Geekend - Kingmaker

Epilogue

Note: Poochie died on the way back to his home planet.

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Chapter Three - Geekend 9 (Sunday)
What's the deal with all the owlbears?

The half-orcs had fewer than twenty seconds to prepare for the giant owlbear. Grabthar and Torg, both enlarged by the sorceress, stood in the open to draw the creature out and expose its flank to Zac’s and Spear’s bows. Ten Thousand Skies piled healing onto the barbarian and stayed close behind him to deliver more as needed; Olena and Eshah spread out behind the warriors with plans to curse and then topple the owlbear as it moved into the reach of their enlarged weapons. The bard bolstered all with an inspiring performance.

And then it emerged: an amalgam of fur and feathers, more than twice the height of the Stag Lord’s beast, and wearing finely crafted custom barding of studded leather. Its red-rimmed eyes twitched with blind rage. Grabthar roared a bestial challenge. The bizarre half-bear, half-owl monstrosity raised its huge, ursine claws in anger, howled its acceptance, and charged at the barbarian.

Zac’s first arrow found its mark, but Spear’s went wide. Olena’s enchantment of bad luck contributed to the owlbear’s slip in Eshah’s grease just in front of Grabthar. The raging barbarian smashed the prone monstrosity; it suffered two more crushing blows from the warriors as it stood. With shocking speed, the giant beast swatted Grabthar with an awesome blow,2 sending the bloodied barbarian up and over Ten Thousand Skies, landing on his back a full (enlarged) body length away. The druid immediately healed Grabthar as Olena hexed the owlbear’s attacks.

Both archers stuck the monster; Eshah followed with a flameball. The smell of burning fur and feathers stung Grabthar’s flaring nostrils as he stood, snorted, and hefted his gigantic earthbreaker as he stepped toward the owlbear, ignoring the druid shadowing and healing him. Torg actually stepped back, using his enlarged reach and polearm to land a powerful strike from twenty feet away. But with a single stride, the huge beast could rake the fighter, and the force of the attack knocked him sprawling.

Zac struck with another arrow and vanished; Spear’s shot went wide but Eshah’s second flameball landed. The owlbear blinked away the fiery flash to see the business end of blurred earthbreaker, which cracked it across the beak. The enraged monster ducked under Torg’s next attack and shredded the barbarian with a furious flurry of claws. Ten Thousand Skies spoke words of druidic power and pressed his hand on Grabthar’s back, as much to help keep the deathless warrior upright as to heal him.3

The ninja reappeared, firing three arrows in quick succession: the first hit the owlbear at the base of its skull, the second under its feathered arm, and the third in the center of its broad back.4 The owlbear stumbled back one step, then toppled forward like a felled tree, kicking up a cloud of dust when it slammed into the packed earth, dead.

The half-orcs healed and steeled themselves to re-enter the cave and eradicate the remaining dangers. They dispatched the remaining violet fungi and another shrieker at range and torched the spiders in their web-filled nest nest. The shambling mound had apparently fled from its smaller cave through a large crack out the side of the hill.

The owlbear’s lair was a huge deep cavern that contained a large nest of bones, rocks, fur, and feather piled against one wall. Behind the nest, the half-orcs found a human male body which appeared to be a barbarian bandit who died of owlbear-inflicted wounds within the last fortnight. The corpse lit up Eshah’s spell of magic detection with substantial gear5 including an unusual ring. Ten Thousand Skies identified the ring’s power as similar to a ring of animal friendship but affecting magical beasts – such as owlbears. The ring of bestial friendship was made from a lock of green hair woven around several small gemstones.

The dead man also carried a map of the Greenbelt with Redemption and the owlbear lair clearly marked in sweeping green Sylvan, with the Common translation scrawled roughly over it in black. In the bottom margin was written “My Love” in green cursive Common.

Following a final passage deeper into the lair, the explorers found the fly-covered carcass of another giant beast, surrounded by at least a half dozen dead bandits. A quiet, pitiful hooting from behind the dead owlbear – which was nearly the size of her mate outside – revealed three owlbear cubs, one of which was still alive. The dead cubs, and their mother, bore fatal longsword wounds.

The starving cub was terrified but had no strength to flee. Zac applied his wilderness training, attempting to calm the beast, but it snapped at the ninja’s extended hand. Ten Thousand Skies’ wild empathy was more effective, especially coupled with proffered food and water. At the druid’s urging, the group agreed to not kill or abandon the cub, but instead bring it with them.

Ten Thousand Skies coaxed the baby owlbear away from its dead mother and out of the lair, using snacks to distract the cub from noticing its dead father being stripped of its valuable barding.6 The cub continued to follow them until it was exhausted – which didn’t take long – and then the druid fashioned a sling to carry the swaddled little beast as it slept – which it did almost the entire ride back to Redemption (when it wasn’t eating).

Upon their return to the capital, news of the leaders’ victory swept throughout Sazerac, dramatically improving the kingdom’s morale.7 With the Greenbelt fully explored and all significant threats neutralized,8 the half-orcs devoted the next year to dramatically expanding, developing, and improving the kingdom.9

During this period:

  • To support the booming construction industry, Sazerac expanded into the Narlmarches. After receiving the counsel of consent of their fairy allies, Melianse and Tiressia, the leaders met with Corax, whose lumber operations (and influence in the region) had expanded significantly through the forest. Despite his fey-hating prejudices, the leaders successfully negotiated the incorporation of Corax’s logging territories into the kingdom.
  • Fork’s old bull died. Bully had become a Redemption fixture, visible from much of the town as he grazed in a small pasture outside the hilltop castle. Upon hearing the news, Fork’s former Restov noble sent a letter of condolence, along with resources for a new tavern, the Blind Bull, to be built in the capital in Bully’s honor.10
  • Sazerac’s western expansion reached Tatzlford. The village had grown into a sizeable (though sparsely populated) settlement due primarily to the enthusiasm of founder and mayor Loy Rezbin and his wife Latricia Evanore, a priestess of Erastil. Mayor Lezbin and the community welcomed Sazerac’s annexation of Tatzlford.
  • During the leaders’ extended visit to Tatzlford, a charismatic orator named Grigori gave speeches in Redemption criticizing and denigrating their leadership and building a wellspring of support among the disaffected settlers. Upon their return, the leaders engaged Grigori in a public debate; Grand Diplomat Bardelay was able to use his considerable eloquence to discredit the rabble-rouser and win back the trust of the townsfolk.11 The leaders followed the fleeing Grigori back to the inn; the innkeeper indicated that Grigori had been in town less than a week. When they confronted Grigori, the rabble-rouser vanished with a wicked grin. They interrogated his horse12 and learned that Grigori had ridden from the west, beyond the Narlmarches; possibly from Fort Drelev.13
  • Suspecting that outside forces were actively working against their growing kingdom, Ten Thousand Skies asked their fey allies about the names “the Queen of Forgotten Time” and “the Green Queen” 14. The druid first visited the pranksters, Tyg-Titter-Tut and Perlivash. At the very mention of the names, the grig shrieked, the fairy dragon gasped, and both turned invisible and flew away. Ten Thousand Skies waited for their return. After three days, Perlivash, still invisible, whispered in the druid’s ear – “you must not speak her name” – then fled again. Melianse was pleased to see the druid, but when he raised the topic, the nixie’s eyes went wide and she shook her head as she sank beneath the surface of her pool. She did not resurface. The dryad Tiressia was slightly more forthcoming with her fellow weather druid, though her satyr consort Falchos pleaded with her not to say anything. Tiressia whispered that those titles (which Falchos insisted she not repeat) belonged to the same creature: a powerful nymph from the First World. The satyr then played his pipes; the haunting melody nearly made Ten Thousand Skies forget what he had heard, but the willful druid resisted the supernatural enchantment. Tiressia apologized for the desperate satyr’s deception: “He is only trying to protect me – and you.”
  • A new settlement, Hallowed Grove, was founded with the restored Temple of the Elk at its center. The settlement soon became a spiritual destination for all in the kingdom – including the boggard Garuum, who moved from his soggy lair into new housing near the temple. Olena spent time with Garuum (who had fully converted to worshipping Erastil), improving his proficiency with the native language of croaks and belched pops spoken by boggards.
  • Olena and Bluss approached the Old Beldame about adding the lands surrounding “her” swamp to Sazerac. The witch reluctantly assented but requested that the leaders leave the area undeveloped. Olena agreed, and Marshal Bluss promised to restrict traffic through the area.
  • Rathus Kinn requested an audience with Eshah, which the ruler granted.15 When Rathus arrived with his 19-year old son Roland, he was surprised to find all of the half-orcs present, but said “I thought it would be good for all of us to get to know each other a bit.” It quickly became apparent that the intent of the meeting was to introduce Eshah and Roland (who did get along well), but the perceptive young ruler detected that there was more to it, particularly given how the young man stared at her. Rathus explained it by noting that “Roland’s nursemaid was a half-orc.” Roland added “you look just like her.” Rathus laughed off his son’s comment: “He hasn’t seen many half-orcs.”
  • Deep in the woods of the western Narlmarches, the abandoned elven keep was restored at the heart of a new settlement, Findeladlarapolis, named for the elven goddess of art and architecture.16
  • The leaders returned to Candlemere Lake, where they eliminated the remaining will o’ the wisps that haunted the island and dispelled the malevolent aura that exuded from the tower ruin. The settlement of Candlemere was established around the rebuilt Candlemere Tower, which was soon occupied by a wizard of fine repute.17
  • Further expansion into the forest west of Candlemere led the leaders back to their ally, Frek. The king of the lizardfolk was thrilled to join the kingdom. Frek proudly reported that under his leadership, the tribe no longer ate sentient humanoids. They were, however, very concerned that the will o’ the wisp which masqueraded as the Spirit of Stisshak was not among those killed at Candlemere.
  • In Redemption, the Menagerie of Magical Beasts was constructed to house and study the leaders’ rescued owlbear cub (which was already a head taller than Grabthar) and other monsters displaced by the civilization of the Stolen Lands.

Autumn in Sazerac brought a new charter from the swordlords:
Book_3_charter2.jpg

The leaders collected what information they had about Varnhold18 and the Nomen Heights19, dusted of their exploration gear, saddled their horses, and set out east from Olegburg along the South Rostland Road (except for Bluss, who stayed in Olegburg to attend to some kingdom business).

With an eye toward further kingdom expansion, the half-orcs fully explored the fertile grasslands around the well-traveled road, then quickened their pace as the landscape became more rugged. On the fifth day, they reached Fort Serenko, a wooden fortification had stood for years on the southern border of Brevoy. The half-orcs found that the fort had been abandoned, evidently in a swift but orderly manner. They camped in the empty but secure structure.

Continuing east, the next evening brought them to Nivatka’s Crossing, the southernmost village in Rostland. The village, surrounded by a wooden palisade and set on the northeastern bank of the Shrike River, was an alert town of tradesman, hunters, fisherman, and trappers. They were sturdy, down to earth folks with stunted senses of humor and a healthy suspicion of visitors. They stayed over at the small inn, but spent most of their time at the tavern. The more socially skilled half-orcs were able to learn several rumors about the area,20 and also compile a list of potential quests they could undertake while exploring.

The half-orcs crossed the Shrike and headed south on the road to Varnhold. The next day, they passed over the Kiravoy River on a wooden bridge of new construction, surrounded by hills already been developed for farming – all evidence of the efforts of the settlers of Varnhold.

They entered a wide valley between two low mountains of the Tors of Levenies. In the late afternoon, Varnhold came into view: more than twenty buildings spread around a ford in the Kiravoy River, above which stood a low, flat-topped hill; atop this hill stood a hewn-log stockade and blockhouse. As they approached the village, Ten Thousand Skies spied a thin column of smoke drifting upward from within the stockade’s compound.

They tied up their mounts and moved carefully into the village. The first structure they passed was a poorly built farm cottage with a muddy pigpen – which held a feral hog the size of a horse that had apparently broken into the pen to feed on the bodies of his starved kin. The monstrous boar spotted the half-orcs and charged, smashing through the split-rail fence. The hog resisted the druid’s attempt to charm it and survived the initial battery of magical and physical attacks from the half-orcs, but was felled by a massive raging strike from Grabthar.21

They searched the cottage and several other nearby homes, all of which showed signs of being derelict for at least several weeks, though they appeared to have been abandoned in the midst of normal activities. One of the houses also held the shop of a tanner. Behind the structure was a fenced enclosure with three strangely incomplete horse hides stretched upon it. Zac grimly confirmed that they were centaur hides missing the humanoid portion.

The ground sloped steeply down the river bank, where the Kiravoy ran wide and shallow. As the half-orcs waded into the ford, a huge lobster-like creature with a thick armored shell and a mouth full of writing tentacles rose from a deeper pool just downriver: a chuul! The monster shrugged off a precision bow shot from Zac and Torg’s approaching strike and, despite being hexed by Olena and blinded by Eshah’s glitterdust, grabbed Torg with a monstrous claw, then transferred the fighter into its tentacles; Spear’s bardic magic gave Torg the boost he needed to shrug off the tentacles’ paralytic secretion and break the grapple.22 Grabthar landed two devastating blows, but it was the weather druid who killed the chuul, calling a lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky to fry the monster.

As the chuul’s charred carapace drifted downstream, the half-orcs crossed the ford. The opposite bank rose at a gentler slope into the town proper. Ten Thousand Skies’ stopped Olena with his spear shaft just before the witch stepped onto a camouflaged trap: a 20-foot deep pit lined with poisoned spikes. “Someone else has been here,” Zac said quietly as he inspected the crude trap. “The settlers of Varnhold wouldn’t place a trap in the middle of their own thoroughfare.”

The explorers checked a few more cottages; all were abandoned. They reached the village commons, a greensward occupying the center of town, and moved on to the two-story inn with a sign above the door depicting a madly galloping horse with a green mane and a fish’s tail extending from its hindquarters: the Waterhorse. A single word was hastily scratched into the wood on the front door: “NOMEN.” The door opened into a common room. The tables were still set with rotting plates of food, but that was far from the strangest sight: a small humanoid that stood, silent and perfectly still, facing a paper-strewn table in the corner of the room, one hand clutching a book. A shimmering nimbus of amber surrounded the unmoving form. Olena identified the field of force as a triggered sepia snake sigil. “You must not read from the book,” she instructed, pointing at the tome the creature still held.

The creature looked like a disheveled, ugly gnome with grey skin, large pointed ears, a bulbous nose, scraggly hair and a patchy beard. Spear identified it as a spriggan, a violent and malicious offshoot of gnomes with the supernatural ability to grow to immense size at will. The back of the spriggan’s skull was a shattered mess of blood and bone, though his face betrayed no notice of the mortal wound. Olena tried healing the spriggan, but her cure spell had no effect through the amber field. Eshah detected no remaining magic on the book the spriggan held: Secrets of the Rashalka Mounds.23

The papers on the table appeared to be research materials, including several books with titles like Iobarian Prehistory, The Centaur Skyles of Central Casmaron, and The Untold Heritage of the Taldan Armies of Exploration.24 Among the works was an incomplete ethnography of the indigenous tribes of the Iobarian steppes. Mixed in with the books were a number of charcoal sketches of a heavy jade bracelet bearing peculiar markings which the researcher – presumably the missing professor Ervil Pendrod25 – had attributed to the pre-migration Nomen centaurs.

At the bottom of the stack sat a letter dated 2 months prior from Maegar Varn and addressed to Maestro Pendrod. The letter described the discovery by Willas Gundarson, Varn’s trusted Ulfen march warden, of the jade bracelet on the banks of “a river of local provenance” and requested Pendrod’s presence for further study of the artifact.

