We started, short one Paladin. That had an impact without his save bonuses. The Monk and the Rogue were also late in arriving, however, turns are so slow at these levels, they arrived before their turn came up. Of note, the Warlock who was once standing next to the Paladin, now was in the middle of the room all alone, stuck in a Web, surrounded by enemies. He was concerned. We did add a Barbarian who rolled high on initiative. But Vampira went first. She tried to cast a spell and Patrina tried to counter it but missed the Int check. She did not know what it was but when she was told her target was for a 9th level spell, Kharn offered up an inspiration and she made that one. It was a 'Time Stop', as if 3 actions a round wasn’t enough. She did cast another one of the Fog Mist spells that temporarily blinded each of us. But more significantly, Esmeralda and Kharn(?) missed the save and took a level of exhaustion which hurts in a skill challenge. She also did a whip attack and pulled Kharn into the center of the room. Not that he wasn’t heading that way anyway.
Patrina went next and elected not to further the ritual, figuring it was someone else’s turn. On the lair action, 6 Spiders descended from the ceiling. They got 3 attacks a round and the bite could poison on a failed save. (Another disadvantage on skill rolls.) We still had one Wight and several Vampira Spawn on the board so it was very crowded. Kharn attempted to fortify the Air round of the ritual. Using his new Eagle Spirit power, he would Athletically fly around the circumference of the seal. However, that gave Vampira and a Spawn an attack of opportunity as he took flight. The damage was not an issue however, she hit with a whip and Kharn was Paralyzed. But it was pointed out that the Spawn attack should have come first. It hit and did a free Grab. So, he was grabbed, not paralyzed but could not further the ritual. Esmerelda cast True Polymorph on Kaladin and turned him into an Adult Copper Dragon, armed with breath weapons and legendary actions. Talk about crowded. On a Legendary action, Vampira absorbed a Spawn and transformed into her true form. A big blob of blood and flesh. And she got to go again, in the same round, since she was a new form. Protest! Denied!
Ambrus bravely charged her, doing some sneak attack damage but it was a drop in the bucket. It did get her attention, for better or worse. On Loki’s turn, no one had moved the ritual along. He was hesitant to do so since he did it last time. It should have been King Q with his Gust of Wind but if he failed, there was only Kaladin left. He was unwilling to take the risk. His plan was to take a page out of Kharn’s book to run around the perimeter (40+40’) Acrobatically after disengaging. That was iffy however Paul pointed out that Loki could now change into CR ¼ beasts at will. So, he changed into a Giant Owl and flew around (60+60) Acrobatically. He made his roll however he ended next to Vampira. She lashed out with an attack, knocked the meager owl hit points out of him and he crashed to the floor in the middle of the enemies and Web. But, a success. King Q fought and Kaladin did a legendary Wing Attack, knocking down friends and foes. And an acid line breath weapon.
The next round, things got more dire. We were okay on hit points (although that changed fast) but the conditions were adding up. As were the number of foes. A Silence Field fell across the room. The lair dropped 6 more Blood Blobs that looked like cherry Jello molds. When Patrina went, she decided to dispense with politeness and augment the Fire seal. Her first thought was to use Fire Bolt and best skill, Arcana, however DS pointed out that the last stage required Arcana and since Brian didn’t want the same skill used twice, he might want to save it. So, she used Calligraphy to enhance the runes with her Fire Bolt fire and succeeded. At this point, we were hopeless outnumbered and it became a matter of keeping Patrina or Esmerelda up until the next round. Ambrus was knocked out as was Loki. Kharn poured a healing potion into Ambrus who did the same to Loki. Loki decided to just dodge and try to keep the number of targets up. King Q tried a Mental Prison against a Jello next to Partina but it could not be charmed and therefore only took damage. And was knocked out for his troubles. Esmeralda and Patrina did those Steel Wind Strikes which, as pseudo AOEs with no friend fire, were the only effective attacks. Esmeralda got a Potion from Loki’s prone body that cured her exhaustion levels.
On to the last round. Patrina was ready but needed to be in the middle of the room. Rather than delay one slot for Kharn to move out of the only friendly square next to the center point, she moved into a square with a Jello. She took 21 points of damage but only had 20 left. Tragedy. But then pulled out a power that allowed her to transfer the damage from one attack to her Manifest Mind which blinked out of existence. She rolled an Arcana powered by generic spell energy and completed the ritual. All the foes were pulled into the center and all the friendlies were gently pushed out. The amber column was reformed without any cracks and we successfully kicked her out of Barovia. Victory!
Brian gave us the choice of storyboarding what happens to our characters from this point or having another session and using the Fiasco rule system to sort of play it out at a concept level. We chose to finish this night. Jon said the Ambrus was going to repopulate the Shadow Elves, one baby at a time. But it was pointed out that Patrina was the only female Elf in this land. New plan. He was going to leave with Esmerelda and try to recruit Elves to move here. Kharn wanted to become the leader of the Vistani. Brian said that Madame Eva was moving on and would give him her blessing. Given their expertise in moving about the area, they’d become the guides for people moving into this realm now that the borders were open. And raise his daughter. Patrina wanted to go with Ambrus and Esmerelda but first, she had an idea. Since Stradanya was once her friend and once a Paladin who was led astray by dark powers, she’d use a Limited Wish to bring her back. As a non-vampire. Kharn was okay with that and would keep an eye on her. It was pointed out that there was no Limited Wish in 5.0 so she’d have to wait until 17th to do it. So, it’ll be a while.
Brian asked if King Q would be moving into Castle Ravenloft. Even though some of it was good, lots of it was evil. Dave said he’d build a new keep nearby, using the old for parts. When asked if he would be a benevolent ruler, he said that the people of Barovia had been through enough and there was no point in kicking them when they were down. And then started talking about killing people he felt needed killing. So, benevolence TBD. Loki planned to move in with the Wine Wizards and use their network of spies to clear the land of all the monsters that were still roaming about despite the change in rulership. I mean he couldn’t go back to eating crawfish by a stream. And perhaps he could find the compound where he was made since it was in the area. Brian said that despite his rejection of the Arch Druidship, the Ladies 3 would still be in touch when something needed to be done. Kaladin’s first plan was to talk Ezra into taking over the Silver Dragon Paladin order. It just didn’t fit for a Monk. And commence wandering again. His history was basically a guy who ran away from home to see and do and go. Thus far, he’s spent 4 weeks in this bleak realm. Unfortunately, Andy could not attend so Ezra’s plans are unknown although leader of the Silver Knights sounded reasonable enough. He might want to stick around and keep an eye on things.
