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Thread: Lancefinder - Dragons of Autumn Twlight

  1. #1
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    Default Lancefinder - Dragons of Autumn Twlight

    The War of the Lance, Pathfinder style. Using the 3e updates published by MWP.

    The (new) Heroes of the Lance
    Amaudeus male irda "sorcerer"
    Bearer of the blue crystal staff
    Elsebeth Blackblade female human cavalier
    Honourable knight of solamnia
    Gauraux male Minotaur fighter-rogue
    Pirate and ex-enforcer to a gang
    Tictoklington male gnome tinkerer
    Inventor interested in teleportation
    Wilder Spirit female Kangonesti ranger
    A savage with talons and little mercy

    Campaign Documents
    Player's Guide (last updated October 8th, 2011)
    Monsters (last updated May 31st, 2012)
    Guide to Gods (last updated April 24th, 2011)

    The story began eight years ago, when Tictok attempted to teleport across his laboratory in Mount Nevermind and ended-up 400 miles away in Abanasinia. His first time outside, the gnome was taken back, and wandered aimlessly, coming across the captured form of Wilder Spirit, bound by goblins.
    Thankfully, at that moment, the mounted figure of Elsebeth Blackblade crashed through the under-brush, followed by Gauraux. They quickly dispatch the goblins and introduce themselves to Tictoklington.

    The group falls into the role of adventurers, while researching Tictok's report on the area, and preparing Else for her trials as she attempts to become a knight. They face off against a hydra, successfully defeating it and learning teamwork. They face a band of ogres with less success and are reminded of the absence of healing magic in the world.

    Then the Seekers come to Solace, and the wonder about the gods. Each has private business to attend to, so the group splits but vows to reunite and share what they have discovered after five years.

    The Beginning
    Last edited by Jester; 06-01-2012 at 09:14 PM. Reason: updated campaign documents

  2. #2
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    Default DM Thoughts

    The above was part of a free-form session I held for an hour just prior to the start of the actual campaign. I asked the player of Amaudeus, who is replacing Goldmoon in our tale, to come an hour later to the game.

    I wanted the players to know each other's characters already, and have an idea of interactions and history. So they'd have know each other longer than the new person.

    The best part of the mini-session was this interaction between the player of Tictok (who has read the books) and Elsebeth's player (who has not). So the following exchange was straight.


    Tictoklington: "I need to get back to the Mountain.
    Elsebeth: "What mountain?"
    Tictok: "Nevermind"
    Else: "... okay then, I won't"

  3. #3
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    Default Session One

    It is early fall when the gnome Tictoklington returned to Solace. Outside of town he is surprised by Wilder Spirit who was hiding in the bushes with her pet lion “Foo”. Startled, the gnome remembered why he never felt at ease around the wilder elf. Just after they finished their introductions, they are interrupted by a group of hobgoblins with their leader mounted on a pony, who introduces himself as Fewmaster Toede. A very brief fight erupts, as the Tictok takes to the air while Wilder Spirit dashes through the woods. A gnomish impact grenade takes out most of the hobgoblins while the claws of Wilder and Foo finish off the rest.

    Meanwhile, Elsebeth and Gauraux meet on a boat crossing newsea and are nearing Solace when they hear a voice from the bushes. It’s a stunned human, middle-aged, with a head wound. He’s gripping a gnarled wooden walking stick in his hand. He tells them he was mugged and gives his name as “Arthur” (aka Amaudeus). They do not go far before they reach a checkpoint being run by Seeker guards, who are inspecting a wagon. Gauraux sneaks around the checkpoint, being deceptively agile and stealthy for his large frame. Else just rides up and glowers at the guards, letting them firmly know she will not submit to an inspection of her or her companion (Arthur). The older man plays up his age and infirmity, limping over leaning heavily on his stick. The Seeker captain demands to inspect Arthur (“You would not deprive an old man of his walking stick?”) but it talked down by Else and Arthur.
    They enter Solace.

