Posts made in March, 2016

PrinceCon 41: Lascaux/Shiang/Vosgod recaps

There were a series of intertwined runs involving these countries.

 

“To meet all the best people” [Lascaux]

Fri 05:14 PM — Sat 12:06 AM

Cast

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Azareth, Catfolk Mage

Damneron, Human Cleric of Mavors

Dr. EV Tin, Hobbit Cleric of Aru

Dracik, Dwarf Hero

Fyerdenn Sil, Perrin Hero

Rhynnel Aren, Perrin Cleric of Gaia

Tim, Human Guardian

Background

The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey.  Their mission was to deliver to King Clovis of Lascaux an invitation to Queen Nayla’s Masquerade.  Concurrently, they were to spy upon the Lascaux Court in order to see if dissent can be sown between Clovis and King Ferdinand of Hesperia, subtly slander Queen Mare in order to prevent her marriage to Prince Francis, and keep their eyes open to any opportunities or dangers.

What happened

Newcastle to Montalban

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Sailing out of Newcastle under ambassadorial colors, the party made good time until they were attacked at night by pirates near Cadiz.  Dracik, on
watch, woke the party, but by the time they made it abovedeck, pirates had boarded and several sailors were down.  Dr. EV used a massable heal to stabilize the sailors, and Dracik went berserk and started cutting down pirates.  When the pirates realized Queensguard were present, they tried to flee, but Tim and Rhynnel made it across the boarding plank before it could be pushed into the water.  Dracik also attempted to cross, but under the effects of a Hallucination, misjudged the location of the plank and fell into the water; fortunately Damneron was ready and successfully tossed him a rope.  Fyerdenn sent his own rope across to the pirate ship after they cut the ties, then tightrope-walked across to start attacking pirate archers from behind.  The party recovered 3 chests of gold.  Interrogating the captain, they learned:

  • The gold had been taken from a Hesperian galleon

  • The pirates made their base on an island near Brava (marked to report to the Queen)

Though it would slightly slow their progress to Montalban, the party chose to bring the captured pirate ship and prisoners with them.

Montalban

The party was met at the docks by Sir Geoffrey, the Nassau courtier to Lascaux.  Unfortunately, in Lascaux, one cannot simply announce one’s self and gain access to the King.  Worse, Sir Geoffrey reported he had been unable even to present himself before the King in some weeks, much less speak to Clovis.  Instead the Lascaux King had been closeted with the Hesperian ambassadors and Queen Mare of Jum.  The party made several attempts to work their way into se

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eing the King:

  1. Since their prisoners had stolen from Hesperia, the party turned the pirates, and one chest of gold, over to the Hesperian ambassadors.  The Hesperians replied by inviting them to breakfast the next morning… in the public square where the pirates were hung for their crimes.

  2. Fyerdenn and Azareth sought “employment” within the castle and found a server who might have been able to get them in… until he was found murdered one morning.  Questioning the dead body:

    1. Didn’t know who had killed him

    2. While serving in the rooms where Clovis, the Hesperians, and Mare were (oddly, Prince Francis was not often present), he saw they were looking at maps of the continent, and

    3. In discussion Queen Mare was insistent that she should be Regent of Nassau

  3. Dr. EV and others sought rumors in the Aru temple and throughout the city…

    1. As Sylvania shrinks, Jum (Queen Mare’s country) has room to grow

    2. The wedding between Mare and Francis would likely be in Lascaux, not Jum.  This was against custom, but not scandalous

    3. Mare and Francis were childhood friends

    4. There were many disparate notions of relations between Lascaux, Jum and Hesperia (much of which was scandalous)

  4. Tim, while carousing, got into a fight with the dangerous duelist Tomas, an expatriate of Hesperia (and unbeknownst to the party at the time, in the employ of Queen Mare).

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Their efforts were noticed by the Queen Mother Catherine (Hesperian by birth, a distant cousin to Ferdinand), who sent them an invitation to her salon.

My dear delegation of Nassau, I have heard nothing but the most amusing stories about your adventures in this fair city.  It would please me greatly if you would grace my salon with your presence, so long as your jester behaves himself.

Upon arrival, the Queen Mother asked the party for their contribution to the salon.  Tim played the lute, and Azareth belly danced.  The Queen Mother introduced the party to her grandson, Prince Francis, and they gifted him with the captured pirate ship in Nayla’s name.  He was bemused by this, for he didn’t possess a ship of his own.  Dracik then offered to arm wrestle the Prince, who was saved from responding by the dwarven courtier Ivan Sinalvit (and undiscovered by the party, the last of the royal house of Vosgod).  Catherine was sufficiently charmed by the barbarians from Nassau that she arranged for an audience with King Clovis.

The following morning, Azareth and Dr. EV “accidentally” bumped into Prince Francis as he was inspecting his new ship, and they spoke winningly of Nayla’s wit and personality, and her interest in meeting Prince Francis.

At the audience with Clovis, the party delivered the invitation to the masquerade, and after a short time waiting in Sir Geoffrey’s apartments, learned that Prince Francis would sail back with them to Nassau on his own ship.  Once in Nayla’s court, Francis became entranced with the Queen, and stayed near her person for the rest of the Con.

“The Most Dangerous Game” [Shiang]

(Note: this run was GM’d by John Kliminski)

Fri 8:00pm – Sat 6:00am

Cast

Alizar, fey mage
Bert, perrin cleric (Gaia)
Gadric Bitterstorm, epon guardian
Scalk Ferisone, cat mage
Sgt Dredge, perrin cleric (Gaia)
Zaroth, elf hero

What happened

The Queensguard were sent to deliver an invitation to Queen Nayla’s Grand Masquerade to the new Governor of Shiang. A Hesperian ambassadorial ship paralleled them and suggested that they sail together to reduce the risk of pirate attacks. The party warily agreed and the ships kept a cautious distance apart.