A search of the inn’s rooms revealed that Pendrod was the only guest. Among the more mundane possessions in his travel trunk was a small library of further reference works. The tomes seemed to be of less immediate relevance to his current research, but Olena noticed Pendrod had marked and reproduced a passage in a centuries-old geography book created by one Carmyn e’Brothasa, chronicler of Taldor’s Third Army of Exploration into the north:

Pendrod_note.jpg

Pendrod’s own handwriting in the margin of the text contained a simple but strange note: “Vordakai – perhaps a Nomen centaur god?” The book, frustratingly, did not provide a location to the semi-mythical island mentioned in the text, nor did it provide any further clues to Pendrod’s cryptic note.

They took Pendrod’s books and research notes, as well as the valuable violin hidden under his bed. Not knowing when the sepia snake sigil would expire, the half-orcs bound the spriggan and hanged him from a noose from the inn’s signpost as a warning to any others who may be following them.

Past the inn was the village’s small church; the familiar bow symbol of Erastil hung above the doors. It was simply furnished with wooden pews and a humble altar – and obviously had been looted, but the thorough explorers located a hidden drawer in the altar that held several scrolls the priest had stashed in case of emergency.26 The small cemetery held 14 grave markers, the last one standing over a fairly fresh grave; it read “Andrisha the Potter” and was dated six weeks prior.

The half-orcs passed another cottage; a number of wooden children’s toys lied abandoned in the front yard. Inside, the cramped house was occupied by six beds and a loom: this was the home of the colony’s weaver and his family. Eshah spotted a calico cat hiding beneath the loom and watching them warily. After Zac failed spectacularly to befriend the animal, Ten Thousand Skies offered the half-starved pet some dried meat and earned its temporary trust.27 The druid then magically spoke with the cat, Dragon. The feline was eager to complain: “My feeders left me in the red-sun time when they heard the new bird song. I was busy eating a bit of fish and did not follow them out. My feeders did not come back and I am now quite hungry for some more fish!” Olena helped translate, offering that “red-sun time” likely meant evening/sunset and “new bird song” may be some sort of music. They propped a shutter open so Dragon could go out to hunt.28

They crossed the commons to a long, low building a sign showing harness for a horse and a blacksmith’s anvil: the livery and blacksmith. The fenced yard held the carcasses of horses and other livestock, decomposing and ravaged by the crows that continued to pick at them. When they entered the yard, the crows began aggressively flapping and cawing. In response, a huge murder of crows flew out of the hay loft doors. The half-orcs withstood scratches and tears rom the crows’ claws long enough to disperse the swarms with a combination of might and magic.29

From the livery yard, the back of the wooden two-story blockhouse was 200 feet due south, with a palisade of sharpened stakes reaching out to twin watch platforms to form the triangular stockade on the far side of it. With daylight fading, they half-orcs decided to make straight for it.30 Their approach was cut short by precision crossbow fire from the loopholes on the second story.31 They withdrew and sought cover in a nearby farmhouse.

They decided to delay until nightfall before assaulting the stockade.32 While they waited, they explored several other structures, including a grain barn infested with rats33 and the home of the local gemcutter, which was nearly demolished by looters. Zac crept unseen to a sod house dug into the base of the stockade hill. Lying among the debris strewn about by looters was a small wooden box; lying near it was a book that had been torn apart at the spine. Zac collected the loose pages in the box and snuck back to the others.

The book was about three-quarters filled with handwriting in Skald. Eshah cast comprehend languages and determined that it was the journal of Willas Gundarson. It recorded Willas’ career as an ranger in the company of Maegar Varn and included a description of several skirmishes that occurred between the colonists and a tribe of barbaric centaurs that inhabited the hills east of Varnhold, which the Ulfen ranger called “the Nomen centaurs.” The last entry was dated just over a month prior and related a mundane scouting report of Varnhold Pass. An earlier page was dated a month before that and simply said “Found bracelet by the river.” – the rest of that page had been torn away. The next page bore a single large rune inscribed in charcoal; Spear recognized the run as an archaic Ulfen symbol to ward off bad luck.

Surprisingly, the box detected as magical. Olena identified it as a folding boat, apparently overlooked by the looters.

After sundown, the half-orcs prepared to again approach the blockade, but this time taking advantage of stealth and surprise.34 After casting spells, reading scrolls, and drinking potions, they started up the path that led to the gatehouse. Zac, under the effects of invisibility, ran silently ahead and smashed three vials of alchemist’s fire at the base of the other watchtower. Flames started to creep up the wooden tower as Zac rejoined the party on their charge to the gate. Unseen guards shouted out35 from both towers. Grabthar and Torg lowered their shoulders; the wooden gate exploded into splinters.

Ten Thousand Skies, with divine fire burning in his open hand,36 rushed inside; above, a lone spriggan guard on a high platform raised his heavy crossbow; ahead, another spriggan standing near a central bonfire tripled in size,37 pointed at the druid, and barked a command at the four dire wolves clustered nearby.38 Ten Thousand Skies hurled a fistful of flames, striking the guard; Eshah threw a flameball at the same target. Olena conjured a sleet storm in the yard, blinding and slowing the snarling dire wolves.

Rendered blind by Spear’s magic, the smoldering spriggan guard tried to escape by jumping over the palisade.39 Torg and Grabthar moved to the edge of the sleet and waited for targets; the first dire wolf to emerge was dead before its paw touched dry ground. The remaining three all fell quickly by earthbreaker, lucerne hammer, and wakizashi.40

The half-orcs repositioned and readied for the witch’s conjured storm to expire. When it finally did, the bonfire was extinguished and the yard was empty. Zac crept forward – and was slammed by an anvil which flew from a small outbuilding with an open front.41 Eshah greased the floor of the smithy, toppling the giant spriggan, who was then blinded by Spear and crushed by Grabthar and Torg.

Before they could take a breath, Olena and Ten Thousand Skies were struck by crossbow bolts shot from the rooftop of the blockhouse. Spear drained a potion and vanished; Zac dove behind a shed, and others rushed forward to put their backs against the blockhouse – but the barbarian fell into a camouflaged pit trap, narrowly avoiding being skewered by the poisoned spikes. A spriggan on the roof shouted an order; three small spriggans emerged from a tool shed and storehouse and fired their crossbows at the half-orcs lined against the blockhouse; the druid took another hit.

Eshah’s glitterdust blinded all three of the shooters. Torg lowered and braced a rope; Olena cast blood scent 42 on the warriors as the barbarian quickly climbed out of the pit. The haggard gnomes grew into hale giants, but they all soon fell under Zac’s arrows, Ten Thousand Skies’ called lightning, Eshah’s flameball,43, and the warriors’ blood rage.

Gathered against the blockhouse, the half-orcs healed their injuries before Grabthar and Torg broke down the door. The short hallway was lined with loopholes; Grabthar, Torg, Ten Thousand Skies, and Zac all suffered more wounds before the warriors broke into the next room and killed the shooters.44 Eshah, guarding the rear, saw four more giant spriggans crawling down the outside of the blockhouse; backlit by the rooftop fire they’d started, the sorceress she could see that one of them wore better armor, wielded an intimidating greatclub, and seemed to be directing the others. Eshah alerted her teammates to the new dangers and targeted the chief (named Agai) with a glitterdust, blinding him but suffering a deep wound from another spriggan’s enlarged halberd.

Grabthar continued to push deeper into the blockhouse; the other half-orcs poured back out into the yard, unloading attacks on the climbing spriggans. Eshah turned to run to a safe spellcasting distance; she gasped as the point of a halberd poked out of her chest. As the spriggan withdrew the bloody blade, Eshah’s eyes flared with fire and a gout of flame burst from the deep wound. She fell to the ground, unmoving.45

The battle in the yard was close and brutally fought,46 but the half-orcs ultimately prevailed. Grabthar confirmed that there were no more threats inside the blockhouse – “but it is on fire.” Eshah, healed back to consciousness, and Ten Thousand Skies used their minor water creation spells to put out the rooftop fire.47

They tended to their collective wounds. The only spriggan with any magic was Agai: the chief wielded enchanted weapons48 and carried a bag of holding49, which contained a substantial collection of treasures, some of which were obviously looted from the village.50 Other items included a wand of spectral hand, a single ring of friend shield,51, and an exquisite darkwood and ivory +2 thundering composite longbow. Ten Thousand Skies identified the workmanship of the bow as being similar to that of several other centaur tribes of Iobaria – upon closer examination, he suspected that it was Skybolt, a sacred ancestral relic of the Nomen tribe.52 Zac graciously volunteered to carry the bow.

The weary half-orcs rekindled the bonfire, tossed the spriggan bodies into the pit,53 set up a watch rotation, and camped in the yard.

1 The witch hit the magical beast[ie boy] with a [license to] ill omen.

2 Awesome Blow feat. I knew an elven prostitute with that one.

3 The Power Attacking owlbear landed the classic claw/claw/bite combo, inflicting 59 points of damage and taking Grabthar to -3 hit points. He used Orc Ferocity to stay on his feet until Ten Thousand Skies cast cure moderate wounds to take him back to positive hit points.

4 Zac used Rapid Shot and a ki point to make three attacks, the first of which was a crit.

5 +2 chain shirt, +2 longsword, 2 masterwork throwing axes, boots of striding and springing, 2 scrolls of speak with animals, jar of restorative ointment, vial of antitoxin, 2 smokesticks, tanglefoot bag.

6 Huge-sized masterwork studded leather barding, worth 250 gp – or priceless in the castle’s trophy room.

7 +4 to Economy, Loyalty, and Stability, and Unrest to 0. Half-orcs rule!

8 The ones they know about, anyway…

9 This marks the official end of Book 2 of the Adventure Path – and the party LEVELED TO 5TH!

10 Spymaster Zac may or may not have ensured that one of his operatives was hired as a barmaid there.

11 As DM, I had struggled with how to prepare for this encounter – until the notion struck me to model Grigori on the then-current GOP presidential candidate, Donald Trump. This worked beautifully, not only because it made it easy for me to play Grigori at the table (using nothing but actual Trump quotes, modified for the Kingmaker setting), but also because the players reacted… let’s say strongly – to the rabble-rouser because of the blatant similarities. I will note, however, that several of the players did not enjoy this encounter nearly as much as I did, for the exact same reasons.

12 BRLLIANT use of a speak with animals spell.

13 A settlement located on the northwestern banks of Lake Hooktongue, ruled by Baron Hannis Drelev, originally under a charter from Brevoy.

14 Referenced by the Dancing Lady and Hargulka, respectively.

15 Somewhere around this time, Eshah’s role technically grew from baroness to duchess. I’m sure it didn’t go to her head at all.

16 I can finally consistently spell that, but I still can’t pronounce it.

17 Obviously not one of the half-orcs, who are at best of half-repute.

18 Varnhold was established by Maegar Varn and his group of mercenaries known as the Varnling Host. Varn does not stand to inherit his father’s title and holdings, and the opportunity to found a colony offered by the swordlords was likely his best chance to make his fortune. No new communications have come from Varnhold in the last several weeks. Given that Varn has nothing to gain from openly rebelling against Brevoy, it seems unlikely that this lapse of communication is intentional.

19 Essentially limited to this map.

20 First, that a giant bird lives in the ruins of an old tower on Talon Peak. Second, that one-eyed giants once ruled the entire area; the strangely regular mounds seen on the Tors are the ruins of their buildings. And lastly, that the Nomen centaurs bury their dead in strange bone yards in the Dunsward; “there’s probably a lot of treasure buried with them. Too bad the places are swarming with undead centaurs!”

21 Critical hit for 83 points of damage! More than enough to one-shot the hog, even with it statted as an advanced dire boar.

22 Seriously, Spear saved Torg’s bacon here. The bard’s inspire courage helped Torg land a substantial attack as the chuul approached him. After Torg was grappled and failed his save against the paralysis, Spear cast saving finale as an immediate action to end the bardic performance and give Torg a reroll, which he made. When Torg failed his roll to break the grapple (even after being enlarged by Eshah), Spear cast another immediate action spell, gallant inspiration, to provide Torg with a retroactive +2d4 (rolled a 7) to the check, which put it over the top. Bards FTW!

23 Eshah: “Bored now.”

24 Eshah though she was bored _before_…

25 Per the “A Missing Professor” quest from Jemanda Orlashen.

26 Goods stuff: 3 scrolls of cure serious wounds, 3 scrolls of remove paralysis, a scroll of restoration, a scroll of break enchantment, a scroll of breath of life, and a scroll of raise dead.

27 Zac’s wild empathy check was a 2; Ten Thousand Skies’ was a 25.

28 “Hey, where’s my damn fish?”

29 Smart playing vs. swarms here: Ten Thousand Skies conjured a fog cloud; Spear made a successful Knowledge (nature) check to determine that hawks prey on crows, then cast ghost sound to create the screeching of a kettle of hawks overhead; knowing area effects spells do half again as much damage to swarms, Eshah cast stone call; and Torg just kept swatting wide swaths of crows with his lucerne hammer. Grabthar, on the other hand, rolled a natural 1 on his Fort save to avoid being nauseated, and then had to spend a Hero Point to reroll a failed Reflex save so he wouldn’t be blinded by the crows eye-raking attack.

30 Not a great plan.

31 With the unseen shooters doing sneak attack damage, Ten Thousand Skies was hit twice for a total of 23 damage – better than 2/3 of his total hit points. Ouch.

32 A better plan.

33 We skipped this combat. The crows were enough swarms for one day.

34 A much better plan.

35 In Aklo, which no party members speak.

36 Produce flame is, paradoxically, very cool.

37 Eh-neeek-chock!

38 Again, none of the PCs speak Aklo, but this one was pretty obvious: Attack.

39 He did not survive the fall. Poor guy had a rough day.

40 Sneak attack critical hit with a wakizashi FTW!

41 Sneak attack critical hit with an anvil WTF?

42 This spell is crazy good for orc melee combatants.

43 Intensified flameball, even.

44 This was an ugly couple of rounds, with Olena’s and Spear’s healing spells and many cure potions barely keeping up with the collective damage being inflicted by the fully protected attackers.

45 The attack of opportunity was a crit, inflicting 35 points of damage and bringing Eshah to -17 hit points, i.e., dead. Derek spent 2 Hero Points to “cheat death” – as DM, I ruled that her efreeti blood enabled her to reflexively cauterize the would-be-mortal wound, leaving her stable at -11 hit points.

46 With size Large, halberd-wielding opponents, there were a lot of big attacks of opportunity going around. Grabthar was still inside the blockhouse, and fatigued by ending his rage. Spear was out of spells and got into melee – he even killed a spriggan with a greataxe crit! Torg, fighting with his flail in the close quarters, finally killed Agai, who had six fighter levels. Olena slumbered two of the other spriggans, who Spear and Torg coup de graced.

47 Multiple castings of the drench cantrip and create water orison, respectively.

48 +1 greatclub and +1 seeking heavy crossbow, both Small size.

49 Type IV – the big one!

50 Notably, a +2 defending longsword with the crest of House Varn on its pommel guard.

51 Useless without the other half of the pair.

52 The druid crushed his Knowledge (nature) check here.

53 Thankfully, they returned to Small size when killed.

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Chapter Three - Geekend 9 (Saturday)
It was in Matt's shoe the whole time

The half-orcs explored to the east, through the craggy hills south of the Gudrin River, with no notable encounters other than finding a large cave in a narrow valley that looked to be a long-vacant lair of some unknown beast. They turned south and then west again, following the path of the Little Sellen River until it joined the Shrike; half-collapsed, rotting wooden buildings – an abandoned ferry station – stood on each bank.1

They continued west along the Shrike River until they heard a strange sound over the next hillock: a sad, blubbering baritone singing (loudly and badly) in the language of the giants.2 Zac crept up and spotted a hill giant, squatting on a rock, trying to lick the last drops out of a broken jug between sad verses. Unfortunately, the giant also spotted the ninja.3

The other half-orcs saw Zac get clobbered by a flying rock the size of the spymaster’s head; he cried “hill giant!” and then scrambled to hide behind an close outcropping. As the pounding sound of the giant’s charge preceded him over the hill, Olena shouted “If you want to talk about this, we can!” Eshah joined the diplomatic effort, yelling “We mean you no harm” in the giant tongue. The hill giant crested the hillock, wielding a bundle of tree trunks as a humongous club, and caught the witch’s glitterdust spell full in the face. The blinded giant swung wildly, lost his balance, and tumbled down the hill – where he dropped his weapon and buried his head in his hands, blubbering “Munguk sorry…” in Giant.