    The group reunites at the Inn of the Last Home, having a quick meal and reuniting with Otik and Tika. They listen to the storyteller and talk very briefly about what occurred to each other, and a “blue staff”, being more interested in how the Seekers gained power.
    This continues until High Theocrat Hendricks enters the bar and berates the storyteller for blaspheme. Elsebeth confronts Hendricks while Arthur tries to hide his staff. It rolls across the floor and taps Wilder spirit, still injured from the hobgoblin battle. Blue light fills the inn and all eyes turn to the corner. Hendrick gasps and tries to get the staff, but is intercepted by Gauraux. Hendrick then screams for guards and the party makes a quick escape out the kitchen exit.

    The party is now directionless. They know they have the staff everyone is looking for but have no real idea where to go with it. They opt to go to Haven, heading south towards the river and then following that to the Lordcity, where they might be able to gain more information. They hastily depart, making it to the small town of Gateway as night is falling. Elsebeth and Tictoklington rest in the inn that night while the rest camp in the woods, to avoid the Seeker guards standing watch around Gateway.
    Arthur tells the group he remembers a swamp and lizard folk of some kind, and a beautiful woman handing him the staff.

    That morning the group debates if they should head directly south or go east following the road and pass by the Que-Teh barbarian village. After much discussion they opt to stick to the road. After a couple hours of travel they encounter a band of robed monks pulling a wagon, with wrapped hands and feet. The group divides and hides, while Else talks with the leader. He tells of their order’s blue crystal staff, which has been stolen from their monastery in Xak Tsaroth.
    Else’s easily spots their lies, but does not call them on their falsehoods. She tells them she knows nothing and lets them pass. Seeing only three travellers (a knight, a gnome, and an old man with a walking stick) the head monk calls for the attack, revealing themselves to be draconians.
    The battle is relatively quick, with only minor injuries to the heroes, their heavy armour making them difficult to hit. It turns dramatic near the end, when Else is disarmed as a draconian turning to stone, but her mailed gauntlet proves an effective back-up weapon.

    One of the draconian is only stunned, knocked unconscious by Tictok. The group sets to work interrogating the draconian who identifies itself as such, and says that it and its company were ordered to find the blue crystal staff and return it to Xak Tsaroth and someone named “Onyx”. It mentions Onyx is his mistress and servant of his Queen. It refuses to say any more and, after debating what to do with the prisoner, they leave it tied to a tree. But Wilder Sprit sneaks back and kills it as an abomination.

    Now armed with the knowledge the staff came from Xak Tsaroth and that the reptile men there want it back, the group decides to investigate the destroyed city. They reach Que-Teh and find it a graveyard, then cut across overland to Que-Shu which is equally filled with the dead. Camping outside of the ruined village they decide to cut through the mountains and ancient pass to Xak Tsaroth. They reach the swamp, resting just in the foothills of the mountains and venturing off come morning. Their journey across the weaving rope bridges proves short lived as more draconian emerge from behind trees, only these reptile men look different.

    This battle is longer, as the powerful spellcasters trap the heroes in a thick web, then paralyse the warriors before unleashing bolts of lightning. Two fall as Gauraux shrugs off being held while Food and Else’s horse attack another. Tictoklington is almost knocked unconscious by repeated blasts of lightning, but is unfortunately invisible, and slumps off unconscious at the side of the battle. The remaining draconian unleash their deep slumber spells, rendering Gauraux and Else’s horse deeply asleep. The remaining heroes escape while they can.

    Later that day, Else and Gauraux awake in a cage. Tents surround them and in the distance they can see a towering figure unlike any they have seen before. A creature out of legend they thought to be myth. It is a dragon!

  4. #4
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    Default DM Commentary: Session One

    The big problem with this adventure is the initial hook. The person with the blue crystal staff is just meant to trust these people they run into and agree to follow them and trust them with their life and holy artifact. There's also not a solid moment where the group has to decide to leave Solace and investigate the staff. It's expected the staffbearer just tells them and shares what they know and everyone just replied "Gee willikers, we'd better find out where this staff came from".

    The novels solve this similar to how I did, by having the staff triggered in public and the other PCs being associated with the staff bearer. The staffbearer in my game (Amaudeus) will be using the oracle class from the
    Advanced Player's Guide when they go all divine, but is playing their character like a sorcerer sans-bloodlines in the meantime. But he has the oracle's curse, which is "haunted", meaning he is plagued by little spirits. So I used that to push the staff away from him and onto the most injured party member.