A campaign successfully concluded. Congrats to all. It’s not easy to do. Many thanks were passed out to Brian for running for 3 years and by my count, 67 games. Before jumping into another long campaign using Pathfinder 2.0, he said he’d run a couple of one-shot games to give himself time to reset and gird himself for another round of character creation.
We started with leveling up to 14th. There were new spells to pick and daily spells to memorize. We also divvied up the potion found last time. Everyone got a health potion in case of being poisoned and a healing potion of various strengths. Of the good ones, Patrina and Ambrus got the Speed, Loki and Kaladin got the Heroism. Ezra got the Fire Giant and I think the Invulnerability although I don’t think he used it. By the way, Brian was not using the potion-mixing danger rules which were optional anyway. We got a long rest and reloaded guns, etc., and then were teleported into the library at the Amber temple. Some long-term spells were cast like Ambrus’s See Invisible. Esmerelda sent her Arcane Eye down the stairs. In there were 3 pillars of amber, the southern one looked to be somewhat damaged. And 6 innocent yet ominous-looking crates. We headed down with Ambrus sneaking in the lead. We rolled initiative to get things moving. He snuck across the room and could see a half-woman half-spider in there. And then two vampire spawn popped out of the crates. One was in his Sun sword sunlight and attacked him. The other was not and avoided it. She used her climb on walls to get behind us on the stairway and attacked Patrina in the back. Ezra charged in to help Ambrus as well as Esmerlda. 5 more spawn came out and 4 avoided the sunlight and attacked those on the stairs. It got very tight there. Loki got stuck between a couple and was the only one to take any serious damage. King Q showed up in the back in the middle of the fight. Once the two in the room were out, those characters came to help as well. But with the sunlights, it only took a round or two.
Patrina started the ritual while Loki took a short rest. Just before she was done with the 10 minutes, we took our potions and cast our spells. Vampira appeared in the center of the room and went first. She got 3 actions a round in addition to her legendary actions and lair action. She tried to dominate Patrina but she had advantage on Arcana rolls now at 14th and Counterspelled it. But Dave pointed out that Counterspell used a straight Int check so she failed. But she used a luck point, rerolled, and succeeded after all. She also attacked with a web whip that missed and then jumped onto the ceiling. Ambrus Misty Stepped up, hung there on his immovable rod, attacked, and then dropped to the floor. Patrina did the first skill roll of the second ritual. Something with water. Brian tried a straight skill roll but the GM wanted some sort of spell or power as well. Ezra pointed out that she had a wineskin of plentiful wine. And wine was mostly water? The GM was iffy on it but then Patrina said that water and wine was a religious thing so she should get a Religion roll. It was allowed and she succeeded.
Soon after, the lair created 6 Wights from Vampira’s blood splatterings on the floor. They instantly went, charged, and got an attack. And then went again on their regular initiative. Their to hit was low as was their AC but they drained hit points. They did get disadvantage while in the sunlight which helped. Mainly they had hit points to grind through and added chaos. The villain did a variety of things that did damage but people saved against the worst of it with Paladin bonuses, help from spells, and inspirations. Esmerelda dispelled a Web and thankful Patrina dispelled a Darkness that overpowered our sunlights. At the end of round one, a couple of Wights were down, she had taken some damage but most importantly, we had one success on the ritual.
The next round, she put each player in a mist cloud which blinded them. (Except Loki who had Blindfight.) That gave the Wights and the new lair action vampire spawn advantage. That hurt. Those spawn were tougher with 100+ hit points. Free grapples and bites that drained. For the mist, on your turn, you got a save for half damage and if you missed it, you got a level of exhaustion. That would be significant since it gave disad on skill rolls. But again, I think everyone saved. She did another Web which was mostly an inconvenience both to us and them. In the middle of all that, it was Loki’s “turn” to push the ritual along. It was an earth and plant stage. But first he had to save against the mist and against the Web. Thankfully he was near Ezra. DG wanted to use his Goodberry to augment the plants with some goodly Druid magic. That was met with general approval but Brian wanted more than Goodberry. But Loki only had two since the rest were distributed amongst the big party. Partina suggested just recasting it but that would remove everyone’s Goodberry since they can’t stack. Brian allowed it to not and gave Loki a survival roll with advantage for his good idea.
The round continued and more damage was dealt. However, at the end of round two, there was still 1 very damaged Wight and 5 mostly undamaged vampire spawn. If the lair was going to add a half dozen of increasingly tough minions a round, we were falling behind quickly. Next was Air so the obvious answer is KQ’s Gust of Wind. However, he’s near the bottom of the order so if he fails, there were only a couple of characters after him to pick him up. It’s a risk. After Air is Fire and then after that is some sort of Arcana, I think. So, we’re doing good. Two successes and no failures with 3 more needed. No one is seriously hurt or incapacitated. And since it’s only been 2 rounds, we have plenty of powers left. However, between the characters, minions, webs, and zones, it is very crowded in here. And likely more curves to come.
While we waited for a 4th player to show up, people leveled up to 13th. Jon and Andy worked on choosing their first 3rd and 4th level spells, respectively. Eventually, Dan showed up and we started. Esmerelda could see into the Etheral Plane with her Gem of Seeing and saw the vampire in the center of the room astride her Nightmare. She seemed to be casting a spell. The T Rexes were along the edges of the room due to spacing. She appeared in a 15-foot Sphere of Antimagic. No magic would work in there including our polymorph. She moved out and attacked T Loki. AShe hit and knocked him prone. And a bit but at least he made that save. The horse went next and came out of the sphere, attacked someone, went ethereal, and went back into the sphere. She went on a legendary action. And then the lair went twice. It summoned a swarm of bats and the floor collapsed under T Loki, grabbing and restraining him. Dave showed up about then. It was not a good start for our heroes but at least she didn’t get back into the sphere as we feared.