Eshah started a dialogue with the dull-witted Munguk, who was depressed about being rebuffed by a gang of trolls and was trying to forget his troubles by looking for blue wolfberries to make moonshine from, hunting for game, and seeking a mate. Unfortunately for Munguk, however, wolfberries were out of season, his loud singing had scared away all the larger game in the area, and there were no female hill giants for miles around.4 Eshah focused on getting more information about the trolls, and Munguk – after the promise of “lots of beer” – produced a crude map that highlighted the location of the troll lair, more than 30 miles west in the Narlmarches. The half-orcs directed Munguk to the abandoned lair they had recently found and told him to wait there; they would return with the booze after they had taken care of the trolls.

They continued west, mapping the unexplored hills of the Kamelands and then the deep woods of the Narlmarches. An ambush attack by a forest drake nearly killed Zac,5 but the half-orcs triumphed and slayed the dragon, taking its head to eventually collect the posted reward.6 As they approached the spot marked on Munguk’s map, Ten Thousand Skies found troll tracks that led to a hidden trail at the base of a forested hill; the druid also spotted what appeared to be a watchtower rising from the top of the hill, disguised as a natural rock outcropping.

The half-orcs waited until nightfall; it was pouring rain when they started up the concealed path. Zac scouted ahead, winding up the hill with a steep cliff face on one side and sheer drop-off on the other. At the top, the path followed a wide ledge, where the corner of a weathered stone building jutted from the side of the hill. The ninja crept closer, timing his movement with the rolling thunder between flashes of lightning. It was dark behind the multiple arrow slits; he saw that the single stone door was ajar and heard the sounds of at least two different creatures immediately inside.

Zac signaled the others to approach: Olena, Eshah, and Ten Thousand Skies cast protective and enhancing spells and followed Torg and Grabthar to the door. The half-orcs burst into the square barbican, seeing stairs up and out to the south and west, and surprised two hunched, green-skinned trolls and a pair of slobbering, sore-covered beasts that looked like a cross between oversized bulldogs and their troll masters. The acid that dripped from the raging barbarian’s weapon7 and fire-based spells from the druid and sorceress8 stymied their enemies’ extraordinary regenerative abilities, but Grabthar and Zac still suffered substantial injuries before the half-orcs dispatched the monsters.9

While Olena and Ten Thousand Skies healed the barbarian back to his feet10 and the ninja drained a few healing potions, Eshah and Torg scouted the stairs and heard more enemies at the top of the western flight. The half-orcs readied, then Zac rushed up and antagonized the room’s occupants – two trolls and another trollhound – into following him back down.11 The monsters tumbled down the greased stairs and died quickly in the ambush.

At the top of the stairs was a large chamber with walls decorated with ancient dwarven carvings, now defaced with crude graffiti in several languages. Two headless gnome corpses lay atop a large bloodstained stone table in the center of the room. A short hall to the south led to a storeroom with a rough hole gaping in the far wall; the foul-smelling room to the north appeared to be a makeshift kennel with a pair of trollhounds chained to the wall. One of the straining beasts pulled the chain from the stone and charged at Zac, but it first ran into Eshah’s flameball and then Olena’s slumber hex; the witch ended it with her greataxe while Zac and Eshah peppered the still-leashed trollhound with arrows and rays of flame until it also fell dead.

As Olena and Ten Thousand Skies filled waterskins with troll blood as promised to Bokken and The Old Beldame,12 the others searched the storeroom. Stacked boxes, barrels, crates and bags filled the room from floor to ceiling and lined the crude shelves along the walls; they contained foodstuffs, lumber, mundane tools, household supplies, bolts of cloth, etc.13 Some of the supplies were familiar and gnome-sized; several crates bore the Narthropple crest. To the south, a rough tunnel extended deeper into the hillside.

Not wanting to leave their backs unprotected, the half-orcs returned to the barbican and Zac snuck up the other stairway, which led to a round high ceilinged chamber with a layer of foul filth caking the floor and a wide flight of stairs circling up: surely the watchtower the druid had spotted. Zac froze at a sound from above, then backpedaled as quickly as stealth would allow when a shower of troll piss rained down. The half-orcs repeated their ambush tactic, and first a troll hound and then its master rushed down the stairs in response to the ninja’s provocation. They didn’t last long.

The half-orcs returned to the tunnel past the storeroom; at the first fork, the others waited while Zac scouted ahead. The ninja peeked into a wide cavern littered with pallets made of branches, leaves, and smelt, uncured hides – and a trio of trolls. The party charged in; Eshah and Olena hindered the trolls’ response with a slowing stone call and blinding glitterdust. Torg, Grabthar and Zac tore into the monsters while the witch’s hexes, the ninja’s arrows, and Ten Thousand Skies’ and Eshah’s ranged fire spells kept them on their non-regenerating heels. The trolls never stood a chance.

The cavern narrowed to another forking tunnel; ahead, Zac saw a cave stacked with carcasses of both beasts and decapitated humanoids. Running low on healing and other spells, the party decided to withdraw and refresh. They left the fortress and camped in the woods, close enough so whoever was on watch could monitor the hidden trail for any monstrous comings or goings. The rain ended before the sun rose.

They returned to the dwarven structure in the late morning. Moving through the bloodied rooms, the bodies remained where they had fallen; there was no evidence their previous incursion had been detected. The others waited at the first fork in the tunnels while Zac snuck again through the troll barracks. The carcasses in the northern cave seemed undisturbed. He spied around the corner to the west into a large room, still mostly hidden – but he did see an armored troll sitting on a crude throne carved from a giant tree stump atop a makeshift dais of boulders. The troll – presumably the gang’s leader – was lost in thought and didn’t notice the ninja.

Zac rejoined the group, then stole a glance into the unexplored branch of the first fork. A wide natural cavern hung with dripping stalagmites. Gnawed bones littered the floor; Zac grimaced at the sight of a collection of severed, humanoid heads arranged in a circle drawn on the floor with dried blood. At the far end of the cavern, a trollhound growled; first one and then a second troll head turned at the ninja. A massive brute of a troll stood up – fully erect, not hunched like the others they’d faced, and half again as tall.

Zac yelled “Two-headed troll!” The monster responded in Giant (Eshah heard “Nagrundi smash!”), took a single step, and swiped its huge arm; claws the size of short swords slashed the ninja. Zac focused his ki and vanished. Grabthar raged and charged, but he was struck by Nagrundi’s reflexive attack and missed his own. Torg paused for the sorceress to embiggen him then stepped up, matching the monster’s massive reach and bludgeoning it with his enlarged polearm. A burst of sparkling particles blinded one of Nagrundi’s heads and a flaming sphere seared its leg, courtesy of witch and druid. The trollhound raced around the giant but skidded to a halt, sniffing the air near the invisible ninja.

Half of the half-blind troll’s attacks went wide, but claws and teeth shredded Grabthar; the barbarian’s ferocity kept him on his feet just long enough to land one powerful blow before collapsing.14 Eshah conjured grease under the monster and it also fell; Olena hexed Nagrundi to make it more susceptible to magic attacks.15

Zac snuck back from the hound; it resumed its charge against Torg, earning a deep wound on its approach. Nagrundi regained its feet and also stepped up on Torg, inside the fighter’s melee range. Ten Thousand Skies redirected his flaming sphere to follow the monster and stabilized the dying barbarian. Torg yelled at Olena to move; the witch backpedaled and hexed the troll again. Eshah’s flameball burned and staggered the brute, but Torg’s massive swing missed despite the druid adding to the fighter’s already-impressive strength.16 Zac appeared, firing three arrows into the troll in rapid succession.17

Nagrundi ignored the still-flaming sphere and tore into Torg; Eshah’s next flameball somehow missed the giant target.18 Olena, unsure whether it would affect a two-headed creature, tried to slumber the troll: it fell to the stone floor, both heads snoring. As Eshah ended the trollhound with a ray of flame to the eye,19 Torg lined up his shot and crushed one of the troll’s heads into the other.20

As the healers went to work on the warriors, Zac searched and looted the two-headed corpse, bequeathing Nagrundi’s protective ring and amulet to Grabthar to aid the barbarian in finishing a fight on his feet.21 Eshah confirmed that the circle of severed heads included several familiar gnomes from the Narthropple Expedition, including Jubilost Narthropple himself.

The spymaster then snuck back to the leader’s room, but the throne was empty. Zac risked one more step inside to see rest of the room and found himself staring into the eyes of the armored troll, who was sitting upright on a heap of furs atop a wagon with its wheels removed, scratching the neck of a slabbering trollhound.22 The troll leader, Hargulka, hollered in Giant as Zac retreated to his allies in the barracks, hollering in Orc.23

Eshah again embiggened Torg; the fighter and Grabthar prepared to attack whatever enemy first entered the cavern – but it wasn’t the leader. Rather, from the northern cave came a bulky troll with rocky skin studded with small crystals, and a jutting underbite holding large, crystalline teeth. Ten Thousand Skies yelled “Rock troll! Susceptible to acid, not fire!” Grabthar’s grin grew to a grimace of rage as he channeled the power of the tarn linnorm, coating his weapon in an acidic sheen, but despite Olena’s hex, the barbarian’s swing glanced off the monster’s craggy hide, as did Torg’s enlarged attacks. The druid’s storm burst also had no effect.

But Eshah’s grease did: the glittering troll fell roughly to the cavern floor. Both warriors took full advantage, pounding the prone opponent with powerful blows. As the monster struggled to its feet, Torg hammered the rock troll’s head down with an enlarged blow, then Grabthar knocked it clean off with an enraged uppercut. The skull smashed against the cavern ceiling, raining broken crystals.24

The troll hound turned the corner and hit the grease, skidding wildly into a wall. Hargulka also emerged, more cautiously, and reached up to his necklace. As the troll pulled a bead from the string, it started to glow brightly, and he hurled it into the middle of the half-orcs. It exploded into a fireball: Olena and Ten Thousand Skies took the worst of the burns; Eshah was unscathed.25 The sorceress returned fire with a flameball as Grabthar leaped the grease and tried to overrun the troll to set up a flank with Torg in the bottleneck, but Hargulka halted the barbarian’s maneuver with a blow from a stout morningstar. The troll shook off Olena’s blinding glitterdust; the scorched druid backed away and drained healing potions.

Eshah dismissed the grease and Grabthar withdrew, suffering more wounds from the troll (and taking out his frustration on the trollhound as he moved past). The opening permitted Torg to bring his oversized polearm to bear, striking Hargulka and killing the trollhound. Hargulka was not pleased at the death of his favorite pet and pounded the fighter brutally.26 Zac struggled with the dynamics of the battleground, switching from longbow to wakizashi and then back again, shooting the troll as Torg backpedaled to the witch’s healing touch. Eshah followed up with another flameball and Grabthar stepped up again.

Hargulka dodged the swinging earthbreaker, shouted “You will never claim the Green Queen’s domain!” and tossed another glowing bead behind the barbarian into the clustered half-orcs; the fireball burned Grabthar and Zac and left Torg and Olena unconscious and smoldering. Eshah’s eyes blazed like hot coals as she watched Ten Thousand Skies rush to stabilize the dying witch. The sorceress fired another flameball, striking Hargulka in the chest. The troll reeled, then looked down as all of the remaining beads on his necklace started sparking like lit fuses. Hargulka locked surprised eyes with Eshah just before the necklace detonated in three simultaneous explosions, engulfing the troll and the barbarian in the expanding fireballs.27

When the flames dissipated, Grabthar lay dead,28 but Hargulka still stood – until Zac put an arrow right between his eyes, killing the troll leader.29

They searched and looted Hargulka and his quarters. The troll leader’s armor and weapon were enchanted;30 a large chest inside the wagon held artwork, jewelry, and coins, plus Jubilost’s personal gear – and, incredibly, a scroll of raise dead.31 Olena cast the powerful spell and restored Grabthar to life, though the ordeal left the barbarian weakened.32

A large map drawn on the back of a thylacine hide was tacked to the wall of Hargulka’s room. Several locations, including Redemption, were marked with large Xs along with arrows and other notations (in Giant) showing planned raids and routes of attack. Eshah translated the notes and the half-orcs determined that the trolls had been carrying out a series of organized, planned attacks in the region against locations where civilization had intruded on the Stolen Lands. Areas where fey creatures lived, however, had been carefully marked to avoid.

With the troll menace ended, the half-orcs began the long trek back to Redemption. En route, Zac developed symptoms of bloodfire fever – deep internal pain, loss of muscular coordination, pus-filled blisters, and overall lethargy and fatigue – surely contracted from a trollhound’s filthy bite. Ten Thousand Skies and Olena both tended to the sick ninja and by the time they rode into Redemption, Zac had fully recovered.

The returning explorers reunited with Spear, Bluss, and the other kingdom leaders. They collected their rewards,33 restocked their low-level healing supplies, and sent a mission to Restov to sell their more exotic loot and purchase more powerful healing magic, including the divine scrolls needed to fully restore Grabthar.34 After delivering several barrels of beer to Munguk – who was quite content in his new lair – the half-orcs spent the next two months in Redemption attending to kingdom business. Marshal Bluss again had to assist Warden Garess in Olegburg when the other half-orcs resumed exploration along the southern edge of the Greenbelt, which was thankfully devoid of any notable ruins, lairs, or encounters.35

When they returned to Redemption, however, they found the capital in shambles: newly-plowed fields torn up, trees knocked down, livestock slaughtered, and a number of homes and the brewery flattened. A pall of smoke and dust hung over the town, and the few people on the streets milled about in shock.36 The leaders’ inquiries were met first with blank stares, but eventually the whole story came out: the town was attacked by a terrifying monster of immense size, part bear and part owl, that crashed into the town and killed dozens before it had its fill of destruction and lumbered off into the hills.

The owlbear’s trail was simple to follow: it headed southeast, leaving a swath of felled trees, trampled brush, and churned earth across the Kamelands. Its tracks indicated that the beast was substantially larger than the owlbear they’d defeated at the Stag Lord’s fort.

After several days, they found what was surely the monster’s lair: a dark, gaping hole in the side of a large, rocky hillock a few miles north of the Little Sellen River. The earth in front of the cave had been trampled flat, and shattered trees and stumps bore the marks of powerful claws. Tufts of dark fur were snagged in branches, and huge feathers littered the ground.

The cave mouth widened into a large cavern filthy with carrion and offal. A bewildering variety of molds and fungi grew on the floor and walls, some as big as a person, and countless insects scuttled about underfoot, feeding on the mounds of waste. A large tunnel sloped down ahead, with smaller passages on the side walls.

Zac snuck inside, hugging the wall to the right. Suddenly, a man-sized purple mushroom emitted a piercing sound that made it impossible to hear anything else. Zac fired an arrow into the shrieker but it continued to wail. Then the ninja saw movement: three tall mushrooms ambling on tentacular roots; deep violet tendrils slithered out of dozens of fissures in their pointed caps. Zac’s ranger training recognized the violet fungi as one of the most notorious and feared dangers of the world’s caves. “Don’t let them touch you; their tentacles cause a swift and deadly rot!” He withdrew as Eshah conjured a rain of gravel to pelt the carnivorous creatures and slow their approach. The stone call also released a cloud of spores that fogged the cavern waist high.