    The second hardest bit is getting them to Xak Tsaroth without grabbing them by the nose. The storyteller is one way the module does that, but it was far to deux ex machina (literally) so I opted not to have that hook. I was hoping for the Forestmaster as it's just as heavy but not as silly as having a random NPC spout out all the important plot points. Instead, the group went south so I would have had a harder time justifying the Forestmaster, but could still have all the fun Haven scenes and name-drop Elistan early (and show him in contrast to the other Seekers).
    But, just in case, I had the draconians be honest and mention Xak Tsaroth.
    And thankfully, my PCs saw that as a solid lead and leapt for it, no dragging by the nose required.

    The fights proved awkward. This was no surprise, but I wanted to see for myself before I made many adjustments. Lots of low level monsters were a threat in 1e, but they're just not in 3e/PF. My heavily armoured PCs have crit-or-miss numbers for their defences, making waves of draconians ignorable. The hobgoblins were mostly killed by a single spell and the first draconian fight had three hits against PCs total. The last fight with the six bozak ambushers that's meant to be a slaughter was unnervingly even, which made it hard to play as a "capture" fight, which NEED to be overwhelmingly powerful not slightly hard. It was halfway into the fight before some of the party realized this was not meat to be a winable fight.

    I'll need to ramp up my baaz draconians later. Give all of them warrior levels and masterwork weapons and weapon focus so they'll have an extra +3 or +4 to attack and maybe have a chance of hitting. Especially in the elevator fight.

    Now a word on encounters. I went with the introductory fights as a quick "test your character" fights, and to set-up Toede and the Seekers. I opted to move the draconian monk fight because it was the most interesting and memorable of the draconian fights.

  5. #5
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    Default Media

    The next game is tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it and I hope everyone else is as well. We ended on such a mixed note with the capture and unfair fight at the stump. Not my favourite bit of the adventures. When (if) they get captured in chapter 2 I'll have to handle that without dice being rolled.

    In anticipation of the event, here's the movie I made and stuck in another thread:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACEIKN-Mf7k

    And below are some quick constellation pictures I drew-up to show how the sky has changed. This isn't in the actual modules anywhere I've seen, but I think it's an important bit of flavour to emphasis things are larger than just some staff and a few odd lizard folk.




    You can also read what I'm posting over on my Obsidian Portal campaign page.
    Last edited by Jester; 06-01-2012 at 09:22 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Session Two

    Gauraux awakened in a bamboo cage, and quickly remembered what happened: he and Elsebeth were ambushed and captured by a group of the reptile-men apparently called “draconians”. Else’s wound’s had been bandaged, but the knight was still badly injured, and the minotaur sailor was also far from healthy. But what terrifed him is the dragon: a beast of legend standing over a blazing bonfire.

    One of the dragon-men approached, a priest judging from his robes, flanked by two armoured guards. He snarled and demanded to know the location of the “blue crystal staff”. Elsebeth defiantly said she knows nothing. The draconian spewed vitriol and threats, then returns to its kin sitting around the bonfire.

    Meanwhile, the elven ranger Wilder Spirit, the gnome tinkerer Tictok, and the “human” magic-user who calls himself “ Arthur ” assessed their injuries. Tictok was badly hurt, having been repeatedly struck by lightning, while Wilder Spirit’s lion had also been injured. Arthur quickly used the Blue Crystal Staff to heal their injuries as best as he could, but is now aware that the staff has limited power. It seems to be diminishing with every use.

    Needing reconnaissance, Arthur uses his magical statue, which transforms into a silvery bird, to scout the area. The wondrous familiar spots the bonfire and dragon then warns its master. The trio decided to head to the fire and rescue their companions. Slowly, they made their way over the slippery bridges to scout the draconian encampment. The three soon notice that the massive dragon is actually a wicker statue, sculpted in the image of a dragon. Having rested for a time and composed themselves, they watch as Guarax picks the lock to the bamboo cage and slips off into the shadows.