During the night half of the Nassau crewmen attempted to murder the Queensguard. The cutthroats confessed that they had been paid by a fey in Newcastle to hire aboard this ship and make sure that the ambassadors did not reach their destination. (That fey was one of the Kjallintar cultists, acting under the direction of Queen Mare of Jum who was trying to prevent Nayla from gaining allies.) The party decided to use magic wind and the cover of night to break away from the Hesperian ship.

The next day they saw a cargo ship to the south, heading in the same direction as they were. That ship suddenly exploded, blasted into splinters and debris. The party retrieved a lone survivor (a lookout who had been in the crow’s nest) and learned that the ship had been ready to set sail from the North Shore bound for Byrsa when it was suddenly commandeered by an ambassador from Lasceux to detour to Shiang. There was a typical load of goods and passengers aboard (which included goblin merchants from Vosgod carrying a concealed super-weapon – which accidentally caused the explosion – to offer to the ruler of Byrsa).

At the port in Shiang the Queensguard and the Hesperians’ paths converged again. Both groups were brought to the palace and introduced to the Governor. The party made a good impression for Nassau and politely badmouthed Hesperia. The new Governor seemed to be of interest to all the countries, as Byrsa and Sylvania had also recently sent envoys to make his acquaintence (Vosgod had simply sent goblin merchants to broker an arms deal). The Governor offered his guests to join in a hunt for the occassion. All four delegations were escorted to a forest preserve and positioned around the perimeter. The Governor informed them that they should hunt the other ambassadors, with the survivor demonstrating their fitness as an ally. In the forest the Queensguard decided to organize an alliance with the Byrsans and the Sylvanians to kill the Hesperians, and then exit together without any more bloodshed. As the suggestion to hunt their peers had actually been a test of character in the first place, the Nassau representatives proved themselves not only willing to refuse to kill for gain but also capable of reasoning with the other groups. Impressed, the Governor sent back his reply that he would attend the Masquerade.

“Art of the Deal” [Vosgod]

Sat 12:26 AM Sat 06:09 AM

Cast

Bushmills, Elf Hero of Carrunos

Connemara, Fey Hero of Carrunos

Jameson, Fey Mage of Hione

Krischi Drumpf, Perrin Hero of Ratri

Liam Silverbeard, Human Hero of Mavors

Shideem, Fey Mage of Gaia

Silas Silvertear, Fey Cleric of Aru

Tullamore Dew, Hobbit Cleric of Aru

Fun fact: Tullamore, with 13, had the highest strength in the party.

Background

The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey.  Their mission was to travel to Vosgod and investigate the offers of weapons coming out of that country, see if any other buyers were present, and report back.  Vosgod had once been a monarchy, but the ruling Sinalvit family had been wiped out in a revolution some years ago.  The Iron Council now led the country, but details on the individual members of the Council were few.

Commenting on the mission and the makeup of the party, Liam Silverbeard noted, “It’s too bad we have no Daglir worshipers.  We’re short a lot of things.  We’re short.”

What happened

Because tensions were high with Hesperia, and concerns about the time to sail around the continent (and pirates), the party decided upon an overland route.  They chose to skirt the eastern border of Jum and travel through the little-known land of Permyuton, which was largely populated by Catfolk emigres from Shiang (and points further west in the Empire of Cats).  About a day into their overland travel, the party was approached by some Catfolk hunters, who did not speak Nassau.  Silas Silvertear cast Comprehend Languages in order to act as interpreter for the party.

A representative of the Catfolk asked if the party would you like to join their hunt, and after discussion (during which all but two of the Catfolk began moving off), the party responded that they probably didn’t have time to distract from their mission.  “Two days,” the Catfolk replied.  Silas tried again to explain that they didn’t have two days to spare — “We will give you two days head start,” the Catfolk interrupted.  The party now began discussing whether to try to kill the Catfolk *now*, or lead them into a trap, or just try to outrun them.  The two remaining Catfolk started to move off, and Jameson began to prep Fireball.  Hearing him begin to cast, one of the Catfolk hit him with an arrow, while the other warned Silas, “Two. Days.”

The party thus began a desperate, multi-day, cross-country chase where Liam Silverbeard exhorted them to try a number of tactics:

  1. Alternately taking great care to cover their traces for a few miles, followed by traveling in a different direction so that they zig-zagged across the land,

  2. Capturing some local fauna and tying some of their own scent-marked clothing to said fauna, leading to the following exchange when Connemara was confused about the details of the plan:
    “No, we’re peeing on the clothes that we’re attaching to the pheasants, not on the pheasants.”
    “What does a pheasant look like?”
    “It looks like a wet chicken.”

  3. As the party prepared for one last push, the Fey were sent off to light campfires in opposite directions, and then make a beeline for the safety(?) of the Sylvanian border.

The party made it under the canopy of the border forest just ahead of the pursuing Catfolk, who dared not hunt inside Sylvanian borders.  The party wisely chose not to tread too deeply into the forest, and headed south to Vosgod.  Eventually they came upon a dwarven logging camp that appeared to be harvesting entwood as well as regular wood.  The loggers were protected by dwarvish soldiers in full plate and prepared for an attack from the Sylvanian patrols.  The party debated whether to skirt the camp entirely, during which Silas Silvertear was pointedly asked, “Didn’t your nonviolence almost get us killed?”  When it was decided that they would get directions and rumors from the dwarves here, Bushmills hid his ears as the party warily passed signs in the logging camp that declared: “IT’S A DISGRACE TO YOUR HERITAGE.  MAKE WEAPONS.  KEEP ANGRY AND CHOP AN ELF TO BITS.”  (Clearly, the party deduced, Sylvania would not be buying from Vosgod.)

