Monday, September 15, 2008

Runelords D&D: Paradise Lost

This series is a session-by-session recap of the Rise of the Runelords campaign over the course of the school year. The current party:

- Deanda, Elf Druid/Nature's Warrior
- Kiikii, Human Conjurer/Malconvoker
- Nakor, Human Transmuter/Knight Phantom
- Jaime, Human Cleric of Iomedae
- Kraca, Dwarf Monk/Ninja
- Slavla, Half Elf Barbarian/Fighter/Frenzied Berserker

Having destroyed once and for all the foul beasts at the Graul Farm, the task of retaking Fort Rannick has fallen to our heroes. The three remaining Black Arrows stood ready to fight by their side, but what would be waiting for them in the keep beyond...

Following their victory over the Ogrekin Hillbillies, the party along with their four newest companions, fell back to Turtleback Ferry for supplies.

As they rested in Turtleback however, regaining strength and selling the treasure they'd found, Deanda happened upon an incredibly unsettling finding. As a commoner bent down to pick up a box of supplies, the druid spied a strange tattoo on the small of his back - the Sihedron Rune.

Approaching the man, the party quickly allowed their tone to become accusing as the man tried to hide the fact that he had any tattoo at all.

With a few... encouraging words from Nakor however, along with a shoulder squeeze by Slavla, the man - a hunter by the name of Tay'el - quickly told his story.

Apparently, there used to be a gambling barge which operated on Claybottom Lake which entertained many of Turtleback Ferry's male citizens.

The barge was run by a woman named Lucrecia, an elegant woman who had offered this man the tattoo as a sign of favor. Tay'el claimed that Lucrecia only offered this tattoo to the customers she preferred, and that it was used to avoid paying a cover charge to board the gambling boat.

Tay'el admitted that he had hid the tattoo initially because his wife would be furious knowing that he had gone to the gambling barge, a place called Paradise. But our heroes were much more concerned with something else. They had seen many copies of the Sihedron Rune before, and this one looked almost identical to the ones scribed onto the victims of the Sihedron Sacrifices before they were killed. The party wished to know who else had been inscribed with the tattoo, but the man said he didn't know since they were told to keep the tattoos secret.

Heading to the local chapel of Erastil, the group tried to learn what they could of the barge from Father Shreed, the town's mayor. He said that the barge had burned up in a fire a week or two ago, though no one was said to be aboard except for the barge's elegant matron - Lucrecia. The barge supposidly sunk to the bottom of Claybottom Lake, taking Lucrecia with it.

While this questioning happened, Slavla was doing some investigating of his own - though he didn't know it - as he seduced one of the waitresses at Bottoms Up. Surprisingly, the waitress had worked as a serving girl on the barge while it was in operation, and it wasn't long before the two were in a backroom, and Slavla found a similar tattoo on the girl's ankle. Several minutes later, Slavla made his way back into the common room, only to find the rest of the group seeking out the very girl he'd just seduced, as they'd heard about her working on the barge. Slavla smiled, gathered the questions they needed answered, and made his way to the back room to engage in some "pillow talk" about the girl's former place of employment.

After some private questioning the group found out that the barge was mostly staffed by unseen servants, though Lucrecia certainly ran the show. Apparently, the process of inscribing the tattoo was accompanied by a strange poem which Lucrecia would say in a foreign tongue. After Nakor recited a few lines of Thassilonian, the woman nodded, indicating that this was the language Lucrecia had used.

She was also able to point out that Lucrecia must have been incanting some kind of spell or ritual, as the weight of her words was not unlike Nakors as he cast detect magic on the tattoo. Even though the tattoo did not generate magic, it was clear that the image was part of some kind of magical ritual.

With this unsettling knowledge, the group decided that there was little they could do about the strange state of affairs in Turtleback Ferry yet. First, they had to travel to Fort Rannick. So, off the group marched - traveling for half a day before the reached the beaten and battered fort.

