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Game 3 - 5/22/2020

We switched back to the old Fantasy Grounds since it seemed like FGU wasn’t quite ready.  Brian said that Jon’s character (Virgil Bowden) was the religious man that was on the train previously.  I’m not sure why he’s joined us exactly but I suspect we’ll find trouble soon enough and he’ll pitch in.  We figured he stayed with the train when we fought the spiders.  We did a little rehashing of the past events but got going pretty fast.  Slim had noticed supplies associate with a new spur a ways back and figured that would be the easiest path towards Coffin Rock.  So we headed that way at an angle.  A good tracking roll from Thomas later and we were on the path.  We didn’t have any trouble and soon found ourselves on the Coffin Rock map. 


We heard gunfire and saw a riderless horse running toward us.  The Doc managed to grab it.  Others ran forward and saw a woman being attacked by two men that didn’t look quite human.  One of them seemed to shoot something from his hand but it was hard to tell at that distance.  Despite the range and the risk of hitting her, they were dropped soon enough.  She was dress as a person at home in the wilderness.  She was the daughter of the man who used to own a large portion of the town.  He was killed when his mansion burned down.  She returned from her boarding school back east for the funeral.  She claims the town Sheriff had cheated her out of her inheritance and advised us to avoid him.  Some of her friends/employees (a group of similarly equipped ladies) arrived.  Despite the fact that they avoided the town, they agreed to help us and our innocents get there.  She said we could contact her by leaving notes under a rock by the town sign so it must really mean she avoids the sheriff.  We made it into town without further issue.

Coffin Rock

We headed to the hotel first to get the wounded woman settled in.  Phoebe-Ann ran ahead to fetch the town doctor and Virgil headed to the nearby church.  They had reservations under Slim and Phoebe-Ann and despite our unexpected numbers, they managed to find a place for everyone.  There was no telegraph or mail service beyond the stagecoach so the train people might be here a while.  The owner said his wife has been feeling poorly (we should have our doctor check that out) so he wouldn’t be able to serve the meals he normally would have.  The railroad cook offered to take over.  Buster heard faint crying but the sound seemed to move about and he was unable to pinpoint it.  Big John and Slim noticed their reflections in the windows looked more worried than their actual faces.  That was just the tip of the weirdness we were about to find.     

Virgil went over to the church.  We noticed that the bell kept ringing, even during the service.  He noticed that there were no kids in attendance.  He noticed that those in the sun, looked bruised and battered and those on the other side did not.  When he sat with them, he too looked battered but when he moved over, he did not.  The kids were sent over to keep them busy while their injured mother was examined by the town doctor.  The sermon was so boring, one of them fell asleep on the floor.  Virgil sent them back afterward.  Once it was over, no one seemed to leave.  He questioned the deacon who was standing in for Reverend Cheval.  The Reverend was out in the area, “gathering” more to their flock.  They call themselves the Brethren of the New Covent.   The deacon was very proud that people from other states were coming in to be part of what was going on in the town.  Virgil asked about the Blood Men but got nothing.  Basically, he admitted that things were strange but claim that it was a sign of great things coming to the town.  Virgil returned to the hotel with that bell still ringing.

Phoebe-Ann made it to the doctor.  The office seemed worn but organized.  The doctor seemed concerned for her health but with her urging, she got him moving.  He moved slow due to his heavyweight but came eventually.  Phoebe-Ann checked into her princess suite on the top floor and took a bath.  Our Doc said that the town doctor was competent.  Meanwhile Buster, Thomas, and Slim went to the sheriff’s office.  Thomas noticed a red welt around his neck (i.e. from a noose) in his reflection from the sheriff’s badge hanging outside.  The Marshal was not there but there were plenty of tough-looking deputies.  Buster wanted to check in with the local law, told them about the attack of the Blood Men, and about the train wreck.  They said it was likely the Archer gang however they had never hit anything that big and were thought to have around 6 men which were way too small.  Thomas looked that their wanted posters and didn’t notice a match.  It did seem to be a large number of deputies for such a small town.  Slim asked Deputy Wilbur about that and got a steely stare back.  That conversion escalated and Slim was in danger of getting into trouble so he left.  He went next door to the bank and found that it had been cleared out.  As they headed back to the hotel, Hawthorne and Phoebe decided to go to the church and investigate the bell.  They slipped up the stairs and Hawthorne boosted her up into the bell tower.  She found that the bell was moving without any rope, mechanism or person.  She cut the leather strap and removed the clacker.  Hawthorne tossed it into a barrel of water they found up there and they exited. 

We regrouped at the hotel and compared notes.  We tried to come up with a plan of action but there were still lots of buildings and people to check out so the best plan we could come up with was to split up and just start working on the list with the hour of daylight left.

Slim, Virgil, and Hawthorne went to the Assay office.  It still seemed in business, unlike the bank, but currently closed despite it still being within operating hours posted on the door.  Their reflections had a look of greed to them.  After vigorous knocking, Slim picked the lock and went in.  With the others standing guard, he did a critical failure on his research roll to search the papers but then used a red chip to get a better roll.  About then, 2 deputies came down the street and the other two stalled them.  They said they had business at the salon next door and they went in with them.  These windows were too dirty to show reflections.  They found the mayor, drinking heavily.  He said that the town had been going downhill since Mr. Pearl was killed in that fire and he felt responsible.  There was also an invention in the corner, just sitting there.  The inventor had disappeared.  The kept eyeing the deputies and talked to the mayor.  The bell had been ringing so long, he didn’t even notice it anymore.  The Reverend Cheval showed up a few months before the fire.  He said maybe it’s a good thing as they were growing the town although they mostly stayed to themselves.  Meanwhile, back at the assayer’s office Slim found that the last transaction was 5 months ago which seemed odd for a mining town.  Either the mines had dried up or they weren’t using the town anymore.  He then tried to pick lock on the back room and did another critical failure.  But he was out of chips.  Two more deputies got the drop on him and he had no choice but to drop his gun.  He tried to claimed that he’d seen a ghost in here but they didn’t buy it and cuffed him.  About this time, Phoebe-Ann happened to be going by.  She tried to support his crazy ghost story with a persuasion roll.  She rolled well enough to come along to make a statement but not near good enough to get him off the hook.  Meanwhile, back in the salon, Hawthorne asked whether Mr. Pearl had any relatives.  He said he had a daughter back east who came for the funeral but then left as far as he knew.  He assumed she was rich since she should now own half the town.  They went to his office and he had records that showed it.      

Buster, Thomas, and the NPC report went to the burnt-out mansion but there was not much left.  They could tell it happened a few months ago, but nothing else.  They stopped at the Newspaper office on the way back.  In their eagerness to get in before the other, the newspaper folks burst into the building, only to fall through the weakened floor and into the basement.  That unleashed a swarm of rats that, unless dealt with, would increase the fear level in town.  They got out without issue and returned to the hotel.  Meanwhile, Big John and Phoebe went to the Theater.  The madame offered to sell Phoebe-Ann a beer which pleased her to finally be treated as an adult.  Given her rural upbringing, she was impressed by the fancy theater which was actually pretty shabby.  The fact that it was a brothel seemed to elude her.  John went upstairs to check that out but the rooms were closed.  He was then propositioned but her persuasion roll was low.  Brian spent a GM chip and did a bit better.  For $10, he got two girls but what happened after that, occurred off-camera.  Phoebe-Ann talked to the madame.  She said that people were leaving because the mines were running dry.  She claimed to know nothing about Blood Men.  Eventually Phoebe-Ann got creeped out by the looks she was getting by the patrons and left.  She had her little encounter with the law and headed back to the hotel by way of the graveyard.  

Andy had to leave so we tried to shut down for the night but Dave wanted to play his adventure card before he lost it.  It was a Contacts one.  So, it turns out he knew the Marshal as he used to work for the railroad too.  They got along because both were mean SOBs.  Slim knew he was greedy and figured that with enough cash, maybe he could get out of this.  Marshal claimed he owned half the town.  He was not worried about the weirdness and figured once the Reverend got things turned around, he’d make a killing.  He asked for $50 dollars toward a steak dinner in Denver like they used to have in the old days.  Slim agreed and invited him to join us for dinner.  So, as we sat at dinner trying to figure out what to do about Slim being arrested, he showed up arm in arm with the Marshal.  That might be troublesome since he’s likely one of the two villains in this story, along with the Reverend.  We stopped there with the impending threat of the creepy graveyard at sunset and the promise of some action. 