They made their way to the town of Tallin, and met with “The Don” of the Iron Council, noting that a Hesperian delegation was leaving as they were entering.  The Don was the shortest dwarf the party had ever met, though to all appearances, he was a dwarf.  He made no secret of the fact that everyone wanted to buy his weapons, which Vosgod was happy to provide, but he also wanted to assure the delegates from Nassau that his country had not abandoned all “peaceful crafts.”  To this end, after showing the party rotating, rapid-firing ballistas that could be mounted on a ship, repeating crossbows, and a substance that looked like coal crushed to a fine powder and was highly flammable, the Don brought them to a shop where a dwarf was hard at work on a box-like time telling device they called a “clock.”  The party marvelled at this, and Liam, who had Knowledge of Celestial Navigation, immediately understood that with these “clocks” on board, ships of Nassau could more accurately navigate the open seas.  The Don, who had never been to sea, didn’t understand why the Nassauns were so excited, but he was happy to take the party’s assurances that Nassau would be very interested in putting these clocks in all their flagships; along with the ballistae, of course.  In exchange for assurances that Vosgod would sell to Nassau before Hesperia, the party agreed to secure an invitation to the Queen’s Masquerade for a member of the Iron Council who would bring a gift for the Queen.

“The Clocks of Vosgod” [Vosgod]

Sat 09:50 AM Sat 12:28 PM

Cast

Alizar, Fey Mage of Leo

Bert, Perrin Cleric of Gaia

George of the TBone, Human Cleric of Carrunos

Lumbr, Jack, Dwarven Hero of Leo

Ozymandias, Fey Mage of Janda

Ushan DeLucca, Catfolk Hero

Background

The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey.  Their mission was to deliver the invitation to the Queen’s Masquerade to the Iron Council, secure the first shipment of weapons from Vosgod, and bring the chosen ambassador from the Iron Council safely to Nassau.

What happened

With the intelligence gleaned from the previous mission, the party chose to take a longer overland route that skirted the western border of Jum.  Along the way, they met groups of dwarves building a road north from Vosgod to the coast of the Inner Sea, from where they could more easily ship their weapons wares.  The party also heard rumors of continuing skirmishes between Vosgod and Sylvania.

The party is escorted into Talin with an honor guard, showing the friendship of the Iron Council and Nassau.  In Talin, they noted that everyone is not happy — there is an undercurrent of discontent, and even some rotten vegetables thrown during the procession.

The Don of the Iron Council met with the party and discussed the trade deal.  They inspected repeating crossbows, “clocks”, discs filled with the fine powder that explode when you step on them.  The party also brokered “first rights” to the ship-based ballista in exchange for discovering the leaders of a local group of malcontents.

The party managed to contact a local cell.  The leader of the cell claimed that the Iron Council is really a group of goblins!  Worse, in the undercities of Vosgod, goblins had been slowly working to impoverish and enslave the dwarves.  The counter-revolutionaries could not unite under a common local leader, but at the time of the revolution, a baby cousin to the royal line was smuggled into Lascaux.  That baby was Ivan Sinalvit.  The party promised he would be found and brought back to Vosgod to lead the counter-revolution.

Though, in the eyes of the Iron Council, the party was unable to solve the problem of the counter-revolutionaries, they were more concerned with getting their representative and gift to the Masquerade.  They sailed back to Nassau under Vosgod colors with an initial shipment of clocks and prototype ballistae.

 

“Crashing the party” [Nassau]

(Note: this run was GM’d by John Kliminski)

Sat 1:30pm – 4:00pm

Cast

Johan Gombalsnorf, human mage;

Krumbo Krumbo Krumbo, human hero;

Ozymandias, fey mage;

Ushan DeLucca, cat hero;

Verrah Markann, perrin cleric (Aru)

What happened

On the day of the Grand Masquerade the Queensguard uncovered a plot to assassinate Queen Nayla during the party. They detemined that a number of fey (Kjallintar cultists) and eponai (agents of Queen Mare) had been replacing some of the regular workers in the ballroom and using their jobs as a cover to prepare for a ritual of vengeance in the attic above the main hall which would strike down Nayla below. When their plan was discovered the fey fought berserkly to the death for their cause and the eponai withdrew to report back to Mare for hers. The security breach led to the decision to relocate the Masquerade from Newcastle to a secret site in Blackpool.

Backstory

The chain of islands which became the Kingdom of Nassau were originally inhabited entirely by fey. As pirates began to appropriate the islands for their own purposes, the indigenous fey were squeezed out. The fey embraced the worship of Kjallintar, the scourge of wrath and retribution. Throughout the rise of the Kingdom that sect continued in secret. When Queen Mare was seeking allies against Nassau she discovered the cult and worked with them. Among their efforts, her agents helped the cult to implement a plan to assassinate Queen Nayla at the Masquerade. The Queensguard became aware of the cult when they foiled that attempt. All the cult followers were then rooted out by the Nassau guards and the leaders were tracked down by the Queensguard.

“The Governor’s Gift” [Shiang]

Sat 01:20 PM Sat 04:04 PM

Cast

Azareth, Cat Mage of Ratri

Barrett, Fey Cleric of Gaia

Fyerdenn Sil, Perrin Hero

Gadric Bitterstorm, Epon Guardian of Gaia

Rhynnel Aren, Perrin Cleric of Gaia

Scalk Ferizone, Cat Mage of Gaia

Zaroth, Elf Hero of Mavors

Background

The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey.  Their mission was to escort the governor of Shiang, who had received death threats, back to Nassau for the Masquerade.

What happened

The party shipped out on a Nassau galleon newly equipped with Vosgod ballistae and clocks.  They arrived in Bhind without difficulty and met the Governor at the far side of town.  He claimed to have been receiving anonymous threats, but otherwise seemed unconcerned as they progressed through town.

As they neared the docks, Fyerdenn noticed a person on a rooftop, and went to investigate.  It was a cloaked human (unbeknownst to the party, Queen Mare’s duelist Tomas) watching the party, and as he spoke into his hand, the Nassau galleon exploded outward, pieces of wood flying everywhere, fortunately without the party on it.  Fyerdenn heard Tomas curse “Damn, too soon.”  Fyerdenn then tried to steal the device used to communicate, but is discovered and gets into a running melee down to street level.