After watching the fort for the rest of the day, the group hatched a plan. Seeing as the new barracks build outside was foolishly crafted from wood, the group could easily set it ablaze. Then, as the burning barracks would form a distraction, they could make their way into the hidden caves through a waterfall entrance to the south-west of the fort.

When dawn came, Deanda took the form of a bird and flew to the barracks. Laying a talon upon the door, Deanda willed the wood to bend and shape itself, soon becoming a solid wall where the door had once been. To the cries from the 25 ogres within, Deanda summoned a crackle of lightning from the skies before setting ablaze the firewood beneath the structure, effectively making it look like a stray lightning bolt had set the barracks on fire.

Retreating, the group made their way to the waterfall and climbed into the inner caves.

After making their way across a rickety bridge, the group came upon a crypt within which Kraca faced off against an anguished spectre which sucked the very life out of him. Jaime, holding his holy symbol high, was able to bring about the final death of the creature, filling it with the holy power of his Goddess.

Shaken but not deterred, the group made their way down to the lower caves.

Soon, they came across a room filled with shocker lizards. These, the Black Arrows had said, were common creatures which bred in the keep's lower chambers. Finding themselves in cramped quarters with a slowly advancing swarm of lizards, the group acted quickly. Kiikii filled the chambers with thick swirling sand which burned at the lizards, while Deanda covered the walls and ceiling which the lizards clung to with hidden spikes. Through their combined efforts, the weak lizards didn't stand a chance, and quickly met their end.

Advancing further, the group found a small door which led into the jailer's den. What was a jailer's den on the map however, was hardly what they'd been expecting. The floor had been covered with silks, blankets and pillows, while the air was filled with the smell of incense. A woman who could only be described as elegant beckoned them in, introducing herself as Lucrecia.

The woman was no fool, and understood the predicament she found herself in. She made no intention of lying to the heroes and pretending to be anything that she wasn't, stating simply that she had a proposition for them. She offered them a place at her side, rather then against her.

"You're clearly capable individuals, and I just figure you'd rather work for the side in all of this that will actually be winning. Our side. Besides... Mokmurian would simply love to meet you." Most of the party seemed to be dead set against the woman's tricks, though Nakor seemed to want to see what she wanted to say.

The woman quickly noticed Kaven Windstrike, one of the Black Arrows who had traveled with them and laughed. Amused, she thanked Kaven for delaying his group of Black Arrows on their mission those many days ago so that the Fort could be taken so easily. At this, Jakardros flew into a rage and charged at his former companion. Battle was joined.

With a strange laugh, the woman's body transformed as her legs were replaced by a reptilian snake tail. Lucrecia was a Lamia Matriarch, just as Xanesha had been, and she was no less deadly. Lashing out at Nakor with her rapier and dagger, the man was nearly dropped as she drained his very wisdom away with each strike.

Kiikii summoned his fiendish ape to try and hurt the woman while the rest of the party tried their best to fell the Lamia Matriarch. Lucrecia was no simple creature however, as she lashed out with both blade and spell. She rattled the heroes with a lightning bolt, before dropping Slavla to his knees in laughter through her hideous laughter spell.

Just when the heroes thought they were getting the upper hand, Lucrecia cast shield on herself, but even the buffed up defense was not enough for Kikii's orbs of acid. Seeing her end in sight, Lucrecia through open the door behind her and took her normal shape, stepping through it. Would our heroes reach her before the woman turned and ran? Would Lucrecia get away?

Well, rather then steal their thunder, I'll just let the heroes tell you how it ended!

- - -

DM Notes: (These are player-safe, no spoilers)

What the party seemed to enjoy

- I think there was some great roleplaying that happened in Turtleback Ferry after the Sihedron Rune was discovered. The party seemed to really enjoy interrogating the various citizens in their... unique ways. What was just an information hook turned into a great set of roleplaying encounters.