The half-orcs picked away at the violet fungi, but the battle was soon joined by a shambling mound from the passage to the right, presumably drawn by the shrieker’s cry. The plant monster slammed Zac, constricting him with a tangle of slimy vines from which scuttled a writhing swarm of biting red centipedes. Eshah greased the grappled ninja; the lubrication enabled the ninja to squirm free and tumble away as Grabthar cleaved to the mound after smashing through a violet fungus.

Spear silenced the shrieker with an arrow, then boosted the group’s courage with an inspiring oratory. The half-orcs held their own against their plant opponents until the other side passage birthed a stream of nearly a dozen caveweaver spiders, each the size of a large dog. The spiders clambered along the floor and walls toward the party. Despite their spells and weapons, they were in danger of being overrun.

Then an awful sound bellowed from the depths of the lair: an awful, awesome, deafening, terrible, half-roar half-screech. All movement stopped for a split-second as the sound faded – then the shambling mound, the walking fungi, and the skittering spiders all retreated from whence they came. The half-orcs took the opportunity to also withdraw outside.

The owlbear was coming.

1 Bridge hex, plus a free Pier if the leaders build a settlement here.

2 The giant equivalent of a traditional “lost my job/wife left me/truck broke down/dog died” country song.

3 Terrible Stealth roll for Zac; great Perception roll by the giant, even with a -8 penalty for being depressed.

4 “Munguk only pawn in game of life.”

5 The drake’s surprise round acidic cloud followed by an initiative-winning bite/tail slap combo brought Zac to -4 hit points before he could take an action. He was still able to act due to Orc Ferocity (moved out of the acid cloud and then passed out), so this wasn’t a true example of “getting Correa’d.”

6 1,200 gp!

7 Grabthar has a rage power that channels the power of tarn linnorm, inflicting 1 additional point of acid damage on every melee attack. A tarn linnorm is a CR 20, 120-foot long, 12-ton (Colossal size), aquatic, two-headed dragon with a breath weapon of poisonous acid.

8 Produce flame and flameball, respectively.

9 A rending attack by the last troll put Grabthar at 0 hit points, but the barbarian used Orc Ferocity to kill that troll before keeling over. In addition to other injuries, Zac was bitten by a trollhound and failed his Fortitude save against contracting bloodfire fever from the diseased beast.

10 Grabthar also used his renewed vigor rage power to heal himself.

11 If anyone could successfully troll a troll, it’s Christian.

12 Quest completed! 1200 gp in potions from each of the hermit and the witch.

13 Worth 4 BP; it eventually took several full wagonloads to return all of the supplies to civilization.

14 At -1 hit point from the troll’s attacks, then to -9 when he fell unconscious and his rage automatically ended.

15 Evil eye hex for -2 to saving throws.

16 Ten Thousand Skies added bull’s strength to the enlarged fighter.

17 Hero Point + sneak attack + Rapid Shot + ki extra attack. Booyah!

18 Even touch attacks still miss on a natural 1. Ah, the GDI.

19 Crit! Ah, the GDI!

20 A Happy Gilmore-esque coup de gras swing by an enlarged bull’s strength-enhanced fighter for 55 points of damage was enough to kill Nagrundi outright.

21 Amulet of natural armor +1 and ring of protection +2 to improve Grabthar’s armor class by 2 points; Torg inherited the barbarian’s ROP +1.

22 Natural 1 on Zac’s Stealth check. Damn GDI.

23 “Intruders!” and “Incoming!”, respectively.

24 The warriors inflicted a combined 53 points on the prone rock troll; it standing up provoked another 28 from Torg and a crit from Grabthar for another 65. Damn, GDI!

25 Olena and Skies blew their saves; Rob spent a Hero Point to reroll and did 2 points worse. Eshah made the save and took no damage due to the fire resistance granted by her efreeti bloodline.

26 Vital Strike + Power Attack = 30 points of damage = ouch.

27 Oh boy. Per the necklace of fireballs item description, “If the necklace is being worn or carried by a character who fails her saving throw against a magical fire attack, the item must make a saving throw as well (with a save bonus of +7). If the necklace fails to save, all its remaining spheres detonate simultaneously, often with regrettable consequences for the wearer.” Hargulka blew his save vs. Eshah’s flameball; the necklace then rolled a natural 1 on its save. Boom boom boom, baby.

28 The fireballs took Grabthar to -24 hit points.

29 Zac used his vanish ninja power to shoot for sneak attack damage, then spent a Hero Point to reroll his failed attack, hitting for 17 points of damage and killing Hargulka.

30 Hargulka wore +2 hide armor and wielded a +2 darkwood morningstar.

31 That was lucky!

32 Per the spell, Grabthar took 2 permanent negative levels.

33 Upon hearing of the leaders’ success over the trolls, the swordlords sent not only 2,000 gp but also additional kingdom support in the form of 10 BP.

34 A wand of cure moderate wounds and 2 scrolls of restoration.

35 At this point, the entire Greenbelt (i.e., Books 1 and 2) had been mapped. Huzzah!

36 +2 Unrest.

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Chapter Three - Geekend 9 (Friday)
There wolf. There castle.

Eshah, Torg, Bluss, and Ten Thousand Skies reunited with Olena, Zac and Grabthar at the castle. Spear was in Olegburg, along with Kesten Garess, and had left word with Fork that Bluss should join them as soon as possible. Fork had other news: Svetlana had a baby boy, whom they named Svaros after Svetlana’s father. Mother and baby were doing well; Fork reported that he’d never seen Oleg smile so much.1

Bluss departed early the next morning for Olegburg; the others, fueled by Fork’s famous coffee, started in on their various tasks of kingdom leadership. By midday they were interrupted: first, by the tragic news of recent local murders; second, by the arrival of a new charter from the Swordlords of Restov. The news of a band of trolls based somewhere in the southern Greenbelt had reached Restov, and the Swordlords tasked the leaders with ridding the area of the menace.

The half-orcs prioritized the matter of the slain townsfolk. One of Garess’ deputies briefed them: three nights ago, some livestock were brutally slaughtered in their pens at an outlying farm; the next night, a maid named Suki never made it home from her shift at the inn; and just last night, a shepherd boy named Beven was attacked (along with his flock) on the way back into town. The leaders investigated the mutilated bodies, held at the jail; Ten Thousand Skies and Olena agreed that the wounds appeared to have been caused by a large, man-sized animal – likely a wolf or worg. The druid’s search at the kill sites further discovered tracks consistent with a large wolf. At the site of the latest attack, the animal tracks led into a nearby copse of tress from which they did not emerge – but a set of bare human footprints did, leading towards town before Ten Thousand Skies lost the trail among the day’s foot traffic.

They shared one thought: werewolf. And the druid confirmed that the fourth and final night of the full moon was only a few hours away. The leaders ordered the deputy to impose a sundown curfew and planned a ruse to draw out the lycanthrope: Olena disguised herself as a helpless old woman and walked the roads outside of town after nightfall while the others hid nearby. Unfortunately, from the howl Ten Thousand Skies heard from the center of Redemption, they knew their plan had failed – and the horrible scream that echoed through the streets as they rushed back into town told them that the werewolf had found easier prey.

The half-orcs found the monster – wearing primitive hide armor over its dark fur and holding a massive earthbreaker similar to Grabthar’s in one clawed hand – standing over a shredded body. From the volume of blood dripping from its fangs and pooling on the cobblestones, Olena knew the victim was already dead. Ten Thousand Skies saw the shine of another set of lupine eyes from the shadows of a near alley and alerted his allies.2 The druid magically enhanced Torg’s strength and Olena enchanted bad luck3 upon the werewolf as it charged her in a slathering rage, slamming its heavy weapon into the witch despite the curse.

Grabthar responded in kind,4 but the wound he inflicted seemed lessened, and Zac’s flanking strike was completely ineffective – owing to the lycanthropic barbarian’s uncanny senses and resistance to non-silver weapons. Torg joined the melee, as did the two dire wolves that raced from dark alleys – and immediately stumbled under Eshah’s stone call. Olena blinded the slowed wolves with a glitterdust spell, allowing Torg and Grabthar to hammer the werewolf.5 The lycanthrope’s focus stayed squarely on Grabthar, even when relentlessly hexed by the witch, buffeted by the druid’s storm burst, and knocked on his furry backside by the sorceress’ grease spell.

The skirmish was over in moments: Zac and Torg dispatched one dire wolf, Olena slumbered the other and Ten Thousand Skies put it to sleep, and Grabthar won the earthbreaker contest, fatally crushing the werewolf with a powerful attack.6 The dead werewolf transformed from its hybrid form back into a tall, lean human with the look of a Kellid barbarian. While the witch healed the wounded, Zac and Torg disposed of the bodies7 and Eshah and Ten Thousand Skies used minor magics8 to clean the carnage from the streets. Grabthar was happy to relieve the dead tribesman of his magical armor and enchanted earth breaker.9

The next morning, the half-orcs’ further investigation determined that the last victim was a visiting merchant named Norben who had broken curfew and left the inn to check on his horse. The werewolf had also been staying at the inn for the last week; a search of his room turned up a single golden earring, still attached to a severed ear, hidden under the bed. The innkeeper identified the jewelry as belonging to Suki; the half-orcs returned it to Suki’s family with their condolences, and also visited the family of Beven and sent news of Norben’s passing to his hometown. Word of the leaders’ handling of the werewolf problem spread, further bolstering their reputation in the kingdom.

The half-orcs next took up the latest charter and resumed their exploration of the southern Greenbelt, heading to the southern shore of the Tuskwater and a feature Jubilost Narthropple had identified as a “mud bowl”: a strange, 20-foot wide pool of bubbling mud sitting in a narrow defile between several hills. The mud was heated by geothermal activity and gave off foul-smelling vapors, but the kingdom leaders recognized the potential value of the mudpot for masonry materials.10 Large mounds of fungus and giant mushrooms thrived on the mud bowl’s banks and in the noxious air. Zac pointed out a cluster of 8-inch-tall black mushrooms on the far side of the pool; Olena recognized them as black rattlecap mushrooms – a very rare (and, to herbalist, very valuable) variety with hollow caps filled with tiny hard balls of spores that rattle when shaken.

As they moved around the pool, a huge mound of fungus and rank vegetation also moved: a tendriculos! The carnivorous plant rose to a height of nearly 25 feet and lashed out at Olena, spoiling the witch’s spellcasting and grappling her in fibrous vine-like tentacles. Grabthar and Torg closed to melee while Eshah greased Olena, hoping to loosen the monster’s grip. The tendriculos dropped the witch and grappled Grabthar, pulling the barbarian into its immense tendril-rimmed maw. Zac and Ten Thousand Skies peppered the plant with precision arrows and hurled flames 11; Eshah embiggened Torg. Grabthar’s rage couldn’t match the monster’s strength, and the barbarian was swallowed whole.12

Ignoring the continuing ranged attacks from the druid and ninja, the tendriculos turned its tentacles on Torg, whom the sorceress also greased – but despite enlargement and lubrication, the monster swallowed the fighter.13 Deep within the tendriculos’ trunk, burning in paralytic acid, Grabthar struggled – and failed – to climb back out of the monster’s gut, and Torg drew a crossbow bolt and tried – and failed – to use the improvised weapon to cut his way out off the fibrous abdomen.14

The stomach acid proved too much for the warriors and they both fell unconscious and dying in the digestive depths.15 Luckily, Torg released his enlarged lucerne hammer, which returned to its normal size; the shrinking weapon scraped the monster’s gullet, triggering a gag reflex – and the mostly-dead barbarian was violently vomited out.16 Stuck with multiple arrows and burned from several fire spells17, the tendriculos gagged again and puked out nearly-dead Torg.18 The tendriculous then grabbed Olena again.

The monster widened its mouth to swallow the witch, but Eshah changed the menu, firing a final flameball into the distended maw. The tendriculos reared back, tossing Olena into the muddy pool, and collapsed in a writhing, smoldering heap. Ten Thousand Skies had closed to the unconscious warriors and administered several castings from his curative wand before the dead monster fell still. As soon as Torg and Grabthar were upright, Zac and Eshah handed them daggers and made them swear to carry them always.

After healing and cleaning themselves up,19 the half-orcs harvested the black rattlecap mushrooms that weren’t crushed into paste during the fight.20 Exhausted from the warriors’ dual brush with death, the party moved far enough away from noxious pool that Ten Thousand Skies could tolerate the smell21 and set up camp.

1 The others couldn’t recall seeing Oleg smile ever.

2 In Orc, as is their standard combat approach.

3 Ill omen spell.

4 RAGE-CHARGE-EARTHBREAKER SMASH!!!

5 And Torg cleaved to a dire wolf – reach weapon FTW!

6 A well-timed crit for 68 points of damage. DR, shmee-R.

7 With a note to task Oleg with putting the dire wolf pelts to good use.

8 Create water and prestidigitation.

9 For those familiar with the Super Mario game franchise, the head of this +1 earthbreaker looks like a Thwomp.
200px-ThwompNSMBU.png

10 Resource hex!

11 Ranger focus plus sneak attack from stealth and produce flame, respectively.

12 The group didn’t like this development.

13 The group really didn’t like this development.

14 Neither Grabthar nor Torg carried a light slashing or piercing weapon, as required to cut their way out of being swallowed whole. This was particularly frustrating to the other players as it violated the “Kellor Rule” established in our previous Red Hand of Doom campaign when the dwarven paladin Kellor Stonedog was swallowed by a behir without such a weapon and died.

15 The acid damage knocked Torg to -4 hit points; Grabthar had already fallen to -6 hp, used his Orc Ferocity action to try to climb out, failed, and fell unconscious, ending his rage and dropping him to -14 hp, then took 15 points of acid damage and ended at -29 hp. Wait, doesn’t -29 hit points mean he’s dead? Stand by…

16 Grabthar spent 2 Hero Points to “cheat death”, ending up expunged and stable at -15 hp.

17 Ten Thousand Skies exhausted his produce flame and then cast flaming sphere; Eshah joined in with several castings of flameball.

18 The stomach acid cost Torg another 13 hit points, and 2 Hero Points to cheat death.

19 Prestidigitation and create water sure are coming in handy today!

20 14 mushrooms, which the Old Beldame eventually purchased from them for 100 gp each.

21 The Scent ability is not always a boon.

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Chapter Two and a Half - Geekend 8.1
Okay, guys, we have like two and a half hours...

After several days of recuperating in Redemption following the half-orcs’ clearing of the elven keep, Ten Thousand Skies returned from his extended walkabout through the Greenbelt. Eshah suggested1 that a group revisit Old Crackjaw’s den so the druid could assist in dealing with the ill-tempered turtle.

Eshah, Bluss, Torg and Ten Thousand Skies traveled to the cliffs on the eastern shore of the Tuskwater and located the trail through the stinging nettles that led to the secluded pool at the lake’s edge. Ten Thousand Skies confirmed that the tracks were those of a large hookjaw turtle. When he stepped into the water, Old Crackjaw appeared from the depths of the pool, swimming toward the druid with a menacing roar.2 Torg interrupted the beast’s charge, pushing Crackjaw back from the shore with a powerful blow from Nettle’s Wrath.3

Bluss drew a bead on the turtle and asked whether he should fire. Ten Thousand Skies attempted to magically befriend Crackjaw, but the crotchety turtle resisted the enchantment.4 With a resigned nod from the druid, Bluss buried a bullet in the beast’s thick shell. Eshah doubled Torg’s height and the enlarged fighter carved another chip in the chitinous carapace. Old Crackjaw responded by charging onto shore and, despite suffering another opportunistic polearm wound, chomped a chunk out of Torg’s enlarged leg. Ten Thousand Skies bowled a flaming sphere at the turtle, but it was the gunslinger who finally ended Old Crackjaw with a shot to the head.