Meanwhile, the party commandeers the nearest “merchant vessel” flying a Nassau flag.  Azareth Dimension Doors the party to get there without exposing the Governor to missile fire.  Fyerdenn has to run for it, catches a rope, and is pulled aboard the sloop (“You just invented water skiing!”).  Upon closer examination, the “merchant” and his crew appear to be little more than pirates or smugglers, leading to the following exchange.

Governor of Shiang: Can we trust them?

Fyerdenn Sil: We can trust them with your life, but not with your luggage — so it is a good thing we left your luggage.

The “merchant”, Captain Clam, was promised amnesty for his help, while Azareth sent Messages back and forth to Attuned mages in Nassau to arrange for an escort ship of the fleet.  They were rerouted from Newcastle to Blackpool; apparently the Queen was in danger and the Masquerade was relocated to the Secret Court.

In the Secret Court, the Queen agrees to meet with the Shiang Governnor.

Governor: Would you consent to Nassau being the easternmost of the territories of the Empire of Cats?  You would be showered with gifts and foremost amongst the rulers of this continent.

Queen Nayla: You had other questions?

Governor: If you would accept a proposal for marriage, what would you ask as a gift?  The head of King Ferdinand?  Money?  Troops?

Queen Nayla: Troops.

The Governor plans to offer his grandmother’s ring to Queen Nayla at the Masquerade.

“That Idiot Ivan” [Lascaux/Vosgod]

Sat 05:30 PM Sat 10:28 PM

Cast

Astraea, Fey Hero of Gaia

Barrett, Fey Cleric of Gaia

Cecil Wallis, Human Hero

Damneron, Human Cleric of Mavors

Noelani, Perrin Hero of Gaia

Stede Avery, Human Hero

Zip, Fey Cleric of Gaia

Background

The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey.  Queen Nayla had determined that Nassau’s interests might be best served with a destabilized Vosgod, so the party’s mission was to travel to Lascaux and retrieve Ivan Sinalvit, with the intention of returning him to lead the counter-revolution against the Iron Council (or, if he seemed completely unsuitable… eliminate him).  According to the latest intelligence, Ivan was at the Queen Mother’s country home in the plains of Lascaux.

What happened

Prince Willard of Orcrange helped disguise the party as pilgrims to avoid Hesperian patrols as they made their way through the North Shore to the border of Sylvania.  There, they asked the elven border patrols for (and received) permission to travel along the edge of Sylvanian lands, until the could come to Lascaux around the southern end of the mountains.

Using the powers of Gaia (Zip transformed as an eagle and providing aerial reconnaissance for the party), they easily avoided detection in the countryside and made it to the Queen Mother’s estate.  Damneron, having been to see the Queen Mother before, talked their way past the Epon guards to the steward.  They put on a show for the Queen Mother to get to talk to the Prince.  He said that his claim to the throne needs to be proved by The Forge of the Underkings (or, more accurately, the hammer, chisel, and tongs of the Underkings), artifacts of the Sinalvit family that Ivan believed were destroyed in the revolution.

Damneron asked Ivan, if the artifacts could be found, would he seek the throne of Vosgod?  Although he had never lived primarily among his own kind, Ivan felt that his time under the Queen Mother’s protection was limited, so he may try to retake the throne.  He asks the Queen Mother for advice.  Each of the clerics performed an Augury and the answers lead them to believe that the artifacts exist.  Ivan returns to the party and declares he will seek the artifacts; for the Queen Mother has told him–

Suddenly the Queen Mother is attacked and killed by Tomas, Queen Mare’s duelist, who seems to also have a grudge against Stede Avery.  Several of the Epon guards appear to be on his side, but the party defeats them.  The party beat a hasty retreat, for fear of Nassau Queensguard being discovered with the Queen Mother of Lascaux and a number of her guards massacred.

– Ivan said that the Queen Mother told him to go to Count Frontenac in Terra Nova, and release Whitebeard.

“Prison Break”

(Note: this run was GM’d by Chris Cavendar)

Sat 10:33 PM  Sun 01:30 AM

Cast

Astraea, Fey Hero of Gaia

Barrett, Fey Cleric of Gaia

Cecil Wallis, Human Hero

Damneron, Human Cleric of Mavors

Noelani, Perrin Hero of Gaia

Stede Avery, Human Hero

Tim, Human Guardian

Zip, Fey Cleric of Gaia

George, Human Cleric of Carrunos

What happened

[the following is a transcript of the player notes]

After taking Ivan back to Nassau, we head to Nova Lascaux and the lands governed by Count de Frontenac.  Barrett uses Augury to find out that Whitebeard is in Nova Lascaux, and the Count de Frontenac knows how to find Whitebeard.

On the journey to Nova Lascaux we encounter storms and lose 2 sailors.  As we head toward the Count’s territories, the lands look poor, crops are stunted.  The land is too sick to support the life on it — probably a curse.

We find a road to a guarded gate with a block house attached to the gate.  The yellow & black uniforms on the guards show they are troops for the Count.

George and Tom try to go through the gate, it becomes a huge screw up.  We go back to the small town which is not far from the Count’s lands.  We talk to people about the Count and we are told he is a monster and is not liked by people.  We are also told he lives in a prison.

Some of the players turn into birds and explore the Count’s lands.  They find that the lands get worse as you move toward the center.  34 miles in they find a volcano.  The volcano has a lake in the center.  The prison is built on the lake.  The last thing they saw was a magnificent hallway that had a doorway that did not seem to go anywhere.