Coffin Rock City

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Game 2 - 5/15/2020

We started with plenty to do.  But first we had to tend to the wounded.  Thomas and Buster went down into the gully to find the engineer and coalman dead.  They brought the bodies up.  The passengers were collected into the dining car which took the least damage and was the warmest.  Slim was consulted as to how long it would be before we could expect a rescue party.  Days to a week, depending.  We were in the snowy mountains but we had shelter, food, heaters, and plenty of coal.    We debated, staying and waiting, going a couple of days along the tracks to Denver, or due north overland into Coffin Rock.  Regardless of the various merits and risks, we were steered toward the adventure and that was Coffin Rock.  Although it took some time to get everyone on board.  We talked about gathering the bandit bodies but it was pointed out by an NPC that if we wanted to get down to the baggage car and back before dark, we had no time to waste.  After some attempts to leave some characters behind, we all ended up going along with that reporter NPC.  I believe the NPCs were told to at least gather the guns although it seemed like anybody that could shoot, had a gun.

Due to the hexes that appeared, we approached with caution but we found nothing alive.  We did find that a crate had been ripped open from the inside.  Its label said it belonged to that missing collector from the museum in Boston.  There were holes in it so evidently it once held something that was alive.  That probably explained why he kept going back here with the conductor.  The doors to the car also seemed to have been ripped open from the inside.  There was a lot of blood and Thomas could see that several bodies had been dragged into the forest.  However there didn’t seem to be any animal tracks, just strange silt like tracks in the snow.  Various Notice rolls were made to try to reconstruct the order of events but the bottom line was that all 4 train men were gone, likely dead and dragged off. 

Again, the course of action was encouraged in that night was soon falling.  If we wanted to make it back to the train before dark, we could not go tracking into the woods.  We grabbed what we could before heading back.  Packable food and warm clothes were prioritized.  In addition, we found and returned Phoebe’s gun and Thomas found a Gatlin pistol which no one claimed.  We went back to the train without issue.  We posted guards.  During the night several heard something but nothing was found.  However, in the morning, the bandit bodies were noticed to be gone.  The same stilt tracks were found.  The reporter said she was very concerned about the escaped creature.  Most wanted to head to Coffin Rock and deal with whatever may come.  But then she offered a reward it was obvious Brian was pushing us to do it.  So eventually the players headed off to investigate, leaving the cook to gather supplies and such so we could set out the next day.

We started at the baggage car, figuring that would be the easiest trail to follow.  Despite a skill of d6, Thomas managed to make several tracking rolls, and eventually the spooky forest gave way to a clearing with hexes.  We could see patches of cleared snow where the earth had recently been dug.  Once we got close enough a bunch of zombies emerged from the grave.  Everyone had to make Guts rolls or be frightened.  (Are you sure this isn’t Cthulhu?)  The Doc, the NPC, and Slim missed their rolls and had to spend their actions moving away.  The zombies only moved 4 but Brian rolled very well on their run rolls so they closed pretty quick for zombies.  Most fired and then backed up.  Big John is a melee guy and stood his ground.  That got him surrounded by 3 and attacked by more since he ended up being the only one within reach.  Again, the first attack was a massive exploder and he had to use his chips to keep from dying.  The first hit on a zombie seemed to do a lot of damage but since it was already dead, it didn’t fall.  It wasn’t clear if that was damage resistance or something else.  The next shot was a call headshot which dropped it.  When another was dropped something strange happened.

The zombies pitched over and stopped moving.  From the back of their neck jumped hand-sized spider-like insects.  (Now we knew the reason for all those Notice rolls Big John kept missing.)  These things were small so hard to hit, had a bite or spit poison that caused blindness.  Those that were hit by that and didn’t save, used chips to avoid it.  And they moved 8 so the backing up plan wasn’t going to work anymore.  The other thing that happened was that they drew a Joker and since they all went as one, they all got +2.  That made them seem unstoppable for that round.  Somehow, tough guy, John managed to stay upright.  Buster ran out of chips and was blinded.  Things were looking dire but then the Doc finally made his Guts roll.  He used his two guns, hit one, and used a card to do double damage and then hit another with a raise and did enough to drop it too.  Then Slim, learning his lesson from the previous round where he shot twice, missing both due to the -2, shot 3 times and managed to kill 2 more.  And that quick, it was over.

The Doc attempted first aid but could do nothing for blind Buster.  (It’ll just take time.)  We searched around.  The zombies were the missing train guys plus some bandits.  Soon enough we found a cave.  Despite everyone looking for a giant spider on the ceiling, when it attacked those that failed a Notice roll, were surprised.  Again, surprised Big John was attacked and ripped apart.  This mother spider was very tough and some shots were bouncing off it.  When Thomas got to go on round two, he used a card to retrieve Doc’s double damage card.  He hit and did 12 on 2d8 then added 5 with a chip and then doubled it for 34.  That was enough to kill it.  So heroic but a bit of a let down since it ended the combat “early”. 

The bodies of the men and the insects were burned.  There is no “treasure” in this system however Thomas searched the museum guy for a journal in hopes of figuring out where this thing came from.  All he found was and ID and badge from something called the “Agency” that no one had ever heard of.  We made it back to the train and got our $100 reward.  She was very relieved and it was obvious to us, although no one could really best her deception, that she knew more than she let on.  The night passed and we’re poised to head overland to Coffin Rock.  An advancement was granted.  It sounded like everyone was taking an Edge or bumping a skill or stat so that they could qualify for an Edge next time.

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The Cast:

“Slim” Rickets:  A railroad man who worked his way up in the ranks to become a one-eyed inspector.  A hard-nosed law and order kind of guy.

Big John Reid:  A bodyguard whose interest in the up and coming weird scientist has put him in charge of guarding various scientists and engineers.  His last charge disappeared mysteriously and he’s looking to get to the bottom of it.

“Doc” Hawthorne Mills:  A retired doctor who now travels the rails, making a living playing cards.

Thomas Gray Wolf:  A Sioux orphaned as a child and raised by Christians.  He ended up a mix of both but not at home in either.  He makes a living as a guide/scout/tracker in Western Colorado.

Buster Clemens:  A newspaperman whose mission is to debunk the various mystical con artists that prey on the foolish.

Phoebe-Ann Mosey:  A “liberated” 16-year-old girl who is determined to make her own way through life, unencumbered by the stereotypes of women in society.

Virgil Bowden:  A former gunslinger who has put down his shooting irons and picked up the good book.  For now.

Game 1 - 5/8/2020

The first order of business was to somehow tie all these characters into the plot Brian had to run.  The Denver and Pacific railroad were looking to expand into the mining town of Coffin Rock, named for the coffin-like outcropping overlooking it.  They tasked railroad inspector, Slim Rickets (Shimota) with putting together a team to assess the feasibility of doing so although known only to Slim, the decision has already been made and he’s really been tasked to pave the way.  Slim brought in Buster Clemens (Paul), a noted investigative journalist, to help him.  Buster knew Thomas Gray Wolf (DG) as a local expert and brought him in.  The D&P executive also had a niece by the name of Phoebe Ann Mosey (Brian) whom was looking for adventure.  He asked that she be included, figuring she’d be relatively safe and at least working in the family business.  To ensure her safety, they hired Big John Reid (Dan) to act as a bodyguard plus an extra bit of muscle couldn’t help.  Lastly Slim knew a doctor by the name of Doc Hawthorne Mills (Andy) and figured a doctor would always be handy to have.  (Jon) did not attend so we’ll have to figure out how to add him when he does.  They were to be paid $40 dollars for a week’s work plus expenses in Coffin Rock and train fare to Denver where the overland trip was to begin.  It was also stressed to keep a low profile and not reveal that they worked for the D&P for fear of tipping off the other railroads. 

Somehow, we all ended up on a train heading east from Salt Lake to Denver but we didn’t worry about the why’s on that.  We all got a sleeping berth, with food and drinks paid for.  The first half of the adventure was interacting with the various passengers on the train.  Some of those interactions were more memorable than others.  In no particular order.  Doc and Buster got into a card game with a guy who happened to have a treasure map to an Indian burial ground.  (Too bad Thomas was not in the car for he would have told them Sioux chiefs were not buried with “treasure”.)  Unfortunately, the guy rolled great on his persuasion and Andy felt obligated (in a role-playing sense) to believe him even though the players did not.  (We noticed a lot of double and triple exploder rolls throughout the night which seemed statistically unlikely.)  He talked him into gambling the map against the $100 price tag but unfortunately, he blew Doc’s gambling roll away.  Andy spent several chips but could not alter that outcome.  Then Buster offered $5 to get a peek at it and a good Smarts roll revealed that it was in fact a page torn from a book of myths of the west that he helped edit.  He raised a stink and got his $5, Doc’s $100 and $5 more from others in the room to keep it quiet.