They harvested the giant turtle’s meat and legendary shell and returned to Redemption where Fork began preparations for a feast of turtle soup. Ten Thousand Skies tracked down Arven the fisherman, who graciously provided his promised reward.5 The druid made it clear6 that he supported fishing, hunting, and farming in the kingdom, but he would be watching for the mistreatment of any creatures.

They then traveled to Tatzlford and met with Mayor Rezbin, who was very proud of the prosperous settlement’s growth. Bluss also presented Lily Teskertin with the mirthal statuette they had recovered from the elven keep; the barmaid rewarded him with a kiss and a magic cloak.7

The half-orcs continued south, spending nearly a week exploring the uncharted woods of the Narlmarches below the Murque River. Mid-morning on the sixth day, they found a huge deadfall of trees and brambles lying in a mossy heap, a mountain in miniature left from a violent windstorm several seasons prior. They found numerous cave-like hollows throughout the deadfall; a particularly deep one assaulted Ten Thousand Skies’ sensitive nostrils with the strong scent of a reptilian lair. Sneaking inside, they found a fantastically rare and legendary monster: a hodag! Bluss fired, hoping to put the beast down quickly, but the bullet barely penetrated the monster’s thick hide. Eshah magically greased the filthy floor beneath it, but the hodag’s clawed feet enabled it to scramble across the chamber and gore Torg with its spiked horns, tossing the fighter two full body-lengths away into a pile of bones and half-eaten carcasses.

Torg regained his feet and struck the beast; the others fired upon it with bullet and conjured flame.8 The hodag ignored its burning wounds and focused only on Torg, savagely tearing with fangs and claws. The fighter fell back, unconscious, rejoining the beast’s other victims.

Fate continued its swing against the half-orcs: Bluss’ musket misfired and Eshah’s flameball flew wide. Ten Thousand Skies moved up to put Torg within range of his healing orison and stabilized the fighter at death’s door. Unfortunately, the heroic maneuver also put the druid within range of the hodag’s fury; Ten Thousand Skies fell in a bloody heap.

While Eshah’s follow-up flameball hit the hodag harder than Bluss’s shot, the closer gunslinger became the hodag’s next target. But fate swung again: Bluss narrowly dodged9 the beast’s spiked charge and then cracked it under the jaw with a surprise musket butt uppercut that flipped the hodag onto its back;10 the sorceress fired a precision flameball into the beast’s exposed belly, flash-roasting its innards and instantly killing the monster.11

Eshah carefully administered a curative potion to Ten Thousand Skies; after regaining his feet, the druid used his healing wand to fully restore himself and Torg. Bluss searched the hodag’s lair, finding a number of valuable items – including the magic spear the lumberjack Stas claimed to have stuck in a hodag’s back. They returned to Redemption with the hodag’s head and presented the trophy and the spear to Stas; in gratitude, the lumberjack gave them the spear.12

1 Decreed, actually – the young ruler did that a lot.

2 If Ten Tousand Skies had speak with animals up, he would’ve understood the turtle equivalent of “get off my lawn!”

3 Reach weapon and Pushing Assault feat FTW!

4 Old Crackjaw made its Will save against charm animal.

5 A ring of feather falling, taken by Bluss.

6 Another decree!

7 Bluss accepted the kiss, but gave the purple cloak of protection to Eshah.

8 Flaming sphere and flameball.

9 Nimble class feature FTW!

10 This is the Pistol-Whip gunslinger deed; Chuck rolled a natural 20 on the combat maneuver check to knock the hodag prone. It was AWESOME.

11 Flameball crit!

12 Ten Thousand Skies kept the +1 keen spear.

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Chapter Two - Geekend 8 (Saturday)
Chuk has to leave WHEN?

While Frek was thankful for the half-orcs’ intervention, he and the other lizardfolk were very concerned about the will-o’-wisp’s escape. While Olena tended to the exhausted and malnourished Tig, Spear gave an inspirational speech (in Draconic) about the need to be brave in the face of evil, particularly with an enemy that feeds on fear, and pointed to Frek’s initiative as an example of such courage. The rousing address had the desired effect, both calming the lizardfolk and helping to establish Frek as a hero and leader.1 With Frek’s consent, the adventurers took Vestek’s gear as a reward for their help. Eshah expressed her hope that perhaps under his leadership, Frek and his people could join the kingdom of Sazerac when its borders expanded to this region – though they would need to stop eating the other humanoid residents.

They returned to Redemption and reunited Tig with his parents.2 As the story spread through the kingdom, the leaders made sure it was known that the Swamp Witch and surviving lizardfolk were not to blame, but in fact had helped the half-orc heroes locate and rescue the boy. They stayed in Redemption for two weeks, performing their Sazerac leadership duties. They told Jhod Kavken of the unease they felt surrounding Candlemere Tower and the will-o’-wisps that infested the island; the High Priest said he would look into it so they could deal with the threat before the kingdom expanded to the lake.

Bluss placed an order with Bokken for more gunpowder, then accompanied Olena to visit the Swamp Witch. They approached the dilapidated hut more cautiously this time, waiting at the gate after ringing the rusted bell. Olena replied to the hag’s “go away!” by explaining that they’d found the missing boy and made it clear to the citizens of Sazerac that the Swamp Witch had helped and was a friend of the kingdom. A wrinkled arm beckoned and left the door ajar. Inside, they found that the hut was a single room with a dirt floor and thatched roof. The rafters hung with dried herbs and swamp-reeds, a bubbling cauldron hung over a firepit in the center of the room, and a large wooden bench and hutch were piled with alchemical and magical crafting supplies.

“I prefer ‘Old Beldame’ to ‘Swamp Witch,’” the old crone said. Thought human, her skin had a strange greenish cast and her ears were pointed; Olena recognized this as evidence of fey ancestry. Olena attempted to defuse the initial tension by offering the Old Beldame more coin for her lost guardian and her help, which she accepted. Olena and Bluss also played to the witch’s ego by asking, respectively, if she could repair the broken magical greataxe they had found in the crypt and if she could offer some alchemy tips to the gunslinger. The Old Beldame agreed to both and offered them a spot on the floor.

Over the next few days, the two witches overcame their initial suspicions and established a good rapport, even permitting their familiars3 to commune to exchange spells.4 The crone also helped Bluss craft his first successful batch of alchemist’s fire. The Old Beldame refused additional payment for repairing the axe (“you’ll just owe me a favor”) – which was an ancient relic called Woodoom – but mentioned that if they happened to cross paths with a shambling mound while exploring, she would be willing to pay handsomely for its sap, which worked wonders for cultivating certain medicinal herbs. As the half-orcs departed, the Old Beldame confided that her real name was Elga Verniex.

The witch and gunslinger returned to Redemption to join up with Torg, Spear, and Eshah and resume their exploration of the southern Narlmarches. The followed the shore of the Tuskwater and then the Candlemere, asking the locals if the frequency of sightings of the eerie lights that haunted the area had changed in the last few weeks; they hadn’t. The half-orcs continued west along the Murque River and stopped in to visit the lizardfolk, who were flourishing under Frek’s leadership – including hunting and fishing for non-humanoid game.

They continued exploring the area between the Murque and Skunk Rivers. Along a hunting trail in the deep woods, they were approached by an old bearded gnome dressed in ragged leather armor who said “help me!” The group was wary and told him to stop where he was; the gnome unfurled a whip and yelled “Cat, now!” A growling dire lion leapt from the brush behind them! Eshah enlarged Torg as the fighter stepped up to trade attacks with the huge cat. Bluss fired both barrels at the gnome, who responded – despite being dazzled – by disarming the gunslinger with a crack of his whip. Olena and Eshah returned the favor with an ill omen/grease combo5; the slippery whip flew from the gnome’s hand.

A powerful claw swipe dropped Torg and the dire lion moved in for the kill, but Spear’s well-placed animal bane arrow distracted the beast long enough for Olena to hex it to sleep. The gnome drew a short sword and charged, but the witch repeated her hex and he fell flat on the trail, snoring until Olena took his last breath with her dead husband’s greataxe.6 Spear healed Torg to his feet and the fighter ended the lion.7

They searched the gnome, who had several magical items and wore a desiccated gnome pinky on a string around his neck. Bluss followed the gnome’s trail to his home in a hollow tree, where they found crude furnishings and a small chest containing a few potions and coins and a tarnished silver locket holding a faded portrait of a young female gnome. It was then that they realized that the mad hermit was Bokken’s long-lost brother: the portrait was of the gnomes’ mother and the dried pinky was Bokken’s own missing digit. They took both mementos to return to the alchemist.

They continued exploring the area around the Murque to the west, eventually coming upon a structure that was likely the elven ruin Lily Teskertin had mentioned to Bluss. A circular keep loomed out of the forest, surrounded by towering, ancient trees draped with hanging moss. Four circular towers sprouted from the cracked walls like the trunks of great trees, at least one crumbled into rubble. Twisting vines and thick moss covered the walls in a coat of verdant green, blending the ruins almost seamlessly into the surrounding woods. The overgrown remains of a path led to an open, arched gateway gaping in the keep’s eastern wall, its doors long since rotted away.

Bluss led the group on a circuit of the outer wall, finding it partially collapsed along its southern span. They returned to the gateway and the gunslinger crept under the arch – an ancient portcullis slammed down, barely missing him and separating him from the rest of the party; they rushed towards the southern opening. The gunslinger scanned for threats: a graceful tower rose out of the keep’s central courtyard, which was overgrown with bushes, undergrowth, and several sizeable trees. Bluss felt a wicked slash across his back and spotted a small gray streak speeding back around the central tower. Bluss felt blood gushing from the wound, which also burned with poison. He fired a flare straight up to alert his comrades, then pressed the hot barrel against his wound to sear it closed.8

Olena ran back to the gate and, after Bluss whispered “invisible attacker,” readied a glitterdust spell as the gunslinger slowly backed up to her, musket at the ready. As Eshah climbed over the rubble of the southern wall, followed by Spear, the witch cured Bluss’ wound, then ran off again for the alternate entrance. Eshah cursed, clutching at a deep slash that appeared in her leg. Spear squinted at and Bluss drew a bead on the blurred gray form as it streaked away; the gunslingers’ leading shot struck it before it vanished behind the tower.9 Spear shouted “quickling!”

Eshah, who knew that quicklings were fey creatures, held her cursing and tried diplomacy: “We are friends of the fey!” Spear, who knew that quicklings were cruel fey creatures, drew his fully-repaired fey bane greataxe. Torg entered the courtyard as Bluss yelled “what’s the plan here?”

The fighter said “form a circle, back-to-back, ready attacks for when it appears.” A split-second later, the quickling appeared as he cut a deep wound across the bard’s gut. Spear’s greataxe and Bluss’ shot missed, but the blurred fey was struck by Eshah’s flameball and twice by Torg’s polearm.

The quickling sped again behind the central tower, giggling maniacally. “You won’t catch Rigg Gargadilly so easily!”

Eshah made a final attempt at diplomacy (“we are only defending ourselves”) and drank a healing potion; Spear also downed a potion to neutralize the poison burning in his bleeding wound. The quickling appeared again, this time slashing Spear’s back – but then tumbled to the ground, hexed into slumber by the witch who stood at the collapsed wall. The bard cleaved Rigg Gargadilly’s head from his body.

They looted the quickling and followed his tracks to the southeast tower, which was sealed with a wooden door clearly of newer construction that the rest of the keep. Inside, the tower was also missing its roof, but interwoven, leafy vines and the forest canopy above provided a ceiling of sorts. Some of the rubble had been cleared away to create a small living space, decorated with crude wooden furniture and bloody scalps nailed to the walls. Inside a clay urn hidden in a niche 20 feet up the wall, they found the quickling’s trove of coins and sparkling gemstones.

They moved to the southwest tower, the upper reaches of which had completely collapsed. On a hunch, Bluss searched through the wreckage and found a remarkably well-preserved mithral statuette of a beautiful elf woman wearing archaic robes, framed by an archway of mithral branches. The gunslinger smiled to himself, thinking of how grateful the beautiful Lily Teskertin would be when he presented it to her.10

Vines choked the northwest tower’s exterior, which was festooned with bleached humanoid skulls; at ground level, a closed wooden door hid behind a cloak of hanging vines. As the half-orcs approached, Bluss held up a hand: he recognized that a large carnivorous plant called an assassin vine hung above the door. The gunslinger lobbed a flask of alchemist’s fire and while the gnarled vine wouldn’t burn11, it did advance – and animated the courtyard’s thick underbrush to reach up and grab them. Inspired by Spear’s bardic performance, Olena hit the assassin vine with a ray of enfeeblement, but the grasping vegetation fouled both Eshah’s somatic gestures and Bluss’ aim. All except Torg struggled to pull free12 and backpedaled; the fighter’s reflexes had kept him free of the entanglement. The tide quickly turned: Olena blasted the monster with glitterdust, Bluss’ shot and Eshah’s flameball13 both struck true, Spear buried an arrow deep into the center of the vine, and Torg crushed it under an overhand smash. The ground vegetation returned to normal.14

The wooden door – seemingly of original construction and beautifully carved – was barred, but Torg shouldered it open and stepped inside. The walls and most of the roof were intact; the wooden floors inside had long since collapsed and rotted away. From beside the door, a slender elf with a deformed toothy face and pale green, woody skin adorned with scar-like patterns, wearing a black and red loincloth, slashed at Torg with a clawed hand. The fighter felt dizzy from the wound and staggered backwards. Olena afflicted the creature – a grimstalker – with ill omen; Eshah greased the stones under its feet; it slipped and fell prone before climbing up the interior wall.

Spear cured Torg’s wound and the fighter followed Olena and Eshah back inside; the sorceress dismissed her conjured hazard. Still unsteady from the creature’s poison, Torg’s polearm missed the grimstalker as it crawled down to slash at Olena. The witch also felt a wave of vertigo, and her slumber hex was ineffective on the monster. Spear, recognizing the grimstalker as an evil fey, drew his greataxe as he and Bluss also crowded into the tower. Eshah’s flameball struck the monster in the throat15; Bluss’ double-barrel shot further injured and blinded the fey – but in the close quarters, the flare shot also dazzled the gunslinger and witch.

Torg struck the grimstalker as it scrambled back up the wall, hanging on despite hitting a new patch of the sorceress’ grease. The fey slipped through a hole in the tower’s roof and started yelling in a language none of the half-orcs understood.16 While Spear cast heroism on Torg, Bluss reloaded, and Olena scanned the tower for magic, Eshah cast stone call through the grimstalker’s escape hole; the rain of rocks pounded the tower’s roof and the shouting fey, and also fell on the sorceress.

The half-orcs raced back out into the courtyard; the grimstalker had climbed down to the top of the keep’s outer wall and continued to shout toward the top of the central tower. Eshah staggered the creature with a flameball and Bluss’ bullet further wounded it, but it continued to ignore them and yell. An enchanted bolt from Torg’s crossbow missed,17 as did Spear’s arrow, but a second flameball from Eshah ended the grimstalker.

While the others searched the grimstalker’s lair, Eshah scanned for magic in the direction the creature had been yelling; the sorceress detected illusory walls at the top of the central tower, an elegant spire of ivory-colored stone and the most complete structure in the entire fortress. They decided to rest before facing whatever watched them from that vantage; on the way out of the keep, Eshah loudly bluffed “we’re never coming back here!” They made camp several miles away and used both mundane and magical methods to treat the effects of the grimstalker’s poison, but their efforts still left Torg dizzy. Rather than using their last scroll of lesser restoration, they rested a second night to be sure the fighter was fully restored.

The explorers returned to the ruined keep, which appeared the same as they had left it. The ground floor of the central tower was open on both sides to a wide chamber with an impressive vaulted ceiling. The hall’s floor was crafted of smooth stone tiles in multicolored pastel hues; the walls were decorated with faded frescoes of sylvan life, showing scenes of beautiful elves engaged in hunting, feasting, dancing, singing, and a bewildering variety of other idyllic pursuits.18 A graceful, filigreed stone staircase, garlanded with flowering vines, climbed to the level above.