[note: players needed to break at this point; this is where we stopped]

[GM note: a later run recovered a map to the artifacts from Whitebeard]

“Mare, Queen of Hell” [Jum]

Sat 10:50 PM Sun 05:03 AM

Cast

Alizar, Fey Mage of Leo

Bert, Perrin Cleric of Gaia

Dr. Odde IV, Human Mage of Mavors

Lumbr, Jack, Dwarven Hero of Leo

Ozymandias, Fey Mage of Janda

Squidlli, Cthuloid Cleric of Aru

Ushan DeLucca, Catfolk Hero

Background

The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey.  Queen Nayla had determined that Mare, Queen of Jum, had become such a menace to the security of Nassau that it was time to bring her in.  Their mission was to capture Mare and return her to Nassau.

What happened

The party that went to capture Mare included three mages and a Gaia cleric.  The Nassau Intelligence Bureau informed them that Mare’s flagship had left Montalban and was heading home to Jum, so the players planned to use a submarine captured from some Kobold pirates to do a high seas D-Door snatch and grab.  As the ship passed above them, Ozymandias cast Locate so they could cast the D-Door with pinpoint precision.

Me: “You do not Locate Mare.”

Alizar: “Maybe there’s a Veil on Mare.  I cast Locate [in the hopes of winning the LvL battle].”

Me: “You do not Locate Mare.”

Bert: “Maybe this is a decoy.  Augury — oh, Gaia, is Mare on that ship?”

Gaia: “No.”

Dr. Odde IV (who was loaded with Strong Magic): “Hm… Sometimes Auguries can go astray.  You know what?  I’m just not comfortable with dropping this line of investigation until I’ve tried.  I cast Locate.”

Me: “You do not Locate Mare.”

PRINCECON, where ignoring the advice of the gods happens.  Apparently it was a decoy that was seen boarding the ship.

They sail the submarine upriver and note pleasure barges and coaches on their way to Queen Mare’s Castle Weymiss.  A bit of reconnaissance revealed there would be a ball that night.

“Even better, a masked ball.”

“Yeah, we look like things.”

The party accosted some lesser nobles, took their clothes and invitations, and successfully entered the castle.  Lumbr put his name on Queen Mare’s dance card, for their plan at this point was to have Lumbr dance her into a D-Door, but as he took the first few turns, Lumbr realized that this was the decoy again!  He stumbled and fell, risking the wrath of Mare’s guards, but otherwise keeping the mission safe.

Shortly thereafter, everyone began to go mad, part of a huge ritual spell being cast in the dungeons.  The party found their way down and battled their way to interrupt the casting and capture Mare.

“Return of the Underkings” [Vosgod]

Sun 10:30 AM Sun 03:00 PM

Cast

Ademar Diaz, Human Guardian

Basil Sweetgrass, Epon Hero of Mavors

Cecil Wallis, Human Hero

Damneron, Human Cleric of Mavors

Stede Avery, Human Hero

Stormcloud, Cat Guardian of Leo

Thully Ravaw the One-Handed, Fey Mage of Ratri

Background

The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey.  Their mission was to help restore Prince Ivan Sinalvit to the throne of Vosgod.  From Chris’s runs, they had a map to the Hammer, Chisel, and Tongs of the Underkings, which would prove Ivan’s claim.  They were located in a tomb of a sorceress of Lapp.

What happened

The party went to get the artifacts first.  In their words:

We take the same route that we took to o find the Prince the first time, until we need to turn south.  We go to a fishing village and buy a small sloop + crew.

The trip to the location of the artifacts is uneventful *except* we see a Vosgod tunneling machine digging under the narrow straits between Vosgod and Lascaux to bring invading troops.  [GM note: the party debated whether to investigate, especially considering that they might need to do some digging at the site of the artifacts, leading Basil to quip, “Pardon the interruption of your clandestine invasion.  Could we borrow your transportation?”]

We travel to the tomb, casting Pathfinder (to find our way back).  The artifacts appear to be buried almost 100’ below the ice, but we find some old tunnels that were used to excavate the tomb.  They are in poor shape, so we start digging to widen them.  Some ways down we encounter a magical unnatural cold.  Dispel Magic does not rid it.  Further down we find a hole with a 30’ drop to slush, where the magical unnatural cold appears to end.

Damneron casts Detect Traps and discovers there is a trap in the slush.  Using a magic coin, we trigger the trap, which causes the cold to return and the slush to freeze solid.  It appears that you would get stuck in the slush and the cold would kill you.  Using flight, Basil explores the tunnel, flying above the slush.  He finds a room with a sarcophagus and detects “Evil” within the room.

The party enters the tomb and battles some ice monsters.  The ghostly undead sorceress inhabiting the tomb offers the artifacts (which “do not belong here”) if we will take them and leave.

We take the Prince and the artifacts back to Vosgod, where he is welcomed by counter-revolutionaries.  Damneron gives Ivan a book on the History of the Nassau Isles (itself a gift from the Queen Mother), and the party returns to Nassau.

 

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PLAYER BACKGROUND

The Gentleperson’s Guide to Sylvania

The mysterious nation of Sylvania — ­­once vast and influential­­ — has retreated in recent years to its historical borders. There are many who would claim it was “beaten back” or “defeated” — ­­yet a more prudent observer might wonder if this was intended all along by our wise and elegant neighbors, whose long lives give an entirely different meaning to the phrase “long term planning.”

Visitors to Sylvania may enter that forested kingdom only by invitation­ — ­and invitations are thin on the ground in these unsettled times. I myself have not passed the borders since I was a small girl — which, of course, has not been so very long ago.

King Istvan III of Sylvania is wise, learned, and, to be honest, gentle readers­­­ — even after centuries, still the most beautiful creature ever to grace this life. Sent into the outer lands as a concubine to Dido XXVI in his youth, he has since captivated and successfully wooed a long line of rulers. In his time, he has acted as Consort in Byrsa, Lascaux, Jum, Lapp, Hesperia, and Vosgod. He brought days of unprecedented power and influence to both Jum and Lapp, drove the Byrsans out of Hesperia, and was reforming Vosgod into an artisan civilisation worthy of respect when his spouse Queen Jelena was killed during the revolt that placed the Iron Council in power. (The neverending military aggressions between Sylvania and Vosgod date from this period.) Half the region owes its most elegant and honored traditions to his influence, and rumor in Lascaux now has him preparing to court Queen Nayla I of Nassau.