T Loki went next. Rather than use his action to save against the restrain, he attacked her at disadvantage and hit. That did damage but also grabbed and restrained her without a save. T Ezra went next and did the same. There was some debate if two T Rexes could grab one medium vampire at the same time but we figured the head and the legs. The bats attacked T Ezra. T Esmerelda went next. She grabbed the Javelin of Lighting that was on the floor with a modest Dex roll, ran across the room, avoiding the antimagic and threw it with her tiny arms. Luckily, Stradanya was restrained and she hit. And did lightning damage to her, the two T. Rexes and the swarm. On T Kaladin’s turn, T Loki let go so that he could attack her. T Q attacked the swarm. T. Ambrus got left out due to lack of space. He couldn’t get through the T Rexes and avoid the antimagic. But maybe we had her on the ropes. She certainly wasn’t happy.
But on her turn, she managed to wiggle free thanks to some favorable rulings from Brian. Since T Kaladin didn’t say he grabbed her, Brian said he didn’t. Even though it was supposedly automatic or at least free. He also realized that the T Q. Gust of Wind was still going and ruled it was pointed at the Rexes and the vampire. T Loki begged him to drop it but Dave ruled that it wasn’t powerful enough to blow a vampire out of the huge maw of a T Rex. Unfortunately, Brian was running and ruled otherwise. The rules stated that it ended grapples and she was freed. From there, she used actions and legendary actions to climb on the ceiling and get near the sphere but not in it. And cast a Firewall that hit a bunch of us along the way. But her horse went next and got near enough to put them both into the ethereal plane. The next thing we knew, she was in the sphere smirking and the horse was gone. It seemed like a missed opportunity however maybe we were making progress? We were certainly burning through T Rex hit points.
She popped out and attacked and the horse did the same. Most everyone attacked the swarms (a wolf one was added as well as another bat) since they could and stay a T Rex. T Loki moved near the sphere and held his action in case she or the horse came out. And made a decent T roll to appear like he wasn’t. T Q did the same. When she came out to cast a Fireball, hitting a bunch, they at least got an attack on her. Evidently, she wasn’t that skilled in reading T Rex body language. However, this time she used her “turn to mist” power to get out of the restrain and back to safety. That readied action tactic got Loki an inspiration for good thinking. However, the game changer was T Ambrus. He decided to roll the dice and go into the sphere despite his meager hit points. He turned into an Ambrus with no magic but discovered that his legendary Sun Sword still worked in there. That meant, among other things, full damage against her. He attacked her and then disengaged and backed out. And turned into a T Rex again. That was the winning formula. Inspiration for him to be sure.
T Loki did the same and found his guns also worked. (Although they were only +1 so not as big a deal.) He shot the horse instead, not wanting her to plane shift when she got worried. T Ezra went in and smited her twice for over 100 points. His sword worked too. T Q couldn’t reach her but finished off the horse which Ezra had shield bashed out of the sphere. She was worried now. She came out, grabbed T Esmeralda with her legendary action, and flung a 4-ton T Rex into the sphere. And the polymorph went out for everyone. That got a mixed reaction. It put most at risk due to a lack of real hit points but gave them access to their powers. She decided to stop concentrating on it. Despite his merger hit points, Kaladin decided to stay engaged with her so that Ambrus could get his sneak attack dice. He missed and used an inspiration and missed again. Lord Q gave him another and he hit. And killed her with the fated Sun Sword. Yea!
The swarms sort of wandered off. She turned to mist and went to her coffin. But we had destroyed that last time so she headed south to the portal Ramadan had used last time. Loki, Ambrus, and Kaladin used healing potions. Ezra used his turn undead power to force her away from the portal. Lord Q used a Force Wall to contain her and Esmerelda used a Dust Devil to force her into one of the empty potion bottles. All the while the sunlight AOE kept shining. After a couple of rounds, her body reformed and was burned up by the sunlight. Ding dong, the witch is dead.
The heroes were transported to Turtle Island where they met the 3 ladies. They thanked them on defeating her. The curse was lifted and the sun was shining. They also apologized for the whole “practice run that wasn’t” thing. They wanted to keep the pressure off. But we still had to defeat Vampira at the Amber Temple or the whole thing would start again. We would be allowed to heal up before being sent. We leveled up again to 14th. They also gave everyone the boon of +2 to one stat that can exceed the normal maximums. Lastly, they gave out individual boons with which Brian did his best. Loki was named the High (Druid) Priest of the land. Pretty ridiculous. And was given the ability to wild shape into CR ¼ critters at will. Lord Q was proclaimed King Q. Also ridiculous. He got the ability to turn into a Raven. Ambrus got the ability to turn into objects like the True Polymorph spell. Kharn will be given the ability to turn into a Winter Wolf. Kaladin was turned into a Silver Dragon wyrmling with the ability to turn into a half-dragon monk and whatever the other half was. Human? Petrina was brought back to life and regained her position of Queen of the Dark Elves. I think he said she’d get the powers of a Dark Elf plus the original Undying stuff. They did not have the power to bring back Ezra’s lady love but could bring back her spirit into a couple of choices. He picked a Pegasus which came with the mounted combat feat.
Brian also asked everyone to give some thought on what your character will do after this was all over. Assuming we survive the battle with the God. (I think the Druids and Esmerelda was going to share some tips prior.) With the expectation that we’d narrate our thoughts at the end.
Note from Dan: Game 64 was mostly a fight. Generally, if Dave is out I try to fill in, but since it was all fighting nothing of note happened. We didn't even finish the fight. Ended the night at round 6.