Seconds after they all entered the great hall, the room filled with a cloying, violet mist. Eshah and Bluss shook off the effects of the insanity mist, but it filled the others’ heads with maddening visions of dark, moonless nights; twisted, malignant trees; and hot, steaming rivers of blood. After collectively composing themselves, Bluss scouted to the top of the staircase – and stopped. Eshah moved up behind him, but the gunslinger wouldn’t move or respond to her.

Spear started an inspiring oratory and covered the rear as Olena dashed up the stairs, pushing past Eshah and Bluss. The circular room featured wide windows draped with handling vines that offered panoramic views of the keep courtyard and the forest beyond. The walls between the windows were carved with exquisite, delicate nature motifs highlighted in gold and silver leaf. A riot of flowers, plants, and bushes sprouted from the thick loam that carpeted the room’s floor.

The room’s other occupant was similarly striking: an alluring, graceful elven woman with alabaster skin, golden hair, and emerald green eyes, wearing a flowing white gown of archaic elven style, tied at the waist with a blood-red scarf – and she danced.19 The rhythmic swaying and movements had clearly captivated Bluss and nearly entranced Olena, but the witch fought off the enchantment, in part because she knew what the Dancing Lady was: a fairy vampire known as a baobhan sith.20 Olena yelled back to warn her comrades in orcish, “charmer with a lust for blood up here!”

The Dancing Lady spoke calmly to the witch: “The Queen of Forgotten Time will never let you rule this land.” Then her soothing voice took on a tone of magical compulsion: “You shall leave here now… and leave your friend.” Olena ignored the suggestion. Eshah moved into the room; she resisted the baobhan sith’s captivating dance, then turned and slapped Bluss hard. The sorceress growled in frustration when it had no effect, then in exasperation when Spear reached the chamber and promptly fell under the Dancing Lady’s spell.21

Olena glared at the baobhan sith with an evil eye and cackled to extend the hex; the vampire responded with a rhythmic sweep of her arm and the half-orcs again found themselves entangled by living vegetation. Eshah cast grease, but the fairy kept her feet.22 Olena struggled forward, casting ill omen and threatening the Dancing Lady, who stopped her dance to rake the witch with vicious claws. Bluss and Spear regained their senses as Torg finally arrived, greeted by entangling plants. Olena backed up to heal herself and the baobhan sith restarted her dance – but Spear began a loud discourse on the evils of vampiric dancing that distracted him and his allies from the enthralling movements.23

Torg pulled free of the entangling plants and charged the Dancing Lady, giving Bluss a clear shot with both barrels. The flare dazzled both his target and the fighter, who missed with his attack. Olena continued to hex the baobhan sith; Eshah’s flameball missed as the vampire pounced on Spear, tearing his throat with her claws.24 Torg’s, Eshah’s, and Bluss’ follow-up attacks connected, but Spear’s axe swing didn’ t25; the deceptively strong Dancing Lady pinned the bard and buried her gleaming fangs deep into his neck, draining his blood. Spear’s eyes rolled back as he went pale and limp.

The fairy vampire dropped the dying bard and smiled wide with bloody fangs and wild eyes. “You’re all going to be mine!”

Bluss and Eshah missed with their attacks as Olena magically stabilized Spear, but Torg stepped up and drove the spike of his lucerne hammer through the Dancing Lady’s chest, lifting her off her feet and pinning her to the stone wall.26 She spat blood and her final words – “The Queen will curse you!” – left the fighter magically weakened.27

Olena healed Spear back to consciousness. After decapitating and burning the baobhan’s sith’s body in the courtyard, they decided to recuperate in the very defensible tower. That night, they saw swarms of rats flooding out of the unexplored northeast tower. Before the rodents returned, they searched the tower and, finding nothing of value, torched the rat nests with alchemist’s fire.

While several days’ rest cured the effects of the insanity mist, Torg’s magical weakness did not improve. Olena hoped that the Old Beldame had the necessary knowledge to remove the curse, so they traveled through the witch’s swamp on their way back to Redemption. The Old Beldame was in a good mood, having just harvested “the perfect pumpkin” to use as the head of the new scarecrow she was crafting, but still only permitted Olena, Bluss, and Torg inside her hut. The witch was able to remove the Dancing Lady’s dying curse, and even promised Olena that she would let Somber teach Olena’s scorpion the spell when they had gained enough power.28

1 Including to the consorts – it’s good to be the king!

2 This earned a +2 bonus the kingdom Loyalty.

3 The Old Beldame’s familiar was a raven named Somber. After using a Feral Speech hex to speak Olena’s greensting scorpion, the crone asked if Olena wanted to know its name. Olena said “it will tell me when it’s ready.”

4 The Old Beldame had a healing patron.

5 IIRC, that’s the Tuesday special at Arby’s.

6 There was much table debate re: whether they should kill this asshole in his sleep. It ultimately came down to the fact that he was engaged in unrepentant banditry, which was – until they as kingdom leaders chose to change it – a crime punishable by death. I suspect the delay would’ve been much shorter if Grabthar had been there.

7 Curiously, I don’ recall any concern with putting down the lion – probably because it nearly ate Torg.

8 This is actually a gunslinger class deed called utility shot: stop bleeding. “That’ll wake you up in the morning, boy!”

9 “Loading!”

10 Something about her polishing his musket, probably.

11 Assassin vines have fire resistance.

12 Eshah greased herself. Ahem.

13 ASSASSIN VINES HAVE FIRE RESISTANCE. Sheesh.

14 At some point during this fight, Chuck had to leave for the airport, and Kris played Bluss for the rest of the session. Chuck was the clear winner of this Geekend’s “most travel time for least game time” award.

15 CRIT!

16 Aklo is the language of derros, inhuman or otherworldly monsters, evil fey, and other losers.

17 Flashing back to Rides-with-Death attempting ranged attacks.

18 Ahem.

19 “And oh, how [she] danced…”

20 Pronounced baa’-van shee. Really, look it up!

21 I found it hilarious that the male characters were rendered immediately useless by the “hot stripper vampire” but the female characters weren’t. Granted, the baobhan sith’s captivating dance ability specifically notes that “Creatures that are sexually attracted to females who view this dance suffer a -2 penalty on their saving throw” – but per Derek, that also applied to Eshah. Ahem.

22 And the beat!

23 Bardic performance: distraction FTW!

24 Crit happens. The dice were extreme in this fight.

25 Matt really wanted to land his fey bane greataxe and spent a Hero Point ahead of the roll for an additional +8 on the attack, but still missed.

26 After a whole weekend of uncharacteristically bad rolling, Shawn rolled a natural 20 to hit and a natural 20 to confirm the crit on this, the final attack roll of Geekend 8.

27 Shawno then rolled a crap Will save, spent a Hero Point, and rolled another crap Will save on this, the final saving throw roll of Geekend 8.

28 “That’s two you owe me, junior.”

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Chapter Two - Geekend 8 (Friday)
Chuck arrives

Eshah, Olena, Spear, and Torg started clearing the bandits’ bodies and searching the fort. To their surprise, Akiros had survived – especially impressive since the Stag Lord had shot him with a human bane arrow. They took the wounded bandit’s weapons and gear – which included a holy symbol of Erastil at the bottom of a belt pouch – and tied him up before healing him back to consciousness. Spear questioned him and learned that Akiros was an ex-paladin with a tale of unmet expectations, unexpected rage, and unfortunate decisions1 – but despite his rise to be the Stag Lord’s second in command, he’d come to realize that the life of a bandit was hollow. So when he saw a chance at redemption, Akiros turned on the Stag Lord.

The adventurers believed Akiros and offered to support his path to atonement by delivering him to Jhod Khavken at the cleric’s restored Temple of the Elk. Akiros agreed, and wept with gratitude.

In addition to the bandits’ gear – including the Stag Lord’s magical stag helm and set of magical leather armor that included cloak, gloves, kilt, and boots, but left the chest bare2 – the explorers discovered the fortress’ hidden cellar which held a stockpile of the bandits’ ill-gotten goods: pelts, furs, tobacco, iron, bronze, tools, weapons, armor, jewelry and coins. Akiros was able to identify one of the dead bandits as Falgrim Sneeg, for whom Kesten Garess’ reward poster was still posted at Oleg’s.

Bluss returned as they inventoried and secured the loot for their eventual return with a wagon. The gunslinger had been unable to locate Zac, Grabthar, and Ten Thousand Skies, and suggested that the group return to Oleg’s, which they did after fully exploring the countryside surrounding the fortress.

Back at the trading post, Oleg delivered the wands of cure light wounds and scrolls of burning hands3 the half-orcs had ordered, and collected the reward of two masterwork weapons from Kesten for killing Sneeg. Bluss also visited Bokken and purchased the 50 paper cartridges the alchemist has crafted for the gunslinger.4 The half-orcs settled in, hoping their missing comrades would soon turn up.5

Which they did! Within a few days, the druid, barbarian, and ninja also arrived and the entire party was reunited.6 Then a new charter arrived from the Swordlords of Restov:

Book_2_charter.jpg

The colonization charter was followed by a shipment of gold, tools, craftsmen, laborers, and colonists eager to make a new life in a new kingdom.7 The half-orcs decided to establish the first settlement around the fort they had just seized from the Stag Lord. They spent the next month working with their new subjects to prepare the surrounding land for settlement and then established the town of Redemption as the capital of their new kingdom, which they named Sazerac – which means “redemption” in Orc.8

They decided on their leadership roles for the new kingdom:

  • Eshah as Ruler;
  • Ten Thousand Skies as Councilor9;
  • Torg as General10;
  • Spear as Grand Diplomat;
  • Olena as Magister;
  • Bluss as Marshal;
  • Grabthar as Royal Enforcer11; and
  • Zac as Spymaster.

They also recruited Jhod Kavken as High Priest (though the kingdom would not have an official religion), Oleg Leveton as Treasurer, and Kesten Garess as Warden, and declared their intent to have a leadership council to include representatives of other eventual citizen groups (e.g., fey and kobolds). They appointed Fork to the position of Royal Chamberlain.12

The Sazerac leaders spent the next [bunch of] months focusing on growing their kingdom, adding and improving settlements and expanding to the north with the goal to eventually reach both Oleg’s Trading Post and the Temple of the Elk. During this period:

  • After making arrangements to sell the trading post, Oleg and Svetlana Leveton moved to Redemption so Oleg could focus on his new leadership role, while Svetlana was happy to assist Fork in managing and distributing supplies and provisions to the colonists. After several months, the Levetons shared the joyous news that Svetlana was pregnant.
  • Kesten Garess also moved to Redemption after promoting one of his soldiers to his old command at the trading post, appointing another as captain of the Redemption city guard, and putting the third in charge of training new recruits to defend the growing kingdom.
  • Jhod Kavken initially split his time between Redemption and the Temple of the Elk, which had seen a significant increase in worshippers. The cleric eventually moved to Redemption full-time to address the worship needs of its citizens, and left Akiros to oversee the Temple of the Elk. According to Jhod, Akiros had re-embraced the teachings of Erastil, was in control of his rage (though the ex-paladin/ex-bandit refused to carry his sword), and was making progress on his path to atonement.
  • The half-orcs were approached by a ruddy, friendly, and energetic man named Loy Rezbin. He and his wife Latricia already had plans for a village deep in the Narlmarches, where Loy’s cousin, Corax, had told him of a promising location close to a ford on the Skunk River where, until recently, a clutch of tatzlwyrms dwelt.13 Loy asked for support to get this village started, which the half-orcs granted. The Rezbins founded the village of Tatzlford soon after, with Loy as its mayor.
  • With the goal of establishing (and influencing) a strong market for magical items in the kingdom, Olena asked Bokken if he would be willing to move to Redemption. With Fork’s help, the eccentric gnome happily packed up his supplies and moved to a nearly-identical hut that had mysteriously sprung up on the outskirts of the new town.
  • The half-orcs visited many of the people and creatures they had encountered in the region, hoping to get their support for the new kingdom and, in particular, their proposed leadership council:
    • Pervilash and Tyg-Titter-Tut were very nervous about the notion of “more bigginses” in their forest, but trusted the half-orcs – though they wouldn’t promise not to keep pranking.
    • Garuum was still very territorial about his home, but he had become friendly with Jhod Kavken at the Temple of the Elk (Jhod was teaching Garuum more Common, plus the boggard’s pet slurks enjoyed lounging in the sacred pool) and was now more receptive to the idea of more neighbors.
    • Chief Sootscale was initially skeptical, but once they assured him that his tribe would keep control over their negotiated territory even as part of the kingdom, the kobold leader became supportive – and even moreso when the half-orcs mentioned the possibility of helping the kobolds restart and manage operations in the silver mine the Sootscales occupied.
    • Corax was benefitting from the expanding colonization; he now managed numerous logging crews and was becoming a prominent player in the regional economy. While Corax was thankful for the kingdom’s support of his cousin Loy, he scoffed at the idea of a leadership council that included fey. It was apparent that the lumberjack’s success had only emboldened his anti-fey attitude.
    • Jubilost Narthropple indicated that the Narthropple Expedition would continue until they found the ancient dwarven outpost, but then he and his fellow gnomes would be happy to settle in the region. (In fact, several of the gnomes had already abandoned the expedition to settle in Redemption.) Jubilost also volunteered to serve on the leadership council; he noted that he was surprised that they hadn’t appointed him marshal of the kingdom since, “as an explorer of such repute,” he was clearly the most qualified for the role. Luckily, Bluss had already stopped listening.
  • The half-orcs decided to do something about Nettle’s Crossing, the remnants of a rope bridge over the Shrike River which they had left alone on their first visit, but which Jubilost Narthropple had subsequently described as a “haunted crossing.” When then returned, they rang the rusty bell that hung by the signpost. Davik Nettle’s rotting body climbed from the rubble downstream and made its inexorable way across the river’s surface, walking over the to confront them. After a stalemate battle, Davik finally said “You are not my tormentors; I seek vengeance on the Stag Lord.” The heroes explained that they had already slain the Stag Lord, but the vengeful undead required proof. They returned again and threw the Stag Lord’s stag helm into the Shrike, finally putting Davik to rest. His magic weapon, Nettle’s Wrath, washed up onto the shore, a final gift from the grateful undead.
  • A lumberjack named Stas, who worked for Corax, claimed to have seen an elusive hodag and to have stuck it with his magic spear. His friends thought he lost his spear in the river and made up the hodag sighting to cover up his clumsiness. The lumberjack asked the half-orcs to kill the hodag and help resore his honor.
  • While Bluss was visiting a tavern in Tatzlford, a flirtatious waitress named Lily Teskertin commented to him that she’d always loved the workmanship of fine elven crafting but had never owned an example of such superb work. She’d heard rumors of an old elven ruin in the southern Narlmarches; if anyone could find the ruins and salvage from them example of elven workmanship, she would be ever so grateful.
  • A local fisherman named Arven asked the leaders to get rid of a semi-legendary ill-tempered hookjaw turtle called Old Crackjaw that had recently claimed Arven’s secret fishing hole on the east bank of the Tuskwater.
  • Rumors grew of troll sightings in the south. Bokken excitedly noted that if he could get his hands on troll blood, he could test his theory that trolls’ blood could serve as a catalyst during the creation of healing potions.
  • In the wake of stories of a dragon hunting the southern Narlmarches, a wanted poster went up seeking the death of the monster – which was more likely (hopefully) a forest drake than a true dragon.
  • A boy went missing. Young Tig Tannersen had always been a handful, and his hobby of collecting “pets” from the wilds along the riverbanks of the southern Greenbelt had placed him in danger many times. But after the boy had been missing for several days, his distraught parents sought help from the leaders. The Tannersens blamed Tig’s disappearance on the legendary Swamp Witch.