King Istvan speaks charmingly of the vitality brought to his nation from outside influences, and dazzles all visitors with his stunning tree­top palaces and carefully designed treescapes. At his last visit to the royal court of Lascaux, he declared his intention to visit the invigorating islands of Nassau. When asked why he wished to visit the barely civilized isles, he smiled charmingly and quipped, “Fresh blood,” to the laughter of the entire court. The question is only if wisdom and grace can charm such a young and headstrong queen.


Every Elf PC this year was given a “Certificate of Death,” providing the future date of their death due to natural causes. This, courtesy of Sylvania. Of course, they might preempt the given date with an unnatural demise, but their lifespan could not be extended. It seems that every Elf in the world receives such a letter upon reaching their age of majority.

THE REAL STORY, PART 1

King Istvan enjoyed his first several centuries of life, but over time, enjoyed life a little too much, coming to be increasingly obsessed with his own mortality. He was well-known for going on treasure hunts, Indiana Jones-style. But what was not known was that he was not simply searching for treasure, but rather for the secrets of immortality.

Matters came to a head roughly two decades ago, when Istvan discovered a temple of Samwise, an ancient predecessor to the modern Aru religion.

SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 1: CLOSED BORDERS

It was common knowledge that King Istvan intended to propose himself as a consort to Queen Nayla, bringing his wisdom and experience to the island of Nassau. However, the Queen was somewhat concerned by the rumors that the borders of Sylvania have closed to outsiders nearly entirely. That didn’t seem consistent with the open and friendly face Istvan was putting forth. She therefore dispatched a team of Queensguard to investigate Sylvania, and report back before the Masquerade Ball.

The team crossed the North Shore and first hired a wagon to bring them into Sylvania by road. Upon reaching the edge of the forest, however, the “road” degenerated rapidly into a grooved and rutted mess, making ongoing wheeled travel impossible. The group proceeded on horseback, only to find that one or two turns later the road disappeared entirely. The forest closed in as well, with such a mass of thorny undergrowth that forward progress was nearly impossible.

Opting for a new approach, the party left the forest and made haste for a village alongside a river streaming out of Sylvania. They rented a small fishing canoe, and headed upstream. Several days of travel brought simply “more of the same” — woods on the shore and nothing particularly exciting on the river. Growing suspicious, they invoked the power to Detect North, and found it to be spinning about them. At this point they docked the boat, and attuned to a penny they left in the boat for future navigational purposes. They took off overland, and soon lost themselves in the forest. Even flying up past the treetops revealed only an endless carpet of indistinguishable treetops. At that point they Located the penny to return to the canoe, only to find that it was still at their feet.

Finally growing tired of this, they called out to whoever might be monitoring this little show. To their surprise, they received a response. Eventually they were able to talk their way into the treetop home of Lord Walnut, one of the nobles who guard the border of Sylvania. From the party’s notes:

Lord Walnut had much to discuss, though reluctant to do so. It seems relations amongst the elven Nobility had chilled, with little communication between the capital and outlying domains. Additionally, Sylvania has been suffering a few border invasions of late, that they identify as coming from Lascoux

His daughter, Elm showed us to our rooms, but seemed sad, drained. We asked, and she burst into tears. It seems for 20 some years King Istvan has had a team of advanced magicians utilizing novel magic to foretell the exact date of the natural death of all elves, informing them of this information at their age of maturity. Elm’s death was foretold as the very next day. We offered what consolement we could, then Elm returned to the company of her father.

A great cry awoke us in the night, we ran to find Walnut in violent grief over his daughter’s death. After giving him a moment’s solitude, his grief became rage. He cursed King Istvan loudly, again and again.

A disagreement ensued over these Death Certificates. The party seemed convinced they were bad, perhaps even evil. But Walnut was not completely convinced. He had, after all, been able to spend his daughter’s entire last week with her. If he had not known, he might have been out traveling, and then what? If Istvan had the power to determine these dates for all Elves, was it within his rights to withhold that knowledge? Even so, he cursed Istvan for uncovering that knowledge to begin with.

The party returned with a report that at a minimum, Istvan deserved a good bit of suspicion. Many theories were put forth as to the nature and reason behind the Death Certificates, but nothing could be substantiated without additional investigation. Walnut left the party with a magic token to enable future communication, agreed to assist them in their future investigations, and sent them back in time for the Masquerade.

SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 2: TEA WITH THE QUEEN

(This was the 5-10yo kids’ run)

As a special honor, Queen Nayla invited her Junior Queensguard to Tea with herself and her courtiers, the afternoon preceding the Masquerade Ball. During the Tea, her Steward brought a special treat: Chocolate Glazed Doughnut Holes prepared specially for the evening’s Masquerade Ball. (Perhaps you can tell there were props for this expedition…)

One of Queen Nayla’s yokel courtiers grabbed the first Doughnut Hole before even the Queen could have a bite. He was rewarded with a monstrous fit of sneezing, and promptly began to break out in violent read and green warts. (See? Always be polite and wait for the Queen to go first…)

Clearly someone was up to no good for the Masquerade Ball!

The Junior Queensguard first accused the Steward, but he had simply carried the tray from the kitchens. Then the proceeded to the kitchens where they cornered Cook, investigated the preparation area, and the space in general. They discovered several things: Cook also proclaimed his innocence, there was a (very) little green man watching from a crack in the wall, and there were traces of red and green Magic Mushrooms in the Chocolate Glazed Doughnut Hole dough and the vegetable soup.