We leveled up to 12th. The wizard and the monk were missing and the warlock was late. However, when the paladin arrived, we began in the middle of the fight. Loki rolled high on initiative and went first. He fired at the most wounded vampire but missed twice. Evidently, she was the one with the highest AC. He then moved to one of the alcoves with a coffin, figuring that might be important. Kharn grabbed that Morning Lord idol which gave many protection from evil. Stradanya avoid that and Ambrus’s sunlight sword and attacked Loki in the shadows. She hit, grabbed, bit, and drained and like that, he went from unharmed to half-dead. Ambrus bravely ran across the room to help him, bringing his sunlight aura with him. However, she used a legendary action to grab him, no to hit or save needed, and flung him across the room. She also summoned her animated armor which didn’t have much of an impact.
Ezra hit a vampire with a radiant smite but she had a magic mask that made her immune from radiant for a round. The Warlock showed up and lit up his Symbol of the Raven Queen which was another sunlight radius that covered half the room. He also brought back his Gust which caused some difficulties for both sides. Loki managed to wiggle free and get over to the daylight and the Paladin. The NPC did her sword dance spell thing and finished off a vampire. We saw the mist go into one of the coffins. Stradanya cast baleful polymorph on Ambrus and turned him into a cat. This at least dropped her Web spell that athletics and acrobatics less DQ was hopelessly stuck in. And then used her extra actions to move through the walls and back over to Loki. Luckily, she missed this time because she was disadvantaged by the protection from evil but then realized she was in the daylight. She took damage on her actual turn and pooched her concentration and like that, Ambrus was not a cat any more.
Around here, Rahadan appeared from the Ethereal Plane and attacked Kharn. He did an auto-crit sneak attack for 74 points. Luckily, Kharn saved against the poison or it could have been more. He got 3 more attacks but those were just 1d8+. In fact, he never did another sneak attack so didn’t impact much after that first strike. He drew a lot of fire and got beat up pretty good. He Misty Stepped into an alcove and disappeared. And then her Nightmare horse appeared. It didn’t have much of an impact either but it got in the way. Same with the rat swarms. As usual, we were spending all our resources on her minions but weren’t doing much of anything to her. But the sunlight was keeping her away so it was just ranged spells. Another vampire fell from the persistent daylight damage. The NPC cast Haste and then unleashed her high-level sunburst on the vampire (and some of us) however Stradanya used a legendary action and absorbed it. Not sure what that did for her but at the very least, it was countered.
On her next action, Esmerelda cast Mass Polymorph from a scroll and turned all the PCs (and herself) into T. Rexes. We were given the chance to save against it but only DQ tried (and failed). Everyone was one hit from out so they took the hit points over the class powers. That was a nightmare in FGs to get that cast but eventually Brian sorted it out. It was crowded to say the least. But it became a matter of rulings. Are polymorphed T Rexes magic attacks? Brian said yes or else it was useless. Paul was worried about his last rage carrying over and initially, Brian said yes. However, that opened a can of worms. Mobility carries over? Sentinel? Blind Fight? Eventually, he declared none of that carried over but the rage counter was put on pause. But most importantly, he said that DQ’s sunlight from his holy symbol did carry over which made some sense. As did the protection from evil from the idol. The sun sword sunlight also carried over which made less sense.
So, with that all sorted out, we got going again. She was attacked but only one at a time due to spacing. Rahadan was found near her. The nightmare was attacked as well. Loki remembered last time when she used it to escape to the Ethereal Plane. The armor and the swarms were attacked but more to use up the tail attacks. Somewhere in there, the last vampire went down and back into the coffin. Rahadan realized that the NPC was the key and came into the room to attack her 4 times. I think he hit every time (T Rex AC is low) but she made every concentration save. He was finally finished off by her. It might have been more satisfying if it was Ambrus that killed him (dark elf slayer) or at least a PC but he was finally dead. T. Loki grabbed a coffin, carried it into the daylight, and crunched it open. That vampire within was reduced to ash. Others followed suit with the others and T. Ezra destroyed her coffin. She ran towards her horse and it ran to her. Once together, she stepped into the Ethereal Plane with it and was gone again.
At this point, it was almost 1 AM. We agreed to storyboard one more round to clear out the remaining minions. Brian stated that Stradanya would be returning shortly. Otherwise, we could spend two more game sessions chasing her around the castle. Or Barovia. This will be her final stand. Whether (or when) we should revert from T Rexes will be discussed. And whether she’ll wait for us to revert. I think most of us are below half or worse and many resources have been spent fighting minions. By design, I suppose. Whether we can beat her, all versus one, with what is left is still debatable. Some of us will go down, that’s for sure. Brian also stated that this is the real deal and not the trial run. Win or lose, no one wants to redo all this. He also bumped us up to 13th we were supposed to be when we fought her for the last time. That’ll get access to a new high-level spell for the casters including the ranger and paladin. Next game in two weeks without Paul.
We gave some thought to chasing after Gertruda with a Feather Fall spell or some such but since we were off the initiative clock, we decided that encounter was over. The only two characters that took damage were arriving late so we decided to press on. We knew this tower connected to the tower with the heart gem via a bridge a couple of levels down. What we did not realize was that this stairway was an “express” in that it started at the first level and ended at the roof but did not access any levels between. We were so busy chasing the vampire, we did not realize. There was, in fact, another staircase that stopped in between. (What a bad design.) While we discussed that, Stradanya floated up with a broom in her hand. After a bit of witty banter, Ezra invited ourselves to dinner on the first level and she agreed. We started down but decided to continue with our original plan. Evidently, she overheard that but we went on. The NPC cast a telepathic communication spell so that she couldn’t overhear us anymore.
We went down, then across then up to the level we had stayed at once. This was a bit of slow going as we switched from map to map at each level. From there, was another stairway going further up. However, as we crossed over, looking at a trap door that we never got back around to with suspicion, the carpet animated. Ezra was attacked but not engulfed. We fired away. When Patrina went (last?) she cast Dispel Magic (after a suggested Arcana roll) and that stopped it. At least for 10 rounds. But we hacked it up since we’d likely be facing it again on the way back down. We got to the top level and could see the glow of the gem across the way. It was another long spiral staircase going up and down into the darkness. At our level, floating 15 away in the center was the beating gem.