- Planning the assault on Rannick worked well as the party learned more about the keep the more they planned it out, rather then just charging in.

- Proving victorious against the shocker lizards was actually a really big point of excitement at the table. The swarm was a true threat, but when the party's careful strategy worked with flying colors it was certainly a moment of celebration.

- I think everyone enjoyed my "special treasure" at the end of the session. Who needs in-game gold when you can have chocolate gold coins!!!

What I could have done better

- I had planned to stat out each of the NPC's so that a player could take on their stats. I didn't have an opportunity to do this, but since they still have all of Rannick to get through, I think I'll be able to do this for next session and I think it will work excellently.

- There was an encounter I had wanted to run between Turtleback Ferry and Fort Rannick, but skipped it due to time constraints. I wish I had been able to plan something shorter though as it seemed like an abrupt jump.

Spotlights

I think it's important every game to let one or two characters take the spotlight. Every session, I try to give someone a chance to shine. I try not to spread myself too thin, and try to focus on a different player or pair of players each session. All of the players have a chance to strut their stuff during each session in different ways though, even when they may not realize it.

- Slavla got to flex his muscles as always, but this session he actually got to be one of the party's spokespersons! Usually Slavla is the last person to talk for the group, but he proved key in learning a lot of information about the Sihedron Rune in Turtleback Ferry through his own special means of interrogation. I loved the way this encounter played out and I think Slavla really got to shine.

- Kiikii's skills contributed majorly to every battle that the party came across. Against the shocker lizards and Lucrecia, his spells helped to completely scale back the encounters. I feel like Kiikii always contributes in a major way but the party probably would have been in deep trouble this session if it wasn't for him, and I think they noticed that.

- Though it wasn't as big a spotlight, Deanda single-handedly took the torch to 25 ogres. It was a short encounter since it was so well-planned but through her mad druid stealth skills, she was able to turn a potentially disastrous encounter into a cakewalk.

4 comments:

Slavla, The Dragon Slayer said...