Phoebe drew the scorn of a couple of tough looking twins.  When she offered to best them in a shooting contest, they dismissed her, claiming they’d give her $5 if she could even lift a gun.  She went back to her luggage, got her pistol and showed them some fancy gun twirls.  “One of you owes me $5.”  They declined and she offered double of nothing on a shooting contest but they declined.  When one got up to teach her a lesson, Slim got involved.  He admonished her for pulling a gun on a train and for not keeping a low profile.  The conductor showed up and confiscated her gun.  Not the outcome Brian had hoped for.  There was a lady on her way to marry a farmer but she was looking to upgrade to say a retired doctor.  A missionary from Salt Lake who tried to save some souls.  Slim crunched up his pamphlet and threw it out the window.  A newspaper lady who asked a lot of questions.  Some brat kids and their tired parents.  A couple of railroad employees.  About the only possible “clue” was the fact that one guy went into baggage area with the conductor a couple of times but railroad guy Slim that that was “reasonable”.

Several days passed.  Then one day on a steep incline, the brakes were urgently applied.  Slim and Buster headed to the engine to see what was going on.  Phoebe and Big John climbed on the roof of a car, looking for robbers.  Thomas and Doc stayed in the middle car to watch those thug twins.  As Buster and Slim climbed over the coal car to get to the engine, they noticed the baggage cars had been detached and were being left behind.  And then there was an explosion and the bridge up ahead was blown.  The engine and the coal car plunged into a gully and the rest of the train plowed into them.  Those who were outside were given an Athletics roll to jump from the train and lessen their damage.  Phoebe had a Free Runner edge which allowed her to run towards the back as it was happening.  Unfortunately, Slim was still stuck between the coal car and the engine and went down with the train.  (Like a good train man should.)  Thomas had the same edge and manage to reduce his damage as well.  The damage was rolled.  Those that jumped, took enough to be Shaken but not damaged.  Slim and the Doc took more damage but used chips and take less damage.  It took some time to figure out how to take damage, how to avoid damage and how to do it all in FGU.  The passenger’s fates varied.

So then Brian switched maps.  He used a new FGU option that limited each player’s view of what his character could see.  With doors and windows, it was a neat effect but it was crippling to the program to render.  It also had an animated snow effect.  Eventually Brian gave up on both so that he could actually do things.  So people were placed in various locations, the NPCs were also in play and there were about a dozen bandits out in the trees.  About the first thing that happened was that Big John who was flung into a bush was triple exploded for so much damage that he would have been killed if he hadn’t used up some chips.  He didn’t get to do much after that.  Doc attempted to help the mother of the kids who happened to be lying near him.  It took several rounds but he did save her but it also kept him from helping with the fight until the end.  Phoebe had grabbed her rifle and once she got on the roof, she blew the crap out of them.  Buster went for his shotgun in the sleeper car but didn’t get a chance to take many shots because there are no double moves in this system so it took a couple of rounds.  Thomas also went for his rifle but took several shots out the windows with his pistol as he went.  Slim did pretty well with his pistol, even at medium range.  Some of the NPCs also helped.  But ultimately, we had cover in the train and they did not so they started to drop.  Once their leader fell after 3-4 rounds, they started fleeing but it took hours with all those actors (players, bandits and NPCs) and figuring out the rules and the program. 

They got away and managed to take all the horses with them.  We stopped there at 1:30 AM.  There’s plenty to do.  Help the injured including the engineer in the gully.  Sort and stack the bodies of the bandits.  We’re in the middle of the mountains and it’s snowing but as long as we stay with the train cars, survival shouldn’t be an issue.  But how long will it take to be noticed as overdue and expect help? And is another attack coming? And we’re still not even in Denver so the adventure hasn’t really even started. 


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We started by taking a short rest, figuring we’d already taken a couple of rests so one more wasn’t going to hurt us further.  We weren’t really down many powers but it allowed the 2-3 characters that were beat up to get some hit points back.  Next, we did an inventory of our gems.  The had gems labeled 1, 3, 4 and 5 so it seemed like we were missing number 2.  We then discussed where we found the ones we had, assuming a missing one would be in a room where we found none.  That could only be in 2-3 places and although we were fairly certain we had done a thorough search, we decided to invest the time to make sure we hadn’t missed one.  We didn’t want to cause the end of the world for the lack of one gem.  Unfortunately, that took much longer than it needed to but eventually we concluded that there was no more to find.  We headed to the final doors to find 4 recesses in the door in the shapes of the gems we had.  (Circle, triangle, square, and pentagram to correspond to those numbers, as it turns out.)  If we had done that first, maybe it would have saved us an hour searching.

With an eye towards caution, we had the Rogue use her Mage Hand to place the gems.  Once in place, they started to glow and the doors swung open.  In the room, we saw a large 20 sided crystal hovering just above the floor and rotating randomly.  We could see numbers (in this ancient language) on each facet.  1-20.  Above that was a sarcophagus, also hovering.  It was covered in art and words and such.  Also in the room were 4 stone chambers(?).  We did as much investigation as we could without entering the room.  We arrived at no solutions when the Swashbuckler bit the bullet and entered the room.  Some complained about the harshness of that action but it was going to have to happen at some point.  The chambers opened and each held a giant scorpion.  We noticed that also inside each was a pedestal that looked like it could hold a gem.  The sarcophagus opened and a mummy emerged.  The gems fell out of the doors but at least they stayed open.  Initiative was rolled and our Wizard went first.  He shot a Fireball into the room and we were happy to see that the mummy took double damage to fire.  People piled in, basically targeting the mummy at range or engaging a scorpion.

However, things quickly went south.  We “killed” the mummy quickly but it didn’t seem to notice, being already dead.  The scorpions got 3 attacks a round.  Two claws that did decent damage and then grappled for free.  And a stinger that did modest damage but then did 6d6 of poison damage on a missed CON save.  Those that missed were also blinded and if you missed by 5, also paralyzed.  And to make matters worse, because this was unholy ground, we had disadvantage on all our saves.  So the Monk was hit, grappled, blinded and paralyzed.  The Holy Paladin was hit, blinded and paralyzed.  And it was only round 2.  The Rogue used her Mage Hand to place 2 gems on 2 pedestals.  On her next round, she did the other two and the scorpions at least went from huge to merely large.  The Fighter used a bonus action to try to fling the Monk out of a claw but couldn’t best it's STR.  The Sorlock cast lessor restoration on the Holy Paladin and since both conditions stemmed from the poison, he managed to end both.  Our Wizard cast Slow and thankfully all 4 scorpions missed their saves, limiting them to 1 attack.  That may have kept us alive even though 2 saved their next round and another the round after that. 

The one with the Monk fell back and another also grappled him.  Between the 2, they took him out, still blind, paralyzed, and grappled.  The Swashbuckler Paladin cast a Moon Beam which was a sustained small AOE that managed to get 3 of them.  Somewhere in there, Row got hit by the mummy and cursed with mummy rot or something.  Despite all this and the mountain of hit points on the scorpions, they started to drop as the mummy was pretty much ignored.  We hoped that taking the scorpions out would somehow help but it did not.  The Holy Paladin finally got to act and did a turn undead on the mummy however before he could go, he had to save against the smoky cloud the mummy had released.  He missed that save but used inspiration and rolled a 20 this time.  The mummy missed his save and had to flee from his Holy power.  It’s quite a power in 5.0.  The level of the undead does not matter and it doesn’t get another save.  It was out of action for 10 rounds as long as we didn’t attack it.  We quickly finished off the scorpions.  On to the puzzle.

So while the Holy Paladin kept it at bay we searched and thought and tried and argued.  We did not have any success.  We tried everything we could think of.  About the time Andy warned us that the turn time was up, the Rogue suggested pushing all 4 gems onto facet 13, the sum of the 4.  (I think the Monk had suggested the sum might mean something earlier.)  When she simply touched the number 13, the crystal shattered, spilling a bunch of treasure on the floor.  And the sarcophagus fell open.  And the mummy charged to attack.  We rerolled initiative and this time it actually took damage.  It did not last long.  The Swashbuckler grabbed the staff which started to talk.  It tried to convince him to run away but he managed to save.  The Rogue took it from him with her Mage Hand which then expired and it fell to the floor.

So we ignored the evil staff and searched through the treasure.  We then realized Row was taking continual damage.  A survey of our abilities revealed that we had no way to remove a curse.  The offer of help from the staff was voted down.  We determined that the Crown of Wound Closure would keep Row alive, hopefully until we could get him to a Cleric.  So we took a short rest to allow him to attune to it, pumping healing magic into him to keep him conscious. While that was going on, our Wizard identified the magic items we’d gotten. A +2 long bow that went to the Swashbuckler.  A set of +2 AC bracers that went to the Monk.  And a venom dagger that went to the Rouge.  We left the dungeon and got to our supply train.  (We probably should have done something with the mummy.)  We can place Row in the wagon along with a wrapped up evil staff.  That’s still going to be a problem.  Do we give it to Row so he can research how to destroy it? Is he one bad save away from becoming a corrupted 9th level Wizard? I think we stopped there. 

Andy gave enough experience to make 6th level.  People started leveling up as the chronicler went to bed.  