    Tictok, seeing Gauraux needs a distraction, produced a couple small gnomish devices and uses them to create the image of the dragon breathing fire and moving about. The startled draconians immediately look confused but their obedient instincts take over and they begin prostrating themselves before ‘god’. Gauraux began searching tents for his gear and is joined by Wilder Spirit and Elsebeth. Suddenly, one of the draconians noticed Else and moved to attack the gravely injured and unarmourerd knight. Wilder Spirit quickly intercepted the draconian priest while Gauraux continued to search tents, discovering their pilfered gear. Re-armed, the heroes quickly defeat the priest, with Arthur healing Else attracting the attention of the other draconians. Their cover blow, Tictok and Arthur blasted them with magic, toppling the wicker dragon into the bonfire and burning down the camp.

    The group retreated to an abandoned and partially ruined tower, spotted earlier by the bird. There, they rest and recover from their injures as best they can with the nearly powerless staff. From atop the tower they spied the ruins on an ancient city that could only be Xak Tsaroth. Circling around the marsh to avoid more draconian encounters, they reached a wide overgrown plaza. Arthur spoted a large well in the middle with steam and smoke coming from within. He looked down and sent dancing lights down the hole. Then there is the sound of flapping wings, as a dragon, a true dragon emerges from the well. Immedietly struck with sheer panic and unnatural fear, the party scattered. Tictok and Elsebeth fled to one of the standing buildings, a temple to a forgotten goddess. The black dragon, Onyx as named earlier by an interrogated draconian, let loose a blast of its breath weapon: a spray of acid that struck Wilder Spirit, Tictoklington, and Elsebeth. The knight dropped, as she liquefied in her armour! Triumphant in scaring off the intruders, the dragon returned to the well.

    As Tictok mourned the fallen Else, Arthur felt drawn to the temple. Inside he sees a polished marble statue of a beautiful woman, the same woman he saw in his vision, who originally gave him the crystal staff. Returning the staff to the awaiting hands, it glowed brilliantly, fully recharged. The newly restored staff quickly restored Elsebeth to life and healed the remaining injures of the party. Arthur told them of his vision, where the statue spoke and told him he was chosen, and must search the ruins below the city for the Discs of Mishakal, which will return the gods to the world. The vision says that the gods never abandoned their followers, but that mortals turned their backs on the gods after the Cataclysm. Lastly, the vision of the goddess advised Arthur to “present the staff boldly and never wavering”.

    Investigating the rest of the temple, the group discovers a group of scavengers tearing apart a mosaic looking for “pretties”. It is five gully dwarves , or Aghar, looking for presents for their king the Highbulp. They give the party directions to their home under the city (“stay left” while pointing right and “get in the pot”). Following the directions takes the companions down a spiral staircase into a ruined crypt beneath the temple. In many places the floor has collapsed, opening into a vast chasm beneath the building. Moving forward, the group sees even more gully dwarves, two draconian armed with whips, and an ogre. There are also two large holes in the floor with a large chain that goes between the holes and is connected to a massive set of gears and counterweights. The chains connect to pots that raise and lower depending on the weight inside. The draconians, seeing the heroes, flee into the pot making their escape while reinforcements are raised upward. Tictok blinds the fleeing draconians with a glitterdust grenade while the party advances on the equally blind ogre. Quickly slain, the ogre is tossed in the far hole atop the reinforcements, raising the fleeing draconians back up where they are quickly dispatched.

    Befriending a gully dwarf, Bupu, the party makes their way further underground, passing through an upside down inn and a buried street before sliding down a natural waterslide into a flooded building. There, using as much stealth as they can muster, the group ventures through the streets of the buried city. Reaching a central plaza they see the dragon again, and overhear it telling a draconian that a missing prisoner must be found! The group separates from their guide, Bupu, and searches the streets, managing to quickly discover the hiding place of the escaped prisoner. The captive, Sunstar, is a barbarian of the Que-Shu tribe, who was captured along with her brother. She tells what she knows of the layout of the underground complex.