The Words of Slavla, written by Kraca The Giant Toppler
After returning from the ogre kin’s farm we had some time to relax in Turtleback ferry. We planned our attack on the fort to retake it, and an opportunity for me to kill as many ogres as possible with my ranseur. I took this opportunity as well to purchase some goggles. The last encounter we had with an enemy that blinded us was too much of a problem, without the ability to see I am more than useless. I hope to have them enchanted when we return to magnamar in some ways to help me, plus I think they look totally awesome.
While we were walking Deanda noticed the rune we’ve seen all over our travels tattooed on a villager’s back. Nakor quickly took the lead in questioning him, I waited until he seemed unlikely to talk when I stepped in to loosen his tongue with a strong hand on his shoulder. Nakor got all the information he wanted, the villager seemed harmless enough, I even helped him put away the rest of his boxes. The rest of the party went to the mayor’s to find out about this gambling barge that sank, while I continued with my favorite pastime, apart from killing and finding pretty half elves, drinking. While there I spied a very pretty waitress. While having some fun in the back room during her break I noticed the same sort of tattoo on her ankle. It wasn’t long before I found out how she was a waitress on the gambling barge and a few other odds and ends. When I left I found my party waiting in the bar, they told me to go back and ask a few other questions. It was a tad awkward to go back while she was getting dressed, but she didn’t seem to mind. This mystery would have to wait until we got back from fort rannick.
As soon as we got to fort rannick our plan was put into motion, Deanda easily lighting the barracks on fire and eliminating a score of ogres. It was ogres I wouldn’t get to kill but it was for the best I suppose. There would be more to kill as time went on. We all made it up to the hidden entrance to the fort, it was only an easy climb. Jaime needed a rope to help him up, of course.
The first enemies we found were the resident shocker lizards, quickly taken care of. The party seemed in a position to easily take the fort with nothing but good omens coming our way. We entered a crypt of the past heroes of the black arrows. I have little strength against the undead, but I still tried, unfortunately my friend Kraca took the brunt of the dead’s attack. I am rather ashamed to say I did look around at the long dead heroes to see if they had anything which might be of use to the now living heroes. I was cowed by the leader of the black arrows with us. I didn’t see any impressive looking spears anyway.
Still in bird form, deanda sitting on my shoulder was the first to notice when we came upon a room with a dozen shocker lizards. I know little of magic, but what my friends tell me is that a group that large could easily wipe out our party. I was ready to run if things became ugly, I knew I could do little against such creatures. Luckily thanks to Deanda, transforming back into an elf, and Kiikii, we didn’t have to worry.
Walking still down the passage, still very narrow we could only walk single file, we came across a door. Unlocking it Jaime was the first to walk in, I could barely see the room by him. It was covered in silk and pillows, and a really hot woman was standing there. I think Jaime called her Lucretia, I didn’t remember until later that that was the name of the woman that owned and supposedly died on the barge. I barreled past Jaime to greet her with the rest of the party shuffling into the room. She spoke of wanting us to join her master. I serve no master, I kill for glory and to became as great as possible and help all along the way. I would serve no master. Apparently Nakor felt the same way as I saw he drew his weapon out of the corner of my eye. The battle began with the elegant woman becoming another one of those Lamias. I was the first to draw blood, even the second and third. Nobody else seemed to be able to land a hit for the longest time it seemed. Jaime was focusing on a betrayer in the black arrows behind me. I would of finished him off immediately, but apparently Jaime thought he could do a better job. The monster seemed to have noticed I was the one with blood on my weapon when she cast a spell on me. Putting me out of the fight. I can’t even quite remember what was so funny, but whatever it was, it was hilarious. Soon enough though the battle was over and Lucretia dead, the impression of nakor’s hammer in her skull. We decided to rest there for the time being and recover our strength. Before bed I overheard Jaime boasting that he had found a new spell where he could easily compete with me. I tried not to laugh; I could already feel a surge of power and emotion broiling right beneath the surface. He had no idea who he was messing with, but if he wanted to find out, he could any time he wanted to.

Storyteller said...

Ahhh! Giant block of text! Well done sir :)

Mark said...

From the Journals of Nakor Issalani:

Strength and Discipline. Intelligence and Planning. Wisdom and Strategy. If I had any doubts as to the competence of my party they were easily dispelled with our siege on Fort Rannick.

Before the battle, we prepared and planned our course of action in Turtleback Ferry. It was there that Deanda realized a Saihedron tattoo on one of the locals. Any link to the group we've been combating is a vital one, one that must immediately be sought out. I interrogated the man resolutely on the manner, and with the aid of Slavla he was convinced to inform us of what appeared to be another player in our ongoing war. Though people believed this Lucretia to be dead, I suspected this woman gifted in magic and branding townspeople with the same saihedron rune that the Aldern used was far from dead.

Any misconceptions I've held about Slavla were quickly dispelled. While he still is a wild wretch that relies to heavily on his emotions and whims, that does not mean that the man has a definite intelligence to him. In our interrogation of the man and our subsequent information gathering proved that he was more than capable of showing insight and tact even outside of the battlefield.

We set upon the Fort and studied it for a day to exact our plan. Under the cover of darkness Deanda flew through the air as a Storm Roc to trap 25 ogres within a building and set fire to it, making it appear that a stray bolt of lightning was to blame. Not only did this decimate our foes, it provided a distraction to allow us to infiltrate the fort unnoticed and unsuspected.

Within the secret tunnels, after dispatching a few shocker lizards, we came upon what appeared to be a desecrated burial ground. I suspected that another ritual was to take place, as Noalia did to herself, but upon entering we only found an enraged spectre. The creature was dispelled by the power of Iomadae, but not before Kraca was drained by its touch. I know all too well the curse of being reduced to a weekend state and I certainly felt for his plight. He took matters quite well, however, and shifted his tactics so to still be useful in battle.