The boy’s disappearance was just the excuse the half-orcs needed to resume their exploration of the southern Greenbelt. Zac, Ten Thousand Skies, and Grabthar were away on kingdom business, so Spear, Olena, Torg, Eshah, and Bluss packed their gear14 and headed south along the eastern shore of the Tuskwater. They soon found a stretch of the shoreline that rose up above the water, presenting a swath of 40-foot-high cliffs topped with stinging nettles which limited access to the water below. They found a hidden trail that led through the nettles and down a cliffside trail to a secluded pool at the Tuskwater’s edge. After finding large turtle tracks and determining this to be Arven’s fishing hole, the explorers decided to move on and return to deal with Old Crackjaw when their druid was available.

The explorers found no evidence of the missing boy along the eastern shore of the Tuskwater or the Gudrin River, so they circled back north to Redemption and then down the lake’s western shore, where the terrain eventually turned swampy. In the middle of a fetid marsh, they came upon a dilapidated mud-brick hut atop a small hummock, a thin tendril of bluish smoke trickling from a crooked chimney. A waist-high wooden fence surrounding the perimeter of the mound was festooned with crude fetishes crafted out of sticks, feathers, and animal bones. A rusted iron bell hung from a hairy length of rope tied to a crooked post next to the only gate, which hung askew. Midway between the gate and the hut’s door, a huge pumpkin-headed scarecrow was propped up on a wooden post. A lone crow cawed from the top of a nearby cypress tree.

They rang the bell; nothing happened. The half-orcs deferred to their own witch, who walked through the gate. The scarecrow’s eyes glowed and it lurched to life and moved swiftly toward them. Its entrancing gaze and fearsome blows took their toll, but the heroes’ combined attacks destroyed the construct. Olena called out toward the hut with threatening diplomacy15; in reply, the door cracked open and a field of rubbery black tentacles burrowed up from the wet ground and grabbed at them. Bluss put a warning shot in the doorjamb, but the tentacles only retracted after they had squeezed Olena unconscious. “Take her and go,” shouted a harsh female voice, presumably the Swamp Witch.

While Spear healed Olena, Eshah called back: “We will go, but others will come. We need to know if you have the child.”

“Go away! I don’t take children!”

Spear chimed in. “Do you know anything about the missing boy? We can help you rebuild your guardian if you wish.”

“Just go!” The door slammed shut.

They left a pouch of coins to cover what Olena estimated would be the cost to craft a new construct and turned to leave. As they passed the gate, the door cracked open again. “How old is the boy, and how long has he been missing?”

“Not yet ten, and nearly a week,” said Olena.

“He must be very afraid…” the voice said, trailing off. Then, stronger: “The Candlemere spirits feed on fear.” The door closed again.

The explorers continued southwest toward Candlemere Lake, which was notorious for being haunted: eerie tales of strange lights dancing upon the waters, blood-curdling cries from what could be lost souls, and mysterious sightings of shapes rippling in the lake’s dark waters. The island in the middle of the lake was particularly prone to these strange lights, especially at its low summit, where a lonely tower stood.

They arrived at the lake and spent several hours searching the northern shore for any evidence of the missing boy, but found no trace. Just before sunset, the half-orcs approached a pair of fisherman who were hauling their small boats up on the shore. After scaring the poor fisherman off16, they rowed out to the island and disembarked.

As the approached the tower, which was a crumbling ruin, Spear, Torg, and Bluss were shaken by the sense that something unseen was watching and that they were distinctly unwelcome. Spear used his bardic magic17 to put Torg at ease. They entered the ruin – suddenly a glowing ball of light appeared and shocked Eshah with a touch before vanishing again. Olena made the creature visible and blinded it with a glitterdust spell, Eshah’s flameball wounded it, and Bluss blasted it to pieces. Several of the half-orcs had heard of such creatures, but by different names: will-o’-wisps, corpse candles, walking fires, spooklights.

Eshah cast a cantrip to detect magic18, hoping it might reveal any more of the creatures. She did detect a moderately strong aura on the other side of the tower, but two will-o’-wisps appeared close by, jolting Spear and Olena. A long fight ensued, as the creatures would appear just long enough to electrocute their victims and then vanish again. Eshah cast see invisibility from a scroll and directed her allies’ attacks. Olena dozed one with her slumber hex, giving Torg the opening to crush it. The witch determined that not only were the creatures immune to many spells; they were also feeding on Bluss’ and Spear’s fear to heal themselves. Luckily, Eshah’s flameball conjuration and Olena’s hexes continued to be effective, as were the fighter’s polearm and the gunsligner’s musket. Boosted by Spear’s bardic and melee support, they eventually slayed the remaining will-o’-wisp.

They quickly located the magic aura Eshah had detected: a cursed dagger19 buried under a pile of rubble. They stashed it away with the intent of asking Jhod Kavken what should be done with it, then returned to their stolen boats and set up camp so they could search the rest of the island after sunrise. However, after being attacked by another will-o’-wisp during first watch20, they decided to row the boats back to the lakeshore.

After sunrise, the half-orcs searched the island but found no trace of Tig. They rowed back to shore, where they tried to return the boats to the terrified fishermen who were hiding at the edge of the nearby woods. Eshah was able to smooth things over,21 and even got the men talking enough to mention that a group of lizardfolk laired on a small island a few miles up the Murque River.

The explorers easily found the island: a low, muddy hummock protruding from the middle of the widening river, surrounded by a palisade of outward-facing, sharpened wooden stakes with a simple wooden gate on the eastern side. Inside, tendrils of smoke rose from a handful of mounds clustered around a single larger mound. From the shore, Spear loudly announced their presence.22 He repeated his introduction in several languages; when he used Draconic, a lizardfolk peeked over the palisade and yelled “go away!” Spear continued in Draconic, explaining their intent. When the bard mentioned the missing boy, the lizardfolk signaled for them to wait and soon emerged from the gate and swam across the river to meet them.

The reptilian, named Frek, explained that the boy was a prisoner on the island. The lizardfolk had captured him and initially planned to eat him, but their chief, a lizard king called Vesket, had decreed that the child should not be eaten because the Spirit of Stisshak, a revered ancestor of Vesket that regularly appeared to the chief, had told Vesket to instead keep the boy as frightened as possible. From Frek’s description, the half-orcs suspected that the “spirit” was actually a will-o’-wisp taking advantage of the superstitious lizardfolk to feed on the child’s fear. Vesket had been exposing the boy to new horrors daily, but the child’s cries of fear were starting to erode the resolve of some of the lizardfolk. When pressed, Frek became more apologetic and agreed to help them rescue Tig, but only if they promised to kill Vesket and Stisshak23 so Frek’s family and friends would be safe.

Frek described the basic layout of the island and its occupants, which included (starting closest from the gate): two huts occupied by familes; Vesket and his pet blood caimans24 in the large central mound; several consorts in the harem (only accessible via tunnel from the chief’s mound); a few Narlmarch muggers25 in the kennel; a half-dozen braves in a mound decorated with colorful geometric patterns; and a small “spirit hut” where Vesket communed with Stisshak.

They agreed on and executed a plan: after nightfall, Frek tied shut the kennel and then he and several other lizardfolk helped the adventurers cross the river and enter the gate. After Spear magically dried Bluss’s weapon and ammunition,26 the half-orcs passed the family huts. Spear inspired the group and Eshah made Olena invisible; the witch and Torg were first into the chief’s mound, where they were attacked by a pair of vicious blood caimans. The others rushed in to assist after Bluss’ flare shot and Eshah’s stone call slowed the lizardfolk braves as they emerged from their own hut. The half-orcs combined attacks, including multiple slumber hexes and sleep spells, killed the blood caimans, but only after Olena also nearly died from their grappling bites.

Spear healed the witch back to consciousness as a third blood caiman crawled from a muddy, half-flooded tunnel in the floor, followed by a giant reptilian warrior that could only be Vestek. The lizard king whirled his wicked trident in a bewildering and demoralizing show of prowess. However, the intimidation faded quickly as Vestek promptly fell asleep under Olena’s hex and then fell dead under Torg’s coup de gras.27

Back outside, Eshah rained down more conjured stones and killed the braves,28 but not before one of them released the muggers. The sorceress killed one of the muggers with a snowball29 before retreating inside. The remaining two muggers raced into the hut; Olena noticed that the door flap moved a third time. The witch’s glitterdust spell not only blinded both lizards but also confirmed her suspicions by highlighting the invisible Stisshak, who was indeed a will-o’-wisp. The lizards fell quickly, but Stisshak was far sturdier than any of the creatures they had fought at Candlemere Tower. After an extended battle that nearly killed both Eshah and Bluss, the will-o’-wisp retreated out the hut’s chimney hole and disappeared into the night.

Eshah went through the flooded tunnel to the harem, where three female lizardfolk surrounded Tig, who was chained to the wall. Despite their lack of shared language, Eshah’s words carried sufficient intimidation to make the consorts drop their weapons and back away from the boy, who the sorceress freed and sought to console.

1 Akiros’ full story is here.

2 They saved it for Ten Thousand Skies since it so perfectly matched the druid’s topless chic.

3 Olena’s scorpion successfully ate/learned the spell. Yuk.

4 Chuck also realized that he could make his own alchemical ammo even more cheaply. Even so, gunslinging is spendy.

5 And they leveled up to 4TH!

6 But not really. Christian, Jason, and Robert were all greatly missed.

7 This amounted to 50 Build Points.

8 There is some debate among linguists as to whether it translates more accurately as “redemption” or “retribution.”

9 Ten Thousand Skies was reluctant to take any leadership position, but after seeing the pelt of the thylacine he had rescued from a pit trap being sold by a hunter, he realized that he had to use his influence to help maintain balance between the natural land and the rapid influx of civilization.

10 Kneel before Torg!

11 All laws will begin with “By Grabthar’s hammer…”

12 Which means he still does everything he did for them before, but now can hire staff.

13 The party killed those tatzlwyrms in Chapter One.

14 Notably, Bluss was excited to use his new +1 double-barreled musket.

15 “We only want to talk – for now.”

16 Olena knocked out one of the fisherman with a slumber hex and seemed surprised when the other ran away screaming. The witch is terrible at Diplomacy.

17 Specifically, remove fear cast from a scroll.

18 Specifically, detect magic. What did you expect?

19 A wickedly-curved +1 dagger that gains the human bane weapon quality for 24 hours whenever it is used to kill a human with a coup de grace action. The dagger imparts a negative level on any nonchaotic wielder as long as it is carried – which is why the nonchaotic Olena gave it to Eshah to carry.

20 Olena and Bluss had first watch. When the will-o’-wisp appeared and shocked Bluss, Olena immediately put it to sleep with her slumber hex, then Bluss did a point blank coup de grace with both musket barrels – one of which was loaded with a flare cartridge, which dazzled both Spear and Torg, who had just opened their eyes.

21 Half-orc cleavage is still cleavage!

22 “Denizens of the city of the Murque, I am Sha’ak Spear Bardelay, Grand Diplomat of the new kingdom of Sazerac…”

23 He was consistently referred to by the party as “Shit Sack.”

24 If Ten Thousand Skies had been there, he would’ve explained that the blood caiman was a northern variety of crocodilian with black scales and a reddish head.

25 If Ten Thousand Skies had been there, he would’ve explained that the Narlmarch mugger was a giant lizard native to the Narlmarches and the Hooktongue Slough to the west.

26 Prestidigitation FTW!

27 This was totally Indiana Jones shooting the swordsman in Cairo.

28 Seriously, Derek cast this spell four times in a row.

29 Derek cast this one five times in a row. Stick with what works!

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Chapter Two - Geekend 8 (Thursday)
Chuck's delayed again?

Eshah, Spear, Torg and Bluss returned to the north shore of the Tuskwater, hoping that Ten Thousand Skies, Grabthar, Olena, and Zac would be waiting there to join them in assaulting the Stag Lord’s fort. They found only the witch.1 After meeting the bard (and identifying the broken greataxe he carried as a +2 fey bane weapon), Olena explained that her group had captured several bandits deep in the Narlmarches. Through Zac’s interrogation, they had learned that the Stag Lord was recruiting for an imminent attack on Oleg’s in response to his bandits’ defeats at the trading post and the Thorn River camp. They agreed that Olena would go to the fort to convey that information to the other group while Grabthar, Zac, and Ten Thousand Skies continued to hunt bandits to obtain additional intelligence on the timing of the planned attack and the current bandit passphrase that might enable them to infiltrate the fort.

While watching the fort, the half-orcs decided that they could only risk waiting two full days; if the others didn’t arrive by then, they would attack the fort without them.2 Bluss set out to find the spy, barbarian, and druid – but he also failed to make it back in time.3 Unable to come up with a feasible plan to bluff their way into the fort, Eshah, Olena, Torg and Spear decided on a nighttime frontal assault. The plan hinged on an enlarged Torg getting through the gate, which he successfully unhinged.

Once inside and inspired by Spear’s bardic performance, the half-orcs mowed through the bandits with spells, hexes, and steel. Even the huge lummox of a man called Auchs fell quickly – first to Eshah’s grease spell, then under Torg’s lucerne hammer. When the roguish bandit known as Dovan attempted to open a large gate inside the fort, a well-armored bandit named Akiros Ismort turned first on Dovan and then, after tearing the silver stag head amulet from around his neck, on the Stag Lord himself. The bandit lord dropped Akiros with a deadeye arrow to the chest and Dovan opened the gate – and an owlbear emerged!

To the bandits’ surprise, the enraged beast tore Dovan to pieces and then charged the Stag Lord, who retreated deeper into the fort. The owlbear attacked the half-orcs; their combined efforts finally brought down the monster. They then searched for and ultimately killed the bandit lord as he tried to flee the fort.4 Victory!

1 Olena joined the Geekend 7.1 characters at 3rd level!

2 The assault couldn’t wait until June 2016.

3 Chuck’s plane was delayed ridiculously.

4 The party’s defeat of the Stag Lord took nearly as long as it took Chuck to get off the ground in Chicago.

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Chapter One and a Half - Geekend 7.1
Matt joins the party

While back at Oleg’s Trading Post, the party discovered that they had satisfied another recently-posted bounty – to remove the threat of the Sootscale kobolds from the Kamelands, either by slaying them or forging an alliance of peace with them – and added the 800 gp reward to their coffers. They also received a new charter from Restov: the Stag Lord is wanted dead or alive, and the explorers will be rewarded greatly if the bandit can be removed from power.1

The party decided to split up into two exploring groups to hopefully accomplish two things: first, locate the Stag Lord’s fort, said to be on the north shore of Tuskwater Lake; second, find a still-unrepentant group of bandits and capture at least one of them alive to hopeful gain more intelligence about the fort and its denizens. Fork added that he expected the last of their chartered group – a half-orc bard – to finally join them at Oleg’s within a day or two. Merdezaco, Ten Thousand Skies, Olena and Grabthar set out southwest into the Narlmarches, while Eshah, Torg and Bluss awaited the bard’s arrival.

The next day, Sha’ak Spear Bardelay arrived. “Spear” was quite striking due to his tremendous height (6’10”) and charismatic presence. The greataxe strapped to his pack provided an unexpected edge to the actor’s polished theatrical flair. After introductions and stocking up on healing potions and alchemical supplies (antitoxin and alchemist’s fire), the group headed south to continue exploring the Kamelands south of the Shrike River.

As the explorers moved west, they fought off a stalking attack by a trio of wolves led by a worg.2 Spear recalled local stories of Howl-of-the-North-Wind, a ferocious worg that stalked the Kamelands and had been eating bandits and hunters for years. Eshah remembered seeing that name on a wanted posted at Oleg’s, so they loaded up the worg’s body and rode back to the trading post. Oleg offered them a credit against the eventual payment of the 1,200 gp reward.