The little green man disappeared upon being noticed, but the Junior Wizard was able to Size Change the Junior Fey to the point that she could follow. The crack led to another corridor, and she circled back to lead the rest of the party to it the regular way. This led to dusty and unused corridors under the palace, but the group was able to follow the footprints to the hideout of the Goblin King and his crew, who were busy laughing about the inadvertent trial run of the Chocolate Glazed Magic Mushroom Doughnut Holes.

The Junior Queensguard lit into them, and after a short battle, the Goblin King was defeated. He had a bag of gold and an unsigned letter on him, offering the gold as payment for creating a distraction at the Masquerade Ball.

Now under time pressure, the Junior Queensguard split up to check the Archives and the castle Post Office for matching samples. Archives: none. Inbound mail: none. Outbound Mail: the handwriting matched a letter from the Ambassador of Sylvania.

They circled back to the kitchen, whereupon Cook informed them that the Ambassador was liable to demand nuts of varying types at any and all hours of the day and night. They took several handfuls and went to confront him. The Ents at the door nearly stopped them, but were bribed with enough of the nuts to allow the group to proceed.

The Ambassador readily answered the door for a delivery of nuts, at which point the Junior Queensguard confronted him with the goblin’s letter and his own in matching hand. He denied, denied, denied, until the Junior Fey used her Faerie Dust to force him to speak only the truth. At that point, to his horror, a full confession rolled immediately off his tongue.

King Istvan had demanded that his ambassador create a distraction at the Masquerade Ball, sufficient that he could carry out his own (unspecified) plan rather than simply proposing marriage as everyone else seemed likely to do.

The Junior Queensguard shackled the ambassador and presented him and his loose tongue to the Queen, who rewarded them richly. They then agreed to watch Istvan extremely closely at the Masquerade Ball, in order to prevent him from carrying out any malicious plan even without the distraction he was expecting.

All this, of course, accounted for Istvan’s foul mood at the Ball.

SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 3: DEATH CERTIFICATES

After the Masquerade Ball, Lord Walnut contacted the Queensguard with more information on the Death Certificates. He had discovered that they were prepared in batches, and the next batch was due to begin in 10 days. He had a specific location on the edge of the Sylvanian forest (equivalently, on the border of Sylvania) where the process was to begin in the late afternoon. He had no further information.

The party made haste to that location at that time, arriving several hours early to stake out location from within the forest.

They first discovered a pair of horsemen approaching from the North Shore, bearing a sack. It soon became clear that it was a squirming sack. The sack was unceremoniously dumped on the ground near the woods, and the horsemen departed. At the same time, the woods-wise Cleric of Gaia got a vague inkling of movement approaching their position through the woods.

Then, as they say, all heck broke loose. A team of unarmed Cat ninjas knocked out the one PC they noticed, and there was a bit of confusion as various members of both sides did or did not notice the members of the other side. Eventually a proper combat broke out, with Webs, Hydras, and a Jabberwock. The surviving Cat Ninjas attempted to flee with the sack, but the party Webbed it to the ground. Only one Ninja escaped, chased by the faster and meaner Jabberwock. The Hydras meanwhile devoured the rest of the ninjas, to the frustration of the party who needed a captive.

Fortunately, the PCs were also able to chase down the last ninja, and keep him tenuously alive until the Jabberwock departed from whence it came.

The subsequent interrogation revealed that he was a simple mercenary, hired to deliver the sack from Point A to Point B. He was quite willing to cooperate for gold, and had no intention of either returning to Point B to report his failure or of attempting to backstab the PCs after they released him. His grand plan was to take his life and his gold and get the heck out of Dodge. He did offer that they were to be met in a clearing in the woods that evening by three wizards who would receive the sack, and drew a hasty map to the location.

The PCs sped off to that location, arriving shortly before the meeting. They determined that the far side of the clearing was concealed by an Illusion. Breaking the Illusion revealed a pit in the ground, sort of like a whirlpool and made of wood, with the rough appearance of natural growth and rings suggesting great age. At night, they couldn’t see much farther than the 10′ wide maw somewhat below, and retreated to stake out the clearing.

Shortly thereafter the three wizards emerged. “Hey, what happened to our Illusion?” Cue Declaration Phase…

The party magically sealed the exit to the pit and made short work of two of the wizards, while the third rocketed off into the air and disappeared into the deep woods. At that point they took one of the downed wizards captive (allowing the other to, er, expire) and retreated to interrogate the captive in the safety of a Rope Trick. (Rather fortunately, as we will see shortly, they sent the small girl they saved from the bag into a second Rope Trick.)

The captive detailed the ritual that produced the Death Certificates. It has been discovered by Istvan, some two decades ago. The Certificates were created under the light of a Full Moon, in batches of a month’s worth at a time, and the ritual was performed at a special alter forged with the Hammer, Tongs, and etc. of the Underdark, upon which a child must be sacrificed. The rest of the steps and ingredients were relatively mundane.

At this point there was another discussion on the merits of producing Death Certificates at all. The wizard seemed to think a single child was a small price to pay for all the Elves to learn the date of their future demise, such that they could complete their bucket list, put their affairs in order, spend their final time with their friends or family, and etc.

The party seemed to be of the opinion that perhaps the death of the child was not necessary to the ritual at all, and “somebody” was using the extra power for “something” (evil).

The wizard also revealed that this was the only such alter, and these the only trained wizards — King Istvan kept the knowledge very close.

At that point, one of the explosive-filled clocks that the party was carrying around with them detonated. While the Queensguard weren’t damaged beyond the power of Cure Wounds to repair, there was nothing left of the poor wizard save paste.

SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 4: THE RITUAL

Having put a stop to the ritual for the time being, but with significant open questions as to the necessity and utility of the sacrifice, the next step appeared to be to research the ritual itself. Lord Walnut was able to uncover the location of the last treasure hunt that Istvan went on — to an ancient temple of Samwise, in Nassau itself!