    Judging from what Sunstar and Bupu said and what they’ve seen, the party decides they know the location of the dragon’s lair. Arthur protests at the idea of speaking with the gully dwarves, so the group finds a secluded corner of the ruins and rests overnight. They next morning they set-out to the dragon’s lair. They come to a set of closed double doors or a side passage and opt for the latter. However, they quickly encounter a pair of draconian guards. The fight attracts a third, who is a much more potent spellcaster, and several of the group are injured. Arthur does what he can with the staff, but it is again growing weak in power. Thankfully, the group finds Raven-eye, the brother of Sunstar as they passed through the side passage.

    Moving forward, the group encounters another large door and realizes the dragon must be on the far side. Decided to be sneaky. Tictok uses a conjured clockwork device to distract the dragon. Onyx the black dragon chases the annoyance down the far corridor away from the party while Wilder Spirit sneaks up looking for the platinum discs of Mishakal. Tictok blocks the corridor behind the dragon with webbing. Enraged, the dragon flys off, trying to circle around and avoid the web. The group looks for another escape route, and spots a sewer grate. Wilder Spirit, Sunstar, and Raven-eye begin their escape and the dragon circles all the way around the corridor and blasts Elsebeth and Gauraux with its acid breath. Everyone prepares to escape when Arthur is reminded of his vision. He strides forward and cracks his staff across the snout of the dragon. The staff explodes in a burst of blue light sending shards of crystal in all directions! The explosions scars and mains the dragon and instantly slays Arthur.

    Yet the dragon lives! Horribly maimed and injured, it staggers about barely able to act. Elsebeth and Tictok leap into action striking at the injured dragon. Hurt but not disabled, the dragon lashes out and badly hurts Else with a bite. Unafraid of the dragon, Gauraux rushes forward, ignoring the biting maw, and finishes off the dragon with a swift axe blow to the head.

    Suddenly aware of the collapsing building, the party hastily collects the dragon’s treasure and flees to the surface via the draconian pot elevator. Escaping through the temple they are surprised to find Arthur, seemingly unhurt, lying at the base of the statue which now clutches its staff again. Arthur is now a follower of the gods, the first of the new clerical order.

  7. #7
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    Default DM Commentary: Session Two

    This was a looong session, because I didn't want to end in a poor place. We must have gamed for 8 hours on-and-off.

    The first fight was obvious: it had to be a rescue from the wicker dragon camp. This is an iconic and memorable moment in the books and I wanted it to be fun. I allowed the player of Gauraux to escape from the cage so he wouldn't feel entirely useless and needing of rescue. Capturing them was humiliating enough. No one climbed into the wicker dragon, but illusions (gnomish racial abilities mostly) were used to spook the draconians.

    The dragon fight at the well was hard. People were hurt and the update to dragons from 1e to 3e meant no one could resist dragonfear. 3/5ths of the party failed, even with an item the cavalier had boosting saves vs fear. And the acid breath weapon easily killed a player.
    I was going for the kill, knowing ressurection was possible via the staff, but it still felt cheap. It's a mean fight, extremely cheap, but it serves its purpose of emphasising you're
    not meant to fight the dragon. There is the oddness of why the dragon comes up and attacks and why it leaves. There's some funkiness there. Realistically, it should just leisurely kill them all. I also wonder know what would happen story-wise if the bearer of the blue crystal staff deflected the breath weapon and attacked. That might really derail the story.

    I loved playing the gully dwarves, which are just pure comic relief.

    The elevator fight was a bit of a disappointment for me. I had little movable cardboard pots made to hold the draconians and instead they just focused on the ogre and brought the others back. No one jumped into the pot and played it extremely safe. My group is boring.
    Playing through the fight I had the pots move 50' twice a round, so it would take 7 rounds for a pot to move from the bottom to the top and they'd meet in the middle of round 4. It seemed the easiest way rather than go for the 5-minute round trip the book suggests, which would mean the reinforcements would likely arrive 4 minutes and 42 seconds after the initial draconians died. Assuming the party didn't just lob a long range spell like
    fireball into the pot. As it was, they just pushed an ogre over the edge and jammed the machinery (my gnome tinkerer has a high disable device check).
    I brought the ogre into the fight hoping it would be interesting, with people in the buckets below while the rest dealt with the ogre. Theoretically, the melee fighters would go down while the spellcasters stayed up, so an ogre would keep the spellcasters from nuking the reinforcements. As it turned out, everyone focued on the ogre and it died very quickly. But everything dies quickly against my PCs.