Before heading back south, they visited Bokken, where they bought additional healing potions from the eccentric gnome and Bluss intrigued the alchemist/tinkerer with his musket (“I haven’t seen one of these in years!”) and requested that Bokken craft paper cartridges for him.

They returned to exploring and soon spotted the Stag Lord’s fort in the distance: several wooden watchtowers and a squat stone tower surrounded by a high wooden palisade at the top of an exposed hillside. They traveled north to the crossing where the Thorn River joins the Shrike, then stopped to harvest more fangberries for Bokken. (The thicket was still home to many chew spiders, but not enough to swarm this time.)

The explorers moved south again before heading west along the Skunk River to continue mapping new territory. They encountered a group of gnomes led by a flamboyant explorer named Jubilost Narthropple. While making camp, the group had been attacked by a band of kobolds (which Eshah later confirmed were not Sootscales). The gnomes managed to drive them off, but not before the kobolds caused a lot of damage and panicked two ponies that were still hitched to the gnomes’ supply wagon. The ponies had rushed into the river, where the wagon swiftly became lodged in the muddy bottom. The powerful currents threatened to wash the wagon, its cargo, and the ponies downstream. After being collectively enlarged by Eshah’s magic, the party was able to free the ponies and save the wagon. The gnomes cheered and offered to share a meal. After Spear healed the wounds the kobolds had inflicted on Jubilost Narthropple, the gnome explained that the group – the “Narthropple Expedition” – was surveying and mapping the Stolen Lands, looking in particular for an ancient, abandoned dwarven outpost rumored to be located in the region.

Spear spoke at length with Jubilost, who eventually warmed enough to exchange information about the areas each group had explored. Spear learned the locations of rivers, lakes, and crossings in the southern Kamelands, as well as several specific locations/dangers:

- a tribe of lizardfolk laired to the west of Candlemere Lake along the Murque River
- a crumbling stone tower rising from an island in middle of the Candlemere
- a strange, wide pool of bubbling mud 5 miles east of the Candlemere
- a hidden crypt southeast of the Shrike River (in an area the party had previously explored)
- the howling of wolves south of the Shrike (“Not a problem anymore,” replied Spear)

Jubilost also identified several locations the party had already found: the fangberry thicket, the Stag Lord’s fort, the old sycamore [mite lair], and the ruined rope bridge bearing the sign “Nettle’s Crossing” – which Narthropple referred to as “the haunted crossing.”

The party continued west and came upon a delicate situation where the Skunk River widened into a deep pool: a standoff between a group of freelance loggers who had felled several trees on the shore of the pool and a nixie who, after unsuccessfully trying to scare them off, had magically charmed two of the lumberjacks into defending her. The leader of the loggers, a gruff man named Corax, recognized the party as “those half-orcs we’ve heard about” and sought their help in “getting rid of that damn fairy bitch so we can do our honest work.” The nixie, Melianse, claimed that she asked them to leave (“those trees had been growing here for 200 years and deserved a better fate than serving as some grubby peasant’s slop table”) but was forced to charm two of them when Corax threatened to hang her from the nearest tree “to drip dry.”

Eshah and Spear brought their considerable diplomatic skills to bear. Corax insisted that he be able to take his lumber (“this is rare coachwood”) and that the “fey bitch” release his men; Melianse wanted the loggers to leave her glade and provide reparations in the form of new mature trees. The party convinced both sides to accept the deal by taking on the obligation to replace the trees themselves. As the men helped the loggers cart away the lumber, Melianse conveyed a whispered message to Eshah: “The dryad to the northwest may help you.”

They continued exploring the Narlmarches and, to the northwest, encountered a dryad druid named Tiressia (also a Weather domain druid; she asked about “the stormy one” that was missing from the group) and her consort, a gruff, bow-wielding satyr named Falchos. Tiressia begged for their help in slaying a hideous monster called a scythe tree that was wreaking havoc in the forest in exchange for a handsome reward. Once the scythe tree depleted the surrounding area of prey, it would surely come to her grove, kill her tree, and devour her. The party agreed to help and Tiressia gave them direction to the scythe tree’s lair: a blighted hollow 10 miles south.

The party located the clearing, strewn with bones. Bluss’ keen eyes spotted what he thought was the immobile scythe tree amongst the withered trees at the perimeter and fired a shot into it, but nothing happened until Torg moved closer and the monstrous plant lunged, slashing with its scythe-like branches. Repeated hits from Torg’s polearm and Bluss’ firearm did little against the thick bark, but Eshah’s staggering flameballs (with bardic and alchemical assistance from Spear) quickly ended the carnivorous plant. After locating the monster’s buried treasure trove (which included a cloak of resistance), they hacked the dead tree to pieces, keeping several scythe branches and burning the rest in a blazing bonfire.

They returned to Tiressia’s grove, where the dryad not only rewarded them with magical treasure – goodberries, healing potions, a scroll of summon nature’s ally II (saved for Ten Thousand Skies), a wand of cure light wounds, (WOOHOO!), and six feather tokens (tree) – but also promised to aid them in guarding the Narlmarches and keeping them updated about threats within its borders.3 Upon hearing the details of their encounter with Melianse and the loggers, Tiressia described the location of an untouched grove of coachwood trees near the river crossing where explorers had found the tatzlwyrm lair.

The party mapped the surrounding areas before delivering the feather tokens to Melianse and assisting the nixie in placing the new oak trees. Melianse said they had honorably satisfied their part of the deal, and gladly agreed to keep an eye out along the Greenbelt’s rivers for any trouble or rumors of danger.4 The party then tracked down Corax to inform him of the location of the second coachwood grove – and to subtly remind him to keep up his end of the bargain with Melianse.

Before returning to Oleg’s (and presumably reuniting with the rest of the party), the explorers decided to seek out the hidden crypt for which Jubilost Narthropple had provided a location at the eastern edge of the Kamelands. They found it: a crack in the side of a hill that led into the barrow mound’s interior. After finding the first hexagonal chamber filled with hundreds of bats that swarmed when they entered but did not pursue them back out into the sunlight, Spear noted that the nocturnal creatures would likely leave after dark to hunt, so they waited. The bard’s knowledge of nature was correct, and they proceeded through the guano-carpeted chamber.

The next hexagonal chamber bore three more passages between four large monstrous faces, carved from stone, leering from each of the walls. Spear identified the faces as representations of the four winds, incarnated as malevolent elemental spirits. A skeleton was also sprawled facedown in the middle of the room. Bluss skirted the perimeter, inspecting the stone faces and looking into the chambers down the other tunnels: those to the side each held six biers on which rested skeletons holding broken scimitars; in the room ahead, a withered corpse wearing tattered armor and holding a broken greataxe laid in state atop a single catafalque.

Eshah detected a faint conjuration on the sprawled skeleton’s finger: a magic ring. As Bluss stepped closer to inspect it, the four faces seemed to inhale deeply, then breathed out black tendrils of mist that sapped the gunslinger’s strength.5 Before they could withdraw, the skeletons in the side rooms animated and began to rush in. Eshah greased the stone floor, slowing the skeletons’ approach so the party’s combined attacks could destroy the dozen undead. They recovered the ring of sustenance.

After improving Bluss’ condition with a potion of lesser restoration6, they moved into the final room, where the armored corpse7 rose and charged at them in a rage. After Bluss’ musket misfired8, a strike from the broken greataxe further drained Bluss’ energy 9. The others stepped up, including Eshah’s repeated rays of flame and Spear wielding his greataxe to aid Torg’s polearm attacks. Despite a second misfire from Bluss10, the undead warrior finally fell. Bluss drained the party’s remaining potion of lesser restoration to reverse the wight’s energy drain. The party recovered the creature’s broken greataxe; it was magical but Eshah was unable to identify its specific properties.
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1 7.1 players: I didn’t actually remember to read this last sentence to you, but here it is. Also, the party leveled to 3rd!

2 Torg braced his lucerne hammer against the worg’s charge and one-shotted it with a crit dealing 58 points of damage!

3 Once you start kingdom building, this will provide a Stability bonus.

4 Another increase in kingdom Stability.

5 Bluss was exhausted.

6 Now only fatigued.

7 A cairn wight!

8 Charlie had left, so Derek rolled for him; naturally, the first roll was a “1”.

9 Bluss suffered a negative level.

10 After Derek’s disastrous last roll, Shawn took over – and rolled a “2”.

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Chapter One - Geekend 7 (Saturday)
Chuck arrives
  • A pair of ruined stone buildings in a soggy mire were claimed by a boggard named Garuum and his two pet slurks, Ubagub and Rubagub. Garuum spoke very limited Common (“You go!”) and clearly didn’t want to fight but was willing to protect his home (as were his tusked pets). Eshah was able to communicate the explorers’ diplomatic intentions well enough to forge a truce (giving the hungry boggard food helped tremendously), and they left Garuum in peace.

Before returning to Oleg’s, they visited Jhod at the Temple of the Elk to inform the priest of his boggard neighbor to the southwest, and of the statue of Erastil they had located. At Jhod’s request, they led him to the statue, where the priest cleaned the statue and then prayed before it and received his god’s blessing.1 The priest then accompanied the explorers back to the trading post so he could buy his own horse, cart, and more materials and supplies for restoring the temple.

At Oleg’s, another half-orc had arrived:

  • Bluss, the gunslinger: privy to the thundering secret of the black powder, this mysterious musket-wielder dealt in bullets and grit.

The explorers traded their loot to Oleg for healing potions and Zac’s new composite short bow, and placed an order for healing wands. After reading the latest wanted posters – one from Oleg seeking the head of a tatzlwyrm (oops!) as a conversation piece and the other from a retired hunter seeking the head of a “monster boar” known by the locals as Old Tuskgutter – the explorers set out the next morning to continue their mapping of the eastern Narlmarches and soon came upon the tracks of a dire boar that led back to the creature’s lair in a hollow under a large fallen pine tree. The half-orcs set an ambush and, with Bluss’ added firepower, easily defeated Tuskgutter. They took the monster pig back to the trading post where Oleg agreed to deliver Tuskgutter’s head and collect the reward on their behalf, and also to try to sell the beast’s hide to a local tanner (“Some folks ‘round here might like owning somethin’ made from Old Tuskgutter”). Svetlana and Fork butchered and cured the rest of the giant pig’s meat, setting aside enough for an ample feast of roasted pork.

The party resumed their exploration, finding:

  • A wounded and hungry brush thylacine, or “blood cougar,” that had fallen into a trapped pit. While investigating, the edge of the pit collapsed and Ten Thousand Skies also fell in; the druid quickly used an enchantment to magically befriend the animal, which they healed and freed.
  • Moving east into the Kamelands, a thicket of fangberries infested by several swarms of chew spiders. They drew out the swarms and managed to disperse them by exhausting their wand of burning hands, then Ten Thousand Skies (whose stride was unimpeded by the patch’s thick thorns) harvested several bushels of the rare berries for Bokken and Svetlana.
  • A rickety wooden bridge that crossed the Thorn River across a deep gulch. Bluss determined it too unsafe to cross with their horses and wagon, so they followed the Thorn southeast until they found a shallow ford just before it emptied into the Shrike River.
  • Four dead mites, who appear to have been ambushed by kobolds. The kobold tracks went cold, but the mites were following a clear trail that led the party to a 100-foot tall graying hulk of a tree – a local landmark known as the Old Sycamore. They got off the trail and waited until night fell, then Zac crept ahead to scout. He saw a group of mites appear from among the ancient tree’s roots and scamper down the trail. The explorers all approached the tree and discovered the hidden entrance to tunnel leading underground. They waited for more mites to emerge, or for the first group to return; when the latter occurred, the mites scattered and ran as soon as they spotted the gathered half-orcs. The explorers decided to eradicate the mite threat and entered the cramped underground hive, killing dozens of mites, numerous giant scorpions (which the mites apparently raised as pets), a giant whiptail scorpion2 that nearly killed Olena, and a giant tick-riding mite leader.3 They also found a captured kobold who had been tortured by the mites; Zac slit its throat before it said a word. They looted the hive (notably finding an ivory statuette depicting a crouching horned devil), salvaged the whiptail scorpion’s mandibles (for Oleg), destroyed the centipede hatchery, and returned to the wagon to camp and recuperate from the assault.

After delivering the fangberries to Bokken, who rewarded them with a substantial discount on potions for a month (they immediately bought a pile of healing potions), they returned to Oleg’s Trading Post after 9 days. Oleg happily purchased the mites’ gear (they kept the statuette), took their order for several scrolls of burning hands4, and sold them more potions, but the gruff merchant was unimpressed by their presentation of the giant mandibles (he really had his heart set on a tatzlwyrm head).

The explorers continued south through the Kamelands, finding:

  • The thick, sagging rope – the abandoned remnants of a rope bridge – spanned a narrow reach of the Shrike River. A signpost at either end of the soggy rope read “Nettles’ Crossing – 5 coppers – ring bell for service.” A rusty bell hung by each sign. They neither rang the bell nor attempted to cross the river; instead, they followed the Shrike downriver to the known ford and then traveled back north to resume their exploration. Where the ruined bridge met the south bank, they found the crumbled remains of a burnt-down wooden building slowly being overgrown by encroaching vegetation.
  • They spotted a reddish-black kobold standing guard by an outcropping of large boulders emerging from the weathered face of a nearby hillock. The kobold spotted them and, after hesitating for a few moments, called out “Wait, wait – I wanna talk!” The kobold was named Nakpik and asked if the half-orcs could help recover his tribe’s special magic statue (“Old Sharptooth”) that was recently stolen by the mites, with whom the kobolds were at war. He invited them into the caves (a fallen sign leaning near the entrance bore the faded words “Oaktop Silver Mine”) to speak to their shaman about a reward for retrieving the statue – Nakpik’s description of which matched the ivory statuette they already possessed. They passed several other red-black kobolds in the caves before entering the chamber of the shaman, a purple kobold named Tartuk. The chamber held the tribe’s treasure, which included Svetlana’s wedding ring, and was watched over by an annoying talking raven called Tickbiter. Eshah and Olena negotiated with Tartuk, who was well-spoken but clearly untrustworthy, and agreed to retrieve the statue from the mites in exchange for several magic items, Svetlana’s ring, and the kobolds’ staying within a limited territory [basically, that hex]. Before leaving the caverns, they also spoke with the tribe’s chieftain and former leader, a red-black kobold named Sootscale. Chief Sootscale clearly worried for his tribe under the leadership of Tartuk, who only recently arrived and convinced the tribe of the magic of Old Sharptooth, and that the statue’s theft has cursed the tribe. Believing Chief Sootscale to be genuinely concerned for his tribe’s well-being, and trustworthier than Tartuk, the half-orcs agreed to hand the statue over to Sootscale instead if he would honor their agreement with Tartuk. They returned the next day and presented the statue to Chief Sootscale, who smashed it, yelled “Kill the usurper!” and led a kobold revolt that ended with the deaths of Tartuk and Tickbiter. Chief Sootscale graciously delivered the goods and promised to honor their negotiated border.

They returned to the trading post and delivered the recovered wedding band to Oleg, who was profoundly thankful and rewarded them with a generous merchandise credit. He also gave them the reward for Tuskgutter’s head – a masterwork longbow (which they promptly sold back to Oleg) and a half-dozen +1 animal bane arrows.
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1 This actually cast keen edge for a week on all piercing and slashing weapons within 60 feet of the statue, but I don’t think it actually factored in to any rolls for the rest of the weekend.

2 Our first Huge opponent!

3 After Zac’s first use of the vanish ninja trick stymied the leader’s first attack, Bluss’ first crit blew the mite’s head clean off – “LOADING!”

4 Swarms are a pain in the ass.

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