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We started with a bit of a rehash of the item distribution but ended up with what we had said last time.  We did figure out how many charges the stun staves and the wand had.  There was one scorpion item that was slightly more interesting than the rest of the miscellaneous loot that we gave to our Wizard.  Next, we advanced to the altar area where the cultists that charged us last time had been hiding.  But there was nothing of interest there so we created a marching order and headed down the stairs into the dungeon.  A couple of light spells were cast in order to see.  There was barely enough room on the map to get us all in before we came to an intersection.  Corridors to the right and left and then forward was a large brazier on a scorpion floor mosaic with ornate double doors behind.  As we debated how we’d check for traps, sneak, etc an enemy mage popped out and shot Row with a full load of magic missiles.  We rolled initiative.  A couple shot at him and others advanced to the corridors to find more cultists waiting there.  So then the Swashbuckler Paladin charged towards the mage.  After failing a WIS save to spot the trap, he triggered a trap door and after failing a DEX save, fell in.  At the bottom, 30 feet down, were 2 hungry carrion crawlers.  He made his acrobatics roll and landed on his feet.  With a bonus action, he cast Misty Step and instantly got out of the pit.  He didn’t have the range to get on the other side so he ended up in one of the corridors.  It was quite a turn. Then their mage went again and cast an AOE zone that did 2d6 (or more?) of damage if you started your turn in it and caused darkness from the ash.  That plus the rough terrain of the broken stairs and Andy said it was half movement.    

Everyone blindly stumbled forward which took most of that turn but after an ineffective round, most everyone was out.  The Fighter charged and leaped across the pit and tried to engaged the mage but a crossbow cultist was in the way.  Our Wizard cast Ice Dagger on the cultist which then exploded into a small AOE which got the fully covered mage and the Fighter.  The damage was minor but enough to finish off the mage.  After that, it was quick clean up however the Monk was dropped again and the Swashbuckler Paladin and the Fighter were down to a handful of hit points.  So we were immediately back to the “rest” debate.  And since we did a short rest last time, we didn’t have the hit dice left to do anything but a long rest.  Row spoke up and said he was confident only he had the knowledge to unlock the tomb and get the staff so a long rest wasn’t going to make any difference.  So we would erect a Hut at the entrance so that we could see anyone going in or out (no one did) but first we couldn’t leave the carrion crawlers alone, with dreams of riches down there.  After debate, the cantrip casters started blasting.  Eventually one figured out what was going on and spit acid on the Rogue.  But they were killed and we found nothing but junk down there.  Time well spent. 

Row revealed that his research showed that we would require keys in the form of gems to open the tomb.  We went left and the first room had scorpion statues with ruby eyes.  We all assumed a trap.  The Rogue used her improved Mage Hand to remove the first gem which engulfed the room in fire.  She managed to use it 3 more times to get the next 3 gems however the 3rd statue was out of reach.  She attempted to do that one from as far as possible but still triggered the trap.  But with a DEX save and her uncanny dodge, she only took quarter damage.  One of those gems had a number on it.  The next room was littered with bodies and there was a statue of the scorpion prince in an alcove.  There was some cryptic phrase on the floor about worthy bodies or something.  We assumed it would come to life but we started to move the bodies and soon enough it did.  It was a construct and two giant snakes appeared with it.  One snake was killed but it turned to mist and returned to the prince.  His next turn, the snake returned.  He took magic weapons to effect but almost everyone has one at this point so it wasn’t much of an issue.  Andy couldn’t seem to hit and it was destroyed.  It had a gem with a number on it as well as a crown that we later detected as magical.  The next room had a pile of bones and debris on the near end and an overturned urn carved to look like an open mouth on the far end.  The walls had evidence of wear so we assumed it would gust wind or something.  Since we figured the right-hand corridor at the start would lead to the urn side of this room, we deferred it and went back.

The first room on the right was spherical with tiny holes along the walls.  And a gem on a pedestal.  Again the Rogue used her Mage Hand to grab the gem but the doors closed and we could hear a great wind.  Eventually, the trap reset.  The Wizard then cast an Unseen Servant and as it grabbed the gem, the Mage Hand replaced it with a stone of equal weight (a la Indiana Jones) and that worked.  That trapped defeated, we moved into the room.  When the 3rd entered, the doors slammed shut and a great wind threw the Wizard, Rogue and Swashbuckler into the tiny spikes that had emerged on the walls.  And then two Sand Cloud formed and attacked.  There was a bit of a panic, being split up like that but the Fighter, assisted by the Monk for advantage, managed to make a DC 20 STR check and rip the doors open on his 1st try.  With the full party in play, the Sand Clouds did not last long.  Next was a twisty corridor.  The Rogue and the Wizard, searching for traps, snuck in and triggered an earthquake.  Those few in the room made their saves and stayed up.  Then a bunch of giant scorpions emerged from the cracks and attacked.  The Rogue was hit and the 6d6 poison damage knocked her out.  But then she successfully argued that her uncanny dodge should have applied, making the stinger a glancing blow, and wasn’t out.  But she disengaged and got out of there.  The Wizard with the highest initiative was Row so he let loose with a Fireball and toasted them all.  The last two standing were wiped out by the Fighter and the Sorlock.  Another gem was found. 

We then came to the urn room again.  We debated and decided we could reach the center room without having to mess with yet another trapped but discovered that the ornate doors in the first room were not actually doors.  More trickery.  So back to the urn.  The Wizard used the Unseen Servant, hoping to redirect the urn.  With a mighty STR check of 20, it shifted it enough to triggered a flood of slimy water down the corridor.  So we avoided that but in addition, an undead slime thing came out and emerged from the bones on the other end.  It was so horrible, it caused fear in a 60 radius for anyone who was aware of it.  Everybody, including Row, missed their save.  So we had disadvantage to hit and couldn’t get closer to it.  That was a bit of a pain but its AC was low so people could still hit it.  It just left some out of the action for a round or two if they weren’t in hand to hand already.  Andy misread that we got a new save at the end of our turn but it was only around a couple of rounds regardless.  Just before it dropped, the other one showed up but we saved much better this time.  Andy couldn’t seem to hit and it was quickly over.  We got one more gem which, based on the numbers, means that we’ve got 4 out of 5?

Based on the map we could see, that leaves one room in the center.  We did not turn that corner however, calling it a night.  That crown was a Periapt of Wound Closure.  Once attuned, the wearer automatically stabilizes on his turn if he’s unconscious.  And rolls 2 dice for the price of 1 when doing the selfheal thing during a short rest.  It would be of use to most anybody however since the Monk has likely gone out more than everybody else combined, he was the logical choice.     

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Andy started us on a huge battle map with the ruins in the distance.  We could see them, hiding behind pillars and statues but they could also see us, standing in the desert.  We had no cover and since they could already see us, any plans of sneaking seemed unrealistic.  We threw out some ideas but then Andy rolled initiative and set forth the large lion headed beast things at us.  Despite their 40’ move it would take a while for the two of them to get to us.  Those with ranged weapons (including the Fighter with his strong bow) moved forward in hopes of getting a shot or two at them before they were upon us.  The fast moving meleers moved up and prepared to meet them.  That left the Holy Paladin sort of in the back.  He’s not built for speed.  That all worked well.  One of the lion giants was killed before reaching any of us and the second only got one claw on the Swashbuckler Paladin before falling.  Meanwhile, the rest of the cultists charged from their positions and approach in a continuous wave.  And there were a lot of them.  The good news is that by charging us, they gave up their cover whereas we had none anyway. 

At first, we were keeping up.  The first ones were relatively weak and Row hit them with some AOEs to soften them up.  We killed a bunch without taking any real damage however they started to get tougher.  The last to arrive was a mage and a high cleric who started casting spells.  In addition, there were 3-4 acolytes who also had spell slots up to 3rd level (although limited choices) and 3 guys with stunning staffs that cause paralysis on a failed CON save.  Things started to turn when we couldn’t keep up.  Then the Swashbuckler Paladin was hit was a Command and fell prone.  As people moved to help him, the high priest hit him and the Rogue with a Hold Person.  That causes paralysis which means advantage to be hit and an automatic crit if hit.  Anybody that could, tried to break the concentration of the caster from range but he made 50/50 roll after 50/50 roll.  Somehow the Swashbuckler managed to avoid getting hit too much despite his state but the Rogue was not so lucky.  She fell as the Monk tried to charge the caster only to be stopped by a foe with the Sentinel feat.  Meanwhile the Holy Paladin finally got into the action and quickly found himself surrounded by 4 foes and no allies.  Luckily their damage was low and with his 3 points of damage reduction, he managed to take blow after blow.  The Fighter finally switched to his maul and started to clear away the wounded but with two of us down and many more foes still closing, it was looking dicey.