    Getting the players down into Xak Tasroth was a long process. There's a lot of travel involved with very little payback. There's some neat scenes but it's extremely hard to describe how the city was so messed up while the surface is not. It's hard to mentally picture at times (I showed them the map from the
    War of the Lance book). It was hard envisioning how the gully dwarves got up to the surface. There's quite a few superflous fights on the way down (snakes and spiders) that I just ditched. They added nothing.

    I was saddened that my group didn't interact with the gully dwarves or talk to the Highbulp. Or sneak through more of the draconian area. Instead they went right for the dragon. But that turned what could have been two sessions in Xak Tsaroth into one slightly longer session as I opted to just let them finish things up rather than push them into more interactions or deals.

    The interesting bit was the messed-up dragon fight. They handled it well, using a distraction and then just grabbing the discs and trying to escape through the pipe the novel heroes used to break in. I had this moment of fear that they'd get away and have both the discs and the staff. I actually had to remind the staffbearer what he'd been told and push him to be a hero while everyone else fled from the dragon.
    I could have just had the dragon survive and start the next session with pursuit, but it felt less climactic and more awkward to sacrifice a PC at the start of a game. I was also tempted to have the dragon squeeze into the sewer and blast them with acid while they were sitting ducks.

    There was a hard choice in killing the dragon or not killing the dragon.
    The staff was very low in charges (5 left) when they went into the dragon fight, so it would not have with the massive damage threshold the sidebar suggested. So I had the staff convert all his un-used spell levels into charges for a potential 10d8. Even then, the staff only did less than 60hp, far less from the 80 needed for massive damage under Pathfinder rules. So I doubled the damage done (20d8 essentially of 2d8/charge) which still left the dragon with 40hp. Opted to make the dragon staggered so it could only do one action. This allowed everyone else to have an in-game victory over the dragon that was not story mandated and still had the potential for a death.

  8. #8
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    Default Session Three

    The companions rest in the forgotten temple of Mishakal, recovering after their journey into the subterranean ruins of Xak Tasroth. Arthur uses his newly discovered divine powers of healing to tend to the party’s wounds. The next morning they venture back through the swamps and mountains, returning to the plains where they witness the sight of smoke rising in the distance.

    Arthur also remembers the vision he experience and the words spoken to him by the goddess Mishakal. That he must find the leader of the people, the one who will return the word of the gods to all the people of Ansalon.

    Deciding to return to Solace and find the source of the ominous black smoke, the group sends Arthur’s magical bird ahead to scout. Partway home they spot a crimson shape on the horizon, flying quickly through the air. Ducking for cover in a dried river bed they watch as a huge red dragon flies overhead, scanning the countryside with its keen eyes. The fully grown wyrm almost spots Gauraux in his hiding place before returning to its search. Realizing the dragon they faced in Xak Tasorth was not an anomaly, that dragons have indeed returned to Ansalon, they grimly resume their journey.

    The companions reach Solace as the sun is setting, having been warned by Arthur’s bird that the city has been occupied by the “dragon men”. They discover the village has been razed, with the great vallenwood trees burned or uprooted. Few people remain in the city, with most working as slaves to fortify the town. The Inn of the Last Home has been lifted from its place in the trees and poorly placed on the ground, but still seems to be open.
    Gauraux, Wilder Spirit, and Tictoklington investigate the town, scouting for survivors and the location of someone in charge. Tictok finds the barmaid Tika is still working at the Inn and tells her their plans to rescue as many people as possible. Gauraux, looking for information, finds a hobgoblin that has separated from his squar and knocks him unconscious. Dragging the stunned mercenary through the town, Gauraux is spotted by a draconian patrol but manages to convince them that the goblinoid is simply drunk. Elsebeth and Gauraux quickly set to work interrogating the hobgoblin merc, and discover he know little about the source of the Dragonarmies, beyond their origins somewhere “to the North”. He tells that they have taken several towns and are busy amassing troops at Solace, Haven, and the fortress of Pax Tharkas. He mentions that the army is being lead by someone known as “Highlord Verminaard”.