Ambrus went first and bravely Misty Stepped over, used his Immovable Rod to hang from, and attacked it with his dagger. Unfortunately, this caused 10-12 halberds that were not on the map nor in the description, to animate. They flew at him and he was eventually surrounded on all sides. Including up and down. They didn’t hit often or do a lot of damage but it added up. Kaladin flew over, flurried, and started to fly back away. However, it was pointed out that if he stayed, Ambrus would get his sneak attack dice which are considerable these days. And maybe take some heat off him which didn’t seem to work. Since Ambrus was in midair, Kaladin was the only one that could help him. Loki fired away. In the middle of the round, 3-4 vampire spawn came crawling up as well. It got very crowded. Ezra concentrated on the spawn since he did extra damage against the undead. Loki shot at the gem since it wasn’t immune to necrotic. Lady Patrina itched to do a radiant fireball but had the usual friendly fire issues. The NPC unleashed her Steel Wind Strike and did a ton of damage to multiple opponents. After that, Stradanya and Ranadan showed up as well. We weren’t sure if they were there to watch, fight, taunt, or what. About then, Kharn showed up and using his last rage, attacked her.
She had legendary actions and lair actions and her normal actions. She charmed Kharn who only has a +2 Will save and was too far from Ezra. She grabbed the Levitating Lord Q and flung him 60 feet. It was looking dire however then NPC fired a Chain Lighting that finished off the gem and a spawn or two. Stradanya, who regenerated the one attack fully, looked very upset over this. We had been told that gem was responsible for her regeneration. She phased through the bridge and floated below it. Ranadan disappeared again with a +16 stealth roll. We finished off the foes and she simply fled down. Now what? According to the fortunes we were to face her in a hidden room behind a beautiful lady on a tower of treasure. The accountant said the real treasure was in the basement so that’s where we had to go.
However, Ambrus was battered and needed a short rest. Unfortunately, Kharn needed a long rest to reset his rages but we didn’t think we could wait that long. However, we did have that idol from the chapel. I don’t know if we ever properly identified it because Brian had missed so many games, however, it gave the holder the effects of Protection from Evil after attunement. That would make him immune to charms from evil creatures and best of all, it wasn’t a concentration spell. It had other powers that would only work for a Paladin or a Cleric but immune to charm was just what we needed. Luckily that attunement was a short rest as well. We decided to go up one level to the attic since it would, in theory, only have one entrance. Up there was a bed with restraints, an iron chest, and a ladder to a trap door to the roof. We did nothing and took that short rest. Afterward, Ambrus picked the lock and found an expensive crown. It looked like the one the former lord wore in one of the pictures downstairs. He put it on. Loki went up the ladder and when he opened the trap door, a bunch of Corpse Hands attacked. We stopped there.
Assuming we finish off the Hands with ease, it will be down to the basement. We could go down the stairs but we’d face that stone wall. Unless someone has a spell, it would take hours to bash through it. Or we could try our luck on the elevator which seemed to go down. Or we could follow Gertuda’s path, Feather Fall down from the other tower, and assume/hope it ended up in the basement. That would give us surprise, I’m betting, but would also give us nowhere to run. I.e. we can’t feather fall back up. To be debated next time.
We got off to a late start due to lack of players. We even played a couple virtual board games until Paul called in and pushed us up to 4. We crossed the drawbridge to the first gate. There was no cover to be had in the inner courtyard so we debated. There were plenty of arrow slits but no sign of people. Loki cast Pace Without Trace which includes a “shroud of darkness” which we hoped would help. We crossed and came to the front door. At this point Paul started asking questions. Did we want to scout around the whole castle perimeter? Is this an intelligence gathering opportunity or a practice fight or what? Ultimately, we decided not to back track and go forward. The bigger question was how “real” was this encounter. If we found stuff, do we keep it? If we use stuff, like consumable magic items, do we lose it? Brian was unhelpful and vague, as expected. We pressed on and went in.
The castle was for the most part empty. Very much like the abandoned mansions and keeps we’ve cleared out before. Dusty and decrepit. We just started wandering about with Baron Q added to the mix. We heard music coming from the dining room but since we had been there before, we deferred it. We saw various statues and gargoyles which didn’t animate. (I had to drop off about here so this is my best reconstruction.) They found an abandoned chapel to the Morning Lord. This castle was once home to a noble family, before Stradanya took over the land. To their surprise, the chapel was still “holy”. They found a dead adventurer who seemed to have been electrocuted from touching a morning lord statue. Ezra said it was good so he must have been bad. He had a magic mace which Baron Q took. Somewhere in here, they were attacked by some zombies. They were dispatched without much issue but it made some noise.
Somehow, they went up a level from there (balcony?) and ended up in a hallway. They triggered a trap and Stradanya appeared. However, it was just a cheesy hunted house mannequin. They also found a secret door that led to an elevator going up and down. They spent an hour on this. Evidently there were no controls inside it but could control it from the outside. They sent it up and it made a lot of noise. As if it hadn’t been used in a long time. They didn’t want to risk it and didn’t want to change levels until this area was searched. So, reluctantly, they left it behind. The next room of interest, after a couple of unanimated skeletons were hacked to bits by Kharn, had the castle’s accountant. He was very old and chained to his desk. Surrounded by scrolls and papers. (I came back at this point.) Baron Q did his detect magic and we asked him some questions. He did say that there was no money in his chests. There was a false treasure room up but that the good stuff was down. Loki tried to get the location of Stradanya’s bed room or of her minions but he didn’t know. He was unaware of the elevator but had heard the noise. Ambrus tried to unlock his chains but the manacle was bolted on. We left him.
From there we went down into the first main hall via another secret stairway. (On a side note, because we were using line of sight instead of fog of war, it was very hard to keep track of where we had been and how it all pieced together.) As we debated whether to go into the dining room, BQ wandered about with his detect magic on. He passed through the gargoyle room and this time they animated. We’re not sure what was different. They attacked but they were dispatched in a couple of rounds. We were simply too high of level for them. At this point, it was approaching 1AM so we stopped. We’ve scouted a tiny portion of the castle and found next to nothing of interest. I guess the hope is to find something important, like a minion or a glowing red gem, and then map the fastest way there? Anyhow, there’s still a ton of exploring to go. And where is everybody? Last time we were here, wasn’t it full of servants?