The Fighter was hit by one of those stunning staves but saved on the next round so he only lost one action.  The Monk managed to finish off the high priest with a handful of hit points to spare.  Our Wizard hit theirs with a Hold Person but unfortunately we had no one who could get to him to get that guaranteed crit.  But it did stop him from shooting at us for a couple rounds.  Then the Sorlock healed the downed Rogue and Swashbuckler.  The former finally got to act after spending most of the night prone, paralyzed and/or unconscious.  And the later managed to get to their wizard and crit him with a sneak attack since he was still paralyzed.  When he was dropped, the tide had turned.  The acolytes were still casting and there were still guys left but it started to head towards clean up.  A couple fled and were run down.  An acolyte hit the Fighter with an Inflict Wounds as a last act and drop him but the Rogue finished him off with some supporting spell fire.  The Holy Paladin was still swinging but with allies helping, his foes were cleared out as well.  And we were done.  Most were down to a handful of hit points.  So much for the prelude to the “actual” dungeon.

We search them and found various bit and pieces plus some magic items. We did a detect magic and identifies.  A potion of healing which the Rogue took to replace the one he used 2 games ago.  A scroll of Unseen Servant which we already knew.  Maybe we can sell it or trade it.  2.5 of those Scorpion staves.  They’re a +1 quarterstaff.  They do that paralysis on charges which recharge at dawn.  One of them is out of charges so it could turn to dust on a 1.  The Monk took one as he can use it as a Monk weapon.  One went to the Sorlock since he can declare any weapon to be his Hex blade and use his CHR to attack with it.  Lastly was the wand which Andy created.  It has 3 spells in it that are powered by common charges that recover at the dawn.  Don’t know how many it has.  It can cast Dust Devil (2nd), Thunderwave (1st) and the Burn Flesh that we saw used (probably 3rd).  Despite the fact that the Wizard just got a magic cloak, it was a better fit for him over the Sorlock.  Another spell pool will be welcomed since long rests are becoming harder to get.

We debated the long vs short rest as always.  Eventually we realized that with a short rest, we’d actually be in pretty good shape.  Most characters mostly reset with a short rest.  Of the part time casters, neither Paladin seemed to have used many spells.  The Rogue didn’t use any.  The cleric less Monk version no longer has any long rest powers at all and the Sorlock is mostly getting his powers from the Warlock class which doesn’t need long rest either.  The only ones really affected are the Wizards however our Wizard cast mostly long ranged cantrips due to the size of the map.  With the arcane recovery, he’s almost full up.  Row used more spells but he recovers more from the same arcane recovery and has more to start with so while depleted, he should be okay.  So we took a short rest and burned through most our healing dice.  (The next rest will likely have to be a long one as a result.)  Only the Monk rolled poorly on that and will be going in hurt with the Holy Paladin yet to roll.

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We came upon some ruins in the sand.  There was a tower and some pieces of walls visible.  We could also see a cave in the side of the hill.  The pseudo ranger (Swashbuckler) called a halt to the column as his spider-sense was tingling but it was pretty evident to all of us when grids formed under our feet, we could expect trouble.  We decided to roll initiative to avoid talking over each other but that’s a bit problematic when there were no foes on the map.  The bat was sent aloft to look for ambushers on the dunes.  The Wizards armored up.  The Swashbuckler moved forward towards the cave and could see boot-clad footprints going in and out of it but in this desert, it was hard to determine how old they were.  Suddenly an ankheg burst forth from the ground and attacked.  Ultimately there were 6, I think.  The Swashbuckler and Monk got grabbed and several took an acid stream.  The Sherpas also took some acid but thankfully the damage roll was low and they survived. 

We unleashed some firepower.  The Fighter critted 3 times in a row.  The Swashbuckler critted also and added smite damage.  Our Wizard did a Fireball and a Shatter and the NPC Wizard did a weak Fireball and then a Cone of Cold near the end which about finished them off.  (5th level so he’s at least 9th.)  No one went out and we used up some daily powers.  We searched the cave but found that it was really not much more than a dugout to get out of the heat.  There was some confusion when some of us thought this was the final stop and started doing extensive excavations, looking for the dungeon entrance.  Andy was perplexed/annoyed as to why so much time was being spent on a random encounter in the middle of nowhere.  Eventually, we sorted that out, stopped searching (found nothing) and bedded down for the night.

The next stop on the map was an oasis which thankfully was still there.  There were two groups already encamped.  Since the heat of the day was approaching, everyone minded their own business and made camp.  They eyed us and we eyed them.  At sunset, as we prepared to leave, the captain of one group approached and talked to the pseudo bard (Swashbuckler).  Both sides tried to get information but neither side revealed much of anything.  We did get the impression that they had more experience in the desert so perhaps they were traders and not treasure seekers (or cultist) but we couldn’t be sure.  When we realized the other tent didn’t seem to be with them, he and Sorlock went to talk to them.  Again, not much was learned.  That guy claimed his lady patron was tired and they’d be staying a bit longer.  The Paladin can cure disease and maybe poison but it was just exhaustion so no help was wanted. 

We left but the keen-sighted spotted that last guy paralleling us from a distance.  The Paladin sent his warhorse over to learn what it could.  It got beyond his range to communicate with it and did not return.  He re-summoned it the next day.  Zephyr said that the guy met up with others at the ruined towers at the end of the canyon, about a half a day from our destination.  Plans were discussed but ultimately we decided we’d rather face an ambush we knew about than face them in the ruins at the end.  However, when we got there, no one was there.  More discussions.  Row gave us a bit more information.  He thought that in the sarcophagi of the Scorpion Prince, was a powerful magic staff that could be used to bring back the evil sultan.  So our main goal was to stop that.  He felt that only he and his research knew how to open it and had the right gems to do so.  So despite their lead, they wouldn’t be able to finish without us.  Plus, maybe they could clear out the traps and undead for us.  (yeah right)  It was mentioned that perhaps bringing the ability to open it to them was a bad idea but it was full speed ahead.  Action over inaction.

So we took our rest.  We moved up to the last ruins before the last one and left our noncombatants there.  We proceeded on foot, with heavy armor on and came upon the ruins.  The module Andy was using describe it but didn’t provide a picture.  He tried to create one but it was incomplete and he was dissatisfied.  Perhaps he’ll have a better one next time.  Basically it was your standard ruins but with an enormous stone scorpion built upon the mountains behind it.  Just under its mouth was an entrance going down.  We could see that gems had been removed from it.  We could also see lots of bad guys hiding in the rocks awaiting us.  (We assume cultists but they could be treasure hunters or bandits, I suppose.)  We stopped there, prior to starting a big fight after 11.  This time we’ll have to be economical with our powers as I suspect we’ll have several fights without a long rest in order to save the world this time.  Next game would be Friday.   

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We did a side bookkeeping run for a couple of hours.  Andy expressed his dislike of familiars so Dan will go with the ritual book feat plan (allowing this feat in lieu of Book of Ancient Secrets) for his character modification.  We met with Captain Harken and got paid for our efforts to rescue her crew.  The Monk overheard Marisha talking to Captain Harken about passage back to Long Bridge where she was hoping to re-engage with her life.  A fee of 25 gp was requested but she didn’t have it so the Monk paid on her behalf.  We later agreed to give Marisha and Commander Price an equal share of that reward (not the treasure) so we had to juggle our money sheets a bit.  We debated what to do with the ship.  The upshot was that we hired Price to find a place to store it for now. 

The Rogue and Swashbuckler went with the Monk to his temple to see about the Greater Restoration.  That was no problem but he wouldn’t state a price.  Just “whatever you feel is appropriate”.  Andy would not help either and it wasn’t defined in the books.  Player opinions varied greatly but all agreed it should come out of party funds since it could have been any of us.  Eventually, the two of them paid out of their own pockets, what they thought was appropriate and put the discussion out of our misery.  The generous-minded Fighter donated some of his money on his own.  The Rogue attempted to impress Price by giving her a tour of the undercity only to discover that all of the entrances had but spiked shut.  We assumed that was the city’s doing.  We also noticed an increase in the guards and soldiers in town.  I guess that happens in up and coming towns.     

Actual game

The Swashbuckler Paladin rode his newly summoned horse to the temple and got his strength restored.  He and the Rogue continued to vie for Commander Price’s attention.  At the mage school, that adventuring Wizard, Row showed up and wanted to talk to our Wizard.  He had heard of our exploits, recovering the pirate ship and defeating a demon wanted to make us an offer.  He then told him and the Rogue, and eventually the rest of the party, a bit of history.  In the north there was a Sultan and the Scorpion Prince who allied their kingdoms by marriage and then invaded the humans and elves to the south.  It was a long war, hundreds of years ago.  A group of heroes snuck north and managed to kill the Sultan.  His death caused darkness across the land for a week, the whole region to shake with earthquakes and sink and turned the once-powerful kingdom into the desert it is today.  The Wizard’s history and lore skills confirmed these legends. 