    The companions set themselves on rescuing the slaves and remaining townsfolk of Solace. Tictok, Elsebeth, and Arthur decide to create a distraction allowing Wilder Spirit and Gauraux to free the penned slaves. Tictok unleashes a mechanical monstrosity of grasping tentacles, which captures a patrol of draconian, while Arthur creates an illusion of an entire company of mounted Solamnic Knights modeled after Else who busies herself with the first wave of reinforcements. Elsebeth soon discovers she is facing a different breed of draconian, one that dissolves into a pool of acid when slain. As more troops arrive, Tictok, Arthur, and Else flee from the almost endless wave of dragon men. Tictok stumbles and is almost captured, but Elsebeth heroically rides over and hauls him into her saddle.

    The heroes flee with the slaves along the road south, skirting the edge of the Darken Wood. They flee to the only safe harbour they can think of: the elven forest of Qualinesti. Thankfully, several of the slaves are elven, and the group hopes this is enough to keep them from being killed on sight. While resting after a day of flight, one of the slaves introduces himself as Gilthanas, son of the Speaker of the Sun and an elven prince. He assures the group that they will have safe passage through the woods.

    At the edge of the elven kingdom, the group encounters a strange old man, a wizard by appearance, who is arguing with a tree that is in his way. The befuddled old man introduces himself as Fizban the Fabulous. And he agrees to accompany the group through the woods.
    The group has barely entered the wood when they are surrounded by elven warriors with raised bows. Gilthanas steps forward and speaks regarding the party’s heroism, and introduces the elven band’s leader, his brother Porthios. Porthios sends his men to escort the freed slaves safely through the woods. Meanwhile, he will escort the companions to Qualinost, the elven capitol.
    Once the group reaches Qualinost, they find the city in a state of unrest, preparing for war or flight. The heroes are taken to the golden Tower of the Sun, and introduced to the elven ruler. He tells them of the plight of the elven people, how the Dragonarmies plan to strike hard into the nation of elves, and have three armies poised to strike. The elves have little chance against the force and the dragon, and must flee, escaping across the western sea into the unknown in the hopes of finding safety.

    The Speaker tells the heroes of how the human folk of the land have been enslaved, and are being held in the mines of Pax Tharkas. Their wives and children are being held separately and used as hostages to keep the menfolk from revolt or unrest. The elves know a secret way into the fortress, via a long forgotten tomb, which might be used to sneak a small force into the fortress to free the slaves. With a large force at his flank, Highlord Verminaard might be unwilling to move against the elves, buying time for their retreat.

    Arthur finds his stay in Qualinost distressing, as he is confronted by an angry Speaker of the Sun for wearing a medallion of faith and claiming to be a healer. Even after proving his power, he is met with distrust and scepticism from the elves, who view it as a great insult that a human would be chosen by the Gods of Light rather than an elf: the firstborn children of gods of light. The elves have not forgiven the gods for abandoning them and still blame the humans for driving them away. Arthur, however, knows that it was the mortals that turned from the gods and not the other way round and that all races bear the blame for the god’s actions. But the prideful elves are unwilling to accept this.
    Still, as a small measure of respect for Arthur, the elves part with a suit of elven chain, giving it to him as a token gesture.

    After two days of hard travel through the forest, the group arrives in Pax Tharkas. There they see the vast forces of the Dragonarmies as thousands of draconian march north upon Qualinesti. The heroes move to the foothills and find the hidden entrance to the fortress. Gilthanas opens the Sla-Mori, the secret way, and the group moves into the hidden tomb. Turning down the winding corridors they come to a long chamber filled with entombed servants. Moving to the far side the dead awaken, and the group rushes through the door sealing it behind them. Continuing forward, they find the great Chamber of the Chain, the end of a great mechanism that can be used in emergencies to seal the great gate to the fortress.