Jon’s game next week. Without Fantasy Grounds.
We started in Kresk, discussing our options. According to the script, next was to go to the cave near the Old Mill (Granny Momo’s cookie factory) and face our greatest fear. That being, a trial run for our final confrontation with Strahdanya and her minions. (This would finish Loki’s personal quest, the last quest to be completed.) Followed by the actual assault. And once she was defeated, her vampire god’s powers would be diminished sufficiently to be defeatable back at the Amber Temple. And we’d have a week to do so or she’d rise again. But first, what did we need to do? There were plenty of things people wanted before fighting her, most prominently, acquire more spells. But there are no spell stores in Barovia. The best Lady Patrina could hope for was more inks in Valaki with which she could transcribe from Mord’s spell book. And maybe trade with Esmerelda although she (and Brian) seemed at best lukewarm towards. We all wanted to get to 12th level but that will likely happen after this major milestone. Getting a strong bow for Ezra was also on the list of desires although it’ll likely take a week or two to make, once ordered. So, it may all be over by then.
So, we decided to go to Valki for inks and a bow since it was on the way to the Mill anyway. But first, there were a bunch of but firsts to do in Kresk. Irena decided to stay behind to give Brian one less thing to keep track of. We took another long rest to recover the last level of exhaustion for Lady P and Ambrus. And we finally got on the road. At the end of the first day, we came across a grisly scene. It seemed as though a group of traveling peasants had been waylaid and killed. The only survivor was a child who was clinging to her father’s body. Lady P won initiative and approach her in a calm manner. And it turned out, she was an evil fey creature feasting on the innards of the peasant. Shock and dismay. A dozen more leapt out of the bodies and the fight ensued. They did a lot of damage including some free trips but at least they didn’t have any magic or legendary actions. AOE were used. Their AC was low but their HPs were high. There was a big discussion on Kaladin’s attempt to use falling as “free movement” like was the case in the fight with the Roc but Brian objected. It was a thing.
Lady P, being in the front, got rocked pretty good. So, she turned into a T Rex. About round two, a huge Bone Bird fell from the sky, doing 20d6 to it and those it landed on. In retaliation for the discussion above. That did a bunch of damage to Kaladin and enough to knock the T Rex out of Patrina. It got a free grab and restrained but didn’t seem to be able to fly. How it got up there, we were confused. That spiced up the fight. Mighty smites and spells were used. Fantasy Grounds went sideways a couple of times and we had to reboot once. Lady P cast T Rex on Kharn who started granting T vantage. The polymorph kept unsetting in Fantasy Grounds and even the Bone Brid turning into a Roc. All in all, it was contentious, disjointed due to tech issues and resolved in a handful of rounds. We took a short rest and continued.
In Valiki, Ezra ordered his bow from the elves. Lady P and Esmerelda went into the city since they were the only ones not currently wanted. After they went through the usual gate keeper nonsense, they checked the board, and we were still wanted. They went to the magic shop. She asked about magical items but he said that the riots caused by the wanted adventurers (us) had about cleaned him out. He had no scrolls or spells for sell either. But he did have ink. She spent all her money on those and then started negotiating with the NPC about spell swapping. She had very little success there. Maybe she picked up a True Sight. Meanwhile all the other idle players started drifting off. We never really regained our momentum. We went to the cave and entered. And exited at the front gate of Castle Stradanya. At that point it was probably too late to start on that, so we just stopped. Of note, we’re going in short a short rest which is probably a bad idea. And with all the talk of finding clues and things to defeat her, it seems like our plan is to beat her up. And her minions, in her lair. Although we were told that Ambrus’s new Sun Sword was sentient so maybe it has some ideas. Any thoughts of finding another way in or weakening her forces were rejected. Stay on the rails and those rails go right into the lion’s den. Toot toot.
We got off to a slow start. With two players missing, we had to wait for the late arrivers in order to reach critical mass. Just as we moved across the bridge over the 500-foot canyon again, we were attacked by two Rocs. Loki went first, firing 3-4 shots into one and then taking cover next to one of the towers. (He was down to less than half as he had run out of HD.) Kaladin went next. (Still fatigued from the fight with the ghosts.) He flew up to one and with a Flurry of Blows managed to hit and stun one. It plummeted down and took 20d6 of falling damage. He hit the second one but did not stun it. Once again, the meleers were sort of left out. Even Kharn’s strong bow was late in arriving. The second Roc attacked Kaladin, hitting, and grappling him. It started flying down towards its mate and was quickly out of range of our ranged characters. Esmerelda used a Dimension Door to place herself on its back. When Kaladin went again, he managed to stun it. (Dan: The mechanics of this was wierd. I stunned the Roc and it instantly fell 500ft. Since this happened instantly it interupted my action and I wasn't able to finish my action or try to escape... since an incapacitated foe can't grapple) And the 3 of them took 20d6 of falling damage. However, the Monk took 5*level less damage. And now both Rocs were 500 feet below the bridge.
Loki cast Summon Animals and brought forth two Giant Eagles. He bid one to carry him down and one to catch him if the first should fall. Although Shimota pointed out that in order to keep up, the second wouldn’t have an action to do so. Kaladin got free of the Roc but was quickly knocked out. Esmeralda was grabbed and it flew towards the bridge at river level. That was finally in Loki’s range so he got a couple shots and then 4 more when his turn came up. Kharn decided it was time for action. He tossed his strong bow (and arrows) to Ezra and then jumped off the bridge (raging first), and landing on the Roc. They all landed in a heap in the river, taking out the NPC. He managed to fish her out and get her one of few remaining good berries. Meanwhile, the other Roc attacked the Eagle carrying Loki. It hit and grabbed and killed it. However, since it was conjured, it simply disappeared, leaving Loki in midair. The second Eagle managed to grab him, barely.