But there was a prophecy.  One day he would return.  There would be more earthquakes and the ancient land would reemerge from the desert.  Evidently that has started to happen.  Row has been doing research on the matter and knows that adventurers have started heading into the land, looking for treasures in the purportedly newly uncovered ruins.  His concern is that they (or someone else) may unwittingly (or on purpose) unleash (restore) the evils of the past to wreak vengeance on the present.  He had pieced together a map which showed the location of an important ruin and needs heroic adventurers to help him get there and … do good, I suppose.  There was some lengthy confusion about the map and how it relates to the world map but basically the path would be up the river to Long Bridge, then due north into the mountains to the Deep Valley Inn.  From there, a couple days northwest and into the desert.  With any luck, and assuming his map was accurate, several weeks across the desert to the ruins. 

Some of us expressed concerns over such a dangerous endeavor but heroic evil smiters won out (plus that was the adventure presented).  The standard “treasure found” fee was agreed upon or at least accepted.  Row would be coming and paying for provisioning.  We took the ship to Long Bridge, leaving Price in charge of crewing it, guarding it, storing it.  There, Row purchased camels for all, a wagon and a yak to haul it, supplies for a couple of months including water caskets and some hire hands to help.  While in Long Bridge, the Holy Paladin and the Monk spotted Marisha eyeing them in the market.  She had had no luck finding her former friends.  The Monk extended an offered for her to come with us, pending approval, much to the chagrin of the Paladin who’s detect evil still could not get a reading on her, but she turned him down.  She had feelers out for her former crew and couldn’t be gone that long.  The trip to the Deep Valley Inn was uneventful, traveling through civilized lands.  Along the way, Row gave our Wizard the Tiny Hut ritual so that we could have 2 huts and accommodate everyone in the desert.

The inn, keep and village were very nice, up in a valley in the mountains.  The Rogue claimed it for her own thieves’ guild and the Swashbuckler mused about how hard it would be to take over completely.  Some suits of studded leather armor were purchased so that the heavy armor wearers wouldn’t bake in the heat.    That night, we heard an explosion and felt some extreme heat from the north wing of the inn.  (Row’s fireball.)  As we scrambled, we saw Row running off into the forest, after some bandit types.  (So much for being his guards.)  We later learned they had broken in and were rifling through his possessions.  We gave chase and ended up on a battle map next to a pond.  So it was 3-4 thugs who turned out to be very tough, 3-4 guards, 2 bandit thieves and one priest.  The priest cast Hold Person on Row and then the thieves grabbed stuff off him (map and notes and such).  However, armed with our 5th level firepower, they didn’t last long.  Some 3d6 sneak attacks, a couple of Fighter crits, extra attacks from the fighter types, double eldritch blasts for the Sorlock and a Slow from our Wizard and they were vanquished.  The last, poisoned himself rather than be captured and to save us an hour of fruitless questioning. 

About the only thing of interest on them was some scorpion bracelets on the priest that seem to function as his holy symbol.  Row said that there were legends about a Scorpion Prince cult but he assumed it had died out over the centuries.  Evidently not.  We decided to stay an extra day so we could get a long rest in and proceed fully loaded in case there were more of them.  The Swashbuckler and Fighter searched the area and found what they thought was their camp but no useful information was found.  The Holy Paladin and the Wizard talked to the keep lord and asked about the cult.   He didn’t know anything about that but he did say there had been an increase in traffic of late.  Mostly treasure hunting adventurer types.  He also confirmed the recent earthquakes and gave us a heads up that the desert floor was indeed a 15-foot drop.  But the trail was being cut by the traffic and we could get down if skillful and careful.

We headed out, paranoid as ever, but spotted no one.  We passed by the massive twin dead oaks on the map and entered the desert.  We decided to travel in the morning and the evening and rest and sleep in the night and mid-day.  The Tiny Huts made the first stop quite pleasant.  When Andy tried to bring up a battle map, he closed the whole thing by mistake.  But it was after 1AM his time, Jon was signing off anyway and we decided to call it an early night.  We’ll go again on Saturday since we’re all stuck at home.

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We picked up right in the middle of the action.  The Mouther was dead but the Fighter was still blinded.  He managed to find a skin of water to wash off some of the goo which reduced his duration by half.  The Holy Paladin rejoined the fight and chargers into the Drowned Maiden.  The Rogue was desperate to get away from her before she lost any more STR.  That fight was basically a mad scramble with 4-5-6 of us beating on her, trying to get away from her hair.  She did significant damage, drained the Swashbuckler Paladin, and hung around for several rounds.  Ironically it was the newly sighted Fighter who stuck the final blow.

Meanwhile, despite the low hit probability of the bugbears on the Monk, Andy managed to roll 2-3 19s and drop him again.  The Monk came in already hurt and those bugbears did 2d8+ per blow.  The last assassin was dispatched soon enough and the jungle girl got over to help the Monk.  (Most of us were unaware of his peril since we were still on the other side of the silence.)  Once the Maiden was killed, everyone started heading over to the bugbears.  It was a bit of a bottle neck and they still had a lot of hit points but they were taken down.  The Rogue started opening the cages.  The captives were pirates, sailors and nobles.  All starved and unable to help in the fight.  Unfortunately, and to no one’s surprise, Red was not among them.  We were told he had just been taken to be sacrificed.  Time was of the essence, no time for a rest.  To the boss battle. 

So the corridor led to the sea and the pirate ship docked in the cove.  There were several pirates and acolytes along the way but the only real threat was the pirate captain, working on the ceremony to gate in the Kraken spawn.  The acolytes were pretty useless but what they did do is cast Sanctuary on the captain, making it risky to target him with anything significant (like a spell).  People piled in as they could, killing the puds along the way.  The captain did manage to cast a Hold Person on the Rouge and the Swashbuckler but one saved and one was freed when the captain lost concentration so neither had to face an automatic crit.  Basically it was a race against time as we charged, he fell back and the puds threw themselves in the way.

Then the Holy Paladin finally managed to get into the room.  He decided to go “outside the box” and attack the seal rather than the summoner.  He invoked his lay on hands for positive energy, his magic sword, his inspiration, burn a spell for extra holy damage, a role played god call and maybe a few more things and struck the seal.  He rolled poorly but since he had invoked his inspiration, he got another roll and did better.  His magic sword saved.  Andy was so impressed, he said that the seal did indeed break, hurling the Kraken Spawn back to the depths.  As a last act, it grabbed the despondent captain and drug him down too.  And so, in a flash, it was all over.  Andy later revealed that the monster was very powerful and about the only chance we had, particularly in our depleted state, was to prevent it from appearing.  A very Cthulhu-esque ending.

So we gathered the prisoners and got on the ship.  The ship had some cash and a +1 cloak of protection which was given to the Wizard.  Unfortunately, we missed out on whatever the captain had on him.  There was nothing in the cave worth much.  The captain’s log told of how he heard a voice, bringing him to this island.  He then started taking steps to gate this thing in, guided by the voice.  The pirate that helped us claimed to have joined in order to bring down the pirates but when they turned out to be cultists, she was pretty much trapped.  She and jungle girl returned with us.  We figured to keep the ship.  I think the plan was to have her serve as first mate and “acting” captain when the Swashbuckler Paladin is off adventuring with us.  Some of those details are to be worked out.  Hopefully we can figure out how to make it self-sustaining and battle ready so that we can use it to take on the pirate most of us are after.

We made 5th.  Dan is going to add 3 levels of Warlock on the front end and then continue on as a Sorcerer to give him a broader power base at the cost of delayed access to high level spells.  I think everyone else continued on as expected.  We’ll probably play next week since we’re all trapped at home.

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We debated a plan.  We seemed to have two choices.  (An assault from the sea was quickly rejected.)  We could try to ambush some of them outside the cave to whittle down their numbers but risk raising the alarm or attack the cave directly.  When the girl told us they went for water every day, we decided on the ambush.  We got to the edge of the jungle closest to the lookout spot.  Once the water team was at the pond, we snuck and attacked the lookouts.  Unfortunately, the alarm was raised but the water crew was many rounds away.  So we faced 2 pirates and a leader.  One pirate ran for the cave with our Rogue in pursuit.  The Swashbuckler followed in case he managed to warn the cave.  He did manage to call out just as the Rogue took him out.  But then the Rogue cast her disguise self and managed to convince the cave guard all was well.  Eventually, she came back to the fight however the Swashbuckler stayed by the cave, just in case.

Meanwhile, the pirate leader was pretty tough.  He got advantage when next to an ally, 3 attacks with a great sword and had a power with which he got to put an ally in the way of a successful hit, thus damaging him instead.  However, when we realized he was much more dangerous with an ally, we were targeting his allies anyway.  Some of the party were back in the trees so they were slow to get into it or using less effective range weapons.  The other pirates trickled in as they cross the distance but all in all it wasn’t too tough.  Andy managed to roll great against the high AC Monk and drop him a couple of times but there wasn’t much more.  The leader’s last act was to take several opportunity attacks to get to the Wizard.  He swung 3 times but only hit twice and didn’t drop him.  His plan was to threaten him with death but he withstood his flurry.  He was then dropped and the rest mopped up.  We took a short rest, try to disguise ourselves as the water crew and headed to the cave.  By the way, his great sword turned out to be +1 magic which the Holy Paladin took.

