reveal four more undead! Fortunately, they’re dispatched quickly, with the big blow coming from Tarthon, who slams one undead so powerfully that his backswing destroys another creature adjacent to him.

One side passage leads to a small cave, containing a rusty sword, useless old grain, and barrels of wine long turned to vinegar. However, there is literally a message in a bottle! It said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Yorell [Longshanks’ second mate] kept the location of the treasure in his head. I vow to do the same.” Hmmm. There’s a second passage still to be explored, and that’s where we left off.

—Ken

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Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.

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