Further down the passage we came across a large and deadly group of shocker lizards. With quick tactical planning, we backed through the passage to bottleneck the animals and then Kiikii and Deanda unleashed wide spells to clear the area. Within moments the serious threat was obliterated.

Lastly, our group arrived at a locked door. Weakened, it took Kraca some time before he could actually pick the lock. Within was a finely draped room occupied by a woman who I can only describe as "elegant." We easily inferred this to be the very same Lucretia we were investigating into and I began my interrogation. I admired that she chose not to play with words and even went so far as to offer us to join her and fight for he master. In this offer I found opportunity.

Long have I been wondering what were the goals of our enemies. Their ties with the ancient Thassilonian Empire is unquestionable, but are they among the corrupt elements that brought its downfall or trying to restore it to its former glory? I know that under their direction they have gathered together disorganized groups of goblins and ogres and forged them into unquestionable armies. I used this very tactic to pull together Shoanti warriors to destroy the corrupted garrison. Do I hold the same goals as the enemy? Could I be fighting on the wrong side? I tried to press Lucretia for more information but she remained evasive, even thrown off when I guessed that she wished to restore the Thassilonian Empire. Her only offer was to talk with her master, an offer that only an idiot would take up. With her ultimatum I drew my hammer and charged.

Charged into an enormous Lamia Matriarch. While I had suspected her to be a sorceress I found her powers a little beyond that. She set upon me with sharpened blades and with each hit she landed I felt my mind weaken. It is a strange feeling to describe, but her weapons seemed to limit any intuitive insights I could normally hold. Near death, I set upon myself with spells to ensure my survival and draw her attention. She revealed that Windstrike was a traitor, as Slavla and I suspected, and he set upon his own men in the fight. Mutiny is unacceptable. They made short work of the boy. This still left Lucretia besetting upon my party with spell and steel. She realized that Slavla was the only one able to overcome her impressive defenses and reduced him to fits of hideous laughter. Kiikii brought forth an ape to combat her but ultimately the creature could hardly land a blow. The Malconvoker ultimately proved more useful in launching acid orbs to damage her directly. Even Kraca proved useful in feeding me potions while I engaged her. My defenses proved too much for her, leaving me virtually unharmed by her attacks. She realized that her battle was lost and decided to retreat from the door behind her. Kiikii skillfully placed a hellhound behind her but even in human from she proved agile enough to roll around the creature. It bought me just enough time, however, to run to the doorway and smash her skull with Mjolnir.

I should add that throughout the entire siege Jaime extended the powers of Iomadae to us all, granting us favor in battle. His access to the divine also restored Kraca of his diminished self. While I have pledged myself to the Arcane, I must recognize and respect the undeniable powers that the gods can provide.

We now set within the room for the night and will clear out the fort by dawn. I am left to contemplate what our enemies plan, and what Lucretia had meant when she cryptically said "The Saihedron ritual is just the beginning."

May Nethys guide my journey through magic,

Nakor Issalani

Ian said...

I feel sick...damned spectre...

Back in Turtleback Ferry, I shook off the stiffness of the paralysis from the overgrown plant. However, it seems all was not as it should be. Deanda spotted a sihedron medallion tattoo, the variety that was found on those who were sacrificed. Under the "firm" suggestion by Slavla and Nakor, he told the others how it came to past. I say this because I was busy distracting passerby with my tumbling abilities. I'm surprised they have never seen a dwarf doing such things...
Anyway, after this happened, I went and patrolled the town, looking for any suspicious occurrences. There were none.