In the first room, we saw several pirates that were dancing to a fiddle.  The disguised Rogue managed to cross the room and position herself near the warning bell.  When the rest of the party entered with the water barrels, it was obvious they were suspicious.  The Holy Paladin crack one with a barrel and combat was started.  Most of these turned out to be spell casting acolytes but about all they had was sanctuary and cure wounds which were annoying but not that threatening.  The big challenge was to keep them from warning the rest of the cave.  When one managed the get into the next room and awaken those dozen pirates, the jig was up.  The Wizard took an opportunity attack to get a Shatter on 3 of them followed by another that got 4.  That took a big chunk out of them which was good because things were going to get more complicated.

Near the entrance was a berserker who raged, getting and granting advantage.  He didn’t last too long.  The Swashbuckler went to the north corridor mainly to keep them from running that way but he took a peek in and saw a water wraith? Demon? Undead? He tried to step back out but now she was moving our way.  The Rogue went to another room and found 5-6 bugbears.  She tried to bluff them to ignore the combat noise but only half were fooled.  Lastly, there was a named pirate in the sleeping room who didn’t act.  After a couple of rounds, she said that we were going to need her help and started attacking the pirates.  Perhaps she’s a pirate that hadn’t been enthralled by the demon? The sea wraith cast silence in the middle of the main room which messed up the casters but also eliminated some of our conversations. 

But then the Holy Paladin logged off from the late hour.  The berserker came back to life as a Gibbering Mouther.  Two spies popped out of the shadows and attacked the jungle girl and the “friendly” pirate.  And the Bugbears started to attack.  So it became 4 fights.  Let’s start with the bugbears.  The Monk joined the Rogue in hold that line since he assumed the sea demon needed magical weapons to effect.  (I think she turned out to be resistant.)  The bugbears weren’t too tough, having a low AC, low to hit and modest damage.  What they did have was lots of hit points.  Unfortunately, their room had the sailors in cages that we were looking for so we couldn’t ignore them.  The Swashbuckler soon joined them and the Rogue fell back to help with the spies.  The spies were giving each other sneak attacks but since they were mostly fighting the NPCs, it was about a wash.  When our Rogue joined, the “friendly” pirate moved over to the sea demon.  Eventually one of the spies went down, making the remaining one less dangerous. 

The Mouther was bad news.  Because of the silence, most of the heroes on the other side were unaware of it.  It continuously gibbered so anyone that heard it had to save at the start of their turn (DC 10 WIS) or be confused.  The terrain around it was difficult and you had to make a save at the start of your turn or have your speed reduced to zero.  And it got a bite attack the did multiple dice of damage.  And an extra attack that blinded that foe with puss.  The Fighter engaged it and managed to make all 3 saves the first round and hit it pretty good.  The Sorcerer initial thought he’d be better off in the silence with the sea wraith except that she had a reach attack with her hair, which then automatically grappled and pulled you into her and which point she did a kiss which turned out to drain strength.  So another multiple effect monster. 

The Sorcerer saved against the Mouther the first round, miss the second but used a blessed power to make it and then missed the third round and used a luck point to save.  With his dragon breath spell, he managed to do damage to both the Mouther and the sea wraith.  The Wizard missed 3 saves in a row and did nothing.  (Sad since he’s proficient in WIS saves and couldn’t make a freaking DC10.)  The Fighter missed the next two saves but one round he attacked a random foe in his confusion which had to be the Mouther and did some damage.  The last round, he saved but then was blinded.  But even blinded, he managed to hit.  At the end of the last round, the Wizard finally managed to save and finished off the Mouther with a Chromatic Orb.

At that point, it was 2AM and Brian’s laptop had died and Jon had long left so we called it.  The Mouther was thankfully out.  The sea wraith was mostly untouched and the Rogue was down a chunk of strength.  One spy was out and the other of the ropes? A couple of bugbears were out but there were still plenty of hit points over there to grind through.  But none of us are out so the trend is good.  The big issue will be that we’ve still got to kill the pirate captain and whomever he’s got with him plus the tentacle demon.  At least.  And we’ve used up a lot of spells and powers.  If we live, we’ll certainly make 5th

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We made it back to Jailynn and everybody had a chance to do some stuff.  The Rogue continued to explore the sewers with an eye towards making it a base for her thieves’ guild.  The Fighter picked up his splint mail.  The Holy Paladin set out to start a temple to his god but was reminded there was already a temple in town. It was suggested he could start a fighting school within the temple which he decided to pursue.  Being a god of war, it probably already had some fighting aspects but under his leadership; it’ll be better.  The Wizard checked in with the head of the mage school.  It turns out (i.e. Andy added it to the world history) that the school was originally founded by an Eladrin 100’s of years ago.  Anyway, they had tea.  The adventuring mage in Long Bridge was known to visit here so perhaps we can get work from him from here.  The last he heard, he was researching/searching for a powerful wizard staff, lost to the centuries.  The Wizard put our name into the local mages as well as men that can get things.

The Swashbuckler Paladin went to the docks to check on rumors.  He observed a ship come in that obviously had taken some battle damage.  After asking some of the crew, he found that they had been attacked by pirates.  This particular pirate had been known as a “gentleman” pirate in that he didn’t damage ships or kill crew when possible however this time he took many crew and the remainder barely got away.  The damaged ship’s captain was posting a job on the board and the Paladin and whomever he was able to round up along the way took the job before the ink was dry.  The captain thought she knew what island they had been taken to.  She had enough crew to sail but needed fighting sorts to attack the island and rescue her men including her fiancé.  The usual, we get what we find, fee was agreed upon.  We sailed on the morning tide.

There were concerns about the sailing by the heavily plated teammates but the seamanship skilled teammates were happy to be at sea again.  The crew knew what they were doing but our folks helped out and despite some poor weather, we reached the island without issue.  Except that right after we dropped anchor and started discussing a plan, we were attacked by Sahuagin.  There was a 4-armed large baron leader, a spell caster plus a bunch more.  The Swashbuckler told the sailors to get below and we took them on.  It wasn’t too tough.  Only the Holy Paladin got racked up.  Once the leader went out, the caster sank back down and the few still alive, fled.  A short rest later, we worked out a plan.

The captain felt the pirates were on the north side of the island.  To cross, we could go straight through the jungle, to the right past the volcano or to the left along the shore.  We chose to the left, staying just in the jungle to sacrifice a bit of speed for cover.  Unfortunately, we still had to go into jungle at the end to get where were needed to go.  Our sneakers spotted some lookouts on the high ground who seemed to be watching both the sea and a path between a cave and what turned out to be the watering hole.  They then saw a party with barrels for freshwater heading that way.  The barrel carriers were pirates, not prisoners, by the way.  About this time, we noticed something big in the jungle stalking us.  We investigated but didn’t find it/them.  But then we were called to by a jungle girl.  Turns out her shipwrecked on the island years ago and she was the only one left.  She told of many dangers on the island including the pirates and some large lion-like beasts.  She also said that there was a tentacle demon in the sea that the pirates had recently started worshipping.  She agreed to help us if we promised to take her off the island.  We agreed but because she had vaguely reptilian eyes and the Paladin’s detect evil power couldn’t quite get a read on her, some continued to view her with suspicion.  We decided we couldn’t assault the pirates without a long rest to reset some powers so we went back to her cave to rest.  On the way, we stopped at some temple ruins.  It seemed like it was a sacrifice spot but based on the age of the bloodstains, it hadn’t been used in years.  We all blew our skill rolls but the Wizard got a second roll on a second skill and manage to determine it was some sort of reptilian god which cast more suspicion on the girl.  But we lived through our long rest. 

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After we caught our breath with a short rest, we started searching around.  First, we talked to the human miners who were still hiding in their hut.  They didn’t know what to think.  Assuming we believe them, and we have no evidence to the contrary, they were hired by the stonemason to mine this gold vein and the orcs were here to guard them.  They were unaware of the orc attacks on the village nor that the stonemason did not have ownership of the mine and was not likely paying taxes on it.  We decided to take them back to town rather than leave them unguarded up here.  We also looked for loot.  We found, in the assayer’s office, a couple more boxes of raw gold ore but no written records that could be used as evidence.  The orcs had miscellaneous coins and we also found a potion of speed which the Monk won on a dice off amongst the melee guys. 

Lastly was the magic maul.  We used several methods to gain insight into it.  INT rolls to remember the command word, Lore and History rolls, Identify spell, research in Long Bridge and talking to the Fighter’s mother also in Long Bridge.  It all totaled as follows.  This is a near artifact level item that would require attunement to unlock.  It was once possessed by a great Orc who united the tribes of Fire Peak in ancient times.  His name and its name escapes me.  The command word was not learned and it was clear its full powers will be revealed during gameplay.  The Monk suggested as an Orc artifact, it probably needs to be bathed in the blood of your enemies or some such.  Needless to say, the Fighter took possession of it to start the attunement process.