Knowing its nature and approximate location, the party was able to magically home in on the temple. The entrance was hidden underground, but was still relatively accessible. The PCs were able to dig free the doors, and translate the surrounding text, which mentioned Faith, Love, Hope, and Wisdom.

Upon entering, they found themselves in a small welcome chamber with decorations and statues in a very different style, but overall a reasonably familiar function. The sole door out informed them that they must have Faith to proceed.

The test of faith turned out to be a bridge over a giant chasm, complete on both ends but with a large gap in the middle. The Fey established that simply flying over it did not allow them to proceed beyond the far side. Some tests with a stick revealed that there was no floor or support in the gap. Finally the boldest, or perhaps most faithful, of the Queensguard proceeded to step into the gap without safety or backup plan, and it did indeed provide solid footing for him to cross to the far side, revealing a door leading to the test of Love.

The party was immediately ambushed by angry Orcs from a lair in the cave of Love. They correctly managed to (narrowly) resist aggression, and through a combination of hugs and Telepathy were able to appease the angry Orcs by offering a meal. Upon completing the meal together, the door to the test of Hope opened.

In the room a cold, dark pond awaited. Soon after they entered, smooth, hairless, grey humanoids began to emerge from the depths of the pond, clawing for the blood of the living creatures ahead. The party was able to pass this test as well, offering the mindless creatures warmth and therefore a measure of hope to their painful existence. At this time the door to the final test of Wisdom appeared.

This room contained a small amphitheater, sunken into the floor such that the Queensguard looked down on the center. There, they found a large and ornate altar, bearing a single envelope. Meanwhile, the room had only one exit — a large hole, hastily smashed through the wall to the side, revealing a corridor beyond.

The writing on the envelope promised the reader that it would reveal the date of their future demise, if only they would open it and peruse the letter within. The Queensguard naturally decided that the only course of Wisdom was to ignore the letter, since such knowledge could not lead to any good outcome.

At that point, the final door was revealed to the crypt of the Samwise, where their most honored priests were interred.

THE REAL STORY, PART 2

King Istvan, needless to say, did not pass the Test of Wisdom. Obsessed with life as he was, he opened the letter. The PCs later found his discarded letter, quoting a date two years from when he opened it.

Without being able to progress, Istvan broke out of the final room. And, in so doing, he found the maintenance system for the temple. From this he was able to discern the ritual that empowered the altar to generate letters — and notably to the PCs who followed his footsteps, no sacrifice was involved.

Equally importantly, he discovered the process for creating the mindless drones for the Test of Hope. This involved taking a humanoid and using a different ritual to erase its mind. When that ritual was complete, the drone would last forever, though it would require periodic infusions of “Life Force” to continue to operate. The notes also emphasized the importance of not allowing the drone to acquire a mind.

With the date on his letter giving him a specific and near-term deadline, Istvan put these pieces together. He used the Ritual of the Drone on himself with the small customization that he restored his mind afterward. He brought the Ritual of the Letter to Sylvania with one “minor” addition to provide the ongoing life force he now required to continue to operate.

And that brings us up to the present, whereby the PCs on the the third run had temporarily disabled the Ritual of the Letter, putting the squeeze on the Life Force required for Istvan to carry on…

SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 5: THE END OF ISTVAN

Queen Nayla demanded that the new Ambassador of Sylvania come to answer this latest report. When he did not appear, she sent a detachment of the Queensguard to fetch him (to be questioned, it must be said, not simply “dead or alive”).

Arriving at his quarters, the Queensguard found a terrified servant blubbering about the Ambassador. They pushed in, to be greeted by a grey and shriveled corpse. There was no obvious cause of death, except insofar as the very essence had been sucked out of it. When the group’s Cleric consulted his God, he determined that Istvan caused the death, though not in a way that required him to be present, and the one-word summary of the cause of death was “Drain”.

When the group attempted to report back to the queen, they were put off, despite the importance of their message. They pulled all the strings they could, and upon describing the condition of the ambassador, were told that the Queen herself appeared to be suffering some of the same symptoms, starting from the hand where Istvan had touched her at the Masquerade Ball.

With new urgency, the group departed to the pit where the ritual had been performed, determined to put an end to it, once and for all. They brought a Bag of Holding filled with oil, in case they would be able to burn out the ritual.

Arriving at the clearing, they scouted and investigated the area and the exit of the pit, and then took positions around the edges. Sadly, their precautions were insufficient and they were in turn ambushed by two hostile wizards. Two Fireballs and Four Hydras later, the party was rapidly approaching total defeat. With most of the group down, Yoded Boulderguard heroically invoked a ring of Haste to both grab the Bag of oil from a fallen comrade and sprint for the edge of the pit, where he was met by three of the angry Hydras.

With Yoded about to be ripped into 24 bite-size pieces in Combat Phase, the two party mages had one final chance to act. One, also quite concerned with his own mortality, prepared Teleport. The other, opting to make Yoded’s sacrifice worthwhile, used his final arcane energy to cast Power Word: Pyromancy and Ignite the Bag, spewing a thousand gallons of flaming oil down onto the ritual apparatus below.

With that, Yoded Boulderguard was consumed (R.I.P.), the altar necessary for the ritual was melted to slag, and the last few party members made good their escape. Istvan, one of the two attacking wizards, knelt by the side of the pit to mourn the loss of his last chance to generate or steal the necessary Life Energy.

SYLVANIA WRAP-UP

While Queen Nayla was obviously (and thankfully!) spared disastrous partnership with Istvan, these events leave Sylvania in a tricky place. Istvan, ruler for the better part of a millennium and planning on at least another, left no plans for a succession. Further, he is not technically dead, simply unable to act without a further infusion of Life Energy. It seems unlikely that Sylvania will return to its former prominence for quite some time.

Meanwhile in Nassau, Yoded Boulderguard was posthumously granted the highest honor of the Queensguard: elevated to the Queen’s Own for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity (at the cost of his own life) above and beyond the call of duty.

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