Knowing that my companion Slavla would be at the local tavern, I decided to check in on him. I was only slightly ahead of the rest of the party, for apparently the waitress here had worked on the gambling barge connected to the Sihedron tattoo. Slavla had discovered this by rather unconventional means of interrogation, I left those parts out of his memoirs, I may have nightmares just thinking about the things he told me he did with that poor woman...*shiver*

However, she seemed to enjoy it, and told Slavla everything Nakor told him to question about. We found out that the tattoo was applied magically, for the girl seemed to recognize the language Thassilonian Nakor recited when he checked the tattoo for magical properties. Detecting none, we decided that this investigation would have to wait until after we retook Fort Rannick.

With that we planned, and after we planned we left. And as we arrived, we watched the fort from a distance, making sure that our plan would work. It worked even better than expected because the barracks recently constructed by the Black Arrows was made of wood, with firewood stored underneath. Needless to say, Deanda transformed herself into a bird to fly to the barracks, make the door into a wall, and then set fire to the entire place. She told us that 25 ogres were sleeping inside, 25 less to fight to retake the home of our companions.

We entered through a secret tunnel behind a waterfall. Most of the party was able to scramble up rather easily, but Jamie had some trouble with his heavy armor, making me realize how nice it is to be unencumbered by such nonsense. We entered into what appeared to be a storage room, and upon searching it found two shocker lizards, who attacked. I was able to dodge out of the way, but Slavla was zapped rather considerably. He seemed fine, and we ventured on.

We then came upon a crypt of ancient Black Arrow heroes, we were told it had not been used in some time. However one of the corpses was on the floor. As I approached a spectre rose from the bones and attacked. I was able to strike it, but at quite the cost. In response he touched me and I felt myself being weakened. The others say it looked as if I almost melted a little. It almost seemed that way, because I felt much less competent, and after the ghost was dead, readjusted my tactics so as to still be of some use. We ventured on.

We were traveling toward another room when Deanda, still in bird form started calling. She changed back into an elf and told us of a large number of shocker lizards in the room beyond. This seemed an insurmountable battle, but Deanda and Kiikii laid traps for them as they advanced, killing them all. I was quite terrified, as I fear a single blow from their electricity would have killed all of us.

We walked on toward the secret entrance of the jailer's quarters. I picked the lock after much difficulty and backed away so the others could enter first. There we found much more than a simple jailer room. The floor was covered with pillows, and the walls covered in silks. The smell of incense wafted in the air. This was now the quarters of Lucretia, owner of the Sihedron gambling barge which had sunk. I saw the young Arrow Kaven perk up at the sight of her, and knew that he was indeed a traitor, as the others had suspected. After she spoke of her master and an invitation to meet with him to help take over the land, we had had enough, and the battle was joined. Lucretia transformed into yet another Lamia Matirarch, the same cursed beast we had fought in the tower in Magnimar. Slavla and Nakor charged into her, brandishing their weapons, but she was able to writhe away from many of the attacks against her. Jamie and Jakardros quickly felled the traitorous Arrow, while I was assisting Nakor, who took the first nasty hit from Lucretia. I was little help, and watched somewhat helplessly as Slavla fell into a fit of laughter. I pulled him out of harms way, as the other Arrow took his place. I helped where I could, but Kiikii did most of the heavy hitting, dropping acid orbs on the Matriarch, and summoning a hellhound behind her as she reverted to human form and tried to escape. Nakor however delivered the final blow, crushing her skull in his typical finishing action.
We examined the cells in the room beyond and found them suitable for rest. I sit here now, still feeling horribly drained. Jamie says he can partially restore me to full strength, but the rest I will have to fight off for myself. But I must do so on a full nights rest, which I should be attending to right about now. Plus, we have a fort full of ogres to reclaim in the morning.

Kraca, Monk

Player Notes:
Level drain sucks, so glad that all got restored. The shocker lizards were way more intimidating than I thought when we first heard about them. Can't wait to get into the rest of the fort.

I like the unlikely pairing of a half-elf barbarian/fighter and a dwarf monk. It adds an interesting feel to the relationship of the party.

That's all for now
Ian