Kharn saved Kaladin from drowning and got him to 1 hit point as well. He then flew at it and was critted with a beak and out again. Esmeralda was also knocked out. (I may be getting the order of these events wrong.) Loki cast Rope Trick and climbed into the pocket so that the Eagle could go grab the NPC. (He was still 100 feet up.) But the AOO stopped that plan. Next Baron Q decided to jump into the river to try to save her. The problem was that she was like 30 from the bridge so the Baron needed to traverse that distance as he fell. To do so afterwards would not leave him with an action to save her. He wanted to use his Billowing Cloak to parasail the distance but Brian set the DC at 25. Since the Baron was not proficient in Athletics or Acrobatics, he could not get to that number. Some time was spent arguing and discussing options and eventually Brian agreed to move it to DC 20 because we wanted to see it tried. He failed the roll however Ezra spent an inspiration in encouragement. On that roll, he got a nat 20. A beautiful swan dive (and 20d6 of damage) later, he managed to save her.
With only one Roc left, it started to fly away with the last Giant Eagle in its talons. However, a couple of Fireballs killed it but not the Roc. At a 120 fly speed it was getting away fast. Esmerelda cast another Dimension Door with Kharn in tow and he took it out. Once again, it got dicey saving the NPC from the fall but we managed. We limped into a long rest in the same tower we stopped at on the way up. There were some discussions about who needed full rests to recover from exhaustion and how we can get rests and have watches. On Loki’s watch, an undead spirit manifested in the tower. He blasted it 4 times and took it out. People were mad for being awoken over an alleged ghost. Once rested, we were ready to head out.
But Kharn could not let go of the notion of a Roc nest full of treasure. We spent 20 minutes arguing about it and eventually decided to send the fliers in search so that we could move on. DG figured we’d miss the tracking roll anyway however with assistance from Kharn, he rolled a nat 20. It turns out, the nest was over the Amber Temple. We went back up the hill to check it out. It had nothing but 2 starving Roc chicks. Time well spent. By the time we got back to the wagons, the day was about over. So, we took another long rest. And then we fast forwarded to Kresk. Irena put herself and the sword hilt in the healing waters, fortified by the green gem Loki put in the well, and not only did the sword repair but she got her 10 years of aging back. It is a finesse long or short sword that does +2/+2 plus an extra 1d8 of radiant damage. And some other things once attuned. Hopefully it’s good at slaying vampires. We gave it to Ambrus. Next is back to the Old Mill cave to face our greatest fear. And maybe a side trip to Valaki along the way to get Ezra his very own strong bow.
We started at the top of the order with Loki. He was in a tight spot. In an archimage’s lair, surrounded by magical darkness that the Mage could see in but Loki could not. DG’s first thought was to ignite the “sun” sword in hopes that it might penetrate the darkness. Brian told him he could “feel” that it was somehow broken. He then put forth several reasons why he might have a fighting chance of finding the window out again but it boiled down to a contested skill roll. Loki’s survival versus his perception. He rolled an 18 and DG rolled a nat 20. Loki went into all 4s mode and scampered past him and out the window, down the statue with his climb speed. The Mage went next. He cast something on Loki which he used an inspiration to save against. Some sort of paralysis spell. But since he was still in the darkness, we didn’t know what else he did. Then everyone else got to go. Unfortunately, most everyone was in the adjacent hall and without the at will teleportation he had, it was going to take a round or two to get into the main room. Plus, Kaladin and Patrina were late arriving.
Loki headed towards the exit, hoping that the Mage couldn’t leave the temple? The NPC wizard we promised to take with us was confused and cast Greater Invisibility on himself. Unfortunately, he stood in a doorway. Baron Q plowed into him and was forced to stop. Ezra plowed into him and knocked him over. Some of us were still exhausted from the ghosts last time and moved at half. The Mage appeared in the first hallway. He cast Heat Metal on the sword hilt in hopes of forcing Loki to drop it. He then cast Chain Lightning on 4 of us. Ezra and Ireena saved and evaded it. Loki and Lord Q didn’t save and took all 50. And then teleported away. Baron Q dispelled the Heat Metal and turned the corner to head up the last hallway to the exit only to find him up there waiting. And this was the hallway with the huge steps so it was going to be Athletics rolls and difficult terrain to get up it. Ezra got up one step. Loki fired 4 shots and with the Mage’s Shield, missed on all four. He continued towards the crack in the wall exit the barbarians used.
At this point, the Mage made his mistake. He teleported into the midst of us and up cast Banishment. Loki and Esmeralda missed the save and disappeared. (Along with the sword, by the way.) I think around here, he revealed his true form. A fox headed demi god? Baron Q cast a Mental Prison but he saved. And the conciliation physic damage all bounced. But now the melee guys could finally catch up. Kharn raced up the stairs and with an extra boost of movement from raging, hit him. Right around here, that NPC wizard decided it was time to make his move and cast Cone of Cold on a bunch of us including the Mage. And promptly went back invisible. Then Kaladin went. He hexed the Mage, then hit him. All the damage bounced except the one point of necrotic from the hex. That caused him to miss his concentration and the banished returned. He then missed his stunning fist save. Then Ezra hit him with a 2nd level smite and crit him with another 2nd level smite doing a ton.
At that point, now bloodied, the Mage teleported across the room as a free action and cast a Fireball? While stunned? But he had been “breaking the rules” the whole fight. Stunned, he got hit 3 times by Loki and hit by Esmeralda and finished off by a Disintegrate from Lady P. Meanwhile the NPC wizard’s Quasit attacked and its master kept fighting. The Quasit was finished off pretty quickly but we could not target the guy. He finished off Lady P and Loki with a Fireball. And once berried, took them out again. However, that revealed he was in the hallway upstairs. Esmeralda cast an AOE persistent Cinder Cloud. He finally dropped after two rounds of that. As is usually the case, half the players were at death’s door and half were barely touched. A bunch of things were proposed to do. Bandaging, short rest, searching his lair in the statue, trying to figure out if the missing part of the sword was in there or elsewhere or needed at all, transferring Ezra’s Cleric scrolls to the NPC Ireena, leaving, staying, and another half dozen things. But we didn’t seem to be able to do anything but bring up more stuff. At this point, the chronicler went to bed as he had an early morning the next day. Perhaps the back up chronicler can add on from there.