We made it back to town and reported to the Lady first thing.  With our evidence and the Ranger’s support, she believed us and thanked us for our services.  Since it was late, we spent one last night before heading out in the morning.  At the bar, the stonemason came by to re-plea his case but the Lady had already decided on exile for him and he was dismissed.  She gave us a pile of gold in the morning for our troubles.  We made it back to Long Bridge and took care of a few things.  The Swashbuckler Paladin picked up his custom armor.  The Paladin looked to resize the Orc chieftain’s half plate but we realized that would be medium armor and wouldn’t work with his heavy armor feat.  So he traded it in and borrowed a bunch of money from the other players to buy platemail.  Research was made on the maul as stated above.  The Wizard, Rogue and Monk went to the mage school to inquire about buying spells.  Basically only if you spent a bunch of time doing apprentice work but we’d earn more experience just adventuring.  We also put our name out there as “men that can get things”.  There was a Wizard that might be interested in such men but he was currently out of town.

Lastly was the magic shops.  On the street, the best you could do was herbs and potions that, if you had enough money, could be an actual low-level magic potion.  Anything beyond that was not available, on the open market anyway.  We did find a shop that had a strong bow for the Fighter.  That shop owner offered to “ask around” for anyone that was willing to sell magic or knew of where it could be found.  (I.e. via ruins, not robbery.)  We had offered the archery bracers as an enticement but now that the Fighter had a bow, we held onto them.  So we established some contacts but it looks as though magic items will have to be earned.  We decided to keep the horses and ride back to Jailynn.  A couple of days down the well-traveled road we came upon a familiar looking pond with hexes drawn of the ground.

We started talking to two women who seemed to be traveling alone without horses.  They were asking more and more invasive questions and soon enough the Paladins’ evil alarms started going off.  Initiative was rolled and they revealed themselves as Sea Hags.  (Pond Hags?)  They had a fear attack when first seen that got the Paladins and the Rogue.  They had an evil eye that instantly dropped the Swashbuckling Paladin who missed his save down to 0 hp.  But it was 7 against 2 and the fight didn’t last very long.  The evil eye was more like a Command and the Paladin recovered with all his hit points intact.  They had no treasure, being a random encounter, and we made it to Jailynn without any other trouble.  Next time, we’ll probably look further into this organized crime ring unless something more pressing presents itself.  In theory, that would be on March 6th however Andy’s got a lot going on at the moment so we’ll see.     

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During the short rest after last time’s battle, pieces of 2 chests similar to the one we found the 400 gp in were found.  They also had the crest of the stone mason’s guild.  The thought of two more piles of 400 gp spurred further searching and discussion but none was found.  Meanwhile, the Fighter went out to tend to the orcs’ horses and he spotted a large orc further up the mountain, watching the ruined estate.  He started whistling a tune that only the Holy Paladin noticed.  When he went out, the Fighter told him about the orc although he did not spot him himself.  He returned, told the rest and advised preparing for another battle.  The Rogue and the Monk started sneaking up the mountain.  The Rogue did not spot the orc and took the opportunity to use her invisible mage hand to loosen the Fighter’s sword belt.  However, he noticed, re-secured it and gave a growl.  The Sorcerer and Paladin decided to hang back to allow the sneakers to sneak.  The Wizard casually walked to the horses.  About the time he got there, the orc had spotted the Monk and had pulled back.  Since the sneaking part seemed over, the Wizard mounted and started up, asking the Fighter to join him.  It was a bunch of chaos with people starting at different places but ultimately everyone ended up a couple of hours up the mountain looking at a miner’s camp.

There were several small buildings of a quality higher than one would expect from orcs and evidence of mining activities.  From the cave/mine emerged a big orc chieftain with a huge maul and his pet Worg.  We could also see two of those advanced orcs which seemed to be on par with a 5-6 level fighter.  The chief spoke to our Fighter who became our spokesman.  There were a lot of back and forth and threats and misunderstanding, etc but I’ll try to summarize.  He wanted to know why we had broken the deal and attacked his men.  And he wanted the final payment (the chest we found) or the deal was off.  The Monk declared the deal invalid because the stonemason who forged it did not speak for the town.  The Fighter offered the hand of peace, stating that if they stayed up here and stopped attacking the town, they could keep this land the stonemasons had evidently given them.  We had no such authority to do so and we very much doubted this was the stonemason’s land to give either.  But we didn’t really know and the town’s ranger had stayed behind at the estate.

Meanwhile, it was discovered that there were humans in the huts.  The Wizard questioned them.  They were hired by the stonemasons and the orcs were there to protect them.  From what, we’re not sure.  Unfortunately, they were not under duress so we couldn’t attack on those grounds.  They claimed to be unaware that the orcs had been terrorizing the town.  The only person they saw was the stonemason guy who came up with supplies and took away the ore.  Even though the Holy Paladin could sense great evil coming from him, we really didn’t have any proof of wrongdoing.  No one could pull the trigger and start the fight so we went back to the ruined estate to talk to Bryn.  It was just as well because, without a long rest, we would have likely been killed although we still had the Fighter at this point which would have helped.

The Rogue elected to stay and watch them from the trees.  The rest went down.  Bryn told us about what we expected.  The stonemason did not own this land.  It was owned by the lady that hired us.  Although out in this wilderness, ownership is more likely a matter of control than legal right.  Armed with that, we decided to return and attack them however the Wizard suggested a long rest which was agreed upon.  The Monk went back up to tell the Rogue however that got complicated by the orc they sent down to watch us.  Neither side ran into each other and other than the fact that the Rogue left her tree to follow the orc, thus beating the Monk back to the estate, nothing came of it.  There were some discussions about how to best get that long rest but eventually, Andy just declared morning to get this moving again.  After another nonproductive argument, this time about whether we should take the horses up or not, the Fighter logged off.

So we had no choice but to pressed ahead.  We decided to try to sneak into camp along the east side and got as far as a couple of buildings before we ran into one of the orcs.  Again we started to debate amongst ourselves if we should talk and assert our authority but thankfully he started to attack.  He got hit a couple of times but not dropped.  He was quickly joined by the other orc and the Worg.  The chief also advanced but used the cover of the buildings to kept him out of spell fire.  That also slowed him down a couple rounds, thankfully.  Andy was rolling great, especially for damage.  The Monk got critted and hit a couple of times and was down in a couple rounds, leaving Holy Paladin as the only hit point buffer.  The Rogue got munched by the Worg.  The Sorcerer’s first twinned chaos bolt missed twice.  The Wizard’s first Shatter did 11 points and 2 of the 3 targets saved for half.  All and all, it was going poorly.

When the chief joined, he said something in orcish and his maul started to glow silver.  Unfortunately, the only the Monk spoke orc and he didn’t catch the command word.  He was formidable but it wasn’t clear which of his powers were from the maul and from himself.  The Holy Paladin did crit him on his first swing, adding in some radiant damage to boot, but he had plenty of hit points left.  They all were doing 1d12 or more of damage and with Andy rolling 12s, it added up fast.  I think the Monk and Paladin went out 3-4 times each.  The Rogue and the Sorcerer went down a couple times each.  The Wizard didn’t go out but couldn’t hit all night so he didn’t have much of an impact.  He tried to cast Hold Person on the chief, figuring automatic crits for the Paladin and the Rogue would be devastating but the chief rolled 17 on the die and despite the Bane cast by the Sorcerer, he saved.  It was the Prayers of Healing from the Sorcerer that saved us.  He brought several characters back to life with those but they used up all his 2nd level slots which normally would have been doing damage.  We also had to use 2 healing potions.

After some rounds, despite the fact that most of us were on minimal hit points, we had taken out the Worg, one orc and the chief was heavily damaged.  So we thought they were on the ropes.  But then he raged and soon after unleashed a 30’ radius Fear attack at DC 15.  Everyone failed their save except the Wizard who was out of the area.  All the rest could do was to flee at top speed which was significant for some.  Someone even took an opportunity attack as they fled.  They got a new save each round and returned as best they could but our effectiveness plummeted.  He did that Fear thing twice more.  He was also getting a third attack from the small end of the maul (butt attack?) for 2d6.  The Holy Paladin rolled a 20 on a death save, popped up with 1 hit point, laid hands for 19 and then got a prayer of healing so he was almost back to full at the end.  Eventually, we managed to take him out but there were a couple of times where only one character was up and not running in fear.  Without the long rest, being down two players, we would have been orc meat.  At that point it was 2 AM (4 Am central) and we quit.  Plenty to do next time.  Search for loot, give the maul to the Fighter, look for miners, take a short rest, investigate the cave, etc.    

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