    Searching the ancient room, Gauraux discovers a hidden door that leads to an empty treasury. There, on the floor, is a desiccated corpse. Suddenly, a ghostly phantom rises from the body and moves to attack. Elsebeth, Gauraux, and Wilder Spirit rush forward, striking at the banshee. The evil ghost begins its terrifying wail, that threatens to instantly slay all that hear it. The heroes rally, making a final attempt to kill the spirit before they are killed. After several devastating strikes to its vital non-anatomy, Wilder Spirit delivers the final blow.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
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    Edmonton, Alberta
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    Default Session Three: DM Commentary

    The hard part of this session is the capture. As I ended the first session with a capture and started the second with a capture this would be the third session in a row with a story-motivated PC capture. I was not looking forward to this.
    Thankfully, my players gave me a curve ball and by-passed the capture by instead scouting via stealth and moving to free the slaves themselves. So they instigated the rescue of the slaves and fled into Qualinesti of their own accord (possibly suggested by someone who had read the books). Although, I was also planning on having the rescued Gilthanas push for this if they opted not to go to the elves. This allowed them to keep the story going in the exact right direction of the story while staying off the rails.

    I love my group.

    I opted to drop some elements of the modules. First, Elistan was not among the slaves. This was always awkward, because he would stay captured for no good reason and there’s also the strange bit about why they moved him from Haven to Solace before shipping him to Pax Tharkas. I also opted to keep Fizban around for longer, so he’d be more memorable. PCs often have a short memory for PCs.
    I also dropped the plot of Laurana being kidnapped. It served no purpose. She’s just not in my version of the story. I don’t need another NPC hanging on the heroes. And there’s no one for her to romance. So she has a super brief cameo in Qualinost then vanishes. Plus that whole encounter reeked of shoddiness, such as how the wyvern carried so many draconians, and the unrealistic expectation that the PCs would not leap at the opportunity to gank Toede, focusing their fire on him. He managed to have a brief cameo twice and survive, I don’t want to push it by having him appear a third time and escape.

    Eben. I decided not to have the Eben encounter en route to Pax Tharkas. It seemed odd as the entire trip would be through Qualanesti, so why would a human be there? Let alone several draconians. Any how did he know to be in that exact clearing at that exact time?
    Instead, I’m having him found in Pax Tharkas, being a mole planted to spy on the prisoners. I’ll introduce him at the same time as Elistan.

    My group continues its habit of bypassing half the fights, missing being captured but also the giant slug (and wyrmslayer) and most of the tomb. Thankfully, to gather all the slaves in Pax Tharkas, they will need to hit the big two or three fights there. And exploring will take some time.

    I used the most 4e-isms in this session. There were two small skill challenges. The first was hiding from the dragon on the plains and the second was escaping the army of draconians while fleeing Solace. I also turned the many zombies in the tomb into minions, so I didn’t have to count hitpoints for that fight.
    Once again, the fights were mostly anticlimactic. Many small low CR monsters just do not challenge a higher level party. It might play better with 8 lower level PCs, as they will have lower defences and hitpoints so the many weak monsters will be more threatening. My group just walks over all the low CR critters without effort (so I’m extra sad they missed the CR 8 slug).
    I’ll solve that next time by really beefing-up the hobgoblin monk they have to fight. Hopefully that will be more interesting.
    The banshee was an interesting fight. I used the sample ghost from the
    Pathfinder Beastiary but gave it the banshee wail power (from Beastiary 2) and awarded xp for a monster of +1 CR. I knocked the damage of the wail down from 140 to 70 (caster level 7 instead of 14) which would have dropped one fighter and reduced another two to 2 and 3 hp respectively. A nice bit of damage. But they killed it first.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Posts
    1,400

    Default Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes

    The above session marked the first time my group also really broke from canon.
    Because of their actions, they freed Theros before he would have been captured, thus preventing his injury. That will impact the story.

    I'm looking ahead to the next part now. Chapter 2 does not really have a big climax - other than the dragon-on-dragon non-interactive cut scene. Unless the players time it just right next game, I'll probably just go directly into chapter 3 from 2 in a couple sessions.

    I'm looking forward to that session for the lengthy role-playing scenarios. And the ability to have some politics going on. I'll probably have some great fun even if my players go exactly where they need to go.
    One of the changes I'll probably make for the next session is dumping the no-name Seeker in charge of that faction and replacing him with Hederick, who the PCs will instantly recognise and who has an active dislike for the PCs. Plus it adds some lovely drama and a way to expand on the seldom used Hederick.

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