After defeating the Amber Golem last time, we took a pause to reassess. We had been told that the Sun Sword would have been dropped near the entrance. However, we were pretty deep into the temple at this point. We decided to double back. (Which was ironic since the next door was the last door on this side.) On the way, we decided to search the mage chapel a bit more. While searching for secret doors, we found a singed mage hiding behind the lectern. He claimed to have come in with his master who was burned to a crisp by flaming skulls. On the other side. After some questioning, we agreed to leave him there and come back and get him on our way out. Back in the room with the now plugged hole in the floor, Loki found a secret door. That lead to a scroll storage room however none of the scrolls were intact. Just bits and dust. We skipped the main room and went to the other side. In there were some barbarian types and their pet Dire Wolf. Ezra managed to negotiate a discussion. Evidently, they were hunters that were using this place as a camp. For a deserted temple that required at least 11th level to enter, it sure was busy in here.
So, we agreed to part without a fight however the door behind them was the last stone unturned. We went into the main room and searched. There were no doors and no one found any secret doors. We knew there was a room on this level that had the red mist but hadn’t found it yet. We did note that the big statue in the room had a Darkness at its head. Which meant we couldn’t see who it was. We thought about dispelling it or climbing up but decided to delay messing with it. Maybe there was a sleeping god up there. That led us back to the barbarians. Ezra asked what they wanted to let us pass. 500 gp, which was outrageous but we had it. For that, they said they’d pack up and leave. Before they left, Loki used his Wand of Detect Magic since Lord Q was not present. He did not detect anything on them. Like a Sun Sword. They left via a crack in the wall in the room. The door was opened and we saw a long hallway with 6 flaming skulls.
Once again, they plastered us with low DC Fireballs. We rolled poorly on initiative and just had to take it. Those with Evasion fared much better but 4 Fireballs, even at half damage, hurt. Kaladin and Ambrus got critted by eye rays as well. We took them out but needed a short rest before going on. We had used up our healing from the previous fights. In the hall was the body of the master of the guy we’d seen before. He was indeed burnt and his spell books destroyed. His magic staff was okay. Lady Patrina took that to be Identified later. We held up in the barbarian room. A few minutes in, that apprentice knocked. He wanted a status and was particularly interested in his master’s books and staff. Patrina hid the staff in her Portable Hole. According to him, it was a staff of cold. We finished our short rest and headed down the hallway. We found a door that led down a level but we left it. We were still hoping the sword was up here. We found a room that stored potions but none were magic anymore. We then found a room with a model of the vampire’s castle. The battered crates and chest in the corner were empty and Loki used another charge and found no magic. At the end of the hall was a door that led into a banquet room with a fine meal laid out. And a door that probably lead to the balcony overlooking the main room. Loki announced that the ewer was magic. Patrina rushed forward and grabbed it with the intent of putting it away for further study.
When she touched it, a dozen Specters appeared in the chairs. Multiple people ordered her to put it back but unfortunately her initiative was low and she went after every Specter. Some delayed but there was no point. Combat ensued. Their to hit bouns was 4 and Brian rolled low so they barely hit. They mostly swung at Patrina. However, when they died, all that were near them had to make a Con save or take a level of exhaustion. Several took two levels and were really screwed. She cast a Dawn spell however it was the usual AOE friendly fire nightmare. She tried to order people to leave the room but they could not until their turn. Meanwhile, the Specters started to fly through the walls to escape. It was a mess but they were taken out in a couple rounds. With the Dawn still going, she decided to move it onto the statue to cancel the Darkness. Everyone got one round of movement before she did this and that left us scattered.
It turns out, Dawn does not cancel Darkness although it did allow us to see the head of the god of secrets. But it also awoke the archimage sleeping in its head. He demanded to know who dared to disturb him. We asked some questions. Patina advised him to move out of the statue and would not move her spell. So, the mage teleported next to her as a move action, cast Finger of Death and killed her. How he found her, I’m not sure. But villains play by their own rules. Ezra attempted to calm things down. He was here doing research. He knew nothing about the sword and claimed to know nothing about Stradhanya which we found unbelievable. (Maybe this was Stradhanya, for the truly paranoid.) We said we wanted the sword to defeat her evil reign and he seemed to at least consider it. During this, Ezra used his last Lay on Hands to save Patrina. Meanwhile, Loki slipped away and went into the main room. Ezra could sense that he was not being truthful about the sword. Loki climbed the statue and felt his way around and found the eye hole. I.e. the Darkness was still there. The Mage started to sense something was wrong while Ezra tried to keep him engaged. The Mage took a step to get line of sight to the statue and teleported over just as Loki grabbed ahold of a sword hilt with a good perception roll. “What are you doing, squirrel?” “Er, just trying to prevent a fight over a sword you say you didn’t need.” He’s got True Sight always on, of course. We stopped there. It seems like a tall order but since he had the sword, it seems as if we are supposed to defeat him.
Before and after, we had some discussions about Path Finder. Other than Dan, everyone had varying degrees of apprehension about this new system. Most of the backgrounds being considered were orphans and outcasts that happen to find themselves in this village. Brian was hoping for better links but was willing to work on it. It’s a common problem. The game designers build towns that are most humans but the players all want to be non-humans. You’d think these designers would have figure that out by now. Or make humans better. Brian said we’d start at 1st and has shelved the junior mage school idea for now. The general trend seems to be trouble maker young adults, bored with their small town. Anyhow, the ideas presented were as follows. Dan has a gnome sorcerer with dragon magic. DG has a human shape changing Druid, black sheep daughter of the town leader. BTO was thinking charming Swashbuckler but hadn’t gotten any further. Paul was thinking a Bard Orc or half Orc. Andy was thinking a blessed Rogue. And Jon was thinking an elf Monk who is more of an unarmed fighter whose style translates as Monk. Although since no one was doing a Wizard, he was feeling some obligation to do so. So, currently its 3 martial and 3 magic.